Flying Witch – 10

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In this brisk, breezy episode, we have two distinct segments: cooking class and apple tree thinning. In the first, Makoto and Kei provide moral support and the occasional pointer as Nao, who believes she’s cursed in the kitchen, makes a pretty tasty-looking Hamburg steak from scratch.

While nervous and weary at first, Nao eventually gets the hang of the smells and sensations of working with the raw ingredients, and gets to experience the sense of victory one feels upon completing a dish. She also gets freaked out by Makoto’s cookies that look just like witche’s fingers, and no one remembers to steam any rice.

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Things get more pastoral and idyllic in part two, when everyone (even Akane) get up early and head to the apple orchard to cull the blooms in order to enable the growth of fruit. Both Makoto and Akane feel the sting of not looking where they’re going, and Akane feels bad for the blooms that are snipped, but as Kei remarks, they have a use too, as nutrients for the soil.

Makoto gets a lovely view from the short tree-tops upon her ladder, which is very different from flying on a broom, and meets one of the bees that pollenates the orchard. The bee doesn’t sting, but it does bite her, and Kei shoos it away. But in the end, Makoto gets to dip one of her creepy cookies in the fruit of the bees, i.e. fresh honey. Delicious.

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Dagashi Kashi – 09

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This week brings back evenly-spaced variety and some interesting candy, all consumed while Hotaru is nursing a pretty bad canker sore (mouth ulcer). Of course, Hotaru has no idea how she got it, and when Saya suggests the obvious—too much candy—Hotaru swiftly laughs it off and pops the equivalent of cotton candy with Pop Rocks in her mouth.

This marks the return of “Candy POV” in DK, in which two of the straggler bits of explosive rock linger on her tongue, saying their heartfelt goodbyes before popping, causing a cascade of sharp pain. However, once it’s all over, Hotaru says it feels great. There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain.

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The discomfort becomes more mental than physical for Saya as she innocently points out a cute cartoon animal package that turns out to be the new hit product for primary schoolers: UnChoco (or PoopChoco), little grape-chocolate balls that are “pooped” out of a hole in the back.

Saya thinks she and Hotaru are a little too old for such things, so Hotaru classes it up by creating a mature lady’s al fresco tea party atmosphere, belying the fundamental immaturity of eating what are essentially candy turds. Hotaru never makes the connection (despite saying poop repeatedly); instead, she likens the candy to eggs being laid.

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Since no one character can withstand an entire episode alone with Hotaru’s hijinx (hojinx?) Saya is swapped out for Koko at the midpoint, and he’s perplexed to find her eating a bowl of rice (the canker sore goes unmentioned here, but we still see it; it’s not going away in a candy store!)

The reason Hotaru is eating rice is because the sweet and sour taste of Sakura Daikon makes her want to. She also decides to confess to Koko that she’s from Osaka, and has always been hiding a Kansai dialect. However, her Kansai-ed-out exclamations feel a bit forced to Koko (not to mention really irritating), so he’s not surprised when she confesses she isn’t actually from Osaka.

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This entire episode takes place in the Shikada storeroom, which technically makes it a “bottle episode”, but the final segment involves not the bottle, but the breast.

Hotaru asks Koko straight-up what he thinks of boobs, and he initially responds as if Hotaru were a normal girl – that they’re no big deal to him. Incidentally, this line would have worked well on Saya, who, while not necessarily normal herself, doesn’t need Koko to be boob-crazed considering her bust size.

But because it’s Hotaru, she nearly storms out at his measured response. He quickly reverses his opinion, and she presents him with tamago ice cream, which she calls “boob ice cream”, but which he’s always called “bomb” ice cream.

In one of the more raunchily suggestive sequences of the show to date, both nicknames are validated, first when Hotaru squishes the ball like a boob, then when the balls explode like bombs, releasing melted vanilla ice cream all over the place, making Hotaru’s clothes see-through. Call it mutual understanding through confectionary…er…release.

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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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Koufuku Graffiti – 04

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This week’s KG cold open is the strangest yet, with Ryou biting the head off an Onigiri Girl in a toon-shaded dream sequence. It also heralds the beginning of the strangest episode of KG to date, though only really in terms of format.

