Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 21

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Even getting as far as Subaru did in forming an alliance to fight the White Whale felt like a victory to me, but the fact remained, the actual battle was far from over after some hard fighting last week. Subaru hadn’t gotten an arc victory since saving Rem eons ago. The victory we got this week was a little safe, but it was what I wanted, when I wanted it, so it’s all good.

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I enjoyed Krusch going all in on another Subaru Crazy Plan, then using him, the “weakest among them”, to rally her depleted troops. Subie’s plan is indeed quite crazy, as it involves Rem firing him up to the “lead” whale that’s controlling the other two, and using the Witch’s curse to lure it where he wanted it – underneath the colossal tree Krusch agrees to fell.

The timing worked out extraordinarily, almost lazily well, and it seems like an unspeakable crime to bring down a tree that must be millenia old, but their options were limited.

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From there, Wilhelm, who is not dead and escapes from the whale that swallowed him, delivers the coups-de-grace to the whale. In the process, we see that Wil challenged Theresia to a duel shortly after she was named Master, and he won the duel, making him demonstrably the better sword.

I still maintain that Theresia would have prefered the man she love live a long life not dedicated to facing and fighting the whale that killed her (and very likely getting himself killed in the process). But Wil needed this for closure, and to make up for failing to protect her.

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Both Wil and Krusch express their deep gratitude and desire to continue working together. Subie even half-jokingly suggests Krusch as his #3 Girl, though Krusch only admits to the occasional tug of the heartstrings. She also vows to always be friendly and show favor to him, no matter what happens in the selection fight to come. Krusch is great.

Speaking of great, Rem is too injured to move and immediately join Subie on his next mission to destroy the cult, but he reiterates all the ways she’s already saved him, and how she can let herself rely on him now and again. He also promises she can remain by his side when they return to one another, and share a farewell Eskimo kiss.

I like how this episode contained the climax and end of the battle as well as all the celebration and rest needed. Next week, one of only four episodes left (that I know of) will thus be able to focus on Subie’s goal to eliminate the cult and its threat to Emilia…who I also hope we’ll see at some point.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 20

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In an initially cryptic prologue, a young man who looks like a more well put-together Subaru approaches a fair lass who looks like a redheaded Emilia. It’s actually a very young Wilheim van Astrea meeting his future love, Theresia, but I’m sure the resemblances aren’t an accident.

Theresia may be gone and isn’t coming back, but this entire grand battle is Subaru’s attempt to protect Emilia from a demise (and, in turn, himself from Puck’s primal wrath). He couldn’t do it alone, so he called upon those with common purpose, and the result unfolds this week.

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Watching him dust himself off and craft the plan and set up the pieces made for a World Heritage List-worthy outing; and while it wasn’t really in doubt that the payoff would, er, pay off, there was also a lingering feeling that Subaru was due for another setback. This is Re:Zero, after all. Not victory comes easily, nor on the first try.

That being said, the joint Karsten/Hoshin army packs a whollop, unleashing all their best attacks and dealing seroius damage to the whale, who is none to happy that the ambush tables were turned. One weapon even turns night into day, which makes the battle a lot easier to see. This isn’t ufotable-level combat, mind you, but it doesn’t need to be, and gets the job done.

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After Wilhem cuts out one of the whale’s eyes (GROSS!), it unleashes a cloud of fog, and its counterattack begins. We see concern in Crusch’s expression as the sky dims, and Wil remembers telling the lovely redhead in the ruins how his sword is the only way to protect someone as a knight.

He failed in that task, but not for want of trying, and is resolute in his desire to make up for the failure by vanquishing the whale once and for all.

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But the whale has more tricks up its sleeve: its fog cleaves the earth and utterly destroys a good chunk of the force. Many of the survivors succomb to the whale’s devastating, mind-piercing song, which makes them hurt themselves. Fortunately Felis is there to neutralize the effects with his healing magic.

Subaru sees that someone needs to step up and change the tune of this battle, and decides it should be him. He openly mentions Return by Death, which has the desired effect of infusing him with a fresh batch of the Witch’s stench, drawing the whale to him like a fish to a lure.

