Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 09 – My Uninhibited Hostage Life!

When Syalis smashes the equivalent of a phone when the “Human Shopping Channel” won’t ship a waterbed to the Demon Castle, she starts a quest to build her own. At the same time, Twilight and the Big Ten have a quest of their own: Ignore the princess so she’ll start feeling and acting like a hostage.

Naturally, this backfires. Not only does Syalis successfully collect all of the materials and tools she needs, but those items are sourced directly from the Big Ten. While they are all silent towards her, when she ties leashes to them and drags them around, they dare not resist lest they accidentally harm her.

This results in the unprecedented scene of her pulling the King, Cleric, and Siberian like she’s walking her pets. When Alraune tries to restore order, Syalis yawns and they misinterpret her tears to mean their ignoring her has harmed her emotionally, so they give up and help her build her waterbed.

The next Big Ten Demon Quest comes from a suggestion from Hades to put the princess to work. Syalis herself takes on the quest to complete all the work she is given in a single day, as she was raised to understand that she can’t sleep until her work is done!

Oddly enough, her work takes the form of summer vacation homework, with math problems, a diary in which she writes entries for every minute (instead of day), and arts and crafts. She performs all of this work in her “work clothes”, a fetching shoulderless black dress.

Once she’s done an entire month’s work in a day, the Top Ten concludes that continuing to give her that amount of work is unrealistic, and could in fact cause more harm than good. Meanwhile, Syalis plops on her bed without changing and falls asleep using her usual pink robes as a blanket, her quest complete.

0-for-2 so far, the Demons make it a trifecta with a third quest: Teach the princess how to be a proper hostage by showing her other hostages in the form of recently-captured human bandits. Syalis takes one look at the conditions of these prisoners and assumes the demons are planning to eat them.

When she’s told to react to the demons as the other hostages do—with intense fear and loathing—she does just that, with Minase Inori completely changing the usual way Syalis speaks to sound more like the classic damsel-in-distress. The demons hate this, and all of the verbal barbs she tosses their way hit their marks and leave them a defeated pile in the dungeon.

The other humans, having witnessed what the princess did to the demons, are now more afraid of her than the demons. Syalis takes the demons’ reactions to mean she should go back to acting the way she has all along, with no regard whatsoever to her hostage status. That said, she still puts on the hostage act…but only when it’s convenient to her.

Finally, while lying in bed before falling asleep, she wonders to a teddy demon that if everyone in the castle has been so kind to her thus far, why can’t humans and demons get along? Could her stay there be the impetus for her taking steps towards a peace treaty once released? Will her first order to the Hero be to stand down?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Golden Kamuy – 33 – A Wolf in Vladivostok

As Kiroranke and Sofia exchange correspondence, smuggled in and out of the prison with a little help from master of disguise Shiraishi, Asirpa, Kiroranke, Shiraishi, and Ogata stay in a village of the Nivkh, Karafuto’s most populous ethnic minority. Kiroranke maintains that Sofia could have crucial information about Wilk and the code for the gold.

Because he claims the gold will benefit all minorities including the Ainu, Asirpa is willing to go along with his plans. We also learn that Sugimoto’s team has reached the reindeer farmers who previously hosted Asirpa’s team. They’re still a ways behind, but Sugimoto is looking forward to reuniting with her at Ako Prison.

That’s pretty much all for present-day events, as Kiroranke spends much of the rest of the episode telling a story about—among other things—how he, Wilk, and Sofia learned Japanese from a man named Hasegawa Kouichi, who ran a photography studio in Vladivostok. Kouichi has a happy life with his wife Fina and infant daughter Olga.

Before the three revolutionaries arrive at his doorstep wanting to learn Japanese, Kouichi spots a lone wolf on the outskirts of town—an ill omen, if you will. Still, Kouichi welcomes the three and they learn quickly, with Wilk learning the quickest while Sofia seems least motivated to learn. Sofia is also immediately smitten with little Olga. Kouichi even likens the three to the Three Great Nobles of the Restoration who successfully modernized Japan.

It isn’t long until Kouichi learns that his three visitors from the far west were responsible for assassinating the emperor. Assuming the Russian secret police will descend upon his studio soon, he tells Fina to take Olga and go far away to await word from him, insisting she not return under any circumstances.

As it turns out, the police aren’t there for the revolutionaries; they’re there for Kouichi, a Japanese spy using the studio as a front. Sofia, Wilk, and Kiroranke break out the guns and do their thing; none of the police can be allowed to escape. Kouichi makes things a little easier in the ensuing siege by revealing he keeps a machine gun hidden amongst his photography equipment.

As the three take out the police, Sofia fires a shot into a tree, and I half-expected it to be that lone wolf Kouichi spotted earlier, which he encountered a second time while Wilk was teaching him about traps. Instead, it’s Fina, who did come back for Kouichi. A bullet hit both her and Olga, killing the child and leaving the mother in bad shape.

Sofia is beside herself with grief and regret, but there’s little time for either; she and her compatriots must flee before attracting more attention. When they reach the seasonal ice floes that allow passage from Russia to Karafuto—the same ones Kiroranke will use in the present to help Sofia & the other inmates reach their allies on the mainland—Sofia declares she won’t be going with Wilk, whom she loves, or Kiroranke, deciding to stay in Russia to stoke the fires of revolution.

