Carole & Tuesday – 10 – Out of Whack

It’s the semifinals, which means bringing in a new guest judge to replace the AI dog, and it’s none other than DJ Ertegun, whose troubled history with Carole & Tuesday should have precluded him from judging at all, but I guess Mars Brightest doesn’t do much research!

One thing’s for certain: in a a tough competition where personalities can clash and tempers can flare, MB has appallingly bad security. Consider Cybelle, a stalker Tuesday never should have had to interact with again after she lost in the quarterfinals.

And yet here she is, in the green room, getting in Tues’ face and intimidating her with her unpredictable, capable-of-anything, nothing-to-lose vibe. Then Tuesday simply runs after Cybelle…and Carole lets her! So I ask: where the fuck is security???

When GGK dishes out more cosmic prattle and then performs a competently-produced song with like seven words in the repetitive lyrics, Tao finally pays Angela a visit to tell her they’re changing her song at the last minute.

GGK impresses the judges—who it should be said are easily impressed—and Gus and Dahlia continue their juvenile little competition with poor Roddy in the middle acting as a conduit for their barbs. I’m just not getting much out of the friction between these two.

Once again, Angela delivers the best song of the episode, though that’s not a high bar to clear, with a genuinely catchy pop number that honestly wouldn’t be out of place on a Top 40 radio station. The only strange thing is how it ends: the vocals and music just…stop. On a dime. Seems more like an AI production bug than a feature.

Meanwhile, instead of preparing for her performance with Carole, Tuesday has her priorities all out of order, running around the studio like a headless chicken looking for a Cybelle who is clearly not there anymore and furthermore, doesn’t want to be found. Carole wants to give Tuesday a present, but every time one of them shows up in one spot, the other has just left.

Angela ends up beating GGK, and heads to the showers afterwards, leading to a very suspicious scene of Katie Kimura dropping her smile and staring at the phone Angela left on a table. Is there more to Katie than hyper syncophant? God I hope so, because Angela’s path to becoming a pop star has seemed way too easy so far.

As Pyotr performs another mostly meh pop performance, Tuesday returns to the green room to find a present on the table…but not Carole’s present. The chaotic scrawl wishing her a Happy Birthday suggests it’s from Cybele, who must have doubled back after Tues followed her.

As for the contents of that present? My guess is dry ice, judging from the white smoke cloud that surrounds Tuesday as she clutches her hand in pain when Carole enters. Since Tuesday needs that hand to play guitar, a dry ice burn is going to be a big problem.

But all this could have been avoided with someany backstage security procedures. Cybelle’s revenge, if that’s what this is, only happened because the show decided that Mars Brightest is not a professional company of long standing capable of protecting one of the four contestants who were whittled down from a quarter of a million. That seems awfully implausible, but here we are. Better break out the aloe!

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Carole & Tuesday – 09 – Blessing of a Goddess

Carole & Tuesday don’t sing on the second day of competition, but Gus has them attend the studio anyway so they can scout the next four contestants. One of those, Cybelle, continues acting extremely stalker-y, brushing Tues’ hair without asking first, and suggestion they form their own duo without Carole. In other odd pairings, Dahlia ends up sitting beside Gus, but nothing much comes of it. As for Angela, she wants to know where the hell Tao is.

Tao is there, but seems content to stand in the shadows rather than engage with anyone. The first pair of contestants performs, starting with GGK, FKA Twigs’ Martian anime counterpart. The song is crisply produced and competently sung, but falls down on generic lyrics. Definitely not ear-bleedingly bad, but thoroughly MEH.

The gender-fluid Mermaid Sisters, on the other hand, had me howling with laughter as they proceeded to sing all manner of profanities in sweet Barbershop harmonies. It’s by far the most English swears I’ve ever heard in an anime, but it ends up disqualifying them, and the competition has to paused when they lash out at the judges, giving GGK the win by default.

