Archive for October, 2012

Samhain

October 31, 2012

Samhain is an ancient Celtic festival (all Celtic festivals are, by definition, ancient) held on 31 October–1 November, halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It’s the night when the dead return to visit the earth. It’s also the name of the new month, what we call November, and the Anglo-Saxons called Blod-Monath — Blood Month. This was the month when herds were culled to a size that could be kept over the winter. Given that lunar cycle festivals often fell on the night of the full moon, we may already have missed it by three days.

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Supporting Characters in Anime

October 29, 2012

Rita Moreno, Helen Hayes, Hattie McDaniel, Elsa Lanchester, Margaret Dumont; Jack Palence, Vincent Schiavelli, Sydney Greenstreet, Thomas Mitchell, Robert Morley, C. Aubrey Smith:

Prisoner of Zenda C. Aubrey Smith counsels younger actor

Prisoner of Zenda
C. Aubrey Smith counsels younger actor

All are instantly recognizable, by name or by face, even though they were never stars. They are the superb actors who played supporting roles, secondary characters, often better than the stars they were supporting. In part it was because of their abilities. In part it was because they were playing people who were interesting characters in their own right. Those of a certain age might not remember right off hand who played “Wild Bill Hickok” in the TV series, but everyone knows that Andy Devine played his sidekick.

It’s the same in anime. While the heroes are driving their mechas, transforming into magical girls, or agonizing over confessions of love, there’s always a supporting character there, to provide key intelligence, to move the plot along, maybe just to vamp till ready. Sometimes it’s a minor part (Fujishima), and sometimes it’s a minor costar with a back-story (Asahina). Herewith, a too-short list of characters I think deserve shows of their own, the way Mary Tyler Moore spun off Rhoda.

Fujishima Maiko (Kokoro Connect):

Fujishima

Fujishima

The class representative. She’s perceptive, supportive, and manipulative. Also yuri. She wants to encourage love matches amongst the students of Class 1-3, and is willing to help others against her own interests. What is her love life like? Who else is calling her for romantic advice? What else is going on around the school that a perceptive Class Representative with police connections might be involved in? (more…)

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 28, 2012

Garden Report for 121029

The weather this week was frosty when it wasn’t rainy. No actual snow, but the rain was falling very slowly at times. Frost on the windshield in the morning. Good thing I walk to work.

Intermittent cleaning out of the keyhole garden, and filling up of the compost frame. So far, it’s compressed six inches or so every couple of days. Looks like it will hold all of my garden detritus, plus much of the leaf litter. As I get toward the unsealed end I’ve been using a lot of cornstalks for support of the leaves and stuff inside. I briefly tipped it onto its side and added some more ties on the bottom, then was barely able to get it back upright (90lbs empty, remember). Next time I lay it down it will be down until late spring.

Over the weekend I made a start at adding more compost to the KHG. There’s been some settling, and I didn’t mound it high enough on the central baskets to begin with. While most of the garden cuttings have into the frame, there’s a lot of detritus that should just rot in place.

Harvested the beets on Friday. Not sure what it means when you have more biomass in greens than you do in your crop. Half a dozen thumb-size to big-thumb-size actual beets, along with lots of inedible rootlets. They were in Section 3, and I may have started them too late. Roasted the beets (it smelled like we were cooking dirt), and ate them unpeeled. About a third of the greens went into the fry pan with some stewmeat and the remaining tomato salsa. A very peasant meal. For dessert, we ate our lone mini-canteloupe. Not bad. Almost too ripe. Not sure the result was worth the deck space.

We have about a pound of greens left. Might try mixing them with chard in a gratin, or is it a granita? Speaking of which, the chard still looks good, despite light frosts every night. The peas were probably shaded too much by the corn, and aren’t doing anything. Not dead, just unenthusiastic, like a worker who is training his overseas replacement.

Meanwhile, indoors, another four pounds of tomatoes have ripened. I figure we have about 48 hours to eat them before the next tranche comes along. Speaking of which, I tried some leftover tomato salsa in oatmeal (an upcoming Oataku Chronicles post), but I think I put it in too early — it cooked down too much. Next time, I’ll add it right before the potatoes.

