Holmes of Kyoto – 01 (First Impressions) – The Game’s Afoot

After Mashiro Aoi broke up with her boyfriend in Saitama, he immediately started dating someone I presume to be her best friend. Betrayed, angry, and generally very down in the dumps, Aoi wants to book a train there to give them a piece of her mind. In other words, while she may be justified in seeking vengeance, there are better ways she could be directing her energy.

Aoi also doesn’t have the money for the train, so she snatches some valuable drawings from her late grandfather’s house and visits an antique shop in Kyoto’s Teramachi Sanjou district to have them appraised. There, she meets the young Yagashira Kiyotaka, AKA Holmes, who is as exceedingly apt at appraising people and intent as he is appraising antiquities.

The story of her fateful first day at the shop is framed as a reminiscence between Aoi and Holmes two weeks after he hires her as a part-time assistant, in order to pay for her ticket—if she still feels the need to go to Saitama once she’s made enough.

Holmes can’t buy antiques from those under 20, but even if she was old enough, he uses the particular pieces she chose to try to sell to basically teach her a lesson about turning the other cheek. Even the famous artist Hakuin couldn’t escape scandal, even if he was the victim of a false accusation.

At the end of the day the infant he was left with made a strong impression on the artist, and the love he had for said infant is captured in the drawing. Because Aoi has a good head on her shoulders, she realizes the error of her ways and is ashamed—unlike one of the counterfeit sellers who visits the shop.

Aoi doesn’t turn down his offer of a part-time job, especially if it means working with such a bright, charming, attractive fellow. She may have entered the shop with her head hanging low, but she leaves feeling lighter than air, twirling past the same riverbank of couples she cursed earlier.

Holmes of Kyoto, as Aoi’s voiceover puts it, is a “quiet and beautiful story of the cases we solved in Kyoto,” which is an apt description. I’m liking the simplicity and focus of just two people in the small, simple yet potential-filled setting of a shop, and Aoi’s seiyu Tomita Miyu (Riko from Abyss) is always a welcome inclusion to any cast. In all, a strong start. I want to see more cases!

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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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Shokugeki no Souma – 17

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Zane reviews this week’s Food Wars.

I should have known Souma’s homecoming wouldn’t consist of kicking back and relaxing…or rather kicking back and relaxing the way normal people do on vacation. Though he only intends to “air out” the diner, when classmates and townsfolk see the shop open, they swarm to him, and he’s more than happy to feed them.

Then a nexus of elements conspire to put him in the middle of a shopping district-saving karaage challenge, and he can’t help but put every effort into it. The kid simply doesn’t turn off. Nor does the show’s hunger for heightened tension through competition, no matter what the challenge is.

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His return home also marks the return of his adorable classmate Kurase Mayumi, on the surface one of the show’s plainest and least charismatic characters. Yet in a show replete with colorful, eccentric personalities, Mayu actually stands out due to her relative normal-ness.

She couldn’t be more different than the glamorous, scantily-clad buxom, low-voiced meat-expert Nikumi, who enthusiastically accepts Souma’s call to pay him a visit without question or complaint (and whose T&A have their own proprietary sound effects). I take that back: they’re similar in one very important way: they both like Souma.

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More to the point, they both feel threatened by one another. Nikumi fears the chipmunk-like Mayu is the type of gal Souma goes for; Mayu fears Nikumi is actually Souma’s girlfriend, and is so blown away by her sexiness she forgets they’re in the same grade. Truth be told, I’m a Souma x Megumi shipper and thus not really in this particular fight, but the two make for a fun duo flanking a predictably oblivious Souma.

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The three stop by the wildly popular Mozuya specialty karaage shop that is cleaning up from its primo location in the newly renovated train station shopping arcade. The lady in charge is the volatile, venomously competitive (and hilarious!) Nakamozu Kinu, who isn’t content to just clean up, but also dance on the corpses of the shopping district losers she’s stealing business from. When she learns Souma & Co. are there to scout, she isn’t the slightest bit intimidated, because Mozuya is an award-winning, financially burgeoning karaage giant.

