Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 11 – Playtime’s Over…Unfortunately

TRIGGER WARNING: This episode contains a sequence of graphic violence.

The last nine episodes and change of Moonlight Fantasy have largely consisted of Makoto, Tomoe, and Mio basically goofing off while demonstrating their immense powers in this world. Then, just when he’s gained a third companion in the newly-humanized Lich he names Shiki, Tomoe starts bleeding profusely and keels over.

Like most of Moonlight’s cliffhangers, I expected this one to be resolved in the first five minutes, possibly in a comedic way. It…didn’t. Shit suddenly got real at the end of last week’s episode, and it stays real and very dark for the vast majority of this week. It’s almost as if Moonlight wanted both Makoto and us to experience the sudden realization that we don’t really know the first thing about this new world.

The adventurer woman and her two associates raid the Illusory City, and the magical ring Drahpnir explodes in an ensuing fight, killing an orc who was just doing his job as well as Tomoe’s Fragment, hence her keeling over. In response, and after reading her deeply prejudiced memories, Makoto takes his revenge on the adventurer woman by stalking her, cutting off her forearms, and then stabbing her through the throat. Fuckin’ Yikes.

It is without doubt the most dark and disturbingly violent this series has ever gotten, and it doesn’t spare the blood. Like Tomoe’s collapse, it comes out of nowhere, but maybe that’s the point: this show is done taking it easy on Makoto, and is now treating him more like Re:Zero treats Subie: like the new world he’s in is always trying to kill him and those he holds most dear, and surviving is a constant struggle.

While it’s laudable for Moonlight to take a chance at going dark, it kind of undermines that a bit by throwing us back in its usual goofy comedic milieu before we’ve even had sufficient time to process the shocking gore we just witnessed. Makoto brutally murdered a woman, and is back to being the straight man in between Mio and a recovering Tomoe bickering. After a memorial service, it’s just tonal whiplash. It’s…odd.

But while things return to “normal”, the reset button is not hit on Makoto’s psyche. His experience that night changed him forever, and also told him that if he wants the Demiplane to be safe, he’s going to have to learn a lot more about this world. For him, that means leaving Tomoe and Mio and enrolling at a university in the neutral town Rembrandt told him about.

But in the first instance since the first episode of the Goddess interfering in his existence on this world, when he goes through a mist gate to the city with Shiki, he ends up materializing alone in the middle of another wasteland, and is immediately attacked by Sophia and Mitsurugi, who don’t just look like a couple of tough customers…the former is able to lop off a couple of Makoto’s fingers!

The shit truly hit the fan at the start of  this episode, and by the end Makoto finds himself just about neck-deep in it. I appreciate the show’s ambition in picking the path of grim drama, but I can’t deny my neck still aches from that sudden direction change. All that said, this episode, the second-to-last of this cour, makes the previous ten feel like an extended prologue to the real story. Not sure that’s a good thing!

P.S. It remains bizarre that nearly all humans think Makoto without his mask is some kind of hideous monster, when his character design just doesn’t read that way. The show could at least show us how they see him through their eyes…

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 10 – Underlord

After two straight cliffhangers involving the two forest-dwelling sisters, Eris and Aqua (which does sound like a sports drink!) are effortlessly defeated by Makoto and Mio. The weaker adventurers are teleported to the Illusory City, which is apparently an actual physical place…albeit a foggy one.

Eris and Aqua are fun enough in their quirky/serious sister act, but when they take Makoto and Mio to the “Forest Ogre” village is when the episode really starts to bog down. I honestly cannot tell you how many village elder scenes I’ve sat through in my day, but it’s a lot.

Most of them put in more effort than Moonlight Fantasy here. It’s all very by-the-numbers listless, aside from Mio’s adorable envy at Eris and Aqua’s shisho holding Makoto’s hand a second longer than she got to

The obligatory village banquet takes place, and again, it’s just kinda there, not really distinguishing itself in any way. Thankfully, Ains Ooal Gown’s freakin’ cousin crashes the party and livens things up. Yes, the lich has more vitality than the anonymous, homogenous villagers. The lich talks a big game, but obviously Makoto ain’t losin’ to no skeleton.

Rather than kill him, they take him to the Demiplane to hear his story. He’s been striving all his life (and death) trying to become a “Grant”, a rare and special human that can travel between worlds. [Nudges your side hard] Sounds familiar, mmmmm? 

Tomoe, demonstrating a knowledge of other worlds that surprises Makoto a bit, says Grants are Grants not for what they are, it’s more bestowed upon someone by dint of having found a passage between worlds.

Lich (I didn’t hear a name) ends up forming a contract with Makoto, and gains a ripped bishounen body, which combined with seiyu Tsuda Kenjirou being particularly velvety, makes the Lich the third member of Makoto’s now unisex harem. But no sooner does he gain one member than he seems on the brink of losing another!