Cybelle and Angela are next, with the former telling Tuesday (not asking her) to hold her before she takes the stage. Cybelle then bites Tuesday in the fucking neck, confirming Carole’s insistence that Tuesday extricate herself from this weirdo as soon as possible.

Turns out Tao isn’t interested in Angela or any of the other contestants performing that day; instead, he asks C&T who writes their lyrics. They tell him they do, with no AIs, and he kinda just goes “huh, okay” and leaves without seeing Angela, much to her chagrin.

As intolerable as her character is, Cybelle actually delivers one of the best performances of the entire show thus far. Why is that? Because she’s not singing awful English lyrics; she’s singing awful French lyrics.

I don’t speak French, so if I switch off the subtitles, it just sounds like nice music, which it was. Not earth-shattering, but nice. If only all the songs were performed in French, or Japanese, or any language that could cover up the hack lyrics.

It’s just bad luck Cybelle wasn’t paired with the Mermaid Sisters, Fire Brothers, or OG Bulldog, or she would have advanced. Instead, her first opponent is Angela. And whether or not the entire production is rigged towards her winning, she still puts in IMO the best all-around performance of the competition with the very catchy “Move Mountains” song, showing that she definitely belongs there.

Angela beats Cybelle easily, but Cybelle seeks consolation in Tuesday’s arms, attempting to goad her into making a new duo together. It’s here where Tuesday finally rejects her, and Cybelle storms away in a huff, her shock quickly turning to anger.

This is most definitely not over (she has Tuesday’s contact info, after all), so now in addition to having an extremely tough opponent in Angela to defeat, they’ll have to deal with the consequences of Tuesday not dispatching her earlier. Doubtless hell hath no fury like a Cybelle scorned…

Carole & Tuesday – 08 – Standing Out the Least

On the first day of the Mars Brightest #0049 competition, Angela is introduced to her new manager, the young, eager-to-please Katie Kimura, whose only role throughout the episode seems to be servile minion and target for Angela’s generally mild abuse. There are celebrities far more spoiled and mercurial than Angela.

This also marks the first time Carole & Tuesday are in the same room with Angela, officially bringing their stories together…though Angela breezes right past the duo without talking or even noticing them. Tuesday later learns a valuable lesson about not so carelessly giving her contact info to a stan so obsessed they decided to compete in the same contest and actually made it to the final eight.

With introductions out of the way, we’re treated—or more accurately subjected—to the first four performances. We begin with two really old brothers playing death metal until they literally drop—a joke eliciting perhaps half a chuckle and absolutely nothing more—and Pyotr with a competent but utterly generic pop song with what sounds like auto-tuning, which you’d think wouldn’t be allowed in a singing competition.

Pyotr beats the old dudes, so we move on to the next faceoff: C&T versus “OG Bulldog”, a horribly uncool hardcore gangsta rap cliche who ends up singing opera-style, which…I’m sorry, is just really fucking stupid. Carole & Tuesday follow, and reliably serve up their unique(?) blend of aggressively pedestrian soft rock, forgoing lyrics for half of the song and instead making “oooh-oooh” and “la la laaa” sounds. Real groundbreaking.

When it comes time for the three judges (a female Simon Cowell, a gay dude, an an AI dog) to make their decision, OG Bulldog is essentially disqualified when his mother takes the stage and attests that he was never a gangster or drug dealer, just a timid young man who worked at a drug store. 

The lady Simon tears into C&T, calling them the “most normal”, “plain”, and saying they “stood out the least,” but they didn’t lie about who they were, and they somehow managed not to be worse than whatever “opera rap” is, so they win round one!

It was good to hear one of the judges say what I’ve thought all along about C&T’s amateurish, empty, Diet Coke-sweet music, but then along comes Angela to back it up with some strong negative opinions of her own, and I am here for it! (Katie Kimura also comes by, but as with the rest of the episode, she’s utterly useless.)

‘Granted, she confronts C&T because she identified them as rivals, and despite hating their music, probably realizes the competition could easily come down to the two of them. Last week I suggested that maybe the perennially alone Angela might befriend the same-aged C&T, but rivals will have to do. As the reality TV adage goes, “I’m not here to make friends.”

