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.

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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.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 14 – Opponents Without Pasts

SAO: Alicization commences its second half with an end to the Cardinal infodump, a return to the action, and a new OP that still, unfortunately, prominently features Kirito and Eugeo’s painfully lame secret handshake, which I believe they have yet to actually use in the show itself.

Ah well—no sooner do the two break into the cathedral armory to retrieve their weapons (and some new threads) than they’re attacked by the bow-wielding Crimson Integrity Knight Deusolbert Synthesis Seven. He sends a hail of arrows their way, but the lads are barely able to dodge them all without injury.

Deusolbert then takes off the kid gloves, using his Perfect Weapon Control art to unveil his Conflagration Bow. Kirito manages to slow his first shot with a series of ice shields as well as the sword skill Spinning Shield, allowing Eugeo to get close and unleash the full power of the Blue Rose Sword.

In this ice-vs-fire matchup, the Blue Rose wins, and Eugeo’s Veritcal Arc delivers decisive freezing blows to the knight. It’s perhaps the most jacked up we’ve ever seen Eugeo, no doubt taking a page from Kirito, as it’s absolutely essential in this world to believe you can do what you’re setting out to do, and trust in the source of your weapon to boot.

Defeated, Deusolbert asks Eugeo to finish him off, before he is stripped of his armor and knighthood and essentially frozen indefinitely by Administrator. Eugeo, recognizing his name as that of the knight who arrested young Alice, bound her, and took her away from Rulid, is almost enraged enough to oblige him, but Kirito asks him to stay his sword against one who will no longer fight back.

He also deduces that Deusolbert doesn’t remember capturing Alice, because Administrator erased his memories of doing so, then reassigned him to guarding the cathedral. They leave him on the staircase landing to choose whether to go back to his boss to accept punishment, heal his wounds and come after them again, or…perhaps try to remember more of the dream he always has of a young woman’s ringed hand on his arm. Integrity Knights may not have pasts, but Deusolbert definitely did.

Kirito and Eugeo continue their climb to the fiftieth floor, where a host of Knights await them who have orders to take them dead or alive. But before they can get far, they encounter two mysterious girls. Are they a form of Integrity Knight we’ve yet to see, some other kind of foe…or perhaps not a foe at all?

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 01 – The First to Confess Loses!

Here it is: perhaps the romantic comedy of the Winter. All dramatic theatrical staging, lighting, and musical stabs, Kaguya-sama: Love is War elevates something as deceptively simple as mutual romantic interest between two high schoolers into a grand operatic life-and-death affair.

Part of that is because the two in question aren’t ordinary high schoolers: are the top two students at the most prestigious school in the country. StuCo Vice President Shinomiya Kaguya’s family owns a good chunk of Japan, while President Shirogane Miyuki, while a commoner by comparison, possesses unsurpassed academic prowess.

Let’s get one thing straight: these two like each other, but would never ever say as such, let alone confess it. To do so would be to surrender the upper hand, shift the power dynamic, and become the supplicant, ceding dominance to the confessee. Despite their disparate backgrounds, Kaguya and Miyuki have too much pride and dignity to let that happen.

As such, while the rest of the student body sees them as the perfect couple who may even already be secretly dating, the two exist in a constant state of war, with the StuCo office serving as the battlefield. The neutral party between them, the far less brainy secretary Fujiwara Chika, often serves as a wild card in the pair’s ensuing battles.

In the first sequence, she’s also a pawn: Kaguya planted movie tickets in Chika’s mailbox, knowing she wouldn’t be able to go and would offer them to her and Miyuki. This creates a scenario in which Miyuki asks Kaguya if she wants to know, knowing that boy-girl pairs who go to this specific movie tend to end up as couples.

Their battle of wills is a chess game of moves, counter-moves, and counter-counter-moves, but when Chika also points out the tickets are also valid for an innocuous kids movie, a chaotic element is added to the pair’s already complex calculations, overheating their brains. Worse, Chika snatches the only source of sugar in the office that they could use to recharge and rally. Thus, the first battle we witness, both Kaguya and Miyuki lose.

In battle #2, Kaguya receives an anonymous love letter, and makes it known to both Miyuki and Chika that she fully intends to go, hoping it will provoke Miyuki into slipping up and demanding she not go…because he loves her. Miyuki knows what Kaguya intends, and attempts to dissuade her not as a man, but under his authority as StuCo President to discourage illicit relationships. He even considers tattling to the teacher, a risky move, but one that won’t expose his true feelings.

