Circlet Princess

October 6, 2019

Time for another made up futuristic sci-fi team sport. The last time I watched Ao No Kanata No Four Rhythm, I wasn’t really impressed. It was weird despite they tried to create something creative. But that series didn’t get any sort of follow up or sequel since its run back in 2016. And now we have yet another futuristic sci-fi team sport, Circlet Princess. In this world, we assume that VR technology has advanced so much that we are able to create this bizarre sport that only females seem to participate. And yeah, the typical story of a fallen powerhouse in the sport making a comeback because of a talented ace joining in. Yeah, the story is as cliché as you can get and not made up.

Episode 1
Oh yeah. Circlet Bout (CB) is all the rage now, right? Chikage Fujimura from Kurojishi Academy is the top dog with a 50 match winning streak. However as revealed in the backstage, everything has been a setup. You mean like WWE? Understandably Chikage is bored but as her manager puts it, she is free to go all out with the next rookie opponent she faces. It’s all part of the show anyway. Since there is still some time before the match, she goes out for a walk. Meanwhile, country bumpkin retard, Yuka Sasaki just arrived in the big city. Wow. Everything so futuristic! Plot cliché commands her to be awed by the awesome poster girl of CB who is no other than Chikage. She is supposed to meet up with someone but gets enthralled and followed signs that leads her to the CB stadium. Along the way, she meets Chikage in disguise. Blah, blah, blah. Outside the stadium, some stupid girl mistakes her to be the Candita (player) from St Union Academy and rushes to get her ready. Yeah, without checking anything, right? Because Yuka is a dumb retard, she accepts. Yeah, everything will work out somehow, no? In the ring, Chikage and Yuka see each other. Is this fate? You can tell Yuka has all the beginner’s luck as she blocks Chikage’s offence and dodges. Wow. This is getting exciting for you huh, Yuka? Chikage must be really frustrated thinking she isn’t as strong as a champion she thought she is, huh? The match end is cut off and we fast forward 2 years later. She is ecstatic to enrol at St Union, the school of her dreams. Meanwhile Miyuki Kasahara and Ayumu Aizawa are at their wits end to revive their club. I don’t think making a cheap video will somehow generate views. Will it?! Coincidentally they stumble upon a clip about that legendary CB match 2 years ago that put Chikage in a pinch. Then they see Yuka in the flesh having problems with the robot security. Why do they look like they’re trying to rape her if they’re just asking for her student ID she is unable to produce? Luckily the duo manage to help her out and hence their chance to ask her to join their club. But first, Yuka sees Reina Kuroda who is the student council president. She instantly gets shot down because there is no CB club at St Union. Oh sh*t! Say what?! Her dreams come crushing down but Yuka refuses to budge and continues bugging Reina?! WTF?! Yuka returns to her dorm and coincidentally this is also where Ayumu stays. Ayumu realizes she is that Yuka 2 years ago and believes this could be something big. Flashback 2 years ago again. The match ended abruptly because the power was cut. Due to system error, Chikage postponed their match. So next time, huh? What a way to set fate rolling.

Episode 2
Continuing from that episode, as Yuka leaves to the backstage, the strange announcer confronts her and claims she has potential, blah, blah, blah. So she gives her a bracelet that will certainly have her reunite with Chikage one day. Yeah, that’s good enough a promise and motivation for Yuka to totally get interested in this. Because if you think you can’t achieve something, try until you can! Yeah, I really love that quote… Now, Yuka continues to bug Reina. She’ll make a new club then. Rejected! Please don’t rape her if she rejects, Yuka! Later Yuka meets up with Miyuki and Ayumu and realize they are part of CB club. Unofficial club, that is. Oh yeah. Now she can play. But first, it’s Miyuki’s turn to go bug Reina to approve their club and they just need a couple of members. She hopes Reina can join since she used to play CB but of course, the b*tch declines. Ayumu shows Yuka that legendary clip. You mean she didn’t know it is online? Oh yeah, the rural areas don’t have internet. She plays dumb since she doesn’t want to be busted as that accidental player who was there. The trio practice CB. Ayumu the computer whiz cannot analyse Yuka’s strange circlet weapon. The practice is interrupted with Reina once again using her authority to stop all unauthorized activities. They just got a slap on the wrist with house arrest? The moment they are back, Yuka is seen trying to recruit new members via old fashion way: Handling out pamphlets. And she gets into Reina trouble again… I don’t think Yuka is going to stop bugging her to approve the CB club and even with Reina spewing all that procedure and formalities, suddenly her aide informs her of something important. So apparently Reina has to suspend her actions to stop the formation of the CB club because St Union got a request for a practice match with Takamori Academy. You mean that legendary video just went viral? Like, now?! Miyuki teases Reina that she is dying to play this game and hints about her older sister who was a CB champ. So why is Takamori really trying to achieve with this practice match? According to their captain, Hiyori Sugiura, it’s to motivate their players. Because Ayana Kuroda has a younger sister there and this should give great incentive for their regulars. While Yuka is eating with her friends, suddenly her bracelet talks! WTF????!!!

Episode 3
The bracelet is being some naggy coach, eh? Some top class battle AI, eh? And Yuka being a retard means this is going to take a while… Yuka wants to get stronger in all aspects but the bracelet rejects. No can do. I guess he isn’t some wonder drug. But he’ll do what he can. Phew. Safe. Yuka can continue with her fate to meet Chikage then. Don’t worry about wasting an episode to find a new member because Nina Avelin decides to test it out. Yes, she is half Russian. Uhm, since when did Reina join? Is she unofficially officially in? Whatever, now they have an official CB club! Yay! They practice and Miyuki owns Yuka big time. Bet she’ll improve during the real match? So the first match pits Miyuki and some unknown Takamori Candita. Damn, Miyuki lost? Next is Reina against another unknown. While Reina shows her experience, unfortunately because she has this losing mentality and does not expect to win, she loses. WTF?! More misfortune because this is best of 3, oh damn you mean Takamori wins it?! Thank goodness it’s practice match so nothing officially recorded. Just hurt pride. Because they can’t just go home with this easy win, I guess Takamori is eager to continue with the practice. Hence eager beaver Yuka gets to go next. She is facing Kasumi Iida who is one of the top players. This won’t look good… If she wasn’t the main character to begin with! Thus you can see Yuka putting up a decent fight against Iida that shocks everybody. Yeah, didn’t expect this retard to last that long, huh? Her bracelet has analysed her moves and gives some hints. In the end, a swift move from Yuka has her defeat Iida. Wow. This upset victory has got to be the most exciting match, huh? Yuka decides to call her bracelet, Siegfried or Sieg for short. I guess it’s better than G-kun. WTF… Sugiura isn’t sad but glad they might be witnessing the birth of a new legend. You don’t say, huh? Coincidentally Chikage is also watching this and is glad Yuka is back in the game.

Episode 4
Flashback shows Ayana totalling owning her opponent in a CB game. Wow. Young Reina so impressed and vowed to be like her. Wow. So young. So motivated. Too bad we won’t get to see the rest of the practice match but from what I understand, it looked like a 100 men sparring match and only Yuka won. Thanks to that, she has some fans back at school cheering for her. Yuka is briefed on the Princess Cup. Yeah, you know the most prestigious tournament that every sports genre must have. But currently, Kurojishi Sougou Academy has been holding on to that throne for a long time. That school is where Chikage goes. When the girls are being called by the director, they think it’s because Yuka won her practice match. Because Takamori is their sister school and they’re supposed to lose? Hence it’s all Yuka’s fault?! Good thing it’s not that. Sugiura thanks them for a wonderful match and welcomes St Union’s CB’s return. However b*tch Reina insists the club’s closure. I guess only now Yuka hears of Ayana and her exploits. Ever since she left for America, St Union lost its ace and started dwindling. This makes Yuka feel uneasy. No, it’s not your stomach growling! Sieg’s best reply: You overeat! Sugiura talks to Yuka and is scouting her to join Takamori since they have all the facilities to help her get into her game. She can then challenge Kurojishi. But what’s eating Yuka? She still not happy? After Ayumu lets her see clips of Ayana in action (in which Reina’s moves mirrors Ayana’s move although it lacks something), she’s all fired up to go bug Reina. Yeah, Reina just dissed another attempt by Miyuki. So Reina is out of the club just so she can close it down? Yuka confronts Reina in the toilet and talks about Ayana’s greatness. Reina explains St Union didn’t want to hold her back, that’s why they let her go to America as it has the latest technology. But look what it did to St Union? By the time Reina enrolled, the CB club is as good as dead. She rejects Yuka’s invitation to join. So desperate that Yuka decides to go see Chikage at Kurojishi? No wonder she gets kicked out. Then she challenges Reina. She accepts because if Reina wins, Yuka will join Takamori. Is that her way of getting rid of her? Yuka seems to be imitating Ayana’s move. And Reina seems to be having those flashbacks about her sister departing. Yeah, so devastated. In the end, we can tell Reina lost because she has to join the club now. Yay! They’re official now.

Episode 5
Miyuki is voted as the captain of their CB club. Yeah, she’s the only one who volunteered. So starts off with their plan for Princess Cup. The usual line-up: Miyuki, Reina and then Yuka. Nina and Ayumu serve as backup. They attend the draw and it seems for the first round, St Union will be up against Hoshinoumi Academy. Yup, another good CB school. Typically, Hoshinoumi has this rich b*tch girl, Christie Yamauchi who has some sort of rivalry with Miyuki. As expected, she badmouths her about running away from her track club and as well as her current CB. You gonna let that fly, Miyuki. Oh damn. Looks like Christie’s words got to her. Because of that, she can’t concentrate in practice and her friends know something is wrong. With Yuka in her typical retard to assure her, Reina knows it is something that Christie said. Time to get it off her chest by telling her past. As her family makes shoes, naturally she loves running and was a good athlete, putting in all the effort. However many think she is successful because she had money and access to facilities. This made her depressed and at the crossroads. That was when she saw Ayana in a CB bout and decided to quit track and join this weird sport. Had she not quit her track, she would have ended up at Hoshinoumi since they also produce good athletes. Princess Cup starts. Because Miyuki is still having low self-confidence, she switches place with Yuka. Yuka easily wins her match and you thought Reina would be enough to seal the deal. But she lost! Turns out it was an ‘elaborate’ setup so as to get Miyuki to face Christie in the decisive match and put this thorny issue to rest. Of course Miyuki still has doubts and is weak. We hear a bit of Christie’s grudge against her because she looked up to Miyuki but before she could face her in a competition, she quit. Yeah… Since Miyuki continues to be pathetic, Reina scolds to remind her that her true ability is running. Is it allowed to have time to talk like that in the middle of the match? Anyway, this gives Miyuki the much needed confidence to turn the tables and defeat Christie. Wow. So easy. Just run around and make Christie tired. Yeah… She better train her body more before running her mouth… Miyuki admits she may have run away but now she won’t look back and will continue to run forward.

Episode 6
Because Reina has some student council duties, Nina replaces her in the first CB match but she basically got easily owned. But thanks to Miyuki and Yuka, St Union won this round. We see her let loose some steam on her online shooter game and it tells us a lot that she is a good sniper. Musashino Kyuoh Academy is their next opponent and they are the top 4 favourites for the Princess Cup. But of course. In order to help Nina become a strong attacker, they go shopping for her weapon. Just when she picked out this rifle one she likes, so sorry, we’re on a budget. WTF?! And also, no money means limited amount of bullets they can buy. You mean ammo isn’t infinite in this digital technology game?! So I guess she goes with a spear. During a practice match with Yuka, she lost badly. No prizes to guess why she suddenly becomes so dejected. So much so Yuka stalks her?! So to find out what is bugging her, she goes to bug her?! WTF?! Since Nina is not the kind to talk, I guess the next plan is have all of them clean the pool. However some blooper has Nina spraying water hard on Yuka. This means she is down with a cold and will not recover in time for the next match. Damn, this girl is weak! I guess this means Nina has to cover for her. Later Ayumu talks to Nina. Ayumu reveals she is the online shooter game partner whom she interacts often with. Surprise! She also explains the cleaning job was to get some funds to buy Nina her desired weapon. Wow. The pool cleaning job must really pay, huh? More pleasant surprise in store for Nina as they got the rifle weapon for her. With their match with Musashino on the way, Miyuki goes first and lost since she couldn’t see the enemy’s weapon coming. Next is Nina. Can she survive with only 2 bullets? She has Ayumu be her eyes on the field as the stage is littered with ruins. Her first shot misses and when the opponent charges close up, WTF she hears Yuka’s voice to duck and doing so, she is now point blank with the opponent and makes her final shot count. I guess Yuka couldn’t stay in bed and dragged herself out to cheer on Nina. Needless to say, Reina wins it for St Union. Nina thanks her friends for doing all this for her. Correction. We did this together for our CB club.

Episode 7
St Union is pretty much a rising star now, so much so Yuka is nicknamed the Overclock Princess. Sorry, it’s not Order Croquette Princess, Yuka! Don’t think with your stomach! As Yuka practises with Reina, the rest note they don’t know much about Yuka to begin with. Especially who gave her Sieg. To help boost their morale for the semi-final match with Kurojishi, they hang out together. In the streets, they are famous enough that everyone gives them freebies! Are they all passing off with that Overclock brand name? Then they go karaoke in which Yuka and Miyuki fight over the right to sing. I guess better than tone deaf Reina… And is Nina just on an eating spree? Ayumu then talks about MR being a by-product of the CB system. That’s why they are very influential in so many technologies and facilities today. They are also the reason why Ayumu became interested in CB because of its concept. With Ayumu getting technical, I guess the rest can’t follow (especially Yuka of course) and they even joke she could be a spy! Flashback shows Ayumu’s dad was a researcher and she was fascinated with some 3D princess knight model he rendered. And of course, Ayumu watching Yuka practice alone, suddenly she sees all her moves so similar to that princess knight. Talking to her, because Yuka is willing to do anything to improve herself and face Chikage again, Ayumu wants Yuka to battle her. Why do Miyuki and Reina feel so shocked? Sure, she is the support but this is just to collect data, right? Her research about CB didn’t yield the data she wanted so could Yuka be the missing link to her father as well? Since Ayumu hacked her weapon’s script, it is obviously overpowered. Yuka is made to run like hell but all her movements are again similar to that princess knight. Even the way she countered and charged through her eventual victory. Yeah, Ayumu’s weapon broke! Sure, Yuka is fast but is she that powerful? Then we see Ayumu using her connections to get into the backstage of Kurojishi just to see Chikage. She wants to know more about Yuka, especially what happened on that fateful day. Something about the overheating factor too.

Episode 8
Officially, the reports said Chikage’s attack caused the overheating factor. However, Ayumu believes Yuka is the key. From what I understand, Yuka seems fast only because the system cannot process her moves fast enough. Hence some sort of ‘shortcut’. This is an ability she has although she herself is unaware she could use it. Chikage too has this ability. When both used this, that is why the system crashed and blackout for a while. That is the real overheating factor. Ayumu hopes this answer would lead her to her father’s whereabouts. The semi-finals are here and St Union is up against Takamori. Revenge match, right? Reina goes first and wins. Miyuki faces Sugiura next but we all know that to prolong the drama, she has to lose. After all, Takamori has studied St Union’s matches like a bible. And now for the expected grudge match between Yuka and Iida. We know Yuka is having some worries because of the b*tch talk Iida had with her in the toilet as well the night before, Sieg told her not to rely on him and think for herself. Uh oh. Sounds like some death flag trouble. You can say that Takamori’s studying pays off since Iida is now able to predict Yuka’s moves. Uh huh. Don’t really on your sight. Use foresight. And you know what they say about the best offence is the best defence? Yup. Iida was just blocking most of the time. WTF weapon fatigue that Yuka’s weapon broke?! I guess that’s it. St Union lost. Yuka is already depressed and made even more so when Sieg doesn’t respond to her. Damn, like as though he is dead. Is this thing out of battery? Oops, sorry. The rest try to leave her alone but when Yuka doesn’t come out of her room for too long, they go in and check on her only to see her room empty. A note. I’m sorry. Yeah, that sure really says a lot. For somewhat who talks a lot, she sure kept it brief. Heh. Looks like they’ve got to go after her back at her home. Yes, her home back in the mountains.

Episode 9
Buckle up. It’s going to be a long train trip to Wakayama. I don’t think the shinkansen goes there either. Yuka practises in her old shed. Her old CB practice programme still working? Yeah, she’s so powerful, her stats are off the charts! As he bums around and feeling sorry for running away, surprise! Her friends pop up and tell her she should say that in person. However, Yuka being Yuka, she thinks they are ghosts and are back to haunt her for that loss!!! WTF?! Damn, Yuka is a fast runner! When cornered, they explain about this double elimination rule. There is still a chance to come back if you lose once. WTF?! Does this rule only apply to them or the rest? But Yuka still feels uneasy because Sieg is ‘dead’. They talk more over the hotspring, giving more assurance to Yuka that she’s not useless as she thinks she is, blah, blah, blah. Then over dinner, they hear how Yuka got into St Union via scholarship. This has Ayumu asking Yuka where she got Sieg. A pervert gave it to her. Ayumu realizes that person is her father, Makoto. She analyses the bracelet. It looks completely dead and all files missing. Funny, Yuka was able to summon her weapon in yesterday’s practice. Demonstrating her moves in the shed, Ayumu concludes that the file must be hidden. She believes all this is CB DKX, a battle development kit. It is only something her father possessed. As an engineer of MR system, the idea of VR led him to develop this CB game. During that point where CB wasn’t sure of taking off, Chikage was cultivated as an unrivalled player. Despite the success, the project was shelved. Makoto parted ways with his team and disappeared. Makoto only left behind this terminal in which Ayumu thought where all the answers like but it seems it could be in the bracelet. So why did he entrusted it to Yuka? Despite Yuka becoming stronger, she has been shackled with that playstyle. Hence the reason Sieg ‘died’. She cannot win if she continues to play like this. Hence a challenge by Makoto. With renewed confidence and motivation, the girls head for home. Meanwhile Takamori loses to Kurojishi. Thanks to that double elimination rule, I guess the losers are going to battle each other to face Kurojishi. Damn, this is confusing.

Episode 10
Nina defeats her Musashino opponent because she’s cocky, talkative and underestimating. That’s what you deserve. So apparently the loser’s match only has 1 match, huh? And of course this means they will fight Takamori for the right to face you-know-who. Ayumu thinks Yuka needs a new weapon but first she needs to analyse her data and Sieg. Meanwhile Reina uses her influence to seek resource donation from others. Well, if she’s bowing down like that, can’t say no, eh? Even Miyuki goes to town to ask for donation. After passing off that Overclock brand, you better pay back something. And in no time all the resources come flowing in! As Ayumu has trouble figuring out Sieg, not sure what happened when she touched that princess knight render and suddenly everything becomes unlocked! WTF?! On the other side, Takamori has their own issues. It seems Sugiura won’t participate in this loser’s match against St Union and this causes some friction among the members. She knows Yuka will be chosen and hence she wants Iida to take on her. Some psychological strategy too, I guess. But after some deliberation and talking, let’s move Takamori’s CB forward, okay? Chikage will also be watching this important match and it is confirmed the announcer is Makoto. The best way to dispel suspicions of your missing whereabouts is to turn into a drag queen? Makoto has Chikage analyse the odds of the match. Sugiura dominates in every aspect but Yuka is not one who is not confined to regular analysis. The loser’s match between Yuka and Sugiura begins. Yuka starts off aggressive but eventually Sugiura makes a comeback. So much so she breaks Yuka’s weapon! But don’t fear. Because it’s evolution time! The fragments now form into new weapons. Holy sh*t! Yuka just got herself 2 new swords? And this is supposed to be Sieg’s gift? With that, Yuka uses this and goes in for the kill- I mean, victory. On to the finals. Makoto is pleased with the outcome because this is essential for his greatest masterpiece to advance to the next stage.

Episode 11
Don’t feel bad Takamori. There’s always next year. So continue to work hard! Yeah! Ganbatte! Before the finals, Yuka and Chikage meet. Because Yuka already knows the bracelet was given by Makoto, Chikage wonders if she will continue to be manipulated by him. Yuka being Yuka who isn’t too smart on the technical stuffs is only playing because CB is fun. That’s your answer. So the finals begin with Reina going first. It’s a close match but she eventually loses. So as to show respect, her opponent even calls her worthy and asks her name. You mean she wasn’t paying attention to the announcer or the screen? Next up is Miyuki. Cut things short, a tricky move allows Miyuki to defeat her opponent. No surprise because we need the rubber match of Yuka versus Chikage. How many years has it been for their grudge match to resume? But as we can see, Chikage has more experience than Yuka so it’s natural that she dominates. So much so her double swords break! Oh no. Yuka don’t you go into depression again. But before Chikage could checkmate her, something strange happens. Oh, it’s Sieg going through another evolution! This time Yuka gets a pair of gloves! One punch in the gut! Now that Yuka is fighting back and stronger, Chikage getting scared she’ll lose? At the same time she is happy that she has finally found a strong opponent. Now Yuka destroys Chikage’s weapon. Game over, right? Not yet! Because Chikage too goes through some evolution! Oh my. I hope her darker uniform isn’t just for aesthetics.

Episode 12
Yuka takes a beating while Chikage sounds like she has turned to the dark side since she is enjoying every moment of this sadistic beat down. Guess what? Apparently Yuka’s uniform also transforms! Is this her final form? Yeah, thanks to all the people in her life that make her feel she’s not fighting alone. Yuka now has a fighting chance as we hear Makoto narrate more crap about emotions and evolving based on intuition and adapting rather than just blindly following orders. Woah! People start to give their resources in mid-match?! Is this even legal?! Things are going great and then uh oh. Yuka is at her limit. Is she going to lose for real? Time out. Weird conversation with Siegfried as he comes back ‘alive’ to scold Yuka and make her remember her original reason why she wants to fight against Chikage. And this allows Yuka’s uniform to evolve to another final form. A more princess-like form. And if Siegfried says she is the Princess, I guess she is the princess. Uh huh. No prize to guess who wins the Princess Cup. In the aftermath, we see St Union CB members bumming around with nothing to do. Shouldn’t they be practising? Because from what Reina said, due to the overheating factor again, this causes CB to undergo major overhaul in its rules and format. Because of that, St Union failed to adapt well like their other rivals and are on a losing streak. Yup. Rock bottom again. It is also rumoured they hired a hot overseas coach to help them. Ayumu didn’t see her dad once in the flesh. That wasn’t her real goal apparently. Knowing that he is still around and Makoto giving her all the data on MR system secrets, I guess she’s fine. If you’re wondering why Yuka isn’t with them, it’s because she is seeing off Chikage who is going overseas to hone her skills. You know the drill. They both hope they’ll get stronger by that time and fight again. Yuka’s pals come by to pick her up and continue to tease her because it’s nice once in a while to tease a retard.

Sure Crap Princess
Yawn… Oh… Thank goodness is over. I don’t know how the NPCs in this anime can get overly excited and hyped over this boring virtual made up sport. No wonder they are NPCs… Heh… Thank goodness it ended and there are no other major trophies for them to compete because the season could have ended in such a way that hints there might be another tournament for them to try again to be the best but I guess for this kind of sports, Princess Cup is the only major CB tournament. So major that we didn’t even get to see Yuka landing the finishing blow on Chikage. I suppose they want to leave it to our imaginations that there might be another overheating factor and Yuka winning on some technicalities. Imagine having this sort of error at a major event finals. Everything so great, everything so evolutionary but your system can’t handle it?! Fail! Back to the drawing board to redesign the system again!

I believe that the CB game itself is not given any sort of prominence. I feel that it is an unimportant factor here. While it looks like this CB game has its sets of rules and the likes, do you not feel that it is not really given any more depth than what we have seen? It feels like everything is just so made up on a whim so that they could have some sort of fighting sequence whatsoever. Hence the CB sport is probably one of the worst and ill-conceived futuristic sports that I have known to date. The basic premise of the sport is that you enter some VR, conjure up whatever weapon you think you are good at, beat the sh*t out of your opponent until she can no longer move. Yup. That’s as original as they can get for this CB game. It’s just sounds so boring. Even that weird water sport Keijo is way much better than this crap. I know, fanservice but still, it beats CB flat. I’d spend my money to go watch that ass game than this asinine one.

Making CB even worse is its format. Now, I understand that it is a team game and even if they want to make it a one on one match, don’t you think having just 3 matches total per game is a little too short? I mean, why the heck do you always have 5 members entering their standby platform then? Backup? I don’t see any substitutions during the game here. That’s why I earlier said they didn’t really thought out about this sport well. I think my suggestion if the format was a team deathmatch type, it would have been more exciting and better. Even if they don’t have all 5 on 5, at least 3 on 3 in this team battle royale format would at least give us some thrills. Though, this was largely hinted in the new shake up of the format but it comes rather too late. St Union won’t be there at the major stages any time soon even if they have their ace Yuka. Yeah, it goes to show that they aren’t really good CB team players to begin with… Therefore for this individual format, no real strategy except hit your opponent until she can go no more and maybe a few tricks to lead up to that. Stages are for aesthetics, uniforms are for aesthetics, weapons are mostly for aesthetics. Now we are reduced to just predicting who wins or loses instead of a real team battle to guess which one gets taken out first. And if the weapons break, does it mean your programming of its toughness is not enough?! It’s all digital, right?! To put the overall CB battles in short, just boring and uninspiring. No wonder there is ‘time’ for players to chat or mock each other during the game. Hey, we pay to see you fight, not to chitchat!

If they didn’t put much emphasis on the CB game, you’d think the characters make up for it, right? Wrong! Not at all. The characters also feel as boring and as cliché as you would expect a team sports anime to be. Each has their own quirky personalities but nothing that interesting that would make you really want to like them and you only do so because they are the main characters. I guess the formula of dark horses, no hopers or former powerhouses regain their glory again and rising up through the ashes is what a lot of people prefer. This way, it gives more drama, story and characters to build on rather than starting off with the featured characters as overpowered powerhouse. And now with the new rules, St Union is back to being no hopers and dark horses again. So it gives a chance for them to rise up like a phoenix once more. If they ever get that far, that is. Like I said, this formula isn’t bad despite being done to death and so cliché. But this series didn’t do it well so here I am b*tching about it as an excuse.

So like Yuka being the ace and the poster girl of the group. As usual she is of the my pace and retarded kind. I guess this is to show that she isn’t really a perfect character. Because if she was really smart and elegant like we wanted her, she would now seem like a perfect and overpowered character. Something that we viewers don’t really like. Ah, I see we are such hard audiences to please. Therefore with Yuka being a retard (whose stomach probably thinks more than her head), this gives her more room to do as she pleases and not give a damn about the technical parts. It’s the reason why she excels in CB so well. She doesn’t give a hoot about all the technicalities and what it takes to be an ultimate player in the game. All she wants is to have fun and her goal is to fight Chikage again. How simple can you get than that? And also to show you she has some more imperfections, hence that depression period when she lost. You thought people like her don’t care about wins or losses but it seems it really got to her then. Yeah, even retards have got emotions too, you know? Hence, your excuse for an additional episode for her friends to bring her back because we need the much needed friendship bonding this series lacks. It’s a team sport, so go figure. I suppose they want to show something that binds the group together, hence this running joke of Yuka letting her teammates eat her sour umeboshi. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it…

And the rest of the other CB players in St Union, well, I’m not really impressed either. Reina starts off as the b*tch who opposed everything just because of her past and then once she somewhat got over it (I guess that is why sometimes it is good to have stubborn retards like Yuka who doesn’t know the meaning of giving up), suddenly she joins the team. However I do not feel like she is really into it like the rest of them. Probably because of her poker face. I have got this feeling that Reina is just in it to make up for the numbers although her enthusiasm for the game improves as they advance further. I mean, when your team has gotten to the semi-finals and then the finals, it would be just really bad sportsmanship to not give a f*ck and not give it all. Having a sister who is a good CB player feels like just to give her character some sort of depth and hence the possibility that she will be more inclined to return to her CB roots than continuing to be a bitter student council president b*tch. If there is anybody who tops being the most stubborn and persistent, it’ll be Yuka. Yeah, that retard again… Bugging people until they literally change or give in. See, people? Consistency is key!

Nina serves as the backup of the team and sometimes when you need some sort of variation (because seeing Reina, Miyuki and Yuka order gets boring sometimes), Nina is slotted in to provide that alternative. It felt like some sort of excuse for her to suddenly join the CB club so that we don’t have to waste on an additional episode for the girls to go search for that elusive final member. Uh huh. I guess Reina already did that so don’t wanna waste more time on that. Then you have Miyuki as the club captain as well as Ayumu providing the technical support. Somehow I feel with Ayumu being the tech wizard feels wasted. At least in terms of the CB game. Like I’ve said, CB could have been better if it was a team match of 5. Because Ayumu doesn’t participate in real CB matches, it just feels wasted. So as to remind her she is of the brains kind and not of the fighting kind, that’s why she wears that oversized lab coat. All these girls have their own past and problems to deal with but nothing that an episode in focus could solve it and have them get over it and move on. If only really life is that simple. And as for the other girls from other teams, I guess they’re so forgettable that I don’t even know their names.

Even Chikage falls under this pitfall since we only see her as the most powerful in the game thanks to the media’s exposure. In this case, because the anime told us so. Otherwise being the most powerful player feels like an understatement because if this was only in Japan, what about overseas like America whose technology is said to be even better? So is Chikage just a local village camp in this sense? And why is Makoto doing all this thing in a roundabout way? He had to disappear and leave his daughter worried about his whereabouts just to evolve the game to the next level? Is this some sort of placebo effect? I mean if he announces he is going to do this and that, either everyone won’t take him seriously or people will start getting unrealistic expectations. Hence he only observes from the shadows as it is best to see people in their natural form. That’s why Yuka is his best bet. So what’s the next step in his evolution? So like Ayana, will he take his research to the next level by going overseas? I heard CB is pretty popular overseas too in this anime but if you can’t conquer Japan, you aren’t ready for the world yet! Haha!

The art and animation are pretty okay. Just average if you ask me. The futuristic designs don’t really feel futuristic at all because nothing says about the era being futuristic when you spam live holograms everywhere! Yeah. So futuristic. And even if this is a VR game, why do the Candita have to wear sexy leotards during the CB game? Sex appeal still a thing here? The weapon designs also don’t feel exciting. It’s like the staffs wanted to design something quick and hence you see each players wielding different weapons for variety. After all, it’s not like they’re going to really have the weapon and perform some really jaw dropping moves, right? On a trivial note, I noticed that Takamori’s school uniform is designed like a male! Girl schools have all the pretty different designs so much so you can tell them apart from one anime from another. Guys don’t really have that much variety. So seeing Takamori girls in that kind of outfit, just weird!

For the voice acting, Juri Nagatsuma (Satone in Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai) did a really perfect job in making Yuka sound like a retard. Ryo Horikawa as Sieg and Makoto sounds like your weird pervy uncle and if he sounds like one only because he was the voice of Dragonball’s Vegeta. Yup, that’s the guy. The rest of the casts feel pretty average. They are Hitomi Nabatame as Reina (Yukiji in Hayate No Gotoku), Saki Nakajima as Miyuki (Dorothy in MAR), Kaori Mizuhashi as Ayumu (Ai in Aria The Animation), Mai Goto as Nina (Mika in Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu), Atsumi Tanezaki as Chikage (Miu in Blend S), Yuna Taniguchi as Sugiura and Megumi Tateishi as Iida. The rock paced opening theme isn’t that bad, Heat: Moment by Miyuki Hashimoto fits the pacing and genre of the series well. Only had the series lived up to this, this song that is also a bit techno would have been so much better. The ending theme flows to a more light hearted pace despite a generic anime pop music. Circle-Lets Friends is actually a collaboration among veteran singers like Miyuki Hashimoto, CooRie, Yozuca, Sayaka Sasaki, Aki Misato and Minami. With so many of them, at least this song sounds a bit better. I suppose it’s better than having the St Union CB quintet handling it. Just concentrate on your game, girls.

Overall, this is largely a disappointing series. Lacking any sort of real story, unappealing characters and a sport that doesn’t even have much depth to it, it already says a lot on why this won’t likely be getting any sort of continuation. Maybe that is why there is not even any OVA for some quick cash grab even if they put in 100% fanservice that has nothing to do with CB. So if in reality our VR reality reach that advanced stage, I hope CB will not be one of those futuristic games that they will try and adapt in real life. Hence with the disappointment of the anime, I’m sure anybody can see why this sport will not even take off, let alone be famous any time soon. You want a futuristic fantasy fight? Lots of fighting games can satiate that fixation. I’ll still bet my money that Keijo would be a more probable sport to watch and enjoy. No VR technology needed. Just boobs and butts! Sometimes going back to basics is the best ;p.

Marchen Madchen (cont)

July 13, 2019

Oh well. Better late than never. After that horrendous production issues, I never thought Marchen Madchen would have their final 2 episodes released. But yeah, call it a miracle and that all stories must come to an end, finally those couple of episodes made its way out instead of being lost forever in the wilderness of abandoned production hell. Uh huh. Better make a few bucks off those DVD and BD sales. Unfortunately I can’t remember anything much although the series only came out less than a year ago. Girls using their fairytale origin powers to fight in some tournament. Remember that? Yeah. We’ll always remember this series for its infamous art and animation quality then.

Episode 11
Lynne has gone crazy. She thinks papa is so good to give a useless girl like her a present. Meanwhile our Japanese side are hanging out together and Sachi is bragging about taking on the Germans since her debut wasn’t enough. It’s not like she did anything right then either. Speaking of Germans, yeah they overheard her. Want to have a go now? Thankfully Agathe doesn’t want to waste time with this since tomorrow’s finals will prove everything. Later Hazuki talks to Agathe who starts talking about the doll she has. Funnily, Hazuki doesn’t laugh like Agathe expects since others always do so. Hence Agathe goes into b*tch mode reminding her she isn’t here to make friends. Huh? When Hazuki is teased by Misa about her ‘boyfriend’ and to introduce that loved one to her family, Hazuki is motivated to win Hexennacht to bring Shizuka to her home. Sugami tries to get Committee 13 to postpone the finals for tomorrow because it looks like James is plotting something but you know, they’re not going to do anything unprecedented. They’re going to regret it because right before the finals start, Lynne unleashes her present from papa. It is a tube containing a Fleck. She gets swallowed and turns into a rampaging Fleck. Everybody evacuates but apparently Agathe tries to be a heroine and got swallowed by it. Uh huh. Some C-grade horror flick with silver liquid coming out from all her orifice before she turns into one. Why the f*ck is everybody standing there watching in shock? Aren’t they going to try and stop her? Because Agathe is now going to destroy the library that houses all the Origins. Yeah, for a place that keeps all the important documents, its defence is pretty much weak. And f*ck, now the English side moves. So is this what they mean about you’ll know when the time comes? Arthur explains with Agathe as the vessel, Shizuka’s new magic and Arthur’s holy sword, the prophecy will be fulfilled to stop this disaster. So Shizuka gets to avenge her mom? Don’t forget, Hazuki is the main character and she’s going to do something about it. She unleashes her magic but this teleports her to another dimension. She meets a person who is the personification of Cinderella. Not sure what crap she’s spouting about miracles. Because of that the backlash of altering reality is so heavy that one would shatter. WTF?! She claims Hazuki doesn’t have to do anything as her friends will stop Agathe. It might not be perfect but it’s still a happy ending. However Hazuki can’t accept it. She’ll make her own ending.

Episode 12
All the girls cooperate to combat Agathe. Thanks to Avengers: Endgame, a group of heroes fighting a giant lone baddy is now the standard everybody vs Thanos. Arthur has Shizuka power up because looks like the only way they’re going to end this madness is to sacrifice Agathe and Lynne inside. Yeah, got to do what the prophecy says. And everybody doesn’t like this. But what else can they do? Don’t worry. There’s always the other option. Because Hazuki returns. She has everyone join powers. Come on everybody! Join your hands together! Before Agathe and Lynne could be swallowed forever in the Fleck, those hands pull them out! With them in safe hands (pun intended), this allows Shizuka to drop her moon on the Fleck! You mean that really killed the Fleck?! And why does Arthur looked so shock? You mean she never saw this coming or even expect this? No wonder she isn’t the main character… In the aftermath, Hazuki invites Shizuka to her place. Saeko and Misa shocked and confused she isn’t a boy… Yeah, how did they jump to that conclusion? In Hazuki’s room, Shizuka sees a picture of Hazuki’s real mom. Hmm… Doesn’t she look like the actual identity of that personified Cinderella? Shizuka reports this year’s Hexennacht ended in a draw. So no victor. Why not cancelled all the results outright if that’s the case? Agathe is recuperating well. She wanted to thank Hazuki because when she was inside the Fleck, she heard a voice and that was the reason that she was able to come back. Meanwhile Lynne is sulking. But eventually becomes a cry-baby after Angelina gives her sisterly hug. Hazuki and Shizuka revisit ground zero of the moon drop. It’s going to take a while to repair the damage. Then Shizuka brings her to the original site where the tragedy occurred 7 years ago. Still nothing growing till this day. She was here on the day she first met Hazuki. She accredits Hazuki for saving her and the reason why she could fight in Hexennacht. Hazuki helps sprinkle her magic all over the world and he friends could tell it’s her brand of magic. Wow. So magical that it sprouts flowers and greens all over???!!! Damn, it’s really a miracle. Sugami is approached what seems to be the ghost of Shizuka and Hazuki’s mom. Take care of our daughters, please. And finally the words we all have been somewhat waiting and expecting to here: Shizuka confesses she likes Hazuki and wants to be her friend. Hey, I thought they were already one? I guess this is official since Hazuki accepts her friend request. Sorry yuri fans. No kiss.

What The Fleck?! The Magic Of Crappy Ending
I wasn’t really that enthusiastic going in watching the couple of final episodes of the series. After all, I was only doing so to get some sort of closure and not really expecting anything much. And the series did stay true to that. It didn’t exceed any of those expectations and hence, uhm, a successful failure? Like I’ve said earlier on, the production issues plaguing the series has been a curse and bane and it is somewhat a miracle that they managed to release them in less than a year instead of taking 10 years later or forever. So even if the ending is pretty much cliché and meh, at least the ‘happy ending’ is that we get somewhat of a closure to this series. We can now file everything and dump it all in the darkest corners of our minds or wherever. This series is done. We can all move on now. Heh. Sad ending, really…

Looking at the art and animation quality this time round, they seem pretty decent and passable. I’m not saying they really put in a lot of effort in those months to make it look good but at least it wasn’t so obviously bad when they aired those horrendous episodes on TV. This was and should have been the quality of the overall series from the start to finish. Just borderline okay with nothing much to shout about and nothing special. Thanks to that no-QC episodes, the series will forever be remembered as such no matter how decent the animation quality improves or even if it really becomes super gorgeous like Shingeki No Kyojin or the Fate series.

Character wise, it’s like they try to make some sort of redemption for the other multi-national girls but it really falls flat. Remember how we couldn’t see those Chinese and Indian schools in action? Well, yeah. We get a glimpse of them here. And that isn’t amount to anything much since everybody is just giving their one shot effort to bring down the Fleck possessing Agathe and Lynne. By the time it all ends, you won’t remember them nor do they actually matter. And they throw in the twist hinting that Hazuki’s mom may be among those Origin users who fought Fleck 7 years ago and perished. So it somewhat makes sense and connects to why her daughter is drawn to this fate. But I’ll say the most interesting-cum-annoying character still goes to Sachi. This girl should be given her own spinoff. She never stops yapping about wanting to be in the spotlight and even right till the end, still shamelessly b*tching about not being credited. Oh Sachi, you’re just a minor character. What more do you want? That’s why I suggested having your own spinoff where you can be as lame and energetic all you want.

Overall, still a mediocre series that ultimately disappoints. They say time heals all wounds and maybe that is partly a minor reason why I don’t really hate this series nor do I feel so dramatically dissatisfied. Because my heart is not there anymore for this series. Haha! What is supposed to be a story about 2 girls who lost their moms from a tragic incident trying to be friends, instead dragged in a myriad of fairytales that aren’t related into a poorly written plot. Will the Fleck be back again? Because it sure looks like some discount Terminator silver liquid metal thingy whose weakness seems to be the moon. Will Hexennacht be the same again next year? Fire those damn Committee 13 spineless old hag b*tches. Will Lynne be forgiven? Always give America a second chance! Will Hazuki and Shizuka end up having yuri sexual relations? Hentai versions if you look harder, definitely. Some stories are not meant to be told. Ever.

Hanebado

December 22, 2018

It’s about time! About time they made an anime about badminton. Heh. I suppose this is the most popular racquet sport in my country. But I believe this timely anime adaptation wasn’t made because of Malaysia’s current number one. Coincidentally, Japan too has a current rising star in the badminton world and with China’s domination and grip on the sport slipping, I have a feeling there is no better time for a badminton series. However Hanebado isn’t going to showcase the rise of a certain Japanese badminton shuttler. Just another one of those high school sports club who is the underdog when you know, the cliché new player with talent joins them and now they have a chance to advance beyond. Lots of side drama to boot…

Episode 1
It’s that time when you start questioning the things you’re doing. Like Nagisa Aragaki. Tired and desperate. Eventually she lost her badminton match without scoring a point! OMG! 21-0! Ayano Hanesaki and Elena Fujisawa are new high school students of Kitakomachi and they make friends with Noriko Miyura. She suggests they all join the tennis club because the captain, Akifumi Saionji is such a hot guy as well as other favourable stuffs. Let me guess. You wanna date this dude? Yup. She even confirms it that what’s the use of being female if you can’t land a guy like that! We take a detour to see a more gloomy badminton club. Obviously Nagisa is practising so hard like a robot but she is also taking out on her club members and some are already at their limits. Is this some torture club? Club vice captain, Riko Izumi talks to her about losing current members in addition of not getting new ones but Nagisa isn’t listening. With the Spartan training continues, I guess that is it for some members. Those who cannot take it anymore, confront Nagisa. Perhaps they’re just waiting for her to say it. If you can’t take the heat, beat it. And that’s what Yuka and co did. As Nagisa is jogging, she is shocked to see Ayano trying out in the tennis club. Yes, this was the girl that defeated her 21-0. Before she could do anything, this weirdo, Kentarou Tachibana climbs over the fence and is singing praises all Ayano. He wants her to play badminton. What kind of guy suddenly touches a girl’s hands?! Is this a new way to pick up girls? Thanks to Elena her eternal protector, she is spared from further ‘molestation’. From Ayano’s movements and her hand blisters, Tachibana can tell she used to play badminton. It’s no surprise Ayano runs away. Enough shock for today. Badminton club advisor, Miyako Taroumaru introduces her ‘secret weapon’ that would help the club: Tachibana! Not only he is the alumnus of the badminton club, but played in the Olympics! But… I never heard of him. Yeah, he was selected to play but got injured and had to pull out. So technically he didn’t play… So to bounce back from that failure and play in the Olympics, he is going to turn them into gold medallist material. I have to ask why this particular school anyway? Just then, Elena drags Ayano in. She believes she should be playing badminton. Ayano still feels playing badminton as pointless. This makes Nagisa’s blood boil but Riko tells Ayano otherwise. Nagisa wants to play a match with her.

Episode 2
Ayano is actually playing quite well until halfway some trauma kicks up and she just quits. Nagisa continues to practice tirelessly. Tachibana talks to Ayano about her flexible wrist and she being naturally left handed is a big advantage. He would have sounded more convincing if he isn’t prone to touching her hands! As Nagisa plays Riko, she keeps thinking her smash is her ultimate weapon. Eventually she narrowly beats Riko. Nagisa and Ayano team up in a doubles practice match. They often bump into each other and Nagisa always blames her for getting in her way. Tachibana has Nagisa switch with Riko. It seems Riko could make judgments that allow them to play perfectly as a team. Hence Tachibana tells Nagisa that it is this judgment she is lacking. Nagisa isn’t happy either. She thinks this is just part of his plan to make his number one look good and that is what talentless people are for. To aid that. A junior even talks to Nagisa about how she envies her being taller, stronger and talented. She is just in a slump right now. Nagisa believes she doesn’t rely on talent. Then a confrontation with Yuka about taking out on her juniors. Not that Nagisa would want to hear from a quitter. Yuka also claims she envied her not because of her talent but because of her wholehearted love for badminton. Tachibana has Nagisa practice with her. From her weak movements, he can tell why she is in a slump. Nagisa too keeps pondering why her smashes aren’t cutting it. Tachibana returns it with an easy trick shot. Lesson time. She thinks being tall and using her jump smash is her advantage. But being tall makes her heavier, hence she needs to work out her legs more. She won because of hard work. She loves badminton, does she not? Now that her mind is clear, first thing she does is to apologize to all her members. They make a vow to get through the inter-high tournament.

Episode 3
Elena remembers Ayano used to love badminton. Until one day she just quit. She learnt her mom just left. Noriko is devastated. Initially she had a date with Saionji but that guy called to cancel it. What is she going to do with those extra movie tickets? She wants to ask Ayano to accompany her but Elena tells her she has club activities. Is she now her personal coach? And then ‘ditches’ her to join Noriko? Yeah, she looks so bored. At the end of the day, Elena stumbles into Nagisa jogging. The latter asks why Ayano quit badminton since she was perfect during the junior nationals. Elena agrees to figure it all out. During practice, this snobbish girl, Kaoruko Serigaya drops in to play with Ayano. Can she from another school just waltz in like that? Kaoruko is good but Ayano is obviously sloppy and loses badly. Kaoruko is very disappointed and leaves, reminding Ayano she can never beat her. With that, Ayano has not been going to school for a few days. Tachibana and Nagisa go pay a visit to her home. She’s not in but her grandparents are. They know Ayano’s problem is badminton related. Tachibana is shocked to know that Uchika Shindou is Ayano’s mom. She won 10 straight wins at the Japanese nationals. But I never heard of her on the world stage… Meanwhile Elena finds Ayano sulking at the playground (I suppose it’s a place where she goes when she is having troubles). This was what happened. Ayano was supposed to play a match with Kaoruko. The latter was sick and wanted to play on the same terms. Guess what? She forcefully transferred some of her illness to her!!! WTF???!!! Hence Ayano was also as ill as her on match day but lost. That was when Uchika left. She believes because she lost to Kaoruko is the reason she left and has never been back since. Ayano didn’t give up and became better at badminton hoping she would come back. But here’s the real kicker. She saw an article of her mom trained and raised a new badminton prodigy who then won some crown! It was when she realized she has lost all reason to play badminton. Nagisa isn’t going to let her off easily yet. Practising hard to beat her, she wants them to play a game. Right now. With everyone else joining in and you can tell Ayano getting her love back for badminton, it goes without saying that Ayano and Elena soon hand in their application to officially join the badminton club.

Episode 4
Summer training camp. It is a joint training stint with Frederica Girls School. A local powerhouse. Ayano volunteers to do some errands at the convenience store but thanks to Nagisa’s weird map, she got lost. Just like this Danish girl too, Connie Christensen. They manage to find their way there as Connie reveals her goal in this training camp is to beat a certain someone. Guess who? Yup, look at Connie’s face now upon learning who Ayano is. Then it is Ayano’s turn to be a little surprised to find Connie is a badminton player of Frederica when they return to camp. Yeah, their talk was so vague, it could have meant anything. With Kitakomachi and Frederica having one a game each, looks like it is down to this important match. A doubles match between Ayano-Riko and Connie-Hina Tagajo. Connie warns Tagajo not to interfere. But when Tagajo returns a shot, Connie subsequently stands there and not play at all. If she is going to beat that someone, she will do it by herself. So if Tagajo wants to play them herself, be her guest. Yeah, whatever Frederica problems, not Kitakomachi problem. Play on. They take a huge lead until Tagajo admits she cannot beat them herself. So switching means Connie will play them herself? Connie has her speed and high jump and claws her way back in no time. And she is disappointed in the way Ayano is playing. So boring. Tachibana then realizes Connie is that young prodigy Danish player who won multiple world titles at 16 years old. But here is the real kicker. Connie starts to tie her hair that resembles so much like Ayano’s mom. And Connie knows all about Ayano as her ‘big sister’. But she didn’t know how she looked like?

Episode 5
Connie wins the set by a mile and mocks Ayano she is not Uchika’s real daughter. You mean by blood also doesn’t count? Ayano is on the road to depression but thank goodness for Riko’s words of motivations about being partners, right? Tachibana suggests the next set for Riko to defend the front near the net while Ayano covers a wider area at the back. This is because Connie’s greatest weapon comes from her powerful high vantage smash. With this method, Ayano-Riko is able to pick up some points and return some of Connie’s shots. Blonde b*tch still think she can do this herself so why is she surprised when Ayano returns them? On the match point to Connie’s advantage, Connie sprain her muscle. She couldn’t return the hit until Tagajo steps in for her to win it for Frederica. Blonde b*tch still not impressed and limped away alone. The drama doesn’t end on that side. Ayano too is b*tching she didn’t lose. She blames her racquet’s string broke at the last moment and Tagajo stepped in. So she really thought it was 2 against 1? Since she is sulking, no sympathy points from Sora Isehara who lectures her how she came and go from the club as she likes. In short, stop making excuses. To show Connie is not 100% demon, she is also in depression but mainly because she feels bad on how she treated Tagajo. Too bad everybody was hiding and listening so Connie has to live up to her words to atone. So bath together is the answer? I guess Connie is only a demon when it comes to badminton. Otherwise she’s just a typical girl. Now everybody starts molesting her in the bath. The only place where it is fair game for all? Before all depart home, Ayano tries to ask Connie more on her mom. However Connie trolls her. Something about how Uchika saved her when she was all alone and is the most important person to her. And then this: Even if Ayano manages to find her place in the team, it is all meaningless if mama doesn’t acknowledge her. Trauma switch on. Oh, haven’t you heard? Uchika is returning to Japan soon. And so Ayano being her usual depressed girl on the way home. But something in her might have snapped as she now spots those crazy eyes and psycho herself that she doesn’t need mom! Oh sh*t. I fear she might go on a killing spree on everyone on this bus.

Episode 6
The tournament is around the corner. Miyako is more concerned of the new uniform the badminton club should be getting. And here is the matchup list. Nothing smells like drama because Riko’s first round opponent is Nozomi Ishizawa from Zushi Sogo High School. Yeah, once old friends who went to the same school. That gloom on her face must really tell something has happened, huh? Heck, why do their eyes have to meet when they get there? Why is Riko being shunned by her? Oh, we’re here just to play badminton. Miyako is eager for the girls to put on their new uniform. Even made extra special as she sewn the school name on it. It’s got to be worth it. The matches get underway and we see our usual characters breezing through. Hence the drama focus is on Riko-Nozomi match. Riko is nervous and loses a few points. With some motivation from Tachibana, she gets serious to plot her strategy. It worked for a while when Riko has found her weakness and exploits her backhand that she hates to use. But it is back to Nozomi dominating again with her cut smash. Riko then tries to play long rallies because it’s like she knew Nozomi was being told by her dick coach to quickly finish her low level opponent off and to conserve energy for the next match. After a long drawn out match, eventually Riko lost in straight sets. Damn her young siblings are crying. Heck, even Elena is crying on her behalf! But Riko is just so sunshine face and asserts her love for badminton. But when she is alone and reality sinks in, she starts crying her heart out. Yup, she wants to play more but too bad, this is her last year in high school. Guess what? Ayano’s mom is here and is looking for her! Meanwhile Ayano is being confronted by Kaoruko who gives her a handkerchief. It is so that she can wipe the tears and snot after she losses! What a f*cking b*tch!

Episode 7
But Ayano isn’t scared. She replies she has worked hard to grind her into the dirt! Maybe she is the one who needs the handkerchief? Kaoruko is so confident that she goes to request personally to Tachibana that they could talk to each other after the match. Yeah… Suddenly once she steps into the court, her cute face turns into a freaking serious one. Did they turn her into Jojo?! Kaoruko thinks Ayano is easy meat. Until her speed just blows her away. Didn’t foresee that, huh? Heck, even her teammates are mocking her about her earlier cockiness comments that she has visualized the pattern to victory. Well, better adapt fast because Ayano has raced to 5-0! And when Kaoruko scores a point, it’s like she’s won the whole thing. To cut it short, Ayano wins the first set. The girls play at faster pace for the second set with Kaoruko hoping it would wear her down so that she could do her tricky cross cut move. After all that drama and tension, Kaoruko lost the set. Oh here comes Ayano’s reply now: You need a handkerchief? Kaoruko retires to the locker room. A bit awkward with her teammates. Everybody is just stunned or in no mood. And of course, Kaoruko cries alone. What do you mean you almost got her? Sure, the scores were close but you were the one dancing in her palms. Oh well, she doesn’t have to cry alone since her lackey, Miki Sasashita also cries with her if not even harder. I think it’s to make us have some sympathy for Kaoruko because now we see the real b*tch in Ayano as she mocks her opponent as pathetic and disappointing. Even if Elena disapproves of disrespecting her opponent, Ayano has a point because winning is all that matters.

Episode 8
Nagisa’s next opponent is Nozomi. Oh, some short flashback as to why they are ‘rivals’. From the same middle school, it was Nagisa that was supposed to get a scholarship to Zushi Sogo but somehow Nozomi got it. And everyone knew Nagisa was the better player. So until today, they’re like both hurt from that? Nozomi’s coach seems to have found Nagisa’s weakness. She has an injury on her knee and wants her to wear her down by making her run around. Meanwhile we see Ayano playing her opponent. Ayano must be so tough that her opponent got a little injured and Ayano assumes she has already won. When her opponent insists she can still go on, Ayano with that b*tch look tells her what is the purpose of doing so. Eventually she forfeited. Might as well withdraw than continue to play with such b*tch. Once more Elena is not pleased with Ayano acting this way but Ayano doesn’t care as long as she wins. Nozomi still got bad blood with Nagisa that she doesn’t want to shake her hand? During the match, Nozomi’s coach is just damn noisy, shouting combos and formation for Nozomi to do. Double the annoyance with Ayano criticizing Nagisa’s play like as though she knows it all. Flashback shows Nagisa could be bad in judging in weather the shuttlecock is out of bounds and hence every shot she returns, hence contributing to her wearing out her knee. Even when Nozomi tries to play on her own and wins a point, her coach chastises her for not following orders! Nagisa gets some motivation to find her own way to play by Tachibana. It isn’t long before she finds her form and scores successive points. This puts Nozomi under pressure and confused. She remembers the Spartan training her coach always gave her. She sees Nagisa’s determination to beat her even if it is risking it all. With the first set going to Nagisa, looks like Nozomi’s coach is going to blow his top again but this time Nozomi talks back. She always blamed everything on him but when tried to play her own style, it was less than impressive. She wants to continue finding it. Hence her coach finally shuts up as Nozomi plays the way she wants and she looks so happy. Eventually Nagisa wins the game that lasted closely into the rubber set. Nozomi makes peace with Nagisa and shakes her hand. It’s like her coach suddenly realized his wrongdoings and that he was too focused on winning. I guess the only b*tch left now is Ayano who is just bored and unimpressed. Final match: Ayano vs Nagisa! Although both qualified for the nationals.

Episode 9
Oh look. Connie is here. I guess she qualified, huh? Yup, she and fellow Frederica, Yuika Shiwahime. High and mighty Connie is brought down when Ayano points out she can see her pantsu. This is what you get when you take the higher ground. They’re supposed to spar but Ayano gets devastated that her Wei-Wei strap (some Chinese whale shark mascot) got torn. Shiwahime suggests skipping the match and head to this Wei-Wei amusement park. How convenient. You can see Ayano as a big fan of this mascot and she’s literally acting like a kid. Even more so when Shiwahime wins the big prize and gives this huge Wei-Wei backpack to her. Time for the drama to start when they witness a pair of sisters arguing but finally making up. Because Connie confesses she wants Ayano to be part of the family. That is what she came to say. WTF???!!! You acting like a b*tch previously and now you say you want to be family?! You can tell how mad Ayano is despite her creepy smiling face because she starts a badminton game with a super powerful smash! Can’t take that, can she? I guess badminton is their only way to communicate. But Ayano descends into a badminton monster. So different than before that Connie looks like a weakling! WTF?! Flashback shows Uchika was in some badminton training stint for kids. Just because she noticed Connie all alone and found out she was the best player among the kids, spar a bit and then suggested they become family. Like, WTF???!!! Connie saw a picture of Ayano and was told she is her ‘older sister’. So basically Connie wants Ayano’s acknowledgement? WTF. In the end, monster Ayano defeats Connie. Is this the Connie we know?! More salt to injuries when Ayano tells her off it is impossible for them to be family. Because she is abandoning mom. Holy sh*t! Hey. You started it. Connie leaves depressed and sulking. When her Frederica girls happily greet her, Connie starts crying her heart out. The warmth of friends, eh? I guess she didn’t get the sisterly warmth she wanted. Is this the Connie we know?! WTF?! Ayano returns home but there’s a surprise waiting for her: Uchika. Long time no see. How do you abandon something or somebody who has returned to you?

Episode 10
Ayano ignores Uchika and shuts herself in her room. Can’t force her out, can you? Ayano plays against Tachibana and narrowly lost. She wants another game and since Tachibana isn’t going to oblige, she bugs Nagisa for one. In the locker room, the others are trying to live up the mood that their school have both representatives for the next round. Too bad Ayano had to shoot her mouth saying Nagisa will definitely lose to her if she plays her now. Cat fight coming up? Nothing happens. Nagisa is called to see Tachibana and Miyako. It seems Tachibana wants her to forfeit her match with Ayano because of her knee. She can always face her at the nationals as long as she keeps winning. This is hard to digest for Nagisa so Miyako explains how Tachibana was part of the team for the Olympics but he chose to pull out due to his own knee injury and then retire. It might look like he let slip a golden opportunity but he felt awful ever since. That is why he is speaking from experience to Nagisa. We take a detour as we see the boys’ tournament. The only ones in Kitakomachi are Gaku Isehara and Yukiteru Hayama. Isehara wins his first round and he has a few girls from other schools cheering for him? Must be his looks. It is Hayama’s turn and he is struggling his opponent. No surprise as he was last year’s semi-finalist. Then we have some flashbacks of him getting into badminton and why fellow badminton player, Yuu Ebina is so ‘concerned’ about him. Probably the tension is too much that she can’t watch his match. So she watched him practise every day after school and felt frustrated and painful? I don’t think she is jealous. But once Hayama lost in straight sets, she cried the hardest. Eventually Isehara too lost in the quarter-finals. Both aren’t giving up on badminton yet despite they are already high school seniors. Hayama continues to practice after that as Yuu confronts him. She confesses she loves him but surprisingly she isn’t sure. Because he showed her how to play badminton, she wanted to really support him. So is this love? He thinks she loves badminton. Thanks for clearing that up. We don’t need some distracting side romance, do we? Nagisa tells Tachibana she is still going to play Ayano. After all, she was that girl whom she lost to 21-0. Fighting her means fighting the person she was back then. Hence Nagisa would like Tachibana to coach her. Ayano still ignores Uchika. Until Uchika says after the tournament, why not leave Japan with her? Abandonment route cut off…

Episode 11
Ayano continues to ignore Uchika but the latter continues to talk to her. Is she hoping she’ll get confused and give in? Hayama drops in to practice badminton instead of studying for his finals. So Ayano suggests he plays her and she routed him. So now he doesn’t want to play the next set and return to studying? Yeah, studying is less brutal. To create the necessary build up for the final, hence we see the characters training, talking here and there. So hard to just skip to the finals. This includes Elena confronting Ayano to ask her what she is fighting for. Ayano then reveals mom abandoned her just to make her stronger in badminton. WTF reasoning is that???!!! If that was really the reason, can’t blame Ayano for turning psycho now because now she believes she has the power to abandon mom! Elena feels sad but blames herself for bringing Ayano back to badminton. You really regret it, huh? And finally the final starts. It is a slow start as both sides are trying to access each other. Thanks to smarty pants Kaoruko analysing and predicting the moves before she oh so knows it all. Sorry, can’t understand. Not really of a badminton nut. What I understand is that Nagisa wants to try avoid using her smash and force Ayano to overthink and make so many prediction options that she will hesitate. Like if this moment is Nagisa going to smash or not. Nope. Did not. Nagisa races to lead 2-0. And at this point Uchika leaves the stand?! I hope she’s not abandoning her so early when it’s just getting started. Of course somehow Elena sees this and follows her. They need to talk. Looks like Ayano has learnt to be more talkative because she notes how sneaky Nagisa is playing. She’s saying that with even deader eyes. Just wondering when she’ll turn into a full zombie mode.

Episode 12
Flashback shows after Ayano lost to Kaoruko, mom left. Without saying a word!!! Despite Ayano’s pleas not to go!!! WTF???!!!! And to answer Elena’s question, she did it because she wanted Ayano to improve since Ayano started doing badminton for her sake. WTF???!!! I have so many issues with that. It doesn’t sound convincing. Uchika continues she also wanted to open Ayano’s eyes by having great skills. Because only a few can earn a living in sports. A small injury can ruin your career. Yeah, you ruined your relationship first. Knowing she did something unforgivable, Ayano is on the verge of taking a new step thanks to the club who stayed by her side. At the end of the first set, Ayano wins 21-16. But why she looking so angry? Second set, to cut it short, Nagisa makes a comeback to take it 21-18. During the break, Tachibana assesses Nagisa’s knee. Still can go on but he again hints if something goes wrong, she must throw in the towel. I guess Ayano is even angrier that she even chides her fellow mates who are trying to cheer her up. She thinks they want her to lose. Until Sora lectures her how all of them wanted to play in the finals and go on to the nationals. Right now she is fighting for them too. For that moment, the crowd all cheer to support Ayano. Damn flashback messing with her mind. She wants to be strong that nobody will need but those damn moments in the badminton club made her heart soft. So what’s it going to be? Let’s get this last set going. Ayano starts with a shocker because she uses her right hand. Looks like somebody can be sneaky too.

Episode 13
Ever since Ayano used her right hand, Nagisa has raced up to a 10-0 lead! Tachibana has noticed that Ayano has always been ambidextrous but maintained only using 1 hand because of the time lost while switching. But when Ayano gets her first point, the tides are turned and she catches up. Yeah, Nagisa is getting pretty tired and her knee is still hanging in there. More drama as we hear Ayano’s thoughts why she is playing badminton. Then she found her answer. It’s to beat Nagisa. Well, duh. At least that’s your current goal, right? With Nagisa’s knee seemingly going to give way, Tachibana wants to call it quits but Riko believes in the power of believing. Believe in her a little more! Yeah, this is going to take a while before the game ends… So when the game goes into a deuce, more dramatic tension effects are added to drag out the drama. Like this long silence and you can only hear the heartbeats and the players panting. Oh wow. Such nail biting anxiety. Who is it going to be? And finally we have a winner. NAGISA! Oh yeah. You can start crying now. It’s a good thing her knee is still intact. Otherwise it will be tears of pain instead. It is also a good thing that Ayano has lost, her evil b*tch mode is gone. She apologizes to Yuu and Sora. Then she confronts mom. She admits she hated her and thought she abandoned her because she had no talent. To answer her question why she plays badminton, it’s because she loves the game. Yeah. Duh! Mom asks if she wants to go overseas to Denmark with her and Connie. Nope. She’s staying here. This is her starting line. Also, she has the nationals to play, right? Can’t just abandon the whole tournament, right? Oh Uchika, how does it feel to be left behind now? Ayano shows her smile. She hopes to play together some time. Ayano also apologizes to Elena for being a dick and b*tch all in one. Then she starts crying not because she lost but rather Elena has stayed by her side all this while as her friend. Damn those tears! Now it’s harder to hate her!!! Tachibana and Nagisa return from the hospital. Patellar tendinitis. Sounds horrible. But the real symptoms are not, so be glad that she can still play badminton with no big issues as long as she doesn’t push it. You think Nagisa isn’t going to surpass her limits? But hooray! Her career is still alive. And because of that, Ayano challenges Nagisa to play. Luckily Elena stops her before her b*tch mode starts rising again. They eventually do have their bout because the nationals are a few days away. Keep practising.

Bad-Drama-Mean-Mom-Ton
Sad to say… This series isn’t exactly a smash hit or anywhere near it. I doubt it will get another season because I don’t think we want to see Ayano get her revenge on Nagisa in the nationals. We have our fair share of drama for this season already. Even if they tried to make some amends in the final episode, the damage is done. It’s not entirely right for Ayano to continue hating mom, right? With them at least on talking terms, can we pin the blame on Ayano’s evil b*tch mode due to the pressure of the game? Uh huh. Because from what it looks like, Ayano was slowly turning into a demon and a character that you would hate. Until she lost and with no pressure left to do well, there is no more reason for her to stay that way. I mean, everything mostly remained the same even though she lost, right?

Unfortunately for a sports series that goes the realism route, there is only so much the plot can tell. Because it will be totally boring if it is totally focused on the court and the games only. Because might as well go and watch a real badminton match. Hence to give a reason why the characters play badminton, hence the much needed drama of the main characters to justify their existence in doing so. And too bad the drama here is boring and unexciting. Bad, if I should say but it isn’t so much that bad that it would be in the running of the worst anime of the season or the year. The drama and plot is made draggy and dragged out as the characters have their own inner battles to fight while they fight another battle on the court. Yeah, everybody has their own problems. Everybody wants to win. But many can only dream of that. Perhaps it is too early to criticise how bad the pace and direction of this series since there are only 13 episodes. It looks like not enough episodes to properly flesh out and develop the story and characters but considering how the draggy drama went, it felt like they were wasting time instead. Unless this is supposed to be the intended development.

Hence you can see the final few episodes of the series being dragged out for a few episodes because not surprisingly, this is what many sports themed anime would do. You have to really drag out the so called important matches and then spam it with a lot of monologue drama and flashbacks. Like everybody knows everything. But watching the final match between Nagisa and Ayano sometimes felt a bit funny. You see both girls suddenly going into overdrive mode that they look like different women altogether. They infuse it with a lot of angst and anger because it is understandable at this stage and considering their circumstances and relationship with each other, they don’t want to lose. But it’s just funny that after one scores the point, all that flurry of ferocious smashing movements just die down and they’re like, uhm, standing there? Yeah, better catch some breath. It’s like all that violence in the game suddenly come to a crashing halt. Funny if you consider all the drama that came in between. And when they’re having powerful rallies, sometimes I feel pity for the racquet and shuttlecock because I worry with all that power anger, they might just break them. Seriously.

As for the badminton matches, I am more inclined to say that if you are really interested to see one, you are better off watching a real live badminton match. I am not saying that the animation sucks but there are at times their movements are a bit jerky. In initial episodes, some of the movements look erratic that I thought the animation was a bit based on rotoscoping. Like as though they try to trace a badminton player’s movements into this anime. It looks a bit weird but if this was really what happened, I suppose it is a commendable way because what better way than to animate the human body of a shuttler in action? Otherwise, the other animation parts during the badminton matches look pretty decent and the sound effects of the shuttlecock hitting the wired racquets are really spot on.

Maybe that is why the series is trying to focus on the drama of its characters and not much of the actual badminton matches. As you would have realized, there are really no flashy exaggerated moves that some sports anime employ. I’m looking at you Prince Of Tennis and Kuroko No Basket. Thus no shuttlecock turning fireball smashes or shuttlecock that flies in like a homing missile! I’m glad they didn’t go with this route or I might have viewed this series with even more disdain. With realism in the game, may match scenes are not shown and before you know it, the match is won. Because it must be really boring if you see both players trade shuttlecock back and forth for every point. Yeah, we’re not going to stay and watch every point and might as well go watch a real badminton game. I guess we have to live with the infused drama then.

Now comes the worst part of the series that I find: The characters. Sighs, why are there so many b*tches here? There isn’t a single character whom I feel like I want to root for. The main characters have problems big enough that it makes them look like bad guys. Seriously, I’m not kidding. Take a look at Nagisa and Ayano. The former became a slave driver after her devastating loss and even though she redeemed herself, the damage had already been done and cannot be healed. Like her knee. Starting off to be such a heckler to your own teammates doesn’t bode well with viewers. She only toned down because now Ayano takes the spotlight. Honestly, if the producers think if they want a main character to be hated just to be refreshing, I think they’re doing a good job. It is understand she has her own past and issues but does this mean that Ayano has the right to treat others like dirt? She was fast becoming from a main character whom we had no feelings for to a very much hated character. I won’t be surprised even if she redeems herself somehow, we won’t be able to forgive her for being a dick. Oh sorry, b*tch. Like Nagisa’s case, the damage is done and people’s perception of you will be very hard to change. Even if the series had another cour to make these characters likeable again. Last episode that has them redeem everything, it sometimes feel so rushed.

But can we all agree that the worst character goes to Uchika? She is definitely in the running for top spot as the worst mother of the year. If you want to blame Ayano for her b*tch character, Uchika is largely to blame. It is understandable that all mothers want their best in their child. But the fact that she got up and left without saying a word or even explaining why, that was really sh*t. Come on. Ayano is a little girl. She loves badminton as much as she loves you. And to just get up and leave like that without even saying anything, not even a simply goodbye, that is just cruel. Even if little Ayano will not understand what she explained (and hence the cliché you will understand it when you’re older), at least it is much better than leaving without saying a damn thing. That is just traumatic for a kid who has been relying on her mom a lot. I’m amazed Ayano didn’t turn into a serial killer after that. I won’t be surprise and in fact would be glad if Ayano hanged up her racquet and temporarily turned into a killer to kill off her mom! Yikes! Alternate fantasy. But it’s good to at least know that Ayano does not fear and to continue walking under her mom’s shadow. Sometimes the best way to follow the footsteps of the one you admire is to walk your own path.

Fuelling Ayano’s insecurity is the fact that she adopted another foreign girl as her daughter and she wins championships under her wing. Oh man, I really want to see that alternate fantasy of Ayano turning into a serial killer. Abandoning mom as revenge just doesn’t feel satisfying at this point. Uchika did say she did something unforgiveable and unforgivable indeed it is. However the way she says that sounded like she has no remorse! Not a single hint. Maybe at this point there is no use regretting and Uchika is a strong woman who doesn’t show her emotions. My guts tell me that parents who do despicable acts like this to their kids, we are sometimes shown a glimpse of their other hidden face of regret (unless the parents are genuinely despicable). Uchika has no shreds of that, indicating that she expected Ayano to become like this. She might be the best female badminton player in Japan and possibly the world but she is the worst mother and deserves a special place in hell! Do you not agree with me???!!!

And the rest of the other side characters feel like they don’t really matter. It’s so as to make it look like it isn’t just about Nagisa and Ayano and to some extent Uchika. Like the other members of the badminton club are so weak in their game that it is no surprising that they couldn’t advance far enough. I don’t even know why they had to include some boys in the club. Maybe so it won’t look like all girls only playing badminton. They don’t really matter at all and I’m wondering if this is for some cheesy romance distraction between Hayama and Yuu that this series doesn’t really need. But then again, it would be utterly boring if everything is focused on Nagisa or Ayano. So let’s have a bit of this less than memorable distraction. I don’t even know why in the final ending credits montage they need to remind us of Noriko and Saionji ending up becoming a couple. Like what is the relation to this series, man?! Even that loser tennis member got an admirer. WTF?! What’s tennis got to do in a badminton series, dude?!

The fact of having Tachibana as their coach feels like an excuse to make Kitakomachi as worthy opponents. After all, he is at least theoretically Olympic material. Oddly, of all other schools or even the dedicated badminton academy, why this underdog school? Suspicious, eh? Otherwise Tachibana doesn’t really stand out character wise as he just dispenses advice when needed to. Or else he would let his badminton players do as they wish. Yeah, the ultimate goal is to have fun, right? Tell that to all the future champion wannabes. Miyako even feels more redundant and we can’t simply put an ex-Olympian as the school’s coach and therefore we have this incompetent and forgettable advisor. I wonder how she even got him in the first place. What’s their connection? So as to not make her character feel useless, the reason why she is the one who designed Kitakomachi’s badminton uniform. Meh…

The other badminton rivals are also not very memorable. Even if they are, most probably for the wrong reasons. Like Kaoruko, that snobbish b*tch who transferred her sickness to Ayano just so she could beat her on equal terms!!! WTF???!!! Oh, she is the other big reason to blame for Ayano’s trauma. And now she gets to be some smarty pants commentator in the final match? Just shut the f*ck up! Connie feels weird. I thought she is going to be a sisterly rival but then suddenly woah! 180 degree change! She really wants to be family! So why started off giving that antagonistic feel?! Does this twisted ways exist in the Hanesaki family?! So if Ayano abandons mom, looks like Connie won’t be your Japanese onee-chan. Boo hoo! Nozomi (the girl whom I’ll remember for having chopsticks as her hairpin!) also felt redundant and should have been like the many other nameless opponents. But I suppose they need her character to play up some sort of past with Nagisa and as well as Riko’s last hurrah. With such lacking rivals from other schools, it is another reason why I don’t think they’ll have another season. They might have to make up rivals that have some sort of past or connection to our main characters as we go.

Oh, before I forget, it seems there are so many characters who contributed to Ayano’s trauma. Uchika, Kaoruko, Connie and now I remember, Elena. Yeah, she was bugging Ayano so much to go back into badminton thinking it would do her good. Look how much it backfired. She thought she knew what is best for Ayano (what is she, her mother?) and look where it has brought her? Ayano was resisting not wanting to rejoin badminton but you forced her, right? Better take responsibility. Now that Ayano is playing her brand of less than desirable sportsmanship of badminton, Elena is now trying to virtue signal her? Sure, all of us love to see good sportsmanship from players in games. But like I’ve said, Ayano might be made to be a hated main character. Sometimes seeing Elena wallowing in despair over Ayano’s b*tch attitude feels more like she has made a mistake rather than wanting her friend to go back to the right path. Hey, sports is like showbiz and any other business in the world. It’s a dog eat dog world and nothing beats being number one. Winning is the only thing and everything! You don’t tell Ayano how to play badminton when you yourself can’t properly play the game! And thank goodness Elena doesn’t have to feel guilty for the rest of her life since Ayano came back to her senses and even thanking her for being her friend and reintroducing badminton back in her life. Gee, thanks. That’s what friends are for.

I have already covered the animation for the badminton matches, as for the other aspects, they just look decent. I just want to note that the art for Ayano’s face changes drastically during the finals with Nagisa. Ayano looks pretty plain already and then there is her zombie face! Is this creepy? If that wasn’t bad enough, Ayano and Nagisa’s art suddenly mature like as though they become different people! I thought they are different people! Especially Ayano who has this evil glint in her eyes, making her look like a bad guy. I’m sure they want to ramp up the drama and with such an important final, you got to take this seriously and look the part. Yeah, so serious that your art style even changes? Can I say that Ayano is a character with many faces? Plain face, happy face, crying face, zombie face, evil b*tch face. Even some scenes of the animation changes. Like as though they’re experimenting with it. For instance, some scenes just turn black and white. Wow. So dramatic. Kitakomachi’s badminton uniform… Did Miyako take inspiration of its design from a swimsuit? I’m not sure if this is works for aerodynamics but whatever.

Nothing much to comment about the voice acting. Feels pretty normal. Remember how I often attributed Sayaka Ohara’s voice to be perfect for villainess roles? If I consider Uchika as the villain, can I put her in this category too? Nobuhiko Okamoto seems to be taking a break from all the angry roles he voiced like Bakugou of Boku No Hero Academia, Accelerator of To Aru Majutsu No Index and Zack of Satsuriku No Tenshi. He is calm and composed like as though he has cast away his anger and no hint of it whatsoever. Other casts are Hitomi Ohwada as Ayano (Sana in Alice To Zouroku), Miyuri Shimabukuro as Nagisa (Narumi in Harukana Receive), Mariya Ise as Connie (Levi in Fairy Tail), Asami Shimoda as Kaoruko (Kotomi in Seitokai Yakuindomo), Konomi Kohara as Elena (Akane in Tsuki Ga Kirei), Yuuna Mimura as Riko (Kaede in Aikatsu), Arisa Sakuraba as Nozomi (Satan in Sin: Nanatsu No Taizai) and Mikako Komatsu as Miyako (Kanae in ClassicaLoid).

If there is one thing I prefer from this series, it is the opening theme, Futari No Hane by Yurika. It is very exuberant and energetic. A theme that should have really fit the badminton themed series like a glove had not all that bad drama ruined it. It’s the kind of song that is suitable for any high octane sports themed series. The ending theme is also an energetic rock piece, High Stepper by Yuiko Ohara. Not bad too but I prefer the opener. Again, would have been such a perfect fit if not for the bad drama.

Overall, it is a disappointing series because of the bad drama and main characters that you will instantly love to hate. Because it seems to indicate that the power of friendship is the one that saved Ayano instead of the power of family or motherly love. I’ll give them credit for this unique setting then instead of heading down the cliché path of the likeable underdog. This series would have had more potential if they put a little bit more focus on the drama on court rather than off court. I’m sure this series isn’t a good example to instil love for the game or attract more new players to it. Heh. I hope they won’t make current ones run away. It is even sadder in reality for Malaysians as our own badminton superstar is already nearing his setting sun and no potential successor at all. I guess the only smashing that we will get to watch is this series into smithereens. An instant kill shot. 0-21, 0-21. Game, set and match. Looks like an early retirement for this series.

Harukana Receive

November 17, 2018

Finally! Finally they made an anime about beach volleyball! Not that I was dying to watch an anime of this genre but I guess over the years they figured out that there are quite a few popular sports missing from the claws of animation adaptation. One of them being badminton and the other being beach volleyball (both sports themed anime series curiously aired in the same season). With Harukana Receive, anime fans now can rejoice that they can see all the glorious spiking and volleying action on the beach court. It’s perhaps the same reason why fans bought and played Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball because there are no other good beach volleyball video games in (sexy) HD! Yeah, probably the other sleazy mini games have its own attractive appeal… Hence it is the same for anime viewers. Because Haikyuu was probably too gay sh*t for some. What do you mean we are here to only watch sexy babes in bikinis sweating it out under the hot sun and sand covering every inch of their body as they dive to block and return shots?! You don’t expect beach volleyball players to play in fur coats, DO YOU???!!!

Episode 1
Haruka Oozora arrives in Okinawa and is picked up by her petite cousin, Kanata Higa. Haruka tries to be nice but Kanata just seems distant. Did she say something wrong? This show doesn’t waste time for the babes to drop their dresses to go into their bikinis since Haruka loves the beach. She meets a couple of beach volleyball players practising, Ayasa Tachibana and Narumi Tooi. She tries out and kinda likes it. However when Haruka thinks she could be the ace player, this irks Narumi. She claims beach volleyball is a team game and hence an ace doesn’t exist. Wow. She just turned sour. More drama ramping up when Kanata arrives. Narumi knows her but it seems she is somewhat upset Kanata never came back. Whatever beef they had, Narumi suggests a game. But if Haruka can score a point before they reach 7, she wins. So we see the Haruka-Kanata pair a bit clumsy and lacking coordination but Haruka manages to adapt and do well although ultimately they still lost. Cue for Narumi to b*tch about team play and hence no such thing as ace. Can a team have both aces then? Just saying. But this only motivates Haruka as she suggests a revenge match. They agree to it but give her a week to practice the rules and such. Since Kanata has beach volleyball experience, Haruka is looking forward to it. But why isn’t Kanata too happy? Later Haruka learns Ayasa and Narumi are high school beach volleyball champions and from the Kyoto powerhouse! It’s a small world. Of course this doesn’t bug Haruka a bit as she looks forward to the revenge match. Back home, Haruka asks grandma about Kanata playing beach volleyball once but she quit. Grandma doesn’t say much as there were issues then but is glad Haruka came. Cliché moment for Kanata praying at the altar of her dead parents. Also, cue for introduction of this series’ pet mascot. Folks, meet Kamekichi, Kanata’s pet turtle. Haruka tries to touch it but it quickly hides in its shell.

Episode 2
Kanata trains Haruka on the basics like running and getting used to the sand. She also makes some adjustments to her swimsuit so that sand won’t go in while playing. Then they discuss some techniques to beat their opponents. Especially the diagonally spiking cut shot that they won’t expect a beginner to do. But despite things going smoothly, Kanata still reels from a trauma of ‘running away’. She was a pair with Narumi and she froze when a ball was spiked at her. Narumi tried to cover for her but failed. When Ayasa comes to check on the practice progress, she talks to Haruka about Narumi being Kanata’s ex-partner. Because opponents target the weaker one, Kanata is often so due to her height. Kanata ran away and hence Narumi became the ace. She fears if Kanata comes back, Narumi might want her back. Of course Ayasa doesn’t want that and Haruka believes in Kanata. What are the chances that little girl heard that? Revenge match is here and the rules are still the same. The newbies are faring better although they still lose to the pros. They tried the cut shot trick but Narumi saw through them and expected this. Haruka thinks there is still a way to surprise them and that is for Kanata to receive. This shocks Kanata as she believes she cannot do it. Don’t worry. Haruka believes in you. First time she froze and failed. Oh, now it is match point. Since Haruka still believes in her, this has Kanata move forward and receive the serve. This in turn shocks Narumi. With her ‘paralyzed’, Ayasa tries to cover for her but Haruka wins it with a trick dump shot. Narumi still shell shocked. Never expected Kanata to receive still. She runs away. Looks like losers buying everyone ice cream will have to wait. Later Kanata tells Haruka her side of the story of how she didn’t grow and became a burden to Narumi, hence running away. She thought it was the best. Haruka also deduced Narumi’s serve wasn’t aimed at her but to avoid Kanata. Narumi feels bad that she might have hurt Kanata all this time. She blames herself for unable to make her move unlike Haruka. Ayasa comforts her that her kindness wasn’t wrong. Haruka was just a little smarter, that’s all.

Episode 3
Just when Haruka finishes her school transfer papers, she sees Kanata being taken away. Confronting them, Haruka panics to realize she is a foreigner. I speaking no English! Don’t worry. Claire Thomas speaks good Japanese. Heh. Plus, this is a misunderstanding. She is from the school’s beach volleyball club. Introducing to her twin sister, Emily, you bet the duo are going to join the club. But Kanata looking a bit reluctant. Right off the bat they start practising. Actually they play a game with each other. I guess it’s the best way to practice. The twins own the duo well as Haruka learns the use of this spike move called pokey. However Emily is upset that Kanata will not use it. Oh no. Not again. Mood soured. Kanata has some trauma about it. Vague snippets. So as Haruka-Kanata pair trashed, finally Haruka uses this pokey move. Why everybody shocked? You mean they did not expect her to do this? So this returns Kanata’s confidence as she finally does the pokey. She narrates she wasn’t obsessed with spiking as she was a power player. But now things have changed. After the match, the twins show them a junior tournament. You bet they’re going to enter, right? Emily apologizes to Kanata for her behaviour. Kanata is confident of regaining her former self. Later Kanata tells Haruka about how she and Narumi became a pair. Narumi was a transfer student in her elementary school. Hard to approach, somehow beach volleyball was suggested. Reluctant at first, Narumi gave it a try and before you know it, they’re a good combo. They even bested the twins. Their friendship grew and so did their skills. They made a promise to be the best in Japan but after that, Kanata ran away and failed to keep that promise and she felt left behind when everyone changed. She only realized that she was the one who changed. Haruka offers to be her official partner.

Episode 4
Haruka is in the same class with Kanata. She introduces herself. No response. Not friendly, huh? I guess this means we don’t have to bother with those b*tches and focus on the beach volleyball side. During practice, Claire talks to Haruka about their defence area. Because Kanata covers a wider area, this only means that she doesn’t count on her to block. With Haruka jumping around too much, Claire points out that her nether regions were ‘flashing’ so embarrassed Haruka has Kanata do some adjustments. Hence they decide to get matching swimsuits. It took some time before Haruka decided to buy the pair she wants but it seems a couple of girls had snagged them. They are Ai Tanahara and Mai Sunagawa from the volleyball club. They lost a recent tournament and will be participating in this junior tournament to let go some steam. Haruka lost to Mai in the rock-scissors-paper game. My question is, why can’t they both just get the same swimsuit? Don’t tell me the store does not stock more than a pair? Thanks to this, they get another ‘better looking’ pair. Back home, Haruka does a little amendment to their official swimsuit by incorporating some traditional Okinawan pattern. While it means eternity, she didn’t realize the other connotation that it is a confession of love when being presented to one’s partner. Haruka doesn’t care as she loves Kanata. Is this a lesbian show in guise of a beach volleyball theme?! But it’s too much for Kanata to handle as she passes out. Later Emily tells Kanata the truth of what Narumi said before she left for Kyoto. She still intends to keep her promise and if Kanata ever returns to play and found someone new, she hopes Emily would support that person. Of course Narumi would prefer to always partner Kanata but eventually she too will end up with a new partner. Kanata sees Haruka secretly practising. You know she’s practising real hard when you see bandages on her fingers. This is to earn her trust and that she can receive the ball without worrying. I hope this blows whatever blues that has been holding back Kanata. So is this the start of a beautiful lesbian relationship?

Episode 5
The junior tournament is here. Guess who Haruka-Kanata team is going to face in the first round? Ai-Mai team! The rivalry is going to get intense. I guess that swimsuit grudge is hard to let go. We see Haruka-Kanata doing well as Mai made a few mistakes. Of course a flashback shows how Ai invited Mai to join the volleyball club despite she is short because she told her it’s a sport where they can defeat tall people! And when they lost, Mai was inconsolable and hence Ai felt bad for lying. In the end, Haruka-Kanata team takes the first set. We take a detour to see the twins in their match. Lots of people watching it because didn’t Kanata tell you? The twins were ranked second in the Nationals! Now back to our second set match. It seems Mai has learnt some feint trick that Kanata does with her pokey. She intercepts it all the time. Hence Ai-Mai team takes the lead. The twins finished their straight sets so they get to go watch our heroines play and even comment on it. Like how Emily notices Kanata’s pokey not being a good attack because she hits the ball from a low point of impact and it flies high enough and in the air long enough to give her opponents time. But why does she keep doing it then? Hmm…

Episode 6
The logic of Kanata doing such pokeys is that since they are predictable, Mai has to go receive them. In the long run she will exhaust herself. It is evident at this point as Mai is getting tired and doing mistakes. This allows Haruka-Kanata pair to catch up and Haruka getting the hang of the jump timing. They even get the help from the wind to throw off their opponents to earn match point. And yes, the final point goes them and they win it. In the aftermath, we see Ai-Mai pair somewhat reconciling. Some tears, some you have improved, some try your best again, you know the usual stuff that will have them move on and be better the next time. In the end, Haruka and Kanata lost the next round and this entire junior tournament is won by the twins. I guess we don’t need to see them play unknowns. Kanata would love to play them but you know, there is the Nationals tournament known as Valkyrie Cup. And we don’t have to worry that they have to face off with each other in the preliminaries so that one will go to the main tournament because since the twins won twice in a row, Okinawa will get 2 representatives. Yup, no need to worry there. Beach volleyball isn’t all about the sexy physical stuffs. Secret hand signals are a must too and looks like Haruka is having a tough time learning them. She better learn quick or else no dinner. The irony that Kamekichi knows it better than her.

Episode 7
Has this changed into an idol show?! Despite seeing Akari Ooshiro prance around on stage (via bad CGI), this is only her delusion. In reality, she seems desperate asking Kanata to join the beach volleyball club. Her goal is to become a beach volleyball idol and be famous. Kanata has a feeling she has seen her somewhere before but couldn’t put her finger on it. Akari is brought to see the twins and she is eager to pair up with them. However the twins don’t intend to pair with anyone else and this dashes her plans. But when ask to join the club first, she doesn’t want to anymore. Haruka and Kanata try to go find her at class but is told she has no friends as she is a celebrity. Kanata now remembers that drink commercial she used to act in. My, so cute. The duo manage to find her eating lunch by herself. She wants to be left alone but Haruka tells her they’ll do so if they beat them in beach volleyball. And hence Akari does so but she’s like doing them a favour, complaining and the likes. She teams up with Emily to square off against Kanata alone. The rest are referees. Being an amateur, Kanata could easily predict her moves and of course Akari herself is riled up. In the end, Akari failed to score a point. And then some life lessons how sports brings people closer and make friends, blah, blah, blah. With that, Akari joins the club (still acting like she’s doing them a favour) but is embarrassed when Claire starts replaying that commercial again. Later Akari reveals she really wanted to make friends but being an idol would be the best way. Thanks to them, now she understands. Though, she still has a score to settle with the twins and think she’ll be famous if she beats the. Dream on. The gang is surprised when Marissa, the twins’ mom and coach has returned.

