Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 05

Souma beat Kuga in sales on the fourth day, but there’s still one day left, and I, fool that I am, thought that that would be the main thrust of this episode. Instead, the final day goes by in montage form, and Kuga ends up taking first place in total sales in their section.

It’s a disappointing result for both chefs, especially since we learn Kuga lost a secondary bet with 1st Seat Tsukasa Eishi: a second Shokugeki if he leads in sales all five days. What happened in the first? When Kuga was coming up, Tsukasa cheerfully accepted his brazen challenge, then proceeded to crush him without mercy.

That Souma was able to best Kuga in sales one of the days and maintain his composure despite considerably psychological warfare on Kuga’s part basically tells Kuga what Kuga’s 5-0 loss told Tsukasa: that his challenger has lots of talent and potential, they just need growth.

2nd Seat Kobayashi Rindou (voiced with gusto by the great Itou Shizuka) is the only Elite Ten member to not have a booth (Eizan is managing twenty), instead choosing to visit all 120 booths and stuff her face.

Impressed by his one-day defeat of Kuga, Rindou invites Souma and Megumi to the Yamanote Area for a very special nine-course dinner personally prepared by Tsukasa. His “booth” is really a super fancy restaurant with only three tables, suggesting Rindou was probably planning this, and her interest in Souma wasn’t merely due to his connection to Kuga.

It’s a real eye-opener for Souma to watch, see, smell and taste something on an entirely different level that he is. Forget leagues, Tsukasa is out of Souma’s galaxy, and to his credit, Souma knows it. He may be a brash, confident fellow, but he knows when he’s outmatched.

Naturally, the clothes come off Souma, Megumi, and Rindou upon tasting his food, and Tsukasa’s title of “White Knight of the Table”, pledging absolute loyalty from his ingredients and getting absolute loyalty in return, adds to the legend that is 1st Seat Tsukasa Eishi.

Meanwhile, at her “booth”, Erina still waits for Souma’s dad to come and sit at the table. In her thoughts she makes it plain that he’s the only reason she’s come this far. It was heartwarming to see Lil’ Erina so smitten, but the atmosphere of the scene, as well as the very scope of the episode and show itself, suddenly changed upon the sudden, unexpected arrival not of Jouichirou, but Erina’s sinister, vampiric dad Azami (voiced by the same guy as Toosaka Rin’s dad!).

It’s obvious beyond doubt that Azami is Just Plain Bad News; his presence is immediately upsetting and overwhelming to Erina, and Hisako is at a loss at how to help. Azami throws his weight around, shitting on Erina’s customers and telling her that serving these clowns is beneath her.

Just then, to Hisako’s relief, Souma barges in, pepper bun in hand, asking Erina if she has a free table (which, until her father showed up, she did). Not reading the room at all (as usual), Souma saunters up to Azami, asks if it’s possible to share his table, and Azami withdraws.

Souma to the rescue, right? Eh, not quite. Remember when I said Souma had a lot of growing to do? He and his friends are going to have to grow up quick, because mere minutes after arriving, Nakiri Azami completely upturns the power structure at Totsuki.

His father, Erina’s gramps, shows up to demand Azami leave at once, and they enter a little philosophical argument. Suffice it to say, Azami’s standards for both accepting students and serving customers at Tosukis are far stricter than his father’s.

One would think “Well sure bro, good talk, but you’re not in charge, so get back to your coffin before the sun comes up!” But by the episode’s closing moments, Azami IS in charged, as decreed by six of the Elite Ten: 4th Seat Akanegakubo Momo, 5th Seat Saitou Soumei, 6th Seat Kinokuni Nene, 9th Seat Eizan Etsuya, and in a twist I did not see coming, 1st and 2ns Seats Tsukasa and Rindou.

It’s a COUP, baby…and Rindou wants Souma to join their side, the side of Azami, and “crucial reforms” that will stamp out the “anyone can be a great chef” mentality that had defined the school to that point. This is bad guys! And absolutely crazy. This is some Captain Aizen-level shit right here! And I, for one, am stoked at the possibilities.

