Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 12 (Fin) – Gochisousama

I love the battle music in PriConne not just because it’s tremendous in its own right, but reminds me of other great battle themes, like this one from early in Final Fantasy XIII-2, which gets me in the mood to write about this fantastic finale.

The final feast of PriConne 2 is a sumptuous multi-course smorgasbord comprised of myriad shapes, sizes and colors. Yuuki not only powers up Pecorine, but everyone, and the townsfolk rally for the sake of their princess. Kaiser is wrong; they’re not useless in just being able to yell. It’s because of them Peco and the others are able to fight and break through.

When Kaiser decides “screw it, I’m going to destroy this cursed world”, she brings up her two aces in the hole, Neneka and Labyrista, whose minds she’s overthrown. But their combined attack (which resembles the bankai Senbonzakura Kageyoshi) is blocked and nullified…by a reinvigorated Karyl, choosing the right side and sticking with it.

As the battle progresses, Kaiser (AKA Mana) longs to be reunited with someone named “Minerva”, without whom she’s endured crushing loneliness for countless time loops. Yuuki is able to release Kaiser’s hold on Labyrista’s avatar, and Labyrista quickly releases Neneka. Having lost her two most powerful weapons, Kaiser doubles down on her recklessness by letting the shadows envelop and overthrow her.

As final bosses tend to do, this turns her into a colossal slime monster, but thanks to the other guilds showing up to support them, the Gourmet Guild are able to leap inside the mass of goo, and Yuuki, Kokkoro and Pecorine are able to clear the way for Karyl to reach her majesty and try to save her.

In a gray morose world on the brink of destruction, Karyl, Kaiser’s Princess Knight, won’t let her body and soul vanish into the abyss. Even when the structure around them crumbles, Karyl doesn’t let go, and even though geting her there mortally wounded Yuuki, he chooses to go back and reach out to Karyl, pulling both her and Kaiser out of sure oblivion and back into the world.

The townsfolk rejoice as the Gourmet Guild emerge unharmed and victorious. Kaiser, either no longer a threat or unwilling to fight any further, accepts her loss and is arrested. Her spell on Peco’s parents is lifted, and they remember their daughter and embrace her.

Her friends look on with full hearts as she weeps buckets of tears of joy into the bosom of her mother the queen. And then she takes her rightful place back at Landosol Castle, addressing her adoring people.

Back at the Gourmet Guild, Karyl is the new chef, and assures the others that her meal might not look like much but it tastes great. Yuuki and Kokkoro praise her, but Kokkoro makes the mistake of serving tea to their fourth member, and all three of them suddenly feel her absence.

That is, until they hear her voice and see her in the doorway. While she’s glad her parents remember her and she’s a princess again, she still has a long way to go before she’s ready to rule the kingdom she just took back. So she re-joins Gourmet Guild as Pecorine, primed to go on a lot more adventures and gain the experience she’ll need once she comes into her throne.

This was a breathless banger from start to finish; an episode with a whole lot to do that managed to pull it off with a brilliant flourish before returning to the warm and peaceful Gourmet Guild house. It’s pretty much exactly what I was hoping for in a finale…I just wish we could spend a little more quiet time with the guild now that there are no more secrets or divided loyalties…just food, fun, and family!

P.S. While it’s a totally different an much older game, I feel compelled to end this write-up with one of my favorite victory themes, from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time:

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 11 – All Done But the Fighting

Saying she’ll protect Karyl is one thing, but Pecorine can’t get within fifty feet of her, as every time she brushes back a bunch of Shadows, another takes its place. Finally Kaiser deploys a “doll-ified” Jun as yet another shield, and Peco, who is already tiring, is gravely wounded when Jun drives armored fingers into her ribs.

Meanwhile, under the palace, Twilight Caravan have been hired by Neneka to get her true body back. When they find Christina there guarding it and spoiling for a good fight as usual, Eriko is more than happy to oblige, as she’s just as up for a tussle and a half. But as berserky as Eriko is, Christina’s Absolute Defense holds up.

While on the run with Yuuki, Little Lyrical and the civvies, Kokkoro is suddenly transported into Ameth’s realm, where they meet for the firs ttime even though Ameth sees her as a friend. She also sees Kokkoro as the only one who can be trusted with a special charm that will keep Yuuki’s power in check, as he’s currently unstable and liable to sacrifice himself to save any other member of the Gourmet Guild.

Back in the bowels of the palace Christina eventually wears three members of Twilight Caravan down, but before she can stab Eriko through the eyes, the two other members of Caravan show up: Anna and Ruka. The latter even manages to land a strike on Christina, who then breaks out Absolute Offense on top of Absolute Defense. Still, Caravan’s goal is to set their client’s body free, not defeat her. But before Eriko can smash Neneka’s holding pod, someone awakens who shouldn’t have.

