Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 02 – The Bushido of Filleting

Mimasaka Subaru is revealed as a major secret weapon of the rebels, as his unique tracing ability not only perfectly mimics his opponent Saitou Soumei, but his own ally, Kuga Terunori. As a result, Tsukasa Eishi is, in a way, up against two chefs at once, without the rebels breaking the rules of the Team Shokugeki.

Subaru’s preparation went further than that: he traced all of the Elite Ten (including their look and mannerisms). By perfectly copying all of Saitou’s moves in real time, Subaru is able to dish out the exact same plate of ten succulent-looking maguro sushi bites, plus an eleventh that Saitou didn’t make.

A skeptical Urara (still in full Central Punk-Fangirl Mode) has a taste, resulting what she claims to be her first foodgasm reaction shot in the whole series—that of a geisha being seduced by a purple snake with ruby eyes.

But when all’s said and done, Subaru wasn’t entirely perfect in his trace; he was tripped up by the size of the sushi, applying the same number of “invisible cuts” as he would a normal-sized piece of fish, resulting in premature melting in the mouth that doesn’t give the flavor time to reach its peak.

The Bookmen noticed that, and they also found Rindou’s spicy alligator dish surpassed Megishima’s African Ramen, so Central wins the second and third bouts, inviting shameless gloating by Urara. That means the rebels are in deep trouble if Kuga can’t defeat First Seat Tsukasa, the White Knight of the Table.

Then again, defeating Azami’s oppressive regime always meant beating their Number One. If that can’t be managed, the rebels never had a chance of winning in the first place.

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Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 01 – No Ramen Peace in Our Time

New to Food Wars? I wouldn’t recommend starting with Season 4! Worry not; you can catch up with my reviews of the first, second, and third (parts one and two) seasons! Reading them all will only take you a few hours. What else do you have going on?!


Once more unto the culinary breach, dear gourmands! Food Wars is back, with the full year we’ve experienced amounting only to the hourlong break between the first and second bouts of the Team Shokugeki that will determine the future of the Elite Ten, Totsuki Academy, and the culinary world itself. Very high stakes!

But first, the momentum Erina is hoping to maintain in the second bout is undermined somewhat by a flashback to a month ago, when the rebels were still on the train (not the Rail Zeppelin) putting together their team. Souma has no problem recruiting Isshiki and Mimasaka to the rebel cause, but Megishima is a different animal entirely.

But before we get to that (and speaking of animals), the second bout matches are set: Mimasaka will face Fourth Seat Saitou Soumei, Kuga Terunori gets the duel with First Seat Tsukasa, while Megishima will tangle with Second Seat Kobayashi Rindou.

That’s right; Souma got managed to persuade Megishima to agree to join the rebellion. That knowledge dulls any suspense that could have been summoned from the episode’s saggy midsection, which commits the dual crimes of interrupting the momentum of the present bout and being a foregone conclusion.

Of course, it’s not a total loss. When Souma and Megumi travel to Megishima one month ago, it fleshes out the former Third Seat, making me more invested in his dual with Rindou, with whom I’m more familiar despite her being the “enemy” in this particular case. Turns out Megishima is a man of peace and ramen, and never liked Totsuki’s competitive aspect or Shokugeki in particular.

Souma’s strategy for getting Megi on board is simple: convince him with actions, not words, that he’s serious about saving the academy and, incidentally the ramen world, from Central’s oppression. Souma goes toe-to-toe with the ramen master in match after match, and gets struck down every time, but keeps getting up until his body shuts down. Megi’s impressed, forfeits their duel, and agrees to join their cause.

Back to the present, where the focus turns to Megishima vs. Kobayashi in a cayenne pepper battle. Both chefs stick to their specialty, or rather mastery, as Rare Ingredient Master Rindou is making a dish with alligator of all things.

Ramen Master Megishima knows her well—they were adjacent seats in the Elite Ten after all—and not only knows her “Three Faces” (The Epicure, The Field Researcher, and The Daring Barbarian), and knows that the last of those will compel her to go heavy on the pepper, so he does the same.

Their liberal use of the pepper creates a capsaicin squall that makes the Central loyalists and imprisoned rebels alike sweat and squirm in the heat, a stark contrast to the arctic conditions outside. The message is clear: Food Wars is back, hasn’t lost a step, and is just getting warmed up.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 06 – Getting a Grip

When will Nishikata learn that no amount of training will prepare him for the mind games Takagi plays on him? Not this week, as he revives their gym challenge (which he also lost last year). The thing is, even though he sucks at toe touches and fails the grip test due to imagining he’s holding her hand, Takagi still technically loses. She just gets him to admit defeat before she tells him he has a higher score. Better luck next year, I guess!

With Nishikata’s after-school committee work done and the class camping trip looming, Takagi picks up on his desire to leave school together (even though he doesn’t want it to look like he wants to, she reads his mind) and they practice one-on-one dodgeball. Again, Nishikata’s proficiency with dodging does him no good, as Takagi first tricks him by making him turn his back, then gets into the weeds about whether he’ll dodge or catch, causing him to ask, again and again, “We’re talking about dodgeball, right?”