I would imagine that rather than join the Dark Side, Souma will ally himself with Erina, and perhaps the three other seats who didn’t vote for Azami – Megishima Tousuke, Isshiki…and Kuga. They’re outnumbered and possibly outgunned. It’s looking like Rindou’s booth-hopping was a means of deciding who stays and who goes in the purge that is sure to come.

If having Souma sample Tsukasa’s cooking was some kind of a means of luring him to their side…they don’t know Yukihira Souma! He’s loyal to his friends, even if they’re not—especially if they’re not the strongest.

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Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 04

It’s Day 4, and Kuga and his bald mapo legion still don’t fear Souma and Megumi in the least. Ryouko and Yuuki agree that things look pretty bleak; but Megumi assures them that she and Souma have a plan. That plan, which required a great deal of networking and preparation, finally starts to come together, and not a moment too soon.

That plan aims to exploit the weaknesses of Kuga’s Sichuan stall: the increased patronage on Saturday means longer lines. The very old, the very young, and everyone who came with them are all waiting to be plucked from the endless lines. But first, Souma needs a place to seat them; enter Tomita-san, his neighbor from his home shopping district, with a set of benches.

He’s got seats, but he needs one more push to poach those people waiting in Kuga’s line, and has it in an innovative twist on mapo tofu. Not only does he add his noodles, but a pork meatball with a heavenly center of gelatinous curry-seasoned broth that melts through the dish and sends waves of wonderful aromas straight into the line.

With both seats and a means to put people in them, Souma quickly swipes half of Kuga’s hungry line, and Kuga realizes he’s not dealing with a docile housecat. That cat has been watching his stall for three days, and he’s grown into a ferocious lion.

And yet Kuga doesn’t panic, because Souma has just Megumi helping him. The increased workload is sure to cause both of them to break, but Souma pulls one secret weapon after another out of his arsenal. First, the scene where his diner appeared open is explained: it wasn’t Souma, but Mimasaka Subaru working there, training to become exactly like Souma in food stall speed and skill.

In a way, Mimasaka inspired Souma to truly observe and profile his opponent (Kuga) before formulating a plan to defeat him. With Mimasaka by his side manning the stoves, Souma doubles his productivity, while Megumi’s innkeeping experience at the Staigaire has made her formidable at customer service.

When it gets dark, Megumi’s colleagues at the Cultural Research Club arrive with gorgeous lanterns that draw even more customers. When the three again start to feel the strain of the increased workload, Nikumi arrives, having delegated her spot at the Don RS booth, to help Souma out. She helped develop his buns, so takes over that task from Megumi.

Then the Aldini brothers join in. Takumi won’t allow his rival Souma to be defeated without “accomplishing something.” Now numbering six, all of them elites within their class, Souma’s restaurant has finally come together.

Once the day’s takings are tallied, Souma & Co’s stall beats Kuga and his army of baldies with first place in the central area, all but assuring an expulsion-preventing profit with one day left. It’s a thrilling come-from-behind victory, with Souma relying on the friendships he’s formed far and wide, quite a contrast to Kuga running his stall like a despot.

In other Moon Festival news, Alice & Co. finally get their act together, as she combines Akira’s excellent curry with a special kind of 3D-printed chocolate ribbon that slowly melts into the dish, enhancing it. Looks like they’ll escape expulsion too. Akira even smiles, impressed by Alice’s clutch idea, which pleases Jun to no end. Up in Yamanote, Erina keeps a good table open just in case Souma’s dad shows up, while Tsukasa Eishi quietly chops veggies in a kitchen…what’s he planning?

Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 06

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Barring something bizarre (like a tie with one judge abstaining), this battle was only going to end one way: with Souma victorious. There’s no way he’d lose and give up cooking six episodes in.

The show knows we know the outcome, so it must, as it often has in the past, dazzle and entertain us with the process that leads to that outcome. And it succeeds!

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After whipping out bacon that demonstrates his curing and smoking expertise are on par with Ibusaki’s, and revealing that his profiling job was made much easier by guessing Sotsuda’s password and reading all his notes on Souma’s prep.