We then return to Kouichi holding his dying wife, and the moment he tells her the truth: his real name is Tsurumi Tokushirou. That’s right, that Tsurumi, with the busted skull. It truly is a small world. Now we know the connection between him and the revolutionaries, and it’s another horribly tragic story, this time centered on one of the series’ main players.

Lt. Tsurumi seemed to accept his wife and daughter’s death as an accident, but he’s quite a different man since his head injury. This added history will color all future interactions (if any) between Tsurumi, Kiroranke, and Sofia. Kiroranke also writes to Sofia that Wilk has died, and though the woman has become hard-as-steel in the years since she last saw him, she still can’t help but weep from the news.

The Day I Became a God – 08 – The Temporary Luster of a Miracle

Hina cries as she dreams of her late, beloved grandfather once again, but the next day—only the fifth left in the whole world—she’s her usual cheerful self as Sora shoots footage for the “making of” movie. Watching Hina interact with the others, he can’t help but want to know more about her.

If the world is to end as she says, he feels they’d be parting far too soon for his taste. So he asks his parents, and they’re refreshingly open with him. Hina isn’t a relation, but the granddaughter of a teacher and mentor to both of them. Her mother passed away, her father abandoned her, so gramps is all she had.

When he died, he made sure arrangements were made, dressing her up in conspicuous clothes so Youta’s parents would know it was her. They gladly took their mentor’s granddaughter in, but it’s up to Hina—and Youta—how long her stay lasts. It’s interesting to note that at no point do Youta’s parents mention the countdown to the end of the world.

The next day, Hina is ready for video games when Youta tells her he wants to find her real father. Hina is not nearly as enthusiastic about this, but if Youta thinks it will help him learn more about her, she’s game, and helps him locate his current residence. It just happens to be by the ocean, which Hina has never seen, so there’s a built-in incentive for her to come.

Youta comments that it almost feels like they’re eloping, but for the bento boxes his mom prepared for them. After a train ride, a bus ride, and a bit of a walk, they finally arrive at what looks like a dream house. Hina’s father guardedly welcomes them in. For a moment Youta believes neither her dad nor his wife can see Hina, but she merely requested a different kind of tea.

In truth they can see her just fine; they just have no idea the girl with lilac hair in nun cosplay is Hina. When Youta clarifies that it is indeed her, her father reacts as if he’s seen a ghost, while his wife drops her royal milk tea and completely loses it.

Hina’s dad moves their conversation to the beach and has Hina play with the family dog while he explains his shock to Youta. You see, he only knew Hina until age 7. All her life to that point, she suffered from the hereditary condition known as Logos Syndrome, which negatively affected both the brain and the muscles.

The last time he saw her she could barely stand or speak. As he tries to sort through his swirling emotions, part of him feels he should be angry, telling Youta how cruel it is to show him a healthy, happy Hina he had, to be perfectly frank, left for dead, and replaced with a new wife and kids. When Youta asks if there’s any way the father and Hina can reunite, he says it’s impossible.

Hina’s father already cut that bond, and every time an increasingly agitated Youta tries to take him to task for that—Your daughter is right there!, and such—he responds with “You’re young; you wouldn’t understand.” Youta admits he doesn’t, but Hina’s father says the time will come when he will. There is no cure or treatment for Logos, and he considers the luster of the miracle of a healthy Hina to be fleeting.

Hina has nothing to say to her biological father, so she and Youta take their leave. On the bus to the hotel where they’ll spend the night before returning home, Youta wonders what the point of the trip was. He’s pretty sure he would have preferred to remain ignorant of the existence of Hina’s father, just as he probably would have preferred not to know Hina still lived.

As for Hina, she’s her usual joyous, laughing self, playing with her food then getting excited about vintage Space Invaders in the rec room. When she notes Youta’s constant glum expression, she reminds him the world is about to end, which should be cause not to panic or despair, but to not worry about what one cannot control.

Youta has come to love Hina, as I have, but it sure looks like she’ll be a goner in four days. The rest of the world won’t end; Hina’s father and his happy family, Youta, Sora, their parents, Ashura, Kyouko, Kakou…they’ll all live on. Only Hina, who “became a god” 335 days ago, won’t be around in four more. But like Youta, I don’t want that, and I don’t want to believe her father.

Perhaps whatever treatment her grandfather administered allowed her to live for 339 days and no more. Or maybe Youta, possibly aided by Suzuki (who visits Hina’s dad that same night) and others, could end up saving her, delaying the end of her world indefinitely. One can hope…

Talentless Nana – 09 – Going Green

As expected, Nana doesn’t have Habu’s incriminating phone on her person anymore. She ditched it before she gathered the others to the cliff to tell her story. Specifically, she left it on and with the text ready to send with a zombie’s finger placed on the “send” button, knowing that as the afternoon sun rose the finger would melt, placing sufficient pressure to hit “send.”

With Kyouya proven wrong in sight of everyone, Michiru demands he apologize to Nana”-shan”, while Nana takes the high road and shakes hands to make up with him. Still, Kyouya still thinks something is off…he merely checkmated Nana too early. Now he’ll have the dual tasks of scrounging up sufficient evidence and rebuilding the trust of the others.

