Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 06 – There’s Something About Shion

Turns out Shion doesn’t have the power to draw allies to her; Hinamizawa just happens to be super tight-knit, and an attack on one of them is treated like an attack on all. Maybe the village should be called NATOmizawa, eh? Anywho, Shion changes on a dime from some kind of gangstress to a sweet lass when Ooishi and the cops arrive to take the punks away.

Keiichi is treated to a meal with Shion, who tells him the story about the dam project thwarted by that same village solidarity, weathering violent riots and legal wrangling. Later Keiichi gets a call to come be the guinea pig for the new dessert menu, and he defends Shion’s honor against two boorish otaku.

His ass is kicked, but for Shion the fact he defended her is what matters, and she begins to cling to him like a lover. They go out shopping together and end up at the shop where Mion works part-time, marking the first time we’ve seen the twins together and confirming there are in fact two of them, and that Shion was probably impersonating Mion at times.

Shion is the younger of the two yet more mature and refined compared to Mion’s rougher edges. Shion is also pretty blatant about basically stealing Keiichi out from under Mion’s nose, and whether it’s Shion getting Keiichi to buy a doll for her or talking with him after festival preparations the next day, Mion doesn’t seem too thrilled about her flirty twin sister-interloper.

Things get downright sinister when Tanako Miyo and Tomitake Jirou appear for the first time in this arc. Turns out Miyo’s a bit of a sicko, going on about the death and dismemberment kicking off an annual “curse” of one person in the village being murdered and another “sacrificed” (as opposed to “demoned away” in the last arc). Mion tries to get Keiichi away from the “lame story” but is unsuccessful.

Keiichi’s morbid curiosity and susceptibility to peer pressure rear their ugly heads again the night of the Watanagashi festival, when instead of watching Rika he is pulled away by Shion to the location of the shrine storehouse, where they catch Tanako and Tomitake breaking in. Shion and Keiichi decide to be partners in crime and have a look inside, as it supposedly contains “old ritual tools” that might fascinate Keiichi.

When he agrees, Tanako tells him “you’ve made your choice”, which is really what you want to hear when about to break and enter a dark creepy storehouse. I guess it was Shion’s goal all along to lure Keiichi into this very situation, but why she’s doing so, and what things await him remain tantalizing mysteries.

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 05 – Two Not of a Kind

This week the timeline resets back to June 12, long before everyone starts murdering each other. In fact, until the very end of the episode there’s barely a hint of dread to be found here. A lot of time is spent literally playing games at a store. Like the first episode, this is largely table-setting.

Keiichi is saddled with The Game of Life, which unlike his fellow club members’ games, is predominantly luck-based. When Mion, Rena, Satoko and Rika all win their games, Kei decides to win by making a deal with the two younger boys he’s playing with, both of whom like Satoko and Rika, respectively.

The shop’s owner, who is Mion’s uncle, gives everyone gifts for helping to boost the day’s game sales. Keiichi ends up with a western-style doll, and following Rika’s advice, gives it to Mion, who is surprisingly flustered and bashful about receiving it.

The next day, Kei’s dad takes him to a restaurant where all the waitresses are in fantasy cosplay. To his shock, he finds Mion working there—but she reveals she isn’t Mion, she’s Mion’s twin sister Shion, who seems to appreciate Kei’s praise for how she’s rocking her outfit.

Since Shion was so familiar with Keiichi, there’s a distinct possibility she and Shion pose as one another, so from that point on I kept wondering who was who while interacting with Keiichi. When he praises Shion’s outfit, Mion blushes, and while Mion goes to her part-time job, it’s apparently Shion who comes to Keiichi’s house to drop off some dinner.

Throughout this, Keiichi is kind of a jerk in how he treats Mion as somehow “rougher” or more “tomboyish” than Shion…but even he can’t be certain with which twin he’s been interacting, nor could he know how good Shion is at acting like Mion, or vice versa.

At school the next day, Kei returns the dishes to Mion, whom everyone notes is acting more “kind and gentle” than usual. Rena ends up giving Keiichi a friendly reminder not to always tell a book by its cover. When Kei asks what he’s to make of that warning given Rena’s “cover”, she changes the subject.

That said, Rena notably maintains her “cute” Rena persona, never betraying any kind of malice as she did in the previous arc. It could be that instead of Rena, it’s Mion, or rather the Sonozaki Twins Keiichi will have to watch out for.

That brings us to the foreboding yet cryptic ending: when Keiichi is distracted by the restaurant where he met Shion, he stumbles into a row of motorcycles, angering their delinquent owners, who seem to be itching for a fight.