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Ryou had gotten used to the routine of Kirin coming over on the weekends to eat her food and keep her company. But with classes cancelled for a week, Kirin ditching Ryou for her parents’ reservation to a three-star Chinese restaurant, and Shiina getting sick after getting drenched, Ryou finds herself all alone for the first time since the beginning of the show.

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That was when, if you recall, Ryou wasn’t very good at cooking, because she wasn’t putting any love into it. The scenes of Ryou alone in her house again (and even making a second serving of breakfast for a non-existant person) really do convey her profound loneliness and depression. And even though Kirin said she could text her anytime, she doesn’t respond to any of Ryou’s texts.

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Ryou wisely chooses to get out of that house before she goes mad, and decides to hit the library for some cookbooks. She hadn’t been there since her grandma used to take her, and it’s here where Ryou learns a dark truth: her grandma used to suck at cooking hardcore. It wasn’t until Ryou started staying with her that she checked out cooking for beginners books and honed her craft. She also modified the recipes in the books to cater to Ryou’s tastes, “cooking with love”, as it were.

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Ryou also hits up the corner store by the library where she and her grandma always used to go to indulge on pre-packaged food and drink. (The store has the same shopkeep who looks exactly the same). Overwhelmed by choice, she goes with her standby corner store lunch of onigiri, popcorn chicken, OJ, and a creme puff for desert. Not a bad set, if you ask me.

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As she goes to town, SHAFT-style, she realizes that the very same food she used to enjoy so much as a little kid is food she still enjoys today, only now, with her refined palate, she gains an even deeper appreciation for the tastes and textures. And while she may be eating alone, the mere fact she’s thinking of her loving grandma while enjoying the meal makes it that much tastier.

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The lunch cheers her up, and clears away the rain clouds. Ryou commits herself to becoming a great cook for Kirin the way her grandma became one for her, starting with predicting—correctly—that even though Kirin just had Chinese food, she’ll still want to try Ryou’s gyoza. Especially since the restaurant had tiny portions and Kirin is looking forward to Ryou stuffing her.

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Koufuku Graffiti – 03

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This week’s warm open (calling it ‘cold’ wouldn’t do it justice) is a three-way: with Shiina joining Ryou and Kirin in gastronomic bliss over some particularly delectable-looking omelettes designed to flow over rice just so. I’m already hungry.

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After the credits, it is now April, Ryou is in ninth grade, and her parents have just sent her a 5kg bag of rice and a note telling her to study hard, among other things. Ryou is fired up about both written and practical exams…

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…But when it’s time for the practical, she sees ingredients displayed for the still life motif and she can’t help but draw a dish that encompasses those ingredients, rather than drawing what’s actually there. It’s a pretty bizarre screw-up, but one that was apparently impossible to avoid, what with the way food makes Ryou’s mind work. It’s not enough just to draw them; she has to draw their potential.

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That compulsion gets her third in her class…from the bottom, and generally ruins her day. Not to worry: Kirin springs into action, grabbing the bamboo shoots from class and grabbing Shiina to accompany her to Ryou’s so she can cook them food, and they can eat it and cheer her up.

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The bamboo blanched in water and rice bran then added to rice, looks absolutely outstanding, and the taste and texture are so spot-on, it changes Shiina’s very character design! By the time the meal is over, it’s late, so Ryou invites Shiina to stay over, and the usually possessive Kirin has no objection.

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The next morning, after watching a show they all love in which omelette rice play a large role, Kirin and Shiina run out to grab ingredients so Ryou can make some. And make some she does: omelette rice a half-dozen ways, all of them positively mouth-watering. I for one love using leftover Golden Curry rice to make mine, though I’ve yet to find a ketchup bottle that allows for precision writing.

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Ryou is an old hand at these omelettes. Her holy grail is the soft-cooked one, which is solid on the outside, but when sliced down the middle, runs down the sides of the rice mound and covers the rice. Many failed attempts dozens of eggs, and many grams of cholesterol later, she finally succeeds, leading to the warm-open triple foodgasm up top. Most importantly for Kirin, Ryou is fully cheered up.

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When Ryou takes stock of her rice supply—lowered a surprising amount, but all for a good cause—she notices her parents’ letter doesn’t just tell her to study, but to make good friends, too. She’d already made one in Kirin; now Shiina makes two. Kirin has also warmed to Shiina…though she’s not about to let her and Ryou “cheat” on her by going out for cake without her!

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