Shounen Maid – 02

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Wherein Chihiro takes on an eager student and resolves to make better eggs

Like Tanaka-kunShounen Maid introduces a new female addition to the cast in the person of Ootori Miyako, who is arranged by her father to marry Madoka when she turns sixteen. The arrives at Madoka’s home having reached another impasse with her father, and we quickly learn she actually prefers Keiichirou.

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Miyako wants to prove to Keiichirou that she can be a dependable woman and future wife, and after learning Chihiro’s story, decides he’s the best person suited to teach her, being pretty hard-working, dependable, and independent himself.

Predictably, things don’t go so well on the housework front, and though she has fine cooking skills, she makes a mess in the process. Her depression washes away at first sight of Keiichirou, but soon returns, only for her to be cheered up again when Chihiro tells her what his mom told him: compromise is fine, but don’t betray yourself by doing anything against your heart.

It’s not about being selfish; it’s about making your own choices in life, something everyone should be able to do in this day and age.

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When Miyako’s father shows up to find his daughter and Chihiro a bit too close to Madoka for comfort, he drags her back home, but she returns again soon to continute her training with Chihiro. Overall Miyako is a pleasant addition to the cast, as someone both inspired and encouraged by Chihiro’s unique life story so far.

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While generally feel-good in nature, this show is tinged with the grief of the premature loss of his mother, who was by all accounts a strong-willed but kindhearted woman who never looked down at her son or sugar-coated things. Sure, she put too much sugar in her tamagoyaki back when she made them for her brother Madoka back in the day, but by the time Chihiro came around, Chiyo was an omelette expert.

As part of a bento, tamagoyaki becomes a dish Chihiro decides he’ll practice and perfect, after trying to determine what, Madoka’s favorite food is. Even when he screws up the omelette on his first try, Madoka is reminded of his sister doing the same thing.

IMO there’s few foods better than nostalgia-evoking foods, for even if they remind us of someone who has passed, that’s simply proof a part of that someone is still alive in us. So having lost the one in charge of folded omelettes, he’ll strive to become a worthy substitute.

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Re-Kan! – 03

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Last week Franklin mentioned the formula Re-Kan has gotten down: “Funny, Funny, touching, funny resolve!” This week it switches that formula up, to include a lot more touching with its funny in the form of some seriously moving drama. After the cold open I was convinced it would just be an episode about how un-used to cell phones Hibiki is, but I would end up being…dead wrong.

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Harumi may be being a tsundere about it, but she wants to be friends with Hibiki, despite her apparent connection with the dead, which creeps her out. Hibiki’s a good person, so when she hears Harumi is determined to get Yuuki, her terror of a younger cousin to eat the fried eggs she prepares, Hibiki offers to help out, sensing an in; she wants to be friends with Harumi, too, after all.

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Hibiki’s eggs are fantastic, but Yuuki still rejects them, deeming them “gross” and “wrong.” We’re thinking, ‘well, Yuuki’s just a petty little shit and an ingrate, isn’t he?’ Then we learn his dad was killed in an accident, and his very pregnant mom is in hospital, which is why Harumi is taking care of him. Just like that, the kid is sympathetic. This makes Hibiki want to help Harumi even more, but Harumi snaps at her, saying “it has nothing to do with her.”

When Harumi talks to Kana at school, she assumes Hibiki learned how to make eggs from her mom, but Kana tells her Hibiki’s mother died when she was very young. Harumi knows she was wrong to snap at Hibiki, but now she knows why Hibiki was so intent on helping with Yuuki.

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Harumi visits Yuuki’s mom, who can see the exhaustion in Harumi’s face as she lies about Yuuki being no big deal. When Harumi brings up the eggs, his mom tells her there was a way his dad used to make them for her, which is why no matter who makes Yuuki eggs right now, he’s going to reject them as wrong because they’re not like his dad’s.