Episode 8
Marissa is back to train them. So mom came all the way back from America just for this? I guess Claire put in the ‘request’ so mommy can’t deny her cute daughter. Marissa’s spiking is already so powerful and she says this isn’t her best? Wow. I guess she could have put a hole in the wall if she was in her heydays. So to cut short Haruka and Kanata’s lesson from her, basically they need teamwork and cooperation. Like, duh? Yeah, teamwork and cooperation like a married couple. With training can only give you so much, the rest is up to experience. Hence a little flashback when the twins battled Kanata-Narumi for the title and lost. They became best friends, best rivals. With the summer vacation coming up, the girls hit the shrine. Let’s hope Akari being the only with bad luck won’t bring the team down. Heh. Haruka gets a call from Ayasa. Apparently they are in Okinawa but is waiting for a flight back. So I suppose it’s an excuse for everything to go see her even if they shove it to make it look like it is just Kanata who wants to see her. Don’t worry. Marissa is here to take them to the airport. Haruka is unsure why Emily is clenching herself. You’ll soon find out. Damn, she’s a hell driver!!! Hold on tight to your seats. Thankfully with the traffic jam, no more life risking. Damn, it’ll be a shame if these young girls died in an accident due to ‘reckless driving’. With the traffic jam, this adds drama for the girls to run there on foot. They reach just in time before their plane’s departure. Kanata calling out to Narumi but is given the cold shoulder. So she ran all the way only for this? Nah. Just trolling. Narumi shows their international friendship sign so you can say all is well. Everybody’s so happy for the future.

Episode 9
The qualifiers are here. But first, Akari seems to be so troubled that she calls Ayasa for advice. Whatever it is, just express your feelings. She relays the news that since there weren’t enough team in the qualifiers, only 1 team from Okinawa can go through. WTF. That doesn’t make sense. It’s not like there’s 100 teams here, right?! Hence Akari’s worry stems from the girls will be facing off each other in the finals for that spot. So she fears the club will be destroyed? Huh? Where did she get that idea? Yeah, she’s talking how much she loves the club like as though she’s been here for a long time. Oh, here are some scrunchies she made as token of their friendship and good luck charm. Now can we stay positive and win this thing? Before the match starts, our girls stumble into Ai and Mai who aren’t participating but helping out as staffs. Both our favourite girls win their first round matches. Then there is the Aragaki sisters, Youna and Kanna. They want a revenge match against the twins from 3 years ago but first they have to face off with Haruka-Kanata pair. Yeah, they’re confident of beating them for their revenge match but Haruka isn’t going take that lying down. During the game, the sisters realize Haruka’s play resembles so much like Claire. Because they underestimate them, Kanna hints of using some technique they’re still testing. Too bad they continue to lose and Haruka-Kanata pair takes the first set by a mile. I’m not sure about this topspin technique Kanna is trying to do to increase speed and then suddenly change its trajectory, but it isn’t working too (since Haruka is able to return them) in the second set as Haruka-Kanata pair takes the second set also by a mile. I guess they’ll have to wait another year for their revenge. And now it’s the finals. Haruka-Kanata vs Emily-Claire.

Episode 10
Master versus student. Basically the twins dominate the match and showing no mercy. It’s like they’ve never received this part of the training or in practice before. Yeah, we always have this spare trump card just in case. The match is so intense but why is Akari looking so sad? Yeah, either way she is going to be just sad because somebody has to lose, right? In the end, she thought of cheering things up by singing that commercial song of hers. I believe it’s just to calm her own nerves down. Anyway, Haruka and Kanata have planned it out before that they want to target Claire. Just to let us viewers know why they’re doing such strategy. And coincidentally what do you know? Claire also knows they’re targeting her so bring it on. The twins in the end take the first set. The next set starts and to drag out the drama, hence some flashback to tell us why they are no longer the same people back then. Yup, they have improved many times fold. We get it. Can we get along with the game already? No surprises here as the twins continue to dominate and lead. Until Kanata does one tricky move to score a point. So you didn’t expect her to do that? You’re getting super serious now? Weren’t you the whole time? This is the serious Kanata you want to play? You’re saying Kanata wasn’t this serious all the while?

Episode 11
Oh dear. Do we need more of those flashbacks? The first time Claire lost and was so sad and eventually the twins become frequent sparring partners with Kanata and Narumi. And then one day Claire became upset because Kanata wasn’t playing the way she used to. Her goal was gone. Now that she’s back, it’s time to get the game going. I suppose for drama effect and to drag it out, Haruka-Kanata pair wins the second set. You frustrated, Claire? I blame those unnecessary flashbacks. For the final set, Haruka and Kanata win the coin toss to pick which side they want to start. It is important because they realize they need to use the wind in their favour. Although they manage to score a few points and take the lead, the twins have their experience and finally strut their stuff. At this point, both sides are exhausted and they are running on how strong their will is. It is now match point in favour of the twins. Haruka feels a bit bad for losing a few points but with Kanata proving how determined they are not to let it end here, a couple of lucky blocks and volleys, they force this set into a deuce. Yeah. Such a miracle comeback. No wonder we have to drag this on to the final episode.

Episode 12
Wow. So dramatic. Because Akari calls Narumi to tell who won… But before we get to that, let’s see more drama on the court in this final set. More spiking. More volleying. More pokey. Slo-mo dramatic action. Girls diving. Sand in their face. Deuce to prolong the action-cum-drama. Oh wow. Truly a final do or die match. In the end, it is the amazing block by Haruka that enables her team to win! Hooray! But why Haruka and Kanata not happy post-match? It’s like they’ve lost? Ah well. Here comes Akari to relay them the good news. A positive message from Narumi. Yeah. Be happy with their victory. Also, we see the twins trying to put a happy face but we know they’re sad inside. They don’t regret teaching those 2 who have now seemed to surpass them. Now for some celebration as the quintet have a BBQ beach party! I guess they need more reassurance with Ayasa and Narumi calling again to wish them luck. Won’t lose. See you at the Nationals. Time to remember Akari’s ‘usefulness’ to the team because without her scrunchies, they would have been lost. Yeah, thank you. Haruka tells Claire that final block she did, she learnt it from her. Can I say it’s one of those moments where something comes back to bite you? Claire then gives their scrunchies to Haruka. Take this and win it for them. Oh, the burden just doubled. So I guess now it is back to more practice. Fancy watching another final matchup? Funny how Haruka narrates some team sports you can only play with 2 team members. And that sport is beach volleyball. But what about tennis doubles, badminton doubles, squash doubles, ping pong doubles, kayaking doubles, curling doubles, bobsleigh doubles… Oh, the last one reminds me and feels so gay…

Serve Up Those Asses!
Sighs… I guess that’s it. Thanks for the asses this season. I mean, beach volleyball action. I am not sure if those 2D asses were the reason why I didn’t fall asleep nor why I didn’t find it boring. I know. Surprising, right?! With this series lacking anything exciting, it seems hard to find a valid excuse that the only things that are keeping one falling asleep while watching such shows are the babes in bikinis and the cameramen having the best field day of capturing those up and close zoom-ins of those ass shots. Keep up the good work, everybody! Players and spectators!

Well, I didn’t really expect for this series to have any sort of storyline and the so called friendship drama thingy was somewhat predictable. Even I could guess who should win before the finals started. Hah! I had a 50% chance and got it right. I mean, this is a sports genre and how much more story and drama can you put in? It is even more limited when you consider that there is realism and not fantasy. What do I mean? If you have watched Prince Of Tennis, you will notice that all the tennis moves are just impossible to pull off in the real world. Super exaggerative. Hence you don’t see our girls here pulling off hard slamming spiking moves with exaggerated special effects of the volleyball turning into some speeding meteor and slamming into the opponent’s court for some awesome explosive point. Yeah…

Therefore watching the Kanata drama of why she stopped playing volleyball and then returned to the game because of Haruka, well, personally it isn’t something that isn’t exactly exciting. Maybe it is in volleyball sense but I could hardly feel any heartstrings being tugged (if there was any) and instead want them to right away get to the volleyball action so that I could see some asses. Oops! I mean see the girls being acrobatic and flexible on the sandy court. So the supposed friendship drama to me mostly feels like something that is shoehorned in so that this series won’t look like an obvious fanservice driven anime. Not that we all should know better when we decide to watch this, right? :).

But speaking of the fanservice… Well, I think Dead Or Alive Xtreme Volleyball provides way much better eye candy than this. This is just decent. I mean, it is to be expected, right? Girls wearing bikinis playing under the hot sun and sand. So unless you’re an amateur who just started watching anime or you have been so deprived, the butt shots and sexy shots are just passable. Uh huh. Excuse for having a lot of butt shots is so that a player can send hand signals to her teammate behind. Sorry, I wasn’t paying to whatever hand signals they were doing. Oops…

The characters aren’t anything much themselves. As mentioned, the wafer thin drama plot feels like an excuse to have a volleyball anime and it is just treading the passable line. What is a sports themed anime without its share of character drama? Hence the biggest one swirls around Kanata. They make it such a big deal about her trauma of running away from volleyball. But I guess when you are in her shoes, it seemed like a scary experience. But not us viewers. And then with the arrival of newbie honest-to-goodness Haruka, she is like the excuse Kanata needs to come back to beach volleyball seeing her strained relationship with Narumi feels like I’m-too-afraid-to-ask-to-be-friends-again-at-this-point. So all is forgiven that Kanata is back on track as her former self?

Predictably the final match and arc of the season had to be Haruka-Kanata and the Thomas twins. It is the only reason why we get to see some brief flashbacks on the twins and what strives them to get better. Pretty standard and nothing extraordinary, if I should say. I know everybody hates losing and Claire being a virgin loser really bawled her heart out then. I suppose you could say she has learnt and mature in many ways. Claire feels like the more interesting twin than Emily because of her myriad of emotions. She can be your best laidback pal one moment and in tournaments she can show you that scary serious face. Emily on the other hand feels like she is stuck with that same face and emotion throughout the day.

Akari feels like the odd one out in the club. Whatever her reasons to join the club, I feel like she got the short end of the straw. The club now has 5 members. She doesn’t get to pair up with another one of them since she is an amateur for now. When the twins graduated and leave, they’ll be down to 3 members. Unless they get more members, Akari will always be lonely. I think she’ll garner more fans as a beach volleyball idol. Gravure swimsuit shots all year round! Oh yeah! So as not to make her totally be as the useless one, hence she is the team’s glue because nothing makes the team feel stronger with togetherness if somebody makes the same scrunchie for everybody. Yes, seriously. Effort very much appreciated even if she still can’t play for real.

Marissa feels a bit redundant. She just returned for a while so as to train our main characters for their all-important match and that’s it? It’s an excuse so that we can see them play well and on par with the Thomas twins. Thank goodness they are prodigies in beach volleyball especially Haruka who learns fast and now she can play like a pro. Well, almost. Kamekichi as the series’ mascot feels forgotten after its initial introduction. Because when you have sexy babes in bikinis playing on the sand, not even the cuteness of the land turtle can steal away those perverted glances.

Other minor characters like Ai-Mai as well as the Aragaki sisters feel like they are there so as to show that this series revolves around more than just the school’s beach volleyball club members. Imagine how boring it is if every other opponents are nameless teams who we will never care since they will be defeated anyway. So having these few characters provide and prolong the little drama and in the future, perhaps turning into some cliché shonen moment, the opponents they defeat will become their allies in the future. Technically, the more people who root for you (especially from the defeated opponents), the higher your chances of winning, right?

On a trivial note, it is stated that Emily and Claire as a team, they are nicknamed Éclair. Nice. Therefore I wanted to nickname Haruka and Kanata’s team as Naruto. Wait. What? Why? Because Haruka Kanata is the name of the first opening theme of the first Naruto season. Haha! Woah. That feels like a long time ago. Oh well. So, uhm, Naruto doesn’t feel appropriate? I guess we’ll stick with Harukana then. Boring…

Art and drawing feel pretty standard. The characters look cute and sometimes if you think too much, you wonder if it is possible to practice and play beach volleyball so much and retain such smooth and silky skin. Just take a look at Haruka and the Thomas twins’ skin! Damn, these girls could be models and give Akari a run for her money! Since the setting is in Okinawa, the sceneries are bright enough and that it sometimes makes you want to wear sunglasses. Okay, I just exaggerated the last bit but yes, it is quite bright. Sun, sand, sea, beaches, I think these backgrounds are nice to look at if your eyes are not too focused on asses. The other thing ‘nice’ is (no, not the asses, mind you) is the special effects of the sand when the girls dive. Even if it is just okay, I guess it is pretty cool to me. And the odd thing is no matter how many times the girls dive and get sand all over, their bodies look clean as ever. The most you see them is sweating. I want to have that kind of beautiful sand proof skin! This anime is animated C2C who did Yurumates 3D, Aquarion Logos and Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu Ka.

Nothing special about the voice acting. Didn’t recognize anybody. Probably too busy looking at somewhere else… The casts are Kana Yuuki as Haruka (Noelle in Black Clover), Saki Miyashita as Kanata (debut role), Atsumi Tanezaki as Claire (Mizore in Hibike! Euphonium), Rie Suegara as Emily (Shizuka in Marchen Madchen), Chisa Kimura as Akari (Scarlet in Uma Musume Pretty Derby), Miyuri Shimabukuro as Narumi (Nagisa in Hanebado), Kanae Itou as Ayasa (Sanae in Shinryaku! Ika Musume), Akari Kitou as Ai (Siluca in Grancrest Senki), Riko Koike as Mai (debut role), Minami Takahashi as Kanna (Megumi in Shokugeki No Souma), Satomi Akesaka as Youna (Arsene/Henrietta in Tantei Opera Milky Holmes series) and Umeka Shouji as Marissa (Kumagai in World Trigger).

The opening theme is Fly Two Blue by the duo behind Haruka and Kanata. Sounds generic and nothing special but I suppose it is pretty okay for this sports themed anime. The same feel goes to the ending theme, Wish Me Luck sung by the aforementioned duo but now joined by Claire and Emily to form a quartet. The interesting bit of this ending credits animation is the sketch-like animation. The girls sketching and then the zooming in to reveal another girl doing her sketch. Eternal loop. A special opening theme by Akari when she makes her debut, the very idol-like Mae Wo Muite at first gave me the impression she hijacked the show and it will no longer be a beach volleyball series. Yeah…

Overall, this series is average at best. There is only one thing why viewers watch this series whether it is true or not but everybody else will quickly judge and jump to the conclusion of why this series was made to be watched in the first place. Even if this is a normal beach volleyball anime. If this is enough to provoke any kind of controversy, wait till you watch that other ‘extreme’ water sport anime series, Keijo. Oh yeah. Remember that one? Would you rather have butts shoved in your face or sand in your face? Oh wait. I think it is pretty obvious… I highly doubt this series would get another season because what else are they going to play up? All of us would be expecting more glorious ass shots and ‘exotic curves’. So once this is all over, I think we’ll go back to just shamelessly play Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Ganbatte, Marie-chan!!!!!!!

Just to be clear on this, Shokugeki No Souma: Totsuki Ressha-hen is actually the second part of the third season and hence making it the fourth instalment overall of this series. Got that? Understand? No? Yeah, damn single cour break in between the third season brought about this confusion if this is supposed to be the continuation of the third season or the fourth season. Yeah, the community is split on that. And they’re not even talking about the main series itself. But let’s not get distracted by this numbering issue and head down to where it all matters: The food. Okay, Souma and his brand of rebels mostly from Polar Star Dorm as they seek to defy Azami and his Central-cum-Elite-Ten brand of cooking. Can they do it save the cooking world they have been protecting? All aboard the hype train! Choo choo!

Episode 13
We see Erina trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Jouichirou is really Souma’s father? Tsukasa makes an announcement about the upcoming advancement exam. In place of this rigorous exams that one could pass or fail, as long as they follow Azami’s guidelines, they are guaranteed to pass. As it is also stated if they side with Central, they will become first rate chefs, this is also a warning that those who do not follow will be made an example. Talking about you Polar Star guys. Later Erina visits Souma’s room. The confession we all been waiting for? Nah. More ranting and blaming to hide her tsundere as we all know her. She tells him her story how she first met Jouichirou and fell in love with his cooking. But that was also the last time since Azami soon instated his strict teachings on her. Because of that, she feels lost on what real food is. Excuse for Souma to cook up a dish to regain her confidence back again. Something that he is going to finally make her say delicious. Yeah, it’s like his goal ever since this series started. So with his own family styled chicken egg tempura, what is the verdict? Chibi Souma chicks pecking on Erina’s naked body!!!!!! WTF???!!! Yeah, we know it’s really that good and the explanation of the ingredients and process that comes with it. Erina still has her pride. So what spurred him to make such a great dish? His answer: People who only know one correct answer can reach even greater heights. Very well said. Additional: If you know exactly where you’re going, it’s no fun. Basically, the journey is more important than the destination. Satisfied, Erina finishes the bowl. Never tasted so good. Mmmm… But instead of Souma getting his reward of Erina finally admitting it is good, she tells him to gather all the Polar Star members tomorrow morning. In the chilly morning, she rallies them to fight on and she will help guide them there. Challenge accepted.

Episode 14
The format of the advancement exam takes place throughout Hokkaido. They will travel to different locations and do different dishes there until they reach the final destination, an isolated island at the very north. Thus begins Erina’s Spartan lessons until their departure in 7 days. Don’t give up now… So in the first exam, the gang are grouped into different teams. Of course it is blatantly obvious that Erina gets preferential treatment. Souma is paired with Megumi, Yuki, Alice and Ryo. They are supposed to make a salmon dish. However they soon realize this is part of Central’s plan to eliminate the rebels as they are given poor ingredients. If they cannot make the dish before sundown, they will be expelled. Sounds like a good plan. But not fool proof because you know how they are going to be resourceful as they go out to buy the best salmon. Some more mumbo jumbo on how they make it, blah, blah, blah. Eventually the examiner is forced to pass them because her body cannot lie how damn good the salmon is. Take that! Never underestimate the main characters! From now on, the examinees will take a train to the various exam location. Erina continues her supplementary exam until lights out. Despite her usual pride, she notices that her friends treat her very nicely as they really appreciate her lessons. And perhaps what we all want to hear from Erina, previously she finds Souma annoying but now she doesn’t mind him at all. A little step closer…

Episode 15
In the next exam hall, they will make Hokkaido style noodles. Of course there is a wide variety of them. As usual, the rebels are separated but this time they are all called last. When it is their turn to make the dish, they realize not many ingredients are left since the earlier examinees have used them. Can’t make the dish? Out you go. Souma is paired with Megumi and Takumi this time. They want to go out and buy ingredients but there is a blizzard. The worst in decades! Did Totsuki even bribed God to make this storm?! Of all days, today?! Normally that would be the end but suddenly they are starting to prepare and making the dish. Once more, bad guys have oversight something. They left potatoes in the room. Hence our friends can make some Hokkaido styled noodles using potatoes as a base. So good that the examiner’s clothes explode! Just short of turning green and hulking. He is forced to pass them but then accuses that it is because of Erina they got this far. However Erina brushes this aside. She only taught them the basics of potatoes but they themselves build on that to make the noodle dish. All of them got this same idea? Wow. Great minds think alike. The examiner is cowed with Erina’s leadership. In the aftermath, the friends hang out before the next departure. We see more of Erina’s guilt especially towards Mito this time. She feels bad for cutting her off after she lost her Shokugeki to Souma but Mito still treats her like a friend. Souma, Erina, Megumi and Takumi hang out together but when they decide to depart, the trains have already left!!! Wait a minute. I know Japan is punctual in their trains but this is too much! Over punctual???!!! Luckily there is a train for them to board. However Rindou is on board! She reveals that it is part of Central’s plan to separate the rebels. As they speak, they are separated in groups and their train heading towards different locations. From now on, the rebels will fight the Elite Ten! At their next location, Souma thinks Rindou will be their next opponent but she points out it isn’t her. That guy. HAYAMA???!!! Oh sh*t! This guy is the new Elite Ten member?! No wonder he has been ‘missing’. Damn, why he looks so evil now?!

Episode 16
Hayama is occupying the ninth seat but on probation basis. Even more shocking that his beloved club is closed down and he doesn’t care. This guy has totally thrown himself behind Azami’s ideals. The others are taken away to have their own tests. So it is basically a Hayama vs Souma showdown. The host is Dojima and the theme will be bear meat. I guess they will compete in 3 days so as to give Souma more time to experiment via trial and error. Souma might cook the bear meat well but he can’t get rid of its smelliness. He realizes he is up in Hayama’s alley as he needs to use spice to overcome the smelliness. Luckily Kuga is here to help. It seems that he has a hidden agenda. Although no longer on the Elite Ten, he offers to cause havoc at the exam. At least this is what he told Rindou. As Souma continues to cook, he realizes he can use the smelliness into an umami factor. But since he lacks understanding about the bear meat as an ingredient, time to go for a trip to the mountains to understand how a bear lives. Don’t worry, an expert bear hunter is with them. During their trip, Souma learns from Kuga how Hayama ended up in the Elite Ten. A Shokugeki was held to fill in the vacant spots and Hayama trumped all of them including Rentaro’s groupie. Back at the kitchen, Souma uses some medicinal berries to help make bear patty. Good as usual. Because naked guys reaction. But here comes Hayama to rain on his parade. He shows off his extremely fragrant bear meat. He knew Souma was going to use this method and honestly, Hayama’s recipe is still far superior. But you know bad guys always get cocky at this point and it’s the start of their downfall as Hayama mocks Souma will lose to him a third time and this will be his worst. Oooh. I’m so scared.

Episode 17
Noticing Hayama isn’t looking happy despite being part of the Elite Ten, he says he is doing it for Shiomi. Lucky for Souma, he gets to confirm Hayama’s story from Dojima. At least from what he heard. Things were looking up for his research club when the sponsors suddenly start pulling out. You bet your ass, it’s Azami. He confronted the bastard and of course offered him a chance for his research group to remain in the battle royale Shokugeki for the vacant Elite Ten spots. He did that but to continue achieving his goal, he must defeat Souma. Now Souma confronts Hayama and tells him off he doesn’t care about his circumstances but the way he puts it only underestimates him. He gave up what is important without a fight and he is not going to lose to a loser like that. We see the other rebels facing off with other Elite Ten members. Takumi and Megumi’s will be Rindou. Before the start of Souma and Hayama’s match, Dojima introduces them to the tasting judges. Folks, meet the loli genius twins of Cilla and Berta as well as her Leonora’s husband, Soue (Batman eyebrows?!). So we see the rest of the episode as the duo prepare their bear meat (represented as a semi-naked bare fisted boxing match?). To show how super good Hayama is, he lets the twins taste a bit of his sauce and they went into orgasmic subjugation. Hah. I bet we’re waiting for this fanservice scene. Anyway, Souma goes first and lets them taste his minced bear meat cutlet. You know it’s good when they’re reacting in such an orgasmic sexy way. But the real challenge is here now. What’s this golden shining brilliance that Hayama is going to show us?!

Episode 18
Flashback shows after Hayama joined Central, Shiomi was displeased as she warned him not to. He didn’t care and will do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever he needs to protect their place. Hayama serves the judges his fried chicken bear?! Good enough for that naked explosion reaction. Soue even goes on to say it is better than Souma! Oh no! Is he done for? But they’re not judging everything yet. You see, there’s still the sauce to taste. Both sauces enough for more fanservice reactions but Souma’s one has surpassed the nudity and go into underwear mode?! Underwear > Nudity? Anyway, with the twins having split votes, one for Hayama and one for Souma, it all boils down to Soue. He notices something about the honey. Souma explains the honey he used that is not just another ordinary honey. Some cork tree honey. During his bear tree, he has Kuga’s lackeys collect all sorts of herbs until he found honey as the suitable base. And since there are many varieties of honey, it’s amazing how he managed to single out this one. Yeah, Hokkaido has just so much spices growing at this time of the year? We can tell from this tone that Souma is going to win because it all boils down to whom one is cooking for. Hayama lost sight of that despite creating a perfectly balanced dish. Souma didn’t make this dish to pass this exam. It was for Hayama. For him to eat and be crushed by how delicious it is. Just in time for invited Shiomi (late on arrival? The show’s over) to slap Hayama for the first time to knock him to his senses. She tells him what she was wanted was not the research nor lab equipment but to see him enjoying cooking in his own way and craft. He is still a kid so he should not concern himself with such adult responsibilities. I guess when you’re a teen, you’re somewhat stuck in between… Hayama has realized so much that he is starting to say this must be a sign from God?! Soue chooses Souma to officially declare him the winner. In the aftermath, Souma offers Hayama and Shiomi to stay at Polar Star since they will lose their place. But he declines. Suddenly Erina barges in to check on Souma. Relieved he passed? Azami’s aide, Sean Aida interrupts her. He points out all the other rebels have lost devastatingly and will be expelled. It is the same for Hayama. As agreed, he will be expelled in the event if he losses. No wonder Erina looking so dishevelled.

Episode 19
Wow. Erina is so concerned that she rushes to Megumi and Takumi’s side. Wait. They passed?! Rindou tasted their dishes and it tastes good enough to pass. Hey, they are supposed to face the Elite Ten but nobody said it was a competition. As long as it’s good, she’s okay with it. With this little lifeline, Souma has this idea for them to challenge the Elite Ten seats. If their side make up the majority, they can rescind the expulsion of their friends. Erina is desperate to go talk to Azami. Guess what? He is here to check on the test sides. Even if Erina pleads, Azami will not give in. That would defeat the purpose of this, right? So Souma challenges his team to his for a Shokugeki for the Elite Ten. As expected, Azami declines since he has nothing worth negotiating for. Oh, now he does. Because Jouichirou and Senzaemon are back. He suggests a team Shokugeki and will wager his ideals. Should Jouichirou lose, he will abandon all his ideals and become Azami’s slave. He likes the idea and agrees. Details to be sorted out later so I guess it’s time for special training. Later Dojima reveals he was the one who set this up as Azami would most likely accept a challenge if Jouichirou is involved. A brief explanation about the team Shokugeki. Although it will be individual battles, the winners will continue to fight winners until the losing side has no more winners. The other unique thing about this team battle is that you can also help support other team members despite facing off with your direct opponent. So the mock battle with Senzaemon as the judge, we have team Dojima with Megumi and Takumi as well as team Jouichirou with Souma and Erina. They are to make a French national dish and they cannot talk! Team Dojima looks to be cooperating fine but Jouichirou and Souma can’t stop arguing! One warning from Senzaemon… One more time and he’ll disqualify them. Being serious this time, the kids observe the version of the dish the adults are making and they realize they are being tested.

Episode 20
We see a little on Takumi and how he has improved during Stagiaire. When the cooking ends, Senzaemon says that both teams will taste and judge each other’s cooking. So what is the verdict? Surprisingly, they point to the other team as the victor! Then they go on to explain why the other dish is much better than theirs. This is taking humbleness to beyond whatever level. This training is part of Senzaemon’s plan to have each member experience the other’s abilities first-hand as teamwork is important in team Shokugeki. Of course the most important change we see is that Erina had fun during it all. At the next stop, Souma’s side meets Azami and the Elite Ten as they lay down the rules for the team Shokugeki. One of them includes they do not necessarily need to have the same number of members facing off with each other. Of course this means Central is at an advantage as they have more numbers. The wager is for the Elite Ten seats. The side that wins gets it. Takumi reminds them that this Shokugeki is to get their friends back. Hence all the expelled rebels’ student handbook in their possession, they will also use that to wager in this battle. Azami then declares Erina is supposed to fight on their side as she is part of Central. It took her some guts to admit that she wants to be on this side. To do so, she quits her seat. Therefore Azami puts an additional penalty for her. Expulsion will just be too easy. If her side loses, she will forever aid Central and obey her father. Forever. See you at the finals. With everyone praising how Erina is now acting like the queen she is supposed to be, except for Souma because he still believes the top spot to be his. But eventually since this rebellion is started and motivated by Erina, they entrust their student handbook to her.

Episode 21
Flashback time to understand what really happened. We start when Jouichirou and Dojima are in just their second year and just obtained the Elite Ten’s sixth and seventh seat respectively. Azami was a junior fan boy of Jouichirou although he looked and sounded like a wuss. Jouichirou is making waves everywhere he goes with his eccentric cooking. This earns him the right to enter a prestigious international cooking competition called BLUE (Bishoku Leading Under-35 Entrance). However some jealous students think he bribed his way and hence challenged him to a Shokugeki. Make that a team Shokugeki. Although he accepted, Jouichirou did it alone and refused Dojima and Azami’s help. Yeah, he slain over 50 challengers! Is this even cooking?! That’s where he got his demon nickname. By the time they are third years, Jouichirou and Dojima became first and second of the Elite Ten respectively. But the more Jouichirou treads on, the more praises, tributes, accolades, honours, awards and victories he got from everybody, the more you can see he is losing himself. Slowly falling down the insanity spiral of pressure just to evolve and find something new. Then one day he just went missing for an important BLUE match. Everyone started looking for him and Dojima found him sitting in a Totsuki cooking hall. Dojima knew by the way he talked, he wasn’t a demon and just a delicate man like everyone else. He regretted letting Jouichirou get ahead of them too far. Senzaemon feared the worst that his great talent had backfired. He suggested Jouichirou to leave the country and leave cooking for a while. He took up that offer and that was the last time Dojima saw him as a student. As for Azami, he is probably acting this way as vengeance of the past as Jouichirou was his idol and his breakdown hit him hard too. Looking back, Azami probably needed more help than Jouichirou. Many years later when Dojima received a surprise call from Jouichirou that he is back in Japan and opened his own diner, that guy also already had a son. Dojima believes Souma saved him from despair and is grateful for that.

Episode 22
It’s time for the final battle. Our expelled rebels are given a chance to watch and cheer on our heroes but from behind bars?! We can clearly see the hostile reception of the ‘home crowd’ as they support and cheer for Central. Also, Souma has gathered a few allies to join them to fight against the Elite Ten. They are Isshiki, Kuga, Megishima and Mimasaka. The first round includes these matches: Megishima vs Shouko Kaburagi (new Elite Ten member), Isshiki vs Jurio Shiratsu (also new Elite Ten Member) and Souma vs Nene. Nene is specialized in soba and guess what? Souma had to pick the soba theme for his cooking. And with everyone explaining how a thoroughbred Nene is, gosh, it’s like they don’t know Souma or have faith in him because they’re like seeing he is going to lose! How many times have we seen him comeback from the odds stacked against him? Sure, he lost once or twice but in this very important match with your enrolment on the line? So I’m skipping the explanation of the soba noodles they’re making since Souma is going for instant soba and is making it the way his diner does, hence earning everyone’s laughter and further enhancing the negativity from his supporters he is going to lose. Have faith, people! Since we can’t put all the focus on Souma and Nene, we also shift to Isshiki and Shiratsu whose theme is eel. Shiratsu badmouths Isshiki about having no pride and it seems Isshiki doesn’t care or brushes it off until he badmouths his Polar Star members. Then he gets real serious and you know sh*t is going to hit the fan and he is going to pay with his blood.

Episode 23
Okay. We’re going into a short back story that Isshiki and Nene’s family share some history together. So they’re basically like childhood friends? Nene is not impressed still. We are also introduced to WGO (World Gourmet Organization) Bookmen who will be the judges for this team Shokugeki. You can tell they are the top of the gourmet world and hence our assurance that their love for the best food will not be biased. Shiratsu finishes his eel dish first. Have a taste. Good as usual. I’ll spare you all the explanations because I also don’t get it. Now it’s Isshiki’s turn. The Polar Star guys notice that Isshiki stole and used their prototype ingredients in his cooking. Wow. He must really have confidence in their cooking. Have a taste. Good as usual. But the clincher is when Isshiki offers it to Shiratsu and if he finds it delicious, he must apologize to his Polar Star mates. And the results… Too delicious to resist! An apology on the way and without a doubt, the judges confirm Isshiki as the winner. Shiratsu might have been defeated but he looks so happy. Like a gay… With everyone praising Isshiki, except for Nene who isn’t still impressed as she always believed he was never serious. Flashback shows he aced in everything that took her a long time to master. She started feeling miserable. Jealous. That’s why she wants him to give it all he’s got when their fight comes next. Unfortunately he has to shoot her down that will never come because she is going to lose to Souma. Damn this guy puts too much confidence in his juniors.

Episode 24
As usual, we start off with showing how great Nene’s lineage and her perfection due to obsession. Meanwhile Souma is like so casual that even his own comrades don’t have faith in him. Yeah, it’s that pattern again. Anyway, Nene finishes first and awes the judges with her ‘time travelling’ soba because they’re so addicted to it that they didn’t realize they have finished it and hence restarting this loop again and again. Next is Souma. Everyone is expecting him to be crushed but the judges are also displaying satisfying reactions. Something to do with the flour he used as well as the various seasonings he drew inspiration from the various instant packed foods. The judge has unanimously voted on a winner. But so as to drag out the drama because we know Souma is going to win and justify why Nene lost, so it all boils down to the aroma of the soba. Nene was unable to maintain it unlike Souma. Heck, I thought it was because Nene served hers first. But then more technical explanation how Souma had taken into account the hall conditions and hence chose this alternative from the start. Nene never thought of an alternative because she has been trained from young the best soba is the way her family makes them. Unlike Souma who has to adapt to make the best dishes for customers to walk in. So that’s the difference. It’s Souma’s victory! You can feel crushed now, Nene. Oh, about the other match, Megishima wins too! F*ck! We didn’t even get to know what they’re cooking, not even see the judges tasting and suddenly he wins! Who the f*ck is this Shouko girl?! Felt just like a pawn… Yeah, I suppose we don’t have time for ‘unimportant’ characters. With our rebels having their morale boosted with this 3-0 win, we see Azami’s frustrated face for the first time. His world is being dismantled step by step.

Cooking Up A Storm On The Gravy Train
WTF?! WHAT THE HELL????!!!!! ARE THEY REALLY DOING THIS AGAIN????!!! LEAVING US ON A VERY TANTALIZING CLIFF-HANGER????!!! WTF, GUYS??????!!!!!! Sighs… Sorry if I sounded angry and disappointed, not at the overall story and this season but how they handled it and once more we are forced to put up with another ‘unfinished’ season and business. This time only worse because there is no news if there would be another season. Yes, you heard that right. As of now, there is no news if there should be a continuation at all. By right it should but even the end card was ambiguous as hell and didn’t give much hints if there would be any. By right it should. By right it should. BY RIGHT IT SHOULD! I thought Azami was just kidding when he said it was time to take a break. I didn’t know it was this indefinite break too. To put it in another perspective, it is like the train is running along smoothly and suddenly we see a damsel being tied ahead on the tracks. Oh no! Are we going to run over her or is there somebody going to switch the tracks and change the path of the train? Stay tuned… Indefinitely…

Okay. But aside the ‘fiasco’ of whether or not this series should be continued (by right it should), this season is actually quite okay and interesting. As good and interesting as the first half of the third season, if I should say. Although as usual there are those longwinded draggy food explanations that I don’t really understand and the plot actually hardly moved along (basically this entire season is mostly about riding the train in Hokkaido and fending off challenges by Central to oust them), overall this season still rocks and it blasted away all the disappointment that was that boring Stagiaire which now feels like a distant memory.

But still I thought that more could have been shown and developed if they shorten some of the draggy food explanations but then again, without such segments, this series which strives a lot on this would have lost its shine. Hence it was a dilemma for me to wish to cut short such parts and have the pace go at a quicker pace. Because just look at this season, it was mainly to set up for Souma to get his sweet revenge and first win over Hayama. But I don’t think with Souma finally winning over him makes him better than Hayama. Remember, Hayama beat Souma twice so the score is now 2-1. But because Souma is the main character, as long as he defeats his opponent, that’s the end of it. Yeah, the opponent can never challenge him again and get his shot of glory and revenge. Only main characters can do that. You can still lose and still be relevant until you win. Damn cheating. No wonder this is why Souma is so good. Also because he never gives up. And you noticed the final arc of this season just focused on the first team Shokugeki match. Only the first one! Oh boy. They are sure taking their time.

There’s nothing much for me to comment here because at this point and this season, it would be a repeat of my sentiments of last season. The biggest change as seen is Erina herself and even though I didn’t get my wish to see her become a damsel in distress and Souma her charming heroic prince, at least we have seen her grown stronger and was able to stand on her own to defy Azami and follow her true heart. I have to admit that this season I have respected Erina a lot more than any other. It is also nice to see some background on Jouichirou who has been one of the biggest mysteries of the series. Shedding some light on what happened makes us understand better of how it led up to all this sh*t and that Azami isn’t just some crazy megalomaniac who wants to conquer the gourmet world his style. Okay, he still is but at least you know that there is still hope to bring him back to the correct path. I am sure we can predict how everything will end because it will be just a big shocker if our heroes lose, right? That is so unthinkable!!! We know they will win. We just want to see how.

Hence the only ‘surprise’ for me was when our rebels start to take on the Elite Ten themselves because I was thinking and unsure if all of them could actually win. Because of the stakes of them being expelled, I was hesitant if any one of them could lose (save for Souma because he is main character). But if all of them win, it would have made the Elite Ten looked like a bunch of sissies. You know, they’re such great cooks and they lose to a bunch of raw unpolished rebels? Unthinkable. So when most of them lost, it was a bit of a ‘shocker’ but then plot twist. A chance for our heroes to help redeem everything in this final with everything at stake. That’s why I didn’t like this cliff-hanger. Everything was too important to be left like that.

It’s such a waste that with so many other characters, some didn’t get to flex their cooking muscles in this season. Like Kuga and Mimasaka whom I am sure would bring some interesting twist to the table since Kuga is now fighting on the opposite side and I wonder if Mimasaka have stalked every member of the Elite Ten just to copy their abilities just in case he faced any one of them. It feels wasted for him that this season his role was just to show his face even if it is to set up for the next season (if that ever comes around). It’s also sad we can’t see some of the Elite Ten in action like Rindou and Momo. I suppose the most insulting one was Megishima and Shouko match that we don’t even get to see. Because damn time is running out. No wonder Souma was chosen in this first round battle. All seemed too convenient to let our titular main character flex his muscles, shed first blood from this warm-up and keep the Elite Ten on their guard. Imagine if Souma was replaced by somebody else. Doesn’t feel it would cut it there. At least to end this season. Or it could be the ‘main character’ and ‘final battle’ would fall onto Erina?

I still stick to my own opinions that despite all these chefs making such great foods and gourmet, sometimes it feels like they are only fit for higher class people or those with lots of money. Sure, they put in their heart and soul to create such goodness but if you are going to do that for the simple masses, I wonder if it is possible to maintain all that passion in the long run. I’m sure they will. At least in the context of this anime. But in reality, casual and ordinary people like you and me who can’t even taste the difference in the dishes would probably be no different to us. It’s either good or bad. Cut out all the explanations in between because damn, we just want so taste something good and fill our stomachs. Yeah, I don’t know what the dish is made out nor where the ingredients come from. I just know how to eat it, that’s all. Why make it so complicated?! It’s only (good) food! Like WTF, man. We only came to eat but found ourselves busting our clothes and doing naked embarrassing reactions to approve just how freaking good it was!

Also, the subject of how good or authentic a certain food is, is still as subjective as art itself. So who has the right of authority to say that this is the best food ever? In comparison to what? On what base? Even if WGO is the God level of food tasting and maintain their impartiality, who are they to say that this certain dish is better than this? If the judges come from different countries and cultures, their opinions on what constitutes the best fried chicken may differ even if they are from the same organization and teaching. Maybe I’m not really proficient in the culinary world and just a simple glutton so I don’t really understand. Because when everybody at that high level is competing at the Shokugeki level, it feels like it all boils down to what details to nit-pick and pinpoint that minor flaw that would be the difference between victory and loss. They and everyone else can say a certain dish like this and so will only be considered the best but to me, grandma’s chicken soup will always be the best. Get the point? Besides, the irony of having a strict guideline and criteria of what is the best isn’t good either. Having a vague one is better because it expands your horizon and experience, don’t you think?

But I have noticed that I am somewhat ‘immune’ to the delicious foods they served this season. Even if they still look 2D good as always. In previous seasons I would be drooling my saliva for most of the dishes but this time round, I don’t feel that excitement. Probably the long explanations? Or is it because of unfamiliar food I have never eaten before like bear met and eel meat?

This season’s opening theme, Symbol by Luck Life is a rock outfit that somewhat fits the theme of this season. The same can be said for the ending theme, Atria by Fo’xTails. But just a bit heavy on the bass lines. I guess they really want to nail in the train theme for this season and hence you’ll see lots of trains and tracks among the weirdest stuffs shown in the opening and ending credits as well as being some tough ass fighter or something. Is it double KO?

Overall, this season is still very much enjoyable and its only real downfall is how it ended on yet another cliff-hanger with no closure in sight. That’s the train wreck from it all. After all, this important battle where everything is at stake will take a while with everyone fighting out the best they have. Hopefully they will have another season to continue this because by right they should. And hopefully it won’t take too long as well since waiting in between your meals would just irk the customer and they’ll get up and leave. Without paying. With this hype and excitement still fresh, let’s really hope that this wish would come true and the foodgasm train will continue to chug along.

Marchen Madchen

July 7, 2018

Initially I thought Marchen Madchen would be some sort of fairytale mishmash whereby several classic fairytale story characters are brought to life in a single anime. You know, we get to see Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White all in one series, anime style. Sure, Disney took those classic fairytales and turned them into separate movies but how cool would it be if all of them exist in the same story universe? Oh right, Shrek… Anyway, this series didn’t turn out to be what I expected. It’s one of those isekai series. Normal girl from our world goes to another magical world, learns she has a dormant power and sort of the most powerful one of them all. Tournament series. Team battles. Friends and enemies. Yeah, pretty much the standard clichés you’d expect to find. And then something unexpected happened… And I’m not talking about something inside the story but the production of the show… Sighs…

Episode 1
Hazuki Kagimura is an ordinary high school girl with no friends. She has this bad habit that whenever she does something wrong, she starts reading to escape to her fantasy world. She calls this Story Syndrome. After finishing reading a book, she notices a strange book in her bag which she didn’t buy. She can’t open it. Then she notices a robed character running pass. She follows her and notices nobody else could see her. But robe girl corners Hazuki and wants to know her intentions. So she wants to be friends? She is not amused and flies away. Hazuki recognizes that girl from the previous book she just read. She continues tailing her to a library and then sees her open a secret door. As Hazuki tries to find that door, we see her past how her late mom used to tell her lots of stories. Mom hoped she would find her own story. Too bad she got confused in all the fantasies she cooked up. Hazuki may have not said the magic word but that magic book starts glowing and opens the secret door. It took some time for it to work? Hazuki gets sucked in and too late to regret not wanting to enter. Dropping in a strange land and enters the nearby school. However she gets scared by Yumilia Qazan, thinking she is a delinquent trying to bully her and runs away. She runs into a nice farm-cum-hotspring whereby the lady kind lets her soak in. Hazuki confirms form her that robe girl is from this school and it is a rule to whoever goes to the other side to wear it. Hazuki’s bath time is interrupted with Yumilia barging in. Poor Hazuki has to run away butt naked only with that book in hand. She eventually finds refuge in some hall. Oops. A few people watching this streaker. When Yumilia catches up, she wants to see Hazuki using her power and transforms into her battle gear. Luckily Shizuka Tsuchimikado (robe girl) stops her but not before Hazuki somehow managing to display slight powers from the book. She gets dizzy and passes out. Everyone thinks Hazuki is a Madchen.

Episode 2
Hazuki wakes up and is being interrogated by petite Ariko Kasumi who decides to burn her after thinking she was insulted! Luckily Shizuka is here to put an end to her prank. She brings Hazuki to the principal, Sugami who is that farmer lady. She welcomes Hazuki to Kuzunoha Girls’ Magic Academy. Hazuki is fascinated that everyone here is a magic user and that book she has is the original Cinderella, a very powerful one. Due to her being an amateur, she is letting her magic being drained out and this would pose a danger to others and herself. Hazuki accepts to be trained as a student of this school. Shizuka becomes her teacher as she demonstrates her own powers using Bouf Hyure. When Hazuki tries out, nothing happens. This prompts other girls to taunt if she is a fake or cheated her way to get in here. Hazuki starts feeling bad that it almost affects her health. Shizuka decides to teach her with something simpler like using toys for a start. Of all the toys, Hazuki had to pick one that belonged to Shizuka and it embarrassed her. Well, her name is written on it. After a few moments of concentrating and imagination, her powers start up. This makes her buoyed in confidence. But Yumilia is here to rain on her parade because she mentions about Hexennacht. It is a tournament between schools and the winner gets whatever wish granted. Because Cinderella is a very powerful book, hence the only reason Shizuka is desperately trying to train her to achieve this goal. Shizuka does not hesitate to admit that. Hazuki cannot help feel disappointed although she should have known better. Oh look. Now she runs away. Shizuka feels guilty she didn’t think of her feelings but Sugami believes she reached out to help her and that was good enough. As Shizuka goes after Hazuki, Sugami forces Yumilia to clean the library as punishment. Shizuka takes Hazuki out to eat hamburgers because it is her favourite food. She adds about her strict upbringing as she was the only daughter in her family. Both girls reconcile and become friends. Ariko too somehow got in the mix.

Episode 3
Hazuki makes some progress but she is still unable to master a basic skill known as Buchhulle. Without it, she cannot participate in Hexennacht. Shizuka explains more of this tournament. Although rules may vary, the main rule of losing one’s Buchhulle puts you out of contention. She takes Hazuki to the library where it houses many Origin magic books. Watching Yumilia clean, there is a reason why magic users need to often do so. Evil magic known as Stains constantly try to eat the Origins. Once an Origin is gone, it is lost forever. Stains that gain an Origin’s power become black beasts called Flecks. I don’t think they’re supposed to look like Godzilla… More on Hexennacht, only 7 schools are allowed to participate. There is only one spot left and looks like the only thing that stands between Japan’s place is their battle with the Coalition School. Yumilia and Shizuka decide to fight here as well as clean the place but Hazuki panics upon seeing a Stain on her Cinderella, inadvertently knocking out Shizuka. Fight over without starting. Hazuki goes home but it seems her stepmom, Saeko has noticed she has been coming home late. Hazuki lies it is club activities but her stepsister, Misa knows it is a lie. Hazuki eventually says there is someone she likes who goes to another school. Technically she isn’t lying. Misa believes her and will do all she can to support her. Shizuka is introduced to a judge from Committee 13 who will oversee Hexennacht. However he tries to persuade Shizuka to only teach Hazuki some parts of Origin and rewrite her memories. Sugami will not allow this intimidation and has this Origin fundamentalist leave. Hazuki sees the girls from top schools arriving, Li Xuemei (China), Maria Rasputin (Russia) and Mahakali (India). All very powerful Origin users. Meanwhile Shizuka is being met by Agathe Arier (Germany) and Arthur Pendragon (Britain). Agathe wants Cinderella returned to her since it was originally from her country. She is not amused when Shizuka says Cinderella has chosen its owner although she isn’t sure if she is participating. Agathe views Japan must participate otherwise it will bring shame to Moon Princess, the oldest Origin as well as Shizuka’s mom who along with many Origin users perished in a disaster 7 years ago. Agathe wants her to find another combatant to replace Hazuki as she still hasn’t mastered Buchhulle. Is she going to miss Hexennacht because of one useless Madchen? Oh, here comes Hazuki to disprove it all. Well, her Buchhulle works. Cinder ashes falling but at the price of her being naked. WTF.

Episode 4
It might just be fluke since Hazuki still has it rough doing her Buchhulle. Yumilia is surprised to see her teammates here, Charles Giovanni and Molly. Apparently, American Lynne Daves gave them a lift here. She knows all about Hazuki since having Cinderella makes her famous. As the girls soak in the hotspring, I guess other nations start arguing how Cinderella was originally from their country. Lynne being the stereotypic American troublemaker lights the fire and before you know it, naked girls start going all out at each other with magic. Hazuki runs but into another bath area whereby Arthur seems to see the truth in her heart. She tells Hazuki that she keeps running from herself, reality and everything she doesn’t like. How far will she run? Hazuki is so overwhelmed that she passes out. Lynne could have owned everyone with her paralyzing magic had not Yumilia rush in to put a stop to it all and threaten Lynne. That was easy. Hazuki wakes up in the infirmary with Shizuka by her side. Hazuki saw the online post of Origin users on Shizuka. It has lots of her details especially Shizuka’s birthday on Christmas. She wants to hold a birthday party. However Shizuka snaps and runs away. Soon, Hazuki learns from Ariko that Shizuka’s mom died on her birthday. Shizuka’s mom was always busy and Shizuka was anticipating her call on that day but it never came to be as she was busy fighting a super power Fleck along with other Origin users and died. Hazuki feels bad but knows what it’s like to lose a mother. Meanwhile Lynne meets up with Yumilia and praises her for her fine acting. Although Yumilia is not pleased, she is in cohorts with Lynne. Using her position as a transfer student, Yumilia is a spy for foreign schools and gives Lynne the data. You see, because Japan fought that Fleck and lost many Origin users, Committee 13 has decided Japan hasn’t the capability to protect the library. This means they plan to distribute it to other schools and if that happens, they’ll be given the priority. Before Hazuki goes home, she is attacked by Yumilia. She has made a deal with Lynne to get rid of her so that Cinderella would be free of any user for the time being when Hexennacht is held. In exchange, she will give her a place to call home. Hazuki calls out to Shizuka for help. It’s like that girl got this sense to know she is in danger, gets over her depression and rushes down to wherever she is. How does she help? She tells her to return to her own world and never come back. This is not where she belongs. But are they friends? No, they’re not. Ouch.

Episode 5
Hazuki is given a potion that will erase her memories and return to her normal life. Looks like she took it and is back at her home. Misa notices Hazuki is down and tries to invite her to a Christmas party but is turned down. Thinking she has boyfriend problems, so the best way to forget a man is with another man? Eh, what? Because she likes reading, those are just words. It doesn’t tell who she really is. Meanwhile Committee 13 has sealed Cinderella. Shizuka receives Mai Sadohara as Hazuki’s replacement. We see Hazuki back at the magic library. Sugami confronts her and knows she has not taken the potion. Hazuki is worried her story has no next chapter so Sugami tells hers. She had a friend who was chosen by Cinderella and her dream was to help even Stains and Flecks. Knowing everyone would laugh at her, she would only tell her closest friends. As a talented Madchen, she was picked for Hexennacht. She was winning until at some point she must have felt her heart has been broken. She gave up her contract and vanished. Sugami doesn’t remember much, her face or her name probably because she took the potion. All she remembers was the feelings they shared in their dreams and her regrets. Even though the story has no conclusion, this is the end of her story. The qualifiers begin with Shizuka’s Japan side against Yumilia’s Coalition School. The game is some castle siege. Either you defend or take control of the throne room to win. It seems Shizuka’s team is losing as the newcomer is slowing her down and ultimately everyone. Lynne is confident Coalition School will win because Yumilia will continue to be her pawn. Hazuki is with her family and starts crying. No, not the beautiful dress she is in. She must be missing her magic world. So a few words of support and encouragement from her family is all that is needed for Hazuki to get moving. She runs back to the library. The secret door doesn’t open apparently Sugami was waiting for her to say the right words to go see Shizuka? Sugami was a little sneaky too and it is a good thing she had Hazuki for insurance. As she ‘forgot’ to wipe her name from the register, it gives her a free pass to barge into the match. Even if Hazuki can’t use her Buchhulle and doesn’t even have a contract with Cinderella, will she still go? Of course. Somehow the magical power of friendship will save the day. Sugami allows her too because she didn’t rely on the potion. Plus, the potion she gave was just water. WTF?! So either way they’re still relying on Hazuki, right? Security is so lax that Hazuki is able to jump into the game. Is having an extra member against the rules?

Episode 6
We go back 15 minutes in time to see how Japan got owned by the Coalition School. Thanks to Mai being a weak ass, that’s when everything went downhill. Oh heck, it was already downhill for Japan from the start. With no options left, Shizuka is forced to use her ultimate magic. This is what Yumilia has been waiting for as her Origin, Shuten Doji steals other magic. Before Yumilia could defeat Shizuka with her own power, this is where Hazuki drops in. I’m sure she can guess the situation seeing her friends down. Characters like Hazuki have to give a pep talk how being one character makes you, you. Don’t follow the book blindly, blah, blah, blah. I thought it was funny she was trying to say how weird Cinderella’s story is. Like why she fell in love with the prince or had to leave by midnight. Girl, you also forgot to mention how a fitting glass slipper could slip off and why the prince only recognized her by her feet. Hazuki decides to rewrite her own Cinderella. One whereby she doesn’t give the prince a f*ck and continues running home to be with her kind family. Hence Hazuki is able to make another contract with Cinderella and rename it as Cinderella Doesn’t Look Back. WTF. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a bad title. She transforms into her Buchhulle form. Chibi pumpkins attacking Yumilia? She tries to fight back but Shizuka’s powers are going berserk. She won’t let go of it. Hazuki got this brilliant idea to make new magic. I don’t know how but it looks like it involves intense staring and shouting. You know Yumilia gives up when she remembers her vagabond days with her pals. Enough to make her realize what home really means to her. I guess Japan wins. And this magic is now spreading to Origin libraries? Whatever. Cue for Shizuka to apologize for being mean and get the ball rolling for Hazuki to admit she likes her and wants to be her friends. Don’t worry about that. Because they’re already friends. You mean they thought they weren’t?

Episode 7
Looks like Japan will face Russia in the first Hexennacht round. Because of that, Maria and her Russian goons plan to sabotage Japan so they can make their comrade’s wish, Tatiana come true. Guess what? Hazuki and honest to goodness (AKA gullible) Tatiana are already friends after having some bonding in the hotspring. Yup, Tatiana even tells her magic’s traits and weaknesses. So the first sabotage is to have the Japanese side drink lots of milk? Because they think Asian’s have weaker stomach? Didn’t work. Next, they think of locking them in some underground room with no connectivity to the outside. Because Japanese loves clean room, they clean it up real good and send a ‘love letter’ to Hazuki. Though she takes the bait, Hazuki manages to call Shizuka to get her out. Too late to see the free wi-fi poster there… When Hazuki and Shizuka are in the library, they get sucked into a mitten. It is a trap laid out by Nadia. Apparently this is considered cheating and the team could be disqualified if found out. But Nadia said if everyone pretended not to know this, only she will bear the brunt of being expelled. But I guess everyone is a bad actor when Tatiana asks about Nadia’s whereabouts. Spill it. As Nadia leaves the library, she is confronted by Yumilia who caught her in the act. As they fight, Yumilia gets sucked into it but all inside gets spit out soon. Looks like Tatiana is here and her Origin nullifies all magic within a certain range. Maria explains that before this, a stranger claimed to be from Committee 13 told Tatiana to hand over her origin. She fell for that trap and later found it tainted. Hence her comrades promise they would win Hexennacht so as not to make her sad again. They still don’t know who the perpetrator is but beg for the Japanese side to let them have a chance at Hexennacht. Obviously Hazuki being the optimistic Japanese girl, goes for the Japanese politeness and forgiveness because this got her the chance to sleep with Shizuka inside the mitten? Whatever. I hope they won’t show this kind of mercy during the proper match.

Episode 8
Hexennacht begins with Germany against India. I suppose India is so insignificant that Germany owns them immediately. They’re not the main casts too so why bother watching them? So now we have Japan against Russia. I think they’re making the Russians look like fools because they think the Japanese will give up if they inflict them with cold. Yeah, too sick to carry on. Nope. Japanese are stronger than you think. Then the Russians decide to tell jokes so bad that they would ‘die’ laughing. Yeah, they actually cannot stop laughing and it would have worked had not they run out of jokes! You gotta be joking! Then, some hypnosis that makes the Japanese hop like rabbits into the mitten. Could have worked had not she looked at where she was hoping and crashed into a tree. WTF?! They’re making a fool out of Russians. All magic then nullifies when Tatiana uses her Origin. Committee 13 wants to consider both teams lose (because they have nefarious plan to take Cinderella) but thanks to Sugami talking about precedent, history and tradition, those old hags are forced to shut up. So with the nullification magic lasting 3 minutes, they think of going fist fighting. As the Japanese side has no martial arts backgrounds, surprisingly Mai says she is well versed in a handful. The Russians dare take her on with their sambo but they all lost pathetically! Singlehandedly! And then when they try to infuse the power of friendship in their sambo, also the same ass whopping result! Man, they’re really making those Russians look dumb. Then this ‘miracle’ happens. Hazuki is so worried to grant Tatiana’s wish that her Origin literally heals Tatiana’s Origin. This means she can now control who to nullify. The Russians regain their power while the Japanese are still powerless. So are the Russians going to defeat the Japanese for good? Until Tatiana fakes some injury. So obviously fake that you can tell she’s lying. Guess what? The Russians surrender! Because they believe their wish has come true (you mean Tatiana being able to lie was it?!). In short, Hazuki’s stupidity fixed Tatiana’s stupidity. Damn, this is sure a stupid match… I guess Russia and Japan are great friends now, eh?

Episode 9
America vs China. Is this hinting something political? And why must drunken fighting be associated with Chinese? Anyway, Lynne knows everything about the Chinese and defeats them. Wow. America beating China? Can’t happen in real life, can it?! Since the next round matches are a week away, Shizuka suggests training back at her hometown in Fukui. Guess what? The Coalition School are tagging along. Haven’t you heard? Sugami suggested it. Oh, guess what too? The Russian girls are coming too. Haven’t you heard? Sugami said so. On the train, Hazuki fears of being alone because of a bad school field trip that somehow always ended up having her being alone. She thought history would repeat itself but once she opens up, now she is the star of attraction. Back at Shizuka’s home, she reports Japan’s success. They start crying and getting emotional like as though they have won the whole thing. Yeah, they’re counting their chickens and calling for a celebratory feast. Getting to the real training, they attempt to learn and discover more about Hazuki’s Cinderella magic so they could find the perfect balance for their team. That night, the girls get into a pillow fight. Hazuki barely escapes and talks to Shizuka outside. She is still talking about that Fleck incident 7 years ago? I understand she is still traumatized by it but what a time to bring it up. Because apparently Shizuka is called by Committee 13 who have found new evidence regarding that incident. It seems her mother fled the scene but was killed in order to keep her mouth shut. Shizuka doesn’t believe a single word but to clear her name, they request she hand over her Origin to investigate. Sugami strongly advises her against it because it will take 6 months and this means she cannot participate in Hexennacht. They seem pushy to force her to choose. I mean, after 7 years and they can’t wait until Hexennacht is over in fear her clan will destroy the evidence? After 7 years???!!! Do you not think they would have done it by then???!!! Unfortunately clearing her mom’s name is more important so she hands over her Origin. So when the rest learn that Shizuka now cannot participate, too late to say sorry. But don’t worry. We have a replacement. Sachi Hino conveniently escapes from hospital and claims she is all good to go (despite still being clumsy). Oh boy… WTF… Meanwhile Lynne’s teammates don’t like how she broke the rules by playing dirty (that had them won over China). Man, America being the good fair players? But you think Lynne is going to listen? She already has plans set in motion for the Japanese. It’s all for dad… Meanwhile get ready for Japan vs America (world’s best comic book style face off) and Germany vs Britain (World War II revisited).

Episode 10
Lynne’s teammates are not pleased on what she has done to Shizuka. They threaten to pull out. However, since Hexennacht requires minimum 3 participants, one of them, Lucy Barton betrays to join the Daves sisters (since Lynne’s dad is financially supporting her family) so team America can still participate. Before Japan versus America could begin, it is announced that Shizuka has withdrawn. Also announced, the withdrawal of Lynne’s teammates. Also announced, Britain has withdrawn, handing the Germans a free pass to the finals. WTF?! I thought this was a sacred tournament and they can just easily waltz out?! And if you thought Sachi didn’t make the cut, here she comes in with her flashy transformation scene. So embarrassing. Hey wait. Can they accept last minute entries?! Apparently she has a letter that allows her to do so. Yeah, this tournament is starting to lose its shine. The winner of this match is when the other team is obliterated. They are transported to London. With zombies! Lucy’s summoning them. With Hazuki and Mai distracting them, Ariko and Sachi ambush the Americans. Lynne becomes desperate to win as she fends off Sachi and will not allow her sister, Angelina to surrender. Meanwhile Sugami discovers evidence that Lynne’s father, James has been pressuring Committee 13 to change the report and hence Shizuka’s mom fleeing was a lie. However security system detects her and she flees but the evidence is destroyed. When Ariko and Sachi become zombies, Mai gambles with a risky move to take out Lucy. Now it is Hazuki facing the Daves sisters. Angelina thinks bombarding Hazuki is more than enough but Lynne will not go back to the orphanage and face that perverted sadistic priest. She views her father as their saviour and will win this tournament for him. Just when Hazuki is about to give up, here comes Shizuka. WTF?! Can she just jump into mid-tournament?! Just like that!? Really, this tournament is now looking like a farce. After Sugami’s revelation, she begged to her elders about wanting to participate in Hexennacht. They see her sincerity and deem her worthy as the clan’s successor. Yeah, just like that. Apparently Shizuka confronted Committee 13 who is now so docile and supportive of her clan. They cower when she asks for her Origin back. I guess this is what they’re resorting too now that they are free from blackmails and distancing themselves from America. Yeah, Committee 13 is so spineless… So Shizuka literally drops the moon on everything! Wait a minute. Isn’t that like wiping out everything? I don’t know. The Americans lost. The Japanese win. Sachi embarrassingly tries to give her autographs. Lynne on the verge of going crazy.

Meh-hen Mad-chan
Well folks, if it was already as disappointing in the initial episodes, they certainly outdone themselves with this even bigger disappointment. Didn’t see that coming, didn’t we? Even those who did I am sure we hung on to that small prayer it wasn’t so. Too bad it did not turn out for the better. Everything that we had feared that could have happened, happened. Thanks to production issues, a couple of episodes were stalled midway through the season to fix up some quality issues. Hence the delay in a couple of episodes. However there was no improvement at all and since the allotted slot of the series for the season had ended, the reason why this series had a ‘sudden ending’ with only 10 episodes. F*ck, they even aired a next episode preview at the end of episode 10 like as though there is going to be another episode alas it was not. The fate of the remaining 2 of the dozen is left unknown and it is said will be decided in the near future. This is certainly worse than that Kekkai Sensen series’ first season. At least they finished it. We don’t even know if this one is going to be finished at all. It is highly at this rate and with angry sentiments from fans as well as those who have lost faith in the show running high, I doubt they will get any BD releases (so we’ll get our final 2 episodes even if this is a sorry excuse). It will be a miracle. A magic miracle for that to happen.

The mind boggling thing that stalled the series was said to be quality and production issues. Okay. It was understandable at that point. Even though they stated they would take 2 weeks to improve the quality, casual and rational viewers like me would understand and still wait. But this is where it gets sh*tty and sh*t hitting all over the fan. THE QUALITY NEVER IMPROVED!!!! OH MY GOD!!! IT SUCKS SO BAD THAT IT IS SO F*CKING OBVIOUS!!!! Like as though they purposely want to make us mad by actually airing such bad quality. Now, I don’t actually notice the art and animation quality of this series from the beginning. I was going to rate it as normal, decent, conventional and standard. Nothing out of the ordinary. So-so cute looking girls. Nothing extraordinary. So when this delayed news came and that stalled episode finally aired, the quality took a nose dive. It was inconsistent. It was sh*t. Full of it. Characters looking weird. Animation was crappy. Like as though they never fixed it and in the last minute got some 5 year olds to ‘finish it up’. Yes people. It is that bad. Like as though they wanted to kill the series.

What makes it sadder is the fact that the author of this series died almost 2 years before this anime was aired. Justice will never be served. Even if it did, it is too late as the damage has already been done. He’ll just turn over in his grave. RIP, sir. A sad end to this series that was never properly finished and even sadder to have been given such treatment. I know, I’m not even a fan and I already don’t care that much. Something tells me there might be hidden issues underneath it all and this quality issue was just the scapegoat and distraction to ‘appease’ everyone. It’s a very sad and disappointing moment in anime because even if the series itself is not good and would have gotten lots of bad criticisms in the end and many will not like or even hate the series, at least they should have finished it and not leave it hanging. Yeah, nobody cares. Imagine if the great classic literal works as well as timeless classics we all know today never got finished. Maybe there are such works, that’s why we never hear of it. Lost in the darkness of time forever.

On to the plot, it isn’t anything extraordinary. The usual cliché of an ordinary person with no friends usually comes to another world and possesses such great latent power there. I guess when you have the main character being lacking of friends, this at least closes the case of her friends always worried why she is always missing. It is so convenient for the plot for a social outcast to do whatever she wants since the people of her own world/country/community don’t give a sh*t about her. And to build up some sort of drama and tension, this kind of series has to go after that friendship stumbling block route. Issues that impede the main characters from becoming friends right off the bat. While it seems logical because you wouldn’t really hit it off especially getting to know someone from another world instantly, the friendship drama in this series just feels meh. It just doesn’t feel convincing. I am not sure if I was feeling pretty annoyed too because I know I was bored watching this.

One of the biggest disappointments in the plot is the Hexennacht tournament. This is supposed to take up to big bulk in driving the story forward for the characters and the series but it fails on so many levels thanks to some inconsistencies and mind boggling questions. The first one is why they have such an odd number for the tournament. Yeah, only 7 of them. Because of that, England somehow gets a free pass in the quarter finals. It would have been the magical 8 had the Coalition School been in this equation but I guess a lot of people in this world has got issues with Japan and hence need them to fight an extra round. Oh right. They’re the group with the main characters so need an excuse for more screen time. Even if the Coalition School’s match was supposed to be a qualifying tournament, couldn’t they just add some other country to make it 8? Don’t tell me there are no other famous countries than those participating here? You mean South Korea or Ireland don’t have their own witches? I recommend Canada… Thanks to the sudden end, Germany gets a free pass to the finals and we now can’t watch the former Axis allies battle each other for the ultimate title…

The other thing that makes Hexennacht a big laughing joke is how easily participants can enter and pull out of it. Wasn’t this supposed to be the all sacred tournament that all Madchen look forward to? And then you have England suddenly withdrawing because of some reason that we will never get to know thanks to the inconclusiveness of the series, so what was it that makes them so afraid that pulling out was even more worth it than winning? Or at least even try their best and lose? Because hell, we all know Japan is going to win and restore honour, right? It’s part of the damn script, damn it! Worst of all, the conspiracy to remove Shizuka and then reinstate her back before and during Japan’s match with America felt like the biggest slap in the face. Because those Committee 13 b*tches surely don’t have their own backbone and can cave into pressure after a little coercion. Hey, Committee 13 agrees, the affected team agrees, so what is there not to approve or disallow? I don’t know how famous this tournament is in this world but if this was the World Cup in our world and the organizers pull off this sh*t, there’ll be hell to pay and heads will roll!!! Definitely.

Hence the action scenes during the fights are not exciting and boring. Even if this series didn’t live up to my unrealistic expectations of several fairytale characters in a single series, at least the thought of each of the characters having some sort of powers related to the storybook they wield would prove interesting. It was only on a theoretical level. Practically it fails to translate into anything that viewers would find it interesting or want to know more. You know, weave that story into that character or something. So I assume that you need to know certain fairytales and stories to even comprehend the very faint traits these characters possess. For example, Lynne and her Little Matchstick Girl persona. I am not sure how famous this story around the world is but if you are unfamiliar with this story, you’d be wondering why the heck Lynne has different scented giant matchsticks with different effects during her matches. And I suppose everyone is supposed to be familiar with Cinderella. So why didn’t she use some sort of skill using her glass slippers? Whatever.

Finally, the characters themselves are a let-down. Hazuki as the main character is as cliché as she can get and the only thing that drives her is her will to become eternal friends with Shizuka. After all, the girls in this academy are the first she made friends with so she really doesn’t want to waste her effort. The biggest kick in the balls is if all that she has just experienced are just imagination in her head and this is one big story. Why? Remember her Story Syndrome? How often does she escape into her fantasy world? For all you know, she was still reading her book and started dozing off and what do you know? We’ve been in her dreamland ever since! This better not be it. Though, it would have been the biggest shocker ever for the series. Shizuka has some issues on her own to make her feel more human. You know, that responsibility of regaining pride for her country and that tragic incident in which her mom was killed. Yeah, so far that Fleck incident only feels like a plot convenience because which main character do not have some sort of tragedy that tragically killed their parents?

Then there is Ariko whom I thought is supposed to be the prankster but she turns out to be insignificant after her debut. They just need some backup shorty character. Then they shoehorn useless girl Mai into the team because apparently nobody else is as good as the trio. I mean, aren’t anybody else better than them to represent Japan? With her being the amateur, it calls for plot convenience for her to screw up, make it look like Japan is going to lose, allows Hazuki or Shizuka to transform or undergo some revolution and save the day. The biggest joker of them all is Sachi. I think they want to surprise us with a new character who is so full of herself that she could have been possibly the most interesting character had she been given more limelight. I think she even made a joke about her appearances and by the unfortunate luck of the series being somewhat cancelled, I guess the joke of lacking appearance becomes a nightmare because now it’s like she just made her debut a couple of episodes ago and then is improperly cut off thanks to the series’ unfortunate demise. What a sad joke…

Outside team Japan and for the other teams, they really paint the Russians to look really dumb. That’s all I can see and say about them. As usual, America is painted as the big bad guy because you know, America. Lynne is one of those characters suffering from daddy issues and is it me because lately I noticed a few characters having experiencing daddy issues, hence their twisted reason to fight just so that they could be somewhat accepted by their father. I mean, remember Gintama’s Kamui? What about ClassicaLoid’s Wagner? Yeah, these people have nothing else in mind except the scheme they cooked up just to get their father’s acceptance or doing it all for his sake in some way. So Lynne in turn is painted as a sneaky and calculating brat who will do anything and trample on everything in her way just for this goal of hers. It’s like just desserts when she lost. Thanks to plot convenience. Sorry team America, you were never meant (rather in the script) to defeat Japan and go win Hexennacht.

The Coalition School girls feel like a ragtag team of girls from other countries. I don’t know, why do I feel like they are supposed to be from the Middle East but thanks to anime looking like anime, they don’t feel like they’re from there. No Arabic headgear, I guess. Their mission to go home or find a place of their own belonging feels like one of those people in the world who are stateless or people who seek to find their own independence. I don’t remember much about China or India, but why is it England’s team is painted as airheaded and casual people while Germans are strict snobs? Damn those Nazis still has a great impact in stereotyping what Germans are. Anyway with a few characters making up the team, they don’t get any decent spotlight so you don’t really know nor want to care more about them.

Outside the country teams, the most disappointing and laughable goes to Committee 13. We see them being aggressive and non-negotiable in their stance. Especially when they are targeting Shizuka. But it is Shizuka’s fault to begin with for giving in to their demands. Damn plot convenience also. My dislike for them suddenly turns into disrespect when it is found out that they were being blackmailed to do all those by Lynne’s dad. Yeah, America as your number one baddie again. Can America be so big and flex its muscles to even make the highest order of the Hexennacht to yield to their demands? At least it is true for this series. Yeah, now they are a bunch of spineless cowards after America’s scheme was exposed. Trying to stay away from USA, huh? Well too late. Damage is done.

I know Sugami tries to play the supportive role for the Japanese girls but once again it feels so forced and shoehorned that she only exists for the plot convenience. Hazuki is down and needs some timely advice? Here comes Sugami telling her experiences with her supposedly long dead best friend. Japan is losing a Hexennacht match and needs some sort of comeback? Here comes Sugami turning into a female James Bond to discover evidence that will put Shizuka back in the game. Is she the in-anime scriptwriter? Whatever. Lastly I want to point out Saeko and Misa being Hazuki’s stepmom and stepsister. I know it’s good they are trying to give her some space but don’t you think they have given her too much of her own time to be by herself? I mean, do they not spend family time together? Man, I thought this was reverse Cinderella. At least they don’t mistreat her. So for plot convenience, they believe in her and whatever she is doing. Because the power of family. Thank goodness Hazuki doesn’t get involved with drugs. Her step family is so redundant that they might as well have Hazuki living alone. That would be even more plausible and realistic. But I suppose it is to show that Hazuki has ‘allies’ from her real world too.

Well, I’ve pointed out the art and animation in my earlier paragraphs. But this one I just want to point out how certain characters remind me of others. Yeah, it’s that other section of mine where I sometimes rant about how an anime character resembles like one from another series. For example, when I first saw Yumilia in her battle gear, I thought her design was completely ripped off from Gurren Lagann’s Yoko. I searched it is supposed to be from her Shuten Doji Origin but I can’t help feel that Yoko comes to mind first. When Sachi first entered the picture, I thought what the hell was Toaru Kagaku No Railgun’s Misaka doing here?! Why the f*ck is she so joker-like?! Somehow seeing Shizuka has me think she is from Negima. Sometimes I get a bit mixed up with her and Mai since they look almost similar. Damn Japan’s long black haired beauties… Not sure why, but looking at Hazuki reminds me of New Game’s Aoba despite they look different. And Aoba is much cuter too. But doesn’t Ariko look very close to Koufuku Graffiti’s Kirin? Just take away the smiling face. Hoods Entertainment who produced and abandoned this mess, did made some great animes like Drifters and Nazo No Kanojo X but mostly sleazy ones like Seikon No Qwaser, Aki Sora, Manyuu Hikenchou, Kagaku Na Yatsura, Hantsu x Trash and Rescue Me. Damn I hope they don’t mess up the next season’s project they are animating, 3D Kanojo: Real Girl… Please, please, please…

Voice acting feels average. Didn’t recognize anybody so it didn’t make my day any better. The casts are Tomori Kusunoki as Hazuki (Miki in Slow Start), Rie Suegara as Shizuka (Yui in Diabolik Lovers), Kaede Hondo as Ariko (Yae in Girlish Number), Hiyori Nitta as Mai (Gabriel in Nanatsu No Bitoku), Azusa Tadokoro as Sachi (Fino in Yuushibu), Lynn as Yumilia (Maya in Sabagebu), Rina Hidaka as Lynne (Airi in Ro-Kyu-Bu), Akemi Okamura as Sugami (Nami in One Piece), Airi Ootsu as Maria (Mimi in High School Fleet), Reina Ueda as Arthur (Jasminka in Little Witch Academia), Ai Kakuma as Agathe (Julis in Gakusen Toshi Asterisk), Amina Satou as Angelina (Yuuka in AKB0048), Nodoka Hasegawa as Saeko and Ayaka Shimizu as Misa (Reo in High School Fleet).

The opening theme by Fhana is unfortunately named after the state of this anime, Watash No Tame No Monogatari ~My Uncompleted Story~. Did this generic anime pop beat foreshadow the fate of this series? If so, damn this is scary. Reina Ueda sings the ending theme, Sleepland. I prefer this slower piece as it sounds fitting for a series that has relations to fairytales. However the ending animation credits are filled with lots of the series’ females in fanservice poses while our main duo of Hazuki and Shizuka end up in a hot naked lesbian fanservice position in case our fairytale fantasies and delusions didn’t run wild enough. I think we’re going to need it seeing how the anime ‘ended’. Or not.

Overall, it was already a disappointing series and further made unacceptable and distasteful with the way things were handled and ‘ended’. Everything was so lacklustre that it is as though the producers knew they were going to get criticisms and brickbats and hence decides to up the ante before we could. They gave us a reason to hate it. Well, good job guys. Or should I say, bad job? And notice how I spanned plot convenience in my blog. Yup, that says everything else that is needed. It’s just painful and sorry to see what this series has become. There is this irony that this series had fallen victim to those Stains. It makes other anime series that mishmash various fictional characters together like Code: Realize: Sousei No Himegimi (and to a point even Re: Creators if I should say) to look even superior even when it’s actually not. Of course the best mishmash of such that comes to mind is still Drifters. Even if this series somehow manages to get its final 2 episodes out, I will still watch it albeit I will not put any expectations or hope about it. Like all fairytales, there needs to be a closure and hopefully this one will not become a lost ghost wandering the eternity of nothingness. Sadly and even so, still not a happy ever after for Marchen Madchen.

Killing Bites

June 10, 2018

Have you ever wondered if you matched up certain animals with certain animals, who would be the victor? I’m sure there was kiddie card video game, Animal Kaiser but I didn’t play that one so I wouldn’t know. Instead, we have Killing Bites. No, we won’t be so cruel so as to use real animals to fight each other in a death caged arena. Instead, we have genetically engineered humans with the ability to transform part of their bodies into certain animals as they duke it out to be the ultimate king of the beasts. Because it is not the strongest or the fastest who wins but the one with the sharpest fangs.

Episode 1
Yuuya Nomoto thought he would be picking up girls with his friends. Unfortunately he didn’t read between the lines because they snatch a high school girl into their van and start raping her! Nomoto is shocked from this development but before he knows it, the girl, Hitomi Uzaki is all fine and his friends are all dead! Forcing him to drive to a junkyard, he is further sickened to see dead bodies everywhere. He tries to escape but bumps into Yugo Tani. He explains about Therianthropes, humans infused with supernatural powers of animals. Leo feels insulted when he thinks Nomoto doesn’t believe it all and transforms into his Therianthrope lion form, Brute Leo. Hitomi saves his ass and wants to use Nomoto as a bet. As in money? No, his body. Organs, that is. It will fetch a high price in the black market. Hitomi transforms into her Therianthrope form, Brute Ratel. Hence begins Killing Bites, bloody matches between Therianthropes. Nomoto is stunned as he see both beasts lunging at full power at each other. In the end, it is Ratel who against all odds wins. Something about her animal ratel (mongoose + skunk?) being the least fearful animal in the world. In the aftermath, Nomoto wakes up in his room. All a dream? Not if Hitomi is sleeping next to you. Apparently last night after the match, he is so grateful she won (because he gets to live) and was even concerned with her bruises (because no high school girl should be this injured?). She got a call from her guardian, Reiichi Shidou to let him take her in so that’s how she ended up sleeping here.

At the café, Shidou makes his appearance. We see Hitomi obviously smitten with him. Before Nomoto could explain himself, Shidou knows all about him. Every detail. He explains about genetic enhancements that allowed the development of Therianthropes. So what is the purpose of all this? A secret proxy war has been held among large corporations of the past known as Zaibatsu. The big 4 are Mitsukado, Yatsubishi, Sumitomo and Ishida. They use Killing Bites to fight for representation and as a form of illegal gambling. Shidou is the director and organizer of Killing Bites and his job is to make things go smoothly. This means making his friends’ death look like a car accident. Shidou assigns Hitomi to be Nomoto’s bodyguard seeing his is Ratel’s sole investor. Lose him, lose your rights to participate in Killing Bites. Oh, Nomoto got paid a 100 million yen for that. Shidou’s secretary, Mai Shinozaki wonder if this was necessary as they could save the money and just arrest him. But Shidou thinks Nomoto has something that Hitomi lacks. She’ll need it because the next Killing Bites will get messy. Nomoto becomes Hitomi’s gopher boy. Out on some errand, he is stopped by a flasher. A hot babe! Take a look at her tits! I mean, no straight men would say no, right?! But he has to pay the price as he gets pierced by her spike. She wants him to tell all about Ratel but no need to go through any third party because Ratel is here. Ask her yourself.

Episode 2
Letting Nomoto out was just a ploy to use him as bait. Hitomi fights Ryoko Araka AKA Brute Rowdy. Her porcupine spikes seem formidable and Rowdy thought she had killed her with them. Well, she’s very much alive. Some brief lesson how a ratel’s skin is like a natural armour. Ratel rebounds and wins and could have killed her had not Nomoto stopped her. Don’t want any murders near his home. Rowdy is willing to sacrifice herself to kill Ratel but is knocked aside by Ichinosuke Okajima AKA Brute Hippopotamus. He looks like he wants to pick a fight with Ratel but then he begs her to help his faction. In Nomoto’s room, Okajima explains he is from Ichida faction (Rowdy is from Yatsubishi) and he hopes she will join them. Instant rejection. Hitomi believes she is the strongest and doesn’t need allies. Okajima tries to warn her about not only relying on her skills but this makes her mad and ready to fight. Till a well-timed message from Shidou telling her to join them did she agree with no hesitation. Although Hitomi will not officially join them, this is just temporary help so she can enter the next Killing Bites under the Ishida’s banner. Nomoto’s life has just gotten weirder since Hitomi will be going to his college. Well, she is his bodyguard. So you bet his nerdy friend, Moriyama is going bonkers seeing a super kawaii girl with him. As Hitomi is taking a dump, Eruza Nakanishi of Yatsubishi peeps on her and steals her panties! She makes Ratel chase her all the way out of the campus as Ratel wonders about Eruza who isn’t in her beast form but yet can run and evade so fast. In the forest, Eruza transforms into her cheetah form and pins down Ratel. She tries to finish her off but is impressed when Ratel fights back instead of evade. Before they could get it on, they are stopped by Mitsukado’s guys, Shota Yabe AKA Brute Gorilla and Jerome Hongou AKA Brute Bear. He reminds them that all factions want a piece of Ratel and since Ishida hired her to enter Killing Bites Destroyal tournament, all fights between participants are forbidden under the pact. A couple of Sumitomo Brutes are watching Ratel. They note they have assassination orders on her. One of them wants to have fun with her but is reminded by the other there will be competition. All factions are targeting her and Destroyal will be a contest for Ratel.

Episode 3
Nomoto surrounded by hot girls. They sound like they’re arguing over him. No wonder his loser otaku friends are mad. Because of that, they force him to make them maid outfits. Hitomi didn’t want to but Eruza didn’t hesitate. She teaches Hitomi how to do isolated transformation, partial transformation of some of her beast form so it doesn’t use up much energy. With all the otaku losers cheering on the hot maids, Hitomi loves the feeling of being praised and poses more for them. A win-win situation. When Nomoto goes home, he is shocked to see Leo here. But it is his master, Yoko, the granddaughter of Yozan, Mitsukado’s patriarch, who is here to talk to him. She wants him to withdraw from Destroyal. It seems there is a change in the tournament’s format. Instead of one-on-one, it will now be a battle royale. This could mean certain death for losers. It is believed Shidou had a hand in this as he views Killing Bites as an experiment ground. Yoko informs him that he is also a participant. Brutes are like chess pieces and the financier (him in this case) is the player who moves them. Is he willing to participate in a game that puts her life on the line? Well, he thinks of asking Hitomi’s permission… Otherwise she’ll kill him for deciding alone! Likewise, Eruza is explaining this to Hitomi and wants her to pick a stronger financier. But Hitomi is sticking with Nomoto. Despite being weak, he can sniff out the strong and this means he cannot go against her. She can do anything she wants. Bully.

Yoko is shocked with Nomoto’s decision and decides to enter Destroyal to defeat Ratel. Yozan agrees and will use Destroyal to test Shidou’s worth. When Hitomi comes back and before Nomoto could open his mouth, she says they’ll be entering. Okajima notes that Destroyal is also a team match. Three per team is needed. However it is tough looking for the third Ishida participant since many refuse to enter. Like as though some force behind it is forcing them not to participate. He decides to go one who is not affiliated with Ishida. Herald bunny girl, Ui Inaba AKA Brute Rabbit. Can timid and shy girl do the job? With her being so scared, prospects aren’t looking good. Hitomi takes over. Threats! Made it worse. Now she is totally scared. Nomoto’s turn. Nice encouraging words. Only, some assassin interrupts them. Akemi Kishimoto AKA Brute Horned Lizard of Sumitomo shoots blood from her eyes as laser! Scared Ui runs away. Could have been done for if not for Ratel saving the day. Thinking back Nomoto’s words, Ui gets the courage to help as uses her strong hearing skills to sniff out a hidden opponent and tell Ratel her whereabouts. She is able to defeat both horned lizard sisters but not kill them (because Shidou praised her for doing the right thing with Rowdy). She lets them go and wants to spread the word Ui kicked their asses or she will report to Shidou that they broke the pact rules before Destroyal. With Ui buoyed with her first ever win, she gets confident enough that she can do it and will enter Destroyal under Ishida’s ticket. Now Hitomi will train Nomoto for Destroyal. Hope he won’t get destroyed by her first.

Episode 4
Looks like everyone is having a luxurious party before the fight. Taiga Nakanishi, Eruza’s older brother is not happy that Leo will not be fighting in Destroyal due to his injury from Ratel. Because of that, he views Destroyal as too easy a win for him. Counting his chickens? He thinks he is enough to take everyone by himself so Eruza seeks his ‘permission’ to fight Hitomi. Shidou relays the rules. The battleground will be Hotei Island near Philippines. The island will be divided into grids in which players will give commands to their Brutes on where to move. When Brutes enter the same grid, they will fight. The only rule for victory is if the others are killed or incapacitated. The last ones standing win. Each Brutes will have a communicator in which commands are to be relayed. If they take it off or break other rules, it will explode. Players begin rolling the dice to see how many squares their Brutes can move. Yoko mocks Nomoto if he knows the terrain well because if he doesn’t, he will send his Brutes to their deaths. Many are mocking Nomoto as an amateur. But when it is his turn, he moves Ratel into the most coveted position on the island where it is a bird’s eyes view of the entire island. They realize it is Ratel who is giving him the orders to move. The player being played? Works for them. Ratel will face Bear in Destroyal’s first fight. Bear is confident in taking her down as Leo previously advised him how Ratel will purposely get beaten up just to access your strength. Use that against her. When the fight begins, Bear goes down in one strike! Apparently Ratel still remembers the force during her first encounter with Bear. Everyone is left in shock with Bear’s defeat. Yoko getting even more upset to beat this college amateur. Meanwhile there will be a 4 way fight from all Zaibatsu. It seems there is a secret pact to take down Yatsubishi’s Taiga. But Taiga relishes using Okajima, Gorilla and Sumitomo’s Ryuji Shiina AKA Brute Crocodile to sharpen his claws.

Episode 5
Crocodile only wants to fight Taiga alone. He gets owned. Gorilla tries to intervene but he too gets taken out. Meanwhile at another spot, Eruza is facing off with Sumitomo’s Kaede Kazama AKA Brute Gecko and Den Onuma AKA Brute Cobra. Too bad she got owned and after Gecko beats the hell out of her, it is Cobra’s turn to rape her. I guess a single tail is enough to be considered tentacle rape. Taiga is about to face off with Okajima when he gets orders to move and lend Eruza a hand. However Crocodile bites his leg and immobilizes him. If Taiga doesn’t move accordingly, his communicator will explode. Before Eruza gets raped, Hitomi takes out Cobra. Hitomi to the rescue and it looks like Nomoto couldn’t stand Eruza being ganged up seeing both girls are somewhat friends. When other players hear this reason, they start laughing and mocking him. Except Yoko. She’s so mad that she warns she will kill him if he desecrates Killing Bites any further. What’s this? Hitomi getting owned by Gecko?! It seems she cannot escape her grip as Hitomi specializes in mid-range combat and not close quarters. At this point, I suppose all participants have wised up in learning Hitomi’s traits and skills. Cobra is looking forward to continue raping Eruza but gets slashed by her in the face. This sets up a tag team match of Hitomi-Eruza versus the Sumitomo duo.

Episode 6
Cobra turns into his true cobra form. Uhm, do cobras have arms? Meanwhile Taiga is going to take Crocodile down with him. Crocodile is resolved to do just that and not let go. However Okajima tackles them. Freed Taiga is able to move to the required spot and avoid death. Okajima lectures about Killing Bites isn’t a suicide show despite having no rules and real animals value their own lives. Flashback shows Okajima grateful to Seira Tou for saving his life. She is the wife of some bank managing director and is now his financier. He is willing to lay down his life to give her victory but that will not do for her. As they have invested a lot in Therianthrope surgery, they can’t have them wasting their valuable lives like that. Crocodile is now mad at Okajima and is going to kill him. It seems all his wounds are healing and in no time he will be back up to his usual strength. Cobra thinks he has paralyzed Ratel with his mist of toxic venom. He is going to rape her and is that a giant cobra’s dick we see?! Two of them?! Too bad he got them slashed and ripped when Ratel recovers. She wasn’t pretending to be paralyzed but something about her ability to recover from a cobra’s venom. Then she tears Cobra apart. Eruza seems to be having a hard time with Gecko but in the end the cheetah doesn’t feel any pain from all that high speed pounding. I know cheetahs are fast but that doesn’t mean they are immune to super speed beat ups. Are they? I guess Ratel got bored and decides to see if Eruza needs help.

