DanMachi IV – 15 – Hope Reforged

As Ryuu sleeps and dreams of the past, DanMachi is content to gradually inch us along a tale of unfathomable woe. Ryuu can only watch as her comrades—her family—decide to head down to the Lower Floors to investigate, unaware it’s an Evilus trap. Meanwhile, Bell successfully scares a skull sheep away. They may be ugly bastards, but they’re intelligent.

The reinforcement squad composed of Tsubaki and Ryuu’s former co-workers Anya, Runoa, and Chloe reach the 24th Floor and find it in shambles. Tsubaki correctly suspects a Floor Boss rampage, but whatever happened, they believe they’re too late to help. That doesn’t stop Anya from leading the charge to scale down the walls to the lower floors in order to meet up with any survivors.

Speaking of survivors, other than Bell and Hestia Familia, Bors is the only survivor of the Ryuu elfhunt. Aisha, Welf & Co. rescue him, but he is the bearer of bad news: he fears even Bell and Ryuu were among the massacred. Lili more than anyone won’t accept this, but it’s Aisha who calmly gets Bors to admit he didn’t see Bell’s corpse, and indeed saw Ryuu healing him. So the mission objective remains the same: find Bell and Ryuu.

But they’ve already met heavy resistance from all manner of lower-floor baddies, and Welf is down to one slash from his fire dagger. Remembering Hephaistos’ pep talk, he decides to set up an ad hoc workshop in a dead end where the familia is catching their breath. He uses the last swipe of his dagger to light his portable hearth and prepares to hammer out some adamantine he found along the way.

All everyone else has to do is guard the entrance to the area they’re in and make sure nothing gets to him, as he’ll obviously be a sitting duck while crafting. But considering they don’t have the weaponry to continue much further anyway, the best move they’ve got is to stay put and let Ignis cook.

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 04 – Shooting You Down With a Smile

Tanabe wants to see Misuzu smile, but Jun sees her smile all the time. It’s just her sadistic smile; the pure smile Tanabe imagines doesn’t exist. But true to her acerbic self, Misuzu gets Tanabe stop fooling around and approach her seriously. She then promises to shoot him down with a smile, one of many great lines uttered with sardonic perfection by Hidaka Rina.

Misuzu also isn’t all that into a lot of physical contact with friends, but Tomo watches other female classmates glomping and embracing and wants a piece. Carol offers herself as Tomo’s hugging partner first, and the feel and smell of her has Tomo briefly wondering if she’s a guy after all; Misuzu simply assures her “that one’s made special.”

After hugging Mifune and Ogawa (and giving them similar feelings as she got hugging Carol) Tomo notices that Misuzu is mad; she knows the very subtle changes in her expression, as well as her change in aura. Carol, who has been constantly clinging to Tomo, suspects she’s to blame, and apologizes by slamming her forehead against Misuzu’s desk. Misuzu then  finally lets the former gather her into her ample bosom, and they make up.

This leads to Misuzu asking Tomo if she’s tried glomping onto Jun; lord knows he isn’t shy about initiating contact. When she tries it, he pulls her off, and I thought for a minute Tomo was going to fall (and need Jun to swoop in and catch her). But she regains her balance, because she’s a jock! I liked that little detail. Jun declaring that he can initiate contact but she can’t earns him a well-deserved right hook!

Jun once again asserts his long-standing familiarity by being in Tomo’s room when she wakes up the next morning (her mom let him in). This leads to a big loud fight that wakes her mom. Tomo then makes breakfast for Jun: rice balls filled with dried sardines for strong bones. Jun’s reaction suggests they taste…interesting, but he still eats every bite.

In the dojo, Tomo’s dad demonstrates how he can still pass out from lovesickness at the sight of his wife. But in a nice scene with Tomo and Jun, she says that her dad has and will always protect her mom no matter what.

Back at school, Carol and Misuzu tell Tomo they are having lunch without her, so she has an awkward lunch alone with Jun. In addition to wanting to supplant Tomo as Misuzu’s #1 best friend, Carol also wants to show Misuzu firsthand what she’s dealing with in regards to the guy she likes.

That guy is Misaki, and Carol’s problem is he doesn’t see her as a girl or potential mate, but as a little sister due to their long history together. Misuzu suggests Carol “take life more seriously” if she wants to succeed with Misaki. Fat chance of that!

In the final segment, Mifune and Ogawa come to Tomo with boy problems. Specifically, like, a Don Juan-type upperclassman has his eyes on Ogawa, and like, won’t take no for an answer? Tomo agrees to be with her when she turns him down. When he fails to act in a gentleman-like fashion, Tomo lays him the fuck out with a thunderous kick to the solar plexus.

The girls warn her that the guy has four equally unsavory buddies, but Tomo coolly promises that she’ll deal with all comers, and won’t hesitate to protect them, before striding away like a badass. Mifune and Ogawa can only swoon.

The five pricks never get a chance to exact any kind of revenge on Tomo, because Jun overhears them plotting to go after her, and delivers a very similar kick to the leader’s chest that Tomo scored. We don’t see him fight the other four, but when all five of them approach Tomo, it’s to prostrate themselves and apologize.

