Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 07 – Starting Over from Zzzzero

While there was no danger of Syalis’ antics growing stale at the Demon Castle, there’s nothing like a change of venue to freshen things up. That change occurs when Twilight’s rival Hades kidnaps Syalis in her sleep and deposits her in the far more rundown (but quieter!) Former Demon Castle.

The overarching joke this week is that Hades acts precisely like Twilight and his underlings when they first captured Syalis. Now they know better and harbor a healthy fear and respect for the pint-sized princess, while almost pitying Hades for not knowing what’s coming down the pike.

Predictably, Syalis doesn’t panic or cower before Hades or his adorable henchmen triplets Ker, Ber, and Os. Her first instinct is to simply sleep, in lieu of anything better to do. Then she puts her head on the appallingly cheap pillow and gets a nasty case of deja vu from her first night in Twilight’s castle.

Armed with a new quest to improve her pillow as the first step in a process, Syalis immediately returns to her usual relentlessly resourceful and determined self. When Ker, Ber, and Os try to intimidate them, she casually tosses an explosive pompom at the cell gate and sends them fleeing in terror.

Syalis’ search for fluffy bedding materials takes her into direct contact with Hades, but since he’s busy on the videophone gloating to Twilight (and laughing an exaggerated laugh like Rintarou Okabe) he doesn’t notice her literally ripping his clothes off for repurposing.

She gets an assist from her “friends” at the Demon Castle when they make such a ruckus on the phone, Hades is distracted. They even get him to look and levitate upwards so she can snag his fur boa, and when she does they cheer like Houston celebrating a successful rocket launch!

The pillow, however, is merely the first step. Syalis’ second quest involves improvement of her bedding in general. She soon finds that this Former Demon Castle has a lot more traps, but thankfully none of the needles, flying axes or fireballs end up killing her, and she meets a kindred spirit in Hypnos, the “personification of drowsiness”.

Syalis is immediately impressed by Hypnos’ dedication to sleep and begins calling him “Master” and asking him to teach her. When he shows her that the undersides of the tiles of an electrified walkway are fluffy fur, she jumps several steps ahead, killing the power source and gathering all of the furry tiles.

This sets off a number of traps, but Syalis must have been trained in martial arts and self-defense, because she’s able to dodge all of them, impressing Hypnos enormously. Her final bed contraption consists of a large mobile fur mattress that moves along a track, avoiding fireballs as she sleeps.

But as she’s starting a third quest for another comfortable night’s sleep, Twilight and some members of his Big Ten Council prepare a rescue mission to retrieve their captive. Lower-ranking people in the castle note how quiet and boring it is without the princess. They all want her back!

Hades remains in blissful ignorance, believing it laughable that the princess could leave her cell, let alone do all of the stuff she’s done. Yet she’s in his personal fur stash gathering materials, and just as he’s discussing all of the status-boosting weapons Ker/Ber/Os can use to repel Twilight and his compatriots, Syalis is destroying those very weapons in order to make a comfy neck pillow.

When Twilight & Co. finally confront Hades, the two Demon Lords seem poised for an epic one-on-one battle, which is interrupted by the sight of Syalis flying off in a flying contraption also meant for Ker/Ber/Os. Twilight & Co. peace out, taking a rain check on that duel, and chase after Syalis, who reunites with a Demon Teddy and sleeps soundly on the bag of stolen furs as the contraption flies her back to the Demon Castle—a place she’s come to think of as home.

Golden Kamuy – 31 – Borscht and Babes

Thus far, the two separate parties have enjoyed fairly easy going across the subarctic lands of Karafuto, but Sugimoto’s team finally runs out of good luck when their dogsled convey hits a nasty blizzard. The two sleds are separated, and Sugimoto, Tanigaki, and Cikapasi must dig a hole in the frozen ground and destroy their sled to build a fire, which Tanigaki quickly buries so it will burn slower.

They pile the dogs on top and wait for one of two things: the blizzard to let up, or death. Tanigaki warns Sugimoto not to fall asleep or he’ll die, but he still has a semi-waking dream about his time in the trenches with Toraji, followed by a vision of Asirpa which underscores his longing to return “home”—i.e. to her side.

The second group, composed of Tsukishima, Koito, Enonoka and Henke, manage to find shelter in the form of an old pre-war lighthouse occupied by a kindly Russian couple. They put the soldiers to work cleaning the soot off the old lens so they can activate the light, which Sugimoto and Tanigaki eventually see and realize to be their salvation.

Up here in the colder wastes when the weather turns, there are no flags or allegiances beyond to your fellow man, and the hospitable Russian husband and wife are truly a welcome salve in a show packed with double-crossers and chiselers. The Japanese and Ainu kids get to taste borscht for the first time, and find it very vkusno (yummy).

They learn the couple aren’t empty-nesters by choice; one day a Russian defector came upon their home and took away their only daughter, Svetlana. As soon as we saw her photo I suspected we’ll meet her at some point in the future. As thanks for their kindness, Sugimoto tells the couple he’ll ask around for Svetlana’s whereabouts. In exchange, should Asirpa visit the lighthouse, he gives them a photo of himself along with the message that he’s still alive.

From there, Sugimoto’s group camps at an Ainu village near Niitoi, still well south of the border Asirpa & Co. have already crossed. There, Enonoka regales a weary Cikapasi of the local legend of the meko oyasi, or thieving mountain cat. Koito likens the cat to Ogata, since “mountain cat” was not only army slang for “geisha”, of which Ogata is a son, but because a mountain cat is synonymous with deception.

We learn that Asirpa heard the same story of the meko oyasi from her dad that Enonoka tells Cikapasi, and she even shared Cikapasi’s replies. Kiroranke tells her he and Wilk once made bank selling a cat’s pelt, though the meat wasn’t anything to write home about. Asirpa wants to know more, so Kiroranke is taking them to a woman who knew Wilk well: their boss Sofia, currently imprisoned in the prison in Aleksandrovsk-Sakhalinsky, AKA Ako.

Like the meko oyasi, Sofia was an accomplished thief who stole to fund their anti-imperialist operations, earning her the nickname “Golden Hand”. We cut to her being whipped by a prison guard but laughing off the lashes; time and prison have clearly hardened her considerably. And while she’s no longer a young beauty, she just so happens to share a cell with none other than Svetlana, whom we see when Sofia receives a letter in invisible ink from her old subordinate Yulbars, AKA Kiroranke.

For all the raging testosterone of Sugimoto and the other soldiers, this season continues to cultivate a strong theme of feminism. Wilk and Kiroranke were led by a woman, and Wilk in turn raised his daughter to lead the Ainu into a new era. The introduction of Ako Prison, Sofia, and Svetlana presents the possibility that after Sugimoto and Asirpa split apart at one prison, they’re poised to reunite at another.

Rating: 4/5 Stars