Kaguya counters by declaring that if it’s true love, she will risk suspension or even expulsion to give her body and soul to the writer of the letter, which almost causes Miyuki to slip up. He turns things around by asking, very speifically for the sake of argument, if she’d still go on the date if he were to confess to her. Kaguya’s true feelings are momentarily exposed, and she admits, too easily, that she’d reconsider before coming to her senses and preparing to go through with the date.

Ultimately Chika again intervenes in the battle of minds, grabbing Kaguya and tearfully declaring she won’t let her get expelled for a date, because she loves her too much to let such a thing happen. And so, with a crucial but unintentional assist by Chika, Kaguya loses this round.

The theme of the third and final battle of the episode (which packs a lot of bang for the buck!) is lunch. Specifically, Kaguya’s desire to taste a good old-fashioned classic Japanese school lunch with all the standbys: omelettes, hamburger, white rice, miso, plum, and most important, octopus wieners. The lunches she gets are prepared by a team of professional chefs, but Miyuki’s got the stuff she wants.

Of course, she can’t simply ask for a taste. But Chika certainly can, and does, compounding Kaguya’s anguish. She brings in an extra-fancy lunch, hoping to entice Miyuki to trade, but he doesn’t bite. Miyuki even makes Chika an identical lunch just for her, and with every bite (and indirect kiss) Kaguya’s opinion of Chika gets lower and more sinister. Miyuki can sense Kaguya’s negative aura this whole time, but assumes she’s looking down on his meager commoner repast, when quite the opposite is true.

Miyuki suspects Kaguya is up to something, even though this time she just wants a taste of his lunch, and ends up retreating from the office for StuCo business rather than find out what that might be, to live another day. However, since he fled, and Chika ends up offering her a cocktail weiner unbidden, Kaguya wins this last round, bringing her and Miyuki’s week one record to 1-1-1 each (or 1-2 if the first battle is a loss for both; I consider that a draw).

And there you have it! Despite all their constant scheming and wheel-spinning, I found Kaguya and Miyuki to both be likable, rootable characters, even if they remain doomed to remain in a stalemate as long as they maintain their stubborn positions of waiting for the other party to make the first move. The closed-off, bottle-like nature of the StuCo office gives the episode a compactness and laser-focus, and while one more StuCo member has yet to be introduced, I hope the cast stays this small.

Full of lively competitive energy, but with underlying mutual affection and respect, I’m looking forward to watching Kaguya and Miyuki spar in the future, with Chika in the middle demonstrating that they could make things so much easier for themselves if they just lightened up!

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 14 – Glowing Fists For All!

Carissa’s Coup Arc is brought to a suitably ostentatious and splendid end, as Index III truly BRINGS IT this week. As Itsuwa safely delivers Touma and Vilian to the gates of Buckingham Palace, Touma gives Vilian his typical spiel of helping out for “no special reason” except that he won’t abandon all of the people “running around for their lives”, trying not to lose what’s important to them.

Carissa awaits with Curtana Original, which she uses to summon a fleet of unmanned aerial fortresses. Touma has a bear of a time keeping up with her sword’s pandimensional fragmentation, but while he was thrust into the final boss battle far quicker than he’d hoped, he’s obviously far from alone. Kanzaki, Index, Amakusa, and Sherry all arrive in turn, though Carissa isn’t cowed by any of them.

Even a Saint like Kanzaki has trouble against Carissa and Curtana, while Touma has to time his right arm just right since the weapon has a brief lag between slash and effect. He manages to strike true before Carissa can kill Vilian, who uses her crossbow to rediredct the flash bombardment from Coven Compass to land a direct hit on Carissa’s position.

Unfortunately, it only gives her a couple light scratches; more will have to be done to defeat her, which means more allies must take the stage. As Carissa picks up the idea of bombardment by having bunker-buster cruise missiles launched on the palace grounds, elder Princess Rimea broadcasts a message bringing the forces of Knights back to their feet…including Knight Leader.

Carissa soon finds she can’t launch any more missiles, since Acqua has destroyed all military antennae. This is why you have a magical backup to a vital scientific device, or vice versa, but of course Carissa hasn’t thought anything through beyond “I have Curtana Original, I am invincible.” Now she has three Saint-levels fighting her in Kanzaki, Acqua, and Leader.

And then Mom shows up. Queen Elizard casts aside her own Curtana Second, knowing it’s powerless against the original, but whips out another magical treasure of the royal family: the Union Jack, which she uses to redistribute all of the power imbued within Curtana to each and every one of the millions of British people.