Mozuya reminds me of Chik-Fil-A, a local fast food chain in America that also specializes in chicken. Every store is a well-oiled machine, whether it’s in a mall or a standalone. Every time I go, I’m met with uncommon (to American fast food at least) courtesy and hospitality from an obviously highly-trained and motivated staff, regardless of how busy it is…and it’s always busy.  I’ve made complicated orders for large groups during the lunch rush, and always get the order within a minute or so of placing it. It’s uncanny.

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Chik-Fil-As are, in fact, run so well, it’s almost suspicious, like there’s something sinister at work. And that’s the same vibe I got from Mozuya. Nakamozu certainly has her merciless, sinister side, which thoroughly unsettles foodnorm Mayumi well after they depart. Souma and Nikumi, on the other hand, are used to that kind of tension, and have been through culinary hell together; this is just another challenge to overcome.

But it’s not going to be easy. Mozuya has been perfecting its recipe for years, and though Mayu is a game taste tester, Souma isn’t able to create any test batches of karaage remotely good enough to topple the giant. The ultra-rich and thus out of touch with the real world Nikumi suggests fighting fire with a tactical nuke, AKA her family’s vaunted A5 beef, but her idea of “affordable” is over three times Souma’s price ceiling.

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Even if profits aren’t as important as victory to Nikumi, Souma isn’t just trying to win; he’s trying to revitalize the shopping district. So it’s interesting that it’s Mayumi, a native of the town like Souma, gives him the spark he needs to move forward by suggesting playing to the strengths of the district rather than playing on Mozuya’s turf.

As he works out what he’s going to do, Nakamozu has a call with her restaurant advisor, who happens to be one of the Elite Ten along with Isshiki and Erina. That means if Souma can somehow defeat Mozuya, that will speak volumes to his ability to take on said Elite Ten. Not a bad feat to pull off while on vacation!

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Tamako Market – 11

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Word spreads around the district that Tamako is a “princess”, but she’s more excited about winning a medal for filling 100 order cards throughout the years. Her dad is sour about the entire idea, and Mochizou isn’t altogether ecstatic either, especially, when Tamako gets to chat briefly with the prince via Dera. After Mochizou tells her if she’s happy, he’s happy, and Anko sleeps with her, Tamako wakes up to find the medal gone. In the street, it is handed to her by none other than the prince.

As one of the shopkeepers says to her dejected dad, Tamako is very good around the house and with the mochi shop. But that doesn’t mean that everything’s going to stay the same forever. Even if she herself doesn’t want to leave yet, one day she may. No one, not even Choi, knows exactly what the future holds. We certainly don’t, after an episode that’s all about how everyone reacts to the biggest change yet: Tamako moving away to marry some weird prince. And to be fair, no one – not her dad, Anko, Midori, Kanna, Shiori, or Mochizou, saw that coming.

Of course, a lot of smaller changes have already taken place in the course of the series: When Dera arrived, that was certainly change; but it didn’t really shake anything up, because he was the one sticking around, in a new life. For everyone else, it was the same old life. In fact, now that he’s a fixture of the household. But Tamako leaving? That’s a change that scares everyone close to her, and her most of all, especially because she doesn’t know exactly how she feels or should feel about this, and no one has satisfactory answers, because it’s her life.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 09

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October 10th is Mochi day, and also Mochizou’s birthday, but he’s afraid Tamako forgot it. Anko is upset about something, and he learns that her friend Yuzuki is moving away on the 10th. On that day, Tamako sends An to his house to deliver fresh mochi, and give him a proper goodbye. Tamako catches her dad Dai singing the song she’s had stuck in her head; it turns out to be a love song he wrote for their mother, to convince her to go out with him. Before calling it a night, Tamako surprises Mochizou with birthday mochi.

