Jouran: The Princess of Snow and Blood – 01 (First Impressions)

Dark and brooding, stylish and cool, Jouran is the story of a small band of assassins under the employ of the Tokugawa Shogunate. In this alternate history, Tokugawa Yoshinobu is still in power in 1931 thanks in large part to the discovery of the energy source Ryuumyuaku, or Dragon Vein. As a result, Tokyo is a glamorous city where science and Edo-period tradition merge.

Among the assassins is Yukimura Sawa, our protagonist (voiced by Mimori Suzuko, Kamisama Hajimemashita’s Nanami). Sawa is a stoic, no-nonsense young woman who grudgingly shares her living space with the young orphan Asahi who cooks her meals, and is the type to threaten a flirting guy with murder and not be joking.

Her two fellow assassins are the sardonic Tsukishiro Makoto (the striking Shouta Aoi) and the seductive Hanakaze Elena (the musician Raychell), who refers to Sawa as “the little bitch”. Their group’s leader is grim man named Kuzuhara who believes the dissident group Kuchinawa will attempt to assassinate the shogun at a banquet celebrating the completion of the new Tokyo Castle.

Makoto and Elena go undercover as party guests and end up following a bigwig confirmed to be working with the dissidents on the sly. Sawa is notable for her absence from the party, while lil’ Asahi waits at the dinner table in vain.

Makoto and Elena follow the bigwig and his henchmen to a secluded warehouse where an exchange of materials is taking place, and the assassins quickly take down everyone there. Elena uses a rather unique umbrella crossbow, while Makoto uses what I’d describe as a lightsaber katana.

However, their true target, a kemono or “changeling”, is nowhere to be found. Makoto bombs the facility and he and Elena head to the eastern gate of the castle, where he knows one of the vast network of secret tunnels leads from their current position.

Sawa is there, ready to head off the changeling, doing so by transforming into one herself with the help of a white raven. It’s depicted as a volatile and extremely painful process, but once she’s transformed she resembles a serene yuki-onna.

When she realizes her changeling opponent is the young man who flirted with her at the bookstore, she hesitates momentarily, and is wounded, but ultimately takes care of business, slicing off the changeling’s hand and finishing him off with a haunting poem that matches Sawa’s icy beauty and that of the scene:

Amidst the pitiless white snow
A fleeting dream is scattered
The path back leads only to Hell
I have no regrets

Makoto and Elena arrive just after she returns to human form and passes out. The threat to Yoshinobu would seem to be dealt with, but the next day at the official opening ceremony of Tokyo Castle, we witness scenes of carnage involving more changelings, presumably within its walls.

Sawa is recovering at home, but even in sleep she gets no rest, as she’s transported back to when her brother was murdered along with the rest of her family, by Janome, Kuchinawa’s executioner. She’s vowed not to die and join her family until she gets revenge on Janome, but Asahi seems prepared to kill her in her sleep with a kitchen knife. I guess she doesn’t like being kept waiting for dinner, huh?

Like Sawa, Jouran and its familiar-yet-bizarre alternate Tokyo carries itself with a quiet, assured dignity, but just as Sawa is tormented by trauma and tragedy, corruption, suffering, and death lurk beneath the gleaming Shogunate capital, much of it delivered by monsters in suits and with claws.

Assuming Sawa survives her tiny assassin’s attack, I’m excited to watch her continue to walk the line between her official duty and blood debts.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TenSura – 36 (S2 Part 1 Fin) – Hell Is Empty, and All the Demon Lords Are Here

Rimuru Tempest wakes up in the resurrected Shion’s lap, after a nap of three days. Benumaru asks him for the password they agreed on—when he says “Shion’s cooking…”, Rimuru needs to say “…tastes like shit.” Naturally Rimuru can’t do that, so he contextualizes it as something Benimaru came up with…which he did.

But no sooner does Rimuru wake up does he meet with Albis, Suphia, and Phobio of Eurazania, who report that Demon Lord Milim Nava declared war on their nation. Demon Lord Carrion ordered his lands evacuated—including his underlings—for the ensuing one-on-one battle.

There seems to be something off about Milim here, almost like she’s being controlled. Because of that, Carrion believes he’s more than a match for the dragon girl, and unleashes his ultimate skill Beast Roar right off the bat. The attack does nothing but cause one of Milim’s arms to sting a bit, but it’s more than she expected.

She decides to answer in kind with a skill she’s been working on called Drag0-Nova, which—Milim-Nova was right there!—is not only exceedingly more powerful than Carrion’s best, but utterly destroys the terraced Eurazanian capital. Things go from bad to worse with the Beast King being jumped by Sky Queen Frey, who presumably slits his throat.

Phobio further reports to Rimuru that Demon Lord Frey was last seen flying to Demon Lord Clayman’s domain, suggesting either an alliance with Frey and Milim, or he’s somehow pulling their strings. Even with his and Raphael’s evolution, Rimuru isn’t keep about going up against three Demon Lords.

Fortunately, there’s a super-strong ally he kinda forgot about: the butler-like unnamed archdemon. Rimuru is surprised he wants to serve under him, but agrees, and even gives the guy a name: Diablo. Last week I wondered if this guy was somehow affiliated with Clayman, and that Rimuru fell into a trap by naming him, but it seems Diablo is wholly loyal to our blue blob.

But even with an archdemon by his side, Rimuru still worried that there are just too many problems to deal with at once, from Clayman, Milim, and Frey to the political situation of Falmuth to Sakaguchi and the Western Holy Church. But Raphael chimes in that the last thing might not be a problem for long.

That’s because in her new souped-up evolved Raphael form, the non-corporeal guide formerly known as Great Sage has nearly cracked the Unlimited Imprisonment that seals Veldora. Excited by the news, Rimuru heads to Veldora’s cave, where his adventures reincarnated as a slime first began. Ya know, before he massacred thousands of humans!

(And no, in case you were wondering, Rimuru doesn’t waste a single thought on the terrible things he did to bring back Shion and the others. I guess the ends justified the means, and he’s resolved to carry the mantle of Demon Lord from now on.)

Rimuru creates a double of himself, both to serve as a new humanoid vessel for the freed Veldora and to get a look at his slightly taller, slightly more beautiful appearance. Once the Soul Corridor between Rimuru and Veldora is established, Veldora Tempest the dragon is dumped into the double, which transforms into Veldora Tempest the man. 

Between him and Diablo, and the fact when it comes down to it he and Milim are best buds, Rimuru is well-positioned for future success against the myriad problems that stretch before him and his country, which will be explored in Part 2 of this second season, which will air this summer.

Rating: 4/5 Stars