When the three girls stop at a sweets shop after work for some snacks, a black-and-white cat inexplicably swipes a piece of candy Mina just gave to Yukari after her stomach growled, and the girls give enthusiastic chase through various obstacles. The athletic Sanae is the only one able to keep up, but when she finds the cat giving the snack to three adorable kittens, she gives up and tells the others she lost track of her. Clearly, the mama cat needed it more than Yukari!

Takagi and Nishikata end up at the same sweets shop, where Takagi proceeds to buy the opposite of everything Nishikata picks out, so that they can exchange with each other later. After the dodgeball Nishikata is also hungry, so he buys a cup of noodles to eat in-store, and Takagi does the same. This marks the first time just the two of them are out to eat, which Takagi observes makes it a date—inducing a hot ramen spit take from Nishikata.

He’s confident he can deny to anyone who sees them that they are on a date (i.e. intentionally spending time and sharing a meal together one-on-one), but when his two nerdy friends enter the shop, they slink in, make their purchases, and slink out without saying a word, as if no denial from Nishikata would even matter. They know what they saw!

With that, Takagi expresses her excitement about the coming camping trip, implying it will be yet another new setting for new forms of teasing (i.e. flirting). Kudos to Takagi for finding new ways to expand their interactions despite his outward reluctance, as well as to Nishikata for inwardly admitting it probably was a date they were having then and there.

BokuBen – 09 – Mr. Taro’s Neighborhood

Nariyuki’s penchant for getting himself in the most ridiculous situations with women seems to have no bounds, as demonstrated this week when he’s simply walking down the street when he’s suddenly snagged by Kurisu-sensei.

Apparently, her apartment is back to being a cesspool despite him “tutoring” her on how to clean it. But while there, a cockroach appears, and Nariyuki learns that Kurisu harbors a paralyzing fear of bugs.

The roach gets away when Kurisu can’t stop clinging to Nariyuki, but he continues on with the cleaning. But since the bug is still at large, Kurisu tells him she’ll “do anything” if he just stays with her. Pure, innocent Nariyuki asks her to help him study more. It gets late, and Kurisu orders food…from Rizu’s family’s restaurant.

When Rizu shows up with the delivery and sees Nariyuki at Kurisu’s house, well, her reaction is as predictable as it is understandable. What exactly is going on here? Rizu’s feelings for Nariyuki aside, she and Kurisu have a turbulent history. Nariyuki tries to break the ice with Rizu’s card game, but forgets Rizu sucks at it and Kurisu’s domination only makes things more awkward and tense.

While Kurisu is in the kitchen, Nariyuki tells Rizu that someone likes her more than she knows. He’s talking about Kurisu actually being kind and caring, but Rizu initially misinterprets it as Nariyuki confessing. Then a scream comes from the kitchen: the roach is back.

The moment Nariyuki enters, Kurisu gloms on him, and claims she’s paralyzed with fear, thus incapacitating him as the roach advances. They’re both saved by Rizu, daughter of a restaurateur, who shows no fear or hesitation in smashing what the business refers to as “Mr. Taro.”

While walking home, Rizu admits that in Kurisu’s fear of bugs she finally saw another side of her former tutor; one she not only never knew, but also never bothered to learn, since their past adversity closed her off to that. She thanks him, but he gains her ire once more when he gives the wrong answer to the somewhat dirty-sounding question of “If Mr. Taro comes to my house, will you come by to help?”

Fighting cockroaches with Rizu at Kurisu’s is pretty up there on the list of bizarre experiences Nariyuki finds himself in, but the second half’s scenario bests it in all attributes by a fair margin. To get to where ultimately ends up, Nariyuki’s mom has to get sick, he has to fill in for her at work not knowing what it is she actually does.

Turns out his mom works at a sexy lingerie shop. When his mom’s co-worker sees how embarrassed he is, she dresses him up as the mall mascot, then gets a call about her daughter and rushes off, leaving him in charge of the store when he can neither talk or remove the costume by himself. The second that costume went on, Nariyuki was doomed to experience trials he’s all too ill-equipped to deal with.

That’s because his first customers are Uruka and Rizu, the latter of whom needs a new, bigger bra due to her growing bust. When Nariyuki hesitates to measure Rizu, Uruka helps him, then presents him with either an elegant, frilly bra or a sleek, sexy one and asking which would be best to charm a third-year  boy (the answer, of course, being either).

If that’s not enough, Kurisu makes her second-straight appearance, this time having trouble with a bra that’s a bit too small, and requiring an attendant to help her unhook it. Since Nariyuki is the only attendant there, it’s up to him.

And that’s how he ends up removing the bra of a teacher from his school while dressed as a mascot filling in for his sick mom. There is a tide in the affairs of men…

Uruka and Rizu invited Fumino to join them, but she said she had other plans. Those plans turned out to be shopping for a bra alone, since that’s her preference, and because shopping for bras with the larger-breasted Uruka and Rizu isn’t her idea of a good time.

Poor Fumino: when she blurts out to the attendant that she is, indeed, a Size A,  Nariyuki’s mom’s co-worker has returned and removed the head of the mascot, reavealing to Fumino that Nariyuki was there all along, and leading to her declaring that “God is dead.”

