Tag Archives: food

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 23

To be frank, I was a bit disappointed in this one. After the reveal that Issiki has God-tier chef skills, I wanted to see him cook with magical powers: slice an onion instantaneously, juggle shrimp while devaning them, boil water with telekinesis, that sort of thing. The fact that he just sort of cooks efficiently and blends flavors well is a bit of a let-down, but I guess there’s always dojinshi.

Nevertheless, the kids find it hard to believe that the goofy dude who was always running around naked save for an apron is such a skilled chef, which intrigues Alice. As a non-Polar Star resident, the fact that the former Seventh Seat hates wearing clothes is new to her. I like this little reminder that the rebels aren’t just Polar Star people; it’s a mixed alliance.

“At your place, the male seniors run around naked? Is it too late in the semester to move into your dorm after I get myself un-expelled?”

In an example of art improving upon life, this episode introduces the World Gourmet Association, this word’s equivalent to the Michelin Guide. I wish the WGO existed in real life, because even though I understand why it evolved that way, it’s still weird that the preeminent ranking system for fine restaurants is managed by a subsidiary of a tire company. It’s not often that I look at real life and say “Hmm, the Food Wars! version of this makes much more sense,” but there’s a first time for everything.

The judges are named Anne, Charme, and Histoire; I don’t know what to make of that. Histoire happens to be a black guy, so you can reset the “It has been X days since we’ve seen a black person in anime” clock.

Tires? What tires?

The match between Isshiki and Jurio is centered on eel, and I, uh…I have a really bad association with eel. Have you ever heard of The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass? Never read that book with an upset stomach; don’t read German literature in general with an upset stomach, come to think of it, but that one in particular. In any case, this is one time I’m not tempted by the dishes on display at all.

Jurio makes a fairly boring looking eel dish, which is only made interesting by the over-the-top reaction shots it provokes; I thought they had been pretty tame with the lewd foodgasms lately, but apparently they were just saving all the lewdness for this one episode.

I like these better when they’re naughty in a surreal way (like with tiny chick-Somas attacking Erina), rather than outright porny looking. That could just be me though.

Isshiki counters by making a dish that includes ingredients created by his juniors at Polar Star and I’m…somewhat underwhelmed. I get that it shows great cooking genius that he took these relatively unrefined ingredients and was able to blend them into one cohesive dish, but why was he out to prove Polar Star’s reputation in the first place? Did he anticipate that someone was going to insult the honor of his dorm, thus he prepared for that far in advance? Until further notice, I’m going to have to assume that in  addition to his near-supernatural cooking skills, Isshiki can also see the future because he is a witch. He must run around naked all the time because he communes with his forest gods through his skin or something.

Today’s Food Porn: Hitsumabushi, Polar Star Style. Eel and cheese? That sounds really unappetizing; this dish is only getting the “food porn” designation on a technicality.

Oh, and after Jurio gets eliminated, Rindou promises to take over for him. Oh, Food Wars! Do you really think I’m going to believe that we have a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing Rindou cook before the end of the season? Don’t make me laugh, no one’s buying it.

Picture of Rindou, for no reason at all. RINDOU~~~~~~~~~

So Isshiki wins, which upsets Nene, since she has a beef with Ishiki going back to childhood. I feel for her here; it’s not easy to be a normally-talented person who’s always in close proximity to a total genius. However, she’s a total snob, so my sympathy only extends so far.

Enjoy little Nene’s look of wonder before she decided to adopt a permanent Resting Bitch Face for the rest of her life.

Soma then reveals the next step of his evil soba plan, which is to stir fry the noodles in a giant wok. Apparently this is a horrible idea, since frying burns the shit out of the noodles and destroys the subtle nuances of flavor that the judges will be looking for. I think Soma has decided that there’s no way he’s going to compete with Nene on the noodles themselves (which is logical), so he’s basically throwing that aspect while he makes the rest of the dish as delicious as humanly possible. I can’t see WGO-type judges going for this though; even if his dish does taste better overall, you can’t de-emphasize the soba noodles in a soba challenge and expect to win. I’m hoping that whatever workaround they come up with to have Soma pull this out isn’t too unbelievable.

Oh my, is the next episode the season finale already? It seems like they have an awful lot to wrap up in one episode, but maybe something unexpected will happen that will call the competition to a sudden halt. Like, maybe Azami will realize in the middle of the Shokugeki that his ideals make no sense, and all he ever wanted was for Saiba-sempai to tell him that his dumplings were tasty or something.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episodes 21 & 22

Things are coming to a boiling point on Food Wars! Oh my God, did I just say that? I really just said that. In theory I could go back and delete that sentence and try to open this post another way, but it’s too late now, the die has been cast.

Anyway, flashback time! Episode 21 gives us the background on Saiba (Soma’s Dad) and Azami (Erina’s Dad) that we’ve been craving for a while, but it manages to raise as many questions as it answers, if not more. Long story short, Saiba was the most brilliant chef of his generation, hero-worshipped by his classmates, but the constant pressure to perform eventually got to him and he cracked. Azami’s crazy, Stalin-style plans for food-world domination seem to be based on the idea that he’s never going to let another chef go through what his idol Joichirou Saiba went through…somehow. I guess if a talented chef tried to walk away from Totsuki under Azami’s reign, he’d have them dragged before a firing squad, and that’s his solution to the problem? It’s not entirely clear.

One thing this episode did clarify was how the Elite 10 works. I’ve thought for a while that the rankings weren’t strictly representative of talent; if they were, Erina should be ranked higher than the tenth seat, right? Turns out things like class participation matter, which is why Saiba was never No. 1 of the Elite Ten despite being the undisputed best chef in school. Being Rindou-centric, I wonder how this applies to Rindou, who is No. 2 on the Elite 10, just like Saiba was; there seems to be a parallel between those two because she’s probably his daughter  for some reason. I wonder if Rindou could be No. 1 if she wanted to, but never shows up to class; that sounds like her.

We still don’t learn anything about Soma’s mom; best guess is that Saiba started working at a diner called Yukihira, named after the owner, and married the boss’s daughter, but that’s speculative. We don’t even know for a fact that Soma is his biological son; he could have married a woman who already had a child. Granted, given the resemblance and all, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to think that these two are related; I’m just saying, the background is so vague that nothing is certain.

