Not Funny!

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Before getting into the nitty gritty, however, I have to tell you an amusing story. I want to start the blog off with a lighthearted tone. Then I can get into the essence of Manga and Anime and why they merit your undivided attention. They are part and parcel of modern pop culture. It just so happens that I have a pretty extensive collection of prized comic books. I enjoy sharing them with friends, and when I get a new one, it practically gets its own shrine.

Recently, another Manga lover was over to take a peek at my latest acquisition. He held it gingerly and read it with glee. A near crisis happened when he started to place it in the mouth of my shredder from Shredder Lab. OMG. I thought it was a goner for sure. He was probably just pretending but the prank ran amok, and part of the book actually was destroyed. I wish I hadn’t left the shredder in my home office. It is usually in the garage.

Frantically, I grabbed the remainder and set it aside for safekeeping. Anywhere away from him! Glaring at him with horror, I opened the shredder to retrieve the bits of paper within. Not funny! I roared as I started to lay out the pieces to restore them as best I could. But alas, it wasn’t an easy job and I would have to go online and find another copy of the comic book. If it were available any more. My friend realized the nature of his joke and sat silently with great apology in his eyes. This was going to be hard to forgive. He insisted on finding the new book himself. I said I would certainly take him up on his offer.

So, my readers, while this is an oddly amusing story about comic book fanaticism, it is also revealing of the intensity of my love for Japanese cartoons. I will make that clear in weeks to come. Just a final word on Yakitate!! Ja-pan before I go. The serialization has 26 volumes and 69 episodes, so you have a lot of catching up to do. But since the show was terminated, there are no new ones to add to your list. However, it has been licensed so stay tuned.

Too Much Anime can be a bad Thing!?!

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Have you ever gone on a binge of any kind? I don’t care if it was about food, shopping, or exercise. It might have been a session of home movies. I am talking about the time you did something for hours on end without noticing anything else in your environment. You didn’t stop to eat, drink, sleep, or take a rest. Maybe only an occasional bathroom visit. Well, I did this recently because of my deep passion for Manga and Anime. I can’t get enough, as they say. I confess that it is true. I spent two days binge watching cartoons on my computer and practically wore the battery out. Ha! This is something I like to do from time to time. A true aficionado of anything will say the same thing.

I got my fill for the momentum but I also contracted a terrible eyestrain headache. My neck was killing me. With reluctance, I visited my regular doctor to see what could be done. I didn’t want to mention to him this was because I intended to get back to watching Anime and chat about it on Facebook. I don’t think he would approve. Plus, I didn’t want to hear from anyone that too much Anime can be a bad thing. Pure rot. People with tech jobs sit as long as that at the computer when they are on a project deadline. I did it for pleasure so sue me. He told me to take an aspirin and rest in bed (he should have said call me in the morning). I was on my own.

I realized after some deliberation that a good massage of the shoulder and neck area would loosen all those tight muscles that were frozen in a hunched over position. Perhaps my headache would dissolve. I have heard the praises of Higher Massage from many people. Some prefer deep-tissue or shiatsu while others opt mostly for Swedish and Thai. I was happy to try what the spa offered that day. One massage and I was an immediate convert. All I can say is aah!

Experienced hands kneaded the muscles in the aching area to perfection producing relaxation and relief. I asked for more and these capable hands continued at a more fervent pace. My muscles were still sore as a result, but I felt them unknot. The masseuse progressed to the lower back, knowing that it was also affected. People who sit for long periods of time at a computer are prone to repeated problems, he explained. I encounter them all the time, he added. I can get you back to normal in no time. I trusted his every word.

It will probably be a while before I go on a two-day binge, but it is likely to happen for a shorter period of time. After all, I have obligations in my life. I am not worried since I know where the best masseuses work.

Manga Convention

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I look forward to a Manga convention almost as much as my birthday when my friends go crazy with anime theme parties and related gifts. I have dozens of cartoon-decorated items like backpacks, wallets, phone cases, key chains, notebooks, and the like. You could say I have a vast and comprehensive collection. I have illustrations of all my favorite characters not to mention DVDs. Don’t stop everyone. I love it.