The very harsh alumnai judges believe the multifaceted umami of the bacon is something Souma simply cannot overcome, until he starts improvising, whipping out four distinct cuts of meat—cheek, tongue, tripe, and fillet—each perfectly prepared in a manner ideal to it, and added as garniture for the stew, in what Souma deems a “meet theme park.”

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Mimasaka predicted someone of Souma’s confidence would turn to improv, but is confident his profiling and detailed preparations will be able to weather anything Souma throws at the judges.

Mimasaka serves his dish first, and the beef/pork umami is violently, knock-’em-sock-’em good, leaving Mimasaka laughing villainously and the judges more weary than ever that Souma’s seemingly thrown-together dish will be any match.

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…But of course it is. Rather than being tossed around in a boxing ring with meat heavyweights, the judges are spirited away to “Yukihee Land” (trademark pending), where they transform into giddy high school girls (yes, including Dojima) running around enjoying life and youth.

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While Mimasaka’s carefully erected house of cards is impressive, it pales in comparison to the encyclopedic display of skill on display, as he puts a Chikuzen stew-like twist on beef stew rather than sticking with the French classic. The individual meats he used impress the judges with how well each was prepared and how they create and exhilarating ride in their mouths and imaginations.

By the end of their meal, the judges are gleefully holding hands without knowing it. The voting is unanimous, and Souma defeats Mimasaka…but he also teaches Mimasaka a lesson.

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Growing up, Mimasaka imitated his stern father’s cooking, and the first time he put a twist on it, he beat his father’s cooking, leading to his exile. He used that same approach intentionally—and with increasing cruelty—throughout his cooking career to advance himself, because it worked.

But for the first time, it didn’t work, and Mimasaka must surrender all of the treasured tools that embody the pride of the previous chefs he beat (in a scene that looks a lot like Hunger Games, what with all the past losers rushing into a container full of knives). Only Takumi refuses to take back his Mezzaluna; it goes to Souma instead, and he’ll get it back when he beats him in a Shokugeki.

Now that Mimasaka has experienced the same shameful, pride-robbing defeat what all the chefs he defeated, like them he begins to question whether he should even cook anymore. But the point of Souma’s lesson was to demonstrate that a true professional chef takes the worst defeat of their life in stride, because the kitchen must open tomorrow, and the customers must be fed.

Meanwhile, Souma continues to look ahead to his future match with Erina (who looks down imperiously before demanding he get her that manga she wanted), while Round 2 of the semifinals between Hayama and Kurokiba begins immediately. And what do you know, I have no idea who’s going to win this one!

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Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 05

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Souma made a big, bold bet, one that Nikumi, for one, is none too pleased about, because unlike us she can’t be sure that he’ll win, which means someone she deeply respects will be throwing their life of cooking away if he loses.

The wager also attracts the attention of a young, eager Totsuki junior high student who spends way more time with journalism than cooking. After relentlessly courting Souma for an exclusive, Souma uses him as his taste tester.

The dish for the Shokugeki is the same thing Souma served Mimasaka in his dorm when the challenge was made: beef stew. And unlike (or more likely, like) many Mimasaka’s previous 99 victims, he’s trying to switch things up by being very transparent about what he’s doing.

Souma knows he’s not going to win by being secretive; Mimasaka will find out or predict what he’s up to. Nor can he win by emulating his opponent’s specialty: Mimasaka doesn’t have one. Instead, Souma is treating this like the ultimate creative battle…against himself.

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After her loss to Hayama, Arato is too ashamed to stay by Erina’s side, and takes a leave of absense. Mind you, she makes this decision before Erina had a chance to talk about the match with her (during which time she’d likely have told her she was proud of her effort and wanted her to remain by her side).

On the bright side, when Erina needs the next volume in a shoujo manga she’s reading, the absence of Arato means Souma has something to compensate her for in exchange for her tasting duties (since someone at the dorm has the complete set).

Erina has her largest role in an episode this season, and she shines. By not making things easy for Souma, she (intentionally or not) contributes greatly to setting Souma on the proper path, being immediately dismissive of his pathetic diner stew (and its white miso secret ingredient) without elaborating why.