Pecorine, who simply won’t give up on Karyl no matter how many times Karyl tells her to run, charges up her Princess Strike and defeats (but doesn’t kill) Jun. Jun, free of the “doll-ification”, then serves as Peco’s shield when Kaiser lashes out with her own offensive magic.

With Jun as her shield, Peco loads up another Princess Strike, then another, then another, and what do ya know, it does the trick! Kaiser is finally taken down?! Of course, with several minutes left in the episode plus one more episode to follow, I had my doubts this was a real victory…

At least it allowed Karyl to finally come down from where she was suspended the entire episode, the poor thing, and land right in Peco’s arms. And after all the loud and intense battles, it was nice to have the world return to some kind of quiet, calm normal…even if only for a minute or so.

After that, the “Kaiser” Peco cut down turns out only to be a Shadow clone; the real, and far more scantily clad Kaiser, is the “someone” who woke up down in the palace basement. She’s awake now, and with one little flick of her wrist, Jun is suddenly out of commission. Peco and Karyl are pressed into the ground by intense gravity, and Kaiser prepares to make two more sacrifices to the cause…

…Which is of course when Yuuki shows up in full Hero Mode. Assuming next week is the finale, I’d be perfectly happy with a third to a half of it being taken up by the final battle ending in victory for the good guys, followed by the remaining portion given over to said good guys having a much-deserved rest and feast in Eustiana’s newly-liberated castle. Whatever happens, it is sure to be gorgeously animated.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 10 – Will the Real Eustiana Please Stand Up?

Well, the overarching arc of Pecorine/Eustiana stepping into the light and reclaiming her throne all comes down to this, with a newly-masked Karyl joining Kaiser as her right hand and primary weapon. It’s not clear how much of Karyl’s cooperation is forced, either by magic or deference to Kaiser, but there’s no disputing she’s in a bad way.

When Karyl attacks Diabolos and captures three of their members, Shinobu and Miyako manage to escape and head to the Gourmet Guild to give them the bad news: Karyl has turned her coat. Soon all of Landosol learns this, when Kaiser uses Labyrista’s ability to encircle the city in a shell, then project a giant Karyl who will be the instrument through which Kaiser will sacrifice its citizens.

It’s not just the Gourmet Guild that springs into action to stop Karyl and Kaiser. Doctor Yuni and the Friendship Club collaborate with Kasumi and Tamaki, and the good doctor discovers that the truth that was “out of joint” all this time was the person sitting on the throne: a false princess who has manipulated the minds of everyone in the kingdom.

By the time Yuki, Kokkoro, and Pecorine arrive in town, the place is crawling with Shadows, but adventurers, warriors, mages, and ordinary folk alike manage to hold their own, with the latter even saving Yuuki and Kokkoro when things are looking their most grim. Peco goes on ahead, and from that point on it’s really all about her and Karyl, whose attacks she either dodges or absorbs as she manages to tackle her.

When Yuni uses her “Rosetta Network” of pet rocks to broadcast the truth about the princess currently on the throne, Kaiser orders Karyl to kill everyone—and Karyl is powerful enough to make it happen. But her rain of purple magic bolts ends up hitting no one. As much as she wants to obey her majesty, she just can’t hurt anyone anymore. Kaiser doesn’t take no for an answer, and uses magic threads to manipulate Karyl like a puppet.

Karyls mask falls, she starts to cry and beg someone, anyone to destroy her so she can’t harm anyone else. Instead, her attacks, and Kaiser’s hold on her, are neutralized by a stalwart Pecorine, who finally, finally finds the proper time to tell her dear friend the truth about her true identity. While the duel this week isn’t nearly as badass as the Kaiser-Labyrista bout, it’s a hell of a lot more emotionally charged.

Pecorine does this in front of most of the town, revealing herself to be the real Eustiana von Astrea and vowing to not only save Karyl, but protect her people as well. Considering the power we saw on display from Kaiser last week and all the tricks she has up her sleeve (from Metamorregnant to Labyrista’s power), I’d say the gloves will be coming off next week, which means Pecorine…which means Eustiana will most likely need a little help from her many, many friends.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 09 – Hasta la Vista

Pecorine is ready to tell Karyl that she’s Eustiana von Astrea, and wants to do so, but in trying to find the perfect time, she ends up missing her chance more than once. This is something for which Pecorine should really take Karyl by the shoulders and say “this can’t wait!” But Karyl is off … somewhere, and so it must wait.

That somewhere is the castle that by rights should be Pecorine’s, where Karyl finds Kaiser sleeping fitfully in her bed. When Karyl mentions she brought homemade onigiri from the princess rice harvest, Kaiser remembers Peco’s words about having a meal together, and decides to indulge Karyl by eating with her.

