GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 13

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Prince Alfonso buries his mother and starts the long process of rebuilding his country, Herman makes a friend in the lady who was doing laundry back during his extended streak session, and Emma is the only one looking for Leon, though even Garm doesn’t know what’s become of him.

Leon, meanwhile, is lying in a riverbank, near death after his plunge into that gorge. He is no longer keeper of Garo nor Zaruba’s partner. He’s just Leon again. Having failed miserably in the world of demons and dark magic and fantasy, what he needs is a good dose of reality, which is exactly what he gets thanks to his savior, a farmgirl named Lara.

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When Lara brings Leon home and nurses him back to health, his first words to her are “Why did you save me?” when they should have been “Thank you.” Lara’s dimiutive but tough-as-steel grandmother puts an end to his pity-party right then and there: if they hadn’t saved him, he would have died on their land and they’d have had to waste time tending to his body, and time is the farmers’ enemy.

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This is a strange new world for Leon, whose former life had been pretty transient and action-packed. Here, it’s quiet, calm, boring, but the onions have to be planted and the firewood collected and the irrigation canal fixed before the ice comes. There are debts to be paid to the lord, and that Lara’s father was killed by wolves doesn’t change the fact they need a good harvest to pay them off.

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Leon watches these farmers, and the kinda and lovely Lara in particular, as if they were some kind of exotic animal. When he asks her how she can stand this unending routine of drudgery, and whether she ever dreamt of leaving and living a different life, she states simply that this is her father’s land, and it’s up to her to keep tending it. She isn’t the kind of person to abandon her mother and grandparents for her own selfish dreams. But in any case she seems to like her life just fine, and it’s been made a lot more interesting by the traveler’s arrival.

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Once Leon is strong enough, the grandpa gives him the shovel so he can take a breather (the episode is full of close-ups accentuating just how hard the elderly characters are working). Leon is understandably terrible at this non-combat manual labor, and Gramps shows him how, making it look easy. But it dawns on Leon as he sleeps beneath the full moon: nothing here is easy, but nor is it pointless, and he can be of help.

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The highlight of the episode is, surprisingly, a montage, but a truly powerful one, set to a bold, epic piece of soaring orchestral music that calls to mind the work of Joe Hisaishi (the whole episode has a distinct Ghibli vibe to it, for that matter.) It sounds like a determined march to a tough battle, only the enemies are nature, the elements, and time, and the weapons shovels, hoes, axes, and elbow grease. This really is a new world for Leon, but takes up these arms all the same and fights beside Lara and her family.

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And they are victorious, completing the canal before the ice comes, giving the family a chance at that good harvest. This was just one battle, but the war Lara and the farmers are fighting is unending. Now Leon can answer his own question from back when Lara first saved him: it was as if fate had brought Leon to Lara’s lands so she could restore his health, and in turn he helped them rebuild the canal and save their crops. They saved each other.

More enticing still, Leon doesn’t say farewell and leave by the end of the episode. Is Garo not quite done with this new, good-honest-labor setting for Leon? Will Lara continue to play a role in this second cour? In both cases, I hope so.

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Back in Santa Bard, Nuncle Herman assists his nephew the prince with a nasty-looking leftover horror from a Giger sketchbook, before considering hitting up a brothel or two, but his “butterflies” euphamism soars right over dear sheltered Alfonso’s head. The Herman/Alfie dynamic is a nice one, and while both are worried about what’s become of Leon, they know only he can help himself now.

I kinda wish Alfie hadn’t retained Mendoza’s closest confidant, and connected the dots that she was the one keeping his father ill. But that’s a classic rookie prince mistake, and I’m sure it won’t be his first.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 12

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Last week, our brave, valiant, devoted young Makai knights, brothers in blood as well as calling, stood shoulder-to-shoulder against Mendoza and his partially-summoned beast, poised to teach the bad guy a valuable lesson about going up against good. But then Mendoza got Leon to focus on him, took him into his clutches…and pretty much ruined him forever. I didn’t see that coming, I’ll tell you that right now!

