Fruits Basket – 09 – Poker on a Cold Day

After seeing a bit of him last week, we’re formally introduced to another new Souma, Haruhatsu, who seems cool to some passing ladies until he gets on his deeply uncool bike with his uncool shades, clearly on some kind of mission.

Winter break is over, and Tooru has settled back into a fun daily life with the Soumas, though Yuki and Kyou remain stubbornly incapable of getting along. As it’s wintertime, Yuki also feels a cold coming on.

Despite this, Yuki doesn’t back down from Kyou’s challenge to beat him in the endurance race on the first day of the third term. Sure enough, the two blast ahead of all the other boys. Meanwhile, Uo skips entirely while Saki dramatically quits after one step and plays cards the rest of the time, to the annoyance of the teacher.

Kyou is literally tripped up by Haruhatsu, who wanted to fight Kyou on New Year’s but wasn’t able because Kyou skipped the family festivities. Now it’s go time…and Kyou isn’t one to back down from a fight.

Their mutual competitive spirit results in the emergence of “Dark Haru”, Haruhatsu’s other, more manic side, like Kagura only worse. Haru reiterates his undying love for Yuki while fighting Kyou like they’re in some kind fo martial arts movie.

Yuki notes that the two trained together when they were younger, and are both equally passionate about it. Tooru suspects Yuki loves martial arts too, but when he recalls a memory of watching the other two sparring and having his eyes suddenly covered by Akito, he faints.

The fight is called, and Haru decides the best way to get Yuki home is to carry him on his back in animal form, which is that of the Ox (though technically a cow).

When it’s just Haru and Tooru, he tells her the story of how he was always angry and losing his temper, and hated Yuki’s guts because of the “rat who rode the ox’s back” legend, and also because everyone always called him stupid and an idiot, for which he also blamed Yuki.

That all changed when he finally met him, and Yuki told him he wasn’t stupid; not really. He fell for him right then and there. With that, Yuki wakes up, not the worse for wear.

Haru suspects Tooru has had a “lightening” effect on the once standoffish Yuki and Kyou, and proves there’s something between Yuki and Tooru when he has the latter call the former by his given name and he immediately transforms into a rat.

Meanwhile, Saki has drawn a crowd to play poker by the school gates, but beats everyone running away (not literally though, as Saki isn’t fond of running). As a result of playing cards outside all afternoon in the cold, Kyou and Shigure also get colds. But Tooru is all too happy to take care of them!

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Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 11 – Be Very Afraid

Kishima Nagi is on the mend, and wonders if her psychiatrist, Dr. Kisugi Makiko, thought her fits of pain were only in her head. Nagi doesn’t know that Kisugi discovered the vial of the mysterious drug Scarecrow used to heal her. Kisugi experiments on lab rats, but soon it’s clear she’s graduated to unwilling human test subjects, who are turning up all over town as the victims of a serial killer with a very specific method of ripping open the jaw and sucking out the victims’ brains.

At night Kisugi roams the dark halls of the hospital, preying on patients by heightening their fear (she’s capable of seeing someone’s weakness the same way Jin could see their flowers) then sucking the fear-filled blood like a vampire. She revels in being able to rip out her own eye only for it to regenerate; clearly she’s her own test subject as well, and she’s downright drunk on the fear of others.

She determines that the best-tasting fear comes from those who’d normally have none, like bold young women, which is why so many of her victims are high school girls. But as a psychiatrist she is also considering using her talk patients as food/research fodder. One of those patients is a young Miyashita Touka, sporting long hair and flanked by her mother, who fears she has Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This confirms that while we enter the world of Boogiepop with Touka as a high schooler, Boogiepop has been showing up in her body since far earlier. Excusing Touka’s mother, Kisugi has Touka talk like a man, and before long, her other personality is out, and wastes no time describing who they are (neither man nor woman, for one thing) and what their mission is.

Boogiepop tells Kisugi that she’s a predator for people so normal it’s easy for them to be “set off” like fuses into someone who could be a threat to the world. Boogiepop exists to eliminate threats to the world without mercy. Their discussion puts Kisugi on notice as someone who should probably stop what they’re doing lest they incur Boogiepop’s wrath, but it may be too late.

Kisugi doesn’t seem willing or able to control herself anymore; she’s in too deep. Though if there’s a bright side to all this, it’s that she won’t end up killing Touka as she considers here; we know Touka will be fine, and that her “disorder” won’t be “cured”, nor should it be. So the question is, how will Boogiepop, possessing Lil’ Touka, take Kisugi down? Or will Towa, whose serum she’s messing with, do it for them?

Classroom of the Elite – 05

Ayanokouji is a very well-studied observer of human behavior. He doubtless knows every one of the quotes that provide the titles for each episode; this one being “Hell is other people”, from Sartre’s “No Exit”.

