Call of the Night – 13 (Fin) – Let’s Talk About Love

While Nazuna plays video games alone (a typical night for her before meeting Kou), Kou is invited to Suzushiro Hatsuka’s apartment, where they’re greeted by three of Hatsuka’s offspring who are completely in her thrall, so much so that they simply stood around eagerly waiting for her return.

It isn’t until they’re ordered to leave and Hatsuka takes a shower and forgets a towel that Kou learns Hatsuka isn’t a woman, but a very, very pretty man. Suddenly Kou has a distraction from the night, which had been turned into a disappointment by his encounter with Anko.

Nazuna heads to the rooftop lounge vamps to report that she may not be turning Kou into a vampire after all. Niko tells her that wasn’t their agreement. Nazuna asks that they spare Kou’s life, but Niko is furious. It’s one thing for her and Kou to take their sweet old time, but to abandon the whole enterprise? Niko won’t stand for it—which means violence is sure to follow.

Hanging out with Hatsuka turns out to have a great deal of value, as he learns that just like humans don’t really know that much about humans, vamps don’t know much about vamps either. For what it’s worth, he doesnt’ believe Nazuna was withholding anything from her, but also doesn’t think it’s likely he’ll fall for her, being an adolescent kid and all.

So he proposes a compromise: Kou will become one of his offspring, so he won’t have to be killed and Nazuna won’t have to face consequences. As far as “falling” for him, Hatsuka will simply use his vampire power to “glamor” Kou, as he did with his other children. But this isn’t about gender for Kou—he simply only wants to fall for Nazuna.

As Kou gets up, Hatsuka asks him what he hopes to do by inserting himself betwen Nazuna and a clearly enraged Niko (the others text him a picture of a destroyed table). Kou simply says he doesn’t want Nazuna to be bored. He wants The Night to remain theirs.

When he arrives at the rooftop lounge, it’s clear a huge fight has taken place, but Nazuna just left. Niko declares ominously that Nazuna “won’t be capable of proper conversation for a while”, and doesn’t want to see Kou. Kou doesn’t care. He wants to see her, and he’ll brave any vampire fracas or cop-infested pedestrian bridge to track her down.

When he does, a forlorn Nazuna is buying a beer at the same vending machine where they first met, with their positions reversed: Nazuna lit by the machine’s greenish light, and Kou looking sinister as hell in the shadows. We learn that all Niko “did” to Nazuna was insist they talk about love, because that’s what Niko likes best.

Niko makes a deal with Nazuna: she and the others will go all out and root for her and Kou, and she’ll do whatever it takes to make Kou fall for her. As long as Nazuna can honor this, they won’t lay a finger on Kou’s feathery little head. And as proponents of vampire propagation, this works out better for them too.

Nazuna insists that “it’s over” but Kou takes her by the shoulders. He tells her he thought life was boring too until he ventured out into the night and met her. Even if she “acted like a know-it-all” who only knew how to have fun, masking her ennui, it doesn’t change the fact that the two of them had a heck of a lot of fun together.

Nazuna admits that she’s had so much fun she’d forgotten the boredom that had been gradually crushing her for decades.By dint of Kou being by her side, even things she’s done before feel new and exciting. Kou says they should then simply keep finding new things to do; he’s determined not to let her ever get bored again.

In response to this, Nazuna gives him a kiss—not a vampire’s kiss to the neck like usual, but an honest-to-god kiss on the lips like the climax of a romantic movie. She’s never been the most comfortable with romance, but in Kou she has a kindred spirit, and they can navigate those uncharted waters together as she vows in her head to become “a vampire worth falling for.” Of course, Kou would be the first person to say she already is.

While this episode could certainly serve as a series finale, I hope that’s not the case. Not only is there apparently plenty more manga to adapt from, but this was by all accounts a very popular and well-regarded anime. I’m hopeful it gets a second season where we’ll have more of Kou and Nazuna feeling their way through what it means to be together.

Made in Abyss – S2 12 (Fin) – The Cradle Falls

As tends to be the case with momentous episodes of Abyss, I’m still a bit overwhelmed with emotion, but I’ll do my best here. As a resurrected, better-than-ever Faputa and a game Juroimoh prepare to battle the invading beasts, we’re taken back to simpler, more innocent times, when Faputa first found Gaburoon.

Buried and covered in flowers, Faputa brought bits of scrap to him to enable to repair himself, while he tought her language, specifically that of her mother Irumyuui. What looked like an upside-down person turns out to be the symbol for haku, or that which matters most to someone. We watch, this time from Faputa’s perspective, as she encounters Riko, Reg, and Nanachi.

Gabu teases Faputa for resorting to subtler, more indirect methods that only served to confuse our lead kids—call it a measure of the shyness she inherited from her mother. Back in the present, while Faputa presses the battle, a transformed Majikaja serves as an escape vehicle for Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, as well as Moogie, Pakkoyan, Maaa, and other Hollows.

Maji takes them to Wazukyan, from which Vueko has already escaped and who is near death. In his usual friendly way he warns Riko that there is nothing ahead for her but despair, but she tells him as he crumbles to dust that things won’t necessarily go the way he’s foreseen.

As Riko is reunited with another page from her mother’s journal, the freed Vueko ascends a staircase while thinking about the one solid decision she made in her life: the choice to become Irumyuui’s mother. Unfortunately, she forgets the Sixth Layer’s curse is loss of humanity.

A quick-thinking Pakkoyan sacrifices herself to keep Vueko from being killed, but she is still transformed into a non-verbal hollow. Nanachi takes Vueko and brings her aboard Majikaja with the others.

Reg shocks Faputa by joining him in battle—this time on the same side—and apologizing for challenging her. Riko blows Prushka once more (causing her to pass out with a bloody nose), and Riko goes into Overdrive, allowing him to dispatch one of the two turbinid dragons who pose the greatest threat to Riko and the others.

