Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 05 – When You Gotta Go…

Both of the two stories that unfold in this week’s episode are focused, polished, and consistently hilarious. Chio faces a dilemma we’ve all faced: having to pee really bad. She fortunately finds a bathroom, but doesn’t realize until after she’s gone in and relieved herself that she went in the Men’s bathroom, near a busy bus stop to boot.

As we’ve learned, Chio is far more proactive, resourceful, and athletic than a below-average high school girl would be, but that’s what makes her so imminently watchable. We’re there with her as she susses out the best way to escape, finally making use of “mysterious bright-colored balls” that one would never find in the ladies’ room (because they’re for urinals).

One of those balls excites the nearby cat, who starts playing with it in the street. Two girls in miniskirts lean over to watch the cat, and two older men lean over to watch the two girls in miniskirts, giving Chio the opening she needs. It’s a brilliant tactic that almost goes terribly wrong when Chio’s momentarily stuck in the window, but manages to get out.

She even explains away her sudden and surprising appearance to the two men and girls by pretending the cat is her pet “George”, who clearly has no idea who she is and runs off again, allowing her to follow and extricate herself from the situation as everyone shrugs it off as a girl really liking cats…which a lot of people do!

The next episode begins from the perspective of Shinozuka Momo, member of the Disciplinary Committee and deep admirer of its faculty advisor Gotou-sensei. In an effort to be “useful” to him, she takes it upon herself to discover what student(s) from their distinguished academy have been chronically misbehaving in the vicinity of the campus.

This leads to her tailing Chio and Manana, who at first appear to be carrying themselves with “calm and grace”…until Chio pulls a long root out of a flower bed and whips Manana in the bum, setting off a good old-fashioned plant duel. The mortified Momo continues shadowing the two girls, and watches as Chio climbs a wall to see if she can beat Manana up a hill.

She can’t, and Manana rubs it in by denying Chio water, instigating another grappling match. Momo can’t hold her tongue anymore, and orders the two girls to stop hanging out, as they’re terrible influences on each other, going on to describe “true friends.” That leads Manana to correctly assert that Momo…has no friends. Poor Momo!

They make a deal where if they can prove their friends, Momo won’t record or report what she’s seen today. And boy, do they ever prove it, performing a thoroughly embarrassing (and long un-practiced) dance of friendship they devised back in grade school. It moves Momo to unironic tears, and the girls get off scot-free.

In fact, Momo asks them for advice on how to get closer to someone they immediately infer to be Gotou-sensei. As we know, Manana isn’t the person to ask about such things as she has no relationship experienced, but Momo doesn’t know that! As a result, next time she’s with Gotou, Momo acts mysterious and attempts to keep her blondie rival in check…with mixed results. That closes the book on a pair of very strong stories.

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Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 04 – Cigs & Papers

An harmless question about what you want to do before you die turns into trip down Bad Girl Lane, as Chio makes half-good on her dream of grabbing a cigarette that’s been tossed from a car.

Half, because there’s no time to toss it back and wryly say “you dropped something!”—which would have been awesome—and hurts her shoulder. BUT…she holds on to the barely-smoked cigarette, and immediately becomes fascinated by its seductive allure.

Manana, always thinking ahead of ways to advance her social position, snaps some photos of Chio holding the cigarette oh-so-close to her mouth (the creator’s more adult roots are evident here).

But then Chio suggests Manana pose for some shots, and the two get super into it, with Manana snapping an EPIC shot of Chio with some crows taking flight, while Manana does a pretty badass pose herself—were it not for the cat in the background throwing up!

Chio wants to take more pics, but they have to get to school (the interior of which we still have yet to see…and hopefully never will!). That means smuggling the cigarette onto school grounds, and getting past the teacher in pink Crocs who guards the entrance.

She fails—the teach smells the tobacco immediately—but with nothing to lose Chio simply tells the truth, and he pats her on the head for a job well-done. This doesn’t sit well with Chio, who doesn’t like the fact it never occured to him she would actually smoke (particularly that brand), and when she says she’s a bad girl and strikes a pose, the students around her only laugh. Poor Chio!

One person who has always taken Chio seriously is Andou, who still calls her Bloody Butterfly by habit when they encounter each other quite by chance. Manana hates the prospect of ever having to work for a living, and bets Chio the first adult they see will tell them they hate their job.