Nariyuki treats her to a “crepe-pology” and properly explains why he was in a lingere store, and Fumino simply tells him he’s lucky she’s the one who found out and not the other two. He asks why, but she keeps it secret, as the “fifth exercise” in understanding a woman’s heart.

The thing is, I’m not entirely sure it’s any better for him that she found out, considering her conflicting feelings for the lad. Whoever ends up with this kid is simply going to have to be okay with the fact that he gets himself into the weirdest plights.

BokuBen – 08 – Bath Study, Seductive Ramen

Nariyuki presents his new smartphone, which his mother won and which the whole family shares. Turns out he has no idea how to use it and is easily frazzled when he tries, something Uruka finds cute. She shows him how to search for studying pointers, and ends up on an article extolling the virtues of studying in the bath, which everyone says is silly and that they’d never do it.

That night, while studying in the tub, Nariyuki tries to access his dictionary app, but ends up texting Fumino instead. She becomes very self-conscious about the fact that she’s texting him in the bath, even envisioning them sitting in it together, back-to-back, then apologizes to Ri and Uruka for having such unsavory thoughts.

His next attempt to access an app ends up calling Rizu, who after snatching her phone back from her protective dad, admits she’s in the bath and doesn’t get what the big deal is; sure, they’re both nude, but they can’t see each other. Then she closes her eyes, and when Nariyuki talks, it sounds like he could be in the bath with her.

Things escalate when an attempted voice command calls Uruka, who accidentally makes it a FaceTime call, revealing every bit of her untanned body usually covered by her swimsuit. For her part, Uruka gets a good look at Nariyuki’s torso. In the ensuing chaos, Nariyuki drops the phone in the bath. The next day at school, it’s understandably a bit awkward.

That the last person he calls in the bath is Uruka segues nicely to the episode’s second half, which is entirely devoted to Uruka, who again demonstrates not only that she’s the Best Girl of BokuBen, but of the entire Spring season.

Balancing the twin strenuous activities of studying and swimming takes its toll, and one morning Uruka collapses from exhaustion in the hallway. Fortunately, Nariyuki is there to help her to the infirmary. While waiting for the nurse, Nariyuki says out loud that whoever she likes is a lucky guy.

A very woozy Uruka, eyes still closed, pulls Nariyuki into an embrace, saying his name. Then her friends show up, and Nariyuki hides under the bed without thinking. There, he learns for the first time about the guy Uruka likes: according to one of her swim teammates, it’s him!

From the moment he hears this, Nariyuki can barely sleep. When he sees her next, he short circuits and walks into a street pole. When they touch elbows, it’s like an electric shock making his heart race. Fumino gives him the fourth lesson in understanding a woman’s heart: taking Uruka home, as she’s still recovering.

When Uruka thanks him and offers him a token of her gratitude, Nariyuki’s scrambled mind immediately looks to the nearby Mermaid Love Hotel…but Uruka meant she’d treat him to ramen at the shop next door. There, he can’t help but notice Uruka seems to be eating the ramen very seductively. But she’s not; he’s just seeing her in a new light; as a woman, not a mere childhood friend.

After ramen, they walk past a number of couples, and Uruka finally summons the courage to at least ask Nariyuki if he has someone “like that.” His quick and assertive “no” (he’s waiting until after entrance exams) makes her very happy. But then, he throws her for a loop, asking out of the blue if the boy she likes is him.

Now, while Uruka may be the Best Girl, her actions aren’t always the best—and in this case, they don’t help her cause in the slightest. She sabotages the entire moment by denying it with a dismissive laugh, which Nariyuki takes as settling the matter, and to curse himself for being so stupid. To which I say…DRAT!

At this point, Uruka is her own worst enemy. Later, in the bath again (though not studying), she curses herself for denying it so enthusiastically. But she doesn’t want to press matters, especially when she knows Nariyuki is focused on studying for exams, as she should be. And she’s scared of rejection, and of ruining the extremely solid friendship they currently enjoy.

That’s all well and good…if there was no competition, but Rizu, Fumino, and even Kurisu-sensei are in various stages of participation in the Yuiga Sweepstakes. Setting the record straight after exams might be too late. As for the friendship? Well, whether she asks him out and he says no, or someone else asks him out and says yes, that seems destined to change regardless!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 11 – Twitter, Ramen, And Missed Connections

This week’s collection of stories vary wildly in tone from ludicrous to serious to unabashedly earnest and poignant—and that’s all fine, since it depicts the reality of high school life, it’s highs, lows, and MEHs. First, due to their stubborn refusal to make the first move, both Kaguya and Miyuki are letting the sand pour away in the hourglass of summer without meeting up.

When Kaguya learns Hayasaka is following Miyuki on Twitter, she decides to sign up to mitigate her loneliness. Her appalling lack of IT skills (beyond speed typing) mean poor Hayasaka’s much-needed replenishing bath is being constantly interrupted by Kaguya panicked cries for assistance. In the end, Kaguya runs into the same issue as texting or calling: she has to make the first move to follow Miyuki (garnering her mental image of Miyuki saing “how cute” for once).

