Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia – 02 – He’s Not That Bad?

With the placid Enkidu as their guide, Ritsuka and Mash would seem to be on easy street, but even after several previous excursions to singularities across time, the duo isn’t above someone getting one over on them. Fortunately for them, you can’t kid a kidder—in this case, Grand Caster Merlin, whom they meet in a forest.

Merlin tells Ritsuka and Mash that King Gilgamesh just returned from a quest to attain the herb of immortality—a quest he didn’t begin until after Enkidu died. Exposed as an impostor working against Chaldea, “Enkidu” attacks Ritsuka and Mash, but Merlin’s companion Ana protects them while Merlin creates an illusion to force him to withdraw for the time being.

Like last week’s tilt with the demonic beasts, Ana and Mash’s fight with Enkidu provides the action highlight of an otherwise talky episode, with the dense forest providing a new venue for the lightning-fast kinetic combat.

While back at Chaldea Romani is perplexed to find Merlin in Mesopotamia considering he’s supposed to still be alive in Avalon, the fact that the current time period precedes his birth meant he could be summoned there.

Merlin also sports almost zero offensive power, so even Fou—who apparently hates his guts—can fight him on even footing. Merlin claims to have a Master, while Ana is a rogue Servant. They’re there to assist Chaldea in saving humanity.

Merlin and Ana escort Ritsuka and Mash to Uruk without further incident. Ana has a cute human moment with one of the sentries, and they pass through the gates with ease and head to the massive central ziggurat. The size and grandeur of the city surprise the pair from Chaldea, which is saying something considering all the places they’ve seen.

Once in Gilgamesh’s throne room, Ritsuka is equally impressed by how level-headed, detail-oriented, and downright on top of things the king seems to be; far cry from the arrogant tyrant of legend. However, when Merlin interrupts normal business to introduce Ritsuka and Mash, Gilgamesh is done talking, and immediately challenges them to a duel.

It’s just as well. If the two are going to easily fall to the king right then and there, they weren’t going to be of any use to him in the first place—nor could they ever be the true saviors of humanity.

Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun – 02 (Second Impressions)

Iruma-kun’s next challenge is to summon a familiar or face expulsion. Since getting thrown-out of Magic/Demon School fits his ‘dont get eaten’ objective, he approaches this task with a casual air that completely pisses off his teacher, and further boosts his notoriety amongst the class.

Unfortunately, the ritual to summon a familiar is very similar to the ritual a human would use to summon a demon… which results in Kalego-sensai becoming Iruma-kun’s familiar and further boosting Iruma’s standing in the school…

Sprinkle on Grandpa’s wake the dead alarm clock silliness, tension with the student council, and Azz-kun’s aggressive application of force against anyone in Iruma’s way, AND introduce two love interests, and a lot happened this week.

In many ways, WtDS feels like several short-format animes strung together? Every 3-5 minutes contains related jokes, and the following 3-5 minutes may not have immediate connects to the block before it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the developments were interesting but all of it was adorable, easy watching fun.

BokuBen 2 – 02 – At Their Service

After focusing on the main tutee trio last week, we shift to the lives of Kominami Asumi and Kirisu Mafuyu, both of whom end up in Nariyuki’s debt; the lad is nothing if not useful and industrious. When her fellow cafe maids conscript him to accompany her on her new maid cooking and cleaning side-gig, the clients they encounter are one coincidence after another.

First, there’s Kirisu, who refuses to let Asumi in until Nariyuki has already cleaned her place within an inch of its life. Then Uruka’s sick mom hires them, unbeknownst to Uruka, who is so frazzled to have Nariyuki in her home she cleans and cooks a sumptuous meal for the three of them without thinking—such is the power of her natural domestic skills.

The final straw for Asumi comes when the third client is a hungry Fumino, who made a mess attempting to cook but didn’t expect people she knew to come to clean, so she calls Rizu, who arrives with enough noodles for the four of everyone.

With Asumi’s pride as a maid well and truly devastated, she ends up cooking and cleaning at Nariyuki’s house, impressing his younger siblings, who wonder when he’ll marry her. Asumi contents herself with having Nariyuki’s head in her lap as she cleans his ears, a “special service” she’s all too happy to perform for him on the house.

On to Kirisu-sensei, who gets furious at Fumino falling asleep in class, but after pulling an all-nighter preparing quizzes, ends up having trouble staying awake in class the next day. She convinces herself that no one notices the first time she nods off, but Nariyuki saw her and is pretty sure what’s up.

During an unplanned, lengthy, and extremely boring school address, Kirisu is again on the verge of appearing hypocritical and bringing shame to her fellow faculty, but Nariyuki again notices and fakes a loud sneezing fit to keep her awake. She suspects he’s helping her on purpose, but again chalks it up to overthinking.

When she arrives at her front door ready to pass the f out, to her dismay she’s misplaced the key. She runs into Nariyuki, and the two spend the rest of the afternoon into the evening searching everywhere for it, before Nariyuki suggests she double-check the substantial contents of her bag.

Sure enough, her sleep-deprived past self placed the key in her pouch of USB drives. But immediately upon opening her door, she passes out in the entryway. Being a scholar and a gentleman, Nariyuki can’t leave her in such a state, and so gently carries her to bed, noting how slender and light his teacher is and then apologizing to no one in particular for thinking about weird stuff.