Unfortunately for Manana, that first adult is Andou, who won’t go so far as to say what Manana wants him to say. Having seen him fall so far, Chio decides to help him out with his newspaper delivery, and she and Manana learn how grouchy Showa-era people get when their paper is late (this is an excellent Japan-o-centric joke an outsider can still appreciate).

It’s looking like, former bike gang leader or no, Andou’s job just plain blows any way you look at it, but Chio remains optimistic throughout, not letting Andou resort to despair. She uses her surprising athleticism to sneakily drop a paper in a particularly prickly customer’s mail slot, relying on Andou to catch her when she has to leap over a second-floor balcony.

Before long, all the papers are delivered, and far from still wanting to hang it up, Andou is inspired enough by Chio’s support to keep the job for a little while longer. The end result of all this is, of course, that Chio wins the bet and vociferously demands her 100 yen from an exasperated Manana who had no idea Chio would take it this far.

But that’s Chio: at the end of the day she’s a very passionate, intense person who will do whatever it takes, whether it’s getting to school on time or convincing a former bike gangster not to quit a delivery gig. She’s not the ordinary, quite, below average girl she always says she wants to be.

Manana proves just as adept at greeting a classmate in the most ambiguous way possible…at least until that classmate worries that Manana is sick, Manana takes the play-acting further, and draws more classmates to her. At least in this, Chio decides to be passive, running away from the increasingly unpleasant spectacle.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 03 – This Suddenly Turned Troublesome

On one of the instances when Chio is early for school, she likes to walk through the park, but this particular morning she comes afoul of Andou, the biker gang member she managed to defeat through bluffing and luck, and his gang, who is incredulous about their leader’s claims of the “Bloody Butterfly’s” prowess.

After making a suitably ominous entrance, Chio takes Andou aside and tells him it was all a misunderstanding. However, Andou is so tickled pink at the fact he was so completely hoodwinked by a normal high school girl, he actually keeps the game going with his subordinates, making it seem like she beat him up again and forcing them to flee without their bikes.

Chio didn’t ask for any of this…but she also didn’t simply walk away from the situation, because she was worried it would adversely affect her reputation in violation of her “below average philosophy.” That, and using her online handle IRL also backfired.

 

Despite her desire to live a “peaceful life”, word of the “Bloody Butterfly” even comes to her friend Manana (who I just realized this episode was voiced by Soul Eater’s Maka Albarn’s seiyu. The two end up play-fighting but Chio easily wins because she’s actualy very athletically gifted; she just chooses not to exhibit those skills when she can help it.

Of course, the desire for attention and validation leads Chio to exhibiting her athletic skills, darting left and right while chanting “Kabbadi”…but ends up attracting the attention of her school’s Kabbadi club, third-year Kushitori Madoka. Also, her school has a friggin’ Kabbadi club…and no, Kabbadi is not a sport the show made up!

Kushitori explains it to her polite kohai who actually don’t care, but also can’t get out of the hole they’ve dug lest they admit they were just making fun of the sport their senpai loves. This results in a quick lesson and a quick game for good measure.

Because Manana is not particularly athletically gifted, she’s tagged out immediately, but Chio not only hangs in there against two jocks in Madoka and Yuki, but uses the knowledge she attained by carefully observing Madoka’s play to come up with a strategy to defeat her.

Once Madoka grabbed her in a defensive move, Chio used her knowledge that Madoka likes girls to tangle her up with Yuki, making Madoka choose between holding on to Chio or releasing her so she can grope Yuki. It’s a brilliant plan that relies on the perversity of her opponent while at the same time requiring a certain measure of perversity to devise.

One thing is crystal clear three episodes in: Chio is not as below average as she claims or labors to be. She has both the skills and the luck to rise to the top of her school, only she just…doesn’t wanna. And that’s fine!

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 02 – Born to Run

I’m glad there’s an anime that shares the irreverence and absurdity of Hinamatsuri to dig into this Summer. Miyamo Chio is an ideal lens through which to provide all kinds of social commentary, while her insistence she is “below average” in society couldn’t be more wrong.

Consider when she comes afoul of a bike gang member fresh off a ride. She and a salaryman (a grunt she incorrectly pegs for a section chief) must slide through the narrow space between the bike and the wall, and she gets burned by the exhaust. The biker takes offense, grabs Chio by the scruff…and gets knocked out by a lucky Chio elbow.

Chio appeals to her better self by attempting to move the bike out of the way lest others get burned, but ends up knocking it over. Feeling she’s toast either way, she decides to draw from her badass video game world and talk a hell of good game.

