Tsurezure Children – 04

For three of the four couples, “futility” is the name of the game this week. Kana and Chiaki are now officially together, but forces conspire to keep them from taking their relationship to a more physical place.

After some initial awkwardness and another one of their little comedy bits, they’re well and truly ready to do the deed (Kana even brought protection), only to be stymied by not one but two rude interruptions by Chiaki’s curious mom. Chiaki, brah, lock your damn door.

I’m finding the more complex relationship rooted in a long-standing friendship the more interesting pairing in TC so far, as demonstrated by my lack of enthusiasm for the two skits in the middle.

Neither the painfully blunt Akagi asserting dominance on the tentative Ryouko, nor Ruruya’s inability to answer Yuki’s confession because he fears she’s just teasing him really resonated for me. Hopefully both stories will go to more interesting places at a later date.

Sugawara and Takano’s latest appearance splits the difference between the first skit I liked and the later two I didn’t. But yet again, the situation is the same for Sugawara: the onus is on him to communicate in no uncertain terms that he likes Takano, that he’s not joking around, and that he wants to be her boyfriend.

He’s worried about being friend-zoned, but at least there’ll be closure. And we know that Takano wishes she was…exactly what she is: someone Sugawara would want to date. These two simply need to get on the same page for once. I think they at least inched a little closer.

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 05

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Just as Sakurako assembles piles of bones into completed skeletons, she assembles piles of clues into solved mysteries. And this week she wastes no time revealing Fujioka’s “curse” by applying a hefty dose of science. All the rain and humidity caused mold to grew behind the frame of his painting; a mold that reacts to the arsenic-based Sheele’s Green paint to generae diethyl arsine gas.

Fujioka’s banded nails and cough were symptoms of arsenic poisoning, from being in close proximity to the painting in his closed-off room. She “lifts” the curse by opening a window, hopeful the fresh air and truth will set Fujioka at ease. But when Fujioka goes off to smoke his last cigarette, Sakurako senses this skeleton isn’t quite complete: more bones lay scattered whose proper place must be found.

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Among those bones: the fact Fujioka was fine having both a dog and a painting he believed to be cursed nearby; the fact he closely researched the causes and age of deaths of all his male relatives and printed out the results; the large life insurance policy he took out on himself; it all points to him looking to off himself and make it look like an accident; another victim of the family curse.

It almost works, too, but thanks to an alert Hector and a razor-sharp-minded Sakurako, his plan is foiled. She turniquets the leg he wounded with an axe, and as they wait for the ambulance, he confesses that after the global financial crisis, he’s broke, and could see no other way to provide for his wife and child than by sacrificing himself. But as someone who was “left behind” herself, Saku is personally offended by such an attitude.

Being alive and with his family is far more important to them than solving money troubles. So they sell the big black house—black, Saku believes, not because of that color’s association with death, but because of its psychological healing power: those in mourning who wear it aren’t merely expressing their grief, but fighting their fear of death.

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We hear bits and pieces of what becomes of Fujioka and his family: his leg on the mend, he gets a job at an IT company; they sell the house and move into a small apartment; and Sakurako adopts Hector so he can have the proper space to run around. Despite being taken down a couple of pegs, it’s still a happy ending for Fujioka, because his wife’s hope that they’ll grow old together and see their great grandchildren remains.

Sakurako remains weary of the art appraiser who insisted Fujioka get close to the painting with his wife and son, believing he may have had sinister intentions toward the family. Ultimately, his manipulation of Fujioka, and all the heightening anxiety it entailed, may have been the real curse that threatened to kill him. Hopefully, it’s gone now. But Saku still carries her own curse; one pile of bones she has yet to touch, and which Shoutarou continues to remind her of. I wonder when we’ll learn how those bones fit together in earnest—those of the titular ‘corpse under Sakurako’s feet’.

Last week’s episode felt a bit too deliberate and hesitant, but the resolution (imperfect as it is in typical Sakurako-san fashion) more than made up for it, using every bone laid out last week to construct a beautiful skeleton. Saku’s science-y deductions continue to make this one of the smartest shows of the Fall, and references to the Great Recession firmly ground it in reality.

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 04

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This week’s mystery is provided by Officer Utsumi, whose friend Fujioka believes he’s under a curse that will soon claim his life. Sakurako grudgingly agrees to meet with this Fujioka, if only to tell him he’s full of it. After all, despite many of his male family members dying relatively young and suddenly, a big part of the logic Saku operates under states that correlation is not causation. Humans sometimes make connections where none exist.

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This is an interesting variation of the cases Saku has worked on so far; the “victim” as it were, remains alive, albeit convinced his days are numbered. Fujioka comes from an otherwise financially lucky family, and lives in a giant modern black box of a house with gunslits for windows with his wife and infant daughter.

And that’s why Utsumi wants some sense talked into his friend: Fujioka can’t live in constant fear of dying; he has a family to look after; everything to live for. Yet gray clouds suffuse the setting

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There’s also a dog involved; a white dog we’e seen in the OP, whose owners have one after another come to untimely ends. Hector, as the dog is called, warms up instantly to Saku, no doubt attracted by her regular proximity to death. Saku and Hector have at least one thing in common: they both love bones.

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Much of the episode is Saku and Shou sitting in Fujioka’s living room hearing about his life and his various possessions (including one strange painting on display and another believed to be as cursed as the dog in storage).