Ayano observes that other people are indeed hell for his potential star witness Sakura Airi: he notices that while Kushida is able to easily invade people’s personal space, Sakura resists her, nullifying whatever power Kushida has over the vast majority of people.

(Naturally, Horitika is also immune to her charms, while Ayano knows her true identity, so throw in Sakura and Kushida is far from invincible.)

Luck is on Ayano’s side, however, as a trip to the electronics store with Sakura and Kushida ends up providing him the opportunity to show Sakura that not all other people are Hell; or at least that she can trust him.

Because Ayano is simply being Ayano (at least the one we know) and nothing else, Sakura’s intuition doesn’t see deception, while her reticence around Kushida suggests it does detect hers.

All of this is to say that Sakura takes Ayano’s advice to “do what she wants” and agrees to testify in the Sudo case; it shows that despite her (quite sensible) hiding of her secret—a sexy modelling side-gig—Sakura has a strong sense of justice, like Ayano, and her gut is telling her to listen to it, even if it means going through Hell (i.e., other people).

COURTROOM of the Elite  takes over in short order, and has all the makings of a show trial, with the Class C victims and their partially self-inflicted injuries given all the benefit of the doubt because, well, Sudo doesn’t have a scratch on him, and is a short-tempered asshole to boot.

If a summary “guilty” verdict is to be avoided, someone has to come to Sudo’s defense. But because Horikita’s brother the President (her kryptonite) is attending the trial, she freezes, completely losing all composure and confidence, and Ayano has to pinch her in her side in order to restore her to coherence.

It works, and she immediately begins the work of wearing down the credibility of three guys who weren’t looking for a fight all ending up injured. When they simply rebut with the correct assertion that Sudo often defies common sense, she whips out her Sakura Card.

We’ve only just met Sakura Airi, and yet there I was, so proud of her, and hopeful that I’d be as strong and brave in the situation in which she chose to be, exposing her revealing photos in order to establish why she was using her camera, before providing another photo of the fight itself, proving she was there…but not proving who instigated the fight.

Sakura Airi’s boss witnessing got Team Sudo past Level 1, but it doesn’t look like she’ll play a further role in helping to ease the burden of proof where who started it is concerned. But her good work also gave the defense a way out: Class C’s homeroom teacher offers a compromise, which is really more of a plea-out: only a two-week suspension for Sudo and one-week for his students.

But that plea requires that Sudo plead guilty, and we’re at least operating under the assumption that as awful and destructive as he is, he didn’t start the fight. So the offer is rejected. Instead, Horikita doesn’t hold back in her harsh and completely accurate assessment of Sudo’s attitude problems, and posits that Class C aimed to exploit those problems by setting him up.

Her brother, perhaps more impressed than he’d admit by his sister’s performance thus far (after a shaky start he probably thought was par for the course), will allow another day’s time for each party to prove their innocence or the other party’s guilt. He then raises the stakes, as one does in courtroom dramas: if they fail, expulsion is on the table.

This was a dense, thrilling outing of Elite Classroom that made me an immediate fan of Sakura, and a continued fan of Ayanokouji, Kushida, and Horikita. That Sakura won Sudo’s defense team more time makes me confident that they’ll find a way to clear his name and show up Horikita’s brother.

Classroom of the Elite – 04

Oh man, that elevator trip…so awkward…so much going on beneath the surface! To her credit, Kushida doesn’t break from her usual character once, not just there, but for the entire episode. It’s simply a given that she and Ayanokouji have this dark secret, and they have a deal, and he’ll honor it or else. We also never learn where Horitika stabbed him.

Everyone seems to be hiding the truth, both from others and from themselves. The truth seems like such a distant, unattainable thing now. And yet they must press on, and put one foot in front of the other. That pressing-on includes Ayanokouji moonlighting as reluctant romantic adviser to Class B’s idol, Ichinose Honami.

Still, the kid knows what he’s talking about, and talks to Ichinose about how someone in love suffers with trying to get the words out. Is he speaking from experience? In any case, he rejects her plan to make him her fake boyfriend (rightly so considering what an old cliche that is) and tells her The Truth is best. The girl who likes her is able to come out and confess, and Ichinose is able to gently reject her so that girl can move on.

That’s the end of act one, and while it may feel like a self-contained “mission” for Ayanokouji, in addition to the themes about hidden truths resonating in act two, Ichinose also incurs a debt to Ayanokouji that she intends to pay back. That will come in handy in act two, in which Sudou fucks up again, exposing the class to forfeiture of points.

