Tag Archives: Spring 2018

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.

Amanchu!~Advance~, Episodes 4 and 5

This show did one no-diving-at-all episode, and one episode jam packed full of diving, so it kind of evens out. You’d think I’d be complaining about the ocean-free episode, but this show has pretty much earned my eternal allegiance after Episode 3, so eh, I think I’m going to stop caring so much about how much time they spend underwater.

Oh, and here is your regularly scheduled Pikari Troll Face: You get +10 happiness points added to your happiness total for today! Go out and enjoy the sunshine, or whatever floats your boat!

I try to take screenshots of her filling the screen in all her chibi glory, but sometimes she makes better faces when other characters are in the shot. What do you think; should I open up the Weekly Pikari Troll Face to other characters, or leave it as a solo act? I’m going to have to give this some serious thought.

Episode 4: And Now, For Something Completely Different

This time around, the staff of Amanchu decided they didn’t feel like making Amanchu that week and gave us an episode of Flying Witch instead, out of nowhere. Fortunately, I liked Flying Witch a lot, so I’m on board with this kind of rampant irresponsibility.

What’s interesting to me about this episode is that we’re used to seeing Pikari as the one who lives in the moment, something this episode focuses on a lot, and Teko as the one who gets distracted worrying about the future. This episode sees both girls living in the moment, with Teko indulging in a daydream that seems her flying all over town on a broom. Granted, Teko apparently needs to be unconscious to truly live in the moment, but well, that just shows that there’s still room for her to grow, right?

I’m not sure what to think about the whole lucid dreaming concept; I’ve read about it before, but it always seemed too good to be true to me. Usually at the point in my dream where I realize “this is a dream,” I wake up, so I can’t take advantage of the fact that I know I’m dreaming. In theory, you can train your mind to be able to consciously control your dreams, but I’m not sure that’s something you can learn; I think some people may have a different dreaming process to begin with. Giving Teko this ability seems a little random, but this episode is mostly an excuse to draw pretty girls flying on broomsticks and I’m thinking about it too hard.

Once again, notice that the girls are separated, with the boyish Kokoro taking Teko’s place as Pikari’s sidekick once again. I like the way they’re consistently showing how Teko’s life has changed as a result of Pikari, even when the two of them are physically separated.

Episode 5: I Was Sad I Almost Got Decompression Sickness, Then I Saw A Mermaid So it’s All Good

This was a great episode of anime, the kind of thing this show is uniquely equipped to deliver. Not only was the underwater scenery gorgeous, but the show didn’t let the pretty ocean visuals get in the way of giving the characters interesting things to do. It was also a little scary, since the problem Teko experiences here is exactly the reason why I’d be too afraid to go diving myself.

Still, even though the fact that she almost got decompression sickness is disturbing, the way Teko handles it is interesting. She does get upset with herself (as she should; it was a careless mistake that could have led to horrible consequences), but she doesn’t get so bogged down in self-doubt that it stops her from going in the water again. It seems like she’s really taking Katori’s message from episode 3 to heart; the fact that she panicked once and did something stupid, doesn’t cancel out all the times she could have panicked underwater and didn’t. Her mistake gives her pause, but it doesn’t devastate her the way it would have in the past.

I had trouble finding screenshots from this episode that really captured how beautiful it all is; I think you really need to see it in motion, which is proof that the show is providing good animation, not just good art.

I have mixed feelings on the urban legend of the Jet Black Mermaid. At the beginning, I was really hoping that Katori-sensei was the mermaid herself, and was kind of slyly telling the girls about her own secret identity (maybe because I desperately want the show to give Katori more to do?), but obviously, that’s not how it turned out. The idea of the “mermaid” being Pikari’s portly grandfather is kind of charming, but also a little…err, I don’t know, strange? How is such a morbidly obese man such a good swimmer? How did the people who spread the legend of the ‘mermaid’ fail to realize that the mermaid in question was a 300 lb. man?