Alas, she’s unable to do so and risk breaking the stalemate. She and Miyuki might describe the importance of to winning the “war of love” and preserving their pride through inaction, but the “war” is Pyrrhic, and their pride only a thin facade barely concealing their fear. Hayasaka muses at how happy they’d be if they simply acted on their obvious mutual feelings, and is envious of the depth of those feelings.

Part Two is from the POV of a “ramen connoisseur” who treats the acts of ordering, seasoning, and eating ramen as a kind of war all its own. When Chika enters the same shop, he assumes she’s lost, but all of her actions suggest a fellow connoisseur, one of “his people.”

Even when she seemingly makes missteps that detract from his respect for her, she surprises both him and the chef with increasingly choice moves, from choosing super-firm noodles that will withstand the “mini-ramen” method, crushing garlic into the broth, and even draining the bowl like a boss, something that makes the aging dude recall his youth when sodium intake was of no concern.

Chika is adorable and awesome throughout the segment in which she attains an easy victory, living her best summer life while her president and vice-president wallow in their dark rooms. One day it finally becomes too much, and both of them don their uniforms and go to school in hopes of possibly meeting the other there.

They both have the right idea, but the wrong timing, as Kaguya has already departed the office by the time a winded Miyuki gets there by bike. The ennui and melancholy so very palpable in this gorgeous third segment that takes its time, and in which no one wins. The solution to seeing each other (something both want very badly) is to simply shoot a quick text to each other, but because neither can do that, they fail to meet. The pointless war continues.

Post-credits we get a surprise fourth-segment, narrated entirely by Kaguya in monologue. She describes all of the things that have kept her, the privileged daughter of a very wealthy man, from living a normal girl’s life and experiencing the simple things people like Chika take for granted.

The segment makes no attempt to hide Kaguya’s ornate, grandiose lifestyle, but also never fails to make us sympathize with her. The lack of warmth, love, or even the sharing of a damn room with her father, who summoned her to the main house for a two-second exchange, causing her to abandon shopping plans with Chika, her sister, and Kei, is particularly devastating, as is Hayasaka’s holding of her hand for emotional support.

The segment thankfully ends on a triumphant note: no longer will Kaguya have to settle for the view of distant lights from her giant, lonely bedroom window; she’s going to the festival to see them up close, with people she cares about and who care about her in return. Maybe, just maybe, an armistice in the war of love can be reached…

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 18 – The Last Dominoes Left to Fall

With Hikari and Iroha in good shape, Hikari’s folks reconciled, and Ayado and Itou officially a couple, that leaves just one final pair of people left in the lurch: Ishino Arisa and Takanashi Mitsuya. Both are the purportedly “cool” people of their circle of friends (at least compared to the others), and yet here they are, standing around while the others pair off.

Takanashi can’t help but watch Ayado and Itou wistfully from afar. Ishino tries to hypnotize him, but when he rejects her in a roundabout then very direct fashion, she goes for sterner measures: slamming Takanashi against the wall; something the guy would normally do (though it’s not at all out of character for Ishino).

To Takanashi’s surprise, she gets serious; this push-and-pull of her expressing her interest in him and his constant shooting her down, combined with the two always seeming to end up in each other’s orbits…it’s wearing on her. She wants to know if and how she can ever get him to like her.

Takanashi deflects, and is then bailed out when two of Ayado’s classmates start mocking her new relationship, prompting Ishino to step in to scold them. When Ishino and one of the girls gets into it, Takanashi then has to break them up, despite just telling Ishino that her “meddling” is one of the reasons he doesn’t like her.

When Ayado and Itou thank the two from the bottom of their hearts (Itou was about to step to the girls when Ishino arrived; who knows how that would have gone), I’d like to think it shows Takanashi why Ishino “meddles”: it’s not random, it’s to help her friends, who appreciate her for doing it.

Later, when Ishino asks him what should he expect from a “girl with nothing better to do, who boys will never like,” he claims to have said no such thing, but he wants to cheer her up, so he takes her out for ramen again. Again, Ishino orders extra rice, which despite being something not usually done when on a date, she does because she feels comfortable with Takanashi, and their friendship is more than just physical attraction.

If that weren’t the case, Takanashi wouldn’t suggest what he does, which is to go on a real date. This plants the seed of my belief Takanashi hasn’t been super-honest with himself regarding Ishino. Then again, he’s a low-energy guy not particularly passionate about anything (not since middle school anyway) who seems to have a lot of time on his hands. Maybe he’s just being nice out of guilt for always rejecting Ishino yet still staying in proximity? I prefer the less cynical theory.

While on their date to the aquarium (during which Takanashi comes this close to blushing when Ishino takes his hand in hers), both we and Ishino learn in a hurry what his passion is: protecting his little sister. I didn’t know he wasn’t aware Hikari’s brother Kaoru was dating his sister Anzu, but now that he does, he reacts almost reflexively out of his misplaced contempt for Hikari. Trying to rip them apart is wrong anyway you look at it, there’s nothing untoward going on here. But when Ishino steps in to point that out, Takanashi accuses her of “meddling” in things that aren’t her business.

