How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 07 – Meat on the Brain

With the gym closed, the girls decide to take Gina out for a welcome party. Hibiki recommends her brother’s yakiniku (BBQ) restaurant where she works part time. As they chow down, Machio and Satomi hover between them and us, explaining that while beef is a good source of protein for bodybuilders, the cut of meat and even its source determines how much you should eat.

When there’s a slowdown in work, Hibiki takes a load off and tucks into a multi-thousand-calorie meal. Gina believes this is Hibiki’s secret to, among other things, beating her at arm-wrestling: the same ability to consume huge amounts of muscle-building protein as a pro wrestler, only she enjoys doing so! Of course, it’s just Hibiki’s “cheat day,” but she won’t be able to slack off on the other days.

When the others ask why Hibiki has to work five days a week in addition to school and the gym, she says it’s to pay her monthly membership fees and for all the food she eats. Akemi informs her that thanks to her older sister, chairman of the board of their school, gym fees and other training-related expenses are covered by the school! That said, Hibiki still needs to pay for her own food.

While sitting in class and half-paying attention, Gina notices that Satomi has a beauty mark beneath her eye that she’s sure she’s seen before. Sure enough, a quick check of her phone confirms that Satomi is “Yulia Riko”, cosplay sensation. When she tells Satomi that she knows, Satomi assumes Gina wants something in exchange for her silence, as, in Gina’s words, she’s “suspicious of altruism.”

So Gina comes up with a worthy payment: she gets to spend the day with Satomi/Yulia, including a one-on-one photoshoot and sightseeing tour. When Satomi complains of soreness after a nice workout, Gina introduces her to the concept of active rest, which actually helps you recover from fatigue faster than the passive kind (i.e. sitting on your bum and swilling beer). It’s all about aiding circulation of blood (and thus oxygen) throughout the body.

Their active rest for the day takes the form of a brisk but comfortable jog that isn’t overdoing it and enables them to carry on a conversation, all the way to Akihabara. When Satomi hilariously asks the tourist if she’s going there to buy electronics, Gina responds that due to her love of all things Japanese (and a few things that aren’t like Hong Kong and yoga), she’s determined to become an idol…and she’s taking Satomi and her new friends along for the ride.

The public idol audition they end up competing in is judged by a director voiced by Yoshino Hiroyuki (nice cameo!) who is tired of normal-looking girls with a normal level of talent performing normally. That is, until the bikini-clad “Muscle Girls” arrive on stage, riding on the shoulders their burlier fellow gym members. All of a sudden, things are a bit too abnormal for the director…with emphasis on the ab!

Rather than sing, Gina and Ayaka deliver an impressive sparring demonstration, while Hibiki does bench presses with Akemi spotting. Their final act is Satomi, hiding her face behind a kendo mask, performing a perfect deadlift, the toughest and riskiest of the three major barbell exercises.

Despite enthusiastic applause by the crowd, they fail to make the cut…partially because they didn’t sing anything, but also because they were just way too weird. Normal, the director concludes, is fine after all. Too bad; I would have loved to see these guys on tour!

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Isekai Shokudou – 05

While Gaganpo was primarily a hunter, this week’s demi-human is a warrior who ends up crossing swords with the famous half-elf Alexander, who sells him into gladiatorial slavery. While preparing for an arena match against a manticore that may well kill him, the door to Nekoya opens.

He goes through, is greeted warmly, and treated to not one but five pork cutlet rice bowls, which he wolfs down with gratitude. Because “katsu” means victory, he returns to his world and makes short work of the manticore, which is just as well, as he must win 99 more fights to win his freedom – as well as pay his restaurant tab.

Like our liony warrior, the next customer, Victoria, has a very limited niche in society in which to operate. Because she’s a half-elf, she had the choice of becoming a sorceress, an adventurer-for hire, or the resident of a remote village of her own kind. Vicky chose sorcery, and quickly rose to the upper echelons of magic users, tutored by the venerable Sage Artorius.

