Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 02

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This week we get to learn a bit more about the other magical girls and their various affiliations, the method by which Fav will determing which magical girls will be culled, and most importantly, the consequences of being one of those girls.

Calamity Mary is a loose cannon, in this for herself. Top Speed looks after Ripple, to whom trouble seems to always come. Ruler leads the largest alliance of girls, and won’t let anyone in her group drop out.

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While some of the girls’ abilities leave me wondering how they collect “Magical Candies” to determine who survives, with Snow White and La Pucelle there isn’t really any wonder. Koyuki is a good-deed-doing machine, and just being with her keeps Souta out of the points basement.

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Unfortunately, someone has to “go” every week for the next eight weeks, and this week is no exception. And while Nemurin’s “deeds” include saving the world and space multiple times, because she’s only doing it in people’s dreams, her candies are only dream candies.

She doesn’t seem to mind, since she’s having fun helping people in dreams. And in the real world, she’s getting ready to end her NEET status and move forward in her life, so if she’s the first to lose, it’s not that big a deal.

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Of course, things aren’t that simple. It was disquieting enough to see Nemurin’s avatar get rubbed out, followed by the curt message that she’s been “deleted.” It’s quite another matter when, after the stroke of midnight on her last night as a magical girl, Sanjou Nemu “says goodbye to everything”, and her mother finds her lying dead in her bead.

Now we know this isn’t just a competition to remain being a magical girl. These girls are fighting for their lives. Most, including Koyuki, aren’t aware of this yet. Fortunately for her, she’s at the top of the points. But that makes her a target; Ruler in particular sees her as an eyesore. We’ve got a tough, bloody, slightly frilly battle ahead of us.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: The story of Himekawa Koyuki, who has loved magical girls since she was a little kid, suddenly being selected to become a real magical girl by the mobile game MagiPro. She immediately set to work helping townsfolk, and the first fellow magical girl she meets in person is her childhood friend Souta, a boy. One day, MagiPro’s mascot Fav announces the number of magical girls in the region will be halved from sixteen to eight.

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Why You Should Watch: It’s above-average in terms of general looks and production values, once you get used to its character design, which tends towards the cute. Sure, Koyuki’s almost painfully earnest and naive, but the show seems fully aware of this, and unlike Gakkou Gurashi, doesn’t wait until the end of the episode to drop the hammer down.

It’s right there in the cold open: one magical girl standing over the bloodied corpses of her rivals. Even so, it’s nice to ease into this suddenly miraculous world along with Koyuki, and even though we know she’s doomed, we can still enjoy the little bit of good times she has early on. Her friend Souta’s situation is also an interesting wrinkle.

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Why You Shouldn’t Watch: The presence of over sixteen characters, most of which billed as mains, can be intimidating, and also allows for an almost overwhelming helping of moe (each magical girl has their own specific…very specific look). The show owes much to Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Koyuki owes much to Madoka herself, while the format suggests a marathon/tournament on the scale of Akuma no Riddle or another Lerche series, Danganronpa.

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The Verdict: Unlike Touken Ranbu, MagiPro had a hook to it that made me invested in the protagonist and look forward to the next episode. There’s a lot of exposition in both shows, but for some reason it felt more natural and less drawn out here, and the concept was a lot simpler and, more importantly, actually executed well.

Koyuki’s transition is quick, but we feel the same wonder she feels, and the same dread when she sees the ominous word “halved” in the chat room. She’s committed to be a “pure, righteous, and beautiful” magical girl, but she may have to rethink that strategy if she doesn’t want to be a dead one.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 16

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When she doddered down the steps in search of some nosh, the sleep-deprived Megumi could not have imagined she’d end up as one of three judges, alongside Fumio and Isshiki, who would preside over a face-off between former Elite Ten Second Seat Junichirou and Souma. But the father wants to take the pulse of his son’s culinary growth, or lack thereof, and a tiebreaker was needed, and Megumi was around, so she’s a judge.

Knowing how fierce and formidable Junichirou is and how amazing his dinner was last night, Megumi doesn’t think Souma has the slightest chance of winning. And he doesn’t win, and, there’s never any indication that he would. Furthermore, she and the others learn that Souma’s record against his dad (whom he’s faced off against since grade school) is a truly abysmal 0 wins against 489 losses.