That night, while Nana would prefer to get some sleep, she remains on guard in order to keep up appearances as heroic class leader. She heads her inner debate off at the pass about who among the students is “good” or “bad”; she’s here to do her duty. Michiru visits her and insists she close her eyes and rest while she keeps watch for her. When Nana wakes up, she has a box-cutter at her throat…held there by Michiru.

Now represented by green light to Nana’s red and Kyouya’s blue, Michiru demands to know Nana’s real power. Nana uses her deductive skill to “read” Michiru’s mind, then snatches the cutter when she drops her guard for a moment. This only adds to the intrigue for Michiru, who now knows Nana has combat training and is “no ordinary girl.”

So yeah, Nana was fooled by sweet lil’ Michiru this whole time, huh? We all were, it would seem. The next day, Michiru tries to expose the fact Nana can’t really read minds, making her exhaust all of her excuses and picking away at her credibility in the eyes of the class. However, yet again Nana outsmarts her adversary, pinning a note on her back that everyone else is thinking about, proving she can read their minds.

Nana has Michiru meet her at the cliff to ask the question: Where is the real Michiru? For one thing, Nana has noticed she hasn’t been addressing her with the cutesy “-shan” article. For another, her hand is bandaged, while the real Michiru would have healed herself. With nothing to lose by doing so, “Michiru” then reveals his true identity: Tachibana Jin.

Jin is five years older than Nana and the others, having been part of a previous class on the island. Unlike the present class so far, Jin’s class gradually stopped going to class, split into factions, and fought a bloody civil war amongst each other, while the faculty simply fled the island as if to let it happen.

He tells her his backstory over coffee in a moonlit cove, how after the last of his classmates died he transformed into a bird and flew home, only to be approached by shadowy government officials who wanted him dead. He flew back to try to stop history from repeating, but now finds there’s a new variable in the equation: Nana, a serial killer hidden among the others.

Jin was the cat Nana saved from the burning shed, and he commends her for bringing Yuuka to justice, so in order to avoid a repeat of the civil war, he’d like to make a deal with her: she’ll tell him what he wants to know, and he’ll keep quiet about her true intentions on the island. Nana says no deal, as she’s loath to make them with people who don’t notice their coffee was poisoned.

As Jin apparently dies, Nana prepares to call the “Committee” to report his presence on the island when her phone is pulled out of her hand…by “Kyouya”. Moments later, it’s Michiru, telling Nana “a magician always fails at the start of the show to misdirect the audience,” citing Michiru’s bandage as a feint. He then transforms into Seiya to restrain Nana’s foot with ice.

Turns out Jin Talent isn’t just “playing dress-up”, but copying the Talents of those he copies as well. He reveals he won the battle royale by killing everyone else. If he can copy Kyouya’s appearance, it means he’s invincible…albeit only in Kyouya’s form. That slight loophole could be all Nana has against him—he can only be one person and have one Talent at a time.

It could also mean it’s time for Nana and the real Kyouya to join forces…if she’s able to even escape from Jin’s clutches and gaze. In any case, their deal is probably off. Jin has enough evidence to expose and convict her, but considering he killed his whole class to assert his superiority, they’d seem no better with him leading them!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 08 – Field Day at the Garden

Yuri is assigned her ring and CHARM, making her an official Yurigaoka Lily in addition to being the new talk-of-the-academy. The Student Council is weary of arming her, but as far as the (Acting) Chairman is concerned, until new information comes to light, Yuri is as entitled to defend herself as any Lily.

While lounging on their bunks, Shizu reveals that she’s already thinking about the war that could follow the defeat of the Huge: a return of humans fighting each other. Now that humanity has found Magie, what will they (or to be more precise, its shadier elements) do with it?

Shizu ultimately apologizes to Lily for being so somber, especially on the eve of Yurigaoka’s athletic festival. But as Yuri senses with her nose, all the Lilies are carrying a measure of sadness due to their roles as sole defenders of mankind. Athletics aside, there’s also a mood-lightening cosplay division for which the Legion decides Yujia is best suited.

The sports day is an opportunity for outside onlookers to infiltrate academy grounds and observe their defenders; the Chairman calls them “voyeurs” but orders the StuCo only to “take care of them” if they overstep their established bounds. Like the Lilies of the academy, all outsiders’ eyes seem to be fixed on Yuri, so what better way to keep her safe than keep her in the spotlight?

Yuri (re-)learns defeat in her first game to an elite first-year. Rokkaku Shiori shows off her dual-CHARM-wielding skills, while second and first years demonstrate new CHARM mods from the Arsenal Division. Gropi ends up beating her rival Tanaka Ichi in the target-blasting game by using her Phase Transcendence.

This has the side-effect of draining all Gropi’s Magie for the day, so someone else must fight Moyu’s special “Huge-roid”, which she makes clear she designed to defeat Gropi. Instead, it’s Yuri who faces off, and shows off the same stance as her big sis and unofficial Schutzengel, Riri.