Episode 7
Before Crocodile could kill Okajima, Takeshi Kido enters the ring (his financier is Yoko). Gorilla warns Crocodile about destroying the environment because Kido is an environmentalist and evil doers will face his wrath. Crocodile doesn’t listen and attacks. But his whipping tail cannot penetrate his hard skin. When he decides to bite his head off, Kido punches a hole in his head! Even when dead, Kido keeps pounding him to a pulp! Hoping his crushed body would be fertilizers for the fallen tree? Gorilla turns to attack Okajima but the latter suddenly disappears. If you’ve been wondering why Ui has not been in action and digging holes, this is probably it. The labyrinth of underground tunnels Ui dug is what saved Okajima. Not sure about Ui’s bright idea to stall the enemies while he recovers. Because rabbit versus gorilla? Looks like she is going to get f*cked. Gecko retreats after getting orders to move. Eruza and Ratel now fight each other. Eruza is dominant and when she gets on top of Ratel, suddenly… THEY START MAKING OUT???!!! WTF???!!! AM I WATCHING THE RIGHT SHOW?! No kidding, they’re really doing it! Hot girls sex, check. Lesbian sex, check. Furry sex, check. Yeah, all the guys love it. Turns out that Kari Rikujo AKA Brute Civet has been unleashing love pheromones. Gecko has the misfortune to encounter Taiga. She thinks she has the advantage if she transforms but before she can do that, Taiga kills her! With that, Sumitomo is out of the game. We return to our regular hot girl lesbian furry sex. Until Yoko puts her feet down and warns to continue the game. Wow. Everybody respects her to move on? We hear her narration that her goal in winning Destroyal is so that she could get back her grandpa’s heart whom she believed has been trapped by Shidou. He is now obsessed with this Killing Bites thing ever since and her wish is to return him to the kind grandpa she once knew. When Eruza wants Ratel to come with her (or is it cum?), Ratel believes she heard that word before. Oh, Shidou said it to her. Immediately she snaps out because she realizes that is the person whom she wants to come with (or is it cum?). She attacks Civet but she evades long enough till Taiga drops into the scene.

Episode 8
In a VIP room, the bosses of the Zaibatsu are discussing the stakes of Destroyal. Whoever wins it will take all the rights to the Theriomorphosis industry and related businesses. On the surface it might look like some gene research thingy on crops but in reality it would legalize the surgery for Therianthropes. However the biggest winner of Destroyal would be none from any of the Zaibatsu but Shidou and his administration as their department has all the power and technology in this area. Ui continues to run like hell from Gorilla. Yeah, it would look bad if she was to be raped with those gigantic hands. In his bid to catch up to her, he smashes down all the trees to block all the burrowed holes. However this incurs Kido’s wrath. Oops. Don’t bully nature. Gorilla panics and thinks of knocking him out and run. But whatever he throws at him, nothing happens. In one fell swoop, Kido cuts him in half! Did Mitsukado just take out one of its own? Not that Yoko cares anyway. Thank goodness Kido is ordered to move or Ui would have been dead rabbit meat. We return to Ratel and Taiga’s power fight. Cobra is barely alive. At least his top half. He tries to intervene but fails. Ratel forces the camera crew to send him to hospital and patch him up. Saving him? But what if he comes back to kill you? Then she’ll just kill him again. WTF. You failed to kill him the first time, right? Anyway, Taiga agrees seeing sparing the life is the privilege of the strong. Flashback shows Taiga and Leo had a very hot rivalry. Yeah, it looked like they came from delinquent schools from very bad parts of town. Obviously Leo was strongly and he did not even have to fight Taiga. He even gave him a chance to become strong so that he will acknowledge him as a worthy opponent. Therefore Taiga will never acknowledge Ratel’s fluke win over Leo as he will only respond with his full strength to those he acknowledges. Cue for cliché hint that he is the only one who can defeat Leo. Taiga gets serious in using his speed and strength to take out Ratel in a single blow. She manages to dodge the lethal blow and survive. Come at her again, bro.

Episode 9
The reason why we have to hear Nomoto narrate his drifting and boring life is so that this should play some ‘important’ part in today’s episode. Get on with Destroyal already. Ratel takes another hit from Taiga and still survives. It seems she is trying to estimate his attacks and she is confident she has analysed them. Taiga now acknowledges her skill and strength and to respect that, his next ultimate move will kill her in one blow. Before it begins, Ui interrupts to warn about Kido. Then she sees how fierce Taiga is and runs like hell, only to be incapacitated by Civet’s pheromones. Bunny wants to f*ck? Everybody especially Yoko is blaming and accusing Nomoto will be responsible for Ratels’ death. It makes him panic at first and questioning what he is doing here in the first place. Don’t worry. He’ll find the answer soon. He realizes his life changed because of her and she has saved him many times. So when it is his turn to move, he has Ratel stay at her spot. He will take responsibility for his decision. He might sound so cool and all but Yoko is not buying it and just mocks he won’t regret it (she thinks he will) and cry later. Taiga and Ratel leap into action only to be interrupted again. It’s Kido. Ratel is temporarily knocked out by his armoured tail. It seems all this is calculated by Yoko. In hopes of defeating Taiga, she used Ratel to keep him company here. Also, this open spot means Kido will be able to focus on fighting instead of protecting the trees. Flashback sees how Yoko got him under her wing. She told him Shidou’s experiments harmed nature and the result of this was the creation of Ratel. Hence he agreed to follow his calling to return this abomination to nature and protect the natural order. Ui escapes from Civet’s grasp by luring her into an endless pit and then burying it! Don’t think rabbits are stupid and good for multiplying. Ratel is pounded by Kido. Before she is done in, Taiga returns the favour of secretly ambushing him. Taiga goes on the offensive but none of his claws could dent his armour all over his body. It is revealed that Kido is Brute Pangolin. Man, in his true form he looks like some badass armoured god or something.

Episode 10
Kido balls up into a defensive position. Taiga keeps hitting it until he thinks there is an opening. But it is a trap to grab his hand and tear it off! Before he gets owned, Okajima jumps into the fray. Although he could match Kido’s strength, his skin isn’t as hard and gets stabbed. This allows Taiga to revive and tear off Kido’s right eye! But in exchange he too gets stabbed. With that, Yoko jumps the gun to brag how superior Mitsukado is and everyone is second rate. Counting her chickens? Eruza intends to fight Kido. I mean, even if she is faster can she stand a chance? No need for that because Ratel revives in time. But she has evolved into her true form! Shidou narrates she is an Origin beast. Unlike other Therianthropes who undergo surgery, she is born with its natural DNA. We interrupt this programme to bring you Shidou’s flashback 7 years ago in Hong Kong. There was some wild animal kid whose real origins are unknown, kept stealing food from the locals. Shidou knew she is an Origin and tried to lure her with food. Lots of them. It sure took a lot of scratching and beating up before he could get close to her. Even so, she maintained her distance. As she is capable of human emotions and understanding, he calls her Hitomi as he could see all that in her eye. Apparently on the night Hitomi could say his name for the first time, Shidou’s colleague has had enough of him playing daddy and fires a tranquilizer at her. Though she runs, she soon collapses. Bad news, she collapsed at the local mafia’s place and she has been stealing a lot from them. When Shidou finds her, he tries to negotiate but gets beaten up. Hitomi sees Shidou getting beaten up as he shields her. I’m not sure if those punks are speaking Chinese because their accent sound so thick and foreign like Russian. Anyway, Shidou could have been done for had not Shinozaki kung fu kick her way to save them. It was then Hitomi started to click with Shidou and went from being an animal to human. Noting she won’t survive if she abandons her animal instincts, he needs her to sharpen her fangs at Destroyal. Ratel is faster than the naked eye and could knock Kido off his feet. She is ecstatic he is tough, sturdy and not break easily so she could toy with him even more. Did the real monster just awaken?

Episode 11
Ratel is like having fun fighting Kido. When she deals him a painful blow, he curls up into a defensive position. Ratel kicks him like a football. Kido realizes he has destroyed a few trees. Flashback shows his mom somewhat left the family and left him a pot of plants as her substitute to take care in place of her. Kido did that but his drunk dad destroyed it while claiming mom was a slut, etc. In his rage, he killed his father. This means it is Kido’s turn to evolve into another super pangolin. Anybody who bullies his mama will die! His scales are sharper and now he is destroying trees without regards in his attempt to kill Ratel. He manages to cut off an arm of her, causing immense pain. However she will not give in to death so she throws her arm into his head as distraction and then jumps up closely to his face. Her gentle smile reminds Kido of his mom. He lets his guard down and Ratel thrusts her arm through his face! Yoko is left furious and embarrassed since she counted her chickens. Ratel collapses from exhaustion but has a happy look on her face. However Kido gets up! Is he a zombie now since his brains are all smashed?! That is when Eruza slices his throat. That’s the end of him for good. Second time Yoko going berserk in the span of seconds. Eruza will spare Ratel’s life as respect for taking on Kido. But now she is off to face Ui who really thinks she is going to get f*cked. There is no way a rabbit could beat or outrun a cheetah, right? She runs as fast but Eruza is on her tail. But Ui slips on a rock and accidentally does a somersault kick into Eruza’s chin, knocking her out. OMG! Ui as the last Brute standing wins Destroyal???!!! WTF???!!! The one who hardly did any fighting or gets her paws dirty won???!!! No wonder everybody is in shock. No wonder Yoko has gone crazy. With the win, the Zaibatsu bosses are now discussing things but the Ishida boss becomes cocky since he is the winner. Sumitomo boss believes Yatsubishi and Ishida colluded with each other since they had better board positions and dice rolls. But the outcome is the outcome. Suddenly all electricity is cut off. Nomoto is worried about Hitomi. On the island, it seems all camera crew are mercilessly killed by… Chameleon people???!!! They plan to kill off all surviving Brutes and officially there will be no winners of Destroyal. Everything will be lost in the shadows and only they will know the truths.

Episode 12
Ui’s sharp hearing has her evade the chameleon’s tongue lash. Lucky for her, Ratel is still able to fight and kill a couple of them although she is back to collapsing. Before the remaining chameleons could finish them off, Shinozaki kills all of them. She is here to interview Ui as the winner. You shocked, sister? Meanwhile Shidou confronts Sumitomo’s boss and knows those chameleons are his stealth assassins. He does not hesitate to admit he did this to nullify the results and make use of this ensuing chaos. Just as his secretary is about to transform and kill off everyone, Leo kills him. Shidou also points out Yozan is also another one who committed a sin. Because he controls Japan’s economy, instead of using the Theriomorphosis technology to benefit everyone, he used it to benefit only himself and his Zaibatsu. Before Yozan could rebel, Leo kills him! Oh sh*t! Yoko wonders how she will face grandpa when she sees his bloody corpse. Shidou says he died of a heart attack. Of course she is not blind and knows he is killed. So they admit about some their plan of theirs and killing him is the best way to minimise casualties. Yoko orders Leo to kill them all but he will not listen. Leo only serves himself. She is left in shock as Leo deals the final blow to her. How does it feel to use others as pawns and now she is being used as one? In order to force her into his submission, he rapes her! OMFG!!!

Life returns to normal for Nomoto. It has been 2 weeks Hitomi and Okajima left. Quiet days are here. He has a few suitcases of money that prove Destroyal happened but he is too afraid of opening them. Out of the blue, he gets a call from Hitomi to meet. At the junkyard, he is glad to see her recovering. Looks like they patched her arm back too. He starts off first by thanking her for everything. He now understands what it means to have the sharpest fangs. It is not to run but to stand and fight and the fangs represent the will to fight. Hitomi is embarrassed because it sounded like he was confessing to her. Now it’s her turn to thank him for sticking with her till the end. And just when you think the mood is getting good between them, SHE SLASHES HIM!!! OMFG!!! WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING!!! SHE REALLY KILLED HIM!!! It seems it was orders from Shidou. He told her his existence would be a nuisance. She leaves and as proof she did have some sort of feelings for him (even if it is not of the romantic kind), she sheds a few tears. We now have a time skip in which there is an entirely new district, an artificial island on Tokyo Bay specially built for Therianthropes. There is an arena in the middle of it for Killing Bites. We see a bunch of new Therianthrope hopefuls as the next tournament is around the corner. Hey wait. Is that guy at the end, Nomoto?!

Bloody Roar: Beast Wars!
I have to admit that I actually enjoyed watching this series. Yes it was fun. Fun enough that I thought having a dozen episodes was too short and it should have 2 cours! Yeah… Perhaps it was my initial scepticism that made me have very low expectations of this series. I mean, people transform into a certain animal, fight it out, victor triumphs over loser. Basically that is what the series is but I suppose they put in some interesting animal section and bits and that’s why I find it interesting overall.

But of course this series might be good but it is not a masterpiece and I would rate it above average. This is because of the very lengthy Destroyal arc that accounts for more than half of the series. It could just well be a Destroyal arc since after the quick introduction arc, we get down to what this series is all about. I don’t think a single tournament dictates would the winning Zaibatsu absolute power as with big boys playing a big risky game like this, there would have to be more of such tournaments to test their mettle. After all, there could be other bigger tournaments and this Destroyal is just one of the mini ones akin to the dessert of the main course. While it is fun to see several Brutes fighting each other, but they really drag it out with this Destroyal arc tournament. Of course they build up the main character as well as showcase some fight scenes but such long fighting arcs only remind me of Dragonball and One Piece where it looks like it takes forever just to finish a fight. It could have finished a bit faster but then when you consider the pacing, what is left there to show after Destroyal? I guess this is much better than hanging halfway in another tournament. That’s why I said this needed to be 2 cours.

One of the tantalizing draws of this series is of course the fighting scenes involving different types of Therianthropes. Although their powers and skills are somewhat exaggerated, this is all based on actual animal abilities. I mean, when you have genetically engineered and enhanced humans, surely their animal powers would be enhanced too. Well, at least they are not making those Brutes shoot hadoken or fireballs. Good thing or bad thing that dragons and unicorns don’t really exist, just saying… Making the action sequences interesting to watch is how sometimes the narrator would narrate interesting trivia about that particular animal. Yeah, it is like watching a mini National Geographic channel sometimes. Interesting. Thanks to this series, now I know what a ratel is and how ferocious one can be. Yeah, before that I never knew such animal existed! Heck, I was wondering what the f*ck was this wolverine/skunk/badger creature is.

And of course the other draw is the mild ecchi moments. Because Hitomi prefers going around in her singlet and undies, this sexy beast is your main source of ecchi fanservice. If tough kickass badass Hitomi/Ratel is not your type, I guess we have cat girl, Eruza. Sort of. Furry fetish fans might get a little teasing after that Hitomi-Eruza make out during Destroyal. Like as though it was the moment we have all been waiting for. It would be a waste not to have hot sexy girls get lesbian with each other, right? But sorry, not extreme furry hentai. If you’re not into such tough chicks, maybe rabbit girl Ui would be your type. Heck, all Therianthropes females are just sexy. Even Gecko. Until she transforms into one.

Can’t say much about the characters except that since Hitomi is the main character, we have a lot of screen time on her and even a flashback episode of her origin. Because Nomoto feels like a side supporting extra character that isn’t exactly needed. He just exists so that we could see and compare how Hitomi’s life has changed after he meets a gentle wimp. It is also to show that Nomoto isn’t a total loser despite just doing average in college. He’s got a coveted piece like Ratel and for his case of playing with the big boys is like a rabbit walking in a den of lions. So out of place. So sugoi. But still a wuss nevertheless. If this guy goes for Therianthropes surgery, his animal would be a cat. Because you know, he’s a pussy. Haha!!! He isn’t main character material so much so he gets killed off!!! OMG. That was really the shocker. Didn’t see that one coming.

But I don’t know if this guy has returned in the end because it certainly looks like a meaner him. After all, Hitomi didn’t exactly ‘kill’ him. The old Nomoto ‘died’ and a new one underwent a surgery to become a Therianthrope. That is the only way he could continue to be alive. I believe this is how the plot flows along more of this line. Otherwise, even though Nomoto isn’t pretty much that likeable (not that you would hate him) but he isn’t the kind of guy whom you would like the see being killed off after all that has happened. I would like to say that Nomoto and Hitomi complement and change each other although it is the latter who seems to be dominating and wearing the pants (or pantsu in her case) around. I know Hitomi is such a badass but she starts getting a bit annoying with her ‘favourite quote’ when she keeps reminding us about that sharpest fangs thingy wins because this is what Killing Bites. Yeah, for the umpteenth time, roll credits. We get it already!

If Nomoto feels out of place, the same can be said about Ui. Because as we know that Destroyal is one big tough mother sh*t death battle and to cast such a weakling just to fulfil the quota seems strange. Yeah, it’s like the producers thought that they needed another character who will not outshine Ratel in the tournament but also does enough and small supporting bits here and there whenever the convenient plot and flow of the story calls for it. To add insult, they make her win Destroyal! WTF???!!! It wasn’t the strongest. It wasn’t the fastest. It wasn’t the most durable. It wasn’t the smartest. Heck, it wasn’t the one even with the sharpest fangs! It all boils down to luck. Isn’t that what a rabbit foot is? And boy, you thought Ui was going to be a comical character in Destroyal, digging holes the only way she knows best, screaming and running away from stronger and scarier Brutes who look like they’re out to rape her once she is in her sight, and then boom! A fluke shot has her win this entire tournament. Without even bloodying her paws! Yeah, it feels like one of those strategies where the weakest waits in the shadows, waiting for all the strong ones to finish and take out each other before going for the final kill. Saves time, saves energy. Rules are still rules. Last one standing takes it all.

I also want to mention something about that crazy snob b*tch, Yoko. We know she is taking part in all of this is so that she could win back the kind grandfather she once knew. But the ironic and mind boggling part of it all is that in order to turn back her grandfather (assuming this method works), she herself turns into a bloodthirsty thrill seeker just like him. I am pretty sure this isn’t the way of fighting fire with fire. Perhaps this all part of Yozan’s plan to groom her to become the next heir and she is unknowingly dancing in the palm of his hands. Or is this her way of taking over and becoming the next maniac in place of her grandpa? Too bad her grandpa died. Either way, that guy looks like he is ready to kick the bucket in a few more years.

Because she is so snobbish and acts like she knows it all before Nomoto, I was hoping to see her break down and perhaps even starting to fall for this wuss! Imagine looking down on someone she thinks lacks everything only to find that she herself has fared much worse. Her breakdown would be complete after her crazy mind decides that Nomoto is quite a strong guy himself and hence she would start throwing herself all at him! More cat fight with Ratel then. Oh yeah, the fight for Nomoto begins! Ironically, strong women fighting over a weak guy? Only happens in male fantasies-cum-delusions. But too bad the old Nomoto won’t be around for that. She would have become Leo’s sex slave under his new lion male pride harem by then. Just desserts? In a way, I feel pity for her fate to turn out like that. Well, you get what you give.

Shidou continues to remain a mysterious and enigmatic character. He looks like a good guy seeing he treats Hitomi kind and like a family member. But I can’t help think that there is an ulterior motive to it all. I mean, if you think about it, what does he plan to achieve in the research and development of Therianthropes? Does he want to rule the world with his army of mind controlled Therianthropes? Or by a long shot does he intend to find a cure for man’s deadliest disease and having humans undergo such risky surgery is one of its convoluted steps. Even though his plan to bring a world for Therianthropes sounds noble and great, there seems to be more than meets the eye to it. Perhaps in the near future, more revelations and bombshells regarding Shidou’s true colours will be revealed. Especially one I am having a conspiracy theory that will have all her trust and faith for him destroyed and she begin her next stage of evolution as she fights against him instead of being his darling. Hey, this series already has a few shockers and I believe there will be more. Just expecting the unexpected, that’s all.

This series also has a funny segment although it is not part of the main episode and right before the next episode preview, Guide Them Oshie-chan. Oshie Nodoguro is supposedly Hitomi’s classmate and perhaps self-proclaimed best friend. Her character is supposed to take after that honeyguide bird as this segment also doubles as a documentary for it. We learn the characteristics as well as its somewhat symbiotic relationship with the ratel. However in the end whatever Oshie does she fails or her plans backfire and hence cue the punchline of this segment: Because however Oshie isn’t a Therianthrope.

Art and animation feel decent. Certain Brute designs feel a bit weird like Taiga who looks more of a monster cat than anything a tiger. And Eruza looks more like Tarzan girl than anything cheetah. Uhm maybe too sexy for me to notice. After all, cheetahs are skinny and lanky among the feline species. And sorry, she isn’t exactly Kemono Friends material either. I know seeing Okajima’s sumo built makes him having a character of brute raw strength but because his face look like an owl, I keep thinking he should have been an owl too! Okay, maybe sticking to being a hippo is better. Gorilla feels like his oversized arms make the rest of his body hanging. It’s so odd. Like as though he skipped a leg day.

CGI is used but not as often. Mostly used when Kido transforms into his godly pangolin form. Not as bad but still the jarring is a bit obvious. There are also blood and gore so if your furry fetish isn’t strong enough to overcome this, you won’t be fapping to this anytime. This is also what I observed. How come male Brutes are able to transform many of their body parts into animals (if not their entire body) while the females only a few parts transformed and the remaining naughty bits as human? Damn the chances of jerking off are too damn high! This series is animated by Lindefilms who did Yamada And The Seven Witches, Koi To Uso, the Arslan Senki remake and Miss Monochrome.

Voice acting I only recognize Rikiya Koyama as Shidou and Yuuichi Nakamura as Taiga. The rest are Sora Amamiya as Hitomi/Ratel (titular character in Akame Ga Kill), Wataru Hatano as Nomoto (Gajeel in Fairy Tail), Maaya Uchida as Eruza (Rikka in Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai), Sumire Uesaka as Ui (Aletta in Isekai Shokudou), Megumi Han as Yoko (Jeanne in Shingeki No Bahamut series), Ryoukan Koyanagi as Kido (Ottarl in DanMachi series), Tooru Okawa as Okajima (Gordes in Fate/Apocrypha) and Sayaka Harada as Oshie (Chiya in Urara Meirochou).

Chinatsu Akasaki as Shinozaki as absolutely the craziest. Although she voiced weird characters like Yasuna from Kill Me Baby, Alice from Shokugeki No Souma and Shinka from Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai, none has matched the exuberance and passion from this Shinozaki character. As the emcee for Destroyal, you can hear her scream with a passion as she narrates to the excited audience the ongoing death battles. Even more so when she narrates the next episode preview. It’s like she is having an orgasm as she passionately shrieks at the top of her voice. Like as though this is the most exciting thing she has ever witnessed or the only thing in life that she looks forward to. Kudos and hats off to her for making that Shinozaki character really sound excitedly crazy. It’s showdown!

The hard rock based opening theme that is the same name of this series suits the action. As this is sung by Fripside, don’t expect all that techno trademark that you would normally hear in To Aru Kagatsu No Railgun, Black Bullet and Clockwork Planet. Though, the rock beat style is still pretty familiar. More hard rock music for your soul as the ending theme is one too, Kedamono Damono by Kitsunesuki. Also, more chances for your horny libido as we see the females in the series in very sexy poses and outfits, increasing your masturbating chances and even more if you are a furry lover. Damn if they could make such women so hot and sexy looking, why the f*ck do they need to turn them into beasts?! Just turn them into absolutely stunning human babes!!! Yeah, I’m not really a furry fan that’s why I’m thinking so.

Overall, even this series is garbage, it was still fun and enjoyable for me in the trashiest sense. So bad that it is even good? Well, even before watching this show and reading the synopsis I knew it wasn’t going to be Oscar material or a classic Japanese masterpiece. But still want another season nevertheless. Animal action scenes and sexy animal babes that are not 100% furry are what attracted me. After all, you need to watch so many crap animes first before hitting a good one. It would really be the ultimate Killing Bites if there was a character would turn into a penguin or panda! Or even a hamster! Nobody hates such cute creatures, right? Oh yeah, I would pay to watch that one and put all my money on them to win. Screw your sharpest fangs wins them all. The one which is cutest wins! That is Cutie Bites!

Shokugeki No Souma S3

April 27, 2018

From the looks of the second season’s OVAs, it sure whipped my appetite and motivation for Shokugeki No Souma S3. Hopefully with the introduction of new characters and possible challenges our titular hero needs to face to bring whatever changes and realization that is needed to revolutionize the food industry and Totsuki, I’m praying hard this season won’t bomb like the second. I know, it is a hard feeling to shake off. A great first season but a second disappointing one makes you a bit cautious if you should try the third. But then again, like all heroes need some sort of revival and comeback. Could this season be it for Souma?

Episode 1
Megumi talks to Souma as they reminisce the events that transpired during the OVA. The part where they met the Elite Ten and Souma throwing down the challenge for a Shokugeki but got rejected. But now they have to concentrate on the upcoming Moon Festival for the autumn. It is a 5 day event whereby the sales rankings are announced at the end of every day. Of course Souma thinks of participating and prove himself worthy to challenge Kuga. Since he specializes in Chinese cuisine, Megumi introduces him to Miyoko who also specializes in that area. She then takes him to Kuga’s club, the Chinese Cuisine Research Society (CCRS). Man, are those human clones machines?! Tossing dry rice in perfect sync?! Kuga tells him he is going to serve mapo tofu at the festival and then proceeds to make a spicy one to let him try and realize what he is up against. Of course it is nothing like his diner. Kuga’s ‘robots’ have trained till literally perfection! Of course Souma won’t be intimidated by that. He will beat him with his own cooking. As they leave, Miyoko warns Souma there is another factor that has him lagging behind Souma: Reputation. Kuga’s name is also well known outside Totsuki and hence loyal repeat customers. Polar Star residents will have their own booth at the festival too but of course Souma can’t participate with them. He learns from Isshiki that the area a stall sells is also important. The festival is divided into 3 areas. The main area is the most common as this is where many people gather and the foods are cheap. The central area is where foods are mid-range price and need some professional preparation. Finally the top area known as Yamanote is where many of the Elite Ten will be located. Yup, expensive dishes. Unless you are well known, attracting customers is going to be tough. After racking his brains for the best strategy, Souma finally hands in his application form. Everyone is shocked to learn he will be putting his stall right across Kuga’s CCRS in the central area. So his plan is to steal his customers? Then he is reminded if his stall loses money, he will be expelled. Say what?! Oh sh*t!!! Too late to change things now…

Episode 2
With Mitsuru’s help, Souma is able to advertise in the magazine that he will be putting up a Chinese cuisine battle next to Kuga’s stall. Alice complains to Erina that she now wants to participate in the festival despite the deadline has already passed. Souma passes by and has them come try out his mapo tofu. Nice but this isn’t anywhere near that would beat Kuga. Erina explains the significance difference of his dish that lacks ma and la. Others weigh in their thoughts on spiciness like it is perceived as pain but can also be pleasure while in medicinal cuisine it can help reduce stress. Thus Kuga is like turning people into masochists, loving his extreme spiciness despite being too hot to handle. Souma doesn’t have to man his stall alone. Megumi will help him out. So it’s only the 2 of them? Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into some romantic mess… But Megumi becomes Souma’s guinea pig to test his spicy dishes. I hope she won’t die from it all… Keep trying… Meanwhile Hayama is shocked to find Alice and Ryo have hijacked his stall. Apparently she convinced Shiomi about creating memories for Hayama for his school life. Her maternal instincts kicked in and allowed it. Too bad Alice won’t be facing off with Souma as she wanted since Hayama’s booth is in the main area. During the setting up of the stalls, more problems for Hayama as Shiomi allows Alice to do anything she wants. This is going to get messy. Kuga uses his budget to turn his stall into a giant Chinese restaurant! Souma also needs something for his stall to look attractive. He gets Miyoko’s help and permission to use a couple of stone ovens. Before the festival opens, all the students gather for an assembly and sing Totsuki’s anthem. Only Souma doesn’t know?! Feeling so left out? As it begins, there is a long queue as expected lining up outside Kuga’s stall. Souma is selling black pepper buns that is a popular Taiwanese treat.

Episode 3
Hayama is really in trouble. Alice bought wrong ingredients and needs an outlet to plug her centrifuge machine. At the end of the first day, Souma has not many visitors. Kuga rakes in heaps and stacks of tickets (used as the festival’s currency). Megumi is panicking but Souma is laughing it off. The top 3 sales are announced. In the main area, the Aldini brothers take top spot. Kuga takes first place by a mile for the central area while Momo takes control at Yamanote. Erina blows her top learning Souma, Megumi, Hayama, Ryo and Alice lost money on their first day. And to think they were finalists at the Autumn Elections. Oh, Souma is dead last for the central area’s rankings. But that doesn’t stop him from being casually having everyone eat his leftover buns as give their opinions on it. After the second day, it seems Souma also sold noodles and he went up a few places in the rankings. Kuga still dominates by a mile, though. Night fall, he and Megumi take their stall to the main area and let other people try it for free. They bump into Nao selling her grotesque smelly food and it sounds like a horrifying nightmare that they want to create the most grotesque smelliest ‘masterpiece’?! Anyway, the reason Souma is carting around like this is to see the customers’ reacting to his dishes. As the customers have been eating all day, the noodles with black pepper seems to be a great way to end the day. This is something similar to the popular Taiwanese danzi noodles that allows one to continue eating well without getting tired. Souma analyses his stone ovens that should attract people but it didn’t. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine his buns as tasty unless you see someone eating it unlike Kuga’s mapo tofu. You can tell it is delicious just by looking at it. He also notes his diner’s mapo tofu was never that spicy because Jouichirou wanted flavours that all regulars would enjoy. He thinks of building on that mapo tofu and adding some new ideas. This means more sleepless night for guinea pig Megumi. Looks like Souma goes back to his diner for this experiment. Mayu thinks he is back and enters the diner only to see something horrifying.

Episode 4
Kuga is trying to ‘persuade’ Souma to close his stall. You think he would give up just like that? As per requested by Souma, Tomita has delivered tables and seats that were just gathering dust in the shopping district’s warehouse for his stall. Souma lets him try his mapo noodles with a giant meatball but is told to eat the noodles first. While doing so, Souma notices Kuga too has a problem. The long queue is getting unbearable for those waiting and those who are seated are being rushed off after finishing. It is about time Tomita digs into the meatball and when he does, the fragrant smell attracts all those in the queue. There’s an explanation to what he made but let’s cut it short and says it is a great revision of his mapo tofu dish. With many of the customers now turning to Souma’s stall, Kuga is not panicking yet because Souma’s stall has lack of manpower and will soon crumble. Yes, that is the very problem Souma is now facing as the queue is building up and the orders keep piling. Don’t worry. Here comes additional help: Mimasaka! Oh, remember the great imitator! Previously Souma sought his help but to perfect his profiling, he needed to use his diner. Souma gave him the keys and hence that horrifying Mimasaka pretending to be Souma that Mayu saw! But with more customers, it looks like they may not be able to handle it especially Megumi who is nearly at her limit. Souma wants to cover for her but luckily he doesn’t have to. Because here comes volunteer help from Mito and the Aldini brothers! As it is getting dark, they have set up colourful lanterns to light up the place and attract more customers! Kuga realizes Souma has spent 4 days in creating his very own stall. At the end of the day, Souma’s stall tops the day’s sales and pushes Kuga’s stall down to second. You mad, bro? Meanwhile, Alice’s stall is also doing well making a comeback. She used her 3D printer to print chocolate that melts over Hayama’s curry rice. Curious customers try and love it.

Episode 5
Kuga’s failure means he gets lots of teasing from Rindou. But after the final day as the total sales are tallied up, Kuga still wins the central area. Flashback shows Kuga challenged Tsukasa to a Shokugeki and flat out lost. So he made a promise if he managed to top sales in the central area for all days, he would have the right to challenge him to another Shokugeki. However with Souma breaking that combo, he will not get his Shokugeki. And Souma too since he couldn’t dethrone Kuga. So no Shokugeki for anybody. Rindou then brings Souma and Megumi to Yamanote area. It’s such a posh and expensive place. Don’t worry. It will be on her. She brings them to Tsukasa’s location where he is the only one who prepares and cooks from start to finish. Also because he has panic attacks worried if something may go wrong. All unfounded… When they try his sakura shrimp, it is of course so good that we get that explosive naked reaction. Tsukasa explains about his cooking that involves erasing all evidence of his involvement and focuses solely on the quality of ingredients by enhancing them. Souma notices over the course of this talk, Tsukasa has never asked how their food taste. It could mean he is very confident of how it turned out and clearly Souma acknowledges he is way out of his league. Meanwhile at Erina’s place, she has been keeping a reserved table free in hopes that Jouichirou would come based on their old promise when she becomes a good chef. I guess this means she hasn’t. Suddenly an unexpected guest comes in. Who is this evil looking man? Oh, it’s her father, Azami. He is so badass that Erina is quivering around him. He is supposed to be exiled from Totsuki. He believes Erina’s cooking is not made for these lowlifes and some high and mighty version of what cooking is supposed to be. He forces Erina to cook for him to show how much she has improved. When Souma comes in to share his bun with Erina, why is it that most of the others look to him like as though he is a saviour? Anyway, being the dense guy he is (or is he?), he wants to share a table with Azami. Azami loses interests and leaves. He is confronted by Senzaemon outside, reminding him about how he has been also banned from the family. They clash on their ideas on what Totsuki is supposed to become so Azami shows him a letter. Because the Elite Ten holds equal and sometimes more power than Totsuki’s director, it seems a majority of them have revolted and agreed to install Azami as Totsuki’s new director! Tsukasa and Rindou are among those who supported this.

Episode 6
Jouichirou so happen to bump into Dojima who happen to get a call updating him about Totsuki’s new director. And that’s how they know. With Azami as the new director abuzz all around Totsuki, some like him but those who know better stay cautious. His first duty is to relief Hisako as Erina’s secretary because daddy will now forever be with her. Creepy! Erina cannot say no whatsoever because she just can’t. Creepy. Senzaemon is so free that he could pay Souma a visit and talk to him. He tells him Jouichirou who was the second seat in the Elite Ten and was encouraged by him to let Souma enrol at Totsuki. He asks Souma’s opinion of Erina. If I may put it in a word of my own: A b*tch. Senzaemon notes Erina used to laugh a lot. Till dad started brainwashing her with fear to train her God’s tongue. Yeah, it’s pretty traumatic for a kid. Senzaemon found out about it and exiled him. But he remained active in some selective wealthy community but never expected him to stage a coup with the Elite Ten. Knowing Erina will be imprisoned by him again since his influence over her is still great, he pleads Souma to save her. Well, this Nakiri family isn’t his problem because his goal remains the same and it is to let Erina say his food is delicious. I guess that’s a roundabout way of saying he’ll do it. Senzaemon notes he was right to sought Jouichirou’s advice. Alice and Hisako help take Erina and run away from her room. But the problem is where she will stay note. Their estates are heavily involved with the Nakiri family so she will be instantly noticed. A nicely timed Megumi appearing means Polar Star Dorm is nearby. The residents are worried they’ll be accomplices but after hearing from Hisako about Erina’s sob story, now they all welcome her like a friend and vow to fight the tyranny! They throw her a party but can they stand her criticisms? In fact, they ‘love’ it because how often to you get a person of her talent to taste your cooking? Here’s more cooking for her! Azami knows Erina has run away but doesn’t do anything for now because it is more important to prepare his revolution. And that means he shows the Totsuki staffs about his proposal to turn the place into some food utopia. But those with a sane mind can see it is a dystopia that will split the gourmet world.

Episode 7
Azami makes his first speech towards the students. First, he officially disbands all the clubs and societies. Violation means expulsion. Second, there will be a new sole decision making committee called Central. It is handpicked and the Elite Ten are part of it. What I understand is that you cannot do your own cooking and all cooking are dictated by what Central says it is. This means there is only one method for cooking instead of from various ideas. The logic is that everyone can learn and benefit equally, hence no more unnecessary competitions and expulsions. They can all learn directly from the recipes and ideas worthy of the Elite Ten. With agents going around with official documents to close down clubs, even Polar Star isn’t spared. Eizan comes down to personally hand it to them. Of course Souma won’t let this go. How about a Shokugeki? Of course. Although Eizan has no obligations to accept, he is after all swamped with Shokugeki challenges from clubs trying to prevent their shutdown. Surprisingly, he accepts them all! Speaking of which, there is one today and it is broadcast live. Watch it and be warned. So Eizan goes up against the president of some skewer club. Souma feels weird that Eizan isn’t focused on cooking and even if he wins, the other clubs wouldn’t back down. Once the time limit is done, it seems Eizan scores absolute victory when the judges didn’t even taste their food! Yup, he bought out the judges! Poor guy just got expelled. Thanks to this ‘warning’, all subsequent Shokugeki challenges are cancelled. I guess they got cold feet. So while everyone wallows in hopelessness, we see Erina’s depressed face, Polar Star reminiscing about the good ol’ days and then jinx it by getting emotional and crying about losing their ‘home’. And more Erina sad face like as though she is at fault. In some ways I guess so. You think this fired up Souma? Well, he went to challenge Eizan to a Shokugeki despite all that. He claims he isn’t doing it for Polar Star but himself because this is the place he will master his cooking. So Polar Star guys are worried he is doing this alone when they are ‘family’? Before the match starts, Eizan warns Souma that he has sent his gang to vacate Polar Star. Yeah, he played dirty by bringing forward the deadline and by the time this Shokugeki is over, he is going to see Souma’s sad face seeing the sad faces of his roommates. Boo hoo!

Episode 8
Souma makes his gyoza with chicken while Eizan stands idly and mocks him because the results are already in the bag, right? Well, that’s the start of Eizan’s downfall because he gets a call from his goons that the Polar Star guys are fighting back! Fumio provided them with construction helmets and they have water hose and smoke screen to stave off those jerks. With Souma mocking back if Eizan wants to talk to him, do it with his cooking, Eizan gets serious. So we hear Eizan’s past achievements of being the best consultant ever that earned himself tons of money and Totsuki lots of connections, hence his nickname The Alchemist. He could have ranked higher in the Elite Ten had he concentrated on his cooking. Eizan finishes and lets the judges taste his chicken rice. Worthy of his seat as expected. Eizan thinks of ending the Shokugeki but Souma wonders if he is scared to taste his. I mean, he proclaimed he has won so what has he got to lose by trying his, right? Took the bait. So as Souma adds weird ingredients like Parmesan cheese, he earns the mockery of the judges for ‘tainting’ the chicken flavour. He pours some sauce as the finishing touches. He lets Eizan taste. Long awkward silence. Could it be it is delicious? He lets the judges try but one of them refuses. The others in that case wants to take his portion! Can’t resist now, can they?! Souma reveals his secret ingredient in the sauce which turns out to be tomato ketchup. This idea didn’t come from him but from the brainstorming with other Polar Star guys. In the end, the stubborn judge gives in and like everyone else, your body can’t lie to good cooking. All judges vote for Souma! Eizan is seething in anger as Souma reminds him with the results Polar Star will not be shut down. That’s not all. He then throws a warning to everyone watching to ever mess with his buddies. To that and he will come at them with all he has got. Even if you are from the Elite Ten.

Episode 9
Not sure if those hooligans took their time leaving Polar Star or the Shokugeki hall was just close by. Because Souma is back when most of them are still leaving. Anyway everyone is glad, mad and happy that Souma has returned and save their precious dorm. What else to do but to party and celebrate! Isshiki returns after a short absence. He was laying low because had he helped, Azami’s administration might make things more difficult for them. But thanks to Souma’s victory, new rules have been drafted to allow Shokugeki for clubs facing closure and to be judged fairly. A few days later, Isshiki is summoned before Azami. He wants him to step down as an Elite Ten. Not only him but those who opposed his plan. They are Kuga and Tosuke Megishima. But shouldn’t Erina resign too? He believes she will come back to him. Azami knows Isshiki has been secretly going around to gain allies to draft laws for Shokugeki matches. Now Azami has to send his ‘soldiers’ to face them. With many clubs requesting for Shokugeki, Polar Storm guys split themselves into groups to go watch the Elite Ten battle it out in simultaneous matches. Of course all of them won unanimously. I wonder how long Souma can hold off his urge to do a Shokugeki. There are a few handpicked new Central members by Azami too. They are Rentaro Kusunoki, Kumai Shigemichi, Mea Yanai and Rui Kofuru. Souma and Takumi can’t help tease and almost pick a fight with Rentaro because of his arrogant and confronting ways. But it is time for their next Shokugeki match against Ryo and Alice. Apparently Alice was okay with her whatever club she hijacked get disbanded. But Ryo got worked up when Rentaro called him a small fry and so it’s on.

Episode 10
We take a short detour to see other Shokugeki matches in other halls. In short, Central unanimously owns everybody. Back to Ryo and Rentaro’s salmon dish battle. As usual, we see how they prepare the dish and everyone being the expert commenting on how it is done. In the end, judges have a taste of Rentaro’s Salmon Confit Flamme and Ryo’s Coulibiac. They are both so superior and on the surface it looked like this is going to be a draw. But taking a closer look, there is one clear winner in the sense that the winner managed to prevent the loss of the salmon’s umami. While it sounded like the judges are praising Rentaro for using his cryomill and olive oil with his flaming technique, the surprise turn of events when all judges vote Ryo as the clear winner. Something about his double layer brioche using crepe and dried bacon powder. And more crap about how Ryo’s dish bring about the unevenness that it would be better if we viewers had just taste it instead of being explained to. We also see how Ryo had improved and wasn’t the same person during the Autumn Elections because during the Stagiaire he had the misfortune to work in some Indian restaurant who was meticulous about spices. That changed him for the better.

Episode 11
Azami was watching this match and despite reminding Alice that their family has this responsibility in advancing the gourmet dining world, Alice is bold enough to tell him off she doesn’t like him and doesn’t share his vision. She will not let him have his way with Totsuki and Erina. Oh, Erina is listening. How convenient. It might look like a reconciliation is on the cards but if you know them, it will usually turn into one of their usual arguments. Too bad all other clubs that have lost will have their buildings demolished. With Central taken over, class formats have also changed. Teachers who do not disagree with the teaching method are fired. Like in Souma’s class, his substitute teacher is Tsukasa! First he calls for an assistant in which Souma is the only one with balls to do so. Souma is able to remember all his orders and keep up with his pace as they make a great French dish. Now Tsukasa wants everyone to replicate the same in the same amount of time! At the end of class, Tsukasa is impressed with his skills and wants him to join Central. Of course he rejects. However as Tsukasa tells him his cooking is unnecessary and will be just his assistant to further improve his cooking. Souma thinks his skills are better than him so Tsukasa challenges him right now. He is putting his Elite Ten seat on the line but if Souma loses, he will join Central as his assistant. Uhm, isn’t it either way Souma will be part of Central because if he is the first seat, he is technically still under Central? Anyway Souma will not let this chance slip and agrees. Tsukasa pulls out all his got as he uses venison to create his French dish. Even Erina, Hisako and Megumi spying outside all fall for his supreme aroma. So good! Souma then asks him why he joined Central as he is fine by his own. Of course this means asking Central’s true objective. It couldn’t be just taking over Totsuki, right? Tsukasa without batting an eyelid reveals the true overall goal: To close down all subpar diners in Japan! This means everyone will be eating fancy gourmet food? Sure. I don’t mind. If you make it dirt cheap. Hence this takeover of Totsuki is just the first step for a nationwide shutdown. But what pisses off Souma is how Tsukasa also mentions this means all small diners are unnecessary as well as those small places that hold great memories for everyone. Souma will not join Central or be his assistant. He will win this match.

Episode 12
So who are to judge the dishes? Pull in those spying girls. Souma pulls off his unpredictability by adding chestnuts and grilling venison meat over charcoal, which generally doesn’t fare well in French cuisine. But how come it tastes so exceptionally good? Because he added coffee. Something like that. Now it is Tsukasa’s turn. His double venison meat has twin flavours, French pepper and berries. Megumi and Hisako are in a dilemma to choose. I mean, they really can’t as both are so good. Also it would be bad if Souma loses and he ends up in Central. But Erina knows a clear winner. One that brings out the flavour of the venison: Tsukasa. Oh no! Souma loses?! Oh dear Souma, have you forgotten the winning rule to not let your dish get taste first?! However Tsukasa believes his predictability will not make him a good assistant. He would get worried to much! Besides, this isn’t a real Shokugeki so he calls it a draw. Souma despite admitting his loss, continues to sulk. Erina wonders if Tsukasa is showing him pity but he notes his cooking will not change no matter how much he tries to force it. A few days later, Souma’s friends continue their winning streak against the Central members. Yeah, they all won 3-0. So as they celebrate their glorious perfect victories back at Polar Star, look who comes to visit? Azami! He came all the way here to get Erina? She would have gone with him had Fumio and Isshiki reveal other info about him. He used to go by the name Nakamura until he married into the Nakiri family. He is an alumni of Polar Star and occupied the third seat of Elite Ten behind Dojima and Jouichirou. Everyone knows he plans to destroy Polar Star. I guess he’ll come back another day. Souma asks if he had felt no connection to this place. Azami believes this place is not the world he seeks. At least not now. He claims the golden age of Polar Star was when Jouichirou was around. He is the only chef whom he looks up. Souma reveals that is his father. See the shock on Erina’s face? Azami adds that his revolution is a salvation plan is to the culinary world that ruined Jouichirou. He feels lucky he gets to show the fruits of his labour to his son.

Menu Overhaul!
Yes! Definitely! Continue! You must continue!!! But why the heck do they need to split this third season into 2 cours? Are they trying to make me wait a gap season knowing that this season was awesome enough and therefore it will make the appetite grow and the dish will taste much better when it comes around? Okay. I think I can wait then. It is a very good thing that this season is quite interesting and hence blown away all my scepticism and doubts that I initially had at the beginning. And now I can look forward to the next season without any uncertainty clouding my mind! Hah. Being swayed by emotions after every season is sure a complex thing. So having that boring Stagiaire in the second season sure did lower my expectations. Imagine if it was so good, the hurdles would have been higher and you know what they say, the bigger they are the harder they fall.

I suppose it would have been a pretty boring and predictable formula had the plot been something like Souma challenging almost each and every one of the Elite Ten as he slowly climbs up the ladder and defeats the boss in the top seat. I think that would have made the entire series worse. This format might have worked in the early days of anime (like 20 years ago) but now it won’t. So the ‘twist’ of the plot comes in the shape of a new director for Totsuki. He sure does changed a whole lot of things around that serves as a wakeup call or more accurately a death knell for many of those who have gotten quite used to Totsuki’s traditions. I am sure many of us would love to hate this guy because of his dictatorship ways. After all, how else could you cheer on the hero (that’s you, Souma) and support him to defeat the big bad boss if that final antagonist is not as worthy? And so that is where Azami comes in. He is a demon as seen in the ending credits animation. That bad, huh?

Therefore with the latest revelations and developments especially Azami’s ties with Jouichirou, this whole Totsuki and possibly the culinary world thingy might get even more interesting as well as messy. Then maybe it would be Jouichirou’s turn to finally step back into the spotlight since he is mostly making his appearances in flashbacks. It seems there is more than meets the eye to one of the greatest chefs of his generation. Think about it. He graduated from Totsuki but didn’t really left his mark in the culinary world that tells he is an alumni of Totsuki. Like as though he doesn’t want to be associated with it. For many years, he has been laying low with his own mini diner until he decides to close it down and make Souma enrol in Totsuki. The one who will save the culinary world from certain doom? Maybe he disagreed or witnessed something horrifying. Like how meat ingredients are made from human beings! Oops. Wrong show. But the possibility is there for shock factor. I mean, are things all looking that good as they seem on the surface as well as what goes on beneath? There are things we do not know about Totsuki and an institution this big and influential may have dark secrets they want to hide from everyone forever.

While Azami’s plans might seem good on paper, but that is just about it and there are so many flaws that one may object but unfortunately our voices will not be heard because of his narrow minded thinking. First of all, he thinks that everyone should eat the same great food. Hence the same great cooking. That one and only way. Nothing else. He failed to realize that the rest of us ‘low lives’ are not so fortunate as him or his elites, getting to have this gourmet skill or whatever you may call. Sure, many of us would love to taste and eat good food for the rest of our lives but in reality, we are all just earning enough to eat. Barely. Yup, the same ol’ food for me again. And tomorrow. So unless he revolutionizes the prices by making them affordable, I think I will die of starvation first. Or even kill just to eat. Is this the chaos he wants to descend on Japan and the world?! That will be like he gets to control who gets to eat. Besides, if he is so cocksure that only one strict method is the right way, might as well discard all the various food types and cultures in the world and everyone’s meal would be all packed into one little pill. Yeah, that will be the ultimate. Also, the common people’s taste buds aren’t so sensitive so many broad spectrums. If it’s good, it’s good. Otherwise it is not. Simple. No need to rate out of 1000 and go into technical details on every fibre of the food. We common folks don’t give a sh*t. It all goes into our stomach and we’re satisfied. Period.

Call me a sadist but one of my biggest ‘joy’ for this season is seeing Erina being reduced to a weakling and scaredy-cat in the presence of her father. For the past 2 seasons we have known how obnoxious she is and especially towards Souma. Of course we learn about her past and circumstances but that doesn’t make it forgivable that snobbish b*tch she was before. So watching her in this frail state is like her getting her just desserts for being a dick towards everyone else. Maybe with this humility, it ought to open her eyes. I won’t say I didn’t feel pity for her seeing her in this state for the longest time, I do feel a bit bad for her but overall, I still enjoy seeing Erina stop being a b*tch for once. Of course, my wildest fantasy was to see Erina being further reduced to a damsel in distress situation that she would cry and finally run into Souma’s arms for help! Please Souma, I beg of you. Please help me. I don’t know what to do anymore. Boo hoo (insert more dramatic crying here)! And then like the true prince charming he would defeat his enemies and sweep her off her feet! And their culinary romance can begin! Kyaa~!!! So cringey. Should be Souma x Megumi but I really want to see that alternate fantasy too! Yeah, I also got my wish to see that face when she realizes Souma is the son of Jouichirou. It is priceless. The guy whom she adored long ago has a son whom she despises. Karma coming full circle. Now she’ll be forced to apologize and be nice to him. If she ever gets on her high horse and begin sounding b*tchy, just show a picture of her dad and she’ll shiver right away. That’ll do the trick. Sorry, still in my dream land…

Tsukasa feels like one of the oddest characters ever. I mean, Totsuki hosts a hell lot of weird characters but none as weird as him. Because he is so panicky and a worrywart in almost everything but the irony is that his cooking is so flawless and seamless like as though there was nothing to worry about to begin with. Like as though he has a split personality when it comes to cooking because he is just so cool whenever in that state. Yeah, his anxiety is somewhat a running joke for the series. Rindou I feel although has this very carefree and playful demeanour, it is as though underneath all that she has an ulterior motive. I mean, she does have the eyes of a snake, doesn’t she? Or maybe it could be she is just that and wants something more interesting to spice up her boring life.

Every other character are just hanging in there. What do you expect when you have only a dozen episodes and so many other characters that have been introduced since? So we don’t get to see Mito fawning too much over Souma and while Takumi still has his gay challenge waiting for Souma, it isn’t as annoying as he doesn’t pop up as often. Isami is still fat, though. They trolled us with Megumi becoming Souma’s assistant for the Moon Festival because we thought there would be some romantic sparks lighting although there were none. Not even a hint. Then there is Hisako who has become more receptive of Souma and Alice is not as bad as you think she is although she is still reckless. Ryo is still aggressive and full of angst as long as he wears his bandana while Mimasaka is still copying everything. And to show the Polar Storm members aren’t being useless, hence that eviction episode that ended in their victory.

At least this season we had a couple of Shokugeki and they aren’t a let-down either. They still maintain all that exaggerative goodness that will only make amateurs of this series want to take a chomp out of their screen. Me too but this time round, I had more resistance. More control over my appetite and not fall for those exaggerated naked reactions (those are still hilarious yet nonsensical). Seeing Souma and his side giving those high and mighty arrogant guys their humble pie never feels old. The food still looks as good but if only they could be real in real life. Sure, they will. If you cough up enough cash. Even if I don’t understand all the technical details what they’re saying in preparing the food, I am sure my average common sense will still tell me they are all great food. You people don’t have to cook such a great dish that will blow my (naked) mind away. Something that fills my stomach and give the thumbs up. Simple.

At this point I am starting to believe that rank and reputation too have a very stark influence on one’s confidence if the dish one makes would be successful. Of course it is for drama effect but for example when Souma went up against Tsukasa, the girls were very worried with the fact that Souma had a higher chance of losing because well, he is up against the number one. Of course it is to show that the seat is well respected and if anybody doesn’t feel fear, awe or inspiration being challenged or just being with this dude, it takes away the meaning to have such ranks and organizations. So don’t let the people with higher rank and better public reputation fool you. They odds might be stacked against you at first but remember, that doesn’t guarantee that you will lose. Just a higher percentage of losing, that’s all. At this point everyone should know and believe in Souma. Sure, he wins some, he loses some. His forever underdog tag might be the culprit why his pals are so worried when he challenges higher ranking people. But as the protagonist, he’ll win. Right? Just remember to let your dish taste the last.

Another rock outfit greets the opening theme for this season, Braver by ZAQ. Initially I felt such hard rock pieces aren’t suitable for this food themed series but seeing the direction of where things are heading, maybe it is a little okay after all. Nano Ripe reprises her role for the ending theme, Kyokyo Jitsujitsu. Is it because of the cool crazy guitar riffs and bass lines that distracted me from her ‘terrible’ voice? Okay, she doesn’t sound that bad after hearing her so many times but this song isn’t actually all that bad. Maybe it is all the delicious looking dishes in the ending credits animation all so nicely placed out that makes it even more appetizing.

Overall, the third season did do some justice and recover the series’ name. Not sure if it was a good thing to split the season into 2 cours instead of a continuous one. It’s like having your appetizer and main course first and then come back tomorrow for the dessert. Because maybe the restaurant ran out of whipped cream and needed to go to the store to get some but they’re all close. And we’re okay with that because we know they’ll deliver. Yeah. That kind of feeling. So while the story is getting pretty generic about an unconventional talented kid challenging the conventional and bringing his form of revolution to everything, it is the way they present it that doesn’t make it tiring. After 3 seasons and having being presented with the same awesome foods but in various forms, I guess it is true that variety is indeed the spice of life. All that talking is making me hungry for the next season already.

Juuni Taisen

February 25, 2018

I knew one day this would come. You see for some odd reason that I couldn’t remember nor understand, when I was younger I had this dream of watching a series whereby the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac would be facing off each other in a battle royale style war. True that in my younger days I had a certain fascination with the Chinese zodiac and perhaps that wish was inspired by a very old retro Chinese movie that used the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. But that one was where a master looked and gathered all 12 of the animals in her journey to fight the evil dark monster king. Oh yeah. I still remember that one. But now this anime, Juuni Taisen where you have those ‘animals’ fighting against each other in a tournament in which the last one standing gets his/her single wish granted. Man, this is going to be interesting. What are the odds the rooster will win? Nah, I don’t even want to bet on it.

Episode 1
The entire city of half a million is cleared out. This is the power of the organization who has made preparations for the 12th Juuni Taisen, a deadly tournament held every 12 years. Haughty Inounoshishi (boar) makes her way up the building as she remembers the harsh training her father gave her. When she showed mercy ones instead of killing when she had the chance, she was beaten up mercilessly by him. His discipline reaching the line of abuse. After all, he is the reigning Juuni Taisen champion. Once Inounoshishi enters the room, she sees a few familiar and new faces. Oh, there is already one dead. Tatsumi (snake) got killed by crazy Usagi (rabbit). Yeah, Usagi says it wasn’t him who killed him. Really? Blood on his sword… However Tatsumi has got another twin brother (dragon) and will be taking his place. Duodecuple makes himself known. He will be the referee for this game. First he has everyone eat a black jewel. Once done, he tells them it is poison that will slowly kill them. The warrior who collects all 12 jewels will be the winner and be given the antidote as well as a special wish. I’m sure you can be creative in your own ways on how you want to retrieve those jewels. More flashbacks from Inounoshishi as she was distraught and angry when father chose her younger sister, Kiyoko to represent their house at the next Juuni Taisen. Inounoshishi hatched a plan to train her to kill mercilessly to break her mental state down. So much so it gotten to a point where she killed all her classmates and house servants. When in isolation, she started experiencing withdrawal symptoms as Inounoshishi put forth her final plan. Ultimately Kiyoko killed herself and guess who is there to represent the house? After Duodecuple signals the start of the game, Sharyuu (monkey) seems to have a plan that would allow none of them to die. Inounoshishi is sceptical but surprisingly many agree to side Sharyuu on this. Before she could start, the ground collapses. Everyone goes into hiding. The game has begun. Inounoshishi is confronted with Usagi. They begin to fight. Inounoshishi is confident as long as she can keep him at a distance with her machine guns, her tactic to kill him is guaranteed. But suddenly somebody holds her from the back as Usagi stabs her throat! The dead Tatsumi? It seems Usagi is a necromancer and can control those he killed. And soon Inounoshishi will be one of his ‘buddies’…

Episode 2
After the building collapsed and the warriors fled their own ways, Nezumi (rat) fled alongside Sharyuu. As they hide in the sewers, Nezumi knows it was Sharyuu who destroyed the floor. Though she did that, it was because she sensed something trying to make a first kill. Somebody who was against her idea and wanted to strike first. Hence she destroyed the floor to protect them all in a way. Dotsuku (dog) hides in the car park. As he is the master of poison (his bite has venom), he knows about the jewel and made an antidote for himself. His plan is to wait it out till only a few warriors are left before moving in to kill. He is alerted when Niwatori (chicken) comes to see him. This timid greenhorn wants to make an alliance with him. Dotsuku is sceptical at first but since it would be bad if he gets injured now, he plans to go along with her, use her and then betray her. She then tells him about Usagi being a necromancer. Niwatori has this ability to view through the eyes of all the birds. She saw Inounoshishi being killed. That’s how she found Dotsuku. They discuss about some of the warriors they know. Like Ushii (ox) who is most powerful of them and is favourites to win this game. Then there’s the dragon and snake twin team combo but they’re not so terrifying now that one of them is dead. Lastly Sharyuu is a pacifist and has been going around the world to stop wars. It won’t be surprising she is here to put a stop to this mad game once and for all. But the one that stood out the most is Nezumi. He doesn’t seem like a warrior and they have this feeling they met him somewhere before. Niwatori gets word that Usagi’s team has split up. They see Inounoshishi wandering about by herself. Could it be a decoy? Dotsuku thinks of beating Usagi at his own game by using Niwatori as a decoy too. First he bites her. This poison will temporarily boost her powers as she goes out to deal with the boar to lure out the rabbit and snake. After that he will finish off the chicken. Nice plan. Only, Niwatori gets too strong and crushes Dotsuku’s head! Uuma (horse) has the misfortune to stumble unto Ushii. The raging bull charges.

Episode 3
After taking Dotsuku’s jewel, Niwatori summons all the birds to peck Inounoshishi to, erm, death? Lots of dead birds when zombie boar tries to shoot back but eventually her bones were picked clean. Niwatori feels confident she can win this given that she has now powered up. Flashback reveals Niwatori was a child abuse victim. She ultimately killed her parents. As she has control of the avian species, the Niwa family took her in as an adopted daughter. Her amnesia makes her an easy tool to be sent to the battlefields to fight as a soldier. Because she killed so many, she cannot tell who is good or bad. This means she even double crosses and kills her own allies. While she is looking for food, she stumbles into Nezumi. He won’t fight her and instead brings her back to Sharyuu in the sewers. Niwatori knows this place is disadvantage to her because no birds can fly under here but plans to play along and then betray. Niwatori cannot believe Sharyuu really wanted a ceasefire. But after updating her how many have died so far, when Sharyuu has her back turned, Niwatori seems hesitant to kill her. Eventually she couldn’t. Niwatori apologizes she cannot go along with her proposal and leaves. Sharyuu hopes that if she changes her mind, she’ll be waiting here as always. Later Niwatori regrets her decision. It would have been easier to play along and kill them when their guard is down. She blames Dotsuku’s poison for heightening her mental state. To her dismay, she bumps into Ushii. It would be foolish to fight the Genius of Slaughter. Noticing he has blood all over him, when he asks if she has allies so she quickly changes the subject that he was one of those who agreed to Sharyuu’s proposal. He was for the idea to form a team but when the floor gave way, the proposal also fell through. Sharp Ushii notes that Sharyuu must be nearby since she brought this up. He then advises her not to fight for ideals of others but her own. Of course Niwatori knows this better than anyone. No choice, they begin to fight. But Ushii is so fast that she didn’t see his sword slicing through her forehead. Ushii takes her jewel (and Dotsuku’s) and leaves. Niwatori allows all the birds to eat her corpse.

Episode 4
Sharyuu was trained and watched over by monkey sages. No, this is not a joke. After she graduated, they let her go as she vowed to dedicate her life to eliminate the folly of killing from this world. Nezumi has a hunch that Niwatori is dead. If this is true, it will be Sharyuu’s fault. That’s because while she was talking to her, Niwatori became ‘weaker’ hearing her optimistic words. For a trickster like her, those words could be ‘poison’. Sharyuu says she has more than 1 plan to win. Sharyuu is perplexed by Nezumi’s philosophy that even if he is for peace, he hates peace. He noticed in his normal peaceful life there are lots of trashy people. Sharyuu might have saved many but this could also mean she saved many garbage people. This has Sharyuu remember one of her missions as a negotiators in a long standing war between 2 countries over a disputed area. Conveniently when both sides have soldiers deserting the frontlines and joining forces to renounce the war and call for another independent nation, it was all part of Sharyuu’s doing. While politicians obsessed over unproductive talks, they were ignorant of those facing life and death in the war zone. Although peace did come, it wasn’t the way Sharyuu had wanted. Another force subjugated the rebels and more deaths occurred before the fighting eventually stopped. Sharyuu was sad but the most she could do is respond with openness based on the things she have seen and experienced.

Nezumi argues if she had used her power to end the fighting in an instant instead of negotiating for peace, it could have saved more lives. Those participating in Juuni Taisen have their reasons and only they find meaning in this war. Others do not know about it and even if they do, they wouldn’t care. Saying that all life is precious and no one is truly evil is just naïve. Sharyuu counters that with the fact she might have saved a lot of lives but have also failed to save many. She has witnessed the crimes of humanity again and again. She decided to stop it all using the power of words and despite going through terrible things herself, she still wants everyone to get along. Another flashback her lover was worried she was going off to the battlefield again because he really wanted their current peaceful lifestyle to go on. To him, she is not a warrior but the one he loves. She felt the same way too but ultimately this too is a form of battlefield and left. As Sharyuu ponders the current situation, she felt something strange. A dead bird is watching her? Woah. Lots of dead birds now. Looks like the necromancer has found them. They have to run and make their way to the surface to avoid being pecked and infected by tetanus. Arriving out, Sharyuu almost get sliced by the snake. Mad rabbit is here too. She wants Nezumi to take care of snaky boy as she fights Usagi while trying to peacefully talk it out, which is much harder than just killing them right away. She might be a pacifist but that doesn’t mean she won’t resist.

Episode 5
Duodecuple hosts a group of VIPs watching this game. Juuni Taisen is supposed to be a proxy war that will also decide the territorial struggles of the countries. Once the participants are down to half, the official betting will begin. Everyone starts discussing about who is the strongest and it seems it all boils down to the ox, rabbit or monkey. Some find this option boring and point out Hitsujii (sheep) as he was the winner of the 9th edition. Too bad some view him as old and weak but if he is joining this one, he must have some sort of a plan. Indeed as we see Hitsujii analysing each of the warriors as he ranks them by their overall strength. He finds the toughest are the ox, rabbit and monkey and it would be wise if he avoids them. However if he could turn them on each other, it would be a different story. Meanwhile Sharyuu must not only fend off Usagi’s attacks but chop lots of zombie birds. Her negotiations are falling on deaf ears. Nezumi is on the run from the snake and despite being headless, can he see or hear? Well, looks like he feel ground movements. Uuma barely escaped with his life. He wanted to form an alliance with Ushii but he wasn’t interested. If not for his ironclad defence, he could have been dead by now. A flashback on Hitsujii’s past. In his younger days, he was not only an arms dealer but a mercenary in the battlefield.

He married into the Tsujiie family who was one of his clients and participated in a Juuni Taisen and won. He had a wish granted and that was a happy life with his grandson. But as his grandson grew up, this prompted him to think. Hence he decided to enter this edition to avoid his grandson from participating. He won’t let those who brought happiness to him bear this burden and will bear this to hell while bringing along some of the other warriors. Hitsujii has a trick no one knows. He didn’t swallow the jewel and hid it in his beard. He wants to use this to deceive one of the warriors. Preferably those in the middle rank. He will lie about his ability to pass through solid objects and hence took out this jewel. Of course they will not let him go through their body and take it out as it would be much safer carrying it inside. They will also think this old goat won’t last long and hence will jump to his offer to form an alliance as Hitsujii’s role is to convince them he will take out the jewels from other participants. It is revealed Hitsujii is the one who planted bombs all over the floor at the start and could have finished everyone had he not been interrupted. Hitsujii almost got smoked out by Ushii but manages to get away with a small explosive diversion. He goes on a hunt to find a suitable participant for his plan. He then sees Tora (tiger). Noting she is the weakest of the lot because she is drinking and getting drunk instead of hunting others down. However she calls him out from his hiding.

Episode 6
Hitsujii goes out to face her and he just can’t seem to take her seriously because she is all drunk. He thinks of ending this quickly since Ushii will soon realize the fake trail he set. However Hitsujii couldn’t see Tora and in a flash he got his stomach ripped out! Oh well, didn’t you hear? Tora’s fighting style is drunken fist. As Sharyuu deduces Usagi’s inefficient fighting style (after all, a necromancer doesn’t need to practice swords or kung fu), she thinks of rendering him powerless from the back and then restart negotiations. But suddenly she gets stabbed! It seems the head of snake boy was watching and keeping Usagi’s back covered. With the field halved, the bets are starting to flow in. In descending order from strongest to weakest: Ox, rabbit, tiger, horse, snake and rat. While most bets are on the ox, some cannot help comment on the horse who is in the middle ground. Because speaking of him, he has lost his will to fight and holing himself inside some vault. Flashback shows Uuma as a soldier taking out his enemies swiftly. But when faced with a stronger enemy, a split second of wrong decision almost killed him. He survived and underwent all sorts of training and experiment to make his muscles strong as iron. Now he is thinking even if he doesn’t die, perhaps his evolution cells might just negate the jewel’s poison. In a way, he could win it still. He is shocked when Nezumi is seen hanging out next to him. A rat can sneak into all sorts of places, right? Uuma thought he was in alliance with the monkey but Nezumi says she got killed and hence her peace proposal is useless. Heck nobody knows its plan either. Sure you can be a pacifist but that won’t do you any good if you’re dead. Nezumi believes the real peace talks are the real heroes. Because in a world where everything stands still, it is as good as dead. Like you, Uuma. Even the snake’s corpse seems livelier. Nezumi then leaves and warns him that the snake might try to come after him here so it’s best for him to also leave. But Uuma is still reeling from fear and thinks he is better off holing up. But wait. What’s that smell? He can’t breathe. Oh sh*t! The place is on fire! The snake is burning down the entire building! Well, Uuma might have the strength but without oxygen to breathe… Who is up for some horse meat?

Episode 7
Flashback shows Tatsumi Aniki (dragon) and Tatsumi Otoutou (snake) had some sort of weird ‘friendly competition’ to see who could steal and escape better than the other. From jewel heist to contraband smuggling ambush, I’m not sure what the score is but they always help each other out. Because of that, the Tatsu house of both dragon and snake decided to choose them both as Juuni Taisen representatives for their exceptional teamwork. Too bad that only one of them can win. Even if this sucks, they’re like don’t really care about it. So before the game started, the twins thought they were the first to arrive at the tower but Usagi was already there (dressed in proper waiter suit). He is interested in their flame and ice tanks. The twins keep on their guard but are distracted when they heard something beneath the floor (Sharyuu checking the building’s integrity?). At that point, Usagi decapitated Otoutou. He could have gone on to kill Aniki too but Ushii arrived. Sharyuu is now part of Usagi’s merry zombies as she barges into the vault to take Uuma’s jewel. Zombies don’t need to breathe, right? Tora is confronted by Otoutou who starts shooting her with his flame thrower. She thinks his tank contains alcohol and cuts off his arm to take it. Wow, indeed it has alcohol? I thought it was gasoline since she’s enjoying it. After leaving, Ushii arrives and cuts off Otoutou’s other arm. At this point, Tora senses Ushii’s presence and returns. She is ready to fight him like though she has a grudge. In a surprise move, Otoutou’s arms have a life of their own as they grab and strangle Ushii and Tora each. In a dire need to get out of this, Ushii pleads for Tora’s help and will challenge her to a one on one fight in any way she wants. Sounds like a good deal. Now, Tora doesn’t have to do anything but keep foaming in her mouth like she does. Ushii throws his sword in which sparks become flames and starts burning her entirety.

Episode 8
Aniki is in a courtroom hearing. Since Otoutou skipped out, Aniki gets permission to be his proxy. The twins are accused of siding with different factions and killing all on both sides. Aniki was hired by a pharmaceutical company that behind the scenes tests drugs with side effects. On the other hand, Otoutou is hired by an organization that on the front looks like a children shelter but runs a human and organ trafficking ring. It seems the company wants to sever ties with the organization but the latter will not allow it since you know, hush money. The twins plan is to steal the money in the hospital’s safe but it is secured via biometric security. When both sides meet for the final exchange and disagree on the terms, that is when both the twins show up and each side is shocked to know this. They start freezing and burning everything. I don’t know why the director is so dumb to run back to his safe because he literally opened it for the twins. Scared, he wants to bribe them. No thanks. They kill him and take everything. But there are records the twins are righteous thieves. The money they steal are distributed to the poor. But what is unrecorded is that later those poor people fought among themselves of it, the higher up absconded with it all or everyone just got killed. The twins are then paid to destroy all evidence of this testing and burnt down the entire hospital! A young patient survived as he pays a visit to his dead brother on site. The twins show up to mock about his prayers as well as tell him the truth about the harsh reality. Even more insulting, they pay him as ‘apology’ for killing his brother. After all, the good deeds he believed in from those righteous thieves are not even worth a single cent. With the prosecution accusing Aniki all this, he counters and silences it all by saying he is from one of the zodiac houses. The jobs they take on implicate them in wars and criminal acts. So are they going to judge him by their standard of goodness because what world do they apply in. Back to the game, the fire burns off the arm as Tora throws away her jacket. Ushii takes it and burns off the menace too. This confirms his theory that fire permanently kills the mind controlled part because otherwise, why doesn’t Uuma become Usagi’s zombie? Ushii and Tora will have to put aside their fight for now to take down Otoutou’s remaining corpse and burning it will not be easy.

Episode 9
Sharyuu spots Aniki in the air and throws Otoutou’s head at him. This makes him get distracted as Usagi cuts him in half! Oh well. So much about joining in the fight. This makes it harder for Ushii and Tora as now they have to fight against Otoutou’s head, Otoutou’s limbless body, Aniki’s upper half and Aniki’s lower half. That’s 4 enemies to face for you. But we take a detour to look into Tora’s past. She inherited her family’s dojo through preservation and was greatly respected. Then she got a taste of killing in the battlefield. Like any amateur, she was scared and questioned why humans kill each other. She survives her battles and finds solace in alcohol. It is then she realizes fighting in a drunken state enhances her speed and killing techniques. She likes it. She soon starts spiralling down this path. Although the military praises her, her dojo didn’t like how she has degenerated and expelled her. So more drinking and killing, I guess. Gradually Tora starts regressing to a state where she cannot remember the basics or tell the difference. She continues killing as long as nothing could stop her. Ushii and Tora fight off the corpses of the twins as Ushii hints about Aniki’s liquid nitrogen tank. It took a while for Tora to understand as she grabs and smashes it over the corpses and let them break apart. Then coming out of the hiding is Usagi. For once, he is outnumbered but jumps in to attack. Ushii and Tora do the same and in a single strike, Usagi is cut to pieces. Hey. That’s it?! Too easy?! Ushii and Tora’s alliance ends as they prepare to face off each other.

Episode 10
More flashback on Tora’s past. Walking in her usual drunken state in the midst of the battlefield, soldiers were preparing to ambush her. Suddenly Ushii appears and kills all of them. It seems he has mistaken her for a civilian and the bad people may have purposely intoxicated her with alcohol. Tora then asks how to do the right thing. Ushii obliges to reply her. Long story short, one must have the intent and then do it. In that order. Because if you are still in the former but thinking about the latter, it is the height of foolishness. It made Tora wonder if she has been suffering all this time and alcohol did not take away her pain. Ushii leaves her at the refugee camp. Tora starts thinking how different they are even though they are warriors. However it did not frustrate her. Her meeting with Ushii made her realize she had a goal in life. So she tries to find herself again by retraining and having more discipline. As the world is vast out there and with so many wars going on, she hopes to meet him again in the battlefield if she keeps fighting. Sadly, she did not and when she was about to give up, she heard from her old dojo friend about Juuni Taisen. Believing Ushii would be there, she apologized and begged her master to take her back. He did. When Tora arrived at the tower, she was happy to see Ushii. However he ignored her. So the reason Tora is mad the whole time at him is because he couldn’t remember her?! As they are about to fight, Tora sees Usagi’s arms lunging straight from behind Ushii. Promptly she shoves it away and gets stabbed! Well, time to ponder if she did the right thing. Ushii cuts other Usagi parts to bits (even his intestines are attacking!) but to no avail. Ushii takes Tora and run. He believes Usagi must have killed himself like biting off his own tongue so he could gain control of himself as a zombie. Otherwise, why would he just simply pop up before them without a plan? As Tora’s bleeding gets worse, she has him put her down (after a safe distance). Even she gets the required medical attention, that will take time and she will not be able to fight like before. Hence she is calling off their duel and wants him to do a last favour: Kill her. Bleeding to death means being killed by Usagi and she doesn’t want to be his zombie. Ushii agrees but she will die as a warrior. Ushii still can’t remember her but she isn’t mad anymore and says this is the first time they’re meeting.

Episode 11
Ushii remembers a girl he met on the battlefield but fails to connect her as Tora. He pays his last respects. Ushii then thinks about death as a warrior’s last salvation. Usagi is a necromancer so he cannot understand how he thinks as he goes so far as to kill himself just to win. After all, what good is a wish if you are dead. He thinks of finding some flammable items but looks like Usagi is here. He is a big mash up of other parts. Man, he is now a monster! As they fight and Ushii slashing his body to pieces, suddenly Sharyuu bursts out from inside to pin him down. Ushii laments he didn’t know she had died and had not taken account her. He knows Sharyuu could have killed him but is only holding him down because Usagi has to kill him to make him his zombie army. The only thing left to do is to kill himself but Sharyuu won’t even allow him to do that. Thinking of how many participants left, speaking of Nezumi, now he pops up. It seems he has been searching for Hitsujii’s body to find his bomb. As Usagi’s body needs to regenerate and can’t do anything else, this is the only perfect time. Nezumi credits Tora for killing Hitsujii and thus was able to find his bomb and thus it is not for Ushii’s to claim credit. Ushii agrees to die in the explosion together with Usagi as it would be better than leaving Usagi walking around freely. The explosion goes off after Nezumi goes back into his hiding.

Back in the office, Duodecuple congratulates Nezumi for winning Juuni Taisen. He would like to hold a brief interview but Nezumi refuses and leaves. He is then killed when the elevator drops! But wait. He is still alive back in the office. A premonition? Could he reverse time? It seems Nezumi has died so many times, during the course of the battle and as well as refusing the interview. Out 100 routes, there is only 1 route that allows him to live this far and he has to take the interview. So he tells Duodecuple about his simultaneous 100 strategies and he was lucky that 1 of them allowed him to survive. Doing that ability is exhausting, that’s why he is always tired. This route in which he won was thanks to Sharyuu’s strategy in fact. Before her untimely death, she requested him to kill her if Usagi controlled her. He refused so she told him to get Hitsujii’s bomb as it would be effective against corpses. In the end, he never knew what her ultimate peace plan was. Or it could be just a bluff. This route allows Nezumi to know about the countries betting behind the scenes. As for the other 99 routes he had not won, he wouldn’t know the winner since he died halfway but deduces Usagi would have won most of them. With the interview over, Nezumi is allowed to leave. Once he has thought of his wish, feel free to contact Duodecuple. Nezumi will come up with 100 wishes and then ask him to grant just one.

Episode 12
We see Nezumi leading his boring high school life as he tries to think of that single wish. From as simple as killing all his classmates (don’t worry, they’ll die in 100 years’ time) and flipping up girls’ skirt, he even asks a classmate for advice. She wants everyone to happy with their wish granted. However this means people whom Nezumi hates will also be revived. That would be hell. He thinks back on Sharyuu’s words. Should he revive righteous people? What if they don’t want to come back alive? Is it okay for self-satisfaction since it is his wish? He remembers asking the Juuni Taisen participants of their wish and unlike him, all of them naturally and almost instantly have their answer. Like Hitsujii’s youth and immortality, Niwatori’s self-confidence, Uuma’s talent and Inounoshishi’s harem. Nezumi wonders if he would increase his 100 routes ability to 1000. However this would mean he would experience pain and death 999 times. Each of those felt so real and he wouldn’t want to go through them. Of course others don’t remember of it and only do so in the sense of déjà vu. That’s why sometimes they feel he is so familiar. Nezumi further notes that there are things that cannot be done no matter what. An example he cited a girl he liked at school. No matter what he did to ask her out, she never returned the favour. It stemmed from the fact she liked another guy. Hence it is hellish to go through 1000 options and have all of them fail.

Nezumi further remembers talking to other participants in which they seem different up close than you think they are. Like Dotsuku despite being an assassin works in a preschool. He has an adopted daughter whom he saved from some pervert. He earns money for her and life may not be the best but it’s less crappy than before. Even the twins wanted money but away from each other they believe the other said so only because it’s a game. Heck, even there was a route Nezumi became friends with Usagi whose wish is to have friends all over the world! Then there is Tora whose wish to be reunited with Ushii. She is the only one who got her wish granted. Finally, he remembers asking Ushii for his wish but was asked back about his own wish and purpose of fighting in this competition. Now Nezumi is stressed out thinking the remainders of his 100 wishes. No matter what, it will lead to some ruin. Even Duodecuple suggests a 100 wishes but as you know, no number of wishes will ever satisfy a man. Nezumi has finally decided on a wish. He wants to forget. He doesn’t have any wish he wants granted. Seeing his desperate plea from the bottom of his heart, Duodecuple grants it. Next day as Nezumi goes to school, everyone notices how he doesn’t have a care in the world as usual. But they also notice his satisfied looks like as though he doesn’t need anything. Just his sleep.

Zodiac Killer
Wow. So that is how it ends? Everybody clap your hands! Well, if there are anybody left in the end. Despite the lukewarm ending, I must say that I am still very impressed of the overall series. I was thinking there would be some sort of twist at the end. You know, Duodecuple being the traitor and killing Nezumi! Oh well, if Nezumi is able to see into the future, I am sure he would avoid that path. Heh. A route he might not even see it coming. So a happy ending considered? I suppose. Now, everybody clap your hands again!

Strangely enough, if you know your zodiac order well enough, this show is actually very ‘predictable’. After a while you will notice a pattern. From then on, you can guess whose story will be in focus. Heck, they even die in that same order! Okay, so the snake was the combo breaker but still, everyone perishes according to that order. Some might argue about Usagi but he has already turned into a corpse before his bout with Ushii and Tora. If you count that as alive, then I suppose Sharyuu is also considered ‘alive’ as a zombie, right? Therefore I still consider Usagi as dead in that particular zodiac order. Some episodes might troll you on this in the sense that there are no deaths. But a few episodes later, multiple deaths! In that order too.

What I find more fascinating than the fights is the background stories of the characters. The way they weave each of the participants’ stories into the story makes it an engrossing and interesting watch. Though those expecting an all-out violent affair from start to finish or some sort of super exaggerated drag-out fight like in the Dragonball universe would be sorely disappointed. Thinking about it, had the series been made that way, I don’t think it would have been as interesting as this story driven style. Therefore with the story played out in this fashion, we get to see insights and the past and history of the characters involved. Why they are participating in this edition of the tournament and how that came to be.

But not all of the characters get this sort of treatment. Because certainly we didn’t have any background story on Usagi. I was wondering why they showed Tora’s back story an episode early when it was supposed to be meant for Usagi. It would have been really interesting to see what sort of twisted history Usagi and his family house has. How the heck did someone like him get to participate in this edition of Juuni Taisen. Did he kill off everyone in his house? As creepy as it may sound, it would also have been interesting to have seen a bit of this rabbit’s past. Ushii also felt like he didn’t get this sort of in depth character treatment as his past is mainly tied to Tora’s. It would have also been interesting to note the kind of wars he has fought, the battlefields he has been through in order to earn the Genius of Slaughter nickname.

As for Nezumi, now that he has won the tournament and his wish is to forget, I keep wondering which house he was representing. Because it is said those shadowy figures use this game as a betting system to see who controls the world next. So do peace reign now that Nezumi has won, assuming he doesn’t come from any house? I’m sure this isn’t the only proxy war to decide on everything because you know men, they’ll have other sneakier ways to go about. The weirdest part was Nezumi having no wish at all. So how did he get to participate and represent the house of rat (whoever they are) in this edition? It makes you wonder what he was actually fighting for. Why did he get involved in Juuni Taisen in the first place if he has none. With so many wishes and the thoughts of having endless dream is wonderful and yet frightening. Sometimes the wish that we want most is just the simplest and right before our eyes, under our very nose. So sleep on, Nezumi. At least he can sleep easy nights from now on. He is after all the winner of the tournament and gets to live.

I need to mention about the ‘disappointment’ of some of the fights. Although as I have said that they are not the main focus of this series, this little bit also helps in making the series more interesting. After all, this is partly why we are watching this show, right? Even though I do not expect the fights to drag out very long, I can’t help feel that some of them were just too short. The case of Usagi’s fight with Ushii and Tora. I believe that is the most anticipated fight of the series. The best killers among the participants going all out against each other. And that didn’t even last a second! I was really shocked when it ended so fast. Of course I didn’t expect it to last for half an episode. Maybe like 20 seconds the least. You know, how Sharyuu fought with Usagi. About that length. Well, in place of that, it did give Tora more story time.

Other disappointing ones including Uuma. We only get to see snippets of his clash with Ushii. By the time it is his turn to take centre stage, he had already turned into a coward and died without fighting! Also, Aniki didn’t even get to join in the fight as I anticipated because he got instantly killed the moment he thinks of descending into battle! Many of the others too felt this short (Niwatori crushing Dotsuku, Ushii slicing Niwatori, Tora slashing Hitsujii) but it didn’t feel as disappointing as the anticipated ones. Maybe it is just me. Also, sometimes I feel that with Otoutou already dead in the beginning, I sometimes felt that we have been ‘short-changed’. I mean, there is one less warrior on the battlefield already before the start. Of course it is part of the story but I guess personally the charm of a battle royale is that the more participants there are, the more potentials there are for killings. With a limited participation field of 12 warriors and narrowed down by 1 before the tournament’s commencement, this should be an indication that this series is going to be more story driven than action to account for its 24 minutes running time per episode. Heck, even if they triple the amount of participants and guarantee a few deaths per episode, I think it would have just diluted the worthiness of the series. Just take a look at Ousama Game The Animation… Despite the lacklustre fights, I just cannot bring myself to feel let down for the overall series.

Let me comment on the character designs. Based on my stereotypes of the animals, some of them come as a surprise. Like Inounoshishi whom I was expecting to be a fat ugly male. Well, a brutally cold hearted woman isn’t all too bad either. I also thought Tora would be some ferocious male but looks like we need some sort of fanservice in the form of tiger girl. I was hoping the dragon would be looking like something majestic and one of the powerful favourites. Instead, Aniki looks like some wuss pussy just like his younger twin. Oddly for Uuma, his muscular body size would have been very much suitable for the ox because if you compare him with Ushii who is quite slender, you would think in a physical match of raw and brute strength, Uuma would have easily won. The most WTF look is Niwatori. Her outfit is just outrageous. She looks like a lost samba party queen. And what the heck is with her holding a pitchfork as a weapon?! Was she part of some angry mob somewhere?

The rest are quite fitting to what they are like Ushii’s matador style outfit and Hitsujii being an old goat is being beardy and all. The creepiest goes to Usagi who looks like your worst sweet dream nightmare that you wake up from. I think he is inspired by Playboy. His outfit is ‘sexy’ enough for some girls to sexually fantasize over and would want to call to their birthday parties as a male stripper. If you can live with staring at his creepy eyes and risk not becoming part of his zombie party in the end.

If you think about it, many of the characters’ personalities and traits do take after the animal they represent. For example if you keep thinking how strange it is for a rabbit to be a necromancer and resurrect the dead, it is actually more to the fact that rabbits multiply in numbers easily. Hence with Usagi racking up his undead army is somewhat a reference to this. Nezumi’s ability to simultaneously see himself in every possible futures, hence he is here, there and everywhere could very well mean the ubiquity of rats to be everywhere. You kill one, there are still more of them somewhere. And is a monkey supposed to be wise? Well, I am thinking more on the lines of foolishness. Sharyuu believes her universal peace plan would work out but in the end, look what good it did to her. Even her ‘proven’ track record of solving conflicts had some sort of foolishness in it or in the aftermath.

If you are confused why chickens are psychotically scary and not cowards, those who have never tried to catch a chicken before will not know how scary it is!!! True, I have not tried catching a chicken myself but watching some videos online and hearing old people from backwater villages, chickens are one of those animals to be feared! Speaking of cowards, are horses cowards? Well, it isn’t the fact that Uuma as a horse is a scaredy-cat (scaredy-horse?), but taking literally a horse’s ability to ‘run’. Oh… See how ‘fast’ Uuma has ‘run’ from the tournament. Do dogs have poisonous bites? If they are infected by rabies. Do snakes and dragons breathe fire and ice respectively? Maybe a snake’s venom feels like you are burning on fire. And maybe this is an ice dragon… Pigs are known symbolically as greed. Inounoshishi perfectly represents that in her character.

Before every warrior faces off with each other, they will state their way of killing as their warrior code and etiquette. For instance’s, Niwatori’s killing by pecking, Dotsuku’s killing by biting and the twins’ killing for money. Some of them are really just WTF. Especially Sharyuu’s killing peacefully. WTF?! How the hell can you kill peacefully???!!! Some monkey’s logic. Another one is Uuma’s killing silently. Huh?! Is he supposed to be some sort of stealthy ninja? Not that I can see from his body size. Usagi’s killing psychotically and Hitsujii’s killing deceptively are very much staying true to their characters’ personality. Ushii’s killing systematically may sound ridiculous too but if you think about it, bulls and oxen plough the fields systematically so in this sense it sounds less silly but still bizarre in a general sense (though, literally speaking Ushii’s tagline only means ‘just killing’). Nezumi’s killing all is fitting if you consider rats are responsible for that bubonic plague AKA The Black Death.

A few recognizable seiyuus lending their voice here include Saori Hayami as Sharyuu, Cho as Hitsujii, Youko Hikasa as Inounoshishi, Ayane Sakura as Niwatori, Hiroki Yasumoto as Duodecuple and Nobuhiko Okamoto as Usagi which almost reminds me as that psychotic Accelerator in To Aru Majutsu No Index. The other casts are Shun Horie as Nezumi (Koshiyama in Nana Maru San Batsu), Yuichiro Umehara as Ushii (En in Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love), Hiromi Igarashi as Tora (Symonne in Tales Of Zestiria The X), Takuya Eguchi as Aniki (Kon in Ixion Saga DT), Kousuke Toriumi as Otoutou (Chopin in ClassicaLoid), Hikaru Midorikawa as Uuma (Rukawa in Slam Dunk) and Tomohiro Nishimura as Dotsuku (Amano Jaku in Urotsukidouji series). Rapture by Panorama Panama Town is a fitting opening theme to the series with its slow rock style while Keshin No Kemono by Do As Infinity has a faster rock beat serves as the ending theme.

Overall, this is one of the better and interesting series of the season. Despite the short and uninspiring fights as well as its ‘predictability’, it makes up for it with its interesting character backgrounds and stories. It is well delivered that it overrides the action scenes and you would rather give thought to the stories instead of the fights. I’m never a person to read on horoscopes and this series didn’t even make me want to find out about my yearly luck. I do read, but just for fun and forgotten as soon as I finished. Maybe that’s why my life is generally a streak of bad luck… Now that we already have a death match for eastern zodiacs, when are the western zodiacs going to have their turn at each other? If that really happens, then I’ll prepare to clap my hands.

