To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 15 – A Punk-Ass Villain At Work

Looks like Touma and Index’s story is on hold as we return to Academy City, presumably at the same time the two are in Britain. With the ITEM, SCHOOL, BLOCK and MEMBER groups officially “defunct”, the remaining members of ITEM (Hamazura, Takitsubo, and Kinuhata) consider their next moves.

Meanwhile the group, er, GROUP, consisting of Accelerator, Tsuchimikado, Musujime and Etzali, continues to execute jobs. Boring jobs, to hear it from Accelerator. He repeatedly calls himself a “punk-ass villain” even as he’s rescuing a woman being used as a “punching bag” or saving a pregnant woman’s life.

Musujime also sends him 100 meters underground where he saves a group of kids from terrorists hoping to use a particle accelerator to hold the governing board hostage. Meanwhile, a friend of SCHOOL’s sniper Sunazara, one Stephanie Gorgeouspalace, decides to kill her former boss, seeking revenge against all of Academy City.

As GROUP is given fresh orders to kill off the 20 remaining terrorists of Spark Signal, all Accelerator wants to know about is the mysterious DRAGON; Kinuhata then informs Hamazura that the remaining pieces of the defunct groups are being combined and given the same mission as GROUP. Kinuhata doesn’t want to be on the new combined team, so she asks Hamazura to help her take out the terrorists alone.

As GROUP engages the terrorists in the subway, Aceelerator saves the pregnant woman, and when one of her students thanks him, he shoots at him, telling him to get lost. Such a pleasant fellow, Accelerator!

Hamazura drives as Kinuhata takes on a six-winged drone chasing them, then the two part ways. All Hamazura wants to do is retrieve Kinuhata and get back to Takitsubo, but he gets a call from SCHOOL’s “Girl in the Dress” known also by her ability Measure Heart, telling him to pass on the message to Kinuhata that the terrorists she’s after have seized a private room in School District 3. So that’s where Hamazura’s now headed.

I have to admit to a bit of whiplash after the British Coup arc—I’d hoped we’d get to see a bit more Touma and Index, but I suppose they’re at a good stopping point, and time doesn’t stand still back home in Acedemy City. It’s also notable that there was no Misaka sighting this week; I wonder if she’ll see any action during this reorganization of groups and continuing terrorist activity.

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Sword Art Online: Alicization – 15 – Books and Covers

This is an episode of jumping to conclusions with regard to one’s opponents…or is it? Eugeo and Kirito are seemingly caught off guard when the two young Axiom nuns plunge their paralyzing poison daggers into their chest and back, respectively. Linel and Fizel are not merely nuns, but Integrity Knights in their own right. And they both revel in having been seen as nuns just long enough to draw in close enough to attack their prey.

The girls drag the paralyzed guys up to the fiftieth floor Hall of Ghostly Light, where the Four Whirling Blades and Vice Commander Fanatio Synthesis Two are waiting. The nun knights, the last two sheltered survivors of one of the Ponfex’s resurrection experiments, don’t want the other knights stealing their thunder, but still need witnesses when they behead the criminals.

Unfortunately for them, Kirito only mistook them for harmless kids for an instant; far less time than they thought. When he noticed apprentices were disobeying orders (an impossibility in the cathedral) and wearing ruby oak sheaths (for poison daggers), he quietly recited a poison-dissolving art, which completed in time for him to stop them and give them a taste of their own medicine.

He cures Eugeo, then tells him to quietly recite a perfect weapon control art when he can and wait for his signal. Then he drives past the Four Whirling Blades and crosses swords with Fanatio one-on-one. Perhaps impressed by his cheek, Fanatio orders the subordinates to stand back as they duel.

Fanatio learns that despite a sword that contains the reflective power of the sun itself, Kirito and his black sword are no slouch. He chips off a piece of Fanatio’s helmet, endures the heavenly sword’s beam-like strikes (to non-vital areas) and eventually knocks her helmet off. That’s right: Fanatio is a woman. The look of momentary shock in Kirito and Eugeo’s faces pisses her off to no end; they’re faces she’s seen all her life.

But the one who seems most upset that Fanatio is a woman is…Fanatio herself. It is Fanatio reading her own book by its cover, and reading Kirito’s cover as Just Another Guy who won’t fight her with everything he has. As with Zel and Nel, Kirito quickly moves beyond his instinctive surprise and fights her on equal terms; as he says and we know, he’s no stranger to being beaten by swordswomen.

A splendid duel ensues; one that Fanatio almost seems grateful for, as for once she isn’t being underestimated or not taken seriously, despite her “detestable” face. Kirito asks her if she thinks she’s so detestable, why does she doll herself up so; it’s strongly implied she loved/loves Commander Bercouli Synthesis One.

But there’s no room for love, or anything else, for Integrity Knights. Only “glory” through obedience to the Pontifex. And so even when Eugeo unleashes his Blue Rose Sword upon her, he can’t quite finish the job. Part of that is that he trying to beat her with his hatred, and as Kirito calls for his own weapon enhancement, he corrects Eugeo’s thinking.