Riri is as worried as a flustered mother hen about dropping Yuri into a veritable lion’s den, but her own Schutzengel Yuyu tells her to calm down and watch, as she once watched her. All the Lilies cheer her on and yell advice her way, and in a gorgeously-choreographed and animated sequence, Yuri defeats the Huge-roid with both ease, grace, and style.

It ends up being Riri crying tears of pride and relief and Yuri comforting her, while Tazusa swoons at the cosplay division-winning Yujia’s cat pose. All in all it’s a successful festival; no real Huge interrupted, and Yuri was kept safe while Moyu was able to gather quite a bit of new data about her.

Moyu makes her report to the Chairman, and sure enough, Yuri is an odd one; average human woman at first glance, but all too normal, as in lacking any of the usual slight abnormalities all humans possess. This jibes with a report the Chairman received from both Grand Guignol and the research institute G.E.H.E.N.A. of a joint “test subject” lost at sea.

The two organizations claim Yuri was born from Huge stem cells—a Synthetic Lily. This is not only super illegal but super immoral, but the groups came clean about it anyway because they are demanding she be returned. The Chairman notes that his purview is limited to educating and protecting humans, so if Yuri isn’t human, the law says he must turn her over.

That brings us to Kaede, the daughter of the Chairman of Grand Guignol, calling her father in the middle of the night. Has she been a Guignol plant, and all of her fawning over Riri been an act? Or is she turning traitor now only because her father’s prized test subject has mistakenly fallen into Yurigaoka’s custody?

For now, I’m inclined to believe the latter is the case. Even if Kaede wasn’t always a spy for her father, she clearly takes deep pride in being her father’s daughter, and her loyalty to him may simply trump her loyalty to anyone else, even Riri and her Legion. If that’s the case, Yuri could be in grave danger.


3 1/2 Stars

DanMachi III – 09 – Paying the Price

As reported by Hermes to Ouranos, the expulsion of Ikelos from Orario and the scapegoating of his Familia quelled public uproar for a time, but with Ikelos gone they have turned the blame for the recent destruction on the Little Rookie. Bell isolates himself in his room, upset not about all the scorn he’s receiving, but the fact it affects his Familia and his Goddess.

Hermes visits Casa de Hestia to report that even though Bell is the “city’s most hated person”, both he and Ouranos intend to continue supporting the Xenos. Right now they’re holed up in various locations under Daedalus Street. Finn and Loki’s other Children are combing the area, and Hermes is confident that even if Loki went along with their plan, her Children would never accept the idea of “mercy toward monsters”.

That means Bell is destined to remain persona non grata for the time being. Bell insists on paying a visit to Daedalus Street to experience the hate firsthand, and is almost ashamed that Hestia covers for him by explaining to all in earshot that all he did was to help her with her debt. They cross paths with Ais, who says nothing to Bell—though it’s not like she was ever the talkative type—and Loki, who like fellow trickster god Hermes seems amused by how lively Bell’s foolishness has made things.

And then there’s Syr Flover, who spots Bell in the street and insists on walking with him, fully acknowledging she knows what people are saying about him. Syr (and by extention Freya) doesn’t give a shit what other people say or think; she knows Bell, loves Bell, and will always be there for him. She has him rest his head on her lap as she pets his head, telling him not to worry about others, but to lean on the “true things” that will remain by his side.

As Asfi fills Ryuu and Aisha in on another request involving the protection of Xenos (something they can’t quite wrap their heads around but don’t reject out of hand), Hestia Familia receives word from Fels and has a meeting to determine their course of action. Bell comes right out and tells his family that he’s going to help the Xenos get back to the Dungeon.

The others—even Lili—are all in agreement with him. They’re all in this together. Welf even slaved away in the forge for five days to make four magical swords, to go along with the magical goodies Fels prepares for them. With six doors in and out Knossos and only four Loki guard teams, they definitely have a chance to pull it off, even if they don’t know which doors Loki’s children control.

That said, Loki’s Finn knows Bell is going to be used as a decoy, and urges his comrades, including Ais and Lefiya—Hey Lefiya!—not to hold back against the Xenos…or anyone who helps them. After years of cooperation and mutual respect, the Loki and Hestia Familias will be on opposite sides of a battle.

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 09 – New Digs, New Threads

As  foreshadowed last week, Nasa doesn’t lose much when they return home to find the apartment building burned down. All his valuable paperwork and data is either at the bank or in the cloud, and he not only has renter’s insurance, but a full grasp on what’s needed to make a claim. Tsukasa marvels at how much Nasa keeps proving why she loves him so much.

It’s not just because he keeps a cool head and doesn’t express anger or regret in the face of what would be a disaster for most people. It’s that the first thing on his mind is that everyone else in the building was okay (they are). The only possession that survived was the tree commemorating their marriage, which can easily be transplanted.

When Nasa and Tsukasa head to the bathhouse to have a nice long soak and consider what’s next, Kaname ends up offering a detatched house on their property where they can stay until they find a suitable new place. Nasa thinks it’s good luck, but Tsukasa knows otherwise: by being someone so kind and well-liked, people are quick to help someone like Nasa.