Ishino is proven right when Anzu, frightened of being separated from the boy she loves, grabs Kaoru and leaves Takanashi in the dust. When Ishino tells him to buzz off, you can tell he knows he was in the wrong; or at least taking things too far. While following an angry Ishino (they live in the same direction) he tells her he wants to make her feel better, and gives her a passionate hug.

Ishino isn’t buying it, and tears fill her eyes, not just because she’s convinced Takanashi thinks she’s an idiot, but because she thinks she is an idiot, having gone to so much trouble to make herself pretty for the date. He’s somewhat saved by the ring when his mom calls telling him Anzu said she’s running away from home with Kaoru.

Whatever Takanashi and Ishino are dealing with, that all goes on hold for both of them, as Ishino volunteers to help him look for them, no questions asked. She’s a friend Takanashi doesn’t deserve, at least not the way he’s treated her in return. Again, she’s not meddling for the sake of meddling, but because she cares about him, and his family. So he opens up more, explaining how with no dad in the house, he finds himself filling that role for Anzu.

I said nothing untoward was going on between Kaoru and Anzu, because despite acting very much like the kids they are, they’re also very good kids, and it isn’t long before they reconsider their rash decision to run away. Anzu is scared of never seeing Kaoru again, but Kaoru doesn’t want to do anything to hurt her brother or mom. So they’ll head home.

In a case of bad timing, that’s just when Takanashi and Ishino show up and pounce on the kids. Takanashi slaps Kaoru, who in return asks him to provide logical reasons why it’s wrong for him and Anzu to date, and why it matters that Hikari is his brother. Takanashi turns to Anzu, but Kaoru shields her and takes responsibility for keeping her out so late. This prompts Anzu to share in the responsibility. Takanashi realizes he was too harsh, and invites Kaoru to come over sometime to discuss things properly. See? These two kids will be fine.

After taking the kids home, Takanashi notices Ishino’s feet are probably in agony having to run so much in her heeled shoes. When she trips, he’s the one to take her hand, and she pushes through her joy over that fact by reminding herself she was mad at him, and decides they should part ways for today.

As she walks away, Takanashi suggests they go on another date, only this time he’ll ask her out. Again, is that future second date an apology for being a big dumb jerk, a thank-you for helping him find Anzu, or a sign that he’s starting to feel more comfortable seeing Ishino as something more than a friend? Gimme a little of all three, please…I’m just not sure, and that’s a testament to how well the show has handled Takanashi’s arc. He’s come a long way from macking on Iroha.

Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san – 01 (First Impressions)

The first Winter 2018 to find my eyes is Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san, the latest in an inexhaustible succession of 4koma strip adaptations that follow the formula “[MC]-kun/san is [Characteristic].”[Tanaka]-kun is [listless]. [Morita]-san is [taciturn].

In this case, the beautiful transfer student [Koizumi]-san [loves ramen noodles]. This anime is an exploration of its title—no more, no less—and at least at first, it’s not from Koizumi’s POV, but that of her classmate Oosawa Yuu.

Yuu (Sakura Ayane) is immediately smitten by the aloof, doll-like Koizumi-san (Taketatsu Ayana), perhaps wanting something quieter in a cute class idol than her twin-tailed friend Misa (Kito Akari). Indeed, the more Koizumi ignores and shoots her down, the more Yuu likes her.

Yuu is one of those indefatigable optimists who never stays down more than a few moments after facing rejection or failure, which happens numerous times (this anime understandably has the rhythm of a 4-koma, and Yuu snapping out of her momentary funks forms the “fourth panel” of each segment.

Yuu finds the only way to talk with Koizumi is to voice her ignorance of all things ramen. Because Koizumi is a hardcore ramen enthusiast (otaku?), she doesn’t hesitate to lay some of her encyclopedic knowledge of ramen on Yuu (and us), and Yuu is mostly content with this for now, because a cute girl is talking to her in a cute voice, and the blissful face she makes upon completing a bowl is well worth the indifferent scorn Koizumi doles out.

However, Yuu seems determined not just to become proper friends with Koizumi (using their shared love of ramen as an in, as unbalanced as their enthusiasm for it might be), but make her the fourth member of their circle of friends, thus completing the blue/red/green/yellow hair quadrifecta.

I suspect this will be a fairly static slice-of-life involving Yuu and the others enjoying ramen together and learning more about why it’s so good, with perhaps some gradual progress in opening Koizumi’s shell. At the moment, Koizumi doesn’t seem interested in making friends in the least, but due to her love of ramen, she’s not going to stop anyone from developing some ramen love of their own.

Light, crisp, pastel-y, and inoffensive enough (unless you loathe ramen slurping, not as culturally appropriate in America, though of late people tend to do as the Romans, or in this case, Japanese do), RDK is a watchable enough one-trick time-spender…as well as a mild appetite inducer. But with a lot more shows coming in, I probably won’t be reviewing it going forward.

Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 02

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Erina waited for Alice post-match to tell her how the “limits of her strengths were apparent” against Souma. When Alice fails to deliver a worthy comeback and storms off, Erina privately expresses her envy that Alice can cry and fume so freely without anyone giving it a second thought. Heavy is the crown on the head that contains God’s Tongue.

