Okay … this episode pretty much sealed it for me. I will try my best to blog this series on a weekly level, but even if I drop the ball I will still cover them in bunches and go through all the way to the end of the series. So to that extent I am committing to it – for better or for worse!
Before commenting on the contents of the episode itself I want to further set the tone for the series proper by focusing on the Opening song. The full version of the OP has been released last week, and I have been thinking more and more that the lyrics for the abbreviated version for the OP are absolutely perfect for the series, and the accompanying Alice in Wonderland themed visuals are equally appropriate. Here they are:
The person who first felt “happiness” / must have given that emotion its name. / It’s so peculiar, yet wonderfully dear, / so much so that you can’t help but share it. / But that’s exactly why I feel / like I’m being lifted far beyond the stratosphere right now.
Even if you can’t see what happiness is, / you’ll know once you’re with another person. / A faint smile emerges on your lips, / and I’m so happy that I just want to hold you.
On days where we want to see each other, let’s say so / and on nights where we feel like crying, let’s let it all out. / When everything is good, let’s say that it is / to the person that we love.
Episode three this week opens with a reveal that is honestly a bit of a relief for me. I was beginning to wonder if Ryou were an orphan who was raised by her grandmother (recently reposed) and her loving yet wacky aunt, but this episode dispels that, and we discover that both her mother and father are travelling and working abroad, and thus it is directly their income (at least I presume so) that allows Ryou to live where she does. This leads to a setting in some ways even more poignant that being outright orphaned, and seems to be a common theme focused on in anime series for some time now – essentially one or both of a child’s parents are rarely able to be around and are working crazy hours to support their family, often even away from the home itself.
In Ryou’s case, who is a sensitive and gentle soul, this manifests itself in a extra strong desire to “repay” her parents with her good behaviour and visibly succeeding in her studies. Common enough, and so is the quiet sadness detectable in Ryou’s musing aloud about her situation when she receives a gift from her parents in the mail – a bag of Japanese rice purchased abroad and sent to her. Here again we get some teeny hints into what has contributed to making Ryou the sort of person she is and how she interacts with others.
After the arrival of the gift, in fact, the focus turns to her schooling and her work in her art class. We see that she is indeed very talented in drawing, but there is some kind of disconnect with her when the subject matter for drawing are food ingredients. To be honest I did not quite know how to process the scene where she was mentally unable to draw the subject matter somehow, and was poorly graded/evaluated as a result – it came across as a queer combination of both humorous and light hearted and yet faintly sad at the same time, as if it were an odd result of the quiet, reserved loneliness that has come to be “normal” for Ryou’s daily life.
Kirin (who is also attending the same art cram school, though is in a lower grade) immediately senses something is not quite right, though she is not sure what it is, and tries to cheer Ryou up by asking her to cook something (in fact the well-executed misfire she came up with in the art class served as the inspiration for the meal-to-come). She invites Ryou school friend Shiina along as well, knowing that she might be cheered and encouraged by Shiina’s being around as well.
The episode then enters its “hallmark” mode of operation, with Shiina, Kirin and Ryou spending time together preparing and eating the dishes Ryou creates, and becomes filled with the usual extremely lush, carefully animated scenes of food and almost squirming delight of the characters as they eat the dishes proper.
However there is more to this series than the dishes and delighted wriggling per se. The main focus of things is that Ryou is able to get stay a bit more “balanced” as a human being in her emotions, her way of thinking and her interactions with others (including, as this episode showed, her parents proper) as a result of focusing on the “communal” aspect of human beings – in particular here in spending time together eating. This “standard of interaction” serves as a check on who Ryou is on a fundamental “natural” or even “normalizing” level (I wonder if thinking and approaching it from that angle was her grandmother’s doing as well?) and helps her keep her bearings, serving as a very general litmus test or emotional rudder of sorts.
In the case of this episode this experience helped re-set the points of reference for how she felt were the best ways to “repay” or “give back” to her parents, and perhaps even to her now deceased grandmother’s memory, the love and care they have given (or have been able to give?) to Ryou thus far. However, the fact that she veered off into an unbalanced and unhealthy frame of reference to begin with is still “tugging my sleeve” at the back of my mind.
Yes – before I forget: another unexpected surprise this week is that we finally seem to have been shown the “normal” visuals for the ED, focusing primarily on the three main characters in various “magical lands of oversized delicious foods”.
We also received a variation on the PV material where the main character from the anime mentioned in passing in the episode itself shows up doing continuous ballet pirouettes while balancing three plates on omurice until he finally becomes dizzy and keels over (fortunately the three main characters all manage to save the three plates proper).
While twirling about Ryou is both excited like a kid at a theme park and panicking at the same time in the back ground. I much preferred the theme of the characters bobbing to and fro to the “du-whop” style background music, but this was pretty humorous as well.
In some ways I think this episode sets the tone for the general pattern that will arise in future ones – something will happen to Ryou (or possibly to Kirin or Shiina or other characters who have not yet stepped into the spotlight) and the “communal consciousness” or the normal human warmth and interaction Ryou seeks out on a very fundamental level through cooking and eating with others will shed light on the circumstances, people or problems that arise.
But sooner or later she will hit a brick wall again inside, and she will have to go deeper to begin to resolve the roots of the issues that have not been addressed yet – and I for one am looking forward to seeing all of this unfurl. I would not be surprised if the last verses of the OP turned out to be exactly what Ryou finds she needs to do and eventually is able to do: “On days where we want to see each other, let’s say so / and on nights where we feel like crying, let’s let it all out. / When everything is good, let’s say that it is / to the person that we love.”
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