The latest incident is another hidden truth: we don’t know what happened, just that Sudou was confronted by three Class C basketball players, and a fight ensued. He claims self-defense. Meanwhile, the incident has piqued Horikita’s brother’s interest, while at the club, one of Sudou’s accusers, Ryuen Kakeru, has an underling beaten up to help their case.

(I hasten to point out here that if Kushida was prepared to rely on fingerprint evidence to accuse Ayanokouji of raping her, I was left wondering later if a similar method could prove that Sudou didn’t beat up Ryuen’s co-conspirator).

Hirata, essentially Class 1-D’s male Kushida (only not secretly evil), decides to believe Sudou’s self-defense claim and an investigation ensues, with the class banding together to find witnesses and evidence. In this venture, Kushida teams up with Ayanokouji without any reservations, while Horikita is reluctant to participate.

They aren’t making much progress until Ichinose Honami hears about the investigation and offers to help out, citing that she owes Ayanokouji one. She even arranges an online venue where people can post information in exchange for rewards.

When someone posts anonymously, she isn’t sure how to transfer her points to the guy, so enlists Ayanokouji’s technical know-how…in the process, showing him her personal points balance to be in excess of 2.6 million yen ($23,000) immediately setting off alarms in both his head and mine.

Ayanokouji’s dorm room has apparently become the meeting spot for the three misfits, including Sudou, as well as Kushida. When Horikita stops by with info on a witness—one Sakura Airi, based on her body language in class—she’s quick to retreat once she sees Kushida there. (Now, of course, I totally understand why she’d rather interact with Kushida as little as possible!)

The case wears on Kushida, who visits Ayanokouji in the evening. They go on a walk and discuss it, leaving their own personal issues totally aside. Ayanokouji thinks he knows why Horikita is reluctant to help Sudou: because he never learns his frikkin’ lesson and keeps getting into trouble immediately after being bailed out of it. In a case with so little to go on, Sudou’s character makeup is a huge liability, and he can’t go on like this.

That leaves the very skittish Miss Pink Hair, Pink Camera, Sakura Airi. Kushida tries to gently ask to speak with her about what she might’ve seen, but Sakura panics and tries to run off, dropping and breaking her camera. While I’m sure the data chip containing potentially conclusive photographic evidence wasn’t lost, I still know far too little about her to know what she intends to do with it, if anything.

Was Sakura, for instance, the girl who cried out at the club before that guy got beat up for suggesting there was a witness? Horikita’s bro is clearly trying to sabotage Class D (and by extension his sister); will Ayanokouji’s suspicions about the cash-flush Ichinose prove to be justified?

A lot of truth has yet to be found, and many not only like it that way but are actively trying to distort it. And now I’m out of new episodes to watch…drat.

Classroom of the Elite – 03

“Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this – no dog exchanges bones with another.” So said Adam Smith, famed Scottish economist and philosopher. It’s a lengthy, inefficient quote, as befits the times he lived in, but I like how he extends the concept out for added emphasis.

Class D may be “defective garbage” but they’re still human, and so this episode is full of those deals only humans can make. The first deals Ayanokouji makes this week involve securing test questions from a destitute upperclassman, then using the universally trusted and liked Kushida to distribute them.

As Ayanokouji tells Horitika when the class gets all high scores, Kushida is “well-suited to the role” of class hero, unlike the two of them. The flashback that covers three days before the test were, like Smith’s quote, lengthier than it had to be, but still provided more welcome texture, like Horitika’s one-on-one talk with Sudo trying to appeal to his love of basketball to get him to shape up—or Kushida telling Ayanokouji he’s sharper than she thought.

Alas, only two of the three misfits pass the exams – Sudo fails one, by less than one point against the average score (which was heightened due to so many 100s and high 90s). Ayanokouji’s gambit would seem to have failed, but he doesn’t let things stand there: he follows Chabashira-sensei to the roof to make another one of those human deals.

Chabashira’s inflexibility on Sudo’s expulsion is out of a regard for the rules. Ayanokouji appeals to what both he and his teacher know to be the truth: society is not truly equal, but rules require “at least the appearance of equal application.” To that end, he recites another rule from the first day of school: points can be used to buy anything. Anything…including one test point so Sudo passes.

Chabashira, impressed he’s been paying such close attention and that he’d bring such a bargain to hers, agrees, but for a price of 10,000, to an Ayanokouji who already spent 15,000 on the test answers. To his surprise, Horitika appears on he rooftop to pay Chabashira, citing the threat of unknown consequences to the class if Sudo or anyone else were to get kicked out.

While Chabashira is impressed, she warns these two Adam Smiths that no Class D has ever advanced to a higher tier. Now we know Horitika’s goal of Class A isn’t just a long shot—it’s unprecedented.