This was a lovely, moving episode, with the overarching theme of “everybody loves somebody.” Anko is in love with her friend Yuzuki; Mochizou is in love with Tamako; Dera is in love with whatever maiden sneezes on him; and Tamako’s dad is still in love with his dearly departed wife. This has always a show not of big revelations, but of slow, quiet, incremental change. But things are definitely changing, especially after the events of this week.

Take Tamako’s dad: he was able to open up and allow the secret of his songwriting to come to the surface, showing Tamako a whole side of him she (and we) never knew or suspected; we just thought he was a traditionalist stick-in-the-mud, but he’s a true romantic who didn’t let a couple awkward encounters with his future wife discourage him. Mochizou could definitely learn a thing or two from him, and while his progress with Tamako remains slow, in the end his birthday wasn’t forgotten. We just hope Tamako remembered, and didn’t have to be reminded by An!


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 07

Choi Mochimazzi arrives at Usagiyama in search of both Dera and her prince’s bride. Distressed by his increased girth, he blames Tamako, who set up a “trap” that cost him the will and ability to leave the town. As a suspicious Choi spends more time with Tamako and experiences the hospitality of the shopping district, she concludes there is no such trap, and that the townsfolk are merely kind and generous people. When Tamako asks whom Choi is looking for in a bride, Choi suddenly reacts as if Tamako is that bride.

Throughout the show’s run, Dera has been the wild card that’s kept it from being just another shopping district slice-of-life in which guys never get the girl. Now Dera’s boss, of sorts, is in town, and combines the exotic foreignness of Dera with the relatability of a human. After all, Dera is at the end of the day, a bird, and a tool of sorts. One wonders why a society that can put circuitry into a bird to turn it into a communications device would walk around in bare feet and wear such primitive clothing, but to each their own.

Choi serves well enough as a fresh fish out of water, and even buys into Dera’s lame excuse that he was trapped into staying…or is that lame after all? While they mean no ill will, Tamako, her family, and the shopping district have nonetheless conspired to create an environment so comfortable and welcoming, that it’s hard for anyone to leave…or remain thin. And then, at the end, we’re faced with something we probably should have seen coming long ago: that lil’ Tamako may (may, mind you) be the bride the Mochimazzis have been looking for all along. But that would mean leaving everything she knows.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

 

Tamako Market – 06

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The summer heat has driven away the shopping districts customers, so at the next meeting Tamako suggests they open a haunted house. Using the bathhouse storeroom, she and her friends prepare the house while the adult shopkeepers experience strange incidents that lead them to believe the district is cursed. However, three of the five incidents were explained logically by Shiori, and the other two fabricated by Kanna. The haunted house is a big hit, attracting lots of business to the district as intended.

As soon as the cold open projected a darker, more forboding atmosphere than we’d seen in the series to date, we were a little perplexed about what was in store this week, but after Tamako’s idea is revealed, it all became clear. With business in the toilet due to the summer heat, the promise of chills brought on by sundry frights proves a surefire way to bring the people out. Meanwhile, things like guardian stones and haunted houses bemuse and intrigue Dera, for whom they are foreign concepts.

It helps that everyone in the district is so tight, they not only promptly provide all the materials Tamako and her friends need for the haunted house, but they inadvertently perpetuate the rumor of the district itself being haunted, thus creating hype for the house. The adults did act a little goofily this week, but we’ll chalk it up to the heat. Ooji is absent this week, which is probably for the best, and at the very end the princess from Dera’s homeland appears, which should defintely shake things up.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Tamako Market – 03

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Spring arrives, and with it a new school year. Tamako is interested in her new classmate Asagiri Shiori, but Shiori won’t give her the time of day. Mochimazzi gets lost and falls from the sky and is caught by Shiori, who takes him home to Tamako’s. She stays for dinner and goes to the bath with Tamako. The next day she can’t find the words to thank her, but she ends up back at Tamako’s anyway, helping her lost teacher make a home call. Over coffee and music at the cafe, Shiori is finally able to express her thanks to Tamako, and the two become friends.