Standing over the bike imperiously like it’s trash, “Bloody Butterfly” urges the biker to give up the life, lest she cease “going easy” on him. And he gives in! He only asks that she accompany him on one last ride, which ends up being a schoool run; Chio manages to sufficiently disguise herself from her peers.

As MEH as Chio might consider herself, her actions with the biker were anything but. But while she can fake being a badass, there’s no denying she and her friend Manana have zero romantic experience; though there is an absurd impressiveness to Chio’s diagram of the ideal below-average high school life, which happens to match up perfectly with a diagram of the tastiest part of the tuna!

Chio and Manana scornfully watch couples walk past them left and right, but they become enamored with Hosokawa and the basketball captain as they dart into an alley. Expecting “sexy times” to be afoot, they are surprised to learn the guy only sought a safe place to ask Hosokawa out. She respectfully declines (she’s focusing on running) and they continue being friends like nothing happened.

Chio and Manana are all caught spying, but pretend to be making out while hiding their faces until the other couple leaves. Thus the two love noobs come millimeters from sharing their first kiss…with each other.

The next day, Chio finds Manana already with Hosokawa, both waiting for her. Suddenly Chio finds herself in the perfect society of three, picturing herself as King, Manana as pauper, and Hosokawa as butler. Only Manana only used Chio as a stepping stone to climb the social ladder with Hosokawa. In any relationship between two people on a lower rung, the temptation will always be there for such stone-stepping.

Of course, Manana promptly recieves her comeuppance when she learns Hosokawa will friendily chat up anyone, including a “company president” she met while on a run, and has been informally coaching ever since. She and the old dude leave Manana in the dust, just feet from where she left Chio in the dust.

Chio and Manana may know jack about romance, but they can be keen observers of human behavior. To whit, they realize well before the kind, pure Hosokawa that the old guy obviously exaggerated his importance due to being flustered by a cute girl suddenly approaching him with running advice.

They’re right—they guy is just a grunt and lied about everything—except his love of running. And that’s why Hosokawa immediately forgives him; after all, even she sometimes acts like she’s not feeling well at meets. What’s important is the run. With that, the quartet frolick all the way to school, so joyfully that their joyless teacher can’t bear to stop them…though he does wonder who the hell the old guy is!

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 06

Dark times would seem to be ahead for Totsuki Academy, as Azami is formally elected director by the Elite Ten (well, six of them anyway). His inauguration speech is pretty normal and humble, leading some in the crowd to think “huh, maybe he’s not that bad.” Oh, he’s bad.

Azami moves quickly to isolate Erina, summarily relieving Hisako of her role as her secretary, stating that all Erina needs is her father, who promises “he’ll always be by her side”, which is not only inaccurate (he has most certainly not been by her side for some time) but feels ominous and threatening. Worse still, Erina is incapable of defying her father. What the hell did he do to the poor girl?

Just as Souma is wondering how Erina’s grandfather Senzaemon is dealing with his sudden retirement, the super-cut senior shows up at Polar Star, bringing his impressive set of muscles and his stirring leitmotif. Amazingly, it’s the first time the two have met and talked face to face.

Souma accompanies Senzaemon on his routine evening training, and can barely keep up despite his youth; but for all his physical strength and wisdom, Senzaemon laments there is little he can do about his situation. However, a former student of his (Souma’s dad Jouichirou) told him Souma may be only person who can save Erina from Azami’s wrath.

We get a peek at that wrath, as Erina, once a vibrant young lady who loved to laugh (and also loved her cousin Alice) was essentially brainwashed by Azami into having an extremely narrow and critical manner of assessing taste.

Erina rightly knew that it’s wrong to waste food, but he broke her of that, and with the threat of violence and abandonment, molded Erina into his instrument. He even threw away all of Alice’s letters from Sweden, making Alice think she never wrote back out of malice. What a dick this guy is! I just met him and I already hate his guts.

Erina has been getting better since Senzaemon exiled Azami, and has made friends—first Hisako, and eventually Souma, though she’d never admit it—but now that Azami is back, she could revert back very quickly, as his power over her is all but absolute and she lacks the means to fight him.

Thankfully, just as Azami is moving quickly to put his bird back in a cage, that bird’s friends move just as quickly to prevent that from happening. Enter Alice and Ryou, who encounter a beside-herself Hisako and spring into action, getting Erina out of Nakiri Manor.