Kaname does consider one potential problem: now that Nasa and Tsukasa are staying on the Arisugawa’s property, the time will come when Aya finally realizes Tsukasa isn’t just any “relation” of Nasa’s, but his wedded wife. In the end, no amount of hints can crack Aya’s Airhead A.T. Field, but Kaname and Aya’s mom just comes right out and says it.

Aya starts to go into a flashback about Nasa, her first and only love, but her mom cuts her short. As someone whose own husband cheated on her and left her for a younger woman, Aya’s mom wants her to do whatever she needs to do—cut her hair, go to school abroad (on her own dime), whatever—to get over it and move on.

Aya knows that in times of heartbreak one should hold their head high, so she does so and congratulates Nasa and Tsukasa, then considers becoming a YouTube idol…an idea quickly shot down by everyone.

Nasa and Tsukasa may be set with a new place to live for the time being, but Tsukasa did lose quite a bit of her wardrobe in the fire. That means it’s time to go to the laundromat, but the new husband and wife quickly become embarrassed over the prospect of handling one another’s…unmentionables.

They decide to go to the ‘mat together, and watch their clothes mingle in the wash together, something that’s so mundane and yet also so intimate. Tsukasa also lets slip that under her tracksuit she’s not wearing any underwear, since it’s all in the wash. Not wanting to make a big public display of affection, Nasa instead snaps a picture…and draws Tsukasa’s ire.

At the end of the day, what’s called for is a clothes shopping trip, and not to the department store’s discount clothes section, but to Harajuku, a place Nasa has neither ever been to shop. He gets to see Tsukasa try on one cute outfit after another, and even a few outfits he picks out for her, revealing his girly side.

When the time comes to buy underwear, Tsukasa initially holds Nasa’s hand, but changes her mind and deposits him on a bench, instructing him to simply not look like someone who should be arrested. When their shopping is done, Nasa makes, as Kaname calls it, another manly “move”, asking Tsukasa if, at some point, he, her husband, would be able to see her in her underwear.

She turns beet red and turns away, but doesn’t reject the request out of hand; in fact, she says he can see “as much as he wants”. Of course, that won’t be much for the foreseeable future; the two are so embarrassed by the subject being broached that they drop it immediately so they can then shop for clothes for Nasa. Still, it’s a good thing those questions are being posed. They are married, after all!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 09 – Estelles;Gate

Last week’s doll-and-face fetish episode, and the grape-stomping maiden episode before it, made for some particularly goofy Journeys of Elaina, making me wonder when and if show would get dark again. Sure enough, this episode arrives with an “Explicit Content” warning, opens on a starving, broke Elaina, and no OP! What the heck are we in for? At the time, I had no idea.

Elaina finds a flyer promising good pay for “ultra-short-term” work, and encounters a fellow Witch, Estelle. Through meeting her, Elaina is pleased to learn that while Estelle became an apprentice when she was younger, it took her longer than Elaina to become a full-fledged Witch. Wand-measuring aside, Estelle is offering a giant sack of gold coins for the job.

What is the job? Well, first, a sad story: Back while Estelle was training abroad, her dear childhood friend Selena’s parents were murdered in a robbery. Selena’s uncle took her in, and proceeded to abuse her. Selena eventually snapped, murdering her uncle, and then several others. It ultimately fell to Estelle to apprehend Selena…and execute her.

Estelle seeks to use magic to go back in time so she can save Selena’s parents and prevent the chain of events that lead to her having to kill her own best friend. Time-traveling requires more magic than any one witch has, so Estelle has been gradually draining her blood to augment the spell.

The other problem is that once they’re actually in the past, Estelle will be drained of all magic, which is why she needs Elaina. By wearing matching magical rings, Elaina will be able to share her magic with Estelle. This job is not without its risks and inconveniences—hence the generous payday.

Elaina, confident and cocksure as always, proudly proclaims herself to be a traveler, and so the next logical step in her journey is to travel through time and see how things used to be in the past. So she slips on the ring, Estelle activates the spell, and off they go.

The witches safely arrive ten years into the past, but only have one hour to do what needs to be done before being sent back to the present. Estelle makes it clear that the timeline in which she executes Selena has happened and can’t un-happen; changing events will create a tangent, but that’s enough for her, as long as there is a timeline in which Selena gets to live on.

Their broom-flight to Selena’s house is interrupted when Estelle spots young Selena walking down the street, and can resist giving her a big hug, no matter how much it weirds the girl out. Elaina notes that Estelle got quie the cold reaction from Selena, but Estelle insists that deep down Selena is very kind.

Estelle proceeds to get Selena’s parents out of the house under the guise that she’s Selena’s half-sister and has business with them. Elaina stakes out the house, waiting for the robber to arrive, but it dawns on her that the murder of the parents was too grisly for a mere robbery. Then her magic-sharing ring glows and shoots a red beam in Estelle’s direction: she’s engaged in battle.

When Elaina arrives, she finds a horrifying sight: Selena has viciously attacked Estelle, and has blood on her mouth just like her photo in the future papers. It turns out Selena’s parents abused her long before her uncle had the chance, twisting her into homicidal mania, even sadism. It doesn’t matter whether Estelle was her best friend or she and Elaina are trying to “help”—Selena is already beyond helping.

