Cautious Hero – 03 – The Goddessizer

While Ristarte is enjoying tea with fellow goddess Ariadoa, Seiya barges in to announce he’s not leveling up as fast by simply working out. Rista hopes this means he’s finally ready to start fighting monsters, but Seiya, ever cautious, still thinks it’s “too risky.” Aria suggests a compromise: if Seiya trains with a god, there’s no risk of dying, and he’ll level up faster.

Seiya’s all for it, and Aria introduces him to the stubborn Divine Blade, Cerceus, who certainly looks like he could take Seiya on. Rista leaves the two to train without checking in (knowing it angers Seiya), but each day she finds Cerecus in the cafeteria at lunch, looking more and more defeated and demoralized.

It gets so bad that she finds Cerceus hiding behind racks of nori, and learns that Seiya is already over three times stronger than him, but insists on training without breaks or sleep. When Seiya finds him and forces him to keep training , Rista can’t save him, as she’s summoned by the goddess Ishtar (who for the record is arguably less smokin’ hot than the Ishtars of DanMachi or Fate/Grand Order).

It’s both strange, sad, and funny to see Seiya, a human, reduce a god renowned for his prowess and doggedness in battle to a sickly, (relatively) emaciated god who’s lost the will to carry, look at, or even mention a sword. When Cerceus tells Rista her hero is sick, Rista’s grave, knowing look says it all. Still, Ishtar says Cerceus, who was once himself a human, is getting valuable training from Seiya.

Ishtar’s news for Rista was about an imminent attack from the Demon Lord’s armies the next town of Seimul in Gaeabrande. Rista and Seiya are to head to the town’s central church to meet his two allies, the mage Eruru and the swordsman Mash, both Dragonkin descendants. Since the enemy is undead, Seiya tries to buy one thousand vials of holy water to prepare, but grudingly settles for ten.

Seiya suddenly pours some of the water on the priest who introduces his allies, and that priest is revealed to be undead himself. Still, Seiya chops him into pieces without anyone even seeing him move his sword. Before he proceeds to “mop up” with a massively destructive fire spell, Rista just barely manages to get the two allies and a nun to safety.

When Seiya and Rista take a look at Eruru and Mash’s stats, Rista is encouraged, despite the fact they’re only level 7 and 8, respectively. Seiya is less enthusiastic, declaring the two are so not needed. You’d think he’d at least want them as porters for carrying more holy water…or human shields!

TenSura – 12 – That’s a Lot of Bacon

Treyni the Dryad has come to confirm that an Orc Lord has risen. Not only that, his army of orcs are afflicted with “Starved”, a skill that allows them to gain the power and abilities of whoever they eat…including each other. This is an enemy that must be defeated with as few casualties as possible, lest they unwittingly refuel the army.

The Dryads know that no one of the groups of beings who dwell in the forest could take on the army, so they’ve reached out (through the potato chip-stealing Treyni) to the most powerful among them: Rimuru Tempest. Shion volunteers on her master’s behalf, but privately Rimuru is worried about losing. He’s never faced someone with an ability like his “Predator”, after all.

Souei volunteers to be Rimuru’s envoy with the Lizardmen, whose numbers Rimuru will need to achieve victory. Impressed by Souei’s intense Kajin aura, and the fact he’s only a mere messenger for an even more powerful master, the Lizardman Chieftain agrees to an audience with Rimuru in seven days’ time.

Before those seven days are up, however, everything gets messed up, all thanks to our overly-preening Chieftain’s son, Gabiru. Gelmud plants an underling named Laplace to easily manipulate Gabiru into staging a coup against his father, who has agreed to maintain a defensive stance but has alienated his younger comrades by doing so.

Gabiru gives those youngsters what they want: the opportunity to fight their enemies head-on rather than continue hiding in the caves. But since Gabiru imprisons his father and sister before hearing them out, he doesn’t learn about the orc army’s Starved ability until the orcs begin to eat their own dead. Rimuru was surely right to worry!