On their walk home together, Tomo wonders why they did that, and why the four she never met were already beat up, and why Jun has a bandage on his cheek. He says he “fell”, but we know he was inspired by what she said about her dad protecting her mom, and wanted to do the same for Tomo. Even if, like Tomo’s mom, she probably didn’t need help!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tenten Kakumei – 04 – Breaking the Mold

Anisphila, clearly sleep-deprived from making Euphyllia’s new magic sword, nods off in her lap for quite some time, and thanks her for it when she awakens. Euphie is just glad to be “somewhat useful”, unaware that she’s been Anis’ magicological muse for years.

Ilia, who continues to slay in every scene she’s in, scolds Anis for leaving herself so vulnerable “to the person she likes”, then lays into the princess for stinking and having messed up hair. It’s as if Ilia isn’t a maid at all, but the big sister Anis never had.

Euphie can’t help but feel smitten by Anis, who mistakes her for having suddenly come down with a cold. Into bed Euphie goes, and Nurse Anis prepares some medicine, even patting Euphie’s head like she’s her little sister. As Anis talks spiritedly about Arc-en-Ciel, Euphie simply watches her admiringly, as a beautiful bird that flies as far as it wants. Meanwhile, Euphie feels like a bird that just can’t stop falling.

She feels empty. Anis seems to sense this, and takes Euphie’s hand. Euphie asks what she should do; Anis of course says “whatever you want”. And if she doesn’t know what that is, that’s okay, they’ll take their time looking for that together. That’s when, after weaving her fingers into Euphie’s, Anis draws closer to Euphie, who starts to panic until it’s clear Anis is just touching her forehead to check for a fever. That negative space tho…

After a few moments like this, Euphie relaxes; she likes the feel of Anis’ warmth. She nods off, and when she wakes up, Anis is still there holding her hand as she sleeps, glowing in the sunlight, so bright and beautiful it makes Euphie’s chest ache.

Anis may have minced no words about her prospective romantic intentions with Euphie, but little by little Euphie is coming around to the fact that this girl is special, and makes her feel like no one else in the world ever has. That’s powerful, and I love how gently and poignantly the girls’ love is developing.

We briefly check in with Prince Algard, who is under house arrest after his little stunt. The head of the Ministry of the Arcane pays him a clandestine visit, no doubt to inform him of the appearance of the dragon in the cold open. Then we get right back to Euphyllia secretly watching Anis practice swordsmanship.

Ilia spots Euphie and tells her that the princess has taught herself most of her skills in battle, but then changes the subject to Euphie herself. As Euphie awkwardly follows Ilia as she does chores, Ilia asks her if she finds it hard to voluntarily do things outside her given role; her mold.

Euphie then states that she’d always worked towards becoming the best duke’s daughter and future queen she could be; an ideal Ilia tells her defined her self-worth. Ilia too was once fitted into a predetermined mold, and even offered to an old, rich man for marriage.

That mold was shattered by none other than Anisphila, who took her in, and demanded not to be treated like a princess, but something like equals. Ilia adds that it’s okay for Euphie to worry, because Anis will see to it she has all the time she needs to figure things out.

This lovely heart-to-heart is interrupted by Anis boisterously rushing at them with News: there’s a stampede of monsters, caused by the appearance of a dragon—and she’s going to take it down! It’s the first Euphie is hearing that Anis is not only an adventurer, but a Gold-Ranked one at that. She’s utterly stupified that a princess, even a princess like Anis, could go off and battle monsters.

And yet, Euphie remembers that Anis is a bird who can fly as far as she wants, looks at Ilia, who wordlessly tells her there’s no talking Anis out of this, and tells Anis that she accepts her flying off into danger to battle a dragon…but she’s coming too! Considering she’s a magical genius and has Arc-en-Ciel, I have no doubt she’ll be able to contribute.

Anis and Euphie unknowingly steal a march on Prince Algard, who barges into a royal council meeting and declares to his father that he’ll slay the dragon if he can get what he wants—Lainie Cyan’s hand in marriage. He tells his father and his courtiers how he’s always heard people saying “if only” his sister was a man.

Orphans can tell that after Anis and Algard got along famously as little kids, a rift grew between them when Anis discovered magicology. The resentment and bitterness have been stewing within his only son. He also knows that Anisphila could most definitely assume the throne, and perhaps do a better job than Algard—but made a conscious choice to reject it for Algard’s sake.

But while Anis’ intentions were good and loving, a part of Algard must also feel patronized by his amazing big sister. So the king isn’t going to hold him back from trying to stand on his own two feet and prove himself. The only problem is, I seriously doubt he’ll get his chance at the dragon before Anis and Euphie take care of it.

After two episodes off it’s good to have Algard back in the mix. I still hate him for what he did to Euphyllia, but I also understand why he did it. I can also understand how he wants to be with the woman he loves, not the one chosen for him. He’s an ass, but he’s also a compelling character who wants to break out of his mold.  I can’t wait to see him, Anis, and Euphie in action—either together or at cross purposes.

Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible – 03 – You Can’t Go Wrong with Mittens

Shiraishi returns the tracksuit he borrowed from Kubo, and she asks if it was small on him. It was, but only a little, as he’s 5’4″ to Kubo’s 5’3″. She gets onto a higher step on the stairs to become 5’9″, because she heard six inch difference is ideal for couples. Then she gracefully jumps down to Shiraishi’s level and declares that she prefers it this way. Give this girl an inch…

Kubo wants to hang out after school, but Shiraishi rushes out in an apparent hurry, with plans. This turns out to be taking his baby brother Seita to the park to play in the snow. Shiraishi is no fan of the cold, so it’s fortuitous that Kubo (who lives nearby after all) spots him. She has a warm bottle of cocoa which she offers to Seita, who then offers it back to her. But when she offers it to Shiraishi, he won’t take the obvious indirect kiss bait.

Shiraishi has to go a little ways to get a limited edition manga magizine with a poster he wants, but when he finds it among the stacks, an adult magazine is laying on top of it. Assuming no one can see him due to his presence, he prepares to take a peek, but is caught red-handed. Just his luck Kubo’s sister Akina works there—and that apparently all Kubos can see him!

Akina doesn’t 100% buy his innocent explanation, but when he drops his school ID after leaving, she notices it’s the same school as her sister, and asks her to return it to its owner. When Kubo says it’s Shiraishi’s, Akina stirs the pot a bit by saying he was looking at a porno mag featuring big boobs. This leads Kubo to asking him if he likes big boobs, calls him ecchi, and flees before he can explain.

Kubo isn’t sore about it for long, as she overhears other girls hanging out with their boyfriends for Christmas, and decides to cash in Shiraishi’s promise. Only she asks if they can hang out “Saturday after next” and he agrees, and only later realizes that it’s Christmas day.

Nevertheless, he’s at the agreed-upon spot 30 minutes early, while Kubo comes 10 minutes early. She manages to deduce that he was waiting longer than a couple minutes by the coldness of his hands. She also came with a Christmas present for him, and gives him fifteen minutes to buy her one with a budget of 1000 yen.

Shiraishi draws a blank on what to get her as he mills through the mall, until he realizes that like him her hands must be getting cold as she waits, so he buys her a pair of cozy pink mittens that go well with rose sweater dress and pale pink coat. Kubo is elated to receive a gift into which he clearly put a lot of thought.

As for his gift? A highlighter yellow shirt that says “Main Character,” so he’d be more noticeable to others. Something of a gag gift, but still a thoughtful one. Put it all together, and this was another sweet, cozy, charming episode to warm the heart on a cold winter day.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vinland Saga S2 – 03 – Death Is Our Product, and Business Is a-Boomin’

When Fox and Badger, two mercenaries hired to be Ketil’s bodyguard, try to take his failson Olmar drinking for the sake of fun, Olmar ruins that by being an unbelievably annoying, blubbering drunk. He has no idea what he’s doing when he challenges Fox and Badger, who quickly put him on the ground.

Fox tells him both they and his father treat him like a child because he still is a child, or is at least still half of one. The right of passage for true adulthood is to take the life of another. Olmar asks who he should kill.

You know who.

Einar’s peaceful morning is interrupted by Thorfinn’s blood-curdling screams, though he can’t remember what he was dreaming about that caused him to scream so. The vibes improve dramatically for Einar when the pretty young lady from the wagon the other day is by the well washing her face. She even compliments Einar’s face.

She introduces herself as Arnheid, and as women in Vinland Saga go, she’s definitely one of the fairest. That’s why I assumed she was Ketil’s daughter, but the truth is she’s a slave just like Einar and Thorfinn. Specifically, she’s Ketil’s personal attendant.

Einar’s morning is once again darkened by the arrival of Fox and Badger, who are there to take him and Thorfinn to their camp situated on the beach. Einar wonders what the heck is up, but he need only look at the faces of his captors and the weapons they bear to realize it’s nothing good.

It’s also possible Thorfinn showed a bit of precognition in sensing something was amiss, but not quite remembering what it is. Perhaps the horrors of his past informed his expectation of further doom in the future. It is, after all, all he’s ever known.

When Einar and Thorfinn are presented to an extremely anxious Olmar, whose sword clatters in his trembling hand, Einar isn’t ready to go down without a fight. He tells Thorfinn to run, rushes Olmar, and tackles him to the ground. But as they grapple and Einar continues to tell Thorfinn to get out of there, Thorfinn doesn’t move, and soon two swords cross his throat, daring him to flee.

When he sighs, calls this all a big pain, and volunteers to be cut down by Olmar if Einar can just get back to work already. Fox takes this as an affront to his profession, as warriors’ product is death, and if people aren’t afraid of death, that product has no value.

Alas, Fox has met someone for whom life has no further value. His thirst for revenge has long since dried up with his nemesis and father figure slain. Fox slashes him several times, but Thorfinn doesn’t flinch, or even blink. He just stands there, and that’s enough to make Fox mad enough to kill him himself.