This essentially turns every British citizen into a hero in their own right, with the mandate to “do what they will.” It’s essentially a re-imagining of that iconic signal from Admiral Nelson’s ship during the decisive Battle of Trafalgar: England expects that every man will do his duty.” Only this time it isn’t just England, nor is it just men.

With over 90 million now aligned against her, Carissa can’t help but hesitate for a moment, which is the one thing she can’t do. In that moment, Index (yeah, her!) delivers a simple incantation to cause Curtana to swing upward and hold in place just long enough for Acqua to launch Touma at it with his right arm. He shatters the sword and delivers a devastating punch to Carissa, and suddenly the coup d’etat is all over.

Unfortunately, Touma’s troubles are not. The beaten Carissa is confronted by Fiamma of the Right, who is there only to check on those items which he desires to possess: Touma’s own right hand, yes, but more importantly, Index. A magical item he steals before heading off to Russia was a kind of safety device that allowed Index to live a normal daily life despite having memorized 103,000 grimoires.

In the Tower of London, Stiyl, Elizard, and Touma look over a bedridden, unconscious Index. If Touma is to save her, he must get that device back, which means he’s headed to Russialand. No rest for the weary.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 03 – A Little Bit More Good than Evil

All of the various knots Boogiepop tied the first two eps are laid bare this week and then gradually unraveled, bringing the three-part arc to a satisfying conclusion. It starts with Tanaka Shirou searching for his girlfriend Kamikishiro, unaware she’s already dead. Class Rep Niitoki Kei joins him in the search, as does Saotome Masami.

Of course, we know Saotome is up to no good, and his true goal is to draw out both Echoes and Kirima Nagi. And his plan works…kinda: when they send a PA message summoning Nagi to the broadcast room, she shoes up, but not before cutting the lights, taking all three of them down, and tying them up before presenting them to Echoes to determine if any of them are Manticore.

When Nagi frees the three, Kei wants to know what’s going on, but Nagi doesn’t want to involve them, as they’re “too normal” for what they’re up against. This rankles Saotome, still sore over Nagi rejecting him for the same reason. He reveals his treachery by stabbing Echoes with a pen loaded with poison that will keep him from regenerating, just when Manticore arrives.

He also slits Nagi’s throat, an event that was a horrifying to behold in the moment, even if I knew there were supernatural means of bringing her back. Echoes escapes to the roof with Nagi, and Manticore follows, while Tanaka runs away screaming, leaving Kei alone with Saotome, who liked how it felt killing Nagi and wouldn’t mind doing it again.

Echoes and Manticore engage in a kind of aerial parkour duel, the animation for which is crude, but effective. Manticore eventually bests Echoes, slamming him to the ground where Saotome and Kei are. This is where Manticore explains all the horrible things she’s going to do, including taking Nagi’s form and turning Kei into a soulless slave.

But as Kei holds him upright, Echoes has other ideas. He transforms himself into data and shoots himself into space. Saotome pushes Manticore out of the way, but gets vaporized himself. Denied her prey Manticore starts to go a bit loopy, and prepares to kill Kei in her rage, but her hand is stayed—nay, her whole left arm cleaved off—by none other than Boogiepop, who has come to the rescue.

After suspending Manticore with magical threads, Tanaka makes a triumphant return, shooting an arrow through Manticore’s head, killing her and ending the threat. Turns out his act of cowardice was just that—an act; Boogiepop told him earlier that the opportunity to “shoot through the truth” would come if he wished to…and he decided to do so. In this case, to avenge his beloved and defeat the demon that claimed her.

Turns out in his brief time with the bloodied Nagi, Echoes gave her a little of his life force, allowing her to heal with no ill effects (which is why Manticore thought he was a bit too weak, even with the poison). Tanaka thanks Nagi and Kei for their help on Kamikishiro’s behalf. Boogiepop further explains that Echoes was sent to judge whether humanity was worth living; thanks to Kamikishiro, with assists by Tanaka, Nagi, and Kei, the verdict was favorable.

Kei also wants to thank Boogiepop, but with the threat lifted, Boogiepop is gone. Still, Nagi suggests she thank the next best thing: Miyashita Touka, despite Touka having no idea what happened. This brings us full circle to the end of the first episode, when Nagi and Kei encounter Touka and Kensuke walking home. All in all, I really enjoyed this intricate little mechanism, and I’m looking forward to the next crisis that will necessitate Boogiepop’s return.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka – 01 (First Impressions) – Voice of Destiny

Three years ago the Disas invaded Earth, but thanks to a treaty with the Spirit Realm, nine select human girls were transformed into Magical Girls. Four were killed defeating the Disas, and five remained…and went their separate ways.