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This gives Wil a fresh chance to do more damage to the whale, but he ends up in the wrong position at the wrong time: right in front of the whale’s mouth as it scoops the earth around him up like a cloud of shrimp.

Wil stops and recalls one last time, the night he was saved by the Master Swordsman, who turned out to be Theresia. The fact is, he was never strong enough to protect her; instead, the reverse was the case. Even when he lashed out in frustration, Theresia proved she was the better swordsman, even if she didn’t understand why.

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But Wil never got over the face he could not protect the woman he loved, nor stop her from protecting him. He saw himself as the expendable one, and would have died happily if it meant she could live on, or even better, especially if she could then step down as Master Swordsman.

But that’s not exactly fair to Theresia, and I’m glad the show brings up the fact Wilheim’s desire for revenge, and putting himself in the literal jaws of the whale, may not have been the right thing to do, or indeed what Theresia wanted. She died to save him so he could live on. But he spent the last fourteen years living only for this day.

Whether he survived this battle or died fighting, he was going to end things. And I’m not sure Theresia would approve. Especially since we learn there isn’t just one white whale, but several. Talk about a Re:Zero knife twist!

What if now, Subaru has to die, plan all this out again, and the next time, include Priscilla and possibly others? I’m also weary that the Witch’s Cult will take advantage of the Karsten’s scattered, weakened army to launch their own strike.

The plan was sound, it just wasn’t quite enough to end things. Will Subie be able to accomplish what Wilheim couldn’t—save the one he loves—without sacrificing himself?

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 19

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MAN, I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER.

It’s a tired phrase, but I can’t think of a more apt use for it than the latest Re:Zero, where Subaru gets to start over from Zero and doesn’t squander the chance. Rather than begging like a babbling loon for an obscure, partially-formed goal, he comes to Crusch Karsten—and Anastasia Hoshin, and the Merchant’s Guild—with a sensible, viable arrangement, with the White Whale at the core.

In this manner, Subaru unwittingly becomes the catalyst for a grand battle that was in the making long before he arrived in this world. EVERYONE detests the White Whale. Thanks to his past lives, he not only knows how to properly approach and negotiate with these people—from a position of strength and common cause, and pride—he knows where the White Whale will show up next, and most importantly, when, thanks to his “metia.”

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When Subaru is speaking to Crusch, and Felis, and Wilheim in a manner that makes them receptive, he seems to find the unlikely hero within himself, a hero who has united groups with various opposing interests in less important areas but a shared loathing of the White Whale.

And because of the way he composes himself and presents his plan, everyone is not only willing, but eager to hear him out. Crusch is suspicious at first, but she can see the wind of dishonesty when someone lies, and Subaru, though clearly still intimidated, is making an honest, courageous effort that she doesn’t overlook.

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Part of me hated Crusch for so cruelly refusing Subie’s assistance the first time around, but I couldn’t blame her, as he was giving her no reason to help or believe him. Here he did his homework, recalling all the various goings-on in his past lives (combined with Hoshin’s major burn) to uncover the battle Crusch was preparing for anyway, and offer something that could give them all a decisive advantage over their foe.

Everyone works through the night to get ready, and Subie meets Hoshin’s mercenary captain Ricardo, numerous veterans who came out of retirement to, like Wilheim, avenge their lost loved ones upon the Whale. Subaru sees this is bigger than him, but none of this would be possible without him. He’s making it, damnit…he’s making it!

And God, it’s so good just to see everyone smiling and laughing again, even if it is, in part, to hide how goshdarn scared they all are of the task before them.

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This week, Subaru succeeded in all the ways he failed in previous attempts to save Emilia all by himself, or with last-minute help from others. Even though Priscilla isn’t a part of the alliance (and is totally absent this week), her reaction to Subie trying to kiss her feet was a powerful lesson Subie keeps with him, and is brought up again when he chooses his ground dragon, a breed known for its intense pride. He can’t accomplish anything alone, and he can’t inspire or convince others without that pride.