This also gives Faputa time to go to Moogie and the other surviving hollows with the goal of consuming them and their value so she can do what she came here to do: put her long-suffering mother to rest. Just as they had no problem giving parts of themselves to resurrect Faputa, they have no problem becoming the nourishment Faputa needs.

After sending the black-turned-white goo throughout the structure of IruBuru, causing it to crack and shatter, Faputa is drained of energy an no longer able to fight. A piece of falling rubble wallops her and she begins to fall. She thinks of Vueko, the one person she has no memory of. She also thinks that the end is near; that she’ll die when she reaches the bottom. But she doesn’t; Reg snatches her with his extend-o-arm.

The rubble does a number on Majikaja’s body, and when he can no longer move, his true, semi-gaseous form emerges and briefly possesses Faputa. When he too passes, Faputa is able to come face to face with Vueko, her spiritual grandmother, and while Vueko can no longer talk, Faputa can hear her lucid thoughts.

Vueko tells her the kind of girl Irumyuui was, how Faputa is similar and how she’s different, before passing away peacefully, full of nothing but love and gratitude for the little girl that changed her forever. Faputa sheds tears for Vueko, despite her not “belonging” to her, and Riko, Reg, and Nanachi gather around to offer comfort.

The village borne from Irumyuui is now a pile of rubble, and Faputa’s mother is finally free. Following the customs she learned from Gabu, Faputa gives Vueko a proper burial, then sets up some companions with some smooth rocks so she won’t be lonely. After this, Faputa seems unsure what to do next, freed from “value” and now having been given the choice to live her life as she sees fit.

Reg suggests she join them. While he still can’t remember her or the details of their promise, he still wants to know her now, and go on an adventure with her. Faputa isn’t at all opposed to this, but does not agree right then and there. That’s to be expected of someone who has only very recently discovered such a thing as free will beyond an now-fulfilled genetic duty.

What I’ve described so far are the myriad events that unfolded in this double-length season two finale, but there’s no substitute for experiencing this episode and all of its nuances for yourself. It was one of the finest episodes of anime I’ve had the privilege to watch, and like Vueko with Irumyuui, I’ll never forget it.

There is sure to be another film or a third season that will continue Riko, Reg, and Nanachi’s journey still deeper into the Abyss, into darkness warm and cold, cursed by love and longing. This sequel had large shoes to fill and filled them ably. So too will the next sequel.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Overlord IV – 13 (Fin) – Princess Front-Renner

We open on Mare, perched on a rooftop, surveying the Royal Capital, and suddenly he starts to weep. Is the meekest, gentlest Floor Guardian lamenting having to kill every last man, woman and child in the city? Of course not….he’s anxious about his destructive magic not being up to snuff and a few of those men, women and children surviving and escaping. Lest we forget: our pals from Nazarick are supervillains. Granted, some of them are adorable.

Princess Renner sure didn’t seem concerned about the impending invasion of the Sorcerer Kingdom, did she? Clued in as we the audience are not only to the twisted personality she conceals, as well as her dealings with Albedo, explain her attitude, but not the actual means by which she manages to slither out of this crisis and turn it to her advantage. Climb proves his loyalty by declining an offer from the King both he and Renner wouldn’t mind: approving a marriage of the two.

While Aura dispenses with Old Samurai Dude before he can even introduce himself, then leaves the others to her beasts before strolling into the capital’s repository of magic items, Climb takes a rucksack filled with the Royal Crown, heirloom tomes, and other items that are a part of the royal legacy, and hides them away in the warehouse district.

On his way back, he encounters Mare, who is kind enough to tell him to run away if he wants to live. Remembering Renner’s order for him not to fight, but run—the better to return to her side safely—Climb does just that. But as he turns toward the palace, he finds it’s already been encased in Cocytus’ ice.

The Snow Maidens grant him access to the throne room, where he finds Ainz, Albedo, Demiurge, and Cocytus, along with a frightful sight: Renner kneeling beside her father, who is lying dead in a pool of his own blood, some of which is on Renner’s hands. Demiurge commands Climb to prostrate himself, and Climb figures they used mind control on Renner to make her kill the king.

Ainz tells Demiurge to release Climb, and even allows him the privilege of fighting him one-on-one. Climb’s a tough customer, but it’s safe to say he’s no Gazef, nor is he Brain, and we know how things went for those warriors. So Ainz is just toying with him. That said, Climb manages to pull off a move that impresses Ainz before using “Grasp Heart” to kill him.

…But this is not the end of Climb. He wakes up, to find a relieved Renner leaning over him, but something’s different. The dialated pupils, the sharp black nails, the fangs and little wings. Renner explains that she pledged her allegiance to The Sorcerer King, and was transformed into an immortal demon. She asks Climb if he’ll become a demon and pledge allegiance to Ainz as well, so that they can be together for eternity.

This may be a lot all of a sudden for Climb, who had only just been resurrected from death, but I wasn’t surprised when he assented to Renner’s offer without hesitation. After all, he’s sworn to be her shield, whether she’s a princess or a demoness.

After meeting with and thanking her new superior Albedo, Renner celebrates having gotten everything she wanted for the low low price of betraying and sacrificing her kingdom.

She does so by singing a hauntingly beautiful song while dancing with herself and laughing maniacally in a gorgeous and stunningly animated sequence, which was both a complete surprise and a season highlight. Renner—the real Renner—has never looked more radiant, and will fit right in at Nazarick. I’d be ride-or-die for her too if I was Climb.

Whither Lord Philip Montserrat? Well, his last pleasure in life is getting to gaze upon the loveliness of the Lady Albedo when she deigns to visit his family manse. She then presents him with the heads of his family members before killing him. An inauspicious demise for a character who was never anything but an arrogant but disposable pawn.