Maybe I shouldn’t be questioning the plausibility, since that’s kind of getting bogged down in minutia, but well…this is one show where the laws of physics and biology matter. Like, they really matter, to the point where they almost killed freakin’ Teko in this episode. It’s a little jarring that they’re presenting diving procedure and safety extremely seriously, and then introduce a character like Grandpa who doesn’t look like he should be able to get out from under his kotatsu, let alone be a fantastic diver. This show has always had really cartoony elements (Troll face, the pets, etc.), but this is the first time I felt like the cartoony bits kind of clashed with the impact of the underwater scenes.

I was trying to find an Underwater Pikari Troll Face, and this was the best I could do. Finding a screen of Pikari making her special face while in full diving gear is now my mission in life.

Still, that’s a minor complaint about what was otherwise a pretty excellent 20 minutes of animation. I can’t wait to see Teko get her advanced license so the crew can explore even more interesting underwater locales.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episodes 4 & 5

It’s just as well that I’m doubling up on these episodes, because I don’t have a whole lot to say about these two. The action was quite entertaining, but there’s a limit to the amount of times I can say “LLENN is really fast and agile and it looks cool.” Come to think of it, LLENN is so fast that if this GGO thing ever starts to get old, she could consider racing the horse girls on the track in Uma Musume. I even hear that a spot may be opening up….

Episode 5: Real Guns Are Not A Joke

This episode touched on something that doesn’t get mentioned often, and I’m really glad that it did. I’m not really into shooting, but I did spend some time at the rifle range as a teenager and have some idea how real shooting works. I’ve also played video games where you shoot a gun, and it’s very different from the real thing. I assume, as games have gotten more realistic, some have added targeting mechanics that are more akin to real shooting, but in general, real life shooting and in-game shooting don’t have a whole lot in common.

Since GGO is fully virtual reality, the game could emulate real shooting accurately, but this episode goes into why the game designers deliberately chose not to do that. Still, because the option for manual targeting exists, someone like M– who obviously has quite a bit of real life experience– can smoke the competition, because he can bypass all of the bells and whistles that were put in to make the game more competitive.

I just appreciate this acknowledgement, both that real-life shooting and game shooting are different (and probably will continue to be different in the future), and that developing good marksmanship in real life is time-consuming and difficult. Too many people labor under the illusion that a few hours playing a first-person shooter can turn someone into the equivalent of a deadly mercenary, and that’s just not how it works.

All that is overshadowed by a twist ending though, when M turns on LLENN and nearly kills her in-game. At the time, I thought M had just been told (or perhaps lied to) that the SAO-style “if you die in the game, you die in real life” rules were back in effect, and he had panicked. This led me to wonder if M is an SAO survivor, which– considering his military experience– seems like pretty bad luck. I mean, how cursed do you have to be that you have people shooting at you for a living, then when you go to play video games on your day off, you’re stuck in some deranged programmer’s murder fantasy?

Episode 6: P-chan, A Requiem

You can shoot at LLENN, kick her, try to blow her up with a plasma grenade; but when you hurt her gun, that’s when she has just HAD IT with you and your crap.

Fortunately, the show went a less predictable route. Instead of the Death Game rules being reinstated, M is just afraid that Pito will kill him, because apparently that there bitch be crazy. The way he talks about it though, it sounds like either Pito is an SAO survivor, or simply obsessed with the SAO event. I think it’s important to remember that even though we’re not dealing with the SAO game anymore, the whole SAO Death Game tragedy is a major historical event in this world, and the repercussions from that are still being felt. I know people who have limited tolerance for this franchise want SAO Alternative to distance itself as much from its predecessor as possible, but I think that’s misguided; that history is important.

This episode then features a bizarre sequence where either a stressed-out LLENN hallucinates her gun, P-chan, talking to her, OR P-chan achieves sentience. I’m 99% sure it’s supposed to be the first scenario and meant as comic relief, but part of me is hoping the guns in GGO are becoming sentient AI because that would be batshit insane and I kind of dig it. It would also be a lot like the Tachikomas in Ghost in the Shell, further proving my theory that SAO and it’s spinoffs are all really GITS: Junior.

