Velvet Foam and Latte Art in Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?

I consider myself a bit of a coffee snob. Coupling the facts that I have worked briefly as a barista and that I live in Seattle, the coffee capital of America, coffee has worked itself thoroughly into my bloodstream and way of life. Not a morning passes where I don’t grind and brew a pot of joe; my morning commute to the office always includes my trusty Thermos. When I order an espresso drink–usually a 16 oz. triple shot white mocha with no whip cream, but with a half inch of microfoam instead–I remember which baristas know how to properly texture and which baristas don’t and from whom I order an americano instead.

So when Cocoa watched Rize’s demonstration of latte art and succeeded in her first try, I wanted to cry foul! Call it pride if you will, but I doubt a girl who entered Rabbit Cafe for the rabbits alone instead of the coffee would know how to create her own designs when I wasted many a pitcher in my attempts on the art, despite knowing the theory. Even the simplest of designs, the heart, can be difficult to achieve, and the crux of the ability is in the steaming of the milk.

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Revisiting Hunter x Hunter

While I’m still keeping up with this fabulous series, I’ve also started re-watching it from the beginning with Kwoo in hopes of getting him caught up on the anime. HxH has always baffled me with its persistence in staying on my radar despite being everything I thought I disliked: 100+ episode count, source material still ongoing, a shounen battle-anime–the list goes on. All these factors aside, the show excels in areas that far outweigh my misgivings. From character development, to setting, to story and pacing, HxH succeeds time and time again in not only fulfilling my expectations, but also far exceeding and even surprising them. Re-watching from the start does not change the the amount of pleasure I take from this series. On the contrary, I find myself reveling in the craft.

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Log Horizon and the Lazy, Cowardly Princess

“No proper princess would come out looking for dragons,” Woraug objected.

“Well I’m not a proper princess then!” Cimorene snapped. “I make cherries jubillee and I volunteer for dragons, and I conjugate Latin verbs– or at least I would if anyone would let me. So there!”
―Patricia C. Wrede, Dealing with Dragons

Much of what I imagine about princesses stems from Disney movies and fairy tale stories: they’re young, beautiful, magical, loved, and live happily ever after.  While there are more instances of stories featuring headstrong princesses these days–favorites including books like Dealing with Dragons, movies like Brave, and TV series like Once Upon a Time–I still don’t automatically think of the modern woman when “princess” is uttered.

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Yowamushi Pedal and Heading up the Incline

Bicycling is one of those acts that are a tradition to childhood; some older figure, like a father or a big sister, stands behind the bike of little, scared you while you desperately try to keep balance and hope against all fears that he or she will not let go of the bike. Plenty of kids graduate from tricycle to bicycle at a young age. It wasn’t strange to see my classmates zooming around with confidence by the time we hit 1st grade. I didn’t find balance until well into my 4th grade year on a dirt road at the jeering of my well practiced friends. Since then, cycling has always been a chore. While I remember roaming the neighborhood with my posse like every other suburban kid, I never chose biking as my first course of fun. And when college came around with its steep hills and freezing winters, the bicycle turned from a tool of convenience to one of torture. So here I am, living in Seattle where cyclists abound and where even my boyfriend is a bike nut who owns two and just this past summer rode a 130-mile path with his cycling group. My office is frequented by bike messengers, who always smell of sweat and have some of the largest calves that I’ve ever seen. Cycling has never been more strange and attractive.

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How to be a Conscious Consumer, Silver Spoon Style

As the food lover I am, I try to keep my mind open about trying anything and everything.  This of course includes all parts of the food chain, especially meat! Unfortunately, making sure that the foods you obtain and consume are safe and cruelty-free can be difficult, and sometimes even impossible.  Silver Spoon gives us a setting where produce and livestock are very much close to the plate.  You might handle a piglet one day, only to fry it up into bacon four months later. It’s smart to keep your emotions at bay when raising these beasts if the dinner plate is indeed their final destination, but at what point do you draw the line between treating them like pets and bordering on animal cruelty?

