Machikado Mazoku – 02 – A Demon Girl and Her Money are Soon Parted

Yuuko may consider Momo her mortal enemy, but the feeling isn’t mutual, and that isn’t just down to because Yuuko is so weak (she is) or because she’s so powerful (she says she’s not even that strong as magical girls go). Momo could always just ignore Yuuko and retire to her big modern house after school, but she doesn’t.

She entertains and indulges Yuuko at every turn, as if she’s happy for the company, even if that company wants to drain her blood. At the same time, she could just be playing a very shrewd and subtle long game, with the end goal of keeping Yuuko broke and powerless, which Yuuko’s mom says is the magical girl M.O.

When Yuuko reports her lack of progress, her mom decides to up her monthly allowance to 500 yen (~$5), an extravagant (by Yoshida family standards) budget with which to purchase weaponry to defeat Momo. Her friends end up taking her to the mall and Momo tags along, further proof that she either wants to be friends with Yuuko or wants to bankrupt her, or both!

Looking around in vain for a weapon under 450 yen (she gave Momo 50 as part of a 10-installment repayment plan for train fare) exhausts Yuuko and makes her hungry, and Momo and her friends point her in the direction of an udon restaurant, where she spends all but 120 yen. Momo then points out a soda machine, and Yuuko buys a coke with the last of her cash.

Clearly, neither a war of fists or a financial battle will be enough to put a dent in the pink magical girl. Perhaps nothing Yuuko can muster will ever make her a legitimate threat, even with Momo stepping back from her magical girl duties, she’s still a Level 99 against her 1. That’s why Lilith is poised to join the fray. But more likely than not she won’t be much of a threat to Momo either…

While perhaps not quite as strong as it’s first episode (few second episodes are), I’m still very much enjoying MachiMazo’s blazing color, rapid-fire comedy and cheeky irreverence. So I’ll be back for more!

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BokuBen – 04 – Pudding x Squared

This week’s BokuBen is split relatively cleanly into three parts; one for each of the three tutees. First up is Fumino, who one day after a bath notices to her horror that she’s put on weight.

The next day at school it’s clear why that’s so—there’s no shortage of snacks in between meals from Uruka (who doesn’t put on weight no matter how much she eats) and udon from Rizu (for whom everything goes to her bust). Fumino resolves to not participate in the gorging, going on a diet.

When Yuiga mentions her lack of focus due to her fighting temptation, Fumino reveals the reason why, and even invites him to feel her stomach in order to confirm that it’s in danger of becoming a muffin top. But despite this invitation to perform what feels like a perverted act, Yuiga doesn’t believe whatever weight she perceives to have put on is of any consequence.

Her weight ends up returning to a level she can live with, with the abundant late-night snacks being a necessity for her as her brain requires a good deal of energy to operate when she’s studying.

The next segment focuses on Rizu, who learns she has a rival in math in science in the person of Sekijo Sawako. The perennial second-place finisher in math and science exams suspects Rizu is only getting into the humanities because she’s fallen in love with Yuiga, and intends to stay close to Rizu in order to confirm this.

That means joining Yuiga and Rizu at her family udon restaurant. Sawako attempts to flirt with Yuiga in an effort to get a reaction from Rizu, to no avail; nothing will keep her from her studying focus, while Yuiga gets the idea that he’s suddenly popular now.

The two make so much ruckus that Rizu kicks them out, but Sawako finally gets some evidence when she sees how Rizu reacts to Yuiga patting her on the head for a mock exam well done; it’s a reaction Rizu cannot hide.

This results in Sawako continuing to keep an eye on Rizu and Yuiga until she’s convinced that the humanities are the right path for her number one “rival.” Yuiga, meanwhile, tells Sawako that if she wants to be friends with Rizu, she should just be upfront and ask.

Finally, we have our #BestGirl, Uruka. Her situation this week is the simplest of all: in a morning fit of absent-mindedness, she forgot to put on a bra. This makes her super self-conscious, especially when she has to play basketball against Yuiga in gym class.

Her bashfulness totally throws her off her game, and Yuiga capitalizes without blinking an eye, stealing the ball right out of her hands and taking his team to a commanding 16-2 first-half lead. Her demeanor on the court is so unusual, he asks her if there’s anything wrong, to which she responds “we’re enemies right now!” but she twists his concern into a confession of love, motivating her to forget about her boobs and up her game.