I get a weird Pink Elephants on Parade vibe from LLENN talking to her pink gun while the gun bats it’s eyelashes at her. That’s cool though, I love Dumbo. Underrated masterpiece, that film.

In the climax of Squad Jam, LLENN takes on a squad full of Amazon-like soldier women, using Kirito-like skills to edge out a victory while outnumbered. I wonder if the people who claim to like this show because LLENN is not Kirito are now saying “Dammit, LLENN is just like Kirito, screw this show!”, or if LLENN’s badassery makes Kirito less egregious, because he’s less special if other people have the same skills? Whatever.

At the end of Squad Jam, Karen seems to have come to terms with her height, which is…a little forced, but I’ll accept it. I can see how being in that kind of adrenalin-pumping situation would force someone to reevaluate their priorities a little bit. What’s awesome is that the team she was playing against turns out to be the same group of cute girls she’s been walking past every episode, which means that the girls are using GGO to deal with their height the same way Karen is. Apparently, no one smokes the competition in the FPS games of the future like girls with serious body image issues.

Seriously though, it’s pretty cool that the final battle of this big tournament came down to LLENN, who isn’t meant to be sexy at all, versus a bunch of bulky warrior women who also weren’t portrayed as sexy. In terms of representation, this is a pretty rare thing for anime (and in general), but because this is SAO, the franchise that must be slammed for misogyny at every turn, expect the series to get absolutely zero credit for doing this.

Well, that was all fun, but I can’t say I’m super-excited to see next week’s episode. If the big question left looming is “Is Pito actually super-duper insane?”, then that’s a problem, since I still don’t care about Pito. However, this show has been competent enough that I pretty much trust them to keep my interest moving forward, however they end up doing it.

Comic Girls, Episodes 4 & 5

I had to take care of some real-life stuff, so I’m a little behind on anime. To catch up, I’m going to be doubling up on some of these episode posts– or maybe tripling up, if I get even further behind. Who knows what kind of wacky anime coverage you might find at Otakusphere? It’s part of the charm! Err, hopefully.

Me, getting ready to do some blogging. I think I might steal “I Feel Digital Just Sitting On It” as the title for a memoir.

Episode 4: Sex is Not So Bad

I like the ongoing joke that Ruki is inadvertently sexy, even when she’s being a total dork. It’s the rarely seen parallel to the trying-too-hard-to-be sexy character.

Anyway, back to the Manga Artist Dorm of Awesomeness. Ruki is running herself ragged trying to keep up with her manga and school, to the point where she’s staying up multiple nights in a row, and seeing that kind of behavior always makes me wince a bit. Ruki, my girl, I give you permission to skip school if you need more than one all-nighter to finish your manga, okay? Maybe I’m a bad influence, but I think school attendance becomes less important if you already have a job in the adult world. Besides, sleep is very important, people; I thought I was functioning on minimal sleep in college, but when I look at some of the dumbass choices I made back then, I wonder.

This is the first episode that really had a strong theme, that of Ruki getting over her issues with drawing lewd manga. I really liked this angle, since Ruki being dreadfully uncomfortable with the manga she’s drawing has been arguably more disturbing than humorous since the beginning. I like that when she gets out and meets her readers, they’re all totally normal women and girls from different walks of life, and there’s nothing unsavory about the experience; basically, this episode is a little paintbox full of sex positivity. Everyone has sexual fantasies, this is normal, and Ruki shouldn’t feel bad for drawing manga with sexual elements.

“Hello, ladies! I’m 14 and I’ve never even kissed a boy, but please come up to me and ask for advice on your marriage– It’s not like I’m going to make it any worse, right?”

Of course, the idea that a sheltered, 14-year-old girl can pull off the role of an experienced older sister-type at a public event, to an audience of people twice her age, isn’t really plausible. However, criticizing this kind of show for the characters being precocious is a little like watching a giant robot show and then complaining that the animators didn’t account for how the robot would be effected by air resistance; there are certain genre conventions that are at odds with reality, but we all knowingly accept them for the sake of entertainment. This story with Ruki would make more sense if she were 24 instead of 14 (or 34, God forbid!), but that’s true of a lot of anime characters in various genres.