SalmonOats

October 25, 2012

The other night we had a nice garden-fresh dinner — home grown spaghetti squash stuffed with very lightly sautéed home grown tomatoes, store bought onions and peas, topped with a sauce of canned Alaskan smoked salmon in chicken broth thickened with flour. There were leftovers, and as I learned at pizza parties in college, where there’s leftovers, there’s breakfast.

Setup: 1 cup veg broth, 1/3 cup oatmeal, 2 heaping dinner teaspoons of salmon sauce with bits of veg, several grinds of Alaskan alder smoked sea salt (prepared the traditional way by draping it over sticks next to the fire), two teaspoons potato flakes.

Result: Most excellent. Pared down to its essentials it’s just chunks of smoked salmon in oatmeal, but it’s very good, in a checked-shirt, hearty NW breakfast sort of way. Makes you want to sing the lumberjack song as you go off to work.

Wednesday Wii – Guess Your Weight

October 24, 2012

So, here’s another Wii Fit infelicity. When the time comes to reset your weight goal. The Wii shows you the goal in terms of BMI, but it shows you the weight loss steps in pounds (in the US). It’s generally considered a Bad Thing to mix measurements like that. Yes, BMI is more important to health than mere pounds, but being a couple of tenths off in BMI isn’t going to kill you, and changing your weight be a couple of pounds is only going to move the tenths display on the BMImeter.

The issue is, most people don’t measure their weight exclusively on the Wii Fit. They have bathroom scales and things. What is displayed there is total pounds, so you need to have your target recorded in your mind as total pounds. Yes, once you have made your decision, the Wii briefly shows you what the pounds are, but it would be far better to display both BMI and pounds during the selection process.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 21, 2012

Garden Report for 121022

Ferocious weather this week. Winds gusting to 50, highs never hit 60, and the lows bounced around near freezing.Rain at the start. Rain at the end. Snow in the forecast.

Tuesday night was to be another freezing night, maybe, but the winds were high enough that any cover would likely blow off. I decided this would be the really truly last harvest but one.  On the pot tomatoes, I harvested anything that wasn’t green: about 2lbs. In the KHG, I harvested anything I could see. I figured if I couldn’t see it, it might be covered enough to survive a light frost. That netted me 12lbs of green tomatoes, plus a couple light orange ones. No KHG tomato has fully ripened as yet. So, those 12lbs go in the living room, and I brought back from there another 2lbs of an earlier pick that had ripened.

You have two weeks to eat this before it spoils. Go!

Friday was more cold and gusty winds, with rain and snow in the forecast, highs in the lower 40’s, lows bouncing along freezing. Time for another harvest. Nothing much on the pot tomatoes. Maybe a dozen. Filled up a cubic foot gardening bag with stuff off the KHG. Some orange-red, most green, and a handful of ones that looked like they’d been raised by Morlocks – pale pinkish white. Maybe ’cause they got no sun (although there were nicely orange ones next to them). First bag, 25lbs. Second bag, 12lbs. I could have gotten more, but I didn’t want to risk the squash vines that are still feeding the spaghetti and buttercup squash. I also didn’t bother with any that were less than plum sized. I didn’t throw them out if they were on a bunch, but I didn’t pick them if they were alone. I didn’t like that, and I thought about all the starving children in Omak as I crunched the discarded tomatoes underfoot, but triage is a harsh mistress.

So far, counting today, I have harvested 90-100lb of tomatoes, of which, about 50lb are still green.

Leaves are mostly down from the trees, and I’ve been sticking a layer of leaves and a layer of green in the KHG baskets. The green is mostly tomato trimmings, because the hanging baskets and the deck pots have stopped producing, so I’m cutting them back. I’m trying to figure out the best way to compost this stuff. There’s far too much for the KHG baskets.

I also picked the last sizable summer squash. The few remaining are cocktail-sized. I am leaving the other squash out to see how they do. Meanwhile, the chard is growing like mad (my aggressive countermining ops helped), but the wind has brought down most of the corn, perhaps helped by the critters.