TenSura – 11 – Avoiding Incompetent Allies

With his new coterie of ogres (sorry, kijin) Rimuru encounters three anime tropes in a row this week: a brewing rivalry between Shion and Princess Shura, the very lazy revelation that Shion sucks at cooking, and Gabiru, the overconfident puffed-up adversary who isn’t smarter than he looks, and he looks pretty dang stupid!

Gabiru actually has moments of self-doubt, but he’s a helpless sucker when it comes to positive reinforcement: his men tell him he’s The Best and Nobody Beats Him, and therefore he believes he is. He may be insufferable, but for some reason I still like the guy. Ya can’t teach charisma!

Rimuru and his crew are extremely #NotImpressed, and Gabiru has no idea how many of his gaffes almost get him killed during his short encounter with the Slime’s subordinates.

Rimuru appoints Ranga (in his true, intimidating size) to deal with Gabiru, who expresses his disappointment a great direwolf is serving a lowly slime. Ranga clearly isn’t sure he can fight Gabiru without killing him, so he delegates the task of dueling with him to Gobta, who manages to survive Shion’s cuisine with new poison resistance.

Much to Rimuru’s surprise, however, Gobta is a stout warrior, throwing his spear as a diversion then using Shadow Movement to sneak up behind Gabiru and deliver a knockout kick. Gabiru’s shocked retainers don’t give up on their leader, but cart him off as they scurry off in retreat, promising “this isn’t over!”

Despite the stupidity of one of their leaders, Rimuru still contemplates at least aligning his forces with those of the Lizardmen, considering the threat two hundred thousand orcs presents to the whole of Jura Forest. A dryad named Treyni appears and formally requests Rimuru’s assistance in defending the forest from the orcs, adding further urgency towards action.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau – 05

This week Chakuro and his friends locate the nous at the core of Falaina that apparently every sand ship has, are interrupted by three elders who bring archers to kill the nous, thus sinking the Mud Whale, but Chakuro manages to convince them not to, though they do manage to shoot Lykos in the leg.

After that, Suou is freed and Taisha’s aides gather to his side, he meets with Lykos, who tells everyone about the eight ships the empire has and how there could be other countries out there, and Suou gives a speech to the rest of the Whale’s population that they’re going to fight and defend until they can find allies.

That’s a good amount of material in one episode…so why the heck did it feel to me like virtually nothing happened? I suspect it’s at least in part due to the overall presentation, which has felt lacking in urgency and peril since the surprise attack that ended episode two.

There’s also the fact that the Mud Whale feels like such a small and static setting whose leadership seems to change on a dime with little to no repercussions. The rest of the population is treated like one united faceless entity that cheers at the prospect of Ouni joining the defense force.

Perhaps most troubling—and contributory to my waning interest in this show—is the protagonist Chakuro, whose defining character trait is a guy who says a lot—both to others and through narration—but does very little, while Lykos’ is simply “girl who developed emotions” and little else.

As a result, it feels like I’m watching a set of thin and fairly generic characters caught up in a world that’s groaning under the weight of its convoluted (and at times, random-feeling) mythology.

Right now, that’s just not grabbing and holding my attention as much as the other Fall shows I’m watching. Maybe next week, when the defense of the whale begins in earnest, I’ll be able to muster more enthusiasm.

Sagrada Reset – 24 (Fin)

Haruki knows she faces a problem if she believes Asai Kei to be perfect and without flaw: it puts an untenable pressure on him to be flawless in order to continue being the Asai Kei she knows. But until she finds out what that flaw or mistake is within him, she won’t know him as well as she wants.

Fortunately for her, the power of abilities enables her to do just that in this, the final episode of Sagrada Reset. Kei has shifted his focus from Urachi (no longer a threat) to Souma Sumire (who has collapse). He wants to save her, and would like Haruki to put aside her differences with Souma and help him.

Haruki agrees – if Kei shares the memories he has of pre-Reset Harukis, through Sakagami’s ability. Kei agrees, and before you know it, Haruki remembers when she first said she liked Kei (having said it a second time just then), but also finds his mistake, which happened two years ago: when Kei kissed her, she was happy.

Kei apologizes for being an indirect and cowardly; Haruki admits she was the same. It’s a lovely and vital new step forward for this beautifully subtle yet increasingly warm couple.