I guess you could criticize storylines like this as part of a larger point about how Japanese pop culture is youth-obsessed, but A)that’s not just Japanese pop culture, that applies to INTERNATIONAL pop culture and B)I’ve always thought the reasons why younger characters tend to dominate entertainment were pretty intuitive. I may lament the lack of characters my age in anime sometimes, but I understand the reasons why they’re rare.

In any event, this episode really felt like Comic Girls finding a purpose beyond tepid cuteness, and I for one felt validated that I had a reason to be watching it in the first place. My taste, validated! Surely this won’t last….

Episode 5: We Are Up To 50% Lesbian, And That’s Fine

…and it’s a beach episode, goddamit.

Actually, it’s really not bad. I appreciate the fact that this episode only devoted half it’s runtime to the beach, and then moved onto other things. The girls all look lovely in their swimsuits if you’re into that sort of thing, and the show managed to remember that this show is about artistic girls, not just generic cute girls. I like the fact that three out of the four girls had to basically be dragged kicking and screaming to go swim in the ocean, since they preferred to sit on the beach and draw. I haven’t been to the beach in a long time, but when I did go, I was the girl who was sitting on the blanket drawing, so I relate to Kaos and co., as usual.

One minor note that perturbed me though; Can you really rent bathing suits at the beach these days? That seems really unsanitary, and given how cheaply you can buy a bathing suit if you want to, really unnecessary. I mean, I’m sure the rental place washes the suits between customers and stuff, but who wants to wear a bathing suit that ten other people have worn? It’s not like going skiing, where most people rent equipment so you don’t have to drop $1000 on your own set. I mean, I realize this is tangential to the episode and I really shouldn’t care, but I’m curious now.

After fun-in-the-sun hijinks, we get Koyume and Tsubasa going on a date with everyone else spying on them, as you do. What’s funny is that Koyume seems genuinely flummoxed that she knows that Tsu is a girl, but she’s attracted to her anyway. It’s called being a lesbian, Ko-chan; Kaos is also struggling with this crazy, obscure concept. Someone needs to sit these girls down and draw them a map, because this is getting embarrassing already.

Let’s be honest, I would go on a date with Tsubasa too. Mostly to grill her for manga-drawing tips, but the point still stands.

I guess the date may be exciting for people who like girl-on-girl romance, but I don’t really care much for that sort of thing one way or the other. The part of this episode that resonated with me was Tsu telling Koyume that the most important part of drawing manga was to enjoy it, and not to obsess over professional achievement. It may be simple and it may be trite, but honestly, I don’t think it’s possible to tell an artistic person that too often. I wish I had a Tsu in my life to tell me that back when I really needed to hear it; my life might be very different today, if I had.

So after a rocky start, Comic Girls seems to be hitting it’s stride, not so much as a show about manga (although the manga element is always there), but more as a show about (unusually sheltered) teen girls trying to wrap their heads around sex and growing up. Even though I would personally prefer a show that went super-in depth into the manga-drawing process, this is probably a smarter direction for the show to go in general.

I hope at least a few people who aren’t watching the show read this post, so they can feast their eyes on this screenshot with no context at all.

Uma Musume: Why Special Week Needs to Die

As anthropomorphized, cute-girl versions of non-human creatures, weapons, or appliances go, I like Special Week. She’s a nice horse girl, and it’s exciting to see her rack up wins on the racetrack, her horshoe-shod cleats making that exciting clomp clomp clomp sound as she does so. But I firmly believe she should die before the end of this season of Uma Musume.

Why? Because like all the horse girls in Uma Musume, Special Week was inspired by a real racehorse, a stallion born in 1995. Just like in the anime, SW’s mother died shortly after foaling him, and he had to be raised by someone else. While he had a brilliant racing career in the ’90s, and went on to become a successful breeding horse, sadly Special Week just recently died on April 27, 2018. Rest In Peace, Special Week.