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Souma doesn’t worry about winning or losing in the face-off, though. He focuses on making the best dish he can with the requirements given: something that gives one energy for the morning without being too rich or heavy. His apple risotto, infused with apple flavor from juice with fresh raw apples warmed through, is a refreshingly creative dish, no doubt. It puts Snow White Megumi in the valiant arms of Prince Apple, and spurs another welcome appearance from Sexy Fumio, who dances with Isshiki in the lovely flavors.

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Then Junichirou presents his dish, a seemingly disappointing ramen, that turns out to be not nearly as rich and heavy as it looked. On the contrary, the judges can’t stop putting the ramen away, yet are never overwhelmed by the gorging, because all the immensely complex umami flavors are achieved without any meat or fish products, but various iterations of soy, tempeh, mushrooms, kelp, and sake. The dish is so rejuvenating, Isshiki and Megumi transform into little kids, and Fumio reverted to an earlier stage of human evolution!

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In the end, the vote is unanimous, and it isn’t close; Souma is handed loss #490 (which he and his dad both record in little notebooks containing all their face-offs over the years). Souma learns a lesson: he was conservative, minimizing (the chances of not meeting the needs of the judges), while his dad took more risks and made use of his encyclopedic knowledge of world cuisine to surprise and maximize their satisfaction.

Even so, Souma’s dish showed Junichirou that his son had grown to his satisfaction, and he tells him until he loses to him again, he’d better not lose to anyone else. I think that’s fine with Souma: the only chef he’s okay losing to is his dad. Megumi, Isshiki, and Fumio now understand Souma’s toughness and resilience: all those hundreds of losses were also hundreds of lessons doled out by his dad.

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Most of this episode was the face-off, and I appreciated the show going back to a simple old face-off between two cooks after the chaos of the training camp (that still keeps poor Megumi up at night). The dishes were absolutely mouth-watering, and while I probably couldn’t do the ramen justice, I’m going to try out the apple risotto as soon as I have the ingredients amassed.

What else happened? Well, Erina thought she saw Junichirou on the side of the road (probably because she did), but when she gets out of her beautiful BMW E38, he’s not there. It’s a shame she didn’t learn the truth about Souma, but I guess that’s for another time, if ever.

Also, with Junichirou asking Souma to “air out the diner”, and a cut to his hometown where his cute childhood friend (whom he subjected to his peanut butter squid) gazes longingly at said closed diner, it looks like Souma will finally be heading home next week. Looking forward to it.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 14

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SnS delivers its second masterpiece in three episodes both by putting Souma further up against the wall than he’s ever been, as his souffle omelettes are falling before customers take them. Meanwhile, Erina and Takumi have already dished out 200 servings. But there’s no conspiracy or sabotage behind Souma’s plight: it’s his fault; he effed up, and now he’s got to figure out a way out of the hole he’s made for himself, with time dwindling.

Another chef who finishes well before him is “Snow White”, whose name we finally learn is Nakiri Alice, Erina’s cousin and life-long rival. What Erina brings to the table with her talent, ability, and knowledge of the classics, Alice is on the cutting edge of molecular gastronomy. My face lit up in glee like a Christmas tree when it was revealed Alice’s “eggs” weren’t just eggs.

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As viewers we have the luxury of checking in on everyone as they near, or struggle to near, 200 servings, but Souma has no time to lose. Erina is frustrated that her gloating fails to reach his ears, as he works out the calculations to how he’ll get to 200. It involves lots of eggs, lots of cream, lots of pans, and lots of burners, and his mastery of all of those things at lightning speed in order to lure all those customers.

He moves on from his failure and starts over, getting enough people to his stand so he can serve omelettes as soon as they’re ready. Once the people try the jiggly, fluffy, bouncy delicacies, they can’t contain their enthusiasm and praise, which attracts even more attention.

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I’m not sure where Souma got all those burners or eggs (the logistics of this camp would seem to hinge upon an “Unlimited Food Works” skill someone at Totsuki possesses), but he manages to reach his target of 200…with two seconds remaining. He also impresses the alumni brass like Doujima, as well as the backhanded compliments and a formal introduction by Alice, who is really mean and cool and adorable and a great foil to Erina and new rival to Souma. She can clearly back up her big talk (and then some), and I look forward to seeing more of her.

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And as it did with Alice’s molecular eggs, the show gives us one more surprise, with Doujima summoning all 600-some survivors thus far into the hotel lobby for a big pep talk about how the unpredictability of the camp is a microcosm of their impending careers as chefs, and how they must learn how to deal with surprises and how to adapt when things don’t go their way.