Both Victoria and the Sage are regulars at Nekoya; Artorius ordering his fried pork cutler, and Victoria preferring pudding a la mode, in contrast to the full elf who won’t eat anything from an animal. She also takes some of the soft, velvety, delicious, springy pudding to go, storing it in a magical mini-fridge she keeps in her bedchamber. As noble a use of ice magic as I can imagine!

Isekai Shokudou – 04

The first of this week’s two new visitors to Nekoya is a strange one: Gaganpo, a Lizardman and Hero of the Blue Tail Tribe. His visit to the restaurant is preceded by an almost David Attenboroughesque nature documentary, in which a soft-spoken woman narrates everything he does, carefully bathing and suiting up for what is, in his tribe, a great honor.

Upon entering the restaurant, Gaganpo says the “magic words” that get him what he wants: omelette rice, and lots of it. Omelette rice is one of those ultimate comfort foods, and it’s like nothing the marsh-dwelling Lizardmen have ever tasted before and is beyond their ability to replicate.

The fact neither Aletta nor the Chef bat an eye at the presence of the blue behemoth show you that Nekoya is a super-diverse and accepting place. Gaganpo returning home, with three “party-size” omelettes of three distinct varieties for his fellow villagefolk to enjoy, is certainly a sight to see.

The next customer is a little more conventional: Fardania, a wood elf from a village carved into massive trees. But because she’s an elf, she’s also a vegan, so when she enters Nekoya and sees everyone eating animals, she’s a little turned off and very dubious of the human chef’s ability to cook her something she can actually digest, let alone fine tasty.

Of course, this is the nearly omnipotent chef of Nekoya we’re talking about, and it’s not like there are no vegans in human society, so he whips up a delectable tofu steak with veggies and rice at which even a carnivore wouldn’t necessarily turn their nose. Of course, Fardania takes this delicious meal as a challenge to make even better food for her widowed father.

This was an episode that, at times, looked like it was animated by a grade-schooler, as Gaganpo and his cohorts were particularly inconsistent in their design and proportions. Fardania faired better, especially in close-ups. But I was able to mostly overlook the uneven production values thanks to the mouth-watering depiction and description of the food….which is, at the end of the day, what this show is all about.

Isekai Shokudou – 03

When tuning in to Isekai Shokudou, I find it’s best to come hungry. I actually altered last Thursday night’s dinner plans, so enticed was I by the depiction (and description) of some nicely fried shrimp. In the first segment, the chef simply throws some stuff together—cream, pancetta, mushrooms, parsley—and serves over pasta. Aletta calls it “Knight’s Pasta.”

This week’s first customers are Thomas Alfade (far from his first time) and his grandson Sirius (his first). Thomas is known in his world as a culinary genius, but the fact is he merely lifted all the recipes for pasta and pasta sauce from Nekoya and its chefs.

Is he a fraud, and his legacy a sham? Sure, but who cares? He did it so he could enjoy Nekoya’s food in his world. At any rate, it looks like spaghetti and homemade meat sauce may be on my menu in the near future…but I never thought to add toasted nuts to my gravy…

The next customer is Princess Adelheid, who like Sirius also first visited with her grandfather, who just happened to be a “Grand Emperor.” It’s a memory she barely remembers, and in the present day she’s all but alone and suffering from a tricky illness that’s hard to shake.

One day the door appears, and Adelheid visits Nekoya for the first time in years, and knows exactly what to order; the same thing she got the last time: “clouds,” i.e. a chocolate parfait. Turns out that’s what it takes to restore her energy and vitality, and upon returning home her maids are shocked to see her outside and feeling much better.

A parting shot of the Nekoya dining room shows us all of the customers whose little stories we’ve heard thus far—including Sirius and Adelheid—along with a couple whose stories we’ve yet to hear…and simple-yet-delectable dishes we’ve yet to hear described in loving detail. I’ll be back in seven days!

Isekai Shokudou – 02

When treasure hunter Sarah finds a door in a cave, she finds the “final treasure of the ultimate treasure hunter”, William Gold: the door to Nekoya. The late Will turns out to have been a regular at the restaurant.