This was a very pretty episode, that made us wish Spring were here already. It also makes the friendship of the devastatingly shy Shiori and the bubbly, friendly Tamako almost a matter of fate. After all, external forces (Mochimazzi and the teacher) drew Shiori to Tamako’s house both times, but she enjoyed herself both times. It was also nice to see how an “outsider” deals with all the generosity and friendliness of the shopping district as a whole. If you’re a friend of Tamako, you’re a friend of theirs, too.

While we’ll admit part of us wanted Shiori to finally blow her stack and verbally unload on Tamako, that wouldn’t quite fit the tone of this series thus far. Instead, she practices thanking her in the mirror, and after some strong coffee and a little music, she’s finally able to communicate her feelings. Tamako and the bird aren’t causing her trouble. On the contrary, she always wanted to be part of Tamako’s world. And now she is. Croquettes and sakuramochi for everyone!…Except Mochimazzi…bird need to lose some weight like yesterday.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Tamako Market – 02

Valentines Day is near, and at the shopping district meeting, Tamako (with Mochizou backing her up) suggests the district do a Valentines theme. Her father refuses to participate. Mochizou films a shopping district commercial with Tamako and Rika dressed as bunnies. Midori is preoccupied, and has coffee with Mochimazzi, who notices she has a “burdened heart”. In the end, Tamako’s dad makes “Lovey-dovey Heart Mochi” for the occasion. On Valentines Day, Tamako gives chocolate to her dad, Rikka builds a giant chocolate house, and Midori gets chocolate from a guy.

Everyone has a feeling they can’t give a name to…and it makes all of us hurt inside.

This whole episode had a lovely flow to it, bouncing from one little storyline to another while holding everything together under the theme of love; specifically, that quote above by the hippie record store guy. In most cases, that feeling is give the name “love”, but love is at once specific and vague, a catch-all term that isn’t always the most useful way to express feelings. Were that it were simpler for some of the denizens of Bunny Mountain; if simply sneezing on a potential mate indicated your desire to…mate. Mochimazzi still confuses girls’ sneezes thus. We don’t begrudge the bird sticking around this place; it’s so…lively.

It’s a tight-knit, warm, loving community. Sure, Tamako’s dad can be a grouch sometimes, and he and Mochizou’s dad are always near blows, but their rivalry is one of the hundreds of little threads that make up the tapestry of life in the shopping district. In the heart of it all we have Tamako, who takes her Valentines idea and realizes it, despite talking about romance as a kind of far-off thing in the future (and outwardly oblivious of Mochizou’s feelings). From Tamako and Mochizou flubbing their presentation at the meeting (and the chairperson catching their stage fright), to when Rikka is just killing time playing with Tamako’s hair, everyone is who they are, and the modern world is what it is.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Tamako Market – 01

Kitashirakawa Tamako is the daughter of a mochi maker in the Usagiyama shopping district. One day while visiting the flower shop she finds an unusual, pompous talking bird named Dera Mochimozzi inside a bouquet. He claims to be a member of the “royal court” searching for a bride for his prince, but ends up living with Tamako and her family at the mochi shop Tama-ya.

KyoAni’s latest series is an affable slice-of-life/comedy with a tinge of supernatural in that there’s this very strange and very proud, arrogant bird. The instantly-appealing shopping district setting has a warm, cozy, lived-in feel to it. Tamako has everything she needs in this district – her home, a mochi-making business in which she is integrally involved, family, good fiends, a potential love interest across the street. And now it seems she has a pet bird.

Mochimozzi adds an element of whimsy and unpredicability. He’s a frequent source of sight and sound gags, and his formal, aloof voice (provided by Yamazaki Takumi) gives him lots of character. Tamako herself, by contrast, is just your ordinary unassuming girl: friendly, hardworking, upbeat…and sometimes the unwitting target of shuttlecocks. This series wasn’t originally on our Winter watchlist, but it’s so darned charming we’re going to give it a go.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)