The conventions are a place for manga groupies to hang out and converse. We compare our favorites and give highlights of our belongings. Nothing is exempt from attention. You get new ideas and can purchase things that fill gaps in your collection. Recently, at an awesome expo I had the added bonus of meeting the girl I am now dating. I want to go out with a fellow traveler. If the woman is not interested in manga and anime, it won’t work. There is one other issue I must bring up. If she is not a smoker, we clash. I have enjoyed cigarettes for years and do not consider it a “nasty habit.” I also don’t like to be nagged and reminded how dangerous is. I am not guilty about second-hand smoke because I don’t do it around people and never in a car with another passenger. I am respectful and I demand the same in return.

While my new girlfriend smokes infrequently, she is not against the practice in principle. I am, however, mindful of having an ashy breath. She hasn’t mentioned it to me, or posted on Facebook about it, but I am anticipating her reaction. I have ways of dealing with it. I call them my five tips to get rid of bad breath.

  1. Suck on life savers or other hard candy.
  2. Use mouth wash twice a day.
  3. Brush morning and night.
  4. Spray with Binaca as needed.
  5. Consume Tic Tacs or mints.

With these suggestions, you will not suffer from cigarette breath and make people cringe in an elevator or other tight space. Even I can tell a heavy smoker from a mile away. They must not realize that they reek. How can they be romantic on a date? Well, I have it solved. So far so good and no complaints. I think this relationship is going to work.

As a smoker, I am not going to tell you to stop, but this is one sure-fire method of avoiding ashy breath. Ha! By the way, the longer you smoke, the more yellow and stained your teeth will be. Now it is time for another tip. Use whitening toothpaste containing a bit of an abrasive. Get your teeth cleaned by a professional at least two times a year. You will have a healthy, stain-free smile. We want to look our best and as smokers, we have some extra work to do. Personal care takes time and effort, but it brings results with it. Set a regular schedule so you don’t forget.

Stuck at Work!!!

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As a professional illustrator, I can work late at night (the proverbial late shift) depending upon immanent deadlines. While I do a variety of styles, I love it when I get an assignment to do something in the Manga or Anime style. Cartoonish characters are my forte and I do them often just for my own pleasure. Tonight is a late one and I may be here until the wee hours of the morning. I better get some coffee to pry my hooded eyes open. When I really get going, I wake up automatically and pour my heart and soul—and skill—into the project at hand.

I do love my work, but I need concentration. Most of the time it is quiet during the day in the office. I can always count on a peaceful existence at home. If you get the late shift, you also get with it the roar of a couple of vacuums as they race around the space attacking the dust and dirt in the expansive carpet. I simply cannot function with this sound. The crew must clean up at night as it would be impossible during the day, but there is always one or two workers at their desk. Because the vacuums are right in my field of vision, I can see the crew member trying to quietly change the bag and dump the contents in the big trash bin he pushes alongside as he works. I hate these bags. I bought a bagless one for home after reading this guide: https://www.thevacuumchallenge.com/bag-vs-bagless-vacuum-cleaner-better/. It is much less of a hassle. Now I am off the subject of illustration. I think I will look at some new Manga images on line. I know how to procrastinate. This reminds me that, yikes, I am missing the Anime video festival at the old movie house downtown.

This is where I need to be. I am stuck at work with no hope in sight for an early departure. I could sneak out but my quota of work will not be up to snuff. I start racing to the finish like a drugged racehorse. The work does not suffer as one might expect. If I am lucky and persevere, I might make part of the festival since it starts rather late to appeal to us night denizens. I live for these special moments in life so don’t let me down, I tell my brain tenderly. I have always been able to count on you in a pinch.

There should be a seat left in the theater for me. If I go forward at full speed ahead, I can hop on a bus and get to my destination in minutes. I think I will call a friend to join me and save us seats. I know the Anime lovers will be out in the usual numbers when there is a special event. As I am nearing the end of my allotted time for this assignment, I start getting in the mood for the rest of the night.