Just like her namesake, I believe the anime version of Special Week should die. Yes it would be very sad, but think about it: Uma Musume is an anime based on a cell-phone game about equine idols with bushy tails. Absolutely no one expects anything from this anime at all. It is, at best, a commercial for a video game; at worst, a complete waste of everyone’s time and PA Works’ resources.

Now, can you imagine if the show did a poignant, soulful arc where Special Week died, out of respect to her inspiration horse? It would be a completely unexpected, brutal twist in a series expected to have zero twists. It would mean that we can’t necessarily tell the difference between good anime and trash anime at the beginning of the season, because anything can happen. Perhaps chaos would ensue: the seas would boil, cats would lie down with dogs, and Crunchyroll’s social media presence would stop being ungodly obnoxious. Or, it could usher in a new era of open-mindedness in anime: after all, if Uma Musume could shockingly kill off the main character, who’s to say what shows that are not about demi-human horsie girls could accomplish?

I don’t think of myself as a cold, unfeeling person. However, for the sake of anime– for the future of the world– I think it’s time to take Spe-chan back behind the barn. If she must go to the glue factory, let her become the healing glue that binds all of the different subcultures of anime fans together: as one proud, dorky nation.

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.

Sword Art Online Alternative, Episode 3

LLENN’s face in the picture above kind of mirrors my feelings on this episode. I appreciate what the show has done– starting us out in media res for the first episode, then carefully explaining who these people are and what they’re doing– but it’s taking a little too long. I think half of this episode could have been spent on the material covered here, and then we could have gotten back to the Squad Jam, where the action is happening. Too much time in this episode is spent going over the mechanics of the game, most of which we already knew from seeing it in action during episode 1.

On the subject of Squad Jam, I have mixed feelings about the origin of the tournament that we’re given here. Apparently SJ came about because someone was so inspired by Kirito and Sinon’s cooperation during the Ballet of Bullets* that he wanted to see a whole tournament based around team play. I appreciate the reference to the mainline SAO story, but uh…someone really needed to see Kirito and Sinon work together to get the inspiration for team-based play in a shooter? How anti-social is the playerbase of GGO that “Hey, maybe we could have a tournament featuring teams that work together,” is treated as some kind of innovative suggestion? You would think they would just do that as a matter of course.

I appreciate getting more insight into Karen’s life (and not just because we have the same name), but I’m not sure what to make about her fangirling over her favorite singer in this episode. Writing the fan letter seems like an immature thing to do, but then again, she is a fairly young girl; I think I’m making the mistake of assuming that because she’s tall and looks mature, she must therefore be mature. If that was the intention, wow, way to mess with me on a meta-level, show.

Anyway, I’m impatient for them to get back to the Squad Jam, not so much because I want to see it, but more to get it over with so the show can move on to other things. I’m pretty sure there’s a compelling plot in here somewhere, and I’d like to be introduced to it one of these days.

*I know CR calls it the Bullet of Bullets, but I refuse to accept that. It’s the Ballet of Bullets until Reki Kawahara personally tells me otherwise.*

 

Amanchu!~Advance~, Episode 3

Let’s get things started off properly with your Weekly Pikari Troll Face:

Now that I’ve raised everyone’s happiness stat by +5, let’s get into this episode. Naturally, I’m pleased as punch that this was a very diving-centric story, but there’s more to love about this episode than just that. In fact, Amanchu! is addressing some topics that are incredibly important to me personally, and I think if I was paying better attention to the show overall, it wouldn’t have caught me by surprise that it’s doing so.

Teko has always been an anxious person, and it’s a major accomplishment for her to be able to pass an underwater navigation test on her own, without the rest of the diving club holding her hand. To her credit, even though she has a moment of panic when things start to go wrong, she manages to calm herself and then uses logic to salvage the situation, when she could’ve easily given up. I had to smile at Teko’s nervous glance up to the surface before she resumed the test, verifying her escape route– that’s my coping mechanism, too. So often, when faced with a challenging situation, I think “how can I get out of here, if worst comes to worst?” then once I have an answer to that question, I feel safe enough to proceed.