Nana Maru San Batsu

December 9, 2017

Question: What is the first anime ever created? They sure can make an anime out of anything. That is why I was curious that they could even make a series out from the quiz bowl itself. That is what Nana Maru San Batsu is all about. A group of students taking challenges from various meets, meet all kinds of quiz nerds, answers lots of questions, experience and learn the strategies on how to even answer and anticipate answers of questions that isn’t even read finished???!!! Woah. It’s too technical. It’s too deep. I have a feeling I might end up with a headache at the end of it but my curiosity is high enough to want to make me check this out. I hope I learn something from all of this.

Episode 1
The clubs are aggressively trying to recruit new members at Busou High School. Especially the quiz bowl association. Shiki Koshiyama is a plain guy who doesn’t stand out and is overwhelmed by all the aggressiveness. He takes a look at the quiz paper he was given. He tries to answer as it starts off fairly easy. In class when the teacher asks volunteers to be the library rep, because he is so meek and a tall guy blocking him in front, Daisuke Inoue takes to post followed by Mari Fukami. A few other girls note this and gossip about him being a loser. He seeks refuge in the library. Fukami accidentally trips over him. Nice shima pantsu… Oops. She leaves in a hurry and he notices she dropped her quiz paper. He sees strange markings on the questions. In the hall where the clubs introduce themselves, the quiz bowl association is introduced by Gakuto Sasajima. He has 3 volunteers to come up to stage and then randomly picks another 3. Koshiyama is that unlucky dude. Not only he has to be in front of the stage, he is next to Fukami and each time he sees her, he only thinks of shima pantsu! Sasajima starts off with a variety of questions from straightforward to trick questions. Fukami then struts her stuff when she buzzes before the question is read finished and answers them correctly. No, she isn’t cheating. This has Koshiyama realize about her advice where there are some questions you can predict its answers (hence the markings on her quiz paper) and literally you need to be fast enough to earn the right to answer. Since you have 5 seconds to answer, you can use that time to think of the answer. When Sasajima asks the last and toughest question, Koshiyama is able to beat everyone and answer correctly without the question being finished reading. Everyone is awed at him. Later when Koshiyama returns Fukami’s paper quiz, she concludes he is a smart person as he got a hang of it in a short time. As the last question was hard, even if she heard that question till the end, she could not have answered it. That’s why she will forgive him for seeing her shima pantsu (?!) if he joins the quiz bowl association with her. Is that a quiz question for him? She believes his abundant knowledge and quick thinking will be his weapons to become quiz king!

Episode 2
Fukami sounds ambiguous asking Koshiyama out tomorrow. Are they going on a date? Nah. It’s a quiz meet at Sekigaoka High School. Inoue is interested and wants to come too (he is probably interested in Fukami). At the train station, they meet up with Sasajima. Yes, the quartet are the only members of the newly formed quiz bowl association. At the hall, we see a few potential rivals like Takumi Niina and Yousuke Ashiya who know Sasajima well. On the girls’ side there is Chiaki Sonohara from Asagaoka Girls’ High. Also from this school is Yuki Kouzuki who is Fukami’s childhood friend. The quiz begins and is divided into 2 groups. The first 3 to have 5 correct answers advance to the next round. Fukami is in the first group and after testing the buzzers, Hajime Sasaki races to become the first one to qualify. There are many close instances of fast buzzers as Koshiyama realizes the 0.01 second of chance of victory needed in pushing the button and answering the question. Since he is so awed, Chisato Mikuriya chides him for that. You can tell they’ll be rivals. Fukami and Kouzuki pass to the next round. Before the next group begins, Sasajima evaluates Fukami’s performance. She might be good in the classics but it isn’t good enough since the next round will be harder. What are classics? Frequent questions. So to have better chances, usually one would memorise them and find a pattern. Koshiyama and Inoue are up in the next group. Mikuriya shows his stuff as he flawlessly becomes the first to qualify. While Koshiyama excels in literature, Inoue does well in the otaku category. It is a neck to neck race for the final spot between Koshiyama and Fumika Kenmochi. A literature question has Kenmochi beating Koshiyama to the buzzer but she is unable to answer. This is also a tactic to stop Koshiyama from answering. Koshiyama is so tense that he buzzes too fast to an otaku question. Thank goodness he learnt what zettai ryouiki was today or else he couldn’t have spit out that answer that earned him the next round.

Episode 3
During the break, Koshiyama seems down because the quiz bowl is a lot more competitive than he thinks. Sasajima motivates him that the classics are updated from time to time so it is impossible for everyone to memorize it all. This gives everyone a chance and it is fun because you’ll never know what can happen next. The next round is a format whereby all contestants have to write their answers. For the one who buzzed, a correct answer earns 3 points but a wrong one means deducting that amount. For those who didn’t buzz, a correct answer earns them a point but no penalty for a wrong one. As it begins, Mikuriya is buzzing at very crucial parts of the question where the rest can’t make head or tail what the question is. And he gets them all correct! So much so he eases off to give others a chance. Koshiyama then realizes it could be because of the accentuation of how the host emphasis the words in the question that might give clues on what the second half of the question is. Koshiyama gets a hang of it although he still misses the mark but Mikuriya notes how close his answers are. In the end, the top 3 to advance to the final round are Mikuriya, Sasaki and Kouzuki. The final round is harder since the questions are longer and the contestants have to wait to hear a big bulk of it before buzzing. Koshiyama also ‘plays’ by answering in his head while watching from the side lines. In a question whereby Mikuriya buzzed earlier but then realize his answer might be wrong, Koshiyama goes deep into thought and when he arrives at the correct answer, he blurts it out! This is clearly against the rules and the question won’t be counted as Sasajima takes him out of the hall. Koshiyama is embarrassed and apologetic but Sasajima doesn’t blame him since he didn’t teach him the proper etiquette. Only those with the right to answer can do so, hence pretending to do so without that right is just inappropriate. His advice is to improve his technique of answering and then store up his knowledge. Quiz bowls are more than showing off one’s knowledge as it includes rules and strategies. It is no surprise Mikuriya wins the meet so he tells Koshiyama to come the next regular meet in June to get his revenge.

Episode 4
Koshiyama tries to greet Fukami on his way to school. He picks her up on his bicycle but has no strength to peddle! No, she isn’t heavy! However Fukami switches places with him and the ride is easier! He’s so light! Yeah, awkward stares at them… With the trio joining the quiz bowl association, Fukami starts off asking Sasajima on how to win competitive quiz bowls. However he tells them they can’t win. He rephrases his words that they should get to know about the world of quiz bowls before thinking about winning and losing. This has Koshiyama re-evaluate his goal. He needs to defeat quiz bowl itself before defeating others. Now we get on to the technical aspect of explaining the category of straight or parallel questions in quiz bowls. I’m dumb. I don’t get it. As they don’t have their own buzzer (one costs a lot) so they use a calculator as substitute. Low class but it works. Fukami meets up with Kouzuki to ask if her school has extra buzzers to lend. They don’t. She suggests working part time to buy time and in the mean time she could broaden her horizons with different experiences. Koshiyama is at his usual spot at the library when a zombie girl crawls up to him! Actually Jinko is just hungry and eats half his lunch! She was so wrapped up in her hobby she spent all her money on it. Because they are so close, Fukami spots them. She gets jealous another girl is eating his lunch when she herself has not and runs away. WTF?! Inoue is crying out loud that Koshiyama is popular with the girls. Please be quiet. This is the library. Koshiyama looks like he has his hand full with these troublesome people but he is liking it? Youth, he calls it…

Episode 5
Koshiyama looks at the book Jinko dropped. It looks complicated but it is somewhat related to quiz bowls. In class when the teacher asks Koshiyama for an answer, he doesn’t find it specific enough and asks if he could word it like a quiz bowl! No wonder the teacher blows his top. Today Buzou will have a joint practice quiz bowl match with Miyaura High School. It is where Mikuriya and Ashiya come from. Miyaura has also new members to take part, Maruyama, Mukai and Kiyosumi. This joint practice means they are using a real buzzer instead of a calculator. Sasajima shows an old buzzer he has that somebody once gave him. It is broken so he hides it in his pocket and just presses it. The quiz bowl will be a team match. A correct answer adds a point while a wrong one subtracts one. Although a team buzzes, anyone can answer. But to test the cohesion of the team, if multiple players from the same team answer simultaneously despite the answer is correct, it will be treated as wrong. So it is better for the buzzer to answer. First to reach 10 points wins. Oh, Mikuriya is staying out and keeping the score. He’ll decimate these rookies if he plays. The game begins with Buzou side making a good head start before Miyaura catching up. A few instances the Buzou team saved each other. Like when Fukami buzzed too early and is unable to answer, the guys manage to answer on her behalf and score. Fukami’s specialty also lies in foreign languages while Inoue is good at maths. With Buzou having a good flow, Sasajima notes they are having fun and should remember this feeling. This is much needed when they play competitively later on. Miyaura has a short breakdown with their members answer wrongly or usurping and then answer wrongly, causing them to accuse each other. But the fight is close and in the end, Miyaura wins by a point. Fukami felt a bit disappointed since she forgot what was important and started panicking thinking about her own failures and abilities. But the most pissed off one is Mikuriya. He is not happy with Miyaura’s performance. He wants to fight the Buzou side 3 on 1 right now! However all the buzzers are being taken apart by Jinko! Oh no! She is Sasajima’s sister! Nobody could guess since they are so different even in their accent. Seems Jinko is an electronic craft nerd and is willing to make them a buzzer each. Cheaper and better. The box might be complicated but it is not an impossible feat for her. That book she dropped was about instructions to make a buzzer system.

Episode 6
Doing a cat maid job with Kouzuki is not what Fukami had in mind to earn some cash. It’s embarrassing and if somebody were to see them… Close by, Sasajima and Jinko are at the electronics store to get stuffs to make their own buzzer. Koshiyama and Inoue are at the arcade playing a quiz game. There are also other formats like multiple choices. Several answers are displayed and you pick the correct ones. You earn a point for each correct one but get entirely zero if a wrong one is picked. Soon they realize they are playing against Mikuriya! Ashiya is also here and decides to help the newbies as part of his service. Another format of quick buzzing is how answers (right or wrong) pop up one at a time and the fastest to buzz in wins the point. Mikuriya is faster in all of them until one whereby no hint pops out and Koshiyama buzzes in and gets correct. I don’t understand this technical stuff of how he did it but Ashiya noticed that Koshiyama isn’t a fountain of knowledge but has also theoretically analysed the rules in order to do better (like coming up with a set of answers to answer easier when a question pops up). A couple of ruffians try to ruin their game so they can play on their machine. Ashiya doesn’t want trouble and takes the guys to retreat. There is this strange devil cosplay girl who was watching them. She didn’t like how they jumped the queue so she challenged them to a fighting game. She instantly defeated them and those chickens run away. Now she wants to play Koshiyama too but Ashiya says they need to get going. This prompts her to mock them as quiz bowl nerds. Koshiyama blows his top about insulting this. So what being quiz freaks? He might have stepped over the line but it made Ashiya happy that somebody is quite passionate about the quiz bowl. When they leave, they are given hand-outs to a store’s quiz event. Oh, it’s Fukami and Kouzuki. She’s dying of embarrassment now. When Koshiyama wants to get Mikuriya’s contacts, he refuses and just reminds him about the meet. Ashiya thought that was mean but Mikuriya’s idea is that Koshiyama has the potential to become a lot better. In that case he doesn’t want to get friendly or show any mercy. Of course Koshiyama won’t be the only opponent and there will other much tougher ones.

Episode 7
As schools around the nation take turn to host a quiz tournament, this time it will be Asagaoka. You bet Koshiyama and co want to enter since the more experience the better. Sasajima has them take a paper quiz first. The last question is always a question of estimation in case of tie breakers. That question is Jinko’s weight! Though Inoue got it correct, he scored the lowest. Koshiyama of course has the highest score. However Sasajima sounds harsh in his advice that this won’t do. Veterans would ace in this and Koshiyama won’t even have a chance to make it to the buzzer round. A point can determine a winner or loser. Koshiyama knows he needs to get better and gain more knowledge outside literature or else he will disappoint Mikuriya. Later Koshiyama asks why Fukami joined the quiz bowl. It was due to Seiji, her brother’s influence as he used to be part of it. She was impressed by the way he owned the competition. He is now in Kaijou High School, a pretty elite school. However he won’t be participating in any more quiz bowls because he quit to focus on his exams. Speaking of the devil, here he is to pick her up. Quite the elite gentleman he is. Seiji notes she has joined a club and when he guesses it is a quiz bowl, she dare not answer. He reminds her competing in the quiz bowl is pointless. Sasajima has a heap of quiz questions he collected from other schools. Yeah, be prepared to read them all. Koshiyama finds a few book on local places of attraction and Sasajima believes such information could be useful. Confused Fukami asks Sasajima why he entered the quiz bowl. He rubbishes that question. Do you need a reason to fall in love? Because Fukami admires him, the guys think she has fallen for him. Is she going to say it out loud now her confession? Well, it’s her love for quiz bowl. Sorry to disappoint. Jinko has finished their buzzer. But it comes with weird animal sounds… What a distraction… Sonohara looks through the list of entries for the meet. Remember that devil cosplay girl at the arcade? Turns out to be Sonohara’s cross-dressing brother, Akira. Why am I not surprised? When he mentions about meeting an interesting person named Koshiyama, Sonohara feels she has heard the name before. Oh, it’s on the list of participants from Buzou. I suppose now a reason for him to join his quiz bowl club that he wasn’t interested in the first place?

Episode 8
The quiz bowl at Asagaoka will be taking place in their chapel. So the girls of this school are dressing up as nuns, praying to God are some sort of distraction? We get a glimpse of a few top contenders from other schools. Currently the top quiz player is Kunimitsu Ookura from Kaijou and although he looks intimidating, he gets emotionally happy that Sasajima is here to participate and now they can face off with each other. The first round is a paper quiz. Koshiyama feels he didn’t do well since it is laced with current events and pop culture. He lets the rest know why he prefers classics because of his late dad. The top 10 of the paper quiz will automatically go to round 3 while others will participate in round 2. Sasajima takes top spot and although Ookura has the same marks but is ranked second because of the estimation question. The rest are: 3) Ashiya; 4) Harumi Konoe (Kaijou); 5) Koutarou Tozuka (Leoneil High School); 6) Hiroki Shibuya (Kannami University); 7) Masaru Shibata (Kaijou); 8) Minoru Hanabusa (Kannami); 9) Atsuyoshi Hosokawa (Kaijou). And propping up the final spot is Mikuriya. For the second round, participants are paired with another. It will be a numerated question as up to 2 participants can buzz an answer. This unorthodox format means there will be 2 answers and the pressure is on the second person to answer as it will be dangerous if he/she only knows 1 of the answers. Only a pair from each group advances. For the first group, Fukami is paired with Yagi from Kannami. They manage to qualify for the next round thanks to Fukami understanding the rules and her partner very well (she was able to answer and cover harder questions for Yagi). Next group has Inoue and Maruyama as a team. They fall behind not because they lack knowledge but the speed to buzz. However they get disqualified after 2 wrongs since either one only knows 1 of the answers and in Inoue’s case, he buzzed in too early and the chances are 2/3 correct. He picked the wrong one. Koshiyama is up next and looks like Akira is also in this round.

Episode 9
Koshiyama and Akira are paired together. As it starts, Koshiyama finds himself slow to buzz in. Then, before the first word of the question can be read, Akira buzzes in! Huh?! It looks like there is a loophole. Because the host will continue to read the question until the second buzzer buzzes in. Of course this is a sneaky plan to catch everyone off their timing. So when the next round comes, some nervous pair did the same trick but couldn’t answer and they get disqualified. Sasaki pair is leading and Koshiyama knows he is too slow. Therefore Akira suggests buzzing both their buzzers together by putting one on top the other. This isn’t against the rules because it does not say how one can press the button. Plus, Akira technically has his hand over his buzzer so it still counts. Sonohara is forced to allow this because it’s not in the rules. She knows her brother views this as a game and his intention is to rile everyone up. So when the next question is asked, Koshiyama and Akira’s buzzers buzz first. They answer and qualify for the next round. The others stare at Akira with disgust so he mocks those losers and reminds them how his strategy was the one that made them win. When Akira returns, Niina who is his club president admonishes him for his bad behaviour. He can go home now. Everyone has never seen Niina this mad before but then Akira then starts crying crocodile tears. It softens Niina’s heart and makes him look like the bad guy. Akira just wants to have fun seeing he is new to the quiz bowl and promises he won’t do it the next round. I guess that’s that. When Akira hints himself at Mikuriya, they now recognize him as that cosplayer from the arcade. They note they have to be cautious of his tricky and sneaky tactics and that’s why they can’t lose to him.

Episode 10
The 18 finalists are divided into 2 groups. Sasajima and Fukami are in this first group. The first question has multiple answers to determine their starting scores. You get a point correct for each correct answer but a wrong answer automatically earns you zero. Sasajima aces this with full 12 points. The next round of questions begins with the system of those buzzing in and answering correctly will earn 3 points or have that deducted if answered wrongly. In this stage they can choose how to distribute the points like keeping it all for themselves or use it to subtract points of others. The first 3 to reach 20 points qualifies for the next round. Sasajima quickly buzzes and scores maximum points. It’s like he is blowing the competition away. The veteran players know who they are up against with so it is wise to let that higher skilled person win. When Sasajima qualifies for the next round, Hanabusa cheers for him about being an ex-Kaijou student. This shocks many. As Ookura explains, he was in Kaijou up until last year and he with Seiji were a formidable pair. However, something happened between that made Sasajima quit Kaijou and Seiji the quiz bowl. Because of that, Fukami can’t concentrate and kept wondering. She couldn’t hear what questions were asked and is lagging behind. Till her teammates cheer her on to concentrate did she really start to claw her way back up. It’s like she got her much needed boost and is starting to kick ass with this revival. She is able to use the points strategy to keep those from coming close to qualify to remain in the competition. But in the end, it is Hanabusa and Tozuka who made it through. Now for the second group in which Koshiyama, Mikuriya, Ashiya and Okura are in, it seems Akira went ‘missing’. Sonohara doesn’t care and will start anyway.

Episode 11
Before the next round starts, Akira returns but cross-dressed as a girl! This shocks everyone and some believe that his intention is to distract everyone from doing well in the quiz. The multiple answer kicks off and it looks like Ookura and Koshiyama end up having the highest points. Mikuriya gets zero since he has an answer wrong. However when the game proper starts, his fast fingers allow him to earn points fast and in no time he claws his way back up. Akira is really being annoying. Because whenever he wins points, he uses it to subtract points from others, causing one of the players to go out of the game. He also messes around by buzzing in before the question can be read, hence nobody gets it right. Sonohara must be up to here and embarrassed with her brother but what is there to do? It’s all within the stipulated rules. With Akira targeting and trying to reduce Ookura points, eventually Ookura is the first to qualify. Niina is next although he subtracts a point from Mikuriya as he sees him as the next threat. With one place remaining, the quiz gets really intense. It looks it might be either Koshiyama or Mikuriya depending who buzzes first and answer it correctly. However that tempo is once again ruined by Akira. And this time the question is some date probability. Well, dig deep into your thoughts and knowledge for the answer. I’m not holding my breath as we wait…

Episode 12
We have everyone presenting the reason why they arrive at that particular day as the answer. Like Mikuriya using maths. I don’t follow Koshiyama’s convoluted method of using some third party relating to history. I would have been like Akira using his guts! Anyway, despite different approaches, these trio answered the same correct answer. Akira mocks everyone again and since Mikuriya tells him to hurry up and not waste their time, Akira subtracts the most points from him. But since he isn’t fazed, Akira just loses interest and walks off! Sonohara wanted to give him an earful but has to finish her hosting duties. So we are left to Niina to admonish him outside. He believes Akira is doing this because he has no friends. He takes him back to the hall to watch the rest. By that time, it is the final question and it would either be Mikuriya or Koshiyama. The question has something to do with Christ’s pilgrimage and Koshiyama buzzed in too early as he was panicking trying to beat Mikuriya to it. Because of that, the question is very wide open and all participants have different answers. Again we hear Koshiyama’s convoluted thoughts on how he deduces what kind of question that befits this round to be the answer. Well, I guess he is still inexperienced since Mikuriya is the only one who got it correct and advances to the next round. Akira leaves again and his sister promises to punish him back home. Niina still throws him hope to come to the club and join them in the quiz bowl. Niina and Sonohara then apologize to the rest for his unruly behaviour. We skip the rest of the final rounds because main character isn’t in. Also, Sasajima won the entire thing by a large margin so I believe it is no fun. With his victory speech for everyone to look forward to the next meet, it motivates our young ones to take on more challenges. Later Koshiyama thanks Mikuriya but he caught him on his bad mood. Mikuriya tells him off if beating him is his only satisfaction. As there are many other better than him, he will not wait. He acknowledges people who are aiming higher. Koshiyama also sets his goal higher and the duo acknowledge each other and rivals. Fist bump.

Buzzer Beater
Oh. So there is the Nationals for quiz bowls now? Okay. I’m out of here. I can’t take it anymore. My brain has always been empty from the start. Plus, all the trivia bits from the questions in here just went in from one ear and out the other. I learnt nothing. My brain has been empty for a long time and somehow it hurts despite nothing sticking to it. Argh! I don’t want to relive my school days of studying, studying and studying! Anyway, before I start complaining about my old life and dumbness, let’s just say that even though this series feels incomplete because of how it ended, there is still a long way to go considering this final arc is just one of the major meets the characters have to go through. But that’s for another time if we all still care to stick around. I guess that is how quiz competitions should end. Less fanfare. Back to more studying.

I find it very strange that despite I know nothing and got all my answers wrong (that is, questions that I attempted to answer), I find this series is quite interesting. I know I’m confusing myself right now. It isn’t the questions asked or the knowledge/trivia/info that I should be deriving from it (heck, I have forgotten it all by the time the next question is popped), but rather the way and the method they make it look so interesting. They can actually drag a particular segment of the quiz with all the drama and thoughts of the characters and it is done in a good and interesting way that made me stick around despite I still don’t understand the finer points of the strategy or the answer. So you see, even when I’m such a blur head and my mind stopped thinking and trying to participate in answering the questions, my mind is still interested to stay till the end of the episode to find out what happened.

Sadly, watching this series at the end only makes me feel how dumb I am. Not that I have always thought that I am a smart person myself. Heck, I have even admitted I’m not such a smart person in my blogs from time to time. Seeing I know nothing and have come nowhere close to even eke out an answer, this proves that my head is just as empty. Can’t blame school. They never teach you all these facts there. Even if you give me twice or thrice or even unlimited time limit to answer them, I’ll never get it right. Not even if I’m just simply guessing and hoping my answer will hit the mark. So should I start reading now? Nah! Why do I need to know such useless trivia and facts if I’m never ever going to use or have some sort of relevancy in my life? That kind of loser mentality… No wonder ignorance is so bliss.

As shown here, having a wide area of knowledge doesn’t guarantee you a winning spot. Victory hinges mainly on the strategy and knowing how the particular set of rules and format of the quiz is being played out. Therefore if you are the smartest person in the world and know everything like as though you are God, you still won’t win because you do not have the right to answer or do not play your cards right. Thus the other interesting aspect of this anime is seeing how the characters use the particular quiz format and their strategies for the best outcome. It is quite enlightening to know that there are so many types and varieties of formats and how freaking technical this competition has become. Remember, you must be both the fastest and the most knowledgeable if you want to have a chance of winning. I mean, by hearing part of the question and knowing where the stress and intonation can actually determine and predict what the question is? Holy sh*t! I thought karuta was the only game where you need to have lightning quick hearing and reflexes. With karuta only being limited to the classic and traditional poems, could you say that the quiz bowl is an even more broader competition and challenge?

One thing I find strange about this series is how many of the characters do not look like they’re of the quiz bowl type. Stereotypes are one thing but when I first look at the whole cast for the quiz meet, of course I am not expecting everyone to be looking like a nerd. This is anime. You need to have different types of characters too for the sake of diversity. With a predominantly male participants, my first thought of seeing the bunch of guys from different schools and colleges were that, are these guys part of the tennis club?! Holy mother of Maria! Perhaps Prince Of Tennis was the only manly guys-only anime that I have watched. Because I sure didn’t watch that volleyball, basketball (the recent one and not the old school one) and diving gay anime. Hence I thought these guys look like they are more suited to play tennis or some sort of physical sports rather than a quiz bowl. I mean, look at Ookura. He is quite a build. It looks like a mismatch that he is participating in this ‘sissy’ game if you compare his size and stature. Of course don’t judge a cover by its book since he is smarter than me anytime. Is it me or is it the guys from Leoneil look like they are arrogant evil characters bent on taking over the world via quiz bowl?

If they expand the series beyond a dozen of episodes, I am sure they could flesh out the characters better. Because right now there are too many potential quiz bowl masters that Koshiyama has to ‘defeat’ (because he is main character, right?) but too little episodes to get to know them. Heck, even our own Busou characters don’t really get much of some background story. So guys like Koshiyama, we mostly know that he loves reading and excels in the literature genre. He gets more and more fascinated with the quiz world because that is where he gets to put his trivia and reading into good use. Otherwise it could have been the uneventful and most normal high school life he has ever had in his entire life. Since he is the main character, many times we hear his thoughts on how he derives the answer. Correct or not his deduction, it sounds so freaking confusing and random that I thought he just read it out from the script. I mean, in all that split second to just answer a question, it took like several minutes for all this dramatization effect to take place, analysing the question and deducing the answer.

So the interesting back story for the Busou counterparts is Sasajima’s past with Fukami’s brother and something that happened between them that caused the split and the end of the legacy. Too bad the quiz bowl won’t be asking that kind of question because nobody is going to give the right answer. Yeah, invasion of privacy. So this is the only thing going that is interesting for Busou’s history as I am sure the other schools too have their own history. Therefore it gives some sort of connection to characters like Fukami and a reason why she enters the quiz bowl world instead of just being one of the few female leads there just to look pretty. Sorry to disappoint but don’t expect any sort of Koshiyama x Fukami romance brewing. The few foreshadowing feels like trolling. Strangely, Fukami’s trademark of lifting her long hair over ear with her hand to hear better as she concentrates to listen looks like as though she is ready to give a blowjob… OMG what the f*ck did I just say?! Inoue feels like the weakest link but he too has his strong subjects, though not often quizzed. If he is here to get chicks, I believe there are other clubs that has better chances of him doing so. Oh well, girls do love a brainy guy, right? Hope he likes nerdy girls…

Jinko feels like an annex to the team. She isn’t part of the active team but as a supporting role. You know when you have a bunch of race car drivers and part of the crew and team member is the mechanic? Yup, that’s Jinko’s role. So far her biggest achievement is to make Busou’s own buzzer (why do I get the feeling the school is a pun named after the buzzer?). Otherwise she is a pretty forgettable character and even more had she not been such a cutie. Sasajima himself is a big mystery since he has his own ways and pace to teach the newbies. He tells you what is necessary since the best way for one to learn is to experience it first-hand. The world should have more senpais like him even if he is a bit eccentric.

Even if this is just a quiz bowl series, somehow I have this feeling it might go the shonen anime route because characters like Mikuriya who is Koshiyama’s current biggest rival, might become his ally in the future. It doesn’t look likely as the quiz format is usually every participant for themselves but I am looking at the perspective of Mikuriya and Koshiyama acknowledging each other as worthy rivals and then they go around facing other tougher challengers together and grow and learn more. Yeah, that kind of bromance feeling I get from them. Oh heck, some girls are already getting some yaoi thoughts over Niina x Akira.

Akira is interesting as an ‘antagonist’ because of how he surprises everyone with his devilishly unexpected ways. Thanks to him, the quiz meet isn’t as boring as it should be although purists would definitely want this troublemaker out. His approach of thinking is different than the rest since his ultimate goal isn’t to win but to have fun. And by that he messes around with others but tries not to make it illegal. Almost. And if he gets scolded, those crocodile tears and puppy dog eyes sure come in handy. I mean, who could be seriously mean to a sissy guy who cross-dresses, right? Perhaps Akira is to Sonohara what I would call a test from God. You can see her patience running thin but since she is from a missionary school, I guess she must learn to control her feelings and not give into rage. Wow. The house of God also has a little devil in it. In the end, perhaps all Akira want is some attention. Because, what better way than to get everyone’s attention on you by deliberately pissing them off.

Art and animation are rather okay. Standard Japanese anime style and nothing too complicated. I know people come in all shapes and sizes but like I’ve said before, it feels out of place to see people from of varying looks to take part in quiz bowls. A reason why I mentioned the Prince Of Tennis reference because I thought some of the characters here resemble them. Like Sasajima whom I thought reminded me of Sadaharu Inui, Ashiya prompted me to remember Kunimitsu Tezuka while Mikuriya closely resembles Akaya Kirihara. I think Niina and Renji Yanagi (or even Shuusuke Fuji) look almost alike since both have closed eyes. Akira? I thought he shares that same craziness as Jin Akutsu even though they don’t very much resemble each other. Do Ookura and Kaoru Kaidou look alike? No? Okay. Must be just me. Lucky for Koshiyama, I don’t see him anywhere close to Ryouma Echizen. I thought he is fitted more to be in shogi like 3-gatsu No Lion’s Rei. While not a must, is it me or do I notice that smart people wear glasses? Sure there are exceptions but it’s like half of the main characters wear them. Sasajima, Koshiyama, Niina, Seiji and that Leoneil guy. Hey, at least they make them look smart.

I didn’t really recognize anybody in the voice acting department. Well, there is only Ayane Sakura as Sonohara but I couldn’t identify with her. Recently she has been voicing characters that sound different than that bratty stereotype that I have known her for like Kaji in Tsurezure Children. Umika Kawashima, the seiyuu behind Fukami’s voice feels a bit raw. I won’t go so far as to paint her as anywhere near Saori Hayami but it feels like as though her voice isn’t refined. Not to say it is a bad thing whatsoever but her anime voicing roles I checked are so far only in Star Diver and Hunter x Hunter movie. She might sound like an amateur (there are hints of nervousness in it, not sure if it is on purpose or it’s part of the character) but I’ll try to look it from a refreshing perspective point of view since seiyuus who overdramatize their character is far worse than this.

The rest of the other casts are Shun Horie as Koshiyama (Hiyama in 12-sai: Chicchana Mune No Tokimeki), Takuto Satou as Sasajima (Tatsuya Yuuki in Gundam Build Fighters series), Satsumi Matsuda as Jinko (Hiroe in Saki: Zenkoku-hen), Tasuku Hatanaka as Inoue (Kaminari in Boku No Hero Academia), Kaito Ishikawa as Mikuriya (titulat character in Kyoukai No Rinne), Wataru Hatano as Ashiya (Gajeel in Fairy Tail), Tomoaki Maeno as Ookura (Junichi in Amagami SS), Tatsuhisa Suzuki as Niina (Ban in Nanatsu No Taizai), Takuma Nagatsuma as Akira (Lacus Welt in Owari No Seraph), Mao Ichimichi as Kouzuki (Papika in Flip Flappers) and Hikaru Midorikawa as Seiji (Lancer in Fate series). Nothing really special about the opening theme, On My Mind by Mrs Green Apple. I wonder if the lively rock music is suitable for a quiz themed series. The weirdly named ending theme, OOOOO by Babyraids Japan is another rock piece. By the way, those are not the 15th alphabet and are circles which means correct.

On a trivial note, I find it funny that the official English title of this series is called Fastest Finger First. Technically that is what mainly the quiz participants have to do and hence appropriate. But if you hear this title without knowing what this series is about, to some it may sound like a porn title or some video compilation of pranks. I mean when you notice its initials as FFF, doesn’t it just sounds funny? Even in Japanese the name of this series can be written as 7O3X, in reference to the quiz format of seven rights and three wrongs to determine you advance or go out. Looking at that title without knowing what the series is about also evokes thoughts that this might be some sort of futuristic sci-fi anime.

Overall, this anime isn’t for anybody or like it will be something that is mainstream. The lack of any physical action and the action being mainly confined inside the halls and the buzzer might turn off many. Even more so when you realize that they could dramatize how to answer the questions, the strategies they used and how their thoughts are dramatically narrated for this effect, then rinse and repeat the entire thing again would only appeal to nerds. But then again, if you’re more interested in accumulating knowledge and trivia, you won’t be sitting around and watching this anime in the first place. The questions asked are just the tip of the iceberg. Oh heck, just a speck of dust from the vast sea of knowledge. No, the stars in the universe! I mean, who the f*ck wants to know or should know what happened specifically on 5 April 1722, 22 January 1905 and 15 May 1932! OR WHAT FREAKING DAY OF THE WEEK THOSE ARE!!! Hell, I know I wasn’t born then. And out I go!

Question: Will this anime have a sequel? Answer: Only time will tell. Zero points for lack of originality!

N/B: Answer for the first anime created? Astro Boy? If you consider it as the first popular anime. Katsudou Shashin? Not officially recognized by the anime industry due to different method and unconfirmed origins. Dekobou Shingachou: Meian No Shippai? Seikai!

Shokugeki No Souma S2 OVA

November 24, 2017

After the very lukewarm season 2 and my very disappointment with how a great season can become so boring with that Stagiaire internship thingy, I didn’t think they would come up with another season a year later. But before all that and to hype things up as well as wash away all that disappointment, I guess that is why we have Shokugeki No Souma S2 OVA. This is supposed to be the bridge that connects the second and third season. Don’t expect much but it is still an important piece if you are looking forward to watch the next season. I know I am now.

OVA 1
Hotspring episode! Sort of. Taking place after the Stagiaire, Megumi invites the whole gang to a hotspring inn. We start off with some ping pong match first. Lots of bounciness between Mito and Ryouko’s match and it isn’t the ping pong balls, get what I mean? Megumi and Isshiki have a very serious and passionate battle so much so she is wearing proper attire to play it and this feels more like a sports shonen show than a cooking genre. As the guys soak in the hotspring, Takumi realizes Souma isn’t around. He heard he went to challenge Hayama and Ryo. Unsettled, he starts running about to find him but ultimately gets lost. Now, the challenge Souma is having is a fishing battle. They are to see who can fish out the master of the river. When caught, the trio have to work together to reel it out because it is really giving them a real fight. Meanwhile by sheer bad luck and coincidence, the chefs are all injured and due to a mis-scheduling, important guests are to arrive soon. This is an excuse for our lesser known characters to fill in and show what they’ve got. Little do they know, that VIP is Erina, Alice and Hisako. Erina’s God’s tongue tastes the amateurs’ dishes but also gives them their due praises since it was carefully prepared and lots of effort were put into it. Megumi and co hear the praises from the innkeeper and they are ecstatic because it’s like they passed, right? Later Megumi soaks alone and discovers Erina nearby and realizes she is the VIP. I guess the victory now means a lot, eh? Souma and co return all messed up. Looks like they’ve lost the catch and the river’s master dragged them down the stream and waterfall. Expensive lesson to be learnt. Meanwhile Takumi is still lost… Luckily he manages to find his way back and this time Souma is there. So now he b*tches about the proper order to call for a cooking battle. WTF.

OVA 2
No rest for Souma. Because back at the dorm, he receives tons of challenge letters. We see him continuously winning streaks in Shokugeki matches. There is even one where he took on 2 opponents at the same time and bests them. Heh. All of them must be weaklings. A strange lady, tastes his food before leaving. From the looks of it, want to bet she is from the Elite Ten? Later Isshiki calls Souma and Megumi because there is going to be a Maple Meet soon and this is where the juniors get to meet their seniors. However it is special for the Autumn Elections finalists as they get to meet the Elite Ten face to face. That grin on Souma’s face… He is already thinking of doing Shokugeki with them! So we see the gang taking their seats and as expected, they don’t get along with each other. Rivalry is already so intense. Oddly, despite Erina is part of the Elite Ten, she is joining their side as she considers herself a junior and thus it is proper to get to know her seniors. The Elite Ten show their faces. Another bunch of weirdoes. Some of them don’t get along either. Like Terunori Kuga, Nene Kinokuni, Eizan and Isshiki. You think the Autumn Elections finalists are bad, just take a look at them. Oh, that strange lady is Rindou Kobayashi and is ranked second. When Eishi Tsukasa who is currently the 1st seat of the Elite Ten calls out to Souma, Takumi and Mimasaka, you’d think it would be something very important. Unfortunately he goes into depression that because they called a Shokugeki during the Autumn Elections that he wanted to end early, it cut out a lot of work for him!

Souma then gets straight to the point and shocks everyone that he wants to join the Elite Ten and is willing to do Shokugeki with any of them. Of course nobody is going to do it. Kuga mocks his simple mindedness since in this case he wants to challenge just for the sake of fighting stronger opponents. He tries to drill it into his head the Elite Ten is a completely different world but Souma is just more impressed how cool it is. Basically, the higher your seat, the more privileges you have and hence the more resources to broaden yourself. Momo Akanegakubo has made sweets for all of them. This maple-apple-caramel-cheese dessert thingy looks like an item you can get off from an RPG quest… Seriously… This is cue for the best confectioner in Totsuki to let them taste it and have our dose of exaggerated reactions. I know. It’s that good, right? Kuga then carelessly throws down a challenge to Souma that if he finds that there is one thing he can beat him at, feel free to challenge him. You better hold on to you words. The Elite Ten take their leave and this fires up our young ones. Those deadly auras of challenge… I wonder if meek Megumi will be okay. Don’t worry, later she gets assurance from Souma that despite how different level they are and they may not be able to match it, they should take their time and move slowly towards the Elite Ten. No rush, right? Yeah well, I don’t think they’re even halfway there.

Okawari? Why, We Haven’t Even Got To The Main Dish Yet!
Certainly the couple of OVAs aren’t that bad. The first one is quite light-hearted while the second steps things up a little as we get to see all the faces of the current Elite Ten. So the OVAs did make my day and my hopes for the next season is renewed. There are a lot of things I would love to see in the third season but I’ll try not to get ahead too far of myself. As far as these second season OVAs are concerned, they are satisfying in their own right and it whets the appetite for fans and viewers alike for the next season. It is a step in the right direction and suddenly the disappointment of the second season has all been forgotten. Yeah, must be that dessert thingy they presented. Looks so good to eat…

The surprising thing that I noticed is that some of the Elite Ten making their debut here, all of them are voiced by popular and well-known seiyuus. I instantly recognized them the moment they speak. They are Akira Ishida as Tsukasa, Yuuki Kaji as Kuga, Shizuka Itou as Rindou and Kana Hanazawa as Nene. I thought Momo was the combo breaker as I didn’t recognize her voice but upon discovery she is voiced by Rie Kugimiya! Holy sh*t! Is that really her?! Too soft spoken that I couldn’t recognize. Well, I thought she sounded so different in the recent Konbini Kareshi but at least there were some parts of her voice that was recognizable but this one, not so. Maybe not enough lines. Hearing them again, yup, that’s her alright.

Like I have already said, these OVAs are a nice bridge to connect the second and third season and to whet the appetite for the next season. There will be more interesting Shokugeki (because calling it food fight makes it sound so childish and unglamorous) with a lot of parties trying to vie for the top sea. Even within the Elite Ten, there are still battles among each other to get to higher rankings. Because food is everything, right? It has gotten to a stage where it is no longer as simple as a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Only at Totsuki where food has become majestic works of art and an aphrodisiac drug. Who’d knew that popping something into your mouth can be this convoluted and annoyingly delicious at the same time.

Shokugeki No Souma S2

March 24, 2017

Thanks to the mouth-watering first season, it was only right to satiate the quench and hunger of fans and viewers who want more of Shokugeki No Souma. Hence, your wishes are heard and the second season is served to feed our need once more. We can’t wait to see what our main protagonists cook up delicious and godly dishes that we pitiful commoners can only salivate and imagine we’re those lucky people tasting them. So if you love food but have to go on a strict diet, at least the doctor didn’t prescribe that you stay away and shouldn’t watch any food themed series. Have you heard of anybody getting fat visually? Oh wait… Being a couch potato and not exercising contributes to obesity… Damn it… Too late, I’ve already started…

Episode 1
We jump right into the quarter-finals for the Autumn Elections. Because Souma is our main character, he goes up first in the first match. His opponent? Alice. The theme will be bento. Alice finishes first and presents to the judges her high quality seafood temari bento. You can tell how good it is when Senzaemon goes topless! Apparently Alice doesn’t know about the unwritten rules about why she will lose. One, because those who goes second will always win and two, Souma is main character so he must win. So Souma’s fish theme bento by taking advantage of the bento box to turn it into soup as well as salmon roe that literally explodes into your mouth (inspiration based on some snack of a similar nature) sealed the win for him. In short, Souma used the bento’s shape to fill it with entertainment and enhanced its flavour with warmth compared to Alice’s cold chilling flavour to just fill the box that made Souma the winner. Alice tries out his dish and gets a flashback of her cold past and being filled up by the warmth of this bento. Cue for naked delusion reaction please…

Episode 2
The second round pits Megumi against Ryo and the theme is ramen. To fill in the time for this episode, we get to see Ryo being an excellent and serious chef since young. This little kid is the one who took charge of the kitchen and putting the adults to shame. Ryo doesn’t think Megumi is serious in her cooking because of her sheltered life. Chefs are all about winning or being beaten. Cooking is about bringing your opponents down to your knees. Wow. I never knew cooking was hardcore battlefield. Ryo finishes first and lets the judges taste his rich shrimp seafood ramen. I’m not sure if Ryo has a good naming sense because he calls this dish, Soupe de Poisson. Sorry, my French not so good. But don’t look down on Megumi. She is equally serious and has put in the effort too. In short, she improvises the ingredients she has to create another rich seafood ramen but her main ingredient is scallops. Shrimps versus scallops. Who will win?

Episode 3
If you follow the unwritten rules, Megumi should win, right? Well, sometimes you have to break that rule. Because Ryo wins. Even if Senzaemon didn’t go topless for Megumi’s dish unlike Ryo’s, he realized later that his underwear had gone missing! Hidden gem? The third match resumes the next day and has Hisako against Hayama to make hamburger. Meanwhile Souma is running late to the hall when he bumps into a punk dude riding his bike, Subaru Mimasaka. This is the guy that surpassed Ibusaki and Marui in the final moments to make it to the next round. Mimasaka is a bit of a weirdo himself. Not the fact he heavily locks and chains his bike or showing off his great embroidery, but the fact he knows every trivial information his opponents! This guy is a walking database! This guy even knows the average hours they slept in the past month! SCARY! As the match has started, Souma and Megumi have to watch in the waiting room with Mimasaka and Takumi. Hisako shows her savagery as she beheads a live terrapin and drain its blood to make burger meat! To show how scary Mimasaka’s accurate prediction is, he predicts Hayama’s win because his kebab dish made out of lamb and beef has a very strong aroma. Something about using achaar too. There she goes into her naked defeat. There goes Hisako’s dreams in replacing Erina. So sad. As Takumi and Mimasaka are preparing for their match, Takumi catches him red handed in touching his tools. He also knows he has been spying on him on the last few days. Mimasaka badmouths the bad tools he is using. Worse, he talks trash about Isami who will always be a second rate chef. Before the match begins, an emergency announcement is broadcasted. It seems Takumi and Mimasaka’s match will be also a Shokugeki.

Episode 4
Apparently veterans won’t be surprised of this Shokugeki because Mimasaka has won 99 of them! He will take Takumi’s knife if he wins otherwise Mimasaka will apologize to his brother right in front of everyone. Records show Mimasaka makes the same dish as his opponents but improvises them to stay tops. Thus he makes the same semifreddo. Not only he stalks his opponents to know and trace their thoughts of what they’ll make, he even exposes and badmouths them. Yeah, like reading out a book of your life’s story, eh? So if Takumi is starting to panic, how can his ‘supporters’ not stay calm? Of course, always go back to your family roots… Mimasaka serves first and let’s say his semifreddo makes one of the judges feel like a young girl. Takumi bounces back with his improvisation using some English rooted lemon with Italian touch and adding his secret family made olive oil. However Mimasaka starts laughing. All going according to his plan. He was counting on him using his secret technique (that’s why he already warned he knows everything about him) and used preserved lemons as his secret ingredient. In the end, all the judges unanimously vote for Mimasaka. So you think his ‘supporters’ might feel the need to speak to him or cheer him up so why are they b*tching about Souma not giving a f*cks? Then back at the dorm, isn’t it no surprise that Mimasaka is waiting in Souma’s room? As you might have guessed, the next round pits them together. He is here to wager another Shokugeki for his knives. He knows Souma will stand up for the humiliated and tries to get him mad to accept it. But Souma is cool. He isn’t rattled and is confident Takumi isn’t depressed after this. Instead he feels pity for Mimasaka. He respects him for recreating Takumi’s dish. But that’s just about it. He took advantage of Takumi’s trial and error effort and as a chef he can’t respect him. He doesn’t know the true joy of cooking. Souma accepts his Shokugeki. But he doesn’t want Takumi’s knife back but all the other 99 tools he took. So what will Souma wager for that equivalent value? He will quit being a chef! Gasp!

Episode 5
Souma further tells him the beef stew that he will make in the match. That’s when his pals rush him to stop giving out more information. Mito is most upset about all this. Souma explains he wants to return all the tools Mimasaka robbed. He will stake his pride as his chef to defeat him. Next morning, Mitsuru Sotsuda is at his doorstep. He is from the journalism club and has covered about his upcoming Shokugeki with Mimasaka which has set the entire school abuzz. This guy wants to be the best journalist so what the heck is he doing in Totsuki for? He bugs Souma for an exclusive interview but he ignores him. He remains persistent till people have the wrong idea about their gay relationship and so he relents. Souma lets him try out the beef stew he is going to make. Of course to a normal guy like him it tastes great but it isn’t enough. Souma reveals he told Mimasaka what he will be doing as this is his best dish before coming to Totsuki. Now that they are at the same starting line, will he evolve this dish or Mimasaka’s profiling will surpass him. As Mitsuru is full (it is blasphemy to not finish Souma’s cooking!), Souma needs someone who can test taste. Meanwhile Erina is happily reading her love manga. She realizes she ran out of volumes and Hisako isn’t around to provide her. She has left for a journey after realizing she is too embarrassed to face her after her loss. Erina thinks she is back but it’s just Souma and Mitsuru. Disappointed? B*tch mode on. She rejects them to test taste but after Souma says one of his dorm mates has the full manga volume, she agrees. The verdict? It’s trash. She didn’t even hint what is wrong. Well, you can’t argue with her God tongue, right? After a while, Souma hits inspiration and kicks Mitsuru out of his kitchen. Exclusivity over. The first semi-final math is here and the judges are all graduates of Totsuki like Dojima, Inui, Fuyumi Mizuhara, Taki Tsunozaki and Sonoka Kikuchi. Everyone is surprised when they see Souma using oxtail as his base. They think he has overcome his problem. Till they see Mimasaka is also using oxtail and the same spices! He knows everything! But now this is where Mimasaka surpasses Souma as he proclaims.

Episode 6
In addition to oxtails, Mimasaka has got brown sugar and a whole lot of other secret ingredients for his beef stew. Enhancing his perfect profiling is his revelation of Mitsuru’s weak birthday password that allowed him to peek at his interview findings. This guy is really a stalker! Souma is not fazed and starts cooking. I mean, he starts his cooking only right now. Mimasaka knows this is one way to defeat his perfect profiling by not planning and improvising on the dot. However most will panic and end up blank. He has high hopes for Souma and knows he won’t panic but will still fall short. Mimasaka goes first and needless to say the judges are awed. Souma goes next and although the first bite doesn’t bring any excitement, suddenly they are falling like riding a roller coaster! Souma reveals he was also thinking about Mimasaka. He also predicted what he would make but that wouldn’t be his own cooking. So his improvised cooking wasn’t just on the fly but he has drawn from all his experience throughout his life in making this beef stew which is unlike the profiling that has only 1 necessary step taken. The judges are in fantasy land. Nothing wrong about it except Dojima is dressing and acting like a girl! Hideous! In short, Souma unanimously wins the Shokugeki. As expected.

Mimasaka can’t accept this loss so Souma lets him try his dish. So good that it brings back memories of his childhood when he first started cooking. He had talent but his father who is a top chef didn’t like him copying his dishes. One day his restaurant was showcasing new dishes and hosting VIPs, Mimasaka added a simple twist so he could earn dad’s respect. Although he ended up winning, it made dad madder. He was then exiled to Totsuki and that was where he began using his profiling ability and concocting his twisted personality. All the tools are returned to their respective owners and everyone is ever grateful to Souma. Mimasaka will stop being a chef forever but Souma stops him. Souma calls Takumi to get his knife. Takumi admits his loss to Mimasaka but will beat him the next time. A new person to be gay with? But Takumi gives his knife to Souma. It is his now. At least his safekeeping. He will get it back once he beats him in their next Shokugeki. Souma tells Mimasaka to take his opponent’s entire pride in a single match again. Even if he is heavily defeated and crushed, you still need to open shop tomorrow. That is what being a chef is all about. In short, continue cooking. And this is what Souma meant about quitting cooking. It is just to start all over again. So he wasn’t really going to stop, huh? Mimasaka tastes Souma’s dish again and this time feels like a little girl. More hideous than Dojima… Souma’s win must now be a thorn in Erina’s side now. Can’t wait to win this and face her.

Episode 7
Now for Hayama and Ryo to face off. Souma irks Erina as he sits with her together in her special VIP room to watch. As Hayama is the favourite to win, I suppose that is why we have Alice to tell us about his past hell training, blah, blah, blah. I wonder how this will sit with Mito when she sees Souma being flanked by 2 hot babes. Anyway with the western style dish as theme, Hayama uses duck while Ryo goes for eel. It gets odder when the visual metaphor becomes a card game with monsters. Yugioh x Pokemon?! So we’ve got Hayama’s fragrant dish grasping the judges with its ‘eagle claws’ and Ryo giving them electric shock and explosion! So who will win? For the first time, the judges are having a tough time to decide. When the score is at 2-2, it all boils down to Kikuchi. She cannot choose. Of course we can’t have that so Dojima proposes. Normally a draw would mean rescheduling and fight another date but with everyone’s tight schedule this isn’t possible. So how? Let them both advance to the finals! This never happened before. Oh, when Senzaemon gives his approval means it will happen. Yeah, I thought it would be time for Souma to seek revenge on both together. While Hayama gracefully accepts this fate, Ryo is bursting with anger and rage. Our 3 finalists lay down their challenge to each other. The theme will be saury fish and the finals will be in 10 days. 10 days?! OMG. Filler time?!

Episode 8
Souma and Megumi head to the fish market. They see Ryo and Alice. Ryo has this knack to choose the freshest saury as well as its taste at its peak. They both make sashimi and let Megumi judge. Ryo’s sashimi is better. Some explanation about Ryo’s ability to determine everything that he touches. Even from how the fish lives to how it is transported?! WTF?! In that case this guy makes a good crime solver. They also hear Hayama was earlier here and the sellers were talking how great he is choosing the best ingredients with his nose. Yeah, I guess Souma is at a disadvantage if he can’t choose the best ingredients. He is turned into an underdog or no hoper since the media interviewing his rivals are shown their great demonstration but Souma has nothing to show for. Souma realizes aging may be an important factor so he ropes in Ryouko, Ibusaki and Mito to help since they are experts in aging techniques. Even with all the testing and the best saury they can come up with, Megumi still believes it doesn’t taste near as Ryo’s. This has Souma cracking his head. He can’t give up on aging now. When he decides to go buy more saury, he sees Fumio in her usual drinking. He sees the simple snack that goes with her drinking and hits eureka. He must have really hit an idea because he hugs her. Hayama and Ryo notice Souma has not come to the fish market ever since but they know he has a plan as he is not the kind to give up. On the final match day, the judges will be Senzaemon, Dojima and Leonora Nakiri (Alice’s mom). She might look beautiful but her Japanese accent is horrible! Hayama and Ryo take out their firm and exquisite saury. Souma? What the f*ck is that brown sh*t?! Not kidding. Literally, it looks like one long hard constipated sh*t!!!!!!!

Episode 9
Underneath the moonlight night, our finalists begin their cooking. Because Ryo finishes first and serves, we have a little flashback of him and Alice’s battling it out. Alice always won and it took him 2 years to finally beat her. That is of course after he learnt her cooking style and knowledge. Ryo serves his saury in a pouch. You can tell how awesome it is when Senzaemon bares his chest and even grins. Leonora on the other hand turns into Buddha explaining word for word all the amazingness in fast forward fashion. Oh, she speaks fluent Japanese now! Sorry guys, she’s not going to bare her chest like you thought. When it is Hayama’s turn, Ryo thought he was joking because his dish seems lighter. But he hasn’t put the finishing touches. Once he sears his saury, an amazing aroma fills the hall. You can even tell how tasty it is by smelling without tasting. Of course when you taste, the better. The usual bare chest Senzaemon and Buddha Leonora. Of course don’t look down on Souma. His piece of sh*t is actually saury covered in salted rice bran. As usual, great reviews and all, blah, blah, blah. But then everybody notices something. Senzaemon didn’t strip his top. Leonora didn’t go into Buddha mode. Does this mean it Souma has lost? Why the f*cks everybody is so negative when it comes to the candidate they are supporting? Don’t jump your guns yet because the dish isn’t finished. You need to have seconds. So don’t say you’re full now.

Episode 10
Isshiki talks to Eizan and he knew it was all his plan to have Mimasaka target Souma for ultimate humiliation but his plan backfired. Souma presents his white soup which is soy milk to turn his saury dish into porridge. We’ve got Senzaemon clothes explode apart! So amidst their praise, Isshiki continues telling Eizan about the magazine focusing more on Hayama and putting down Souma (just like America’s 2016 elections?). Even when Souma defeated Alice and Mimasaka, the crowd doesn’t seem to acknowledge him. Isshiki once talked to Jouichirou about Souma. He views his son has no special cooking skill but lacks what a normal person would have which is the belief of losing to someone more talented. This is obvious when Souma never gave up after losing all the time to him. All Souma did was keep testing and retesting his recipes. Thus the reason why everyone is afraid to acknowledge him is because if they do so they are acknowledging their own lack of effort. So before the judges announce the winner, they give their evaluation on their dishes. Blah, blah, blah. But the one dish that sets the winner apart is the reflection of the chef as an individual. An own specialty dish. And the winner is… Flashback to Hayama’s past 8 years ago! F*CK!!!!! Do we need more tension???!!! Yeah, yeah. So we learn he was abandoned in the slums till Shiomi picked him up and taught him things. This gives Hayama a purpose in life and thus he is always grateful to her, the reason he must win this tournament. And if that story feels like a flag or something, it is because the winner is Hayama!!!!!!!!!! Shiomi is so happy rushing down to his side that he hugs her in front of everyone. I suppose Souma is in a dilemma now because dad told him not to lose to anyone before losing to him next time. So Souma and Ryo has Hayama make his saury dish for them to taste again. Part of their improvement plan, I guess. Later Souma gets a call from Jouichirou. He laughs at his son’s defeat. Souma is motivated to explore the kind of cooking he can only do to carry on his family’s business name. Isn’t that what he has been doing all the time? Souma and Ryo spend the rest of their time at Hayama’s place test tasting each other’s several dishes in a bid to improve. Even the Polar Star residents get the same idea. Shiomi warns them that they only have a short respite. After this they will be tossed out of the academy for a practical training programme called Stagiaire.

Episode 11
The first stage of Stagiaire will have students work at pairs. Guess who Souma gets paired with? Hisako. Not thrilled to see him, huh? They will be helping out Mamoru Mitamura’s western restaurant for a week. They notice customers leaving in a rush. Despite Hisako claiming she can cook and cut fast, but can she handle it when the stream is endless? When customers come in at one go, the staffs become chaotic trying to fulfil the orders. Because they cannot get it done in time, all the customers leave at the same time! But with Souma taking charge, things get a bit better. As much as Hisako hate taking orders from him, for the sake of this restaurant she has to swallow her pride and drop that b*tch attitude. It is learnt that the customers are rushing for the Bullet Train and that is why they are rushing for time. Meanwhile Erina is also having her Stagiaire. She is in confrontation with the restaurant owner who is trying to relegate her to washing dishes. Megumi better stay out of this… Eventually she takes over command of the place and customer satisfaction drastically increases. Yeah, it’s like she owns the place now. When Souma points out if Hisako is going to continue working in this restaurant, she realizes what he is implying and calls for an emergency meeting with the staffs. Although things are going smooth for now, once the Totsuki duo leave, things will go back to normal. Chaotic. The staffs feel changing too much would be meaningless so Souma has Mitamura think what kind of restaurant he wants it to be and based on the circumstances they are in, offers a solution. Nobody think that turning this restaurant into reservations only instead of walk-in would be successful. However in its own way it does because old customers who were too busy to come here can now make reservations to come enjoy their food. Things are less hectic this way too. Erina gives Megumi a ride home. She asks more about Megumi and of course she can’t thank her success without mentioning Souma. That name just infuriates her. But the mention of Hisako’s name has her suddenly become depressed. Speaking of her, Hisako is still reeling she doesn’t deserve to be with Erina, blah, blah, blah. Souma tells her she should walk by her side and not behind her and gives her the manga Erina wants as reason for her to see her again. After all, they both lost to Hayama and should find a way to beat him someday. For once Hisako returns a nice grateful smile.

Episode 12
Where does Souma get sent for the next Stagiaire? Oh. It’s a soon to be newly opened Tokyo flagship store of Shinomiya. Due to budget constraints, I guess Souma has to start helping out finishing the construction and fitting with Shinomiya himself and the minimal staffs that include Abel Blondin the head chef, Gao Wei and Lucie Hugo. After they’re done, Shinomiya cooks for them quiche. Despite tasting absolutely delicious, by Shinomiya’s standards it is not good. Shinomiya’s restaurant will have a few days of pre-open. This is like a test run where he invites customers he knows to taste the food and such. Of course Souma as his first time experiencing this falls behind and almost threatens to disrupt the work flow of everybody. He barely makes it by the end of the day. And you might have guessed, despite all the criticisms and scolding, he won’t get dejected so instead he learns to improve himself at night and more importantly ask questions. Thus you can see him improve day by day that he becomes faster than the rest on the last pre-open day. Since Shinomiya is holding a new menu competition among the staffs, Souma wants to join. Looks like he has found his specialty.

Episode 13
After the last pre-open day, the restaurant is closed for a private event that Shinomiya has invited certain people over. They are some of Totsuki’s alumni and Chapelle. Not forgetting Shinomiya’s mother. After the restaurant closes, they want to stay behind to watch the staffs in the new menu competition. We can tell this episode is all fully dedicated to Souma because we don’t even see what the other staffs cook. We see Souma drawing out his past experience to make his new menu. It must be awesome because he becomes Super Saiyan???!!! Even more so, we don’t see those ‘judge’s tasting the other staffs’ menu. It all boils down to Souma. He serves his best French dish, a whole quail which might look like a French version of substituted version of Japan’s oyakodon. Of course it tastes good as Souma explains all about it. Blah, blah, blah. But what is Shinomiya’s verdict? It is still low quality! It is good to be served at a small time restaurant but a flagship restaurant like his is a no. In fact, Shinomiya offers to teach how he could make the dish better. Souma couldn’t be happier. Better prepare yourself because it takes all night! Shinomiya’s final encouragement is for Souma to take the top seat of the Elite Ten. Montage shows other Totsuki students toughing it out in their own Stagiaire. Souma returns back his dorm only to find a box of Shokugeki challenge letters. In fact, one of them challenges him right now! Bring it on. There are more montages of the rest but the noteworthy ones are Isami back to his fatty form again and Hisako back by Erina’s side. Souma wins his Shokugeki and then throws down his challenge to everyone he can take on anyone anytime. Even right now.

Bomb Appetite!
OMG???!!! What happened???!!! Let me explain to you with this scenario. You once tried out a newly opened restaurant in your area. Everything was new, everything was fresh, everything was good. Absolutely the best. You know this is going to be your favourite place to eat for a long time to come. You recommend to your friends and family about this place. You decide to come and eat again but wait. It feels a little different. At first it wasn’t quite as good as the original but it was still bearable. But as you proceed with your meal, you find that it has lost the quality you thought it once had. It turned out totally different than the first experience. Very different. It’s like they changed the recipe or the chefs who did it. You decide that this place has become awful and just like how it betrayed your trust, you decide never to come back here ever again. Ever.

Sadly, this is my feelings for this season and I believe the same can be said for many of us who watched this (yeah, read those dreaded internet comments). Thanks to the first season, it has built a good base that makes us wanting more. Of course we were hyped and excited when we heard there was going to be a second season. And then it came. And went away quietly. Leaving us to question where it went wrong along the way. Although a direct continuation from the first season, the first half of the season was still enjoyable, it wasn’t as exciting that I had experienced in the first time. I shouldn’t be calling this ‘fatigue’ because this is only the second time. So for the magic to wear out this fast? Something must have gone wrong. By the time it reached halfway, the magic was close to zero. Almost completely gone. Instead of anticipating with glee for each episode, there was this dreaded feeling that I have to go through the same crap again. There was no more excitement. The excitement pretty much felt dead. And because this season had a few more episodes to spare after the Autumn Elections ended, the Stagiaire felt like filler episodes to close the season. Too late. Damage done. But if there is anything good about this final mini arc, at least it gives students a peak of what a real hell’s kitchen works in real life. Yes, real work life experience.

Perhaps it was the case of following the formula of if it is not broken, don’t fix it. Because this season offers nothing new and very much follows the pattern of the first season. Students fight it out in cooking battles but instead this season is pretty much concentrated on the Autumn Elections. That’s about it. The dishes they served up look pretty amazing and people like me will get lost in all the judges’ mumbo-jumbo as they try to explain and justify why that dish is so godly. Yeah, maybe that is why it has lost touch with us commoners. There might have been some sort of hidden frustration that we as casual viewers have come to terms that we will never get to taste it and thus no matter how much the wax lyrical about the food, we couldn’t care less anymore because it doesn’t reach us. I mean, why the heck should we get excited if we are not going to taste it anyhow? I mean, we can use our imagination to salivate but that only makes things worse. You know, dreaming of eating the best food but ultimate realizing you can’t afford it so you just keep on dreaming. Yeah. That kind of frustration.

The plot for the Autumn Elections was also very predictable. I actually predicted who was going to fight who and the winner of that match. All came out true except the second semi-final in which I was sure that Hayama would win (although it was a match in which I had the lowest confidence my prediction would be right) and they did the unthinkable of making both pass. Which is like a slap in the face for all of us expecting a winner. And this in which leads to the finals whereby of course made my prediction go off trajectory again because after watching so many series with a main protagonist like Souma (especially when you have your name in the title), I expected Souma to make a comeback and win so he could have his ‘defeat’ in the qualifying round avenged. And what do you know? Hayama won. Wow. That was unexpected. But I suppose it is a good thing because it shows Souma isn’t invincible. You win some, you lose some. Also, an excuse for Souma to improve himself because the chances of so after you lose an important fight is higher. Really. So put off that final boss fight with Erina and take a detour levelling up, getting stronger and fighting other sub-bosses along the way first. Guess we’ll have to wait another time.

There was little to no character development at all. Of course there is some development for Souma. He is the main character for God’s sake. But this guy is so good like the many other characters you see in this series, that when he improves, you don’t really see what he improves on. He looks the same awesome guy. Just like how Adobe Acrobat always want to update but you don’t see a freaking difference, right? Yeah… If this is already happening to Souma, what about the other characters? Sure, it is unfair to say that this season had only half the episodes compared to the first season. But the way some are shown makes them redundant. Like those Polar Star students and Mito are just reduced to cheering Souma. They didn’t even do anything significant. They’re forgettable. I could go on ranting about the other characters but that would be me repeating myself because they are more or less like this for this season. Pretty much everybody stays the same. Erina is still a big b*tch who hates Souma (albeit a little lesser but so miniscule that it won’t change anything), Hisako being a b*tch for Erina, Takumi still being gay for Souma and Megumi still that same panicky girl. At least she doesn’t have to rely too much on Souma this time. At least no running jokes like Souma’s bad squid tentacle rape combo for fanservice. Phew, right? But still have plenty of ladies stripping naked in their exaggerated delusion delight when they taste a fantastic dish. Yeah, those delusions and explanations are still the main trademark of the series. Truly, I really need to taste all of them.

Mimasaka if I should say is the only new character for this season and perhaps as the ‘antagonist’ he is pretty much by far the most interesting. He is intimidating and his unusual stalker method really gives me the creeps. He was one badass guy whom you’d want Souma to take down badly. However what makes me unable to like him further than that is the exaggerated effect of his database ability. I know this series has people with outrageous ability like Erina’s divine tongue but having Mimasaka like a walking computer it makes him so unrealistic. It’s like he has got everything covered. Everything. This guy if he didn’t end up being a chef, he could have been the human version of Wikipedia and WikiLeaks. Watch out because there is somebody who can remember your past just by observing every freaking thing you do and then do it better way than yourself. If this is a new way of stealing your identity, it is going to be a scary place to live in.

I have this conspiracy theory of mine. You know how everybody here makes super good food that they even though to ordinary people it will be so heavenly but among themselves are not good enough? Well, I thought that all those crazy reactions you see are the side effect of drugs! Yes people! This academy makes ecstasy drugs in the guise of food! Now, the only way for top people like those judges to get their fix all the time, is to get students to ‘improve’ on the ‘food’ and with the excuse of a tournament, they’ll get to taste and enjoy that ‘food’. I know this sounds like a stretch but let that sink in for a moment. This way, those cheapskate bastards will also get their fix for free because what better way than to get high frequently, right? So the one with the best drugs wins? Holy sh*t!!!!!!!!!!!

Also, if Stagiaire has the Totsuki students being sent to work temporarily at super high quality restaurants around the country, then considering that there are quite a number of first year students, does this mean that there are a hell lot of such super high quality restaurants around? This is not even counting the Totsuki alumni whom all of them have opened their successful restaurant. This means Japan (if not the world) is one big place of high quality gourmet? Where do commoners with no money go to eat then? Oh right. Maybe in this world everybody gets a decent quality meal no matter from what kind of poor background they come. Because such godly food will always save the day. The other thing that keeps bugging me is the number of first year students at Totsuki. My guess there is an extremely large number of them. Because after every major training camp or special event, you would hear the higher ups mention how so many are weeded out. Yet there are so many left (this is assuming from what I hear from the next event). Sure, we are only shown Souma and some of the major characters so we don’t really see all the other students who flop. Safe to say, all those whom we have seen so far and given at least some personality (like those eternal Polar Star bros, Yuki and Ryouko) all have potential to survive to become the next elite chefs.

Having said all that, the rock opening theme somehow doesn’t sit with me, Rough Diamonds by Screen Mode. Maybe the diamond needs more polishing? Then there is Snow Drop by Nano Ripe as the ending theme. No longer sounding bad when I first heard her a long time ago. This rock theme ending feels dramatic because it’s all on Souma. Yeah, it feels like the pressure is on him. A few more notable seiyuus lending their voice to this series this season. Those I recognized are Hiroki Yasumoto as Mimasaka, Sayaka Ohara as Leonora and Satomi Arai as Lucie.

Overall, this season may be disappointing but it still has hope. Note, this doesn’t mean this season is literally bad. I still enjoy this series but it didn’t reach the height of its first season. I know I have said that I may never want to step into a restaurant with such bad food again but in the future if I hear from others how it has returned to its original roots, nostalgia might play a decisive factor for me in giving this series another chance (yeah, read those hopeful internet comments too). A few bad things like the story and characters being underdeveloped and making the season lacklustre doesn’t mean that everything else is bad. That is the thing when you start off something great. The expectations are high and it is a hurdle that one must aim very high to replicate or else you fall hard. Maybe it is a good thing for me to continue eating cheap commoner food. Who knows if I get addicted to such high quality food, I won’t be able to turn back and ‘eat properly’ anymore. I’ll be starving to death because no ordinary food could satiate my palate anymore. Thank goodness for cheap economy mixed rice for being around…

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk

March 11, 2017

It’s time for another tournament style anime series. A team tournament. One that has a guy and the rest of his teammates are females. I know the story and setting sound pretty generic as you have high school kids picking up some sort of hi-tech weapons and then taking on each other in a sanctioned tournament. Add some romance and harem factor into it and you have gullible guys like me wanting to watch Gakusen Toshi Asterisk. Why else would I be watching this show if not for that? Every season almost same thing. Heck, even the first episode looks familiar. A guy with good intentions ending up irking a female lead and she challenges him to a duel and ultimately loses. Or couldn’t best him to say the least. Sound familiar? Yeah, Rakudai Kishi No Cavalry sounds like it came out ages ago…

Episode 1
Ayato Amagiri as the new transfer student at Seidoukan Academy tries to be a gentleman as he leaps into the room of Julis-Alexia von Riessfeld to return her dropped handkerchief. If you think what follows next is cliché, then it is. Because he sees her while she is changing. To show her gratitude, she blasts him with her Strega power. Yes, her thanks is for him to die! Apparently there is an unwritten rule where peeping on her means paying with your life. Following the cliché pattern, she challenges him to a duel. If he wins, she’ll accept his excuse. Oh, he has no say whether to participate or not. Attracting a crowd of onlookers, Ayato doesn’t have a sword to fight her so some kind soul from the crowd lends him. Julis didn’t hesitate to use her best move. She is surprised he isn’t defeated. It looked like Ayato might be doing something sneaky when he pushes her down. Actually he was trying to save her from a stray attack. But all that don’t matter since he has her hand on her breast! Thankfully Ayato’s chance to die again is tossed away when student council president, Claudia Enfield uses her authority to stop the duel. She takes him along with her and explains the ground rules of the worldwide Asterisk tournament called Festas that the academy was built to nurture for including the other powerhouse opponents. The reward of winning this tournament will be the ability to grant anything as long it can be realized. Ayato wants to confirm one thing from her. Did his sister, Haruka attend this school? From the corrupted data, there is a girl who enrolled here 5 years ago but suddenly dropped out 6 months later. Ayato has no doubt she is Haruka. However other data aren’t so clear as there are no other records of her competing in Festas. An Ogre Lux sword, Ser Versta, the most powerful and legendary sword in Seidoukan had some suspicious combat data logged in 5 years ago. It could be her. Ayato assures he didn’t enrol in this school to look for her but to find his own destiny. Before Ayato leaves, Claudia hugs him.

The cliché pattern continues as Ayato ends up in the same class with Julis and sits next to her. Yes, she is not too thrilled. Ayato also makes friends with the other guy, Eishiro Yabuki who will also be his roommate. He lets Ayato know a bit more about Julis who is the first princess to some small fictional European country, Lieseltania and her cold demeanour means she keeps everyone at arm’s length. She is also one of the top few Strega among Genestella (humans with improved physical abilities). On their way out, they see Julis being harassed by Lester MacPhail and his subordinates as he keeps bugging her to fight him. Apparently Julis has duelled him many times and the outcome has always been the same. She always wins. So she isn’t really interested in accepting his challenge. Lester just like Julis is on the Named Charts (the rankings) and in the top 12 known as Page One. Lester threatens Julis in all sorts of ways and she still won’t budge. Till he mocks her for doing this for fun (and made her accidentally drop her handkerchief) so in her fiery rage she tells him off that she needs to accomplish something and to do that she needs to win Festas and thus can’t be fooling around in this place.

Episode 2
Lester backed down when Ayato interrupts. Maybe some other time? Ayato talks to her about things. Like how she needs money despite being a princess and she hasn’t found a partner for the tag team Phoenix Festa. Because she has no friends? Oh, so you haven’t found anyone who would meet your absurdly high standards. Well, that knight in shining armour may never come. Julis laughs when Ayato says he is lost on his way to his dorm. She is embarrassed when he notes she could laugh like that. She accepts his suggestion to give him a tour of the academy to repay her debt. Ayato is surprised this sleepy girl next to him in class is Saya Sasamiya, his childhood friend. First smell of cat fight is coming up because Saya claims Julis is reluctant to show Ayato around the grounds so she might as well give that job to her. But you know how stubborn Julis is and won’t back down, right? It might be a 3 way tussle since Claudia thinks of joining in. But she is here to remind him of his Lux compatibility test tomorrow. The best way to solve this school tour? Ayato has both Julis and Saya show him around. Did he just do a big mistake? While Ayato goes to get drunks and leaves the ladies alone, it could have been a showdown had not somebody trying to attack them. Saya’s super extreme grenade launcher blows the perpetrators away (as well as damaging the surrounding). Investigation is being carried out to find the culprit behind this although there are no leads. Claudia tells Ayato that Julis doesn’t want to seek help from others most probably she is trying to protect something she has and doesn’t want to lose it. Ayato prepares for his Lux test and the other participant is Lester. Cocky dude thinks the game is set but the moment he touches Ser Vesta, he didn’t last long and his compatibility rate is only 28%. You’re rejected. Lester is so mad that he keeps trying and trying and each time the rate decreases till it is negative and counting! WTF?! Ser Vesta probably is mad since it has a mind of its own and starts attacking Ayato. After all the dodging, he finally reins it in like a cowboy over a bull. 97% compatibility. Because main character status. Claudia has a favour to ask him. It includes coming into her room as she just got out of the bath and in her bath robe.

Episode 3
Ayato, you’re gay if you don’t take the slightest interest in Claudia giving you hints that she is seducing you!!! Anyway, on to serious business. She explains there have been several students being mysteriously attacked and injured. They all had one thing in common: They are to participate in Phoenix Festa but have to pull out due to injuries. The suspects fall on Lester and his subordinate Randy Hooke as they have no alibi. It is safe to say Julis is the next target as Claudia hints she might not be able to save herself this time. Get the hint, Ayato? Claudia would love to pay for this favour with fanservice (putting his hand on her breast make you feel anything?) but apparently Ayato decides to go with the gay route and escapes this free fanservice. Ayato hangs out with Julis in town. Here comes Lester and his pals to bug her again. He gets mad thinking Ayato is provoking him for being a coward but his pals tell him to back down for now. Ayato and Julis make their way out when they see a gang fight. They realize it is a setup when the gang is trying to indirectly implicate them during the confusion by hurting them as though they get caught in the middle of a gang fight. Of course none are a match for Julis as she makes one of them spill the beans. It seems somebody is paying them to hurt them. Conveniently, the hooded employer is spotted as Julis goes after him. In the forest, there are several accomplices setting traps but she is fast enough and Ayato coming to her aid that prevented any untoward incident. Though, baddie got away.

Like déjà vu, Julis calls him to her room. Tells him to strip! Could she have worded it better that she wants to sew his torn clothes from that fight? Ayato sees a group photo of Julis when she was young. She explains she used to sneak out of the palace and one day got lost in the slums. Cornered by punks, children from the orphanage saved her. She became good friends with them. Because money is needed to run the orphanage and funds are drying out, the reason she needs them. Although she is a princess, the royal welfare is nothing but a puppet as she will never secure approval for projects with no hope of any revenue. That is why all she can do is raise funds by herself and what better way to do it than this tournament that the world is crazy about. The handkerchief is a gift from the orphanage for her birthday, the reason she cherishes it a lot. You’d think that Julis would have been better after opening up. But the next morning after reading a letter, she returns to her cold self. It is believed to be from the perpetrator. Why didn’t she tell Ayato? Does she still not trust him? On the contrary, he might be one of her treasures she wants to protect. Time for Ayato to run like the wind to make it there in time to back her up.

Episode 4
At an abandoned building, Julis faces off with the perpetrator and knows who he is: Silas Norman, one of Lester’s subordinates. From the words he said yesterday after Ayato provoked Lester, she knew there were discrepancies since nobody else would have known about it unless he was there watching it himself. He gives her a chance to withdraw from Phoenix Festa. Of course she won’t. He explains everyone in Asterisk are mutual enemies. Everyone fighting for their own desires so wouldn’t it be wiser to take advantage of that and make money from it? Lester is also here and has heard his true intention. When Lester attacks, Silas’ accomplices jump in to protect him. They are not humans but mechanical dolls. He sends all 128 puppets to defeat them. Lester got owned first. Julis could be next if not for Ayato the hero arriving in typical fashion to free and save her. They even have time for chitchat especially about Ayato wanting to protect her. Just to show how cool Ayato is, he powers up his Ser Vesta and fending off the dolls’ attacks while holding Julis in his arms! At this time he could tell the dolls’ patterns and movements which resembles something like chess. Silas is scared and sends his big mother doll to finish the job. Nope. Cut down in an instant. Funnily, Silas tries to escape on one of his slowpoke doll. Ayato combines with Julis’ power and flies way faster than Silas to send him falling. And the duo have time to even watch the beautiful sunset! Time to end the cheesiness when some painful chain projection binds Ayato. Flashback reveals Haruka put this seal on him to imprison his savage force before she said goodbye. Lucky Ayato wakes up on Julis’ lap pillow. She lets him stay as he is. Now this is the real thanks. She asks about that imprisonment spell so he lets her know his sister had this power to forcibly bind all things. To cut things short on Julis deciding her partner for Phoenix Festa, it would be him. I mean, who else, right? Meanwhile Silas is desperately running away from Claudia. She shows her dark side by slaying him down. She is in cohorts with Yabuki, who is also a member of Kageboshi (Seidoukan’s intelligence division) who will extract information out of him.

Episode 5
Claudia meets the rest of the student council presidents of other schools. Ernest Fairclough (Garrardworth Academy), Dirk Eberweine (Le Wolfe Black Academy), Fan Xinglou (Jie Long) and Shuma Sakon (Allekant Academy). They discuss about Seidoukan’s sneaky move to co-develop a new type of Lux with Allekant. Claudia explains this is an official collaboration since the facilities used will be from Allekant and Seidoukan will be sponsoring 70% of R&D fees. Before Ayato goes to train with Julis, he bumps into petite Kirin Todou. Nothing wrong except he accidentally saw her panties. Saya and Lester join them. The latter is here to apologize to Ayato for what happened. Claudia brings Allekant’s Camilla Pareto and Ernesta Kuhne to them. Cheeky Ernesta can tell Julis and Saya like Ayato so she gives Ayato a kiss on his cheek. You can see what happens next. With them drawing their weapons, Camilla notices Saya’s unique grenade launcher since this is the weapons she specializes in. However she calls it primitive and has flaws. Saya wants her to retract that insult since her father designed this weapon. As she is the daughter of that great professor, the more reason Camilla can’t do so. He views her father as a traitor. They hint they’ll be taking part in Phoenix Festa. Saya wants to partner with Ayato. Julis won’t let. She was here first. The tussle begins. Later Ayato stops Kirin from being slapped again from her uncle, Kouichiro. After checking up on his details, he agrees to not get violent on Kirin provided if Ayato wins a duel with her. Kirin has no say and follows her uncle’s orders. But she isn’t going to throw away her match too. The match begins as both of them are on par with each other. However Ayato knows his time limit and is starting to panic. This allows Kirin to strike and win the duel. Julis quickly takes Ayato away knowing he doesn’t have much time before his limiter sets in. She will hear his explanation later why the hell he was duelling with Seidoukan’s #1 student. Holy cow! That’s their best student?!

Episode 6
Apparently Kouichiro is still not happy with Kirin’s win. Too slow?! WTF?! He reminds her to do his bidding if she wants her wish come true. Suspicious… Meanwhile Julis is scolding Ayato. Just because she can. So she is mad he couldn’t beat Kirin? Since when she is his coach? Anyway she explains that Ayato, Kirin and Claudia are the only people in Seidoukan she cannot defeat. Claudia is Seidoukan’s number 2 and her Pan Dora allows her to see 10 years into the future. But what sets Kirin apart is that her sword is just a traditional Japanese sword. And she is just 13 years old. With that kind of boob?! Oh sh*t! Later Ayato sees Claudia to learn more about Kouichiro. An employee of Seidoukan’s parent company, Integrated Enterprise Foundation (IEF). His job is to scout such talents and his goal is to land on a spot on the executive board, thus the reason he is using Kirin. But that itself is not enough as one must go through some intensive programmes which eventually eliminates one’s personality. Claudia knows about it because her mom was part of it. Later Ayato bumps into Kirin who wants to thank and talk to him. She reveals her only worth is her swordsmanship and is doing this to save her father. As her uncle has shown her the quickest way to achieve her goal, she calls it a fair trade. Noticing Ayato’s fighting stance, she asks how he trains. Ayato is a step ahead because he offers her to train with him. Shortly after Kirin leaves, Saya drops down to almost strangle him! Who is that woman! Anyway she is here to bug him to partner her for Phoenix Festa but he asserts Julis is already his partner. In that case, she continues to bug him about Kirin… That completes Ayato’s meeting with all his potential harem. Oh wait. There is still another meeting with Julis next day. I’m sure they’re talking stuffs I don’t find important and the only thing I remember is their curry exchange since Julis wrongfully ordered the hottest one and the exchange is like well, uhm, deepening their partnership? One early morning when Ayato and Kirin are out jogging, they are attacked by… Mini dragons? Cutting them won’t do since they regenerate. Kirin senses something odd with their Prana flow and cuts one up to bits until its core is revealed. Cutting it stops the regeneration. The other dragons blast a hole in the ground as the duo fall under.

Episode 7
Taking refuge in the sewer, not only Ayato dispels some of Kirin’s low self esteem but fights off a sewer alligator. Since it has the same Prana flow as the dragons, he finds its core and cuts it up. However he is over his limit and gets that chain punishment. While they wait for rescue, Kirin tries to find out if he is dating Julis. No. Thankfully this still means she has a chance, right? She explains her reasons fighting for her father. He is imprisoned as a criminal. When she was young, she was taken as hostage by a ruffian. Dad killed him in the name of self defence but because he is a Genestella, the charges were graver. Kirin could have took on the ruffian herself but she was a coward and froze. So to free him, her only way is to obey her uncle. After the rescue, Kirin talks to Kouichiro if he was worried for her as a person or tool. She refuses to obey him anymore. Despite slapping her, she won’t give in and holds him off when he is about to punch her. She is going to walk her own path and that first order is to request a duel with Ayato. While Kirin is fast and sharp with her numerous sword skills, it is Ayato’s decoy and close quarters that bring her down. So while the friends congratulate each other in the backstage, Kouichiro comes banging on the door. Not too happy about the lost, eh? He is still trying to assert his authority and that is when Ayato butts in to tell him off not to interfere with her business anymore. If Ayato doesn’t change his mind, Claudia might. He reminds him Kirin belongs to Seidoukan and IEF. If he insists on corrupting her with his selfish goals, there is a risk waiting and she is sure her mom will also make the same decision. At this moment you can see Kouichiro defeated. He just simply gave up. Kirin tearfully thanks him for everything but I don’t think he is listening. He just left so dejected. So does this mean Kirin is now free to pursue Ayato?! Later Saya talks to Kirin. Since she finds they are both fighting for their fathers, she proposes they team up.

Episode 8
Ayato must be real famous now that a fan girl is asking him for his autograph. You can bet his harem isn’t pleased but they have a point. That girl put his autograph up for auction! Be careful… Saya-Kirin lost to Ayato-Julis in a practice match. Although they were perfect, Ayato mentions they lack that sync. Thus Saya thinks to deepen their bond they should hang out with each other. However their tastes are different as night and day. Saya then brings Kirin to an underground Lux store to buy some weapons. Kirin then asks Saya a favour: To teach her to swim. While Kirin is practising on her own, she can’t control her speed and collides into Violet Weinberg. This irritated blonde becomes a b*tch as she won’t accept her apology and wants to duel. She backs down upon realizing Kirin is Seidoukan’s number one. But Violet still remains cocky and that is when Saya throws something at her. I guess this is a perfect setup for them to have an unofficial duel. Violet is arrogant as usual but Saya pulls out her cannon and blasts her to the far end of the pool! It ended right even before it began. Saya and Kirin have a heart to heart talk. I guess that bonded them because in the next practice, they do superbly well and it is like their coordination is natural. They beat Ayato-Julis’ record. Meanwhile Claudia and Yabuki discuss the draws for Phoenix Festa. It is going to be a crowded affair with 256 teams. Luckily Ayato-Julis and Saya-Kirin team are kept apart and they won’t meet until the finals. However they are wary of Le Wolfe’s Irene Urzaiz who could mean serious trouble and hope to completely avoid her.

Episode 9
Dirk sees Irene in prison. Upon agreeing to participate in Phoenix Festa, he releases her. He tells her job to eliminate Ayato because of his Ogre Lux. It doesn’t matter if she wins the tournament or not because Ogre Lux is going to be a problem sooner or later. The Phoenix Festa opens with an opening speech by Madiath Mesa, the chairman of this Festa’s committee. His speech contains allowing autonomous weapons to participate because preventing so would only have an effect on the tournament. Since our heroes still have time before their match. It’s time for a harem lunch break. My bad. Nothing much happens. We have a brief narration on how the tournament works. It includes destroying both your opponent’s badge to win. With the massive number of participants, the winners of each group in the preliminaries (a knockout tournament) will progress to the next round and the 32 finalists will be drawn in another knockout tournament but this time they can earn points for their school. We have Ayato-Julis pair up now and we can tell their opponents are there just to make the numbers because Julis leaves it to Ayato to handle them himself and before the match could start, he already ends it! It’s over! Too fast to see! I know it is their tactic to keep their secret techniques for higher opponents but are the audiences getting their money’s worth? The next highlight match pits Le Wolfe’s guys against Allekant’s autonomous weapons AKA robots, AR-D and RM-C. How can a human beat them? Oh, they’re controlled by Camilla and Ernesta. The robots start out as comedians arguing with each other first. Then they give their opponents to do everything they want without fighting back. You know you’re in sh*t when all the super strong moves you pull do not have any effect thanks to their barrier. When time is up, they’re owned big time. Another one-sided match.

Episode 10
Saya gets a call from her dad, Souichi that her new gun has just arrived. It is at customs so she won’t be able to use it for her first match. Meanwhile Julis and Ayato spot Irene beating up punks out for vengeance over her in the crowd. Irene spots Ayato and confronts him. She is about to start trouble but her little sister, Priscilla comes in to stop everything and make her apologize. Apparently she is the only one she is obedient with. Saya and Kirin’s match begins against the Chinese pair. Of course they’ll win, right? At least their match lasts longer than Ayato-Julis. We skip the after-match fanservice whereby Saya is trying to grope Kirin’s boobs, time for Ayato and Julis for their next match. Of course they’ll win, right? It is Julis’ turn to strut her stuff against this cheery idol-like pair. At least this one lasts longer than their first match. After the match, Julis is vexed as she hints she wants a pat on the head from Ayato since he did it to Saya and Kirin. This is nothing but trivial, right? If you’re wondering why we need to watch Lester and Randy’s match, it’s because they are up against Irene and Priscilla. While fat boy is taken out easily, Lester can still hold his ground thanks to his toughness. So if you’re wondering why timid Priscilla has just been standing watching, it’s time to unleash their secret weapon. To replenish ‘fuel’ for Irene’s Ogre Lux, she drinks the blood from Priscilla’s neck! Is she a vampire? And since Priscilla wounds heal quickly, it makes her a very valuable source. Lester might have lost but he was smart enough to give up to avoid further unwanted damage. Only damaged is his ego… I’m sure Ayato is going to need learning something from watching this.

Episode 11
Time for Claudia to hog some time alone with Ayato. Then Kirin called. Saya is missing. Help. Okay. There goes her long awaited quality time. However Ayato saves Priscilla from a bunch of chasing thugs along the way. Irene gets the wrong idea he assaulted her and is going to beat him up. Thankfully she still listens to her sister to stop. Or else. Phew. Another good news: Kirin has found Saya. The problem solved itself. Irene feels awkward now since he owes Ayato for saving her sister and he is her next round’s opponent. Irene goes back to threaten Dirk that her sister was in danger. Where are those supposed bodyguards? That wasn’t part of the deal. He tells her back that some people don’t listen to his orders and since Ayato interfered, those bodyguards can’t act because they can’t be seen. After she leaves, Dirk has his assistant, Korona Kashimaru to do fortune telling. She sees the sisters winning. Julis is not happy after learning Ayato accepted a dinner invitation from Irene. This means she has to come along too, right? Note, she wasn’t invited. Luckily Priscilla is around to prevent any bloody showdown. Irene reveals about Dirk’s plan that he wants her to take out Ayato. She isn’t sure of his intentions, thought. Most probably she saw someone once wielding Ser Vesta and thought it would be a pain in the ass. In a way this confirms about Haruka. Irene is doing this for money. Many years ago she borrowed lots of money from him. Although she can earn money from participating in tournaments. Dirk only allows her to participate in Festas. Oh, she can’t use the prize money to pay him back. Yeah…

When they leave, Ayato calls Claudia as he wants to talk something with her. When he enters her room, she is like in some trance state and is trying to kill her. She returns to normal state when he touches her. Before she explains what happened, she asks him a favour to join her team for next year’s Gryps Festa. Of course. If Julis joins too. But of course. Now she explains about her ‘trance’. She has died more than 1,200 times. She actually counted? Her Ogre Lux wants its users to experience death in exchange for being used. That death is experienced via dreams and she has never experienced the same one twice. So Claudia has got to be a strong girl since nobody can even last 3 days, right? Asking her opinion on Gravisheath (Irene’s Ogre Lux), Claudia explains how each Ogre Lux has their own personalities. Some good, some bad. Ser Vesta is one of the better ones and Pan Dora is one of the worst. Gravisheath? Dangerous enough to change its user’s personality and preference, even going as far as to change the physical appearance to suit its preference. Ayato calls it a night since tomorrow he has a match. Too bad he doesn’t want to sleep with her here. Meanwhile Irene just destroyed those bunch of thugs.