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Overcome by grief, pain and rage over vivid imagery of his mother dying (courtesy of Mendoza’s magic), Leon loses control and transforms into a terrifying beast. Mendy made it so that it’s as if Leon never left those flames his mother was being roasted in when she birthed him, and the flames that protrude from the Berserk-Garo cause significant damage and death to the city.

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Obviously Leon didn’t mean for things to go this far, but the fact remains he has to be stopped, one way or another. Herman is too injured to do it, so it falls to Alphonso, who hasn’t let Mendoza get close and still has full control of his faculties and his armor. You know your final battle isn’t going well when you have to allocate significant time and energy to taking out your own ally before he destroys the city you’re supposed to be protecting!

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Alfie manages to kick Leon out of the Garo armor at a very high altitude. Emma saves Leon by cushioning his fall with a soft, fluffy stone column. By this time, Mendoza’s pet is fully formed and ready to complete the work Leon inadvertently started.

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Alfie needs to make a choice quick, and makes it, taking Leon’s sword, donning the armor of the Golden Knight himself, and going after Mendoza and the beast. All a dazed Leon can do is watch his prized armor he worked so hard for move and fight without him. All because he let Mendoza get too close, and continued to harbor thoughts of anger, hatred, and revenge – which even Mendoza correctly asserted were piss-poor motivations for a Makai Knight, any way you slice it.

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Mendoza doesn’t get any lengthy farewell speeches, however, nor does his face contort very dramatically, before the very horror he summoned swallows him up and is then sliced clean in half by Alfie-Garo. The scourge of Valiante is gone…but sadly, so are Leon’s days as a Makai Knight.

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He says he did ‘nothing’, but that’s not true…he burned much of the city and probably killed a lot of people, and wouldn’t have stopped had Alfie not forced him out of his armor. I must say, that’s a heck of a bitter pill to give one of your heroes to swallow in the penultimate episode.

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The hero-ship basically passed from Leon, who utterly failed, to Prince Alfonso, who is welcomed back to the palace with open, happy arms. Unfortunately, one of his first actions upon returning is to go to his mother, who committed suicide rather than serve as Mendoza’s hostage.

In the heat of the moment the previous night, Alfie cursed Leon as a useless weakling, a coward, and above all, a great disappointment…but he knows that if his own mother hadn’t sacrificed herself, he might well have gone the exact same path as Leon.

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Mind you, just because Mendoza had ammo against Leon and used it doesn’t completely vindicate Leon; the fact remains his actions were motivated by the wrong reasons for someone wishing to be a Makai Knight. He was wrong, and that wrongness accelerated his downfall. At the end we see him alone, with no more means to fight nor anything to fight for.

To him, that means there’s nothing to live for either, so he prepares to toss himself off a cliff. Seems to me like a perfect time for Emma to show up with her magic thread! Not to mention, back at Santa Bard, Octavia is ostensibly still lurking.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 11

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One could say the Makai Council created a monster when they marked Mendoza for life. They should have just killed him and saved a lot of trouble (and lives). Mendoza then went on to create a monster of his own with Bernardo. This week we get the rest of the story of what happened to Bernie as he fights Herman in the present, which is a much more interesting and satisfying story than Mendoza, who was pretty much always an irredeemable shit.

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Bernie wasn’t. He just got seduced by the Dark Side, so to speak. As a Makai Knight he swore to protect the people, but all he got for his duty was persecution by those very people. Anna insisted that turning the other cheek was also their duty, but cornered in the city, with Anna and Roberto still in trouble, Bernie chooses to protect them. He won’t sacrifice his friends, and especially Anna, whom he always seemed to have a thing for, just to protect the scum before him.

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He kills dozens of guardsmen, but ends up pretty gravely hurt himself, and probably should have died right then and there, having disgraced his oath, even if for a good cause. But Mendoza watched him fight, and restored his body with dark magic, and told him to join him, with the philosophy that people shouldn’t be protected; they should be ruled.

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Herman’s repsonse to all this is to call Bernie a “stupid idiot”, though perhaps that’s not quite harsh enough an insult; Herm could learn a lot from Captain Haddock! In any case, he agrees with me that Bernie should have died on that night and not lived on in darkness and disgrace, and so they go at in in one hell of a quick but visually impressive knight-on-knigh battle.