In the center of the ruined capital of the fallen Re-Estize Kingdom, Ainz Ooal Gown sits upon a impromptu throne of rubble, flanked by Albedo, as Marquis Raeven and the other great nobles kneeling before him, pledging their allegiance. Raeven assures his new king and overlord that the destruction of Re-Estize will serve as an abject lesson to other nations not to mess with the Sorcerer Kingdom; a lesson that likely won’t be forgotten for millennia.

Citing this as a very good justification for what has been done, Ainz lets himself be satisfied and content. To make the land as sweet as honey, he had to burn part of it down. But there’s much more to be done, which will no doubt be chronicled in the forthcoming third Overlord film, along with a presumed fifth and possibly final season.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Classroom of the Elite – S2 13 (Fin) – Pax Kiyotaka

In a nice change of pace, this episode starts from Ibuki Mio’s perspective, of all things, as she visits Ryuuen’s dorm and then tracks him down. The swelling has gone down, but Ryuuen has abandoned all plans to continue the fight; he’s done. Mio doesn’t like it, and gives him a kick in frustration, but there’s no changing his mind. Clearly Kiyotaka’s beatdown had a lasting effect.

Kei wakes up realizing, in spite of knowing what kind of person he is, that she has developed feelings for him as a result of his white knight act. The cheeks don’t lie. She’s then ambushed by Maya, who like everyone else thinks she’s some expert on boys and dating due to her fake relationship with Yousuke. Maya asks for advice on her first date with Ayanokouji, even proposing a double date.

That night, Kei gets a call from Maya’s crush, but is slightly disappointed when it’s yet another business call. Still, she’s glad to be getting calls from him again, even after he’d terminated their arrangement. He wants her to investigate Maya and find out as much about her as she can.

As is appropriate for a season finale, Kiyotaka also checks in with the other major players, making an opening proposition for Suzune to join the StuCo, though he doesn’t push too hard. Kikyou spots them from a balcony above and gives them the stinkeye.

Most notably, Kiyotaka meets up with Ryuuen, who fully accepts his new role as former tyrant. He even demonstrated a measure of honor and selflessness by copping to a crime that wouldn’t get his whole crew expelled. But Kiyotaka made it so even he wouldn’t get the boot, because now that Ryuuen has been properly cowed, he is a valuable asset in his coming battle to get Kikyou expelled.

It’s not often that someone gets one over on Kiyotaka, so it’s pretty amusing that Maya turns out to be one of those people. Shortly after meeting him for their date, Kei and Hirata arrive, seemingly by coincidence, and Maya and Kei suggests the double date they wanted from the start.

Kiyotaka is a go-with-the-flow kinda guy in these situations, and so that’s just what he does as the quartet goes to see a movie and then heads to a café for some refreshment. Maya asks Kiyotaka about his future, and he says he’ll probably just go to college. Throughout the date, Kei shoots subtle little looks Kiyotaka’s way, but they either go unnoticed or ignored.

The two couples eventually split around dusk, when Maya plans to make her big confession. Kei may not be experienced in dating, but she’s 100% correct that it is both intense and a bit ludicrous to ask someone out after a first date on Christmas day. Kiyotaka turns her down how you’d expect: matter-of-factly and dispassionately, and she runs off accepting of his decision, but in tears.

That’s when Kiyotaka tells Kei to come out of her hiding spot, or she’ll catch cold. It starts to snow just as the two have a seat in the park. When she asks why he rejected Maya, Kiyotaka simply says she was a poor substitute for Kei.

Of course, he means as a pawn and informant, but Kei also happens to be a much more interesting (and after recent events, much stronger) person in general. The contrast is clear: Maya liked an idealized version of him; Kei likes the real him.

Kei casually offers Kiyotaka a Christmas gift, and is surprised when he gives her one in turn. While it’s just cold medicine, it’s the thought that counts, and she’s flattered that he worried about her to that extent, even if only in a purely practical way.

As they walk back to the dorms, Kiyotaka reveals that his abrupt termination of their arrangement, as well as rescuing her at the absolute last moment, galvanized Kei’s genuine trust in him, making her all but betrayal-proof. As he puts it, a good chunk of him has never left the White Room, where people are only tools to be used and discarded.

Those thoughts are apropos of the encounter that follows him and Kei parting ways for their respective dorms, as Sakayanaki Arisu. She greets him as if they’d known each other long ago, then references the White Room by name, notes that he, the “False Genius”, is his father’s “ultimate masterpiece”, and states that the role of “burying” him should fall to her.

So the curtain falls on a second season that ended in relative peace, with the promise of ever more intense personal battles to follow in next year’s Season 3. Whether it’s continuing his quasi-romance with Kei, making use of his new tool Ryuuen to bring Kikyou down, convincing Suzune to join the StuCo, or fending off whatever Arisu serves up, Kiyotaka will have no shortage of work to do.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 23 – Realm of the Dead

Haine has devolved into an eyeless, helpless child that Shide apparently has no further use for. But he does want her Observer’s Right Eye, which is now in Ushio’s head. He provokes Ushio and Shinpei into following him to through a tear in the cave wall into another dimension.

Ushio tells Shinpei if he goes in he’s not coming out, but with both Ryuunosuke possessing him and her by his side, he’ll be fine. But even if things go pear-shaped, he hastens to tell Ushio he loves her, he wants to be with her, and he will never leave her side again.

The remainder of the episode takes place in a thoroughly weird—and hauntingly beautiful—dream world: Haine/Hiruko’s true home. As a result of Ryuunosuke pushing his body too hard, Shinpei’s right leg is ruined, but Ryuu offers to control his body and taking on the pain.