So, as usual, low marks for the musical numbers and tired reality TV tropes, but decent marks for finally bringing the three heroines together by pitting them against each other.

Renai Boukun – 09

Not long after the ordeal with Akane and Yuzu’s mothers, Akane and Guri are still going at it, with Guri pushing Akane’s buttons and Akane never failing to fall for the goading. Making matters worse, the mothers have charged Shikimi with monitoring Akane and Seiji, so she transfers to their school, just in time for the cultural festival. Holy anime cliches, Batman!

The love polygon Guri originally wrought continues to cause problems for Yuzu, who has always conditioned herself to love Akane and only Akane but clearly has feelings for Seiji as well; she just doesn’t know how/isn’t ready to deal with them. When opportunity knocks, she kisses Seiji in hopes of confirming she feels nothing, but can’t stop her heart from racing.

The class casts Akane and Guri as love rivals…for the heart of the “princess” played by Shikimi (Seiji plays a tree…which is actually very Seiji). The play is an absolute farce, descending into relationship drama between Akane, Guri, and Yuzu, but with Akane trying to be on her best behavior, since Seiji promised he’d kiss her if she got along with Guri.

At the end of the play, Akane has assured Yuzu that it’s okay to have feelings for others, though doesn’t linger on the fact that her sister’s object of affection is Seiji. Seeing Yuzu give an “I detest you but don’t hate you” spech to Seiji while Seiji is still a tree is a pleasant enough visual gag.

The manic energy is present throughout the episode, but my interest in the multi-sided love polygon, and all the “serious vibes” that come with it, is starting to flag, as it dulls the zany comedy that brought me to the show. Guri’s dilemma in particular, and Shikimi’s attempts to drive a wedge between the girls, just isn’t my thing. Still, with just three episodes left, I’ll power through.

Renai Boukun – 08

Yuzu and Guri mount a daring rescue of Akane (armed with cosplay and retro dramatic music), only to find she doesn’t want to be rescued… naturally. The story is very standard issue, and on paper sounds like dozens of such rescue episodes. What makes Renai Boukun’s take on it fresh and watchable (if not outstanding) is its commitment to inserting punchy, often self-referential comedy wherever it can.

As the subtitle above demonstrates, Renai Boukun will often go to the trouble of pointing out the cliches it’s using, because characters like Guri are themselves knowledgable students of anime like the one they’re in. Guri’s status as a cupid, with her “love detection” ability, easily cuts through the stoic masks both Akane and her mother are wearing.

Akane’s mom may not ever break her stern, Vulcan calm, but when Akane herself has her blade pressed to Seiji’s neck, and he tells her he’d never be able to hate her no matter what, her eye highlights come back, and then some: shimmer, tears; the lot!

Renai is also shameless in its portrayal of Akane and Yuzu’s moms as aged-up versions of their daughters: they loved the same man, bearing the girls who now both love Seiji. Akane’s mom left her dad when her family calling beckoned, but she has to deal with the fact her daughter might not go down that very same path.

The moms are also even more powerful than their daughters, and their unhinged battle on the roof of Akane’s house surprises Seiji, even though at this point he’s used to getting stabbed (but likes the pain from Akane’s stabbing more than Shikimi’s).

As expected, by the end of the episode everything is back to the way it was, relationship-wise, only now Akane has the implicit approval to “do as she likes”, which is to keep loving Seiji. Seiji also feels closer to her now that he knows the whole truth about Akane and Yuzu’s family.

Akua got to fight some goons in suits. Coraly got to scare Akua shitless. Shikimi got to stab Seiji a bunch. Everybody’s happy! Well, until the very end, when Guri sees how close Seiji and Akane have grown, and no doubt ponders what, if anything, she can do to get Seiji to look at her the way he looks at Akane.