The local Ben Franklin store – what my old mother (godrestersoul) would call a five and dime – is going out of business after twenty years. More on that in another post. We went down to see what we could scavenge, and came back with a bunch of unpeat pots for next years plantings. We also came back with a stack of steel rod shelving. Four big shelves (3x5ft), four half that size, and a couple of in-betweeners, all for $15. This is solid stuff — the big ones weigh in at 18lb each. Why do I mention it? Because I’m using them to build a composting cage.

One man’s junk is another man’s compost cage

Something I can fill up with the rest of the cuttings, and tumble about, rather than having to dig over. I tied the four big ones together with zip ties, then used bolt-cutters to trim the half-sizers so they can be zip-tied to the ends. The whole thing ended up weighing about 90lbs, empty. I filled it with layers of leaves, then tomato clippings, then more leaves, then cornstalks, etc

Just like a lasagne

I plan to lay it on its side, once full, and roll it from one long side to the other, like a bored Victorique de Blois. And yes, I know that when I lay it over, the layers turn into vertical strata. This is still in beta-test mode.

Broken World

October 19, 2012

A recent paper in Science describes how the Earth became a hellish desert for over five million years as a result of the Permian Extinction. The trigger is still unclear, and suggested causes range from asteroid impacts to runaway greenhouse effect due to volcanic eruptions. In the tropics, sea temperatures were 40C (104F), and land temperatures were over 50C (122F).

Most of the discussion of the paper appears to be the implications for the current era of global warming. What I find interesting is the fact that it puts severe constraints on the development of life-as-we-know-it.

The tropics were barren hells for five million years. That’s an eternity in evolutionary time. There was life at the poles (or we wouldn’t be here) but it was not able to modify itself enough to recolonize the tropics. What tropical life there was, was shrubs and ferns, and there were no tropical fish, not even guppies.

This puts an upper limit on the allowed temperatures for life on earth-like planets, and gives us a better criterion for setting the inner limit of the ‘Goldilocks zone’ around a star. Yes, it’s possible that life-as-we-don’t-know-it might develop, based on asbestos or something, or that, given half a billion years, rather than just five million, life on earth could adapt, but it helps us better understand just what our limits are.

HoneyOats

October 18, 2012

So, it looks like I’ve spoiled myself for normal oatmeal. Last week, in the back of the fridge, I found a jar of spun mountain flower honey from the farmer’s market — locally grown from organic bees, touched with the dew of the mountains (or it would be if the humidity would ever get over 7%). I let it come to room temperature, then did the oatmeal thing.

Setup: cup of water (next time, try apple juice), 1/3 cup long cook oatmeal, two big gloppy dinner soupspoons of honey, five shakes of cinnamon. Salt.

Results: Once I’d added salt I found the flavors were almost perfectly balanced. Just enough honey for sweet, and just enough cinnamon for bite. Overall….meh. The trouble was, it didn’t do anything for me. I’d gotten used to the wild highland flavors redolent of Braveheart and the gritty peaks of Banner in the Sky, and this was giving me Sound of Music. I’ll try it once more, with apple juice, and maybe I’ll have it again around Christmas.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 15, 2012

Garden Report for 121015

The weather was mild the first part of the week, turning colder, and windy, with rain.  Looks like that will be the case all this coming week as well. Good news is that if it’s raining, it’s not frosting.

Not much doing in the garden. Corn keeps falling over. Not sure if something’s eating the roots or if it’s the slope of the KHG, or if the cats are at play. From the looks of the carrot tops, there’s at least one cat who likes sleeping there. Perhaps ten tomatoes in the pots are ripe. One in the KHG has turned.  The chard is big. The buttercup and spaghetti squash are racing the winter snows to see if they can throw off a couple more fruits. There’s even a few summer squash struggling along.

Pulled the two bush melon pots inside during the Great Frost Scare. I put them both out at the start of the week, but the watermelon didn’t fare well – the leaves had been turning ash grey prior to that, and they continued to do so. One softball sized melon. I harvested it, but it turns out that it was too soon. The interior was still white, with a little pink, that tasted green. The other problem was, it had the same number and size of seeds as a real watermelon, only in a smaller package, so there wasn’t nearly enough actual melonflesh to make it worthwhile. I might try one more time, and see if it’s enough for a pair of small desserts. Meanwhile, the cantaloupe is still hanging in there, and we’ll keep it on deck as long as we can.