But Fox stops dead at the sound of his name, uttered by his boss, Snake, who has just arrived from the cabin where he fell asleep reading. He moseyed is way over to the camp, observed what was happening, saw how Thorfinn was like cold hard steel when being threatened, and stopped his employee from killing a valuable resource.

Do I see Snake fighting Thorfinn next week to see what he’s made of? Most definitely. Can I also imagine Snake deciding to buy Thorfinn—and possibly Einar, who is if nothing else, big and strong—to join their merry band of murderers. In any case, the pain will likely continue for our pint-sized protagonist, but at least he has a sympathetic companion in Einar.

In / Spectre – 15 – So Generous, It’s Creepy

This episode was an emotional roller coaster! It begins by rewinding from Yuki-onna’s request to Kotoko to the police detectives questioning Masayuki. Their reasons for suspecting him of murdering his ex-wife are numerous: Mahiru left a note accusing him should she die suspiciously; the beginning of his name scrawled on her hand; and camera footage of Masayuki with a woman that looks just like her.

The police have reasonable cause to suspect, but not arrest Masayuki, and his failure to definitively state he had no alibi doesn’t help his case. But what choice does he have? He can’t tell the police he was having tempura and drinks with a yuki-onna on the night of Mahiru’s murder. Why, they’d think he was nuts…even though it’s the truth! Days pass and the police don’t bother Masayuki again, but it’s still looknig bad.

Then Yuki-onna, who was present in rabbit form for the entire talk with the police, asks him if she looks like his ex-wife, and he admits that she does, so it was Yuki-onna in the camera photo. Hers was the face of the one person in his life who didn’t betray him, but he admits he felt bad for marrying for whom he was otherwise unsuited.

Masayuki decides he’ll head out and try to find the real culprit, but Yuki-onna tells him to wait, and when he keeps going with a full head of steam,. she freezes him in his tracks—literally! 

Yuki-onna correctly diagnoses this as Masayuki being impatient and restless and wanting to prove his innocence at any cost, but with no leads and nothing to go on, the best move is to stay put, eat some food, get some rest. Then she remembers that her Ladyship, the Goddess of Wisdom, is just the person to solve this case, so she reaches out to her.

Yuki-onna flies Masayuki deep into the mountains to a cave where Kotoko is waiting. Rather than her going right into the particulars of the case, Masayuki gets a better taste of who Kotoko is, namely someone still quintessentially human despite her status as a goddess to supernatural beings near and far. That’s because Kotoko is upset that Kurou blew her off and she had to get cold pork cutlet from the local konbini.

I was so happy to see my favorite goddess of wisdom meeting my new favorite human-yokai couple, about to dish out the solution to their problems. But that’s where the roller coaster starts hurtling down to the earth, as Kotoko points out that not only does Yuki-onna’s wishy-washy sense of human time make her a poor alibi, but Masayuki might have capitalized on that poor sense to manipulate her into trusting him implicitly.

With Yuki-onna’s unwavering trust, Masayuki could kill his ex-wife one night, have tempura with Yuki-onna, and say they were doing the latter on the night of the murder, thus making him look innocent in her eyes and persecuted by the police. He could even convince her to kill the business partners who betrayed him.

Kotoko is so precise (as always) in laying out this theory that it even had me questioning if Masayuki really did have such a diabolical plot in motion, and had pulled the wool over Yuki-onna’s eyes with food, drink, and companionship. But you know who didn’t suspect Masayuki, even after hearing all this? Yuki-onna herself. She prostrates herself, says Masayuki has a truly kind heart, and demands that her Ladyship reconsider her stance.

Kotoko responds to Yuki-onna’s display by making it clear she’s all too aware that Masayuki isn’t the culprit, and that everything she uttered about otherwise was a lie. Among the reasons she trusts Masayuki? He’s been refusing Yuki-onna’s sexual advances! If he’d wanted to gain her trust quickly, he’d have swept her off her feet.

While Kotoko’s theory of Masayuki being a yokai-manipulating criminal mastermind was harsh and at times cruel, it was still crucial for her to say what she said, so she could enlighten Masayuki to the fact that Yuki-onna trusted him so much, she was even willing to defy her goddess for his sake.

By underscoring the courage Yuki-onna demonstrated for him, Kotoko hopes Masayuki will make the effort to regain some of his own courage. Even if this criminal investigation is all tied up with a neat bow and he gets off scot-free (as he should), Kotoko suspects that won’t be the end of Masayuki’s troubles.

A new start is in order. Masayuki owns up to being terrified of interacting with people—that lack of interaction is why he doesn’t have a human alibi—and tenderly gathers Yuki-onna’s cold white hand into his to thank her for going to bat for him. As for the true culprit of his ex-wife’s murder? Naturally, Kotoko already knows that too!

Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World – 03 – Swiss Army Mitsuha

With all of Mitsuha’s intricate preparations complete, all that’s left is to get chummy with the nobles of this world. When she’s stopped at the gates for lack of appointment or invitation, she improvises. She pretends to have been struck by the Count’s sons’ carriage, and they bring her right into the manor. This way, their first interaction is one in which they have done her wrong and owe her amends.

Once she’s “recovered”, Mitsuha formally introduces herself as “Mitsuha von Yamano” of the distant land of Japan. Her story is that she was separated from her traveling companions and her life was in danger, but she was saved by the people of this land. She offers a Swiss army knife of all things as a token of her gratitude, and her hosts are impressed by its craftsmanship.

That night she wows them with an evening gown and pearls, which while the cheaper cultured kind, are deemed so perfect by the Count’s wife Lady Iris that she goes on a tirade about how they can’t possibly exist in this world. She also meets the Count and Lady’s two sons and daughter, all younger than her, and explains the true reason she’s here was due to a succession dispute in her land.

Freed from that dispute, and from the titles and riches of her homeland, Mitsuha is determined to start over and make her own way by opening a general store in the capital. Mitsuha manages to appeal to Lady Iris by offering her “priceless” necklace because she reminds her of her own mother. She also tells them that all proper ladies in her country are trained in the “knife arts” and carry a blade on them at all times.

As the night goes on, Mitsuha continues to entertain her hosts over tea with her stories and ideas about how they can boost their flagging crops, her ambition on full display. The Count notes how it’s so fun chatting with her he’s lost track of time, and when she accidentally knocks over her cup, she’s suddenly reminded of a real interaction she had with her parents back when they were still alive. She realizes that she never truly wept for her lost family members, and finds herself unable to hold back genuine tears.

After how the interactions with her brother were happening in her head for mostly comedic and expositional purposes, it was surprisingly touching to see that this interaction with another family made her yearn for her own, and properly grieve them for the first time. And even though that wasn’t her intention, it only supported her calculated plan to gain the nobles’ trust and affection.

The next morning they send her off on a carriage to the capital with attendants with both the financial and moral support to get her empire started, with the understanding that she’ll always be welcome in their home. It’s a win-win-win situation for Mitusha “von Yamano”, and her future is looking bright!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack – 04 – Hayase

Once Nagatoro’s big sister, who Naoto calls “Anetoro”, realizes the famous “Senpai-kun” is here, she sees a perfect opportunity to toy with both him and her sister. It’s abundantly clear to her, an adult, that these two are absolutely a couple already, and are just been silly kids about it. Giving Naoto a glimpse of Nagatoro with bed head asking for pudding is a unique gift.

When Anetoro prods and lures her crankly little sister with a deluxe pudding bowl, it’s instructive to Naoto, because he’s able to witness Nagatoro with her defenses down. She can’t toy with him, because she’s being toyed with. The result is that Naoto gets to see a new side of the girl who, if he’s honest, he likes.

Indeed, once Nagatoro whisks him into her room to eat their pudding bowls without her sister’s interference, it’s clear that Naoto is not only ready and somewhat willing to slip back into his normal dynamic with Nagatoro, but can tell more than ever that her schtick is performative and not malicious. Toying with him has always been Nagatoro’s coping mechanism for showing affection.

She’s mortified when her sister sees her feeding Naoto, because she’d prefer to keep her thing with Naoto all to herself. It’s the same deal whenever her friends interfere or pry too much. She’s even willing to tell Senpai more about herself…if he can beat her at the video game they played before, and at which she’s been practicing.

While her improved play and ability to distract Senpai results in two straight wins, the decisive battle times out, and per their bet, the “secret” Naoto wants to learn is Nagatoro’s real first name. Not anything pervy. Nagatoro is caught off guard by the request, but realizes she’s never told him. But when she’s about to, he tells her he’d rather ask her fair and square than force her to by losing a bet. That ingratiates him with her even more.

And then, Anetoro goes and ruins their shit by bursting in and hollering her name—Hayase—and offering to show Naoto some albums of her when she was younger. She 1000% was eavesdropping, because this is surely the first and only boy Hayase has ever brought home, and she is also a Nagatoro, which means if someone can be messed with, you must mess with them!

Before departing, Hayase shows her genuine side first by thanking Naoto for checking on her and hanging out, then switches gears into Teasing Hayase by warning him that she’ll be back at school tomorrow to toy with him anew. Naoto’s comeback—”Have some mercy”, is delivered confidently, because he’s not loathing tomorrow; he’s looking forward to it. Also, now he knows her first name. If he ever needs to get her to simmer down with the aggressive teasing, he’s got that first-name bullet in the chamber.

We don’t have to wait till next week for Hayase to be back at school messing with Naoto, though when she strikes a Bruce Lee kicking pose and Naoto agrees they should go with that for his drawing, she has to hold that pose far longer than she had bargained for. Her thighs start barking at her, but she’s on pins and needles and can’t move. Then she stumbles and starts to fall.

Rather than hitting the ground, she lands on soft, fluffy Senpai. The two blush and scream and separate immediately, but it’s clear Hayase is impressed that he was able to move fast enough (and was bold enough) to break her fall. Of course, she covers that up with more teasing about whether he was trying to “get lucky”.