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While last week was a battle where heart warmth beat out dazzling science (and dazzling science cried but accepted the loss), this week gives us another battle between two chefs from harbor towns who have completely different philosophies about cooking. Those opposing views inform Megumi and Ryo’s equally polarized approaches to seafood broth in their first round ramen challenge.

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For this match, Souma and Alice join the others in the stands, and the latter’s presence proves useful in providing everyone else with her own personal insight regarding Ryo. She first met him while on her world travels ten years ago, and even then he was a head chef an a force to be reckoned with.

But Megumi isn’t the shrinking violet she was at the start of this show. She’s put faith in her friends, her family, the bounty of her home, and her ability to bring out its full potential. Once he puts on the bandanna Ryo transforms into a wild child, but Megumi doesn’t let herself be intimidated, as a fire of equal ferocity burns within her, fueled not by coarse ambition, but by love and kindness.

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There’s a reason Megumi’s the dark horse: no one looked at her and saw a serious contender. But Megumi doesn’t simply rely on low expectations, nor will that get her past these judges. She’s got skills, as the judges see when her broth turns out shining and crystal clear, goading them into drawing nearer as one does at a ramen cart, watching your meal be prepared up close.

They don’t get near Ryo’s side; he’s like the shellfish whose carcasses he pounds into powder: people keep their distance out of fear, lest they get the claws. Alice knew well to stay the hell out of his kitchen ten years ago, when he brought three brawny harbor cooks to heel with ease, all while satisfying a packed restaurant.

When Ryo sees Megumi has the judges’ and crowd’s attention, he snatches it back with a loud and dramatic noodle drain. He also finishes first, just as Alice did.

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Like his personality and hyper-competitive spirit in the kitchen, his bold, multi-latered “soup de possion” ramen beats its tasters into an elated submission, and Ryo is visualized as a delinquent gang ringleader.

I thought Ryo’s Yang would be countered by Megumi’s Yin, but while her soup, like her, looks like it wouldn’t stand a chance against Ryo’s zero-sum, all-conquering flavor, but actually can, and surprises everyone but her and her friends when it does.

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Yes despite looking clear and pure and light, Megumi’s ramen packs just as much of an umami punch. Not only that, she carefully prepared this dish knowing she’d be facing a rich soup from Ryo (since he immediately and very publically chose thick noodles), and made sure to include the flavors of her home, adapting a regional specialty as her secret weapon.

She also included a delicious paste because it would be “fun” to switch up the flavor later in the bowl. Ryo would never do that. He wants to beat the judges down; nothing fun about that!

Ryo and Megumi’s different routes brought them to the same place: two powerful, assertive seafood ramens bursting with complex umami. Rather than fight fire with water, Megumi brought the same weapons to bear as Ryo. It’s an all-out brawl, and by the end, unlike last week, there is no clear winner.

I have no idea who will win, but I predict it will be Ryo. I love Megumi, but the idea of her beating Ryo right after Souma beat Alice seems too one-sided in favor of the Polar Star crew. Then again, Ryo has definitely exposed some weaknesses which Megumi is uniquely poised to exploit. Not to mention I certainly wouldn’t mind Megumi moving on to the next round!

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Dagashi Kashi – 06

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I kinda needed a week away from Dagashi Kashi, so last week’s hiatus was well-timed, allowing me to build back up a hankering for some fresh candy-cation. This week’s loose theme was “playing with your food”; specifically candies that you’re meant to play with before you consume them.

Hotaru brings the others to a shrine where she does a dance to the god of candy with a super-long gummi string, then breaking out a “Maken gummie” which comes in the form of a hand making one of the three rock-paper-scissors gestures. Tou learns another use for it is flipping a girl’s skirt, enabling Kokonotsu an unsolicited look under Saya’s, much to both their embarrasment. Saya promptly posterizes her brother.

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Hotaru tries to use the gummie string in a surprise competition that will determine if Koko inherits his dad’s store, but it fails, like most of her attempts to get him to commit to doing so. However, Koko inadvertently proves he was born to own a candy shop when she accidentally loses her grip on her gummie “nunchaku”, and without thinking he leaps into the air to catch the errant candy in hismouth before it touches the ground.

When Hotaru breaks out the ohajiki, Saya is naturally good at it without knowing the rules. Hotaru has noticed Saya is good at a lot of things she sucks at, and starts to think Saya would be a perfect fit working at Koko’s candy shop. She suggests as much to Saya, unaware of how much Saya likes Koko, and while Saya doesn’t give an answer, the thought of being that little bit closer to Koko lingers in her mind.

That takes us to the episode’s strongest and most heartwarming segment, a flashback to when Saya and Koko were still in elementary school, and she’d come by all the time to play.

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Back then, Koko was as enthusiastic about candy as Hotaru is in the present, and acts as a spokesman for combination candy and “nutritional good” Yoguret, a melt-in-your-mouth dairy candy that comes in blister packs like medicine, making it perfect for if, say, they were to play Doctor.