Indoors, MJ took a few pounds of the smaller tomatoes and made sauce with them. Meanwhile, six of the twenty pounds of green tomatoes have ripened to good eating stage. Not six tomatoes, six pounds. I’m doing my best to cope, by eating a plateful of tomatoes for lunch every day. All these vegetables are giving me the digestive system of a horse.

Another experiment

October 12, 2012

So, I was getting ready to assign the big team paper project for this quarter, and I thought I’d try a Twitter experiment. I have a year-old blog entry on why I won’t let students quote Wikipedia, that I thought could use some more exposure. In addition, I had recently made a tweet about TSA that did a miniviral, getting retweeted about 2000 times, and pushing my followers list up to 170. Let’s see if all that social linkage has an impact on other things.

So, at 5AM, I poset the URL in a tweet: It’s that time of year again: http://tinyurl.com/8p2cdn2 Wikipedia in the classroom ….and waited to see the response.

Within an hour the hits on this site jumped to 30 — high by my standards. And what was driving all those hits? Most of them were people looking at my review of the anime Kanon 2002. Ultimately, I had 42 hits for the day.

The most active entry for the week was…Kanon 2002 (31 views). The Wikipedia entry came in second, with 12. So much for social impact. I may try it again around noon, and see if the time matters.

EggdropOats

October 11, 2012

Roughly fifteen months ago my Oataku experience started when I tried to convert a high-class oatmeal-with-fried-egg recipe into something I could cook at O-dark-thirty without setting fire to my jammies. Today I thought I’d revisit the recipe. This came about because the night before I’d cracked open a carton of Egg-Beaters in order to make egg-drop-ramen for dinner, from scratch. But that’s a different series. The original recipe was bland old oatmeal with cheese and pepper and egg on top. My version was instant oatmeal with egg stirred in later. Today’s version is the same, only different.

Inputs:
1 cup of chicken broth, boiling
1 carton of Egg Beaters, open
1 chunk of cheddar cheese, cubed
1 grinder of pepper, cranked seven or ten times
1/3 cup of long cook oatmeal. I’ve gone off the instant and semi-instants
salt, if ya gotta

Process:
Boil broth. Be careful ’cause it foams. Right before it does that,
Pour in one glug of egg. Or 1/4 cup, if you’re the precise type and you don’t mind the broth boiling over while you measure
With your free hand, stir. (Kindof reminds you of the Internet, don’t it?)
Turn down heat to simmer
Add oats
Grind grinder
Cook for specified time (10-15mins, depending)
One minute before you’re done, pour in the chopped cheese

Outputs:
Very good. Mine was a little thin, more like porridge than spoon-standing oatmeal, but that’s OK. You could try adding a couple of teaspoons of potato flakes

Another Anime Double Feature 2

October 10, 2012

The anime topic for the week is trust. Last week in Mysterious Girlfriend X, we saw a couple building trust by sharing spit. This week, in Kokoro Connect, we find out about learning to trust people by sharing your bodies. It’s about a group of five HS students (shy, boy-scared Yui, outgoing Iori, mature Inaba are the girls; laid back Aoki and white knight Taichi the boys) who, because of outside intervention, start swapping bodies, giving in to primal urges, and reverting to younger ages. Each of the students has their own secrets and personal traumas and despite the on/off nature of the changes, these start to come out.

The Five Musketeers

The change agent is someone or something called Heartseed. He can take over bodies at will (he regularly takes over their homeroom teacher to explain his latest experiment), and has other powers that become evident throughout the series. We don’t know if he’s an earthly villain, an alien, or an intelligent plant (heartseed is one of the names of Cardiospermum halicacabum, AKA balloon vine)

Swaps
The body swaps arc takes up the first half of the season. The swaps

Boys will be boys, even when they’re girls

totally move consciousness and memories, so when A is in B’s body, A is still A, including speech and body mannerisms, with no access to any of B’s knowledge.