3-gatsu no Lion – 07

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And endless succession of episodes in which Rei wanders around alone with the wind in his face, wallowing in despair and self-pity over everything he’s been through and all the choices he’s made, was going to get old fast. That would be too dark and brooding, and keep us at a distance.

I wanted in, so to speak, and I got in, thanks in part to a jauntier, more playful week of 3GL, and in part to Hina’s crush Takahashi. While Rei is initially intimidated, Takahashi is actually a great admirer of Rei, and comes to him for serious advice about where to steer his life.

That Takahashi essentially comes out of nowhere to have such a profound effect on Rei and how he looks at the world is of no consequence. I like how a childhood friend of Hina, whom Rei often looks to for comfort, peace, and perspective, is inadvertently responsible for showing Rei “the light.”

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Takahashi’s seriousness, forceful determination, and earnest attentiveness to any and all Rei has to say, gets Rei to open up despite himself, breaking through a barrier he’d never crossed before, letting someone in to his inner thoughts and doubts, and receiving gratitude and further admiration in return.

Even when Takahashi, invited to dinner (much to Hina’s exasperation; however she delivers a sumptuous repast), shows Rei a video of his loss in shogi (a video that exposes Rei’s “secret”/omission to the younger sisters that he and Nikaido are pros), Takahashi does it not out of malice, but to hear from the person who made the move why he made it, and what he thinks about such a move now.

Even when Rei says it was a bad move, and Nikaido almost seems to come through the TV and yell at him directly, over and over, that he needs to “take better care of his shogi and himself”, Takahashi doesn’t dismiss his father and grandfather’s assertion the move wasn’t bad, but was even “aggressive and manly,” qualities Takahashi can relate to on the road to a baseball career; a road that requires similarly bold moves.

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Nikaido’s on-video obnoxious commentary gets Rei so riled up he raises his voice for the first time, yelling at the TV as if Nikaido was there. Rei is amazed to find Hina smiling wider than ever at his outburst, as if it was a privilege to witness. And maybe it was: seeing him display so much passion, even to protest his “best friend” saying far too much to the camera, spurs Hina to ask Rei to teach her how to play shogi.

That’s when Nikaido actually comes out of the TV and appears in person at the Kawamoto household to add some humor and humanity to Rei’s stiff explanation of the game. He even presents a book he presumably wrote and illustrated in which all the shogi pieces are realized as cats, charming not only Hina but Momo too (who already regards Nikaido AKA Bodoro as a kind of demigod).

Rei has finally tasted what it’s like not only to have his thoughts and feelings listened to and validated, but what it’s like to lose it in front of people he cares about, and to share his amassed wisdom to an eager audience. All in all, its a pretty good week for the kid. Here’s hoping he keeps it going.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 06

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We continue an in-depth journey and the running self-commentary of Rei’s life, including the recent slump that has kept him from advancing, even though as one of five players ever to become pros in middle school, he’s expected to become a master like the other four at some point.

Because Rei is still so young, his childhood was disrupted by such tragedy and trauma, the bad times always seemed to overshadow the good, and his “stepsister” Kyouko dug into him so deeply with hurtful words that sounded like the truth, Rei is left unable to process why he’s so unhappy and unable to move forward in life.

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Shogi, so far, hasn’t been the answer. Sure, he threw himself into it with all he had and has been celebrated as a prodigy, but when he’s not playing or training, he has a tendency to shut down. He doesn’t have friends (who aren’t also shogi players).

He barely goes to school, and keeps to himself when he does (I can’t recall even seeing one of his classmates). He admires master Touji Souya, who despite being as old as his teacher still has the face of a teenager; as if his distinguished, decorated career has caused time to stop.

Touji is the titular “God Child”, but I wonder if Rei looks up at him as an ideal to follow, or something he can never attain. Then again, he doesn’t know of Touji delved into shogi not out of love, but out of necessity, as he did. Maybe time stopping isn’t a good thing.