While the blood and gore on display in this scene is indeed explicit, I for one am glad we didn’t have to witness the abuse Selena suffered at the hands of her parents, and the warning was meant for the violence. And there is a lot of it—the most in the series’ run for sure.

When Selena prepares to attack Elaina, Estelle gets up and stops her in her tracks. Having worked so hard and sacrificed her own blood to try to save Selena, she is overcome by heartbreak and despair, and there’s nothing left but to kill Selena again before she can kill Elaina or anyone else.

Elaina tries to stop this by removing the ring, but Estelle simply sacrifices her memories of Selena in order to summon enough magic to explode her head off. The hour is up and the two witches return to the present. Sure enough, Estelle doesn’t remember Selena, and barely remembers Elaina. She’s a ruined husk of a witch, and Elaina is so upset by the experience she runs out of Estelles house, pointedly leaving the bag of gold behind.

That, and Elaina’s subsequent breakdown on the bench in front of the clock tower, shows that the effects of this particular journey will (or at least should) last beyond just this episode. Elaina weeps uncontrollably, her confident façade utterly shattered. She no longer thinks of herself as a special or exemplary; only an “ordinary” traveler and witch, inexperienced and unable to do anything.

She’s being a bit hard on herself, as who the heck could have handled that situation better? It was largely out of her hands. The best thing to do would have been to refuse the job, but she really needed money and was intrigued by the prospect of a different kind of traveling. The episode fades to black and the credits roll without images. Black Friday, indeed.

Read Crow’s review of episode 9 here!

Adachi & Shimamura – 08 – Venus and Mars

Adachi’s push-and-pull, engage-and-retreat campaign to woo-or-not-woo Shimamura proceeds apace, with her becoming fixated on a kooky TV astrologer’s freewheeling romantic advice. Adachi learns that Shimamura is an Aries while she’s a Libra. They’re on literal opposite ends of the Zodiac, and yet many an astrologist refers to their pairing as “interesting”, “passionate”, and even “steamy”—”a lover and a fighter”.

Opposites attract, but while Aries/Libra pairings have their share of benefits, it requires almost constant compromise to meet their very different needs. That certainly seems to be the case based on what we’ve witnessed of the pair so far. Adachi realizes her wishes and desires piling up “far and high like mountain ranges” and tries to keep them in check. Then then there’s Tarumi—whose sign we don’t know—to whom Shimamura seems naturally drawn.

While taking her little sister and Yashiro out to a movie, Shimamura thinks a bit on how things are going, observing that Adachi is way too “eager and excited” and how they’re probably both “overthinking” Valentine’s Day in their own ways. How the shimmery-haired alien girl fits into all this, I still have no idea.

The next day at school it’s Shimamura who reaches out to Adachi, asking if she wants to join her, Hina and Nagafuji for an afternoon of gaming. Adachi appears to demonstrate strong beginner’s luck, then offers to take Shimamura home on her bike. She ends up distracting Adachi from the road and they almost crash, but when Shimamura tightly embraces Adachi from behind it seems to steady her. Adachi senses Shimamura is “stealing her time”…but she sure doesn’t seem to mind it!

After another encounter with Yashiro (who is apparently 680 years old…?) results in Shimamura missing school, Adachi pays her a visit, and Shimamura gives Adachi what she thinks she wants: something like the gym wall that she can lean on for support. Shimamura doesn’t think they can ever go back to that gym wall; the seasons change, and so must they.

On the day Adachi intends to buy Shimamura chocolate, she gets called in for a shift at the restaurant, but she decides she’ll just pick some out with Shimamura when they go out the day of. But as Adachi is working, Shimamura is free, and Tarumi eagerly swoops in to hang out, clearly wanting to spend more time with her old classmate and become closer. That’s probably going to be a problem for Adachi…

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 09 – Never Make Her Cry

We reset back to before everything turns to shit, but as we’ve learned from the previous arcs, there’s plenty of shit lurking just beneath the shiny happy surface of Keiichi & Co.’s daily life in Hinamizawa. Having had Rika and Mion/Shion-centric arcs, now it’s time for the focus on Satoko.

When Mion brings in fancy leftovers, Mion and Keiichi agree to a cooking duel, but Keiichi is abysmally bad at cooking. Seriously, he’s so clueless he almost burns his house down. Luckily Satoko and Rika are there to not only put out the fire, but salvage his dinner, and Kei-chan is thankful for both.

As Rika puts it to Kei before biking home for the night, Satoko is in need of someone Rika can’t replace: her big brother Satoshi, who ran away from home under myterious circumstances. Despite, or perhaps because of their sibling-like combative manner with each other, Kei makes for the perfect surrogate nii-nii.

Simple things like shopping for ingredients, cooking them, and sharing meals together clearly brightens Satoko’s day immeasurably. Similarly, when Satoko needs someone to cheer her on in a crucial at-bat, Kei arrives just in time, and as a result, she hits the winning home run and wins her team free BBQ.

At this BBQ, during which everyone has fun, Kei meets someone new: Irie, who loves Satoko’s smile, and while he can’t adopt her for “various legal reasons”, has no qualms about citing his plans to eventually ask for Satoko’s hand in marriage when she comes of age. Shion is similarly enamored of Satoko, considering herself a big-sis figure.