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While Mimasaka relives the last 28 episodes as Souma, starting back at the diner with Souma’s hometown friends, Nikumi, like Erina, lends Souma a subtle hint for how to proceed in the form of a meat care package, warning him she won’t let him lose and give up being a chef as she runs away flustered.

The final four days leading up to the match pass by in montage form, with Souma ditching the journalist (no longer useful at this stage in his dish development) and Megumi and Nikumi periodically looking in to see how he’s progressing.

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The day of the match Souma must win arrives, judged by five Totsuki alumni (including Dojima, Mizuhara and Hinako), who along with Kikuchi, Tsunozaki, and Erina, imagine how difficult it will be for Souma to break out of the diner mentality of dishes tasting best on the third bite (gourmet dishes must taste good on the first).

Erina expects a crushing defeat for Souma, meaning the end of his stinking up her academy once and for all, right up until she notices what he’s up to down in the arena. Instead of the usual cuts of beef, he goes with high-gelatin oxtail seasoned with cloves to deepen the white miso, and a veggie matignon to add sweetness near the end.

Souma has always been a sponge for culinary knowledge, even if it isn’t being directly taught to him by those he absorbs it from. But he caught on to what Erina was hinting at, as well as the meat that Nikumi gave him, and crafted a game plan for evolving his diner’s signature dish into something one would be proud to serve in the kind of elite gourmet restaurants the judges run.

Conspicuous in his lack of screen timeat the start of the match is Mimasaka; because Souma bet everything on this match, he’s the center of attention, but once he and the crowd notice the opponent, they see that he’s mimicked him in every regard. There is simply no way to surprise Mimasaka; he’s always going to be one step ahead. Oxtail, cloves, matignon – he’s got all that…plus his signature twists that usually corner and decimate his opponents.

Souma will have to weather those twists—some possibly drawn from his own culinary history, some of Mimasaka’s own imagining—keep his cool, and simply out-cook his clone. How will he prevail where 99 chefs fell? Will he put it all on that first bite, or manage to flip the script in a way even Mimasaka could not predict?

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Psycho-Pass – 09

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What sets Psycho-Pass apart from just about everything else I’m watching at the moment is the uncanny deftness and elegance with which it expresses its ideas and themes. It also helps that while the bad guys are, by most conventional appraisals, evil sadistic bastards, and yet they’re anything but boring. This is a show that possesses the very charisma the show defines: It has the nature of a hero or prophet; an ability to make you feel good when you’re watching it, and the intelligence to talk about all sorts of things.

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That three-part definition is offered by Ex-Professor Saiga, who once lectured both Kogami and Gino, and whose lectures were shut down when the hues of many of his students—all inspectors-in-training—started to get cloudy, turning them into latent criminals by Cybil’s standards. Kogami brings Akane (or rather, Akane allows Kogami to take her) to Saiga to meet him and learn from him, if only a little bit in a short time. After all, Kogami is the detective he is because he learned a lot from Saiga, so if you want to be a good detective, any exposure to him is a good thing.

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That seems to be what Akane wants. Her household AI jests that she’s preparing as if she were going on a date, and it is a date, in a police-nerdy kinda way. At the same time, Saiga is someone she would never have known about were it not for Kogami. But the main point is, she is steadfast in her commitment to treating Kogami as an equal, despite his lower official status in society. So much so, that she has to suspend her senpai-kohai relationship to Gino when he goes to far in admonishing her for seeing Saiga.

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Going back to Adam and Eve, knowledge is power, but comes at the cost of paradise. Cybil is mankind’s attempt to rebuild a Garden of Eden, which has its own cost; a life without stress is a life pointless and short, perhaps shorter than a Hobbesian world. To maintain Eden, those deemed unworthy are constantly cast out to live below the rest. “Unworthy”, in this case, are those who ask too many questions; amass too much knowledge; seek too much individuality.