As his thirty-sixth birthday is nigh, he steps out to pick up his cake, but we see him converse with a man about carrying out some kind of “plan”, causing me to suspect he’s being manipulated, perhaps by someone after his family fortune.

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Throughout their interactions with this young family that should be perfect and happy, we see the deleterious effects of the “curse”, whether it’s an actual thing or not. Considering how logical and practical this show has been thus far, I’m loath to believe anything supernatural is afoot. But there is a sense Fujioka is fixating on his supposed curse out of a desire to escape the “prison” of his life, which may not have turned out the way he thought it would.

That assertion is supported by the fact Saku seems to have figured something out, and if it were something not explainable by science, she wouldn’t look so pleased. Unfortunately, time of this leisurely-moving episode runs out before she can elaborate. Until next week…

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Shokugeki no Souma – 23

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After Group B’s solid showing, it’s Group A’s turn to shine, and shine they do, and every candidate shines through their own unique methods and specific culinary specialty. And while I get how compressing everyone’s evaluation into such a small space increases the tension and excitement, this second straight episode of such an approach still felt rushed and a times, formulaic—like the show was scrambling to get to everyone before the final showdown between Souma and Akira next week.

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This episode also suffered from a slightly weaker field, starting with Ryo, Alice’s aide. Now, I haven’t quite gotten what I believe to be my fair share of Alice this season, so to focus so much on her aide felt like a poorer use of time, despite his need to compete as a candidate. Still, Ryo makes a pretty intense impresson once he slips on his bandanna and his personality becomes a lot more pushy and assertive, essentially daring the judges to “slurp” and “stuff” to best enjoy his cognac lobster curry.

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The candidate I care most about this week, Nikumi, went next, and didn’t embarrass herself, though like her, I thought she’d score in the 90’s like Ryo. Her pork belly curry looked amazing, and her grateful reaction to Souma’s praise was classic Cute Nikumi. While a much lower profile character than Nikumi or Megumi, Ryoko also distinguished herself by tying Nikumi, thanks to a curry that showcases her mastery of fermentation, as well as time and patience. Still, like Nikumi, she’s visibly pissed she didn’t score higher.

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Rounding out the quartet this week were two more Polar Star residents, who end up tying for second place with 88 points each, 2 higher than Nikumi and Ryoko. Marui, whose room has always been commandeered by the rest of his dorm-mates, shows off his knowledge of culinary history by blending curry udon and vichyssoise. The quiet, messy-haired Shun impresses with a curry in which everything, from the eggs and bacon to the salt that seasons everything, is smoked.

This week ends with two pairs of candidates tied for second and third, with perhaps the two toughest candidates yet to present their dishes. So it’s pretty likely, barring any disasters, that Ryoko and Nikumi will be bumped in what the preview declares will be the final episode of Food Wars.

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Tokyo Trip Journal 5

8 June, Heisei 22 (Tue)

Riding the subway is actually quite fun, especially when you don’t have any set schedule or anywhere in particular to be. Also, you can ride it all you want for 1000 yen (a bit over $10), so I figured I’d get my money’s worth. It threatened to rain all day, but only momentary sprinkles here and there until something resembling a drizzle at sundown.

I took the subway to Roppongi, and to a very trendy (and Westerny) quarter called Roppongi Hills, right next to TV Asahi HQ. Another art gallery sat upon a high place; in this case the 52nd floor of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (Mori owns many towers in Roppongi). The Mori Art Museum made the Sompo Musuem seem a little dowdy, not least the which because it was full of much newer and flashier pieces and installations of audio and video. The prices in the museum shop were, shall we say, optimistic?

I made a brief stop in nearby Akebanebashi to check out the Tokyo Tower, which was tall, white, and international orange. Then to the nearest station, Daimon, which via Shimbashi led me to Ginza, of of Tokyo’s swankiest districts. I took a look at a lot of fancy stores like Adidas and Sony, saw the new Nissan Leaf, and got lunch a a fast-food chain called Lotteria, which had very good cheeseburgers and emerald green Suntory Melon Pop to wash them and the fries down. I also bought a bottle of sake.

From Ginza, I took the Ginza line west, all the way to Shibuya, yet another cosmopolitan/bustling/chic ‘hood full of stores selling stuff no one needs at exhorbitant prices. I’m beginning to see a pattern. No matter; I realize these places need to exist. In any case, Shibuya has some of the largest crosswalks; at one notable intersection all automotive traffic stops so pedestrians in all directions can cross. It’s really something to behold and to experience firsthand. From Shibuya I took the Fukushotin line to Meiji-Jingumae, the station closest to the Meiji shrine in Yoyogi Park. I did a bit more walking than I should have, but it was worth seeing such a serene and gorgeous place.

Back in Shinjuku as night approached, I grabed dinner at a hole-in-the-wall eatery packed with smoking diners…after much constirnation and head-wrining about where to eat. The simple matter is, there is so much choice, it can potentially be paralyzing. This restaurant has a machine that tilts a mug and slowly pours Kirin beer, pauses briefly to let the fizz subside, then tops it off. Also, the average diner was smoking 3-4 cigarettes during their meal, not after. Smoking indoors is very much allowed at most restaurants and bars. The diners here ate very fast, too…and loud slurping of broth is not frowned upon. Dinner was 1000 yen.