Irie’s words to Kei—never make Satoko cry—sound like his prime directive for this arc, which he’ll have to follow to avoid disaster. But that will surely come anyway, since Kei overhears two boys talking about how Satoko’s brother Satoshi was a victim of Oyashiro’s curse.

The destructively-curious Kei is eager to pick at this particular scab, and while Rena will have none of it, Mion tells him more: Satoko’s parents were the leaders of the pro-dam movement, as the gov’t offered big payouts to anyone who agreed to move out of the village. They died falling off an observation deck, which is super-suspicious, while Satoshi is believed to have run away to avoid the curse, but could also have been “demoned away”.

In any case, part of “not letting Satoko cry” means keeping all this under wraps, especially around her. And as we learn, and as I’ve suspected since that unsettling end credits image of her looking frightened as a man in a Hawaiian shirt looms over her, Satoko already has enough to cry about.

As we see the loud, drunk, boorish “Uncle Teppei” lead her into an isolated house, It’s almost a certainty some kind of physical and/or sexual abuse is taking place. For all the people who love Satoko and are watching over her, there’s clearly a huge gap in their blanket of protection. However explicit the arc gets about this, I hope Kei & Co. can manage a way to free Satoko from this particular hell…assuming they ever learn about it.

Akudama Drive – 08 – Fly Me Almost to the Moon

Poor Swindler, who has possibly the worst luck of all the Akudama, not least because she really isn’t one. The old rocket runs out of fuel long before reaching the ruins of the moon, and she and Sister come crashing down in a field of sewage…not a soft field of green grass and flowers, which apparently doesn’t exist anymore.

Miraculously, Swindler survives a rocket crash thanks to pulling the emergency ejection lever, and Sister is fine because she’s invulnerable, but their troubles have only begun. They can’t stay put, because they made one hell of a conspicuous return to the earth. Absent any other ideas, they head back to Kansai.

Doctor, officially no longer an Akudama, is able to infiltrate a research lab and learn more about the blood of the Siblings. It’s clear she’s going to use her new freedom and wealth to do what she’s always done; play with the human bodies, both of others and herself.

As for Apprentice, her name is poised to change to Master (or at least Senpai) as Boss assigns her a eager new junior male partner. She wants none of this, and Boss can tell from Apprentice’s remaining good eye that she seeks death like her Master did.

Swindler and Sister return to the city and go to the takoyaki stall where her whole whirlwind adventure began, fulfilling a promise to Sister I never thought would be fulfilled so soon. Alas, as soon as she uses her seal, Wanted alerts pop up everywhere. The Internet of Things is terrifying.

As they try to outrun the fuzz, Hoodlum wallows on the seedier side of town, missing his kyoudai Brawler and not knowing what to do next. When he’s recognized as a wanted Akudama, his moments on the earth seem numbered…until Doctor appears. Hoodlum just happened to slip a tracker in Lil’ Brother’s charm, but the position of the charm isn’t Executioner HQ, which is intriguing to Doctor.

Swindler and Sister find shelter from the pelting rain in the office of a vast junkyard, and are finally able to fill their empty bellies with canned goods, bathe, and change their soiled clothes. Swindler seems to relish suddenly having a little sister to care for, while Sister mimics Swindler in everything, even burping after eating her fill. Swindler also snips off all her hair to appear less like her Wanted picture.

Unfortunately, their shelter is already claimed by three thugs, who arrive and immediately consider selling the Sister (who they hope is under ten) and Swindler (if she’s a virgin) into slavery or some such awfulness. Swindler, having clearly learned a few things besides swearing from her criminal comrades, bides her time, then stabs two of the thugs and shoots the other. When one of them gets back up, he’s taken back down…by Courier.

Overwhelmed by the violence she had to exact in order to survive and protect Sister, Swindler passes out, but when she comes to, she and Sister are safe. Turns out Courier only tracked them down to complete one last job given to him by Brother before his capture: deliver the charm to Sister. With that done, he’s ready to move on, but Swindler is able to convince him to help them rescue Brother. Not with her billion yen share (which he calls “chump change”) but with her desperate plea that “this is all she has left”.

Swindler can no longer be an Ordinary Person; the incident in the city proved that. No one will stand around, not kill her, and listen long enough for her to explain what happened to her, and in any case they would never believe her. She is Swindler now, and perhaps the only way she’ll ever be free from the pursuing Executioners is if the entire Executioner system oppressing her is taken down in its entirety.

Meanwhile, Cutthroat is still alive, searching for his Angel. With Doctor and Hoodlum headed towards the charm’s tracker signal, an Akudama reunion is in the cards. Will it be cordial, or will they be at each other’s throats? What was once a cohesive group has been ground down into the mud and blood. I don’t think any of them have a chance without each other.

Great Pretender – 15 – The Brutal Return to Reality

It’s been four months since the Wit Studio-produced, Netflix-distributed Great Pretender closed the book on its satisfying London art dealing/Cynthia romance arc, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its return for its final and by far longest arc, involving the ever-mysterious Laurent. But at least in its first of nine episodes, it’s an almost completely Edamame-POV episode.