Action Figures

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My friends are a kick (pun intended). They love to play soccer most of all. Having drawn everyone I know in anime style, I want now to do all the team members in complete uniform, right down to their shin guards. I will duplicate their custom uniforms of course including each person’s number. The colors and red and black, which work perfection with the Japanese animation style. Each player will be sporting a shirt and shorts, knee socks, and carrying a team bag with visible logo, just like the photos in Top Corner Magazine. The drawing will be a group portrait with all the typical characteristics of today’s popular Asian graphic arts. Today these are my very own live action figure heroes. I hope they will be amused and impressed. I am giving each soccer participant his or her own version of my artistic endeavor. I will kill two birds with one stone. I get to immerse myself in what I love and can offer some well-deserved gifts to my friends at the same time. I am not modest about my ability to reach success.

I always have a subject in mind when I feel creative, but this time something special suggested by a friend. He loves my art and he adores soccer. It is a combination made in heaven. For me, too, and as a result, it will be a great memento of our communal lives today. Don’t you wish you could document great times with more than random cell phone photos or videos? This is going to be an ongoing passion, I can see it now. I might even share the finished piece with them on Twitter. My life’s work is set out before me – using everyday life as an impetus to art.

What is really fun is to embellish and recreate the facts. This means that while the uniform is more of less consistent, the shin guards are going to be pure fantasy. I will change and elaborate the shape and add embellishments to the front. It will be some of my best work. Anime is a celebration of imagination and creativity in the world of culturally rich cinematographic and animation styles. I will milk it for all its worth. Computer graphics will be expanded in range, using my friends as the focus. I have my own individualized technique. The decorative touches on the soccer gear will be stellar. I love when I get so much inspiration from a variety of sources.

Drawing in Japanese style involves the transformation of a subject into its alter ego as expressed through prescribed references. I will let the details speak for themselves. The shin guards will look abstract, but the lines and forms will contain cryptic messages. I want people to detect them with puzzlement and curiosity. It is a sports theme and not war, life, or death; however, I will make it have more import beyond a game of soccer. It will have a universal or archetypal symbol. I hope my friends will enjoy the fun. The first to guess the imagery will win a prize!

It’s Gonna be a Good Day

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I hate waking up in the dark. It is so hard to throw off the blanket and put my feet on the cold floor. I realized that I needed a more pleasant morning experience and decided to search for the perfect sunrise alarm clock. I read about them in reviews on line and they sounded ideal for my situation. What a novel invention. I don’t know how long they have been around, but somehow I have been missing out on technological innovation in the alarm clock world. There are many appliances to invest in to improve your life; and this is surely on the top of anyone’s list next to a hair dryer or electric razor. Who can get up at the designated hour without someone yelling in your ear or the radio blasting?

Let me tell you what I found in my favorite sunrise alarm review. They are basically a wakeup light with a morning sunrise simulator and sunset simulation. It is a colorful bedside lamp night light doing double duty as an alarm. You can get various colors or light, nature sounds, and your favorite FM radio station, all with easy touch control. Can you see why I bought it instantly? And to make it all much better, this baby was under $50. It’s really neat. The wakeup light gradually brightens, going from one to one hundred percent at a predetermined time. Now I wake out of the deepest sleep refreshed and ready for a great day. What else can put you in a good mood so fast other than a cup of coffee? It then gradually dims and goes off when you switch to sunset mode. It’s nice to look at and you have your choice of five to seven colors for most models. If you want it nonintrusive, you just opt for white light (called bedside lamp mode). You have up to ten levels of intensity—so cool.

I range from white to blue to purple or orange and indigo for my sunrise election depending upon my mood. Variations also exist for the sounds of sunrise. You can also get frogs, birds, waves, and the like. It evokes the smells of nature. The young at heart, like teens, love the radio best. Business types like the news first thing out of bed. I almost forgot to mention that the device is powered by a simple wall charger, USB cable, or two AAA batteries (for wireless or emergency use). The designers have thought of everything from snooze mode and touch control to large an easy-to-read LED display.

I find that I can trust the reviews on most product websites and it helps to avoid common pitfalls. It isn’t enough to read the description alone. Find out what works and what doesn’t from real users. What would I do without the Internet to give me practical advice at the click of a mouse? I am no longer grumpy when I awake.

Like New

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I sit at my desk staring at my trusty laptop searching for new articles and examples of the Japanese style of Manga and Anime. There are wonderful sites that are constantly renewed with new material. My desk gets a lot of wear and tear given the hours I spend enjoying my favorite pastime. I could tell you a lot about the artistic nature of these comics. I wouldn’t be giving away any secrets. Aficionados know most of the history and current offerings. I love sharing, however, and am always seeking new fellow travelers in this fantasy sphere. Today I have a different story to tell.