The ostensible leader of the Magical Girls, one Ootorii Asuka, lives her life as a normal high school student, though whenever she sees any kind of animal mascot, she thinks back to the bad old days. Magical trappings aside, Asuka is a traumatized combat veteran trying to move on from the horrors she experienced.

But at school, she’s the cool mysterious transfer student. She stands out by dint of her physique and apparent aloofness. And when her classmates are accosted in the street, she rushes to their aid…and has to remember not to kill the guy.

The beneficiaries of small act of heroism, Nozomi and Sayoko, thank Asuka and announce their intention to befriend her. Nozomi wants her to join track since she’s in great shape; Sayoko wants her to join the lit club because she sees her reading.

But while Sayoko reads because she loves it, Asuka does it to escape; to keep her mind busy so it doesn’t go back to those bad old times of blood, sweat, and tears. When her guardian Iizuka arrives to tell her about a new squad being assembled, she passes on his offer without hesitation.

Back when she was in middle school, she came home to find two Disas had already killed her parents and were prepared to “give them back” to her one piece at a time, which is why Iizuka ended up her guardian.

Her takeaway was that while she fought to save the world, those around her suffered and died. Now that she has two new adorable friends, she doesn’t want history to repeat itself. Of course, Asuka she puts it, despite all the effort she’s put in to escape her past, battles keep finding her, because “a Magical Girl’s battle never ends”.

Whether it was a minor incident like the asshole who shoved Nozomi (who dared to call him out on his assholery), or an escaped terrorist leader and his kill squad with Sayoko in the crossfire, when duty calls, she’ll always answer. Once a Magical Girl, always a Magical Girl.

While Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is almost painfully straightforward in its premise, the Disas are super goofy-looking, and the show lacks anything resembling originality, I found Asuka’s emotionally-wounded vet profile resonant, and the show is crisply designed and animated and accompanied by a cool Square Enix JRPG-style soundtrack.

The idea of Magical Girls moving on to more conventional military operations after the Magical enemy has gone is also intriguing, as Asuka is not alone and we’ll soon see what became of the other four of the Magical Five. Both the bloody action and the lighter school life scenes are executed with aplomb. Definitely entertaining enough to stick with for now.

Domestic na Kanojo – 01 (First Impressions) – So That’s How It Is

One minute Fujii Natsuo is at an innocuous mixer, the next he’s sneaking out with the least enthusiastic of the girls, Tachibana Rui who asks him for a favor. She wants to have sex, so she knows what it’s like and so it won’t feel like people are talking down to her.

She correctly assessed that Natsuo was also a virgin, and so she wouldn’t be taken advantage of or anything else by a more experienced guy. They get undressed, do the deed, get dressed, and part ways. There was never supposed to be any passion or emotion of any kind, so Rui tells him that if they ever meet again, they’re strangers.

As Natsuo confides to his dorkier best friend (who make it a point to de-dorkify Natsuo before high school so at least one of them would have a chance, socially speaking), the experience doesn’t quite sit that well with him, the more time that passes after The Act.

For one thing, there’s someone he likes—a pretty young teacher at school—and while it’s most likely to remain unrequited (at least as long as he’s a minor and her student), a part of him laments that his first time was so…impersonal.

But if you think the chain of events Natsuo has experienced to this point was sudden, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! One afternoon his father announces he’s going to remarry, ten years after Natsuo’s mother passed away. And oh yeah, she’s coming over right now, with her two daughters…who just happen to be Natsuo’s teacher Hina and Rui, with whom he had sex. OH, SNAP!

Natsuo faints from the shock, but when he comes to, Hina and Rui’s mother warmly introduces herself, and when asked, tells him why she likes him. She and his father really are a good match and both seem happier than any of the kids have ever seen them. It’s for that reason that Rui, who waits for Natsuo outside the toilet, is not going to get in the way of her mom’s happiness just for “some stupid reason” (read: their having sex that one time).

Natsuo gives his dad his blessing as well, and things only accelerate from there: his dad buys a new house big enough for the newly-combined family, and adding to Natsuo’s apparent woes. Hina insists on a dropping of formalities in the house, while Rui insists that Natsuo forget they ever did it, as it’s clearly still bothering him. Naturally, that’s not so easily done; Natsuo can’t get the images of making love to Rui out of his head.