My best guess, which will probably be laughed at by people who have read the manga and know all the answers already (meanies), is that both Soma and Rindou are Saiba’s children, with a woman named Yukihira. When they were still very young, Ms. Yukihira left, taking her daughter with her, and leaving Soma with his Dad. Later on, Ms. Yukihira married a man named Kobayashi, explaining Rindou’s surname. Meanwhile, Rindou knows that Soma is her little brother (hence her special treatment of him), but Soma doesn’t know because Saiba finds the whole subject painful and refuses to talk about it.

There. My theory is probably completely wrong, but it felt good getting it out there.

This episode also gives us another glimpse into why Soma is special as a chef; it’s not talent, because he isn’t far and away better than his contemporaries the way his father was. It’s the fact that he always runs head-first towards a challenge, and enjoys living like that. It’s not just that he tries hard (which he does anyway), but that he seems to have been born with this rock-solid sense of self that cannot be shaken by anything, even repeated failure. “Keep trying, don’t give up,” may be a trite message, but I think they’ve found a novel way of expressing it with Soma; it’s more about how he views the challenge than the fact that he keeps trying.

“We’re stuck in a cage with Nikumi’s boobs and Alice’s ego? HOW WILL WE SURVIVE????”

Episode 22 gives us an update on the expelled Totsuki students, with Alice, bless her, taking everything in stride. I’m glad the show acknowledged the fact that as a Nakiri family member, Alice couldn’t just be tossed aside by Central the way Azami wants; it seemed pointless to introduce her Dad in a position of power, and then have him stand by idly while his daughter was disrespected. So the kids have not been sent crying back to Totsuki, because Alice has too much pull for that, so they’re around to watch the Team Shokugeki. Central retaliates by placing the rebel students in an actual cage while they watch the match, and wow, way to be petty, Central.

We see the current line up of the Elite 10 for the first time, and RINDOU IS DRESSED FOR COOKING! I repeat, RINDOU IS DRESSED FOR COOKING! Now I don’t honestly believe that we’re going to see her cook anything before the end of the season, but hey, it’s a nice gesture at least.

Meanwhile, the Rebel Alliance (heh) has gathered some other student chefs who haven’t been expelled: Kuga the Chinese Food specialist (which should have been obvious if I thought about it), Isshiki the Naked Apron Senpai (former 7th Seat in the Elite 10), Copy Chef Subaru (the guy who disrespected Takumi’s Mezza Luna, but that’s okay because he’s on our side now), and…this guy.

Megushima Toskue. Does anyone remember this guy at all? Because they introduce him like we’re supposed to recognize him, but I swear I have no memory of him being on this show before.

Despite the fact that everyone in the arena is rooting for Central, including the host, we’re led to believe that this is going to be a fair contest, because the Elite 10 have their pride and feel like they shouldn’t need to cheat to crush the rebels. When Nene (6th Seat) gets assigned her specialty, Soba, she’s actually embarrassed that she got such a lucky break, which is cute. I’m wondering how Soma’s going to pull out a win with this one, because he knows damn well that he can’t outcook Nene with traditional soba. They are presenting his diner experience as some kind of superpower (“only SOMA truly knows how to cook for the unwashed masses!”), but I don’t see how that’s going to help him here. We shall see.

More interesting is Isshiki-sempai, who’s being a goofball and having a good time like always. That is, until his opponent has the gall to insult the residents of Isshiki’s beloved Polar Star Dormitory, and Isshiki is just not fucking having it. Apparently he’s been hiding his God-like cooking skills from all and sundry, and now that he’s defending the honor of his dorm, he’s going to show us what he can really do for the first time…including using a knife like Himura Kenshin. I’m intrigued and– not gonna lie– a little aroused.

Cooking Battousai is not amused by your remarks.

Mimisaka is facing off against someone we don’t know, unless this person has also appeared on the show before and I just forgot; Food Wars! has too many characters and I can’t keep track. Remember when it was just Soma, his dad, that chick who lived next door, and that was it? Those were the days…except we didn’t have Sexy Naked Apron Ninja Chef Isshiki back then, so I think we’re doing better now. I’m pretty happy now.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 20

After last week’s barnstormer of an episode, this one was a much more quiet affair, focusing on the kids developing the teamwork they need to win a Team Shokugeki. After a whole show full of arrogant young cooks insisting that their food is the best, it was kind of nice to see the kids pointing at each other and saying “You made the best dish,” “No, YOU did!” and really meaning it. That’s probably too much growth for them to demonstrate just based on one mock battle, but what can I say; Erina’s Grandpa is just that good.

They look so good together…but wait, I want Soma and Megumi together, right? I need to close my eyes and think of Megumi.

Something’s been bugging me about the dish of the week though. Apparently, the three main components of Hachis Parmentier are spiced ground meat, creamy mashed potatoes, and baked cheese. Um…how do you go wrong with that exactly? You’d almost have to be trying to screw that up. Soma even throws sardines in it, for some reason, and still doesn’t manage to ruin it.

This Week’s Food Porn: A giant ball of meat, mashed potatoes, and cheese. Because it takes several great chefs to make that taste good, right?

This Week’s Food Porn Part II: Team Saiba’s version of the same dish, which was so far afield of the original, they should have probably been disqualified. Lucky for Soma, I don’t make the rules.

There’s also a good bit here about Erina learning to improvise for the first time, which is pretty amazing if you think about it. She’s devoted her entire life to cooking, yet because of her rigid upbringing, she’s never just experimented in the kitchen; everything she has ever made has been either from a recipe, or so premeditated that it may as well have been. It’s like there are no limits to the sadness that is Erina’s life.

After the Mock Battle which was really more of a Mock Cookout of Respect and Friendship, the rebels and Azami’s faction meet for a Shokugei Rules Powow. Everybody can use as many team members as they want, but it seems like they can only choose from enrolled Totsuki members, so the rebels don’t have the option of getting help from their expelled friends. I think Gin and Soma’s Dad are also competing in this battle, which seems odd, but I’ll wait to see how that plays out.

Azami tries to claim that Erina has to compete on his side since, as one of the Elite 10, she is technically part of Central. To be fair to Azami, I don’t think he actually expected her to give into that, because he doesn’t seem remotely surprised when she tells him to go shove it. Erina gives up her rank so she has no ties to the Elite 10 or Central, which would be a powerful gesture…if she weren’t already internationally known as the God Tongue. They actually need her more than she needs them, but it is a strong moment for her asserting her independence against her domineering Dad, and I don’t want to nitpick too much.