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They eventually fight each other into exhaustion, losing their armor and ending up in heaps on the ground. Bernie uses one of many dirty tricks to stab Herm in the chest, but that’s after Herm threw a knife a long way away, which makes its way back…into Bernie’s back. The mortal wound seems to bring the old Bernie back, who is glad Herman survived that awful night, and asks about Anna. Herm tells his old friend she’s safe, which I suppose is true if the afterlife is safe!

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It’s a pretty good death with an air of redemption and forgiveness to it; an end I’m practically certain is not in store for our low-pitched pal Mendoza. As Herm and Bernie were fighting, Leon and Alfie infiltrated Mendoza’s underground lair. I didn’t say anything about it because it wasn’t that interesting. But once they find him, he’s summoning a particularly nasty looking horror from Makai.

Insufferable bastard that he is, Mendoza is still an immensely powerful fellow, and far more experienced than these two kids. But then again, as the face of the Makai Order’s future, this is their time to prove they’re worthy of their armor. They’ve got to get it done.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 10

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Sorry for the late review, but I apparently wasn’t in a great hurry to review GARO this week. I’m not sure if that speaks to any waning of my passion for the show, or general late-Fall fatigue as our myriad shows wind down, but I shall endeavor to stick with GARO to the end, if for no other reason than to watch Mendoza get put in his place. God, I can’t stand his smugly evil voice.

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Well, I don’t watch it for Herman’s backside, which we see yet again this week, but his entrance, being chased by a furious husband, was a joke that kind of clanged to the ground. I’m actually glad that Leon and Alfonso are getting along so famously (no prince-vs.-pauper clashes). What I’m not so glad about is that so much time this week was spend on Mendoza’s backstory.

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Yeah, I get it, the guy’s an evil, mustache-twirling caricature. He was branded by the Makai order for experimenting on the very humans he was meant to protect and warned not to procreate, but he tries anyway after Lord Fernando awards him a wife for leal service. He then proceeds to dispose of both wife and newborn son. To his credit, he doesn’t seem to be a sexual deviant, as he refuses Octavia’s advances, but he’s still a bad bad man who didn’t learn his lesson the first time and needs to learn it again.

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Back to what worked: the semi-flirtatious banter between Herman and Emma. Emma is far more willing than Leon to see the good man behind all the tomfoolery, while Herman respects her more than his usual diet of wenches, both her ability and her pragmatism.

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Emma, for instance, declines to join the guys in their raid on Santa Bard, fearful she may lose her life there when there’s still a horror out there she wants to hunt. Maybe we’ll get an Emma-POV episode down the line? I hope so; if only to wash out the bad taste in my mouth from watching Mendoza’s past. For now, we’re in store for a long-anticipated fight between Bernardo and Herman AKA Roberto.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 09

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Rafarel Banderas’ training of Alphonso is proceeding apace, but not quicky enough. His body is failing him and he knows he will soon die. He must make a Makai knight of Alfie much sooner than he’d like, but rather than complain or fret, he rolls with the punches his life — what little of it is left — gives him. A knight must never stop moving forward.

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To this end, Raffy pays a very rare visit to Garm, spending not a second longer than he must to learn of the location of a powerful horror with which to test Alfie. Coincidentally, Leon shows up looking for the exact same thing, and keen to grow strong enough to face the black knight.

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Of all the ways I expected Leon and Alfie to meet, this wasn’t one of them, but I shouldn’t be surprised it happened now, with only a few episodes left, and I rather like how they end up interacting so amicably right out of the gate. The far-more-streetwise Leon gets Alfie out of several spots of trouble, and rather than stick his nose up, Alfie is genuinely grateful for the help. It’s a refreshing take on the exiled prince type, and indicates that he has what it takes to be a good and just king…he just needs to get rid of Mendoza.