Episode 12
Irene dreams of her past. She came from a war torn country and naturally she believed having power was the only way to go forward. Priscilla was in some testing facility but when their parents try to sell them out for more money, Irene took Priscilla and ran away. That was when they came into Dirk. He gave her Gravisheath and she was compatible the moment she touches it. And now the epic match is about to begin. Of course it is going to last way longer than what we’ve seen so far. All the epic flashy moves are equally countered by epic flashy techniques so there is no short of explosions and booms. Things get even heated up when Irene drinks more blood from Priscilla to the point she passes out. More high level epic battle. Ayato and Julis unleash a powerful blast on her that destroyed part of the arena but Gravisheath protected Irene. This causes her to go even more berserk as she is going to target Priscilla for more power. Ayato’s Ser Vesta at the same time powers up (visions of Haruka?) to give him more power and slam all that energy onto Gravisheath, destroying it and knocking her out. Ayato-Julis pair wins. However as he has gone past his limit, the chain binding thingy activates. Now that the entire world has seen this, those other sneaky schools think they now know Ayato’s weakness and limit. Priscilla wakes up in the hospital bed since she lost too much Prana but is okay now. Irene tells her they have lost and even though Gravisheath was destroyed, she didn’t get a bit scolding from Dirk. He somewhat expected this to happen. The sisters make up as Priscilla mentions her intend to become stronger so she can stand as her equal. Julis is really concerned for Ayato although he is okay. She’s trying to deal with this together with him. Could have kissed if not for the other worried girls coming in to assure his safety. Then they all argue to take care of him. But smothering his face in their boobs? Don’t you dare complain! Just accept it!

Season 2

Episode 13
Even among the students of Jie Long, there are factions. So it is no surprise that the Li twins, Shenyun and Shenhua are asking ‘permission’ to go all out against their fellow Jie Long guys, Song Ran and Luo Kunzhan if they ever get pass their opponents, Ayato and Julis. Fan doesn’t care since her job is to provide them with power and have a good time. Ayato and Julis face off with Song and Luo in their fifth round match. The Chinese duo heard about rumours on Ayato but despite so, they are still going all out on him. So this means teaming up to take him down? Luckily Julis sets a giant fire wall so they can focus on one on one fights. It might seem that they are just holding out but with great timing and trust, Julis opens a small gap in the wall so that both could switch sides and opponents and easily take them out. Because the opponents have been getting accustomed with their fighting styles, the only way to throw them off balance is if they switch quickly. Later, Song and Luo congratulate them for a fine match. However they are here to also warn them about the Li twins. They might go to the same school but it doesn’t mean they get along. They hate each other. Although they won’t tell their weaknesses, they caution them that they are unlike them who view their opponents as equals. The Li twins look down on theirs. Speaking of them, here comes the duo giving their nasty mockery to the losers. They even show off their Seisenjutsu technique. While Ayato and Julis are resting in their room, Julis gets an unexpected visitor: Flora Klemm.

Episode 14
Flora is a trainee maid from the palace and sent by the king who is also Julis’ older brother. She sings a lot of praises for Julis but I think there are some embarrassing ones Julis wouldn’t want Ayato to hear. Back in his room, Ayato contacts Priscilla and Irene. They know he wants to talk to Dirk and that guy also knows Ayato will somehow try to contact him. Irene will try to arrange a meeting with him and warns about Ereshkigal and Grimalkin under Dirk. Later Yabuki explains to Amato about Seisenjutsu which is based on Taoism so it lacks any vulnerabilities. Julis then invites Ayato out for lunch as per Flora’s request since she has something to ask him. We have a little distraction from Flora. She feeds the parfait to Julis, Julis gets embarrassed. She feeds the parfait to Ayato, Julis gets jealousy and mad. WTF. So the big question she wants to ask him is how far Ayato’s relationship has progressed with Julis. Apparently Julis’ big brother is interested seeing Ayato could be his potential brother-in-law! Before Julis can go full blown embarrassment, Korona is here to pick up Ayato to meet with Dirk. If Ayato is going, so is Julis. Inside his limo, Dirk maintains his hostile façade and is not obligated to answer any of their questions although he isn’t closed to Ayato offering something in exchange for information. Ayato asks about Haruka. Dirk saw her once at Eclipse. It is an illegal underground version of Festa. So if you hate all those tight regulations and want more blood and no rules whereby participants could even lose their lives, Eclipse is for you. Dirk remembers seeing Haruka because of Ser Vesta she was wielding. She lost the match but heard she didn’t die. That was the last and only time he saw her. Dirk asks Ayato’s opinion on Mesa. With Ayato’s blank look, Dirk knows he isn’t playing dumb. He drops them off and Ayato continues to be in shock learning his sister’s fate. Korona then tells Dirk about the pretty maid looking like a doll that was with them. She wasn’t in any of the information she had. Dirk seems interested and wants to know more about her.

Episode 15
Ayato is spacing out thinking too much about Haruka. This causes Julis to worry because it affects their teamwork. She knows he has been going out to look for her. He thinks everything will become clear when he reunites with her but he might be scared that she has abandoned him. Later Saya talks to Ayato about this. Saya tells him not to worry because she knows Haruka will never abandon him. They remember they once teamed up to take on Haruka. But she used some secret technique that resembled like a variation of bullet time to take them out. They lost and have never beaten her once. That’s why they have to find her and get the better of her. Ayato and Julis’ quarterfinal match against the twins begin. The twins put up lots of tricks like a giant smoke cloud, Shenhua turning invisible and Shenyun cloning himself. To show how powerful the tricky twins are, our duo take a beating. It might be the twins’ plan to delay since Ayato got sealed when he reaches his time limit. However Ayato feints it and strikes Shenyun. The comeback is futile because that was just a clone. He was invisible all along (the smoke cloud tricked them). Before he could get owned by his talisman bombs, Julis rescues him and nags him about his habit to always do things by himself. She throws back to him his words who is going to protect him then. Her words wake him up and also see some strange vision. He thanks her and this makes her blush. Do we have time for this in the middle of a battle? Ayato has a favour to ask of her.

Episode 16
He wants her to buy him some time as he goes into deep meditation to grab some ball of light which brings him back to the past to refresh some lesson Haruka gave him. Better hurry up because the twins are beating up and mocking Julis. Then it’s like Ayato found what he is looking for: A key to unlock his chains and power up a little! So easy? But that sounds like an understatement. Now that Julis is leaving the rest to him, Ayato can see all hidden traps and even take out Shenhua in stealth mode. Desperate Shenyun uses al his talisman to form a giant flaming explosion ball. And clones it. Literally, great balls of fire! Then he targets Julis. Wrong move. Because it only serves to show how cool Ayato has become. He protects Julis, extends his sword to cut the fireballs, cut the explosions and give a good knockout punch into Shenyun’s face! Game over. They win. Claudia is happy over their victory and wants to reward Ayato by personally inviting him to his room to heal for tomorrow’s match. Well, she should have taken Julis along if she really cared too right but I guess that’s not the point. Ayato becomes their tug of war. We should have more of such scenes. Now we shift focus to Saya and Kirin. The former talks about her father who lost his entire body at work but since his brain is still intact, his mind is hooked up to the mainframe where he continues to do research all he wants. And since all his research involves making guns for Saya and thus this power is created solely for her and not others, she won’t forgive those who rejects that idea. The duo bump into Ernesta and Camilla. The latter still believe Saya’s weapons aren’t suited for combat so the only way to get the other to take back what they said is to win the semi-final match. Saya and Kirin face AR-D and RM-C. Kirin tests her sword on AR-D first and although it seems it doesn’t have any effect, she eventually cuts through his barrier. Because he is machine, he has data on her skills which means he only reads and reacts to her movements unlike swordsmen facing off in the battlefield they get split seconds to read each other. In short, he lacks battle experience. Saya gets ready to shoot down RM-C. Oh, she already fired the first shot.

Episode 17
During this fight, Flora gets kidnapped. Kirin’s sword skills manage to make a little dent on AR-D but it is enough to do any hard damage. Saya and RM-C enter a firing might battle. Saya’s blast is eventually more powerful and deals some damage. RM-C agrees to do AR-D’s suggestion as they combine into a single robot. Needless to say, they power up in speed and power. Kirin takes a direct blow but she is still hanging there. Saya believes AR-D must have some kind of defect since RM-C is channelling part of her power to him. If AR-D was okay, they wouldn’t have combined. Unfortunately they have insufficient data to conclude anything. The duo go all out in their next move. Too bad they lost. Don’t worry. Ayato and Julis will avenge you in the finals. Meanwhile Dirk contacts Ernesta and Camilla. He wants them to team up with him and he will reward them with profits. Julis is waiting for Flora and when she gets a call from her, it turns out to be her kidnapper. To guarantee her safety, he wants Ser Vesta to be cast an emergency seal and they are not to withdraw from the Festa or go to the police. Julis is in a pinch but Claudia has a plan. Knowing the kidnapper is targeting Ayato and Ser Vesta, putting an emergency seal means Ayato will forever can never use it again because it is like he abandoned it. Part of her plan includes hiding Ser Vesta and let Ayato use a different Ogre Lux. In the meantime Kirin and Saya will search and rescue Flora. Claudia believes Dirk is behind this and thus his intelligence organization, Grimalkin will be doing his dirty work. This makes it easier to narrow down their whereabouts and Kirin and Saya must rescue Flora in that time before the closing ceremony tomorrow.

Episode 18
Ayato and Julis will face off with Garrardworth’s duo of Elliott Forster and Doroteo Lemus. Ayato takes on pretty boy and easily defeats him with his countermove?! So fast?! And he did it without Ser Vesta. Meanwhile Julis faces off with Festa veteran who clad himself with armour and even riding an armoured horse. Is this even legal?! Anyway her fire might not burn him but it builds up enough heat to flush him out and win. Yeah, the quick victory is brought to you because they can now focus on saving Flora since Kirin and Saya still have no leads. Yabuki hears from them and will help out as much as he can. Though, don’t count on him too much. Ayato goes off to do his own research as he secretly meets up with Irene in person for information. Unfortunately she has none not because of any gag order. She believes Dirk knows he will contact her and thus did not relay any information. But she can still theorize. She thinks they are looking in the wrong area. Because the redevelopment area is filled with criminals, police often patrol there so it would be hard to move about or stay hidden. It might be a place where Ayato will face lots of trouble, Rotlicht. A place where legal and illegal shops are clustered together and he can’t freely go anywhere like the redevelopment zone. Camilla talks to Ernesta and remembers the time they first met. Camilla’s family was attacked and killed by terrorists. She could have been bombed and blown to bits but was saved when Ernesta constructed half her body as a robot. Although Camilla owes half her life to her, it seems there is a dispute about their engineering goals. Ernesta simply wants to do all it takes to win so her robots will become accepted in schools and people will understand them better. AR-D and RM-C request minor changes as they have ‘learnt’ from their battle with the lolis. Ayato is being chased around by MIBs for snooping around too much. He stumbles into a girl who claims she can help him out.

Episode 19
Ayato wonders if she is a Strega as she takes him to a safe place. When she knows his name, Ayato goes on the defensive. Who is she? She assures him Ayato has become famous after yesterday’s match. Oh, he should work on his bad disguise. When a zombie dude comes looking for Ayato, but upon seeing this girl, he turns his attention to fight her. She knows this guy is formerly from Jie Long before joining the mafia. Easily her ‘soft’ kick sends him flying and crashing into the building! She decides to further help Ayato in looking for kidnapped Flora. Her abilities can somewhat locate a person. After describing Flora, she then turns into her true form and starts singing. It is then Ayato instantly recognizes her as Sylvia Lyyneheym. Who is she? She is the top student of Queenvail Girls’ Academy. She pinpoints the area where Flora is located and could have been more specific if she had more time but her manager is hounding her. Before she parts ways, Ayato asks for her number! OMG! Planning to add more to your harem?! I know his true intentions but that’s my first impression when he asked her that. After Ayato tells the rest, Kirin and Saya do not want them to tag along too. Even if the finals start at noon, they should be resting and shouldn’t go into the tournament in this state. With Yabuki seconding them and that believe-in-me crap, our heroic duo relent. At an old casino, Yabuki hacks his way in. The way he easily does it makes the girls be suspicious and ‘scared’. They are faced with multiple shadow clones. No matter how much you cut them, they regenerate. How do you cut shadow anyway? Since they can’t waste any time, luckily Yabuki has called Lester to come help. More like he blackmailed him to get his ass here. They leave this dude for this menial task while they head on to get done the more important ones. It’s a good thin Ayato and Julis heed their words because the finals is just starting and they’ve heard no news from them. They could have missed it and give the robot duo a free walkover.

Episode 20
Ayato and Julis attack AR-D together instead of also focusing on fighting RM-C. Ayato uses some technique of his to avoid RM-C’s attacks when she does. When the robots fuse, it takes some time so Ayato is able to cut off RM-C’s badge. Although she is out, she manages to fully equip RM-D. We take a detour to Flora’s rescue. You’d think that it would be an obvious trap for Flora to be tied up in the open. It is. Kirin is able to intercept the shadow attack from this ninja dude and with some help from Saya’s sniping, they manage to get Flora to safety. Now Kirin will be able to concentrate on fighting him. However she is injured and her vital spot. You know how final big bosses become stronger the more damage it takes? Well, something of this sort happened to Kirin. In the final decisive sword drawing move, Kirin somehow makes ninja boy see a virtual image of swords, allowing Kirin to cut and disable the use of his arms. Kirin is down but Saya finishes the job by blasting him away. Back to the overpowered match, AR-D is overpowered like a final boss. The kind that you want to use a cheat code to win this damn match. The duo are reduced to just dodging and are even cornered. What tricks do you think they will have to come up to overcome this? Well, something of this sort. Claudia waltzes into the commentators’ room and hijacks the microphone to send a message to her pals. You’d think it is some magic spell, right? Well, she tells them Flora is safe. So go all out. I guess this means technically they have to win, right? With the weight off their shoulders, Ayato is now free to use Ser Vesta and powers it up enough to slice through AR-D’s hammer like a hot knife through butter. Here’s their cheat code.

Episode 21
Apparently with all the hard hitting power, it still isn’t enough to bring down AR-D although he takes some damage. It might look AR-D is going out of control with all the overflowing power but he manages to control it. With both sides taking damage, Julis knows Ayato is their only chance for victory. So she has him channel his Prana into his Ser Vesta while she does something. Ser Vesta turns into an ideal form. To cut short the remainder of the fight, Ayato defeats AR-D and wins the Festa. So while Ayato takes his trophy at the award ceremony, Yabuki confronts ninja boy escaping in the sewers and teaches him a lesson. Later, RM-C and Camilla talks to Saya and wants to fight her again. Although they won, they view her weapon much superior than theirs because it uses a different technology and thus incompatible. They do not consider their win over her in the Festa as proper victory. Ernesta is contacted by Dirk about the offer to team up. She rejects him. She is surprised Dirk knows that she is secretly constructing a third robot. Not even Camilla knows about this. With all the congratulating and thanking, it’s time for Flora to apologize and cry her heart out. Ayato and Julis then see Mesa. Julis is not pleased that despite she reported Dirk behind the kidnapping, Mesa said there were not enough evidence to link him. Thus the police caught the wrong people, some mafias operating in that area. Mesa learns about Ayato’s reason for participating in this Festa to find Haruka. He can only pray for her safe return. Later we see the snake head Mesa is because he is in cohorts with Dirk and warns him to tone down his methods. He had to go out of his way to get him out of this mess. Dirk wonders if Mesa will tell about his relationship with that woman. He has no intention to do so. And here’s the biggest revelation: Haruka is in a comatose state in some test tube chamber.

Episode 22
Before anybody can scream winter vacation, Julis whisks everyone away to her kingdom, Lieseltania. Wow. Everyone is giving them a hero’s welcome. They go to see Jolbert, Julis’ brother and king and Julis is not amused of the forced victory parade. Then there is a short history lesson about the formation of Lieseltania. Basically some meteor crash and a bunch of corporation guys wanting to make a profit from this ‘playground’. Thus Lieseltania is more like a puppet state. Time for Saya to get a bit of the spotlight since she is a bit depressed. She apologizes to Ayato for not being there when he needed the most after Haruka went missing. She hopes he can rely on her from now on. Claudia talks to them about Gryps Festa and hopes they could join her team. Well, Ayato’s answer depends on Julis’ participation. She asks why she is so focused on this Festa when she could have won other Festas easily. On the contrary, her weapon has a very grave weakness and needs the competency of her comrades to pull through. Long story short, everyone agrees to be her teammate. I guess those other big names from other schools don’t really matter, huh? Time for the banquet and everyone to look smart and the ladies to look lovely in their evening dress. Ayato thought Julis is broke. Well, the corporation has money to spend on her but she has no money for herself. There’s a difference. Seeing Jolbert mixing around, Julis explains to Ayato that he is just a puppet. He doesn’t talk politics and isn’t serious about his job. That’s why corporate guys like him. Oh, he also has many lovers by his side that the corporations ‘sent’ him. All airheads too? Time for Kirin to get her screen time too when she gets too as strangers are talking to her. Time for Ayato to whisk her away. Because Kirin clings on to his arm, Saya doesn’t want to lose out and also clings on to his other arm. This is interrupted when an old guy talks to them. He wants them not to join Claudia’s team for Gryps Festa. If they refuse? Well, they’ll have to deal with this monstrous chimera he summons to kill them. Even without a weapon, Ayato can still kick the monster’s ass before Julis-Saya blast combo finishes it. Hey, these are Phoenix Festa winners and not pushovers. You gotta send something more terrifying than this.

Episode 23
That guy is Gustave Malraux, an internationally wanted criminal. He used to be in some international terrorist group but now he takes on jobs for money. So you can bet there is some large conspiracy behind this. Jolbert talks to Ayato and Julis privately. He wants them to get engaged. So that’s what the parade is for? To casually introduce Ayato? Julis protests this joke but Jolbert is serious. Because she has won the Phoenix Festa, her popularity has increased and IEF now views her valuable. But that isn’t the biggest problem yet. Jolbert wants Julis to stop participating in Gryps Festa. If she wins it, she can become more popular thus making Jolbert irrelevant. There’s a reason to this selfish thinking. If that happens, IEF may replace Jolbert with Julis on the throne. You know how Julis is serious in changing the state of her country, right? But when she is there, she will be totally under their control. He doesn’t want her to suffer. He hopes Ayato can convince her but of course he can’t. Ayato finds Julis at the orphanage and meets with Sister Theresa who runs the church. Julis gets uncomfortable and leaves when she talks about her once best friend at the orphanage. Ayato goes after her. He learns she already achieved her goal of saving the orphanage by winning the Phoenix Festa. Her intention is to change her nation by winning the Gryps Festa and free this country on a broken system it was based on. Speaking of her friend, Julis spots her, Orphelia Landlufen. She is Ereshkigal and studying at Le Wolfe. She confronts her at a barren wasteland. Orphelia warns her to drop her goal in changing her because she has accepted her fate. I guess a guy has to stay out when girls fight, right? Julis is no match for Orphelia whose miasmic powers are just reeking. Time for Ayato to jump in. Yeah, he shows us as a hero he can fight with a sword in one hand and hold an unconscious girl in another. He did this before so it’s no sweat. He too can’t best her but they are interrupted by Gustave who hopes Orphelia won’t steal his prey. Plus, Dirk calls Orphelia to get back to the lab as he didn’t give her permission to leave. Gustave summons his beasts to kill them. Ayato might have defeated one but is going to get eaten by the other. Time for Claudia to remind us she kicks ass. Gustave is smart enough not to take on her and escapes. Claudia gets a heart attack when Ayato collapses.

Episode 24
Ayato wakes up after 3 days. Yeah, any longer and I’m not sure if anyone can wait that long. After Julis thanks him, she explains about Orphelia. Remember that handkerchief? It was made by her. That wasteland is actually the remnants of a lab of IEF. A student from Allekant known as Magnum Opus used to do research there to mass produce Genestella. Orphelia was one of the subjects as the orphanage’s debt collateral. Although it is ‘successful’, it is not without a price. Everything she touches around her dies. Julis once tried to challenge her to make her change but lost. Orphelia looks like she has given up on everything. As they are about to focus and discuss about Gustave, the city is under attacked by dragons. Julis knows this is a ploy from Gustave as all the security forces are drawn in fighting them, the orphanage is left unprotected. A bait to draw them out. They take the challenge to fight off the Hydra he summoned. While they wait for Julis to power up, Ayato and Saya combo take down the heads quickly before it has time to regenerate. Of course, the final blow from Julis to destroy it once and for all. Wow. Such a big explosion I hope she didn’t destroy the kingdom. Kirin finds Gustave and easily knocks him out. Old man can’t best a young girl, right? Elsewhere Claudia sees her father whom she has not seen for a while. It seems he is behind this orchestration. He says Ginga isn’t behind this and he did it on his own. He then starts showing his desperation for her not to enter Gryps Festa. Too bad. She doesn’t reciprocate her father’s love.

Next day when Ayato and co leave, Julis tells Jolbert that she will win Gryps Festa to give more power to the royal family. After what happened, she needs to start at something more basic. That is why she needs his help. Seeing she has changed, he agrees to help her and stop playing the fool. Ayato then gets a call from Mesa. He claims he has found Haruka. It seems somebody brought her to this central hospital 5 years ago and has been lying in this state ever since. Ayato believes it is her ability that binds everything and she might have used it on herself. If nothing changes, she might outlive everyone. Well, if you can call that living. Outside, Ayato is met by a crazy woman who claims she can cure Haruka. She is Hilda Jane Rowlands. Or better known as Magnum Opus. Claudia apologizes to her teammates about her father’s doing. She explains he did this to settle things before Ginga makes any serious move. So now you know the risks, will they still join her in Gryps Festa? Because that will mean making enemies out of Ginga too. Hell yeah. Too late to back down, right? Was there any hesitation in the first place? Well, Ayato a bit at first. Because he was in a dilemma if he should really seek Magnum Opus for help. But since he really doesn’t want to, might as well stick with these beautiful babes instead. There’s your answer.

Ass Tricks * Raw!
Hey, wait a minute. Don’t tell me that montage at the end of the final episode is some sort of a fast forward of the events and certain matches that take place during the Gryps Festa?! Don’t tell me they aren’t going to make another season and if they are, they will not be making the Gryps Festa?! I hope not. Assuming if there should be a sequel, I hope they continue from where it left off because it was starting to get interesting. Why do they always have to leave it to the end to make things interesting? So I personally hope that montage was just some sort of a trailer or a sneak peek. Because with so much potential and development, it would be a shame the next part in succession would be skipped. But that would be a blog for another time if they ever make another season.

Seriously, both the entire seasons can be summed up to be focused on the Phoenix Festa. There might be some shady plot moving behind it but they aren’t so obvious and thus personally I find the story boring and hard to maintain my attention even if there are a few (but short) funny moments. Even the international corporation and political conspiracies sound like better stories but it is just sad that they come into light towards the series’ end. It definitely looks like it is setting up itself in case of the need of another sequel but I fear they might focus the entire series on the Gryps Festa and make it uninteresting like they did for Phoenix Festa. I might be jumping the gun but after my experience watching this, I can’t help feel sceptical. I know I did say in my last paragraph to not skip this important team tournament but my point is not to make it draggy like the Phoenix Festa. After all, fighting with more team members could change the tempo of everything. After all, isn’t this series is about the Festa tournaments? And the other shady conspiracy plots beneath it are just to add spice to it all. Lots of other plot potentials like the mysteries behind Ogre Lux and the dark underground Eclipse that can be explored but just only touched upon here.

In view of saying all that, it made me enter into a dilemma whether if I should have wished for more cheesy fanservice and harem cat fight elements. You know, when such genres get uninteresting, I start to wish it should spam more of such factors no matter how cheap it is and no matter how much I will definitely complain about it. Damn if they do, damn if they don’t. The so called harem factor that I was hoping to see is very minimal and only serves as distraction and sometimes a reminder that Ayato still has those girls by his side. Now, if they start spamming the cringe worthy cat fights, it would have diluted the worth of this show even if I should be ‘highly entertained’. I mean, if you watched Masou Gakuen HxH, that entire series is about groping boobs and pleasuring girls, right? Imagine if this series follows that kind of route, not necessarily boobs fondling but girls shamelessly fighting over Ayato instead of focusing on the tournament, I think we would all lose a greater respect and consider this series to be even trashier and crap. Because it didn’t, this series is still respectable in that sense but at a price of me calling it boring and uninteresting. Hey, it is just one otaku’s impression and it won’t change a damn thing, right?

So here am I thinking I could make cheeky and naught puns out of it was to spam and take the fanservice routes. You know how Asterisk War can become… Well, you read my header, right? And of all terms why did they have to pick Genestella because I first misheard it as genitalia! Serious! Maybe it has something to do with the genes but my mind was already in the gutter… And Strega? Uhm… Straight guy? Oh heck, I thought it was some sort of relative for Stegosaurus. I’ve been fooled to think that there was going to be some serious fanservice elements. It’s like they teased us with the first episode of seeing Julis in her undies. Because I can’t remember anything else worthy after that… Except maybe Claudia’s sexy seduction attempts. Anyway, there are quite a number of terms in the series but I didn’t really bother to remember them since the sci-fi sounding-like terms already turned me off.

Sadly, the tournaments fights as the focus of the series didn’t sit with me well. Sorry I have to spam this boring word again because this is ultimately what I feel while watching the matches. Somehow they aren’t interesting enough to make me go “Woah!” even with all the super exaggerated effects (though I can’t help notice that they are mostly hexagon cyber polygons). Plus, they are predictable. Yes, I have 100% predicted the outcome of all the matches that Ayato-Julis and Kirin-Saya participated even before they entered the ring and fight. Including Kirin-Saya’s lost to the robot pair. After all, you can’t have teammates fighting each other in the finals and it would be better to have an opponent that you can go all out. Because we’re going to root for Ayato-Julis pair, right? Having Kirin-Saya in the final would mean splitting fan votes. Yeah… Thank goodness some matches don’t last for episodes unless you’re talking about our main heroes fighting worthy ones. I’m just glad when the matches are over.

There are lots of interesting characters here but at the end of the day, I think I can say that I don’t really understand and know them well enough. Because like for Ayato, we know nothing much about him except that he is looking for his missing sister. It felt kinda rushed that at the end of it, Haruka is suddenly found. At least we don’t have to b*tch about on the plot of finding his sister anymore and can move on to the next step to wake her up. Julis has got the most focus on perhaps the most we know about seeing she is fighting for change for her country. Plus, with her bringing everyone back to her kingdom in the final few episodes, it is only in recent memory that we feel that she has more of her past and circumstances explained. Because there is certainly more than meets the eye to Claudia’s ever smiling face. Same case for Yabuki. He might play an insignificant best friend and idiot in Ayato’s eyes but behind the shadows it is like he takes out antagonist henchmen. When they see Yabuki, it means they’re screwed and it will be the last time we will ever see about them.

Kirin and Saya too have their back story but it looks like they’re side-lined ever since the Phoenix Festa began. If I had to pick my favourite one, it had to be Saya because despite her sleepy look, she has a sharp wit and never give up attitude. Such a waste for these babes in Ayato’s potential harem that I was hoping to see. Everybody likes Ayato, right? From the bold flirty blond to the shy girl and the ‘sleepy’ childhood friend, he’s got almost all the harem tropes covered. But my guts and experience tells me he’ll end up with Julis the tsundere. You know how fiery girls are always the front runners, right? Oh yeah, she’s a princess too. I wanted to add Flora but she’s just f*cking useless and just a ploy to turn her into a damsel in distress so that we can have some sort of variation in the story. Even being a maid can’t save her…

Outside the main characters, the rest of the other characters also feel underdeveloped. Like Ernesta and Camilla feel like they only had their moments just because they are facing with Ayato and Julis. Not that I really understand about what their circumstances have to do with everything and if I have to, I’ll just simply put some sort of government conspiracy behind it all. Irene has become somewhat redundant after her loss to Ayato so to keep her relevant it is like they make her into some sort of information ‘broker’ if Ayato ever needs some sort of warning whatsoever. Then there is Sylvia and Fan and other schools whose presence are just in the waiting. And why do the schools have to be some sort of stereotypical theme. There’s the Chinese school, the all-girls school, the high technology school, the seemingly dark delinquent school Dirk and the supposedly knightly order school. And our Seidoukan is like the melting pot for all types of people including heroes, right? Mesa might look like typical villains with their own ulterior motives but the true bad guys could be from the corporation and all the bureaucrats behind the scenes stringing everyone along like puppets. Like that Ginga group mentioned in the final episode. Suddenly this name pops up. Don’t think I ever heard it. Mustn’t be paying attention…

I don’t really understand and can never remember some of the special moves they make. Therefore I am not sure if they spam the same few ones or if they are all the same moves. I am sure that our main characters have a variety of moves in their arsenal but I wasn’t paying any attention so when the time comes for them to unleash it and get them out of the pinch or turn the tables, I just expect some sort of flashy move. Sometimes I feel that all the participants in the tournament unleash their moves like as though they pull it out from the air. You know, they just made it up. I know, I wasn’t paying attention or rather it is hard to already maintain my focus on the match. So please forgive me in the end that I don’t find the fights interesting on an overall basis since I also predicted who would win and this already reduced the fun greatly. To be fair, at least the final fight of the series with the Hydra looks interesting. Not sure if the restricted tournament arena toned down the excitement or the flashy effects with the snake heads that turned it up.

Art and drawing look pretty decent. The city and the weapons have this sci-fi hi-tech design to them but seeing high school students wielding them feels a bit out of place. I thought they would be wearing some sort of sci-fi gear when they enter the arena but apparently they head in wearing their own school uniform. Not afraid it would get damaged? Don’t worry. No raunchy fanservice elements so no worries about clothes getting ripped to reveal some gorgeous skin. CGI is also employed but minimally used. This is mostly used at the next episode preview where it is hosted by a very stiff CGI Claudia. I don’t know, she just feels lame but because they design her to be pretty, I guess it distracts us from thinking how lame her movements are. Even the CGI animation here is paltry because it’s like a joke when Saya tries to usurp this section by bumping her away but the animation is so bad that it is just comical. On purpose?

Of all the seiyuus, I only recognized Tomokazu Sugita as Dirk and Mai Nakahara as Haruka. The rest of the casts are Atsushi Tamaru as Ayato (Mochizou in Tamako Market), Ai Kakuma as Julis (Kurihara in Momokuri), Nao Touyama as Claudia (Chitoge in Nisekoi), Shiori Izawa as Saya (Tanpopo in Witch Craft Works), Ari Ozawa as Kirin (Usami in Kono Bijutsu-bu Ni Wa Mondai Ga Aru), Yuuma Uchida as Yabuki (Kasumi in Qualidea Code), Yumi Uchiyama as Irene (Momiji in Binbougami Ga), Juri Nagatsuma as Priscilla (Satone in Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai), Chinatsu Akasaki as Ernesta (Yasuna in Kill Me Baby), Mutsumi Tamura as Camilla (Sonya in Kill Me Baby)[Hey, am I seeing a pattern in this Kill Me Baby pair?], Wataru Hatano as AR-D (Gajeel in Fairy Tail), Haruka Yoshimura as RM-C (Koharu in Sora No Method), Omi Minami as Fan (Hyatt in Excell Saga), Haruka Chisuga as Sylvia (Tsugumi in Soul Eater NOT!), Kenichi Suzumura as Jolbert (Sougou in Gintama), Hikaru Midorikawa as Mesa (Lancer in Fate series), Maaya Sakamoto as Orphelia (Ciel in Kuroshitsuji) and Takanori Hoshino as Lester (Kugaha in Noragami Aragoto). I also want to note that Flora has the most annoying voice ever. She is so squeaky and high pitch that it gets on your nerves. It’s like somebody trying hard to be cute but ends up annoying instead. Flora is voiced by Chitose Morinaga who did Timothy in Anne Happy. Now I can see why…

Of all the opening and ending themes, the one I liked most is the first ending theme, Waiting For The Rain by Maaya Sakamoto. It is quite a slow and calming song to my liking. The second ending theme is also not bad but it isn’t anything unique but just generic, Ai No Uta –Words Of Love- by Haruka Chisuga. The opening themes are rock based, supposedly to get you into the action tournament grove. The first one is Brand New World by Shiena Nishizawa and the second one is The Asterisk War also sung by the same person.

Overall, too much focus on the tournament and not enough on the other conspiracy plots and characters have bogged down my enjoyment of the series. Not to mention the harem factor I expected are minimal. But I’m still giving its (minimal) due as it is still not a bad anime per se. Just that it could have been better. But how different can it be when the clichés of generic main characters and plots are already everywhere. Then again, if they rushed it instead of developing at this pace, I would have again complained about it. Damn if they do, damn if they don’t. So more seasons are needed to properly flesh out everything and justify my sentiments for this series? All I know is that if I ever wanted to get my own harem, I wouldn’t want to form a fighting team to enter competitions. Those girls would get my ass kicked somehow…

Shokugeki No Souma

May 29, 2016

Are you hungry for more anime? Can’t get enough of anime despite tons of them airing every season? Good animes, mediocre animes, passable animes, sh*t animes. So many types of animes out there and you still can’t get enough? What does it take to satiate that hunger? Hey. I know. How about another food themed anime to satisfy your craving. Yes people. It is time for another cooking anime that revolves around food. I know the last of such food anime was Koufuku Graffiti back in early 2015 but that is without all the brutal competition and was just so mild and passive (despite the food still looking good), it feels like a show for a gentle housewife instead for teens with raging hormones. That is why we have Shokugeki No Souma. A school where the best and upcoming cooks and chefs with superbly promising skill go to hone their skills and blow away all competitions (and your stomach) with their outlandish dishes.

Of course with shows like these, you have to add in the seemingly average dark horse that nobody looks up to, to wow and amaze them, shutting them up with his cooking. I guess things are better when food enters your mouth instead of insults flying out from your mouth. Oh, add a few colourful weirdoes and characters he’ll meet and challenge, they grow together, they become friends, they become rivals, as they make their step closer to become the world’s best chefs and put all those fake master chefs on reality TV to shame. Ah, such a typical shonen anime. Food version. So get ready to feast your eyes on the most awesome dishes that you’ll never ever taste in your life and hope you carry an additional empty stomach because one bite is not enough. I can guarantee you that.

Episode 1
Souma Yukihira is in a cooking battle with his dad, Jouichirou. A female classmate tastes it and declares Jouichirou the winner. Souma’s losing streak continues. So as not to make him feel bad, she also praises his cooking but he makes her taste his new squid dish. That feeling of being tentacle raped by it… Souma hopes of one day taking over his father’s little kitchen so when Yaeko Minegasaki of the urban development for the umpteenth time comes in with her goons to try and convince him to sell his place so they can develop some high luxury condo, he shoots her down. The day he will close down this place is the day they can’t serve their customers what they want. Really? You really mean that? That sneaky look… Next evening when Souma returns from school, he is shocked to find the signboard smeared and all the meat in the kitchen tarnished. Then Minegasaki comes in to order some meat. What’s that? Can’t make any meat? Well, looks like you have to close down this place. But Souma isn’t backing out and takes the challenge. How can he make meat without any decent ingredients? He had some bacon strips he saved for breakfast. He wraps his pork roast in potatoes but Minegasaki clearly tells him she wants meat and not vegetables looking like meat. But can she resist this good smell? Having a bite… OMFG! It’s that orgasmic feeling! Souma then taunts her if she wants more, she’ll have to never come back here again. She succumbs to her temptation as she and her goons experience the ultimate goodness of the juicy meat. So good that they are butt naked in their fantasy! And yet another satisfied customers… Better than sex, eh? As Souma cleans the signboard (he must really love it for putting in this much effort), Jouichirou returns to inform him he is going to close down his shop! Seems he will be leaving overseas to help a friend in favour. But Souma has always wanted this restaurant. Dad wants Souma to move on and has him enrolled in the super elite culinary school, Totsuki Culinary Academy. His thoughts of it aren’t high until he sees students agonizing over the hellish entrance exam. And desperate people trying to pay money to be admitted back in. Oh sh*t! This school is like a mini kingdom of darkness of its own! Oh, did dad mention about the graduation is less than 10%?

Episode 2
Erina Nakiri must be one of those elite goddesses because you can tell how she chastises bad dishes (or those not up to her super high standards) when she can imagine paradise followed by a jukebox falling on her head or suddenly finding a gorilla bathing next to her! Jouichirou is currently calling Souma from New York. He is making such great cuisine that even the frail monk denounces his faith to eat his meat!!!! Souma meets the other students who are enrolling here. Each with some sort of prestige pedigree in the cooking world. But when they find out he is a commoner, they become abusive. When the hopeful learn Erina is their examiner, they start freaking out! When Erina gives them the chance to withdraw, all of them start crying father and mother and run away! Wimps! Only Souma remains. It is a good thing he doesn’t know who this b*tch is, right? Yeah, something about having born with the finest palate to mankind. A divine tongue that makes her some sort of genius taster at a very young age. Oh, did you know she is also the granddaughter of this academy’s director, Senzaemon? Whatever. Too bad Erina’s yuri time with her assistant, Hisako Arato has to be cut short when she realizes there is still a candidate left. She doesn’t have high expectations of this commoner. Souma gets to work in making a dish with eggs as it was the condition of this test. Although it comes out plain and before she could fail him, Souma teases her about its true form. The rice soon starts to change into a juicier form. Sucking in her pride, Erina tastes the dish. It’s that ecstasy feeling coming! Little Souma angels molesting her naked body!!!!!!!!!! Erina true to being a b*tch, cannot accept this despite she finds it delicious. She fails him! B*TCH!!!!! Later she calls her grandpa to inform that nobody passed the exam. Souma sits in dejection and shock, pondering about his dark future. Senzaemon, who has been observing Souma’s cooking, takes a bite himself. Looks like he has a different idea about Souma’s application.

Episode 3
2 years ago when Megumi Tadokoro left her family filled with hope to become the next best chef when she returns, things are looking bleak because she has been scoring streaks of E’s. And now she receives a note that if she gets 1 more E, she will be expelled! Can’t blame her for feeling nervous and pessimistic. Senzaemon addresses the first year high school students and doesn’t hesitate to mention that 99% of them will fail and become sacrifices for the remaining 1% who will hone their best skills (cue to briefly glimpse at the possible 1% of weirdoes). A transfer student is introduced to give his speech. Erina cannot believe it is Souma. To keep his speech short, Souma irks everyone by claiming he will be the top. Erina wonders how he got in when she clearly failed him but it seems Souma has got an acceptance letter subsequently. Megumi continues to tremble about her precarious position and avoid any unwanted attention like being associated with that transfer student. Unfortunately she ends up in the same class as him and is paired as her partner. Doom! Their first class is under this French chef, Roland Chapelle. He never smiles and any dish they make less worthy of an A will automatically be given an E! You scared, Megumi? They have 2 hours to make some braised beef. Megumi is getting paranoid while Souma plays cool. More like he is being a carefree idiot. A team who dislikes Souma sabotages their preparation. There is not enough time left and Megumi is left to rue her cruel end. But Souma isn’t defeated yet. With spare ingredients, he is still going to make the dish. Surprisingly, Souma finishes making it even before those saboteurs. Seems he used honey which quickly breaks down some protein and tenderizes the meat. Time to taste. Because we don’t really want to see naked middle age French guys, the reason why Megumi is also invited to taste. Yeah… Sweet honey melting all over her naked body! Even more shocking, French guy is smiling! Automatically an A but he laments he has no authority to give them a higher grade. Megumi has her hopes up again with Souma as her partner. But then… He wants to celebrate their partnership by making her taste his new honey squid dish! OMG! Tentacle rape scene!!! How about peanut butter squid now? Oh sh*t… When Hisako reports to Erina about Souma receiving the highest rating from Chapelle, she becomes so pissed and incensed and doesn’t want her to ever speak of that name before her again.

Episode 4
Souma makes his way to Polar Star Dorm. If this creepy place with weirdoes don’t creep you out, maybe this old lady caretaker, Fumio Daimido will. As requirement to stay here, he must cook a passable meal for her. Too bad Souma didn’t hear anything about it and risks staying out in the cold. But when he learns there are leftovers in the kitchen, he takes up the challenge. That meat patty he made is from mackerel while the soup base is from squid (see, squids aren’t always that bad). Long story short, Fumio becomes enchanted with the test and even more so he made something out of so little. Because we don’t appreciate naked bodies of old ladies, instead we have Fumio reminiscing the past where she is hot and sexy, making out with her boyfriend!!! What’s so bad about this? Old lady in her fantasy is trying to kiss Souma!!! Megumi thought the dorm is her place of solace. No strict teachers, no Souma. You don’t say… Then Souma accidentally barges into the bathroom where she is taking a bath. Oops. Fumio must have forgotten to tell him about the bath times. It’s ladies’ turn now. Souma is then invited for a welcoming party with the rest of the dorm’s equally weird dwellers. Zenji Marui is pissed because everyone loves to hold parties in his room and interrupt his study time. Aside Megumi, the other dorm students are animal crazy Yuki Yoshino, the level headed Ryouko Sakaki, Shouji Sato and Daigo Aoki who love fighting each other, the quiet Shun Ibusaki and the-guy-who-likes-to-crawl-through-the-roof-to-deliver-messages and wear-naked-apron-to-show-off-his-butt-while-cooking Satoshi Isshiki. Souma asks about Totsuki’s Elite Ten Council whom Erina is part of. They comprise of the best students of their academy. Their decision making is final and their authority is only second to the director. I guess that says a lot about this bunch. What would be a party without the gang trying each other’s food, right? And they risk trying Souma’s honey squid… Deep in the night, Isshiki lets Souma tries his Spanish mackerel dish. He is blown away by the awesomeness. But this is just a warning to him. Because Isshiki is part of the Elite Ten! He is looking forward to taste his dishes.

Episode 5
Souma takes up the challenge to cook the same theme as Isshiki. He cooks enough for the rest too. As expected, a lovely heavenly taste. We get a little explanation about the French poele technique used by Souma from Isshiki. As expected too, our naked ladies fanservice when they taste the dish. Since Souma’s dish is also quite worthy, the match ends with a draw. Souma then asks how to get into the Elite Ten. His reason for wanting to aim for the best is because he is currently in a fight with his dad. He needs to pull off something major if he is to get his respect. He wonders if he challenges and beats Isshiki, will he get his seat in the council. Isshiki didn’t say since the night is getting late. Next day, Souma eagerly waits to challenge Isshiki for his seat. Sorry to rain on your parade. That is not how it works. He explains some of the rules. When one challenges another, they have to wager something of equal value. For Isshiki’s seat, not even Souma’s expulsion would suffice. That is how great the seat on the council is. Isshiki can accept his challenge but since he wouldn’t want him expelled, the showdown will never happen. There are also other conditions. The main ones are having adjudicators to certify a formal challenge, judges for the challenge and agreement of the conditions by the challengers. Once all are met, you can challenge anyone in the academy. This traditional cooking duel of Totsuki is called Shokugeki. Speaking of which, Erina is engaged in one against some sumo guy. Because she wants to tear down his historical club house to make way for another of her personal cooking wing. Eventually sumo guy unanimously lost. Erina can tell all the errors he made in his dish and on the other hand he is just in ecstasy to taste hers. Like the autocratic demon she is, she immediately has her men teardown the clubhouse. No mercy. Souma looks disappointed with those set of Shokugeki rules because he really wanted to challenge Erina. Ibusaki believes Isshiki wasn’t being serious and didn’t go all out with his dish although Isshiki disagrees he gave it his best. Erina is going to move on to her target to rid the academy of unworthy weaklings (I suppose Totsuki must always be perfect) but this American chick, Ikumi Mito wants to do the next honour. Erina agrees but warns about the consequences if she fails.

Episode 6
Yuki shows Souma around the dorm’s farm that they tend to and raise. Isshiki farming only in his fundoshi… Megumi learnt from Souma and incorporates honey into her breakfast which surprisingly tastes very good. So why can’t she imitate this during class? Stage fright. Totsuki has many cooking research societies. They are like what clubs are in high school. Megumi takes Souma to visit some. His first stop is the Don Research Society. But looks like the president, Kanichi Konishi is in doom and gloom. The club has many exquisite don recipes and could have flourished if not of Erina. Yup, it’s that b*tch again. He explains Erina’s workings first by cutting down a club’s budget. Once cornered, the club has no choice but to initiate Shokugeki and this will only have Erina make more demands. This has been her way of getting rid of clubs she doesn’t like. Mito and her contractors come in to survey the place for teardown. Mito mocks Konishi’s lowly dish not worthy of Totsuki and naturally Souma can’t let this slip and wants to fight her in Shokugeki. Souma agrees to leave Totsuki if he loses but if Mito loses, she must join this club. She agrees and sets the Shokugeki theme as meat. It’s going to be tough since Mito is known as the meat master. Now the entire academy is abuzz with this upcoming battle in 3 days. Konishi explains the meat grade that makes it good and tasty and worthy of the don. However Souma won’t use premium beef because like Konishi said, don is about the speed, taste and affordability. Can’t compromise on your principles now, can we? Mito was just making fun of them of using premium meat. Besides, her family is the king of the meat industry. So she has all the money and facilities at her disposal. As Shokugeki requires participants to get their own ingredients, the club has not enough funds. Souma wanted to use his own money but father is a penny pincher in sending him living expenses. I don’t know how but they manage to get the ingredients. Based on the recipes of the club, Souma tries to create the ultimate don for Konishi to test but there is just something missing. Megumi’s dish gives Souma an idea about tenderizing the meat. He creates a Chaliapin meat. So soft and tender that you can break it with your chopsticks. And yes, tastes good too. But is it enough to beat Mito who is guaranteed to use her premium beef.

Episode 7
Cutie Urara Kawashima hosts the Shokugeki. Boys mesmerized and loving her. Girls jealous and brewing hatred. Mito is the crowd’s favourite while everyone is just booing Souma. So typical. Gracing the event is Erina who is here to see Souma’s humiliating defeat. Some cocky words from Mito before they start cooking. While Mito’s beef is superb quality premium, everyone is shocked to see Souma’s meat is from a convenience store’s cheap sale! Dish tasting time. Mito goes first. Good reviews. As expected. Souma’s turn. The judges don’t think highly of it after tasting Mito’s one. As expected. But once they pop it in their mouth, they find it so delicious that they cannot stop eating! OMG! They finish the bowl clean and are asking for seconds! Although his cheap sauce and tweaking of the onion did the trick, but the one that sealed the deal was the pickled plum paste he used in the rice. Mito is worried as she realizes her rice portion is left unfinished. As Souma explains, the don must come as a whole as a package. So when he heard Mito was going to use premium meat, he was worried about what she was going to use for the rice because by beefing up and amplifying the rice with her meat, both will start to compete instead of complementing each other. Still not interested? Why not have a try then. She takes a bite. And then she cannot stop! So good that she remembers her sad past of her strict lady-like upbringing. Yes. The don is making and telling her it is okay to be herself! Clearly the winner is Souma. Shocking upset? To the audience. Hardly to me. Oh dear. Erina is not looking pleased… When Souma would like to taste her dish and mentions she looks cute, her heart skips a beat and she runs away. Next day, Mito prepares to enter the don club. She can’t help think about Souma and I think this is her motivation of showing up. But where is Souma? Well, Konishi breaks the bad news that Souma told him he only came to check the club out and not join it. So mad and so upset that she became more violent than before.

Episode 8
There is a training camp coming up but it is no walk in the park. This is where hell begins. This is where the downsizing of students starts. Based on last year’s camp, many who failed the camp’s test were expelled. Megumi can’t stop shaking… She can die any time… So while this camp might look grand and luxurious (heck, the entire resort is owned by Totsuki), everyone there is just damn gloomy. They know their head is on the chopping board and it gets gloomier when they see Souma. This year’s camp will be special because the alumni of Totsuki has come back to help. Yup, the greatest chefs of the academy are here to torture everyone like the demons they have turned into. Too harsh? Well, take a look at this. There is this one kid whereby a chef immediately expels him because he could smell his hair scent shampoo that would interfere with his food aroma! Of all the great alumni, the greatest of them all is Gin Dojima and he wastes no time in telling them if they cannot satisfy the minimum requirements, out they go. I’m sure Megumi is glad she is paired up with Souma again. But bad blood is brewing when half Italian Takumi Aldini and his fatty twin brother Isami purposely step on Souma’s shoes as a declaration of war. Their class is headed by Hinako Inui who tells them to make a Japanese cuisine based on the natural ingredients found in this area. They have 2 hours. This causes panic as the students rush to get them. This is of course a ploy to weed out those who cannot handle such pressure. Because everyone is busy fishing, the twins came back with duck meat and other forms of meat. They use their fast chopping skills as they mention their restaurant for the masses back in Italia which is pretty much similar to Souma’s family restaurant. They finish the dish fish and Inui tastes the incredible duck meat (Pavarotti singing opera in a duck mask?!). Even the seemingly Italian sauce is an improvisation to turn it into a Japanese version. Safe to say, they pass. What you gonna do Souma?

Episode 9
3 years ago in Florence, Italy, the Aldini brothers were already pros in their cooking. Yeah, they’ve got girls and even gays asking them out! However, their father thought they lacked something from the heart despite their skills and sent them to Totsuki to find a worthy rival. And when Souma made that aggravating statement, it just riled Takumi up. Inui agrees to judge the competition and the loser will kneel and admit he is the loser. Souma gets started and due to the ‘loophole’ in Inui’s rule, he takes her kaki no tane tea snack as his ingredient and lets Takumi hold on to it. While Megumi looks for ingredients and Souma finding chicken eggs (chicken attack!), the other teams begin to finish but Inui is not impressed. Those people have no idea and made the same grilled fish. Despite only having 15 minutes left, that is enough time for Souma to finish. He makes a breaded fish dish using kaki no tane as the breading. Crunchy and tasty of course! It sends Inui into a mermaid delusion reaction. I wonder how mermaids have sex… When it is time to judge whose is better, Inui can’t make up her mind. Then she gets a call from fellow alumni, Koujirou Shinomiya that she is late since all groups have to return to the hotel at a certain time. As she hurries everyone back into the bus, what about the decision? Well… She’ll just postpone it and revisit it another day. Hah. An excuse to run away and this sure doesn’t leave a good taste in Takumi’s mouth. I guess the suspense will continue to kill them. Although no formal decision was made, Takumi felt he lost. If you think the students are going to get their deserved break back at the hotel, think again. With the university clubs staying nearby, they have to make 50 servings each before retiring. Oh, they have to make their own food too. It is going to be a mad rush feeding all those macho men! Bodybuilders, wrestlers and American footballers… Feel the machoism! Those who fail will be expelled immediately! It becomes a mad rush. Souma becomes the first complete his task. He uses his free time to head to the bath but guess who he bumps into on his way in? Oh, it’s that b*tch Erina…

Episode 10
Erina is embarrassed that Souma caught her humming and prancing happily. It even gets worse when Souma use ambiguous words explaining to Hisako like as though he pushed her down and did something! When Souma heads into the bath, he sees Dojima flexing his muscles. Man, this guy should have been a bodybuilder. Usually Dojima takes his bath while the students cook up those 50 servings. Not many can finish before he gets out. Last year it was Isshiki. This has Souma realize that this means Erina finished faster than him. Then he hears certain stories about her divine tongue that includes one whereby she accurately identified correctly the origins or each salt dish in blindfold. Souma and Megumi are now in Shinomiya’s class. They are to make some vegetable dish based on his recipe, terrine. Megumi thought she could rely on Souma again but here’s the bad news. Shinomiya will not allow team work. This is an individual assignment and no help is allowed. This means even if you help point out something is doing it wrong slightly, you both get fired! Poor guys… Megumi realizes she can’t depend on Souma and must use her creativity to figure this one out. Especially when she is left with some ingredients that are already not fresh. Speaking of which, the fight gets even tougher when students have to fight for the ingredients when Shinomiya tells them to treat each other as enemies. Tasting time. He fails many. Souma passes of course. Megumi finally finishes hers and is the last to present. He tastes it. He fails her! OMG! What in the world?! Care to explain? No doubt she used vinegar to preserve the freshness, she altered his recipe and he this is not allowed!!! WTF?! Souma does not accept and instead points out Shinomiya’s responsibility to prepare fresh ingredients as some of them weren’t. Is he a failure as a chef? Then Shinomiya admits why he put some vegetables that weren’t fresh: So he can limit those he needs to pass! Usually those who panic or slow ones will be those who will go. Souma argues Megumi’s creativity to cover for that but Shinomiya will not allow any changes to his recipe. As the top chef, he has the authority to even fire him! So one more complaint… Souma is seething with anger but Megumi doesn’t want him to risk it on her behalf. But after all her smiles, you think Souma gives a sh*t about this crap? Only one thing left to do: He challenges Shinomiya to Shokugeki. If he beats him, he will rescind Megumi’s expulsion.

Episode 11
Did you know Shinomiya was the former number one seat of the Elite Ten? Oh, who cares? At least not Souma. However Shinomiya has no intention to accept this Shokugeki and Megumi’s expulsion is final. But Dojima holds his horses and not be too hasty. Inui is quite fond of Megumi so she is trying to put childish pressure on Shinomiya to reverse his decision. Not working. Dojima suggests an unofficial Shokugeki beneath the hotel’s annex and since they can’t interrupt the camp, they’ll have to do it after the afternoon session. Shinomiya still won’t accept this but that glaring stare in Dojima’s eyes tell him to f*cking accept it. The other alumni guys are also here as judge. Too bad Inui is reduced to a spectator since we all know her bias towards Megumi. Dojima lays down the rules. They will use the leftover vegetables from that session to make another main vegetable dish. However there is a condition for Megumi. She is the lead chef and Souma is only her assistant. This means she has to decide and make the call. No doubt Souma called on this challenge, if their team wins based on his decision, it would mean Megumi was just riding on to him and it won’t be long before she gets expelled. She must prove herself if she wants to continue to stay. If Souma cannot trust her cooking, then he should withdraw from this match. Megumi becomes panicky in trying to think her next step. She’s thinking she has gotten this far thanks to Souma. But after he slaps her hands to calm her down, he makes her think of all the good cooking she has done. Don’t care what the enemy is doing. Focus on your own. It brings her back to all those good memories as she gets her confidence and starts her preparations. Souma proves himself worthy as her assistant as he prepares all the necessary ingredients in great timing. Time to judge. Shinomiya goes first. You know it tastes good when you see that naked delusion reaction. In short after all that explanation, his dish is like magic! So much so the judges turn into a magical girl unit! HOLY CRAP!!! Safe to say that his dish lives up to expectations but Dojima is a bit disappointed because he was expecting him make his signature dish from his restaurant. However Shinomiya’s arrogance means he didn’t think it was necessary against a student. Now it’s Megumi’s turn to present. Still nervous? Don’t falter after coming this far. Everyone is surprised she makes that terrine dish.

Episode 12
Everyone is singing praises over Megumi’s dish. They’re even fighting what kind of cute fairy deity she is supposed to represent! But ultimately the final decision has the judges voting for Shinomiya. A unanimous decision! Gasp! It’s heartbreaking to see her in tears. Dojima despite not a judge, puts his single vote for Megumi. What is the meaning of this? He tells him to look into Megumi’s dish and believes Shinomiya’s skills as a chef is stagnating. 10 years ago when Shinomiya graduated from Totsuki and flew to France to begin his dream, he quickly earned praises from customers for his dishes. However jealousy soon abound as his own chefs sabotage his recipe. Then the complaints came piling in and Shinomiya is driven to a knife’s edge. In a desperate move, he kicks out all his staffs that were against him and became absolutely strict with those under him. It’s his way or the highway. Shinomiya rebounded and became even more popular than ever till he won the prestigious Pluspol award. Dojima believes ever since he got that award, he has lost sight of what is most important. Thus the reason he doesn’t want to use his signature dish was because he didn’t want them to find out his cooking has hit the wall. Shinomiya is forced to try out Megumi’s dish. As usual he complains at what it lacks but something that makes it as though the dish is speaking to him from the heart. So the flashback with his mom in his paddy field was just to tell us the cooking reminds him of his mother’s tender love? He is so touched that he votes for Megumi’s dish! He realizes some sort of spice that Megumi put in her dish. She explains that all the judges have been eating and judging various foods since yesterday and this spice is to ease their digestion. How thoughtful! With Inui putting her vote for Megumi, the match is now at a tie. I guess this means nobody gets expelled, right? Dojima praises Megumi’s hospitality as a valuable edge. Now she is in tears again. Heck, I thought she is either crying or nervous throughout the entire time. With Shokugeki over, Dojima’s plan to save both chefs worked out well. Shinomiya has once again discovered his hunger to learn and absorb everything again. Although Megumi thanks Souma, personally that guy feels bitter because he considered this draw as a loss. He had intended to win. They return to their friends who have been worried sick about their fate. Yeah, the tension almost killed them.

Episode 13
Isshiki welcomes his fellow dorm mates back. But wait! Souma is buffed up like a Super Saiyan and the rest turned into delinquents! Except for Ibusaki who regressed being a caveman and Marui reduced to being glasses! Thank goodness it was just a dream as everyone is still at the camp. Everyone thought they will have a well deserved rest. Till Dojima tells them to gather at the hall. He mentions the next challenge is to come up with an innovative breakfast menu that will be served by 6am. The main ingredient is egg. So you either use the remaining time to experiment or rest. Well, sh*t… Of course Souma gets cracking and he remembers his dad’s advice of why he cannot simply introduce a new dish for the sake of having something different. It must be something familiar and yet have the element of surprise. Next day, everyone gets ready to start their buffet breakfast. Erina is irked when Souma’s counter is just right next to hers. Dojima then makes the announcement the judges will be by the people who made the ingredients and their family. Yeah, a huge crowd of commoners streaming in. Also part of the judging will be the service staffs of the hotel. Another criterion for passing is that they must serve 200 servings. So we have all our usual suspects like Takumi, Mito and even Megumi getting praised with their innovation. I guess you can tell Megumi improved a lot when the grandpa wants her to marry his grandson!!! And of course the best praise still has to go to Erina whose Egg Benedict dish has everyone bowing before the queen b*tch bee. But how is Souma doing? To everybody’s shock, he has less than 10 servings made! Something is wrong!

Episode 14
Souma realizes why nobody is picking up his soufflé. Because his diner is always served after customers made their order, in a buffet, it is the customers who decide when they pick your dish. And his soufflé has to be eaten piping hot otherwise it will lose its texture. Furthermore, Erina is stealing his customers. I’m sure she would love to rub it in his face but he is deep in concentration remembering his dad made him multi-task but he ended up panicking and confused. He was told about focusing the task at hand so Souma looks at the time left (30+ minutes) and how much time is needed to make his dish. All he needs to do know is attract one customer. He weaves his ‘magic’ in front of a little girl. So when she tastes it, it attracts others to try out his dish. The crowd soon gathers at Souma’s counter to watch him multi-task and create his awesome soufflé. While all of our usual characters have already passed the 200 servings mark, everyone is anxiously waiting for Souma to do that. Right at the dot before time is up, he reaches the target. Phew. Close shave. Before Erina can start b*tching about whatever, then pops up this girl, Alice Nakiri. Not too say she is impressed with Souma but she didn’t really expect him to pull off this ‘magic’ in such limited time. If her name sounds familiar, she is Erina’s cousin. As Erina is the only one who surpassed the 400 servings, Alice is second place with 380 and could have gone beyond that had she not ran out of ingredients. She calls Souma’s live cooking show as an outdated circus show because she believes in cutting edge cooking. Then there are some ramblings about her parents making Denmark as their base for some cutting edge food research, blah, blah, blah. Then there is that rivalry with Erina since young and she came here to crush her and take top spot till Souma showed up. But surprising her is how Souma owns up to his failure and mistake and how he learns from failures. The hellish training camp continues with more tasks in the next few hours. Just when all the students are tired, they are called to gather at the hall. First, Dojima talks about the harshest path that the chefs go through, blah, blah, blah. And just when everyone thought the final task would be the most daunting ever, it is actually a congratulatory meal created by the alumni for them! Congratulations to all 628 who survived and passed this training camp. I guess it is worth the reward to be treated like honoured guests. Souma now believes his dad was right in sending him here.

Episode 15
As the students are leaving, if you’re wondering why Inui is bugging Megumi aside her obsession over her, as we find out, this camp also serves as a place for the alumni to recruit future potential chefs. Without a doubt Souma has his but he has his family restaurant now and his goal is to make his dad acknowledge his skills. Souma forgot his headband and when he returns, he got on the wrong bus. Filled with old folks! They tasted his dish and loved it. They hope he could use their ingredients in his diner. With so many buses, Souma got confused and lost. Then he missed it. Coincidentally, Erina also returned to retrieve something and missed the bus. Not this jerk again. Luckily somebody manages to hire a car for her. Oh, you know what this means. The duo are in an awkward position the entire ride. If only Souma could stop talking… Then he has to flout her high and mighty attitude by telling him the camp wasn’t just to weed out weaklings. There were guys at the camp judging strong students as candidates for the autumn gourmet festival whereby such students can exercise their skills with other heavyweights in the food industry. Erina disagrees with Souma’s thinking about learning via failure. Because failure is not an option for chefs. Failed foods should not be out there to serve customers. We learn what Erina went back to retrieve was a precious photo of her young self and Jouichirou! If she only knew…

Speaking of which, Fumio thought the kids have come back but it looks like Jouichirou is back in Japan and at Polar Star’s doorstep. So naturally the kids are surprised to see him. What is more surprisingly learning he is Souma’s dad? He is an alumnus of Totsuki, stayed in this dorm and the second seat of the Elite Ten! Too much for you to handle, Souma? He cooks for them a feast and safe to say that he has them (how come we only see the girls get the reaction?) dreaming on an Egyptian adventure. He is so good that the girls probably are starting to have hots for Souma! Of course there is a dish which is purposely the worst. Marui had the dishonour to taste it… More revelations about this guy. He went by the name Jouichirou Saiba then and a good friend to Dojima. Oh, he stayed in this dorm too and was the first seat of the Elite Ten! The duo were a formidable team. They won every Shokugeki and turned this land into a self sufficient nation! So all the farms, barns, coops and whatever facilities you see around Polar Star is all thanks to them. Souma gets more surprised when he learns Jouichirou stayed in the very same room he is staying now. Yeah, those marks on the wood are from him. Interested, he spends the rest of the night learning about his days in Totsuki. Next morning, Souma thinks Jouichirou woke him up to help make breakfast. To his surprise, Jouichirou wants to see how much he has improved and thus a cooking contest. Is this why he returned to Japan? Why you look so shocked, Souma? Didn’t see this coming so soon?

Episode 16
Fumio, Isshiki and Megumi are lucky to become the judges. The theme will be breakfast that will invigorate their body. Father and son face off and after an hour, Souma serves his apple rice. Good praises and everything. Now it is Jouichirou’s turn. Fumio is sceptical as he has a habit of adding random bits into his dish. So when his ramen dish pops up, they think he is fooling around. Till they try it out… Suddenly they cannot stop eating! It must be damn good. To their surprise, there is no meat whatsoever in this completely vegetarian dish despite its texture looking like so but that is only because he was using soybeans via traditional Indonesian way. In the end, everyone unanimously votes for Jouichirou. Souma’s 490th straight loss. Although after tasting Jouichirou’s dish, Souma’s one feels less appetizing, it isn’t actually that bad. Just that it seemed lacklustre. Father and son are so deep into their challenge that each even record the event in their notebook! As fast as he came, Jouichirou soon leaves. Fumio could guess this match was partly to encourage his son as he will soon face many cooking battles at Totsuki. Oh, he left a message for him: Go air the diner once in a while. Fumio suggests Souma return home on the next holiday. Erina thought she spotted Jouichirou walking by. She has her driver stop the car as she runs out to the middle of the road. Thank goodness this isn’t a busy street. But could she be seeing things? No Jouichirou in sight.

Episode 17
Plain girl, Mayu Kurase, Souma’s old classmate has been sighing each time she passes the closed Yukihira diner. So irritating that her friend, Aki Koganei had to tell her off about her crush on Souma. To their surprise, Souma just opened his store. He’s back! Then the other shopping district guys start rushing to him and want him to cook for them! They really miss his cooking. While they enjoy his dishes, they mention a recent problem plaguing the shopping district. A recently opened store at the railway station that sells the best karaage has been stealing their customers. At this rate, they’ll close down. I guess it is up to Souma to save the day. Since the rest have got to work, I guess the only person left to become his taste tester is Mayu. Leave it to Aki to pressure her into it as it will be her only chance to get close to him. Souma thinks hard. He needs more knowledge on karaage and how else specializes in meat? He calls Mito who is irritated somebody is calling her this late. Well what do you know? She is sitting up after hearing Souma’s voice. She’ll gladly lend her help and go to his place. She means it. She’s coming back no matter what! Mito and Mayu meet for the first time and you can tell they’re sizing up each other if this is the girl Souma likes. They visit the karaage specialty store, Mozuya. Run by Kinu Nakamozu, they have won the national karaage contest for 3 straight years and are destined to win it again this year. They notice the shopping district chairman, Yuu Tomita is here disguised to check things out. Too bad that disguise couldn’t hide a thing. In fact, Kinu even lets them try the awesome karaage, divulges some of the ingredients used to make it and then badmouths the shopping district. When Souma proposes about coming up a better one than them, Kinu almost turns into a monster telling him off he doesn’t know anything as a kid. So scary. At least from timid Mayu’s perspective. Souma and Mito get working on their karaage. Although delicious, it still doesn’t quite match up to Mozuya. Souma thought of using Mito’s expensive beef but it’s costly even after all that discount. When Mito notices lost of students passing by at this hour (club activities and the likes), this gives Souma a great idea. He was thinking too far outside the box. They don’t need to fight on their turf although they’ll still be using karaage. They’ll use the shopping district’s potential and come up with the best way to have people enjoy karaage.

Episode 18
Souma explains Mozuya wraps and boxes their karaage for take away. Therefore people tend to take it home and eat. A shopping district won’t have this problem as people can walk and eat. This is how they’ll fight them. Despite coming up with some samples, the karaage still can’t beat Mozuya. After brainstorming with the ladies, Tomita comes in believing he has the secret solution that will work. He presents karaage in an onigiri! However the girls point out they’ve already seen this in stores. Unoriginal. But Souma gets an idea from this so everyone starts working overtime to put their karaage operation into action. Aki notices that more and more people are holding wrap rolls and passing by her store. With her sales in steady decline for the 3 days, those who stop by her store are those asking directions where to get this wrap roll! Aki must find out what is happening at the shopping district and to her surprise, it is brimming with life. Souma and co are making those lovely karaage wrap rolls that everyone couldn’t get enough of. Thanks to their great business, the domino effect has other stores in the district to also experience brisk business. I guess Souma can’t help rub it in when he sees her amidst the crowd. Don’t get mad, aunty. Have a taste. And as expected, the awesome fantasy reaction when she takes a bite. It reminds her of some Vietnamese dish. More importantly, the taste evokes the liveliness of the busy shopping district. Screw profits and returns! It is the taste of youth! You lose, lady. While Souma praises Mito, Mayu can’t help today is her last day to be with him. Surprisingly he asks her help. Actually to help part time at Tomita’s store since his store is the flagship store of the karaage wrap roll. Mayu is honoured that despite never talking much with him during school days, he always noticed and observed her hardworking habits. Without hesitation, she accepts to try out. Mito, you feeling jealous? The food critic rates this new delight as 20 points. Out of ten! When Souma returns, he is brought to see Etsuya Eizan. He is a consultant responsible for Mozuya’s expansion among many other food chains. He heard how Souma’s exploits put a dent to his reputation. So is he going to beat him up? Actually, he wants Souma to work for him. Of course he refuses as Souma’s goal is to carry on his family business. Eizan then mocks his limited thinking in his limited world. Unlike others, Eizan is not a chef but a consultant so his goals are different than everyone’s. He warns Souma about the Autumn Elections. Although he has been selected, it will mark his downfall (why do they always say this and count their chickens?). He will make him pay for staining his career. Oh, did he mention that he is on the 9th seat of the Elite Ten. Only ninth? Heck, I thought he was at least second or third if not first.

Episode 19
During the Elite Ten’s meeting to select those for the Autumn Elections, Erina was against Souma’s participation. But this only makes the rest think something happened between them for her to object. In order not to reveal more and because majority wants him in, that’s how Souma got nominated. As usual, the names of 60 candidates split into 2 groups are announced. The top few in each group will advance to the final that is believed to be the precedent for those who will end up on the Elite Ten’s seat. So we have our usual like Souma, Mito, Alice and the Aldini brothers as well new faces like Miyoko Hojo (another one interested in Megumi but feels disappointed when she claims Souma helped her during the Shokugeki with Shinomiya), Nao Sadatsuka (a Sadako-look-a-like who fawns over Erina and hates Hisako for being close to her idol), Ryo Kurokiba (Alice’s lackadaisical assistant) and Akira Hayama (tanned guy). As the theme for the preliminaries is curry, Souma remembers Jouichirou told him if he needs advice for spice, go to see Jun Shiomi who is the queen of spices. Mention his name because Shiomi was his junior. So at this rundown lab and messy room, Shiomi is a petite girl despite being 34 years old?! Did time stop? Or is it the spice of youth? But when Souma mentions he is the son of Jouichirou, Shiomi punches him! She hates that guy and will not have anything to do with his family! Here’s why. She stayed at the same dorm with him and was subjected to his terrible food experiments. Yeah. I guess that’s where the trauma comes from. Hayama is also working here as her assistant but it looks like he is the one who is wearing the pants around. While Shiomi starts her boring incomprehensible lecture of spice on the whiteboard, Hayama prefers to let Souma experience curry spice and lets him savour the various curry dishes he made. Even Souma is not spared from that delusional naked reaction. Of course after all that testing, Hayama still thinks Souma is lacking to be the top dog of this school. This sets the tone for their rivalry as Souma will make a better curry dish than his. Hayama still doesn’t think so because his nose is special and that fragrance is the key to victory.

Episode 20
There aren’t many weeks left to the Autumn Elections. Everybody is trying hard as usual and some take the chance to go back to their families. Souma as usual stays up all night to find a new inspirational dish. He definitely needs to sleep on it. Meanwhile, we detour to a few other characters like Miyoko who enrolled at Totsuki to earn some credibility so she won’t be bullied by men when she returns to her home, and Nao cooking some witch broth inside her creepy room that has posters adoring Erina and as well as curses for Hisako the b*tch. All 60 candidates gather at the hall where Senzaemon starts off with his manly speech. Only 4 from each group may proceed to the final. Do the math and this means only 8 of them will progress. I have a hunch who will make it… The most shocking thing everyone finds is how Isami has slimmed down that he looks like a different person! Must be the summer heat burning away those fats… Nobody is interested in you, Takumi… Both groups separate into different halls and start working their magic. Expect to see lots of dramatic cooking effects. Also, bigwigs from the food industry from old geezers to obnoxious broad moguls watching and counting their chickens which candidates they like for the finals. In group A, we have Souma, Mito, Ryouko, Ibusaki, Marui, Ryo and Hayama among those we know. For group B, Megumi, Yuki, Alice, Takumi, Isami, Hisako, Nao and Miyoko. The big shocker when everybody notices Souma sleeping on the job!!! Is he serious?!

Episode 21
Souma springs to life when the fragrance from his pot is cooked. We take a detour to see how Megumi is doing. Clumsy as usual. Everybody is shocked and wondering how she is going to cut up that giant monkfish. That flashback of how she was harshly trained to do so since young is perhaps the reason why we now understand she could cut it up like a pro. Time is up and time for judging. All the low level failures will of course go first. Despite the praises, they get very low scores because those judges deal with professionals every day so their dishes do not really stand out. Nobody has broken into the 40 points threshold and some even got a single digit. It is Nao’s turn to serve. Her dish stinks like hell! Is it made from sewer and toilet?! Does she plan to kill the judges?! But when they taste it, it tastes delicious! Despite its stinking stench, they can’t help become addicted to eating it. Eventually she scores a high 84 points. Now it is Hisako’s turn. Two years ago, the duo had a showdown in a Shokugeki in which Hisako won. This meant Nao had to stay 50 metres away from Erina but the deal had a loophole so Nao continued to spy Erina from afar and sent her 30 letters a day! The judges taste Hisako’s dish and their bodies turn muscular! In short, her dish contains medicinal spices in which she specializes in. Nao can’t believe her curse has been undone so Hisako lets her taste her dish. It’s so good that it purifies her evil! The damning blow is when Hisako tells her that Nao’s cooking is only about herself whereas Hisako has always had Erina in mind. That is the difference between them. Hisako jumps to first place with 92 points. But you know what is even scarier? Nao is now looking up to Hisako as her one-sama!!! Oh sh*t!!!

Episode 22
Miyoko scores 87 points with her pineapple curry fried rice while Yuki scores 86 with her duck curry cutlet dish. Isami hands the judges his version of Italian curry bread and scores 87 points to tie with Miyoko. Takumi serves curry pasta with parmesan cheese to take his total up to 90 points. And there is this short flashback how Isami always wanted to break away from Takumi’s shadow. At one point he earned the ire of his dad when he changed the recipe just to be different and risking the customer’s trust. Takumi consoled him and told him that they will move forward together. But looks like today, Isami still has a lot to catch up. Alice serves some strange indescribable dish. She assures everything is made out of curry. Oddly, the judges who have been so vocal in explaining every damn dish suddenly are lost for words! It is so good that they can’t describe it! Tongue tied?! Because of that, Alice takes the opportunity to explain all that scientific molecule crap. WTF?! I didn’t know food was that complicated???!!! She jumps to first place with 95 points. Since 4th place is a tie between Miyoko and Isami, there is going to be a vote off. But how could everybody forget Megumi existed? She wasn’t that exciting, huh? Yeah, they don’t put much hope on her and want to be quick about it. But when they taste her monkfish curry nabe, they feel all the warmth in it. With her explanation of her hometown ingredients to boost everything, what score will she receive? I guess all those flashbacks serve as dramatic effect as Megumi gets… 88 points!!! OMG! She just snuck into fourth place! She dumped favourites Miyoko out! And it is sure one hell of an odd scene to see Miyoko and her manly monkfish teachers together. I can only think of some weird porn of a young girl surrounded by old men… Really! Meanwhile judging for group A is even tougher. Because we have a judge who is more b*tchier than the rest and has not given any score except zero!

Episode 23
Ryo serves his lobster curry with cognac and for the first time evokes superb reaction from the judges. It’s not over yet because they need to put droplets into the lobster head and it made them slurping like gluttons! Lobster ship blast off to space! How can you even be naked in space?! For this heavenly dish, he scored 93 points! Next is Mito with her curry meat layered dish. Good enough for 86 points. Then there is Ryouko with her natto and soy sauce curry dish that also earns her 86 points. Marui shows his research on taste in a dish that has the judges slurping without pausing. That itself is worth 88 points. Now herald Ibusaki, dubbed the Prince of Smoke because everything in his dish is just smoked. Really. He scores 88 points too. Now it is Hayama’s turn. They expected some curry fish head but what the heck is this, uhm, cupcake? It is actually naan and they have to start off by breaking its crust with the spoon.

Episode 24
It’s a bomb fragrance! OMG! Bomb appetite! Haha! And yeah, we have all that explanation about some super spice he uses but who cares. Even b*tch judge wants him to be hers but that loyal guy says he only belongs to Shiomi. Hayama jumps to first place with 94 points and for the first time 2 of the judges gave him perfect score! With group A finishing early, they rush over to group B because they are all eager to know how Souma is doing. Yeah, that guy… Hold on to you horses, guys. His turn is coming up. Hmm… Omelette dish? It’s another bomb fragrance! OMG! Bomb appetite again! Haha! This time the first time they put it in their mouth, they felt a punch! Yes! A punch! Punch line? I guess they’re okay being masochists. And yes, another hell of an explanation of some super spice and manga he used. Blah, blah, blah. Okay, okay, we get it. So what is his final score? 93 points, a tie with Ryo. Not bad, right? Well, if you consider Souma who is seriously out to win. But the judges are fighting among themselves over Hayama and Souma’s curry!!! The other should be better!!! Back at Polar Star, all our related parties are invited for a big party. Miyoko made peace with Megumi and will root for her at the finals. Erina is a spoil sport and won’t join Alice and Ryo in whatever celebrations citing work. But she did congratulate them and Hisako for making it. But something bugs Erina even more. During Souma’s dish, she got raped by his fragrance bomb! Oh no! Not that feeling again! As usual, she hates him. Souma and Megumi talk about how far they have come. Especially Megumi who almost came close to expulsion but look where she is today. Yeah, it brings back memories. She has him to thank for. They are interrupted when everybody joins in for a second round of party. Souma wants to cheer everybody up with his dish. Oh no. Squid yoghurt! OMG! Megumi got tentacle raped!!! Yeah, it brings back memories after all. One big bugging question: WHO THE HELL IS THE FOURTH QUALIFIER FROM GROUP A SEEING MARUI AND IBUSAKI TIED AT FOURTH PLACE??????!!!!!!!!!!! P/S: Actually I went online and did my research but I won’t spoil it by putting it here. Consider it my way of leaving a little end season tension and cliff-hanger ;p.

OVA 1
Like as though Takumi and Isami didn’t have enough screen time in the series so they have their own OVA episode to justify they should be one of the heavyweights. Anyway, the brothers are visiting Tokyo. At the tower’s top, because Takumi once again is thinking about his gay rivalry with Souma, Isami shifts that attention by stomping on the glass floor! I wonder if they got kicked out. Then they visit a cosplay café but they couldn’t recognize Urara as the waitress serving them. Good for her, right? We catch a glimpse of other characters in the series doing their own stuffs but nothing of importance to the story. The brothers then stumble into Megumi, Yuki and Ryouko. They try out a local restaurant and after they order, this grumpy old man, Bun mocks the way they order their fried rice with cheese. Takumi would have let it slide had he not insult them about not knowing the ingredients needed. So you guessed it. Time for a cooking battle. So they are making monjayaki. Bun goes first and he might not be a professional chef but he did win first place in some (obscure?) regional cooking competition. As usual, it tastes good. Blows everyone away. Yeah, wait till you taste the Italian brothers. Bun is shocked when they didn’t make a genuine Italian dish but used seaweed to incorporate into their monjayaki. Definitely tastes better than Bun’s, right? And there’s some explanation to praise Japanese cuisine how they will adopt any dish to add to its national richness. Funny, I thought a few years ago there was this sushi police issue thingy… Bun’s grumpiness is blown away once he tastes it. Now we learn why he is so grumpy. His daughter got engaged to a blonde foreigner. He didn’t like it and didn’t give his blessings. And with the power of cultural acceptance and the likes, Bun is going to make amends. Yes, people. All hail the mighty Japanese cuisine!

OVA 2
Like as though there wasn’t enough fanservice in the series so they have their own OVA episode to justify some skin. Erina has done everything needed for the Autumn Elections so she finds herself very free. Cue for Alice to drop in to take her to the pool to let her experience what commoners do. Whatever. Meanwhile the Polar Star Dorm girls are also trying to stave off the summer heat. Megumi is already losing it… So when they manage to fill up the small pool, it is so crammed up. Yuki, please don’t blame Ryouko’s boobs for hogging all the space! Eventually the plan fails but Souma and Isshiki happen to pass by and invite them to somewhere cooler. But first, Souma went to Mito to invite her too. At first she thought it was a date and was eager. Till she finds out he invited everybody else. She starts sulking and won’t go. Okay. Suit yourself. Back over to our ladies with heavenly bodies, Alice is preaching how it is pretty normal for guys trying to hit on them. However there won’t be any because the guys noticed the SPs as well as Ryo’s fiery aura in the background. Life more important than libido. Alice tricks Erina into mentioning about a guy she admires. She’s got it all recorded. You might want to think the qualities Erina describes of her ideal man sounds like Souma’s the dude… Souma and the gang arrive at a beautiful lake within the campus grounds. They have shaved ice and the guys start some sort of speed eating competition. As usual, Takumi is going to challenge Souma on just about everything. Later, Mito drops in and she still plays the tsundere card of being picky on how to eat her shaved ice so Souma keeps teasing her about it (abandoning his unofficial challenge with Takumi). Erina leaves the pool somewhat disappointed but Alice is glad to see the silly look on her face in a changing towel. Once Souma and co are done with their shaved ice. Fumio is here to get started on the BBQ. To top it all, the nice fireworks. Nothing like summer, right?

Food For The Gods
I hope you still have stomach for more because there is good news that there is going to be a second season! So you think that watching this first season is the entire main course? Nope! This is just actually the appetizers! Yeah. With so much potential for just about everything, it is no surprise that another season is much needed. I just hope that we do not have to wait long between the appetizer and main course. You know how it could be irritating waiting in between the food. You finished your appetizers too fast and already in the mood for more but you have got to wait and hope that you won’t lose your appetite while doing so.

Shokugeki No Souma’s storyline and direction of the plot isn’t anything original and it could be as predictable as its other similar genre counterparts like Chuuka Ichiban and Yakitate! Japan. It is so typical, cliché and predictable that perhaps this is the only way to go when you do this kind of genre. I mean, how else is there going to be to make a food battle exciting? That is why Souma as the main character sometimes feel generic in this sense as he is some sort of an outcast compared to the rest of the cast who has some sort of pedigree and rich colourful prestige from their family background. Because it is always more exciting for the dark horse to win and shut up those cocky chefs who are high on their horses, right? Even as typical as any other shonen anime, he fights in challenges and makes friends and rivals along the way. He always comes up tops with his creation that wows and blows everybody away. In the end, he still isn’t perfect and has a long way to go because like Jouichirou’s role as his super chef dad is to remind us that somebody will always be better than you and thus the need for Souma never to rest on his laurels and do better. I mean, isn’t it so typical and cliché that having such strong rivals always motivate you to do better? And oh, the dish that always gets tasted first always loses. Yeah, the most typical of the lot! How else would our main character surprise everybody with his super come back? And maybe the judges forgot how the earlier dishes tasted because this awesome one is so recent in memory it just wipes them out from their memory and records.

When you have such a food competition where people fight it out via cooking and judges to judge them, it goes without saying that the exaggerated reactions to describe how f*cking delicious their food is a given. It is also a cue for me to laugh at all the silly reactions that I see because seriously, even if I get to taste the best food ever in the universe, I know I’ll never ever do such a thing. Okay, maybe I have never tasted the best :’(. But still, it is really funny to see the sort of creativity that they put in for those ‘victims’ to come up with flowery description just for this dish. And sometimes if the judge involves a woman, you’ll definitely get your naked fanservice reaction. Yeah, so good that you need your body to breath! And that is why, such reaction segments are like food porn. Heck, it even borders close to being hentai. Especially some female characters already look so slutty and like a porn star. Whatever heavy breathing and reaction they do here only serves to look like porn and hentai. Really. If this could actually replace sex, it would have been done a long time ago. Speaking of fanservice, I suppose that provides many of the fanservice scenes of the series. So you’ve heard of tentacle rape. But via food? That’s something… For high school students, girls really have a big bust like Mito that keeps bouncing from time to time to distract our eyes from the food to her melons. Yum?

One thing that really bugs me throughout the series is not the delusional reactions or the amazing food that they make. It is the way that they portray such a heavenly cooking that they make it as though only the best would do. Don’t get the wrong idea. Good cooking is definitely what everyone deserves (even a basic human right) and crap cooking should be weeded out. However the way I see in making and preparing these dishes, it just feels impossible to be practical for the masses. It doesn’t help with some snobbish and obnoxious characters like Erina and Shinomiya having such a very high palette that decent good food just doesn’t cut it. I know they want the best and to maintain that standard worldwide. But they have got to understand that everybody is different. Not everybody has such a high godly tongue like that Erina b*tch. Not everybody is a perfect machine that could live up to expectations like in Shinomiya’s case. They want food that is so freaking high in every aspect that it is just f*cking hard to please them just a tiny bit. Then what is the point of everything then?

Therefore Totsuki feels like a place for making food that commoners (which I believe occupy a greater part of the world) out of reach. They think their creation is ultimate and it is a pity that they are clouded by this vision that makes them unable to have a wider range that opens their eyes and mind. That is why my only grouse with this anime is the way food is portrayed so grand and majestic and the standards that must go with it, it is like mocking us commoners that we do not have the right to taste or even savour such cooking. That is why we need a little shake up when God sent Souma over to Totsuki. And the other little thing is that despite the title of this anime, we just had one stinking Shokugeki. Yes, just one. Don’t count that unofficial Shokugeki whereby Megumi was going to get her ass handed to her if she failed and besides, that wasn’t a Shokugeki that Souma was the star. I mean, he has got his name even in the series title, right? That is why the only Shokugeki showdown was with Mito and in the early episodes. Cheated? Disappointed?

But aside these little complaints of mine, all the food looks really great and delicious and sometimes I caught myself drooling and my stomach actually growled! Wow. Talk about how effective their cooking looks even if it is just 2D animation. They did put in some effort to make them look good. But thankfully no matter how good or ‘real’ it looks, at least I didn’t have that feeling of wanting to take a bite off the monitor! That would be tad embarrassing. Okay, so this leads to another little ‘complaint’ of mine. I WANT TO TASTE THOSE DISHES THAT THEY MAKE!!! Even the curry dishes at the Autumn Elections also made me want to try. I am not a person who likes spicy stuffs and any curry dishes I would automatically stay away with extreme prejudice. But with the creativity of these budding chefs, it really made me want to taste them. Of course in real life I still stay away from curry. I just wanted to taste THEIR curry.

The characters are a mixed baggage. There are a handful of them although mainly it is about Souma. Well, he has got his name even on the series’ title, right? As typical as he can be, like many protagonists, he is scorned by many who don’t know him just because he doesn’t fit or pass a certain criteria (he is just like that guy in Mahouka Koukou No Rettousei in this sense) but in this case he just pissed off everybody with is opening statement. A statement enough for every minor background character that will not go further and for sacrificial purposes to hold a grudge on him forever till they get kicked out. I mean, really. Why the animosity of what he said? If you don’t like it, then prove it! Probably the reason why Souma excels is his density in not knowing much about the protocols of everything. Things that others are expected to know. This is both good and bad thing because this makes him less stiff as he is able to go in his own pace and creativity. Unlike silly wuss who shiver in fear of great names, Souma is just blur of whom this supposed famous character is. The other bad thing about him is his very bad foods. Everybody has their virginity violated tasting it. How can someone so good be this bad? Well, nobody is perfect.

Then there is Megumi who is always a bundle of nerves. She is such a worrywart that she might start losing her hair at an early age or at least have them all turned white. Panicking is her main trait as you never fail to see her in such distress whenever she is going to face such tough crap. And always she pulls off an incredible come back feat thanks to Souma at first and finally by her own accord. It is a great achievement to see her crawl out from her shell, someone who is failure material to someone who can stand among the ranks of the best chefs. Heck, aside Souma, she is the only other Polar Star member who made it to the final round of the Autumn Elections. Am I right? I guess the rest are just for ‘sacrifices’. I suppose that even if many of the characters feel so cliche, it is the only thing you can do for variation in the characters department so that it won’t be unbalanced whereby the food tastes and looks great but the characters are so bland. So from top b*tches like Erina, her loyal yuri assistant Hisako, stalker material Nao (who is now so much into Hisako), cocky Alice, split personality Ryo, exhibitionist Isshiki, eternal passionate rival Takumi, fiery meat expert (in all aspects) Mito and the whole lot bunch of other characters that haven’t appeared yet including a big majority of the Elite Ten.