I took a look at my desk a while back and realized that it needed some help. I thought to myself that I should try to restore its old luster. It is a simple task with a good random orbital sander. The only problem is that I don’t have one. Should I try to do the work manually myself? If I want like new results, I believe that rending a sander is in order. I may not use it again, so it would be an extravagant purchase. It would cut into my travel budget to Japan. I can’t wait to meet some the superb regional animation artists. I belong to a club that gives details on where to go and how to make contact. They even have guided tours. So, while hand sanding is out, a rental sander is in. For ten dollars, I can have a refurbished desk using a $120-dollar model. I spend so much time in its presence that it might as well look spiffy and new.

The random orbital sander did the job. I watched a few videos and read some online instructions and in a snap, I had a fresh and smooth surface. I started roaming around my house looking for other projects. What about the dining room table and the top of my chest of drawers? How about those crude-looking bookshelves in the garage? I carried the portable sander here and there to touch up every wood expanse in need. I wouldn’t need to rent it anymore. I had the use of a great microfilter system, an on-board way to take care of fine dust. It is so helpful to trap tiny particles that you might miss with the vacuum cleaner. It also has a twist-off dust canister that shows you the dust level before you detach it. Finally, to round out my description of the random orbital sander for those not in the know, it has a combination of a pad orbit and rotation to deliver a well-blended and smooth finish. The pliable pad ensures a fine result whether you are using the sander on a flat or contoured surface. Given a choice, I would always opt for a low-vibration design since it is engineered for smooth running and user comfort. Now you are ready to go for it.

Try a Con!

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Something I like about anime and manga is that there are huge communities of fans. There are websites like mine written by one person or a team of fans. There are message boards where people trade DVDs and talk about different aspects of the genre that they like. But some stuff actually takes place away from the computer. There are big events, called conferences or cons. And there are many here in the United States and other countries as well. No need to go all the way to Japan.

There are a variety of cons. Some are specifically for anime. Others are for manga. Some are for both. There are some for specific shows or specific fans. It can get a little too specific. There is one just for males interested in My Little Pony, which isn’t anime but I thought worth mentioning. They call themselves bronies and the conventions are called Bronycon. It is a real thing. Others are for cosplayers—people who like to dress up as their favorite characters. Most cons will have special guests, like artists, authors, or actors involved in the genre. They have panels of discussion, meet and greets, and signings. There are merchandise booths, publishers and film studios usually have representatives there, and the fans get to meet other people who share their interests. I like cons because they promote the idea of community and bring fans together with the people who create the things we enjoy so much.

Here are some of the best cons out there:

Comic-Con San Diego is a little of everything. There are TV shows there and more mainstream type things, but also some cool stuff. It is so big now that they have events at more than one location. They are often sci-fi heavy. I like to watch some of the panels that they have done over the years, they can be very interesting. It is one of the premiere conventions in the genre, so if you can only attend one ever, this is the best one to try. This event is usually mid-summer and they host it every year.They also sponsor Wondercon, which is a little more comic book focused.

New York has a specific anime convention. Also in the summer, it is hosted in the middle of Manhattan. They typically have voice actors, writers, illustrators and other cosplay type events. Last year they had MōshiMōshi there, a music group who promotes video games and anime. I think that is fun. I would have liked to have seen them there. It is a family friendly event, because the founders believe that everyone should be exposed to the awesomeness that is manga and anime. I totally agree.

If you are closer to mid-America, there is an annual anime convention in Chicago. They host gaming tournaments and have formal dances, too. Branded as being “for fans by fans” they try hard to make it more than just a bunch of booths with their events. I would be very interested to see one of those dances.

Not to be outdone, Las Vegas also has an anime and pop culture convention called Sabakon. They include video games and pop culture in their convention, giving it an appeal to a broad audience. Last year they even had a royal meal with some decidedly Disney characters. But the idea is to mix the familiar with the unknown to convince people of the appeal. I can’t wait to see what they do next year.

If those are too far for you to travel, you can always try typing the name of your town plus the words “anime convention” into your search engine and see what comes up. I bet you find something close by. Just keep in mind that many of these are hosted over the summer, so plan accordingly and have fun.