Just when they seem poised to start roughing him up, they’re stopped by a suddenly very pissed-off and assertive Mion…or is it Shion? Whoever it is, they tell the three punks to piss off, and when they move to challenge her, they’re surrounded by dozens of ordinary townsfolk, all wearing the same hostile expression as her.

Is this simply a factor of there being so many Sonozakis in the town? Does Mion/Shion have some kind of power to bring allies to her side? Is she a secret delinquent with more clout than these three grunts? Which twin even is it, considering we’ve apparently seen both “normal” and “reserved” versions of Mion? Could it be we never really met the real Mion until now?

Isekai Shokudou – 05

While Gaganpo was primarily a hunter, this week’s demi-human is a warrior who ends up crossing swords with the famous half-elf Alexander, who sells him into gladiatorial slavery. While preparing for an arena match against a manticore that may well kill him, the door to Nekoya opens.

He goes through, is greeted warmly, and treated to not one but five pork cutlet rice bowls, which he wolfs down with gratitude. Because “katsu” means victory, he returns to his world and makes short work of the manticore, which is just as well, as he must win 99 more fights to win his freedom – as well as pay his restaurant tab.

Like our liony warrior, the next customer, Victoria, has a very limited niche in society in which to operate. Because she’s a half-elf, she had the choice of becoming a sorceress, an adventurer-for hire, or the resident of a remote village of her own kind. Vicky chose sorcery, and quickly rose to the upper echelons of magic users, tutored by the venerable Sage Artorius.

Both Victoria and the Sage are regulars at Nekoya; Artorius ordering his fried pork cutler, and Victoria preferring pudding a la mode, in contrast to the full elf who won’t eat anything from an animal. She also takes some of the soft, velvety, delicious, springy pudding to go, storing it in a magical mini-fridge she keeps in her bedchamber. As noble a use of ice magic as I can imagine!

Isekai Shokudou – 04

The first of this week’s two new visitors to Nekoya is a strange one: Gaganpo, a Lizardman and Hero of the Blue Tail Tribe. His visit to the restaurant is preceded by an almost David Attenboroughesque nature documentary, in which a soft-spoken woman narrates everything he does, carefully bathing and suiting up for what is, in his tribe, a great honor.

Upon entering the restaurant, Gaganpo says the “magic words” that get him what he wants: omelette rice, and lots of it. Omelette rice is one of those ultimate comfort foods, and it’s like nothing the marsh-dwelling Lizardmen have ever tasted before and is beyond their ability to replicate.

The fact neither Aletta nor the Chef bat an eye at the presence of the blue behemoth show you that Nekoya is a super-diverse and accepting place. Gaganpo returning home, with three “party-size” omelettes of three distinct varieties for his fellow villagefolk to enjoy, is certainly a sight to see.

The next customer is a little more conventional: Fardania, a wood elf from a village carved into massive trees. But because she’s an elf, she’s also a vegan, so when she enters Nekoya and sees everyone eating animals, she’s a little turned off and very dubious of the human chef’s ability to cook her something she can actually digest, let alone fine tasty.

Of course, this is the nearly omnipotent chef of Nekoya we’re talking about, and it’s not like there are no vegans in human society, so he whips up a delectable tofu steak with veggies and rice at which even a carnivore wouldn’t necessarily turn their nose. Of course, Fardania takes this delicious meal as a challenge to make even better food for her widowed father.

This was an episode that, at times, looked like it was animated by a grade-schooler, as Gaganpo and his cohorts were particularly inconsistent in their design and proportions. Fardania faired better, especially in close-ups. But I was able to mostly overlook the uneven production values thanks to the mouth-watering depiction and description of the food….which is, at the end of the day, what this show is all about.

Isekai Shokudou – 03

When tuning in to Isekai Shokudou, I find it’s best to come hungry. I actually altered last Thursday night’s dinner plans, so enticed was I by the depiction (and description) of some nicely fried shrimp. In the first segment, the chef simply throws some stuff together—cream, pancetta, mushrooms, parsley—and serves over pasta. Aletta calls it “Knight’s Pasta.”

This week’s first customers are Thomas Alfade (far from his first time) and his grandson Sirius (his first). Thomas is known in his world as a culinary genius, but the fact is he merely lifted all the recipes for pasta and pasta sauce from Nekoya and its chefs.

Is he a fraud, and his legacy a sham? Sure, but who cares? He did it so he could enjoy Nekoya’s food in his world. At any rate, it looks like spaghetti and homemade meat sauce may be on my menu in the near future…but I never thought to add toasted nuts to my gravy…

The next customer is Princess Adelheid, who like Sirius also first visited with her grandfather, who just happened to be a “Grand Emperor.” It’s a memory she barely remembers, and in the present day she’s all but alone and suffering from a tricky illness that’s hard to shake.