This enables Shinpei to walk, which he needs to do to find Ushio, whom they know is both still alive and no more than 50 meters away due to the shotgun she printed still being whole. Shinpei and Ryuu come upon a ball—Haine’s handball. They follow it into a Hitogashima frozen in time from when Haine lived.

There they find Ushio, apparently in great pain and in contact with Haine. But this Haine is different: she’s just a kind little girl like the one Ryuunosuke’s sister befriended years ago. Assured there’s no threat, Ushio introduces Haine to Shinpei and Ryuunosuke.

Haine tells them they’re in the realm of the dead, Toyoko. While the power of the awakened Observer’s Eye can only be fully utilized in the real world, Shide has brought Ushio here to steal the eye from her. Once he has the eye, he will transcend to a still higher dimension…and destroy the world.

Right on cue, Shide uses Baby Hiruko to summon one of Haine’s memories of her island being firebombed by a squadron of B-29s in World War II. Ushio’s hair shield protects them while Haine prepares to use her innate power to suspend the memory, giving Ushio a shot at attacking Shide. Without Hiruko in his possession, his armor will disappear, and she can kill Shide’s inner body within.

As you can tell from the screenshots, this episode is a trip, packed with gloriously detailed, imaginative, gorgeous, and frightening imagery, and an even more heightened reality when it comes to action, with Ushio using falling bombs as steps up to the plane where Shide is.

But as cool as this sequence is, it still isn’t enough to stop Shide, because the body she attacks is a hollow one – nothing but an empty suit of mud armor being controlled remotely through Hiruko. Gaining this new piece of information may prove costly, as Ushio passes out and starts to fall.

If any of this is wrong, I apologize, but the plot mechanics and rules of Summertime Render become more and more baroque with each passing episode. But this is such an engrossing spectacle and I’ve come to love these kids so much, I don’t really mind the growing complexity.

Engage Kiss – 13 (Fin) – Bless This Mess

Shuu, Ayano and Sharon are fighting as a cohesive unit, but against Kanna the best they can do is maintain a stalemate. Enter Tabula Rasa Kisara, who despite having no memories decides on her own not to let what seem like nice people die in a battle with a not-so-nice person.

The addition of Kisara to the battle definitely gives Team Shuu an edge as Kanna starts to flounder a bit, but then she summons three powerful demons, which means all of the other demon hunting contractors spring into action, for the city that’s the only home they have, for honor and glory, and money too.

When even Kisara can’t quite get to Kanna’s heart to seal her, Shuu lends her power in the form of a kiss. Turns out their old contract terms work just fine, and the newly re-Hot Topic’d Kisara has a stiff second wind at her back. She keeps Kanna occupied enough for Shuu to fire his demonic bullet. Asmodeus flees from Kanna, and Kisara carves her into ribbons, sending her back to whence she came.

In the aftermath, while some demons made it to the city, there were no civilian casualties, so the contractors call it a victory. Sharon admits the Abbey will still be coming for Kisara, but at least today, Sharon won’t be the one to kill her. Wondering where a demon girl fits in a human world, Kisara gets a supportive hug from Ayano.

The Hachisukas continue their sibling rivalry for control of the city—and international coverup to maintain their autonomy. Sharon makes a joke to Ayano about spending the night with Shuu before boating off to face inquisition. Shuu visits his parents’ grave and promises his work isn’t done, but he’ll do it the right way this time.

As for Kisara, she wants Shuu to teach her all the memories she lost, which apparently includes fulfilling the role of his girlfriend. Things are about to get hot and heavy in his apartment when the lights come on to reveal Kanna gobbling up all the food in the place. While the authorities kept her restrained in the bowels of city hall, this is only the latest of several escapes.

Those escapes result not in her unleashing demons on the city or causing any damage, but inserting herself back into Shuu’s home and life and voicing her disapproval of Kisara. Now Kisara has in Kanna what Ayano has in her: a younger rival for Shuu’s attention.

With Kisara, Ayano, and now Kanna all pointing weapons at him and asking whose side he’s on, Shuu’s in the messiest mess yet. And frankly, that’s the best way for this series to end: never taking itself too seriously and gleefully embracing the mess.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 22 – Shadows of Sousuke

At the end of Nagi and Hiro’s balcony convo, the subject of Sachi comes up; specifically, that Sachi’s a little odd, and seems to be in love with Nagi. To Sachi this feels like a betrayal, but I get it; Hiro is sick of the status quo and wants to move things along. Sachi, with her constant wavering, is an obstacle to that, so it figures she’d confront her here.

Nagi, who as we know was raised under modest circumstances, is anything but when confronted with that outdoor “bath”, meeting the Pacific Ocean with nothing but his birthday suit. Things suddenly get tense when Erika shows up, and the show even implies she’s naked as well (by covering her top and bottom with Sobasshi stickers.

Turns out she was fine getting in with Nagi because she’s wearing a swimsuit, like you’re supposed to in an outdoor hot tub, and didn’t realize Nagi didn’t get the memo. Still, up until then, she’s very happy to be sharing moments like relaxing in the hot tub with friends.

It isn’t until that night that Erika remembers there are only two double beds in the house. It seems unlikely this problem wouldn’t have come up earlier, and the need to draw straws to see who has to share a bed with Nagi seem particularly strained contrivance considering the gigantic sofa in the living room, and Nagi being worried about a spider should he sleep on it.

Nagi and Sachi end up having to share a bed, which Sachi splits 60-40 in her favor and will brook no trespassing. Erika and Hiro thus share the other bed, but preface bedtime with a spirited game of Twister followed by a bubble bath. Hiro confides in Erika that she’s never even met her fiancé but has no interest in him…and if Erika truly isn’t interested in her fiancé, Hiro asks if she can “have” Nagi…before falling asleep on the spot.

