3-gatsu no Lion – 20

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After losing the first three matches, and on the eve of the fourth which will determine whether he’ll get to play in his hometown, Shimada has a dream about a seemingly ideal life.

His girlfriend never left him, he gave up on being a pro, and he lived happily in his hometown with a big extended family. Yet even in the dream, there is shogi. As lovely as it looks, it might be a nightmare to him, because he gave up.

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At one point in the final match, Shimada actually seems to be glad to have a “black bog” churning in the pit of his stomach, because he feels alive. The pain keeps him focused from all the people talking no-so-behind his back about how he won’t win a single game.

Rei has to hear the same negativity while on stage with another A-ranker who leaves before the match is even over once he’s satisfied Souya has him where he wants him. The grizzled veteran makes Rei amazed stomach pains are all Shimada has suffered, and how frightening and impossible the prospect of surviving in rank A seems, at least at this point in his career.

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Shimada’s ideal dream/nightmare, it would seem, was a consoltion for the fact he wouldn’t make it to his hometown, because there would be no fifth match. Souta simply silently covers him in layer after layer of snow until he’s well and truly buried.

By the time Rei rushes to the monitors, hoping to will him into the move that could save the match, Shimada has already conceded. Like Rei in his match with Shimada, there was a gap that was simply too wide to be crossed.

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Watching his mentor’s defeat, and everything that surrounded it, is a vital learning experience for Rei. Already convinced he will not attain the heights of previous middle school pros, and always dubious of his own worth in general, Rei sought a reversal of all the pessimism around him, perhaps to also convince himself to have faith things could turn around.

But instead he learns that beyond the storm is just another, more severe storm, and Shimada has weathered those storms, and feels better for doing so. Rei will also have to learn not to wither before seemingly insurmountable odds, nor fear defeat, because win or lose, something is learned, and life is enriched.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 19

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We step away from the Kawamoto sisters this week, but we see their warm caring nature reflected in Rei as he takes care of Shimada. Flashbacks indicate he’s had often-crippling stomach pains since he was a teenager, likely due in part to the pressure his small but well-meaning village put on him to become a master. He doesn’t want to let them down any more than himself.

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The Lion King Tournament with Souya is really doing a number on his already shaky health, so Rei comes by to make him a delicious udon bowl, stating his father (not Kouda-san) had the same stomach problems. Rei doesn’t cook for himself at home, but he’s happy to do it here, and is actually good at it. I can just imagine Hina’s joy (as well as Akari and Momo’s, but particularly Hina’s) if he whipped up a bowl for her!

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Rei goes against his better judgement and acquiesces to Shimada’s demand to play shogi with him, despite the fact what the dude needs most is sleep. But Rei is flattered to hear the reason why: like Souya, Rei is an all-rounder with similar “viewpoints” on the game Shimada can’t get elsewhere. Rei may be a stopgap (i.e. nowhere near as good) but he’s better than nothing. Souya even used the same word to describe the 3-g silver (or whatever) move: “disturbing.”

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From his house, Rei gets Shimada on the shinkansen, into his hotel room, and thanks to an altruistic assist from Souya, Shimada’s role in the pre-match reception is mercifully brief. The day of the match, Rei still second-guesses staying and playing with Shimada instead of insisting he rest back home, but there’s nothing he can do about it now. All he can do is hope Shimada has enough left in the tank to grab a win.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 18

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Nikaidou and Shigeta are always fighting over the proper move to make, on diametrically opposite sides like Vader and Obi-wan. Neither ever seems to back down, resulting in escalation that has to be refereed by Shimada.

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The boys’ pulpy, comic-booky visualizations contrast sharply with the match Rei gets into with Shimada. Their visuals are more refined and rooted in classical art. It’s not just a matter of how the two pairs approach the shogi workshop.

Shimada’s elegant blue waves crashing against Rei’s hazy red base until he and it are consumed by the torrent. The exhaustion Rei feels afterwards in his overlfowing tub, are a means of expressing what it’s like for an A-rank player to come at your with everything he’s got.

Shimada isn’t just trying to beat Rei, but to learn something new from him, something that might not have occurred to him. Anything will do; after all, he’s one loss away from a do-or-die match with the reigning champion.