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After nearly a whole episode of navel-gazing and listing all of his problems, Rei and we get a welcome respite, as he runs into Hina in town and treats her to a McDonalds shake. It doesn’t take long for the kind and lovable Hina to notice Rei is feeling gloomy, and invites him to dinner back home.

Hina makes Rei feel ashamed and pathetic for worrying so much about his own issues when Hina is sitting there, a middle schooler worrying about a high schooler, putting his feelings before her own (then crashing and burning when her crush the baseball ace shows up).

If Rei’s going to move—if he wants to move—in life, hanging out more with the Kawamotos seems the way to go.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 05

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For the last four episodes we’ve watched Rei in a really nice situation with caring loving people, and he still seems a bit uncomfortable, like he’s out of place. We’ve also seen glimpses of his Dark Past, but they come fully to the surface this week, as having to pick up Momo (and then tend to her kid wounds) triggers a memory that haunts and will always haunt him.

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Rei’s whole goddamn immediate family went and died instantly when a drunk driver killed them. They left the world, and left him with the rest of his blood relatives, who are portrayed as almost comically awful.

Despite having the means to adopt him, one of his aunts suggests an orphanage, far more concerned about her husband, the younger brother, taking control of the hospital with Rei’s dad out of the way. They’re a real great bunch, I tellya!

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Rei is saved by his dad’s old shogi rival, Kouda, and by a lie: he tells Kouda he loves shogi and wants to pursue a life of shogi, even though he only played shogi as a way to bond with his busy father. Kouda is kinder than any of Rei’s surviving family, but his kids, who are also trying to enter the world of shogi, are not.

Well, at least Kyouko does; the girl from that violent-looking flashback last week. She and her little brother Ayumu are quickly surpassed by Rei, who rises fast in a field he felt he had to pretend to be interested in to be adopted.

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Rei also blames himself for being a “cuckoo chick”, edging out the rightful offspring of the parent out of the nest; tearing a family apart after his was taken from him, like some kind of unconscious revenge/paying backward. Did I mention this is all very horrifically depressing?

I’m glad we’re finally getting Rei’s story of why he is the way he is in the present, but it kinda smothers you in a dark grey cloud of awfulness. The one bright spot is Momo in the first half, being her adorable Momo self. The fact we can understand what the cats and dogs are saying also lighten things up a bit.

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My Hero Academia – 07

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We get it: Deku isn’t trying to “trick” or “underestimate” Kacchan. He simply has to believe he can surpass someone as amazing as Kacchan if he’s ever going to develop into reliable hero. So while the trial is supposed to be about heroes and villains, Kacchan makes it into a duel of nemeses, and Deku has to choice but to play along, while trusting Ochako to handle the bomb retrieval.

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Deku’s notebook knowledge serves him well against an unfocused and increasingly angry Kacchan, but as he gets worn down from all the dodging, and Kacchan gets angrier stalking through the halls, remembering all the times Deku proved himself useless when they were little kids, Kacchan devises more and more subtle yet devastating attacks.

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Mind you, that’s after he blasts a hole in his own “villain stronghold”, leading All Might to warn him if he causes that much destruction again, he’ll forfeit the match.

But he and Deku both know Kacchan doesn’t give a shit about the outcome of the match. He wants Deku to know his place. And All Might knows Deku won’t make any progress getting through to Kacchan if he suspends the match.

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The duel culminates in the two driving their fists at each other, Kacchan with his explosive power and Deku with All For One—but Deku isn’t going for Kacchan, he’s going for the ceiling.

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By blasting numerous holes in the building, he creates a diversion, as well as ammo, for Ochako to wield her antigrav powers and make contact with the bomb, flummoxing Iida, who had tried so hard to play the role of mustache-twirling villain.

As time runs out and the Hero team wins, Kacchan is still playing the same refrain: “Don’t underestimate me. I’m better than you.” 

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Well, talent and strength, especially in the quantities he possesses, certainly are great to have. But that alone doesn’t make a hero. Kacchan seemed constantly driven by hatred for that which he always thought was weaker than him, but day by day is being proven wrong, making him question his own worth deep inside.