The Food Goddess That Shouted “I” At The Top of Hokkaido

Then Erina agrees to do whatever her Dad tells her for the rest of her life if her team loses, and uh, what? I feel like someone should have stepped in there and said “Waitaminute Erina, think about this, you don’t have to promise him that!” then again Saiba has already agreed to basically become Azami’s love slave if he loses, so I guess we’re just at the level of ridiculous stakes now. I’m wondering if Saiba’s gambit is to lose, but in the process of the match, warm Azami’s frozen heart so much that he becomes a good person and doesn’t enact these ridiculous punishments. I mean, that would be lame as hell, but maybe more sensible than Saiba being just that sure that he’ll win.

I know I’m back on the Rindou-obsession train, but most of the interesting stuff in this episode had to do with her. Not only does she do a great job of dressing down Eizan while pretending to defend him, but she specifically says goodbye to Soma at the Rules Powow, and no one else. I wasn’t really serious that time I said she could be Soma’s sister, but now I’m beginning to wonder…that red hair/yellow eyes combination isn’t common, even in AnimeLand. Do we know anything about Soma’s Mom? I honestly don’t remember if we ever learned about her during the previous seasons.

Okay, so this episode may have killed the momentum a little bit, but I’m still looking forward to the Team Shokugeki. I have a sneaking suspicion that next episode is going to be filler, but hopefully I’ll be wrong, and they’ll be starting the competition before the opening credits. And maybe Rindou will cook something, and then I can have a pony.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 19

Another Open Letter to J.C. Staff:

YOU  MONSTERS.

YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID.

Love,

Karen


Now that JC Staff has betrayed me yet again, they are forever dead to me and I hope they’re reduced to making sequels to Taboo Tattoo for the rest of their miserable existence, this was a pretty darn stellar episode. Finally, the anti-Azami plans that have been in the works for some time come to light, beloved characters return, and there’s  one hell of a cooking battle on the horizon. I don’t know how this show did it, since I’ve been complaining all along that Azami’s evil plans are actually pretty stupid, almost to the point of being immersion-breaking, yet somehow, the political drama remains fun and exciting. Backdoor plotting with Erina Grandpa! Rindou the true neutral! Megumi on the warpath! Yukihira diner is ON THE LINE! Man, what an episode.

THANK GOD.

Okay, before we get into the plot here, I have a question: For those of you keeping up with the manga, do they ever reveal what Rindou’s specialty is? I get that it’s become an ongoing joke at this point that we never get to see her cook, and I think I’ve written enough strongly-worded letters on the subject, but I’m still really curious. I don’t want anyone to spoil me on what her specialty is, just if she’s ever been given one.

From this moment on, I will stop being so obsessed with Rindou on this blog. I will not cease worshipping her as a God, but I’ll do that on my own time.

Okay, so either because she’s secretly on the good guys’ side, or because she just lives for any excuse to throw a monkey wrench in people’s best-laid plans, Rindou gives Megumi and Takumi an easy pass to the next round. We’re left with four unexpelled rebel freshman: Soma, Erina, Megumi, and Takumi. The first three are kind of a given, but I find Takumi’s inclusion interesting; it could have been anyone in that fourth spot, and I’m wondering what Takumi brings to the table (quite literally) that places him here instead of someone like Alice or Ryo.

Soma, with his typical “The enemy gate is DOWN” approach to problem solving, decides that their only recourse is to fight for seats in the Elite 10, because once they have a majority on the school’s obscenely powerful student body, they’ll be able to rescind everyone’s expulsions. One thing I only noticed upon rewatch is that Soma’s math is wrong; even if Soma, Megumi and Takumi all win spots on the Elite 10, they’ll still only have a coalition of four (including Erina). That’s not enough for a majority. Soma seems to think they’re going to get a fifth competitor from somewhere, but how are they going to do that if everyone else is expelled? It’s possible I’m missing some aspect of the plan here, and it’ll be better explained later.

Erina has a better idea, or what would be a better idea if her father wasn’t such an unmitigated jerk. She tearfully asks Azami to reverse the expulsions, hoping that his feelings for her as his daughter will force him to listen to reason. Of course, since Azami is incapable of feeling human emotion, this gets her nowhere. It’s a pretty big deal for Erina to swallow her pride and outright ask her father for anything, but considering how fast Erina has been changing this season, it feels like a natural progression.

Soma, who is still stuck on “Whatever strategy is left to you, no matter how unrealistic, must be your plan” tries to challenge Azami to a cooking Battle Royale, but to no avail; Azami has nothing to gain by accepting challenges from anybody, and he knows it. Just when all hope seems lost, Soma’s Dad returns! And Erina’s Grandpa! And Jesus! Well, maybe not Jesus, but the effect is about the same.

Now all the stuff I’ve been bugged about for a month is starting to make sense. All the bigwigs at Totsuki (including Alice’s Dad, I’ll bet), know that Jouichirou Saiba is somehow The One That Got Away to Azami, and his presence clouds Azami’s judgment. They knew that Azami will be unable to say no to challenge from Saiba, no matter how risky. Rather than fighting Azami outright, the plan has been to go along with him and let him think he won, only for him to hang himself with his own rope when he risks his entire empire on a match with his rival.

Does that really make all of this political craziness worthwhile, when in reality, the Powers that Be at Totsuki could probably have shut Azami down before he began if they really wanted to? Probably not, but hey, at least this whole arc is starting to make sense. It actually makes more sense if you assume that everyone who’s been supporting Azami up to this point secretly hates his guts, and wants to have him almost win just so he can get crushed right before his plan comes to fruition. Why else jump through this many hoops?

One thing I’m not sure of is how much the Elite 10 is in on this; I’m pretty sure Rindou is (I could see her being another secret student of Saiba, actually; that would be a cool little twist, especially because she kind of looks like she could be Soma’s sister), but the others are up in the air. I guess it’s possible they’re all huge snobs and were the only people supporting the Azami administration sincerely.

Gin is already beginning to regret the ‘bring in Saiba to take down Azami plan’; it is possible he did not fully think this through.

