Senryuu Shoujo – 03 – Bemusement Park

President Amane is all about trying to get Nanako and Eiji together, which includes eavesdropping on a truly bizarre game of charades in which Nanako somehow makes the upward wind you get on a roller coaster. I would have barged in too…where did that come from?

It’s a 4-koma kind of playful comedy that doesn’t always have to, say obey the laws of physics. Or something absurd, like when younger Nanako had temper tantrums, she still wrote senryuu to express herself. Amane’s challenging of Eiji asserting what a “manly man” he is was also amusing.

This all leads to the three making plans to go to an amusement park, but Amane bowing out at the last second in order to make it a date for Nanako and Eiji. The latter is your typical mostly-oblivious fella, who is almost appallingly late on the uptake despite the fact Nanako is flirting with him in writing.

I enjoyed the little white lies Nanako employed to try to get a little closer, whether with the shared soda cup or informing Eiji that her shoelaces broke, possibly implying that the only way for her to go home would be if he carried her.

Alas, Eiji notices she’s wearing shoes that don’t have laces. As with Nanako’s inexplicable wind-summoning, Amane can’t help but spring out from her hiding spot to protest Eiji’s denseness.

Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 06

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Barring something bizarre (like a tie with one judge abstaining), this battle was only going to end one way: with Souma victorious. There’s no way he’d lose and give up cooking six episodes in.

The show knows we know the outcome, so it must, as it often has in the past, dazzle and entertain us with the process that leads to that outcome. And it succeeds!

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After whipping out bacon that demonstrates his curing and smoking expertise are on par with Ibusaki’s, and revealing that his profiling job was made much easier by guessing Sotsuda’s password and reading all his notes on Souma’s prep.

The very harsh alumnai judges believe the multifaceted umami of the bacon is something Souma simply cannot overcome, until he starts improvising, whipping out four distinct cuts of meat—cheek, tongue, tripe, and fillet—each perfectly prepared in a manner ideal to it, and added as garniture for the stew, in what Souma deems a “meet theme park.”

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Mimasaka predicted someone of Souma’s confidence would turn to improv, but is confident his profiling and detailed preparations will be able to weather anything Souma throws at the judges.

Mimasaka serves his dish first, and the beef/pork umami is violently, knock-’em-sock-’em good, leaving Mimasaka laughing villainously and the judges more weary than ever that Souma’s seemingly thrown-together dish will be any match.

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…But of course it is. Rather than being tossed around in a boxing ring with meat heavyweights, the judges are spirited away to “Yukihee Land” (trademark pending), where they transform into giddy high school girls (yes, including Dojima) running around enjoying life and youth.

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While Mimasaka’s carefully erected house of cards is impressive, it pales in comparison to the encyclopedic display of skill on display, as he puts a Chikuzen stew-like twist on beef stew rather than sticking with the French classic. The individual meats he used impress the judges with how well each was prepared and how they create and exhilarating ride in their mouths and imaginations.

By the end of their meal, the judges are gleefully holding hands without knowing it. The voting is unanimous, and Souma defeats Mimasaka…but he also teaches Mimasaka a lesson.

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Growing up, Mimasaka imitated his stern father’s cooking, and the first time he put a twist on it, he beat his father’s cooking, leading to his exile. He used that same approach intentionally—and with increasing cruelty—throughout his cooking career to advance himself, because it worked.

But for the first time, it didn’t work, and Mimasaka must surrender all of the treasured tools that embody the pride of the previous chefs he beat (in a scene that looks a lot like Hunger Games, what with all the past losers rushing into a container full of knives). Only Takumi refuses to take back his Mezzaluna; it goes to Souma instead, and he’ll get it back when he beats him in a Shokugeki.

Now that Mimasaka has experienced the same shameful, pride-robbing defeat what all the chefs he defeated, like them he begins to question whether he should even cook anymore. But the point of Souma’s lesson was to demonstrate that a true professional chef takes the worst defeat of their life in stride, because the kitchen must open tomorrow, and the customers must be fed.

Meanwhile, Souma continues to look ahead to his future match with Erina (who looks down imperiously before demanding he get her that manga she wanted), while Round 2 of the semifinals between Hayama and Kurokiba begins immediately. And what do you know, I have no idea who’s going to win this one!

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Rolling Girls – 02

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Alright, I’m calling it: Rolling Girls’s second episode is the Best Episode of the Winter so far; beating Saekano – 01 by a hair. So it’s fitting that it’s called “The Center of the World”, because that’s where it felt like I was for nearly twenty-five minutes.

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It was, quite simply, The Complete Package: an addictive blend of Kill la Kill’s hypercaffinated, escalating battles and back-stories; One Off’s motorcycles and attractive character design; Zvezda’s ‘Power of Youth’ element; and finally, Amagi Brilliant Park’s eclectic collection of lovable characters, punchy dialogue, and a story that’s equal parts Swiss watch and Rube Goldberg machine.

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All of those shows I listed that remind me of this had their flaws, but RG manages to avoid most or all of them. Frankly, if there were any, they’d bee quickly lost in dizzying yet controlled pace of the action. Things seem on the edge of flying completely off the rails, like the roller coaster of non-combatant hostages.

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But rather than do that, RG rearranges the coaster’s track and keeps the ride going. Considering just how much was thrown at my eyes and ears, it’s a wonder I can tease out a simple synopsis, but that’s the beauty of controlled, well-organized chaos.

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So here goes: Nozomi learns Maccha Green is Masami, and Masami created the persona so Nozomi wouldn’t risk her life trying to save her like she did in the past.