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Lending a bit of levity to an otherwise solemn episode is the fact that not only do these two have no idea they’re brothers, but that they’re after the exact same hollow. The latter isn’t cleared up until both realize the other isn’t going to withdraw. Meanwhile, after coughing up more blood and collapsing moments after Alfie left, Raffy wakes back up, suggesting we haven’t seen the last of him.

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It doesn’t take long at all for both to realize their target will require diligent teamwork. The horror in question isn’t a chimera as we thought, but some kind of dread tabernacle floating a few feet above the ground, its underbelly lined with hundreds of upside-down ghouls. It’s a suitably creepy, messed-up looking foe.

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When Leon/Garo and Alfie get crushed and tossed aside, respectively, Raffy makes his appearance, dons Gaia one last time, and gravely wounds the horror with a dazzling, psychedelic blow. But one blow is all he can muster. Before he dies, he removes his armor and tosses his sword to Alfie.

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Alfie finds Gaia a good fit, and wastes no time finishing the ghoulish construct. The resulting massive explosion is a fitting way to herald Alfie’s entry into the order of Makai knights. Rafael was only his mentor for a short time, but Alfie vows to use the armor he passed down to him as he used it: moving forward without fear and protecting the people by any means.

Because Alfie defeated the horror here, Leon is no closer to becoming stronger. But with Alfie as his ally — or sparring partner — perhaps he’s as good a position as ever to do so. At the very least, I hope the two don’t part ways too hastily. After all, revenge aside, they want the same thing.

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24 Blondes of Fall ’14

Note: This isn’t every blonde in Fall, but it is most of them. If someone you like was cruelly left off this list, let us have it in the comments.

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1. Fuka Yuki

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – Leader of the Junai High Science Club and a ‘mad-scientist/inventor’ type who is constantly battling the ‘oppressive’ Student Council for resources. The ‘eyes’ in her large glasses mimic her moods.

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2. Leone

Akame ga Kill! – Sure, those boobs don’t seem possible for that waist, but google ‘human barbie’ and you’ll see there are living humans who look kinda like this! In any case, they can’t transform into half-beasts with ridiculous healing powers.

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3. Run

Akame ga Kill! – Baby-faced sandy-blonde Run hasn’t done much in AGK! other than observe from on high with his angel wings, but I imagine that will change soon in the last three episodes.

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4. Latifa Fleuranza

Amagi Brilliant Park – Latifa (or Latifah) is the park’s manager, and also the princess of Maple Land, whose subjects depend on the happy energy of people to survive. She also possesses magical powers that she can bestow upon people by kissing them, which is what she does to Seiya, who is prophesied to be the park’s next manager. She’s named after Queen Latifah.

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5. Sylphy

Amagi Brilliant Park – Sylphy is an employee of the park working at the Elementario. She’s rather ditzy and a bit of an airhead. She’s also a wind fairy.

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6-7. Aino Minako & Tsukino Usagi

Sailor Moon Crystal – If you’re a newcomer like me to the franchise, you might wonder why they’d have two blonde Sailor guardians. After ten episodes, it makes perfect sense now. And it’s not like they’re impossible to tell apart. One has buns!

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8. Ange

Cross Ange – The first of the several blonde leading ladies on this list, Ange has also probably had the roughest character route thus far, having been exposed as a Norma, stripped of her royal and human status, and shipped to Arzenal to die fighting fearsome DRAGONs in skimpy flight suits with other girls of her ilk. But I don’t see her dying anytime soon; despite her delicate upbringing she knows how to fight and survive.

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9. Suzuki Kana

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – Positive, cheerful, fun-loving, and funny, Kana would make a great match for the protagonist Kyouraku…if there weren’t two or three other girls ahead of her in the harem order of precedence. She’s also classically been the clown of whatever group of friends she’s been in, but more by default than by choice.

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10. Tsunashi Kaoru

DannaNani – The wife who can’t understand what her husband is saying.

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11. Saber

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – A powerful legendary swordmaiden summoned to be Emiya Shirou’s ‘Servant’ in the newest iteration of the Holy Grail War, Saber is utterly devoted to, and patient with, her non-mage master.