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Gravedigging and Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi

“The truth is shrouded in darkness…no, it’s buried in a grave.” -Humpnie Humbert

With Kami no Inai Nichiyoubi past its introductory arc and fake-out ending, very little has been actually revealed about the strange world in which Ai wanders, and even more mysterious is her role as a gravekeeper.  We have already seen a few gravekeepers in action first hand, but how they are designated and where they come from are still unexplained.  If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that Ai is just as uninformed as the viewer.  All that she and we seem to know is that the type of burial shown here is a more natural burial, lacking embalmment and the concrete base of which modern burials consist.  Graves are dug by hand and shovel, and bodies placed in lined, wooden coffins with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

(Spoiler in red font)

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Re-visiting the Noble Savage in Suisei no Gargantia

“Behold the Edenic light of this paradise built atop the shoulders of science and the pursuit of progress. This is your homeland.”

(In reference to the utopian world of Avalon, home of the Galatic Alliance of Humankind)

We’re halfway through the spring season, and there have already been plenty of comparisons made between this anime and nomadic cultures.  The set up of the show is a classic start to any colonialist move, where one person of a “civilized” nation discovers the seemingly free and vast wild and is shocked to discover the people that already populate it are vastly different from his own.  They’re strange and barbaric with their customs, beliefs, and dress, yet somehow the adventurer forms bonds and starts to adapt as humans always do.  We’ve seen numerous renditions of this setting: Avatar, Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, The New World, The Last Samurai, Shogun, and many others.  But there inevitably comes a moment when our adventurer must war with himself over the loyalties he has to his homeland and the affections he holds for the new world and its residents, who are no longer just barbarians, but people. That moment hasn’t yet come to Gargantia, but I’m betting it’s not too far off.

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Playing Grown Up in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

Continuing on from the previous season, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo follows the lives of a special group of high school liberal arts students and the pursuit of their dreams.  Most aspects of what make this show memorable are ones that give a slight twist to conventional high school anime.  Instead of an average high school, Suimei is dedicated to the liberal arts.  The focused disciplines and dorm setting feel more like college than high school.   Sakurasou also regularly pits talent against hard work, though the two often overlap.  I don’t usually see this addressed in anime with younger characters, though the argument is one that crosses all ages.  An even more discussion-worthy detail is the anime’s seeming promotion of careers over personal relationships.  Again, I don’t usually see this in high school shows other than the usual dedication to studying.  Watching relationships fall apart because of a job or passion seems like an experience more likely to be portrayed in some josei drama.  Cast with high school boys and girls, set in a high school environment, and teeming with juvenile emotions, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo is, for all intents and purposes, an anime by adults for adults in the adult world.

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Cockblocked Romance in Tamako Market

Some girls just want to have fun, and some girls just want to make mochi.

Tamako Market has been airing for a little over a month now and has settled into a strange pattern of mixed genres. At some times it’s a young girl s’life detailing the every day occurrences of a shopping district. There are also inklings of romance, mainly between the lead and the boy across the way, but also include the many failed attempts of Dera Mochimazui, puppy love for the little sister, the impending arrival of the bride-hunting prince, and even a possible yuri pairing. The presence of Dera also casts a fantastical flavor. Yet none of the particular categories take the lead on defining the intentions of this show. As it stands now, I view TM as a thoroughly watered down romance, chock full of cockblocks. Despite all the love floating in the air, the show is determined to prevent any sort of satisfaction from being had by anyone.

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My Fickle, Little Monster

Ah, high school–that time of turbulent emotions, assignment deadlines, and lots and lots of free time.  In a way, I was once a lot like Mizutani Shizuku, the protagonist for Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun.  I cared mostly for grades and my student resume. I had my eyes set on the future, and I wanted my student life to appear full and inviting to college recruiters.  Unlike Shizuku, I had my fair share of crushes through my four years of high school; I was just too awkward to pursue anyone, many of whom I had known since kindergarten.  Past perceptions had me pegged as some kind of man-hater, that little girl who liked to kick boys in the shins.  Although my former dislike was a far cry from Shizuku’s indifference, we still shared a growing desire to connect with others.  And while she certainly comes a good distance in forming friendships and acknowledging her attractions to Haru, thirteen episodes and the multitude of see-sawing emotions made any sort of closure impossible.

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