Vinland Saga – 04 – The Warrior Without a Sword

Even Askeladd’s biggest, toughest warrior Bjorn, tripping balls on “berserker mushrooms,” can’t make Thors so much as draw his sword. He defeats an entire boatfull of Askeladd’s men with his bare hands, then smells him out as the leader and challenges him to a duel.

Askeladd shows why he commands such a large group of unruly pirates—he’s really good in a swordfight, relying on speed, surprise, and trickery to get the upper hand. When Thors starts wearing down Askeladd’s sword at the cost of his own, Askeladd takes the bait, swinging wide and paying for it.

If Askeladd were an honorable warrior like Thors, he would have accepted defeat. But things aren’t that simple. Thors is outraged that the rules are being broken, but Askeladd has clearly made a life out of doing just that—not to mention Thors also broke the rules by deserting in the first place.

Now, while it’s been great hanging out with the Troll of Jom and seeing the awesome things he can do, we’ve known pretty much since the start that he wasn’t going to last long, and sure enough, as Thorfinn watches helplessly, he’s run through with a good number of arrows from above.

In the end, Thors was as much a victim of his own pacifist ideals, and the expectation everyone he dealt with would follow the warrior’s code to the letter, than those arrows or any cheating on Askeladd’s part. Men like Askeladd almost always outlast men like Thors because they understand that rules don’t mean a damn thing if you’re dead.

In Thors’ case, he’s also incredibly lucky that Askeladd decides to honor Thors’ duel victory by withdrawing and sparing the rest of Thors’ crew. But his one final miscalculation was that Thorfinn would go quietly back to Iceland after watching his father cheated and killed before his eyes.

Thors’ death now sets up Thorfinn’s quest for vengeance, as he stows away the villagers’ ship Askeladd’s crew took as a prize and basically stares the man down, promising he’ll kill him. Askeladd is unimpressed, and tells his men to leave him to starve. If he manages to survive, he could be useful down the road. After all, his whole crew saw the fire in the kid’s eyes.

I won’t lie; it was tough to blast through three fantastic episodes of Vinland Saga in the first week, then wait three weeks for the fourth, especially when we knew full well Thors was doomed and his son is going to join Askeladd’s crew. It would have been better if this introductory arc had been completed before the long hiatus, but alas. Still, while telegraphed, Thors’ death was still well-executed. Now we move on to the next phase.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 04 – Brains Beat BOSS-Drinking Brawn

Nishikata is the best arm wrestler in his class, due to the fact he does three push-ups for every time Takagi teases him during the day. But all that extra brawn is for naught as long as he doesn’t exercise that most important of “muscles”—his head.

Case in point: Takagi genially challenges him to arm wrestle, and in the first round starts she pretends to be far weaker than him, and simply waits for him to let his guard down. In round two, Nishikata is done playing around, but is then flustered when she asks if he wants to hold hands walking home.

In both cases, Nishikata’s superior strength is neutralized by Takagi’s mind games. And yet all Nishikata will do as a result of his losses is do more push-ups. After all, he simply can’t predict every trick Takagi has up her sleeve. He could plan 100 moves in advance and she’d be ready with Move 101.

After Hina tries to make a big display of how mature and grown-up she is by staring out the window, sighing, and talking about the impermanence of things (mostly foods) which only leads to Yukari and Sanae laughing at her, Nishikata decides to show Takagi how mature he is by taking the advice of one of his guy mates (never a good idea) and drinking the bitterest coffee he can buy.

That coffee, clearly a non-copyright-infringing stand-in for Suntory BOSS, proves way too bitter for him to not make all the faces one expects of someone who hates coffee, and in addition to being a Teasing Master Takagi is also mastered reading Nishikata’s face.

She does the practical (and truly mature) thing and buys a delicious melon soda, and offers Nishikata a sip, pointing out it would be an indirect kiss. To accept her offer would actually show maturity on his part, since an indirect kiss shouldn’t be a big deal to a grown-up.

Not to mention Takagi isn’t about to stop teasing him even if he convincingly enjoyed a can of BOSS; she’d simply devise new ways to tease him. It’s what she does.

Finally, Takagi meets Nishikata for their walk to school, but for once without her bike. He recalls her saying something about the brakes on their last walk, and assumes that’s the reason why, but Takagi warns him that if he guesses wrong it’s an “instant loss,” so he ponders other reasons as they take detours not possible with a bike.

Ultimately, Nishikata sticks with his brake answer, thinking Takagi was throwing a bunch of other potential reasons (stairs, hopscotch, cats) as a distraction. But of course, he’s wrong. Takagi actually had two genuine reasons that he did not consider. One, she didn’t bring her bike because she wanted to watch him struggle to determine the reason. Two, she actually did, and does, want to hold hands with Nishikata, hence no bike.

Of course, whether it’s dropping her -san or sipping from her can or holding her hand, Nishikata remains nervously reticent, despite now being a second-year. Because he makes her laugh so much, this doesn’t seem to bother Takagi so much, but as Hina says, nothing lasts forever, so one would hope that applies to Takagi’s patience.

At some point, Nishikata is going to have to reckon with the fact a girl likes him, and he likes her back, and pursuing that is more important than winning and losing silly games.

HenSuki – 04 – The Desired Outcome

Last week, before I endured a week of high-altitude training, I presupposed that Nanjou Mao has a particular interest in Keiki, but considering she was neither a sadist or masochist, the particular peculiar shape that interest took remained up in the air.

Keiki gets a bit of a reprieve this week when both Yuika and Sayuki independently offer their apologies for “going too far” and urge him to “make up” with Mao. When he confronts Mao after class, she asks if he’ll hang out with her and Shouma at the arcade, like they used to.

There, we get the second hint of Mao’s interest—her first was the very characteristic Stressed Mangaka Girl Look (AKA the School Queen/Home Nerd Look popularized by Kare Kano, but I digress). When Keiki slips and is about to fall backwards, he’s caught in an inadvertent wall slam by Shouma, which excites Mao very much.

Later, while walking Mao home, Mao wonders out loud if he wants to be in a couple rather than a trio. Keiki also notices Mao staring intently at a photo of Shouma, and gets the wrong idea that she likes Shouma. But when he pries too deeply and too directly, she runs off on him, even in the pouring rain, leaving him with the rank of Sex Animal Sergeant.

Having made next to no progress, Keiki seeks advice from Mizuha, of all people, who was previously peeping at his porn stash, puts his head in her lap, and hides an annoyed look from her brother when he discusses other girls.

Still, she advises him to go all out, but act naturally, and if it doesn’t work, she’ll surely will be there to comfort him. When Keiki once more confronts a sleepy Mao after class and apologizes profusely for hurting her feelings, and unwisely offers to do “anything” to make things right.

Mao declares she wants Keiki in a relationship…not with her, but with Shouma. That’s right: Mao is a fujoshi, and her Shortcake series uses Shouma and Keiki as her character models. She wasn’t jealous that other girls were coming on to him; she was angry that they were ruining her image of Keiki as a BL model!

If he refuses to date Shouma, she threatens do everything in her power to impede all of his other romantic endeavors. So now all three of the non-sister girls in Keiki’s circle have some quirk he’s not sure he can live with. If that weren’t bad enough, someone leaves an envelope in his shoe locker containing a photo of him groping Sayuki…perhaps an prelude from one of the yet-to-be-introduced other girls?