On her way home, Karyl is intercepted by Yuuki, Kokkoro, and Pecorine, who are on their way to a festival in the shopping district. They sample the many delicacies for sale as well as avail themselves of the festival games, like cork rifle shooting. Everyone has a wonderful time.

Kokkoro even takes Yuuki with her to give Pecorine another shot at telling Karyl, but decides instead to follow Karyl’s lead and just savor the lovely, moment they’re in … a moment Karyl wishes would last forever, but of course won’t thanks to all the other very distressing stuff going on in another dimension.

That big blue in-between space becomes the venue for the mother of all PriConne battles, as Labyrista decides the time is right to take care of Kaiser once and for all. I believe it’s the first time we’ve actually heard Kaiser Insight’s name.

A ridiculously epic battle between Seven Crown members ensues, with the two going so far as to hurl entire conjured goddamn moons at one another. I’ll be honest: this more epic, plot-heavy stuff isn’t why I watch PriConne, but I can’t deny it’s badass as all get-out.

Labyrista has a good plan, and Shizuru and Rino running Shadow interferance on her behalf, but Labyrista has the captive (and clearly immensely powerful) Metamorregnant at her disposal. She snatches victory from the jaws of defeat by teleporting Karyl to use her as a meat shield, and then stabbing Labyrista through the heart after taking advantage of her momentary hesitation.

The timing really couldn’t be worse for poor Pecorine, who was just entering Karyl’s room to talk to her when Karyl was poofed awa, leaving only her beloved stuffed animals. Will Karyl ever return to that room? Will she ever see the others again? PriConne doesn’t get much darker than this, but like Labyrista, I’m willing to trust that Yuuki saying he’ll protect everyone this time isn’t just idle talk. Maybe Kaiser shouldn’t rest on her laurels just yet…

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 08 – The Rice Harvest

The Gourmet Guild starts this episode out split up, each member on a different errand or with a different plan for the day. Kokkoro heads into town to mail a large stack of letters when she encounters Suzuna and Misaki, two students at Lucent Academy with exceedingly bad grades. When bandits steal the guild’s treasure—and the letters—Kokkoro teams up with the busily-costumed kids to tack them down.

With help from Kokkoro’s faerie friends, locating the bandits’ hideout is no problem; the issue is getting their letters back without being detected. Misaki decides that detection is the whole point, and proceeds to attempt to use her “mature feminine pheromones” to distract the bandits. But once she starts pole-dancing on her staff, they lock her up as a little kid who is “messed up in the head.”

Meanwhile, Yuuki is wandering the capital, wondering why he forgot his old companions and couldn’t protect them. Labyrista bumps into him and provides an ear to listen, as well as some advice: he has a group of friends and companions now; he should just focus on them. Yuuki vows he won’t let Pecorine, Kokkoro, or Karyl come to harm this time. Across the city, in the palace, Karyl inadvertently snoops on Kaiser bathing.

As for Pecorine, she’s been harvesting rice all day in between catnaps, but spots “Princess Eustiana” in the field, worried that if the others know her true identity, they’ll forget her and everything about her, and she’ll lose everything all over again. She wakes up in tears.

Kokkoro and Suzuna manage to free Misaki, but not before getting spotted y the bandits, who chase them through the forest. Thankfully, the kids’ teacher Io-sensei saw the large cloud of smoke Kokkoro used and brings the city guard, led by Tomo, to arrest the bandits and recover both the treasure and the letters. But when it comes time to mail their letters of recommendation to another school, Suzuna and Misaki rip them up instead, choosing to stick with Io-sensei.

While surely unsettled by her dream, Pecorine is soon joined by Yuuki and then Karyl, who are back home and ready to pitch in. Their arrival means more to Peco than they know, considering how troubled she was, and the work goes that much faster…although there’s still a lot of rice to harvest. That’s where the purpose of Kokkoro’s many letters comes into focus.

Kokkoro arrives with dozens of friends in tow—a veritable who’s-who of PriConne characters, answering Kokkoro’s call to lend a hand (or hoof). The harvest is thus finished in no time, and a grand feast is prepared that everyone shares in, celebrating both a job well done and their friendship.

Pecorinehas a seat under a tree with Kokkoro, and sees the “ghost” of Princess Eustiana again, only she simply smiles at Peco, and Peco smiles back. She tells Kokkoro (who couldn’t see the ghost) that after losing everything she never thought she’d have a meal like this with everyone again, but is so happy she can, she starts to shed tears of joy in between bites of her onigiri.

Kokkoro can’t help but follow suit, and Peco tells her that she’s finally ready to tell Karyl and Yuuki who she really is—the true crown princess of Landosol. From seemingly innocuous errands, we arrive at the cusp of a major declaration.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 07 – Foggy Memories

On their way to the tavern for a meal after tending some fields for a job, the Gourmet Guild encounter Ayane and Kurumi, who live at Sarens orphanage. Kurumi is extremely cute and shy, while Ayane carries around a staff with a seemingly sentient bear named Pikuchi on the end of it (though Karyl suspects ventriloquism).