As with calling out Sachi’s feelings, it’s the most overt Hiro has been to Erika about her desire to be with Nagi, and for the other girls to shit or get off the pot. Hiro still seems to be the #1 Girl for Nagi, but between his hot tub time with Erika and the fact he suddenly can’t sleep a wink in a bed with Sachi, things remain complicated.

That brings us to the morning, when a knackered Nagi finds Erika staring at the Twister and bubble bath. The four conduct a search of the house and find all the other things that connect her and Sousuke, as they used to visit together as a family. When a video game they played has save data from just three days ago, Nagi runs out of the house, hoping to find Sousuke in town…for some reason???

I mean, three days is a lot, right? If Sousuke wasn’t staying at the house from the day Erika & the others arrived, why would he still be hanging out in town? That would mean he got a hotel or something there, but why, when he could stay free at this fam’s house? Erika chases after Nagi, suddenly scared to reunite with Sousuke even though her Insta efforts were primarily targeted at him.

Nagi takes her hand and assures her there’s nothing to fear; he’ll be right there with her when they meet Sousuke. Alas, he’s nowhere to be seen, and no one in town has seen him either. At this point I’m still not 100% convinced he even exists, or is another weird game Erika’s dad is playing; hotel magnates are capable of anything, after all.

There’s also the odd fact that Nagi and Erika just flat-out ditched Hiro and Sachi for the whole day. That ain’t right! So now we have just two episodes to go, and so much left up in the air, including whether Sousuke even exists, and if so how he’d react to reunion with Erika. While admittedly drowsy when she did so, Hiro did ask Erika if she could have Nagi, and that was just…left hanging. The last two eps have some heavy lifting to do!

Lycoris Recoil – 13 (Fin) – Deciding for Themselves

Chisato ends up alone with Majima at the top of the Enkuboku for a final round. Majima makes things even more interesting by activating a 60-minute timer on a bomb that will presumably bring the tower down. Why Chisato doesn’t just repeatedly shoot Majima right next to his ears is unclear, but the duel that ensues is pretty evenly matched.

Meanwhile, the power goes out on the whole tower to ensure no hackers, friend or foe, will be able to interfere with Majima and Chiato’s fight. The elevator still has aux power, so Fuki heads down with a seriously injured Sakura while Takina asks her to let her climb back up to help Chisato. Fuki decides that she and Takina should get to decide what they want to do for once.

After pulling off a particularly tricky acrobatic move on Majima, Chisato suddenly finds her artificial heart starting to give out. Majima, who may be a jerk, has no interest in fighting her in this state, so he shoots open a vending machine, offers her a juice and the two have a short break. Chisato want him to stop the clock, but he won’t.

Whither Mr. Yoshi? Helped along by Himegama, he continues his retreat, but is confronted by Mika, who actually doesn’t have a bum leg. Himagama charges him, but he wallops her with his cane, then riddles her with non-lethal bullets. Left unprotected, Mika has come for Yoshi’s briefcase, to tell him it’s time to let the kids make their own choices, then kills the man he clearly never really stopped loving.

After engaging it some philosophical sparring regarding who is the hero, who is the villain, and what constitutes a properly-lived life (Majima is resolved to restore “balance”, Chisato is fine with the status quo) their fight resumes. Chisato is feeling better but still far from 100%, and the clock is still ticking.

Eventually one of Majima’s many bullets grazes Chisato, and she goes down. Majima steps on her and prepares to shoot her, but just then Takina appears, and Chisato uses the moment of distraction to pull Majima head-over-heels.

The two hit the glass, which cracks and then shatters (in reality, glass in a tower like this would be several inches thick, like that in the CN Tower, but whatever); the two begin to fall. We don’t see what becomes of Majima, which means he’s clearly not dead, while Takina ensnares Chisato with her restraining wire.

The phone countdown hits zero, and the “punishment explosion” turns out to be a massive fireworks display, which was likely meant to cap off the Enkuboku opening anyway. Majima, while likely not dead, is at least out of their hair for the time being, and both Takina and Chisato are alive.

In the first of two epilogues, Sakura has made a full recovery and is back to her exuberant, poop parfait-lovin’ self, Fuki is still meekly deferent to Mika, and life at LycoReco has returned to normal,  except that Chisato has not been around, while Takina is out on a job.

That job turns out to be traveling to Miyako to find Chisato, but the mission is first portrayed as her tracking down and eliminating a target. The two end up trading gunfire in the forest and then shooting each other with restraining wire, and when they realize they’re…each other, they hop into each other with joy (while also scolding each other for coming at each other so hot).

Takina explains to Chisato how a regular café patron happened to capture Chisato in the background of a photo of her and her boyfriend, and so even with no internet or cameras, they were able to find her. Takina also notes that she’s glad Chisato is alive and well.

Chisato actually slipped out of the hospital and traveled to Miyako not sure about the nature of the operation she underwent. Turns out Mr. Yoshi was lying; the heart wasn’t in his chest, but in the briefcase. Now that it’s in Chisato’s chest, she’s going to live a long, healthy life.

The scenes at the seaside café and then on the beach are some of the most richly-colored and beautiful of the series, and really lend a lovely gravitas to what these two have been through…and what they mean to each other. When asked what she should do with the extra life she’s been given, Takina proposes she do something she’s always wanted to.

That brings us to the bonus epilogue: LycoReco Hawaii! No doubt thanks to Kurumi’s skills, the whole gang is able to travel to the states and set up a café truck by the ocean. Everyone seems to be doing their part and having fun, and we also learn their side hustle of helping people out is still going on as well, only now in adorable Hawaiian garb.

It’s a cute and satisfying all’s-well-that-ends-well ending. Sure, there are still a lot of guns still in Tokyo, and a heavily-bandaged Majima out there egging people. The moral quandary that is Lycoris and the DA is still hanging out there too.