Then Naoto sneezes, and even before the preview confirmed it, I knew it would be Hayase’s turn to pay Naoto a house visit. After all, she just got over a cold, they just had a lot of contact with each other. It would be weird if he didn’t catch her cold!

NieR: Automata Ver 1.1a – 03 – This Cannot Continue

Lily brings 2B and 9S to their ad hoc base, and does not get into why she shoots so many intent looks in 2B’s direction. Could Lily have known a former version of this 2B? Did she know 2A, since she recognized her as “Number Two”? We also meet Jackass, who really wants to take the YoRHa androids apart to “collect data”, but is content to drive them to their recon site.

The truck ride, and really all establishing shots in NieR succeed in creating a vast sense of both scale and desolation, especially when we see the half-buried ruins of our familiar civilization (Saturday is apparently post-apocalypse day for me—not that I’m complaining). The grandeur is enhanced with the score, with themes perfectly suited to the base, desert, and the orbiting YoRHa base.

When they encounter Machine Lifeforms wearing tribal masks and markings, 2B and 9S get to work trashing them. But when 9S hacks the biggest bot, he gets a lot more than he bargained for. These MLs are among those that have absorbed knowledge from the library of humanity of yore, and he ends up in the middle of a Mesopotamian-style  ritual.

With this group of bots defeated, 2B, 9S and Jackass trudge on into the ruined city, where all communications to YoRHa HQ are being jammed by an unknown power source. They keep exploring, and locate a group of android corpses, including the missing YoRHa liaison. That the corpses aren’t totally destroyed but in various states of dismantlement bodes ill for our two androids.

2B and 9S fall though quicksand and into a yawning undergeround complex. They come upon a circle of yellow-eyed, non-hostile MLs both reciting and emulating various human emotions and activities, including copulation and childrearing. All of this makes 9S particularly uneasy, since this is not the way the enemy should be acting. But then things get even weirder when one comment from a red-eyed ML—“this cannot continue”—sends the yellows into a frenzy.

The MLs climb columns made of the fossilized bodies of their dead, and huddle together in to the super-brain thingy teased last week. The mass opens and out pours an approximation of an android that quickly grows skin and stands up, part Terminator, part Sephiroth. 2B and 9S’ first instinct is to kill it ASAP, even though he is not immediately hostile to them.

While they successfully break his energy shield and impale him with their blades, a second, unharmed ML android emerges from the lifeless body, good as new, and this one is a lot more aggressive. 9S is just able to grab 2B and leap out of the way of the android’s devastating main weapon. The resulting cave-in apparently crushes the android, but as we saw that’s not going to be enough to do it in.

We learn from Commander White up in space that she didn’t send 2B and 9S to assist the resistance, but to use the resistance as a shield and decoy in order to facilitate their real mission, which has now borne fruit. Not only do they know what became of the liaison, but they’ve uncovered a potentially game-changing development in their once-primitive foe.

The Fire Hunter – 02 – Precious Goods

Maiden Train Arc

Touko’s adventure starts out rough, with her vomiting and passing out, no doubt due to the fact she’s never been on a moving vehicle. When she wakes she’s greeted by two kindly women, Hotaru and Benio, who are also getting a ride on the collection truck, to be married off.

Hotaru and Benio are resigned to their fate, which is the result of their villages believing sending them away will lift curses. But a third bride-to-be, Kaho, is manifestly not resigned and not taking it in stride. A shot of her right next to a window makes it obvious: if she finds an opportunity, she’s going to run for it. The forest may be full of fiends (and various ruined artifacts from before this world’s fall), but not an unwanted husband.

Unlike the brides who are confined to their car, Touko is given a brief tour of the truck and given toilet-cleaning duty. It’s hard work and it stinks, but Benio would prefer work to being cooped up and twiddling her thumbs. The episode is full of vividly-rendered postcard memories to accentuate certain scenes. When Touko is back in the brides’ car for lunch, Benio shows a growling Kanata who’s boss by basically asserting that she wont put up with his continued hostility.

That night, Kaho comes to Touko’s bed, telling her she’s talking and groaning in her sleep, but also to give her something he dropped. It turns out to be a spirit stone with her adoptive sister Rin’s name carved into it. Touko’s happy reaction to his indicates it was Rin’s intention, despite her harsh words, to send Touko off with a good-luck talisman, and the mask she wore was indeed to conceal her sad face.

Lightning in a Bottle

Nighttime is a good segue back to the Capital, where Koushi walks past unhoused orphans huddled together in the rain. Koushi may be apprehensive about his future with his mother dead and his father away, but this little shot is a good reminder that he is a lot better off than most.

Koushi makes his way to the ornate mansion of Yuoshichi, who knew his father, Haijuu—Haijuu, of course, being the fire hunter who was killed saving Touko’s life. Yuoshichi feels firmly indebted to Haijuu, and following the death of Koushi’s mother has decided to welcome both him and his little sister into his home, not as a servant or factory worker, but as members of his family.