One day the door appears, and Adelheid visits Nekoya for the first time in years, and knows exactly what to order; the same thing she got the last time: “clouds,” i.e. a chocolate parfait. Turns out that’s what it takes to restore her energy and vitality, and upon returning home her maids are shocked to see her outside and feeling much better.

A parting shot of the Nekoya dining room shows us all of the customers whose little stories we’ve heard thus far—including Sirius and Adelheid—along with a couple whose stories we’ve yet to hear…and simple-yet-delectable dishes we’ve yet to hear described in loving detail. I’ll be back in seven days!

Isekai Shokudou – 02

When treasure hunter Sarah finds a door in a cave, she finds the “final treasure of the ultimate treasure hunter”, William Gold: the door to Nekoya. The late Will turns out to have been a regular at the restaurant.

While initially weary that the food in this otherworldly place won’t be up to snuff, one bite into the succulent daily special of fried minced-meat cutlets sends Sarah straight to Flavortown.

I enjoyed details like Sarah’s amazement even with the lemon water, bread, and soup, and the exquisite detail with which she described her wonderful dining experience. Definitely shades of Food Wars, without the wars! It’s also good to see Aletta doing well in her new role as waitress.

As a matter of habit he started with William, the Chef prepares take-out cutlet sandwiches for Sarah to take with her. Thus “Minced-Meat Cutlet II” is born in the eyes of the other regulars; William Gold—likely Sarah’s father or grandfather—was MMC I.

In part two, one of the grizzled regulars, the master swordsman Tatsugorou, visits a knight-captain in his dramatically-perched mountain fortress, bearing a sword the knight thought he lost three years ago on a desperate mission to save the Duchy.

In his haste to complete his mission, the knight, one Heinrich Seelemann, neglected to pack any food. When his horse collapsed, he had to continue on foot, until he simply couldn’t go on. Just then, he spotted a cabin with the now all-too-familiar door to Nekoya.

Like Sarah, Seelemann was initially weary of the sudden new, strange surroundings, but the Chef has a way of winning people to his side with his incomparable down-home cuisine. In Heinrich’s case, it’s the friend shrimp that remind him of his hometown delicacy.

He was so hungry he forgot he had no money, so left his sword with the Chef (who refused it, but Heinrich insisted). When he returned to the cabin later, the door was gone, but he was missing one key piece of the puzzle: the door only appears once every seven days.

Tatsugorou leads him back to the restaurant, where we see Sarah already enjoying Minced-meat cutlet, and Heinrich knows exactly what he wants: the simple-yet-sumptuous meal that ultimately fueled the success of his mission, the saving of the Duchy; after which he was rewarded with the mountain fortress. Pretty spiffy!

After two episodes, we now have a fairly stable pattern of two separate people from another world finding the door to the restaurant and having life-changing meals. Whether the show will choose to alter that pattern or not, I already think I prefer this to Youkai Apartment.

Isekai Shokudou – 01 (First Impressions)

This anime’s title—Restaurant to Another World—is also its premise. An ordinary bottom-floor western-style restaurant closes at midnight on Saturdays to welcome clientele from other worlds who come in through the magical front door.

The food is clearly good, as we glean from a group of burly warriors, some of them demi-humans, all of whom believe the dish they’re eating is the one that goes best with rice.

But when things get too rowdy and the chef asks for calm, they obey. They’ve all got a good thing going with this place; the last thing they want is for the chef to stop cooking for them.

One night, Nekoya appears to be closed but for a single important client: a red dragon who transforms into a voluptuous woman before arriving for her usual: a simple yet sumptuous beef stew.

After a bowl in human form, she returns to her gold-filled nest in her world with some take-out: a tall pot full of stew she gingerly laps up; simply unable to wait until next week to experience the sublime taste.

The third vignette, if you will, involves Aletta, a demon with prominent goat’s horns recently fired from her job working at an inn in her world, who stumbled upon the door and, believing herself to be dreaming, ate an entire pot of corn potage and fell asleep on the kitchen floor.

The chef is a decent sort of chap, so after hearing her story and ensuring Aletta’s belly is full with a delicious staff breakfast, he offers her a job as a waitress and busser at Nekoya.

Aletta gratefully accepts before discovering the wonders of a modern shower, cleaning up, and helping him. Later, the red dragon takes notice and appears to cast a protective spell on Aletta when she returns to her world, as the dragon is very protective of her “treasure.”