The easy part thus completed, the hard part commences: Kei wants to “save” Souma, but what does that mean? Apparently, he aims to save her from the weight of her own longing over not being the girl who “won” him, and the intense feelings of perceived inadequacy and budding nihilism that realization cultivates.

He isn’t saving her because he’s a hero; he’s saving her because she’s his friend, and he wishes for her happiness to be “second-best” in the world (Kei makes no bones about who is Number One in his heart).

In Kei’s apartment in the dream world, Souma is sitting in the dark, hiding her face because she’s been crying. Kei takes her face in his hand and tells her however she’s feeling now, he can see a future, however far off, where she’s happy and smiling, despite him not being hers.

Souma is afraid of the prospect of being able to smile under such circumstances—where she essentially has lost to Haruki, and always will, every time. So she challenges Kei to one last game: correctly say her name, and she’ll go along with his plan for her.

But if he fails, she wins, and he’ll become hers, living in the dream world with him, like two stones, never being bothered by the world outside in the least. Cut to the end of the game, when Haruki appears to speak to Souma, and Souma holds out a stone she says is Kei, and tells her she’s won.

Haruki isn’t buying it; there’s no way Souma Sumire would wish for such a thing, and accuses her of having a “tantrum” and waiting for her to come and hand Kei over. Haruki tells Souma that she used to be able to use her ability by herself…until a reset led to Souma’s death and hurt Kei.

It stands to reason then, that if Souma’s turning of Kei into a stone also hurts him, there’s no reason to hold back and reset by herself again. But before she gets the word out, she holds back, because she believes that despite the stone trick, Souma really does have Kei’s best interests in mind.

Since Haruki isn’t buying it, and sees the stone trick as a means to get her to use her Reset of her own will, Souma tells her why: If Kei is going to assume responsibility for all of Sakurada’s abilities, he’s going to need someone by his side to help him, and if necessary, provide a check against him hurting himself. Souma concedes that Haruki is the best candidate for that job.

With both Haruki and Souma affirming their roles regarding Kei, Souma wakes up first, and Kei is watching her because her bed is by the moon and she looks pretty. That’s…kinda weird, but Souma doesn’t mind (at least, in this one little instance, she “beat” Haruki for once), and pledges herself to providing a voice of council to Kei, who agrees to listen to that voice.

Souma then shuffles off, and Haruki emerges from behind the curtain around her bed. Souma thought it would be awkward to stick around, while Haruki was embarrassed of seeing her, and lets Kei know that even if he doesn’t (and may indeed never) understand, she and Souma being “moderately adversarial” is “good”, i.e. “natural.”

Finally, Haruki places her hands on the shoulders of her man and tells him she’s thinking of letting her hair grow out, now that she remembers him saying, long ago, how he liked it that way. Now that she has those memories back, Haruki can love Kei of both the past and present instead of merely the latter.

That deeper understanding and affection, as well as Urachi and Souma’s respective redemptions, were only made possible through the existence—and judicious use of—abilities. So even if Asai Kei isn’t righteous or just or a hero, he was right to work so diligently to preserve abilities in Sakurada. They were and are the key to his happiness. They are…sacred.

And thus concludes a sometimes slow, sometimes maddeningly opaque, yet also almost always strange, intriguing and wonderfully offbeat show. I appreciated that the finale not showing us the results of Kei accomplishing all he’s set out to do—that would have felt cheap to go down in just one ep.

Instead, all his relationships are now in good standing, putting him in the best position to succeed. I close the book on this series wishing him and his the best in their endeavors to Keep Sakurada Weird.

Sagrada Reset – 23

Kei is in the back of a Toyota Harrier with Urachi, with Tsushima driving and Tomoki riding shotgun; Ukawa, Murase, Sakagami and Oka Eri (I’ll say her whole name since everyone in the show always does) escape by bike (and Ukawa turning the road into a slot car track). Haruki is still at the Karaoke parlor with Sakuin and Kagaya, apparently outnumbered…but it’s all part of the plan.

I hope you don’t mind the calm, measured voice of Ishikawa Kaito, because you get a lot of it in this episode, and that’s saying something. He has an adversary with the opposite position to try to convince to his side, after all.