When the subject of night diving comes up, Teko is immediately frightened of it and refuses to give it a try, then feels weak for giving into her fear so easily. What makes this episode really special is not the fact that Teko is struggling with her fear (which isn’t an uncommon theme), but the way Katori-sensei puts things into perspective. When Teko laments that her desire to be a competent diver feels like a fleeting dream, Katori points out that Teko has actively taken steps to become a competent diver, and it makes no sense to dismiss things she’s done in reality as “dreams.”

I don’t know how resonant this conversation is to people who haven’t struggled with chronic anxiety, but Katori-sensei’s comment hit me like a ton of bricks. Because I’ve played the same trick on myself that Teko’s pulling, time and time again, and I can’t seem to stop doing it, even when people point it out.

When I’m really anxious and depressed, curled up into a little ball, I feel worthless; I feel like the idea of functioning as an independent, healthy adult is just a dream, and I was an idiot to believe it was ever anything more than that. Those around me will try to remind me, “Hey, remember that time you worked a full-time job? For years?” or “Remember that time you wrote several books?” or “remember that time you took care of your baby full-time, for over a year, even though you were sure you couldn’t handle it?” And stupid me would lie there, curled in a ball, muttering “No, that wasn’t real, that wasn’t real.” Like I had just hallucinated myself into some form of temporary competence.

Right now, as I write this, I’m still not over this problem; I think Teko may have surpassed me. I still feel like the “real” me is the useless one, and the one with all the accomplishments is the result of some weird fever dream; I can’t deny that her accomplishments exist, but I feel like they were done by somebody else, like I was temporarily possessed by a more competent person, but I don’t know where she is these days. I’m afraid she may never come back.

I’ve gotten rather far afield of Amanchu! at this point, but I think it’s a credit to the show that they’re using the subject of diving not only to draw pretty underwater scenery (which I appreciate on it’s own merits), but to really explore how we often let fear control us, and how to possibly break out of it. The show doesn’t offer any great answers; it is, after all, just a 20-minute episode of anime. But it’s got me thinking about possible solutions, which is more than I can say for 99% of the shows I watch.

The weird thing is, I don’t know if I want Amanchu! to continue to have substance like this; part of me wants it to just be Pikari troll face, beautiful scenery, the twins do something stupid, upside-down Pikari troll face, rinse and repeat. Because if Teko continues to grow at the rate she’s growing, I’m afraid I’m going to be left behind.

Comic Girls, Episode 3

I’m beginning to develop a sneaking suspicion that Kaos is actually a terrible manga artist. Her ideas are shallow, her art is rough, and she seems to like drawing the same strip over and over again, without even noticing she’s doing it. Yet Kaos’ editor seems to think that she has some sort of “unique talent” (her words), and I’m beginning to wonder where she’s getting that from.

I’m a little jealous, honestly: if Kaos’ level of talent is enough to get her into the special Comic Artists Dorm, why didn’t I get to live in an awesome comic artists dorm as a teen artist? I may have sucked, but I doubt I was any worse than Kaos is.

Is this really all it takes to get into Special Manga Dorm? I want to go to Special Manga Dorm, and I can draw better than this! I’m short, no one needs to know I’m in my 30s….

There’s plenty of blame to go around though, since the other characters’ attempts to help Kaos improve her work are all a little bit…off. Koyume notices that the fashions that Kaos draws her characters in are kind of lame, so the girls decide to dress Kaos up in a whole bunch of different outfits to improve her fashion sense. Err…that’s really what you think her manga needs? That’s the one element that was sticking out to you? Are there, mayhaps, other elements of her manga that might be more worthy of spending time on, like literally every other part of it?

Look, I know the whole thing was just an excuse to dress Kaos up in cute outfits, but they could’ve easily done that without such a dumb excuse.