One interesting little nuance in this episode is that Azami’s old classmates all call him Nakamura, not Nakiri; he married into the Nakiri family, and was not born into it. This is a not-so-subtle dig at Azami’s outsider status, but it’s also interesting when you think of the Magical Nakiri Chest-Bearing gene; maybe that’s what this is all about? As a non-biological Nakiri, Azumi lacks the Chest Bare power, Erina’s Mom felt that he couldn’t measure up to her husband and brother, and he’s been itching to prove his manhood culinary worthiness ever since.

Suddenly I’m imagining the dinner table at Little Erina’s house, where Erina Mommy is like, “The way I was raised, real men bare their chests when they eat something delicious,” and Azami is like “If you love your father so much, maybe you should have married him, Lorraine!” and then Chibi Erina is like “I just want to let you both know this dish has too much thyme, it stings my Divine Tongue.”

Today’s Food Porn is Hachis Parmentier, a dish I have never heard of, which is kind of impressive considering how many stupid food shows I watch. It seems more Italian than French to me, but what do I know? I am but a humble anime blogger who lives on microwaved quinoa.

Okay, enough fanfiction about young Erina’s life, time to return to the actual story. The good guys, including Saiba and Gin, are going up against some of the Elite 10 in a team battle, and if they win, they’ll have the power to put an end to Azami’s nonsense. However, since it’s a team battle, teamwork is going to be important for arguably the first time. Soma and Megumi have been working together for a while, but for the most part, the Totsuki way is to focus on individual achievement at the cost of everything else.

What’s interesting is that this isn’t really a case of the old Totsuki way (Grandpa, Saiba, Gin) versus the new Totsuki way (Azami), since succeeding through teamwork has never been the Totsuki way, as far as we know. However, the fact that the format for a Team Shokugeki exists in the first place hints at the idea that Totsuki’s culture might have been more team-oriented in the past, which is interesting. Maybe this whole thing is an extremely roundabout plot by Grandpa to return Totsuki to a warmer, more cooperative time, by necessitating the use of teamwork? Talk about playing the long game.

Oh, and speaking of Grandpa Senzaemon, we learn in this episode that Soma ended up attending Totsuki Academy in the first place because he pushed for it, over Saiba’s objections. Considering how much Grandpa cares about Erina’s wellbeing, I wonder if he foresaw that Soma’s presence would help Erina overcome her father’s toxic influence? Yup, I think it’s safe to say that Grandpa is playing 4D chess at this point.

“Don’t worry Erina, I am here for you, just like your Grandpa planned; also, my Dad is about to show up in five seconds, also according to your Grandpa’s plan. Your Gramps has it covered, is basically what I’m saying here.”

Naturally we need some training matches before we get the Amazing Battle Royale Team Shokugeki, so the rebels are broken up into teams and tasked with making a classic French dish. At first the teams seem sort of stacked with Soma, Erina and Saiba all on the same team, but of course father and son are much too alike to possibly get along, so their chances look grim. This is going to be about headstrong personalities learning how to work together, which isn’t the most original thing in the world, but appropriate for this point in the series; after all, a chef is supposed to be a leader of a team of cooks. He’s not supposed to be in the kitchen by himself, which is mostly what the series has been about until now.

Huh. You know, one way of looking at this arc is it’s about the kids making the transition from talented cooks (people who can make delicious dishes using traditional techniques) to chefs, people who can lead a kitchen as a coordinated unit. It’s a really obvious theme for a story about culinary education, but it kind of snuck up on me from left field, and I have to give the show props for that. Another way of looking at this arc is that it’s about fatherhood, with Saiba’s laissez-faire parenting contrasted with Azami’s controlling nature. But I think there will be more to say about that once we finally get the backstory between Azami and Saiba, and I think I’ve gone on just about long enough about this episode, so I’ll wrap up here.

Buildings made of ice and snow? Are you telling me they have Ice Hotels in Hokkaido? I thought they were only in Sweden and Quebec! Do a Shokugeki inside an Ice Hotel! Do it! DO IT!

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 18

An Open Letter to JC Staff

To Whom it May Concern: I am writing to you about an issue of grave importance. In episode 16 of your show Food Wars! The Third Plate, there was a cliffhanger featuring Rindou, No. 2 on the Elite 10 at Totsuki Academy, and also possibly a vampire. In such cases, it is standard for the cliffhanger to be resolved at the start of, or (at the very least), partway through the next episode. Now, though I am but hours away from the airing of episode 19, I still don’t know what Rindou’s specialty cuisine is, because the cliffhanger remains unresolved. This is unacceptable as-is, but becomes even worse considering the larger context.

As you know, Rindou was introduced early on in The Third Plate as a mysterious redhead of mayhem all the way back in the fall of 2017; that means, at this point, I have been waiting nearly a year to find out what kind of food Rindou cooks. Every night I go to bed wondering if Rindou cooks up a mean spinach pie, or perhaps does something innovative with lamb kidneys and parsnips, and it’s beginning to feel like I’ll never know. The indication at the end of episode 18 was that Rindou’s battle with Megumi and Aldini will be shown henceforth, however, after the tease of episode 16, I’m skeptical that this will actually happen. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Now I live my life in a kind of Rindou-craze, consumed every waking moment with the mystery of my favorite borderline-sociopath Executive Chef and whether or not I’d be able to eat anything she cooks on a vegan diet. Someone must pay for this upheaval in my life, and I think it’s clear that you people at JC Staff are the ones responsible. I’m afraid I’m going to have to take extreme measures to express my displeasure; I’m not going to stop watching JC Staff anime (that’s crazy person talk), but I will immediately cease all labor on my forthcoming book, JC Staff: Underappreciated Geniuses of the Anime Industry. Don’t complain, you did this to yourselves.

Love, Karen


Today’s Food Porn is…more chicken-friend bear. Not exciting at this point, but to be fair, it does look more refined than Soma’s dish; Soma’s croquette looked like something you might buy at a carnival, if carnivals served bears.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s return to episode 18 and the fact that this Hayama X Soma fried bear party is FINALLY over. In a nutshell, Hayama makes an amazing Chicken-Fried Bear, with more refinement than Soma’s dish, but he didn’t push the flavors as far as he could have because he no longer had Jun hanging around to cook for. Soma, on the other hand, went absolutely insane trying to make his dish as good as possible, ending up with a better dish even though his general techniques (such as the fry on the meat) were not as good; victory Soma.