But Chisato and Takina are where they want to be, doing what they want to do. They who were tools for the adults are now free to live their lives how they see fit. For that reason alone, I can walk away from this show with a smile.

DanMachi IV – 10 – Game Over, Man

When Marie hears the shouts of agony from the Dungeon itself, all she can do is stay below the water and cover her ears; later, she wishes she was by Bell’s side again. But unfortunately for most of this episode, Bell and Ryuu are simply standing around as they express outrage at what Jura has done.

Jura, in turn, laughs maniacally as he describes his diabolical scheme, then laughs some more. Rinse, repeat. It got to the point I actually said to the TV “Alright already, enough build-up…let’s get to it!”

Not helping matters is that the static, repetitive scenes of Bell, Ryuu, and Jura are interspersed with scenes of Ouranos delivering exposition to Fels via magic telephone. It’s all very dull and plodding, not what you want when trying to build tension for the Dungeon’s most vicious beast.

When Bell’s party starts to hear the screams from below, Lili prepares to head down to see if they can help, which is quite possibly the dumbest thing she has ever attempted. Thankfully, a weeping Cassandra stops her and tells them they’re only alive right now because they’re here.

The beast itself is…kinda weak looking? Like some kind of giant emaciated, skeletal horse-mutant. Maybe that’s the point; even Bell notes that it has barely any armor, even as a well-placed strike from his sword simply bounces off. It does kill a great number of the adventurers in the Ryu hunting party through slicing in half, dismemberment, and straight-up glomping, but the vast majority of its victims are nameless NPCs.

It isn’t until Bell says enough and charges at the beast that we truly learn just how deep into the shit everyone is. Bell is level four, and has learned a lot in his short time on these lower floors, but against the Juggernaut, as it’s known, he might as well be one of those scores of Bors’ adventurers getting cut in half. None of his attacks have any effect, and Juggs is far faster than he anticipated.

By the end of the episode, Bell’s right arm has been sliced off, he’s been thrown across the cavern like a ragdoll, and the life is fading from his eyes. Considering he may be the strongest adventurer down there, that’s not a good sign. He’s no longer in any condition to even dodge the Juggernaut’s next attack, which begs the question of who (or what) will come to save the day—or at least get him and Ryuu to safety?

Call of the Night – 12 – Part of the Ordinary

Nothing like watching a starving vampire die with your friends to put a damper on your fun, huh? That tension pervades this episode as well. While Mahiru speaks alone with Anko in her very classic noir detective office, Kou twists and turns in bed, and when he goes to Nazunas and she prepares to feed, he finds himself pushing her away.

After talking things out (she promises him she’s in no danger of becoming like that starving teacher) they go on a walk, and Kou feels a little better, especially after Nazuna sucks his blood. He was suddenly confronted with the dark side of vampirism, but feels now that he’s identified that fear he can manage it.

I also like the subtle ways Nazuna’s new maid café pay allows her to buy a new top and shoes, switching up her usual all-black style. Switching up her wardrobe makes her feel more, well, human, and less of the evil villainous monsters Anko believes all vamps to be, who would of course always wear the same outfit.

Either later that night or on another night, Kou and Mahiru hang out, Kou finally meets Mahiru’s older friend, and Kou can’t take his eyes of her, despite her not being a vampire (as far as we know). But Mahiru’s true reason is to get Kou to reconsider becoming a vampire, asking him to at least explain why he needs to be one so bad.

Hearing his old friend say these things, and bring up the very frightening prospect of either him or Akira getting hurt, sends Kou’s anxiety and doubt rushing back. He’s so out of sorts, when he next visits Nazuna, he simply needs her to hold him quietly for a bit. Sensing a change of scenery might help, she invites herself to his house, where his mom is out (and his dad’s been gone).

As Nazuna performs at thorough porn search, Kou realizes she’s the first girl he’s had in his room and on his bed; Nazuna notes how the bed smells like him, adding to the raunchiness. But then they turn to real talk, and she tells him it’d be weird if he wasn’t unsure about being turned after what he witnessed.

Kou says he wants to become a vampire because he loves the night and all its freedom and strangeness. He also likes Nazuna, who acknowledges all his emotions and is at the end of the night a decent person, vampire or no. But he can’t discount the potential for hurting his friends, so he wavers. When he then adds that Nazuna is “that eager” to make him her offspring, her resulting expression makes it feel like an uncalled-for low blow.

Nazuna expands on Kou’s love of the night, believing he truly loves it because it’s out of the ordinary. She asks him to compare his first night out to his latest, and Kou can’t deny the excitement has waned some. Then she says that she’s lived for decades as a vampire and felt nothing but boredom (or to be more precise, ennui*).

Rather than try to convince him to be a vampire, Nazuna can’t help but discourage him, since in her experience it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She tried to make things as fun and exciting for him because that’s how she wanted to be, and how she wanted him to think vampires were like.

These two are no longer strangers to setting jokes aside and  saying what’s in their heart, but in this case, the truth hurts. It’s also not altogether surprising; immortality is bound to get dull once you’ve seen and done everything and nothing is new or exciting; when everything becomes ordinary.

Just as Nazuna turns to leave, Kou trips on his chair, drops the remote to the light, and falls onto the bed, on top of her. The bleak light of his room becomes a deep, dark purplish blue, and motes of dust sparkle in the moonlight. Just one little stumble, and suddenly things are exciting and extraordinary again.

Nazuna rises as if to kiss him, but her lips pass his and go to his ear, asking if he thought she was going to kiss him, then licking his neck marks and disappearing through the window.

One night, Kou decides to meet with Anko, curious about how exactly she kills vampires and why, and to basically learn more about her. But Anko isn’t the kind of person who is easy to get a read on, especially if you’re a middle school boy. She batters him with faux flirting and deductive reasoning. She messes with him the way a cat messes with a mouse.