KC seems to be unique in using this concept as the main storyline. A quick search pulled up references to fewer than ten true body-swap episodes across all of anime (although there is a playlist on YouTube that lists 100 vids, however most are more in the gender-change or video-deleted categories).

The question is, what do you do when you’re in someone else’s body? What might they be doing in, or to, yours? Sometimes it’s useful to have the alternative perspective — when Taichi and Yui swap bodies, he teaches her how not to be afraid of males. The trust issue is highlighted when Inaba (voiced by the incomparable Sawashiro Miyuki) confesses to the group that she worries about being held responsible for a crime one of the others commits while in her body, and that she doesn’t feel she can trust any of them and that she can’t sleep at night for worrying, and that she worries they will reject her when they hear this. The others reaction, after a long dramatic pause, is revealing:

Iori: You mean..you’re trying to tell us that…you worry too much?
Yui: I know exactly what you mean, Inaba. Every time Aoki’s been in my body I have to check myself over, and then go through my stuff to make sure nothings been changed.
Aoki: Let’s be clear on this, Inaba. It’s everybody you don’t trust, not just me?
Iori: Lunch break is almost over. Can we talk while we eat?

The end of the first arc is an emotional roller-coaster. Taichi finally tells Iori that he likes her and wants her to be his girlfriend. She tells him she likes him too, at which point Heartseed takes control, tells Taichi the group has become boring and that he wants to liven things up. He then makes Iori throw herself off a bridge. End of episode.

Not exactly a cliff-hanger

In the next episode, Iori is unconscious in the hospital and all the group is there. Heartseed shows up and tells them Iori is going to die and it’s up to them to decide who is going to be inside her body when she does. That turns out to be a lie, but not before we see each one (including Iori, temporarily swapped into different bodies) trying to deal with the emotional and ethical aspects of the problem.

Emotions

The middle arc is a bit of a disappointment. After Inaba tries to seduce Taichi in the clubroom, and Yui karate-chops a table in half when she catches them, Heartseed tells them he’s changed the rules and now they will be unable to control their innermost desires — the Id has been released. Unfortunately for suspension of disbelief, nothing much happens over the rest of the arc. Instead of normal teenlike reactions — I’d expect sex, drugs, and rock and roll to have a more prominent place — this mini-arc features overeating, and unwillingness to walk very far on a school outing.

It also finds Yui and Inaba hiding out in their bedrooms because they don’t trust their reactions, and they don’t trust their comrades to be able to help them. The friends are able to talk Yui out of hiding, but it takes a confrontation with Heartseed to bring Inaba out, and to have her admit to herself that she’s in love with Taichi, just as Iori is. Iori realizes this almost as soon as Inaba does, and the two agree to be friendly rivals. Yeah, right.

In any event, they survive, and Heartseed tells them that he’s done playing with them and life will be normal from now on.

Kids

The final arc is driven by Heartseed 2. Not exactly a different individual, but not the same. With no more information than this, I’m going for Heartseed as an intelligent vinelike plant, either an import from Ceti Alpha 5 or something growing on the wall at Fukushima. Heartseed 2 decides it will be interesting to have them revert back to their childhood selves, not in their current bodies, but in their actual childhood bodies. The opening scene is one of the funniest in the series, with Taichi and Inaba playing parents to preschool Yuri, Aoki, and Iori.

Family outing

The questions here are, who do you trust with your childhood? Which mental state do you trust, today’s or yesterday’s? We see various elements of these questions as four of the five (H2 has told Taichi that he’s exempt, because someone has to keep an eye on the kids, but that he can’t tell anyone, because if he does, the condition becomes permanent, like some fairytale curse).

Conclusion

The ending is only semi-satisfying. H1 saves them from H2, Yui and Aoki decide they really are a couple, Iori and her mother realize they’ve been putting up with idiot men because each thought that’s what the other wanted. And Taichi? Well, in the very last frame, Iori monologues that she isn’t sure she’s really in love with him. But we don’t find out what happens, because the series producers have decided that a good business model is to hold the last four episodes until the BD comes out sometime next Spring.