After a ~5-minute recap (as narrated to his mom’s grave) of his adventures so far, we learn Makoto considers his latest job with Laurent, Cynthia, Abbie, et al will be his last. He returns to Japan to seek honest gainful employment, and Laurent seems to wish him well, urging him to “do what feels right”.

While his criminal record would seem to be a massive obstacle to getting a job, Makoto snags a job at a “trading company”, with the very expressively-faced Ishigami as his immediate boss and mentor. Makoto proves a natural at the job, using the people-reading and interacting skills normally used to con people to instead sell them stuff.

He rises literally to the top of his company’s tower, where he and a select group of model employees await the arrival of their chairman, the cool and fearsome Suzaku Akemi. Her lazily muttering “do your best” to Makoto upon meeting him signifies her approval of him, making his employment official.

Not long after meeting the big boss, however, Makoto learns that while gainful, this employment may not be quite on the level. That’s made painfully clear when, while in Hanoi with Ishigami for a pickup, he learns that the merchandise freaking children.

That’s right: Suzaku Akemi, Empress of the Underworld, has a large controlling interest in human trafficking, buying orphans and refugees for cash and auctioning them off to the super-rich. And Makoto thought the art dealing business was cutthroat! It’s a wonder he doesn’t vomit in disgust as the poor kids are dressed up and paraded out like lambs to the slaughter.

Then it dawns on him: if this “Sacrlet Company” Laurent recommended to him is a front for the mafia, than Laurent has had Makoto infiltrate the company for a job….his biggest yet. While the focus is on Makoto for the lion’s share of the episode, the fact of the matter this is Laurent’s show, because Makoto went and did exactly what he hoped he’d do. The Puppet-master’s strings extend across oceans!

Laurent fesses up to this job to an outraged Makoto, who is as angry with himself as his French friend, having let himself be played yet again. But Makoto isn’t the only one Laurent has in mind for this job, which is presumably to bring Scarlet and Suzaku down while pocketing a tidy profit. Cynthia, Abbie, and Kim are in, as is a welcome face from the Singapore arc, Clark, the nicer of the Ibrahim brothers.

With the recaps over, the broad strokes of the new job drawn, and the awfulness of the mark made crystal clear, all that remains is to actually dig further into Laurent’s past, which this week only amounted to a brief but beautiful dream where he and an unknown lover gaze up at the Aurora Borealis. Eight eps should be more than sufficient to do that, and they’re sure to look just as fantastic as the previous fifteen.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – 08 – Demon Ascending

Alice is always referring to Iska as her “enemy”, but with Risya releasing another agent of chaos in Salinger the Demon/Transcendant, she doesn’t have the luxury of rejecting the aid of an enemy like Iska whom she’s come to trust, and who shares her dream of peace.

When the prison tower housing Salinger starts to burn, Alice and Rin must hurry to put out those fires. Before leaving, Alice quietly asks if Iska will help her, but he doesn’t quite hear. She drops the matter, but not before leaving a fresh new handkerchief to replace the one he gave her.

Unit N07 finally hears from their CO Risya, who tells them that the Princess Iska is in Another Castle, leading them to wonder if they were merely bait for Risya to attain a different, secret goal (they were). But the fact remains they have to get the hell out of the tower, so Mismis bears her genuine crest and serves as bait once more, this time so Nene and Jhin can take out their pursuers.

Iska, handcuffed in his hotel room, hears ringing in Alice’s room and discovers she had his Imperial phone. He makes contact with Unit N07 and arranges to meet them at the very prison tower where Alice and Rin went. When he considers how to remove his cuffs, he suddenly remembers the handkerchief Alice left, and sure enough, it contains the key. This is what she meant by requesting his help—she couldn’t do it overtly, so left the key in hope he would agree.

Alice and Rin’s car is bombed before they reach the prison, but that’s of no consequence; the site is a mess of Imperial forces and various sovereignty forces from within the prison, so Alice takes command as Second Princess. Iska meets with Unit N07, but before anything else he asks for his two swords back, urges them to take the civilian onlookers to safety of the hotel, and he’ll meet them there in fifteen minutes or so.

Alice leaves Rin to deal with Salinger, and while Rin talks a big game and impresses him for a brief time, once Salinger gets serious Rin is no more than a “cat or dog” he has no further interest in torturing. Much of the astral magic he’s “collected” came from purebred sources far superior to Rin’s, after all.

Rin is overmatched; she knows it, and Salinger knows it, but it doesn’t matter: her only goal is to fight him and buy time until she can’t fight anymore. That turns out to not be very long, but it’s long enough that by the time Salinger is bored and ready to finish her, Iska arrives just in time to block his killing blow and save Rin.

Rin’s long-standing suspicion of and enmity towards Iska didn’t matter; Rin is Alice’s cherished friend, while Salinger is Alice’s enemy, so he’ll save Rin and defeat Salinger. If Risya gets wind of either Iska messing up her plan or of Mismis being a real astral mage, things will get far more complicated, but for now, it’s as simple as this: The enemy (Salinger) of his “enemy” (Alice) is his enemy. After all that lounging around in the hotel, it’s time to get to work!

Rating: 4/5 Stars