Some feel like running jokes like those brawling bros of Polar Star whom I can’t be bothered to remember their names because all they ever do is fight among each other even if it is just the norm and their way of communicating. I’m sure they have some skills too but they are the lowest compared to the rest that they have been relegated to just comical characters and cheerleaders for the final arc’s competition. Then there is this penchant of using Marui’s room to gather and have fun while leaving that studious guy dead as a zombie. It’s more fun bugging him, right? Why study all alone? Come join the fun! Then there is Urara who is the cutie host whom every boy would love to drool over and girls love to hate and kill. Yeah, this girl loves the limelight and feels vengeful if it is taken away from her when her due is not over.

These kids are so great and since they are only first year students, they even have silly nicknames that coincide with the food they specialize in! I mean, who the f*cks give them these nicknames?! It’s just funny that they are so good, they are still in school instead of out there in the world showcasing and mesmerizing hungry gourmet people. I guess you can’t do that without a graduation certificate. It enhances your credibility. I mean, would you rather hire a new employee with a degree or one that has none? But these kids already so good and some of their reputation precede them so there should be no problem if the public eat their food, right?

You can’t have food talk and battles all the way so perhaps a little distraction in the romance section might add and give a little character and plot development. Heh. Like we’ll ever believe that. Although nothing solid is seen, but we viewers can’t help speculate Souma x Megumi because for a girl who is close to failing and this guy is like her prince in shining armour, always coming to her rescue in her hour of need, typically doesn’t this sow the seeds of love? And with Erina being a tsundere, it should make sense every main character should have his little diverse harem. Plain girl Mayu and the American chick Mito. Oh yeah, almost every girl loves him. If you don’t want straight romance, how about a little yuri, girl on girl romance? Is there? Well, if you’re talking about Erina x Hisako (well, it looked like yuri) as well as Hisako vs Nao over Erina just rings it. How about bromance? Yeah, those brawling dudes of Polar Star might be it but we don’t care about them, do we? It might be more probable for Takumi and Souma. You know how annoying that Italian kid is trying to get Souma’s attention and bragging about his future win, right? Well, let’s hope something more won’t turn out of it and make fujoshi fans die of nose bleed to death. Don’t get me started on Isshiki’s naked butt. So the romances between characters aren’t this series’ strength to say the least. So if you want romance, just stick to the food.

Art and drawing feels okay. Characters look like your conventional Japanese anime although some designs are meant to give the character, uhm, character. Like Souma as your typical hero must have spiky hair although they aren’t that towering. Some have strange designs just for differentiation like Konishi with his pompadour hairstyle and Ryo with his dark bags under his eyes so much so I thought it was just black war paint. If the character designs aren’t giving you visual candy, then it must be the food then. It goes without saying. Like I have said, there have been efforts in making the dishes look sumptuous and good enough. Too bad as a viewer we can only watch all the goodness and it is sad we can translate all that by tasting them.

With an amazing amount of characters, main, supporting and even extra background ones, it is no surprise that the cast list is a long one. Therefore quite a number of recognizable seiyuus from the line up. Like Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Souma and although this isn’t exactly one of his many typical heroic hero roles as he is pigeonholed into, it is still nevertheless the main character with so called hero-like qualities. And of course, I am so glad to hear my favourite Mamiko Noto as Inui and thanks to the nature of this series, I can be rest assured they won’t kill off another character. Nobody dies in this anime, RIGHT???!!! Unless… The rest of some of the veteran seiyuus I recognized include Rikiya Koyama as Jouichirou, Takehito Koyasu as Dojima, Yuuichi Nakamura as Shinomiya, Junichi Suwabe as Hayama, Tomokazu Sugita as Eizan, Takahiro Sakurai as Isshiki and Mikako Takahashi as Shiomi.

The rest of the casts are Minami Takahashi as Megumi (Saturn in Hi-sCool! Seha Girls), Risa Taneda as Erina (Yukina in Strike The Blood), Chinatsu Akasaki as Alice (Yasuna in Kill Me Baby), Shizuka Ishigami as Mito (Stella in Rakudai Kishi No Cavalry), Natsuki Hanae as Takumi (Inaho in Aldnoah.Zero), Yuuki Ono as Isami (Moral in Hamatora), Saori Oonishi as Hisako (Eriri in Saenai Heroine No Sodatekata), Nobuhiko Okamoto as Ryo (Accelerator in To Aru Majutsu No Index), Ai Kayano as Ryouko (Inori in Guilty Crown), Maaya Uchida as Yuki (Rikka in Chiinibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai), Taishi Murata as Ibusaki (Utami in Noragami Aragoto), Yuusuke Kobayashi as Marui (Sougo in Comet Lucifer), Asami Seto as Miyoko (Chihaya in Chihayafuru), Saori Goto as Nao (Barasuishou in Rozen Maiden Traumend), Ai Kakuma as Mayu (Est in Seirei Tsukai No Blade Dance) and Rina Hidaka as Urara (Airi in Ro-kyu-bu).

I like the first opening theme song, Kibou No Uta by Ultratower. Although it sounds like a guy who had been drinking a lot since last night, but at least the tune of the song is quite reasonable to hear as it also gets you into the mood of what this anime is all about. Even the first ending theme is not bad. Spice by Tokyo Karan Koron is exciting because of the nifty electric guitar play in the background. The thing to note in this ending credits animation is that the Polar Star members are depicted as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting. I hope I am just thinking too much and isn’t some sort of prophecy of something for them. Personally, I feel that the themes don’t sound as a good when they changed them halfway. Rising Rainbow by Misokkasu as the second theme has turned into some sort of dark dramatic rock music. Perhaps it is to foreshadow the direction of the competition but I don’t really like it. ‘Too much noise’. The same sentiments can be said for the second ending theme, Sacchan No Sexy Curry by Seiko Oomori. Despite this is a slow and nearly calming ballad, I somehow find the singer isn’t suitable in singing this song. Something about her voice that just doesn’t feel right. Maybe because there are too many words she is trying to sing and cramming into a line? Otherwise, it would have been an okay song.

Overall, this anime is exactly like what some of the judges’ reaction when they eat a very good meal: They can’t stop eating and want even more even if it is finished! It is a long course meal and the food journey has yet to reach its max in satisfactory yet. There is still room for more of everything and I hope that it doesn’t take too long that my stomach has digested everything and I am back to square one of being hungry all over again. Though this series is not entirely perfect and still has its flaws, but it is highly recommended for anybody who loves food. I thought it would help food lovers and gluttons watch their weight seeing this might be a visual distraction for their stomach but then again, the effect might be totally opposite and make them crave to eat even more. Some people have all the luck. They live to eat instead of eat to live. Say, when is Jouichirou coming to my town to serve up a delicious dish for me?

Saki: Zenkoku-hen

November 15, 2014

Oh my God… They still have another season of this? More importantly, why am I still watching this?! I know I don’t even understand a single thing about mahjong , never bothered to go look up the terms (I am discouraged by the ‘scary’ scoring system anyway) and not planning to even pick up this game, so why am I even watching Saki: Zenkoku-hen? I know it is my policy of finishing series that I start but in that case I should have continued with Naruto… Maybe it is that discrimination loophole I have. Just because cute girls are playing a sport, I am all into it. Look at my past records. From Bamboo Blade to even that baseball theme of Taishou Yakyuu Musume. Oh God. That must be it. Because animes with guys in the entire team I completely sit it out from my list. I instantly knew I didn’t want to watch that volleyball Haikyuu, that swimming anime called Free or even Ping Pong The Animation. Don’t even talk about Kuroko No Basket. But you can’t say I never watched a guy sports anime before since I have my share with Slam Dunk and Prince Of Tennis. However that is from a long time ago… Anyway, with the third season of this loli playing mahjong anime, the focus is now back on our underdog team of Kiyosumi and just like the title suggests, the Nationals. I think I know how the end will be but the journey of getting there…

Episode 1
We are shown the magnificent and awesomeness of Shiraitodai as they thump their opponents to reach the Nationals. What else is new? We also have a glimpse of potential teams that will be making their appearance here. Some enough to make you go WTF. For instance, a team from the mountains that consists of miko priestess!!! WTF?! Miko priestesses playing mahjong instead of devoting their time to the gods?! WTF indeed. Oh, and one of them loves to strip her top just to show her tanned lines. And she also wears that voodoo mask? WTF? Then there is another team which seems pretty normal except that one of their returning members is a very tall girl who dresses up like a mortician. Is she going to make some sort of killing? Oh, there has to be this mixed nationality team too. It’s fine they have the Japanese and Hong Kong girl and it isn’t too bad too they have an American. But get this. They have a French. What is her name? Choe Myeononghwa! WTF! Isn’t that Korean? So okay, she maybe under the circumstances her dad is a diplomat or something. But the most WTF one is this girl in the team. Guess where Nelly Virsaldaz is from? Where the hell is Sakartvelo?! So now they are making things up?! Later as I found out thanks to my ignorance… Sakartvelo is the native name for that little Caucasus country of Georgia. With the Nationals looming around the corner, all the teams including our underdogs, Kiyosumi have arrived in the big city of Tokyo. Heck, even the teams they defeated are here in town just to support them. It is going to be one heck of a crowded place. Yeah. High school mahjong girls. At the draw, team representatives pick a number to see which opponents they draw. They are in the same block with one of the powerhouse, Himematsu High School representing South Osaka. I thought it was pretty duh because since Kiyosumi is the underdog, most teams that they will face would surely be superior than them, right? Although the Kiyosumi girls are free to do what they want before their match day, Hisa thinks they should have some minimal regimen and some rest.

Episode 2
Our Kiyosumi girls get some morale booster when their little school and town folks record a little video of encouragement and support. Kiyosumi also undergoes a mixed training camp with all the other schools they defeated in the prefectural tournament. Yuuki and Nodoka’s old middle school friends, Maho Yumeno and Hiroko Murohashi (thus known as Muro-Maho combo) are also part of this training and play against Nodoka and Saki. Oh sh*t I can’t believe my summary for this episode is just so short! Is that all I actually think it is worth remembering?! Personal world record…

Episode 3
It starts with Nodoka’s flashback on how she met Muro-Maho. Maho has this ability to mimic other player’s hands although it doesn’t last long and she will soon turn into some annoying anxiety ridden loli. This will help increase Mako’s repertoire as she is able to remember a table’s layout as well as cast some caution for Saki. So the matches for the first round begin and thankfully we skip this part. Needless to say, our heroines end up tops. The schools that Kiyosumi will be playing in the next round include Himematsu, Miyamori Girls’ High School (tall mortician girl’s school) of Iwate prefecture and the seeded Eisui Girls’ High School from Kagoshima (the miko priestesses). Yuuki is the first player. What’s with the cape? Tacos not enough? A guy wants to interview her but his colleague pulls him away saying they don’t have time. Yuuki hears them whisper that they don’t want to interview anybody on Kiyosumi except Nodoka. Because they think if an underdog like Kiyosumi has defeated powerhouse teams in their prefecture, it probably means the standard of mahjong in that prefecture has dropped and not worth talking about. Yuuki is upset that they are ridiculing everyone in their prefecture but instead of telling them off, she is going to show them at the mahjong table whether they are weak or not.

Episode 4
Yuuki’s opponents are Komaki Jindai (Eisui), Suzu Ueshige (Himematsu) and Shiromi Kosegawa (Miyamori). Suzu remembers her captain, Kyouko Uehara explained to the team about the threat of Yuuki. Something about her power when she is being the dealer. Suzu witnesses how Yuuki goes on a roll for 3 consecutive wins. Then there is Shiromi who whenever is indecisive, she will start to show some habit of hers. This is dangerous because the more hesitant she is, the more expensive her hands will accumulate. Huh? We’ve been hearing narrations from Suzu all the time (and some from Shiromi), you wonder why Komaki is so quiet? Actually she was sleeping! WTF?! You mean she has been sleep walking all the while?! So when she really wakes up, so does her whatever power. However it is Shiromi who breaks Yuuki’s winning streak and snatches her chances twice. Although Kiyosumi still leads the table followed by Miyamori, Himematsu and Eisui, Miyamori is able to close the gap with some big points.

Episode 5
We start off with a flashback 15 months ago at Himematsu. The temporary coach is talking to the captain Kyouko Suehara about the mahjong teams and didn’t put Suzu in since she is weak. Kyouko admits she is but if they go by the standard rules. They explain about her having the highest points and her wins are like explosion. Huh? Back to the match, Komaki turns the tables by unleashing some god mist power. Yuuki makes a bad call and this allows Komaki to capitalize on it and thus ending the first round. This causes Eisui to hit hard on Kiyosumi and they lose some points. Yuuki is sad due to her blunder but her mates think she did well. Eisui who was in last now jumps to second. Miyamori takes the lead while Himematsu is dead last. The second round opponents for Mako will be Yuuko Mase (Himematsu), Aislinn Wishart (Miyamori) and Tomoe Karijuku (Eisui). The highlight of this match is the Kiwi girl Aislinn who is able to conjure up the hands of her opponents with her whiteboard. Although this one is pretty much confined in her head. However her predictions start breaking apart when the other schools break her pattern (or that the tiles she predicted turn up differently). Mako takes off her glasses and applies her ability to remember the layout and launch a counterattack. Aislinn must be devastated at how things aren’t going her way. Big blow. Big shock. Tomoe and Yuuko are just playing it cool without making any waves especially with Yuuko putting on her cute eternal smile throughout the game play. I am surprised they only have this second round match for half an episode! Because it ends with Mako avenging Yuuki as Kiyosumi leapfrogs and takes the lead. Miyamori falls back to second place although technically they didn’t move since Eisui drops to third and Himematsu continues to occupy the bottom. Third match is going to start but don’t get too excited yet. Because it’s lunch break.

Episode 6
I think I’ll skip the lunch break follies that includes the one with the commentators. So for the third match, Hisa is going to have for company Hiroe Atoge (Himematsu), Haru Takimi (Eisui) and Kurumi Kakura (Miyamori – I believe she is the smallest girl in the school who happens to have the tallest girl). When Hisa steps into the room, it’s like she experiences some sort of mind blowing space dimension warp. I don’t know how many minutes she lost there but it made her nervous and not herself. Those who know her are very worried. So nervous that she makes the first blooper of accidentally revealing a tile and gives Hiroe the chance to call her an idiot or airhead. So nervous that she gets caught in some trap and loses a lot of points. So nervous that she starts worrying about the stronger opponents Saki and Nodoka will face and that this is her last year she gets to play. But when she remembers Hiroe’s comment about how boring this will become, she realizes she is just trying to have fun and all those others supporting her. She gets back into the groove and regains her self confidence with her nerve wrecking plays. At half time, Kiyosumi and Himematsu trade places while the other two remain status quo. Haru offers Hisa black cane sugar. Sugar to replenish the tired brain? Time for the second half to start.

Episode 7
Let me just skip the rest of the second half and go right to the end of the round. Not that I understand anything anyway. Thanks to Hiroe’s play that snatches lots of points, Himematsu jumps from last to first as everybody else drops a rung. Perhaps everyone got nostalgic that they don’t want to leave their seats till the fourth players arrive. Accompanying Nodoka in this fourth round are Hatsumi Usuzumi (Eisui), Sae Usuzawa (Miyamori) and the sister of Hiroe, Kinue (Himematsu). I know this series had lots of exaggerated stuffs but I wasn’t prepared for this because Hatsumi enters the scene via some teleport magic!!! WTF???!!! Then, Kinue got freaked out by Nodoka’s Etopen that she gives it a good football kick! GOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!!! Penguin abuse! Hey, I noticed everybody brought in something for this match. Nodoka with her Etopen, Hatsumi with her voodoo mask, Sae with her monocle and Kinue with her, erm, spectacles? Then it gets more outrageous because the girls are not imagining things when they see Nodoka’s angel materializing behind her for a short while! It’s some mode that she is supposed to be when she gets into her style. With Kinue reminiscing about how she was put in this team and getting to play aside her sister and the need to protect the points, before she knows it, the other teams start hitting their hands. Don’t daydream, please. And then… Hatsumi’s power starts awakening because a breezy mist just flows into the room.

Episode 8
Before Hatsumi can unleash her whatever power, Sae puts some seal over her. For the entire first half of this series, Nodoka is just irrelevant. It is about Sae and Kinue trying to keep tabs on Hatsumi’s power from awakening. Yeah, voodoo stripper girl is reduced to tears. At the end of the first half, Eisui lost lots of points. Himematsu maintains pole position and widens the point gap. Kiyosumi maintains second place and Miyamori still in third although they lost some ground. During the break, tired Sae remembers. Sae, Kurumi and Shiromi were the only members of the mahjong club when they received a new teacher, Kumakura. She becomes their fourth player and they relish in playing a real mahjong game after a long time. Noticing the club needs a fourth member, Kumakura remembers an interesting girl (tall mortician girl) she saw on her detour and would like to introduce her to them. The second half is about to start. Sae’s pals notice the weariness she is. That’s because using her sealing powers drains her energy. The stronger the opponent, the more stress she puts on herself. And looks like Sae has to continue sealing Hatsumi due to the sitting arrangement again. But this time Nodoka ‘wakes up’ and goes on the offensive. Now they have to watch out for her too.

Episode 9
Sae is tired. She wonders if she should continue blocking as she observes Nodoka might just get a direct hit by Hatsumi. She is hoping for it to happen but it is Hatsumi who got dealt into her hand. She is moments away from turning into a cry-baby. Kinue then goes on a winning streak when suddenly Hatsumi revives. Now it’s a devil’s grin. I don’t know what astronomical play they are playing but Sae again targets Nodoka to play into her hand. Then Hatsumi scores big and Nodoka takes a direct hit. To the surprise of others, Nodoka seems unfazed. Is she a robot? At the end, Himematsu still hangs on to the lead as with Kiyosumi in second. Eisui goes up to third and Miyamori is rock bottom. And here is the final match. Saki makes her debut on the National level. She’s got Eisui’s Kasumi Iwato, Himematsu’s Kyouko and Miyamori’s tall mortician girl Toyone Anetai for company. At first Kyouko is on a winning streak. It breaks when she becomes the dealer and all the others target her. Especially Toyone whose specialty seems to be ‘chasing’ Kyouko’s hand. For a few times it happened like that. I suppose Kyouko is testing if this is coincidence or not and tries it out one more time. And yeah. Here Toyone comes after her again. Uh huh. Now she feels like Toyone wrapping her arms around her neck and strangling her! No wonder they don’t call her Toyone Right Behind You for nothing.

Episode 10
Kyouko falls into her trap again and the first half ends. Miyamori goes up to third with Eisui now occupying bottom. Kyouko feels the need to rethink her strategy. With the second half beginning, Toyone surprises everyone by calling every hand they made and wins it with some naked wait move. This effectively puts Miyamori in second place. Now it’s time for the big flashback that occupies much of the rest of this episode. 6 months ago Kumakura introduced Toyone to the Miyamori mahjong girls. Toyone came from a remote village and spent most of her time watching mahjong on TV. They play several games together as she unleashes her special move. At the end of the day, she starts crying because she was having so much fun now she has to leave for home. But the rest know that Kumakura only brought her here because she sees her as a potential team member. Conveniently all the necessary paper work has been done for her transfer to this school. They also realize why Kumakura had begun doing it for some time. It was so they could participate in the inter-high tournament. But who is going to be their fifth member? Conveniently too, Aislinn the exchange student who knows nothing about mahjong began drawing about their victory. I don’t know if the drawing is just like counting their chickens. I suppose the rest can drill her about the rules but seriously, can she improve that much in that limited time? So that is how they got the team? Now it is tears of joy for Toyone. So back to the game, Toyone continues to call everyone’s hand for that naked wait. And she wins it again. Because she has been on a winning streak since the start and amassing the points, Miyamori finally goes up to top spot and dethrones Himematsu. I’m sure they’re not going to let Toyone have her way so Kasumi is going to make some super move too…

Episode 11
There is this flashback from Kasumi when the head priestess told her about some living talisman doll. I don’t know. It looks creepy. And now she is going to use that power. I don’t know if this is like cheating because it’s like she called for spiritual intervention that allows her to break Toyone’s winning streak and now it’s her turn to win. Because of that, Eisui is now in the lead. We hear a lot from Kyouko about her analyzing about this hand, that hand, the discards, etc. It’s like she’s been a worry wart for a great duration of this match. At least she breaks the streak and wins one hand. Just one hand. Because now it’s Saki’s turn. Yup. She’s been quiet for so long so I guess now it’s the time. I don’t know about dead walls and all that crap they said and I certainly can’t joined the dots together when they tell me that Saki didn’t actually negate the other’s power but accepted it. Now that Saki has turned into an amazing player, the rest are just dumbfounded each time she makes her call. Uh huh. It’s like they didn’t expect it. And this is what Saki continues to do as she surprises them with the hands she calls till Kiyosumi is now in the lead. Yeah. It’s like playing musical chairs because everybody has at least taken their turn leading the group. Everybody is running scared now that Saki is warming up and building up her power. So powerful now that Sae’s monocle breaks!!! WTF???!!! What the hell is this demonic aura?! Is Saki a demon?! Don’t be dumbfounded over the hands she calls or not! Look at her freaking damn aura!!!

Episode 12
Kyouko thinks Saki’s goal is to change some drawing order and that she is not afraid of Himematsu since this will also give them an advantage. Because the difference in points is close, the team’s position changes quickly. The tension is building up especially Toyone who feels that if they don’t make the cut, everyone’s festival will end. So finally Saki wins the last hand and ends the game. Toyone immediately cries out loud. Kiyosumi in first place and Himematsu in second will qualify for the semi-finals. Kyouko returns to her teammates. They talk about Saki pulling off her specialty of plus minus zero twice. Thinking she wants to get stronger than her, they cheekily give her a makeover. New change, new outlook? They also called in a pro mahjong player (who was also part of the commentators) to understand Saki better. At Eisui, they’re blaming themselves for not doing a good job. They think their plan of summoning stronger gods they were saving for the semi-finals backfired because they summoned weaker ones. And a Miyamori, Toyone has collected signatures from her opposing teams. It is an emotional reunion. With Eisui paying them a visit, I guess the individual tournament is in a few more days so what better way for loser teams to head to the beach to relax? See Komaki already has a float ready around her waist. Now back to Kiyosumi, Saki pours out her troubles to Hisa. She felt uncomfortable playing with her opponents as she could only used the playing style she used when she was young. She feels if she plays them again, she cannot win. The top 8 teams for the semi-finals are decided. In block A, we have Shiraitodai, Shindouji, Achiga and Senriyama and in block B, Kiyosumi, Himematsu, Usuzan and Rinkai. Three of the seeded teams made it and 2 are debutants. Usuzan being one of them and a comment from one of the players is that this is a team she wants to avoid playing.

Episode 13
Nodoka, Yuuki and Saki slept so well that Hisa didn’t have the heart to wake them up to watch the first semi-final match. When they do wake up, Nodoka and Yuuki’s old middle school friend, Kirame Hanada is already starting as the first player for Shindouji against Shiraitodai’s Teru. Nodoka did not realize Achiga is also in that block as she never paid attention to the tournament bracket. They head over to the tournament hall but it is packed with people. No space. They stumble upon a magazine editor who wants to interview her. Along the way, they bump into the Achiga girls and it feels like it has been a long time they have seen each other. Nodoka’s interview starts and surprisingly is quite short. You expect it to last for hours? Anyway she shows proof of their blog of their time together. A picture of them in summer 4 years ago comprises of Nodoka, Kuro, Shizuno and Ako who has this very uncanny resemblance to Yuuki then. Nodoka and Yuuki manage to pass their package to Kirame after her match is over. I’m sure if you have seen the Achiga’s arc (which is technically the second season of the series), you would know who made it in the first semi-final. And now here comes the second semi-final. Our girls are ready to give it their all. Especially Nodoka and Shizuno’s promise to meet in the final. Once again we are introduced to the teams who will be accompanying Kiyosumi. Aside Himematsu, they are the international and seeded team of Rinkai and the dangerous newcomer Usuzan. Yuuki dons her cape and goes into battle. I suppose this is the ‘fastest’ summary of an entire match ever because we see short montages of the girls in battle, some unlocking their super power fury. WTF. Safe to say with Kiyosumi gets through to the final even if this is just a big speculation. But you know they will, right?

It’s Still Not Over!
Oh God… You mean it hasn’t ended yet?! This means that if they make another sequel, I am very much obliged to watch it?! Just because I want to ‘complete my mahjong series’?! Heck, I still don’t even understand the terms and season in, season out, this is my very main gripe and yet I am still watching this. What is wrong with me? Yeah. If they do a marketing ploy on this, I bet I will become a sucker and go for it. Back to this season. No wonder I had my suspicions when it is only 13 episodes long. As of now I have not heard if there is a sequel or even additional episodes (like how they did it for Achiga’s arc last season). I thought they were going to zip through the entire Nationals. Boy, was I naive. Seeing Yuuki and Mako’s game was considered ‘fast’ enough, I thought this would be the case for the rest. Well after the fourth players’ match, there is like 1/3 of the series left. I never knew it was going to be focus on the fifth players’ match all the way. I should have seen it coming. I mean, Saki is in it. Otherwise why would they name this series after her in the first place?

Of course the most ‘interesting’ and amusing parts in seeing them play mahjong are the ‘special effects’ that the players summon so as to have the edge over their competitors or to turn the tables. Though, I feel that this season’s ‘supernatural effects’ have been toned down partly because there aren’t enough episodes and earlier matches ended quite early. Still, even if I don’t quite understand the basics of riichi, kan and pon, what more will I even understand other terms used here that I can’t possibly remember. They sound so alien to me. That is why I take so much pleasure in watching those exaggerated special powered moves because that is the part that truly smile even though I couldn’t care less if it makes sense or not. After all, if this series was void of such effects, it would have been such a drab and boring show and perhaps I wouldn’t have continued watching it after the first season even if there are some cute girls and plenty of it in the subsequent seasons.

With so many characters, it is hard to keep track of them all. Old ones that show up feels like it is for the sake to remember them and that they have not been forgotten at all. Of course they are here for the individual tournament but that is another unrelated story. With 3 new schools Kiyosumi faced in this round, it is not surprising that some of the characters would be given some flashbacks albeit it won’t be deep enough. To me, it just feels it is for the sake of passing time since it would be goddamn boring to sit through the entire match watching them like that. Heck, everything is just boring because I don’t really get it. And also, some flashbacks are perhaps to explain why they can unleash such supernatural godly/ungodly move. Oh God. Is this even legal? Might as well call God of Gamblers, Chow Yun Fatt to come help me out. The new characters have their own little quirkiness. Some really do leave an impression (mostly visually) like Toyone because of her odd dressing and the Eisui girls which is the biggest irony because miko priestesses playing mahjong is like seeing a priest gambling in Las Vegas. But I bet it is just for this season and most probably you won’t hear of them again.

But for Kiyosumi themselves, it feels that nothing is further developed on them because as said they spread the character development for the other schools Kiyosumi is facing. The yuri relationship between Nodoka and Saki seems to have been forgotten (at least to me) even though it is a mild one. Then there is the only guy in the mahjong club, Kyoutarou. His existence is so unimportant and trivial that it makes you wonder if there is a need to even animate him around. Therefore my guess is that the only role he was given in this season is to serve as Yuuki’s tacos provider. Uh huh. Not even a side comic relief provider. Now he has perfected to art of making tacos for Yuuki to give her a much needed motivation to do well in the first game. Otherwise, do you see any relevance for this dude to even be part of a tournament that only has all female competitors? Sure, there is the individual tournament, but that is another story. Thus the other schools that Kiyosumi defeated in the prefectures like Ryuumonbuchi, Kazekoshi and Tsuruga feel like irrelevant despite their short cameo appearance and are just a reminder that they are still around. They may not be in the team match but the individuals so you can say that they are just rooting for the underdog team that beat them.

New Sparks by Miyuki Hashimoto is the opening for this season. It is a lively piece and feels cheery too. She also sings one of the ending themes, True Gate. This rock piece feels a little dark. The other ending theme is Kono Te Ga Kiseki Wo Eranderu. There are different versions of it albeit sung by either the girls from Miyamori, Eisui or Himematsu. Sounds like your typical all-girl group pop song. Just like in previous seasons, the animation here has the characters in chibi format and doing pretty funny stuffs in mahjong. Perhaps this is the other amusing. Depending on which version, you would see the characters of that school as the ‘main stars’ in this ending theme animation. All wanting the coveted cup, eh?

Subsequently I found out why this season was just so and instead of wrapping it up. The manga is still ongoing and currently Kiyosumi’s semi-final battle is not over yet. Therefore if they are to make a sequel, I am very sure that they are going to cover this part too instead of jumping right to the finals where Achiga and Shiraitodai are waiting for them. Will I still be watching it? You bet. Because girls playing mahjong… I don’t even know how I got into this… So for those who really want to watch this series, it is best to start from the first season. Also, you need to be a mahjong enthusiast and perhaps a pro to even enjoy the series. Or else you will be constantly scratching your head like yours truly and eternally asking the same ol’ question of, wait for it, what the hell is a riichi, kan or pon again?

Girls Und Panzer OVA

September 19, 2014

Oh yes!!! It is finally here! I remember I was really disappointed when they cut out one of the important matches in the TV series. I was really looking forward to it. And then it’s like they answered my prayers (or rather they might have planned this all along) because Girls Und Panzer OVA is the much awaited second round match of the Senshadou championship between Ooarai and the Italian Anzio! Hooray! Now I can be extremely satisfied! I’m not going to bore you (and myself) with whatever introductions because I’m so eager to hop in and watch the tank battle. Let’s go!

This Is The Real Anzio Battle!
Anzio’s Senshadou captain, Anchovy addresses her mates and is confident about defeating Ooarai. Hooray! Counting their chickens? Well, they barely scraped through the first round. As she is going to unveil her new tank, seems the clock strikes noon and all the girls don’t want to miss out some special lunch. Food is more important than tanks, right? Oh yeah. Italians… Back at Ooarai, they are discussing their strategy on Anzio when Yukari returns with yet another infiltration at Anzio. Seems they are having a food festival. Yup. Italians do love their food. Everybody is so merry that Yukari could even record Anchovy rallying the girls on her new tank. Miho goes to visit rekijo team’s house to get more details on the Italian tanks. One of them has a friend in Anzio and she would love to face off with her fair and square. Ooarai practice by having heroine team and volleyball team acting as Anzio. Loli team chasing volleyball team feels like a joke… Rekijo team tries to practice firing at heroine team at long range but they couldn’t hit them. A single shot from heroine team eliminated them. Need more practice? At the end of the day, they feel hungry. What are they having? Italian of course! Nekota tries to talk to Miho to join her club but seems she fails again. A new tank has been discovered and being uncovered by automotive team. Because some time is needed to make repairs, they won’t be joining in their next match. In exchange for fixing it up good, automotive team wants to ride this one.

The match day is here. Anchovy meets Miho before the match as greeting. I won’t say Anchovy is cocky but she is brimming with confidence. Also, Caesar meets her other friend, Carpaccio on the other side and is glad to see each other again. The match begins. As usual, Ooarai has only 5 tanks compared to Anzio’s 10. Loli team and volleyball team go ahead and scout and spot the enemy tanks. They are ordered not to engage them. However something doesn’t add up. How come there are 11 tanks not including the flag tank? Miho orders them to fire a test shot and those tanks are just cardboards! A decoy! Miho realizes Anzio’s goal is to surround and ambush them from the back. Their tactic now is to use their flag tank to lure the enemy out. Loli team thought they have spotted more fake tanks and fire. Oops. Real ones. Now run! Volleyball team are on the run too as several of Anzio’s tanks are hot on their tail. Anchovy is waiting nicely when she realizes her comrades had screwed up the number of fake tanks since Ooarai has figured out their plan. She makes a move but comes into Ooarai. Rekijo team and Carpaccio’s team engage in close combat. You think it is odd for them to miss at this range but manoeuvring a tank like that isn’t easy. The flag tanks chase each other.

Volleyball team despite firing and overturning many Anzio tanks, it is like they are on some God mode because they keep coming back. Those Anzio tanks may lack firepower and despite being overturned, they are light enough for them to flip it back up and continue as long as the white flag doesn’t pop up. Plus, they have great mobility. Miho advises them to take out its weakness in the engine radiator. Volleyball team aims and fire. They hit not 1 but 4 of them! Wohoo! Also, loli team stops their tank so they could aim better. They manage to get 1. Not bad! Suddenly Anzio’s tanks are halved! Anchovy presses the panic button and wants all tanks to protect her flag tank. By the time reinforcement has arrived, they got taken out (it’s like they came just to get shot) and eventually Anchovy’s tank. Ooarai wins! The close quarter combat between rekijo team and Carpaccio’s team ends in a draw. They took each other out. In the aftermath, Anchovy congratulates Miho for a great game and now they will be rooting for them to win the championship. Now it is time to party! Anzio rolls out a feast for everyone to enjoy. See, what did I tell you about Italians loving their food? It’s so extravagant! If only they put more passion into their Senshadou as much as their cooking. In the final scene, we see Anzio coming really early in the wee hours of the morning to book their spot for the finals between Ooarai and Kuromorimine. No way they can be late, eh? Yeah. Whoever said starting early could kill? So they party all night… Morning comes, everybody is sound asleep. Safe to say, they miss the entire match! They only wake up when it’s over. You call that oversleeping! It’s already evening for God’s sakes! Now you know why they’re missing?

Mama Mia! Tank You For Everything!
Despite this OVA lasting around 38 minutes, it felt like it was only its usual 24 minutes worth of screen time. That was how engrossed I was, though the beginning may be a bit slow since it wasn’t the action part. The tank battles did not disappoint as usual and it is still thrilling to watch our girls go into battle. This battle gives a little more prominence to the volleyball team and loli team since we see them owning a few Anzio tanks. Because in the TV series they usually are the ones who get owned and lack the firepower compared to the tanks of other schools. So it’s nice that heroine team and student council team didn’t really hog much of the limelight. Rekijo team is also rather okay and I suppose the friendship of one of their comrades was just to give us a little development although it won’t be that deep. Though, Momo’s poor aim is still the best running joke ever.

Although it is sad that with this OVA, it brings a closure to the series, I am not sure if there is going to be another season or spin-offs or OVAs for these girls. I may not be into tanks for real or online games, but if there is I will definitely be there to root for my favourite tank girls. This series has been so far very awesome and even the bad points turn into good ones (were there any?). So girls, once again, t(h)anks for the joyride and for everything that you have provided me for this series. It was unforgettable. It was superb. It was fantastic. It was awesome. It was… Well, everything! In that sense, they really did aim and strike my heart. Three cheers and let’s tank up to that!

Girls Und Panzer

March 9, 2014

Are girls hot and sexy when they are paired with an automobile? For instance, girls and bikes. They look hot, don’t they? Yeah. It’s not the bike that we’re really looking at, aren’t we? What about girls and fast sports cars? Also hot and sizzling too, no? But what about girls and tanks? Girls and tanks, you say? Sorry if my several opening sentences end in questions but don’t you find anything turned on when a girl rides a tank? No? Well, perhaps Girls Und Panzer would change your mind. Imagine cute high school girls packing such power riding such armoured vehicles. What’s not to love? But seriously. High school girls riding tanks? Odd. Yeah. In anime they can make something out of nothing. War has ended so why the need for girls to drive tanks and shoot at each other? That’s because it’s not a war. It’s for sports! As I found out, Panzer Fahren (tank battle) is a relatively new sport founded somewhere in 2009 and only played by a handful of European nations. You drive real tanks around playing mock battles depending on the form of game play. But how many nations have got tanks to ‘waste’? They cost a lot right even if it’s only for sports. I suppose if you want to drive interest in this new sport, the best way is to turn it into anime (like how they try to do it with karuta. I think). And better still, you use cute high school girls to do it. Shouldn’t they have better girly things to do at their age? Like go shopping, gossip about boyfriends? I suppose that’s what separate tank nerds and tank nots. Now do you find girls and tanks hot and sexy?

Episode 1
We are given an exciting first person view of the girls in a Panzer Fahren match as our heroines engage the enemy. Now we go back in time. Miho Nishizumi wakes up and makes her way her to Ooarai Girls High School. She looks like the loner type till classmates Hana Isuzu and Saori Takebe invite her to join them. They become good friends but suddenly the student council trio, Anzu Kadotani (president), Momo Kawashima (PR manager) and Yuzu Koyama (vice president) approach Miho. Seems they are trying to pressure her into taking the Senshadou (Panzer Fahren) curriculum elective. Although this school doesn’t have such elective before, they plan on reviving it and want her to join. Miho sinks into absolute shock because she attended this school as it doesn’t have Senshadou. Yeah. Her shock face is like as though she killed somebody. So her friends try to give her some support as they learn Miho’s history. She comes from a family with a long reputable history in Senshadou. Miho doesn’t have nice memories of it. Suddenly the student council announces all students to gather in the hall. Despite being a reminder to choose their electives, it is a blatant propaganda and introduction to Senshadou. So, studying Senshadou makes you more womanly? Attracts more guys? WTF. They even mention the tremendous rewards of food coupons and tripling credits of all subjects to the one with the highest grades in Senshadou. Very tempting, right? Eventually Miho just can’t do it and selects flower arrangement. Her friends initially picked Senshadou but cancel it just to follow Miho. Think everything will be fine? That’s because Miho is called to the student council’s room to explain herself of her non-selection of Senshadou. So she doesn’t have the freedom to choose? They even threaten her of expulsion! Her friends stand up and fight for her. Miho sees how hard they are trying to support her so she grits her teeth and decides to take up Senshadou. There. Happy? And so all those who picked this elective gather at the field. Including the student council members, there are 21 students for Senshadou. I don’t know. The rest look like oddballs. What the heck is the volleyball team doing here? Notice half a dozen of lolis? And there’s this rekijo (female historian buffs) group… Never in your wildest dream would you think such groups would show interest in tanks. But then again, it could have been much worse… They are shown a rundown tank in the garage. Rusting away… But the girls are in awe…

Episode 2
As they are split into 5 teams, the rest are ordered to find 4 missing tanks scattered throughout this gigantic city ship. Miho and friends begin their search. Where to begin? Along the way, they meet tank enthusiast (she knows everything about them, trust me), Yukari Akiyama who is eager to join them. Soon all the teams find the tanks (sitting in odd places? Cave? Dump site? Underwater?) and they keep what they find. Now they got to clean and restore it. Poor Yuzu is doing all the hard work while Anzu and Momo just bum their ass off… At the end of the day, Miho and co head to a tank specialized shop. They see on the news, Miho’s sister, Maho who has been selected to represent the nation for Panzer Fahren. Miho looks gloomy… Then everyone gathers at Miho’s apartment for dinner. Next day as Miho goes to school, she sees a girl, Mako Reizei having trouble trying to make her way to school. Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy… Somehow they make it but the public morals committee member, Midoriko Sono AKA Sodoko is not amused. This is the 245th straight time Mako is late! Is this a world record? The Senshadou girls eagerly await their new instructor, Ami Chouno from the special training association. I’m sure everyone is awed at her grand debut with her tank diving down from the plane. Too bad the principal’s car got smashed… Ami recognizes Miho since her sister is famous but Miho isn’t really thrilled. Ami has the teams do a full mock battle and sets out their starting points. The teams also assign its members to positions. I wonder why the inequality of number of members in a team. Though there is no restriction, loli team has got 6 people, the most number while student council team has the least with 3. The rest have 4 each. As there are 5 positions, Saori becomes the commander, Hana the driver, Yukari the gunner and Miho taking on both the loader and radio operator roles. Once all teams are in position, the mock battle rule is simple. Immobilize all other teams and the last one standing wins. Heroine team (my term for Miho’s group) is suddenly attacked by volleyball team (missed by an inch). Rekijo team sees this opportunity to cooperate with volleyball team to take out heroine team. As they run, they see Mako sleeping right in their path!

Episode 3
Mako suddenly gets up and jumps onto their tank! Saori knows her because they are childhood friends. They are now at a bridge. As they try to cross it, their rivals fire on them and almost cause the tank to lose balance. The impact knocks out Hana. Everyone is surprised that Mako can easily drive the tank after just reading the manual. With Miho’s strategy, Yukari fires a shot and it directly hits rekijo team to take them out of the game. Volleyball team panics and then goes out after heroine team fires a direct shot at them. Coming from the other side of the bridge is student council team. Momo turns into a bloodthirsty trigger happy crazy b*tch! Fire! Fire! Fire! Too bad heroine team was faster and puts them out of commission. Worse, how the heck could Momo miss?! Loli team gets scared and wants to retreat but their tank got stuck in the mud and their engine blew! I guess heroine team wins! Before Ami returns, she congratulates the teams for a fine job and to contact her if there is anything. While heroine team soaks in a well deserved hot bath, they think of repositioning themselves. As reluctant Miho may be, she is made the commander because of her awesome strategy. Hana wants to be the gunner since she loves the ‘warm feeling’ when firing a cannon! Saori will be the radio operator since she is good in texting. That’s almost the same, right? Hana will be the loader and this means Mako the driver, no? However Mako is not interested in joining till she is reminded of her lack in credits. Is this blackmail? The girls go shopping to spice up their tanks. Comfy cushions, slippers, interior decorations… Hey, if they’re going to spend most of their time in the tank, might as well make it as comfortable as possible. They also wanted to go with a new paint of coat but ditched the idea. However the other teams did theirs. Urm… Pink tank? Gold tank? Well, screw camouflage. At least they can tell each other apart. The Senshadou girls continue to practice operating their tanks and how to read instruments.

As announced, there will be a friendly battle this weekend with Saint Gloriana Girls’ Academy. They were runners up in the national tournament before. Because meeting time is at 6am, Mako wants to quit! She can’t wake up that early! Blackmail… Credit points… Grandma and Winston Churchill… I didn’t get that one but it made Mako reluctantly revise her decision. All the team leaders are in the briefing as Momo strategizes the enemy’s tanks. Miho’s guts tell her it will backfire and this pisses off Momo as she tells her off to take command then. Maybe she will, as Anzu suggests. And so she did. Win, and she will be rewarded well. Lose, she’ll do some embarrassing anglerfish dance in some public festival. I don’t know how preposterous that dance is but her teammates aren’t thrilled and acting like it’s the end of the world. So they just need to win to avoid that, right? Come Sunday, Saori tries to wake up Mako but it’s impossible. All the alarm clocks couldn’t do the job so what makes Saori think she can haul her ass out from her futon? Till Miho drives her tank through the streets and fires a blank shot! Is this legal? Everyone thought some earthquake just happened. The ships dock on land so they can have the friendly. It’s like a festival with stalls setup and other attractions. Like attending a Formula One race, huh? Ooarai meet their St Gloriana counterparts, led by Darjeeling. The official flags off the match to begin.

Episode 4
Remember that scene at the beginning of the first episode? It’s here now. Continuing from there, heroine team becomes the decoy to lure St Gloriana into an ambush pit where the others are waiting. Stupid Momo is so hard up on firing that she almost shot heroine team when they arrive. St Gloriana knows this is a trap but remains cool and plays along. Despite Ooarai firing away, I don’t how they could even miss so St Gloriana surrounds them and starts firing! Loli team panics and abandons ship! Student council team’s tank track becomes loose so they are immobilized (but not out). Miho takes the other teams to escape through the city. This is where they’ll put their knowledge of the roads into good use. Rekijo team hides in the tight alley and when a St Gloriana tank passes, they fire on them, instantly taking them out. Another St Gloriana tank falls into a trap because volleyball team is actually hiding behind them. Fire away! However… I think their pea shooter wasn’t powerful enough so they got fired back. Ouch. I guess they’re out. Rekijo team loves their flags, right? So it’s sticking out like a sore thumb from their tanks that it makes them so visible. And that’s why they got taken out by the enemy right across the fence. Heroine team is left and there is a daunting task of taking out 4 enemy tanks. St Gloriana chases them and smashes into a few shops. But the owners are glad because they can use compensation money to renovate! Crash into my shop too! Heroine team is cornered at a dead end when suddenly student council team barges into the scene. Momo fires at point blank range and… MISSES!!! HOW THE HELL COULD SHE MISS AT SUCH CLOSE RANGE!!! Thanks to her blunder, student council team got hit point blank. Out. But this gives heroine team time to escape. While doing so, they manage to fire and take out one. Using the corners to their advantage, heroine team swiftly attacks an enemy tank at the turn and the quickly reverses to take out another. Now they have to face the final boss but Darjeeling’s tank’s armour is thicker. Miho’s tactic is to play chicken (or so it seems to me). When both tanks are side by side, they fire at the same time. However heroine team’s thinner armour means they lost. At the end of the day, Darjeeling praises Miho and notes she is different from Maho. Since they lost, it’s the anglerfish dance, right? Since it is a collective lost, everybody has to do it! Oh God…

As heroine team walks through town, Saori thought a handsome guy spotted her. To her embarrassment, Shinzaburou is Hana’s family’s servant and he is happy to see his milady fine. Hana’s mom is here too. However after Yukari’s slip of her tongue reveals they are in Senshadou, mommy smells Hana’s hand and to her horror realizes she is really taking up such course instead of following the family tradition of flower arrangement. So in shock that she collapses! Back at their mansion, the friends eavesdrop Hana’s conversation with her mom. Hana felt something was missing when she did flower arrangement and wants to work with stronger flowers. Mother couldn’t believe her gentle nature is gone and views tanks as crude and ugly. Hana is determined to follow this path so mother tells her never to show her face here again. Goodbye. Hana isn’t sad as she hopes to present her with an appropriate flower one day. The rest of the girls are cool but Shinzaburou… He turned into a real cry-baby. When they get back on ship, loli team sincerely apologizes to them for abandoning their tank. They promise to their best next time and Anzu will leave the strategies to Miho. St Gloriana sends them a tea set, a sign that they are worthy opponents. And so it’s time for the Nationals. 16 high school teams will fight it out and Miho picks up Saunders University High School. Well, let’s say they are one of the favourites to win the title. Tough opponent right from the start, eh?

Episode 5
Heroine team is eating out at a panzer themed café. Walking in is Maho and her second in command, Erika Itsumi. Miho becomes gloomy when Maho comments she is still doing Senshadou. Erika didn’t waste time to insult and badmouth Ooarai but Mako has equal sarcasm to match it and shut her up. I guess the only way is to take it out on the battlefield. If Ooarai get to advance, that is. Later, Miho laments if she had information of Saunders’ line-up, she could at least come up with some strategy. And so Yukari didn’t show up in school the next day so her friends visit her family barber shop. Her father is extremely annoying in accepting them to a point it’s creepy. Grateful for the first friends to visit Yukari, I take? Yukari sneaks in back via window. Seems she has snuck into Saunders’ ship to collect valuable information with her hidden camera. She disguised and infiltrated their school while they were having a tactical meeting. Because there were too many students, I guess nobody could recognize her so much so she could ask questions and got some answers. Till one of them didn’t recognize her as a student. Once her cover was blown, she escapes. Yukari hopes Miho could use the details to come up with some tactics. Battle day arrives. Ooarai meet their Saunders counterparts. Their leader, Kei recognizes Yukari as the imposter but welcomes her. They invite Ooarai to their mobile stall trucks that offer lots of facilities and food stuffs. Rich people… I’m not sure about the Panzer Fahren rules but Saunders is employing some old rules that allow them up to the maximum of 10 tanks! Though, they are all the same Sherman type with limited ammo. Each team will assign a flag tank. Taking out that flag panzer means victory for the team. It’s just like capture the flag math. Miho puts forth her strategy. However it hits a snag when loli team are surrounded by the enemy in the forest. Heroine team and student council team rendezvous with them to escape but Saunders tanks are hot on their trail. Ooarai is completely surrounded but Miho suggests a bold move to just continue pressing forward. The gamble pays off as they barely scrape through. As they rest, Miho senses something amiss. It’s like the enemy knew their moves. Then she realizes it. The enemy may have intercepted their radio communications by planting a device in the weather balloon. Though the rules say nothing on this, I guess this shows that money is power. Saunders continues to eavesdrop Ooarai’s conversation. It leads them to believe where their flag tank is. A strategy is made to take it out. A couple of Sherman tanks arrive at the supposed place but rekijo team fires and takes out one of them! The other manages to escape. Saunders and the audience are left surprised that Ooarai took out a Saunders tank. How did they do it? Well, the girls communicated via own handphone and the one via radio was just baiting. Smart.

Episode 5.5
Wait a minute?! A recap episode? After 5 episodes? Anyway, for those with bad memory, mainly narrated by Miho and Yukari, it tells how Miho tried to get away from Senshadou by enrolling into Ooarai but was lured back into it. She also introduces her friends and the other Senshadou mates. I suppose it is interesting to see some of their bio-data but seriously, are we interested to see what kind of flower or tank they like? And why didn’t they include the all-important 3 sizes?! Oops… Of course as we progress through the different matches heroine team played so far, we are given trivial information of the tanks that have appeared and their main features. So I’ve wasted almost half an hour of my time on this recap with recycled scenes. At least put some new scenes lah! Now can we get back to action?

Episode 6
Arisa, the one responsible for eavesdropping on Ooarai isn’t going to lose so she continues searching the waves to eavesdrop further. Then she hits it. She hears their next plan to gather on the hill and informs Kei and the rest to head there. But nobody’s there? Sure she got her info right? Suddenly volleyball team pops up before Arisa’s tank. Oh no! Although Arisa’s team is the flag tank, volleyball team’s firepower is not good enough to take it out so they run. They throw smokescreen to blind their vision as they try to rendezvous back to the rest. When the smoke clears up, Arisa realizes they have walked into their trap because the other Ooarai tanks are firing at them! I know Momo will always miss but the rest? Man, Arisa is lucky. Run! We see Arisa’s true colours. She turns into a panicky slave driver, forcing her teammates to do this and that just to get their ass out of this trap. She’s even ranting about her boyfriend problems! Not enough space to yell inside? Go outside and scream all you want! Ooarai is hot on Arisa’s tail as she seeks backup. Kei learns about her eavesdropping and is not too pleased she isn’t playing fair. To even the odds, Kei wants another 3 tanks to follow them so it will be 5 on 5. When the cavalry arrives, you can see the relief on Arisa’s face. So it’s like one big chase or game of tag. Kei’s Saunders chasing Ooarai chasing Arisa. Unfortunately, volleyball team got taken out followed by loli team. Ooarai’s morale is all-time low especially Momo. In addition to being a bad shot, she’s such a negative person. Well, maybe it’s because student council team is the flag tank sandwiched between heroine team and rekijo team as they try to outrun their pursuers and also nail the enemy’s flag.

As they approach a hilltop, Miho devises a strategy to shoot from the top. They have a better chance but it is risky. Kei’s team foresees this and she leaves it to Naomi to take out heroine team. Thanks to Miho’s instinct, she has Mako slam on the brakes in time before being hit by Naomi’s shell. Because their reloading takes time, this crucial time will determine they nail it or lose it. Hana focuses her aim and fires a single shot. Arisa’s team takes a direct hit seconds before Naomi takes out heroine team. Ooarai wins! The Ooarai girls are jumping with joy especially with their upset victory over the favourites. Kei congratulates Miho for putting up a good game as it was fun. She also apologizes for the eavesdropping on her comrade’s part. She believes in practising fair play because if you’re not a good person, your tank will cry. I guess everybody is happy in the end. Except for Arisa. She’s going to get an earful. Mako suddenly gets a call that her grandma is hospitalized after falling down. But they have to get back to the ship. Desperate Mako is going to swim when Maho offers to take her there in her helicopter. Why the long face everybody? If not happy then don’t do so lah. But I guess it is no time to argue about whatever petty things. Saori accompanies Mako onto the helicopter. Personal problems aside, the rest have got the next matches Senshadou to worry about. Favourites Pravda High School and Kuromorimine Girls’ College (Maho’s team) secure crushing victories over their opponents. Ooarai’s next opponent will be Anzio High School.

Episode 7
When Miho and co visit the hospital, they hear grandma screaming her lungs off reprimanding Mako! Well, it’s a good sign that she’s doing well but I think at this rate her blood pressure will shoot through the roof. Maybe she doesn’t like it here too. When they leave, grandma politely tells Miho that Mako lacks courtesy and to take care of her. Back on board the ship, Miho thinks deep that everyone has their own problems. Miho explains Mako and her grandma used to fight a lot and she regrets never having the chance to properly apologize. This has Miho remember her own family problem. Mommy wants her to be in Senshadou because of their family name. In school, due to their first round victory, the student council must have put up banners about their advancement. Maybe they’ll get noticed this way. Miho and her friends eat together with their tank. Miho has always thought winning was the only important thing. But now she realizes that with her friends, Senshadou has a pretty fun and exciting side to it. Because of her mentality that winning was everything, it was the reason Miho ran away from Panzer. She remembers a match she lost. It was raining heavily and her team trekking precariously on the cliffs. When a teammate was shot, the tank slid down the cliffs and into the river. Miho abandoned her tank just to go save them. They lost because Miho’s tank was the flag and got shot soon after. The Senshadou girls continue to practice and improve their skills (I think some really need more improvement – like Momo’s aim). But the important thing is that they all have the motivation and spirit.

Seems Miho is the person to go to when they have problems and need her advice. Including love problems! Boyfriends running away because of tanks? Who would want a girl who has the ability to point the cannon in their face? Thankfully Miho’s friends help lighten her load and offer to give the other teams advice. Hana helps the student council with the paper work, Mako teaches the volleyball team how to drive better (just read the manual!), Yukari tells all she knows about tanks to rekijo team while Saori becomes the love advice master to loli team (despite she herself have never dated any guy). Hana goes through the documents and based on them, there are extra tanks lying around. They split into team to search for them but it seems they are scattered in a few parts. Saori and loli team didn’t come back in time and they receive message that they are lost. Anzu hands Miho the map of the ship to Miho so she can lead a search party. Mako is afraid of ghosts more than waking up early… Eventually lady luck has them find the lost girls. But they notice another tank of where they are holing up. As everybody soaks in the hot bath, Momo announces their new tanks and gadgets won’t be ready in time for the next match. She has Miho do the closing lines by rallying up everybody’s spirits. Looks like they’re up to it. And so we see Ooarai defeating the Italian-like Anzio team. WTF??!!! WHAT THE HELL!!! I feel cheated and robbed! I waited an entire episode for some Senshadou match and they just show me 2 seconds clip of the end result! WTF?! I want my Ooarai-Anzio match!!!

Episode 8
With the new tank fixed up, it seems we have a new group of girls joining Senshadou to make a sixth team. It is Sodoko and her public morals girls. Are they triplets or something? And Mako is made to be her driving teacher… Momo seems to be quite fixated in winning the semi-finals against Pravda who was last year’s champion when the other girls think they could slack or give up. Later Anzu has Miho come to their place as there is something they want to tell her. However they went around the bush, changing the subject and showed the great times the student council trio had together. In the end they couldn’t tell her because they don’t want to burden her and to let her look forward to the match instead of shrinking in fear. The match with Pravda is about to begin and takes place on the icy cold land. Ooarai is approached by Pravda’s little bratty commander, Katyusha. She is arrogant and even sits on top of her vice commander’s shoulder, Nonna just so that she could feel taller and higher than them. I guess at such height, is it no wonder why everybody looks down on her? Ooarai don’t like her one. Katyusha spots Miho and recognizes her. She thanks her for last year because without her help, they would never have become champions. Before the match starts, Miho wants to take a more defensive approach to fight Pravda but her team is so motivated to go all out on the offensive. Miho agrees to quickly take out the enemy since prolonged battle in snow would only work in their favour as the Russian-like Pravda works best in snowy terrain. You think Ooarai now has an extra tank at their disposal? Why, Pravda has 15 tanks! Is there a limit to how many tanks you can field? Number wise, isn’t this unfair? Oh, here comes the Pravda team. They’re so ‘cool’ that they’ve got their own theme song! But it’s mainly on Katyusha.

Ooarai pushes forward and realizes the enemy has spotted them when they fire. They fire back and easily take out a couple of them. Miho is cautious since this is too easy. When one of the tanks retreats, everyone chases after it. They are in so high spirits thinking favour is on their side that they disregard Miho’s order to hold their ground. Eventually they are drawn into a small village as the Ooarai tanks try to shoot the flag tank which is playing hide and seek among the buildings. While they are so engrossed in taking down their target, they did not realize the other Pravda tanks are slowly popping out from their hiding and surrounding them. Miho realizes they have fallen into their trap and quickly orders her team to retreat and take refuge in a nearby big building. I’m not sure if the cold winter or is it Pravda’s bad shot (perhaps intentionally too) that none of Ooarai tanks gets shot. After safely retreating into the building, Pravda sends a couple of reps to give Ooarai a message from Katyusha. She wants them to surrender by kneeling before her and will wait for 3 hours the most. Some want to fight to the end while others think they have done well to reach here and had fun. But Momo becomes agitated they can’t lose now. Miho tries to calm her down that Senshadou is just a game and not war. There is more to winning and for Miho she has made great friends and loved this school and the club. Well, can you say that once the school shuts down after they lose? Eh… Say what? That’s right. If they don’t win this tournament, Ooarai will close down.

Episode 9
When the student council went to see some minister, they were told the school will be shut down due to declining enrolment and no notable activities. He noted Senshadou was once popular in this school so Anzu thought of reviving it and that they won’t close down a school if they become champions. That’s why Anzu thought they wanted to keep hoping instead of crying in their last year. The girls feel sad over the fate of their school but Miho’s encouragement has them lift their spirits so they are going to use the 3 hours to fix whatever is broken. They’re going to fight till the end. She also sends some scouts to verify the location of the enemy tanks so she can devise a strategy. But morale is running low again when they are running out of food and warmth. They can see their Russian counterparts having a nice borsch meal and doing a Cossack dance around the fire! Morale drops to all time low thinking about their school’s closure. Miho starts doing the anglerfish dance to motivate them. Isn’t this embarrassing dance just counterproductive? In order not to let her bear the shame, everyone starts doing it too! They are spotted by a Pravda scout who is here to tell them time is up. So what’s it going to be? No surrender. I guess Katyusha waited for nothing. Ooarai tanks burst out of the building in a straight line. They surprise Katyusha by heading towards her direction, a heavily guarded area. I guess you can thank the worsening weather for the bad vision and bad shots. Anzu takes over Momo for the gunner position and decides to do some solo move. Due to the thick armour of the Pravda tanks, the only chance they have is to fire at point blank. So this means Yuzu has to drive up real close to them. After several cool manoeuvres and shots fired, student council team only managed to take out 2 Pravda tanks before being blown away.

The crowd is rooting for Ooarai the underdog as they continue to make their getaway with Pravda hot on their heels. Katyusha is so infatuated in chasing down their flag tank (volleyball team’s tank) that she doesn’t care or account a couple of Ooarai’s tanks just went ‘missing’ over the hill. Miho sends Yukari out so she can scout out enemy positions and their flag tank from a high tower. Heroine team and rekijo team are going after Pravda’s flag tank and will take them out while visibility is low so they leave it to the others to protect volleyball team. Unfortunately loli team and public morals team got taken out so volleyball team is left to fend themselves all alone in this scary ride. It’s amazing they manage to not get hit. Thank the bad weather. Pravda’s flag tank has been spotted so they start mobilizing. Their big cannon tank comes between them. Luckily their first shot misses and since it takes time to reload, they fire back and take it out. Yukari guides her teammates to corner Pravda’s flag tank. One of their tanks was hiding underneath the snow and takes it out but at the same time, volleyball team has been taken out too. So who was hit first?

Episode 10
Because the white flag on Pravda’s tank went up first, Ooarai wins! But of course. To show Katyusha isn’t a sore loser, she heads over to Miho and congratulates and shakes her hand. With Ooarai in the finals, their opponents will be Kuromorimine. Who else? The finals will allow up to 20 tanks! Does Ooarai have that many tanks? So the girls go on a ‘recruiting’ spree asking favours from the people to see if there are any abandoned tanks that they can salvage. Well they found one but despite its awesome firepower, it is horribly fragile. Gets stuck in mud easily, overheats easily and it’s on fire! Oh well, just make do with what they have. Because Miho asks the automotive club (who repairs and maintains their tanks) if they want to drive tanks, they accept the offer. Miho’s classmate, Nekota expresses her interest to join the club. But where to find another tank? Oh, there’s one sitting in the car park. Convenient? Nekota and her bunch of girls are online tank game nerds so they have some ‘experience’. Miho and friends take the day off and visit Hana who is taking part in a local flower exhibition. You can easily guess which flowers are hers. Yeah. See the tank shaped vases? They meet her mother there and it seems she has accepted her daughter embracing Senshadou because it made her a different person. On the day before the finals, Anzu gives her speech to her girls for moral support. She also has Miho give hers. She reveals she was once from Kuromorimine before transferring here but now considers Ooarai her home. That night, everyone do their stuffs and I thought it was pretty funny and superstitious to see them eating some kind of meal with katsudou in it. Saori shows her friends she has obtained second class licence as an amateur radio operator. Well, Mako had to pour cold water on it that she’s still an amateur. Saori’s next goal is to obtain a fiancée after the finals! Is she joking? She thinks Miho should get a boyfriend too. Well, aside that, Miho says she loves them all. Weird, right? Coming out from the mouth of a girl. Well, at least they aren’t yuri. Except maybe for Yukari.

On the day of the finals, Miho is visited by all the other teams she has defeated and also St Gloriana (who got defeated by Kuromorimine). Except maybe for Anzio because we never get to see them up close and personal. Still sore over that no-show… Anyway they are here to cheer on them. Before the match starts, the leader and vice of both teams meet to greet. Erika is still a b*tch and will put Miho and her team in place. We’ll see about that. But one of the Kuromorimine girls comes up to Miho to thank her. She was the one in the tank that fell into the river that Miho went to rescue (it caused them their title to Pravda). She feels guilty of letting her down and wanted to talk to her but she had left the school. But she is glad she has not abandoned Senshadou. Miho motivates her girls one more time and knows Kuromorimine would want to wipe them out fast with their number and firepower. So as the match begins, Ooarai girls can still chat like normal till they almost got hit by cannon fire! Seems Kuromorimine tanks have taken a shortcut through the forest and are firing all they’ve got. Plus, the forest hides their presence and Ooarai girls are in the open and sitting ducks. Erika is going to put Ooarai’s flag tank out of commission and gets ready to give the order to fire. Meanwhile online tank nerds team are having problem driving their tank. They didn’t know reality was harder than how the game operates. Duh… Because of that, they set the tank in reverse and took a shot from Erika’s fire and went out of the game. Their first appearance and this… But thankfully in a way they protected the flag tank, right?

Episode 10.5
WTF???!!! Another recap episode???!!! Why are they doing this me and also in the middle of an important match?! Just like the previous recap, we have Miho and Yukari narrating-cum-commenting on the-story-so-far. This time we have lots more trivia notes on the tanks despite the scenes re recycled. Also, new Ooarai teammates as well as the opponents they faced (the main characters only of course) are introduced (with the usual ‘uninteresting’ stats). Explained briefly as well are the match format (total annihilation which is equivalent to deathmatch in FPS and capture the flag) and the number of tanks limit introduced for the capture the flag format in the Nationals to allow smaller schools to participate. Also, some Butler System that allows Senshadou to be played safely and take into account how tanks go out based on the impact of the hit taken. Superb complicated stuffs. Otherwise… I think I just wasted another half hour. Back to the Ooarai-Kuromorimine match, please!

Episode 11
Ooarai uses smoke screen to shield their escape but Maho knows it’s a trap to waste their ammunition and orders her team not to fire. Ooarai escapes up the hill but Maho knows it will slow them down as they have a heavy tank. But to her surprise, the other tanks are dragging it up so Ooarai is making some headway to the top and continues to spill smoke screen all over the hilltop. Student council team stays behind and does some ambush, taking out 2 of Kuromorimine’s tanks. Then they run. Ooarai has taken a defensive position at the hilltop. When Maho gives the order to encircle them, Ooarai fires. No hits, seriously. Student council team is them given the green light to cause havoc. They drive up alongside Kuromorimine’s defence line! The opponents are taken by surprise as they try to get this little pest. Ooarai fires back but only manages to hit one. Then they all rush down with their last tank spewing smoke screen. Though Kuromorimine gives chase, their tanks are heavier and some of them have unreliable tracks and become immobilized. It will take time for them to get moving. Ooarai tanks are crossing the river but loli team’s engine dies. Miho is in a dilemma to push forward or to save them. Because if she chooses the latter, the enemy will come and they’ll be doomed. However her friends tell her to go save them and will look after the tank. Without hesitation, Miho ties a rope to herself and jumps to the loli team’s tank. I thought it looked unreal when she jumped. Did she enter some cheat code to ‘fly’? Everyone is amazed with Miho’s bravery as she chose friendship over advancing her tanks. That’s why they followed her. That’s why they want to win this to prove that her way is not wrong. Loli team’s tank is tied and pulled out of the river. Luckily their engine starts working again. Just in time to escape the incoming Kuromorimine tanks.

Ooarai tanks cross the tiny stone bridge and the automotive team use their skills to break it. This causes Kuromorimine to take a longer tour that will buy Ooarai some time. They are going to bring urban warfare to the game. Upon arriving in town, they spot a sole enemy tank and go after it thinking it would be a piece of cake. However it leads them into a trap because Kuromorimine has got one big mother tank! Maus is the heaviest tank in the world! Man, such a big mouse… How on Earth are you going to beat that! A single missed shot is enough to send you jumping! That’s what the student council team experienced. Public morals team fights back with their pea shooter, thinking this big mother is a big bully. They got a direct hit and turned turtle!!! OMG! Their tank is close to being destroyed! Even rekijo team too! I guess avenging your comrades isn’t such a good idea. Retreat while you still can! Oh, Kuromorimine are coming…

Episode 12
Now they’re employing a hit and run tactic but their shots are not enough to penetrate its thick armour. The mini enemy tank thinks they are safe hiding behind Maus but a stray shot hits them. Out they go. That’s what they get for being cocky. They need to end this or else urban warfare will get messier. Saori’s pessimism that they have a mountain to climb gives Miho an idea. She has student council team play chicken with it. Actually, they ram into Maus and jack it up! Now it is immobilized. Then, volleyball team rides up on it to block its turret from turning. With that, heroine team fires at the rear slit, which is the most vulnerable spot to put it out of commission! David(s) defeated Goliath! Unfortunately as a result, student council team’s tank goes bust since its metal cave in due to taking on such heavy weight. When the remaining Kuromorimine tanks arrive, the urban warfare begins. Ooarai tanks lead them in through the tight alleyways and small roads just to separate them into groups. Loli team is tasked to take out the heavier artillery tanks. This time they show they aren’t just cowards. Although their tank lacks firepower, it is swift. This means in the narrow lanes, they are able to circle behind their enemy (they can’t turn since their turret is too long) and fire at the place where shells are discarded for maximum impact. They also take on another heavy firepower tank but this time their plan backfired when they end up in open space. They retreat back in the small alley but the enemy is dead on their heels. To prevent them from firing, they stick as close to the enemy because their turret is long. They make a big risky gamble as they reach the end of the lane, they try to turn quick but get shot and went out of the game. However there is a big drain at the end so the enemy tank falls into it and has its turret broken. Also out. With their heavy guns out of the game, Maho orders her comrades to focus on the flag tank (which is heroine team). That won’t be easy since automobile team is fooling around and leading them astray till they can go no further. Volleyball team blocks the entrance to a town plaza to prevent other enemy tanks from interfering with the showdown between the flag tanks.

It’s a pretty exciting action as we see both tanks chase and fire at each other inside the enclosed town plaza. Lots of near misses and close shaves. However heroine team needs to win quickly because volleyball team has been fired to death out of the game and the Kuromorimine tanks are trying to force their way through. Hope this buys them enough time. Heroine team is the only Ooarai tank left. Miho decides to use that failed strategy they used against St Gloriana. This means Mako needs to make a circle at full speed, Yukari needs to reload faster and Hana must have accurate precision when she fires while moving. Can they do it? Of course they will! The all-or-nothing move begins. Both tanks fire at each other. Mako drifts the tank to circle it close up to the enemy. This drifting is taking its toll on the tank’s body. When both tanks are close enough, they fire simultaneously. Who emerges victorious from that smoke? OOARAI!!! Can you believe it?! Ooarai is the champion! Their teammates happily rush to congratulate them. Momo is the most emotional one. Anzu thanks and hugs Miho. Now their school will not shut down because… We are the champions, my friends… As gesture of goodwill, Sodoko erases all records of Mako being late or absent. She is so happy that she sounds creepy giving out this much emotion. Need a hug, Sodoko? To show good sportsmanship and that Maho is not a snobbish b*tch, she congratulates her sister, smiles and shakes her hands. She notes her fighting style suits her very much and very unlike the Nishizumi way. Ooarai are crowned the champions and everybody, friend and foe cheer to their victory. Even Miho’s mom too. Our Ooarai girls return to a hero’s welcome. Don’t you just love it when the underdogs win? Oh, Momo is still crying…

OVAs

These are actually specials that last 10-15 minutes when you buy the DVDs.

OVA 1
Because Anzu suggests for a Senshadou match on a tropical island, this prompts the girls to go buy swimsuits because Miho doesn’t have one. So we see the girls trying out all sorts of swimsuit fashion. From bikinis to contemporary ones, sexy and frilly ones, old fashioned and the bizarre too. Yeah, that includes scuba diving and NAVY seals. And what would be swimsuit for them without the tank designs too? Girls, are you even serious? Well, Yukari, Hana and Saori are looking like they’re having absolute fun. Even the other teams trying out their own theme. Bizarre? Scary? But they’re sure having fun. Are those even qualified as swimsuits? At the end of the day, Miho remembers she forgot to buy one. Don’t worry. Yukari has bought one just in case. Yeah. She knows her exact size measurements! Oh sh*t… And so the much awaited beach fanservice is here for all of us who wait. Wohoo! Sexy tank girls in cute swimsuits. Nothing offensive, mind you. And when the girls are about to jump into the sea, it starts raining heavily. Bummer…

OVA 2
Our girls are now going camping. Yeah. They have the place all exclusive for themselves and need not worry about perverts. We see the enthusiastic loli team getting to enthusiastic that they jump into the river without warming up and got cram. Student council team saves them. When it’s time to put up the tent, Mako feels everything is so troublesome and just sleeps on it! Yukari explains how to set up WWII tents but I guess the rest are more amazed at the modern and easy-to-setup tent. Heartbreaking, isn’t it? Of course it would be a waste not to experience setting up a tent the old way so the girls learn to put them up. After having fun in the river, it’s time for BBQ. Yukari has brought her military rations collected from all over the world. I don’t know why but loli team start spamming the word spam. Yukari also teaches about MRE (Meals Rejected by Enemy) and the different pricing of rations as collector’s item. Everyone prepares the BBQ but Yukari prepares to do it the old fashion way by cooking with fire. Loli team got too eager in grilling the BBQ that they put everything onto the grill and cause a big fire. Student council team steps in to rescue again. But with lots of food wasted, Anzu shows off her great cooking skills to cook our girls a pretty delicious meal. She may not look like it but she’s good. Everyone watches the beautiful starry sky and notes they have one more training session left before the match. Till they realize that is why Anzu brought them here to this training grounds so they can drive their tanks all they want.

OVA 3
The thought of why schools are built on large ships crosses the girls’ mind. Yeah. They couldn’t believe that they were once built on land. Though elementary schools are still on land. That’s because you can’t expect them to operate a ship, right? Holy cow! You mean this ship is operated by young school girls? No wonder I see girls in navy uniform in the ship’s deck and so. Anyway from what I understand, one of the reasons schools on ships is to cultivate that independent sense. Also, somebody once said education is necessary to be conducted on water. With this method proven, many follow suit and scores of ships rolled out after that. This also improves the economy and the industry and benefited the nation. As they have no idea of the school’s history, the best way is to tour around. We learn why steps on ships are single traffic because making them double traffic would be chaotic in times of trouble. When the girls reach the top deck (apart from Mako having fear of heights), they have an overhead view of the city. It’s like a mini city on its own. Theirs can house 10,000 people, including staffs, crews and students. They also tour the ship’s deck and talk about students who take naval studies. Their courses might be free but they have to work hard in operating the ship. Energy sources from the sun, air and sea are also discussed. The ship is also fitted with its own fish breeding ponds and water treatment. How did they build this ship so big? Well, they are built in massive blocks so it’s impossible to cross over. That’s why people live on the top. After walking around the big place, the girls feel tired and go soak in a well deserved outdoor bath. They note that every school is different and has its own feel. Although Ooarai feels worn and messy, it feels comfortable and well maintained.

OVA 4
This one only lasts 3 over minutes! Why? Because it’s the full dance version of the anglerfish dance! We see the girls dressed in tight pink anglerfish suit as they dance to the strange tune with equally strange dance moves. Moving their hands, shaking their butts, jiggling here and there. Oh, those movements… No wonder it’s embarrassing! Even the ang-ang-ang lyrics are equally amusing, funny and weird. Yeah, part of it includes on how to eat it! I wouldn’t be caught dead trying to imitate this! Let’s say I would prefer to do Gangnam Style compared to this… Sheesh…

OVA 5
This one happened during the match with Pravda where Ooarai girls were trapped in the building and Miho sent some scouts out, particularly Yukari and one of the rekijo team girls, Erwin. When Erwin’s feet feels cold, they take a break and Yukari puts some pepper to make it warm. We learn about the types of boots used in cold wars and how it kept the soldiers’ feet warm. They also talk about some story of an exercise between JDSF and American army. The latter panicked because the cold wave struck. The JDSF was holding out because they had heating pads and were trained in cold conditions. Heck, they were seen playing snowball fight! True or not, we don’t know. Continuing their mission, they spot the enemy location but decide to take the complete loop back. It is when the blizzard grows heavier so Yukari armed with her trusty little spade digs a temporary cave to hide in. When it simmers down, they trek till they see the enemy’s flag tank. They dress up in Pravda’s coat (why were the coats hanging outside some building?!) and talk to a member of the flag tank while impersonating as her seniors. In their talk, she reveals about Katyusha’s child-like habits and more importantly the position of the other tanks as well as its attributes and firepower. Now that they’ve got their hands on the juicy bits, they bid farewell and hurry back, eager to report their findings.

OVA 6
The Ooarai girls are celebrating their victory. After reading out a few congratulatory notes from other schools, we skip them because it’s really boring, right? We know St Gloriana, Pravda and Saunders but who the heck is Chihatan Academy? Now on to the main event. Student council team wants everyone to perform a hidden talent and the winner will get a grand prize worth 100,000 Yen. Are you up for it? First up is public morals team. After singing a weird song, they do cheap tricks like cloning and teleportation. Hey. They all look the same, right? Nobody is amused. Next is the automobile team and they do a magic trick of transforming a tank into another. Don’t worry. They’re just card boards. Online tank nerds team were quickly put out of their act when they started humming some strange song nobody understands. Loli team performs cheerleading worthy acts while volleyball team mimics others. Hana is particularly interested in this game as she eagerly guesses correctly all that they imitate before they could even start! But she couldn’t guess when they are imitating her! And she got so disappointed when it ended… Rekijo team puts on a Little Women play but were disqualified since they were putting in too many of their history facts inside the dialogue. Next is heroine team collaborating with student council team. The former put on some kung fu pose in this Power Rangers spoof to defeat the evil monsters. Anzu acts out of script and defeats them. Finally it is the student council team’s turn as they put on a Swan Lake ballet dance. Momo spins into perfection… And so the results are in. Third place goes to loli team. Heroine gets second place and first place… Student council team! Hey! That isn’t fair! They won the grand prize of 100,000 Yen worth of top quality dried potatoes. Hmm… Come to think of it, maybe the third place prize of shopping district lottery and second place prize of cafeteria coupons aren’t so bad after all.

Tanks For The Ride!
What can I say? I am truly thrilled and amazed at this series. In short, I love it! It’s awesome! It is mainly thanks to the good execution of tank action and strategy that really got my attention and I was really glued to the screen for the duration. At least during the tank battles. Each time it ended, I just couldn’t help wish it was longer. Having cute girls piloting the tanks is just like icing on the cake. Well, that is what anime is all about. Would you prefer to see burly and sweaty men spewing vulgarities while trying to shoot each other in those big machines? Think not. So high school girls for the win! Even if you are not a tank enthusiast, the tank battles are quite entertaining so I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Unless your taste differs very much from this.

The action is simply fantastic and I love the strategies both sides come up with. It is the main ‘selling point’ of the series. But of course we are put in the shoes of Miho as we see her natural talent leading her team to victory. There is never a dull moment when I watch the tanks go into action. I was really glued to the screen and when the episode or battle ends, it feels that I have lost track of time. I wanted it to last longer but as they say, good things must come to an end. I always looked forward to the battles and the excitement is such that I was drawn into this world. Unfortunately it didn’t really get my interest up in tanks after the battle ends. There are a number of trivia here if you’re a tank or battle enthusiast. Just look at this link at Anime News Network. Amazing, no?

I have a feeling that the opponents Ooarai fights in this series, it’s like the producers wanted to pit Japan against other famous tank nations. So we’ve seen them go up against the British, Americans, Italians, Russians/Soviet Union and finally the Germans themselves. No Poles, French or Czech types? Well, not enough to put them all into this anime. I don’t know what Japanese tanks are but I suppose with cute girls of Ooarai and with them having different personalities, maybe they represent what Japanese tanks are! Hah! More like cosplay, no? Besides, Ooarai is the only team whose members wear sailor school uniform into battle. Notice how the rest of their opponents’ uniform resembles so much like the military? And they still lost… Cute high school girls for the win!

At first I thought it was pretty unfair that Ooarai had to battle with opponents who have double the amount of tanks in their field. Although there is a rule that limits how many tanks you can field into each round, it looked only unfair to Ooarai because the issue is from their side as they do not have enough tanks in the first place. That is why the capture the flag method is the game play for the nationals. You can field in 100 tanks but each side only has a flag tank. Just like in chess, if you take out the king, your entire team goes out. Therefore in this context, the game to both sides is fair. But still, I feel that because of the lack in numbers, it made a little disadvantage to Ooarai since if they had extra tanks, they could have employed it for other positions and missions. Imagine having 2 players mark 1 member of the opposing team. That’s not fair, right? But it shows that quantity is not the key to victory. As proven, Miho’s strategy and strong heart is the one that led her small team to victory despite her opponents having more and better equipped tanks. Oddly, the only team that Ooarai lost to is St Gloriana and that is because it wasn’t really an important match. Just a friendly. Besides, it’s the only non capture the flag match in the series. See? They win matches when it counts the most, right?

Character wise, we only see character development in a handful of the main characters. Because there are too many members even if it’s a small school and club for Ooarai, it wouldn’t be enough for just a dozen of episodes to cover everyone. So I guess from the way I see it, everybody develops together and progresses as a group and team. They quickly put their trust and respect in Miho after she leads them to victory. If you don’t trust your commander, who are you going to trust? That’s why it is an important point that all the girls of Ooarai’s Senshadou club have 100% unwavering faith in Miho. She has grown up to take charge of her own life and not run away. She thought not having to face Senshadou again would be the end of her problem but it is not really Senshadou that was keeping her low self confidence. She could have gone through the rest of her school life in Ooarai uneventful but would she feel happy and fulfilled? Didn’t look like it to me when she cut herself away. At first she may seem reluctant after being dragged back but with the support of her friends, she learns to accept and overcome her shortcomings and in no time bloom into a natural leader with her own style.

Miho’s other friends are also likeable as they have their own personalities. Like Yukari she is the most resourceful among the group and her knowledge not only in tanks but anything that is related to wards would prove beneficial and advantageous to her mates in battle. She’s quite a handy person if you’re in a little pinch. But her obsession and wide knowledge as a tank otaku may make her sound creepy in the sense that it doesn’t make her feminine. What the heck. She doesn’t care about that but her tanks, right? Speaking of feminine, Hana and Saori sure have some feminine qualities but it is odd to see them doing something un-feminine in Senshadou, right? Saori’s always talking about wanting to have a boyfriend but gradually I notice she doesn’t bring this up as much as Ooarai progresses. Maybe she’ll snag one now that they are champions? Hana is beautiful with her long flowing black silky hair and of course it is funny that she loves to fire. More exciting than flower arranging? I’m sure her beauty could prove to be a fatal distraction should she be on the front lines of the battlefield. Finally there is Mako whom I feel is the tsukkomi of the group. Despite her sleepy demeanour and only thinking about sleep or extra credits, she sure has a knack for commenting in-your-face punch lines with that monotonous voice.

The other notable characters of Ooarai are the student council team. Anzu is cool and is always very carefree. Whether the situation is getting bad or good, she is just casual and never panics. It’s like everything is part of her plan or she has some sort of way to overcome it. I guess it is better than panicking like Momo, huh? I still can’t get over the fact that she’s a bad shooter. It could have been the running joke of the series but thankfully Anzu switches with her so that she could make most of her shots count. Plus, Momo feels like the most emotional one among the girls. She easily gets excited or impatient (and even pessimistic) during tank battles and has short temper and fuse, easily breaks down and becomes emotional. Man, that’s a lot of fluctuating emotions for a girl. Ooarai could have been an unstable place if she helms the president position. Thank God for Anzu. As for Yuzu, I thought her role as being the student council’s lackey is going to be a running joke since Anzu usually dumps most of the jobs on her. But when you’re in a team with Miho as the big commander, I guess everyone had their role to play.

Then there’s the loli team who were once scared little girls. They’ve owned up for their earlier mistakes and learn what it means to be a team. Rekijo team isn’t bad either but I thought they were going to be annoying by spamming us with their history lines or act like their favourite historical personalities or something. Fortunately that didn’t happen but it also means that they don’t make much of an impact (as in, if they’re supposed to be like their personalities, they should be dominating, right?). It is odd to see the volleyball team doing Senshadou but even if the reason for them joining is to revive their club, I wonder how the heck this condition was made. Were they threatened by the student council like how they did to Miho? But seeing that they end up having as much fun as the rest of the girls, I wonder if they want to revive their club again. Is their number one passion now Senshadou or volleyball?

Newer teams I feel are just there to make up for the numbers although I don’t feel it’s a bad thing since Miho had her strategies for their roles. But in terms of character development, there is nothing much to be said. Public morals team are obsessed in keeping the order so by some twisted logic they join Senshadou just to bring that order. Sodoko and Mako’s relationship is amusing because it’s like a love-hate relationship with the latter always calling her Sodoko nickname much to her dismay despite several warnings. It’s like they did it on purpose. In a way, it’s like they get along well with each other, no? Automobile team has potential talent in Senshadou because who knows the tanks better inside and out (aside Yukari, that is) than those who maintain it? Lastly, online tank nerds team’s cameo appearance felt comical because they were taken out so early. But as we see it, it’s a blessing in disguise. Now do you realize why online games and handling stuffs in reality are totally different? You thought firing a gun from a first person shooter game was piece of cake, eh?

Just like in shonen animes, the enemies that they defeat or at least put up a formidable and close fight become their friend. After the first match with St Gloriana, I don’t know if Darjeeling has picked up a penchant of quoting idioms from all around the world because that is what she always does while sipping her tea watching Ooarai in action. Has she become an Ooarai fan because she seems to frequent their matches. Then there is that boisterous loud Kei that stereotypes what Americans look like in the eyes of foreigners. Arisa is perhaps the worst kind of character in the series, surpassing bratty Katyusha and even Erika because they are gracious in defeat and were professional. In times of trouble, a person’s true colour is seen. When you’ve got a chief like her in distressful times, team morale obviously goes all time low. So she serves as an important reminder that the higher ups play a vital role down the line that ensures the crew’s self-esteem and the team’s ultimate success.

I’m not sure about the fanservice but definitely I’m not here for this. There are a few scenes of the girls soaking in the bath with the obligatory white lights censoring out the necessary parts. Will this come undone in the BDs? Well, I’m not interested to find out since I’m more into the tank action. Besides, I don’t think many of them are that physically endowed, right? I don’t want the fanservice to ruin such a great show. On a trivial note, if this series did have a decent amount of fanservice, I would have nicknamed it as Girls UNDerwear PANtsu tease-ZER…!!! Haha!!! Really! I can’t believe I thought up of this one…

The series also does a good job in keeping viewers informed with some of the tank details, tank operations or certain information about the wars. Although I am blur when it comes to the explanation since I’m a total noob when it comes to this area, nevertheless I feel it is quite informative especially with Yukari as the tank and war nerd, she is quite knowledgeable about them. To a point that if she was in the army back in those old days, she might have led her country to victory! Oh wait, she isn’t a good strategist like Miho so it still is no use if she doesn’t have a good commander to make use of her good skills. With such information of the different tanks and different attributes they have, a good thing is that they don’t overwhelm us with such data and manages to let us enjoy the show without turning this into some tank documentary. I know the tank model numbers are a headache for me and I can’t even remember a single one of them. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying this show. Till this day, I can’t name the tanks our Ooarai girls have or even tell apart which team rides which tank despite obvious physical differences. I’m such a bad memorizer…

There are a lot of casts for a single season anime thanks to the several teams which at least have 3 people per team. As usual I couldn’t recognize Yuka Iguchi as Mako because she was putting on that sleepy-cum-dead and monotonous tone unlike her bratty and annoying Index from To Aru Majutsu No Index or Maria from Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai. But I believe this isn’t the first time she has voiced such a role. I remember she did the same as Mero in Sankarea. Hisako Kanemoto (Ika in Shinryaku! Ika Musume) was the voice behind Katyusha. Although there is nothing wrong with her voicing this loli, I thought Rie Kugimiya would sound best to do this bratty loli. The rest of the main casts include Mai Fuchigami as Miho (Maekawa in Denpa Onna To Seishun Otoko), Ai Kayano as Saori (Ai in OreShura), Ikumi Nakagami as Yukari (Keiko in Futari Wa Milky Holmes), Mami Ozaki as Hana (this is her debut and her only other anime role is Fuuri Watanuki in SoniAni), Misato Fukuen as Anzu (Natsume in Hidamari Sketch), Kana Ueda as Momo (Rin in Fate/Stay Night), Mikako Takahashi as Yuzu (Rushuna in Grenadier), Shiori Izawa as Sodoko (Mayumi in Gin No Saji), Rie Tanaka as Maho (Suigin Tou in Rozen maiden), Eri Kitamura as Darjeeling (Dee in Kamisama Inai No Nichiyoubi), Ayako Kawasumi as Kei (Nodame in Nodame Cantabile) and Hitomi Nabatame as Erika (Margery Daw in Shakugan No Shana).

Because I like this anime, somehow the generic opening and ending anime themes sound quite likeable. DreamRiser by ChouCho is your typical upbeat and lively anime pop opening song while Enter Enter Mission by quintet voices of heroine team is a cute girl group anime pop. What is even cuter are the girls in chibi form riding their tank and bopping about. But the music that scores and personally my favourite are the background music. Most of them are those military and marching songs and I love the main theme, Panzer Vor which has this playful and fun feel to it. I can’t get help hum this tune each time I think of this series. So addictive that I can’t get it out of my head! Though there are a variety of other tunes from battle themes to casual and slow ones, the best ones are still the military and marching themes although I feel that some of them are just variations of Panzer Vor. So much soundtrack that they have to split it into 2 discs! The first disc is the main soundtrack while the second one contains other songs which include vocals (including Katyusha’s theme and the anglerfish song) and familiar military pieces written by other foreign composers such as Battle Hymn of the Republic, The British Grenadiers and US Field Artillery March.

I’m not going to bore you about the friendship and teamwork theme that sees Ooarai working their way to victory by beating heavy favourites. And also about that trust and believe thingy. We all know how important those are. Despite my triple (or even quadruple) thumbs up for this series, however I won’t say that I have turned into a tank enthusiast after watching this. Sure, cute girls and tanks are a weird but deadly-cum-amusing combination. Still not enough to turn me into a tank otaku in that sense. But I will definitely come back to watch Ooarai in action if there is going to be another sequel. Since they’ve conquered Japan, maybe now they can do so for the world? After all, they’ve got some experience taking on some ‘localized foreigners’, right? If tanks are kept for only sporting purposes and could foster greater ties and relationships among us, I don’t even mind and would even support it. Then maybe I should give Tanks Online a try…

At least it didn’t take years. When the sequel spin-off to the mahjong anime series somewhat ended abruptly, it was announced that there were going to be additional episodes to end the all important semi-final match but without telling the dates of those episodes. So after around half a year or so, Saki: Episode Of Side A or also known as Saki: Achiga Hen has finally come to a close with 4 additional episodes. I clearly remember that I wasn’t into this mahjong game because of all the crazy terms and hands. I never understood a single one of them. So I had no idea about the scoring system or the impact if they landed a certain hand at certain positions. It took away the fun. There was no fun. So why am I watching this? Because I love to finish what I started. It is a good thing that no more episodes came out after that. That would be tad sad. I would be screaming my head off and pulling out my hairs. Considering if I am still sticking to my belief of finishing what I started. And even before the series started, I already had an idea who is going to make it (just like I predicted in my last blog). So let me get over this mahjong game for one last time. I’ve sit through 2 seasons of it so how bad can it get?