Without any explanation whatsoever, Tomoe keels over and starts bleeding out. It’s the highest stakes we’ve ever seen in this show. And while I’m fairly tired of these cliffhangers-for-the-sake-of-cliffhangers, I need to know dear sweet dashing Tomoe will be okay. Wait…what’s that? The next episode is titled “Goodbye?!” 

Shiiiiiiiiiit…

Isekai Quartet 2 – 12 (Fin) – Breaking a (Giant Metal Spider) Leg

IQ’s second (but by no means the last) season wraps up with two parallel performances: first, that of the school play Cinderella, to which Rem contributes a…shall we say unique version of Cinderella, who exploits the masochism of one of her stepsisters, derides the homebrew pumpkin carriage as “pathetic” (probably because Subaru is part of it), can’t help but ruefully laugh during her glow-up, and kisses her sister.

As that farce unfolds, the “Battle of Maidens” plays out in the schoolyard, with the all-female defense force all contributing their unique talents to keep Destroyer from ruining the play (and likely the school buildings as well). Raphtalia and Filo only need to hear the first few words of Reinhard van Astrea’s motivational speech (which he also gave during the giant whale battle in Re:Zero) to join in.

Aqua actually ends up scoring the coup-de-grace with a God Blow, echoing a similar battle in KonoSuba. As the episode flips from the battle to the play, it employs clever transitions that tie the two performances together. With a strong finale, Isekai Quartet remains a fun lightweight, pocket-size diversion. I honestly wouldn’t mind if they kept it up indefinitely, continually adding characters from popular isekai anime.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 11 – The Show Must Go On

The school festival is on, and immediately attracting characters from a sixth isekai anime, Cautious Hero. Sadly for Ristarte, Seiya deems it too risky to enter school grounds. While he may not be aware that an attack on the school by Mobile Fortress Destroyer is imminent, he’s not entirely wrong to be wary, but he surely possesses enough power to defeat such a boss.

Many of this week’s visual gags come in the form of the ridiculous costumes, in which none of the animal masks fit over the chibi-fied characters. Ainz in particular is just Ainz with a horse head plopped on top. Still, Raphtalia and Filo think Naofumi looks cute, while Albedo & other followers of Ainz are no doubt that much more smitten by his new look.

The issue becomes, how can the MCs participate in the play when Destroyer is out there, ready to…destroy? Simple: by relying on their friends, or in this case Albedo, Emilia, Visha and Aqua. Everyone mostly hopes Aqua won’t undermine the efforts of the other three. Tanya and Ainz then use reverse psychology to get Megumin to play the Fairy Godmother in place of the indisposed Aqua. Everyone has their roles, all that’s left is for the curtain to rise!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 10 – Who Killed Mr. Archie?

The Cultural Festival is approaching, which means Class 2 must choose a play and a food stall. The play chosen is Cinderella, with Ram(!) in the lead role and Rem(!!) playing the Prince. We also learn Naofumi will be Class 1’s Ugly Duckling.

The four MCs, meanwhile, will play…horses. They probably don’t mind stepping out of the spotlight in this instance, but Shalltear is not happy about her master’s lot. Master of food Visha spearheads Class 2’s choco-banana stand.

In the midst of lively preparations, bouts of destruction take hold on campus, starting with the hutch sheltering Hamusuke and Death Knight. While Reinhard and Beako are stumped for the moment, we Konosuba watchers know the culprit is the massive robotic spider known as Destroyer.

One wonders how such a huge foe is keeping itself hidden from everyone, but its next victim is “Mr. Archie”, Aqua’s affectionate name for the hand-painted arch it would seem Kazuma mostly worked on. Fretting over how long it took and how little time remains until the festival begins tomorrow.

Aqua has an extended temper tantrum, and can only be snapped out of it by a determined Rem, who substitutes Aqua for Subaru in an abridged reenactment of her seminal “Return to Zero” scene from Re:Zero episode 18, a rare instance in which we see both her eyes.

I knew as soon as Aqua said “step one” that it was coming. As for the faculty, they seem to know a lot more about why they’re all here, and leave it up to the students whether it was the right choice or not. Between those words and Destroyer, something big is on the horizon during and/or after the festival.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 09 – Filo Finds a Theme

Finally, a character from Shield Hero is featured on a mini-ep! To be precise, it’s Filo, who is tasked by Naofumi to ask around school for advice on what the theme of the cultural festival play should be. Unsurprisingly, everybody likes the cute and energetic bird-girl…except Beatrice, who doesn’t like much of anybody.