While initially weary that the food in this otherworldly place won’t be up to snuff, one bite into the succulent daily special of fried minced-meat cutlets sends Sarah straight to Flavortown.

I enjoyed details like Sarah’s amazement even with the lemon water, bread, and soup, and the exquisite detail with which she described her wonderful dining experience. Definitely shades of Food Wars, without the wars! It’s also good to see Aletta doing well in her new role as waitress.

As a matter of habit he started with William, the Chef prepares take-out cutlet sandwiches for Sarah to take with her. Thus “Minced-Meat Cutlet II” is born in the eyes of the other regulars; William Gold—likely Sarah’s father or grandfather—was MMC I.

In part two, one of the grizzled regulars, the master swordsman Tatsugorou, visits a knight-captain in his dramatically-perched mountain fortress, bearing a sword the knight thought he lost three years ago on a desperate mission to save the Duchy.

In his haste to complete his mission, the knight, one Heinrich Seelemann, neglected to pack any food. When his horse collapsed, he had to continue on foot, until he simply couldn’t go on. Just then, he spotted a cabin with the now all-too-familiar door to Nekoya.

Like Sarah, Seelemann was initially weary of the sudden new, strange surroundings, but the Chef has a way of winning people to his side with his incomparable down-home cuisine. In Heinrich’s case, it’s the friend shrimp that remind him of his hometown delicacy.

He was so hungry he forgot he had no money, so left his sword with the Chef (who refused it, but Heinrich insisted). When he returned to the cabin later, the door was gone, but he was missing one key piece of the puzzle: the door only appears once every seven days.

Tatsugorou leads him back to the restaurant, where we see Sarah already enjoying Minced-meat cutlet, and Heinrich knows exactly what he wants: the simple-yet-sumptuous meal that ultimately fueled the success of his mission, the saving of the Duchy; after which he was rewarded with the mountain fortress. Pretty spiffy!

After two episodes, we now have a fairly stable pattern of two separate people from another world finding the door to the restaurant and having life-changing meals. Whether the show will choose to alter that pattern or not, I already think I prefer this to Youkai Apartment.

Isekai Shokudou – 01 (First Impressions)

This anime’s title—Restaurant to Another World—is also its premise. An ordinary bottom-floor western-style restaurant closes at midnight on Saturdays to welcome clientele from other worlds who come in through the magical front door.

The food is clearly good, as we glean from a group of burly warriors, some of them demi-humans, all of whom believe the dish they’re eating is the one that goes best with rice.

But when things get too rowdy and the chef asks for calm, they obey. They’ve all got a good thing going with this place; the last thing they want is for the chef to stop cooking for them.

One night, Nekoya appears to be closed but for a single important client: a red dragon who transforms into a voluptuous woman before arriving for her usual: a simple yet sumptuous beef stew.

After a bowl in human form, she returns to her gold-filled nest in her world with some take-out: a tall pot full of stew she gingerly laps up; simply unable to wait until next week to experience the sublime taste.

The third vignette, if you will, involves Aletta, a demon with prominent goat’s horns recently fired from her job working at an inn in her world, who stumbled upon the door and, believing herself to be dreaming, ate an entire pot of corn potage and fell asleep on the kitchen floor.

The chef is a decent sort of chap, so after hearing her story and ensuring Aletta’s belly is full with a delicious staff breakfast, he offers her a job as a waitress and busser at Nekoya.

Aletta gratefully accepts before discovering the wonders of a modern shower, cleaning up, and helping him. Later, the red dragon takes notice and appears to cast a protective spell on Aletta when she returns to her world, as the dragon is very protective of her “treasure.”

Cons include mediocre production values, including a few instances of distorted perspective, character designs are merely serviceable, and the story’s a little all over the place.

Pros include a neat general concept, a pleasant, genial atmosphere, and decent-looking food, while magic door provides the opportunity for many more colorful customers from far-flung lands. Execution is a bit meh though, so it’s a solid “maybe.”