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Back at school, Rei examines his report card, which indicates he just squeaked by and will be advancing to the next grade. When he looks at the last school year, Rei laments how little he accomplished.

Hayashida-sensei lets him know what an ordinary 17-year-old typically accomplishes (not much) and how little he accomplished at that age, and puts things in perspective. Rei is not a kid who seeks praise directly, so as usual he finds all this praise uncomfortable.

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In another nice crossover of worlds, Hina comes by with Momo in tow to collect their empty food boxes. Both girls are very on-edge, but after downing a stiff drink composed of cold milk, Hina asks what she came to ask—who that beautiful, bad-tempered girl was—and gets an answer that satisfies both her and Mom.

Kyouko isn’t, in fact, a witch, she’s just his big sister. Siblings fight all the time, but they’re still close. The girls comprehend this from their own experiences with each other and Akari. It’s a nice air-clearing scene that brings warmth to Rei’s apartment, and lil’ kid expert Kuno Misaki and superstar Kana-chan kick ass as usual.

 

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I’ll just leave this here because it gave me a chuckle. It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Castle in the Sky…

Of course, when that’s what Hina tells Akari back home, the older sister wonders if it’s not actually worse than if Kyouko were Rei’s girlfriend. After all, from what she saw, Rei and Kyouko weren’t very close, despite ten years of living together.

Akari suspects that distance was the reason Rei yearned to leave that home, though to be fair to Rei and Kyouko, Akari doesn’t know the intricacies of their relationship, or the fact that every time they see one another they struggle to resolve what exactly they are, while simultaneously never doubting for a second that they’re…something.

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Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 13 (Fin)

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Food Wars 2’s final episode wraps up the brief but wonderful Staigaire mini-arc with, what else, a food war, inviting some familiar faces to help judge the best staff dish, immediately following the end SHINO’S TOKYO’s pre-open.

Inui seems more hyper than usual, but otherwise she and the others mainly here to make curtain calls, and also to provide a distinguished audience and extra pressure for Souma. Whether he passes this Staigaire depends entirely on the dish he’s been developing.

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Everything, from the camp to the elections to the staigaire, has been building up to this. Souma has always been good at replicating dishes, following recipes, and finding creative, resourceful, even unorthodox ways to succeed. He’s even made quite a few “signature”-style dishes to win.

But this is different. Here, he has to craft something he can only make, but that is also worthy of being placed on a Two-Michelin Star restaurant hoping to win a third. The shounen transition/evolution Souma must undergo is perfectly boiled down to getting pincushioned by a rain of fancy french cutlery (i.e. aborbing French culinary techniquies), which crack his old self and reveal a new, refined chef.

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He successfully makes that transition by serving a playful oyakodon dish that looks like a classic french whole quail. Shino sees room for improvement before it goes on the menu, but it’s a sucessful dish, so Souma passes.

While Shino has always been driven by the desire to make his mom happy, Souma’s drive is largely sourced by his desire to surpass his dad. He sees that being at Totsuki, a melting pot of culinary knowledge from faculty and peer alike, is the best path to that goal.

That means picking up the box full of shokugeki challenges and getting to work knocking them off, each time learning something new from the process. He wants no less than the first seat; the top rung. As the pot lid falls on this solid second helping of that quest, I’d neither rule out nor oppose a third sometime down the road.

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My Hero Academia – 04

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When the mock battle begins, an overwhelmed Izuku falls far behind immediately, covering ground already covered by other potential heroes, and getting even more discouraged when they hear them pop off their point totals. The one time he comes across a functioning one-point villain, another examinee takes it out and thanks him for being a diversion.

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But then the “true test” begins when the zero-point obstacle appears: a colossal robot that everyone starts to run away from except Izuku. He stays put, eyes full of tears, with almost no time left to score any points, and spots the nice girl who stopped him from falling, trapped under wreckage directly in the advancing zero-point’s path.

Izuku runs towards the danger and puts his life and limbs on the line to stop the juggernaut—and he does, when his All Might powers finally surface and he delivers a SMASH punch that not only cripples it, but three of his four limbs as well. Watching them flop about in the wind, I knew something wasn’t right.

