Mahoutsukai no Yome – 01 (First Impressions)

When we first meet Hatori Chise—who both resembles and sounds like the heroine Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, or perhaps her long-lost, much-maligned sister—she’s pretty much at rock bottom, having seemingly lost the will to live, signing away her human rights so that she can be chained and presented as an object to be purchased at an auction before some Eyes Wide Shut-ass muhfuckahs.

But holding true to the episode title “April showers bring May showers”, as well as the axiom “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, in this, her darkest hour, she is met by, and purchased with a winning bid of five million pounds, by an imposing man in a black cloak wearing a big antelope skull on his head (unless…that is his head).

Chise, fully prepared for whatever horrible fate might befall her upon being purchased (let’s face it, the kind of guys who would buy teenager girls in an auction are likely to be…not so great!), quickly finds that despite his fearsome appearance, her buyer Elias Ainsworth doesn’t want her to be his toy, but his apprentice. He’s a mage, you see; the “real deal”, and he believes Chise, who is what in his trade is called a “sleigh beggy”, can live a fulfilled life of purpose as the newest member of a dying breed of mages like him.

Teleporting her to his super comfy-looking country estate, swapping her chains for an protective adder stone, and showing her kindness she’s never known, Chise ever-so-gradually starts to learn that despite all of the hatred, abuse and suffering she’d endured her entire life up to this point, this place just might be different.

For the first time, she’s told she has a home and actually feels welcome there, and is told she’s family and someone to be protected and nurtured rather than spat upon and discarded.

Thus, when Chise is lured out for a midnight stroll by faeries who later show their true colors by trying to further lure her into their realm, Chise repays Elias’ kindness—and in doing so decides to trust someone for perhaps the first time in her life—by resisting the faeries until Elias arrives to shoo them off.

It’s then when, while princess carrying her home, Elias also confesses he doesn’t aim to merely make Chise his apprentice, but his bride as well. Her reaction to this information, as well as other instances of lighthearted humor, provide a nice ice-breaking contrast to the darker themes initially at play, giving way to a hopeful future in a real home with a real family that cares for them; things every child deserves. A very strong opening.

Kino no Tabi – 01 (First Impressions)

After fourteen years, Kino is back on broadcast. I only caught a handfull of episodes from the original series, but the formula seems to be pretty much the same: Kino is on an unending journey astride her trusty motorized steed Hermes, traveling from country to country and never spending more than three days there, the “perfect length.”

The first country she encounters here is one where “killing is not prohibited.” Since she’s good on the quickdraw, she’s confident in holding her own there, but also curious if the country will be what a fellow traveler moving there expects it to be: a place where he can kill with impunity, and the home of an infamous serial killer, Regel.

Upon entering the country, Kino finds it to be a placid, bucolic place, where people walk the streets without fear and warmly interact with one another. Everyone also seems to be armed. The country’s culinary specialty is a delicious-looking tower of crepes. An old man representing the country invites Kino to settle there; Kino kindly declines.

Then the boorish traveler Kino encounter outside the country’s walls appears and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t give him all of her stuff. Kino hides behind Hermes, preparing for a protracted fight, but before the man can fire at them, he’s shot through the arm by a crossbow-wielding lady from the window of a nearby building. The entire town, fully armed, descends upon the man.

Then their leader, Regel himself, informs the traveler and would-be killer of the true way of things in this country: while killing is “not prohibited”, it isn’t permitted. The only killing that’s done is by the citizens as a whole; rising as one against anyone who would try to kill another. It is their way of maintaining justice and peace, and at least in their case, it seems to work.

Back on the road, Kino encounters a second traveler, who unlike the first is trying to find a safe country where he doesn’t have to worry about killing others to survive. While there is killing in Regel’s country, it’s not the kind this fellow need worry about. The legend he hears is not of the serial killer Regel, but of the country’s famed crepe towers.

As for Kino, she’s headed for the next country, which is sure to be completely different from this one, which will no doubt provide another fable about a certain aspect of life.

Yuuki Aoi is a worthy successor to Maeda Ai, and aside from some bursts of action (in this case violent and bloody) the overall presentation is calm, relaxed, and understated, as befits a slice-of-life series that focuses on a very unique and interesting transient life. Count me interested!

Dies Irae – 00 (First Impressions)

Dies Irae takes people from real-world history (namely Reinhard Heydrich and Karl Krafft) in the midst of a real-world conflict (WWII) and mixes it up into some kind of occulty Nazi X-Men-type milieu. And while the metal soundtrack was very apropos, much of the episode was what Heydrich initially aimed to be: boring.

That boredom arises from a lack of a strong character to root for. If you’re going to give a fictional character the name of one of history’s greatest monsters, well, I ain’t rooting for him, whether his mini-arc in this episode somewhat resembles Kotomine Kirei’s or not. There’s also an introduction to a good number of people with long flowery names who don’t make much of an impact.

It’s a jumble of overly-baroque (and in the case of the floating skeleton cities, somewhat silly) settings and thin characters with unclear motivations. Krafft seems to have tried and succeeded to bring out Heydrich’s full potential, leading to the creation of a badass nazi kill squad, with the aim of—wait for it—“creating a new world.” “Loving and destroying” are also the same thing, don’t you know.

Yeah, not sure I’m feeling Dies Irae. Episode one, still to come, may be totally different, and succeed where zero failed to hook me…but I won’t hold my breath.