Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 08 – Someone Having Fun is Invincible

After some objections from both sides of the bout (both the rebels and Rindou), Azami gets his way, taking his seat as one of the judges for the final two matches. He’s flanked by two pro-Central WGO Bookmen in Decora and Courage, who brought Anne up from a “cloddish” sprout and taught her everything she knows. Thus both Takumi and Satoshi face a far less impartial and more hostile panel, though Anne gets to remain.

Takumi starts off with a delectable Calamari Ripieni, which acutally garners praise from all of the judges, even Azami. However, Rindou’s Causa suplemented by the rare Amazon fish Pirarucu, is simply better on every level, and Takumi is beaten by unanimous decision. It’s an honorable defeat, but a certain one, as the change of judges probably wouldn’t have affected the end result.

That brings us to Satoshi vs. Eishi, and we actually don’t see Eishi the entire rest of the episode. Everything is focused on Satoshi, who uses a very non-Japanese traditional ingredient in wild rabbit to craft a traditionally very delicate dish in a clear Wanmono soup, which any kind of wild game could easily spoil.

As the judges take a sumptuous journey through his dish and its morphing textures and flavors that preserved all the umami but removed all the unpleasant gaminess, Satoshi’s closest observer is Nene, who has known him since they were kids and was always jealous of his natural talent.

Little does she know he never looked down on her; in fact, as he was being mechanically prepared to succeed his parents in a process devoid of passion and joy, it was watching Nene work her butt off at her family’s restaurant that first awakened the idea of actually having fun cooking.

If Nene is outraged that Satoshi can seem so happy and content and lighthearted under such high leverage situations as this potentially-decisive Shokugeki, she has no one to blame but herself, who Satoshi credits with “saving” him from quitting cooking altogether. The judges agree: his cuisine has what it takes to at least put up a fight against Der Weiss Ritter. But first we have to see what Eishi has come up with.

Fruits Basket – 08 – All is Quiet on New Year’s Day

Everyone has somewhere to be for the New Year’s holiday…everyone but Tooru, whose parents are dead and whose remaining family is off to Hawaii. Yet no matter how hard Uo and Hana try to invite them to their places, she insists she’ll be fine, and that they should spend the time with their families.

After reveling in winter cleaning with the Soumas, Tooru learns the three are headed to the main house for the big banquet and other festivities. Tooru, not being a Souma, is not invited, but she’s content to hold the fort at Shigure’s house, even though it will mean ringing in the new year all alone.

Despite her insistence she’ll be fine, Yuki and Kyou are uneasy the whole time they’re en route to the main house. They know her well enough (it’s been four months) to know she can be a bit of a space cadet, and is prone to accidents. What if she gets hurt and no one is there to help her?

Shigure finds the two young lads’ worrying about her like their baby chick to be most entertaining, and so stirs the pot by saying there’s a burglar in their neighborhood who has yet to be caught. The final straw is when they run into Saki, who very simply and concisely asks them to consider how she’s feeling all alone at their house for New Years; to put themselves in her shoes, knowing both what she’s been through.

Yuki and Kyou bump heads rushing back home to her, cursing themselves for not realizing they accepted Tooru’s polite insistence far too easily. Saying you’re fine being alone and being fine alone are not the same thing, even with Tooru. Their suspicions are confirmed when they arrive to find her holding her mother’s portrait and crying while listening to Enka music on the telly.

Wondering what the heck happened, an exhausted Yuki and Kyou collapse to the floor and say, simply, “I’m home”…and Tooru tears right back up, only they’re tears of joy. Despite always smiling on the outside, Tooru is not always happy and cheerful on the inside; the lads were right not to leave her alone on the holiday; she’s happiest when she’s with people she cares about.

Shigure meets with Hatori, Hatsuhare, and Momiji, informing them Yuki and Kyou have skipped. Hatsuhare can understand, as he himself contemplates running from things he’d rather not engage in. But Shigure tells him this wasn’t about running away from Akito (in Yuki’s case) or Kagura (in Kyou’s); not this time.