Yuoshichi would rather Koushi focus on his studies, and begin research on the skyfire his father had collected over the years. The moment Yuoshichi mentions that the current government is on its last legs and that skyfire can be used as both a fuel and an explosive, I knew his intentions vis-a-vis Koushi weren’t entirely altruistic. When the winds change, he wants to be ready, and Koushi is key to that.

Runaway Bride

When the collection truck stops for “fuel”, the fire hunter onboard conscripts Kanata to work beside his own good boy, Izumo the hound. He doesn’t bother asking Touko for permission, and Kanata tentatively follows. When Hotaru reports that Kaho has gone missing and must have left the truck, Touko also exits to go look for her.

She finds Kaho in the clutches of a black beast that the fire hunter and dogs are in the midst of hunting. It’s a chaotic and frought scene of multiple perspectives all captured on the screen at once in the battle’s climax.

In the end, Kaho and Touko are fine, as are the dogs, and the truck has ample fiendfire from the slain beast. But Sakuroku tells Touko that her leaving the truck is unacceptable. He summarily decrees that he can no longer keep her on the truck, and will be dumping her off at the next village along with one of the brides (though which one isn’t revealed).

If Sakuroku doesn’t change his mind (and something about him tells me he won’t), it looks like Touko’s journey to the capital—and rendezvous with the son of the fire hunter who saved her—will be delayed. There’s also the possibility the village won’t accept her, or try to betroth her to someone.

In any case, this episode did a lot of heavy lifting showing how despite the apocalypse that has left the world in this state, humanity’s innate bad habits of using one another as currency and tools have not abated.

DanMachi IV – 14 – Towards the Sunrise

As she and Bell take turns keeping watch, Ryuu begins to experience flashbacks to when she met Alise and was part of Astraea Familia. It’s a reminder of all the people she’s lost, but also a rallying point for her: she’s going to make sure Bell survives this, even if it costs her her life. It very nearly does too soon when three beasts attack, but Bell wakes up in time to kill the one Ryuu isn’t able to.

Meanwhile, much further up, both Mikoto and Haruhime announce that not only are they not dead, but their spells give their comrades the opportunity and power boost they need to finish of Amphisbaena. Mikoto demonstrates what a fool I was to think being underwater and surrounded by piranhas would be enough to do her in, by casting her biggest spell yet: Futsu no Mitama, which freezes the boss in place.

While it’s not clear how Haruhime survived the brunt of the boss’ breath attack, she’s able to dig deep and cast Uchide no Kozuchi. Ouka, who had used an ice ramp created with the last Welf’s magic sword to climb up into the ceiling of the chamber, brings his axes down on one of the boss’ heads and slices it clean off with Kokuu, while Aisha leaps right up to the remaining head’s mouth and unleashes a mega-Hell Kaios.

Cue victory fanfare…or rather a few blessed moments when the party is able to catch their breath. Aisha tends to Haruhime and Chigusa and Ouka tend to Mikoto, who are unable to walk. Then tremors begin, and the entire cavern threatens to collapse on top of them: the “coffin” from Cassandra’s premonition is still in play. Aisha and Daphne urge the party to flee up to the 24th floor like Turk and his team.

Cassandra, however figures out that “towards the life-giving sun” doesn’t mean a person or a place, but a cardinal direction: East, the direction of the sunrise. That happens to be through a recently opened tunnel down to the 26th floor. Daphne doesn’t believe Cassandra’s premonitions, but after Cassandra pleads with her and sheds tears, Daphne decides to believe Cassandra, the person.

Lili and Welf were already prepared to descend in order to locate Bell, so now everyone is in agreement. And with absolutely no time to spare, either, as the party witnesses what would have happened if they had gone the way of Turk & Co. The branches they were climbing collapsed, and then they were buried in stone, crystal, and plant debris.

It’s the rare instance where the 26th floor is a lot safer than the 25th, because it’s the place where they’re all still alive. They’ll have to keep descending quite a bit to get close to where Bell and Ryuu are. Perhaps they can meet in the middle? But I don’t want to forget what an impressive boss victory the party managed to pull off without Bell.

That win should give them confidence that, even in their weakened, battered state, as long as they stick together, they have a chance to find Bell and Ryuu and make it out of there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack – 03 – Tortoise and the Bunny Girl

This is a week of Naoto taking the initiative, which is progress! When Hayase heads to her homeroom for girl talk with her friends, she leaves her phone in the art clubroom. Rather than wait for her to come back, she heads down to the first-years’ hall and even asks one of them where Nagatoro’s classroom is.

It dawns on him he doesn’t know her first name beyond the “Hayacchi” nickname, but that’s enough for the girl to point him in the right direction. Unfortunately, when Hayase comes in with Sakura and two other friends, he panics, hides in the broom closet, and inadvertently eavesdrops.

It’s there where he hears Hayase reluctantly tell her friends that “her type” is someone she likes hanging out with. Someone…like Naoto? He ends up banging the side of the closet, and he’s lucky Hayase goes to check it out, distracts her friends, and gets him out of there.