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Last week was ALL Rem and Subie, elevating Rem to “best girl of the year” status for many. I don’t have many strong arguments against that, so I’ll let it stand, especially when she doubles down this week on her absolute faith in Subaru, keeping his spirits up even when he starts to doubt if his cell phone will actually help them (considering how cruel this show can be, I too was worried this to all be for nothing).

But now Rem isn’t the only one trusting of or grateful to Subaru. He’s convinced two candidates battling for the throne to join forces, for crying out loud. And the merchants! As for stern-faced Wilheim, he gets a lot more fine strokes this week as one of those older men in this world who lost something to the WW, and is grateful for the opportunity to avenge his wife (who was once Master Swordsman, underscoring how dangerous the WW is).

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Perhaps one of the best moments of a highly satisfying and morale-boosting episode, another gem in a show full of them, is the moments of silence as the hour of the Whale’s arrival approaches. There’s so much built-up tension, combined with the possibility that it might not show up, or that the Witch Cultists would ambush the army.

Then the silence is broken by a strange electronic musical noise that took be totally off-guard (even though he said he’d set it earlier): Subaru’s cell phone alarm.

The cheerful chime feels like a terribly foreboding harbinger to some foul occurrence, but then the whale makes its appearance, and Subaru charges in first with Rem loosing her magic with prejudice. That changes Crusch’s face from terror and worry to a defiant smirk, and the battle begins.

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OverLord – 10

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News from Albedo that “Shalltear has revolted” was definitely a nice stab to end last week’s battle with Clementine and Khajit, and left me with a complex response. On the one hand, if it’s true that Shalltear revolted, it means this world is a lot more dangerous than had been apparent thus far.

But if Albedo was simply overreacting based on her latent dislike of and rivalry with the vampiress, it still speaks to a trend of internal court strife that started out playful and harmless but could spell big trouble, even for the Supreme Lord.

I’m pleased, then, that the actually answer to the question of what happened with Shalltear fell somewhere between those two possibilities, with qualities of both.

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I’m also pleased that OverLord’s quality of storytelling did not falter greatly just because Momonga was out of the picture for the vast majority of the episode. He’s a powerful, dominant presence both in the world and show, so his absence, while felt, was mitigated by giving us a closer look at Shalltear, including her downright frightening “attack” form.

Like Albedo and Narbarel, she looks about as far down as humans as one can, but goes further, looking upon them as food, or, at best, an entertaining “playmate.” But someone who considers humans even more as mere food and toys is the accompanying maid Solution, who is beautiful and seductive, but in reality is a shape-shifting slime monster whose boobs turn into a mouth that swallows a hapless dolt whole.

But interestingly, it’s not a total cakewalk for Shalltear & Co., at least not as much as it was for other Nazarickians thus far. Shalltear not only comes across the redhead to whom Momon gave a red potion (which she uses to save herself), but a well-coordinated force of NPCs manages to hold off a few of Shalltear’s attacks, and may or may not have taken temporary control of her mind.

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It’s that event, and its registry on the master screen, that causes Albedo to suspect a revolt. We can be reasonably clear she’s mistaken, however, and that the reality is more complicated; another mystery Momonga has to figure out with that big bony head of his. I appreciate the nuance of the situation, which is far more interesting than if Shalltear had suddenly decided to rebel against the lord she’s always loved (long before Momonga altered Albedo’s personality to love him), which would be way out of character.

And that’s also something the show keeps present in our own heads: the (anti-)heroes of Nazarick who serve Lord Ains Ooal Gown are the product and offspring of their creators, “supreme beings” like Ains who just happened to also be his friends (at least friends within the game, if not outside of it in the “real world”). As such, aside from his love hack of Albedo which was his doing, everyone who serves Momonga is acting in accordance with the parameters set by their creators, i.e. those friends of his.

So if it was Shalltear’s creator’s will that she revolt against Ains, so be it…but neither I nor Momonga are willing to concede that absent further information. For now, he simply has to find Shalltear…and hope whatever she has doesn’t spread to his other generals.

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OverLord – 09

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This was probably the best OverLord episode yet, not just due to the sheer shattering of expectations just like so many skeletal dragon bone shards, but also because of how goddamn FUN it was to watch. I was laughing out loud hard at the master-level pwnage going on this week. Even though I knew full well that as big as they talked, both Khaj and Clem were dead meat; I just wasn’t prepared for just how dead a meat they turned out to be.