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Izuku’s saved form falling to his death by the girl, who uses her antigrav abilities again to save him, but she can’t save him from the fact he has zero vilain points in the mock battle, which means failure…IF villain points were the only points being awarded. They are not.

Izuku ended up scoring sixty “rescue points”, because after all, being a hero is about more than just defeating villains. Izuku demonstrated the heroic instinct of self-sacrifice, and also inspired others to act in kind. In fact, the girl, one Uraraka Ochako, tried to transfer some of her points to Izuku for saving her, but such a transfer wasn’t necessary because Izuku already had more than enough points to pass.

So it wasn’t just a test of speed and strength, but of all the intangible qualities that make a hero a hero. The other things will come in time for Izuku (I like his symbol of a glass just barely containing its contents due to surface tension crackin under the stress). Izuku’s body may have bent, but it did not break. And now he has a genuine friend-int-the-making in Ochako.

His hero academia is off to an auspicious start, and as tough practical exam episodes go, this one felt nimble, quick, and satisfying, especially at the end when Izuku’s mom reacts to his grin of elation with the same soppy tears we usually see on his face, showing us where he got that tendency from.

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One Punch Man – 05

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No bad guys to fight this week; just a Hero Association registration exam to complete. Saitama’s peers snicker at him right up until he demolishes all of the records during his fitness testing. Watching Saitama snap from dopey blank look to serious glare is always a delight, and the way he took those tests around the corner and had his way with them made for some hilarious images, particularly the vertical jump. Why whack-a-mole?

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Unfortunately, there’s a written test too, and Saitama doesn’t do to well on that. Genos gets a 50/50 in both tests, and assumes from the top of the letter in Saitama’s packet that he’ll be joining him in the rarefied Class-S, but it’s just a lowly Class-C. His subsequent analysis of the letter only gets Saitama madder.

Meanwhile, Genos’ special rookie exception attracts the attentino of a blue-haired fellow hero. Saitama and Genos meet the goofy Class-A hero Snek (not “Snake!”), but Saitama couldn’t care less what the man has to say, preferring to see how big a bubble he can blow with his gum (another riotously funny image).

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Now that he’s Class-S, Genos wants to try his hand at Saitama once more, to see how far he has to go to reach his master’s level. In a vast, abandoned empty space, the two go to town, with Genos unleashing his entire arsenal at Saitama without managing to touch a hair on his–I-I mean, touch his head.

Genos insists Saitama stop fooling around and fight him seriously, but Saitama stops an inch short of his face on a “serious” punch, his trademark One Punch, and then suggests they go to lunch. Genos, suddenly a little paler than a moment ago, saw the murderous intent in that punch, and knows what would have happened if it had landed.

It’s a frustrating exchange for Genos, who can’t see a scenario in which he’d ever come close to Saitama’s power. But unlike Saitama himself, he does want to figure out the secret of that power (stubbornly refusing to believe it was just moderately strenuous training). But Genos does end up beating Saitama…in a giant udon bucket eating contest.

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Then the blue-haired hero, Amai Mask, finally tracks Genos down and talks to him. Being at the top of Class-A, Genos shot one spot above Amai, and he seems a little miffed by that. Still, it’s only a friendly-ish welcome chat, and Amai is soon off to his penthouse. But the power of his celebrity leaves a lasting impression on the other patrons of the restaurant, and just by being seen with Amai, Genos gets the attention and admiration of everyone, including cute girls.

So both Genos and Saitama were frustrated this week. Genos with the seemingly unclimbable heights to approach his master’s strength; Saitama with being underrated and undervalued by the HA, as well as by Genos deciding to move in with him. Once Saitama gets jobs and completes them quickly and forcefully, I wonder if he’ll actually rise in HA, or continually fall victim to technicalities.

Indeed, after failing to secure a salaryman job, Saitama is now entering employment under a large corporation. Now that being a hero is a job and not just something he does for fun, will he feel even more stifled and unfulfilled, or will he become a celebrity and get fulfillment through the love of his fans? We shall see.

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