The Serendia girls join the guild, but they soon encounter Chika of Carmina looking very much the worse for wear. Kokkoro heals her in the tavern, but she seems to have lost her memories and forgotten who she is. This tracks with the cold open of her running through the forest from what sounds like a laughing spirit, cursing herself for unsealing it.

Chaos reigns in the tavern when Kurumi’s memories are manipulated, turning her into a girlfriend who slaps the shit out of Charlie and demands he leave his (nonexistent) wife. Then Chika’s memories change again, and she starts to exhibit animal-like behaviors like licking and biting. But she also saves Ayane from getting hit by an errant bottle.

This clues Ayane in to the fact that somehow her beary good friend Pikuchi is inhabiting Chika, and helps the real Chika to surface so she can explain what’s going on. Her, Ayane, and the tavern owner’s strange behavior is due to memory manipulation by Foggy, the great trickster spirit of memories. Chika was trying to help Yuuki get his memories back, but instead all this happens.

Peco and Karyl are dispatched to the spring where Foggy’s seal lies; on the way Karyl twists her ankle, but Peco is happy to carry her the rest of the way. Its nice in the midst of an episode packed with so many characters that these two get a little alone time; their first since the two found themselves at the bottom of that pile of golem wreckage. As Karyl picks burrs out of Peco’s locks, Peco likens her to a big sister, with Kokkoro as their mom and Yuuki as their litle bro.

A helpful bird points them to the location of Foggy’s seal, and soon they’re back in town, revealing Foggy’s true form. When Peco slices Foggy in to, it splits into four Foggys, but Chika, who is herself again, sings her signature song of spirits, and Nozomi backs her up in taking care of the trickster spirit.

Before that happens, however, Foogy launches an attack at Peco, whose Princess Strike split it into four. When Yuuki shields her, he’s hit by a sudden rush of memories of a previous life he shared with a totally different family-like guild, led by a girl named Yui. The five-person party is preparing to go to the Sol Tower. Just the latest chapter in Yuuki’s mysterious and complex backstory.

With Foggy dealt with and everyone back to normal, Ayane and Kurumi set up a lemonade wagon, treating their new friends and local kids alike and showing that Saren really is the best orphanage mama. That said, it was some kind of tawdry romance novel Kurumi found at Saren’s orphanage that was the source of her switched out memories, so…maybe hide those from the kids!

As everyone enjoys their lemonade, Yuuki keeps looking up at the Sol Tower that looms high in the sky over Landosol, as if looking at it long enough may help him to remember more of that life. Kokkoro, who’s always been most attuned to Yuuki’s behavior, can sense something’s wrong, but even Yuuki probably couldn’t tell her exactly what. Perhaps more answers will come in time, but even if they don’t, there’s plenty to love about the family he has here and now.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 06 – The Green Knight

PriConne 2’s fifth episode felt like a season finale, so it stands to reason the sixth would be more of a cooling-off outing. It’s also a grab bag with the focus not on the Gourmet Guild but two other guilds, starting with Weißflügel (Landosol Division). Led by the young, hardworking Monika, her party consists of a narcissist (Yuki), a masochist (Kuuka) and a girl who loves explosives (Ninon).

Needless to say, any and all of Monika’s comrades make Yuuki look like Einstein, so it’s no surprise that they’re in heavy debt due to the collateral damage caused mostly by Ninon’s hobby. Yuuki hers about Fuuka from her boss in town, and finds her by the riverside with a massive pile of porn, which he promptly burns.

The Gourmet Guild is casually investigating a “Mystery Knight” assaulting townsfolk, and split into two groups. Yuuki and Kokkoro encounter the Knight, but they’re aided in the ensuing battle by an equally mysterious swordsman who wears a black mask over their eyes. The Knight vanishes in a cloud of smoke, leaving a slimy green residue.

The other guild introduced in this episode (unless I forgot about them from the first season) is NIGHTMARE, elite palace guards fighting for the good of Landosol. Tomo and her junior Matsuri fear their captain is the culprit of the attacks, but Christina, apparently the vice-captain, tells them they should have more faith in their leader.

When Monika discovers that the green slime can animate things like a cymbal monkey and thus potentially help the guild climb out of debt, she and the rest of Weißflügel find the source of the slime and start digging…until they accidentally unleash a massive torrent of the stuff, which envelops all of them, heads into town, and also envelops Charlie…the person who has been leaving porn by the riverside.

Tomo and Matsuri are in the middle of a battle against the Mystery Knight they believe to be their captain when that captain shows up to join them, proving they’re not the culprit. Rather, her armor has been taken over by the green slime, which merges with the “main” slime blob to create a huge boss fight in which the Gourmet Guild participates.

