Welcome to the Ballroom’s Stumbling Lead and Silent Follow

“The one to capture the crowd wins. The conditions to win are obvious: lead and follow, unity, ability to read the floor, configuration, and confidence and impact. He has them all now” (Sengoku Kaname, “Line of Dance”).

“Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did…backwards and in high heels” (Bob Thaves).

Couples dancing is one of the few stages left where the importance of following is just as strong as ever. Leading and following are set roles that dancers take, with men typically the leads and women the follows. We see this norm displayed in this season’s show, Ballroom e Youkoso, to varying degrees.

Fujita Tatara is understandably starstruck by the people he sees and the moves they make. He finds a goal he never knew he needed in competitive ballroom dancing, and undertakes the long and painful journey to earning his place among giants. Yet even among the stars, he meets others who challenge his vision. Leads like Akagi Gaju treat their partners with disdain and their desires with objective possession. To Gaju, his sister Mako is a weakness holding him back; Shizuku, in turn, is sexy, capable, and desirable. He wants to swap the two and use Shizuku to fulfill his own needs. Gaju’s chauvinistic greed is among the ugliest displays we see on the dance floor, and an example I hope Tatara avoids for the sake of himself, his partner, and us viewers. We need a lead who dances with, not for, the follow.

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[Review] Magi: Adventure of Sinbad

This review has been waiting side stage for quite awhile, having originally aired in the spring last year when I was overwhelmed with my wedding. I chose to backlog the show until a rainy day and was finally able to marathon it on Netflix. Magi: Adventure of Sinbad entertained me far more than I had expected, and I consider it more satisfying than the original series of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. Strong characters and a streamlined plot are the anime’s backbone, making it feel more like a standalone series worthy of your viewing than an optional prequel spin-off.

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[Review] Encouragement of Climb S1 and S2

Living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States means nature is always a short distance away. Day trips to the mountains for a bit of sightseeing, hiking, and picnicking are common. Having grown up in Alaska, I’ve always respected the wilderness in all her beauty and danger, but I never actively sought out my own adventures outside of required family and school excursions. When I moved to Washington State and spent more time in the city, I started to crave the meditative woods. For the first time, I researched different hiking trails, even going so far to look into hiking groups on Facebook and Meetup. Washington has a fantastic online resource that not only listing and mapping the trails, but also describing each step of the way and allowing users to upload pictures and their own seasonal trail reports.

Not many people have the fortune of such readily accessible resources, and it can be intimidating getting into the hobby alone. It’s no surprise that Yama no Susume’s Aoi hesitates to accept Hinata’s offer to go hiking; she’s never had the occasion to venture into the wilderness for most of her life. It’s her lack of knowledge and insecurity fuel the sense of adventure that permeates every aspect of this series.

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Marina Eats: Made in Abyss, Riko Soup

“For the meat, put a hearty helping in a pot and sprinkle a bit of ground-up Eternal Fortunes on top. Mix in some stick miso, and then throw in a bunch of diced sainona greens. Ta-da! My special “Riko Soup” is ready!” (“The Edge of the Abyss”)

Fishing season is in full force back in my home state, which means tons of salmon ready to eat fresh, or to preserve by canning, smoking, or freezing. Growing up, my mother was always “that crazy Asian lady” who saved fish heads from being discarded by others so she could use them in her cooking. I loved her “fish head soup,” otherwise known as sinigang. Each spoonful tasted like the essence of fish. I especially enjoyed picking out the succulent cheeks and saving them for last. Plenty of cultures around the world also use fish heads and scraps for cooking to create a flavorful broth that can be used immediately or saved for later.

Riko and Reg work together in the fourth episode of Made in Abyss to create a simple but delicious fish soup. We watch Reg dive into the waters to catch some demonfish, and see Riko clean and cut like a pro. Smoking the innards for later consumption, she proceeds to use the rest of the fish–head, bones, and all–to extract every bit of flavor into their meal. Her cooking skills reveal the valuable time spent studying how to survive in the abyss. Cave raiders can be gone days, weeks, and even years at a time–far too long to bring enough prepared food to last. They need to not only survive the monsters and curses, but also their own hunger.

With knowledge, ability, and a few non-perishable goods, hearty and tasty food can be made fresh from the surrounding environment. Riko pulls out her treasures of “Eternal Fortunes” seasoning and a miso stick; nature provides everything else, the greens, water, and fish. Just like the cave raiders who are born from past raiders and years of training, Riko’s Soup combines ingredients from outside and inside the abyss.

I hope you enjoy my version of Riko’s Soup, a miso cod fish stew that warms the belly and soothes the heart.

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Marina Eats: Restaurant from Another World, Spaghetti with Pine Nuts and Meat Sauce

“The beef and pork are so tender and flavorful…frying and stewing them together makes the different flavors of both meats mingle together to create a taste that neither could produce alone. And the stewed vegetables of another world used as the sauce’s base–they were simmered and crushed into a liquid with a sweet sourness and lots of flavor” (“Spaghetti with Meat Sauce”).

This season’s culinary delight is Isekai Shokudo, otherwise known as Restaurant to Another World. In the first part of episode three, Western Restaurant Nekoya’s “Master” serves up spaghetti with meat sauce for Thomas Alfade, a former proprietor of Alfade Company, and his grandson, Sirius. Thomas’ love for Nekoya’s spaghetti spurred him to popularize wheat noodles and tomato sauce in his own world so that he could eat the dish whenever he liked. Sirius is surprised to hear this truth, as well as learn of the trade of ingredients between Nekoya and his own world that allows both sides to collaborate and grow.