Kei is as persistent as he is righteous, laying out all of the alternative options to simply wiping out abilities, using the abilities of others to lighten the burden of his two “locked” parents—even transferring his father’s ability to a cat.

At the end of Kei’s spiel, Urachi is still not convinced, and Kei isn’t surprised…because Urachi isn’t the one he was trying to convince: it’s Kagaya, back at the parlor with Haruki, who heard the whole debate through Tomoki.

In light of everything that was said, Kagaya chooses to support Kei. Just like that, Urachi loses a vital team member of his crusade. He can no longer realistically carry out his plan without Kagaya’s support, so he essentially surrenders to Kei, handing him his notebook.

As for what occurs at the very end, with Souma passing thorough the boundaries of Sakurada in a train, suddenly having all her memories rush back, and lamenting that she’s “certain nothing was even” for Kei? Your guess is as good as mine. It would seem Urachi has been quite suddenly removed as an opponent, but perhaps the events of this episode were the easy part of Kei’s plan, with the true challenge coming in the finale.

DanMachi Gaiden: Sword Oratoria – 02

After an action-packed return, Sword Oratoria settles down, as the Loki Familia returns to the surface and home to their patron, Loki. For those who weren’t a fan of apparent co-protagonist Lefiya’s bungling on the battlefield, you probably weren’t thrilled that she’s an easy mark for Loki’s sexual harassment (which all the other girls know how to avoid…though they should really report to H.R. More to the point…they need H.R., bad!)

But while she’s still finding her footing in battle, with one of the higher-ups like Riveria on her side, and the fact she’s cute and mostly harmless, Lefiya is treated like something of a mascot or good luck charm. She seems to revel in that role, and makes cheering Ais up her primary mission.

The higher-ups also see how restless and consumed Ais is with improving herself, and believes having an admirer close by will help her be more aware of others. It certainly can’t hurt for Lefiya to be beside Ais. Each can provide what the other lacks; it’s a good arrangement.

But the true reason Ais has been more down than usual lately is her encounter with the previous show’s MC, Cranel Bell, or “Tomatoface”, as a drunken Bete calls him at the tavern…the same tavern where Cranel himself is. Like the minotaur encounter, it’s another scene inhabiting the same time and place as DanMachi, only from Ais and the familia’s POV.

At the same time, Oratoria doesn’t lean too heavily on the events we’ve already seen, and when it does, the fresh POV, gives them, well, fresh context and insight.

As for what’s new, we get a lot more exposure to the various members of the Loki Familia and get to see them take care of things like bartering away dungeon loot and getting their weapons repaired—or in Tiona’s case, replaced—by some very exasperated smiths.

When the twins decide Ais needs more cheering up they take her on a shopping trip, where we see the stark contrast between their taste in fashion (much less is more) and Lefiya’s (lots of cloth; lots of frills). (They also put Ais in Hestia cosplay, which…well played, DanMachi).

When Lefiya foots the bill as thanks for Ais looking out for her (and because she just wants to) Ais finally puts two and two together and realizes everything Lefiya has done for her, and why. So instead of apologizing for not realizing sooner, Ais does all she really needs to do: she thanks Lefiya for blowing so much petty cash on her. It’s Cranel to whom she apparently feels she must apologize.

Was there way too much talk of boobs and grabbing and groping of boobs in this episode? Probably. But the fine slice-of-lifeity made up for that, and Lefiya was definitely of more use in town than in the dungeon, even if talked to herself and daydreamed too much. There’s still hope for her!

DanMachi Gaiden: Sword Oratoria – 01 (First Impressions)

This spin-off of the original DanMachi follows the powerful sword princess Ais Wallenstein, newbie mage-with-potential Lefiya Viridis, and the rest of Loki Familia as they explore Level 50 of the Dungeon below the city of Orario.

Lefiya’s mentor, fellow mage Riviera Ljos Alf, wants her protege to get some practical experience on the front line in order to build up some nerve to go with her magical potential. Ais and the Amazon twins Tiona and Tione bail Lefiya out, to the chagrin of their comrade Bete.