The question is, then what? As various options for where she should be harbored are shot down for various practical reasons, and a heavy rain starts to fall, Erina considers giving up and going back, lest she cause problems for her friends.

But those friends would much rather have those problems than let Azami take her from them. Her retreat is interrupted by Megumi; the rescue group and Erina have stumbled upon the grounds of Polar Star Dormitory. Megumi welcomes them all in to shelter.

Souma arrives from his talk with Senzaemon to find the one he’s supposed to save in his dorm, which must feel pretty surreal. When the prospect of harboring her is floated to the other dorm members, they’re mostly weary…until Hisako tells them the story of how Erina grew up, and they instantly change tack, welcoming her with open arms and appalled she had to go through such hell.

This is another reminder of how nice and close-knit the occupants of Polar Star are; it goes beyond cooking (though they are excited to feed the God Tongue and hear her critique their cuisine); they’re a family, and are more than willing to welcome another member to that family, especially if there’s nowhere else she can go.

Souma, for his part, is pretty hands-off, which is just as well; the warm and caring nature of Polar Star is such that he can depend on them to keep her safe even when he’s not around. He may not have promised Senzaemon he’d “save Erina”, but he does want to get her to earnestly call his food delicious…which is pretty much the same thing, when you think about it.

There are certainly dark clouds in the horizon as Azami tightens his grip on power, and there’s no telling what he has in store for those who try to steal away his God Tongue, the linchpin of his so-called “revolution” that will transform Totsuki into a “Utopia” (which, if you’re recall, means “place that cannot be”). Let there be no doubt: Nakiri Azami is a bad man who has done awful things, and he must be opposed and defeated at any cost.

This was one of the strongest Food Wars episodes, and it didn’t need to get anywhere near a shokugeki; all it needed to do was unleash the tremendous collection of characters it has nurtured, and all I needed to do was sit back and watch the wonderful spirit of togetherness and solidarity surround Erina in her hour of most dire need. I’m even more excited than last week to see where this goes, particularly when in regards to Souma and Erina.

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.

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 3 – 03

Day One of the Moon Festival…doesn’t go so well for Souma and Megumi. Kuga’s big flashy restaurant rakes in all the customers, while Souma’s little bun cart only manages a couple dozen sales. Kuga makes sure to stop by to gloat and patronize Souma as further punishment for challenging someone out of his league. Unfortunately for Megumi, she’s tied her cart—and her fate at Totsuki—to Souma’s. For once, Souma can’t just laugh this off.

Joining Souma and Megumi in the red on the first day are Alice, Ryou and Akira, which draws the ire of Erina, considering all three were Autumn Elections finalists. Souma still offers her and the others dinner in the form of leftover buns, but the fact remains all five are in dire straits.

The next day, to Kuga’s surprise, Souma’s cart does a little better, jumping from 40th to 35th in the area rankings, and you can just a comeback mounting. Wait…that’s actually the smell of Sadatsuka Nao’s grotesque cuisine. As Megumi says, she and Yukihira make quite the pair as culinary sadists.

Turns out Souma’s increased sales were due to the fact he used some bun dough to make fresh handmade noodles, and by moving around the area and giving away samples, he hopes to stoke up a marketing campaign that will get him and Megumi the customers they need to get back in the black.

While I admire Souma’s generosity, surely it only hurts his bottom line to be not only feeding his friends after the first day, but giving out so many freebies on the second night. I guess it’s a matter of him not compromising his values just to profit…but he’s only making things tougher for himself when Kuga has made things plenty tough.

I imagine Alice, Ryou and Akira will also be expelled unless they get their shit together, but Akira thinks Ryou’s years of spoiling Alice has ruined any possibility of them climbing out of the hole they’ve made the first two days (though a naan lollipop does sound intriguing). Then Alice concedes that they should focus not on her ambitious and expensive experiments, but on a more customer-focused menu.

Meanwhile, Souma knows he needs more than buns and noodles, and Megumi is sticking with him to the bitter end, so he prepares for an all-nighter. Meanwhile, his old hometown friend Mayumi notices the Yukihira Diner’s lights are on, and upon entering, receives a terrible shock…

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 02

When Souma’s lil’ budding journalist buddy, Whasisname, puts Souma’s profile right next to Kuga’s in the Official Moon Festival Guide, not only Souma, but his closest friends and frenemies are fired up. Nikumi is apologetic she can’t help out, as she’s finding her groove and regaining her charisma with the the Don RS.