Fune wo Amu – 08

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When newbie Kishibe arrives at the dictionary editorial department, she’s surprised to learn the only other full-time employee there is Majime. She comes from a fashion magazine, and like Nishioka, didn’t have much choice in transferring. This episode centers on her, and as a result, I felt a little bit of, as she herself puts it, “out of placeness” coming off of it.

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When Majime’s paper guy shows up with samples that have the right thickness and opacity but aren’t sticky enough for TGP, it’s clear said TGP is coming along, if slowly. We later learn thirteen years have passed since TGP was started. That’s a huge time leap, and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. It’s shocking how much time has been skipped over, just to end up in another relatively sleepy workaday episode.

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Other changes include an ailing Matsumoto, a part-time Araki, a slightly older-looking Kaguya who is now both a restaurant owner and Majime’s supportive wife. There’s no shrine to her mother, but we don’t see her, so she may have passed in the interim. At her welcoming party, Kishibe has a little too much to drink and freaks out about not being able to cut it as a dictionary editor.

When Majime’s words of encouragement don’t work, Nishioka tracks her down and shows her how being good with words, as she is, is a very good thing. Her confidence thus buoyed, she asks Majime, and he agrees, to let her edit his own fashion definitions, which she finds “lacking.” Turns out her experience in another field will help enrich TGP.

I just wish so much damn time hadn’t passed so quickly. It’s disorienting! Ah well.

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WWW.Working!! – 05

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This newest version of Working!! just isn’t clicking for me anymore. It’s another episode full of little skits and running gags that doesn’t move beyond the ensemble’s individual quirks, which in most cases, remain muddled, and Hayashida is the most muddled character of them all.

Tha manager seems to have a seedy background, Muranushi has a handful for a mom, while Kamakura waves a katana around…but if you’re going to have a new cast, recycling jokes form the old one isn’t a confidence-inspiring move.

Perhaps the third season of Working!!, in which most arcs were wrapped up for the ensemble, was a good place to stop. A new cast was a bold idea, but it’s a risk that hasn’t really paid off after five episodes. Nearly all goodwill I started with for this new cast has been whittled away, and so unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be reviewing any more.

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WWW.Working!! – 04

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This fourth episode of WWW.Working!! seems content to continue running three gags firmly into the ground: Hana is really bad at cooking, Shiho is extremely vindictive, and Rui likes Higashia but can’t tell him.

Everyone else is kinda just around, and Higashida exhibits a stubborn cynicism about just about everything that makes him a hard guy to root for. He has a couple choice rejoinders, but it’s not enough.

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By the episode’s end, Hana has made more chocolate for Higashida, and it’s just as bad as her first attempt, sending Higashida into an unimaginative psychedelic trance. Shiho buys Yuuta dog food, because she’s horrible, and Rui makes chocolate for Higashida, but gives it to Miri instead (who goes on to give Higashida a surprise taste).

Back when I started this show, I took solace in the fact the characters showed promise, such that the lack of a plot that moved forward quickly might not be a problem. But to stay invested, the characters need to be more than just their quirks (or in Higashida’s case, his attitude). This week they weren’t, and the episode suffered.

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WWW.Working!! – 03

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This week the last two characters who appeared in the initial promo art are introduced, starting with Yanagiba Miri, who is not a staff member but a customer Daisuke initially believes is a ghost.

Turns out she’s just a truant from his very class, who got sick earlier in the year and is now worried she won’t make friends. Daisuke’s numerous protests for her to “Go to school!” are good for a chuckle in an otherwise par-for-the-course episode.

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There was initially some potential in the pairings of Daisuke/Hana and Shiho/Yuuta in the forest “test of courage” segment, but aside from learning her parents are just as “weird” as his, not much happens on the former front, while Yuuta’s insistence he and Shiho start over merely as friends only makes her more hungry for pain-and-suffering damages.

Adachi and Maranushi barely register, and the discovery of a raccoon is neither here nor there, though it seems Daisuke will be fostering it at his home, meaning Hana will be by more often than before.