The Familia runs into a foe they’d never before encountered on the boundary between Levels 50 and 51: colossal caterpillars spewing highly caustic acid. The party’s heavies sweep into action to relieve their less powerful comrades, only to find their conventional attacks aren’t that effective.

Riviera again charges Lefiya with performing the incantation that will summon the magic that will turn the tide of the battle, which is a mage’s job. That means standing there and chanting while all hell breaks loose around you, and not losing your nerve.

Lefiya…loses her nerve, so Ais has to use her Tempest ability to slice through the nearest caterpillars. Bete uses some of her power to make his kicks stronger, and Tione, tied up with caterpillar tongues, gets pissed off and tears her captors apart, with no regard for the integrity of her skin.

After that, Riviera herself chants a long and grandiloquent incantation that serves as a coup-de-grace or overkill move, mopping up the remaining caterpillars. With a number of injuries and no idea what else is beyond, their leader Finn orders a retreat for now.

Up at Level 17, a huge force of Minotaurs busts out of the walls, but they’re essentially small-fry to the higher-level adventurers like Tiona, who has a bit of fun running up to a Minotaur and icing him with one swift, brutal bicycle kick. Suffice it to say, I had no complaints about the combat animation, nor the dramatic but very appropriate battle music.

While the Minotaurs are no match for Ais or the Amazons, if any were to escape to the higher levels, it could mean big trouble for one of the lower-level adventurers, like, say…Cranel Bell! Hey, guy, wonder where you were at! It’s not his or Hestia’s story this time, however.

Instead, we see everything that led up to him being rescued by Ais…including him simply running away screaming after she did so. As Riviera said to Lefiya, Ais has problems too…they’re just different ones.

This was a solid re-introduction to the world of DanMachi and the vast and hazardous dungeon below the city of Orario. It seemed designed to shake us from our slumber by throwing us into one big battle after another, while also showing us how well-sorted Loki Familia is.

Mind you, I do miss the warm friendship between Bell and Hestia; we’ll see if Lefiya and Ais can carry a season. They certainly have plenty of supporting cast backing them up.

Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 12 (Fin)

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Going into the finale it looked like Yamadas still had quite a bit of work to do in order to gather the seven witches for a ceremony before Yamazaki and get his Shiraishi Urara back. So I was surprised by how relatively easy a time he had of resolving things.

Yet it wasn’t surprising in a bad way, because there were still blanks that needed filling for some important players, and in getting filled, they paved the way for ultimate Yamada’s success, which turned out to be good for everyone.

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Take Rika: we were never privy to the source of her absolute loyalty to Yamazaki, until now, and it turns out to be pretty clear-cut: Yamazaki was the only one who remembered her and knew she was coming to school and studying at all. With this new info in mind, it makes sense that she wouldn’t do anything to threaten the fortunes of the only person who knows who she is.

But here’s the thing: Yamazaki is no longer the only person. Yamada, Nene, and Tamaki also fill that role, and three people knowing of your existence doubtless feels better than just one.

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So Rika agrees to help Yamada, if he can bring Leona back to school so she can wipe her memory. Rika is not only pragmatic, but proud of her position as seventh witch, and takes her duties seriously. Miyamura has no idea what business Yamada has with his shut-in sister, but Leona agrees to come in, and we learn more that drives this story to its resolution: she and Yamazaki were once the entirety of the Supernatural Club.

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When he became Student Council president (likely a wish to the seven witches), his memories of Leona were taken away. But like Urara with Yamada, while the memories are gone, the feelings that go with them are not. Thus, when Leona passes Yamazaki in the hall, he tears up, and because he’s a sharp lad, he realizes why, and why Yamada isn’t his enemy any longer.

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Nene and Tamaki then manage to capture Asuka-in-Urara’s-body, employing all the other witches in an ambush…

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…While Yamada drags Miyamura (a student council member) to Asuka’s to retrieve a very scared and confused Urara who, I’ll restate, still possesses feelings for Yamada, even though she doesn’t remember him.