Episode 13
As the second match begins, Harue starts playing matches with Kuro so that she could revive her dora. By the time she has played enough games, she will have that dora feature by the time Achiga reaches the finals. In the second round, the match pitches Achiga’s Yuu with Senriyama’s Izumi Nijou, Shiraitodai’s Sumire Hirose and Shindouji’s Yasuko Yasukouchi. Yasuko seems to be making big wins, a very different playing style from what is previously known from her as she usually goes for cheap wins. At the same time, Sumire the sharp shooter is targeting Izumi and has her stepping into her trap and lose big. Yuu remembers Harue once told her that if she makes it to the finals, her opponent would most likely be Sumire. How true that has become. She has pulled some strings and has got several play records and videos on her. There is a sign to tell whom Sumire is targeting and you can know if you carefully watch her finger followed by her eye movement. Yuu realizes she is Sumire’s next target and learning from this valuable information, not only she manages to dodge Sumire’s attacks but let her to be played into her hand as well. Not once, but many times. The other Shiraitodai girls wonder if Sumire has a telltale sign that is allowing Yuu to circumvent her attacks. They try to look into the replays but couldn’t find anything. At the end of the game, Senriyama suffered very heavy losses. So disheartened Izumi had become that she spaces out. She can’t bear to go back to face her other members but her fellow comrade Sera tells her not to think too much. They always have next year. Even though Sera is in her third year, it’s all the more reason why they have to go all out and do their best. Wow. After the first game that lasted for several episodes, this one just lasted for half an episode!!! Surprise, surprise.

So the third round begins. Players for this round include Achiga’s Ako, Shiratodai’s Takami Shibuya and Shindouji’s Hitomi Ezaki (blame politics!). Izumi goes back to her team’s room and is told by her comrade that age does matter in the finals so it is no surprise that first years like Izumi will get beaten up by third year players. Of course there are exceptions with first year geniuses. Too bad Izumi isn’t one of them. At the end of the first half of this round, Sera is raking up the points and wins quickly while Hitomi further falls behind. Ako returns to her room and they discuss about Takami. Based on her record, she has this history of pulling off some yakuman hand in the final round. They know it is not coincidence but there is a pattern to it. They know the kind of draws and hands not to make in order to not let Takami get in that situation but it is easier said than done. The match resumes and Ako finds herself in unfavourable positions. She has no choice but to carry on playing. Sera also continues her winnings till Senriyama takes over Achiga for second spot in the current standings. Though, there are a handful of times Ako is able to stop Sera’s hand. Now it comes down to the final hand and they are expecting Takami to pull off her yakuman. Yeah. She too is anticipating the seeds she has sown will now turn into plants and bear fruit.

Episode 14
Ako has a really bad hand does some analyzing but it’s too late because Takami has already pulled off her hand with some daisangen. At the end of the match, Sera scores the most followed by Ako. Although Takami won big in the last round, the overall score for Shiraitodai still dropped. Losing lots of points is of course Hitomi. Blame politics! And now for the fourth round. Arata will represent Achiga while the very analytical Hiroko represents Senriyama. If Shiraitodai had an archer, this time they have a fisher! I don’t really understand but as explained Seiko Matano will call 3 times before winning. And true enough for the first round, she fishes out her tiles and draws first blood. For Shindouji, Mairu Shirouzu seems to have this link with Himeko Tsuruhime. Their wins are linked and Himeko always plays after Mairu. In that way, Himeko’s wins are doubled but if Mairu doesn’t win, Himeko won’t. In other words, if Mairu limits herself not to win a particular hand, Himeko also won’t win that hand. Geddit? I think… So I guess that is what this ‘torture’ scene whereby Mairu puts a limit on herself, tries to release herself from chains and sends the winning key to Himeko. I just don’t get it. We take a short break from the battleground to see Hajime and Koromo visiting Saki in her room. They talk about Nodoka and remember she had a childhood friend back in Achiga because they played them during their training stint. Seems they ended up making Achiga stronger and warn to beware their fifth player who is somewhat ‘problematic’. Harue calls Shizuno to warm up her game and she doesn’t just want to go up a gear but 10 gears!

While Mairu continues her reservation release thingy, Seiko falls into Hiroko’s trap. Before they know it, the quietest girl whom they seem to ignore from the very start, makes her move. Arata pounces on them with some bowling move. You throw a tile like throwing a bowling ball? What kind of style is that? I guess this is the price to pay for not noticing her. Hiroko doesn’t have much data on her but even if she had little, she notices her old fashioned playing style due to some long hiatus or someone she looked up a long time ago. Seiko further falls into Hiroko’s trap and Mairu continues to get more ‘winning keys’ for Himeko. Hiroko is closing in on Arata and thinks she can pip her to second place. Everyone thinks they are safe from Arata as long as it is anything but circle tiles. But she surprises with a different move and causes them to lose lots of points. Flashback of Arata tells us why she was chosen because of her level headedness. She didn’t realize the responsibility and expectations she shouldered till she went through lots of such situations. It was the support of her people that made her pulled through. People entrusted her with things. She is here because of their feelings. She wondered if Harue went through something similar. So with this shocking move, she has closed Achiga’s gap with Shiraitodai at the top. A direct mangan hit could well put her in top spot. Now everyone is wary of Arata. Mairu needs to go reckless because the little points she’s got won’t change anything. Hiroko thinks of playing it safe when she realizes a rare data she remembered on Arata. Her old fashioned playing style is from Harue as well as a mix of her own. She realizes the sentiments of Achiga in the semi-finals. The strong wills the pupils are mustering for their teacher. It is revenge 10 years in the making.

Episode 15
Toki is recuperating well in hospital and even has a wise crack. The fourth round ends with Shiraitodai barely clinging on to top spot and Achiga close on their heels. Shizuno is fired up to go next but first she is made to put on her school uniform. Even the most tomboyish girls did that when they enter the battlefield. So accompanying Shizuno for the final match are Shindouji’s Himeko, Senriyama’s Ryuuka Shimizudani and Shiraitodai’s Awai Oohoshi who is said to be Teru’s successor. Instantly as the match begins, Awai unleashes her demonic aura. It makes everyone start with a bad and slow hand. Wow. Is this possible? But Himeko takes a chance and decides to use her mangan key and break the spell. This proves fruitful as her baiman gets Shindouji out from last place and into second. Ryuuka is low on confidence. If only Toki was here. Flashback of their bonds together and she feels that their bond too is unbreakable. Because Toki always uses her lap as a lap pillow, she can still feel Toki’s presence. And yeah. More like Toki’s spirit comes to talk to her and give her hints on the current round! Ryuuka is able to see into the future and the best tiles for the current round. However she can’t use Toki often as there is a limit to how many times she can call her for help. There’s always a limit to every super power, eh? Following the guides, Ryuuka is able to make up some points and because all the teams are very close together, any big win will have them leap into first place. For now, Senriyama is occupying that spot and dethrones Shiraitodai. But that will only be a brief moment since Himeko strikes back and reclaims top spot.

Awai couldn’t hold it in much longer and wants to unleash her specialty. Something that was supposed to be saved for the grand finals. I guess she couldn’t wait since she is playing with top players. Seems this double riichi call of hers must be so great that her hair is standing on ends! It’s like she’s in friction land! Did she turn into some kind of hair monster? Shizuno notices Awai’s double riichi and it is coming. She remembers Harue telling her about Awai. Shiraitodai consists of multiple teams and those who win get to advance to the Nationals. Awai who is under Teru’s team is an attacking team which means her abilities are offensive nature. She also shows a video of her opponent’s facial reaction moments before Awai declared her double riichi. It’s like she saw a ghost!!! That scary, huh? Why do they have cameras focusing on the girl’s face anyway? Harue also warns there are several things to look out for when a double riichi is called. And looks like Awai is already setting it in motion. Shizuno makes a wise move in backing down because had she not like Himeko, she would have fallen into her trap and lost points. Shiraitodai moves back up. It is predicted that Awai will win in the next few rounds but it seems nothing much happens. Till Shizuno pulls off a shocking move that has her opponents starting to take notice of her. With that move, it allows Achiga to go top and avoid some penalty. First half is over too. After the short break, the battle to decide the 2 schools that will advance to the finals begins.

Episode 16
Awai is back on the offensive with her riichi and double riichi call. But Himeko won’t give up yet and uses her mangan key to fight stave off Awai. As some have already noticed, Awai’s power is not totally invincible because there are some hands that she doesn’t win. Even Seiko herself mentions she did beat that double riichi of hers though it was a despicable tactic. Awai continues he win over Himeko. Hiroko talks to us about mountains and corners in the mahjong tiles, something she just observed that prevented Awai from winning. Then we shift a little to Shizuno’s flashback whereby she was running around the mountains at full speed like as though it was her own backyard. So what is the significance of these? According to Hiroko, due to the eyes of the dies that Awai won her double riichi games, the dice decide where the corner will be. So certain numbers will mean the corners are deep in the wall and this means they are under Shizuno’s territory. I don’t get that. Seriously. It really is her territory when the scene starts to get misty. Awai can’t see clearly and she can’t use her usual power. It forces her to take notice of Shizuno. And she’s starting to be afraid of her that she dropped her tile! There’s fire aura coming out from Shizuno!!! But Shizuno is one cool cat! Because of Shizuno’s influence, Awai’s power seems to be waning. Himeko and Ryuuka start noticing this. Ryuuka heightens her senses to the max. Hmm… She can see body temperature, heart beat and breathing. I don’t know how that enables her to see the opponent’s next tile or move. Shizuno surprises everyone by going for a cheap win. Himeko is feeling the strain of getting lost in the mountains is affecting her bond with Mairu. Going into the final round, suddenly it hit Awai. Achiga currently is in top spot while Shiraitodai in dead last. Due to some circumstances and Shizuno’s cheap win, even if Awai direct hits Shizuno, she will be tied in points with Achiga. And because of dealer preference, Achiga will rank higher than Shiraitodai which means they will end up in third. Dragging Achiga down from first is impossible now. She can’t even do double riichi on her last hand.

But Awai realizes it would be an insult to aim for second place just to qualify for the finals and will give it all she’s got to aim for top spot. Her dilemma is to whether to declare riichi. The rest are just one move from winning their game. Then Awai declares riichi, thinking winning off Achiga or drawing will put her in first place (unless she calls some hand that ends up with that draw points and dealer order preference thingy). Just when Awai makes her winning move, Shizuno tells her to check her tiles. Awai thinks Shizuno hasn’t accepted defeated and checks anyway. To her surprise, it wasn’t the tiles she expected. Those tiles mean she isn’t in her territory. I don’t know what that means but I know the game has ended! Yahoo! The semi-finals ended for good! Yahoo! Safe to say, Achiga is through to the finals at top spot while Shiraitodai sneaks in at second place. It is a tearful goodbye for Senriyama and Shindouji team but you know, you-did-your-best comfort thingy. Harue becomes emotional that she has finally overcome this stage. Since teams who qualify for the finals have the right to visit the different stage that they will be playing, Achiga takes this chance to have a look. Harue is surprised to see her pro mahjong colleague. Harue is not afraid like before because she has the Achiga girls behind her. That’s when she decides that she wants to try her hand at being a pro player. Shizuno and co rejoice at her decision while the other semi-finals that involve Kiyosumi get ready to play.

Is This Mahjong They’re Playing?
In the end… I never get it! Not a single bit. The scoring, the terms, the analysis and the possibility of the outcomes of their hands (especially those explained by Hiroko). Even when I used terms like baiman, riichi, yakuman and the likes in this blog, I still don’t really understand the meaning behind them. It is regrettable that I sometimes feel that I have wasted my time watching something that I do not fully comprehend but on the bright side, I managed to finish this series! Wohoo! What an achievement! A feat in the wrong department… But all is not bad because the only thing that I truly enjoyed and never cease to be amazed is the exaggerated special effects. Yes! The way they throw the tiles and the aura they emanate seem to make it funny. I know they mean serious business but look at it from my point of view. They’re just playing mahjong, right? Wow. So much of these power ups and special effects just to win some hand. The thundering and lightning effects, the tile on flames, the different dimensions that they go to and yeah, even a little visit from a friend’s spirit. Ridiculous, no? It’s like they’re not playing mahjong but in some supernatural game that looks like mahjong. Get what I’m saying? Anyway, those special effects are the best moments in making me smile in what would have been a very dull and draggy game. Besides, I think this is the main reason why this show is ‘exciting’. It’s spiced up with lots of those effects. You don’t want to see just girls making normal plain boring moves, right?

As expected, Achiga and Shiraitodai advance to the finals. But during the episodes, I feel that Achiga’s presence from all their representatives feels lacking. I think they try to give the other teams have more screen time and not focus too much on Achiga since each one of them have their peculiar special ability. In a sense it is quite well spread out but seeing that this anime series is about Achiga, in a way it feels that they are just sitting around until they make some surprise move or one that would give their opponents a little jolt. Just like how in the original TV series I remember, Kuro was reduced to some ‘useless cry-baby’ with the might of Teru dominating almost all the way and Toki using her life threatening ability to stop her. I thought Shizuno would be making more impact since she is the fifth player and what I believe to be the ace. However it was spread out with Awai dominating in her freaky monstrous fashion way while Himeko and Ryuuka try to put the brakes on her. I know it is tough having to settle for second place but at least they qualified for the finals. Just like the fate of screen time among the Achiga girls, it is somewhat limited till that mountain backyard crap kicked it. Not that I fully understand. Yeah. Mahjong is like the wilderness. If you don’t understand it, you can get lost and lose your life.

In the end, it is a good thing that I never got hooked on mahjong. Because as I said this game in my country is viewed as a gambler’s game. Gamblers have a bad reputation, you know. It’s bad being a gambler anyway. It is a bad thing that I did not pick this up because from the way I see the girls play, it keeps your mind sharp, analytical of all the possibilities and makes you good in calculation. If there is going to be another sequel whereby our main characters from Kiyosumi and Achiga meet in the finals, I’m not sure if I want to watch it. I know it is for the sake of finishing and completing this series as a whole. But what are the chances? I don’t want to go through another season of cracking my brains so hard and end up understanding nothing and only getting lots of headache. Hah. How can I even hurt my brains when I don’t even have them. Haha! Better watch more mindless ecchi comedy series. I think those provide better food to my brain.

Saki: Episode of Side A

December 1, 2012

Erm… Again, please tell what is riichi, kan or pon? It seems I haven’t learnt much from the last time I watched that mahjong themed Saki but that didn’t stop me from watching the sequel spin-off, Saki: Episode of Side A or also known as Saki: Achiga Hen. As the title suggests, the main focus of the mahjong school club here isn’t Kiyosumi and despite the titular character in the series’ name, she only makes periodic appearances. Instead, we are focused on the Achiga School’s mahjong club which has been in the doldrums for so many years. I guess this makes the perfect setting for sports anime whereby dark horses and no hopers will suddenly pop out of nowhere and beat the veteran favourites to reach the Nationals.

In the original Saki series, Kiyosumi’s Nodoka has a few friends of her own and has transferred schools so frequently that sometimes you think it is part of her destiny. Just kidding. But it’s true that Nodoka had to leave behind her mahjong friends during her middle school years at Achiga due to circumstances. The only thing they had in common that connected them? You should’ve already guessed it: Mahjong. So when her friends see the mahjong prodigy on TV, they decide that they should go meet her again. Of course a normal meeting wouldn’t suffice so it has to be one whereby it will be through a game of mahjong tournament. But to do that, they have to beat the local mahjong powerhouse of Bansei in their prefecture before they can go anywhere near that goal. And thus begins Achiga’s quest to reach the Nationals to see their beloved friend and in the process, we see them bond, improve their skills and defy all odds just for that simple thing called friendship. I didn’t know mahjong can do that.

Episode 1
In this flashback episode, Shizuno Takakamo and Ako Atarashi make friends with new transfer student Nodoka Haramura. Because Nodoka isn’t as physically fit as the duo, they ask what her good points are besides studying. Her reply? Mahjong. So the elementary kids make their way to Achiga Girls’ Middle School’s children mahjong club. Despite the club being abandoned, it is filled with kids learning to play mahjong. OMG. Future gamblers. They introduce her to Harue Akado who is a college student but coaches children on mahjong. Akado sees a bright future in her. In her boobs. Eek! Well, at least Nodoka is very well endowed for her age. They play a demo match and find Nodoka to be quite good so they call in Kuro Matsumi, supposedly the best of the lot. Yeah, she too is sexually harassing Nodoka over her big boobs. Anyway Nodoka cannot believe the superstition that all the dora hand goes to Kuro. It must be coincidence. Still think it is after 10 straight times? Soon the gang enjoy their time together from playing mahjong and to simple outings. One day Nodoka asks about Akado. Why is she putting up mahjong classes here? Shizuno explains the strongest school in this Nara prefecture is Bansei High School. They breezed through every prefectural tournament every year except only once. That was 6 years ago when they were beaten by Achiga’s mahjong club and the star of that team was no other than Akado herself. But if Akado was so good, why didn’t she continue playing at higher levels instead of teaching mahjong classes? Well, though Achiga was on a roll that year, they only got to the semi-finals whereby Akado lost a huge number of points and lost. Because of the trauma, she couldn’t play mahjong for a while and slowly the other members left or graduated and the club was abandoned. So those who really want to play mahjong around here will have to join Bansei. But Nodoka is puzzled if this class is some sort of a rehab for Akado, wouldn’t she be going back to play actively once she’s ‘healed’. Shizuno refuses to admit that Akado is still hurt. But if she does, it’ll get lonely around here.

As the friends talk about Achiga’s school uniform, Ako says she thinks of going to Ada Middle School. Usually kids who go there will end up in Bansei. Then they see Akado talking to someone from the corporate team. Seems she is being scouted to play mahjong again. Soon the girls have a farewell party and the Achiga’s mahjong classes fold up. As time passes, with Akado and Ako not showing up anymore, Nodoka drops another bombshell. Due to her mother’s job she will be transferring to another school by spring. I guess it’s going to get lonelier. A few years down the road, energetic Shizuno is a third year of Achiga Girls’ Middle School. One day to her shock, she saw Nodoka winning the middle school mahjong individual tournament. She calls Ako and expresses her desire to play mahjong. However they can’t play in middle school anymore because they’re already at the end of it. Shizuno is still adamant of playing via Achiga even though there is no mahjong club. Ako tries to be realistic so furious Shizuno slams down her phone. Shizuno rushes back to the abandoned mahjong room and finds it clean. Looks like Kuro has been cleaning it ever since Akado left because she knew somebody would come back here. She also had the same feelings with Shizuno to play mahjong together. Shizuno dreams big of wanting to play at the Nationals and is confident will meet Nodoka there. However they need 5 people to officially form a club. They got their third member in the name of Ako. Yeah, she wants to play here too because if they play together, they can face Nodoka together. Let’s aim for the Nationals!

Episode 2
Kuro brings her friends to her house to introduce to the club’s fourth member: Yuu, her elder sister. She’s a weirdo because he likes sticking under the kotatsu despite it’s the hot summer. Maybe she’s really afraid of the cold. Yuu is happy and expresses how she always wanted to join them ever since elementary school but she was in middle school then and felt like she couldn’t. I guess she got her chance now. Talking about getting the fifth member, Kuro thinks of asking her classmate Arata Sagimori. From the way Kuro explains, it’s like she’s a mahjong genius (a toddler playing with adults? What happens if the big boys lost? Shameful isn’t it?) and was a big fan of Akado despite never turning up for her classes. Kuro goes to meet Arata (her family runs a bowling alley) for that favour. But she mentions she has stopped playing mahjong ever since Akado stopped. The reason why she didn’t want to attend her classes was because she doesn’t want to see Akado being surrounded pathetically by kids when she should be out there playing in the big league with pride and dignity. Apparently she didn’t keep up with the times because Kuro explains Akado is playing for a corporate team now. That interests you? Well, feel free to drop by the mahjong club then. Flashback reveals when Arata first met Akado and nervously congratulated on her awesome play. Akado gave her necktie instead of an autograph (because her handwriting sucks). But that was the last time Akado played. Arata wasn’t too impressed she fell from grace and is still keeping that tie. But that didn’t keep her from checking out Achiga’s mahjong club and just lists her name as a filler.

Akado is being picked up by her old friend, Nozomi. They talk about Akado’s team disbanding and her company not doing well. They return to Achiga for nostalgia and to their surprise, see some activity in the mahjong club. The girls are surprised to see her too. Learning that they want to participate in the inter-high tournament, Akado expresses her wish to join them. As a coach. Arata is not amused because she should’ve stayed in the big league. Akado explains her team was doing well this year but lost in the play-offs for Japan’s best. She couldn’t play her best and her team lost and were disbanded. In important and critical situations, she can’t help remember the inter-high tournament 9 years ago and felt she left something back at the semi-finals then. If she can experience this tournament again, she might be able to get it back. With that, they all get fired up to work their way to the Nationals. Akado even declines an offer from another corporate team just to be the club’s advisor. With spring arriving, the club gets on their way. The girls decide to only enter in the team tournament because they don’t feel the togetherness if they play individually. Akado warns them about Bansei and will be their biggest obstacle to the Nationals. But they are filled with hope because they have a person with them who once beat them despite the overwhelming odds. Thus Akado plays mahjong with them to their hearts content to level up. One night when Shizuno and Ako come out from the convenience store, Ako sees her old middle school mahjong club friend, Hatsuse Okahashi who is now in Bansei. She is not happy Ako didn’t go to Bansei and thought she went to Achiga to a school whose mahjong club that hasn’t been active for years to secure a regular spot in the regular team. She reminds them about Bansei’s strength and she herself didn’t even make it to warming up the bench and was just a support on the sidelines. Ako is confident they can turn things around at Achiga because they have a ‘trump card’. Hatsuse realizes who that trump card is and reports to her senpai, Yae Kobashiri. But she is not worried because in the store, she saw Shizuno’s fingers all bruised and thinks she’s an amateur and is confident that noobs will never beat her. You know what they say about pride comes before a fall?

Episode 3
The Achiga mahjong girls get ready to face their first round opponents. Oh no! It’s Bansei! It’s like an early final, eh? Well, sooner or later they’ll have to face them so what better timing than now. Look at how intimidating and prideful those Bansei players are. So first up is Kuro as she stuns everyone by taking a lead. The rest of the girls do well to protect this lead and Shizuno seals it by winning! OMG! FREAKING F*CKING FAST MATCH!!! I guess their individual introduction was somewhat redundant now, eh? The fearsome Bansei defeated in just seconds. See how they cower in disbelief! It’s like the end of the world for them! You know what they say about the bigger and harder they fall. Looks like they won’t be making their 10th straight National appearance. Even more fast forwarding because the next thing we know, Achiga has already made it to the Nationals! The girls flip through the newspaper to see Nodoka’s school, Kiyosumi of Nara prefecture has also made its debut at the Nationals. They can’t wait to meet her. Akado suggests having a training camp and due to change in the rules, those who made it to the Nationals are allowed to play practice matches with any of the other prefecture’s runners up. Well, they got 7 weeks before the Nationals start. But guess which school they want to play first? Yeah. The runner up in Nagano. So Akado drives them all the way to Ryuumonbuchi. Ah, those nostalgic memories. Remember those weirdoes back in Ryuumonbuchi? The rich obnoxious Touka, the ‘monster’ Koromo, the tomboyish Jun, the bespectacled Tomoki and the handcuffed Hajime (though she wasn’t cuffed here). Shizuno plays against Koromo and lost. Now she knows how fearsome she is. But Koromo says it wasn’t Nodoka who played and beat her (if you watch the original series, it was Saki).

At the end of their ‘tour’, they beat every other runner up team except Ryuumonbuchi. They also not the one player they couldn’t beat: Kei Arakawa from North Osaka’s Sangamaki. She came in second in the individual tournament in last year’s Nationals so if they can’t beat her, it means they aren’t good enough to win the Nationals. However since Sangamaki is runner up in North Osaka prefecture, the top team there is Senriyama. So what else better way there is than to improve their team power with more training camp for 10 days? So the girls play hard, have fun hard and sleep hard. Oops, I mean sleep well. On the day the Achiga girls are to leave for Tokyo (where the Nationals take place), their school sees them off and even Hatsuse wishes Ako all the best. When they take a break during their journey at a lake park, the girls see another girl in a school uniform, Toki Onjouji collapsing. Thinking it is heatstroke, they rush to her aid but her friend, Ryuuka Shimizudani helps her up instead. Maybe she was just hungry. They chat a while and what is your guess when they say they are participating in a school club event? Let me guess. They’ll be their next opponent too, right? If not somewhere along the way. The duo leave since their friends are calling them. When Akado returns to her girls, she recognizes that school uniform: Senriyama. Second ranked in the country, fourth seeded at the inter-high tournament and the best school in Kansai. Wow. Don’t let that fool you. See what happened to Bansei? In Tokyo and at the hall, Arata as the leader of the group (because of her calm composure) goes up to take their place via lottery. Then while walking in the hallway, they suddenly felt a monstrous aura from ahead. Isn’t that girl’s uniform from Kiyosumi! Oh sh*t! But she’s not Nodoka. She’s Saki! What’s with her red glowing eyes?!

Episode 4
Taking a look at the tournament bracket, looks like there won’t be an early final because Kiyosumi is at the other end of the table. The only place they’ll meet is at the final. And before they reach there, they have to play the killer team of Shiraitodai in their half (supposedly the strongest school in Japan where Saki’s ‘unhuman’ sister, Teru came from). Akado won’t let the girls go sightseeing and will have them watch videos of their opponents to research and analyze their school. Bummer. Later Akado meets her coach, Toshi Kumakura (the old lady who scouted her) and she is impressed she took her team all the way to the Nationals at first go. She asks if she ever wanted to go pro. She notes she has been receiving offers but wants to see the girls go through before she does that. Match day arrives and we see Kuro as the first player of Achiga facing off with Nagi Shinmen from Sanomo of Okayama (can she bring a pair of samurai swords into the room?! IS THIS ALLOWED?!), Manami Moriai from Urabandai’s Fukushima and Yuzuki Teramasaki from Imizusougou representing Toyama. As the match begins, Kuro’s fond nostalgic memories in reaching the Nationals are ruined when Yuzuki shakes her up with some move. Kuro seems to be losing points in the initial rounds and this baffles the commentators why she is throwing away such good hands. Not that I understand either. But from what I see, when she gets and accumulates her dora hands, she got back more points in the end than she lost in the initial rounds. It’s like making a comeback. So the only thing I understand is that commentators call Kuro the Dragon Road because of her tendency to draw dora hands – that word which is derived from the English word ‘dragon’ and it means the dragons like you if you get lots of dora. Okay, I don’t get that part either. But it’s better than all those mahjong moves. Meanwhile Senriyama have 2 days before their match so they have the luxury of going sightseeing before watching videos of their opponent’s match. They watch Achiga’s match and Ryuuka recognizes Kuro and gets excited. When Achiga wins and advances to the next round, Ryuuka gets even more excited and will support her team. Aren’t they going to play against them next? Oh… In that case, she’s not sure who to cheer… Of course the other Senriyama girls aren’t fazed and are confident Achiga won’t be a match for them. Why do losing opponents always talk and act like that? I guess this is must for sports anime, eh? So for the second round, Achiga is pitted against Koshigaya from Saitama (why do the girls here wear weird headgear?), Kentani of Hyougo and of course Senriyama. Except for seeded Senriyama who is a ‘veteran’, the rest are ‘newcomers’ in terms of appearance in this round. When Kuro steps into the room, she is greeted by Toki.

Episode 5
Toki has a dream. The kind of dream that has us find out a little more about her past. She’s a sick girl with a weak body who just came out of the hospital. Ryuuka made it as a regular in her mahjong team and Shiraitodai bulldozed their way and won. Ryuuka invites Toki to go to the Nationals with her. So the first match of the quarter-finals is about to begin. Besides Toki for company, Kuro will have Koshigaya’s Sophia Arai and Kentani’s Miyuki Tsubakino. Because Toki is a relatively new player, there are no past data on her match play. But Senriyama has already analyzed Kuro’s playing style so Toki can anticipate what kind of tiles she will pull off as Kuro’s hand is easy to read. Toki draws first blood to stun the rest. But the commentators are puzzled why Toki and Kuro are putting out weird tiles instead of going for higher value ones. Flashback reveals why Kuro doesn’t discard her dora for other tiles. Whenever she discarded them, she won’t get a single one for the next few days. Her late mom used to tell her to value her doras. It soon became natural that she felt the doras were coming to her. So as the match progresses, more analyzing sh*t that I can’t comprehend. Toki seems to be targeting and taking points off Kuro. The analyzer concludes Toki has this ability to look one turn ahead in the future! It’s like almost predicting the future. But it sometimes backfires. And when Toki calls a riichi that she doesn’t do so, something fearsome happens. I’m not sure what because I don’t understand. But she’s taking points from others like nobody’s business and calling riichis in a row. Toki’s health is taking her toll so the others decide to strike and play fast. But Toki ends the match with a huge lead for Senriyama while Achiga ends up rock bottom with most of their points taken. And you thought Toki would be the one who will be tired from her physical condition. But it’s the other girls who are ‘tired out’ instead! Man, she must be one heck of a killer. Kuro trudges back, still reeling from the shock of defeat. Yuu goes to fetch her and consoles her emotional sister. She vows to get back the lost points. Thus for the second match, Yuu will be facing Senriyama’s Izumi Nijou, Koshigaya’s Hanako Asami and Kentani’s Sumiko Yorifuji. Of course Senriyama has also analyzed Yuu’s playing style and something about her unbalanced draws. Despite Yuu having a somewhat similar ability to see which tiles are coming to her, Izumi notices her hands are easy to read too and will take this game home.

Episode 6
Another short flashback. This time about Yuu always getting bullied by the boys because of her tendency to wear scarf on such a hot day. Kuro was always there to save her so I guess that’s why Yuu feels it’s her turn to return the favour. Despite Yuu calling riichi first, Izumi decides to observe her play for a while. From Senriyama’s analysis, they figure Yuu has this tendency to hold on to certain tiles even if she has only one and not discard them. Something about she’ll end up with getting more of them later. Or maybe it’s because she felt those tiles are warm? But when they start to feel cold and Izumi makes her move, Yuu fears her playing style has been figured out. And when Izumi starts her winning streak, it is definitely they’ve got a hold of her playing style. But in one of the hands, Izumi had a bad feeling and true enough, Yuu got a sequence of triplets. The Senriyama girls analyze Yuu’s data again and realize there has been a misprofile. It’s not that she sticks to a certain character but tiles with red. In the end, their overall positions didn’t change. Senriyama increases its lead but Achiga closes the gap over the other 2 schools. Albeit only few points but it’s better than nothing. The Achiga girls refuse to dampen their spirits because this is the Nationals. This kind of play is expected. Just play their best. The third match sees Achiga’s Ako facing off against Senriyama’s Sera Eguchi, Koshigaya’s Shiori Mizumura and Kentani’s Kozue Furuzuka. Ako being Achiga’s best player starts off furiously and aggressively by winning as much points as she could. Hatsuse and Nozomi are watching Ako’s match and Hatsuse recalls the matches they played together when they were at Ada. It was just like yesterday they were both watching it on TV. Now she’s at the Nationals and Hatsuse herself still watching. Maybe she’ll be there next year? Who knows? Sera knows Ako is trying to dash ahead and knows she mustn’t be greedy. So instead of taking big points, Sera takes smaller points. The match becomes a fight predominantly between Achiga and Senriyama so much so that the other schools just sit out like as though they’ve been reduced to spectators. Though the match ends with Senriyama increasing their lead once more, Achiga has made up grounds that it is now in second place! So it may seem Senriyama is running away with the lead but the points separating the other schools are very close. It’s going to be a tough fight for second place. Arata steps up for her turn now. Why does she need to wear a bowler’s glove? I hope she won’t bowl over the mahjong tiles!

Episode 7
So Arata has got Senriyama’s Hiroko Funakubo (the main analyzer and ‘mad scientist’ of her school), Koshigaya’s Tamago Utsgui and Kentani’s Yuuka Morigaki. For once, it isn’t Senriyama or Achiga who draws first blood. That will be boring, right? Instead we have Yuuka calling riichi. Her comrades are confident Yuuka will get them to the semi-finals because as they note, sticking to tradition may not be good enough and they needed somebody unconventional. So that’s where Yuuka comes in. Her move puts Kentani back into second place, swapping with Achiga. As the fastest match (in terms of viewing time) of the series ends, Senriyama once more widens the lead. Hiroko seems to take an interest in Arata because of her unexplainable discards and weird habits. She views her as an interesting specimen to observe. Sure, it’s not that yuri feeling? So the final match puts Shizuno against Senriyama’s Ryuuka, Koshigaya’s Keiko Yagihara and Kentani’s Riko Yasufuku. Shizuno is confident that she’ll turn things around but she carelessly fell into Riko’s trap. Achiga is rock bottom once more but she refuses to give up. See that burning determination in her eyes. Yeah, nobody is going to stop her. To make a comeback, Shizuno needs some super hand. She thinks she has got it and will wait for that tile despite the risk of losing is high. True enough, that tile she wanted was discarded and couldn’t win it. They need a miracle now. I’m not sure what hand she must make but she has to hit Kentani with the points directly or else everything will be in vain. In the final hand, Yuuka in her discard was careless and this gives Shizuno the chance to make a clean hit on her. This means Achiga edged through to the semi-finals as the second placed team by the skin of their teeth! Amazing! So while Achiga deserves to celebrate but Akado throws caution to their victory. The gap between them and Senriyama was 90,000 points! What more, the semi-finals will feature Shiraitodai whom the press has labelled as favourites to take their third consecutive final. The other semi-finalist is Shindouji, the power house of Fukuoka prefecture. In short, they have no chance at winning at all. What a damper. But Shizuno is going to let this affect their mood and has the girls go out to eat ramen. On their way, they see Akado talking with Kumakura. They eavesdrop and to their horror hear that she is inviting Akado to turn pro and that having Achiga reach the semi-finals would look good on her resume. Akado will properly reply via email. Ako is devastated thinking she has been using them as a stepping stone. Plus, she did mention their written off chances. But Arata rubbishes that and still believes that Akado wouldn’t do such a thing. Kuro shouldn’t feel bad about herself throwing away the points. Suddenly they bump into something. No! Wait! Did they bump into a ghost?! Oh sh*t! Not exactly. Remember Tsuruga’s Momo? Yeah, that anti-existence girl. They remember her because of the recordings of the Nagano matches they watched previously.

Episode 8
Momo with Satomi take the Achiga girls back to the latter’s grandma place where they meet the rest of the Tsuruga counterparts and their captain, Yumi. Seeing that they want to improve (even if it’s impossible in a day), Yumi approves to play with them. Besides, this will be a good experience for her side too (there’s this rule that says individual players cannot play with others outside their school and since Achiga didn’t enter the individual tournament, I suppose this is not breaking the rules). They call over some of the Kazekoshi girls (Mihoko, Kana and Miharu). The Achiga girls are surprised with some of the moves they make and as Yumi said, though she has no weird power like Toki, she did analyze their playing styles and came up with her own strategy. More surprise in store with Kana pulling lots of riichi and Mihoko using her hidden eye power to see the hands of her opponents (since they’re going all out, there is no reason why she should hold back, right?). So with each game, Achiga gets really excited to play more. This is what Nodoka and her team went through to beat to the Nationals. Tough sh*t. Yeah, this is what the Nationals is all about. I’m sure they learnt lots of valuable lessons and hints. Next day, Achiga put that full day off to good use. They go to see Kei and have a practice match with her. Kei also has brought some of her friends along who are the best mahjong players in their area. I don’t know. They look like a bunch of cosplay girls. There’s one that looks like a zombie, one wearing a qipao, another looking like Otohime and another one that has this feel of a movie director. Heck, even Kei is in a nurse’s outfit. Walking back home, Shizuno wonders if Nodoka and her team had won her game but the rest thinks it’s better not to know for it may deflate their spirits if they find out she lost. Arata returns to her room and sees Akado reading her book. She seems unconcerned where the girls have been all day. Could it be? Arata’s believe in her is starting to waver. Keep it strong. Shizuno spots Kumakura outside and rushes down to see her. In tears of despair, she asks about Akado going pro. If she does, it’ll be hard on them. But Kumakura says she has rejected the offer because she wants to stick with the girls till the end. Only after the tournament she’ll think about her professional career. Now in tears of joy, Shizuno thanks her and rushes back to her friends to explain. But they’re still worried about the powerful school they’ll be facing. Screw that! They shouldn’t be thinking about how strong others are. They should believe in their own strength. Believe that you can make it all the way to the finals! So the first semi-final match is here. Kuro and Toki once again are the first players for their schools. And besides Kirame Hanada from Fukuoka, right off the bat they’ll be facing Teru from Shiraitodai. This is going to be explosive.

Episode 9
In the first round, Toki attacks first with her riichi and plummets Teru to the bottom of the table. But as mentioned by the commentators, in team tournaments she usually uses the early rounds to observe her opponents’ habits. So when the second round starts, Teru starts her monstrous streak winning hand after hand. Each win, the margin she gets grows bigger. Toki tries to use her one turn prediction but it didn’t work. As guessed by the others, it seems Teru’s prediction ability far surpasses Toki’s. I thought Kirame’s smile has jammed her face seeing she can’t stop smiling (maybe the trauma of the match did her in?) while Teru’s hand is just like a whirlwind when she pulls off her winning move. WTF. By this time, Teru has won her sixth straight match. This has Toki reflect her past. When she was discharged from hospital, Sera and Ryuuka told her she was being made the ace based on her recent performance. Toki thought Sera should be the ace seeing she is the best of the lot but she doesn’t mind if this makes the team is stronger than herself. Toki told them about her one turn prediction and if she reacts to it and changes her actions, she won’t be able to see anything for the next two rounds. Her friends are amazed by that ability and give her the encouragement that they’ll win. Toki notices Kirame trying to fight back despite getting pounded by Teru before. This made her remember how much fun it was playing with her friends. It doesn’t matter if she won or lost. She just loved touching those mahjong tiles. Toki plays into Kirame’s hand and the latter wins the round to break Teru’s streak. Albeit it is just small points but it’s better than letting Teru go on wining. They’ve got a mountain to climb since Shiraitodai has opened a gap of 50,000 points! Toki realizes that if she takes into account Kirame and Kuro, they can help stop Teru’s streak. Speaking of which, Kuro hasn’t really done anything yet, has she? She’s just sitting there feeling like she could turn into panic mode anytime. Toki uses her one turn prediction and tries to minimize the points Teru will win. However to her surprise, it didn’t work and Teru ends up back on the winning track, securing more points. Can anybody stop her? And can Kuro stop being such a worrywart being useless?

Episode 10
Nodoka wakes up from a dream that she met her Achiga friends. As the match continues, Kuro is close to breaking down. What do you expect your 1 day training miracle to work now? But Kuro notices something about Teru. She could’ve won easily from the tiles she threw away. The Achiga girls also realize this. As Ako explains, Teru often ignores a potential win and went on to win hands that worth more. That’s why people thought it’s her confidence as a champion. What if this isn’t her confidence but her weak point? At the end of the first round, Teru wins big and I guess the smiling just stopped from Kirame. During the break, the Achiga girls tell Kuro about Teru’s habit. Just like how she never throws away her dora, there must be times when this works to her disadvantage. For the second half of the game, though the seating arrangement has changed, Teru starts off with a bang and begins her winning streak. Again, each hand gets more and more expensive. Toki uses her prediction and it seems with each consecutive win as a dealer, each additional bonus increases her winnings even though Teru doesn’t rely on that. She predicts her next win will be at least 9,300 points. At this point Kuro is close to looking like a psychopath. She has so many dora hands but they’re not getting her anywhere. Toki predicts Kuro will be playing right into Teru’s hand and there is nothing she could do about it. True enough, it happened. Kuro is now like a zombie and Teru chalks up her sixth consecutive win. Exhaustion is taking its toll so Toki recalls that in addition to her one turn prediction, she can sometimes see two turns ahead if she concentrates very hard. So during club practice, she tries out this move and collapses. Though she is rushed to the infirmary and alright, Ryuuka doesn’t want her to use that move ever again. Well, as Toki reveals, she did practice that move secretly back home. By now, Shiraitodai leads by 100,000 points! Toki thinks she can pull off her two turns prediction and can handle it this time. After all, seeing one turn ahead isn’t going to be enough to stop this Shiraitodai monster.

Episode 11
Using her double predictions, she sees Kirame going out on a limb. Using that ability once more, she realizes Kirame is trying to help her out and uses this chance to call tsumo and puts an end to Teru’s winning streak. Toki is getting tired by the second. Even lifting the tile seems heavy. The Shindouji girls look at Kirame’s face and despite looking very calm, they feel she won’t last. Flashback shows us that the club president put Kirame as the first player as sacrifice. She knows that their school has never done well in the Nationals and each time they put their aces first, they get slaughtered. She’s speaking from experience. That’s why she decided to change the order to sacrifice the first player so that they other 4 will make up and fight back. Though Kirame overheard that painful conversation, she didn’t take it in bad light. Instead, she views it as an ability that the club needs her. That’s why she is going to be a sacrificial pawn and reduce the lost of points. Kirame doesn’t even know what she’s playing and is playing for the heck of fun, Toki is gradually tiring out and Kuro… Oh, she’s still a wreck. I’m glad that didn’t change. But I’m more worried about this one: Teru continues her winning streak and Toki seemingly ‘can’t see’ anymore. So much so she plays into Teru’s hand and since Teru is the dealer in this final round, she decides to continue the match and slaughter everyone till there is not a single drop of blood left! At this point, Shiraitodai has obtained over 200,000 points! Meanwhile Nodoka, Yuuki and Saki are running late to the tournament hall to watch the matches. However Saki felt her sister playing and tells her pals to go along first while she takes a breather outside. Toki dreams how her pals come up with a schedule taking turns doing stuff so that Toki could come along on their training camp. At least they had fun. Thankfully Toki didn’t pass out long enough because it’s her turn again. Teru shows no mercy and extends her lead by 130,000 points! Toki deduces Teru’s next win would be at least 18,600 points since her last was 12,300. Kirame also deduces at this rate somebody will go bust and the match will just end. In this case, Shindouji may just take second place and advance to the finals. Not so bad, eh? But Kirame is not going to make Teru let anyone go bust. Toki and Kirame confide with each other (telepathically?) that they’ve did their best in holding out. And that Kuro keeps hording the dora so the other hands were much easier to read. Toki is weakening and the tiles feel even heavier. But she is going to do the impossible. Do or die. She’s going to look three turns ahead! Toki, NOOOO!!!

Episode 12
Another flashback for the Senriyama girls. They friends have been together since middle school and dreamt of going to the Nationals. So when they enter high school, they get into intensive training and among them only Sera made it as a reserve them. But that was good enough. It’s amazing that Toki is still conscious after her triple prediction. She saw Teru calling a riichi and Kirame making a pon move. Then Toki does her triple prediction again. She is on the verge of collapsing but draws her inner strength to fight back the blackout. She saw Kuro making her move. Kuro’s pride means she can’t discard her dora. Due to that, Kirame calls a pon and Teru gets stronger (at least the whirlwind on her arm seems to indicate that). Then Kuro thinks back. She remembers how her friends at one point left her while she stayed back. But they returned though she doesn’t know if Nodoka will ever come back. Till now she has never chosen to go a separate way but in order to move forward, she’ll have to separate for now. Because even if they don’t come back, she’ll always be waiting. She throws away her dora and calls a riichi, surprising Teru and throwing perhaps her calculations off course because she never expected Kuro to do that based on her observation. I guess she never took into account about people surpassing expectations, eh? Toki and Kirame setup the tiles for Kuro to take the final win because Toki already saw the tile Teru is going to take will be Kuro’s winning hand. In the end, Kuro gets her first win and takes a walloping 16,600 points! The match is over and Toki collapses for real this time. She says she’s faking it? Hah. That’s really bad acting if that’s the case. She is rushed to the ambulance with her comrades by her side. But she leaves it to Izumi for the next round. As for out Achiga girls, as they’re preparing for the next round, Shizuno unexpectedly meets Nodoka in the hallway (she is here to watch the match but the hall was full)! It has been 3 years since. Shizuno says they’re going to be playing in the final round but Nodoka can’t make such promise and will do her best to get there. So as Yuu makes her way to the hall, the second match is about to begin.

Mahjong Is Not For The Faint Hearted!
What the hell?! This is how this spin-off sequel ended?! You’re damn right if I am feeling unsatisfied if not close to upset. I thought this would go on for around 26 episodes so when I read it was going to last for about a dozen episodes, I believed that there was going to be lots of fast forwarding and condensed parts. Well, some of it. I’m not sure if I should be happy when the announced that the semi-finals will be over in another 3 episodes. But the problem is, I couldn’t find out more information on how those final episodes will be released. Are they going to be in OVA format or air over television? Besides, what about the intervals? I am afraid they may be pulling off something like Bakemonogatari whereby the remainder of the episodes in the series were released at irregular intervals. But even when that is done, what about the finals? I can guess and speculate that 3 of the 4 teams that will be featured in the final would be Kiyosumi, Shiraitodai and Achiga. Based on storyline-wise. Remember Saki wants to meet her sister? At which earliest point in the tournament can she face her? The finals. Remember Shizuno and friends want to meet Nodoka? At which earliest point in the tournament can they face her? Right again. The finals. That’s why I can ‘see’ who will be taking up those final slots despite not reading the manga. And who might be this year’s champion? My bet is on Kiyosumi the underdog because it’s their anime series ;p. But we’ll leave that discussion for another time.

So for this season, I have to admit that I did not entirely enjoy everything because of the mahjong terms that I am still troubling to cope. For the record, I still did not even understand a single point scoring system and the terms! Look on the bright side. It means I am not going into mahjong because in the real world, that game is always associated with gambling and if you lose, you lose much more. Say, your life if the stakes are real high. Really. One reason why I will say that makes it enjoyable is the characters although due to the short duration of the episodes, we don’t really see them get fleshed out more. Each of the main characters and some of the supporting characters have their usual quirks and sometimes it makes them funny. For example, Yuu is always a person who wants to be kept warm. She really hates the cold so much so I thought she’s a dead person, a ghost or a zombie because no matter how many scarf or clothes she puts on, you can still see her shiver from the coldness. Is she that cold blooded? Funny indeed. Kirame’s ever-smiling face makes her funny and especially with her frequent trademark line “Marvellous!”, it probably shows she doesn’t really know what’s going on and is just playing for fun. Isn’t that what mahjong is supposed to be? Not like some high level tense competition that some uses supernatural prediction skills that could affect your health. Thus for the other girls at Achiga, even though I want to say that they are close and very well bonded to each other, I just can’t really feel that impact. The girls care and look out for each other and though you can pinpoint and tell that, I just don’t feel the intensity of their friendship. Akado is willing to put her professional career on hold till she sees the girls through whether they make it or not. Speaking of which, I wonder what was it that she left behind at her semi-final that made her unable to move on. Maybe will learn of that once everything is really over?

The other characters that appear in the original Saki series also make their cameo appearance and considering that this isn’t their stage, I guess it is fair they only have a few minutes of appearance. For our original Kiyosumi girls, sometimes I felt that their cameo appearance here and there serves as a teaser and a reminder that this is what Achiga’s goal is. As for some of the schools that come and go, I thought Kei would have made a more prominent appearance seeing the way she was described as a genius but I guess since she only appears for the individual tournament and that her school lost out, maybe that short training stint for the Achiga girls is all we ever get to see her as proper appearance in the flesh. The most amusing side characters are the commentators and their co-analysis. During the first round matches, Eri Haryuu and Eiko Mihorogi did the honours. Though Eri is more grounded to earth, she can’t help get annoyed by Eiko sometimes because she is supposed to be the analyst with experience and sometimes when she asks for her opinion about the match, Eiko tells her up straight that she doesn’t know! But Eiko is not dumb because she can see where the match is going so I suppose this is her own way of analyzing things. For the semi-final match, Kouko Fukuyo and Sukoya Kokaji replace them. Like a role reversal, it is Kouko who is very energetic, making weird gestures, gets easily excited, straight-in-your-face, no-holds-barred and have the guts to tease Sukoya about her age and cause her to panic. So sometimes when I don’t really comprehend the match, sometimes I would just listen to what the commentator and analyzer say to tickle my bone. Albeit I still won’t understand the mahjong analysis, perhaps it’s the way they say it that makes it funny.

Speaking of the flow of the series, it was shocking at first when we see Achiga suddenly making their way into the Nationals after 1/4 of the series. I thought it was going to take a couple of episodes but it didn’t even last half the episode! And the synopsis really painted as though Bansei is going to be their toughest opponent. Apparently not. We were fooled. Maybe Bansei really did underestimate Achiga. After all when you’re at the top for so long, you can’t really see your feet or the grass that is growing underneath them. Perhaps the fast forward is good in the way that we don’t need to waste time in seeing Achiga going through ‘unimportant’ opponents in their prefecture The focus of 2/3 of the series is on the first round of the Nationals and the remainder is just on the first round of the semi-finals. However in this semi-final, it feels that Achiga has taken a back seat and the focus is on Senriyama and Shindouji, especially from the perspective of Toki. It feels like Toki and Kirame were the main players trying to stop Teru’s rampage and stranglehold on the game and that Achiga and Kuro were nowhere to be seen. If you ask me, if the entire match was shown without Kuro, I think it could’ve gotten by except for the last scene. Thus I feel they show Kuro so that viewers won’t forget that Achiga is still in the match. I speculate that the first round match that lasts for 4 freaking episodes is to showcase Teru’s supremacy. In the original series, she’s being painted like as though she’s more than a talented ace. Like a monster. She seems to live up to it. At least in the scary aspect. Now we know why people who played mahjong with her get thrashed. We don’t see her speak much here save when she makes a call and that she puts on an expressionless face (which probably would like to tell us, “Don’t mess with me, you f*ckers” or “You’re all my prey for tonight”) so it also feels like the match is a strategy and tactical approach by Toki and Kirame against her. With Kuro being reduced to a ‘cry-baby’, it puts a contradiction whereby she was believed to be the strongest mahjong player at Achiga till Akado left. Probably she waited for everyone to return instead of polishing her skills so that honour now goes to Ako.

Something I want to mention about the design of the characters. Though we see lots of minor and supporting characters, I can’t help notice that some of them have this outrageous hair design or hair accessories. I know it’s a way to identify, differentiate and give them an identity even if this means we won’t be seeing them frequently and are just ‘extras’ to make up the numbers so our heroines can advance to the next stage. I mean, take a look at Kirame. I thought her hairstyle resembled like crab pinchers! Koshigaya’s Sophia had dreadlocks and Keiko’s headgear makes her look like a Red Indian. Sometimes it really makes the character look funny. Maybe you’ll remember them better this way since they won’t have any other impact for the rest of the series. Some of the characters are boyish too. Who says mahjong is a feminine game despite in my country old aunties and grandmas are the ones who play them. Take for instance Sera. I thought she was a boy! She hates wearing skirts so much that she is willing to wear pants and look like a boy. Izumi too looks very boyish and Shizuno, I thought her dark jacket design makes it look like a typical boy’s uniform. I believe I don’t recall her wearing Achiga’s girl uniform before. As for the mahjong play, the exaggerated visuals still made me laugh. Especially the lighting and current flowing through the tiles, the thunderous thuds when the tiles are laid, the energy that flows through the player’s eyes and the stylish pose they make when they flip and throw the tile onto the table. Impressive. Does that really change the outcome of the game or just putting psychological fear to your opponents? Especially the stormy whirlwind on Teru’s hand, I thought man, if it goes any bigger her entire body will turn into a tornado and engulf the entire building! I wonder if there’ll be a typhoon named after her. Just kidding.

With a new cast of characters lending their voice to this sequel spin-off, Kana Hanazawa (Nadeshiko in Bakemonogatari) is very much identifiable as her role as Kuro. Aoi Yuuki voices Shizuno and after hearing her voice sweet little girls’ role like Ichigo in Yumeiro Patissiere and Murasaki in Kurenai, I guess she does it fine too voicing a tomboyish role like this. Other casts include Mako as Yuu (Yurie in Kamichu), Nao Tooyama as Ako (Kanon in The World God Only Knows), Yumi Uchida as Arata (Nagi in A Channel), Naomi Shindou as Akado (Shizuru in Mai-HiME), Yui Ogura as Toki (Alice in Kamisama No Memo-chou), Arisa Noto as Sera (Notti in Kaitou Reinya), Marie Miyake as Kei (Ringo in Mawaru Penguindrum) and Satomi Arai as Kirame (Shirai in To Aru Kagaku No Railgun). For the rest of the characters that appear in the original series, each one of the original seiyuu is retained. The opening theme is Miracle Rush by Stylips and is the kind of song that you would expect to fit an anime about a group of friends striving their best together to reach their dreams. I thought the pace and overall of this song reminded of Saki’s first opening theme, Glossy:MMM. There are two ending themes for this series. Futuristic Player by Miyuki Hashimoto feels like the kind of dramatic pop song whereby it gives the feel of carrying on the fight. The other piece is Square Panic Serenade by the seiyuus of the Achiga girls. This one feels more light-hearted and pop group material. What makes it funny is the animation which sees the characters in chibi form and the weird antics they do during mahjong. I mean, we see the mahjong tiles catch fire, being chased by a fire breathing dragon, Arata bowling her flaming tile like a bowling ball, Ako chiding Shizuno for sitting on the wrong side of the table and the girls riding on the mahjong tiles. Funny and cute? On a trivial note, the next episode preview feels like the girls making a joke. For example, they make that single round circle pattern in a mahjong tile on how similar it looks to a washer. Or how those strong opponents are so strong that they shoot sparks from their eyes and bloom flowers when they win. Or Shizuno wanting to release her excessive energy by doing some somersault body spinning jump. What about the one whereby some trivia about tea helps you makes you more alert before the match, low in calories it won’t make you fat? Except for the penultimate episode, there is total silence! Like as though Dooms Day has arrived.

The way I see everyone here so dedicated playing mahjong it’s like there is some virtue in this sport. The end narration about mahjong having top players from around the world vying for the top sport may sound absurd but at the rate we see them putting their heart and soul into the game, I won’t discount the fact that mahjong may actually be an Olympic game! Of course from where I come from, because of the gambling element, many don’t really see mahjong in a positive light. Once money is taken in, I guess that is where everything goes downhill. Just like in any other sport that involves betting. So once more, I have failed to understand the workings of mahjong and despite I should just for knowledge purposes, this doesn’t seem to be very likely in the near or distant future. Maybe I really don’t have talent at all for mahjong. The only mahjong game that I’ve been playing is Microsoft’s Mahjong Titans and even that I cheated (I press the ‘H’ button for hint frequently) and my statistics of winning are very dismal. Really no talent with mahjong tiles at all. Riichi, kan or pon? Dora or tsumo? What’s that again? Yum. They sound like delicious Japanese delicacies to me.

Marchen Awakens Romance

February 12, 2012

When we were young, I’m sure most of us guys dream to be the valiant hero fighting off a group of impending evil force bent on taking over the land. Be it taking up a sword or casting spells, our imagination just run wild as we hack and slash, blast and cast our way through hordes of evil swarms while reclaiming the land back to its rightful ruler. And perhaps getting the princess’ hand in marriage at the end. Well, that’s just limited to our minds. But what happens if you can really live out that dream? At least that’s what happened for Ginta in Marchen Awakens Romance or MAR for short.

In the real modern world, Ginta Toramizu isn’t the kind of guy who is good at anything. Weak in just about everything from studies to physical activities, his eyesight is poor and his constant daydreaming makes him the source and laughing stock for bullies alike at school. Yeah, he loves this fantasy dream so much that he actually kept count of how many times he dreamt the same dream! If I remember, it was around over a hundred times. WTF?! Doesn’t he get bored? Apparently not. He gets excited each time and the only friend who never teases him over his tales and eagerly listens to every adventure he had is Koyuki. Love interest? Certainly the duo don’t act in a way that indicates so. Maybe she’s really infatuated with his stories. Maybe he just really needs somebody to listen to.

So one day, something this unbelievable happened in class. Suddenly the classroom turns dark and a funny looking clown gate called Monban Pierrot summons him to enter the fantasy land he has always dreamt of. Too good to pass this chance, right? Besides, if he stays on Earth, he’ll only end up getting bullied. So what else to do? Take off on a new journey and say goodbye to those jerks. Koyuki wanted to tag along too but the number on the dice shows it has only 1 room for 1 person. So Koyuki has to stay back and wait until who knows when Ginta will return from his fantasy trip. And with 102 episodes to the anime, I’m sure it’s going to be a pretty long time and by the time Ginta returns, I guess he can write a novel that spans several volumes. Koyuki can listen to his stories till they grow old! Haha! Oh, did I mention Ginta’s mom is a fantasy book author? Maybe that’s how Ginta got these weird dreams.

So being one of those shonen anime genres, you’ll see how Ginta happily frolicking in the new land, learns of a reviving evil organization bent on taking over the land. So he meets allies, powers up, gets stronger, develops new moves, fights the baddies and ultimately saves the day. And who better than to do it but some kid from another world? Typical, isn’t it? Spikey hair, values friendship close to his heart but a little dumb and rash at times. But along the way, you’ll not only get lots of action but drama as well as there are enough episodes for flashbacks and scenes to flesh out the characters. As usual, my blog is just a simple and minimal blog when it involves long running animes. My favourite source for MAR info is Wikipedia and Marpedia and I’m sure there are many other fansites out there dedicated to this series.

Welcome to MAR Heaven
In this world, Ginta seems to be a super human. What do I mean? He is no longer the weak and feeble kid he was back on Earth. Now he has got enough strength to fight enemies. Well, at least low level ones. The first human he meets in MAR is Dorothy, a beautiful but seemingly scheming witch. He is introduced to the wonders of little ring-like accessories known as ARMs. And you’ll find that there are lots of different types and categories of ARMs in this land. Just think of them as little rings that can summon powerful creatures, weapons or items for battles or daily use. Convenient indeed. If you know how to use them well, that is. Dorothy is on a journey looking for rare ARMs and manages to persuade Ginta to help her look for a legendary ARM sealed in some cave. But it turns out to be a talking kendama? Eh? Babbo is his name and he isn’t thrilled to be awakened from his slumber. Yeah, this little iron moustache iron ball seems to think he’s some sort of gentleman and even if Ginta wants to have this weapon (because Dorothy didn’t want this arrogant talking piece of sh*t), you’ll often hear them arguing and bickering. No matter how much Babbo tries to run away, he’ll eventually come back to Ginta. Well, I guess the only way Babbo is going to accept him (even if he doesn’t admit it) is that he makes Ginta his servant. Like that kid will acknowledge that. So it’s like a love-hate relationship between the duo as quarrelling at the slightest seems to be part of their repertoire but when it comes down to cooperating to defeat enemies, they’re unrivalled. Oh, try to keep Babbo as close since there are many thieves who are out there who wants to steal this rare ARM and sell it for a high price.

In this introductory arc, we see how Ginta ‘gathers’ his allies. The first friend he got is the monkey-faced Jack, whom he saved from a pair of vegetarian wolf brothers. Yes, vegetarian wolves who has been harassing Jack and his widow mom by eating all their fruits and vegetables on their farm. As usual, teach those wolves a lesson real good and they won’t come back as mean parasites but one who will work hard for their share. Who says wolves always have to be the bad guys till the very end? Next is the handsome young hunk, Alviss (the one who summoned Ginta to this world) and his always-by-his-side fairy Belle. This is where Ginta learns of the impending evil that is to engulf the land once more. Six years ago, an evil organization called Chess No Koma (Chess Pieces) invaded MAR. Alviss was part of the counter force, Cross Guard who fought Chess 6 years ago. Though Cross Guard emerged victorious, there were many casualties. Now 6 years on, Chess is on the verge of revival because its leader, Phantom is close to resurrection simply because, he is a zombie, an undead. Wait a minute. If he is a person that can’t die, then don’t you think this war will happen again in the future even if the good guys win this one? What is more shocking is that Babbo was once Phantom’s ARM and massacred lots of people. Alviss wants Ginta to dispose Babbo (though he has no memories prior to his slumber) but Ginta is not going to give up that easily. How then? Fight lah. Though in the end Alviss changed his mind in not disposing off Babbo, he notes Ginta is weak and needs to get stronger if he is going to fight Chess.

Next on the encounter list for Ginta and Jack is Edward or Ed for short, a dog wearing a Santa Claus hat who is Princess Snow‘s custodian. Ed is desperate for help since Snow has frozen herself in a castle to avoid being captured by her evil stepmother bent on world domination. Now this is Ginta and Jack’s opportunity to go save a princess. To Ginta’s surprise, he sees how similar Snow is to Koyuki. Like a splitting mirror image. Well, it’s no surprise too that there is some sort of connection between these girls because from time to time, you’ll see how Koyuki will have dreams of Ginta’s progress in MAR and tells Ginta’s mom of the story. Oh, so nobody is frantic that Ginta went to the other world for real? In the castle, Ginta also meets his first Chess minions, Bishop class Loco and Ian who are ordered to capture Snow. Ian is interested in fighting Ginta but the latter is inexperienced and hasn’t fully learned how to use Babbo effectively. Ed knocks himself out and turns into the legendary Cross Guard hero, Alan. Apparently due to a curse, Alan and Ed are fused within the same body and whenever Ed sleeps thrice, Alan will appear and for Ed to surface, Alan only needs to sleep once. While Alan fights Ian, the distraction was enough for Ginta to free Snow from her icy captivity. Somehow at the angle she falls, their lips met. First kiss? Well, Dorothy’s one earlier on didn’t count because it wasn’t on his lips. The fight is interrupted when a higher ranked Knight Chess, Halloween (and a long ‘acquaintance’ of Alan) appears and orders the withdrawal of every Chess Pieces back for a new order has been issued.

With Phantom finally resurrected, in his flying Lestarva Castle, he is going to declare the second war on MAR. Meanwhile Alan tells the young ones (including Dorothy) more about the previous war. Their previous hero was also a guy from the other world whom they called Danna. He paid the ultimate price by sacrificing himself to kill Phantom and secure victory for the Cross Guards (though the match was a draw). Hmm… Danna looks suspiciously close to Ginta’s dad (whom by the way went missing 6 years when Ginta was still a kid). So Alan has the quartet (Ginta, Snow, Jack and Dorothy) enter his Training Gate to further hone their skills. Though it may be 3 days passed in MAR, it is a much longer time in this gate as 1 day = 60 days inside the gate (in my opinion is the more you use it, the older you’ll get because time runs longer here, right?). Ginta learns of Babbo’s use and with magic stones, he is able to transform Babbo into anything he wishes. Only the mind’s creativity is the limit. During the training period, Phantom has his Chess Pieces launch an all-out war throughout the continent, burning down cities and massacre innocent people. However only Ian seems to be disobeying Phantom’s orders because he wants to get his revenge on Ginta. He meets Alan and tries to make him reveals Ginta’s whereabouts. Alan can’t move from his spot and has to take the pain or else those in the Training Gate will be trapped in there forever should he do so. So when time is up and Ginta and co emerge safely from their training, now it’s Ginta’s turn to show the fruits of his labour and fights Ian with different versions of Babbo: A hammer, a dagger and a Bubble Launcher. How can Ginta not win after training and developing so hard? Well, Ian will give some healing ARM in exchange if they let them go.

According to what has been told to Snow, they need 7 members to defend MAR. Let’s see, Ginta, Jack, Dorothy, Alan and Snow herself. That leaves 2 more, right? Ed? He’s just a mascot, no good for fighting. Oops. Babbo? If you ask me, that kendama and kid are one. Their next member will be Nanashi, the leader of the Luberia thieves. This womanizer has a grudge against MAR because one of its members has massacred a great deal of his comrades. As for Ian, he is ready to accept his punishment for disobedience. But as Halloween notes, he is not going to get punished. But his pawn who accompanied him instead, Gido. Now this is more painful than undergoing the torture himself.

Vestory Arc
After learning of Chess’ invasion, our heroes rush down to the devastated coastal town of Vestory to help the people rebuild the land and chase away what’s left of the Chess Pieces who are still lingering around in some haunted cave. Ginta befriends a local named Tom (unknown to Ginta, he’s Phantom in disguise. Geddit? PhanTOM?). While Nanashi fights Bishop Oruko (a homicidal retard as many would call him) and easily beats him with his super strength and electric powers (and also uncovered the name of his Luberia mates’ killer: Peta), Ginta gets to fight another Bishop psycho, Giromu. Here, Ginta unleashes another version of Babbo, the gigantic and powerfully crazy Gargoyle to pummel Giromu into repentance. Okay, so he didn’t repent but got knocked out. Watching Tom is excited and could hardly wait to fight Ginta when the time comes. Seeing how strong Ginta is, he kills Oruko when that big guy comes begging for help. Chess Pieces can’t be this weak, right? In the cave, Ginta frees the ghosts and not only earns him a magic stone but a key. For what? Only time will tell. While Ginta and co continue to help the people of Vestory, they meet John Peach, who could be the 7th member of the group. But is he? This arrogant, loudmouth bastard seems to claim he is the hero of MAR after a fluke that disposes off a bunch of thieves stealing from Vestory. He challenges Ginta to a race but he blunders in almost anything that his hero status is in doubt. Even if he’s a jerk, he still has a heart because that rare spider ARM he got that sucked up the thieves, he is going to get sucked into it (because the ARM eats its user) till Ginta steps in to save his ass. He may not be the 7th member the gang are hoping for (thank God) but hopefully he has learnt his lesson. Hopefully.

War Games Arc
Just like 6 years ago, Chess have officially announced the start of the War Games. So it’s this simple. A team match. Chess vs everybody else. If Chess wins, MAR becomes theirs and if MAR wins, the land will be safe. All potential fighters are to gather at Reginrave Castle and those who wish to join the War Games have to undergo a preliminary test. Aside from Ginta and co, the people rejoice when they learn the old Cross Guards led by Gaira are also in on this. The preliminary has all participants fight lowly Pawns. Maybe the Cross Guards should retire because none of them except Alviss won. But how can powerful Gaira lose to mere Pawns? Well, there is a wildcard among the Pawns and Gaira was unlucky to have fought with a Chess Knight, Chimera. He could’ve died but came back alive and very much injured. As for Ginta, Jack, Snow, Dorothy and Nanashi, they pass with flying colours. And with Alviss to make it 6 people, are these kids the only hope for MAR? Come on you people, show some faith! Since this is a team match, a member can lose and advance to the next round so long your team wins. Plus, if the captain of the team loses, the entire team loses even if the others all win. So who is the captain of MAR? Ginta of course! Yeah, put all your trust in that carefree kid. The same reason why Luffy is probably the captain of the Straw Hats Pirates. The number of fighters and stage for each match are decided via the throw of the die and the matches are officiated by erm, I don’t what funny little creature is this, but everyone calls him Pozun. So let the War Games begin! On a trivial note, it’s funny for everyone on the entire continent watch the War Games via ‘screen’ through the Sun or Moon in the sky. Wouldn’t it burn their retina? Wouldn’t it be too small to see anything? Oh, and the emblem that Snow created for the MAR team? Though it looks like an outline of Babbo and his long nose, if you have a slightly perverted thought, you can imagine how lewd it looks.

First Battle: Stone Stage
Match 1: Alviss vs Leno Rodokin– With the first stage just in front of Reginrave Castle, Alviss steps in first to show Ginta what he is up against and what to expect. We learn Alviss has a curse called Zombie Tattoo on him and was placed by Phantom 6 years ago. If the tattoo covers his entire body, he’ll become an undead just like Phantom. And that time is very near. Alviss easily beats power-crazy Rook class Leno with his Totem Poles. MAR takes the first lead.
Match 2: Jack vs Pano Rodokin – Plant user Jack seems to have the upper hand and could have sealed the match when he got Rook class Pano trapped in his vines. It was mind boggling to see him climb over her (I still don’t understand why he did that till this day) so in Pano’s panic, she screams out the pervert he is and unleashes her iron ball to hit his crotch. So yeah, aside from that monkey’s reputation falling down to a pervert in the eyes of the people, now he has got his manhood taking a severe hit. Hope there is no long term damage. MAR and Chess are levelled at 1-1.
Match 3: Ginta vs Garon Rodokin – Bishop class daddy Garon sure has his body as hard as steel with the ARMs he is using but Ginta’s never give up will and his trump card of Gargoyle turns the table around and astounds everyone with his power move, friend or foe. Wah… Now everybody wants to fight him. So first victory to MAR!

Before the next battle, Ginta learns that Danna, the former head of Cross Guard is his father. Definitely it is him. See the resemblance in looks and character? Like father like son. Also, Jack has lost his dad in the previous War Games so both kids make a vow to avenge their dads. But at this level? Yup. More training for the duo as Gaira has them power up in his Training Gate. Meanwhile Ian confronts Phantom and wants to undergo some super power up training because he is determined to kill Ginta and Gido’s tormentor. Yeah, poor Gido has turned into a mindless vegetable.

Second Battle: Desert Field
Match 1: Snow vs Fuugi – With Ginta and Jack missing in action (they’re still in training lah), the other MAR members make their debut. In the desert field which seemingly is a stage that is at Snow’s disadvantage because she is an ice user while Rook class Fuugi is a wind user (which means he has geographical advantage), Snow gets her first victory by slamming her Guardian ARM, Yuki onto him. At first I thought it was a snowman with boobs till I realized it was its arms folded…
Match 2: Nanashi vs Loco – Now, how can a womanizer fight a loli? Loco may look like a loli but is actually an adult woman in her 30s. Due to a Darkness ARM that she uses, each time she uses its power, she will become younger and younger till she disappears. Something like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, eh? Loco’s voodoo magic has Nanashi unable to move as she sticks painful nails into her giant straw voodoo doll to translate that excruciating pain to him. Though Loco is puzzled that Nanashi is able to withstand so many nailing, Nanashi fires his Electric Eye to destroy the doll and free himself. Though it is his lost but Loco isn’t happy that she achieved victory this way.
Match 3: Dorothy vs Maira – Maira plans on making Dorothy the first casualty in the War Games but looks like he himself became the first one when Dorothy unleashes her Rain Dog, Toto to devour his amoeba-like ARM and him. I wonder how does a Bishop class guy taste like? So once again it’s MAR’s victory 2-1. Hey, do I see a trend here like in the first battle?

With Ginta finishing his training, the night before the next match, Phantom plans to ‘improve’ Ginta as he lures Ginta out in his Tom disguise. Then he purposely lets Ginta witness himself get killed by Peta (Phantom’s Knight class right hand man) so Ginta is filled with rage and vows to go all out against Chess since he promised Tom he would protect him but failed.

Third Battle: Volcano Stage
Match 1: Alan vs Alibaba – Oh wait. How did Alan join the team if he didn’t participate in the preliminaries? With this round needing 5 members to fight, Nanashi and Dorothy seem unwilling to participate. Till Alan showed up (Ed must’ve slept enough times for him to appear). With the score between Alan and Halloween not settled (they fought to a draw in the last War Games), Phantom agrees to let him in. What about Gaira? They don’t need old geezers! Boo hoo! Anyway with the ragtag bunch of Chess Pieces unwilling to fight the legendary and powerful Alan, I guess Rook class Alibaba decides to go first and show them what he’s got. Unfortunately his genie guardian got smashed in a single hit! Then Alan drags him to the top of the volcano and drops him!!! WOAH!!! What a fiery death he got! Don’t play play with this guy… As always, MAR makes a great start with the first win.
Match 2: Jack vs Pano – Eh? Another rematch? Apparently if your team has lost but you won, only the winner is allowed to advance. So since Pano won the last match, it’s time get his revenge. And he does so with his hallucinating mushrooms. He is sending Pano into a frenzy and made her fall for him! Yeah, Jack looks like a handsome prince charming, doesn’t he? Yeah, she’s all over him and even gives up the match. For once, MAR leads 2-0. I’m not sure if the effects of the mushroom will be on her forever because from now on Pano seems to take a liking for Jack and doesn’t hesitate to hug him lovey-dovey style. Each time, brother Leno can only shake his head and worry for her…
Match 3: Snow vs Mr Hook – Snow is at a disadvantage here seeing the scorching heat is taking a toll on her ice powers. Well, technically the volcano has got to be hotter than the desert, right? Bishop class Mr Hook uses this to his advantage and defeats Snow. Don’t worry Snow, you did your best and besides, MAR still leads 2-1.
Match 4: Ginta vs Kannochi – Bishop class Kannochi puts a curse on Ginta. He will completely melt once the candle on Kannochi’s head burns out. To make things worse, Kannochi swallows his ARM before Ginta could destroy it and set him free. Ginta can’t afford to lose this match or else MAR loses! So how? Use Babbo’s new version, a Holy Guardian called Alice! Wow. He imagined Babbo to be some sexy lady? No wonder Babbo is reluctant to transform into this. Why a lady, I don’t know? Probably a picture of a macho man doesn’t really quit cut it. With that, Kannochi bears the brunt of his Darkness ARM himself as he melts away and wishes Ginta good luck. Well, that guy isn’t so bad after all. He’s just on Chess side because he wanted to feel the excitement of battle and could’ve been on Ginta’s side if he had met him first. MAR has an unassailable lead, 3-1.
Match 5: Alviss vs Rolan – The first Knight to make his appearance in the War Games and this redundant match is needed to confirm Rolan’s participation. Alviss learns that Rolan too has a Zombie Tattoo but Rolan is obsessed to be at Phantom’s side for eternity unlike Alviss who wants to free himself from this curse. Rolan’s power is too much for Alviss so the latter lost (Alviss ran out of magic power and had to give up) though Rolan’s 13 Totem Poles was able to defeat Rolan’s Magma Snake. So final score: MAR triumphs over Chess 3-2.

At the end of the battle, Phantom and his Zodiac Knights make a rare appearance as they are excited to face MAR in the upcoming battles. So no more Rooks and half-assed Bishops from now on. Ginta uses Alice to split Alan and Ed but it seems he cannot heal Alviss’ Zombie Tattoo. Looks like the only way is to defeat Phantom. And yes, more training for the MAR team but this time they’ll be fighting a shadow version of themselves. What better way to power up because like they say, you are your own worst enemy.

Fourth Battle: Ice Field
Match 1: Alviss vs Mr Hook – Alviss has improved from his training that he doesn’t even need to use any ARM to defeat Mr Hook! Wow. But there’s a twist for the losing Chess members. Crazy Knight class b*tch, Rapunzel (who is Giromu’s sister and thinks her ugly face is the prettiest in the world) plays a rock-scissors-paper with Mr Hook and if he loses, she kills him. That’s what happens to Mr Hook. He died with a single slash to the throat. Oooh.. Not something MAR would like…
Match 2: Jack vs Korrekio – Jack is in a pinch. His plants won’t grow because the land is covered in ice. Bishop class Korrekio shrinks Jack into thumb size with his hammer and tries to stomp on him. However Jack outwits him by growing his plants from inside Korrekio’s body!!! Straight out from the mouth! Victory to MAR but Korrekio met the same fate with Mr Hook when he lost the rock-scissor-paper to Rapunzel. Oh dear. She’s killing off members like that just because they lost?
Match 3: Dorothy vs Avrute – The fastest match ever!!! Freaking fast so much so you’d probably miss it if you blink! Dorothy swiftly slashes Avrute with her Ring Dagger but misses his vital points. So quick that he can’t do any counter attack with his ARM that destroys other ARMs. So much for using that, eh? But he isn’t given a sh*t salvation chance by Rapunzel and is quickly killed off since this piece of sh*t got defeated so fast.
Match 4: Nanashi vs Aqua – How the heck can a cute and shy loli end up being a Bishop class under Chess? I think should’ve been much better being a magical girl. Mind boggling indeed. In order to avoid the fate of her other comrades, she needs to beat Nanashi summoning her marine monster guardians. Though Nanashi obviously wins, he fakes he is out of strength and forces a draw. However Rapunzel isn’t blind and knows that she easily lost sh*t to Nanashi and won’t let her off the hook and has Aqua play the rock-scissors-paper game. Though Aqua won, Giromu kills her because he too was playing and Aqua’s hand means she lost. Ginta becomes very upset and jumps into the match.
Match 5: Ginta vs Giromu – Ginta is obviously full of rage so much so he is blinded by it, causing his concentration and synchronization. Babbo refuses to cooperate till he calms down and recollects himself. So once Ginta is back to his normal self, he uses Babbo’s new version, Cushion Jelly to free himself from the crushing abyss that Giromu sent him and finally turns the tables on that psycho by sending him flying into the sky.
Match 6: Dorothy vs Rapunzel – Oddly I don’t know why Alan didn’t want to join this round so based on the rules that if a side has not enough members for a round, only the winner can only have a second match. In this case, Dorothy takes on the insane Rapunzel who is going to kill Dorothy (for insulting her ‘beauty’) and Ginta (for beating up her brother). Ginta would’ve participated in this match but he is just fresh from his battle with Giromu and is tired. And since we haven’t since Dorothy much in action for this round, I guess it’s only right to see her strut her stuff and have our money’s worth of an entire episode worth of Dorothy in battle instead of lasting for 10 seconds. Rapunzel isn’t named so because she uses her Nature ARM that transforms her hardened hair as spikes and drills to fight against Dorothy (sometimes I feel she can’t help take a dig at her ugliness. Probably boiling her blood on purpose). I thought she was like Medusa. But of course Dorothy triumphs with her horrible singing guardian, Crazy Quilt and delivering the final blow with her Zephiroth Broom. Wow. MAR won 6-0!

With the War Games taking a short break, Dorothy returns to Caldea, the birthplace of ARMs with her MAR team tagging along. Dorothy is back to report to the elder that she has found her sister, Diana, whom she is supposed to kill (Diana broke a law of Caldea that is punishable by death but escaped not before stealing and taking a long with her a whole load of ARMS, the other reason Dorothy is on a globetrotting trip). Diana is also the Queen in Chess and Snow’s stepmother. Yes, it’s a little complicating. While the Elder makes new ARMs for the other MAR members, Phantom and his Rooks invade Caldea. Ginta has a short bout with Phantom and both their ideals clash. Though Phantom has the advantage and his powers surpassed those of Ginta’s current level, nevertheless Ginta manages to force a draw as happy Phantom and his Rooks withdraw.

Fifth Battle: Desert Field
Match 1: Snow vs Emokiss – Again the desert level? Now the level is up as MAR will be fighting against Knight class Chess Pieces and Bishops whose powers are close enough of making them a Knight. There are 3 of them and glutton and chubby Emokiss is one of them. Uh… She thinks she is beautiful and has a mirror to tell her so. But the mirror is obviously lying… Though Emokiss powers up each time she eats her candy house, Snow summons her new Guardian ARM, Undine to force her to surrender before the pool of water over her head drowns her. However Emokiss remains stubborn and would rather die than submit so they free her from the water mask as soon as she passes out. MAR makes a good start leading 1-0.
Match 2: Alviss vs Hamelin – The 2nd most powerful Bishop and his flute is causing confusion since he creates several clones of himself. However Alviss is reluctant to use his new ARM because he doesn’t want to use it on a Bishop and manages to defeat Hamelin by immobilizing him. MAR up 2-0.
Match 3: Jack vs Candice – Can’t stand MAR to get anymore victory, Knight class Candice steps in (she wanted to fight Ginta for hurting Phantom back in Caldea. Yes, she’s in looooove with Phantom). Stone user Candice seems to be a masochist because she enjoys the torment Jack is giving her. Okay, she’s a sadist as well since she also returns some pain to Jack. However the ARM she is using when it reaches its maximum point after taking all the pain, it allows her to accumulate enough power to summon a powerful guardian, Gorgon. Jack counters this with his new ARM, Mehitos and lands a draw.
Match 4: Ginta vs Ash – Knight class Ash seems to be a friendly and nice guy. So different from the other Chess members. He loves kids so it’s obviously an ironic situation that he is finding himself to fight Ginta. The reason he joined Chess is so that he could free the world of wars and thus a safe place for kids. But can he do it under Phantom? Can the children’s safety be guaranteed if Chess wins? So it’s a dilemma for the kids watching who wants Ash to win but at the same time, they don’t want Ginta to lose. In addition to his Split Parts (an ARM that allows him to split up his body parts. Think of him as MAR’s version of One Piece’s Buggy), Ash uses his Psycho Space (cuts the opponent’s magic power in half) to fight Ginta and tries to persuade him to surrender. But Ash’s Walking Bomb hits Ginta and Ash is pretty concerned. Don’t worry, Ginta got his Cushion Jelly as protection. In the end, Ginta manages to break his Psycho Space and ARM guardian Death and Ash gives up seeing that he doesn’t want to hurt kids.
Match 5: Nanashi vs Galian – The fated battle. Knight class Galian is revealed to be the previous Luberia boss. Apparently Nanashi had no memories because he placed a seal on it till they meet. So now does he remember? You bet. So flashback time as we see how Galian planned everything out by finding a replacement for himself. And that is Nanashi. That time he was wounded, close to death and had no memories of who he was so when he was taken in, he was given the name Nanashi as it means “No Name”. Galian grooms Nanashi to be the next Luberia boss before he suddenly disappears. Galian was lured by Peta to join Chess seeing that he craved for more power than what Luberia has to offer. So back to the battle, Galian’s Hiraiken is absorbing Nanashi’s electric powers. But with betrayal and revenge fuelling Nanashi, he uses his new ARM to summon a giant eel, Gymnote to destroy Galian’s giant stingray, Torpedine and fry that ex-Luberia boss for good. So MAR wins this battle with 4 wins and a draw. Hmm… They must be getting real good to not even lose now.

With the War Games taking another short break, we see Phantom going to punish Rapunzel for killing off comrades just like that. I thought being brutal was good? Anyway he gives her a chance to redeem herself if she beats Ian. Yes, that guy is just fresh out from some hellish training. She gets to keep her Knight status if she beats him otherwise their positions will be swapped. Rapunzel looks down on Ian and unleashes her attack on him. Just when she thought he is done for, Ian counter attacks and kills her! Thus Ian is now a Knight replacing Rapunzel. And we have a couple of filler episodes that sees Alviss saving Belle from a guy who uses fairy powers to power his ARM and Dorothy with Ginta and Jack go to find a rare ARM  but it turns out to be a trap set by a group of mobs.

Zonnens Arc
In need of more training, Alan once again sends the other MAR members into his Training Gate. This time they will do it in pairs. The ladies really want to pair up with Ginta but fate works in funny ways because they ended up with each other. So who ends up with Ginta? Jack. And Nanashi’s wish of getting paired with either Dorothy or Snow also didn’t come true because he got Alviss. Wow. Two hot guys together. No yaoi moments here… Anyway, there are a bunch of bloodthirsty group of Chess Pieces called Zonnens (each named after the planets in our Solar System) who wants to kill MAR because they’re fed up of Phantom’s leniency and the War Games. They want to fight and kill, something that they enjoy. So with the leader Saturn freezing and causing lots of discomfort to Alan (not again), the other Zonnens sneak inside the Training Gate to kill the other MAR members. Jack and Ginta face off with Mercury and Mars and emerge victorious by blowing them away to the stars with Gargoyle. Nanashi and Alviss got Venus and Jupiter and they combine their powers and intelligence by using the surroundings the turn the tables on the pair. Finally Snow and Dorothy had to deal with Uranus, Neptune and Pluto and though the 3 sisters manage to initially fool the heroines with one of them being able to morph shape, they are still no match when the ladies cooperate. With the gang done with theirs, it is Alan’s turn. He has them send them their magical powers for him to break free from Saturn’s spell, reverses the curse on Saturn and with everybody else appearing out of the gate, Saturn gets a combined clobbering from the powers of the MAR team. Yeah, and it took Ed and Belle so long to call Gaira for help. Can’t blame him, he’s being held back by Zonnen Pawns. But it took him that long? Maybe he’s really getting old…

Sixth Battle: Mushroom Field
Match 1: Alan vs Chaton – I guess it’s about time he joined in the fray or else he’ll lose his edge. But Alan didn’t count something for this most powerful Bishop: Chaton is a cat. So what? Alan has a phobia for cats!!! Yikes! Being too long in Ed has made him so? Cute and annoying, Chaton doesn’t really have to unleash her full power to defeat Alan. Yeah, this legendary powerful guy lost to a cat girl. And it’s only his second match. How disappointing. MAR off to a losing start with Chess leading for the first time 1-0.
Match 2: Alviss vs Kouga – Something is amiss with Kouga. He has no magical powers but yet he is a Knight class. Then with repeated hits and experiments, Alviss deduces that he is one because of his monstrous strength. Each time he takes a hit, he gets up as though nothing happened. And Kouga has a grudge against Alviss simply because… He is handsome! WTF?! Alviss gives MAR their first victory for this when he finally uses his new ARM, A Baoa Qu, a guardian that envelops its opponents in a confined space and unleashes a powerful blast.
Match 3: Dorothy vs Pinocchion – Pinocchion turns out to be a doll given to Dorothy by Diana when she was young. Turns out to be an evil doll so I guess it’s up to her to stop it (seems Diana will turn him into a human if he defeats Dorothy). Pinocchion really sounds creepy with that voice… Anyway with 3 arms and a nose that grows longer into a powerful cannon each time he lies, ultimately Dorothy gets swallowed up by his giant monster whale, Fastitocalon. Pozun is in a dilemma to call the victory since he’s being pressured by the MAR guys to hold on a little longer. Inside the whale stomach, Dorothy meets Diana’s ex-servant, Poko (looks like a weird alien). He was a hard working servant till one day he stepped on Diana’s dress and was forever banished here. Fastitocalon’s stomach juice is very acidic and melts anything upon contact. So be careful. Plus, ARMs cannot be activated unless Poko wishes for it. He prefers this peaceful life inside the whale’s stomach though Dorothy tries her best to break out of the whale’s iron stomach but to no avail. Seeing her try so hard, he allows her to use Toto to break out of the whale and destroy Pinocchion.
Match 4: Snow vs Magical Roe – This magician turns out to be Snow’s babysitter when she was young. However after fighting with her (Snow besting Magical Roe’s Nightmare with her Undine), Magical Roe reveals his mission isn’t to defeat her but was sent by Diana to capture her. With that, Magical Roe forcefully seizes Snow and leaves the tournament. Oh no! So how? There’s this final match to go on so hang in there Ginta! Oh, Magical Roe is considered to have won this match. So it’s a tie at 2-2 and down the wire.
Match 5: Ginta vs Ian – With Ian now a full-fledged Knight, he is out for revenge and Ginta’s head. Ginta is impatient and blinded by the fact he wants to go save Snow but Ian won’t let him leave until they settle this grudge match. Ian uses a Darkness ARM, Demonic Bond to bind both of them and this causes them to have their magical powers drained in the form of blood. So whoever loses all his blood first will lose. Ian mentions his 3 reasons why he can’t forgive Ginta but Ginta couldn’t give a damn about his twisted reasons. In the end, Ginta wins and manages to convince Ian that this won’t save Gido at all. Ian tosses away his Knight status and continues to search for Gido’s perpetrator. And with a close match, MAR wins 3-2.