They’re not there to kill the enemies they hate, but to save the people they love—as well as those enemies themselves—and end the tyranny of Axiom so humans can live normal lives. And he’s going to do it or die trying.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 02 – It’s Not as Simple as Win or Lose

As a show that blasts through a lot of rapid-fire dialogue and shifts from one scenario to another, tackling a wide variety of interpersonal and societal concepts, it would seem Love is War trusts the intelligence of its audience.

But if that’s the case, why spend the first four minutes of this episode repeating all of the introductory explanations of how things work in the show? Did they just need to fill time, or did the producers think this all had to be explained again in consecutive weeks with the exact same narration and animation? I got it the first time you yelled it at me, VO guy!

Fortunately, that repetition is followed by three more very solid segments that build on the ongoing (and extremely counterproductive) conflict between Kaguya and Miyuki, starting with the notoriously frugal StuCo Prez finally acquiring a smartphone.

Unbeknownst to him, Miyuki dug into her bottomless rich girl resources to make it so he couldn’t resist buying one, so that he’d have to ask her for her contact info, which she’d consider no different than a confession, which would be a win for her.

While he doesn’t know he only has the phone because Kaguya wanted him to get one, he knows he can’t ask her for her info carelessly, and instead tries to bait her into asking for his by sharing a cute picture of him in his youth to Chika, then announcing he’ll change it in three minutes.

It may seem like playing dirty to use Chika as such a transparent pawn, but it’s not like she hasn’t influenced (and will influence) many of their decisions anyway. In this case, she’s a tool to lure Kaguya, who has to play dirty right back by applying “Maiden’s Tears” and protesting simply that Miyuki is being “mean.” It’s not a tactic she can use every time, but it works here, thanks to the psychological “Barnum Effect.”

However, Chika inadvertently throws another wrinkle into the equation that results in a draw, or loss, for both parties. She believes Kaguya is crying because she can’t chat on Line with her and Miyuki, because her antiquated flip phone—which she’s had since Kindergarten—won’t support the app. For all her towering rich girl resources, sentimentality is her undoing (as is her being unaware she couldn’t get Line on her phone).

As with all of their disputes, this isn’t really one that had to take place at all, if only Kaguya and Miyuki weren’t so proud and petty. This is proven when they innocuously exchange contact info anyway.

In Round Two, it’s frigid outside but Chika is already looking forward to Summer, and warns Kaguya and Miyuki that if they continue to sit on their hands they’ll graduate school with “nothing happening.” Chika means having fun high school memories, but Kaguya and Miyuki clearly see it as ragging on their lack of progress due to simple stubbornness and embarrassment wrapped up in an overstuffed “Love is War!” cover.

Chika suggests a Summer trip together, and Miyuki’s imagination immediately turns to the mountains, where he’ll woo Kaguya under the stars (with the requisite mention of Deneb and Altair before she states her desire to be “Alpha Centauri Bb to his B”). Naturally, Kaguya’s suggestion is to go to the sea, not the mountains.

Miyuki can’t swim, which he knows Kaguya would find “cute”, but every excuse he has, from crowds and sun to sharks, is immediately shot down by Kaguya, who had an entire manual prepared with counterarguments to anything he’d say in such a situation. Miyuki curses her for being such a rich girl; all her arguments backs up by cold hard cash. Besides, Kaguya says, the mountains are full of bugs—something the bug-hating Miyuki didn’t think of.

So he relents and says he’ll have to buy a swimsuit. Kaguya has won; they’re going to the beach, right? Wrong. Chika mentions she also needs to get a new swimsuit…because she won’t fit in her old one. Kaguya enters a body spiral, fearing she’ll be the one called “cute” by Miyuki  he inevitably compares her “peashooter” bust to Chika’s “tank-class” physique.

Now at a stalemate, with both now having good reasons not to go to either locale, they leave it up to Chika. Bad Idea; they should have come up with a third place to go as a compromise. Chika picks the mountains, but due to her previously unmentioned obsession with death and the occult, she picks the creepy Mount Osore. The match ends in neither a win or loss for anyone, but is simply “ruined.”

The third segment was my favorite, because it shakes things up a bit by having a wild card element other than Chika: a classmate seeking romantic advice from Miyuki. The kid assumes, like most of the school, not only that Miyuki and Kaguya are a couple, but that Miyuki is an experience veteran in the ways of love.

The truth is, as we know, that he has ZERO romantic experience, and is a complete dilettante in matters of love. But due to his otherwise high opinion of himself, his intellect, and his ability to bullshit, Miyuki decides to sally forth and offer advice, well aware that if he messes up and his ignorance is exposed, it could ruin his reputation.

This has all the makings of a train wreck in slow motion, and Kaguya is lucky enough to be there to eavesdrop, because we’re treated to her hilarious commentary of the advice session, in which she internally contradicts pretty much every piece of advice Miyuki provides.

She’s certain the chocolate the guy received was obligatory, but Miyuki insists it was meant to show that she actually loves him. Even the guy thinks she was making fun of him with her friends for not having a boyfriend, but Miyuki insists all four girls are into him, and he’ll have to break three hearts to win the fourth. I just couldn’t stop laughing not just at Miyuki’s ridiculous advice, but Kaguya’s harsh critique of same.