Add to that nitroglycerin palm sweat (how the hell did he not accidentally burn his house down nine thousand times as a kid?), and you have a volatile combination. But when Deku tells Kacchan can’t use his quirk lest it destroy his body, and  Kacchan sees the damage to prove it, his scowl of contempt softens into something resembling pity, maybe even understanding and regret for what he’s put Deku through.

Because I feel like a lot of his anger has to do with the fact that Deku never once deserved the shitty treatment Kacchan dumped on him. Quite the opposite, whenever Kacchan even looked like he was in trouble, Deku and only Deku rushed out to help him. Just as Deku needs to strengthen his body and master his quirk to have a future as a hero, Kacchan will have to resolve his various emotional issues.

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My Hero Academia – 06

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Plus Ultra to you on this fine Mother’s Day (USA)! I shall be covering Hero this week in Hannah’s place. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! After Midoriya successfully gets a hero-like number on the ball throw, a furious Kacchan rushes him before being stopped by Aizawa-sensei.

Kacchan of all people simply can’t understand how his childhood friend could have a quirk all of a sudden, and the ‘my own effort’ explanation he gets from Iida second-hand isn’t satisfactory. Deku is pissing all over his moment, and he doesn’t like it! Boo-hoo.

Despite placing last in total test points, Midoriya moves on, because as Aizawa says to All Might, his potential is “not zero”. Midoriya settles into a cozy group of budding friends in the earnest-to-a-fault Iida and the adorable, friendly Ochako, who re-purposes the insulting nickname “Deku-kun” to something cool, because it reminds her of “Ganbatte”.

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Once the class starts hero training with their new teacher All Might (whom almost everyone is in awe of), he unveils that the superhero costumes they requested are ready. Due to various clerical hiccups, Midoriya gets his by another channel – his adorable mom saw the design in his notebook and had it made in secret, as an apology for giving up on him when he never did.

The new costumes really give a sense of pomp and occasion to this upcoming test that the PE uniforms lacked. It also makes everyone far more distinctive and reveals some things about their tastes and personalities. Class ace Yaoyorozu, for instance, isn’t afraid to show a little sideboob, while Ochako didn’t put in any preference and ended up in a tasteful skintight jumpsuit that, if anything, only amplifies her cuteness.

(Speaking of big groups of superheroes taking the stage: I’d just caught Captain America: Civil War Friday night, one of the climactic scenes of which was also bursting with cool costumes.)

As for “Deku’s” suit, it borrows a few details from All Might but has a totally different vibe to it; more Sonic the Hedgehog than Superman; I like it. I’m not as big a fan as Iida’s rather boring suit of armor or Kacchan’s tacky suit that makes him look like a fireworks point-of-purchase. Still, it’s clear from many outfits that they started out as crude pencil sketches.

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The next exercise involves two pairs of students facing off as heroes and villains, with the former having to either capture the latter or the latter keeping their nuke out of the former’s hands. Deku and Ochako are paired up again, to Ochako’s delight.

In the dark, close confines of the test building, Kacchan again breaks the rules to take it to Deku by staging a surprise attack…only to find Deku a far more challenging opponent than he expected, and not because of Deku’s strength, either.

The hero notebook Deku meticulously prepared included notes on his childhood friend, so Deku knows how he fights and how to fight back. This fight should be interesting, assuming Deku doesn’t slip up and get char-broiled before Ochako can step in with her zero-grav assistance.

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My Hero Academia – 05

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There’s an exciting auspicious energy to the dawn before Midoriya’s first day at UA High (bolstered by the show’s sick epic hero rock soundtrack), and All Might reassures him that in time he’ll be able to control One for All, even thought it may not happen overnight.

He gets more emotional support from his proud-as-punch mom (who is the cutest mom), from Iida, a former naysayer he won over in the exam, and “nice girl” Ochako, who is also glad to be in class with the “plain-looking” Midoriya.