I have nothing to say about the Kaos-Kitty wearing a beret, I just felt like it would have been criminally negligent not to take a screenshot of it at some point.

The second suggestion for improving Kaos’ work is for her to spend some time sketching, which is actually a damn good suggestion. And having the girls available to pose for each other for life drawing is one of the clear advantages of living together. However, for some reason, they call it a “sketching contest,” which is weird. Why would you make it competitive, when Kaos already knows her art is less developed than everyone else’s and she’s really self-conscious about it? Isn’t that just setting her up for failure? However, despite calling it a contest, there doesn’t seem to be any competitive element at all and the girls just draw together. So it wasn’t a contest? I’m so confused.

The stuff in this episode about how each of the girls has a different idea of what female beauty is supposed to be is pretty on-target. It seems like the thin, beautiful girl is always upset because she wishes she was curvy, and the curvy, beautiful girl is upset because she wishes she was thinner. The fact that their chosen manga genres seem to magnify their insecurities is interesting to me.

They are doing something interesting with Kaos though, since she’s a teenaged girl who has trouble thinking of herself as a teenaged girl. The best part of the episode is when the other girls notice that when Kaos talks about teen girls, she talks as though she’s not one herself. You could spitball a lot of reasons for this, like maybe Kaos is actually trans, but I think it most likely has to do with her complex about her size; she’s always thought of herself as a kid due to her tiny size, and she can’t get out of that mindset. Even though she’s technically a teenager now, she still feels like a little kid standing on a box, looking in on the glamorous (or so she thinks) world of teen girls from outside the window.

I can relate to that; I think there are so many romantic ideas about being a teen girl, that sometimes actual teen girls can feel like they’re not “really” teenagers because their lives aren’t cool enough yet. I definitely felt like that during my teen years, at times.

That’s the weird thing about this show though. I want to say it’s missing the mark, but then Kaos will do or say something that really takes me back to how I felt when I was that age. Also, her admission that she never knows when to get rid of clothes because she never  never grows out of them kind of hit me where I live. My favorite gray dress is from 1996, seriously not even kidding, I wore it last month.

One more thing: I’m not sure what to make of how this show handles Kaos’ obvious attraction to women. When ever Kaos says or does anything that makes it clear she’s into girls, the other girls just dismiss it as her “acting weird,” missing the point entirely. I could see getting pissed off by this since the show seems to be equating homosexuality with weirdness, but I don’t think that’s the intention; I think the girls are all supposed to be pretty innocent about sex, and having them be able to nail down what’s going on with Kaos requires more sophistication than they’re supposed to have. They just don’t have the experience to be able to say “Clearly, Kaos is a lesbian, or possibly bi-sexual,” they just know her reactions are different from what they would expect, so they just call her weird and stop thinking about it.

I find myself wondering if real teen girls would be this ignorant about sexual attraction, even younger teens, but then that’s falling into the trap of worrying about whether an obvious fantasy is “realistic”; of course it’s not. The issue isn’t whether or not it’s realistic, but whether or not it’s believable given everything else we know about the setting. This is a world where a manga editor tells a 14-year-old girl, “you draw hot women, you should draw sexy comics!”, despite the fact that said 14 year-old-girl doesn’t know anything about sex, so I guess it kind of fits. Comic Girls seems to be based around the girls being surrounded with sex, for reasons both voluntary and not, and having no idea what they’re actually looking at. If they had a clue what was going on, it would be a very different show.

So I found more to say about this episode than I usually do, which is good I guess? I don’t know. I don’t regret my decision to blog this show exactly, but it’s not turning out like I thought it would either. I do find it interesting that this show is sort of the one last bastion of hope for moe fans this season; where are all the other shows about four cute girls doing a thing? Is this really the only one? What happened? I’m still not quite done wrapping my brain around the fact that this seems to be the season where moe seemingly died AND Full Metal Panic came back; I mean, what kind of timeline is this anymore? I feel like someone made a wish on a monkey’s paw and we’re all going to be hit with the dark side any second now.

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.