Finally, Miyuki demonstrates to the guy how to confess and ask the girl out, by using a tactic he “invented” that is nothing more than cornering a girl and slapping the wall, something Kaguya privately points out has been around forever. The thing is, Kaguya is on the other side of the door when Miyuki slams it, so in a way, he unknowingly does a wall-slam (or “wall-down” as he calls it) on her…and it kinda works.

Miyuki also tells the guy not to engage in unsightly convoluted schemes with the girl he likes, and even he can’t ignore the irony of him making that kind of statement…convoluted schemes being his stock and trade.

The guy, whom Kaguya has concluded to be an even bigger idiot and naif than Miyuki, thanks him for his advice, and brings up the rumor that Miyuki and Kaguya are dating, which flusters both of them. Miyuki quickly denies, and furthermore relays his suspicion that Kaguya doesn’t even like him and may indeed hate him.

When the guy asks him how he feels about Kaguya, Miyuki lists all the things he doesn’t like first, irking her from behind the door, before launching into ebullient praise and declaring her the “perfect woman”. The fact is, Miyuki spotted Kaguya’s hair peeking out from behind the door and so said what he knew she wanted to hear—as well as something he truly believed about her, but wouldn’t suffer consequence since she “wasn’t there to hear it.”

Similarly, Kaguya can openly display her wonderful mood after having such nice things said about her without worrying about him getting suspicious about why; after all, she doesn’t know he spotted her. Still, while there’s no consequence there isn’t much benefit to Miyuki’s actions, as it’s not like he wasn’t able to get Kaguya to confess, so he’s the loser for expending so much effort. On the bright side, as I predicted, the guy’s wall-slam actually ended up working (for once), so go figure!

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka – 02 – Being Served By Power, Not Serving Power

Gaining Sayoko and Nozomi as friends only added both to the list of things Asuka has to lose and the things she must use the power she had laid down to protect. Iizuka admonishes her for battling in downtown Tokyo so brazenly, and repeats his desire for her to join Spec-Ops. Asuka isn’t budging; she’ll protect herself and her friends, but she won’t go back to that life.

As we learned last week, however, there’s no way to have one foot in this world and one foot out. You’re either all-in or not, and Asuka not using her power last week would have meant Sayoko buying it. For her part, Sayoko remains subconsciously traumatized by the terrorist battle; the magic that occludes ordinary peoples’ perception must not have worked on her 100%.

We also learn that unbeknownst to Nozomi, her “boring desk work” policeman dad is actually a top interrogator (read: torturer) with the National Police Agency, and is torturing the terrorist leader for info on future attacks. One such attack is being facilitated by a group of “bad” magical (badgical?) girls, who possess an enhanced Disas from the bad old days.

Sayoko’s incomplete memory wipe aside, she is feeling terrible about having not been able to do anything to help her fellow bystanders, which means while she got to go home safe and sound, some people didn’t. Asuka tells her it’s better to be cowardly than to pretend you’re stronger than you are. Naturally, Asuka’s not telling her friends she’s Rapture, and you can’t help but wonder how long she can keep them in the dark.

A call from Iizuka warns Asuka that a powerful Halloween-class Disas has been deployed by the terrorists, and “War Nurse” is the only active Magical Girl in Japan who can engage it. That doesn’t sit right with Asuka, who after all was the one who recruited War Nurse, AKA Mugen Kurumi. Kurumi was perhaps the weakest of the Magical Five, and her success in combat relied on the cooperation of the other girls beside her.

Kurumi is confident she can deal with the Disas herself—she doesn’t have any other choice—but it proves more powerful and dangerous than the Halloweens of yore, and it isn’t long until she’s in the same position as the mother and young daughter she saved: about to be slashed to bits by a giant evil plush bear.

While I maintain the resting states of the Disas are hella goofy, when this bear version gets serious it’s actually pretty goddamn creepy-looking, what with its giant claws, buzzsaw-like teeth, and the bloody carnage it unleashes. Fortunately, Asuka is Just In Time to bail Kurumi out.

While the bear is tough, it’s no match for Asuka, who dispatches it with ease, angering the badgical girl who lent it to the terrorists (she works out her anger by stabbing a passing policeman in the eye). As her catlike familiar fights pigeons for food crumbs, Kurumi tells Asuka that she has been and will continue to be a “terrible person” for recruiting her while knowing she wasn’t strong enough to fight alone, only to abandon her.

She’s not wrong. Sure, it was Kurumi’s choice to make, but she made it believing Asuka would remain by her side, and that hasn’t been the case of late. Still, she’s willing to forgive Asuka as long as Asuka keeps her promise “from now on.” When Kurumi then transfers to Asuka’s school and class, it’s apparent that Asuka has some trust to rebuild with her friend and comrade. She’s strong; stronger than Kurumi. Standing on the sidelines is no longer an option.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 04 – Snowing In April

Boogiepop switches gears completely to a new mysterious, twisting tale with a new batch of players; only Boogiepop herself is the constant from previous episodes. We seemingly begin at the end, as she confronts her new enemy and enemy of the world, “Imaginator.” But Imaginator (Hanazawa Kana) tells her endings are just beginnings. Jumping off the ledge, she says there’s “plenty of time” before she hits the ground for Boogiepop to find her.