Still, This Is All Happening and everyone has to make the best of it. For Hina’s part, she forgets she’s no longer in an all-women’s household and comes out of the bath half-naked, only to put on a loose tank and short shorts before drinking herself to sleep with Asahi Super Dry (not out of depression; she just likes to drink).

As she dozes on the couch, with everyone else in bed, Natsuo decides he’ll close the book on his one-sided crush on his teacher-now-stepsister once and for all…with a first and last kiss. But before his lips meet hers, Rui enters the room, and her expression isn’t one of total contempt, but something more like…a “how could you?” face.

Your enjoyment of a show like this (or Koi to Uso, or Kuzu no Honkai) will depend entirely on your stomach for love triangles (and other polygons) as well as your ability to swallow a premise this specific and weird. To its credit, because of the central reason for the new arrangement—his dad and their mom are truly in love and deserve happiness—helps temper the ridiculousness.

Because the dynamic between Hina and Natsuo and Rui and Natsuo are so different, it will be very interesting to see how the three navigate their new normal.

Weekend OP: “Kaen (Flame)”

This opening, so far the best of the Winter and an immediate personal favorite, just gets so many things right. It achieves a perfect synergy of music and visuals, utilizing a eclectic mix of layers, textures, and scale, calling to other classic OPs such as House of Five Leaves, Un-Go and Samurai Champloo.

Ziyoou-vachi’s fusion of traditional Japanese orchestration/vocals and modern hip-hop really brings the OP alive, and features the non-annoying use of English lyrics (even Iwasaki and Sawano sometimes have issues with this point).

It’s an opening that proudly and confidently announces that Dororo has finally arrived in the 21st century after a five-decade hiatus, and it has my full attention. It’s a minute and thirty seconds of which I highly doubt I’ll ever tire, not matter how many times I watch it.

Happy Friday!
—Braverade

(Note: As always, since this YT video is not from an official channel, it may not last long.)

Yakusoku no Neverland – 01 (First Impressions) – Green Acres

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

Look at how happy everyone is at this country orphanage! Clean white clothes, soft, warm beds, good food, plenty of friends, and fresh air…and a “Mama” that loves and cares for them all! What’s not to like?

Three 11-year-old “elite” orphans named Ray, Norman, and Emma distinguish themselves with their smarts and athletic ability. These three are the oldest at the “House”; everyone leaves the orphanage at age 12, but no one has a clear idea where they go and what they do.

All they know is, no one has ever written back. Ah well, they’re probably having too much fun, right?!

The boundaries of the orphanage are not particularly stout, but a warning from Mama is enough to keep even Norman, Ray and Emma from crossing them. And while she’s not yet 12, the day arrives when lil’ Conny is to leave the House, and she gets a warm sendoff. She promises she’ll write back.

Conny has already left the orphanage, escorted by a wordless and very creepily-lit Mama, when Emma discovers she forgot her stuffed bunny. Well that won’t do at all, will it? She has to reunite Conny with her treasure! Norman decides to tag along.

They will both come to regret doing so.

Once they cross the gate (Norman says they’ll “get scolded together” for the transgression) they come upon a truck; the first either of them has ever seen. And in the back of the truck is Conny, only she’s dead, and there are flowers sprouting out of her chest.

Utterly shocked, Norman and Emma just have time to hide under the truck when monsters arrive to collect Conny’s corpse, going on about how it’s “high quality human flesh for the rich.” That’s right: Norman, Emma, Ray, Conny and all the others are free-range children. The orphanage is a farm. And they’re meat.

Norman and Emma just manage to slink away before a monster smells and discovers them, but they leave the bunny behind, so Mama, AKA Isabella, knows someone was there. They’re alive for now, but along with Ray, they’re going to be the next kids to be killed and shipped off to be eaten by some kind of well-to-do monster gourmands.

Emma and Norman return to the House, forever changed and scared out of their wits. But Norman decides that he’s not going to let anyone else follow Conny’s fate. They’re going to get out of there, along with all the other orphans. It’s just a matter of strategy, and if any kids can do it, it’s the elite three. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and I highly doubt Conny is the last victim.

Even as little hints spring up here and there in the first half that Not All Is Well, Yakusoku no Neverland is masterful at holding us in suspense until the big horrifying reveal, mercilessly upending the world of three kids. Emma’s initial face mirrored my own upon seeing Conny.