Souma seeks the aid of the Nakiris, who happen to have an hour to kill while waiting for festival material to arrive. As a result of their Stagiaire time, Hisako is a lot warmer towards Souma, and Alice has always been friendly with him, so Erina has no choice but to act as a third taste tester.

Rather than cruel and arrogant, the trio is actually level-headed and extremely helpful in analyzing Souma’s ad hoc mapo tofu. It lacks the balance of ma (chilies) and na (numbing peppers) heat crucial in Sichuan cooking.

Getting super food-nerdy, Alice explains how the taste receptors for spiciness are different form the other five tastes, and actually triggers the same neuroreceptors as pain and pleasure, making Kuga’s food painfully spicy yet addictive. Medicinal gourmand Hisako even chimes in with the healing properties of spiciness.

Armed with a wealth of information from three of the best in the business, Souma lays out a plan of research, testing, and tasting to achieve that magic addictive formula. Tadokoro eagerly pledges herself to him, worried (justifiably) that he’d have a hard time assembling a team with so many of his peers off doing their own thing.

That includes Alice, who missed the deadline to register but commandeers Hayama booth with the maternal blessing of Shiomi (who is just happy Akira has friends his own age) and Kurokiba (who is in his “dormant whatever” state…for now).

Souma works tirelessly in the kitchen, developing stronger and stronger levels of pure heat, turning both his and Tadokoro’s lips into swollen masses, but is ultimately cursed by failure. It isn’t just the heat that makes Kuga’s cuisine so powerful—it’s everything around and beneath that spice. Every ingredient in his mapo tofu is carefully custom-made and thoroughly vetted over time.

Souma seems to concede that he may not be able to beat Kuga in Sichuan cuisine…but there are seven other major Chinese regional cuisines, and a gambit from his father prior to a festival where their diner had a booth gives Souma an idea, and with help from Hojo, he’s able to precure the instrument of his grand Chinese pivot.

The day of the start of the Moon Festival arrives, and everyone seems lively, amped-up, and ready to compete for the mouths and money of the masses. Perhaps the funniest sequence in an episode full of pleasant character-based humor is when it’s time to sing Totsuki’s anthem, something neither Souma nor I knew even existed.

And yet everyone, no matter how different they may be in other areas, EVERYONE not only knows every single note and word, but sing it with all the bright-eyed optimism of elementary schoolers.

With the Festival officially in gear, Souma unveils his secret weapon: stone oven-baked black pepper buns. (Mouth watering) His and Tadokoro’s first two customers experience foodgasms…we’ll see if they’re able to make a profit to not get expelled, or beat Kuga at a game he believes is already in the bag.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 18

Baha Soul finally returns to airwaves and breaks from the action and the central romance to focus on all the various relationships characters have developed over the course of the last 17 episodes (and the 12 of Genesis before that).

Nina “gets home” late, worrying/annoying her “parents”: Rita, Bacchus, Hamsa and Rocky. She’s giddy as a schoolgirl, and her master Favaro already knows why; she can deny it all she wants but he knows her.

Things get awkward when Nina and Azazel meet for the first time since she failed to transform in aid of his rebellion, leading to the death and capture of every demon he convinced to fight for him.

Not particularly interested in catching up, Azazel responds to Nina’s apology by saying he never expected anything of her anyway…which we know is a lie. He even gives poor Mugaro the cold shoulder.

The team’s next plan will involve attending the palace ball to be held in three days. Nina quickly volunteers to sneak in and steal Charioce’s bracelet (the one that controls the superweapon) and proves she’s up to the task by spontaneously leaping behind a wall of crates, transforming into a dragon, then transforming right back (without even losing her clothes to boot).

Everyone is impressed…except for Azazel, who is disgusted and enraged beyond belief. That he had to lose so much and so many because the timing of Nina “learning what it feels like to be loved” was just a little too late…I’d be grinding my fallen angel teeth, too.

Continuing Nina’s practice of not staying well-hidden, El goes out the next day to look for Azazel, who stormed off in a right tizzy. El inevitably attracts the attention of guards and runs himself into a dead end, but Azazel swoops in to rescue him.

Afterwards, it takes El apologizing to Azazel for Azzy to snap out of it and stop directing his anger at someone who doesn’t have to apologize for anything. Azzy saved El, but El kinda saved him in the process, by proving there was more in life than…oneself.