Comment
These two show take very different approaches to the issue of trust. MGX deals with it in a one-dimensional way — who do you trust to stick their…finger…in your…mouth…? KC looks at trust of others when you are vulnerable, a much deeper issue. MGX is a lightweight romantic comedy. KC is weightier overall, but is uneven in execution, and I can’t say I like this new business model, where a major chunk of the story is saved for the BDs, so they can charge Japanese prices for the set. Bakemonogatari is doing the same thing — the original story, plus the three missing Tsubasa Cat episodes, are now available for $150.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

October 7, 2012

Garden Report for 121008

Well, here in the NENW it’s always a race between having your crops produce and having your crops die of frostbite. Tuesday morning, the forecast lows for Tuesday-Sunday was 34/29/30/29/32/35. Given how hard it will be to cover up the KHG squash and tomatoes, having to do it for a full week seemed somewhat futile. If it was one night of frost, I’d try it, but I’m not set up to do it every night for a week.

So Tuesday was harvest day.

A whole cornucopia. Too bad most of them are green.

Result:
Squash: 1 buttercup, 1 acorn, 1 summer and 3 spaghetti, for a total of six pounds
Tomatoes: many, totalling 21lbs

Then I said “it’s a million to one chance, but it just might work”, so I covered the pots by the back of the house

Counter-Frost Ops

and I made an attempt to cover the jungle. There’s probably another ten pounds of tomatoes and a Mayan civilization still in there.

Faint hope

I made the assumption that it would be worse on the plants to tug them around four days in a row, so I just left the covers on until things warmed up.

Part of the problem is, the weather mavens predictions have been exceptionally bad this week:

Weds night Forecast 27 Actual 36
Thurs night Forecast 27 Actual 35
Fri night Forecast 27 Actual 32
Sat night Forecast 31 Actual 35
Sun night Forecast 32 Actual 38

Part of the problem is that they have changed their reporting station on me. They had been using the weather out at Spokane International Airport (KGEG), and now they are using some place called TWRW1, which turns out to be a ranger station in the middle of the Turnbull Wilderness Area. The TWA is a blasted slab of basalt from the Channeled Scablands, that was made into a Wilderness Area because no-one wanted it. The porous basalt heats up fast during the day, and chills way down at night. Correcting for features like this is exactly the problem one has when trying to model Global Warming. KGEG is currently forecasting 34 and 37F as minimums.

Took the covers off on Sunday. I figured that if we were going to have more than a week of frost, that the growing season was officially over, and a week in darkness was as bad as a light frost. Things looked surprisingly good, and some of the squash has continued to grow. Watered everything down Sunday night.

Cheesy Oats, de Espania

October 4, 2012

In honor of a friend’s recent visit to Spain (hi Kurt), I thought I’d try a Spanish cheese in my oatmeal. Specifically, Iberico, a blend of sheep’s, goat’s and cow’s milk. It’s a semihard cheese, with a dark rind, reminiscent of fish skin. The taste is…rural…earthy…even peasant. Let’s put it this way, you won’t find it at a wine and cheese party, because people who like that kind of cheese don’t give wine and cheese parties.

Setup: cup of vegetable stock, 1/3 cup oatmeal, couple glugs of vin exceedingly ordinaire, 1/4 cup Iberico, cubed.

Result: very good. The cheese melts but is ungracious about it, leaving little chewy knots of flavor. The strong barnyard flavor is exactly what is needed to offset the bland. A great way to use up the last of the Iberico.

Another Anime Double Feature 1

October 3, 2012

Leave it to the Japanese to take a totally weird, off-the-wall concept and turn it into a romance, and that’s the idea behind my next pair of reviews. The two anime are last year’s Mysterious Girlfriend X (which might be subtitled: You can’t get more intimate than this without…kissing), and this summer’s Kokoro Connect (Your body, myself).

Mysterious Girlfriend X is about a high school couple who share their spit, but not in the normal way that I learned to do, sports fans, with a quick game of tonsil-hockey while attempting to steal second base. No, these two pull gobs of spit out of their mouths on their fingers and give them to each other.

Still here? And what does that say about you?