Unfortunately, upping her game cooresponds with Yuiga’s inflated sense of athletic prowess, as he’s determined to block her shot, leading to the two coming together in the chestal area. In the ensuing chaos the clock runs out and Yuiga’s team wins, while Yuiga himself, having felt Uruka, remarks that she “felt like his sister,” who sometimes neglects to wear bras.

It’s probably the last thing Uruka wanted to hear in her already fragile state, while Yuiga’s sister makes him pay for bringing up the fact she’s wearing a bra. So then: while there was no marked progress this week on the three tutees’ efforts to excel in areas in which they are not strong, these were nevertheless three satisfying vignettes that enriched our understanding of the characters.

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 15 – Maximizing the Value of the Humble Potato

The Central-loyalist instructor for Stage Two makes it even tougher for the rebels to succeed this week than last. By calling their names and hall designations last, their task of securing the missing ingredient in their noodle dish becomes all but impossible, as all the noodles, and ingredients for making scratch noodles, are already been exhausted. Worse still, there’s a severe blizzard outside, so can’t get to Sapporo in order to buy ingredients.

But the tighter Central turns the screws, the more the rebels huddle together and dig deep. Armed with their talent, as well as Erina’s invaluable Hokkaido seminar, they manage to make noodles for their dishes using one ingredient the instructors neglected to deprive them of: the potato. Specifically, the Irish Cobbler cultivar Hokkaido is famous for.

Megumi, Takumi, and Souma share raw ingredients so that there’s enough for each of them to make a “single serving”—another requisite for the stage the instructor laid out—and not only to they have no problem making noodle dishes that tear his clothes off, but all of the other rebels pass easily as well.

Almost too easily, if you ask me: I mean, if this instructor (and the one before him) were willing to stoop to dirty tricks, why not just lie and say the dishes sucked? Perhaps, subconsciously, “having no choice” but to pass the rebels is their own way of rebelling against Central. For them, unlike Azami, good food is good food. Their first loyalty will always be to their taste buds.

When the instructor hears word that Erina has coached them, he concludes that their passing the second stage is all thanks to her “mercy”, but Erina quickly chimes in and tells him he’s wrong. All she did was teach them about potatoes, everything else that led to them crafting gourmet-quality dishes came from their own innate talent as chefs. Truly, Erina is their gleaming knight, Joanne d’Arc.

She wouldn’t have wasted her time lecturing them if she didn’t think they were worthy. All she did was give a little nudge. And that night, when the students are allowed to sight-see in Sapporo, Erina joins her fellow rebels, and sees the city in a whole new light because of it.

Erina laments to the others that all the other times she’d been to Sapporo, she didn’t get much of an impression from it, since she was so busy in her duty as Nakiri heir and God Tongue tasting dishes. But someone who was able to watch her from a younger age disputes her: Nikumi, the one she shunned after she lost a Shokugeki to Souma.

Not only does Nikumi not harbor any hard feelings for being cut off by Erina-sama, but she humbly comments that she too might just know a tiny bit of the pressure to succeed for the sake of one’s family, and how she always looked up to Erina as a paragon of culinary excellence, and she’s glad she’s able to spend time with her once again. Erina is humbled by Nikumi’s words, and even feels shame for having treated her so badly in the past.

When Souma and Takumi meet up with Erina and Megumi, they all head to a restaurant for a big dinner in which to sample all that Sapporo has to offer. Those previous times Erina was there, she was alone, and all business. Now that she’s socializing with friends, her horizons have expanded…and she’s loving it.

Unfortunately, there are many more stages to come, and even though the four arrive at the train station at the designated time, they learn from Hisako that their train already left 30 minutes ago! Indeed, the rebels have now been split into four groups and diverted to four different venues for the third stage.

Oh, and the third stage will pit each rebel against a member of the Elite Ten. I’m not quite sure how that will work, as there are more than ten rebels who aren’t Erina…but perhaps it will be the trio of Takumi, Megumi and Souma working together against their Elite Ten opponent, whom Kobayashi Rindou presents to them as the newest member of the Ten: Hayama Akira. Oh, shit!

3-gatsu no Lion – 20

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After losing the first three matches, and on the eve of the fourth which will determine whether he’ll get to play in his hometown, Shimada has a dream about a seemingly ideal life.

His girlfriend never left him, he gave up on being a pro, and he lived happily in his hometown with a big extended family. Yet even in the dream, there is shogi. As lovely as it looks, it might be a nightmare to him, because he gave up.