From there, the POV switches to starving artist and guidance counselor Asukai Jin, who has a very unique ability to detect what is missing in the heart of virtually everyone he meets. The heart is depicted as a rose plant, either lacking root, stem, leaves, or buds. Everyone lacks something, and that lack can never be resolved, and Asukai can’t see his own heart, so he doesn’t know what he himself lacks. He does what he can with this ability, but he feels powerless to truly help people.

That’s when Imaginator finds him. Like him, she can see things no one else can; in her case, their deaths, or rather the possibility of their deaths. Living creatures generate a certain kind of energy before their lives burn out, and she can detect that. This makes her a valuable tool for anyone who would choose to manipulate death. She exists to “recreate the world” with that ability, but she could use some help, so she asks Asukai to assist her.

As Asukai has some dinner his cute neighbor prepared, suddenly the young woman is possessed by Imaginator and speaks with her voice. She reiterates her desire to join forces, indicating that the one thing Asukai definitely lacks is a “calling”; which she can provide.

Imaginator kisses him to show him that calling, in which he uses his right hand to “prune” the roses from people’s hearts like some kind of dark angel of death. The prospect frightens him, and he believes himself incapable of such brutality, but Imaginator tells him his calling is his calling, and he is capable of it, period. It’s ultimately up to him whether to utilize that capability.

As he wrestles with what Imaginator has said and shown him, Asukai is distracted from his work, even sketching her to perhaps make her feel more real and tangible, all the while considering what he could do with her “assistance.”

Fast forward to Asukai being questioned by police after an incident in which Imazaki Shizuko, a former student he counseled and drug addict and dealer, tried to rob him at knifepoint before committing suicide. We shift between the questioning, during which the police don’t suspect him at all, and the incident itself, when Imaginator possesses Imazaki’s body to further illustrate how their partnership will work.

She shows Asukai that Imazaki was at the end of her tether and would be dead anyway in a matter of months, likely alone and after more suffering. But she tells Asukai there’s something he can do for her, before plunging the knife into Imazaki’s neck. As she dies, he can see her rose, which he cradles in his hands.

Before heading home, one of the detectives asks if Asukai said anything to Imazaki before she died, since she seemed so peaceful, as if all the thorns had been pulled from her heart. Asukai tells the cop he said nothing, and he seems to be telling the truth. It’s not something he said, but something he did, along with simply being there.

In another incident in which three delinquents are harrassing a fourth boy who is protecting a girl they want to “have some fun with”, Asukai decides to experiment with his new “alliance” with Imaginator. He has the boy run off to safety with the girl, freezes two of the delinquents, then has the ringleader turn his knife on himself.

Back on the rooftop of Touka’s school, a girl named Komiya who was good friends with the late Minahoshi Suiko (the girl whose body Imaginator inhabits) prepares to leap off to “follow” her, but is stopped by Boogiepop, who tells her she be able to join her that way, then admits to killing Suiko, since she was an “enemy of the world.”

But hearkening back to the episode’s beginning, Suiko hasn’t “hit the ground” yet; she hasn’t reached the next world. Indeed, she’s working with Asukai to recreate this one. Will Boogiepop need help from a human (other than Touka that is) to defeat Imaginator?

Domestic na Kanojo – 02 – Not So Strange After All

When Rui interrupts Natsuo’s kiss, she silently judges him as she roughly drags her sister to her bedroom. In retrospect, kissing an unconscious Hina definitely wasn’t his finest moment, even if it was a kiss meant to put a lid on his crush on her now that they’re step-siblings.

The next day at school, a late, bed-headed Natsuo learns that Rui has transferred to his school, and she’s immediately the talk of the school due to her being cute. Natsuo isn’t clear enough with his words, and gets Rui to think he wants them to act like strangers.

But the mere fact they went off into the courtyard together to have a private chat is suspicious enough to Natsuo’s classmates, who are well aware both he and Rui snuck out of the mixer together. When he meets with Hina, she asks if she kissed him while she was drunk last night, and apologizes in advance if she’s too “relaxed” at home again.

Rui was surrounded by girls in the morning, but by afternoon she’s all alone; Natsuo knows something’s up and has a pretty good idea: Rui is socially awkward, standoffish and fairly tactless. It’s as difficult for her to make and keep friends as it is easy for her big sister.

Natsuo offers to help her by pretending to be a (girl) classmate, and Rui is still her usual self-defeatingly honest self, but the two end up engaged in a dialogue that soon captures the attention of the entire class, who think some kind of skit is going on. Suddenly, Rui doesn’t seem so hard to approach, now that they know who they’re dealing with.

That night, a nude Natsuo predictably walks in on Rui in the bath, but thank goodness for once it doesn’t result in a blood-curdling scream and/or punch. As Rui quite logically points out, there’s nothing he or she haven’t seen before (interesting considering she once said to “forget” their tryst ever happened).

Rather than send him out, Rui calmly invites him in, and it’s Natsuo who hesitates. First of all, she wants to thank him for giving her a helping hand in breaking the ice with her class. But she’s also curious about why he tried to kiss Hina.