Beako does seem to be investigating how they all got to this chibi world, asking Mare about how her crew got there. No doubt if and when she discovers the means by which they were transported, she’ll start working on a way to get them back. The good news for her is that Re:Zero season 2 has been pushed back to July.

Another great trait of Filo is giving everyone a personal nickname based on their appearance or presumed age (Skeleton Guy, Wolf-Lady, Black-Haired Ladies, Old Guys), or borrowing someone else’s nickname for that character (Beako). As a pure, guileless character, Filo is a great breath of fresh-air among all the wisenheimers and cynics.

Filo stumbles upon the theme of The Ugly Duckling when Tanya’s subordinates cross paths with the famously human-hating Narbarel Gamma (getting some rare screen time with Alpha and Beta). Her reflexive insults will prove useful in a play where the main character receives verbal abuse. Come to think of it, Ram will be perfect in that role, too!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 08 – The Things We Do for Lunch

Hidden by the vertical sign: Ristarte from Cautious Hero!

Lt. Viktoriya Ivanovna “Visha” Serebryakova was a reliable source of comedy in Youjo Senki, but both she (and her seiyu Hayami Saori) been generally underutilized in Isekai Quartet. This week the doe-eyed beauty gets a spotlight of sorts, as the rest of her class wonders where she rushes off to after school. Turns out she’s working multiple part-time jobs around town to earn enough money to indulge in the ¥30,000 “Special Menu” at the cafeteria.

She also mentions that all of her workplaces feed her for free, and that, combined with the mystery of the Special Menu, compel others to seek employment (since the Butcher is present at all these locations I imagine this was a scheme on his part to get some cheap labor). Subaru, in one instance, serves the fully-assembled Pleiades combat maids, a rare sight indeed on this show!

The resulting discovery that the Special Menu is simply the normal menu served in ridiculously huge portions is a disappointment to all but Visha, who looks ready, willing and able to consume the food-mountain with ease in one sitting, garnering some unnerved looks from other characters. As for the others, they know to save the money they earned for something else.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 07 – Let’s Get Physicals

It’s a scary time for a lot of people across the world with the outbreak of the Coronavirus, so it’s somewhat inauspiciously coincidental for IQ2 to come out with an episode in which everyone gets a physical. This physical only seems to consist of taking the students’ height and weight, with no injections or other health tests taken.

What this episode does test is my patience with Pandora’s Actor. In the shadow of fellow Miyano Mamoru-voiced character Betelgeuse, PA’s quirkiness seems forced. He’s random and crazy enough to be annoying, but not enough to be fun to watch. Ram seems to agree.

As for the parties who strive to see members of the opposite sex in their skivvies, Rem prevents Shalltear and Albedo from glimpsing too many of Ainz’s bones, while the normally super-lucky Kazuma is a hair too late in initiating his peeping mission.

Speaking of hair, the prominent ahoge of both Tanya and Filo prevent Wiz from taking accurate height measurements, while Darkness is the only girl disappointed that neither Kazuma nor any other men decided to peep on them. The excessive Pandora’s Actor marred some otherwise funny moments in an unfocused outing.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 06 – Condiment Civil War

Personal preference for something even as trivial as chicken wing condiments can nonetheless cleave normally ironclad alliances. Tanya and Ainz may usually get along, but she’s a salt-and-pepper gal. Ram may love Subaru, but not enough to put mayo on her wings. Cocytus may be a loyal subject of Lord Ainz, but not to the point of using ketchup.

Rerugen sees that he won’t make any progress in class until the conflict is resolved, so he recommends the three factions play each other in condiment preference dodgeball, conscripting Shield Hero, Raphtalia and Filo to round out the teams. Visha and the butcher provide play-by-play and color commentary.

Darkness is predictably the first to be out, as the notorious M makes no effort to avoid a hard-thrown ball. Ram, Rem, and the Bello twins match kick attacks before Rerugen warns them that kicking is disallowed. Aqua’s God Blow is blocked by Albedo’s Walls of Jericho. The cats are not normal.

Eventually, Ainz and Megumin launch an explosive combo attack that Tanya manages to block with a magical barrier, only for the ball to burst. No one remembers what they were bickering about, so they decide to let the matter rest and go out for croquettes…only to start another argument about condiment preference.

Isekai Quartet is all about bringing all these heroes and villains down to a more realistic and normal planet earth, to a place more like where we live, and where in lieu of daily dramatic life-or-death disagreements, we place outsized importance on silly things like Coke-or-Pepsi (it’s Coke, obviously).

Isekai Quartet 2 – 05 – GIVE ME CHOCO…DEATH!!!

As Valentine’s Day arrives (or to paraphrase Tanya, “the triumph of capitalism over religion”), the concept of giving chocolate to the one you like spreads across the school. Albedo plans to infuse her chocolate with her love, and meets a kindred spirit in Betelgeuse Romanee-Conti.