 

A Quick Lesson

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Japanese illustration, or what we call anime, has been around for a long time. We have proof of it as early as the 1910s. Japanese artist ŌtenShimokawa, originally a political cartoonist, is credited with making the first true anime film, a five-minute cartoon released in theaters back in 1917. Another “father” of anime is SeitarōKitayama, one of the first animation directors in all of Japan. Just like Walt Disney, Kitayama made a folk tale come to life, athough his was about a fisherman who rides a turtle under the sea. These short films were just the beginning.

As it became easier to make and interest grew, Japan used the genre to its advantage. In the 1940s, animators created films about Momotarō, a popular hero in Japanese folklore. They depicted him as a human serving in a Japanese naval unit along with a variety of animals. The two film series is interesting in that they were World War II propaganda films. The first, Momotarō’s Sea Eagles glorifies the attack on Pearl Harbor. The second film, entitled Momotarō’s Divine Sea Warriors, depicts a Japanese invasion of the British-held island of Celebes. The end is particularly eerie, as you watch children pretend to parachute down onto the United States. The films were made to educate the Japanese and drum up support for the war. However, the timing was bad. The second film was released less than six months before Japan surrendered.

So that is the old guard. They paved the way for the new anime that we have today, or as I like to call it, the neo dynasty.The anime now is sophisticated and nuanced. It has cultural significance and impact. And if you don’t think this stuff is popular, you are wrong. Check out youtube and see all the anime on there. Take special note of all the views. Also, think about what happened this summer and all those people who are out there playing Pokémon Go. People did not just start playing it because it is a cool app or because they wanted to walk around more. There are plenty of good apps out there and it actually seems counterproductive to be outside but messing with your phone. Many of the players are people who watched the series and were fans of the characters. People are still huge fans of Dragonball-Z and Cowboy Bebop. And there are so many others now. Good books and great series and awesome films.

They did a study and almost half of all the books sold in Japan are manga. People should read them more here too. As kids, it can be hard to make the transition from bright and interesting picture books to boring (and long) young adult books. They have special manga in Japan that are age group appropriate. I bet we would have more people reading if that were the case here. I urge all parents who have struggling readers to take this into consideration.

 

Yakitate!! Rules!

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My favorite genre is manga. Most people don’t think too much of it but they don’t appreciate all that goes into it. They don’t see the fun in it. They completely miss the underlying commentary. They don’t acknowledge the stylistic designs as a legitimate art form. They are missing out.

First of all, nearly everything geared toward kids is some type of animation. As a kid, I had years of cartoon superheroes forced down my throat.Once I was finally interested, I was expected to “grow up.” But why would I stop as an adult? I like comic books. I like cartoons. Advertisers and society brought me up this way. At some point, my tastes matured enough to find something other than Saturday morning style kiddie shows and their blatant product-placement/movie tie in comics.

And then I discovered manga. I finally felt like I found what I had been looking for. While manga is still essentially comic books—they’re so much more. I really enjoyed the more sophisticated writing and the strong yet almost feminine artwork in the drawings. I also like how the drawing style is consistent through many different subjects and series. In some American comics, characters look totally different just because someone else is drawing them. I hate that.

My favorite, Yakitate!! Ja-pan, is an epic tale about a boy on a quest to make a national bread for his country. It doesn’t sound like it would be incredibly interesting but it is. The series is very clever and has a lot of puns in it. For example, in Japan, the word “pan” can mean bread. See, there is a pun even in the title! The main character, Azuma, also has “hands of the sun” or “solar hands” which are warmer than most people. It helps the bread rise. Japan is big on sun imagery—their flag is even a rising sun. So you can see how this is more than just a kid’s thing. I love that it really does talk about baking. There are lots of baking battles throughout the series and it is actually very interesting as well as educational. You learn a lot about Japanese food culture and their belief in using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Then I feel like I am learning something too.

Then they made Yakitate into an anime series, and that was also very entertaining. I like watching the bread battles. The judging can get very silly but that makes it even more fun to watch. They made a total of 69 episodes, impressive because it was originally only a small magna and only serialized because it was such a hit. They categorize the show as being shounen, which kind of means school-aged here. We would use the phrase “coming-of-age” as a closer equivalent.