And like a cat, her end goal is to destroy: not Kou, but Kou’s designs on becoming a vampire. In the beige, drab night (I love how the environment changes when she’s around) she offers him a stark black and white choice: abandon his plans, or be killed by her hand as soon as he becomes one.

His attempts to counter her arguments by describing the vampires he’s met fall on deaf ears; Anko doesn’t want to hear it. Vampires are evil and shouldn’t exist, period, and any human traits or behavior they adopt is in the service of feeding on and killing humans.

When Kou asks how he’ll avoid being killed by the other vampires if he decides not to become one, Anko simply says she’ll kill every last one. It’s chilling to hear someone with such resolve speaking Nazuna’s name. When he refuses to choose, she simply plays dirty, calling the police and reporting a middle schooler hanging out late at night.

Kou runs from Anko, but it will be hard to run away from her will, and now the night is tinged with that fear he thought he could control: the fear of losing the night where he feels most free. When a cop car turns on its lights and sirens, bathing him in red light, the paranoia briefly takes over, and he seeks shelter in a playground slide.

It’s here, where he wants nothing more than to be with Nazuna, talking with her about nothing of import, where he’s approached by Suzushiro Hatsuka. Hatsuka doesn’t seem there to threaten or hurt him, but simply to talk, having possibly smelled Kou’s fear and/or anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong: vampires shouldn’t be allowed to go around murdering people, or drinking their blood without consent. But the world has more than enough people out there who would gladly offer their blood to vampires, as Kou does with Nazuna.

Dismissing peaceful coexistence while shrugging over the awful things humans do to each other seems not only reductive but hypocticial. Then again, she could simply be an anti-vamp zealot, perhaps after losing a loved one. In any case, she’s definitely got her hooks at least partially in Kou (not to mention Mahiru), and is unlikely to loosen her grip anytime soon.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 12 (Fin) – Weaving a New Tale

As predicted, Yume knocks it out of the park with her festival yukata and hair, but it’s her who wants a picture of Mizuto in his the second she sees it. Instead, he snaps a pic of her, and happens to know her phone’s password.

In her thoughts, Yume admits to feeling considerably lighter after having a good cathartic cry. Now she can hold hands with her stepbrother without embarrassment, and mimics Madoka’s treatment of Chikuma by helping “steady” Mizuto during the shooting game.

Just when the fireworks are about to start, Mizuto disappears, something Madoka says he always does around this time. All of his relatives have told her to make sure to look after him, like he wouldn’t be able to “survive” without someone watching over him. But as she volunteers to go find him, Yume celebrates how she’s been able to see all these new facts of Mizuto since becoming family.

When they were merely in puppy love and dating, she idolized and glorified him, projecting her ideal of a BoyfriendTM without looking deeper. Meanwhile, while sitting alone at a shrine, Mizuto muses about how he considered the world of books to be the true reality, and the outside world a mere illusion.

The first thing in the world that felt real was Ayai Yume, who was also the first person to evoke the same sentiment everyone had for him: that he would not survive if left alone. That’s why Ayai Yume still occupies that “slot” in his heart that even Isana could never hope to replace.

Yume finds Mizuto at the shrine, and the two have the mother of all passive-aggressive verbal duels with one another, all the while happy they were on the same wavelength. She recounts the phone call they had that he ended abruptly, and she gathered that he called her from this very shrine.

Yume also gathered that Mizuto knew her phone code because it’s 1027, the day of their first kiss, a day they both remember with fondness. Then Yume asks Mizuto why he went out with her, and he says it really just amounted to her finding a seat next to his in a game of musical chairs.

Sitting side by side as the fireworks begin—the fireworks they never got to see together until now—what initially stirred in Mizuto towards Yume stirs again. A tear falls down his cheek before Yume takes his face in her hands and kisses him.

It’s her second first kiss, and with it comes a vow that she, Irido Yume, will eventually win him over, defeating Ayai Yume for that single slot in his heart. The next morning, and then back at school, the two are back to their playfully adversarial selves.

The happiness of the past will never leave either of them, etched into their souls as it is, and they will never feel that particular novel happiness ever again. But that doesn’t matter, because now that they’re both a little older, wiser, honest, and clear-eyed they can now achieve a new happiness; weave a new tale together.

Overlord IV – 12 – Song of Ice and…More Ice

As he debriefs Albedo and Pandora’s Actor on their clash with Azuth and Riku, one thing is clear to Ainz: he doesn’t know enough about his adversaries. He praised Pandora improvising by getting on his knees and groveling, even if the real Ainz wouldn’t do that, because it caught Riku off guard.

He’ll still have to “take a loss” to learn more about the strength of his foes, but not so large a loss it might cost him his life…he’s not sure he’d resurrect! It’s not often the overlord ponders his demise. Meanwhile, as Aura and Cocytus’ forces advance on the capital, Blue Roses’ Lakyus enjoys some tea and an audience with Princess Renner.

Lakyus’ comrades start acting very odd and deliberate about how does and doesn’t leave the room, and about making more tea so everyone can have some. This culminates in Tia serving her poison tea, then stabbing her with poison needles, followed by Gagarin raining blows upon her.

But…why? Isn’t Lakyus the Blue Roses’ leader? Well, yes, but Evileye and the others knew she wouldn’t leave the capital with them. Because they value their friend more than the kingdom, they resorted to these extreme measures, including mind control, to get her out of there by force. She’ll surely be cross at them by the time she’s herself again…but by then there probably won’t be a kingdom anymore.

It’s with that fierce devotion to keeping their friend and leader alive that Blue Roses prepares to teleport out, but not of course before asking if Renner, Climb, or Brain wish to join them in retreat. While Climb would obviously follow her anywhere, she politely declines (probably because she knows she won’t necessarily be killed in the imminent invasion).