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The seven witches assemble, and though Asuka manages to escape, Yamazaki tells her to stand down, as he intends to observe, not disrupt, Yamada’s ceremony. Yamada stands in the middle, and time stops, or rather slows way down, just for him and Rika.

Before he closes his eyes and prays for his wish, Yamada asks Rika if she’s happy she ended up with a witch power. Rika states that she mostly is, but doesn’t discount the difficulty of bearing such a power, and isn’t looking forward to foisting them on a successor when she graduates.

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With that, Yamada makes his wish, and while they prank him a little when he returns to the supernatural club room, everyone’s memory is back. But as they celebrate, he elaborates: he didn’t wish to restore their memories; that was just a by-product of wishing for the witch powers to disappear entirely. After all, thanks to him, the witches no longer had the problems that led to them receiving their powers, and with no more powers, Rika and the others don’t have to worry about burdening successors.

As for Urara, she apologizes for losing her memory and rejecting Yamada, even though she didn’t really have any choice. She also assumes his confession was false, but he sets her straight by repeating that he loves her and wants to go out with her. She, in turn, reveals that the “someone else” she said she liked was really Yamada; she just couldn’t remember him at the time. So there you have it: a tidy happy ending that’s both logical and satisfying.

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DanMachi – 13 (Fin)

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Rather than end its 13-episode run with a “To Be Continued” or other cliffhanger silliness (though I’m not even sure if this was meant to get a second season), DanMachi decides to spend its last episode the same way the end of a good RPG ends: with a huge final battle and a classic “good ending.”

The end definitely snuck up on us, and thus it was hard not to feel like things were rushing a little, but I was still glad for the finality of the boss battle, and all the character work and action it entailed.

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The boss himself is…well, naked and kinda dumb-looking, which has been DanMachi’s problem from episode one: none of the enemies are particularly scary-looking or even particularly creative in design. This is something the most recent GARO almost always got right (to say nothing of the nightmare-inducing Gauna of Hannah’s Sidonia.)

In addition to being somewhat goofy-looking, this boss doesn’t really DO much besides mill around waving his arms around. I’m not sure I buy the fact they can’t escape the level either; if the entire town can be mustered to fight the boss, surely some of them can use their magic to open an escape route.

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The show clearly understands the concept of distractions, decoys, and well-timed combos, because several of each are unleashed on the boss, to no avail due to his ridiculous regeneration ability. Dumb-looking or not, this is definitely the toughest boss the show has given us yet.

The combo that works in the end is akin to saving up all of the full overdrive gauges of your whole party, then unleashing those overdrive attacks in quick succession to bring the beast down, or at least shave off a decent amount of his HP.

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Ryuu, Mikoto, and Welf are involved in the final combo, which sufficiently softens up the boss for Bell’s “Hero’s Strike”, which causes a fade-to-white yet still doesn’t quite finish the boss; for that, he has to use the trusty runeblade Hestia made for him (and which symbolizes their love and devotion to one another) to crack the central crystal and send the boss to Nowheresville.

The final casualty list? Well, no one we know. In fact, those scumbags who kidnapped Hestia last week even gain a grudging respect for Bell, a nice bit of development even if its for characters we care about. As for those we do care about, they’re all fine, in good shape for what I imagine to be a second season a year or so hence.

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At least, that’s what I hope. After all, there’s still a lot of stories to be told both inside and outside the dungeon, many levels yet to explore and conquer, not to mention Bell being the “Last Hero of the Zeus Familia” or something.

As for Freya…well, not sure why her character existed at all this season, except that she’ll eventually play a bigger role later on, when Bell presumably grows ever more powerful and popular.

Until then, I bit adieu to DanMachi, a solid action fantasy with lots of heart, likable characters, and rich world-building that never failed to entertain.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 11

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With each week comes fresh reveals of more secrets regarding the school witches, and as Yamada learns the Supernatural Club is slowly drifting apart without him, the latest revelation is most important of all: when all seven witches are assembled, a ceremony can be performed that will grant someone any wish they want.

I would imagine the wish Yamada would choose is for Urara to continue to be happy and surrounded by friends…and with him by her side, if it’s possible. But her happiness is paramount.

