“Over the span of many years, with a spirit of adventure for the unknown and countless legends luring them in, the world’s only remaining unexplored chasm has swallowed up a great many people. It is known as the Abyss.”
(“The City of the Great Pit.” Made in Abyss.)
From setting to character, story to music, this season’s Made in Abyss is all anyone is talking about lately. The show, a manga original, stunned viewers right from the beginning with its visuals and Kevin Penkin’s haunting melody, “Underground River.” That overwhelming feeling still persists more than halfway through the series, and now that we’ve made it to the third level of the Abyss, the danger seems more present than ever before. Our moments for respite are far and few in between. One thing about them obviously stands out to me: many of those quiet moments are spent around food.
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While the 2016 film A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi) spotlights topics like solitude, bullying, and death, much of the story plays out on our common desire to connect with one another. Connections by blood, friendship, rivalry, and even animosity all begin with the self, accepted or not. The lessons play out beautifully in the film through characters whose expressions and emotions seem almost tangible in their vividness—especially important for a central figure suffering a hearing disability and who rarely speaks. Nishiyama Shouko’s desires come to life in her body language. Conflict arises from a combination of her classmates’ discomfort and insecurity, and their teacher’s neglect. Their experiences show not only how easy it is to misunderstand one another and to perpetuate the mistreatment of others, but also how it is never too late to confront your mistakes and learn from them.
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“The nine of us will become the saviors of the city. We will! Maybe!”
(Shirogane Misake, “Explosion Angel Hatsuri-chan”)
If you’re watching Action Heroine Cheer Fruits this season, chances are you’re enjoying the theatrics as much as I am. The odds for success are high given the almost guaranteed popularity of idol and superhero shows, but Cheer Fruits has more than a winning formula to help it–the show also addresses Japan’s established concern of shrinking rural communities, as well as displays solid writing that paces itself well over the course of its episodes. From practice to performance, the Cheer Fruits are the local heroines who will capture your applause and heart.
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“Galko: A bit sharp tongued, but a good natured, popular girl in the class. Her hobbies are watching movies and cooking.
Otako: Likes to be in the corner of the class, bus she’s somehow friends with Galko. Her hobby is messing with Galko.
Ojou: An airhead who hangs out with Galko and Otako. She has multiple hobbies.”
(“Is It True You’re a Gyaru?”)
I know I’m late to the game, but my recent viewing of the 2016 show Oshiete! Galko-chan made me realize that I still have a long way to go in trying things outside of my comfort zone. Initially, there were several factors that convinced me that this was not a show that would interest me. It’s a short with only seven minutes per episode. The titles and subjects are questions frequently sexual in nature. On the surface, Galko-chan herself looks like some creator’s masturbatory fantasy of the unattainable. On the surface, that is.
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One year ago today, I said “I do” to my husband, and promised to share with him a future filled with all its ups and downs. We referenced our hobbies and quirks in our vows, agreeing to compromise as necessary and always communicate. Looking back on our time together before and after marriage, I can happily say that we’re as strong as ever.
So much of what makes every day interesting is a summation of several little things that would normally be too mundane to stand out on their own. Take for example the fact that he brews coffee for us every morning, and that I try to time dinner with his arrival home from work. I could just as easily make the coffee, but he takes into consideration that he always wakes up first. He wouldn’t mind making dinner, but I like to cook. These normal, even boring, details mean a lot to us both and are nothing like the tumultuous romances I imagined when I was younger.
This season’s show, Tsuredure Children (or Tsurezure Children), picks up on the types of romantic scenes that skyrocket ratings: the moment when you realize you’re in love, the confession, the firsts that fill every relationship. Usually these scenes are bookended with slower moments where the characters first notice and start to get to know one another. For the audience to care, we need to know who the players are and why we want them to be together. Tsuredure Children skips these seemingly necessary steps by jumping straight into the juicy meat of the matter.
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“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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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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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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“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”)
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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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“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”).
JUMP TO RECIPE
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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