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But as is usually the case for Midoriya and shounen like him throughout anime history, what awaits him once he’s finally over the mountain…is another mountain. His homeroom teacher is Aizawa Shouta, a listless but no-nonsense hero who works in the shadows; pretty much the anti-All Might. He believes his students have no time for opening ceremonies or afterschool trips to McDonalds.

They’re here to be heroes, and that means finding their maximum as soon as possible so that they can determine what they can and can’t do. Midoriya is in the unenviable position of having just received his quirk, and so far only used it at either 0% or 100%. He has to get through eight physical tests (the same ones all Japanese students take, only use of quirks is permitted) and not end up last, lest he get expelled on the first day.

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Aizawa’s perspective is no harsher or unfairer than reality, in which a villain or disaster can strike at any time, and won’t wait for you to master your quirk. You’ve gotta be ready yesterday for what could happen today. Fortunately, being pushed into a corner, Midoriya remembers all the supportive words of his allies, and manages to get through the tests by minimizing the damage done by One For All, localizing its power in his finger while throwing a ball.

With that throw, which leaves Midoriya down a finger but otherwise in fine shape, he proves to Aizawa that he does have potential; and that UA High is the perfect venue to cultivate and realize that potential. We also learned that Bakugo still things something underhanded happened to get Deku enrolled, while we were introduced to the powers of some of Midoriya’s many classmates. All in all, a serviceable, if somewhat sparse, introduction to his hero academia.

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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 03

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The Stella x Ikki romance is humming along so well, Stella judges it time to ask him out on a Saturday date. Unfortunately for her, Shizuku had the same exact idea at the same time, sending a text to her bro as Stella trying to get the words out, which Ikki responds to immediately.

When Shizuku brings her roommate “Alice” (a man who identifies as a maiden), it turns into a group date, with neither Stella nor Shizuku happy about the other being there. Alice briefly flirts with Ikki as a joke, but otherwise isn’t in the running.

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Typical harem date hijinx ensue, from Shizuku holding Ikki’s hand (“normal sibling behavior”), to Shizuku calling out Stella on her self-description as Ikki’s servant when she tries to get closer to him, to Ikki wiping cream off Shizuku’s cheek and eating it, then Stella covering the lower half of her face in cream in order to attract similar treatment (Ikki just gets a towel). From Shizuku’s reaction to Ikki’s cream swipe to Stella’s ham-handed counterattack, it’s clear these two are new to the seduction game. It’s a process!

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But thankfully, the whole episode isn’t just a lightweight date, when the mall they’re in gets taken over by gun-wielding, hostage-taking masked goons working for a Blazer named Bisho. It happens when Ikki and Alice are in the john, and Alice hides them in the shadows using his handy shadow-manipulating device, but Stella and Shizuku are among the hostages.

No matter, they put aside their rivalry and start working to resolve the situation. Shizuku needs Stella to stay put and stay off the radar, but when the tough guys start beating an insolent mother and son, she stands up and uses her power to protect them, blowing her cover.

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When Stella goes head-to-head against Bisho, his “Ring of Judgment” absorbs her strikes and fires them back at her with equal force. But he respects her courage and offers to spare the hostages if she supplicates herself…in the nude.

Not wanting any innocents hurt, she starts to strip, but before she can remove her bra, Shizuku springs into action, having prepared a water-based magical barrier that protects the hostages from bullets and allows Ikki and Alice to take out Bisho, while Stella takes out the henchmen in her undies.

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They do so, and Ikki overcome’s Bisho’s weapon by simply cutting his hand off, and all’s well that ends well, with a somewhat woozy-from-exertion Ikki running to embrace Stella (who is surprised by but also happy with such a affectionate gesture. And he doesn’t hug Shizuku!)

But there’s a baddie hiding amongst the hostages too: a woman who threatens to kill another woman nearby if they don’t stand down. Fortunatly for Ikki & Co., an “ally” appears out of nowhere and basically cleans up the mess they were in, saving everyone.