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I said Yamada was down last week, but not out, and now we see why: while many people have had their memories wiped, one of them, Nene, bursts in to protest him copying her own charm power onto her, causing her to love him.

In the act of kissing him, she cancels out the memory loss, and Yamada and Tamaki explain the situation. At the same time, the eyes of both Rika and Yamazaki are constantly on Yamada as he struggles to fix things.

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Their threats don’t faze Yamada, however, as he’s on a mission, and his new circle consisting of himself, Tamaki, and Nene makes for an interesting combo. The three agree to gather the seven witches, restore their memories, and convince them to perform the ceremony before their opponents Yamazaki, Rika, and Mikoto can get to them.

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In intricate game of chess ensues, full of moves and countermoves and looking several moves ahead, something that without Tamaki and Nene’s counsel, might put Yamada at a disadvantage.

But even though Mikoto keeps him from kissing Urara (who is now at a point where she wants him to kiss her), and Yamazaki proposes a plan that will grant Nene’s wish (to be with Yamada), Yamada’s love for Urara and determination to keep her happy and not alone, conquers all the strategy on display, or so it seems.

 

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Just take Tamaki, who saw Nene with Yamazaki and suspects she’s working for him now. But Nene is resigned to the fact no matter what she does, Yamada only has eyes for Urara, so she may as well support and smile with him.

It’s clear beyond doubt now that Nene is in love with Yamada, which is why she suspected she was under her own charm spell despite having no memories of him. The love, unrelated to the witch power, remained, just as Ushio’s love and devotion to her remained even after she lifted her spell from him.

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Yamada & Co make progress, restoring Maria, Meiko, and Noa with kisses and explaining to them what’s going on, but Rika remains elusive due to her memory-wiping abilities, which leave no trace of her existence in school records or in the minds of anyone at school. Despite how sad that sounds, Rika has no intention of helping Yamada & Co.

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When Mikoto somehow switches bodies with Urara before Yamada can kiss her, Yamada’s at an impasse with the remaining two witches. With little time left, he storms into Yamazaki’s office, grabs him by the scruff (not sure why Mikoto didn’t follow Yamada there to protect her president) warning he’s not going to give up, no matter how much he screws with him. He vows to go to Mikoto’s house, where Urara is in her body, and kiss her—a task characterized by the prez as easier said than done.

Is Nene actually working for Yamazaki after all? What exactly is Rika’s deal? Can only one wish be fulfilled by the ceremony? What other twists and reveals await us in the final episode? I don’t know, but I look forward to finding out. It’s been a great ride: complex and funny and touching in equal measure.

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DanMachi – 12

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This week’s DanMachi was a bit of a two-face: starting with a bit of a plodding lull thanks to the low-danger surroundings, but escalating into more exciting RPG-style action, complete with a kidnapping, an unfair duel, and the arrival of the cavalry.

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But first, all the girls are nude, Wooooo! Seriously though, this wasn’t that exciting, but I was surprised and a little impressed that when Bell inevitably ended up in the midst of the girls, he didn’t receive a beating. The girls’ reactions range from quietly embarrassed to indifferent to downright glad (the latter in the case of the Sand Snake-like girls and Hesty, she of the ample bust).

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Also not particularly bothered by Bell (who is the victim of a prank by Hermes) is Ryuu, whom he finally gets a chance to thank for coming to his aid. Ryuu tells him she planned to come at some point to pay respects to her familia, who fell into a rival familia’s trap and were massacred.

Ryuu was the only survivor, and after she avenged her familia by single-handedly killing the other, she was banned from the Guild. Syr found her lying in the street and brought her to the tavern, where Mama Mia brought her in despite knowing what she did. It’s a nice bit of backstory from one of the more interesting characters in DanMachi, due to her complexity.

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Ryuu’s no saint, but she can tell Bell is a kind person worthy of her respect and friendship, who like her benefactors, can see the good in her, being good himself. But we see the other ugly side of people (not just humans, since Ryuu is an elf) in Moldo, a veteran adventurer disgruntled with Bell’s rapid rise. Wanting to put him in his place, he kidnaps Hestia and challenges Bell to a duel.