Tokyo Arc
With a week before the final match, Gaira has all MAR undergoing more training in his Training Gate. But something is amiss. Ginta and Babbo find themselves back in Tokyo! For real? Well maybe. Koyuki is there too so he must be back in Tokyo. But strange things seem to occur because his MAR buddies when they first met, seem to be acting strange. Like Jack is the head of the delinquents, Nanashi the leader of a rival biker group, Dorothy a kind maid to a rich mistress, Alan a private eye detective and Alviss a person who is taking care of a sick little girl called Koyomi in a hospital. None of them have memories prior to their arrival here and it seems a little piece of earring is the source that is impeding their memories. So once Ginta gradually gets his mates back, recover their memories and regroup, Alan deduces that they aren’t really back in Ginta’s world and are still inside the Training Gate. The mysterious lady who has been appearing on and off and disguising herself as other girls throughout the arc (such as Koyuki, Dorothy’s mistress and Koyomi) turns out to be Lillis. During the first War Games, Alan and Gaira’s Cross Guards were saved by Lillis’ tremendous power of her ARM, Plenu Ryunu. As the best ARM user in her village, they begged for her to join the Cross Guards to fight against Chess. She was reluctant though her family gave their blessings. Soon, her village was burnt down and she felt guilty that her absence was the cause her family and village perished. Soon, Lillis vanished from her own Training Gate and never resurfaced. As Lillis further vanish into a portal, Ginta, Dorothy and Alan go after her while the rest take on the undead knights Plenu Ryunu is keeping them busy with. Inside the portal, a seemingly calm and peaceful replica of Lillis village. The reason why she did this to Ginta and co was because she doesn’t want them to experience the pain of war and should’ve stayed in this peaceful place even though it’s fake. Eventually MAR gets to leave the place after they defeat Plenu Ryunu who has been guarding Lillis with whatever amount of magic power she has left.

Reginrave Castle Arc
Remember that Alibaba guy who perished so suddenly? Apparently he is alive because before he was going to be melted by the volcano’s magma, Phantom teleported him away. Yeah, Alibaba has got a new arm. Not an ARM, but a mechanical arm. What difference does it make? He’s only cockier and asserting his position as leader. Now he is under Phantom’s orders and leading a little group that comprises of Fuugi and Loco to retrieve a powerful Hero ARM believed to be hidden somewhere underneath Reginrave Castle. Reginrave Princess has no choice but to lead Alibaba deeper into the underground filled with traps because the useless knight Carl can’t really do anything. Okay, maybe I was a little harsh. You can’t do anything rash when your princess is held hostage. Ginta and Jack chase after them while Loco finds a new cursed ARM that turns its victims into animals. Guess what did Jack turned into? Uki, uki, uki… Ginta turned into a rabbit? But that ARM possession is only short lived. When the gang finally reaches the place where the hero ARM resides, Alibaba can’t use it and thinks it’s all a fake. That’s because he’s not a hero. So when Carl uses it, he turns into some knight hero to save the princess and get the gang out of the crumbling lair. Looks like this ARM is also good only for one use. And yeah, Alibaba may have perished for good this time. Good riddance.

Seventh Battle: Final Battle!
The mouth-watering final is here and will be held in front of Reginrave Castle. It’ll be MAR up against all the best and powerful knights of Chess. Plus, there will only be a match a day and not in succession.
Match 1: Jack vs Weasel – Hmm… Both are plant users. But Weasel is an old geezer with a tree growing on top of his bald head? Don’t let looks deceive you. Weasel was the one who fought Jack’s dad in the last War Games and killed him. So it’s revenge time but Jack’s moves are predictable because whatever he pulls off, Weasel has already seen it during his bout with daddy. Like father, like son. Weasel ultimately plants a large tree that feeds on the suffering of others, Yggdrasil and though Jack tries to draw strength and inspiration to fight on from his late dad, Weasel unleashes a Bird of Rotten Wood guardian that rots and withers any plants his opponents create. To overcome this, Jack summons his second new ARM, Kikazoku Fire (an Arabian midget?) to burn the hell out of that bird. He never used this before because it requires great amount of magical power. Finally he defeats Yggdrasil by destroying the tree on top of Weasel’s head since it’s the source of his powers. That easy? But nobody thought of it before? And to think that his power source was at such an obvious open spot. So you could say Jack’s actions now bore fruits, eh? Only a bald top left… MAR leads 1-0.

Match 2: Alviss vs Rolan – Get ready for round 2, the clash of the bishonens. Literally. Okay, so this match feels like another clash of ideals. Rolan wants Alviss to come on board the eternity undead thingy while Alviss would rather die than to live forever like a zombie. Both are stubborn. Both are good looking and both are determined. With Alviss using his Totem Poles moves as opposed to Rolan’s Stone Cubes and Ailes d’Angel (that allows him to fly and shoot sharp feathers), eventually emotion got the better of Rolan as Alviss coolly handles this one and defeats him. MAR extends their lead to 2-0.

Match 3: Dorothy vs Chimera – You think Chimera must be some kind of a pervert to rip Dorothy’s clothes. Distraction? Okay, maybe for us Dorothy fans but the truth is, Chimera isn’t really a guy. She’s a woman. This match isn’t a bed of roses for Dorothy because Chimera is using Ghost ARMS, the kind of ARMS that are forbidden and horrendous. At points they may look like aliens. As usual, a taste of Chimera’s past how she lost her humanity and turned into a twisted cold blooded Chess Piece member. She was in the midst of marrying the guy she loves although fully knowing he’s part of Chess. But the villagers (Chess victims and were on a witch hunt) took him away. He never returned no matter how long she waited. Then they return and decide to punish all those who are affiliated with Chess, innocent or not. She was held captive and tortured till she could no longer withstand the pain and ran away. She ultimately loses her humanity when she saw her badly scarred face. So that’s when she tells the world to screw it and Peta picks her up as recruitment. Do you think Dorothy cares about it all? Big yawn for her. Chimera also reveals she was the one who turned Gido into a vegetable, prompting angry Ian to interrupt the match. But he gets kicked by Dorothy and a ticking off that he can do anything he wants after she wins this match. In the climax of the powerful, Chimera fuses with her most powerful Ghost ARM, Chimaira and turns herself into a powerful monstrosity but Dorothy defeats her with Toto. Frustrated with everything that has happened, Chimera screws the world, screws Chess and flees. MAR is up 3-0. And oh, congratulations to Dorothy for winning all her War Game battles! Perfect victory!

Match 4: Alan vs Halloween – Another rematch and grudge match between very powerful characters. So we’ve got Alan’s Air Hammer against Halloween’s fire abilities. But shock is Alan upon finding out Halloween is his childhood friend. He never suspected it? Even way back 6 years ago when they fought to a draw? So yeah. Another flashback. Halloween, formerly known as Pump was the weakest boy in town. Always got bullied. Alan, the strongest kid in town, saves him. Strikes up a friendship. However Pump wanted to be strong and crave more power so he stole one of Alan’s ARMs and got chase by a pack of multi-headed dogs. Before the dogs could bite him to death, his fear unleashed some sort of fiery retribution and burnt the dogs. That was when Pump realized the thrill in stepping on the weak. Halloween was also the one who merged Alan and Ed together at the end of the draw in the previous War Games. Halloween got more ruthless over the years and is taking advantage of Alan’s heroic heart to harm the defenceless spectators so Alan has no choice but to defend them and take in some pain. After unleashing wave after wave of powerful ARMs on Alan, Halloween uses his ultimate Guardian ARM, Wakan Tanka (skeleton on wings?). But Alan counters this move with his new ARM, Saint Anger (a pair of giant hands?) to smash them up and sends Halloween flying into the sky. Up, up and away! With the 6 years of grudge settled, MAR has an unassailable 4-0 lead.

Match 5: Nanashi vs Peta – Also another grudge match. At least for Nanashi who is out to avenge his comrades. Prior to the start of the match, Nanashi went back to Luberia to clear his mind but Galian is after him to prevent him from fighting Peta because he knows he will lose his life by fighting this powerfully crazy Chess’ strategist. Since when Galian cared about Nanashi? Maybe it’ll be too boring if he’s no longer around. It was odd to see them in a tag and hide-and-seek game. Catch me if you can! No way! Do you think he should give up just because MAR can afford to lose a match? Not a chance if the pride of Luberia is on the line. So as the match starts, Nanashi can’t lay a single hit on Peta. Actually he did. Just that with Peta’s Blood Body, his body is immune to any attacks as his body will regenerate. Also, all lightning based attacks are reflected back at him. Then Peta uses Blood Syringe to drain blood out from Nanashi, the way he uses to massacre his Luberia mates. Nanashi was prepared to die in this battle but that is if he takes Peta with him. Now it is close to impossible. Besides, don’t you want a kiss Dorothy promised to give you if you return alive? Nanashi could’ve been done for if he had not taken a Holy ARM Alviss gave him (which was originally from one of his close fallen comrades) that allows him to be completely healed and making this comeback to destroy the Blood Body ARM. Peta is pushed to a corner so he summons his Guardian ARM, Body Eye. But Nanashi fights back with Gymnote and finishes him off with his Griffin Lance. With MAR 5-0 and close to perfection, Phantom makes his personal appearance on stage and mourns the loss of his best friend. Hey, even baddies like him do shed a tear. Now there is no one else who will share his immortality dream. Rolan? Maybe he’s not that close. Oh, what about that promised kiss? Dorothy ‘forgot’ she ever said that. Haha! Looks like her lips are only for Ginta.

Match 6: Ginta vs Phantom – The much awaited finals! As the number one Knight, Phantom easily summons several guardians simultaneously for Ginta to have some warm up exercise, in which he easily disposes. Then Phantom traps Ginta in his Phantom Glass and gives him time to break out. If he does not do so once he is done with his storytelling, with a snap of his finger, Ginta will shatter along with the glass. Oh wait. Storytelling time? I guess this is inevitable. So what more shocking revelations can we learn from this flashback? Phantom is from Caldea. Shock! And nobody from Caldea recognized it was this bugger who initiated the War Games 6 years ago? So this was how he became twisted. When Phantom was young, he entered a forbidden room and saw some kind of orb. He was enthralled by it and made regular visits but when his rendezvous was found out, he was being made to put to death and by Caldea’s law, his parents are supposed to do it. However they couldn’t and perished themselves. Since Phantom has no other relatives, he was to be imprisoned for life. Till that day (10 years later, that is) when Diana busted him out and since they both share the same dream of world domination and utmost detest for weak humans. They took along with them almost 800 ARMs and that orb thingy (which could’ve been Babbo). Along their journey across MAR Heaven, they build up Chess, Phantom met Peta and fell in love with a girl named Alma (who says there isn’t romance for bad guys?), Diana became Queen of Lestarva and gave Phantom a Zombie Tattoo as her present so that he can’t die. Because Phantom and Alma’s view differ (the latter accepted the cycle of death and rebirth as opposed to Phantom’s eternity), they both went their separate ways with Phantom finding those who share his same beliefs. And if ever Phantom changed his mind, he should use the key he gave her to free himself. Back to the match proper, While Phantom reveals his monster arm that has lots of ARMs (pun not intended), Ginta manages to break out in time and uses his newest version of Babbo (a magic stone he received from Dorothy prior to the match). I guess everybody is eager to see him pull off what kind of new version he has in store. So are you ready everyone? Can you guess what it is? It is… Puss In Boots! WTF?! What’s so special? With a dried bonito in hand, he is an ARM who can use other ARMs. Uh… Dorothy not looking happy… Ginta manages to rip his monster arm and there is a suspicious keyhole on Phantom’s chest. Want to guess which key fits there? Then it’s the showdown of the strongest guardians. Phantom’s Remrace and Dead Dragon against Ginta’s Gargoyle. Remrace and Dead Dragon combine and coordinate their attacks to best Ginta’s Gargoyle. It’s 2 against 1. However it ends with all guardians destroying each other. With no more guardians left, Phantom and Ginta engage in a physical fistfight! Both sides are already tired. Finally Ginta knocks a good one into Phantom. He better not stand up because Ginta is already at his limit. Phantom is down but not getting up so Pozun is in a dilemma to make the call. Chess supporters threaten but Pozun being the fair judge announces the winner of the battle and War Games to MAR!!! Hooray!!! MAR won!!!

Rescue Snow Arc
As Candice brings Phantom back to the castle, he knows that Diana has already cast him away seeing that his lost has made him ‘useless’ to her. As for our MAR heroes, their next step is to rescue Snow being held at Lestarva Castle. They need an Andarta ARM to transport themselves there so Alan, Nanashi and Jack try to find Pozun. Ginta knew that guy is the only one from Chess who hasn’t left because if he does so, he’ll get clobbered by the Chess members. The trio head to Pozun’s village and learns from his sister Porin how Pozun became the referee for War Games again when his village is being held hostage by Chess. But after dispelling the traps and helping the village to walk on its feet again, Pozun thanks them and gives them his Andarta ring (good thing MAR won, eh?). Meanwhile Ginta, Dorothy and Alviss need to head back to Caldea to have Babbo fixed because since his match with Phantom, all those devastating blows are cracking him up (not a laughing matter, mind you). However they face obstruction from several old enemies: Giromu (revenge for big sister), Kouga (rematch for his ‘rival’) and Pinocchion (wants somebody new to play with since Diana abandoned him. Oh, looks at his upgraded version. He’s on wheels!). Dorothy has to take the long way back to Caldea since her Andarta ARM was destroyed by those pesky losers. I wonder if it’s uncomfortable flying too long on a witch’s broom. It was really odd how Giromu could freeze the entire ocean not only on the surface but the depth as well. But I guess this gives them some sort of ‘platform’ to fight on. Of course Ginta always wins and even if Giromu said he’d repent, he really didn’t.

With Ed’s flying carpet, MAR takes a faster trip to Caldea to repair Babbo. The elders initiate a delicate process to fix Babbo and at this very time, the trio losers once again cause havoc on Caldea. As for Ed, he seems to have this disgust for Caldea ever since learning Phantom was from this place. He thinks that Caldea’s strict laws were the source MAR Heaven went into war. Can you just forgive them? Besides, lashing out at old elders makes it feel that you’re just bullying the old. Like no respect. Like he’s got a big problem with it. He should’ve been better being a ‘useless’ mascot with his incessant worrying of Snow. But you can tell how this is going to end when Kouga gets bombed in Alviss’ A Baoa Qu again and Giromu knocked out by Ginta and a revived Babbo (just in time, eh?). Hope you learn your lesson, buddy. No, you can never get revenge for your sister. And thankfully Ed’s revulsion for Caldea subsides (may not be totally) after witnessing that the kids of this place are just as innocent as kids anywhere else in this kingdom. It’s not nice for dogs to stay stubborn anyway. Elsewhere, Ian is hot on Chimera’s trail. He wants her to break the spell on Gido but she is more interested in obtaining the ultimate Ghost ARM sealed away in some tower (the kind that makes you totally lose your humanity – no more feelings, no more memories). Well, though she temporarily possessed it, it didn’t last. So she goes back to Lestarva Castle to take Gido as hostage while challenging Ian to a duel. But it’s not any much of a match because Chimera was easily defeated. Realizing how she could be with her loved one in Heaven, Chimera breaks Gido’s spell. She even wished them the happiness she had lost. Goes to show that deep down she still has her humanity. Chimera (whose real name is now revealed: Eileen) dies as Ian and Gido head out of Lestarva Castle just as Ginta and co are coming in.

But joining MAR are the odd bedfellows of Chaton and Loco. While it’s easy to say that Chaton is totally infatuated with Alan (who by the way still has cat phobia as she clings to him at every moment possible), it’s weird to see her and Loco together. If boggles me that if Loco despises Chaton so much (because her acts always make Loco bear the brunt), why doesn’t she just leave her? I mean, they’ve been seen together since the final match and travelling together ever since. Each time Loco commenting how she’ll get back at that cat every time she does something irritating. At this rate, I don’t think her entire lifetime will be enough. I guess these 2 need more screen time because… They’re the only Chess Pieces that didn’t lose. Anyway with MAR barging into Lestarva Castle, they have to fight waves of low level Chess Pieces. Ginta, Alan and Ed arrive at a room where Snow is held but faces off with Magical Roe though they defeat him. However they can’t easily free Snow because she is in some Darkness ARM puzzle called Death Cube. One wrong move and Snow will be sent to the other dimension. Magical Roe realized the err of his ways offers to undo the puzzle. But since this is a Darkness ARM, whoever undoes the puzzle will be sent to the other dimension instead. Magical Roe accepts his fate since he got to see Snow smile one last time. And doesn’t it feel like deja vu because as Snow breaks free, she falls onto Ginta’s lips… And all that pecking from Dorothy does not count. Elsewhere Dorothy and Alviss are fighting off against Candice and Rolan respectively (round 3 for the handsome guys? Don’t they get tired of facing each other?). The loyal duo are preventing them from taking a step further into the chamber where Phantom is resting. Rolan may have got Alviss trapped in his cage and Candice using some illusion on Dorothy to turn her into some emotional wreck over Diana, but Belle’s help (with a cat?) breaks Alviss free and Dorothy’s Zephiroth Broom turns the tide on their respective enemies. Just as MAR regroups and is about to take their final step to banish Phantom once and for all, suddenly they are being transported away.

Ghost Chess Arc
Well, something is wrong with Alviss. His Zombie Tattoo is hastening! It’s because of an ARM stuck to his heart called Rondo of Time that is accelerating this process. But if you think about it, he should have turned into one already since his body is almost covered with the tattoo. Unless it’s his strong will in fighting off the transformation. In this arc, we are introduced to the loyal and secret servants of Phantom, the Ghost Chess. Led by Kapelmeister (the one who transported MAR away), Sara Band, Pause, General and the Flat Sisters (no, not referring to their chests but the musical notes they represent: A, B and C). Phantom still wants to make Alviss his and has his final ace up his sleeve via Ghost Chess (he has Rolan and yet yearns for Alviss). MAR infiltrates the lone island city of Bartgain, the place where Phantom and his Ghost Chess are. Nanashi’s makeshift octopus craft (?!) is soon discovered and attack and disperses the MAR to various part of the island. With Ghost Chess initiating attack on MAR, Kapelmeister hypnotizes Alviss away from Snow back to Phantom before calling his underlings to retreat. But it seems Alviss has changed his stance on eternity and wants to join Phantom. But Rolan can’t trust him seeing that they fought so many times so he knows he just can’t let him go to Phantom. Jealous? Oddly after all the persuasion and finally when he wants to come in, Rolan shuts the door. Ironic, isn’t it? But it’s a plot to get close enough to Phantom to insert the key in his chest (Alviss previously asked Ginta for the key as he wanted to end this with his own hands). But Phantom saw this coming and prevented him from inserting the key into his chest. Well Alviss, if you didn’t shout and act so dramatic that you’re going to bring him down, probably Phantom would not have reacted so fast. At this point, Alviss is under the spell of the Zombie Tattoo and becomes a mindless fighting monster, beating up his MAR comrades without remorse. But he managed to eke out a little conscious to tell them to escape before succumbing to the beast. MAR have to retreat and do some planning to get Alviss back. And killing him isn’t part of the plan. With Nanashi and Alan captured, the only hope left is to get an ARM that will grant any wish that resides at Misty Castle, Clavier. Ginta and Dorothy enter the coliseum but the guardian Misty Hadju senses them as evil since Sara put a spell on the guardian to make them ‘blind’. The guardians continue to attack while the duo make a run. But they are saved when a ghost ship from Vestory appears. It is Alma to point out Misty Hadju’s misjudgement and being deceived (what is a ghost ship doing here? I felt Alma’s presence was just to notify Ginta and to save our heroes’ asses). Misty Hadju is free from Sara’s spell so she tells the duo how to get to Clavier (lighting up the torch and looking up at the sky).

So to get Alviss back, MAR fights and gets captured by Ghost Chess. Including Chaton and Loco. Chaton did a cheeky move by making Loco use her voodoo magic to swap bodies with General so that they can fool Pause and free beloved Alan and Nanashi (I can’t believe the Ghost ARM that was supposed to eat Alan and Nanashi’s heart were easily destroyed when Nanashi used the lightning on himself and Alan’s via Loco’s voodoo straw doll substitution. Shouldn’t Nanashi have done his in the beginning? Maybe he was hypnotized). Inside, they find a lab belonging to Kapelmeister as he is dabbling in forbidden Ghost ARMs so that he could make Phantom the perfect being. Then they fight Alviss again but this time Snow uses what she has learnt and train to precisely shoot her ice at Rondo of Time, temporarily stopping the accelerating process. With Alviss back with them, they head back to the coliseum. But they face off with Ghost Chess who are bent on preventing Alviss from reaching Clavier. The other MAR members keep the Ghost Chess members as Alviss alone heads up to Clavier. Loco could have got a head start to Clavier (she wanted the ARM to stop her de-aging curse) if she had not stopped to use her Darkness ARM to save Chaton from harm’s way. Because of that she turned into a baby for good. Poor Chaton felt so guilty that she took it upon herself to take care of baby Loco. Alan even takes pity on Chaton. What a surprise. Even still, the toddler finds her annoying.

As Alviss makes his way inside Clavier, he is bewildered to see another person inside (suspiciously looking like his young self). Since only one can get the ARM, Alviss gives way to this kid. However the kid gets disheartened to see it in a form of dagger and tosses it away. Then Alviss suddenly remembers that it was this dagger he used to summon Ginta to this world via Monban Pierrot after years of mastering it. What he wished for then was for peace on MAR Heaven. Funny how he doesn’t remember it but now. But as noted by Misty Hadju, though this place only can have a single person at a time, but different times intertwine so I guess this unexplainable happened. Meanwhile MAR are still fighting against Ghost Chess. Sara uses a move that eventually absorbs her life and kills her, leaving most of her comrades shock. Everyone doesn’t feel like fighting anymore but Kapellmeister sucks his comrades’ life to turn into the ultimate Ghost ARM and transforms himself into winged demon called Analyse. Of course with MAR cooperating, there is no way such heartless baddie could win. When Alviss return, they lament he couldn’t use that ARM but he notes he gained something more valuable instead (probably it’s his meeting with Ginta).

Heading back to the castle to face Phantom, it’s another round of Rolan-Alviss. Yeah, now he changed his mind and can’t let Alviss be near Phantom. Anyway Candice has taken Phantom and on the run. How far can they get? Though Rolan attacks Alviss, he laments that he is not acknowledged by Phantom and stabs himself with his own rose! Maybe this way he could meet Phantom again. So when MAR has got Phantom and Candice cornered, Phantom resigns to his fate of getting killed. He gives Alviss the green light to stick the key into him. But Alviss hesitates. Don’t tell me he’s feeling sorry for him now? Anyway Phantom is the one who guided Alviss’ hands to insert the key. Phantom becomes a mortal and this frees Alviss from his Zombie Tattoo. Alviss gives Phantom a decent burial by having Jack to bloom flowers all around just like his ideal dream world. Oh Candice, what are you to do now since the person you have been living for is gone?

MAR Heaven In Crisis Arc
Snow is suddenly acting strange. She wants to seal Babbo’s memories as part of Diana’s orders (something must have triggered her to go into this state). Though she soon becomes unconscious and Babbo freed from Snow’s icy prison, Ginta jumps into Snow’s mind via some ARM they found in the island’s lab. Here some shocking revelations of Snow are revealed. She is connected to Koyuki in the real world and thus why they both see each other in their dreams. Then this is all part of Diana and the mysterious King’s plan for something. Seems when Diana wasn’t the Queen of Lestarva yet, she implanted some magic stone into the pregnant Lestarva Queen. Thus Snow isn’t a person who is supposed to exist in this world. Huh? What? I’m confused. Well, Diana wants to open a portal between Earth and MAR Heaven and it seems she needs Snow’s power to do it. And for the research Alviss is doing, this process is something similar to human cloning. Anyway Ginta manages to get Snow back because she is who she is and believes she is a separate matter from Koyuki. Snow comes back, all’s well ends well? So when the gang are ready to depart for Lestarva Castle, they are shocked to find themselves falling from the sky. But don’t worry. They landed safely at Lestarva Castle, which is now safely on the ground. The king of Lestarva (Snow’s dad) is relieved to see them and that somehow he was freed from his captive as the King and Queen had suddenly vanished. So has peace finally reached MAR Heaven? As the gang celebrates, something sinister is about to happen, the mysterious King (in a knight’s armour. Can’t help staring at his weird butt armour piece) makes his move to control both worlds. First, mysterious monuments from Ginta’s world start falling into MAR Heaven. Isn’t that the statues from Easter Island? Isn’t that Eiffel Tower? Team MAR go around to look for clues but King approaches Alan and they fight. Alan is no match for his ferocious powers and was beaten. By the time everyone gets back, Alan is in his final last breath. He has an idea who King is but dies before he could say it. NOOO!!! ALAN DIED???!!! I can’t believe this!!! Imagine how heartbroken Chaton has become. Because of this, Chaton and Loco (reluctantly) go on a knight hunting spree and beat up anybody that looks like a knight in hopes of nailing the real culprit. She’s just turned into a vengeful vigilante, eh?

Ginta and Dorothy head back to Caldea to see the elder but find the floating castle is gone and the place under attack by monsters. After defeating the monster, they realize the elder is inside it and it seems King and Queen have hijacked their floating castle and made it as their new base. Meanwhile Jack, Alviss and Nanashi encounter Pano stealing food. Seems she and her family are planning to stow away and live on a faraway island since Chess has been disbanded and they fear they may receive the people’s wrath even if they have turned over a new leaf. But when Garon and Leno return, they are being attacked by King and are killed. Jack is also injured but not as bad as Snow who took a direct hit. Nanashi wants Alviss to take the rest to retreat while he fights off King. Unfortunately, his powers are too great as Nanashi succumbs to his injuries. Oh sh*t!!! Not another MAR member dead! But that statistic is going up again as Snow lies in her final breath in Ginta’s arms. She manages to confess she likes him and dies. F************CK!!!! Why are they killing off MAR members???!!! In the real world, Koyuki almost drowns in her school’s pool but manages to live on. From this point, she has stopped seeing visions of Snow and pays Ginta’s mom a visit. Ironically, Ginta’s mom also had visions of MAR Heaven all along, the reason why she got to write her novel. Perhaps she is the Queen and Diana’s counterpart? Bet she is. Ginta is obviously down but as MAR’s captain, he can’t let it go to his head. They meet Ian and Gido who are staying at a village Ash once governed. Though the adults hate Ash for being part of Chess, the children aren’t. Seems Ash is trying to help the villagers relocate as there are mysterious portals opening up over the place. Ash’s ARM, Eingang has this ability to seal the portal so he needs Ginta’s Gargoyle power to help seal the next one as each successful seal, the next rip becomes bigger and harder to seal. Ash also tells Ginta how King and Queen are behind this because when Diana announced Chess will be disbanded forever, King proceeded to absorb everyone (disgruntle turned to fear)! Only Ash managed to escape. Diana senses Ash’s Eingang will put a damper to their plans so King goes to stop him. Though Ian challenges King and gets beaten up, King avoids killing him because he has to rush to Ash and Ginta who are close in sealing a portal. Ash fights King so that Ginta could concentrate in closing the portal. Ultimately though the portal is closed, Ash loses his life but leaves Eingang in Ginta’s care.

Dorothy takes Ginta and Alviss to a cave to concentrate their magical powers on Eingang so they can teleport to where Diana is. Alviss takes a break outside but is confronted by King. He then reveals his true face. It is Danna! Say it isn’t so! Well, actually I had seen this coming (thanks to the spoilers in the opening. Thanks guys. That was a big ‘relief’. Read: Sarcasm) but hoped it wasn’t true. And he has Zombie Tattoo over him too! Is that how he survived? So Alviss starts going crazy and in denial about all the trust and bond they made back in the first War Games. Because of this, he couldn’t concentrate and was on the verge on giving up till he sees visions of Phantom and Rolan telling him to stand up and fight. Placing his trust in Ginta, Alviss holds down Danna and uses his A Baoa Qu to blast both of them together. King could’ve finished him off if Jack didn’t arrive (I think he could’ve killed them both if he wanted) so he escapes. Jack brings heavily wounded Alviss back to the cave whereby Alviss uses his last ounce of life to help open the portal (though Dorothy and Ginta managed to activate it, its power wasn’t enough to teleport them). Only Ginta, Babbo and Dorothy will head for the final battle as Jack offers to take care of Alviss. I was surprised to hear Dorothy promising to date Alviss when it’s over. I hope that’s true but that won’t be happening because after they have left, Alviss dies!!! NOOO!!! Not another MAR member! They’re really killing everybody off! In the castle, Ginta and Dorothy face off with Diana. Dorothy traps Ginta and Babbo seeing this is her battle. As both sides unleash powerful ARMs against each other, Diana reveals she wants to purify both worlds because she was sick of all the poverty, sickness and wars that humans had created. Dorothy didn’t give a damn about all that. She just wants the sister she knew back. In the end, Dorothy slashes Diana with her Ring Dagger. I guess when a person is dying, it makes them revert back to their good ol’ personality. Both sisters had a touching moment of sisterly reunion and reconciliation. Dorothy is saddened after Diana dies (well, even if she’s out to kill her, she is still her sister). Later as I found out, Diana’s revert in behaviour was probably due to the fact she was under King’s mind control all the while. But tragedy strikes twice because Danna fires a projection that kills Dorothy!!! NOOOOO!!! Not Dorothy too! Near complete MAR wipe-out! And as predicted, with her in her last breath, she manages to summon her courage to confess to Ginta that she loves him. What’s the use when you’re dead and gone?

Now it’s Ginta versus Danna. He is very shocked to see his dad but feels he isn’t his real father. Danna insists he is but throws a rock at him. He stops it with his powers. Ginta tells him whenever they got into an argument with mom, they always play catch to cool things down. Up till now, he has only playing catch with Babbo. What does this mean? Danna reveals that he is actually the Orb from Caldea and the Weapon ARM of Phantom during the first War Games. When Phantom was defeated and Danna died, Orb transferred his soul into Danna’s body. This explains a lot. It puts a rest to the eternal question of why he turned to the dark side. And because Ginta had always believed in his true father, seems Danna’s soul was residing in Babbo all the while. At that moment, Danna returns and temporarily takes over Babbo. Both father and son cooperate to beat Orb who needs Ginta’s power to open up a portal to Earth. Then Ginta uses Alice to transfer Danna’s soul back into his rightful body as the Orb escapes. Ginta and Babbo chase after Orb who has grown to an enormous size. Now he doesn’t need Ginta’s power to open up the portal. Ginta learns of Orb’s reason in doing all this. You see, Orb was born from Ginta’s world! How? Via all the negative emotions of humans from his world. Those negative emotions were so powerful that it seeped through to MAR Heaven. Caldea’s elder tried to contain this problem by sealing it all in an orb. Ironically as time passes, those negative emotions gained a mind of its own. Orb then showed Diana those devastating images, something that peaceful MAR Heaven lacks. She was convinced and took Orb and Phantom to run and the rest is history. Now Orb’s plan of destroying both worlds is coming close as he transforms into his true form, Tiamat and heads into the portal. Ginta rides Gargoyle to catch up with Orb. A powerful battle takes place but it devastates a big part of the city. Koyuki sees the spirit of Snow and the latter wants them to combine to become a magic stone to help Ginta. With an extra magical stone in his hand, Ginta wishes for all his friends help and power to defeat Orb. This means all the dead MAR members (minus Snow) are revived!!! Yes!!! Everyone in MAR Heaven lend their power to Ginta so that he could fire a devastating and brightest ray of light to finish Orb for good.

Aftermath
Peace returns to MAR Heaven and with the war over, it’s time for Ginta to return to his own world. Dorothy brings him back to the store he first shopped with Jack to find another Monban Pierrot. Before his departure, Ginta and Dorothy share a little moment together and she kisses him on his lips for real! Finally everyone sees off Ginta and Danna. Dorothy this time let out a loud cry that she loves Ginta. It probably would’ve been better if she had said it in front of him rather than to his back and before the portal closes. Ginta returns back to his classroom and Koyuki is relieved to see him. He promises her to tell her everything from the start but that won’t be necessary since she saw visions via Snow (saves us recap episodes, eh?). Koyuki hugs Ginta’s arms on the way home. Erm… I wonder if Ginta has his eyesight back to normal? Maybe his physical and mental strength has improved but I don’t remember him doing any eyesight training in MAR. Need glasses? Don’t see him doing so on his return. Danna also returns to Ginta’s mom and she is so happy her husband is back. After over 6 long freaking years, I wonder if she would yell her head off. Welcome back! The series ends with short clips of what the other MAR Heaven citizens are doing. Alan continues to leave with Chaton and taking care baby Loco. Has he gotten over his fear of cats? Also, Babbo is in their custody. Alviss and Belle continue to live together, Nanashi continues to flirt around with girls (Galian also back at Luberia), Jack continues his farm work and Pano makes regular visits (Garon and Leno giving them the thumbs up!), Ian and Gido continue to live at Ash’s village (children still flocking over Ash), Candice and Rolan paying a visit to Phantom’s grave, the odd pair trio of Giromu, Kouga and Pinocchion are bumming somewhere probably lost, Reginrave Princess marrying Carl much to Fuugi’s dismay (wait a minute, I didn’t know he had a thing for her! And wait too! Alibaba is still alive consoling that heartbroken guy?!), John Peach undergoing self intensive training and Dorothy flying away into the sky on her Zephiroth Broom while her other Caldea counterparts go all over the continent to retrieve other ARMs. Hmm… The last bit in showing those who got revived bugged me. I thought Ginta resurrected everyone but I guess it was for those who got killed by King/Orb. So this means Phantom and Diana didn’t revive. I thought Phantom was powerful enough for Ginta to request his help but I guess not. But Rolan? I thought he killed himself? Unless he didn’t. I was wondering about the other Chess Knights too. What happened to Weasel? He didn’t die, didn’t he? Chimera? She rejoined her lover in heaven for good. Halloween? He flew to the stars and never came back, eh?

The Excitement Has Ended…
Well, it was a nice series to follow and ended rather than continuing without any ending in sight unlike some long running series (I bet you can name a few). As the tournament part occupies half of the series, the good thing about the fights is that they are short and confined to a single episode. Better than lasting for 10 episodes with the match going nowhere. Unless the fights are important, they will last from 1.5 to 2 episodes. With the exception of Ginta-Phantom’s final fight lasting for a good 3 episodes. I’d love to make pre-match guesses on who will fight who (and in MAR team’s case, which members are going to participate). Mostly I am right mainly because of the spoilers in some of the ending credits (thanks guys, that really helped. Read: Sarcasm). But even during the fights, the downside is that they insert flashbacks and back story telling. Otherwise, the battle could have ended very fast. I know everyone especially the MAR team have a variety of their own unique ARMs and moves but using the same method can get tiring after a while. So that’s why the flashbacks and back story are necessary to ‘fill’ the gap between the battles. But the fillers aren’t just confined to within the battles itself. With over 100 episodes, I’m sure it’s not just tournament all the way. In between battles, those fillers serve to take a detour, which in my opinion puts a damper on the excitement of the tournament. For me, I would have preferred for it to go straight all the way without any interruption. One or two episodes are fine but to put in an entire mini arc like the Tokyo or Zonnens one is definitely not what I had in mind.

But overall the flow of the story from a simple tournament to save MAR Heaven turned into something darker and sinister plot like world destruction was gradual and smooth. The bits and pieces of information are steadily revealed throughout the series but with my kind of memory, I need lots of back referring to refresh my memories. Though some issues may raise an eyebrow or two. For example if MAR Heaven had never seen war before, how the heck did Diana got convinced of the need to purify the world? Unless she was totally under Orb’s brainwashing and perhaps the same reason why young Phantom was infatuated with the Orb so much so that he was able to give in to the dark side. The battle scenes especially the use of all types of ARMs, the animation is pretty much using CGI effects. Well, if you placed really high hopes of seeing anything jaw-dropping, you’d be sorely disappointed. The animation and movement of the effects are somewhat stiff so it’s like seeing a plastic toy or wooden product moving. And when they strike or blow, the impact doesn’t feel there. It’s like they are hitting air.

So what else can I say about the characters? They are your typical shonen type so it’s not surprising to see the characters grow especially Ginta. He may still be the same kid at the start in the sense he has a strong sense of belief in friendship and justice, but he grows stronger each moment and learns to cool down and not rush into a fight when his emotions get the better of him. When heroic guys like Ginta give their heroic speech, I know it’s a turn off but it beats To Aru Majutsu No Index’s Touma. There are always 2 sides of a coin so you may be right but the doings of the other party may also be right if you strictly look at it from their point of view. Like purifying the human world. Twisted it may be, but it is how Orb sees it to rid of anymore pain and suffering. Maybe there is no other way either but even with all that, Ginta still loves this world despite its many shortcomings so don’t simply go messing and destroying his world as you wish, okay? But other than that, it is the relationship and bond between Ginta and the rest that are the main highlight in turning MAR into a close-knit team. I wish MAR team could stay together forever but I guess with no evil across the land, their existence is meaningless in a way. Everyone accepts Ginta not because he is the one, the saviour of MAR Heaven, but for who he is. Even Alviss finally accepted him as his true comrade. Not to mention Babbo. He may be acknowledging Ginta as his best servant but we know he meant it as his best partner and friend. This may be trivial but I always prefer Dorothy to end up with Ginta (laugh all you want) instead of Snow/Koyuki. I know, she’s my favourite MAR member because of her rose-with-a-hundred-thorns personality (also I find her very pretty :)). Something about Babbo bugs me. If that talkative ARM can really eat like a glutton, where the heck does all the food go?! Where is his stomach? Because from what we can see, he is just a round ball. Don’t tell me his stomach is located in some other dimension. And if Babbo is so heavy, how can he hop around himself seeing that he is weak in water and instantly sinks. Couldn’t he just ‘hop’ away and out of the water?

I need to mention something about the Chess Pieces. Especially those low ranking Rooks and Pawns that aren’t given much individuality. Don’t you notice that a big majority of them wear some sort of mask and dress in a way that gives us an impression that they are clowns or jokers? I feel that they are too. Some never even taking off their mask (like Fuugi and Leno) so it bugs me how they really live by having something covered every part of their face just leaving little holes for their eyes. Speaking of the Chess rankings, I don’t really feel the difference between Knights, Bishops and Rooks. Though each of them have their own ARM to demonstrate during battles, I feel the intensity of it and their skills don’t make any difference. Sure, they may give our heroes a hard time but once they figure out the trick behind it, beating them is easy. So really, I don’t see how different a Knight, Bishop and Rook powers are and how they got ranked. Halfway through the series, I was confident Phantom was the King. Yes, I really thought that. Why? If the first War Games ended up with MAR in victory, doesn’t it show that Phantom is the final boss and thus the King? Plus, the case of Zodiac Knights, there should be only 12 of them, right? If Phantom is a Knight, shouldn’t that be 13 and not really a Zodiac anymore? Besides, Phantom may be cruel but I feel he hasn’t lost his human heart despite being a zombie. You see, if this War Games was really war, why the heck is he kind enough to give the participants a few days’ break (aside from the fillers excuse)? And when you say war, there are no rules so there should be violence and destruction raging throughout the world. Yet the War Games are exactly like what its other name half suggest: It is just a game. So was Phantom really serious in conquering MAR Heaven or not? And do Orb and Diana really need that long a period to open up a portal to Earth? Yeah, War Games were just an excuse to hide their true goals, if I should say. Another point of Phantom’s ‘kindness’ or rather righteousness to ponder is when he punished Rapunzel for simply killing off comrades. If Chess was a big bad organization, shouldn’t Rapunzel’s act be praised among them? I mean, from a baddie’s perspective, killing off weaklings is punishment if you fail to live up to expectations. However Phantom may be a hypocrite since he killed Oruko himself for being weak.

Somewhere halfway through the series, at the end of every episode, there is a segment called MAR Heaven’s Information Network hosted by Belle and Ed. I guess with these 2 mascot characters doing nothing that would make an important impact throughout the series (aside being annoying and for comic relief), I suppose this segment is where they get some screen time. In this part, we see them ranting basically about what has happened in the episode. Like a very short recap. Also it is to provide more short comic relief with their ‘jokes’. For instance, they may be jabbing or insulting each other but at the end of it, one of them will come up with a comeback line or punch line that will have them both laughing. Other than that, the segment is a total worship altar to let their heart out on all the good stuff for Alviss (Belle) and Snow (Ed). Yeah, praise them for all they want like the idols they picture them in their heads. Even if those stuff never happened. Deluded mascots… As if Belle wasn’t annoying enough in the series already. She gets jealous each time Alviss gets close with some other girl. And worse still, she might think he is gay if he gets too close to Nanashi or any other guy! Since when was Alviss her property? Ed was also annoying throughout the show because he is so useless that the only thing he can do is cry out loud with tears coming out from any hole in his face to his beloved hime-sama when things go wrong or bad.

Throughout the series, the mid-intermission is also another fairly amusing section. The first couple of seasons, it wasn’t anything much because it’s just about Ginta and Babbo before one about Babbo randomly transforming into one of his many known versions. The next type is interesting because it shows a trading card-like picture of the characters and their known ARMs and moves with each character having their own short motto. For the last type, it is a random pose of the characters saying “Waku-waku ga tomaranai” (The excitement never stops – which is the catchphrase of the series). I guess every main and supporting character has their fair share in saying it. Some even having said it several times. Another trivia which I found out is the comparison of Nanashi to Flame of Recca’s Joker. MAR and Flame of Recca are created by the same author so there has been speculations that both characters are the same. Besides, how do you explain Nanashi’s super strength in this world? It’s just like Ginta when he first arrived, right? Their characters are also similar and there is a hint that Nanashi may be from another world, that is he was probably that Joker. Though I watched Flame of Recca anime series but did not read the manga, I am not very sure on this so I can’t really say much. During the sponsor screens, viewers can glimpse a real version of an ARM. Won’t it be cool to have those silver ornaments as collector’s item or accessories?

For the first time (at least to me), a main character in the series has switched voice actors. Ginta was initially handled by Motoko Kumai (Koganei in Flame of Recca, Banba in Kuragehime) but that was for the first 90 episodes. For some unknown reason (which I could not find no matter how much I search), the balance of Ginta’s role was voiced by Kumiko Higa (Irina Woods in Mai-Otome). Though she sounds close but there was an obvious difference. I felt something amiss when I heard Ginta suddenly sounding a little different than usual, then I checked this up and found out about this. I didn’t like it. I would prefer the same seiyuu to stick to the same role till the end because my perception on how Ginta sounds like has been established and all of a sudden, somebody else voiced him. It takes the fun and excitement out of it. Really, I’m not kidding. With an extensive cast in this anime, I guess the best voice acting would go to Rapunzel by Yuko Sasaki (Hitomi Nomura in Piano) because she sounds like a crazy cold-hearted b*tch and Nao Nagasawa as Pinocchion (Majorika in Ojamajo Doremi) because she sounds really creepy wood puppet. As for the rest, they’re rather okay and after listening to them for so long, you’d get settled into the way they sound. The other casts include Ai Shimizu as Snow and Koyuki (Mikoto in Mai-HiME), Banjou Ginga as Babbo (Zaha in Bakuretsu Hunters), Daisuke Sakaguchi as Jack (Shinpachi in Gintama), Saki Nakajima as Dorothy (Chizuru in Bleach, Saki in Hayate No Gotoku), Souichirou Hoshi as Alviss (Kaoru in Ai Yori Aoshi, Son Goku in Saiyuki series), Juurouta Kosugi as Alan (Arlong in One Piece), Koichi Sakaguchi as Ed (Jack the Ripper in Soul Eater), Masaya Onosaka as Nanashi (Haruka in Lovely Complex, Momoshiro in Prince of Tennis), Rei Kugimiya as Belle (Shana in Shakugan No Shana), Mitsuki Saiga as Phantom (Kosaka in Genshiken), Toshihiko Seki as Danna (Mousse in Ranma 1/2), Michiko Neya as Diana (Agnese in Zero No Tsukaima), Ryuuzaburou Outomo as Orb (Crocodile in One Piece), Shinji Kawada as Ian (Shino in Naruto), Miyu Matsuki as Chaton (Yoshinoya in Hidamari Sketch), Sawa Ishige as Loco (Haruna in Negima series), Katsuki Konishi as Ash (Kamina in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann), Susumu Chiba as Rolan (Kondou in Gintama), Kumi Sakuma as Candice (Seina in Gokujou Seitokai), Hiroshi Matsu as Halloween (Henry in Karin), Mie Sonozaki as Chimera (Hazuki in Happy Lesson), Tomoyuki Sakurai as Gaira (Takuro Nakai in Bakuman), Hiroyuki Yoshino as Giromu (Saruyama in To Love-Ru series), Kouichi Toochika as Peta (Neji in Naruto) and Yuko Sasamoto as Pano (Kasumi in Super GALS). Phew. I think I’m already tired.

Some of the opening and ending themes are to my liking. For all the rock opening themes, they are sung by Garnet Crow and her low and muffled voice makes it feel like that there is something stuck in her throat and her voice trying really hard to come out. Oops. I don’t know, that’s what I feel but I guess it is something different and unique as opposed to the many squeaky high pitch vocals I am hearing these days. My favourite ones from her are Kimi No Omoi Egaita Yume Atsumeru Heaven (1st opening) that sets the pace and rhythm for the series, the flute-driven rock piece Yume Hanabi (3rd opening), the samba-like beat of Kaze To Rainbow (4th opening) and Koyoi Katasumi No Eden De (4th ending). Haredokei (2nd opening) and the slower beat Kono Te Wo Nobaseba (8th ending) didn’t appeal much to me. The other ending themes are I Just Wanna Hold You Tight by Miho Komatsu (1st ending), Fukigen Ni Naru Watashi by Sayuri Iwata (2nd ending), Mainichi Adventure by Sparkling Point (3rd ending), the very slow ballad and piano-driven Miracle by Rina Aiuchi (5th ending) and Mou Kokoro Yuretari Shinaide by Aiko Kitahara (7th ending).

With Ginta back to his own world, I hope he won’t get bullied or be the butt of jokes anymore. Not likely because he’s learnt a lot and gained lots of experience from MAR Heaven. Now nobody is going to mess with him. So it goes to show that even if you’re a weak kid, with proper guidance you can still become someone worthy and respectable. Ginta’s case is similar to the story of the Ugly Duckling. I’m sure he had his fill of adventure for the time being so it’s back to his normal school life. But the excitement will never stop as long he has a creative and active mind. That’s where the adventure will continue. But for me, the excitement far from over so it’s time to find my own new romance and adventure.

Yumeiro Patissiere

July 2, 2011

Mmm… Yummy… Food for thought. After watching a handful of animes, some leaving a bad aftertaste in the mouth, some sourish, some with that unsatisfied and un-full feeling and just several enjoyable ones, I thought to myself that I need to go for something sweet. That’s when I thought of giving Yumeiro Patissiere a go. That’s right. I love eating sweet things especially chocolates so I was hoping for some savoury treats while watching this series. In my opinion, as far as the tasty pastries are concerned, they do not disappoint. At least visually. Now my mouth is getting watery even as I type this blog.

Those seeking inspiration or aspire to be a patissiere (that is a fancy French term for what most of us would call a pastry chef), may look to this series as a start but still, don’t expect to perform miracles after watching all 50 episodes of the first season. You still need practice, practice and more practice. Yeah, not just making tasty pastries but the need to make them look good, glossy and delicious so that all those who take a bite from them would really feel like they’re eating a piece of Heaven in their mouths. Damn, I need to have one right now! Because long running series that span over a year or so, you know my style of not going into real detail. So for those who wish to have additional references can go to Wikipedia and Mania Beyond Entertainment as both these sites I frequent for references.

As usual, such genres will have a main hero and in this case, a heroine by the name of Ichigo Amano. Like most protagonists that start out, this 14 year old middle school girl is well, a klutz, talentless (good for nothing if you want to put it in another way) and an airhead. Yeah, not a good way to introduce things but hey, it’s a fact. She’s got a habit of tripping and falling down stairs so much so you’d think it’s her destiny to do so when she goes down one. But being so has its good points. She’s carefree (in a good sense), happy, loves to help those in need and a pig glutton (she’d prefer the term ‘big-eater’). You think the last one isn’t a good point? Think about this. You’re a girl and have a bottomless stomach. Way better than the Black Hole. You can swallow any kind of food, fatty and filled with cholesterol without gaining a single pound. That has got to be a blessing, right? Her destiny to become a patissiere begins when she was eating (the word ‘eating’ is underrated) at a cake shop after her little sister Natsume‘s piano competition. Top French patissiere, Henri Lucas was there to showcase his talent and he was amazed by Ichigo’s superb sense of palate. Coincidentally, Ichigo’s late grandma, Michiko had once studied in the renowned St Marie Academy, a place where professional patissieres are made. Guess what too? Henri’s great grandmother founded the academy and his grandfather was Michiko’s tutor. Yeah, this has got to be more than just fate. Ichigo finally decides that her true calling is to become a patissiere and plans to enrol in St Marie’s Japan branch. Though her mom and Natsume are supportive, but it’ll take a little more nudging before he allows her little girl to realize her dream. I understand him as a father will sorely miss his daughter when she’s gone, not to mention the possibility of bad boys wanting to ‘eat’ her. Sooner or later, he has got to let the bird fly out from the nest.

Ichigo is as excited as ever after successfully enrolling at St Marie. To put icing on the cake, she is being paired in a group with 3 good looking guys: Makoto Kashino, Sennosuke Andou and Satsuki Hanabusa. How come a new transfer student and a total beginner gets to be paired with hotties in Group A? Well, one thing, Ichigo is sure ‘famous’ since word has it that Henri was the one that recommended her. Expect envy from other b*tches. However those 3 guys aren’t just looking good for decoration as they have the skills to prove and live up to their name as the Sweets Princes. Moody and prickly Kashino is a chocolate specialist (always constantly arguing and reprimanding Ichigo. Yeah, you know what they say about couples that fight a lot), polite and calm Andou is Kashino’s childhood friend whose family has been making Japanese confectionery, Yumetsuki for generations and lady-killer and narcissist Hanabusa has his strong points in candy sculpture, designing and flower arrangement. Wow. Now I can see why many would feel irk for Ichigo to be in this group. Feels like a reverse harem, doesn’t it?

Of course Ichigo knows nothing about making pastries but you know her hidden talent in making them (but some after hundreds of tries and practice), you can tell she’ll just get by. Although Makoto may be harsh on her, scolding her each time she screws up or her density about not reading up or just common sense (maybe that’s his way of showing his love. Tsundere…), at least she’s got kind Andou and Hanabusa to help her out nicely. She’s really lucky. Another thing about this academy is the belief in the Sweets Spirits legend. What’s that? Little chibi spirits from the Sweets Kingdom that seem to pair themselves with a patissiere student so that they can be patissieres back at the Royal Court in the kingdom by sending pictures of cakes and sweets made back to the kingdom via the Queen’s portrait. Like a twinning programme, eh? A symbiotic relationship that provides benefit for both? Hmm… Note how the top students have Sweets Spirits with them? Cheating? Don’t worry. Though the Sweets Spirits can sprinkle some magic on the cake, decorating and providing pleasing eye candy, it is basically the students’ own effort that makes their respective sweets delicious. In addition, for those who do not have Sweets Spirits, they can’t see them though at times they can faintly hear them. You’re not hearing things, eh? So yeah, Ichigo has got Sweets Spirits Vanilla who specializes in, well, vanilla. Kashino’s is Chocolat who makes good, erm, chocolate. Duh. Andou’s is Caramel who does well in… Yeah, you’ve guessed it. Finally Hanabusa is Cafe. What kind of flavour does he provide? Coffee lah. Each of the Sweets Spirit not only provides comic relief with their cutesy antics but morale support and booster to our protagonists as well. Then there are other supporting characters at the academy as well such as Ichigo’s dorm-mate-cum-best-friend, Rumi Katou, other supportive classmates like Kanako Koizumi, Miki Mori and Sayuri Kanda.

The most interesting one has got to be Miya Koshiro (love her or hate her). The daughter and “Heiress” of the internationally famous sweets delivery company Chateau Seika is Kashino’s self-proclaimed lover and isn’t shy or afraid to show her utmost affection for that little kid in public. The reason she fell in love with him was because he did not hesitate to condemn her pastry skills when they first met. She liked how he was being honest with her unlike everybody else who was just putting up a fake front to please her. Regretting it, boy? I smell a love triangle coming up. Not that oblivious Ichigo and Kashino would know about. I guess Kashino knows her so well that you can say he can really avoid her ‘rushing hugs’ whenever she makes her obnoxious grand entrance (coupled in with her trademark annoying arrogant laughter). She has 2 loyal servants, Satou and Shiotani who will gladly serve out her whims and fancies and as a bloody filthy rich girl, she gets to buy all the best ingredients to hire the best patissieres to make the best sweets and cakes in the world. But even so, there are things that money can’t buy. Like Kashino’s heart. Can’t buy me love, baby. Don’t you know? A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? And even if she does practice 24/7, you still can’t beat a pro who has been practising for umpteenth years. But will that stop Miya? Noooo… Just like Ichigo, her perseverance in pursuing Kashino’s love is admirable. You’re in one big sh*t and long ride, pal.

So in the long journey that Ichigo and the Sweets Princes’ goal to become professional patissieres, most of the initial episodes are in this kind of format. We see Ichigo and her group trying to come up with sweets for a particular theme or occasion such as Kanako’s little kindergarten sister, Ringo’s birthday and putting up jealous b*tches that craftily steal their design. Of course, they don’t go blaming or even tell on the culprits and even come up with their own new design with limited time. Wow. That’s why they’re all so talented, including beginner Ichigo who has got a knack for creativity as well. There is a part Ichigo goes a step further by observing a customer’s sweets habits and preferences and customizes her sweets accordingly to their tongue. Is it hard to see why the Sweets Princes follow her (heh, Kashino just don’t want to admit it)? Then they also go solve other people’s problems via their delicious creations (if words don’t help, eating something does. Logic, right?) such as helping Andou’s youngest sibling, Ichita to realize big brother’s dream of opening his own branch that fuses Western and Eastern sweets, helping a depressed customer to reunite with his loved one after 7 years abroad playing for a jazz band, helping a friend Hayami regain her confidence to continue since she was on the verge of quitting school because of her diminishing grades (due to non-interest by her group members, she was relegated from a top group to the lowest), making friends with a group of travelling circus band, help the husband-and-wife dorm landlady and landlord to make up and remember the reason why they stayed on in this academy, rejuvenating Natsume when she is down and planning to quit piano, a field trip to a dairy farm, a cruel prank to leave Ichigo lost in the forest by those jealous b*tches in which it leads her to the room of student council president (nobody has been in there before so for Ichigo to do so is such an honour and amazement) and Henri’s favourite top genius student, Mari Tennouji (her Sweets Spirit is Honey), and of course the pudding battle or Valentine showdown with Miya over Kashino (no prizes to guess who comes out tops). Miya also gets her own Sweets Spirits: Marron.

The series also deals with some flashbacks such as Ichigo’s past on how she enjoyed the sweets Michiko made in her shop and came to realize her calling in this trade and the day the Sweets Princes meet but loggerheads Kashino and Hanabusa didn’t see eye to eye till an accident in the forest strengthened their friendship as they made madeleines to commemorate it. We also have glimpses of the Sweet Spirits quartet going back to their kingdom to help out with the New Year preparations or to take a supplementary exam or else they’ll fail for good. Even Ichigo had a chance of going back there in her chibi form (since everyone in the campus had gone home for the holidays, leaving her alone. What else better to do?), accidentally meet the naughty trio called Jerks and helping them out with their project. Hmm… They have this uncanny resemblance and personality to the Sweets Princes… Kasshi? Andy? Narcy? Very similar indeed… Sure they’ve done something unspeakable like cheating to be expelled and even plan on some grand revenge to ruin it, but in the end, the Queen saw their sincerity and accepted them back.

Basically a big chunk of the series is about the main competition event of St Marie called Cake Grand Prix. Groups of 4 can participate in this tournament and facing off with other teams depending on the sweets’ theme designated and winners will advance to the next round if they score higher than their opponents by the judges based on design, originality and taste among the several criteria. The winner would of course have the privilege to study at the main campus in France. Sounds nice, eh? What a better way than to hone your skills further in a country famous for its sweets. As for Ichigo, it is also her dream to meet Henri. The Sweets Princes partly also garnered famed when they participated last year and was the first freshmen to advance to the next round but failed due to Miya’s fiasco and failure. To ensure Ichigo doesn’t flop, she has to undergo lots of physical and mental training from the Sweets Princes. No pain, no gain! Who said being a patissiere is easy? Since there are too many middle schoolers participating this year, a qualifying round is held to trim down the participants. Each of them have to enter a hall and walk through a choice of doors as answers they think right in a series of questions about the pound cake they have just sampled. If a member fails, the whole team fails. The Sweets Princes are particularly worried about Ichigo. I can see why. Even if she’s such a blur case, she didn’t get by via luck as she remembers hard the lessons she learn and much to the relief of her comrades, the whole team qualifies for the qualifying round. The guys also decide to make Ichigo their team leader and thus their team name will be Team Ichigo. A klutz as their leader? Probably the same reason why Luffy is the captain for the Straw Hats Pirates. Sixteen teams have made it (I guess it’s easier for us to turn it into a direct knockout) with 10 from third years, 5 from second years and first years only have 1. The format of the tournament won’t bore you since we will be briefly told what they are making and how they are making it. Yeah, just show the bits and parts of the action before the judging. You already know which team will advance, right? After each round, there will be a slight break (some may call it fillers) to see Team Ichigo in other action apart from their Cake Grand Prix competition before the next round begins.

Amidst all that, we get to see members of Team Ichigo aren’t completely perfectionists since they have their own problems too. The odd thing is that whenever they are down, they have this tendency to want to quit the academy. That’s more like running away! Ichigo must have started the trend since after too many shelling from Kashino, she thinks she would be better off doing something else and ran away back home without permission. The Sweets Princes wouldn’t let her go just like that and go all the way to bring her back by making her realize that she does best making people smile with her sweets. Of course, after wasting daddy’s money like that, don’t tell me you want to just easily quit! Just made that one up, hehe. Then we have Hanabusa about his rosewater bottle flavour thingy because it brought back tragic memories of how his dad died in France while holding that bottle as his last gift for his son. Kashino comes from a family of doctors (they have a whole building with doctors bearing the same surname! Imagine the chaos of calling a specific one!) so his dream of opening a chocolatier in Paris is not approved by his strict and stubborn parents (ultimately his sister does though not directly). And Andou, he does the same after a losing a match. But that’s what friends are for. They stick around through ups and downs. Can’t stay gloomy forever, eh? Maybe they need to take a breather once in a while and relax and get new ideas rather than getting all cooked up in the kitchen all day long practising.

The Cake Grand Prix’s first round has Team Ichigo facing Team Ichimatsu, third years who have their cakes featured in the Salon de Marie (a cafeteria in the campus in which if your cake is featured here on the menu, it means it must be damn good). However Team Ichimatsu is cocky and arrogant, looking down on Team Ichigo. Yeah, mistake number one. Without going into details, Team Ichigo wins the pound cake and family theme contest. In the quarter-finals, they face the only first year team, Team Lemon. Lemon Yamagishi is from the main campus and has been transferred to Japan upon request by Henri. The friendship-themed round ended in a draw and a rematch had to be done (Ichigo who had fallen to Lemon’s ruse and surprisingly Andou contributed to their lost) and this time, Team Ichigo wins it. Lemon reveals she boasted about her top grades in the main campus so Henri wasn’t amused and sent her to Japan to observe Ichigo. Plus, her other members only let her joined in since they thought she was Henri’s favourite pupil. Lemon learns her lesson and returns to France, vowing to become a better patissiere. In the semi-finals, they face Team Koshiro. Finally an official bout between the ‘love rivals’. The theme for this round is love. Something Kashino isn’t happy with. To make things interesting, Miya wages that if Team Ichigo loses, Kashino must join them. Wait, is that legal? Team Ichigo gets off to a nightmare start when Ichigo unknowingly shows her cake design to classmate Youko Ayukawa who happens to be on Miya’s team and a spy. They got their design stolen and Miya has got some famous Parisian chocolatier (Monsieur Leon – I guess he must be a real person) to train her and be on the panel of judges. Ichigo works hard all night and comes up with a unique design for her sachertorte but in the end, falls short by a single point! Oh dear! Team Koshiro wins! Oh no! Is this the end? However there is 3rd placing and the winner of this match gets to advance. Ah, I see. Phew. But in the meantime, Kashino has been whisked away to Miya’s team and while contemplating on the theme for the finals, she relegates Youko to be a substitute. See, this is what you get. One bad deed deserves another. Youko may be feeling bad and how she deserves this retribution but kind Ichigo forgives her. Kashino puts his foot down and wants Miya to let him take command of her team. This means he wants Youko to be in the main team while Miya the substitute. However Miya isn’t a total b*tch to sell out her team mate so she fires Kashino from her team and lets Youko back. This doesn’t mean she would be giving up on his love, though. Maybe it’s part of Kashino’s sly plan to get out. So Team Ichigo is a whole again. But it makes you think. Can you really swap team members in the middle of the tournament? As for the finals, Team Koshiro pounds their rivals while Team Ichigo faces Team Kobayakawa with the theme bond (not that 007 agent but ties/connection lah). As expected, Team Ichigo wins by a 7 point margin after paying tribute to all those who have supported them as their bond theme.

The main tournament of the Cake Grand Prix arrives. Team Ichigo is paired with Team Tachibana. As the theme is elegance, Team Ichigo breezes through because the country girls of Team Tachibana’s peacock cake crumbled. Ichigo even wanted a rematch for a fair fight (she probably got too much emotion up in her head) but their fallen opponents accepted their defeat with much graciousness. The other highlight match of the first round is Team Koshiro against Team Tennouji. Miya’s team got trounced as Mari shows her worth of being a top student. I guess this adds to Miya’s list of people for revenge, eh? I don’t know how many rounds they skipped because it is the semi-finals now as Team Ichigo meets Team Natsuki, a bunch of lively girls specializing in serving natural tropical fruits with sweets. Well, it seems that is the theme of this round too. The Sweets Spirits came out with an idea about strawberries so the rest is left up to Ichigo as she creates a dish that sends them into the next round via a single point! The finals will be Team Ichigo versus Team Tennouji. To grace the event, Henri is here as one of the judges. Both Ichigo and Mari are determined to win as they want to be with Henri (obviously you can tell Mari is in love with him). However Henri cautions Mari about chasing his shadow. The theme for the final is ‘dream’. Team Ichigo decides to design a cake that displays all their dreams while Team Tennouji a beautiful swan taking flight. As the time ticks down, Kashino is having problems finishing his Eifel Tower piece. Because of that, points are deducted from Team Ichigo’s total. However one of Team Tennouji’s members didn’t use originality so Henri’s tongue couldn’t be deceived and they got their marks lowered too. In the end, Team Tennouji wins by a single point! Oh no! However as Henri announced, since Team Ichigo did so well and exceed expectations, they are also invited to study at Paris. Oh well. I guess it’s a win-win situation. Yay! Off to Paris! Bonjour mademoiselle, bonjour monsieur.

In Paris, airhead Ichigo is so excited about tasting every French pastry and even got lost. Heck, her French sucks. She meets a cool handsome Italian hunk, Ricardo Benigni AKA Rick. Oh no. Not that the guys in Team Ichigo would want another playboy fooling around with their gal. So the World Cake Grand Prix is about to begin in the main campus. Guess what? Rick is also participating as the main campus’ representative. It’s a small world. But I have to mention several few things about this World Cake Grand Prix. Firstly, if this is where every campus of St Marie gathers for the finals, how come there are a total of only 8 teams? Since 2 are already from Japan, that leaves 6, right? And among the 6, Rick’s team felt a little international since we have Lemon (yeah, it’s her again. But now she has her own Sweets Spirit: Mint) and one from Germany and the other from Greece. As for the rest, they come from other parts of Europe. Hey, there is no team from England?! British make good scones, you know? What about China or even USA? Malaysia have their own unique tasty delights too, you know. Doesn’t feel that international here. Oh yeah, everyone here has Sweets Spirits. So is it a wonder how they made it here? Oh and oh! Miya is also back! How? Apparently her large fortune has her bought over the St Marie campus of Andorra so she’s got another 3 Spanish hunks under her wing. Wait a minute. A tiny country like Andorra has a St Marie school? But not England or China or even USA?! Andorra’s campus is so small, cramp and pitiful that it doesn’t even look like a campus! Mind boggling…

So another direct knockout round as the matches Team Ichigo faced felt like rematches. Yeah, quarter-final match they are already up and against Team Rick. Which means, they’ll be battling against Lemon again but this time in a food wagon. But the stakes get higher because you are now not only required to make delicious sweets, but to make sales and attract customers too. Yeah, should’ve taken up Business Administration, eh? Team Ichigo can’t lose because if they do, Rick will make Ichigo his girlfriend! Hey Kashino, hey Hanabusa, would you really like that? At the end of the competition day, Team Ichigo’s gelato defeats Team Rick’s doughnuts by a single point. Phew. Didn’t I tell you it felt like a rematch since Team Ichigo will face Team Koshiro again in the semi-finals? The location is at Saint-Michel’s castle and they have to make a dress out of sweets. However, the match between Team Ichigo’s Cinderella dress and Team Koshiro’s huge light-emitting dress ends in a tie! Which means a rematch. During the break, both teams are sent to tour Europe. At Neuschwanstein Castle, again what is a match with Koshiro without a wager on Kashino. If she wins, Kashino will marry her right now! The match of the bon-bon chocolates has Team Ichigo besting Team Koshiro this time by a healthy margin of 14 points! Why? Team Ichigo had taken their slow journey across Europe and used all the ingredients they gathered into their dish whereas Team Koshiro flew pass each destination in her helicopter (see the disgusting love design on her heli?) without taking time to absorb and use those experiences in making the chocolates. Looks like another wedding postponed. Safe.

To prevent this from becoming a total rematch, we’re expecting Team Tennouji to win, right? Wrong! They lost! To another France team of the main campus: the all-girls Team Francois. Watching the replay, it seems Mari looked disturbed and couldn’t concentrate so much so her chocolate dress crumbled. She fell into depression since. It is revealed that Mari spotted Henri with Francois Adjani and they were close to each other so much so they seemed like lovers. He was even talking about making her part of his Henri Project. This sight devastated Mari and thus her confidence shattered. Suddenly a shocking revelation that Henri purposely put up an act to see how strong Mari was. He mocks her feelings for him and even mentions that love is not needed to become a patissiere! OMG! Say it isn’t so that Henri’s true colours are turning him to be an antagonist! Ichigo felt sorry for Mari but vows that she will beat Team Francois in the finals after Henri mocks her skills as well. In the finals at Versailles Palace, both teams have 3 hours to make their sweets with several themes and subjects. On a side note, I’m wondering if every of Ichigo’s pals and family members got sponsored to take a flight here and support her. At the end of the day, both sides are tied. What? Again another rematch? This time it will be an individual match-up on batter. What’s this?! Another draw!!! I can’t believe it! Ichigo once again flops but Hanabusa’s loss was merely due to a less popular trend of an ingredient he picked. It won’t be fair if you declare both sides as winners so a final match will decide it all. Each team will pick a representative to battle it out. Francois obviously is chosen but for the Sweets Princes, they think it is a good thing for Ichigo to represent them. Hey, their team name is taken after her, right? They seem to really trust her a lot by now, entrusting the whole fate of the team to her.

Another point to ponder. Each of the battle takes 3 hours, right? There is a 1 hour break in between so come to think of it, don’t you think the finals nearly spent half a day?! Don’t they feel tired? As the final of the finals begin, as expected Francois does her popular signature sweets, Dijonaise au Chocolat while Ichigo improvises on Michiko’s trademark strawberry tart and names it Sourire de l’Ange (Angel’s Smile). Previously, Ichigo in search of the key to her grandma’s strawberry tart’s recipe, went back to the Sweets Kingdom to find the key and chance upon Michiko’s Sweets Spirit. After passing her trial of the original tart’s taste, Ichigo decides not to read or use her recipe because it is fundamental that she creates her own original sweets. And because of that, Ichigo defeats Francois in a high scoring match by 1 point! Deja vu?! Another slim victory! The scores they obtain are close to perfect! Ichigo sure loves winning by a single point. Hooray! Team Ichigo wins!!! Henri’s reasoning why Francois lost was because she seemed contended with her signature dish and didn’t bother to create something original. In the end, it is revealed that Henri purposely said those mean words and took on the role of the bad guy so that Ichigo can improve. Not only that, he felt the sweets industry has stagnated and wanted people to come up with more creative ideas and originality. Shame on me for ever doubting Henri as a baddie. Henri shows a photo of Michiko when she was young studying under his grandfather. Hmm… Looks a lot like Henri and Ichigo. You can say it’s like history repeating itself. Lastly, we see Kashino and Ichigo holding hands! Is it a sign that they’re a couple even if they mention that they won’t let each other know about their feelings?!

Yumeiro Patissiere SP Professional

It’s not really over yet because right after the first season ended, a second season called Yumeiro Patissiere SP Professional with additional 13 episodes. It takes place 2 years after the end of their World Cake Grand Prix victory as Team Ichigo are returning back to Japan for the first time after a couple of years studying in Paris. It must be a relief for Ichigo. Not because she gets to reunite with her friends but rather the amazing and mind boggling part is that her French still sucks! OMG! After 2 years, it makes you wonder how she could communicate with the people of France. Hand signals? Other than that, many of the characters have a slightly grown up and mature look and some of them even have a change in hairstyle like growing long ones (Hanabusa and Andou), cutting it short (Mari) or simply letting it loose (Ichigo and Lemon). However Ichigo’s return to Japan is greeted with some sort of sad news: Team Ichigo is breaking up! Oh no! Say this is not true! Unfortunately it is. Hanabusa and Andou decide to take leave from school and pursue their own dream. As Kashino mentioned, it was Ichigo who indirectly spurred them on during all these years to do so. Kashino himself skips a grade due to his excellent grades but is in the same class with Miya. Oh the horror! Thus with Ichigo’s return, Group A is totally revamped. They include Ichigo, Lemon (looks like she transferred back here again and due to her outstanding grades, is able to skip a grade and be in the same class with Ichigo), Rumi and Johnny McBeal. Johnny who? No, he does not have any relations with that lawyer Ally. Instead, this American transfer student guy may seem like a slacker but his pastry skills are top notch since it is his dream to create original sweets back in America. And you know, Johnny loves greeting girls by carrying them in his arms. Plus, he likes Ichigo so you know what this means, right? Right. The love triangle gets heated up with the appearance of a new character. Johnny and Kashino do not get along well, most of the time arguing. Johnny also has a polite-but-strict Sweets Spirit named Maize who frequently messes up Japanese terms. In this sequel, I guess in a way viewers will be glad we won’t be seeing anymore sweets competition as it takes a more business approach. Hey, when you become a patissiere, not only you have to make good pastries but learn how to run a shop and manage your customers. Damn. Should’ve taken up Business Administration.

However you won’t see the new Group A into action because Henri calls Ichigo, Lemon, Kashino and Johnny (okay, maybe 3/4 of the gang) to be in charge of a main street in his project called Marie’s Garden. Seems like a huge town with lots of shops selling different types of sweets around the world. If it’s bad enough that Johnny and Kashino are loggerheads, it gets even worse when we find out that Johnny’s cousin is Miya!!! MIYA!!! She’s back! Again. Oh damn it! It’s such a small world after all. Apparently Johnny plans to request loads of cash from Miya’s dad and company to create his ideal plan of a sweets theme park but you know, Kashino would prefer to utilize the limited resources they have. Here we go again. Another argument. As the new Team Ichigo decides on what to do for their project, Henri announces the opening of a street filled with different shops of different nationalities selling different sweets. So now you don’t have to travel the world to eat sweets. It’s all right here. Andou’s Yumetsuki is also part of this street. To make this street more competitive, at the end of each month, the shop with the lowest sales will have to close down and a new one will move in and replace it. Andou has Kanako and her friends help out and it seems the shop is attracting lots of customers. However the waiting time causes them to be irritated and with the lack of stock in certain items, they slowly disappear. Andou is further stressed when preliminary results show that his store is in last place and may have to close down. Apparently he is taking upon himself to do everything, causing himself to turn ill. But with advice like Johnny’s Chance Loss and Disposal Loss and the support from his friends, grandpa and Caramel, Andou learns to let everyone help him out (including Hanabusa who has just returned from overseas) and in the end he makes a comeback and his store is saved.

Problems in the real world take a break as the Sweets Spirits return to their kingdom (accidentally taking along Team Ichigo as well) to help the Jerks prepare for an exam in which if they fail, they won’t advance to the next grade. Since the theme is to depict the kingdom, the gang decides to travel around the kingdom to famous landmark and spots to collect its ‘natural ingredients’ to make the ideal theme. Their journey along the way includes meeting Kasshi’s farmer mom, climbing a high crystal mountain top (Kashino and Ichigo temporarily separated as a cue for the lovebirds to spend a little quality time together) and watching the beautiful breathtaking overall view from atop, riding through the powder desert and milky lake, getting lost in the Baum Forest (in which the Jerks were accused by the forest’s master for littering and imprisoned – of course their name cleared and the real culprit turn out to be the master’s grandson), and the Egg Village in which we learn that all Sweets Spirits come from eggs! Holy! Are they like chickens?! Anyway the importance of the Egg Village is to appreciate one’s parents since it takes lots of love and perseverance to get an ‘egg’ and even so it is not guaranteed. The gang collects all the necessary ingredients and have enough time to think up of the rest. During the strict exam (passing means getting all to approve. A single disapproval means total fail), Kasshi uses his mommy dearest vegetables as part of his theme. The judges think they have strayed from the think but when the Queen tastes it, she finds it delicious. In short, they pass!

Back to the real world, Team Ichigo is called to visit Mari in New York. Currently she and Rick are being tasked to handle a shop there as part of Henri’s project. However it seems Mari is having a hard time finding customers so as expected, Team Ichigo is here to help her out. However Mari is also given an ultimatum. If her sales do not reach the expected target, Henri will replace her with someone else. It’s a dog eat dog world in this trade too. Mari is adamant of maintaining her French theme for the shop as an experience of Paris even if those Americans do not know how to appreciate or told her bluntly that “this is America”! Duh? Hanabusa stops by to help out and the love triangle heats up when you realize that the potential lovers of Ichigo are all in one place. To make matters worse, Miya is also in New York. You know why lah. It was pretty hilarious seeing how she got all the large television screens on the streets to play out her undying love for Kashino. Then right in the middle of the busy street, her helicopter somehow manage to ‘kidnap’ Makoto and go on an aerial date. I guess that guy just gave in and go with the flow. As the gang discuss about their plan in change of the design and concept, they have Mari take a break since she haven’t had one when she first started manning this shop. Along the way, she helps a family of blacks by reconstructing their daughter’s wedding cake back to normal. They are delighted with her skills and invited her to the wedding party. That is when Mari realized that this town is about its people. With the help of a dancer friend, Linda who got inspiration from her cakes, Mari also gets inspiration from her. They use coupons as part of their plans to attract customers and slowly they start trickling in. Henri warn them of being too optimistic and counting their chickens before they hatch. That is because Miya plans to open her own branch in New York (partly to settle her old score with Mari) by having celebrities to come and a large outlet at Central Park. But this is a blessing in disguise because the customers who came to Miya’s outlet just came for the free sweets and left soon as the celebrities left. Plus, there were no place to sit down and eat thus making Mari’s place and ideal spot. As for the increasing queue, Linda’s dance performance entertains the waiting customers while the rest have their hands full serving them and Mari coming up with a new sweet. In the end, Mari gets a call from Henri but she is too busy and will call back later. Is she snubbing him? Apparently that’s not how it looks like. She’s in a delicate process making her cake and that call was just Henri wanting to congratulate her of meeting her target.

When everyone returns to Japan, it seems Miya continues to be a pain in the ass for our heroes as she throws down another challenge. Between both sides whereby the winner is decided by the most sales at the start of Marie’s Garden opening. But it seems Johnny has defected from Ichigo’s team and is siding with Miya. Why? Apparently his school fees are paid by her Miya’s dad so in a way he is bound to do as he is told. Plus, since Chateau Seika is a big sponsor of Marie’s Garden, you can bet that Henri has to approve this and their store Beautiful Night Castle (a play on Miya’s name) is a large complex a few stores away from them. Yeah, something about how they want the customers to experience the ultimate cream of the crop experience of eating sweets like the wealthy and nobles. That’s how much money they’ve got. And you can guess what’s in for Miya if she wins, right? Uh huh. Kashino will instantly marry her (‘nice’ delusion she got there) and not only that, Kashino will take on her name! Makoto Koshiro… Hmm… If that isn’t enough, Johnny gets to date Ichigo till they get married! In the even if they lose, they will give up on Kashino and Ichigo. Hanabusa and Andou return to help out and for the first time the original Team Ichigo reunite with Lemon to come up with a counter plan. Hanabusa and Andou confront Kashino and let him know that everybody knows about their relationship. Of course Kashino denies and tries to cover up by saying that his pals too like Ichigo. They admit that they like Ichigo. But for Andou, he decided to give Ichigo to Kashino because he has got his own girlfriend (Kanako) while Hanabusa is too busy to get into any relationship (I thought he was lying) but will attack straight if Ichigo dumps him. Everyone works hard to come up with the design of their shop and new sweets. However with Miya’s advertising at a frightening rate (she’s got her posters just about everywhere!), this depresses Ichigo a little but she can’t stay that way forever as there is work to be done. But it isn’t going to be easy as it is like David against Goliath. Miya shows she is serious as she is a step ahead like handing out free chocolates and even hiring her Andorra guys to back her up though they manage a different shop (if customers buy from their shop, they get discount coupons to buy at Miya’s). Sales at the end of the first day sees Team Ichigo tasting the vast difference and power of Miya and Johnny. While Team Ichigo barely reach their target and only managed a few hundred thousands, Miya and Johnny are already easily into millions! Their Castle is immensely popular and the waiting queue is crazy. Japanese people sure do love queuing. But Team Ichigo didn’t give up and improvise to attract customers like putting a window to display the Sweets Princes making their stuff, doing market research, setting up an online website and their old friends helping out. They make steady paces to catch up so even if Miya isn’t worried, she has to by now even though they are still leading by a convincing amount.

This means that the battle will be settled on Christmas Eve and the side that sells the most Christmas cake will win. I guess Miya ‘played cheat’ by ordering her father’s company employees to come lining up to buy the cakes but would they do so in the cold snowing weather? The end results show that both sides end up in a tie! What the? How can this be? You can say it’s a miracle for this to happen. However Johnny admits that his side actually lost in terms of net profits due to huge advertising and discounts were given to many of their cakes. Yes! Another triumph over Miya and thankfully Kashino lives another day without becoming Mr Koshiro. The next day, Kashino and Ichigo have a very intimate moment at the lake together. Just like us viewers, the Sweets Spirits are anticipating a confession. Well, even if Kashino stops short of saying “I love you”, at least he hugs her and tells her that he wants to be with her. They were about to kiss when Miya and Johnny interrupted. Damn perfect timing. I thought they agreed to give up on them? Well, I guess they could also become sly lawyers because though they agreed to do that, they didn’t say they would give up forever. Yeah, they’d give them up till just yesterday. They start pushing each other so Kashino and Ichigo fall together into the bushes. Though we don’t get to see what really happened, their position and facial expression indicate that they may have locked lips. Then they get a call from Henri and he is happy that Marie’s Garden is so successful that he plans to open one in London. Yup, he needs their help. Are they up to it? You bet.

Having My Cake And Eating It…
Wow. That is quite a sweet ending though it doesn’t pretty much ‘end’ since there will be more challenges for the gang as they go on honing the skills and experiences to achieve their dream. Through the series, we see how the main characters develop out nicely. Ichigo may be still the dreamy airhead but at least she has found what she likes doing best and something that brings everyone around her happy. The Sweets Princes also had their course of direction change for the better after meeting Ichigo. They are able to see things and bring new fresh ideas and motivation from her point of view. Lemon and Mari also changed themselves for the better as it isn’t being number one or just yourself. As for Miya, it’s hard to hate her though some may call her annoying for coming in between Kashino and Ichigo. She may be a recurring ‘villain’ for Team Ichigo but without her, they won’t get to come up with answers and solutions to improve themselves, right? You have to admit that being stubborn and not giving up her love for Kashino as a good persevering point to fight on. And her laughter too… Each time I smile whenever she does that. Henri has a good eye on people and he knows his stuff well. Without favouring or discriminating, he offers not only Ichigo but everyone else the same opportunity to improve and shine. The pacing of the story is also nicely laid out. Especially between the competitions, these fillers aren’t just mindless as we see the protagonist improving their skills and we get to learn more about them and the other side characters even if they just appeared for that episode. It would be boring if we are shown them going from one competition and straight to another. The small arcs in the second season are also nicely set in ‘bite size’.

As we can see, the first season focuses on the Cake Grand Prix tournament but in the second season it’s all about the other stuff like running a shop comes into play. All these elements are important if you want to be a successful patissiere. Just like in any other field, you will have to be an all-rounder if you want to be tops. In the second season, it seems that many of the supporting characters do not make their appearance or enough impact. For instance, I thought it would be Rumi’s turn to shine but she’s still a background character. Natsume and her family didn’t even make their periodical appearance and had they not make that short cameo patronage to Ichigo’s store, we might have all forgotten about them. Also, I noticed that Kashino didn’t do much of his chocolate tempering as seen frequently done in the first season. Same case with Hanabusa and his flowery candy sculpture. Perhaps it’s because he’s going around the world doing so. Mari seems to have that melancholic look in the sequel instead of her previous self that exudes confidence and grace. Is it still has something to do with her love with Henri? It also makes me wonder how long it takes for the Sweets Spirits to become Royal Court patissieres. Well, the youngest of the lot, Mint is 150 years old! Woah! I guess they’ll have to undergo several more pairings before they are successful, eh? How is it for a Sweets Spirits to be with you till your dying day? Say, another funny part is how the Sweets Spirits transport back to their own kingdom via any oven. I just hope they don’t get accidentally burnt when they hop in.

The major eye candy and of course my favourite are the various designs of the many sweets and cakes. Each time they are presented, it makes me want to have a taste of it! It got so annoying that at one point I just thought of swallowing my whole monitor! Of course that didn’t happen. I’m glad to learn a few types of cakes such as macarons and terms such as meringue and add them to my little knowledge of sweets though shamefully I could do better (heck, by the time I finished watching this series and blogging this, I already forgotten many of them! DAMN IT! NOOOOO!). Maybe I should try my hands at being a patissiere? Heck, I only know how to eat ;p. But those who are inspired and wish to start making simple sweets, at the end of each episode there is a segment called Magical Essence in which most of the time we are given short demonstrations and short handy tips on how to make a certain sweets via some famous patissiere. This segment also showcases other stuffs like decorating one’s cake, the reception and premier of this series and other kids trying their hands making their sweets. Mmm… Yummy… There is also a short OVA lasting minutes called Mune Kyun Tropical Island. I find this nonsensical because we see Ichigo and the Sweets Princes stranded on an island. I don’t know how this happened as we see them trying to survive like getting chased by a giant tumbling rock and fishing out a giant fish. Some close intimate moments with Ichigo too and a disgusting one whereby Hanabusa is admiring his beautiful self amidst the waterfall. In the end, the Sweets Spirits ate too much and turned into giants the next day. Huh?

As for the overall drawing and art of the characters, they lean more towards cute since the characters have sparkly bright eyes as I feel it is aimed towards young teenage girls. As for the exaggerated reactions, I say this is a must in every anime that has food as its main theme. I’m not going so far as to say that the judges’ reaction are really funny when tasting the sweets because you don’t see them screaming in delight whenever they taste sweets that are out of this world. Yes, each one of them are mature and veterans in their area so it wouldn’t be just funny to see old buggers getting all excited in an exaggerated way, it would be plain weird. Thus you can see the images and the scenery they are being transported to when they take a bite. Again, nothing very exaggerative (don’t expect to see volcanoes or the universe exploding) but enough to give you a hint that the confectionery is indeed worthy of the heart, soul and love they put into when making in. Then again, how do you really describe such nostalgic happiness? I really need to have a taste…

Besides the values we learn such as friendship and perseverance, we also learn the importance not only in the sweets itself. For instance, we also learn how to appreciate the basic ingredients that they come from such as flour, sugar and eggs. If the basics aren’t good, then you can bet the end product will also be bad. Other educational insights such as sugar shouldn’t merely be seen as a sweet substance that contributes to obesity and diabetes. It is an important substance in holding out the structure of certain sweets and the same types of sugar can turn the sweets into a different type depending of the amount and heat applied. Very enlightening for me. But too bad I had forgotten most of them. DAMN IT! NOOOOO! Another thing I noticed is the wastage of the ingredients when the gang used to make sweets during their practice. It is a good sign that we see them producing trays after trays of sweets but come to think of it, the amount that they churn out (especially Ichigo) seems like too much for her to finish and thus wasted, right? I’m also a little puzzled since these ingredients aren’t that dirt cheap and the St Marie Academy seems to be able to provide unlimited supplies of them. Of course the idea that they are a patissiere school should make this argument invalid but like I said, it just seems endless.

For the cast of this series, I am surprised that some of them are young and below 20 years old. For example, Mayu Iino was only 10 years old when she took on the role as the voice of Caramel. No wonder she sounds so cute! She sounds real different from grownup ladies trying to make squeaky high pitch girl voices. So when Caramel is in a pinch or go shouting “Aaaaaaa~”, she does sound different and in a way, cute. Aoi Yuuki as Ichigo (Mina in Dance In The Vampire Bund, Murasaki in Kurenai, Budoko in Akikan) really fits her character on all occasions, whether she is being dreamy, klutzy or serious. She is only 17 when this series is made. Other young casts include Sachika Misawa as Cafe, Yuri Yamaoka as Chocolat and Yui Ogura as Mint and Ringo. At first I couldn’t place my finger on Vanilla’s voice as she sounded so familiar. When I found out she was Ayana Taketatsu, it occurred to me whenever Vanilla tries to motivate and get Ichigo going and not slack off, she reminded me so much of her other role as K-ON!’s Azusa trying to do the same to Yui! Other casts include Nobuhiko Okamoto as Kashino (Usui in Kaichou Wa Maid-sama), Shinya Hamazoe as Andou, Tsubasa Yonaga as Hanabusa (Jun in Special A), Daisuke Kishio as Henri (Suginami in Da Capo series), Sayuri Yahagi as Miya (Haruna in To Love-Ru), Eri Kitamura as Mari and Honey (Yui in Angel Beats), Mariya Ise as Lemon (Stocking in Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt), Tomokazu Sugita as Rick (Gintoki in Gintama), Marina Inoue as Francois (Chiri in Zetsubou Sayonara Sensei series) and Kikuko Inoue as the Queen (Belldandy in Aa! Megami-sama).

The first season’s opening theme by Mayumi Gojo, Yume Ni Yell! Patissiere sounds like a lively anime pop piece and with the lyrics filled with lots of tasty pastries, it definitely gets you into the mood of the series. “Strawberry fraisier and framboise, happy happy macaron, happiness made go!”. Oh yeah. Got to love that even if sometimes I get goosebumps hearing this groupie part. Ichigo No Miracle by Yukina Sugihara is the first season’s ending theme sounds like a slow-moderate anime pop. It’s funny to see the Sweets Spirits doing some kind of dance. However come the second season, the opening theme feels more like a techno R&B dance beat! Sweet Romance by Mayumi Gojo makes it sound as though it is for a series that is dramatic and romance (even the opening animation suggests so with some mature visuals like lipstick, Sweets Spirits in black cat suits and such). So much so you’d wonder if you’re watching a pastry-themed anime in the first place! But the dance beat is catchy enough to make me get up on my feet and impersonate (albeit very lame) dance moves of my own. The second season’s ending theme by Primavera is Home Made Happy and though it is slower, feels suitable like another dance song. This one didn’t make me get up and do a full gig but enough to make me shuffle my feet. The animation of the ending credits shows the Sweets Spirits each cycling. What does this imply? After eating too many sweets, they need the workout to burn those calories?! Haha! As for the background music, I’m not saying that they are similar but it somehow reminds me of the other bread-themed anime series: Yakitate! Japan. From the ‘battle’ themes to the jazzy casuals they are nicely fitted for the atmosphere and scenes. Perhaps it’s the overall feel that reminded me of such since both series’ story flow (the competition, ‘power up’ training and ‘fillers’ sense) are pretty much alike.

Though this series may not be one of top favourites but in my opinion it is one of those better animes for the family (also read: no fanservice). In addition to the drama, romance and comedy, viewers get knowledgeable insights in the world of sweets. Speaking of which, no matter what kind of sweets and from wherever in this world they are from, it is important and essential that sweets make people feel relaxed and happy. Just like how it did to me. I may not be able to tell apart or identify many sweets or chocolates but each time I pop them in my mouth, I know that I am experiencing a little part of happiness. I know the prices of chocolates aren’t cheap these days and with a limited budget, it really puts a damper. Maybe, I should really start trying to bake those sweets myself. But then again, maybe not. Why? Because like I said, I only know how to eat.