Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 14 – Aurora Boarialis

Tanjirou punches the boar-man to get him off Zenitsu, breaking his ribs in the process while scolding him for raising his sword(s) to a fellow Demon Slayer. The boar-man, named Hashibira Inosuke, decides to fight Tanjirou hand-to-hand (and foot-to-foot).

As both have cracked ribs, they fight on more or less an equal level. Inosuke has an advantage in flexibility and how damn low he can get (Tanjirou likens it to fighting a four-legged beast). Tanjirou isn’t really trying to fight, but when Inosuke won’t let up, he deploys his secret-weapon: his titanium-hard skull.

The headbutt is devastating enough to knock Inosuke’s boar mask off, revealing a beautiful, feminine face that seriously freaks out Zenitsu (though to be honest everything freaks the guy out). Inosuke passes out, then wakes up to find the others burying bodies from the mansion.

When he says he won’t help, Tanjirou chalks it up to Inosuke’s wounds hurting too much, only angering the boar-man more. A Kasugai crow arrives, gives the three rescued siblings a wisteria charm so they can return home safely, and leads the three slayers to a manor with a Wisteria crest at the gate, ordering them to rest there until fully recovered.

A comedy triad ensues at the inn-like manor, whose owners were saved by Demon Slayers and thus allow them to stay there free of charge. Tanjirou is glad for the change of clothes, food, and bedding, and even Zenitsu mostly calms down, but Inosuke is constantly trying to pick a fresh fight with Tanjirou.

Fortunately our laid-back protagonist doesn’t rise to the provocations, preferring to rest up so that he can more effectively fight the real enemy: demons. When the three lay down for the night, Inosuke tells the others how he, an orphan with no family, stole a Nichirin blade from a Demon Slayer who “trespassed” on “his mountain”, then heard about the Final Selection and basically thought it’d be cool to do that.

Zenitsu steers the conversation to the box Tanjirou has been carrying, and asks him straight up why he travels with a demon. Tanjirou thanks Zenitsu for protecting it even though he knew of its contents, and the praise goes straight to Zenitsu’s head (though he vehemently denies he’s strong). Before Tanjirou can tell him that the demon is his sister, Nezuko starts scratching at the door of her box, scaring the shit out of Zenitsu.

She crawls out and grows to her normal size. Once Zenitsu gets a good look at her, he draws his sword on Tanjirou for keeping such a “cute girl” in a box and not telling anyone, and threatens to “purge” him. Meanwhile, Inosuke can’t remember why he first picked a fight, and falls asleep instantly, missing the big Nezuko reveal. This was probably the most laid back and fun episode of Demon Slayer to date, a well-timed breather from all the recent demon battles.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 13 – Poetry in Motion

It was the previous episode combined with this one that I first started to notice Demon Slayer starting to develop some pacing issues. Yes, Kyogai’s (the name of the tsuzumi demon) ability to spin and change the rooms of the mansion Inception-style and launch fatal slashes is pretty cool…at first.

Then it simply goes on too long. Kyogai drums, Tanjirou is thrown around and gets frustrated, rinse, repeat. This episode tries to break up the repetition with a trip back to Kyogai’s past when he was still a human, and attempts to explain why he went bad: his editor/publisher thought the stories he wrote stunk. The anguish of failure curdled into hatred and Mr. Literary Critic was Kyogai’s first victim.

When psyching himself up doesn’t work, Tanjirou uses his nose and realizes that he needs to whip out a Water Breathing Form to get this guy, but first he asks him his name. There’s a lingering question of how much of Kyogai’s humanity is left, because he clearly reacts to Tanjirou not trampling on his pages as a sign the kid acknowledges his writing.

Before Tanjirou decapitates Kyogai, he also praises Kyogai’s Demon Art Form as pretty incredible, which it is, even if it’s a bit one-note. In fact, had Tanjirou not been suffering broken bones from his last battle, it feels like their stalemate would have gone on indefinitely. Instead, as Kyogai’s head slowly dissolves, he takes comfort that the opponent who defeated him finally recognized his dual passions of writing and drums.

When Tanjirou emerges from the house with two of the three kids, he finds Zenitsu shielding Nezuko’s box with his body as the boar-headed guy absolutely wails on him. It marks the second-straight episode where my opinion of the orange scaredy-cat has improved, as Zenitsu remembers Tanjirou saying the box’s contents are “more important than my life”, and protects them accordingly without hesitation, trusting in his new friend.