It isn’t until the duel starts that Bell learns Moldo has invisibility magic, which is a bit too on-the-nose dirty for the bad guy. He says he’s not shameless enough to hurt Hestia, but his tactics certainly seem cowardly. But that’s the thing: his tactics make him stronger, at least initially, in the fight, and his cohorts rally behind that power, despite the cowardice of it.

That’s because, well, they’re weak too, and opportunistic. Even though they outnumber Bell’s friends who come to break the fight up, they seem outmatched by them.

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That being said, neither side “wins” the battle, because Hestia unleashes her divine power to compel everyone to cease fighting. It’s cool to finally see her exhibit abilities beyond reading Bell’s back and pulling off a ridiculous dress like a rock star. As she emits and otherworldly glow, it’s clear no one wants to mess with her.

By the way, it looks like Hermes wants to test Bell’s abilities, or, as he says, teach him about the cruelty and injustice inherent in humanity. Not sure why he thinks Bell will learn such a lesson especially when Bell has plenty of really good people as friends and allies. The fact of the matter is, there’s good and evil in everyone.

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The second half of this episode makes up for the slower first, and even the first half had that nice interaction between Bell and Ryuu. And I especially liked how after Bell ran off to save Hestia, she ends up saving him and everyone else from a protracted brawl. It remains a very balanced relationship. Bell is still very naive at times, but he also happens to have the strength—and friends—to deal with the predicaments his naivete gets him into.

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DanMachi – 11

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WIth just two episodes left in what looks like the first of a two-cour, 26-episode run, Bell’s party’s predicament is resolved and they are out of danger. But I daresay the way in which it was resolved was a bit…tidy, and underwhelming.

To whit: we barely see any of Hestia’s rescue party in action, and not for very long, which deflated the built-up excitement of first watching her assemble such a solid party, and then watch them head confidently into the dungeon. “This is it?” I was asking myself.

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Meanwhile, Bell’s party is in a bad way: Welf and Lili pass out—either from the pain of their injuries, fatigue, or mind down—before they reach the 18th floor safe zone, so Bell has to draw from an extra reserve of strength and energy in order to carry both of them the rest of the way, including through a gauntlet of falling boulders and a very nasty (and very huge) Goliath, who’s surprise appearance, was a highlight of the peril in this episode.

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But then Bell kinda luckily falls down a pit, doesn’t break any bones, and wakes up in the grass on a seemingly sunny day. He made it, but has no more strength to help his friends. Also luckily for him (and them) Ais and the Loki familia are also in the safe zone, or “Under Resort”, resting before their battle with Goliath. Once again, Bell owes Ais, but he did make it there, and both Welf and Lili would be goners without his efforts.

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Not surprisingly, the two scantily-clad sisters Tione and Tiona latch onto Bell and flirt with him, though it’s not entirely unjustified as they saw him take down that minotaur. Otherwise, everyone’s just sitting around resting, which isn’t all that interesting, until Hestia arrives.

Their reunion is fairly moving (broken up by a jealous, competitive Lili), but to be honest, this was a foregone conclusion, and again, I was pretty disappointed how little Hestia and her team did, and how little we saw of them.

Still, I appreciated the the Take familia apologizing for their pass parade, and Bell acting as diplomat in telling Welf and Lili to put it behind them, even if they can’t immediately forgive. After all, Bell admits he’d have probably done the same thing if he had to choose between the two of them and a party of strangers.

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Bell also meets the tagalong Hermes, and for a second I thought something was going to happen when they shook hands. Alas, nothing happens. Nothing also happens when Bell and Ais are alone late at night, gazing at the sky made of crystal that emulates stars.

Ais is too willing to go with the flow and allow hers to be disrupted, such as when Hestia interrupts them, while Bell is still too nervous to do anything but blush at the prospect of being beside Ais, let alone go on a date into town with her.

I realize this is (likely) a two-cour series in which some developments take time, but their insipid will-they-won’t-they is frankly the least interesting part of it right now, because it refuses to go anywhere and takes up time. Perhaps when Ais & Co. faces off against Goliath, and Hermes finally does whatever he came to do, things will pick back up.

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