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The exquisite analogy Kogami presents to Akane on their autonomous car ride home: knowledge is a swamp you can’t see the bottom of, but cannot check unless you dive in. Even Kogami wasn’t allowed out of the swamp once he dove too deep. Worse, one person’s descent means their entire family is marked for death, as the powers that be are just waiting for science to prove criminality is hereditary. Gino, who lost a father and colleague, doesn’t want to lose Akane too, which is why he’s so harsh on her.

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While events may ultimately determine Gino was being overprotective—Akane is constantly being described as having an uncommonly clear and resilient psyche—there’s also a very real possibility that she could end up going down the very same path as Kogami. What’s so awesome about Akane is that she may already be okay with that. Between protecting one’s own hue or solving crimes/protecting the people, she considers the latter far more important. But as she says, she is new, and has no idea what lurks in that swamp.

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Take Senguji Toyohisa, a cyborg who is, aside from his brain and nervous system, entirely machine in composition. He’s a particularly arrogant cyborg as well, pitying all of humanity that are content living out their lives in their sacks of meat. Running parallel to the discussions Saiga, Akane and Kogami are Senguji’s own ideas. Where he isn’t wrong is that science is about bettering mankind, which is done through the development of technology. Once we learned how to live long lives, we set about ways to make those lives more efficient and pleasant.

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He believes his “transition” to a timeless artificial body is just the next natural step in the human struggle to become immortal; to become the very god who expelled us from paradise. Like Akane’s decision to continue diving into the swamp, his choice had a cost—that of his body—but he subscribed to Plato’s thinking that the body was but a prison. With his new mechanical body he’s free to pursue his mind’s full potential, which seems to consist of hunting people down with a rifle. To each their own, huh?

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Makishima is right there beside him, all charisma and validation; literally playing with the edge of a razor; composing his latest symphony; providing Senguji with his next prey: Kogami. For the first time, the good guys are the direct target of the bad guy, though I’m confident this is nothing but a test by Makishima. If Kogami can’t pass it, he wasn’t worth fussing over. As for how Akane fits into all this when Makishima becomes aware of her, well…We’ll see just how tough and resilient her psyche really is!

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Psycho-Pass – 08

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The perpetrator of the previous four “human sculptures” had a sick poetic irony about them, like the case of a corrupt politician who had his hippocampus literally shoved up his ass. The newest two pieces both showed up in a park. They’d be sure garner attention there, but the setting is boring and the message is weak. That tells the super-sleuth Kogami (who’s not supposed to be on this case but is anyway) the present perp is someone young, impressionable, and not particularly ravaged by life. He’s not bad, this guy.

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With the killer’s profile in mind, Kogami pays a visit to an art conneusser in a correctional facility where latent criminals wallow in cells but are at least allowed to live, and it doesn’t take long for the name Ouryou to be dropped. Ouryou the father, whose daughter attends the same school as the past two victims. Game Over, Rikako! Makishima all but called it when, in the art room, he questioned her decision to choose victims from her own school, and her response was…impractical, to say the least.

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Essentially, I was right that Rikako was never really thinking about what would happen if she got caught; she just wasn’t wired that way. Instead, for her subjects she drew from a school that she deemed nothing but a vapid Stepford Wife factory, and each girl she “liberated” from that hamster wheel of a life was a favor done to that girl, as far as she was concerned. She realized the world she lived in was fucked, but didn’t realize how easily her plans could fall apart.

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Actually, neither did Makishima, or me, for that matter. Kogami connects the dots and corners Rikako so quickly, it kinda takes her down a couple of notches. Even though I never pegged her for an evil mastermind, I underestimated how vulnerable her absolute devotion to her art made her, as she did. It all ends so quickly. Hearing her work being pilloried by Kogami also lessens her grandeur somewhat. I guess like all her peers at school, I was bewitched by her initially composed veneer.

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Rikako’s sudden but probably inevitable fall means the obviously very fickle Makishima becomes bored with her and shifts his enthusiasm over to Kogami, which is probably super-bad for Kogami, and Akane too. But I guess they’re really only in danger—and risk having him recite Shakespeare as he sics his horrifying robotic dogs on them—if they bore him.

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