Instead, it was about running to someone, someone both in greater need and more deserving of their presence. That’s hammered home when Shigure checks in on a morose Akito. Shigure is actually glad to see the family head reaping what he sowed. Shigure is the one harboring Yuki and Kyou during their self-exile, after all; it makes sense he’d be on their side with this…situation.

Meanwhile, by spending New Years with Tooru, keeping her company, sharing mochi (and chewing carefully!), and finally climbing up the roof together to watch the gorgeous first sun rise out of the horizon, the guilt Yuki and Kyou initially felt about abandoning their formal family obligations eventually melts away.

No, Yuki and Kyou needed Tooru every bit as much as Tooru needed them. Far from being a night they’ll regret, it turns out to be a night—and morning—the three of them won’t soon forget. They get to see Tooru smile without a hint of weariness hidden behind it as she looks forward to another year with two of the four people (along with Uo and Saki) most important in her life; her real family.

Tamako Market – 12 (Fin)

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Prince Mechya Mochimazzi arrives at the shopping district and everyone assumes it’s to “collect” Tamako, who still goes to school, but her mind is preoccupied. Finally, she decides to politely decline the offer, but Mechya tells her she was never a candidate; Dera confused Tamako’s smell with that of the flowers the florist stocks. The Prince and Choi return home, but Dera stays until New Years, after which he plans to leave without saying goodbye, but falls asleep in a bouquet Mochizou orders for Tamako’s birthday.

One thing this series has made abundantly clear is that the Bunny Mountain shopping district is a wonderful place to grow up, live, work, and play. There’s never a dull moment, and just about every day has a festival atmosphere. Another thing made clear is that Tamako loves this place very much, and everyone in it. She has that big medal to prove it, along with the love of everyone else right back at her. Which is why despite knowing next to nothing about the outside world, she declines the offer. It turned out to be a misunderstanding anyway, but Tamako didn’t know that at the time she made her not trivial decision.

Frankly, we couldn’t see her anywhere else but the district. Perhaps one day she’ll pick up on Mochizou’s feelings, return them, get married, and they’ll grow old running the mochi shops, training their children to do the same. Happens all the time; absolutely nothing wrong with that. One thing this series lacked was a district character who had actually been in the outside world and came back. Something tells us that while people may stop by for extended visits, like Dera and Choi, ultimately this is place you either leave or stay. And Tamako doesn’t want to leave. She’s never felt lonely or restless here. It’s where feels she belongs, and it’s more than enough world for her.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Tamako’s dramatic sneeze – and Dera’s reaction to it – we’ll miss that bird…
  • In another future scenario, perhaps it will be Midori who wins Tamako’s heart and they get married. Would suck for Mochizou, but it’s Tamako’s choice to make, and she’s not ready to make it yet.
  • We’re not sure Choi will be able to bring that hammer on the plane…

 

Tamako Market – 11

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Word spreads around the district that Tamako is a “princess”, but she’s more excited about winning a medal for filling 100 order cards throughout the years. Her dad is sour about the entire idea, and Mochizou isn’t altogether ecstatic either, especially, when Tamako gets to chat briefly with the prince via Dera. After Mochizou tells her if she’s happy, he’s happy, and Anko sleeps with her, Tamako wakes up to find the medal gone. In the street, it is handed to her by none other than the prince.

As one of the shopkeepers says to her dejected dad, Tamako is very good around the house and with the mochi shop. But that doesn’t mean that everything’s going to stay the same forever. Even if she herself doesn’t want to leave yet, one day she may. No one, not even Choi, knows exactly what the future holds. We certainly don’t, after an episode that’s all about how everyone reacts to the biggest change yet: Tamako moving away to marry some weird prince. And to be fair, no one – not her dad, Anko, Midori, Kanna, Shiori, or Mochizou, saw that coming.