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12. Alfonso Saint-Variante

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – Heir both to the throne of his father’s kingdom and the armor of a Makai Knight, Alfonso was forced to flee the palace when the king’s advisor Mendoza started consolidating his power.

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13. Fredrica

Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – One of the heroes who slew Emperor Gaz and brought peace to the land, Fredrica is a dragoon that comes in many forms, including metal dragon, chibi girl, and fully grown lady knight, and the form above, that of an elementary or middle school-aged girl in a frilly dress.

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14. Himeki Chifuyu

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – The only member of the literature club still in grade school, Chifuyu possesses the terrifying power to create anything out of nothing, from matter to portals and dimensions. Like the other girls of the Lit Club, she’s in love with Jurai, but the others won’t consider her a real threat for a few years.

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15. Sata Kyoya

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – The titular ‘black prince’, Kyoya is a bit of a sadist who agrees to pretend to be Erika’s boyfriend if he can treat her like his dog. Has intimacy and commitment issues probably stemming from his upbringing. Eventually he develops feelings for Erika to match hers for him, and they become a real couple. But both can still be jerks on occasion.

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16. Tachibana Marin

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – A shallow, self-involved older/richer guy-crazy Ganguro without the tan on the surface, Marin and her friend Aki start out as the friends Erika chooses by default, and the entire reason she has to pretend Kyoya is her boyfriend. But Marin and Aki actually grow into legitimate friends who care about each other’s fortunes in life, albeit perhaps not as close as Erika’s childhood friend Ayumi.

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17. Wakasa

Orenchi no Furo Jijou – Wakasa is a handsome merman who takes up residence in the bathtub of Tatsumi, leaving his old home, a polluted river, behind.

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18. Karanomori Shion

PSYCHO-PASS 2 – An Enforcer in MWPSB’s Division 1 who spends virtually all of her time supporting the rest of the group from her own computer-filled office. She’s quietly maintained a physical and possibly romantic relationship with fellow enforcer Yayoi for some time.

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19. Aiza Takeshi

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – This Goku-haired bastard is a fellow gifted pianist and self-appointed rival of Arima Kousei, someone who didn’t even notice him when they competed in the past, but who was so inspired by Kousei’s greatness – and pissed-off by his aloofness — that he strove and grew into a great pianist in his own right.

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20. Miyazono Kaori

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Kao-chan is a gorgeous and brilliant violinist with an avant-garde style that traditionalists despise but really lights crowd up. She also ends up lighting up the life of Arima Kousei, becoming the muse who pulls him out of a dark sea where he can’t hear the notes he plays. Kaori can also be prone to violence…as well as the occasional sudden and worrisome bout of health trouble.

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21. Jeanne d’Arc

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – Unlike many anime characters who share their name with the legendary warrior maiden, This Jeanne lives up to the name, a young woman from humble beginnings possessing awesome powers bestowed upon her from the heavens. Her trusty holy sword Maltet comes when she calls it! She may be humanity’s only hope against Bahamut. You’d think she’d act aloof, especially toward a rogue like Favaro, but she’s surprisingly genial and down-to-earth.

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22. Leafa (ALO)

Sword Art Online II – AKA Kirigaya Suguha or “Sugu”, Leafa is the name of her avatar in ALO, which is blonde instead of her real-life black hair, and slightly bustier (or perhaps it’s just a push-up outfit). She had cultivated feelings for her brother Kazuto, and though they’re not related by blood, he couldn’t return those feelings. But that was SAO I! In SAO II, she plays a far smaller role. But she is blonde, so here she is.

23-24. Inubouzaki Fuu & Inubouzaki Itsuki

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – Fuu is a third-year in middle school and the president of the Hero Club. She is the older sister of first-year Itsuki, who she has been looking after following the death of their parents. She is knowledgeable about the Divine Tree and Vertex and was the one who gave her fellow members the app needed to fight against the Vertex.

Fuu uses a large sword in her hero form and her familiar is Inugami. As a result of using her Mankai form, she loses vision in her left eye. Itsuki uses vines to attack her enemies in her hero form and her familiar is Kodama. As a result of using her Mankai form, she loses her voice. (Wikipedia)