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So where does Hibiki factor in, besides sharing Yuuki’s situation of losing a parent early in life? Glad you asked! As Hibiki is outside Harumi’s house, ready to help despite being yelled at, she gets a call on her brand-new cell phone, which she handles extra-carefully and daintily as if it were honed from delicate crystal. It’s Harumi, calling to apologize and ask for Hibiki’s help with the eggs again. Harumi is extra-impressed Hibiki didn’t stop caring about her and Yuuki just because Harumi told her off. It’s as if she knew Harumi didn’t mean it…because she didn’t!

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Hibiki proves especially useful to Harumi here because she’s able to commune with the ghost of Harumi’s Nana, who taught Yuuki’s dad how to make the eggs the way Yuuki likes so much. Hibiki interprets the instructions to Harumi, but leaves Harumi to do the actual cooking: her Nana wants her to learn after all, something she never wanted to do when Nana was alive because she thought it was too girly.

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The moment of truth: when Yuuki tucked in to the new, Nana-approved eggs, I knew some tears were going to come…from Harumi, from Hibiki, definitely from Yuuki when he tastes a taste he hadn’t tasted since his dad died—and from myself!

Yuuki actually ends up bawling his eyes out in a moment of catharsis, and Harumi lets him cry it out, which was the favor his mother asked of her, knowing it had to happen sometime, but Yuuki was holding it in, trying to be strong in preparation for being a big brother.

Even Yuuki’s mom tears up and has to turn away while asking Haurmi that favor; she is, after all, someone who very recently lost her husband and the father of her children, one who will never see his face. Despite her tears, she comes off as tremendously strong and brave for her family.

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Despite all the tear-jerking moments, this episode never felt sappy or maudlin, because it stayed true to its characters, tapped into their unexpected stores of emotion, and presented the drama simply and elegantly.

It even managed to stick a few jokes in the mix (While the perv-cat’s shtick is starting to wear thin, his voice actor Kujira sells the hell out of every line).

Hibiki and Harumi also emerge from this episode closer friends than ever, even calling each other by their given names. Re-Kan doesn’t just excel at comedy, but drama as well. It’s one of the better pure storytellers this Spring, and when it wants to, never fails to get you right here (points at heart).

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Koufuku Graffiti – 08

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This week, Ryou lets herself rely a little more on Kirin, even though a little voice inside her is worried she’ll be too much of a burden…not to mention the fact she hasn’t had anyone do anything for her since her grandmother died. Doing things, particularly cooking, by herself, means she’s developed very particular ways of doing things, and she can’t help but be worried someone else won’t know those particular ways. Relying on people also means letting go and yielding control.

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However, this episode isn’t just about Ryou relying on, or rather letting go and putting her trust in Kirin’s cooking. Ryou, never one for athletic activity, asks Kirin, a thin, compact, lithe, and thus naturally more coordinated girl, to assist her with training, so she can hopefully avoid nosebleeds, ankle sprains, and other mishaps.

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All of Kirin’s assistance with the training, on top of her plans to prepare a special bento box for Ryou, seems like too much, so while Ryou makes a wish list of dishes, she quickly scraps it. After all, each of those dishes require a lot of myriad ingredients and techniques to make. Kirin knocks over the wastebasket in the middle of the night, finds the list, and decides right then and there to make it a reality for Ryou.

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As Ryou’s field day approaches, Kirin asks her parents and gathers as much intel as she can about the impending bento mission. She even jogs/powerwalks into a grocery store to pick up what for Ryou seems like a suspicious amount of groceries. Kirin admits she found the list, and despite Ryou’s protestations, she’s going to give it her best shot.

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The resulting lunch is something I would love to be able to make and eat everyday: fish sausage and cucumber salad; tamagoyaki with kelp, bone-in fried chicken, tako weiners, Salisbury steak with chopped cheese nibs, broccoli, sweet potatoes with lemon, and rice wrapped in nori. All of it looks mouth-wateringly delicious.

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Every morsel is like music in Ryou’s mouth, to the extent she can’t hold in her exuberance for the excellence of the meal, leading some peers to wonder if she’s afflicted with some form of chuunibyou. Her threee classmates see and taste the veyr same bento, and are disappointed with how straightforward it is, which just goes to prove that flavor is in the eye, or rather mouth of the beholder.