Zenitsu can hear things few people can, in the same way Tanjirou smells things others can’t. He could hear there was a demon in the box from the start, but could also hear such “kind” sounds emanating from Tanjirou, he felt he could trust him to explain what was in it if he asked.

Unfortunately, the scene of Tanjirou emerging from the house to find Zenitsu being beaten is repeated for no apparent reason, other than perhaps to pad out the run time. We watch Tanjirou react, then jump back to a few minutes ago when Zenitsu and the third kid ended up outside, then boar-man appears, then we watch Tanjirou react again. Finally, when Tanjirou decides to stop boar-man’s assault, his charge is almost comically drawn out, as that action ends up taking us to the credits.

Considering the promo art, OP and ED make it quite clear the boar-man will become a member of the “gang”, it seems odd to keep up the charade that he’s a “bad guy” for yet another episode. Had Kyogai’s backstory/demise and the scene with the two siblings throwing things at Tanjirou been tightened up a bit, there could have been more time at the end for Tanjirou to engage with the boar-man. Just some odd, clunky choices.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 12 – Bang the Drum Quickly

This week Tanjirou meets the boar-faced man with chipped blades while the guy is inexplicable stepping on poor little Teruko. Tanjirou throws him off and the guy is intrigued by his human opponent’s strength. Just when you thought this guy would help out, he doesn’t—but hopefully thanks to the tsuzumi demon’s room-spinning and slashing drums, he doesn’t have to deal with him too long.

For the record, I like the boar-man and his joyful belly laughing as he tears through the ever-changing layout of the mansion. He’s certainly less annoying than Zenitsu, for whom there is not enough cheese in the world to go with his whine.

It sure looks like Teruko’s brother Shouichi got paired up with the wrong demon slayer, as Zenitsu whines and quivers so much he only adds the boy’s considerable anxiety, especially when a long-tongued demon starts chasing them. Zenitsu eventually faints from acute terror, and we finally see his useful, dare I say badass side.

He’s able to literally defeat the demon in his sleep using his lightning breathing form, only to wake up freaking out with no memory of doing so. After an ignominious introduction, I like this new wrinkle in Zenitsu’s character, though it means that in order to be effective he has to be knocked out so his unconscious instincts can take over.

Tanjirou and Teruko eventually find the captive brother Kiyoshi, who has one of the demon’s tsuzumi that fell off when the three demons were fighting to determine who would eat him. Zenitsu destroyed one demon while boarman defeated another. The tsuzumi demon would seem to be the last demon standing. Tanjirou figures out which drums do what, but as he’s still recovering from his previous battle, he briefly loses his spirit along with his strength.

He has to remember Urokodaki’s training, in which he told his student that water can take on any form that could be needed. Even with limited mobility due to his injuries, as long as he trusts in his water breathing, he can adapt to the tsuzumi demon’s pattern of attack, dispel his fear, and go on the offensive.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 11 – The Pest House

How I wish Agatsuma Zenitsu stayed where he belonged: in the OP and ED and nowhere else. He was one note at the Final Selection when he was in constant fear of imminent death, and he’s one note here: a whiny, manic little creep who just. Can’t. Stop. Macking on some poor random woman who is already engaged. Apparently when she encountered him looking ill on the side of the road and asked if he was okay, he grew convinced she was in love with him.

Jesus Christ is this guy annoying. I’d rather watch an entire episode of nothing but Tanjirou’s crow yelling directions over and over again than listen to this sniveling little shit go on and on about how terrified he is of everything. Tanjirou is a saint for being as patient as he is. Nezuko is a saint for not bursting out of her box to kick him into the next prefecture.

Zenitsu is a serious irritant and a pest, and he drags down an otherwise decent episode involving a haunted mansion where the brother of two little kids and others are being held captive. The stakes are established when one of those captives is thrown out of the house from a height and falls to his painful, gruesome death. The kids are horrified, but he wasn’t their brother.

Tanjirou can smell that something’s not right in that house, but Zenitsu proves there might be something useful about him when he hears something Tanjirou doesn’t: a tsuzumi drum, as commonly used in Noh and Kabuki. Tanjirou heads in, and shames Zenitsu into following, but leaves Nezuko’s box outside to protect the little kids.

Once inside, Zenitsu has another exhausting tantrum. I really don’t understand why this character exists, why they made him so grating, and if there is any chance that he could ever be redeemed after this fiasco of a debut. The kids hear scratching from Nezuko’s box (Tanjirou should have explained his good demon sister was in there) and run into the house, and before long, Tanjirou and the little sister are separated from Zenitsu and the brother.