Of course, a lot of smaller changes have already taken place in the course of the series: When Dera arrived, that was certainly change; but it didn’t really shake anything up, because he was the one sticking around, in a new life. For everyone else, it was the same old life. In fact, now that he’s a fixture of the household. But Tamako leaving? That’s a change that scares everyone close to her, and her most of all, especially because she doesn’t know exactly how she feels or should feel about this, and no one has satisfactory answers, because it’s her life.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 09

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October 10th is Mochi day, and also Mochizou’s birthday, but he’s afraid Tamako forgot it. Anko is upset about something, and he learns that her friend Yuzuki is moving away on the 10th. On that day, Tamako sends An to his house to deliver fresh mochi, and give him a proper goodbye. Tamako catches her dad Dai singing the song she’s had stuck in her head; it turns out to be a love song he wrote for their mother, to convince her to go out with him. Before calling it a night, Tamako surprises Mochizou with birthday mochi.

This was a lovely, moving episode, with the overarching theme of “everybody loves somebody.” Anko is in love with her friend Yuzuki; Mochizou is in love with Tamako; Dera is in love with whatever maiden sneezes on him; and Tamako’s dad is still in love with his dearly departed wife. This has always a show not of big revelations, but of slow, quiet, incremental change. But things are definitely changing, especially after the events of this week.

Take Tamako’s dad: he was able to open up and allow the secret of his songwriting to come to the surface, showing Tamako a whole side of him she (and we) never knew or suspected; we just thought he was a traditionalist stick-in-the-mud, but he’s a true romantic who didn’t let a couple awkward encounters with his future wife discourage him. Mochizou could definitely learn a thing or two from him, and while his progress with Tamako remains slow, in the end his birthday wasn’t forgotten. We just hope Tamako remembered, and didn’t have to be reminded by An!


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 05

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Summer arrives, and Mochizou grows so troubled by his lack of progress with Tamako, he enlists the aid of Dera, whom he takes along to a class trip to the beach. Midori finds out what he’s planning and tries to stop him, warning him she’ll protect her. The next day, while swimming, Midori learns from Tamako what she and Mochizou are to her, and she softens her stance on Mochizou.

Tamako’s utter cluelessness with regards to romance and Mochizou’s complete lack of guts and initiative conspire to form a perfect storm of uselessness. In fact, the futility he senses due to Tamako’s denseness fuels his inaction in a vicious cycle. Tamako boils their relationship down to a couple of labels: “childhood friend” and “mochi-making buddy”, which, while technically true, are not the whole story. The trouble is, she may never hear that story; she’s just not emotionally available enough.

Meanwhile, Midori gets super-defensive when she learns Mochizou is trying to court Tamako. They quarrel, leading the ever-perceptive Dera to conclude they both love “the Musume”. Tamako tells Midori “I love you”, but Midori knows Tamako’s feelings for her aren’t anything like the ones she’s feeling for Tamako. Though Midori sorta makes up with Mochizou, their rivalry for Tamako’s heart should continue – even if neither of them has a chance against her thick skull.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. The comic relief was ably handled by Dera, who was chased by a cat, a gull, and a dog, all while looking out to (a very beautiful) sea and thinking of his prince.

Tamako Market – 04

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The Usagiyama summer festival approaches, which means the mochi shop is at its busiest. Tamako’s little sister Anko wants to go on a Sunday trip to a museum with her fiends, among them a boy she likes. Her father forbids it, but eventually allows it after her grandpa negotiates a compromise. When the day arrives, she’s so caught up in the festivities that she isn’t able to make it anyway. Instead, her friends come to visit her. She runs and hides in her wardrobe, embarrased, but the very boy she likes comes in and coaxes her out, offering her a gift.

As far as we know so far, there isn’t a boy Tamako currently “likes”, nor is there any indication she’s remotely interested in boys. In that regard, her little sister Anko (sorry, “An“; it’s apparently cooler) has already surpassed her, on top of being better at making mochi than Tamako was at her age. The blissfully dense Tamako doesn’t even realize her sister likes a boy, because she’s too busy being content with her life in the shopping district as a mochi maker’s daughter. Anko, though admittedly still young and phase-prone, is far more restless. For one, nobody is calling her by the name she prefers.