Brain also declines, preferring to either win glory or meet his end gloriously fighting the invading forces. Heck, maybe punching the bully in the nose will make him think twice about annihilating the capital? He leaves Renner and Climb, giving them Gazef’s magic sword to return to the king. Renner actually briefly wields it—and shows no small amount of skill doing so—but just as quickly sheaths it, lamenting that it doesn’t suit her (though Climb disagrees).

Aura arrives at the walls with a colorful collection of vicious monsters, including Iri, an adorably self-conscious Tyrannosaurus. Aura gives Iri the task of walking around the palace and “squishing all the people”, while she and the other monsters spread out to unleash some mayhem. The guards atop the walls can only stand in awe and terror, and Aura brightly warns them to stay out of her way. They’d be wise to do so!

Far more solemn is Cocytus’ brooding advance into the city with his procession of yuki-onnas, destroying the gates with ice and freezing streets and buildings within their radius. Brain is looking for an enemy to fight when he encounters Cocytus, and…well folks, we knew it wouldn’t be a long fight, didn’t we!

Even with Brain taking three potions and enhancing his abilities to the absolute hilt, the introductions last longer than the duel, in which Cocytus simply breaks out a bigger katana and slashes him. Despite the ease of his win, Cocytus is impressed someone of Brain’s level was in the capital, and orders him frozen, perhaps for later revival.

With the Blue Roses gone, Brain was probably the strongest human left in the capital. When Ainz returns to the capital to finish things, how far will he take things? Will those orphans Renner visited be slaughtered? What about Renner herself, who seemed at least partially allied with Albedo?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Classroom of the Elite – S2 12 – Introduction to Fear

I didn’t give Karuizawa Kei enough credit last week. Yes, she does come ever so close to giving up and descending into an abyss of despair. But at a certain point, she decides that no matter how much torture Ryuuen doles out, she’s not going to tell him the name of the mastermind. Period. Even soaked and freezing, the fire in her eyes mocks Ryuuen’s efforts. Fine, he says; he’ll just keep going.

Kiyotaka and his friends are about to go into the karaoke parlor, but he craps out at the last second, citing fatigue from an all-nighter. Like the ANN reviewer of this show, I was not particularly looking forward to an entire episode of Kei getting tortured (even if it wouldn’t get Ryuuen what he wanted), so I was relieved that after informing both Chabashira Sae and former StuCo President Horikita Manabe of the situation, Kiyotaka arrives in the lion’s den.

At first Ryuuen, Mio, Ishizaki and Albert are amused by the notion this guy is a.) the Class D mastermind and b.) dumb enough to come there alone. However, they are the ones who should be scared. They may think they’re lions, but Kiyotaka is a dragon, and a particularly unemotional one. Ryuuen sends Ishizaki and Albert at him to test him, and both underlings go down in seconds.

At no point does Kiyotaka raise his voice or break a sweat taking down two of the toughest motherfuckers in the school. But they’re only tough compared to everyone else. There’s no comparing anyone at the school to Kiyotaka. Kei can only sit in the corner, shiver, and enjoy the show, just as gobsmacked as her torturers by Kiyotaka’s skill.

Mio, more pissed off at the situation and by how fucked up both Ryuuen and Kiyotaka  are, does her duty as the next opponent, and while her kicks are impressive, she is absolutely no match for Kiyotaka, who knocks her out with a well placed hand to her neck.

Yet Ryuuen still doesn’t panic. Why would he? he believes himself to be the school’s foremost expert and wielder of violence. It’s likely none of his underlings would last five seconds in a fight with him, but the gap between him and them might as well be the length of a car, compared to the gap between his strength and Kiyotaka’s.

Ryuuen hangs in there only because his fighting style is unique to him, developed from a life of fighting. Unpredictability and raw talent in the place of formal training and discipline will serve you well…right up until it doesn’t. Ryuuen’s fatal flaw isn’t that he thought he could win in a fight against Kiyotaka…it’s that he could evoke any emotion at all in their fight.

Even as Kiyotaka is fighting back yawns while he meticulously bashes Ryuuen’s face into paste with his deadly fists, Ryuuen talks about how he’s never felt fear, and how even if he loses this fight, he’ll be around every corner, 24/7, waiting to spring on Kiyotaka. Instead, Kiyotaka not only gives him a much-belated introduction to fear, but shrugs off his “victory” as a “mundane task” that would never inspire the slightest bit of emotion from him.

Once Ryuuen has stopped moving, Kiyotaka covers Kei up and holds her as she shivers and weeps. When asked why she didn’t give him up, she says, simply, “for myself.” It was loyalty to Karuizawa Kei, not Ayanokouji Kiyotaka, that fueled her resolve until he arrive. That’s not to say she’s not happy he came, and that she wasn’t wrong to believe he would.

As Manabe told Chabashira, Kiyotaka went into that lion’s den to “end the war” all by himself. I can’t imagine Ryuuen will be able to hide the marks of his fight anytime soon, nor do I think he’s in any hurry to tell anyone who was able to beat him so thoroughly. Class C has been dealt a serious blow, but as he always ruled with violence, I imagine plenty of Class C would welcome his downfall.

While in general I abhor violence as a means of solving problems (it usually only begets more violence), this situation is rather unique, due to the fact that a villain like Ryuuen was never going to be defeated by any other means but superior force, and the fact that Kiyotaka took no discernable pleasure in the victory.

That said, he does express regret for making Kei suffer so much to achieve this result, and reiterates his promise that should she ever find herself in trouble again, he will rescue her without fail. After what she witnessed, I daresay Kei can trust in those words. But to answer a question she raised in her monologue, yes, Kei, you are extremely effin’ cool.

%d bloggers like this: