Attack on Titan – 77 – A Game of Inches

Despite having been beaten up by Eren, Armin still believes their best and only move is to back him, in hopes the Rumbling can protect Paradis from being destroyed by Marley. The others eventually go along with him; though some like Connie just want the chance to slug him. As for Mikasa, she decides not to wear the red scarf into battle for the first time…well, ever.

Reiner thinks he has Eren beaten, but he should’ve remembered…this is Eren, who will only give up when he’s dead. Their wrestling match is interrupted by the arrival of Zeke as the Beast on the top of the wall, using his baseball tosses to take out the airships, Reiner, and Porco. Even Pieck and Magath can’t get a clear shot at Zeke as he rains stone projectiles their way.

As Eren limps towards Zeke, which would result in all the conditions necessary to cause the Rumbling to be fulfilled, Yelena revels in the destruction of the Marleyan airships and scattering of their forces. When Armin, Mikasa, and the others make it to her, she looks down on Armin like a hawk ready to swoop in for the kill, only to change to a tearful smile, deciding to trust that Armin’s on her side.

Colt and Gabi are running through the city when they find Falco held prisoner by Eldians. Both Nile and Falco spot them, and Nile decides to take Falco around the corner to reunite him with Colt and Gabi, declaring that this battle is no place for kids and that they should go home. While hiding, Gabi and Falco overhear their fake Paradis family talking about them.

Falco confesses that he unwittingly sent Eren’s letters to his allies, resulting in the raid on Liberio. Oh, and that he’s in love with Gabi and wanted to marry her and live happily ever after. Gabi briefly blushes, but doesn’t dignify his confession with an answer.

Armin, Mikasa & Co. are pinned down along the rooftops, unable to get close to Eren, while other Eldians fall for the trap of a skeleton Cart Titan, which they assume means they defeated it. Pieck is right as rain under the skeleton, while Magath is still strapped into the turret. Before Zeke can react, he puts a shot right into the Beast Titan’s neck, sending him plummeting off the wall to the ground.

Of course, that might have inadvertently helped Zeke, as he’s now that much closer to Eren, and ending all of this. The question is, is Armin right that Eren is playing some kind of long game and merely playing along with Yelena and Zeke, even going so far as to pretend to disown his two best friends? If he isn’t, what is his plan?

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 07 – Tantrums and Lullabies

While Tanjirou is unconscious, the transformed and leveled-up Nezuko goes to absolute town on Daki, to the point where, again, I kinda felt sorry for the poor demoness. When Daki tries to counter by slicing her opponent to bits, Nezzy’s blood not only coagulates, keeping all her parts together, but burns Daki everywhere it splattered, reminding her of her human death in flames long ago.

The problem, is, Nezzy has no limiter but Tanjirou, and by the time he comes to she’s already inadvertently wounded some human bystanders (not to mention scared the absolute shit out of them). When she smells the humans’ blood, she can’t help but charge towards them. Thankfully, Tanjirou is there to stop her from killing anyone. But he calm his sister down and protect the bystanders from Daki, who is partially healed and pissed.

Things look bad for Tanjirou, but Uzui shows up just when he should, cutting all of Daki’s attacking belts in the blink of an eye. And nobody, not even Daki, realizes that he also beheaded her with that same arriving attack. Uzui doesn’t consider her an Upper Rank, as how could someone of such rank be holding their head in their hands like she is now?

Just as I love how Daki is someone with whome you can occasionally sympathize, I also love how nonchalant and casual Uzui goes about his business. When he sees a hulked-up Nezuko trying to break free from her undersized brother, he basically tells Tanjirou to get it together put Nezuko to sleep already. The problem is, Nezzy doesn’t seem to be listening to him.

That’s when Tanjirou takes Uzui’s offhand advice to “sing her a lullaby”, which he does while she struggles. Suddenly she’s transported back to better days when she was walking with her mom, who was singing a lullaby to her baby brother. Big Nezzy bursts into tears, then shrinks and falls right asleep, ending one of the many threats facing the Demon Slayers.

The next problem is that despite being beheaded, Daki’s body isn’t disintegrating. Daki doesn’t think much of this, as perhaps it will just take a while, until Daki starts having a full on tantrum about how mean everyone’s been to her. Then she calls out to her “brother”, and Uzui instinctively goes in for the kill…only for his strike to miss. A second demon sprouts out of Daki’s back and moves her to safety.

The second demon is her brother, Gyuutarou, as grotesque a demon as she is beautiful. He heals her and calms her down in much the same way we’ve seen Tanjirou calm his demon sister. What with Nezzy being almost ever-present in her box, you could say both pairs of siblings are attached by, well, not the hip, but certainly the back.

Uzui didn’t consider Daki an Upper Rank because she was so easy to behead, but beheading didn’t kill her, and now we learn that she’s not only not a single demon, but the brother within her is the demon Uzui has been searching for all along. It made me wonder if you somehow managed to separate Gyuutarou whether Daki could be redeemed, as he’s the brains behind their symbiotic existence, controlling her from within.

For now, she’s very much one-half of the latest boss, and powerful enough that even Uzui will have to break a sweat. With Inousuke and Zenitsu finally catching up and Tanjirou ready to rejoin the fray once he stashes Nezuko away (which…rats), this arc is ratcheting up at precisely the right time.

Tokyo 24th Ward – 02 – Fifth Wheel

Shuuta, Ran, Kouki, Mari, and Asumi have been friends since they were little, but in a flashback to those halcyon days, we see that even then Mari was in a state of turmoil rising out of the fact that…well, she wasn’t Asumi. Asumi was the glue that kept them all together; indeed, she was the one who declared RGB was a thing. And now she’s gone.

After years of being a kind of fifth wheel, Mari suddenly found herself one of four, and the estrangement of RGB resulted. That said, she’s still close to all three, especially Shuu, who is her neighbor. Their rooms are even across from one another, so she can leap between their houses to hang out—an arrangement I’ve always longed for. But Shuu is still convinced Asumi could still be alive, shuttering a window Mari can’t leap through.

As Mari meets with each of the members of RGB currently having a post-memorial fight, we also get flashbacks centered on each member. Asumi, who established RGB, deploys them where she believes their skills are most needed—even if it’s conscripting Shuu for goalkeeper duty on the sports field. As a grade schooler Mari joked that she “just can’t win” against Asumi…and that’s seemingly borne out in both past and present.

When Mari checks in on Ran and DoRed, he shows her a mural honoring Asumi while also depicting her as a badass avenging angel, a glimpse of a possible Asumi that never was since her life was snatched away so early. This mural reminds Mari of the time Asumi had Ran paint a mural in the bathhouse. Asumi was always taking the initiative and inspiring action; Mari was always in the background smiling.

Last but not least is Asumi’s actual big brother Kouki. She’s ostensibly there to gather info on a restaurant at the big modern mall administered by Suidou’s family’s Zaibatsu, which is not only her home shopping district’s main rival for the upcoming Gourmet Festival, but also a threat to her district’s very survival. But she’s also kinda sorta there to mediate RGB’s latest  tiff.

Her meeting with Kouki coincides with a Kouki-centric flashback, in which he is utterly failing to hand out flyers for a previous GourFes. Asumi, assigned to another section and having already passed out all of her flyers, urges her brother to wear a smile and appear more friendly if he wants to pass his flyers out. Before long, all the major players in the district are out to help market the Festival. Asumi, bursting with energy and charisma, simply drew everyone towards her, like a magnet-girl.

Back in the present, while walking the dog that got her in so much trouble last week, Mari ends up overhearing a conversation between her old teacher Mr. Shirakaba and SARG officer Chikushi. She learns that Mon Jungle, her family’s restaurant Itadaki’s rival at the new mall, is run by a shady quasi-gang called Yabusame. She emerges from her hiding spot after Chikushi leaves, and Shirakaba assures her the GourFes won’t be rigged.

This leads to a flashback involving Shirakaba, whose students (RGB, Asumi, and Mari) want to keep the old elementary school they attended from being demolished. Mari may not be the nucleus of their group, but it’s clear Itadaki is the group’s base of operations.

It’s there where Mari’s creative okonomiyaki depiction of a blank chalkboard gives Asumi the idea to cover the school in graffiti and spread the word of its historical, cultural, and sentimental importance to the 24th Ward. Of course, as soon as the school and the graffiti idea came up, I thought of the cold open to the first episode and I was suddenly filled with dread.

That’s because Asumi’s idea, unwittingly sparked by Mari, ended up being the death of her. As an old building in disrepair, the school was vulnerable to fire. When that fire finally happened, Mari had Asumi by the arm, outside. All she has to do is not let go and insist they wait for the firefighters. But Asumi insists on being a hero, lets go of Mari, runs into the school to try to save others…and ends up perishing in Shuu’s arms.

The flashbacks make it feel like so long ago, and yet it was so not long ago Mari still has a video on her phone of the aftermath of the fire, admonishing her future self to never forget what happened that night. Even since then, Mari has kept striving to keep up with Asumi, trying to fulfill that role as glue and nucleus, and has found herself sorely lacking. She looks up at the night sky and tells Asumi she can’t handle RGB…not on her own.

However, Mari’s three meetings with the three members of RGB inadvertently bear fruit: they’ve all gathered at Itadaki…for her sake; to make GourFes a success. They snipe at each other a bit, but they still gathered at that same table they always gathered, even though Asumi isn’t there anymore. As different as they all are, and as deep as their wounds are, they still love Mari, and want to support her.

The strategy meeting itself isn’t all that productive as Mari manages to get the boys so stuff on okonomiyaki they get food comas, but it doesn’t matter. Mari managed to get RGB back together, through their stomachs. It’s then when Asumi appears before Mari as she’s washing dishes, offering her blessing going forward while also affirming how important Mari and Itadaki are to the circle of friends.

After one week, I was a little miffed that this show seemingly focused on three dudes. But this week Sakuragi Mari was the undisputed protagonist. Forget tough; Mari felt like Asumi was an impossible act to follow, but she ended up surprising herself, as much as this episode surprised me with its ability to plumb the depths of envy, love, longing, yearning, loss, grief, regret…and redemption. It didn’t feature a single moment of madcap superpower action. It didn’t need to.

Love of Kill – 01 (First Impressions) – With a Song in Her Heart

Bounty Hunter Chateau Dankworth (Oonishi Saori) comes afoul of a killer more skilled than she: Song Ryang-ha (Shimono Hiro). He overpowers her, but it’s not her life he wants to steal; it’s her heart. So he lets her go in exchange for her name and number.

While Chateau’s options were limited that night, she quickly comes to regret the one she chose. Song proceeds to constantly text, call, and even send her a video of a target of hers he caught first, and is willing to offer her in a trade.

They meet at a juice bar Song digs, but as you’d expect, Chateau wants to get down to cold, logical business, not juice. Her gambit involves surprising and then stunning him with a taser, but he’s to quick, and almost seems to predict her movements. It’s gotta be frustrating for a skilled killer like Chateau to more than meet her match.

Song’s terms for giving her her target are nothing monetary. Rather, he wants to go on a date with her for Christmas Eve. Chateau, who distrusts anything free but can’t pass up the opportunity to cross a name off her list, goes along with it, showing up an hour late doing the bare minimum needed for their encounter to be interpreted as a “date”.

Song takes thing to a fancy hotel room with a gorgeous city view, complete with dinner and a 1982-vintage wine. Chateau wisely remains at a remove, wondering out loud how Song plans to “use her” and why she’d be “of interest” to him. To Song’s credit, he doesn’t try anything truly vile, and when Chateau wants to leave, they check out.

Before parting ways at the station, Song does get in a quick farewell hug to “confirm” something: her “scent” doesn’t bother him, while everyone else smells “putrid”. We end with a cryptic voiceover portending a “final stop” in their romance “ending in tears”, then a flashback to a young Chateau in the back of a car, presumably her parent murdered in the driver’s seat.

Love of Kill had me feeling a lot of things. Contempt for Song, mostly, and sympathy for Chateau, who couldn’t escape his clutches if she tried. I love stoic, logical characters like Chateau; even though she doesn’t really say or do much, she exudes a wonderfully cool detached aura, which makes Song’s stalking that much more upsetting.

The thing is, as someone rather desensitized to antiheroes (Soprano, White, Draper, and Dexter to name a few), I didn’t despise Song, and even kinda sorta came to understand why he decided to pursue Chateau with such gusto. If everyone in the world “smelled” terrible to you and made you sick, what would you do if you suddenly found someone who didn’t?

So far I can’t really see Chateau falling for this guy, but at the very least they seem to be kindred spirits: killers keeping themselves at an expansive remove from the rest of humanity. Regardless, I definitely want to see where this goes.

Attack on Titan – 76 (S4, E17) – The Paths Not Taken

The drip-drip-drip trickle of Titan’s final season resumes, and while Part 2 leaves open the possibility of a Part 3 down the road, I’m just going to assume the anime will be wrapped up sooner rather than later. That said, while this episode picks up where last March’s Part 1 finale left off…not a ton of movement actually happens this week. Instead, the episode establishes where we are and sets the table for what comes next.

It’s confirmed Zeke is very much alive and in play (his “dream” about being rebuilt from sand in “The Paths” had a haunting beauty to it), while Hange manages to slip away from Floch with the still barely-alive Levi. As for the big Marleyan strike against Eren, he’s not particularly impressed, considering their tactics “desperate”.  That said, he ignores Yelena’s plea for him to revert to human form and hide, preferring to do battle on the surface. Eren may be ostensibly on Zeke’s side, but he’s mostly on his own side.

This results in him having to battle both Porco in the Jaw and Reiner in the Armored Titans, though with the power of the War Hammer he acquits himself well. The problem is, while he’s mocking Marley for not having enough information about what he is capable of, he and the Jaegerists fall into yet another Marleyan trap.

Pieck transforms into the Cart Titan and takes Gabi to relative safety where General Magath is staging his forces. His men help her mount a new-and-improved turret, and while Reiner and Porco keep Eren distracted, Pieck gets off not one but two headshots that shut down the Founding Titan’s motor skills, leaving Eren immobile and vulnerable to being eaten.

After quite a bit of thrilling action, the final act is a lot of standing around and talking in the citadel’s stockade. Onyankopon, who insists he and the other volunteers didn’t know about Zeke’s Eldian euthanization plan, begs Eren’s former friends to help him help Eren avoid being eaten. Connie in particular has had it with his comrades betraying him, but it warrants discussion as anything is preferable to being kept imprisoned.

For her part, Mikasa wants to help Eren, but for the first time in her life, considers that merely a factor of her Ackerman blood. Armin, despite what Eren said and did to them, believes Eren lied about that, in order to maintain his uneasy alliance with Yelena and Zeke. As long as they think he’s their ally, he can move and act far more freely, even if it meant being awful to his friends. But is that really the case? Barring further extensions, we’ll find out soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 06 – No Regard for Safety

Tanjirou continues to just keep up with Daki, until the battle in her pantry results in her absorbing the belts of her subordinate/familiar and leveling her up, complete with more veiny skin and brighter, longer hair. All the commotion finally causes one of the townsfolk to emerge from their home to complain. Daki isn’t pleased by this human’s attitude.

She demonstrates her heightened power by destroying the entire block in the blink of an eye, killing several bystanders. I appreciated that the show finally acknowledged that this wasn’t just an abandoned part of the city, but an extremely dangerous place to hold a fight with an Upper Six, resulting in horrific bloodshed. Tanjirou is slashed across his chest shielding the complaining man (who still loses an arm) and for a few moments, despairs.

Then he remembers the letter from Kyoujirou’s father apologizing for his behavior, telling him he’s actually proud of both of his sons, and saying the red mark on Tanjirou’s head means he was chosen to wield Sun Breathing. Tanjirou isn’t so sure; after all, it’s not a birthmark but a burn sustained saving his little brother, then made worse during the selection. Even so, he’s still going to fight as long as he can. He grabs Daki by the leg and the dazzling battle continues on a rooftop.

Tanjirou says things to Daki that may just be representing his own sense of justice, but they match what his father said to Muzan once upon a time. Since Muzan’s cells are in Daki, so are the memories, mixed with fuzzy memories of the destitute human she once was. Seeing this, and watching Daki waiver in the present, give her character depth and even pathos, especially as Tanjirou gets stronger and faster and cuts through her many belts.

Even so, Tanjirou is only human, and has eventually bled and exerted himself so much he can no longer move and barely breathe. The timing couldn’t be worse, as he was less than a second away from beheading Daki for good. Thankfully, Daki is caught off guard by suddendly self-KO’ed opponent. Before she can kill him, Nezuko finally, finally takes the stage in her brother’s place.

Daki quickly makes mincemeat of Nezuko, whom Muzan ordered her to kill and whom she sees as an only partially-formed demon who hasn’t eaten enough humans to be a threat. However, Nezuko is as pissed at Daki as she is at Muzan for killing her and Tanjirou’s family. That rage causes her heal as fast as an Upper Six, power up into an adult form covered in leaf tattoos, and chomps through her bamboo gag, revealing her beautiful avenging scowl for the first time in a while.

Tanjirou’s brother once told him that it scared him when Tanjirou or Nezuko got mad for their siblings’ sake, because they would lose all regard for their own safety. Now that’s basically how Tanjirou and Nezuko always roll these days, so while Nezuko is stomping on Daki’s skull now, it may only buy her and Tanjirou a little more time. Tengen, Inousuke and Zenitsu need to hurry their asses up.

Tokyo 24th Ward – 01 (First Impressions) – The Third Way

Aoi Shuuta, Suidou Kouki, and Akagi Ran were once-inseperable childhood friends, with Shuuta in particular training to one day become a “hero”. Then one horrible night the school burned down, and Kouki’s sister Asumi died saving the life of a classmate. When he most needed to be a hero, Shuuta was too late to save her.

Fast-forward a year, and RGB have graduated and gone their separate ways, only to reunite for the memorial held at the one-year anniversary of the fire. We learn Ran leads a guerilla multimedia group, standing in cheeky defiance of the cold order represented by Kouki’s wealthy businessman and politician father, the 24th Ward’s mayor. Shuuta…helps out at his folks’ bakery, but is otherwise listless.

When the three end up convening by chance at their mutual friend Mari’s for okonomiyaki, the three lads’ phones suddenly ring at the same time. It’s no ordinary call, traveling up into their ear canals and “hacking” their brains with the voice and image of the dearly departed Asumi, who tells them to “guide the future”, showing them two scenarios: allowing a runaway train to kill someone caught on the tracks, or switch the track and derail the train, killing 150 people. Classic Trolley Problem.

In an added instance of the universe being particularly cruel, the person who ends up caught on the tracks is Mari, who was taking her puppy to the vet when she got caught up in the crowds surrounding the ceremony celebrating the new fully-automated train. The pup got free and ran straight onto the tracks, and Mari loses her phone while pursuing it.

Suddenly realizing they feel lighter and tasks come easier to them, the team of RGB pools their skills and resources to avoid either of the futures not-Asumi presented, and instead create a third in which no one is hurt. Suidou, the politician’s son and intern for the 24th’s emergency service SARG, relies on his dad’s trusty underling Tsuzuragawa to track him down and give him a motorcycle so he can rush to his father and make sure he decides not to risk derailing the train.

Ran, the hacker of the trio, chugs a dozen energy drinks and manages to activate the train’s emergency brakes, which are designed to stop in 600 meters no matter what—an instance of the artist actually saluting government efficiency and rules. He’s helped by Kinako, a chipper member of his guerilla art/media team.

Finally, there’s Shuuta, who is simply extremely fast and strong; the muscle of the group. Whatever not-Asumi’s call did to them, it enhanced his already considerable athletic ability, enabling him to basically Spider-Mans/Neos his way to the train long before anyone else can. Kouki and Ran know this of their friend, and after they do everything they can, they leave the rest to him.

Shuuta is very nearly derailed form his mission himself when he’s suddenly dropped back in the middle of that hellish night when he was too late to save Asumi. But he shakes it off, accelerates ahead of the train, then kicks off and launches himself at Mari, plucking both her and her dog out of harms way. Before Mari even knows what the heck is going on, Shuuta runs off, asking her not to tell anyone he was there.

After this first heroic mission dropped in their hands by the mysterious not-Asumi, the three visit the real Asumi’s grave to pay their respects, only to end up in an argument that highlights how far apart they’ve become in the ensuing year. Shuuta wants to believe Asumi is still alive, but just saying that makes Asumi’s brother Kouki want to punch him. Ran, the artist who nevertheless isn’t about to believe in magic, agrees with Kouki; Asumi is gone. But then…what the heck was that call?

We return to the opening moments of the double-length episode, where something is going on involving the somehow-preserved brain or soul of Asumi … or something. The framing device with the strange, fantastical machinery appeals to me less than the prospect of watching three scarred old friends who couldn’t be more different come together to make their beloved 24th Ward a better place…and possibly solve the Asumi mystery. This was a strong start to an intriguing new winter series.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 05 – The Demon’s Pantry

Tengen looks to be on his way to relieve Tanjirou from his ongoing duel with Daki, but he hears a battle going on deep underground, and also finally locates one of his wives, Hinatsuru, voiced by Tanezaki Atsum (Vivy). There’s actualy a lot of characterization packed into their little reunion moment, with Uzui clearly just happy his wife is alive, and Hinatsuru, while certainly glad to be in Tengens embrace again, feels like she failed in being useful to him.

It’s mostly okay that Tengen is indisposed, since Tanjirou changes tactics and uses Hinokami Kagura Fire Breathing instead of Water, certain his body just isn’t well-suited for the latter. Daki is surprised by how scrappy this ugly kid is, but he’s still not really giving her headaches.

You get the feeling Daki can end this fight at any moment due to their power gap, but waffles between wanting to kill Tanjirou and wanting to continue to be entertained by him. It makes sense for a high-level demon like her to want to see just how far this opponent can last. Power often breeds boredom.

Meanwhile in Ogimoto House, Inousuke scares the hell out of his co-workers while running around breaking shit and finally chopping a hole in the floor to reach the demon presence he feels. He dislocates all his limbs and worms his way into a massive demon larder, where dozens of women—and Zenitsu—are trapped in a web of obi.

Turns out this demon, which Inousuke names “Worm Belt”, because it grosses him out, is a subordinate of Daki, tasked with keeping her beautiful food fresh and safe. It’s thanks to Inousuke’s beast-like nose that he’s able to infiltrate the pantry and free the women. When the Worm Belt goes on the offense and threatens the freed women, Inousuke is bailed out by Tengen’s other two wives whom he freed: Suma (Touyama Nao) and Maiko (Ishigami Shizuka).

While they certainly give Inousuke a boost in his fight, they’re not Demon Slayers, just very strong shinobi, and can’t break the stalemate. Fortunately, Zenitsu is also free and still unconscious, which means he’s at both his least annoying and most badass and effective, launching a sixfold lightning attack that deals the Worm Belt a body blow. An assist goes to the slightly frightening Muscle Mice for getting retrieving his sword.

Of course, it’s Tengen himself, blasting through the earth above the larder with his twin blades, who finishes off the semi-boss in one fell swoop. Good to see the Worm Belt acknowledge how screwed she is once a Hashira arrives. Once the enemy is defeated, he greets his two wives and comforts them as he did Hinatsusu. Makio, for her part, has always found it odd that he values their lives above his own or even the common folk—but that’s just love, baby.

Five episodes in, Tengen has proven to be a much more interesting character than Rengoku, Daki has proven to be a much more interesting villain than the Mugen Train, and the combat animation just as creative and, shall I say…extra-flashy. The outing’s only demerit is still no Nezuko.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 04 – When Cat’s Away, the Muscle-Mice Play

When Zenitsu fails to show at their scheduled rooftop meet-up, Uzui confesses to Tanjirou and Inousuke that in his haste to save his wives, he may have made some bad decisions. That includes involving the lower-ranked Slayers to begin with. He orders them to fall back while he takes care of the district demon himself. They don’t, and instead Tanjirou agrees to meet Inousuke at his house to search for the demon themselves.

Before departing from his house, Tanjirou meets with Koinatsu, who spends most of her time early in the episode throwing death flags. Naturally, she knew he was a boy all along, but also knew he must’ve had his reasons. While there were moments when I thought perhaps Koinatsu would turn out to be a demon as well, I’m glad she’s just a very kind human.

As it’s her last night in the district (one of the death flags, along with giving her treasured hairpins to her attendants), Koinatsu is glad Tanjirou will remain to take care of the other girls, and save those who are missing. No sooner does Tanjirou excuse himself does Daki arrive in Koinatsu’s room, ready to devour her as a beauty-obsessed demoness like her only devours beautiful humans.

Tanjirou is on his way to Inousuke when that sharp nose of his picks up the sweet scent of a demon, and follows it where it leads. When he’s late for the meet-up, Inousuke drives his head through the ceiling, orders the “muscular mice” (!) ninjuu Uzui assigned to him to fetch his swords, dons his boar mask, and blasts out of there to take care of the demon problem himself.

While splitting up increased the chances someone would encounter either the demon or one of Uzui’s wives, it has the side-effect of ensuring the Demon Slayers can’t operate as a combined force. Zenitsu’s kindness led to him discovering Daki on accident, but Inousuke and Tanjirou are acting recklessly by not going to Uzui first.

This results in Tanjirou, the fourth-lowest ranked Slayer, having to confront Daki, an Upper Moon Six. Seeing poor Koinatsu absorbed into Daki’s impossibly long and twisting obi is most definitely an unsettling sight.

Tanjirou’s guard is down when Daki delivers the first blow, but unlike Zenitsu, he doesn’t lose consciousness (must be that ultra-hard head). Instead, he shakes off his body’s numbness, summons Water Breathing, and goes toe-to-toe with Daki right there in what I imagine to be one of the quieter parts of the district where no one is around to watch (or be collateral damage). A striking and fluid battle ensues.

Daki is impressed with Tanjirou’s toughness and airborne skills, and wouldn’t mind eating his pretty eyes. It’s clear she’s simply toying with him, which means unless he manages to break out some Hinokami Kagura, Tanjirou is in a world of pain unless Uzui and/or Inousuke show up soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 03 – Something is Rotten in Yoshiwara

After a noir-ish monochrome stinger and the new OP (which fuckin’ whips) we join Inousuke as he tries and utterly fails to conduct a discreet investigation of the woman who won’t come out of her room. He goes inside, feels wind even though the windows are closed, and provokes…whatever is hiding in the rafters to go on a wild and destructive chase through Ogimoto house. He’s like a boar in a brothel.

Over at Kyougoku House, Zenitsu puts down the shamisen, opens his ears, and comes to the aid of one of the young attendants, whom he finds with a brusie on her cheek in an absolutely trashed room. As he comforts her, the presence of a demon suddenly appears behind him. She is the courtesan Warabihime Oiran…and the arc’s main antagonist.

Sawashiro Miyuki is perfectly cast as the two-faced, two-voiced, but always imposing and imperious Warabihime, whom we learn was responsible for the murder of the madam of Ogimoto House. The minute the madam blurted out that she didn’t think Warabihime was human, her life was forfeit, as she is dropped from a great height and not eaten by the demonness, who is ranked Upper Moon Six. I’ll go on record as saying I love the character’s design, both in Courtesan or Demon Mode.

No sooner do we see her cruel and murderous side than we get a glimpse of her submissive and tender side, as Muzan makes a surprise appearance to both praise her (“keep up the evil work”) and warn her of potential Demon Slayer Corps interference. We learn her real name is Daki, and Muzan has big plans for her…as long as she keeps killing. I wonder if that’s what she really wants?

Fast forward a couple of days, and shortly after punching “Zenko” through two walls, Daki identifies him as a Demon Slayer, if only a weak one. Still, she restrains herself from attacking him further in order to maintain her cover, even as Zenitsu has blown his simply by not getting as hurt as he should have.

The cute little attendant Zenitsu saved and her two colleagues nurse Zenitsu back to health, and they comment on how they’ve never met anyone in this house who isn’t simply looking out for herself. It looks as though the episode is about to end on a sweet note…but then Daki’s snake-like obi instantaneously curl, whip, and envelop our yellow-haired crybaby.

Just like that, she has two captives, with neither Tanjirou nor Inousuke particularly hot on the trail and Suma and Hinatsuru still at large.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 02 – The Sparkling Streets

Now that’s more like it. Without further ado (aside from a brief comic scene at the Butterfly House) Uzui leads Tanjirou, Zenitsu and Inousuke to the dazzling Yoshiwara Entertainment District. Inousuke experiences full sensory overload, while Zenitsu is overwhelmed by all the pretty ladies. You really feel the density of a place like this with the teeming crowds and lights that simulate daytime. It’s a great setting filled with lush visuals.

Uzui finds an inn and briefs his three underlings on their mission: infiltrate the district, look for his brides, and find the demon who has taken up residence here. Uzui has three brides, all kunoichi who have already embedded themselves in three of the district’s brothels: Suma, Makio, and Hinatsuru. I for one am glad for the sudden glut of female characters.

As for how Uzui intends to infiltrate those houses? By dressing the boys in drag and passing them off as homely prostitutes. Their makeup does them no favors, but at least once the Ogimoto House chaperone washes it off “Inoko’s” face, she sees what a looker “she” is and celebrates her shrewd purchase. “Zenko” ends up at Kyougoku House, where he impresses with his spirited shamisen play.

As for Tan-er, “Sumiko”, he ends up at Tokito House, home of the surpassingly beautiful and graceful high-ranking courtesan Koinatsu Oiran. Through some maiko scuttlebutt he learns about the rumor of Suma committing “Ashinuke”, i.e. running away before paying your debts. Tanjirou shows how hard it is to lie about anything, even being Suma’s sister in order to get any information.

A demon could spirit away a woman and easily have it look like she’s committing Ashinuke. While Tanjirou worries about Suma, Inousuke overhears two of his colleagues mentioning how Makio hasn’t left her room. Turns out he has every right to be suspicious, as in the next scene we see Makio strung up by long obis, being taunted and tortured by the district’s resident demon.

I have no doubt that Makio, along with Suma and Hinatsuru, can handle themselves in a fight, so it speaks to the power of this demon that she’s restrained. While I initially groaned at the prospect of watching the boys flail about in drag, I enjoyed the little slices of district life we got thanks to their infiltrating the three houses. Hopefully they can cut through the rumors and locate Uzui’s wives without blowing their covers.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 01 – Flash in the Pan

I’m on record as saying Rengoku wasn’t established enough as a character to warrant what felt like a 20 minute-long death scene, and that maudlin atmosphere returns to start this new arc-opening double-episode, which is really more of a grab bag of epilogues to the Mugen Train arc. It does its job: getting our demon slayin’ boys off the grief train and onto their next mission to the entertainment (i.e. red light) district. But a cohesive episode it is not.

Lest we forget how goshdarn powerful Muzan is, Akaza arrives at the mansion where Muzan is posing as the adopted son of kind wealthy couple, and has his ass handed to him. Muzan is not impressed that his underling was able to defeat one measly Hashira; he wants every last demon slayer wiped off the face of the earth. It kinda makes you wonder: why doesn’t he just do it himself? He’s clearly strong enough.

Tanjirou visits the Rengoku home to deliver a message to Kyoujurou’s family, and meets his fallen friend’s meak and underpowered little brother Senjurou and his drunken former-Hashira father. Both grieve in their own ways, but Tanjirou is not about to let the dad get away with bashing and mocking his own son, and gives him a patented Kamado Headbutt.

After receiving Kyoujurou’s sword guard and a promise from Senjurou that he’ll piece back together the Flame Hashira Chronicles his dad tore up, Tanjirou returns to the Butterfly Mansion to rest, heal, and train, aided by Aoi, Sumi, Kiyo, and Naho. It’s a pleasant and fun enough way to re-introduce the cast for those who like me may not have seen them since last summer, while enabling the show to break out its comic zaniness.

Months pass, and the three lads all go off to defeat various low-to-mid-level demons in nearby villages. One such mission represents the only real non-flashback action sequence, and is also the first time we see Nezuko, which occurs halfway through this 46-minute outing. That’s too late if you ask me, but it was good to see the siblings fighting together to bring down a demon.

This new arc’s quirky Hashira character does not ingratiate himself with Tanjirou, Zenitsu, Inousuke, or me: not when he’s forcibly carrying Aoi and Naho away for some undisclosed mission seemingly requiring women. When the three lads surround him and Tanjirou says they’ll go with him in their place, it doesn’t make a lot of sense…didn’t he need women? He also spanks Aoi…for no discernable reason.

So yeah, this Sound Hashira Uzui Tengen guy seems like a real piece of work, in contrast to the brash but fundamentally decent Rengoku. I also have no idea what he’s going for in the fashion and accessory department…only that it’s a lot. Fortunately, the Aimer-sung OP shook off the cynical cobwebs and got be back into a Demon Slayer state of mind, which is to accept wild changes in tone from overcooked drama to madcap comedy and everything in between, this time in a fresh urban setting.

86 – 21 – Good Knight

As expected, 86 gets right down to it with continuing the pursuit of Morpho. Shin seems to have gotten the hint that it’s to be a team effort, but then in the first five minutes he loses Anju, Theo, Kurena and Raiden in short order. They got him as far as they could take him; the rest is up to him.

Frederica, who had been riding with Raiden, transfers to Fido, whom Shin then orders to hide with Frederica confined in the cargo hold. He wants her, at least, to survive to try to do something about Kiriya, especially should Shin fail.

As Shin and Kiri/Morpho stare each other down, there’s a distinct epic “final showdown” atmosphere to the proceedings, which is all too appropriate considering how close we are to season’s end. It’s not as if this isn’t going to be resolved one way or another within these last episodes.

Taking out all of Shin’s comrades in such short order raises the stakes to a ridiculous degree; now most of the pieces are off the board. Shin is still flashing his gallows smirk, but isn’t in any hurry to commit suicide, and shows off his full complement of talents and skills as he draws ever nearer to Morpho.

Raiden, who we last saw with quite a bit of shrapnel in his arm, manages to gather himself enough to save Shin from what could have been a fatal attack, but it’s ultimately Frederica breaking free from Fido and contacting Kiriya directly that truly gives Shin the opening he needs.

It also gives Frederica the opportunity she’s always desired to try to bring her trusty knight back from the darkness. Alas, all that is left for him is the battlefield, even as his princess stands right there before him. Killing his fellow Nouzen Shinei remains a top priority, but when Frederica puts a gun to her own head, he’s suddenly very distracted from that priority.

Not for long, mind you, but long enough for Shin to reach Kiriya’s cockpit and put his very last round through his head. This final boss battle is 86 combat at its very best, with visuals at moments approaching the lyrical or profound. Fancy words aside, it’s very awesome looking, and accompanied by some top-notch SFX and that always excellent Sawano Hiroyuki score.

In the end, Kiri’s demise is immediately preceded by Frederica looking upon him, Shin, and Rei together in royal Giadian military attire, before Kiri joins Rei walking into the light, leaving Frederica and Shin. Seconds after Kiri dies, Morpho self-destructs, seemingly enveloping both Shin and Frederica and leaving us to wonder who, if anyone, will still be breathing next week. Until then, I need to catch my breath.

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