That “ally”, which I put in quotes because he’s someone who seems to do such things in order to get all the credit and groupies, is Kirihara Shizuya, someone with whom Ikki has a past. Specifically, Ikki “ran away like a coward” rather than do battle with him an unspecified time ago.

Ikki tries to be cordial, but Kirihara’s barbs annoy Stella to no end. Worse, Kirihara gets a new text message: the first opponent he’ll face will be Kirihara. I doubt Ikki will be running away this time, and will have a plan to beat him.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 09

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Aldini Takumi and his bro made a pretty bangin’ dish for Chef Hinako, but when pondering his response, Souma shows that two can tango. As soon as he asked Hinako to repeat the condition of the test about using anything inside the confines of the hotel grounds, I knew he was going for her beloved rice crackers, which means unlike all of the other students who are grilling the char, he’s now got a coating with which to deep fry it.

Now that’s resourcefulness; hinging one’s entire dish on a snack the judge just happened to have on her. I also like the cut from students wondering why Hinako was known as the “Empress of Mist”, to the “mists” of tea steam emanating from her, explaining the nickname.

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I also like SnS‘s insitence, at least at this point in the game, to have rivals, not villains or antagonists, face off against Souma. Takumi is a rival. He left home to attend this academy specifically because he wants to go toe-to-toe with worthy rivals like Souma. He’s even worried and apologetic when he accidentally crushes Souma’s crackers, afraid he may have inadvertently sabotaged Souma’s dish. Luckily, he needs those crackers pulverized.

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Also heartening: as down to the wire and in the dark as she initially was for this test, Megumi doesn’t just shrink before the task at hand. Once it’s Go Time, she’s fighting right beside Souma, delicately preparing the mountain veggies she has experience foraging for back home as he bones, coats, and fries the fish.

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The final dish that’s served is, like every other one he’s made (except the peanut butter squid) looks tantalizingly scrumptious, especialy that airy egg, oil, and herb dipping sauce.

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We knew this dish was going to be a hit with Hinako, it was just a matter of what spit-take-inducing fantasy she’d have in her taste-ecstasy. SnS doesn’t dissapoint here, either, with a mermaid Hinako (with an embellished bust) being taken into the muscular arms of an anthropomorphized rice cracker. You gotta love the creativity of  SnS‘s visual symbolism.

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Hinako passes Souma and Megumi, but contrary to her agreement with Takumi, never determines whose dish is superior. This is either because she’s a bit of an airhead (another reason for her “Empress of Mist nom de guerre”) or because she’s deliberately toying with the overeager guys. Probably a bit of both.

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And in the end, it doesn’t matter whose dish was better: both Souma and Takumi learned that the other is the real deal, and more importantly, someone they’d never have met if they both stayed in their family restaurants. Only by putting your skills up against others and being exposed to their methods can these two find their true passion; the passion that will take them beyond merely surpassing their elders.

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And that’s a wrap….oh wait, no it isn’t. We get Bonus SnS this week, which underlines how strenuous the training camp truly is. Poor Yuuki thinks they can kick back with extravagant meals prepared for them by the hotel staff, a nice hot bath, and a sumptuous hotel room. But she and the other students are the hotel kitchen staff, and they have to make 50 servings of a steak set each before they can feed themselves, to say nothing of the other comforts of the hotel.

Yuuki is crestfallen, but it’s not long before the intense situation puts her into Battle Mode, feeding an endless horde of ravenous bodybuilders, wrestlers, and football players. It’s good training for those who wish to run a restaruant, no matter what kind it is.

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Unsurprisingly, “Short-Order” Souma is the first to finish, and doesn’t even break a sweat. He heads cheerfully to the communal bath, certain he’ll have it all to himself. But as an extended version of the lovely ED plays and he sings along to it, an equally cheerful and relaxed Erina is singing the same song. It ends with the lyric “Fate is the spice of life” as the two bump into each other, as if by fate. Be it cordial or hostile, I look forward to seeing how this encounter pans out.

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