Now, they don’t call it ‘spit’ in the anime. They call it ‘drool’, as in, what runs down your face when you sleep with your mouth open. But we know what it’s really called. The key is, by exchanging spit, they also exchange emotions, even dream content, sometimes actual images. Think of it as a brief, low bandwidth mind meld. Feel better?

Kokoro Connect is about a group of five HS students (three girls and two boys) who, because of outside intervention (exactly who or what is unclear right now), start swapping bodies, giving in to primal urges, and reverting to their younger selves. Each of the students has their own secrets and personal traumas and despite the on/off nature of the changes, these start to come out.

So, what’s the common thread? I’d say it’s trust – how it’s established and how it’s maintained, and how it can break down.

In MGX, the trust part is straightforward — sharing drool, the fact that they can share drool, forms a bond.

That’s not how I learned to do it

The anime starts out with the arrival of transfer student Urabe Mikoto in Tsubaki Akira’s HS freshman class. She’s a standoffish student who spends most of her break time asleep at her desk. One day, Tsubaki comes back to the classroom after the end of school, and finds her still asleep, head on the desk, small puddle of drool by her mouth. He wakes her up and she slopes off home, leaving the drool puddle. And because he’s a male primate of high school age, he sticks his finger in the puddle and tastes it. It’s sweet. A week later, he collapses at school and is taken home with a fever that won’t abate. Urabe comes to visit him, tells him his problem is he’s lovesick and addicted to her drool. She gives him a fingerload, and he recovers immediately. Ever after, they walk home from school together every day, and she gives him a shot of drool.

The rest of the series rings the changes on their relationship, it’s a coming-of-age romance. With spit. Tsubaki is always wondering about their relationship and if it’s working or not. This is a valid question, because it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. They evidently don’t talk on the way home until that last moment when he gets his inoculation and they have a 30-second conversation. Now and again, she will let him hold her hand. They never call each other by their first names, it’s always “Tsubake-kun” and “Urabe”. Their first kiss is put off “until they understand each other better”, i.e. not in this season.

Meanwhile, Tsubaki, being a boy of that age, is looking at other girls, buying girlie magazines, fantasizing, and stumbling into a reignited romance with an old flame. Urabe is always pulling him up short. He buys a magazine because the model on the cover looks like Urabe, and she cuts it into ribbons with the scissors she always keeps stuck in her pants. Always.

A girl never knows when she might need her scissors

Whenever she’s suspicious of Tsubaki, she tastes his drool, and right away knows what’s going on. For example, he has a surrealistic dream of having sex with her in a strange carnival city wearing strange costumes. She tastes his drool the next day (he’s been looking at her funny and won’t say why) and says “I may do that with you some day, but when I do I won’t be wearing a silly hat”. On numerous other occasions she, for various reasons, lets him taste her drool when she’s not wearing any pants, or clothes. He immediately gets an anime nosebleed. Other times he finds himself crying afterwards, because something he has done has made her sad.

Despite him being a bumbler, and her being stand-offish, or maybe because of that, this series works very well as a romantic comedy. The trust element here is that they always know each other’s true feelings, and they always can confirm that the relationship still holds. In the last episode, they hold a spit exchange ceremony at his mother’s graveside. Afterwards, Tsubaki says he’s not sure that sort of thing was appropriate, and Urabe says that it’s OK, because they’re going to be doing a lot of inappropriate things in the future.

Mom, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend. She’s mysterious.

The hard part about watching anime is accepting the initial conditions. Once you can get past the weird, and the anime logic, then the question is simply one of whether or not the series is true to its concept. Quite aside from the strange base concept in MGX, even the first episode raises all kinds of logical questions. Why does Urabe sleep so much? How does such an inexperienced girl (never had a boyfriend) have such a deep understanding of drool? Why does the drool thing work with so few people (there’s a number of subplots I haven’t mentioned). Don’t look at those questions and you’ll feel much better.

Despite all this, Mysterious Girlfriend X is a romantic comedy worth watching (it’s on Crunchyroll), and worth keeping. I plan to order a copy. UPDATE: Mauser, over at Shoplifting in the Marketplace of Ideas does an excellent ep by ep writeup on this series.