Initially presented as the Home-Ec teacher, Betel is later booted out as a trespasser. I loved how these two demented weirdos fed off one another’s crazy. This version of Betel is also far more tolerable than his Re:Zero self, mostly because he doesn’t torture Rem!

Capt. Weiss wants chocolate, so he asks Kazuma the proper way to ask, and Kazuma messes with him by instructing him to hold his hands out and yell “GIVE ME CHOCO!”. This results in Weiss getting AL HUMA’d by Rem, shielding Darkness from potential harm Darkness was actually excited about, as Darkness tends to be!

It’s a pleasant enough exploration of to whom all these disparate characters from fantasy worlds would go about giving chocolate. Kazuma is happy to receive chocolate from all three girls in his party (even if its obligatory), while Subaru is happier to get a modest chocolate from Emilia than a huge heart-shaped box from Rem.

Finally, Beatrice is popular with Tanya’s underlings, the battle maids his up a sweets shop, while Yunyun either distributes or receives perhaps the most chocolate. Finally, for all the love Ainz got, he’s unable to eat chocolate.

…DEATH!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 04 – Time Cheaters

In a light, brisk episode that flies by even quicker than most IQ half-episodes, Roswaal informs the class that The Test is nigh, so they’d best study. Among the most nervous is Ainz, who in real life didn’t even finish middle school, and Aqua, who challenged Ainz to a bet to see who gets the higher score. Meanwhile Subaru feels nostalgic studying with Rem and Emilia, even though he can’t recall ever doing it.

The day of the test arrives, and a panicking Ainz stops time in order to copy someone else’s answers. However, Aqua is immune to the magic due to her goddess status, and both Subaru and Tanya also aren’t affected. When he sees Aqua blatantly cheating Ainz reconsiders doing the same and resumes time…before Aqua can get back to her desk. An unfrozen Roswaal makes her wait outside, while Ainz takes the chance that the answers on the test form the shape of its creator, Pandora’s Actor.

Unfortunately, the characters from Shield Hero don’t even appear this week after only the briefest glimpse of them last week. Hopefully they get something meaningful to do at some point…

Isekai Quartet 2 – 01 – Make that QUINtet

You heard that right: characters from a fifth Isekai join the already huge ensemble cast of Isekat Quartet. The first of them, Iwatani Naofumi AKA Shield Hero, is introduced immediately when he peeks into the class where all the other MCs are. He’s not transferring to their class, however: their only transfer student seems to be Megumin’s familiar, Chomusuke…who unlike Puck, has “student” status.

Raphtalia suddenly encounters Kazuma and Ainz Ooal Gown in the hallway and immediately assumes the latter is a monster that needs to be defeated, but Kazuma calms her down and they join her search for Naofumi. Filo, meanwhile, ends up in the pet area with Hamusuke and Death Knight. Raphtalia and Filo are reunited with the Shield Hero when he protects them from a particularly hard-hit baseball from the bat staff of Mare.

That’s pretty much it! The episode’s only eleven minutes, after all. Naofumi decides that while he’s not 100% sure what’s going on, he and his party will try to settle into a school life of following the rules along with the others who have been teleported. It will be interesting to see if he befriends the other lads from Japan…and here’s hoping Melty, Malty, or others from his world show up at some point!

Isekai Quartet – 12 (Fin) – Not Too Bad At All

Class A agrees to fight the three teachers (Rerugen backed out, not wanting anything to do with the other three) while Ainz, Tanya, Subaru and Kazuma must deal with Destroyer. It’s a great realization of the potential of putting these four together, and an appropriate way to end the first of at least two seasons of this super-deformed super-crossover.

Tanya’s shield gives Ainz time to cast Effulgent Beryl, pushing the spider back, and he then summons an entire army of chibi undead soldiers, many of whom flock around a very uncomfortable Aqua as Emilia smiles cheerfully, happy everyone’s getting along.

Ainz leaves the rest to Tanya, who flies Subie and Kaz up into the air. Subaru volunteers to fall first, cleverly using his Return by Death to attract a column of undead that serve as a shield against Destroyer’s beam. Kazuma then jumps, casting “steal”, which actually works for once, only not on underwear, but on a bolt holding one of the spider’s legs.

Finally, Tanya swoops in and grabs Destroyer’s purple headband, earning them the victory and 100 million points…but pointedly not the reward of returning to their respective other worlds! Turns out Roswaal’s “maybe” meant just that…”maybe.”

That said, the class is in agreement that this new world and school life aren’t that bad. It’s a good attitude to have considering they’re in store for at least twelve more episodes there, with a fresh batch of “transfer students.” Will the likes of Clementine, Mary Sioux, Priscilla, and Wiz be among them? We shall see, next season.