The room Tanjirou and the girl (named Teruko) occupy changes every time the tsuzumi is struck, and they eventually encounter a vicious-looking demon ignoring them and ranting about his prey being taken. Tanjirou rushes the demon and prepares to strike, but with another strike of one of the three tsuzumi growing out of his body, the entire room is turned 90 degrees, so that the floor is now a wall.

This Inception-style stuff is pretty neat, but before Tanjirou can adjust his tactics, a crazed shirtless man with a boar’s head busts into the room, bearing dual Nichirin blades. Zenitsu had encountered him previously and was—you guessed it—terrified of him. I can only hope going forward that Zenitsu learns to chill the fuck out, or otherwise gets an absolute minimum of screen time. Wishful thinking, I know…

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 08 – Beautiful from Any Angle

Ever since she got wasted and threw up on his futon, Uzaki has been out of sorts. While apologizing in public and offering money for the futon, bystanders get the wrong idea thanks to a lot of unfortunate phrasing. But at the cafe, Ami has the antidote for Uzaki’s recent blues. Sakurai will take Uzaki out to the fireworks festival, and if he’s nice and compliments the hell out of her yukata, she’ll cheer up: Ami guarantees it.

The night of the festival Ami is proven right; Uzaki is still down and things are awkward, and despite how annoying he’s typically found her, Sakurai just thinks it’s wrong for Uzaki to be so down. His steady stream of compliments eventually bring out the usual energetic Uzaki-chan, but also results in her accidentally hitting him too hard in the head with her purse.

Even before the blow, Uzaki’s quiet-and-meek disposition reminded him of her when they were still in high school, and while he’s out cold, he remembers one evening she was practicing alone (which is dangerous) and he jumped in the pool to help guide her. That night they came across the fireworks festival, he bought them grilled corn (perfect after all that swimming), and he watched Uzaki’s subdued face brighten up for the first time.

When Sakurai comes to, he’s in Uzaki’s lap, not quite able to see her face, but he can tell she’s back to being meek and contrite over braining him. So Sakurai does what a good guy would do: look back on their time together since reuniting at college and admitting it’s all been pretty fun. He’s been able to see and do so many things he otherwise wouldn’t, so he tells her not to be so down, and invites her to hang out more before summer is over.

Sakurai may not be able to see the reaction in Uzaki’s face either to his words or the fireworks, but it doesn’t matter; “the view is fine” from where he is. While last week’s interactions were lubricated by alcohol and looser inhibitions, this was the true romantic standout episode thus far, when Sakurai is open and honest about how he feels about their time together, and Uzaki shows more than her usual quasi-loner-bullying default mode. Nice work, all!

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 07 – The Cause and the Solution

“Please be with me. I need you.” These are the words that cause Uzaki to rush to Sakurai’s side, only to be disappointed: he couldn’t go into a cat cafe without someone with him.

I realize he probably didn’t consider how his words over the phone sounded, but he’s gotta be more careful with his words as he spends more time with Uzaki! Sakurai, who loves cute things, is over the moon to be surrounded by friendly cats; Uzaki is both charmed and creeped out by this side of him.

But for briefly leading her on, she punishes him by poking his foot with hers while his legs are asleep from being folded too long. The barista tosses them out for unauthorized “play”, but both Sakurai and Uzaki had a good time.

Because he owes her for “being with him”, he offers to do something for her. In response, she just says her 20th birthday is coming up (the age Japanese can legally purchase alcohol), and expects “great things”.

While racking his brain for a gift she won’t reject or mock him for, he gets the same kind of misleadingly amorous call he gave her, though apparently she’s not getting back at him on purpose; she just doesn’t want to go into a pub alone. So her birthday plan is sorted: Sakurai guides her through the world of alcohol and its role in heightening enjoyment of food, the night…and company.

Homer Simpson once toasted alcohol as “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” Now that Uzaki is a part of that world (and loving every minute of it) one wonders if a little of it (or in her case, a lot) would grease the wheels of romantic progress with these two (along with the actual grease of the fried food they eat with their drinks).

Alas, Uzaki isnt the heavyweight she thinks she is, and it all hits her at once by the time they leave the pub. It shouldn’t be a surprise that her drunk self is simply a less restrained, more wobbly version of her sober self, but Sakurai wonders if she planned for them to be out until the trains stop running and when he’s out of cash for taxi fare.

Grudgingly letting her stay over at his place, she tries to stay up playing games, and when he apparently falls asleep she leans in to kiss him, proving that he was only pretending and delighted by his bashful reaction. But a near-kiss is all that happens, as Uzaki soon passes out, enabling Sakurai to finally get some sleep.