Nevertheless, Horitika won’t give up. Thanks to her, Sudo stays and Class D earns 87 points without Ayanokouji dipping into his dwindling point reserves. He tries to thank her, but she says everything she’s done is for her sake—even artificially lowering her score to drop the class average to something Sudo could more realistically manage. When he points this out, Horitika stabs him with a compass.

She’s signaling to him in about as visceral a way as possible that she’s no altruist, and she may have a case, as intent matters. But it cannot be denied that she has done and said things that weren’t to her immediate personal benefit in order to benefit the greater good, and made specific choices that she didn’t have to make to get the same result. In a vacuum, she was being nice to Sudo.

At a party in Ayanokouji’s dorm room, he spins a story to the others that Sudo’s expulsion was canceled by a passionate appeal to the teachers by Horitika. Is Ayanokouji just getting her back for stabbing him, or is he trying, in spite of her efforts to the contrary, to rehabilitate and burnish her reputation as someone the other students can trust and respect?

 

Whatever anyone’s intentions, the effect is the same: Kushida is pissed. So pissed, she forgets her phone, and Ayanokouji follows her to the waterfront, he’s introduced to Kushida’s other side, a bitter, fuming ball of rage. When she gets a text, Ayanokouji’s cover is blown, and he finds himself face to face with this new and frightening side.

She doesn’t mince any words. Instead, she makes a deal: he’ll tell no one what he saw there, and she won’t falsely accuse him of raping her, thrusting his hand on her chest so his fingerprints can be used as evidence. To think Kushida would stoop to such horrible tactics is a testament to her devotion to achieving her goals, which is just as intense as Horitika’s.

I’m impressed by how invested I’ve become in these three characters in just three episodes. Each week a new layer and wrinkle is added that completely flips the script. At this point, I’m not even sure Kushida didn’t plant the phone so Ayanokouji would follow her, discover her, and be forced to share another secret with her.

The question may be who is the real Kushida, but the answer could be all of them. Which brings us to the ultimate deal in Classroom of the Elite: if we the audience watch it, and keep watching, the show will keep us in rapt attention with solid stories and characterization.

Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 07

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Unlike the past few Autumn Elections battles, I didn’t have a horse in this race. I like Kurokiba and Hayama…just fine, and while Hayama carries himself like he’s the best of his generation (and just might be), there’s a fire to Kurokiba (only once he has his bandanna on) you just can’t sell short.

They also have strong women supporting them, with Jun serving in a nurturing maternal capacity as mentor (despite the visual suggestions of bondage) while Alice treats Kurokiba more like a ferocious feral beast she keeps calm until it’s time to be unleashed on his prey.

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What got me into this battle between guys I don’t have strong opinions on was the featured audience: Souma somehow ends up being able to sit with Erina, and Alice soon joins them to complete a Nakiri Souma Sandwich.

Alice is a vital resource on All Things Ryo while Erina’s wealth of culinary knowledge and insight are well-documented. He couldn’t have two better people to help him scout his future opponent, whether the raptor or the tiger prevails.

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Hayama’s aloof calm (as the soaring bird) irks the nearly-manic Kurokiba, but Hayama soon demonstrates he doesn’t have to yell and shout, because his spices do all the talking. He commands the entire arena with his waves of fragrance and grasps the judges in his talons of flavor.

When Kurokiba’s dish arrives, Judge Taki (who almost got in a brawl with the similarly fiery chef) is unimpressed with the aroma, but her false sense of security and confidence are soon undone. Ryo was lurking in the bushes, and strikes with an electrifying bomb of plums within the eel. Very vivid foodgasms this week, if far from the weirdest or most creative the show has done.

It’s all too fitting that I had a problem deciding who I wanted to win, though Ryo is probably the more interesting/unconventional one (as well as the underdog), because the judges can’t decide either! Four of them split the vote, and the fifth, Sonoka, cannot choose one over the other.

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Doujima decides to recommend both chefs move on to face Souma in an unprecedented three-way final. Chairman Nakiri allows it, shocking everyone, including Hayama and Kurokiba, who both seem pretty sore about not being able to knock the other out of the competition.

But hey, the OP had been teasing this all along this season, and here we are: a chef with encyclopedic knowledge of spice and how to wield it, a chef with a surging inner fire of molten lava, and Souma – who I daresay is somewhat between the superego and id of the other two, and perhaps the best of both worlds.

Totsuki’s first ever 3-way Autumn Election Final will feature Pacific Saury, something I can easily grab from the H-Mart should I get the urge to attempt to duplicate one (or all) of the dishes they come up with. But it also symbolizes each of the three chefs’ strengths: it’s fragrant (Hayama), it’s seafood (Kurokiba), and it has strong roots to the common people (Souma). Should be an epic match.

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