The combined forces of Gourmet and NIGHTMARE make quick work of the slime knight, with Tomo, Matsuri, adn their captain flashing some cool special moves and culminating in a classic Pecorine Princess Strike coup-de-grace—only one needed this time! Freed from the slimy green prison of their own making, Monika and Weißflügel lead the cleanup effort.

The Gourmet Guild gives Monika a cup of hot bouillabaisse to help restore her stamina. Later that night she makes her regular reports to her homeland via radio, imbued with a sense of esteem and kinship to the people of Landosol for working together to help those in need.

While definitely the weakest episode of PriConne’s second season owing to its glut of unfamiliar characters and the sidelining of the main quartet, it was still a fun and at times hilarious outing that emphasized the sense of community in Landosol. In any case, the wide variety of colorful characters has always been a feature of PriConne, not a bug.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 05 – The Princess Is in THIS Castle

I dove into into PriConne’s second season expecting a feast for the eyes as well as for the heart with its lovely slice-of-life lighthearted comedy with a formidable budget. What I was not prepared for was the sheer scope and scale of this season. We’re only five episodes in, but this could have been a penultimate episode or even a season finale!

Peco has been teleported to Landosol by the big bad—whose name I don’t believe has crossed anyone’s lips thus far, but is known as Kaiser Insight—to be “assessed”. Peco is defiant and doesn’t show fear, but the bottom line is Kaiser took everything from her, and has been letting her soul “ripen” to maximum despair.

While that happens, the battle continues without Peco, and Kasumi and Yuuki discover that the Shadows and the golem are headed in Kiiri’s direction. After saving her, Kiiri is gung-ho about being Kasui’s assistant; one on the fast track to being a fellow great detective.

While the others stand by as the shadow army pivots, Karyl stands atop a bluff, knowing full well what just happened: Kaiser teleported Peco away. There’s so much emotion in this little scene, as Karyl struggles with worry over Peco and guilt over the means by which she’s been taken. It’s not like she could have crossed Kaiser, but she still feels awful about doing it.

Kasumi, Yuuki and Kokkoro quickly come up with a plan to use Kiiri as a lure so the golem and army will end up in a lake to be defeated. Kokkoro even has the leaf glider she can now conjure all gassed up, but they hit a sudden and heartbreaking snag: Kiiri, a copy of Kasumi without a soul of her own and thus an anomaly, is erased by the self-correcting systems of the world.

I have to hand it to PriConne, which is no stranger to quickly introducing characters, but it was able to wring a lot more pathos out of me than I’d have thought with the death scene of a character who had just been introduced last week. Now I know why they didn’t cast Minase Inori as Yuni the scholar; instead she does yoeman’s work as both Kasumi and Kiiri.

Kiiri’s erasure from the world leads to Yuuki remembering a previous life he lived with Peco, Karyl and Kokkoro, before being killed in battle protecting Peco. At that point he is sent…somewhere where Ames and Labyrista give him a choice: return to the hopeless battle from whence he came, or “cast his eyes downward and start anew”, re-building his bonds from scratch.

It’s at this point when I remind readers I’ve never played the source game and have no idea how much of this expansive story comes from that and how much is original, or even how deep it goes. Yet I don’t really mind that sometimes I’m lost, because it just means I have to use my brain to fill in the blanks. With a show that looks this good with characters this lovable, that’s not a chore at all.

You could say Yuuki and Peco have experienced similar fates: both lost everything, but are absolutely defiant and determined to get it all back. Kaiser thinks she’s won when she gets Peco to make a despairing face over the prospect of being forgotten again. But it will take a hell of a lot more hardship and despair for Peco to give up.

Obliterating the gaggle of Shadows Kaiser sicced on her, Peco invites Kaiser to share a meal so she can understand her better. Kaiser declines, but Peco reminds her she’s no longer just Princess Eustania of Landosol; she’s also Pecorine of the Gourmet Guild. Kaiser concludes that Peco still isn’t quite “ripe” enough and teleports her back to the battle…but not before vowing to take everything Peco has left.

Back on the scene and falling from the sky, everyone revels in Peco’s return, and Yuuki powers her up so she can deliver the mother of all Princess Strikes, defeating the golem and the army in one beautifully-animated explosion that really packs a punch. It’s Gurren Lagann-level coup-de-grace, and it reminds us just how determined and capable Peco is of following through on her promise to get everything that’s been taken from her back.

Once the dust clears, the search for Peco among the golem rubble and rent earth commences. It’s very fitting that the first one to spot her is Karyl, who cannot hide the fact that her worrying about Peco brought tears to her eyes. When Peco sees those tears, she gets emotional too, and simply says “I’m home” and “I’m starving.”