At first she dismissed him as an indiscriminate womanizer, but spending the day at school changed her mind about that. So instead, she wonders if he was merely trying to cheer her up in light of her recent boyfriend troubles.

Obviously, Natsuo doesn’t know about Hina’s boyfriend troubles. After the three step-siblings have dinner alone together when their newlywed folks go out for dinner (with Rui emerging as the best cook of the sisters by far), Natsuo brings up the subject, and Hina just as quickly deflects.

In a spot of bad timing, her boyfriend Shuu calls and she goes out to the front of the house to talk to him, insisting Natsuo not go outside with her. Nearly a half-hour later she rushes in, shaking and clearly upset, but still refuses to admit to Natsuo that she’s hurting.

Then there’s a knock at the door and the doorbell rings repeatedly, and both Hina and Natsuo assume its Shuu. Rui ends up the one to get the door, and it’s just their folks, a little tipsy from celebrating their marriage becoming official.

In his first days as stepbrother to both Rui and Hina, Natsuo is already trying to help them with their troubles. Rui will probably be fine with making friends in class, but Hina’s problems will be tougher to tackle, especially since she’s so reluctant to be helped (and she’s well within her rights, as an adult, to not want to seek help from a kid).

Regardless of whether he can help Hina, the fact is Natsuo’s new family and living situation is not nearly as crazy as the initial premise indicated. Whatever he may have done with Rui in the past, and however he feels about Hina, a new and powerful element has been introduced to his relationships with both: he’s unconditionally there for them, and doubtless they’re there for him.

The Promised Neverland – 02 – Building a Boat Out of Mud

Learning the truth of their home has shaken Emma to the core. She has vivid nightmares of Conny being served up as a fancy main course, can can barely hide her look of terror upon hearing and seeing Mama for the first time since their discovery. But Norman tells her they have to keep smiling like nothing’s wrong. Mama may know someone was at the Gate to leave the bunny behind, but she doesn’t know who.

Or rather, if she does, Emma and Norman are too valuable to kill just for witnessing Conny’s “processing.” During playtime, Emma and Norman agree escaping through the forest is the safest way, but when they cross the short fence they soon encounter a massive, seamless concrete wall. Further complicating matters, when a little tyke is lost all Mama has to do is glance at her “watch” and she knows exactly where to find her.

So, now they know that security is rather lax because they have some kind of tracking device implanted somewhere in their bodies. Mama seems to make a big show out of wordlessly warning the likes of Norman and Emma. Back at the house, while having a private moment of grief for Conny, Mama suddenly appears before Emma, wondering why she’s been “less cheerful” of late.

All Norman can do is watch in horror around the corner as Emma puts on a cheerful front for Mama. Ray ends up bailing them both out when he rings the dinner bell (likely intentional on his part), but as Emma and Norman depart, Mama asks them straight-up if they were at the Gate the previous night. They cheerfully say of course not, that’s against the rules, and continue on…but Mama is definitely suspicious. You could cut the tension in the atmosphere with a knife.

Once they’re alone again, neither can hold in their sheer terror anymore. Emma even collapses to her knees, but Norman helps her up with a trembling hand, and Emma sees she’s not alone and all hope isn’t lost. They’re going to get out of here…they just need a plan.

That plan involves stashing a bunch of table linen in a tree hollow near the wall that they’ll use to make rope when the time comes to escape (Norman figures they have two months left before the next child is taken). But someone followed them out to the wall; fortunately for them, it’s their friend Ray, who wants to know what’s up.

They tell him, and to their amazement he believes it all without a hint of incredulity, because he knows Norman well enough to know he’d never lie about something like this (Emma being a different story). While Ray is willing to lend his not inconsiderable intellect to the big escape plan, he has a big problem with Emma’s insistence that all 37 children will be escaping.

He brings up the virtual impossibility of getting everyone away from Mama and off the farm without serious or even total casualties, and something I didn’t consider: beyond that wall, it’s a Demon’s world, not for humans. Escaping is just the first step. The young, small, and weak will have to be left behind to ensure any chance of the survival of the older, bigger, and stronger.

But Ray’s way isn’t going to work with Emma. She doesn’t care if it’s impossible; everyone is being saved, and that’s that. It may be foolhardy, but Norman is with her. When Ray asks why in his otherwise right mind he’d go along with Emma’s “mud boat”, Norman explains simply that he likes Emma, and wants her to keep smiling no matter what, and that if dried and hardened it’s possible for a mud boat to float.

I have to say, I’m kinda with Ray on this one: if the sole purpose is to survive, not merely escape, they can’t take everyone. But at the same time, you can’t eliminate emotion from the equation, because these 12-year-olds are going to have to be able not just to live, but live with themselves once they gain their freedom. So mud boat it is!

Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari – 02 – Surviving Together

Shunned by virtually every human in this new world, Naofumi turns to a demi-human slave in Raphtalia, sold to him by the slave merchant for 30 silvers; a bargain. The little raccoon girl is terrified with good reason: she’s been through a lot in her short life and she has no reason to believe Naofumi won’t be cruel and awful to her.