Uzaki experienced the joys of alcohol, and in the morning come the horrors in the form of a five-alarm hangover; her very first but probably not her last. Sakurai watches over her as she prays empathically to the porcelain god, and puts her up in bed.

Before he leaves for the store, Uzaki earnestly thanks him for sharing her first pub visit, saying she had fun. Sakurai feels likewise…but the lovely moment is ruined when Uzaki vomits all over herself and the futon! Ah well, a ruined futon and steep pub check are a small price to pay for making Uzaki happy on her birthday.

3-gatsu no Lion – 29

This week is all about dealing with unpleasant or unreasonable people. It would be nice if such people didn’t exist in the world, but they do, hence the dealing.

Hina has to deal with a teacher who hasn’t learned anything from what happened with Chiho, only this time Hina makes her anger about the situation known.

Akari is nervous about being called in and having to face off against other parents. She’s heard horror stories about how forcefully they take their own child’s side, and wonders if she’ll need backup in the form of Grandpa or Auntie.

Rei yells, perhaps too loud, that he’s there for her too, and that’s all it takes for Akari to pull out of her worry-spiral and start thinking the right way: she’s not alone, and it will all work out. Probably!

Rei wants to help in any way he can, but is well aware of his shortcomings. His heartfelt desire is to be needed; he believes continuing to fight and win in his chosen field is the best way to do so.

He makes sure his colleague Nikaidou gets some rest before the next day’s match, assuring him he’ll do fine as long as he takes care of himself.

As for Rei, actively working to fulfill his own desires constitutes taking care of himself; always a welcome development.

In order to win, he must play—and defeat—Subaru Hachiya, an opponent he almost immediately finds offensively irritating. The 23-year-old up-and-comer stomps around, clicks his tongue, shakes his legs, taps his fingers, slams pieces onto the board with a rude force. He also plays comically fast, as if he has a bus to catch.

Rei doesn’t seem to have much trouble beating Hachiya, but he’s later blamed by the older players for “poking the hive” and allowing Hachiya’s worst behaviors to assert themselves rather than trying to “contain” him.

While far less serious, it’s the same basic situation as Hina, as Rei was a victim of Hachiya’s rudeness as Hina was a victim of the bullies, yet here they are, being blamed for their comparatively far better conduct.

Maybe Hina’s teacher sucks, but maybe she’s also seen enough Chihos and Hinas to know that the bully/victim class dynamic isn’t going away, any more than Hachiya’s buzzing can be tamed. Neither Hina nor Rei chose the easy way that would be “better for everyone”, and that’s their choice to make.

Tsurezure Children – 04

For three of the four couples, “futility” is the name of the game this week. Kana and Chiaki are now officially together, but forces conspire to keep them from taking their relationship to a more physical place.

After some initial awkwardness and another one of their little comedy bits, they’re well and truly ready to do the deed (Kana even brought protection), only to be stymied by not one but two rude interruptions by Chiaki’s curious mom. Chiaki, brah, lock your damn door.

I’m finding the more complex relationship rooted in a long-standing friendship the more interesting pairing in TC so far, as demonstrated by my lack of enthusiasm for the two skits in the middle.

Neither the painfully blunt Akagi asserting dominance on the tentative Ryouko, nor Ruruya’s inability to answer Yuki’s confession because he fears she’s just teasing him really resonated for me. Hopefully both stories will go to more interesting places at a later date.

Sugawara and Takano’s latest appearance splits the difference between the first skit I liked and the later two I didn’t. But yet again, the situation is the same for Sugawara: the onus is on him to communicate in no uncertain terms that he likes Takano, that he’s not joking around, and that he wants to be her boyfriend.

He’s worried about being friend-zoned, but at least there’ll be closure. And we know that Takano wishes she was…exactly what she is: someone Sugawara would want to date. These two simply need to get on the same page for once. I think they at least inched a little closer.

Tsurezure Children – 03

First couple: Kana is frustrated that even after a year of dating, her boyfriend Chiaki hasn’t kiss her or even held her hand. Turns out he has no idea they’re dating, and thought her confession a year ago was one of the many comedy bits they do. Now that he knows Kana’s true feelings, Chiaki is willing to step out of the friendzone with her.

Second Couple: Matsuura just got turned down by her crush, and is on her way home to wallow in self-pity, but her senpai, Katori, tracks her down and proceeds to act in a very annoying fashion, but with good reason: by punching and kicking him for being so annoying, he’s letting her forget her troubles and helping her feel a little better.