A good moment in anime that I think we can all come together to admire, political differences aside.

We really did not need three episodes for this. However, seeing Jun come in and hit Hayama in the face was rather satisfying, because the way Hayama was acting, he was going to be slapped by someone and it may as well be Jun. The other worthwhile part of this episode was seeing all the mythology being built around the Nakiri Chest Bare; what started out as a one-off joke has become amazingly elaborate, to the point where you get the impression this idiotic Nakiri “superpower” was foretold in ancient scrolls or something. I’m beginning to hope that Erina does have this ability, only it’s latent, and only Soma’s most delicious chicken soup will bring out her hidden Nakiri getting-naked powers. In fact, I’m putting $5 down on them manga ending that way, any takers?

Berta and Cilla are on hand to demonstrate that the Nakiri clothes-ripping power is communicable through the air, so uh, good on them; I’d be just as happy never to see them again.

Most of the action in this episode takes place in the last few minutes where we find out that Hayama’s being expelled (not surprising, given that he just lost to Soma), but virtually everyone else we care about is being expelled too. I don’t take issue with most of the Polar Star kids being expelled, since they were overmatched against the Elite 10, but seeing Alice knocked out gives me pause. Obviously, Alice’s dad still wields a lot of power at Totsuki, and we know he’s a caring father; he can’t possibly be okay with his only child being unceremoniously booted. This makes it seem even more likely that there’s some sort of tricky long game being played here, because I don’t think he’d allow her to be expelled if he had any reason to believe that it would be permanent.

This is just wrong. Alice is some kind of immortal succubus, I REFUSE to believe that she could be taken out by any of the Elite 10…except maybe Rindou. Assuming Rindou ever sets food in the kitchen, ever.

At this point, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some extremely important reason revealed for why all these people are following Erina’s dad’s crazy agenda, other than “they all woke up and decided to be communists one morning,” I’m just afraid the reason can’t possibly be good enough to justify all this tomfoolery.

Anyway, just about the only chefs who haven’t been confirmed for expulsion are Megumi and Aldini, meaning the series has to finally show the pair battle Rindou, after teasing it for three episodes. I fervently hope this happens, but knowing this show, next episode will be a filler about Grandpa Nakiri’s boyhood years in Okinawa or something, and we’ll just get one split-second screenshot of Rindou holding a ladle with a devilish expression on her face. If that happens, I will have to follow up my strongly-worded letter to JC Staff above with another strongly-worded letter, and I’m running out of things to threaten them with! Please I just want to know what kind of a chef Rindou is, why is this so hard?

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episodes 16 and 17

Once again, it’s just as well I’m doubling up on episodes here, because not a whole lot happens in 16 and 17. Soma’s match against Hayama is being really dragged out, which wouldn’t bother me so much were it not for the fact that every other cooking battle that’s meant to be going on simultaneously looks way more interesting. I mean, it looks like Nikumi is going to be facing off against the Pastry Loli from the Elite 10, how is she supposed to deal with that? Make an elegant wedding cake out of ground beef? I’m afraid we’ll never know.

Episode 16: Let’s Cook Bear

I predicted that they would end up cooking bear meat in this arc, although I thought they would be a little further north first. In any case, Soma realizes that he knows nothing about bears, so he goes into the wilderness in hopes of meeting one…but doesn’t. Because the bear is onto him and his army of Kuga’s Chinese-food cooking slaves (don’t ask). Still, going into the bear’s habitat turns him onto something called schisandra berries, which end up being a good ingredient to use to temper the bear’s gamey flavor, so it was worth making an expedition out into the snow.

I was kind of hoping Soma would go out and butcher his own bear to show his commitment, but then we’d be getting into Golden Kamuy territory and I’d be grossed out again. It’s better this way….

Speaking of “gamey,” I realized during this episode that I have no idea what that means. I’ve never eaten wild game, and now that I’m on a plant-based diet, I probably never will. I can sort of imagine what I think gaminess might be like in flavor, but I have no way of knowing. When they cook on Food Wars!, I automatically imagine what the dishes might taste like in my head (doesn’t everybody?), but this time I can’t, and it’s kind of weird. Very weird, actually. I wonder what it would be like to watch this show if you were a vegetarian from birth and had never eaten any meat?

Anyway, we get a glimpse of Megumi and Takumi Aldini, and they’re going to be facing off against Rindou. Yaaaay! Finally! Except this episode is a big tease, and the scene cuts out before Rindou tells the pair what they’ll be cooking. *Shakes fist* Darnit, they better tell me what Rindou likes to cook in the next episode (Spoiler: THEY DON’T, IT’S AWFUL.) We do get a nice little scene of Rindou in the bath though, so I guess that was enough to stop her rabid fanbase from rioting.

Episode 17: Bare Your Chest For Chicken-Fried Bear

There is some quality manservice in this episode; don’t let anyone tell you that Food Wars! neglects the lady viewers. Okay, so the guys are rarely stripped completely naked by their foodgasms, but isn’t that splitting hairs a little?

Whenever this show tells us anything about Hayama, you may as well cancel your plans for the rest of the week, because it’s going to be awhile. Seriously, this episode delves deeply into why Hayama became a bad guy by joining the Azumi administration, which is totally unnecessary. I knew from the moment Hayama showed up that the reason he was teaming up with Central was to protect Jun, so watching that flashback play out was an exercise in tedium. For some reason, I just don’t care about Hayama that much, even though his total devotion to Jun should (in theory) make him a sympathetic character. I just don’t have much patience for arrogant, humorless types.

There isn’t much reason to post this, I just wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t kidding about the Manservice stuff.

This episode introduces Alice’s father, so we’re getting more of the Nakiri family tree filled out. We’re also introduced to some sisters who are great food tasters because they’re super-smart, or something like that, but the real reason why they exist is so this can happen after they taste some bear-flavored cuisine:

Everybody understands that the whole “impressing people with flavor is akin to sexual conquest” thing is a silly joke that nevertheless plays into this show’s theme of the true potential of cooking? I hope so, because it would be a bitch to explain it.