Alessand and Dias continue to pop up now and again, with the latter remaining fiercely loyal to Kaisar (even worrying about being in a gentleman’s club would look) while Al resents him more every day for ruining their careers, abandoning them, and becoming a fugitive.

Well, it isn’t until a drunk Al confronts a tall, suspicious-looking “demon” that turns out to be Kaisar in disguise that we see that however else Al feels about Kaisar, his misses him, and misses the Orleans Knights, and how good it felt to be together.

After the Onyx commander dismissed Al’s request to transfer by basically saying he’s worthless, here comes Kaisar to tell him he has a great deal of worth, and if he would find it in his heart to set aside his superior’s transgressions, together they can make a difference.

Nina is still giddily drunk in love by episode’s end, to the point she’s yelling “I LOVE YOU” at the moon. Favaro joins her, though his words aren’t for Charioce, but Amira. He has Nina all but drop the pretense, as he knows Charioce is the object of her affections, whether she “can say” she truly loves him yet or not.

Drawing from his experience in helping to quell the threat of Bahamut years ago, Favaro still wonders if the choice he made was the correct one, and urges Nina to think carefully about how she’ll choose, because the way this world works, you can’t gain anything without losing something in the bargain.

Then Favaro gets back to playfully yelling “I love you” at the moon and Nina struggles to stop him, the Onyx commander is paying a mercenary/hitman to eliminate the dragon; an order the commander gave himself more than Charioce gave him. From the looks of this guy, Nina’s toughness is about to be tested.

Kiznaiver – 06

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In the OP, which I consider the most excellent of the season, the Chidori is the final of the seven Kiznaivers to run across the screen before the title splash, giving her a certain prominence. But in both of the OP’s character “roll calls”, the one in the middle is Honoka Maki, and in the second one, there’s a dramatic visual stab (and the presentation of the Trigger logo) when she appears.

This, and some of the mysteries surrounding Maki and the someone she says she “killed”, has had me thinking the whole time that the most significant character story to date would eventually come from her, not Chidori. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place in a powerful flashback where Maki’s friend (and apparent manga partner) Ruri nearly leaps to her death before being pulled back by Maki.

Ruri laughs uncontrollably, doubtless because of the profundity of what had just transpired—Maki may call her stupid, but still saved her when it mattered. But Maki is just stunned. Why did Ruri do that? What if she tries it again when she’s not there?

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Maki is toeing a similar line in the present: she may act all aloof, but she still comes to Kiznaiver get-togethers when invited, even if she leaves early without partaking in somen. Nico tries to follow and be friendly with her, but when she calls herself stupid, Maki can’t help but be reminded of Ruri saying the same thing, gets upset, and runs off. But now that she and the other six Kiznaivers’ hearts are connected, everyone feels her pain, and they can’t just forget it.

While she’s still a far more sterile personality, Noriko also seems a bit lonely as the mayor warns her of increasing difficulties in keeping the experiment under wraps. Her time is running out—perhaps in more ways than one, judging from her in-car self-injection—but she’s committed to delivering results. And hey, it’s not as if she hasn’t made real progress with the Kiznaivers.

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Yuta, still trying to maintain his normal life with his ladies, happens to be shown the same manga Maki created, made immensely popular when readers learned she and Ruri were middle schoolers. I like how Yuta is freaked out by the huge eyes, unimpressed by the hodgepodge of themes, but at the same time feels this is a window into Maki that, along with their new connected hearts, can help him get somewhere with her, in terms of helping to lift some of that pain and gloominess.

Maki, for her part, stubbornly rejects any kind of help, even when Yuta offers it unsolicited when her former editor asks her to sign off on a documentary of “Charles Macking”, her nom de plume.

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The editors ignore her refusal to permit such a project and arrive at school to film her. When the cameras are stuffed in her face and everyone hears she’s Charles de Macking-sensei, she starts to lose it right quick. Fortunately, the other six Kiznaivers are given a mission she’s not aware of to “save her”, and they do—at least temporarily, from the camera crew.

It’s great teamwork, but it does nothing to solve the underlying pain Maki feels. Indeed, she seems to be repulsed by any attempt to help her, perhaps because she feels responsible for Ruri’s death, and thus feels she’s no longer worthy of friends, happiness, or pity.

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Maki’s covered it up with her antisocial personality up to this point, but now her comrades know her game, and they aren’t about to accept her continued self-punishment. But rather than pester her more—she still needs to recover form the shock of that camera confrontation—they decide to try to learn more about Ruri, the person whose death caused Maki to fall into this state whom we know precious litle about, besides the fact she was a little bit of a daredevil.