Just when we thought another challenge was in store, the alumni burst out of the doors with a wait staff to reveal that the final challenge isn’t a challenge, but a meal, prepared by that same alumni. Not only is this a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the ultimate reward to the survivors of the camp, but another complete surprise. It really was a beautiful, heartfelt way to wrap up the arc.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 13

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Despite the very dreamlike imagery, I was pretty convinced for some reason that the training camp was finished and this thirteenth episode, bridging the gap between the first and second halves of this show, would take it easy. That misunderstanding only lasted until we learn Isshiki really was just having a dream.

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The first years have a long way to go: Chef Doujima has arranged a challenge that will surely thin the already thin herds: having to create an innovative breakfast dish using eggs worthy of acknowledgement by a huge cross-section of diverse customers, from the growers and producers of the Totsuki resorts’ foodstuffs, to the resorts’ service staff, all of whom are extremely keen, experienced food critics. They also have to serve 200 servings of their dish—which they have all night to devise and prepare—in order to complete the challenge.

This episode does a good job rendering an incredibly tense and difficult situation being tackled by people who are already exhausted from the day’s challenges. But the intent is clear: the chefs who pass the training camp have to have ample backbone and endurance to go with their talent, taste, resourcefulness, and speed.

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The episode also branches out, affording us dozens of little mini-stories happening to all of the various characters, none of whom are as simple as enemies or friends anymore. Even Erina has multiple facets, and the personification of one of those is a mysterious new character I’ll call “Snow White,” whose looks and air of confidence suggests she’s quite a chef to be reckoned with. Naturally, Souma treats her like he’d treat anyone else: with courtesy, friendliness, and respect, irregardless of her hidden motives for him.

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For the second straight episode, Food Wars doesn’t simply focus on Souma. Everyone gets a chance to show off their breakfast-innovation skillz: there’s Takumi’s “Insalata Frittata” (which is almost so corny it almost comes all the way around to being cool); Megumi’s delectable looking “bite-size oden” (which capitalizes on her nurturing cuisine); Nikumi’s “loco moco donburi” (I loved her look of nervous anticipation as the judges tasted), all the way to Erina’s exquisite Eggs Benedict (made with a dried mullet roe-infused muffin that shimmers like gold and tastes like million bucks).

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Erina is the first to pass, with Takumi right on her heels, and Megumi doing particularly well, still flush with confidence after her near-as-makes-no-difference win against Shino. But Snow White has an odd dish made up of various plain-looking eggs, which doesn’t seem to be popular. And that brings us to Souma, who by episode’s end has served less than ten of his “souffle omelette”, which showed promise but may have fizzled out, as some of his ideas sometimes do (peanut butter squid, anyone?).

Could the pressure of wanting to get better be negatively effecting Souma’s focus and ability to power through the challenges? Is that constant worry he’s not yet good enough stifling his creativity rather than stoking it? It looks like he’s in a very bad way, and he’s on his own. While I’m sure he’ll pull out of it next week, it isn’t the “whether” but the “how” that I’m most interested in; along with what Snow White’s game is.

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Sakura Trick – 06

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A lot of sewing has to get done for the play the girls will be performing at the culture fest, so the group decides to spend the night at school working. Yuu only really agrees because Haruka will be there, but Shizuku also decides to stay because Kotone’s there. The rationale is, why go home and be alone when you can spend more quality time with the girl you love? It’s a no-brainer.

The second half jumps to the day of the festival itself (there’s no gratuitous sleepover hanky-panky scene), and like Yuu last week, Haruka is left out of the lurch and finds Mitsuki stealing her Yuu-time away. When she finally meets up with her, she’s hurt, but ultimately lets it go, as she appreciates that it’s Mitsuki’s last festival.

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Yuu rewards Yuu’s forgiveness on a secluded balcony where they kiss for the entire duration of a rock concert, and then…simply keep on kissing. Combined with their rolling around on the floor of the room where they shared their first kiss, the makeout quota is most assuredly met this week. Moreover, their matching hairstyles during this scene is another symbol of their steadily progressing love.