She’s also annoyed that she’s being forced to work on the date she wants to hang out with friends. But after grand-dad steps up to the plate for her and she wins her freedom, she bumps into the florist with the manly voice on her way to her museum date and helps with the elegantly-dressed girls in the parade. They remind her of herself, and that priceless moment when she first looked in the mirror and saw a princess. Once it was clear Anko wouldn’t make it, she realized it wasn’t the end of the world. As Dera (who was painted gold this week) says in the end:

…even if things don’t go as you planned, on another road grows another flower.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 02

Valentines Day is near, and at the shopping district meeting, Tamako (with Mochizou backing her up) suggests the district do a Valentines theme. Her father refuses to participate. Mochizou films a shopping district commercial with Tamako and Rika dressed as bunnies. Midori is preoccupied, and has coffee with Mochimazzi, who notices she has a “burdened heart”. In the end, Tamako’s dad makes “Lovey-dovey Heart Mochi” for the occasion. On Valentines Day, Tamako gives chocolate to her dad, Rikka builds a giant chocolate house, and Midori gets chocolate from a guy.

Everyone has a feeling they can’t give a name to…and it makes all of us hurt inside.

This whole episode had a lovely flow to it, bouncing from one little storyline to another while holding everything together under the theme of love; specifically, that quote above by the hippie record store guy. In most cases, that feeling is give the name “love”, but love is at once specific and vague, a catch-all term that isn’t always the most useful way to express feelings. Were that it were simpler for some of the denizens of Bunny Mountain; if simply sneezing on a potential mate indicated your desire to…mate. Mochimazzi still confuses girls’ sneezes thus. We don’t begrudge the bird sticking around this place; it’s so…lively.

It’s a tight-knit, warm, loving community. Sure, Tamako’s dad can be a grouch sometimes, and he and Mochizou’s dad are always near blows, but their rivalry is one of the hundreds of little threads that make up the tapestry of life in the shopping district. In the heart of it all we have Tamako, who takes her Valentines idea and realizes it, despite talking about romance as a kind of far-off thing in the future (and outwardly oblivious of Mochizou’s feelings). From Tamako and Mochizou flubbing their presentation at the meeting (and the chairperson catching their stage fright), to when Rikka is just killing time playing with Tamako’s hair, everyone is who they are, and the modern world is what it is.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 01

Kitashirakawa Tamako is the daughter of a mochi maker in the Usagiyama shopping district. One day while visiting the flower shop she finds an unusual, pompous talking bird named Dera Mochimozzi inside a bouquet. He claims to be a member of the “royal court” searching for a bride for his prince, but ends up living with Tamako and her family at the mochi shop Tama-ya.

KyoAni’s latest series is an affable slice-of-life/comedy with a tinge of supernatural in that there’s this very strange and very proud, arrogant bird. The instantly-appealing shopping district setting has a warm, cozy, lived-in feel to it. Tamako has everything she needs in this district – her home, a mochi-making business in which she is integrally involved, family, good fiends, a potential love interest across the street. And now it seems she has a pet bird.

Mochimozzi adds an element of whimsy and unpredicability. He’s a frequent source of sight and sound gags, and his formal, aloof voice (provided by Yamazaki Takumi) gives him lots of character. Tamako herself, by contrast, is just your ordinary unassuming girl: friendly, hardworking, upbeat…and sometimes the unwitting target of shuttlecocks. This series wasn’t originally on our Winter watchlist, but it’s so darned charming we’re going to give it a go.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Baby, Please Kill Me! – 11

 

This week’s episode was all over the place…but in a good way. Yasuna and Sonyas relatively normal activities (Making mochitsuki, playing New Year’s games, flying kites) are interspersed with an eclectic series of skits, some of which apparently parody classic Japanese folk tales (we’re not which ones, exactly).

 

These presented as Yasuna’s “first New Years dreams”, even though you can only have one “first.” There’s also a boxing dream and a zombie dream. Yasuna, Sonya, and Agiri (and the extra girl) play various roles, but pretty much maintain the same personalities throughout. The use of diverse art styles are a nice touch.


Rating: 3