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The second character introduced is the adorable Nagata Rui, who like Yanagiba is Daisuke’s classmate but actually attends school. He tries to get Rui to be friends with Yanagiba, but she instead gets fixated on the fact that Daisuke and Hana seem to be close.

It’s clear Rui sees Daisuke as a potential mate, and Hana probably wouldn’t mind if they dated, while he sees neither girl that way. In this regard, he’s the same somewhat oblivious romantic lead as Takanashi, but with one key, merciful difference: he’s not obsessed with small cute things.

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WWW.Working!! – 02

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I’m really liking this new Working!!, because it feels like it takes place in an alternate universe, where everything is the same, only different. The new show and cast is replete with echos of the old show and cast, but with enough differentiation to be worth the watch.

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Still, this new Working!! might be trying to actually improve on the formula it refined with its first cast. Take Miyakoshi Hana. She’s violent and unreasonable like Inami, but not because she hates men. In fact, she gets along with Higashida just fine, and even insists he invite her to his house so he can help her study for exams. It turns out she’s a lot more normal than Inami was, and that’s actually refreshing.

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Or take weirder co-workers like Muranoshi Sayuri. She’s very neutral and deadpan in her voice and expressions, but is still canny enough to use her ability to see customers no one else can see to put some rude bros in their place. She also shows she’s got a winning smile…as long as you complement her.

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Like Hana and Daisuke, the other couple-in-the-making here doesn’t follow the same path as Satou and Todoroki in the other show. Instead, it’s a weird, long-standing situation where Shindou Yuuta actually got the lonely Kamamura Shiho’s rich dad to pay more attention to her, often talking about things so complicaed they fly over Shiho’s head.

Yet when it comes time to respond to her offer of marriage (thus wiping out his father’s debt to her father), he reverts to a little kid who thinks girls are gross. Shiho clearly hasn’t taken that well, and has since treated ever encounter with Yuuta as transactionary.

Just as I’d like to see Daisuke and Hana becoming better friends, which they’re well on their way to doing, I’d like to see Yuuta mend fences with Shiho. Even if neither of these things happens, the point is I’m invested with these new characters, so I’m going to keep watching.

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WWW.Working!! – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: A spinoff of the popular slice-of-restaurant-life comedy Working!!, with an all-new cast at an all-new branch of Wagnaria. High schooler Higashida Daisuke is forced to get a job at the restaurant when his dad’s business goes bankrupt. Like the previous iterations of the show, his fellow employees are weirdos in one way or another.

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Why you should watch: If you enjoyed the previous Working!!s like I did, you’ll enjoy this, and possibly even appreciate the refreshed cast, since we’ve had three seasons of the original cast and there weren’t too many stories to tell. Unlike Servant x Service, the nearly-identical restaurant setting eases our transition into this new show. It’s also packed with star voice talent, from Nakamura Yuuichi to Tomatsu Haruka and Hisaka Yoko.

The comedy style is familiar, with rapid fire jokes and absurd situations and conversations. Each character acts and reacts differently to the bland protagonist, and he and Tomatsu’s Miyakoshi Hana (the unflappable high school floor chief who may not carry a katana but packs a mean punch and makes hallucinogenic chocolates) have an easy instant chemistry.

The cast includes a lazy college student who likes to quiz people on obscure history, a feckless manager who’s terrible at math, and a rich girl who arrives in a Rolls-Royce and tries to solve every problem she encounters with fat stacks of cash (usually successfully).

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Why you shouldn’t watch: If you’ve had your fill of Working!!, or just aren’t on board with a new cast, many of whom share traits with the originals, you may not need this spin-off. Animation isn’t any worse than the previous shows, but it’s not any better, either. Like those shows, any serial progress will likely be slow, although this time misanthropy won’t play a huge role, thankfully.

The Verdict: We’re in familiar territory with WWW.Working!!, but there’s more comfort in that than disappointment. All of the new characters are likable right out of the gate, and there’s a lot of potential for both serial development and episodic wackiness going forward. As a low-stakes, low-effort workplace comedy, I rate this show highly watchable, with a good chance of recommendedness.

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Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 13 (Fin)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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