Additionally, Haruka’s hair crumbling Laputa-style was awesome, and the entire concert scene was nicely animated—both the band and the couple behind the curtain. Sakura Trick has proven nimble at balancing breezy, relaxing school slice-of-life with energetic yet convincing romance, and guided us through the dreaded “festival episode” with deft efficiency.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Sakura Trick – 05

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We’ve already talked about how Sakura Trick isn’t interested in putting up barriers to its main couple’s happiness for the sake of drama, preferring to focus on all the small yet significant romantic ups and downs they experience daily. The greatest threat had been Mitsuki, but her spying is now motivated just as much by her own unwanted feelings for Haruka than out of any disapproval.

Conflicts between Haruka and Yuu are kept petty, but Yuu is still hurt when Haruka leaves her behind to go to a cafe that in real life would get sued by Starbucks. Again, the show keeps a nice balance between Haruka and Yuu; both have experienced fear of abandonment, even if in all those cases there’s no cause for concern. Yuu admits that she’s being selfish today, but with the belief that she deserves to be now and again. Haruka obviously doesn’t mind her clinginess in the least.

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Looking outside the main couple, Ikeno Kaede is being consistently portrayed as the trickster in Sakura Trick; and this week she exploits Mitsuki’s penchant for snooping on Haruka and Yuu by cornering her after the couple notices her (Kotone later says she’s seen Mitsuki snooping a lot, but had never brought it up). But when Mitsuki is around Haruka, she panics, culminating in her lying down to accept the kiss of the Prince in the Snow White skit practice, unaware it’s a speech-only play.

Haruka would have kissed her, too, had Yuu not performed an emergency headbutt. But while the Mitsuki/Yuu rivalry shows promise, it’s also interesting to note that the pair is growing progrssively bolder, with Yuu dropping her hood over her and Haruka so they can make out…in a room full of classmates. They seem to tacitly grasp the fact the universe seems to be rooting for them, and take full advantage of any and all fortuitous opportunities.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 09

Atsushi and Rokka and up hiking to the highest place he ever went, a forest where he intends to plant his snow-in-the-summer plant containing some of his bones. Rokka encounters him and realizes it’s Atsushi, who tries to flee, but fails. Rokka collapses in tears at the realization. Meanwhile, Hazuki ends up in a Snow White-style scenario with Rokka in a glass casket. She breaks out to talk with him, and the moment she refers to him as “the prince”, he looks in a reflection and sees Atsushi’s face.

At long last, Rokka finally sees Atsushi through Hazuki. Atsushi made it extremely easy for her, saying and doing things only Atsushi could do. We’re glad this finally happened, because now it’s less of a torture for Rokka trying to parse what the hell has been going on with Hazuki, because he’s been acting awfully strange. Now she understands. After witnessing her overflowing of emotion, even Atsushi admits that he maybe went too far. But what’s done is done.

Is their rendezvous in the same spot of the same forest at the same time awfully tidy coincidence? Perhaps, but it also makes sense in that there weren’t many parts of nature Atsushi ever ventured out to in his life. He was a sickly city boy, after all. This was the one place he got to before the end. Going over their last hiking trip in her head – a painful, beautiful memory –  it made sense that Rokka ended up finding him. But with that final scene, could it be Atsushi got what he needed and has switched places with Hazuki? Maybe??

That aside, this is a phenomenal and moving payoff to everything that had been built up since Atsushi jumped into Hazuki’s body, and even before when he repeatedly pleaded for permission to do so. This is the episode where we’re finally totally okay with that fact that right here and now, Hazuki is just a vessel, and it’s all about Atsushi. He may have pulled some unethical stunt or two to get here, but he had to get here. He needed Rokka to acknowledge him, if only for this one brief time.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Sket Dance 6

Sket Dance continues to be silly and slapsticky without getting too obvious or boring or idiotic. This week, in which the Student Council confronts Sket-dan and threatens its existence, was a very richly-told and thoughtful episode. Tsubaki and the other council members aren’t simply evil; their personalities are more complex. I particularly like how the president is so laid-back and pragmatic, indulging his subordinate so that he’d learn a lesson.

Tsubaki is not a very flexible guy, but he definitely develops a bit in the course of the episode. As for the Sket-dan core, they’re as spot-on as ever, with their usual excellent chemistry and immediate retorts, and the play premise was a great way to bring in all the misfit characters they had helped in usual episodes – the samurai, the occult girl, and the cliche’d manga girl. It’s good to see the show hadn’t just forgot about these characters.

Even Momoka and her gang are conscripted, and the performance the group puts on ultimately follows the story of Momoka’s character’s development just a couple episodes ago. It’s clever, and as I said, well-executed. Above all, it’s entertaining. Rating: 3.5