Both Hayama and Soma ultimately decide to fry the bear, which makes sense; deep frying is what people do on Chopped when they get a disgusting protein they have no idea what to do with, like lamb hearts or something. Soma makes a kind of meat croquette, which is interesting to me since that sort of thing is usually referred to as “Western” food in Japan, yet we don’t seem to have it in the US; I guess it comes from Europe, somewhere. His strategy was to make the bear taste as gamey as possible, so he could pass some sort of gaminess event-horizon and it would become delicious again, or something? I’m tired of this whole bear situation. Then the episode ends before Hayama can serve his dish, so we have to deal with this whole gaminess business for yet another episode.

To make up for the vegetarian delights of the last few episodes, today’s Food Porn is a giant hunk of fried bear meat. Seems a bit simplistic for the level of cooking they’re supposed to be doing by now, but maybe bear just doesn’t lend itself to dainty preparations?

What I would like is for Hayama to screw up and overspice the bear to the point where it loses its distinctive flavor, and lose the match, but I doubt that’s going to happen. They’re making it seem like Hayama is pretty much unbeatable right now, yet Soma has to survive somehow, so there’s going to be some trickery. Maybe they’ll tie, or maybe Hayama will win but Alice’s Dad will lobby for Soma to pass on to the next round due to the fact that Soma’s dish made him bare his chest, and that’s serious business.

Heh, despite everything else, I love the fact that chest-bearing after eating a good meal is apparently a genetic trait in the Nakiri family; it’s a good thing Erina didn’t inherit that, otherwise things could get very awkward very fast.

THE NAKIRI DYNASTY INCENDIARY STAMP OF APPROVAL; accept no substitues.

Next episode better focus on the Rindou match, and/or some of the other Polar Star kids battles, otherwise I’m going to be one pissed off little otaku. If they delay the reveal of what Rindou’s specialty is for even one more episode, I’m going to write J.C. Staff a very strongly-worded letter. They’ll probably be too busy working on 47 different anime series simultaneously to read it, but whatever; I gotta blow off steam somehow.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 15

See that picture up there of Erina dressed as Jean D’arc? Right now, all over the world, Fate/Stay Night fans are waking up in a cold sweat; they sense a disturbance in the mana. Feverishly, they bring up Ami Ami and Jlist, trying to preorder a rockin’ PVC figure that does not yet exist….

Erina merch sales aside, we’re back to The World’s Most Impractical Choo Choo Train Final Exam, Round Deux. Since giving the rebels poor-quality ingredients didn’t work out so hot for the Totsuki instructors last time, this time they’ve decided to give the kids virtually NO ingredients and see them reduced to making ramen out of sawdust. By the time our chefs get to the exam rooms, all of the good ingredients have been taken, and thanks to white-out blizzard conditions, they can’t go out shopping for more. Ruh-roh!

Hey, Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles was last season, guys. Get with the program.

Fortunately Erina taught all the kids about the incredible versatility of potatoes, so everyone makes noodles, toppings and broth out of the savory spud. An easy way out perhaps, but one I appreciate, because potatoes really don’t get enough credit nowadays. What other food is so affordable, and can be made delicious with so little effort? Often I’ll throw a russet potato in the oven for an hour or so, cut it open and add a little sea salt, and I have a nutritious, filling dish for trivial cost and effort. I hesitate to use this term, but really, potatoes are a Life Hack if ever there was one.

That’s two dishes in a row that I would actually eat! Watch, next week the dish of the episode will be Roasted Venison with a side of lamb brains or something.

It’s best not to get too carried away with potatoes, because then you get the Irish Potato Famine and that’s not good, but still, I think you see my point.

The exam is actually somewhat de-emphasized this time around so we have time to see the kids palling around in Sapporo, which is all good fun. Erina’s realization that she’s never really enjoyed travelling before now is predictable (since this whole arc is about her realizing how crappy her “exalted” life has been up to now), but handled deftly enough. I feel kind of cheated that we didn’t get to see any of the restaurant dinner with Soma, Erina, Megumi, and Aldini though; that could have been an episode unto itself.

Chef’s whites are apparently optional at Totsuki, otherwise Soma, Ryo and Nikumi would have already been expelled. I worry about Nikumi, actually; it’s all fun and games wearing a bikini top in the kitchen until you get a hot clam down your cleavage.

Finally, the kids get split up on different trains (which, as Rindou points out, anyone who’s been paying attention should have expected), and they prepare for their battles against the Elite 10. Soma is going to be taking on Hayama, newly-appointed to the Elite 10 which is…okay, I guess? We’ve already seen Soma vs. Hayama, so unless Spice King Hayama has discovered a host of new spices from an undiscovered continent or something, I’m not sure what kind of monkey wrench they’re going to throw in here to make this rematch interesting.

What I am excited about is seeing a match against Rindou, No. 2 on the Elite 10. She’s been an important character for all of The Third Plate, yet we still have no idea what cuisine she specializes in; I don’t think they’ve even dropped a hint about it. I’m really curious, because they’ve already assigned so many different cooking specialties to different characters, I don’t know what sphere of cooking is even left for Rindou– yet, as No. 2 on the elite 10, whatever she does has to be a doozy. They could pull something lame like “actually Rindou is a master of ALL CUISINES!”, but I’m hoping it’s something more interesting than that.

WHAT DOES RINDOU COOK? I’ve been asking myself this question for six goddamned months now, I can’t stand it much longer.

I have to wonder though; if the next battles are all against the Elite 10, and Erina is already a member of the Elite 10, who’s Erina going to take on– herself? Will Erina have to battle an evil doppelganger of herself, Shadow Erina, who will later see release as yet another awesome PVC figure? I hope so, but if we can’t get that, then I would accept Erina vs. Rindou as a close second.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 14

This show is always so nice to me. Right when I realized that Golden Kamuy was too dark, so I’d be missing a Hokkaido-based show this season, Food Wars! decides to move this whole cour to Hokkaido for no apparent reason. Really, it’s inexplicable, unless they’re catering exclusively to me.

”Ok, time for advancement exams. We could hold them on school grounds, but where’s the fun in that? Let’s conduct a ludicrously expensive, high-class rail tour of northern Japan, and fit in the exams all over the prefecture. I hear Hokkaido is nice this time of year…the dead of winter.

What are they even going to be cooking by the time they get to those islands that are practically in Siberia? “Esteemed judges, I have prepared for you Grilled Black Bear Flank, with a reduction of tree bark and hardy forest lichens, and a side of Caramelized Reindeer Hoof.”