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At one point in the final match, Shimada actually seems to be glad to have a “black bog” churning in the pit of his stomach, because he feels alive. The pain keeps him focused from all the people talking no-so-behind his back about how he won’t win a single game.

Rei has to hear the same negativity while on stage with another A-ranker who leaves before the match is even over once he’s satisfied Souya has him where he wants him. The grizzled veteran makes Rei amazed stomach pains are all Shimada has suffered, and how frightening and impossible the prospect of surviving in rank A seems, at least at this point in his career.

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Shimada’s ideal dream/nightmare, it would seem, was a consoltion for the fact he wouldn’t make it to his hometown, because there would be no fifth match. Souta simply silently covers him in layer after layer of snow until he’s well and truly buried.

By the time Rei rushes to the monitors, hoping to will him into the move that could save the match, Shimada has already conceded. Like Rei in his match with Shimada, there was a gap that was simply too wide to be crossed.

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Watching his mentor’s defeat, and everything that surrounded it, is a vital learning experience for Rei. Already convinced he will not attain the heights of previous middle school pros, and always dubious of his own worth in general, Rei sought a reversal of all the pessimism around him, perhaps to also convince himself to have faith things could turn around.

But instead he learns that beyond the storm is just another, more severe storm, and Shimada has weathered those storms, and feels better for doing so. Rei will also have to learn not to wither before seemingly insurmountable odds, nor fear defeat, because win or lose, something is learned, and life is enriched.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 19

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We step away from the Kawamoto sisters this week, but we see their warm caring nature reflected in Rei as he takes care of Shimada. Flashbacks indicate he’s had often-crippling stomach pains since he was a teenager, likely due in part to the pressure his small but well-meaning village put on him to become a master. He doesn’t want to let them down any more than himself.

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The Lion King Tournament with Souya is really doing a number on his already shaky health, so Rei comes by to make him a delicious udon bowl, stating his father (not Kouda-san) had the same stomach problems. Rei doesn’t cook for himself at home, but he’s happy to do it here, and is actually good at it. I can just imagine Hina’s joy (as well as Akari and Momo’s, but particularly Hina’s) if he whipped up a bowl for her!

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Rei goes against his better judgement and acquiesces to Shimada’s demand to play shogi with him, despite the fact what the dude needs most is sleep. But Rei is flattered to hear the reason why: like Souya, Rei is an all-rounder with similar “viewpoints” on the game Shimada can’t get elsewhere. Rei may be a stopgap (i.e. nowhere near as good) but he’s better than nothing. Souya even used the same word to describe the 3-g silver (or whatever) move: “disturbing.”

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From his house, Rei gets Shimada on the shinkansen, into his hotel room, and thanks to an altruistic assist from Souya, Shimada’s role in the pre-match reception is mercifully brief. The day of the match, Rei still second-guesses staying and playing with Shimada instead of insisting he rest back home, but there’s nothing he can do about it now. All he can do is hope Shimada has enough left in the tank to grab a win.

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One Punch Man – 06

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I’m not so sure this Hero registration was such a good idea for Saitama. After all, none of his amazing deeds have gone noticed prior to registering, and no matter how phenomenally powerful he is, he seems doomed to never be recognized for it, whether it’s because witnesses are hardly ever around when he performs his feats, or other, more famous heroes hog all the notoriety.

When Genos informs him he must bag a bad guy within a week or lose his registration, Saitama learns just how hard it is to find a low-level monster or criminal to apprehend or punish when he actually wants to find one. Luckily, he bumps into Sonic on the streets, and Sonic is so bent on fighting him he “pretends” to be a villain for Saitama to nab, which actually just means blowing a lot of stuff up and putting people in danger.

Still, Saitama has to thank Sonic for showing up, because otherwise his career as a pro hero would be over before it ever got started.

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As a bored Class-S hero Tornado (a rare female character on OPM) complains to the HA administration about getting more tasty work (a lot of the work suited to S’s Saitama already did without fanfare), news of…something bad going on in the abandoned area of City Z prompts the HA to send two Class-A’s to investigate.

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Rank 29 Golden Ball and Rank 33 Spring Mustachio saunter in, weary of the widespread destruction and lack of people in the zone. They end up confronting a vicious seaweed monster who also heard rumors about things going down in the area, including a congregation of monsters like himself, but instead decides to kill time by wasting both of the Class-A’s, clearly establishing how strong he is.