Hayase thanks Naoto, but says he was being “actually creepy” in a very stern tone…and she’s right! Accident or not, Naoto shouldn’t be hiding in the broom closet of her classroom while she’s engaged in girl talk! This also pretty much confirms that when she says “creepy” and words like it, most of the time she doesn’t mean it.

Naoto wants to impress Hayase for once, so he actually practices running in preparation for the next school marathon. Unfortunately, he twists his ankle the night before, but it feels good enough to run the next day. That’s when Hayase and her friends catch up to him and challenge him to a race.

When the girls watch Sana running in bunny girl cosplay as performance art, they decide that they’ll help the tortoise (Naoto) beat the hare by giving him a boost. The train gets separated at a crosswalk, but Hayase and Naoto continue on their own.

When Naoto’s ankle barks at him again, Hayase can tell what’s up, and decides right then and there she’s not going to leave Senpai behind. She supports him and they walk in each others’ arms. When the pain gets worse, she insists he let her carry him on her back.

Naoto is impressed how far the tiny Hayase is able to carry him, but it becomes clear that even a “twiggy string bean” like him is a bit too much weight. Fortunately, Hayase’s pals meet back up, and propose a cavalry formation, with Paisen as the rider.

The combined strength of the four girls is enough to catch up to Sana. When she kicks into another gear, Yoshi takes point and makes herself big so the others are in her slipstream. They end up beating Sana to the finish, but are promptly disqualified for not running separately.

Nevertheless, it’s a wholesome and heartening exercise in which Hayase and her pals help Naoto out without any teasing, bullying, or insults. They’re just having fun out there!

Naoto’s final instance of taking the initiative is when Hayase doesn’t visit the club room for two straight days. Curious about her whereabouts (and apparently unable to message her) he asks Gamou and Yoshi, who are surprised he’s approaching them on his own for the first time.

They tell him Hayacchi has a cold, then do him a solid by handing him printouts to deliver. When no one answers the doorbell, Naoto worries Hayase is in dire straits and peeks in the window. As with delivering her phone to her classroom, good intentions lead to more “actually creepy” behavior.

This time he’s caught not by Hayase…but by her big sister! She snaps a photo and threatens to report him to the police, but he tells her he’s from Hayase’s school and has brought her printouts and a gift, the sister softens her stance, now that she’s finally in the presence of “the Senpai.” Clearly, she’s heard a bit about him!

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 03 – Youthful Indiscretion

Naturally, Tomo is shocked and feels betrayed by the fact she’s only now hearing about Jun and Misuzu going out. Misuzu only kept it from her because she herself preferred if it never happened. Jun asked her out on a whim, and they dated for a grand total of three days. I’m also convinced Misuzu calls it “youthful indiscretion” since that was practically Hidaka Rina’s character Yume’s catchphrase in My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex.

We also learn that Jun avoided Tomo for the entire first year of middle school, and they didn’t reconnect as best buds until he’d dumped Misuzu. Like her, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It’s likely that Jun asked Misuzu out because he was trying to avoid the fact that he had developed a thing for Tomo, and wasn’t ready to deal with that.

It’s become ever clearer that Tomo is not the best judge of whether Jun sees her as a girl, since the moment Jun learns that she’s in the boy’s karate club, he freaks out, and is particularly hostile towards Misaki. The two end up bonding (somewhat) on a bus ride when Jun admits that in a fight with rules like karate, he can’t beat Tomo either; she’s “too incredible”.

The next day after school, Jun asks if Tomo is free to hang, but she has plans with Misuzu and Carol to get tea. She runs into Ogawa and Mifune, who are harboring some very confusing feelings about Tomo and are so shocked by the sight of her in pants that they flee. Misuzu warns Tomo that she can’t keep blowing him off, and shouls arrange a date.

Tomo is dubious that Jun will be as pliant as Misuzu predicts, but when she does take the initiative and ask if he’ll hang, his reaction is just like that of a golden retriever who found out he’s going on walkies. Misuzu and Carol decide on the best outfit for Tomo, one that’s a bit girlier than her usual garb, but not so girly she’ll be too self-conscious.

The resulting white pullover, gaucho pants, and white sneakers ensemble really hit the mark, though Jun doesn’t let Tomo know how cute she looks, the swine. What he does do is let the two of them slide right back into their normal hangout routines: going to the batting cages and bowling. Each time, Tomo is certain she can’t hit a 160 kph fastball or roll a 16 pound ball, but in both cases, she’s still right on Jun’s level.

She then asks Jun if they can go to karaoke, and immediately acts like he said know when he actually said yes, leaving Tomo in a bit of a spot, as she hadn’t thought any further than “going to karaoke.” The place is a lot more intimate than she expected, and since the only songs she knows are children’s songs, that’s what she sings … and Jun records her.

The thing is, he’s not recording for blackmail purposes (though the minute Misuzu and Carol hear he has footage of her singing they want it). He was thrown off how…different Tomo was that day. But not thrown off in a bad way. Clearly it’s a side of Tomo he’d like to see a little more of.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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