Really I just love the ridiculous opulence of Food Wars!, the fact that they’re setting their exam arc on a billion-dollar luxury train for no good reason. It’s hard not to read it as little bit of commentary on conspicuous wealth when you’ve still got characters like Megumi, who grew up in a poor fishing village, gawking at the whole thing. Maybe I was being dense last week when I questioned the writer’s choice to make this arc political, because it’s not like that’s really a new thing for this series; I could say it used to be more subtle about politics, but has this franchise ever been subtle?

Today’s Food Porn is Fillet of Salmon. My diet is mostly vegan nowadays, but I do cheat sometimes and eat fish, especially salmon. Nice little bonus that the dish they made this episode was something I would actually eat. It’s definitely not one of the more inventive preparations this show has featured though; oh wow, fish with citrus, really busting out of your comfort zone there, guys.

Anyway, PLOT! Erina decides to save her buddies the boring way, by tutoring them in cooking knowledge to help them pass the exams. I was really hoping she would just go up to the instructors, be like “I’m the God Tongue and you’re some no-name cooking teacher: pass my friends, or I’ll tell everyone that your food is always underseasoned,” and they would all fall before her in terror. Alas, Erina is developing into a nice young lady and her character growth does not allow her to do anything so underhanded and despicable; it would work though, wouldn’t it? I’m pretty sure it would work. Everyone fears the wrath of the God Tongue.

I don’t know who it is, but someone out there is very, very excited for the appearance of Sexy Teacher Erina, and I’m glad they’re having a good day. If they make a figure of her, she should definitely be surrounded by sacks of delicious (and varied) potatoes.

Speaking of the teachers, let us consider for a moment the curious moral fiber of these instructors who are conducting exams in Hokkaido. Apparently they are morally fine with hiding information from the students they intend to fail for political reasons, morally fine with giving sub-par ingredients to the students they intend to fail for political reasons, and will even gloat openly about their corruption in front of the students they intend to fail; none of that is going to keep them up at night with a guilty conscience. Yet they cannot, CANNOT bear to fail anyone who brings them a tasty dish. Once they taste anything with more depth of flavor than a Chicken McNugget, suddenly they’re all “Oh no, I can’t go along with my diabolical plan to unfairly fail you out of school, the sublime cook on this fish has turned me into a decent human being again!” I guess it does fit with the overall theme of this show about how the sensation of food can be overwhelmingly powerful, but man, talk about your arbitrary morality.

For some reason I find it amusing when Alice explains the chemistry of cooking; possibly because she explains everything like she believes that everyone should know all this already, and if you don’t know the precise temperature that the cell walls of a fish lose their integrity, you are less than dirt to her.

Anyway, more PLOT! Everyone passes the rigged test partly due to Erina’s tutoring, and partly because they somehow know where to find underground seafood vendors that Totsuki Academy doesn’t know about, since Totsuki supposedly bought up all the good salmon in the area before the test. I can imagine Alice Naikiri having an encyclopedic knowledge of where to find every single ingredient in Japan, if not the entire world, so I guess that makes sense. I was hoping Megumi was going to use her fishing skills to hook the salmon they needed, but alas, it’s the wrong season for salmon fishing. I really hope Megumi uses her fishing skills to save the day some other time though.

I have the X-Men theme song in my head. Okay, to be fair, I usually have the X-Men theme song in my head, but it feels really badass in synch with this killer screenshot.

Even more PLOT, really more like character development though! Erina wonders why everyone is stopping to talk to her after the first exam has passed, mostly because she’s never had friends and it’s a new experience for her. It’s yet another reminder of how being born with ultra-sensitive taste buds has completely fucked up her life, and it’s honestly really sad if you stop and think about it for a moment. Fortunately, she and Soma have A Romantic Moment Under the Stars and that’s enough to distract us from thinking anymore about Erina’s dismal social life up to this point.

That’s just the stars reflected in Erina’s eyes, not the glow of her unending ocean of love for Soma. Unless you buy into symbolism and all that, phhht.

I’m not sure what to think about Soma X Erina as a couple. Obviously they like each other and they’re becoming more compatible, but…Megumi and Soma are just so sweet together. Ironically Erina needs him more right now, but more as a friend than as a lover. I think Soma X Erina is supposed to be our endgame couple, but it’d be really cool if the two of them developed an intimate friendship and Soma ended up marrying Megumi instead. Right now Soma seems to value all his friends pretty much equally and doesn’t have romantic interest in anyone, but that may change if he ever beats his Dad in a cooking battle; then, he could allow himself the luxury of wanting something else in this life.

So, this season continues to be fun, and I look forward to seeing what’s coming up on the World’s Most Impractical Choo Choo Train Final Exam. Although, if they don’t use the train setting to do a Murder on the Orient Express kind of episode at some point, I’m going to consider that a missed opportunity.

 

Isekai Izakaya, Episodes One and Two

This show has me very confused. I’m 99% sure I already saw this show in the summer of 2017, when it was called Isekai Shokudo, or Restaurant to Another World. Now it’s called (roughly) Snack Bar to Another World, and features the exact same premise, only, it’s not a new season of the original show. I thought maybe it was a related spin off, kind of like Sword Art Online Alternative is to regular SAO, but no, that does not appear to be the case. Someone choose to release a completely unrelated show called Snack Bar to Another World not even a year after Restaurant to Another World started airing, and they don’t seem the least bit ashamed of it.

I was prepared to throw up my arms and sneer “what a ripoff!” but  the plot thickens! See, minimal Wikipedia research reveals that the light novel for Isekai Izakaya was actually published before the light novel for Isekai Shokudo, so if anything, the latter is more likely to be the ripoff. But, but…regardless of what went down in Light Novel Land, this is the exact same show that was on last summer. And I don’t mean “it’s the same genre,” I mean it’s the same exact concept. People in a medieval-type fantasy world discover a modern Japanese restaurant that mysteriously has an entrance to their world and ooh and ahh over how good food has become in the age of refrigeration, advanced farming and other modern technology.

So far the primary difference is a downgraded waitress. Shinobu, who waits on the dumbstruck customers of the Izakaya, seems to be a normal girl who likes eating chicken; in Restaurant from Another World, one of the waitresses was an immortal dragon who lived on a dead planet at the edge of spacetime and communicated telepathically. I mean, it’s all subjective, but I think Restaurant probably wins in the “intriguing waitress” category.