Third Couple: Yamane, who looks vaguely related to Rock Lee, is asked out by Kurihara, a girl he has a crush on. She wants to take him out to lunch as thanks for saving her from a groper, and she also knows he’s a good guy by watching him give up his seat to the elderly on the bus.

Yamane simply can’t believe someone as cute as Kurihara is bothering with him, a self-professed weirdo, so when she formally asks him out, he chokes and hits the button that brings the waitress rather than give her an answer.

Fouth Couple: Finally, we check back in with the unlikely pair of Takano and Sugawara. He helps her sweep up, but she takes it as a sign she’s doing crappy job of cleaning. Just when he thinks he’s making progress talking with her and asking her out, it eventually dawns on him they’re not talking about the same thing, and “cleaning up” isn’t “looking good”…but just “cleaning up.”

He retreats for the time being, but will hopefully try again soon…with amusing results. With so many different couples at so many different stages and paces of romantic relationships providing comedy, there’s scarcely a dull moment in Tsurezure Children.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 23

aka231

Shirayuki has fully settled back into it’s ‘Palace Groove’ with this particularly laid-back, playful and at times goofy episode, which starts with new maid drops a carpet on a lost-in-thought Zen, mildly injuring his neck.

While looking for Garack in the Herbalists’ office, Mitsu knocks over a strange potion that has a hypnotic effect, turning the normally down-to-earth Mitsu into a hyper-loyal, rigid, dashing, doting pain-in-the-ass of an attendant.

aka232

Oh yeah, Shirayuki gets Zen’s shirt off…but hold your horses, she’s just applying a balm for his neck. As for Mitsu, his unusually charming behavior utterly fails to charm Kiki, but her slap doesn’t snap him out of it, or out of saying things like he loves Zen.

Zen gets irritated easily with this Mitsu, and it’s primarily because the two already went through this phase in their relationship, where Mitsu acted too over-protectively and spoke more formally to his prince. Zen wants the old Mitsu—the one their years together turned from a glorified bodyguard to a dear friend and brother.

aka233

Shirayuki, wanting to lend her strength to Zen the way Mitsu, Kiki and Obi do, works furiously to devise a cure to the hypnotic state after healing Zen’s neck. After some long nights in the library (during one of which Zen visits and the two end up too close for comfort) and a little help from the light of the full moon, she concocts an effective antidote.

But while she thought was simply preparing a medicine for her friend in her spare time, it turns out the proper treatment and reporting on Mitsu’s case was the final test Shirayuki needed to pass to be promoted to full court herbalist. She passes with flying colors, and she can scratch another dream to achieve off her list.

The next one is far bigger: marrying Zen. Could it happen, or at least progress further on the road to it happening, in the next and final episode of Shirayuki Season Two? Or was the leisurely pace and content of this episode an indication there will be a third? We’ll find out in five days.

7_mag

Active Raid – 01 (First/Last Impressions)

ar11

We may have orders from RABUJOI Corporate to be tougher on shows and I may have had a long cold week, but neither of those things factored into my impression that Active Raid isn’t good. It is, in fact, quite bad. So bad, it was at times painful to watch. I’ll elaborate.

ar12

The setting and premise are a strange melange of Psycho-Pass, Gatchaman, and Rail Wars!, without any of the strengths or charms of those shows. It also has a touch of Taimadou with its by now done-to-death “team of misfits”, but both the newbie Haruka (a smug, hollow Tsunemori knockoff) and the pithy, one-note misfits come off as dull and unlikable.

ar13

Let’s set aside the fact that a guy randomly grabs Haruka’s ankle for no reason, Haruka often speaks English for no reason, and the titular unit with the too-long-winded name travels along on a slow train that shares rails with commuter trains as the perps (apparently “minors” who look like they’re thirty) fly around in Gatchaman like mecha.

ar14

But the most damning aspect of this show is that it’s so interminably boring. Endless time is spent on displays and endless dialogue is devoted to getting confirmations and permissions and authorizations from the extremely inefficient bureaucracy. One could infer that that’s the point; that this unit could perform better if they were less hog-tied by red tape; but that’s just a theory.

In the meantime, the first episode’s obsession with following rules and the resulting, thoroughly listless sequence of action that got two random teenage perps got barely caught at great cost and trouble precludes any desire on my part to watch another episode in order to see if that theory proves true. This is another “anime-loaf” made up of several pieces of better shows, not baked with love, and I shall be avoiding it.

4_brav2