But despite his scary face and bad attitude, Naofumi isn’t awful to Raphtalia. I mean, he wouldn’t be much of a rootable MC if he did. Sure, she’s bound by her contract not to defy him and gets shocked if she does, but he makes sure she has proper clothes and a dagger. She’ll provide the offense he needs to become powerful enough for the next Wave of Catastrophe.

Raphtalia soon learns that she not only need fear Naofumi, but that it’s okay to have things she wants. He’ll take care of her, but she has to fight for him. Of nights Naofumi learns the “mental illness” her buyer warned him about: she has PTSD and nightmares from having witnessed her parents sacrifice themselves to a Cerberus so that she could live during the First Wave.

In a montage made all the more satisfying and significant (like the show itself) by the wonderful score by Kevin Pankin (Made in Abyss), Raphtalia learns to trust and even become fond of her master, who treats her more like a ward than a slave. The more monsters she defeats, the more the two of them level up, and the more money they make.

Raphtalia butts up against adversity when a rabbit attacks Naofumi and she has to draw blood, which she’s quite justifiably afraid of considering her traumatic past. But when Naofumi lays out the stakes vis-a-vis the impending Waves, Raphtalia’s resistance (which causes the shocks) fades away, and she resolves to fight and kill for Naofumi, for both their sakes.

Naofumi discovers he has a knack for medicine-making, and he and Naphtalia travel to a smaller town to sell their wares—popular due to the trying times. In a nice bit of good luck for a change, merchant he deals with apparently doesn’t know he’s the Shield Hero, and thus isn’t automatically against him like everyone in the city. He even points the pair to a mine where they’ll be able to make a lot of quick money harvesting ore.

The catch is that since the First Wave the mines are crawling with monsters, and a two-headed dog very similar to the one that killed Naphtalia’s parents attacks them, she freezes in terror. Naofumi grabs her and escape the beast, but they have to kill it if they’re going to have any chance against future foes. When things seem to be going south and he offers to buy time so she can escape, she recalls her folks doing the same thing and getting killed for it.

So rather than let Naofumi repeat their sacrifice and leave her all alone once again, she draws her sword and plunges it into the beast. When it lunges at her in response Naofumi is ready with a shield to protect her, and she’s able to finish it off. When the fight is over they’ve gained a buttload of EXP, and she collapses crying into his arms, calling him “Naofumi-sama” for the first time.

I’m glad that after a double episode’s worth of Naofumi getting beaten down, he’s found something pure and good to protect, as well as the means of progressing in this game-like world while appreciating that it isn’t really a game, it’s a matter of life and death. It doesn’t hurt that Naphtalia is adorable as all get out, but also tough and capable when she needs to be. No doubt when and if he encounters the other heroes they’ll get the wrong idea, but this looks like the beginning of a lovely partnership.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 14 – Festival of Conviviality

Hikari and Itou are alone in the classroom painting and sewing late at night, and falling behind, but Ishino arrives with a squadron of classmates to help out. They thought she was a ghoul at first, so unaccustomed to being assisted in things that were foisted upon them. Things have certainly changed for the better with these two.

The day of the festival arrives, and Itou goes all out for the class, cross-dressing and wearing a wig. To the surprise of male and female classmates alike, he’s stunning, and even Ayado can’t help but take a break from her own busy day to check in on Itou, and is similarly enchanted.

When Ishino asks Itou why he’s working so hard, Itou tells her: because someone helped him get the lay of the land maid cafe-wise, and it would be an insult to her not to give it his all. Ayado happens to hear this from the other side of the wall, and she’s both glad her advice went to good use and flattered it was taken to heart with such conviction.

As the preliminary beauty contest vote comes in, Takanashi tries to joke around with Ishino about not having a chance…until she starts legit crying. Knowing he went way too far, he course corrects by giving her his honest opinion, with no joking around: she is pretty, and was cute in the maid outfit, and for what it’s worth, she has his vote. Frankly, his vote is probably all she wanted anyway!

Iroha’s main rival tries to rattle her, and when it’s time to give a little speech on stage, that rival’s voice is suddenly an octave higher and much more playful. While Iroha played around with the idea of winning this thing, her own attempts to sound stupid and cute ultimately fail when she gives up in the middle and instead tells the assembled student body that she’s plenty satisfied that the friends she has love her for reasons other than her looks, and she doesn’t really give a crap about anyone else, especially if they don’t know her.

Her no-BS honesty probably ended up helping her cause, as all it would’ve taken is a vote from her boyfriend to win. But because she told him she wasn’t really all that interested in winning, Hikari votes for the other girl instead. Iroha predictably takes her defeat in stride, and is consoled by hearing some (but not all) of the many reasons Hikari likes her besides her looks.

That night, as the festival winds down, Iroha’s class rep serves her some soup from their cafe, knowing she probably didn’t have an opportunity to try it, while she insists he use the opportunity at the bonfire to talk to the girl he likes.

Itou finds Ayado still hard at work cleaning up, and when he tries to lend a hand, that hand ends up touching Ayado’s hand, spooking her. She runs off to collect/admonish herself, even giving herself a slap and calling herself stupid. She feels she has no right to have any feelings for someone she turned down.