As for Kacchon, he branches off from the others momentarily to express his disappointment with Nori-chan, most likely for giving them a mission involving Maki without Maki’s knowledge; a mission that saved her in the immediate but if anything made her emotional state worse. Noriko, for her part, is as surprised by Kacchon’s words as he is for saying them. She’s being pressed from both sides. I wonder what will happen, and if and how she’ll change, as conditions grow more desperate.

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Kiznaiver – 05

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Humans, particularly while young and coming into their own, need bonds, if for no other reason than to define their place in the world, and make them aware they’re not the only person who matters. Adolescence by and large, makes kids extremely arrogant, and that arrogance is manifested seven different ways among the Kiznaivers.

Let’s go ahead and add Sonozaki to the mix as an eighth teenager who internalizes the universe. The latest trial the actual adults have for the adults-in-training (which include Sonozaki) throws her for a loop. She isn’t at the mountain inn retreat out of duty, she’s there because Kacchon invited her.

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With another test looming in the background, the retreat still begins with a pleasant casualness and subtle excitement of the eight kids simulating a household for the first time. Divi-ing up the chores, getting to know  more about each other bit by bit; Tenga’s scheme to help the “emotionally heavy” Chidori; Maki and Yuta’s intriguing dance; Nico’s sidelong glances…the bonds are being enriched without the aid of shared mortal danger. It’s all very absorbing.

In fact, the first shared zap of physical pain doesn’t come until Sonozaki smacks Kacchon in the cheek while the two are keeping each other company alone in the dark. She’s not reubking him, just killing a mosquito, but Chidori sees what she wants to see (already suspecting Sonozaki is an interloper) and races off into the night in tears.

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I knew informal assigning of individual original deadly sins to the Kiznaivers was a risky (and not entirely necessary move), but it’s interesting to see the very complex emotions on display between Maki (AKA “firewood”) and Yuta as they share a scene in the kitchen.

Yuta is surprised Maki makes good omelette rice for him, as if feeling sorry that he’s hungry (his dietary restrictions kept him from having dinner with the others). He sparks a conversation about how he got fat, then invites her to share something about herself.

Maki, who I labeled as “pride”, seems reluctant, committed, even, to avoiding showing her true self to anyone. Yuta has seen reason to doubt her stuck-up facade (like the fact she made him dinner), and takes the bait when she asks him if he likes her chest.

“Chest”, though, is only her metaphor for the thing no one normally sees, and if it was seen, could change one’s feelings about the person completely. Maki is haunted and tormented by a ghost from the past in her private moments. That’s what she’s still trying to hide, but now that she’s a Kiznaiver, that may no longer be feasible.

It’s not the first think Maki and Yuta say to each other that means more than one thing. Maki takes things in a more explicitly amorous direction, saying things like “not caring if she breaks”, using the term from the ghost’s voice. Yuta thinks she’s only talking about masochism and sex, but after she jumps him (and inadvertently makes him admit he’s still a virgin), their liaison is interrupted by Yamada, their teacher.

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Yamada and Urushibara arrive (not informing the Kiznaivers that they brought Kacchon’s Kizuna’d bullies with them) and another high-stress test begins: a purported Test of Bravery so common to these kinds of inn/camping retreat episodes. One bully bashes in the room with a chainsaw, the other weild an axe and corners Chidori in a cabin.

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Fueled by fear and adrenaline, the six Kizzys other than Chidori rush out into the night and find their own graves, but when Nico hits a Gomorin and it goes down easily, they calm down a little, confident they can do this.

I loved Hisomu’s contrasting  looks throughout this ordeal; delighted rather than terrified by the sight of the graves and wielding a bucket and ladle instead of weapons. Maki’s outrage at Yuta talking big while cowering behind her was also a nice touch. This couple’s been through a lot tonight.

But the central figures of this test, not surprisingly, are Chidori and Kacchon. When Bully #1 is zapped by Nico’s blow, Bully #2 (#1’s childhood friend) is unmasked as well before Chidori, and collapses in a pile of woe-is-me, why-must-I-be-the-only-one-suffering tirade that hits very close to home for Chidori.

Hearing her own problems expressed almost verbatim from another has an immensely powerful effect. Chidori takes after the bully and lays it all bare: if the bully wants to die, he’d better give Kacchon his money back first.