That was only an example, but Saya, who liked Koko as much back then as she does in the present, runs with it. But Koko makes her the doctor, and when she insists they switch, he always manages to get out of “examining” (read: touching) her by prescribing her the Yogurets as medicine. While comforting him when they’re all gone, the two stumble to the floor, holding hands and lying quite close.

It’s perhaps the first time in their lives they were quite that close to each other, and noticed each other as girl and boy. Cut to the present day Saya, all grown up, wondering why that particular memory suddenly surfaced, but sure that Koko probably forgot about it.

When she arrives at Koko’s shop, Hotaru announces the featured candy of the day is – yup – Yogurets. Both Saya and Koko instantly blush, and Saya retreats, but she’s clearly happy Koko remembered after all. Such is the power of candy. 

This episode clinched for me what I’d always suspected: Saya is the true star of this show, and the reason I’m still tuning in. Hotaru has her moments, but she’s a mostly static, cavorting jester, while Saya is a warm, vulnerable human being with whom we can empathize.

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Dagashi Kashi – 05

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“Don’t get high on your own supply.” It’s a useful saying for both drug and candy dealers, apparently, because You started doing so with his bottle ramune, and has ended up consistently eating all his inventory, causing Kokonotsu to assume they don’t have it in stock.

Hotaru and You using peer pressure on Koko was pretty funny, along with the way the two kinda feed off each other’s chaotic energy, even leaving the store together in the middle of the night, promising to come back “clean.”

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This is one of the rare cases where I’ve had a candy vaguely similar to one in the show: those little wax soda bottles that contain sugary liquid you bite the tops (or bottoms) off. I don’t remember them being that addictive, however.

Anyway, all mention of You’s addiction disappears in the next bit, which starts later that night, as Koko walks in on You recording a truly terrible dagashi review of Baby-Star Ramen, a “by-product” dagashi born from the desire not to waste anything.

Koko gives a far more impassioned presentaion, unaware You is recording him in a video that gets a lot more hits than he ever did, as well as impressing Saya (who only has one brief appearance this week).

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Next up, Yatta! Men, another ramen-based snack that comes in little tiny cups with peel-off lids. When Koko and Tou lament their lack of spending money, Hotaru suggests they attempt to win said funds by trying their luck at Yatta! Men.

It’s here where we discover that, like Aqua in KonoSuba, Hotaru has dreadful luck, and seems incapable of selecting a winning cup, even as she collects enough ramen for Tou to make a bowl and slurp it up. No doubt some of that ramen contains Hotaru’s tears of defeat and frustration.

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Finally, Hotaru tries to rally back with more gambling; not a great strategy considering her luck thus far. She chooses a candy called “Watch Out for the Sour Grape!”. She entered into the game believing she could tell which of the three candies in each package was the super sour one from the sunglasses of one grape on the packaging (which Tou’s sunglasses reminded her of).

However, she’s thinking of the old packaging; there’s no such “hints” on he new design, and even if it was the old design, it was just a rumor and not true. In any case, Hotaru loses again, and is unable to mask her sour-face.

And there you have it: another serviceable tour of Japanese confectionery stocked with, shall we say, sporadic laughs. But five episodes in, despite the diversity of the candy and resultant hijinx, Hotaru and You’s shtick is beginning to lose its luster.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 18

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In part thanks to the efforts of her Totsuki Elite Ten adviser, Nakamozu Kinu was able to occupy a stout castle in a prime location where she can vacuum up the cash of anyone coming on or off the trains, and Mozuya Karaage is a good product, so she’s doing just fine. But she’s also been operating in a vacuum; without legitimate competition. That changes this week, in what is billed as an epic samurai-era battle for dominion over the stomachs—and wallets—of the locals.

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Mozuya is a tough foe, but Souma, Nikumi, Mayumi, and Chairman Tomita work to lay out its strengths and weaknesses. Souma in particular makes the keen observation that Mozuya does not operate on the same turf as the Sumire Shopping District. Its greatest strength is also a weakness, because customers have nowhere to stop and eat. Souma susses out the customers Mozuya isn’t reaching due to their location and the way they serve their product.

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But it’s not enough to find those customers; they must be lured to the district with a sensational product that is “innovate, memorable, and portable” in addition to having an enhanced taste. Nikumi suggests the shift from lean breast meat to heartier, jucier thigh meat, and while Tomita’s karaage onigiri falls flat, the idea of rice going so well with the chicken sparks an idea in Souma’s head: one that’s kept secret from us, the audience, as well as Nakamozu.

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We don’t know exactly what’s going on, but we see a lot of wheels turning, from Tomita waking up the printer, to Nikumi throwing her Mito weight around to get on-the-dot early deliveries of meat, to Mayumi conscripting her little brother to help with package design. There is a great sense of shit going downpreparations for a surprise attack on Mozuya.

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Nakamozu, ensconced in her fortress of success, in her arrogance, never sees it coming. She sees some boys walking past her shop with karaage; then more and more people. By the third day, her sales are down 20%, an unthinkable course of events by her reckoning.

But the fact for those days she’s simply standing there beside her store, not innovating, resting on her laurels, speaks volumes. Souma never announced his siege on her castle, and she doesn’t realize there’s a siege at all until it’s too late.