Cons include mediocre production values, including a few instances of distorted perspective, character designs are merely serviceable, and the story’s a little all over the place.

Pros include a neat general concept, a pleasant, genial atmosphere, and decent-looking food, while magic door provides the opportunity for many more colorful customers from far-flung lands. Execution is a bit meh though, so it’s a solid “maybe.”

Hanasaku Iroha 22

Now we’re getting somewhere! Well, kinda. Peace, understandings, and declarations are all either made or starting to be made. Not since the first week of the series last season has so much stuff been packed into an episode. I got that same feeling like it was three-quarters over when in reality it wasn’t even half-over. That makes me optimistic about this series ending as strongly as it started; perhaps even better.

It’s still to early to be sure of this, but as I said, I’m optimistic. Thanks to advice from her mother (who didn’t know she was giving it), Ohana has decided that a one-sided crush is okay vis-a-vis Ko (whom we’ve neither seen nor heard from all summer), and that she’ll confess to him next time she sees him. Minko and Ohana are at each others’ throats once more, but when Nako breaks them up, Tohru is seen to have been standing there, hearing everything.

At last, the air is cleared, as Tohru finds Minko crying by a shrine and they finally talk to each other about something other than cooking or Ohana. It’s just what Minko needs to keep going, and it helps Tohru not only realize how much he means to Minko, but also the source of her distractions. He brings her back on board the wedding food. Minko and Ohana finally call a truce, as they realize they aren’t even going after the same guy anymore (and never were), and both need to be more direct where their crushes are concerned.

After all that, there’s a whole wedding to be had! And having been to my older brother’s wedding earlier this year (and a damn fine wedding it was), it was a lot of fun to watch it unfold just as it had been to watch it be prepared. It goes off without a hitch, and even the manager is humbled and impressed by what everyone managed to do without her help or direction. She decided to kill two birds with one stone: marry off her son, and put everyone to the test in seeing how they’d fare with her merely observing. They paseed. Now Ohana has four episodes (barring an OVA or film), to make things right with Ko. Fingers crossed…


Rating: 4

Hanasaku Iroha 15

At one point in this week’s proceedings, in which Ohana arrives to the rescue of the same inn her class is staying at, she proclaims with surprise: “I’ve learned my job!” She was taught so well, she wasn’t even aware of when she transformed from more of a Yuina-like liability to a serious inn professional. Her “waitress’ instinct” wouldn’t allow her to stand by and let the inn’s service suffer. So in her free time, she volunteers to work.

Nakochi and Minchi soon join her, and they do what they do best. Yuina goofs off around town a little longer, but eventually returns to the inn to find that her friends are hard at work preparing dinner for the class. She stops by the bath, where an annoyed Yosuke tells her if she doesn’t want to work by his side in the inn when he inherits it, there’s no way they can marry. What’s interesting is that Yuina laid out her desired future so confidently and bluntly, and it turns out she isn’t nearly as sure about everything as she would let on.

All it takes is Yosuke praising Ohana and even suggesting a girl like her would be more suited to be his wife, and Yuina grabs a mop and starts scrubbing. This is a girl whos classmates call her princess, and she is in a lot of ways, having never done much manual labor. But she’s determined not to let Yosuke fall (settle?) for Ohana: she can work to, she just chose never to do so.

Yuina indeed helps Yosuke finish cleaning the bath just in time, and the dinner is a success thanks to the Kissuiso staff. The experience not only makes Yuina rethink whether an inn has no place in her future, but also leads to Yosuke rethinking his managing style. It also reinforces the friendship of the three Kissuiso girls, who proved that no matter where the inn is, they can make it rain, so to speak. Rating: 3.5

Hanasaku Iroha 7

I’ve been a bit disappointed at Hanasaku Iroha’s decline from excellent to great, and now, these past two episodes, simply good. I’m still enjoying the bathhouse hijinx, but those first couple episodes were truly outstanding, and the newest episodes pale in comparison. They’re too meandering, too episodic. I guess lulls are to be expected with a 26-episode run, but many other series of the same length have managed to impress from episode to episode. This is starting to verge on filler.

When I first saw snipers targeting Ohana and Nako, it was truly a WTF moment, and a worry that the show had already gone totally off the rails only seven eps in. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, as the newest guests at the inn are simply regimental “survivalists” who love hiding in bushes, pursuing targets and living off of rations. They’re really fun to watch. They’re also a clever mechanism for head waitress Tomoe – who is doubting her direction in life at the beginning – to get her groove back, so to speak. Clever, but random: I’d ask why survivalists are staying at a relatively cushy inn in the first place, but I won’t bother. Rating: 3