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There’s something familiar about this area: it’s Saitama’s neighborhood. Ever since all those battles in previous episodes, everyone else who lived there moved out. He and Genos are all that is left, which makes the fact Genos insists on living with him in his cramped apartment all the more ridiculous. As for the seaweed monster, he not unreasonably mistakes Saitama for just a regular schlub and prepares to kill him, but rather than witness what happens next, we go straight to the end: Saitama boiling kanbu leaves from the slain monster for broth. Waste not, want not, eh?

Just as we didn’t see what Saitama did, no one else did, so he gets no credit for easily defeating down a monster that ate two Top-35s for breakfast. Instead, he rises from 388th to 342nd for apprehending Sonic, for which there were witnesses. And he gets to start the drudgery all over again, going from crim to crim in a mad dash to keep his license. There’s no justice in this world…for Saitama, that is!

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Instead, only the collateral damage from his battles is noticed by the HA, who sends more heroes to City Z’s abandoned area on high alert for “something big” to go down. But there isn’t anything to be on high alert for. It’s all Saitama, taking care of business. Saitama just operates too far outside the boundaries of the system to ever find success within it. He’s too fast; too strong; too good at his job.

At least with more eyes on his location, the possibility increases that a hero somewhere, someday (who isn’t Genos) will witness him doing something great and relay it to the HA so he can finally get his proper due. It could happen.

…But it probably won’t!

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One Punch Man – 05

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No bad guys to fight this week; just a Hero Association registration exam to complete. Saitama’s peers snicker at him right up until he demolishes all of the records during his fitness testing. Watching Saitama snap from dopey blank look to serious glare is always a delight, and the way he took those tests around the corner and had his way with them made for some hilarious images, particularly the vertical jump. Why whack-a-mole?

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Unfortunately, there’s a written test too, and Saitama doesn’t do to well on that. Genos gets a 50/50 in both tests, and assumes from the top of the letter in Saitama’s packet that he’ll be joining him in the rarefied Class-S, but it’s just a lowly Class-C. His subsequent analysis of the letter only gets Saitama madder.

Meanwhile, Genos’ special rookie exception attracts the attentino of a blue-haired fellow hero. Saitama and Genos meet the goofy Class-A hero Snek (not “Snake!”), but Saitama couldn’t care less what the man has to say, preferring to see how big a bubble he can blow with his gum (another riotously funny image).

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Now that he’s Class-S, Genos wants to try his hand at Saitama once more, to see how far he has to go to reach his master’s level. In a vast, abandoned empty space, the two go to town, with Genos unleashing his entire arsenal at Saitama without managing to touch a hair on his–I-I mean, touch his head.

Genos insists Saitama stop fooling around and fight him seriously, but Saitama stops an inch short of his face on a “serious” punch, his trademark One Punch, and then suggests they go to lunch. Genos, suddenly a little paler than a moment ago, saw the murderous intent in that punch, and knows what would have happened if it had landed.

It’s a frustrating exchange for Genos, who can’t see a scenario in which he’d ever come close to Saitama’s power. But unlike Saitama himself, he does want to figure out the secret of that power (stubbornly refusing to believe it was just moderately strenuous training). But Genos does end up beating Saitama…in a giant udon bucket eating contest.

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Then the blue-haired hero, Amai Mask, finally tracks Genos down and talks to him. Being at the top of Class-A, Genos shot one spot above Amai, and he seems a little miffed by that. Still, it’s only a friendly-ish welcome chat, and Amai is soon off to his penthouse. But the power of his celebrity leaves a lasting impression on the other patrons of the restaurant, and just by being seen with Amai, Genos gets the attention and admiration of everyone, including cute girls.

So both Genos and Saitama were frustrated this week. Genos with the seemingly unclimbable heights to approach his master’s strength; Saitama with being underrated and undervalued by the HA, as well as by Genos deciding to move in with him. Once Saitama gets jobs and completes them quickly and forcefully, I wonder if he’ll actually rise in HA, or continually fall victim to technicalities.

Indeed, after failing to secure a salaryman job, Saitama is now entering employment under a large corporation. Now that being a hero is a job and not just something he does for fun, will he feel even more stifled and unfulfilled, or will he become a celebrity and get fulfillment through the love of his fans? We shall see.

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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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