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What amazes her—and me too, frankly—is how quickly and completely Souma is able to revitalize a shopping district that had been a “ghost town” three days prior. Then again, Souma and Nikumi are elite culinary masterminds supported by hard-working, dependable, passionate people, in an area where multiple disciplines are represented; disciplines that can be utilized to make a lot of progress in a pittance of time.

The genius of Souma’s delectable “Sumire Karaage Roll” is that it contains a little bit of every district business. Mozuya was all about purity, homogeneity, and authoritarianism; The Sumire Roll is culinary democracy in action.

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Once she inevitably tastes the roll, like her rivals tasted her karaage only a few days ago, Nakamozu has no choice but to concede defeat. After all, she tasted the innovation and resourcefulness of pure youth, as well as grossly underestimated the tactical skills of the kids she challenged.

Her downfall is a black mark on her Totsuki adviser’s record, so that advisor, one Eizan Etsuya, ninth seat of the Elite Ten, calls Souma in, not to “beat him up”, but to invite him to join his bullpen of chefs with which he creates empires of success all over Japan and beyond.

Souma, content with his smaller goal to keep his dad’s diner going, refuses the offer, so Eizan informs Souma that he’s been selected for the Autumn Elections, in which he’ll be working towards Souma’s defeat and the end of his meteoric rise. Somehow, I doubt Eizan will succeed.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 17

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Zane reviews this week’s Food Wars.

I should have known Souma’s homecoming wouldn’t consist of kicking back and relaxing…or rather kicking back and relaxing the way normal people do on vacation. Though he only intends to “air out” the diner, when classmates and townsfolk see the shop open, they swarm to him, and he’s more than happy to feed them.

Then a nexus of elements conspire to put him in the middle of a shopping district-saving karaage challenge, and he can’t help but put every effort into it. The kid simply doesn’t turn off. Nor does the show’s hunger for heightened tension through competition, no matter what the challenge is.

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His return home also marks the return of his adorable classmate Kurase Mayumi, on the surface one of the show’s plainest and least charismatic characters. Yet in a show replete with colorful, eccentric personalities, Mayu actually stands out due to her relative normal-ness.

She couldn’t be more different than the glamorous, scantily-clad buxom, low-voiced meat-expert Nikumi, who enthusiastically accepts Souma’s call to pay him a visit without question or complaint (and whose T&A have their own proprietary sound effects). I take that back: they’re similar in one very important way: they both like Souma.

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More to the point, they both feel threatened by one another. Nikumi fears the chipmunk-like Mayu is the type of gal Souma goes for; Mayu fears Nikumi is actually Souma’s girlfriend, and is so blown away by her sexiness she forgets they’re in the same grade. Truth be told, I’m a Souma x Megumi shipper and thus not really in this particular fight, but the two make for a fun duo flanking a predictably oblivious Souma.

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The three stop by the wildly popular Mozuya specialty karaage shop that is cleaning up from its primo location in the newly renovated train station shopping arcade. The lady in charge is the volatile, venomously competitive (and hilarious!) Nakamozu Kinu, who isn’t content to just clean up, but also dance on the corpses of the shopping district losers she’s stealing business from. When she learns Souma & Co. are there to scout, she isn’t the slightest bit intimidated, because Mozuya is an award-winning, financially burgeoning karaage giant.

Mozuya reminds me of Chik-Fil-A, a local fast food chain in America that also specializes in chicken. Every store is a well-oiled machine, whether it’s in a mall or a standalone. Every time I go, I’m met with uncommon (to American fast food at least) courtesy and hospitality from an obviously highly-trained and motivated staff, regardless of how busy it is…and it’s always busy.  I’ve made complicated orders for large groups during the lunch rush, and always get the order within a minute or so of placing it. It’s uncanny.

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Chik-Fil-As are, in fact, run so well, it’s almost suspicious, like there’s something sinister at work. And that’s the same vibe I got from Mozuya. Nakamozu certainly has her merciless, sinister side, which thoroughly unsettles foodnorm Mayumi well after they depart. Souma and Nikumi, on the other hand, are used to that kind of tension, and have been through culinary hell together; this is just another challenge to overcome.

But it’s not going to be easy. Mozuya has been perfecting its recipe for years, and though Mayu is a game taste tester, Souma isn’t able to create any test batches of karaage remotely good enough to topple the giant. The ultra-rich and thus out of touch with the real world Nikumi suggests fighting fire with a tactical nuke, AKA her family’s vaunted A5 beef, but her idea of “affordable” is over three times Souma’s price ceiling.

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Even if profits aren’t as important as victory to Nikumi, Souma isn’t just trying to win; he’s trying to revitalize the shopping district. So it’s interesting that it’s Mayumi, a native of the town like Souma, gives him the spark he needs to move forward by suggesting playing to the strengths of the district rather than playing on Mozuya’s turf.

As he works out what he’s going to do, Nakamozu has a call with her restaurant advisor, who happens to be one of the Elite Ten along with Isshiki and Erina. That means if Souma can somehow defeat Mozuya, that will speak volumes to his ability to take on said Elite Ten. Not a bad feat to pull off while on vacation!

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