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For the first time, Kacchon realizes the emotional pain of the all the bullying he endured expanded to Chidori. He only now knows the pain he endured and pretended didn’t exist at all was also hurting her because now their emotional pain is being shared as well. Not just between these two, but all seven Kizzys.

Now that he knows the error of his selfish ways, when Kacchon finds Chidori (in the middle of her tirade when she brings up how Sonozaki is also adding to her pain with her interloping), he demands the money back. He takes the stand Chidori always wanted him to take on his own. Now Kacchon gets her a little more.

What’s interesting is how connected Chidori and Kacchon truly have been for so long, not to mention Maki and Yuta (through their secrets); the Kizuna System is merely a catalyst to help them break through their inner shells and come to terms with the fact that everyone has their problems, everyone suffers, and knowing of each others’ pain and sharing in it, and being able to move past it (or make use of it) is a crucial element of life.

Those worried about a Tenga-Chidori thing can probably breathe easy for now, if Kacchon and Chidori’s closing scene together is any indication. And now it’s clear getting through the summer is another metaphor; for getting through adolescence.

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Kiznaiver – 04

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With the seven assembled, things slow down quite a bit as they get to know each other a little better, either voluntarily (Nico) or reluctantly (Honoka). And everyone is a little uncomfortable around Hisomu, mostly because the ways he senses the world and derives pleasure are so different from theirs. But…are they, really?

When the group breaks off (Kacchon, Chidori, and Tenga were already home), Yuta and Honoka have an exchange very common for them, with outwardly polite compliments by the former parried by icy insults by the latter. Yuta’s vanity and Honoka’s unpleasantness seem to feed of one another. Honoka can like it or not, she is bonding.

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As for Kacchon, after the girl in his dream turns her head and reveals herself as a younger Sonozaki, he becomes way more fixated on her. This irks Chidori, but only because she clearly still has present-tense feelings for Kacchon and is jealous.

Jealousy is envy, which made me wonder: for all of Sonozaki’s talk of new deadly sins, do these seven still represent the old ones? Here’s as close as I got:

Honoka: pride
Nico: covetousness
Hisomu: lust
Tenga: anger
Yuta: gluttony
Chidori: envy
Agata: sloth

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Anyway, when Sonozaki appears to inform the seven they’ll be going on a summer ‘training’ camp and to eat a giant plate of fried rice to deepen their bonds, Kocchan goes after her, asks that they exchange emails (as the seven did earlier) and invites her to join them.

As someone getting used to (knowingly) sharing bonds of friendship with others, a part of him (perhaps fueled by his dream) may wonder if Sonozaki’s distance is intentional or even necessary, or if a part of her would like to connect. That connecting with others line has haunted Kocchan and drives him to include Sonozaki in their camp getaway.

Sonozaki also reveals to the group that she and all the Gomorins around town are members of the Kizuna Committee, a group that “for various reasons” is growing smaller but hasn’t “given up” on its core mission of cracking the code for world peace.

It’s not a ton of useful info, but it does indicate she’s not alone in this operation, only one link in the chain, and that she is one of the true believers who will stick around to the end.

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As for accepting Kacchon’s invitation (and his gentlemanly offer to carry her bag), Sonozaki seems to be proving his theory (about her not necessarily minding connecting with someone, even him) right. Honoka is dubious as always, however, and wonders if there’s a connection between Hisomu’s sudden late addition to the group and her increased presence.

Then there’s Chidori, who doesn’t like Kacchon’s interactions with Sonozaki one bit, no ma’am she does not. Well, she has no one to blame but herself for backtracking on her confession by strongly insisting (to someone she knows will usually take what she says at face value) her love for him was in the past.

Then again, maybe it took Kacchon’s heightened ‘flirtation’ with Sonozaki for her to realize that. One thing is clear: whatever pain is being derived by her jealousy for that situation isn’t being shared among the other six.

Tenga doesn’t have to be connected to read what’s written clearly all over Chidori in thick black marker, and his offer to help her (along with her delayed acceptance of that offer) suggest one more mini-alliance among many that have sprouted up in the septet.

Some decent character moments, but the lack of action and slowed pace was conspicuous this week. The school counselor and teacher seeming to recruit Agata’s former bullies is only touched upon without much explanation, so I’ll reserve judgement on that until we learn how they’ll be used. If one one thought the bullies were gone, but like Yuta’s girlfriends, it would seem they still have a role to play.

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