I, too, have a soft spot for spaghetti, and can recall a handful of different variations served to me growing up. My mother never seemed to follow a recipe, choosing her ingredients on whim and randomly hitting us with spice. Some of my favorite variations include sweet Italian sausage, hot dogs filipino-style, and roasted garlic sauce. She made it so much that I actually got sick of spaghetti. I never ordered it at restaurants. I never cooked it once I moved out on my own. It wasn’t until I met my husband, who loves traditional red sauce spaghetti, that I started making it on my own again.

For this recipe, I chose to follow as best I could the ingredients described by Sirius. Feel free to follow it to the letter, or throw in some twists of your own. I find spaghetti sauce to be very forgiving to experimentation. It also freezes well for later consumption.

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Balancing Competition and Teamwork in New Game!!

Yun: “…isn’t Yagami-san gonna get chosen anyway? She’s super talented. This competition’s just so that no one can complain. But it’s a foregone conclusion.”

Aoba: “That may be true, but I’m fine with failure so long as I know the results were deserved.”

(“Cos-purr-lay.” New Game!!)

How you tackle opportunities in life can determine your position and future endeavors, and there are often countless approaches to take. Picking the right one for your own happiness can be tricky; doing so may result in the unhappiness of others. This is the dilemma faced in the second episode of New Game!!, “This Is Just Turning Into Cos-purr-lay!” With a new project on the horizon, Eagle Jump creates a challenge to all employees to win the position of Lead Character Designer.

Despite Yagami Kou’s promotion to Art Director, it’s assumed by everyone that she will take part in the competition as well. Some employees, like Yun, view this as a fixed race and shy away from confrontation. Others, like Aoba, are more than eager to have this rare chance. Her gut reaction to give it her all shows just how much she’s improved since the first season, when she looked up to Yagami as a near unreachable figure. Now she’s excited to challenge her, even if the outcome is certain.

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Summer 2017 Set Menu

Summer has arrived in full force, slamming us not only with heat and humidity, but also with an endless supply of shows, many average and a couple extraordinary. Made in Abyss and Princess Principal top the lot, but shows like Nana Maru San Batsu and New Game!! follow closely in ranking. We are still at the start of the season, though, so my opinions are subject to change.

I ended up with far too many, as usual. I’m at 29 shows this summer, including hold overs from the spring, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of material for topics of interest and maybe even get back to the kitchen! If there’s anything in particular you’re interested in seeing me blog about, please let me know.

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Finding a Place to Return to in Sakura Quest

“Permanent resident population: In contrast to the temporary resident population, which comprises of visitors to a region, this describes the number of residents that have permanently settled in a region” (Yoshino, “The Queen, Convicted”).

My entire time growing up in Kenai–a coastal town in Alaska with a population around 6,000-7,000–I knew I was going to leave. Having moved there at the age of five and being one of the few Asian Americans in my school and surrounding towns, I never felt quite like I belonged. I had friends, yes. I was involved in many community activities. Yet through the books I read and the cultures I felt a part of, I felt an irresistible draw to travel elsewhere and live more connected to the big cities where exciting events occurred. Concerts. Festivals. Museums. Art. Food.

When the time finally came, I up and moved to Seattle and took a job downtown among no-nonsense lawyers and harried office workers. I had fun for a year, using my lunch breaks to wander the nearby streets and buildings and scheduling dates and events after work and on the weekends. Then I realized that I was over it. The increasingly trafficked commute and cement buildings wore me down. I started looking to nearby towns to live, and reconsidered my job. Like Sakura Quest’s Koharu Yoshino, I left the sticks for the city only to send myself straight back to small town life. Now I live and write from home about a thirty-minute drive away from Seattle, eating and taking breaks at my discretion, and feeling more a part of my chosen hometown than I ever did hanging out in the city. This quest for a place to call home didn’t come about from any grand plan, but instead from a series of small decisions that pointed me to where I am today.

In Sakura Quest, Yoshino struggles to survive in Tokyo after leaving her seaside town with the determination to never again live in the country. Call it misfortune or fate, a mistake leads her to signing a year-long contract to act as Manoyama’s “Queen,” where she works together with the tourism industry to try and revive the population. The task already sounds daunting enough even before considering the fact that Yoshino herself is part of the generation running to the cities and leaving rural hometowns like hers to literally grow old and, in some cases, die out completely.

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Spring 2017 Season Wrap: Sword Oratoria, KADO: The Right Answer, & Atom: The Beginning

We are finally at the end of my season reviews, and finishing on a high note! I do hope you’ll read through to the end, particularly my thoughts on Kado and Atom, series whose genre and topics may not be for everyone but left me with the kinds of echoes only the best stories can create. Thank you, Spring, for being such a wonderful season full of memorable characters and settings. I walk away with a renewed belief that anime will continue to show and take us to the kinds of places that only appear in our dreams.

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Marina at Anime Expo 2017

Another Anime Expo has come and gone, and now it’s time to reflect back on the weekend in all its glory and despair. While I don’t regret going this year, there are several areas where I hope for improvement for the future. Below is the schedule I ended up following, a much shorter version than the one I created at the start of the convention. Feel free to also use the jump links to read the sections that most interest you.


Final Daily Schedule

Day 0

Anisong World Matsuri: ~Japan Kawaii Live~

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

  • Love Hina screening
  • Visited Little Tokyo

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