Some rubble gives way, and Karyl slides right into Peco’s waiting embrace. She calls Peco a dummy like usual, but also says “welcome home.” She’s not talking about their cozy cottage, either: for Karyl, home is wherever the people you love happen to be. Kaiser may have sworn to destroy that home, but as long as the Gourmet Guild are together—and flanked by all manner of colorful allies—she’ll have a hard time fulfilling that pledge.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 04 – The Battle of Monster Island

At this point in the game, there have been so many new character intros in PriConne that not only is there still a great deal of mystery surrounding Yuuki’s whole deal, but I’ve even forgotten some of what we’re supposedto learn. The best I can do is assume his dream of an epic battle of godlike champions (plus him and Pecorine) is either a memory from his past life or a glimpse of the future. All I know is the big bad they’re all fighting looks and sounds a lot like Karyl’s boss.

There’s no time for a leisurely breakfast this week, as PriConne has a lot of narrative and liteal ground to cover, so we go from Yuuki’s crazy dream to an equally crazy situation where the Gourmet Guild has bit off more than they can chew. I love how we enter this latest calamity in media res, only later learning that Peco is passed out due to intense hunger.

On Monster Island to capture a rare and delicious cut of meat, the guild is bailed out by a quartet of beastfolk originally from Landosol, who dwell on the island and are ostensibly led by their resident detective, Kasumi (Inori Minase, whom I’m amazed hadn’t voiced a character on this show yet!) It’s a lot of new characters to keep track of, but when PriConne puts so much love into their designs and veteran talent behind their voices, it’s hard to be mad for the wealth of new faces and voices.

The beastfolk party teams up with the Gourmet Guild and split into two groups of four, eventually finding the stronghold of the island’s Shadows. Another awesome battle ensues, with the characters showing off their distinct weapons and styles of fighting, and Yuuki providing a key assist in powering up Kasumi so she can capture a Shadow sample for further study.

When the dust clears, Kasumi finds herself face to face with a Shadow clone of herself, naming her “Kiiri” and eventually changing her clothes and hair so others can tell them apart. Unlike all the other Shadows they’ve encountered, Kiiri is extremely docile and sweet, and while initially somewhat vacant and mechanical, the more she hangs out with Yuuki and his glowing power, the more she comes alive as a person.

Ramifications of a Shadow clone of Kasumi coexisting with their group from now on aside, the second group meets up to report that a giant golem was swarmed and captured by the Shadows like ants on honey. A digital copy of the golem’s occupant, Metamorregnant, warns the reunited group that once the golem is swallowed up by the Shadows, it will be used to launch an assault on the island’s beastfolk town.

Sure enough, that happens, and for the rest of the episode PriConne shows off its mastery of both scale, kinetic action, and magical chaos and destruction, as Peco rallies the other seven members of the two parties to fight and fight until the threat is defeated. After all, there isn’t a boat big enough to evacuate the settlement.

The eight party members are split between supporters and front-line fighters in the battle, with Yuuki powering up everyone with his glowy powers. Peco, the most powerful fighter of all of them, takes the lead literally running up the hundred-foot-tall golem, then launching not one or two or three but four consecutive Princess Strikes, the final one meant to be the coup-de-grace.

But suddenly, the ring Karyl’s boss gave her glows, and Peco is instantly teleported from the battle to the throne room of her former home, Landosol Castle. She’s welcomed there by Karyl’s boss, but the shocked, pained look on Peco’s face says it all: she is not happy to have been plucked away from her friends in the middle of a crucial battle to save hundreds of innocent people. Karyl’s boss calls Peco Princess Eustania, and it looks like whatever plan she has, she’s putting it into motion now.

A cliffhanger! Like Banished from the Hero’s Party, I tend to prefer PriConne when it’s in sweet, low-stakes slice-of-life mode, just four friends enjoying good food after a fun adventure. But PriConne obviously has larger ambitions, and there’s no doubt in my mind it has the visual chops to pull off whatever it wants, so I’m eager to see where this goes.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 03 – Seeking the Truth of the Forest

While Peco and Karyl clean the house, Yuuki and Kokkoro do the shopping, and encounter an old friend in the eccentric forest elf Aoi (Hanazawa Kana), first introduced back in the sixth episode. She wrangles her fellow “Team B-B”-mates into lending her some emotional support as she answers the summons of a fellow student at the fancy St. Theresa’s Academy for Girls.

The three enter the awesome Beauty and the Beast-esque library, and Yuuki happens upon a pile of books on the floor, under which lies Yuni, a student and scholar who has a very poor memory, but uses a memo book to keep track of her thesis on “The Fundamental Falsehoods that Lurk in Our World.”

Yuni and her fellow “Best Friends Club” members Chieru and Chloe don’t come from money, so the three allied together to win it by achieving a great feat for the sake of the school. There’s a rumored threat in the woods near the academy of “Green Guardians”, so Yuni calls on Aoi and her knowledge of said woods to aid them in getting to the bottom of things. Aoi, in turn, invites the Gourmet Guild to accompany them.