Fumino, Rizu, and Uruka form the heart of BokuBen, but this week reinforces the notion that they don’t have to always be in the spotlight. Asumi and Kirisu-sensei bring their own energy and dynamics with Nariyuki, resulting in a thoroughly amusing and energetic outing.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 01 – The Price

When we last saw Kirito and Alice, Eugeo had just died, Administrator was defeated but not killed, and Kirito had lost his right arm and his fluctlight fried by some kind of power surge. This exemplary episode is all about the aftermath of those events, both immediately following them and some months later.

Aside from Rintarou Okabe or Natsuki Subaru, I can’t think of a protagonist in recent anime memory who has suffered as much or fallen quite as low as Kirigaya Kazuto. He was being kept alive in Underworld, devoid of memories, but after saving that world from a tyrant, he lost even more. In the present, autumn is falling on Underworld, and Kirito is a mute, emotionless husk under Alice’s care—with frequent visits from her sister Selka.

Alice is no slouch in the loss department either. She may have regained a sister and, incidentally, her freedom from the Axiom Church and Order of Integrity Knights, but she lost Eugeo, one of the best friends whom she’d forgotten, while the other of those friends in Kirito is the aforementioned husk. It’s ultimately Alice’s episode, and it’s an unyielding portrait of anguish.

Alice scratches out a meager wage felling trees with her sword skills, incomparable to anyone else in the village. The villagers need her help to make progress, but suck their teeth behind her back and even mess with the minimally-responsive Kirito and the Blue Rose Sword he inherited from Eugeo. It doesn’t matter that Alice, Kirito, and Eugeo saved them from Administrator’s evil plans; they just don’t like them.

Knowing Kirito wouldn’t be safe anywhere near the Cathedral, she tried to return to Rulid Village, but her own father shunned her, so she settled in a cabin on the town’s outskirts with Kirito and her loyal (and adorable) dragon Amayori. It would be a happy life—were it not for Kirito’s condition and the still-looming Dark Territory situation.

The tranquil, picturesque surroundings call to mind Kirito and Asuna’s cabin, once the site of so much joy. But while Alice and Selka try to make the best of things, there’s no escaping the fact this is an extremely dismal situation, with no immediate sign that things will get any better.

Quite the contrary: with Administrator off in some other dimension, the world of men has never been more vulnerable to incursions of orcs and goblins from the Dark Territory. Bercouli musters his fellow Integrity Knights and starts re-training lower-ranked forces Admin had banished, but the time of the titular War of Underworld is just over the silver mountain horizons in the background of those gorgeous vistas.

Eldrie is on a mission to confirm the various tunnels into their lands have been blasted to slow the enemy’s advance, but his dragon senses his younger sibling Amayori and thus Alice. Eldrie begs her to rejoin the knights and join the fight. Alice doesn’t tell him she won’t, but that she can’t. Even if she didn’t have to care for Kirito, she can no longer wield her sword. Eldrie reluctantly accepts this and the two part ways cordially.

As Alice turns in with Kirito, sharing his bed to keep him warm or just so she can have human contact, her remaining eye fills with tears as she asks Kirito just what the hell she should do. After all these months with no progress, I imagine she’s starting to lose hope he’ll ever recover, and in the meantime has been coping, enduring, and operating on inertia.

When Kirito suddenly moves as if reacting to something, there’s a sudden glimmer of hope that’s just as quickly snatched away—he’s only reacting reflexively, as Amayori does. You see, fires are blazing in the direction of the town and there are sounds of fighting—no doubt a Dark Territory raid. So yeah, no hope, just more awful shit to deal with.

As all this is happening in Underworld, we have no idea what is transpiring in the real world with Asuna on the Ocean Turtle. While I’m no sucker for punishment, I do appreciate the bleak depths to which our heroes have fallen, because it will make it that much more compelling if and when they manage to claw themselves out. That’s why we must watch.

Val x Love – 02 – A Pat on the Head, a Peck on the Cheek

This week it’s the turn of Odin’s fifth daughter, the Student Council President Saotome Itsuya AKA Schwertleite. A raven-haired maiden beloved at school for her peerless looks and elegant ladylike aura, Itsuya has somewhat less ladylike plans for Takuma after witnessing what she deemed was a pretty chaste exchange between him and her sister Natsuki.

In her head, she’s not that interested in Takuma at all. He’s just a means to an end: if he can awaken her powers and she can save the world, she’ll get a pat on the head from Odin. It’s a simple, childish wish that she keeps entirely to herself, until a frosti shows up ahead of schedule and she suddenly has to level up with Takuma in a hurry.

The thing is, her full-speed-ahead approach doesn’t work on the nervous, petrified Takuma, and once she starts to undress and moves in on him, she suddenly loses her nerve as well, as she can no longer reconcile her mature outward manner with her inner innocence.

Seeing her freeze up in fear causes Takuma to remember what his mom did to calm him down—a good old head pat—so he gives one to Itsuya and it manages to do the trick. The extent of their hanky-panky is that head-pat and a kiss on the cheek just like Natsuki’s, but it’s enough.

With Natsuki just barely holding on against the monster (even getting all bondaged-up and getting her outfit torn), Itsuya swoops in with her chain of white crosses, enveloping the frosti so Natsuki can finish it off with a giant sword. Mission complete, and now two of Odin’s daughters have leveled up. Seven to go.

We also learn that Itsuya’s treasurer in the StuCo is actually Garm, named for Garmr, a helldog/wolf whose howling heralds the coming of Ragnarök. He’s listed as a “watchdog” and sports a level three times higher than Natsuki’s. If he starts something, head pats and cheek pecks may not be enough to beat him.