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Second Impressions – Tokidoki Bosotto Russia-go de Dereru Tonari no Alya-san (Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian)

Well, this ep was definitely a roller-coaster of contrasting reactions for me. It went from a pretty major low to a pretty major high in a flash (though the latter was more a personal connection than any sort of brilliant storytelling). And in the final analysis I liked the B-part a whole lot better generally speaking. These are the sorts of things bubble series (and Patron Picks) are made of, and I can already see Roshidere’s ticket stamped for that destination.

First the student council thing, which I was roughly indifferent towards. Kenzaki was introduced as if he’s going to be important (and he has a name seiyuu in Ishikawa Kaitou), but he didn’t make all that much of an impression here. Yuki continues to go all-out to try and browbeat Masachika into joining the council, for reasons that will soon become clear. It will also become clear what his eventual path to doing so is going to be, though that obviously won’t be happening for quite a while unless we have a time skip.

Now, the whole sister thing. Yeah, it was a twist – but I groaned loudly enough to wake the neighbors. Why – just, why? And as if a switch had been flipped (which was basically what happened in narrative terms) everything went all light novel and Yuki became unbelievably annoying. It’s so tired, so played, so unnecessary. Roshidere is walking a thin line with me anyway on the trope front, but this development was a disaster as far as I’m concerned. But still, as I said, things did turn on a dime for half an episode at least.

Let’s be clear up front – “Hell’s Cauldron” is actually Kikanbo Ramen, in Kanda (there’s now a second location in Ikebukuro but it’s not as good IMHO). It’s always a powerful experience when anime uses a locale that had a strong impact in your life (as Paripi Koumei did with Jumanji 55, our nomihoudai of choice when I was in language school in Tokyo). Kikanbo serves spicy miso and it’s not just any ramen place – it’s probably my favorite ramen in the world (though that shifts around from time to time). For sure, they have the best chashu of any ramen-ya I’ve ever eaten at.

They changed a bit here (more than Jumanji got changed, anyway). In the first place you never go to Kikanbo and just sit down – there’s always a wait, even at three or four in the afternoon. You order from a ticket machine outside (as is commonly the case). And while the ramen can be incredibly hot, you get a choice – two choices in fact. They call it kara-shibi – the “kara” being chile heat, and the “shibi” being Szechuan ma la peppercorn, which is numbing. You can choose 1-5 in each category, with 5 being “Oni” and costing extra. I usually choose 2-kara and 3-shibi,  and I love spicy food. What makes Kikanbo special is that the ingredients are top quality and the flavor complexity off the charts – it’s so much more than the numbing heat.

Watching the kids eat there was pretty funny, because the place is now popular with tourists and you do see tough guys (and girls) order 4s and 5s and really go through the agony. I will say that Yuki seemed to be really mean for the sake of it – adding to her annoying buildup from earlier in the episode. But things got much better after the was jettisoned, and the scenes with Alya and Masachika had some real charm to them. The changing room thing was really funny, like it was from a totally different show than the A-part.

I guess it’s better, as I’ve said before, for a series to illicit strong feelings in both directions that none at all. I’m still a skeptic about whether Alya-san is going to work for me in the long haul, but there’s no denying it has a certain something to it. It can be very sharp when it wants to be, and the central conceit has a lot of romcom potential. I doubt it will avoid tripping over its own feet before realizing most of it, but I’m intrigued enough at this stage to stick around for a little while and find out. And very much craving Kikanbo, and missing Tokyo.

The post Second Impressions – Tokidoki Bosotto Russia-go de Dereru Tonari no Alya-san (Alya Sometimes Hides Her Feelings in Russian) appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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