I was sad when I got to the last of the 69 episodes and that’s when I found other anime and magna that I enjoy. But I often return to my first love, Yakitate!! Japan.

Best Way to Experience Something

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I want to go to Japan. I’ve never travelled outside of my state before. I have never been on a plane. I know Japan is far and that it would be expensive but I still think it would be fun to go. I have been putting money aside for a few months. I want to be able to stay for a couple of weeks to make the long flights worth it. I am hoping that in a year I will have enough.

I would like to experience city life there. It seems so unlike even big cities here. I can watch videos or pictures, but that is not really the same as immersing yourself in it. would like to see what cities like Kyoto are like. What it smells like, what it sounds like. I want to know what it feels like walking down the street in a sea of people in Tokyo. I don’t like people being that close to me normally but it would be a life experience, and as a once in a while thing it would be OK. I want to have dinner in a real Japanese restaurant, not an Americanized version of one. I have heard about some of the crazy food they eat. I would definitely try to keep with their tradition of locally ‘famous’ ingredients. That’s something I learned from Yakitate!! as well. I would not be able to speak much of the language, although I have picked up a little from watching so much Yakitate!! that I could talk a little bit in Japanese—especially if it had to do with baking, hahaha! But many of them speak English, and I bet I could find a nice translating app or something to help me talk to people. I think it would help me appreciate the country more as a whole and give me more insight into the meaning behind some of the manga and anime that I like.

I also want to be able to buy some more manga and anime that I cannot get here in this country. It is not that I want anything bad that people wouldn’t want here but more like the interest isn’t there in the general population. Only serious collectors kind of stuff. I am not really sure exactly what yet but I think if I went there, I would know it when I saw it. I think that would be fun. I would like bringing something to a convention and being able to say, “Oh this? I got this on my trip to Japan…” when somebody asked how I got it. I wouldn’t tell that it was my first time. I think that is a fun thing about going to another country, being able to bring back unique items.

Have you ever been to another country? Does it help you to relate now to that culture more? What was your favorite item that you brought back with you? I am very interested to know.

Favorite Yakitate!! Ja-pan Episodes

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I like a lot of anime but I love the Yakitate!! Ja-pan show best. Whether you are familiar with the show or not, I thought I would give you three episodes that are among my favorite and why I like them. I hope that if you are a fan of the show, you’ll like these episodes too. If you aren’t, maybe these descriptions will inspire you to watch the show.

Sometimes the first episode in a series is not that great because the show hasn’t gotten into a groove yet. I don’t think that is the case here with Yakitate!! at all. I do love the first episode, titled Arrival! The Boy with Solar Hands. It explains Pantasia and introduces you to the most important character, Azuma. I think they did a good job setting up the premise of the show and it makes the plot of the show very clear. You really understand why this boy feels it is important to make bread to honor his native Japan. It always makes me a little nervous because Azuma loses so many points at the beginning! Many of the episodes follow this format but this one is still one of my favorites.

I also like episode 40, known as Pierrot’s Miscalculation. Baking actually involves a lot of math, which is a subject I like. You have to be very precise or else your ingredients will not work together to make the bread. That’s why I especially like the code that Pierrot devises as part of an attempt to damage Team Japan’s chances of winning. Of course Azuma is able to figure it out, since he is the hero of the show and is very good with numbers. I also like Pierrot’s reaction to eating Azuma’s bread but I won’t tell you what that is. I don’t want to ruin the episode. Let’s just say it gives him a special power 😉

I think my favorite episode is number 51: All the Ultimate Ingredients Collected! The Greatest Finals in all of History!First, I like the character of Shadow, who was introduced in the episode before. Shadow can mimic just about anyone and makes a bagel out of rice flour. Azuma, on the other hand, makes a pot doughnut. That’s right. With hemp seeds and cannabis milk. It ends with an exciting cliffhanger, too.  In the next episode, we find out that the doughnut has given Peirrot the ability to time travel and he changes the course of history when he goes back, but I won’t say what he does when he gets there. You need to watch it to understand.

There you have it. My three favorite episodes and why I like them. What about you? Do you agree with my choices or do you think I’ve missed something with my list?