But Itou, worried about her, heard every word, and doesn’t care; if holding his hand helps her to see him as someone she could love, then he wants her to hold it as much as possible. Iroha and Hikari almost intrude upon this tender moment, but thankfully don’t. So maybe it’s not as hopeless for Itou as he thought last week!

Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari – 01 (First Impressions) – The Kingdom’s Most Hated Man

After a string of isekai anime in which the MC is ridiculously, along comes a show that flips the script, and it’s pretty refreshing. When Iwatani Naofumi thrust into a different world due to a summoning on the other side, absolutely nothing goes right. 

Of the four young men summoned, he’s by far the weakest, and isn’t even given a real weapon, only a shield. But he’s still optimistic he’ll be able to fight once supplied with a party of elite warriors.

…Only none of those warriors join his party. Eventually, one of them finally does, and she just happens to be the one he considers most attractive. This adventurer, Myne Suphia, seems to embody a stark reversal of fortune for Naofumi.

He’s given more cash than the others due to his smaller party, and Myne shows him a good shop to buy armor for the two of them. They fight a few low-level balloons out in the field, return to town, and make a modest profit.

It’s a confidence-building first day for Naofumi, to say the least. But that night, after refusing to drink any wine with Myne, he goes to bed and wakes up seemingly in, well, yet another world.

Not literally, mind you, but he’s been robbed of all possessions, summoned to the palace by knights, and then Myne, hiding behind one of the other summoned heroes, accuses him of attempting to rape her. When no one’s watching, she indicates screwing him over was her goal all along.

And boy, did it ever succeed: Naofumi now disgusts both his fellow heroes, the king, and everyone in the kingdom (news and rumors travel at lightning speed, despite the renaissance-esque tech-level). There’s no disputing the accusations against him, so Naofumi decides to take all the hate and loathing in stride.

If this world and its people are going to hate him despite the fact he didn’t do anything, so be it. The merchant he dealt with before seems to see the injustice in his eyes and sells him a cloak at a steep discount, which he wears when leveling up all by his lonesome…a slow and laborious process.

When some goons in the tavern mockingly offer to join his party, Naofumi won’t get fooled again; he’s been thoroughly jaded by this new world, and scares them off with some of the monsters he kept alive as a haggling tactic. A strange, squat little fellow in top hat and tails notices him and takes him to view his wares; he deals in demi-human and beastman slaves, revealing another distasteful part of this world.

Naofumi spots one sick demi-human— a girl with bear ears—and looks poised to buy her. But likely not to use as a slave, but as a companion on his quest to save a world that hates him, because no full-on humans want anything to do with him. Weak in power, scant in equipment, and victim of false intrigue and injustice…looks like we have ourselves a good old-fashioned underdog.

TenSura – 15 – Things are Getting Very Official

With the war with the Orcs behind them, the Kijin, Lizardmen, Goblins and Dryads all come together under one roof to hear what Rimuru is going to do about them. After all, he’s now the Chancellor of the Great Jura Forest Alliance…which is actually news to Rimuru!

Improvising, Rimuru decides to not only fully pardon the Orcs, but integrate them into the alliance as a labor force in exchange for food and water from the Lizardmen and Dryads and shelter among the goblins in his town. Benimaru also forgives Geld’s son, as they’re all servants under Great Rimuru and thus no longer enemies.

As for Gabiru, his newly-named and evolved father decides not to execute him, but merely excommunicates and exiles him from Jura. I was kinda hoping Gabiru would move to Rimuru’s village, but he and his groupies seem bound elsewhere. Once insufferably arrogant, he’ll be missed now that he’s learned some humility.

Rimuru proceeds to name every one of the 150k Orcs, evolving them into High Orcs, and progress on his capital accelerates into fill SimCity Mode. But not all of Rimuru’s troubles are gone. The Demon Lord Clayman has fixed his gaze on “the Slime” and intends to challenge him soon, while the Dwarf King Gazel Dwargo arrives in town at the head of a squadron of Pegasus Knights to take the measure of Rimuru via a duel.

Rimuru, sporting some snazzy new threads, accepts the challenge, and Treyni serves as witness. Dwargo proves a formidable opponent, but Rimuru just manages to block his combo strike thanks to the fact they received instruction in swordsmanship from the same master, Hakurou…small world! Convinced Rimuru is not evil, Dwargo and his men feast at Rimuru’s new facilities, and proposes an alliance between Rimuru’s new nation and his Dwarven kingdom.

Rimuru accepts, but he has to name the nation: Jura Tempest Federation. Has a nice ring to it. As for the capital, his admiring underlings name it Rimuru in his honor. Here’s hoping Clayman and whatever other Demon Lords are lurking out there don’t mess it up too bad in the near future.

TenSura – 14 – Rimuru’s Cheat Day

Gelmud arrives to put the invasion back on track, but he wasn’t counting on encountering anyone more powerful than he, a superior majin. While he tries to kill Gabiru, who he himself named just to be another pawn to make his Demon Lord stronger, Rimuru steps in to deflect the relatively weak attack, then tosses some potions to Gabiru to heal his fallen loyal subordinates.