Considering the fact that episode 2 spent a lot of time repeating material from episode 1, asserting that this is an inferior version of Restaurant to Another World seems valid, even if Shinobu does turn out to be a transformed chimera or something. Even though calling it a ripoff is grossly unfair, considering when the source material was published, the fact remains that I liked this show a lot better the first time.

The live-action bits are the best part of the show so far, but stuff like this is what I have Netflix for.

The one exception is the fact that the end of the episodes feature brief, live-action forays into Japanese food culture, and they are rather interesting. I’m not sure if I should give the anime credit for including decent documentary footage that isn’t actually part of the anime though. Besides, these live action bits remind me of Wakakozake, and that reminds me of the fact that Crunchyroll hasn’t uploaded Wakakozake Season 3 yet, even though it’s been filmed. What’s the deal with that, Crunchyroll? I need to see Waka-chan get hammered and eat her weight in yakitori, what is the hold-up?????

Anyway, because  I’ve seen this show already, I will now stop watching it…ah hell, what am I saying? It’s an anime food porn show, I’m an addict and I’m going to watch every single episode (possibly twice), but that doesn’t mean that you should! If you’re going to watch one faux-medieval-styled food porn show, for God’s sake, watch the one with the telepathic dragon. It’s not rocket science.

Food Wars, The Third Plate, Episode 13

The OCD part of me is annoyed that I’m starting off here with Episode 13 of this season. Plus, I only blogged part of The Second Plate back in the day, so really, to appease the OCD Gods, I should go back and blog every episode, starting with the first season. However, I’m going to choose to believe– despite a complete lack of evidence to the contrary– that my time is too valuable for that.

Anyway, whatever, Food Wars! is back! No more tiding ourselves over with oddly specific stuff like Miss Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, it’s time for the show with copious, multi-disciplinary food porn! Currently, the perky culinary students of Polar Star Dormitory are busy fighting communism, or whatever this stupid arc with Erina’s Dad is about, but let’s gloss over that and focus on what matters: people eating delicious food and then hallucinating vividly.

Today’s food porn is a classic egg-over-rice dish, with a twist. Can I just say I have a love-hate relationship with the Asian habit of serving dishes with a runny egg on top? I get the appeal of the creaminess of the egg yolk mixing with the other flavors, but err, food poisoning is a terrible risk. Back when I ate eggs, I ate those suckers cooked to hell and back, let me tell you.

Actually, to go back to the political aspect, I do kind of get it. The original model of Totsuki Academy functioned as an extreme meritocracy, where only cooking quality mattered and anyone who couldn’t cook to a certain level on their own was immediately expelled. So, kind of an extreme capitalist model, the kind of thing that would give Ayn Rand the warm fuzzies. Nakiri Azami, main girl Erina’s evil-ish daddy, wants to change the system to something more forgiving of failure, but also incredibly authoritarian and anti-creativity. So it’s a pretty classic political struggle, and I suspect we’ll eventually end up somewhere in the middle, since the original Totsuki “one mistake and you’re GONE” model was pretty cruel. It makes sense to me, but I think asking why Food Wars! felt the need to get political in the first place is a valid question; it feels a little pompous.

“ATTENTION: No authoritarianism allowed at this cooking school anymore! Now all of you do as the God Tongue tells you! Fresh, seasonal ingredients good, communism BAD!”

Oh and also, Nakiri Azami apparently wants to destroy every restaurant in the world (or at least Japan) that doesn’t feature white-tablecloth fine dining. How many economics classes do they have at Totsuki Academy? Clearly, not even one, or Azami might notice all 14 million practical problems with this approach. Erina’s mom must have been the brains in this family.

Speaking of Erina, this is really her episode, giving us insight into what it’s like to grow up as the girl with a world-famous palette called “the God Tongue.” First, since she’s been working as a culinary consultant since she was barely out of diapers, she’s essentially had her childhood stolen from her. Second, having hyper-sensitive taste buds has got to suck when every upstart chef wants you to taste their edgy new fusion dish, possibly with sheep offal. Third, a brief encounter with Soma’s dad changed her life, because for one meal, she was able to enjoy food just as a diner, and not as a judge.

The relationship between Erina and Soma’s dad has been hinted at before, but it’s kind of surprising how limited it actually was; it seems like she was only in his company for a few hours, once. The way the show has been foreshadowing it, I thought he had been clandestinely tutoring her for years or something. Nevertheless, her connection to his father strengthens the bond between Soma and Erina, which gives Erina the courage to do something she’s always been terrified to do: stand up to her insanely domineering father.

I don’t think anyone looks to Food Wars! for great character development, but this has been a solid arc for Erina and it’s satisfying to see her fully emerge as one of the good guys, after playing sometimes-antagonist to Soma and friends for so long. Now Erina is going to be helping the Polar Star kids pass an Advancement Exam, where the judges are going to be gunning for them because they’re rebels who openly disapprove of her father’s agenda.

I’m curious how this is going to play out. It could be a simple as Erina using her experience and palette to help coach her dormmates to make food so delicious that the judges can’t eliminate them in good conscience, but I kind of hope they go another way: that she starts throwing her weight around as The God Tongue.

Like, imagine the judges are trying to evict Megumi, and they say her Salmon en Croute tastes “bland and uninspiring,” then Erina walks in with her entourage, tastes Megumi’s dish and says “ACTUALLY I think this is some delicious salmon, and I’m the God Tongue; go fuck yourselves.” Then the judges go off to a corner to cry and Megumi slowly backs out of the room, wondering what just happened.

Except only the highest quality, Grade A eggs with spiky red hair and an attitude problem.

This episode also features what may be my favorite Foodgasm thus far: Erina being assaulted by tiny chicks who all look like Soma. He feeds her an innovative egg-over-rice dish, and her resistance to calling it delicious is countered by a million tiny Soma-chickens who nibble on her extremities, or something. I want the Soma mini-chickens to be the new norm for foodgasm scenes, even if he’s making something totally unrelated; diners takes a bite of Soma’s chocolate pudding, suddenly they hallucinate a flock of Soma mini-chickens poking their belly buttons, because why not?

So yes, a fun episode with fun food that manages to work pretty well despite my lack of engagement in the larger plot. If the show keeps this up, maybe I’ll keep covering it weekly for the whole thing, and not getting distracted halfway through like I did with the second season.