Once in the woods, the party of eight soon learns that they’re walking in circles and soon become lost; not even Yuni’s semi-sentient pet rock can guide them. Then Aoi gets separated, the team splits up, and one by one vanish into the eerie, thick fog, until only poor Karyl is left to run through the woods in a panic. For a show that leans into goofy comedy, it gets the creepy atmosphere and Karyl’s fear of being alone just right.

It’s an incredible development, then, when we learn that the members of the party were being picked off one by one by none other than Aoi, who had constructed the “Green Guardians” out of wood to be her friends away from the academy. When Peco, Yuuki, and Yuni catch her red-handed, the gig is up. But…as hilarious as this is, it doesn’t solve the underlying mystery.

Graveyards mentioning kings and kingdoms that never existed are then joined by a whole mess of undead skeletons as the forest turns into flaming ruins. There’s also a weird pixelated glitching going on. Something completely unrelated to Aoi’s larger-than-life wooden friends is going on, and it gets right to the heart of Yuni’s hypothesis about a “great deception” in the world.

Everyone is then transported into the memories of the head crowed skeleton, who it appears was once a jolly king beloved by his subjects and in particular one joyful little girl…only for it to all go literally to hell. Something happened to the king, be it some curse or dark corruption, and it sure looks like he presided over the destruction of everything and everyone in his kingdom.

While everyone else is (not wrongly!) wigging out over the scary skeletons with glowing red eyes surrounded by flames, it takes a fellow royal in Peco to notice that they mean them no harm. Like the adventurers in the first episode, the king and the other skeletons simply want to pass on. With a big empathetic hug, Peco does just that.

Many mysteries remain from this very intense quest: why is there no record of the king, his kingdom, or its downfall in any of the books of their world? Yuni apparently already came oh-so-close to unlocking the great overarching secret of her world, only for her memory to fail her and for the academic society to decry her research as pure fiction.

It’s heavily implied, especially from the pixelated glitches, that this world is one of many, just like the one Yuuki came from. But as Yuni joins the others at a tea party at Aoi’s charming home in the woods, she isn’t frustrated or defeated. For her, finding “the truth” has always been secondary to simply learning and absorbing knowledge around her. It’s the intellectual journey, not the destination, that matters most.

I really liked Yuni, and Kohara Konomi does a great deadpan reminiscent of Minore Inase’s Sleepy Princess. She fills the role of “brainy scholar” quite well amongst the band of well-meaning weirdoes and airheads, questioning this world rather than taking it at face value, but ultimately not stressing that much over it.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 02 – Smiles and Shadows

Last week showed off Priconne’s impressive aural, visual, and comic chops when it comes to epic fantasy adventure, along with the sweet, lived-in chemistry of the main quartet. But I count myself among the many who were surprised without strong its dramatic chops could be. Last week we only got a slight glimpse of that as Pecorine looked at the palace where she should rightfully rule.

But this week is all about Karyl and her unique position in the Gourmet Guild as a spy and “princess knight” with divided loyalties. Her small act of rebellion against her majesty is forgiven, but with that clemency comes the threat that it better not happen again. And so just like last season, Karyl is torn between her love of her guild-mates and doing her royal duty.

Speaking of royals, Pecorine’s longing look at the palace is followed up upon this week when Kokkoro mentions that Peco still hasn’t told Karyl or Yuuki about her true identity. While she can’t do anything about Kokkoro knowing, she’s not ready to tell the others.

Peco asks Kokkoro to keep the secret a little while longer so she can tell them herself when the time is right. For now, as long as she’s able to keep the people of Landosol safe and smiles on their faces, she’s mostly content to maintain the status quo.

Both Peco and Karyl’s internal strife is briefly soothed by a visit to the clothing store owned by Carmina, a three-member idol group that sings, dances, and fights to put smiles on the faces of their fans. Their goals are thus aligned with Pecorine’s and the Gourmet Guilds.

This act introduces Tsumugi, Nozomi, and Chika, and also provides an opportunity to dress everyone (including Yuuki) like cute idols. To the show’s credit, however, our Gourmet Guilders’s idol cosplay doesn’t extend to actually taking the stage; that’s left to the professional performers.

When everyone is getting a good night’s sleep before Carmina’s next big concert (Yuuki having been warmly initiated as an official member of the Carmina Fan Club), Karyl slips out on her own as she tends to do. In the palace she meets Christina, who relays to her a mission for the two of them involving Shadows.

Before heading home, Karyl sits on a vantage point offering a gorgeous nighttime vista of the city…including the outdoor concert venue, where Karyl finds Tsumugi rehearsing on her own. When asks why she’s up so late without the others, Tsumugi says she doesn’t have the natural talent of Nozomi or Chika, but still wants to help them shine, hence the outfits and extra practice.