Gelmud is little more than an annoyance; the one thing Rimuru wants from him is the name of the one pulling the strings, but Gelmud won’t give him up, confident Orc Lord Geld will attack on command (he named him out there in the desert, after all). Instead, the Orc Lord beheads Gelmud and eats him, after which he evolves into the Demon Lord Orc Disaster Gelmud was trying to create all along!

The Kijin and Ranga throw everything they’ve got at the Demon Lord, all but exhausting their magicules in the process, but nothing can cause anything other than light scratches and burns, and he heals almost instantly. This is certainly the toughest boss Rimuru & Co. have faced to date.

So tough, in fact, Rimuru decides to cheat a bit, by activating “Auto Mode” and leaving the Demon Lord up to the Great Sage and all her amassed wisdom. Rimuru’s eyes glow red and reflect the Great Sage’s geometric form, and starts to go to town on the Orc, culminating in enveloping it in a massive column of flame.

Unfortunately, probably since he ate Gelmud, Geld has a resistance to fire, so the big attack has no effect. Rimuru takes back control and proceeds to Plan C…pivoting from Cheat Mode to Cheat Day, as in eating way more than he should.

It becomes a struggle to see whether Geld’s Starved or Rimuru’s Predator can devour the other first. As Rimuru’s expandable slimy body envelops Geld, he can see a bit of the former Orc King’s past, when he had to pull off his arm to feed starving children under his protection during a horrible famine. He soon set out to find help, which is when he encountered Gelmud.

Geld insists he can’t lose, because he must live to bear his sins and those of those who sinned on his behalf…but Rimuru ain’t havin’ it: this is an eat-or-be-eaten world, and Geld can’t win against him. At least Geld has a momentary rebirth when his barren home is transformed into a lush, green paradise before evaporating.

The Demon Lord Geld is gone, and Rimuru and his allies are victorious. He relieves the Kijin, keeping his promise to release them from his service once they took care of business…but unsurprisingly they all want to stay by his side. I’d say it was time for a celebratory feast, but I’d also say Rimuru’s eaten enough for one day!

Dororo – 02 – The Telltale Bell

Try as Dororo might to communicate as he travels with his new companion, it’s pretty clear Hyakkimaru can neither see nor hear, at least not in the conventional sense. Rather, he depends on a different kind of “sight” in which he can see the souls of objects, and lets Dororo stay close because his soul’s color denotes him as non-threatening.

Dororo, in turn, starts a fire for him so he doesn’t have to eat the fish he catches raw. Between his adept fishing skills and ability to slice up demons, Dororo is sticking with this guy because he knows there’s both people to be saved and money made slaying monsters. One such apparent monster lurks in the forest, ringing a bell.

Dororo and Hyakkimaru end up in a village, where Dororo does the talking, claiming they’ll root out the monster that’s harassing them. But something isn’t quite right: the village has too much money to throw around for guests considering they don’t seem to have rice paddies or any other source of such income.

In the night, the bell-ringing monster appears, but Hyakkimaru won’t budge, which can only mean one thing: whatever that big-headed thing is, it ain’t a threat. The next morning the interim chief introduces them to Bandai, the bedridden chief. Dororo, being a little boy with eyes, is immediately smitten by the woman’s otherworldly beauty.

Hyakkimaru…isn’t. He draws his arm-sword, and Dororo has to hold him back from attacking Bandai. Clearly, she’s the monster, but the villagers are protecting her.

They toss Hyakkimaru and Dororo in a storeroom, where they meet an old blind priest, who explains to Dororo how both he and probably Hyakkimaru “see.” When the lights suddenly go out, Dororo becomes the blind one, while Hyakkimaru goes after a demonic limb that peeks out of a hatch.

The hatch leads outside Bandai’s house, and Hyakkimaru busts in and recommences his attack. Bandai reveals her true form as a giant green demon, whose soul the priest senses as a blood-red; the most dangerous kind.

Hyakkimaru chases Bandai into the bamboo forest, and eventually slices it to pieces and stabs it through the “woman’s” head. The interim chief confesses to having fed Bandai travelers who came to the village so it wouldn’t attack them. The big-headed bell guy turns out to be some kind of youkai that leads Dororo to the gold the village took from their eaten guests. Dororo reprimands them for being worse than monsters for letting one prey on others for profit.

Moving on to their next destination, Hyakkimaru finally introduces himself to Dororo by writing his name in the dirt. Dororo can’t read the characters, but the blind priest can. The priest also recognizes Hyakkimaru as the poor cursed babe he encountered in the river.

With the demise of Bandai, another statue in the Hall of Hell is cleaved in two, and Hyakkimaru gains another part of him that was taken by the demons: his nerves and thus his ability to feel pain. Considering the wounds he sustained in the fight with the demon, he ends up with a lot of pain. But at least he’s not alone; his new friend Dororo will help him in any way he can.

It’s fun watching Dororo learn more about his new friend as we learn beside him, and as he gradually collects more parts of himself. The spunky kid is never not fun to watch. The show aptly balances the friendship-building with quick, brutal action once Hyakkimaru is in Go Mode. It’s also starting to look like with each part he regains, Daigo may lose a bit of the good fortune the demons bestowed upon him. Ah well…that’s why you don’t make deals with demons.