That was one hell of a start, and it’s pretty easy to root for children to escape the fate of being killed and eaten. But of course, once such a bullet is shot, it is shot; the show will have to find new ways to shock us now that we know the gist. I’m guessing they have plenty more horrors in store for us.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 13 – In It to Win It

Well well well, if it isn’t my favorite poorly-animated romance of Spring 2018, picking back up like nothing happened. In truth, it looks a little better, if still not very good. At least the light pastel palette is soothing enough. Visual shortcomings aside, I’ve always thought of 3DK as more than the sum of its parts, and stayed invested enough in the first dozen episodes to welcome a dozen more. Also, it’s a slow Winter so far.

So. Reaching another normie milestone, Hikari is voted cultural festival rep by his class. He and Itou have classically peace’d out for such things but this year is different, and he doesn’t have a choice. As for Itou, he’s trying to evolve, which means finally mustering up the guts to confess to the eternally pleasant Ayado, who turns him down simply because she’s not quite over the emotional turmoil of her first crush and rejection.

Hikari is there for Itou, and it doesn’t even take that long for Itou and Ayado to encounter one another and recover from the incident. They value each other too much as friends to throw that away, and so they agree to continue on as they have.

Ayado also offers to assist Itou with his class’ maid cafe, seeing as how she’s a pro at that. The next day Itou cuts his hair—which Ishino really likes—continuing to move forward with purpose.

The stress of Hikari’s job as festival rep is somewhat undercut by Itou’s exploits, but that’s actually okay. It’s Iroha who gets the really short shrift this first week. She and Hikari are cordial enough to start, but when he misreads her reluctance to enter the beauty pageant, she storms off, and by the time he sees her again, she’s already decided she’s going to do the pageant anyway. Hikari may be lucky, but he often lacks the best timing.

Itou worrying about Iroha slipping away from him when the pageant makes her more popular also feels like an older version of Itou; the one who didn’t understand why Iroha actually loves him.

Never mind; he’s been appointed a judge in the pageant, which means he’ll be judging his girlfriend. That shouldn’t prove awkward at all, no siree! So this was a brisk episode full of stuff, enough of it that I wonder where characters like Itou go from here if that is indeed that as far as Ayado is concerned. But I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?

Dororo – 01 (First Impressions) – Oldie but Goldie

If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me…so said NBC back in 1998. Indeed, through the eyes of new generations, the old can become new again, and draw strength from its venerability.

That certainly seems to be what we have with Winter 2019’s Dororo, a re-imagining of an anime from Spring 1969, based on a Tezuka Osamu manga began in Summer of 1967. That makes the anime a cool fifty years old—golden—and ripe for a good dusting-off by Tezuka Productions and MAPPA.

Impatient and distraught by the withering of his lands and his people, a samurai lord named Kagemitsu Daigo forsakes Buddha and makes a deal with the demons of the Hall of Hell: he’ll get victory, prosperity, and power, and the demons get…whatever they want.

When his first son is born without limbs, facial features, or even skin, Daigo rejoices, for he knows the demons have accepted the deal. A midwife takes pity on the cursed child, placing it in a boat rather than drowning it in the river, but as its father rises in significance, the babe slips into obsurity.

Fast-forward sixteen years, and the young, Aladdin-like boy thief Dororo has swindled a man of burlier frame but punier intellect. Dororo takes his beatings but won’t let anyone tell him what to do. His mark is on the cusp of drowning him when their exchange is interrupted by the appearance of a strange young man with a doll-like face, seemingly looking beyond them.

He’s actually looking at some kind of sludge demon that emerges from the river and starts eating Dororo’s marks, but Dororo himself is saved by the young man’s rather unorthodox fighting with multiple prostheses. It’s pretty obvious who he is by the time jump and false limbs: the child survived, and has become strong enough to handle himself.

This young man, whom we learn is named Hyakkimaru, is still mourned by his mother, the wife of Kagemitsu Daigo, though she now has a healthy, fully-limbed son who is no doubt being groomed to succeed his father. As for Dororo, he just thinks it’s hella cool that Hyakkimaru can do what he does. He also gets to witness something quite unusual (well, more unusual): upon defeating the sludge demon, Hyakkimaru regains his skin.  

And so the stage is set: a lad lacking many body parts, itching to get them back from the demons who took them, and his plucky sidekick who takes shit from no one. It’s a stylish new interpetation of a literally classic pairing. Dororo’s seiyu is solid, the OP is frikkin’ bad-ass, and the action is swift and satisfying. Very encouraging start.