It all tastes so good for Ryou because Kirin made it for her, and it’s infused with a love the other girls can’t detect. Also, while it’s all basic bento dishes, the fact Kirin made them all for the first time and they turned out as well as they did is impressive. It’s just like her grandmother, whose food might not have seemed all that special to anyone else, but it meant the world to Ryou. So does Kirin’s cooking.

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One Week Friends – 04

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With Kaori heavily relying on a Chekhov’s gun of a diary to remember Yuuki each week, it was only a matter of time before it went off, i.e. got lost. Losing important things is as much a part of life as having friends, and when you rely on one for the other, you’re living dangerously.

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Kaori loses the diary after her first fight with Yuuki, which is entirely his fault. He’s pissed that Kaori’s friendship with Shogo is publically recognized by the class before his. He doesn’t like how Shogo seems to be talking to her behind his back. And he really doesn’t like it when Kaori talks at length about how great Shogo is. Shogo+Shogo+Shogo=a fight, fueled by Yuuki’ selfishness.

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His punishment is swift, due to Kaori not only losing the diary but also the sign on the wall reminding her Hase is her friend. The next week, she doesn’t remember him, and acts just as cold as when they first met. But Shogo assures Yuuki what Yuuki already knows: she didn’t throw the diary out intentionally, over one little spat. Yuuki’s initial appeal to Kaori doesn’t go well, so he skips school to look for the diary.

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During this time, Kaori gets the feeling she’s forgetting something) really important to her. Urged on by Shogo, she seems to remember enough to end up at the riverbank where she lost the diary, where she finds Yuuki covered in mud and hand cuts, and finally finds it with her there. By then, she already knew what the important thing was that she forgot: Hase-kun.

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I really liked this episode, which felt less like forced drama and more an unfolding of what was a very likely scenario—losing the diary—combined with that time-honored friendship milestone of the First Fight. The ending in particular was very touching. I will say it’s probably in Kaori’s best interest to keep a back-up diary, or possibly a private blog. And it would seem Yuuki can rest easy: if Kaori liked Shogo or even considered him a close friend, she’d have forgotten him…right?

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One Week Friends – 03

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After a month, Kaori’s diary seems to be working, insofar as it’s allowed her to quickly learn about Yuuki and re-befriend him. She even slaves over the stove to make twenty-one different kinds of tamagoyaki, urging Yuuki to tell her which is best so she knows to make it that way moving forward. While it’s a very sweet gesture, it’s also a little strange, and it occurs to Yuuki that Kaori might benefit from other friends besides just him.

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This is somewhat ironic, considering that besides Kaori, I can’t recall Yuuki hanging out with anyone other than Shogo, the person he decides to bring up to the roof. It seems at first like a decision he’ll come to regret: he immediately asks Kaori if she has Multiple-Personality Disorder, is put off by the fuzzy, lovey-dovey atmosphere Yuuki and Kaori create, and then tells Yuuki he’s being too trusting, warning him that Kaori could just be putting on an act. What’s interesting is that Kaori doesn’t instantly deny that charge; she just stays quiet.

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While he could’ve been less harsh about it, I welcomed Shogo’s fresh insights on the situation. And armed with the truth about Kaori—that act or not, she has trouble interacting with people—he even helps her out by going in the classroom where two girls are gossiping about her, shutting down said gossipers, and retrieving Kaori’s all-important “Memory Note.” That act motivates Kaori to speak up to the girls why the notebook matters so much.

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So it seems that introducing her to Shogo wasn’t so bad after all. Even better, her decision to really nail down Yuuki’s egg preference (18g of sugar) results in her recalling the memory of cooking for him and getting a pang of emotion from writing “18” on the chalkboard. Progress is slow, but steady so far, which is why I’m weary of Yuuki’s little voice-over at the end of the episode about him feeling optimistic “at that time,” indicating that unfortunately won’t always be so.

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