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Only this week Nozomi and Shigyo end up dueling so fiercely, they end up taking each other right out of the peacebrokering game for two months. But while the battles get more and more intense and ridiculous as the episode progreses, they also gain more and more thematic resonance.

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The shit that goes on is simply unreal, but nothing comes out of left field, even what seem to be the most absurd occurances. Masami’s secret weapon is the Ramen Vomit Stream (from their eating contest earlier) that comes up after Shigyo beats her up, and a man wearing a croccodile mask gets accidentally punched. How do you confuse that face for Nozomis?!

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Particularly impressive is when Masami gets some shots in on Shigyo, it seems to conjure up long-lost memories for Shigyo, about how she once idolized and trained to become a superhero she learned was a fraud when he appeared in a magazine unmasked. The amount of visual information is stunning, and while it sure looks like a mess in these many many screencaps, it just wasn’t.

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The show also making use of every cubic inch of the space the two are fighting in, with the Giant Maccha Robot (which was only a giant inflatable dummy, but still fooled Shigyo last week), springs a leak when a big bird tries to steal octopus balls from smaller birds perched on it.

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Masami seems to have more pure dumb luck on her side, both with the vomit and with the blimp crash landing right where Shigyo stands. Masami’s toughness is also on full display, as she’s able to shield Nozomi from the blimp in the nick of time, despite having just taken a crushing blow from Shigyo.

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Getting back to that full use of 3D space, when the duel reaches the level in which all the non-combatants on both sides are simply blown away by the sheer force of the Bests’ attacks, we get to see it from Nozomi’s POV.

But as we said, the battle eventually does end—off-camera, ironically—with the two combatants laid up in the hospital for a couple months. As Masami can’t protect her in there, Nozomi figures it’s time to protect her, and decides to be a peacebroker-for-hire in her place.

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From the way her cool dad convinces her mom to agree to it, to Nozomi mounting her super-cool motorcycle in super-cool light and then hurting her leg on the starter, this progression from battle to Nozomi’s next move is as heartwarming as it is hilarious.

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I thought, then, that the next few episodes would be spent gathering the other three members of the titular Rolling Girls. Nope! She gathers them all up (both intentionally and by chance) in the final minute of the episode, as she’s riding out of town! After a maximalist battle, a minimalist team-build. I loved it. rg215

And these weren’t random people, either: Nozomi and Yukina had already bonded (and gone through hell together) and Yukina simply likes the idea of going for a ride, Hibiki Ai was the enemy Rest who was kicked out and needs a ride, and Misono Chiaya was a customer at Nozomi’s fam’s restaruant. So off they go, to settle disputes and hunt for the rare Moonlight Stones that give Bests their powers. I for one am PUMPED.

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Rolling Girls – 01 (First Impressions)

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I didn’t quite catch all of the enthusiastic narrator’s talk about a “Great Tokyo War” That resulted in Japan’s prefectures breaking off into independent nations, nor the various mumbo-jumbo exclaimed by several characters. What I do understand is that this Zvezda-style politics-through-Kill la Kill-esque-stylized-warfare milieu is a ton of fun.

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This show was classified by MAL as “slice of life”, but what a strange life it is for the titular girls! Though not on the surface: Moritomo Nozomi is a normal girl attending normal school whose normal parents own a normal restaurant, and she has a normal senpai-kohai relationship with her neighbor Masami Otoku.

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And that’s about where the ‘normal’ ends. In this world, the various prefectures pick fights with one another and their ‘armies’, essentially mobs of mostly normal young vigilantes, meet on fields of battle in lovely weather In this case, Tokorozawa is under attack by Higashi Murayama, which means The latter’s “Best” peacebroker-for-hire Shigyo Kuniko battles one-on-one with the power-ranger-looking Tokorozawa Best, “Maccha Green.”

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The comparisons to Kill la Kill (without the nudity) Zvezda (without the loli fanservice) continue as the combatants mix in kicks and punches with supernatural attacks as well as tickling, in some very slick and satisfying combat. Maccha is able to make Shigyo and her mob retreat by summoning a giant robot, but she will be back.

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It doesn’t take long for us to learn that Maccha Green is none other than Nozomi’s close neighbor, Masami Otoku, though she’s not yet aware of this. Masami doesn’t want Nozomi so close to Macchas (i.e. her) battles, as the “Rest” grunts tend to end up as collateral damage.

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As you’ve probably already noticed from these screencaps, Rolling Girls is very rich and colorful and lively in its presentation of everything from a semi-magical scrap to a touching sunset meeting to a nighttime ride in Masami’s motorcycle with sidecar.

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And while this show has the trappings of a magic battle show, it sticks to the slice-of-life fundamentals, like taking a breather for a character moments between Nozomi and Masami, or the goings-on in the Hiyoshicho Propellers’ (the name of the mob they’re in) HQ, or a casual meal at a ramen stand…which turns into an eating contest, as Shigyo suspects Masami is Maccha Green.

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But what put this show over the top for me into “8” territory was the chess game Shigyo and Higashi Murayama played to put Tokorozawa on its knees. As Shigyo distracted Masami, her Rests arranged an amusement park trip for the Propellers and takes them hostage, even blowing up the roller coaster track they’re on.

I’m not under any illusions real blood will be shed, but Shigyo is definitely playing for keeps and seems to have the upper hand on Masami. But Maccha Green has already pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat in this episode, so I’m confident she can save her Rests, Nozomi among them. Rolling Girls is off to a stylish and promising start.

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