The big day of the concert arrives, and Karyl heads off on her own, telling the others she has something she needs to do. That something turns out to be fighting off all of the stray Shadows in the nearby woods that Carmina’s performances (and the crowds they bring) seem to lure out of their hiding spots.

There’s a contrast between Karyl and Christina’s “dirty work” in and with the shadows while Carmina shines brighter than ever on stage and make everyone who showed up to the concert smile. While the crowds are CGI, the three idols are smoothly animated in 2D; it’s a very nice-looking concert.

After her shadow-hunting duties are complete, Karyl is so physically and emotionally drained, she’s ready to pass out under a bridge in the dark. But her three guildmates, feeling it not proper to start dinner without their fourth member, head back into town to look for her, calling her name until she finally emerges.

Karyl tells the others their calling her name embarrassing her, but you can see in her wonderfully subtle facial expressions that she was also extremely happy they came out looking for her. It might mean there are no easy answers for her

Karyl’s problems aren’t solved this week, nor should they have been. I’m hoping that sometime before this season ends she’ll be able to pick a side and find happiness and peace—and hopefully it’s the Gourmet Guild’s side—but that’s far from certain right now. Even so, all Priconne, Peco, and Karyl can do is take things one day, and one family meal, at a time.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. The OP is back, and the same theme song is used as last season…which is just fine with me! If it ain’t broke…Having recently watched Twin Peaks: The Return, I’m struck by how similar Yuuki is to Coop-as-Dougie Jones…The new ED is a stunningly beautiful sequence of Kokkoro staying up late looking at photos from the guild album, followed by Peco and Karyl putting a blanket over her when she nods off, then Yuuki putting a blanket on all three of them. So simple, and yet so full of heart-bursting love…

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 01 – Quest for the Legendary Seasoning

Every single one of PriConne’s season two premiere’s 23 minutes is used to pull us straight into its lush, expansive world and not let us go, like those mangy purple dogs that keep nomming on Yuuki. It offers both epic fantasy thrills and comfy cozy little pleasures that come between those big moments, and I absolutely love it to bits.

As thanks for sharing her mushroom harvest, Kokkoro was given a map by Karin at the Guild which leads to a “Legendary Seasoning”. After a tasty breakfast of egg sandwiches, the quartet heads out into the big, beautiful world. The first season was always easy on the eyes, but PriConne pulls out all the visual stops as Peco, Yuki, Kokkoro and Karyl strike out on an adventure.

The four soon find themselves gleefully lost in a vast above-water coral forest. Along with all the eye candy comes top notch chemistry between the disparate characters, the same classy orchestral score, and superb sound design. It also features some great comic timing, with quick cuts that had me laughing on more than one occasion.

They’re stuck in the forest for what seems to be several days, such that when Karyl is sick of fish, Peco and Yuuki trap one of the furry beasties that roam the area. Their meat is juicy and delicious…but ultimately poisonous. The four find out the hard way one by one when they vomit rainbows. The friends and family of the beast they ate surround the paralyzed party. Karyl had me howling when she exclaimed “I don’t want to die in such a stupid way!”

Fortunately, te four are saved by a grizzled old man who has lived in the coral forest for years. In fact, he and his party made the original map the copy of which Kokkoro obtained. He serves as their guide, and Kokkoro learns from his locket that he’s the last living member of a adventurer’s party of four…whose souls happen to still be stuck here in the form of spectres.

The quartet readies for battle, but when physical attacks prove worthless, Kokkoro works off a hunch and initiates a healing spell to help the ghosts pass on peacefully. Turns out that’s what the old man wanted all along, and he too is a ghost. That said, Peco asks the four of them to join them on their search for that legendary seasoning, “Drops of the Sea.”

The ghosts agree, and procure transport to the location in the form of a dang airship that soars through achingly gorgeous landscapes and cloudscapes. This is all happening during the end credits, and it’s a credit to the show that it packs as much as it can into its running time. It’s only fitting that a series in part about food that it offers such heaping helpings of visual bliss right out of the gate.

Alas, they’re never able to procure the Drops of the Sea from the eggs of the giant turtle who supposedly lays them…because the only turtle they find is a male. That said, this was always about the journey and about sharing new sights, sounds, and tastes along the way…even if they were briefly poisoned!

The episode fittingly ends with a meal. Returning home after to long, there isn’t much in the way of food to prepare, but Kokkoro makes it work, whipping up a quick and tasty fried rice-like concoction. When Karyl, a famously picky eater who hates vegetables, spots bits of them in her food, she is weary, but when she works up the courage to take a bite she learns it’s much better with veggies than without.

Everyone scarfs down their dinner and puts their hands together in thanks: thanks for the food, and thanks for each other. Then it’s off to warm beds, restful sleep, another gorgeous dawn, and another fun adventure.

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