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What’s so great about the pwnage is that by the end, we’re actually empathizing with the two human opponents, loathsome they may be. Clem is a superior  warrior, and I believe her when she says there are only a handful of humans alive who can hang with her in battle. She shows off her terrifying speed and strength by blasting at Momon numerous times, and is even able to smudge his armor.

But in the end, Clem is human, and Momon isn’t—he may as well be God on this world. Against the Lord of Nazarik, she’s as defenseless as a baby mouse in the clutches of a cat, and Momon is merely keeping her alive long enough to learn something about martial arts on this world. And if he has a little fun with some evil showmanship, so much the better.

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It’s also worth noting that Momon isn’t the only one fighting with a handicap (though he’s mostly just standing around); Narbarel is fighting as “Nabe”, yet still holding her own. But when Momon gives the order, she sheds her alias with relish, and calmly and glibly explains to Khajit just how fuckin’ screwed he is before vaporizing his dragons in the blink of an eye and turning him into a steaming stain on the ground. His five years of evil toil over and done with, just like that. That’s the power…of one of Momon’s mid-level attendants.

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Having ordered Narbarel to quit messing around and finish up, Momon decides to do the same, setting his swords aside and letting Clementine buff herself up and come at him with everything she’s got, “fully prepared to die,” because while she thinks she has the upper hand against this “meathead”, death is all that awaits her once she enters his reach. She takes her shot, stabbing Momon through both eyes and blasting him with lightning and fire, but to no avail.

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…Then Momon grabs Clem, and things stop being funny for a couple minutes. Fear finally registers on her crazed countenance as she realizes no matter how much she flails and struggles and lashes out and sheds her teeth biting Momon, she cannot free herself, and he’s not going to let go. The plates attached to her outfit fall one by one and clank on the ground; her death knell.

This is Clem at her absolute most pathetic and sympathetic, but then Momon reminds us she took her time killing his adventuring companions, so he takes his time with her, squeezing harder and harder until she just…pops. Yikes. But hey, at least there’s still a body left, unlike Khajit. R.I.P. Clementine: I will miss your craziness, but it would have gotten old eventually.

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Their human opponents thus dealt with, Momon locates Nphirea, destroys the Crown of Wisdom, and carries him out, as Nabe collects the equipment of the defeated. For their trouble, they both get upgraded from Copper to Mythril plates (though they hoped for Orichalcum), and Momon arranges for Nphirea and his grandmother to move to Carne to make potions for him.

Then he checks his messages and learns of the next crisis in his quest to dominate this world: According to Albedo, Shalltear Bloodfallen has rebelled against him. Now, that sounds like bad news, but among the possibilities, Albedo may just be exaggerating about her rival for Momon’s heart, or Shalltear, while powerful, is still no match for Ains Ooal Gown and his remaining followers. But no matter how bad it ends up being, I’m certain of one thing: it will be fun—and occasionally disturbing—to watch Ains deal with it.

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OverLord – 08

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Given that the show had built Clementine up to be one of the toughest baddies yet to appear, it was pretty clear Nphirea was going to end up being captured, even with the Swords of Darkness defending him (one of which, who I thought sounded like a girl, turned out to be a girl). In the time it takes for Momon to register Hamusuke, Clem takes care of the lot of them, not just killing them, but turning them into zombies whom Momon has to put out of their misery. But before she does, she details her great plan, as villains are wont to do:

“…Although it’s impossible to control all the undead we summon, we’ll be able to lead them in various general directions! IT’S THE PERFECT PLAN!”

love this monologue by Clem, because she prefaces her assertion that her plan is perfect by pointing out that it’s not perfect. But Clem is strong and evil enough not to care that much about the details. As long as the world is on fire, she’s happy to watch it burn. Yuuki Aoi continues to breathe life into the “inhuman warrior” with her zany, gusto-filled performance.

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When Momon learns all his former comrades are dead, just like that, he is “displeased”; he doesn’t wig out or scream or fume like your average shonen hero. This is the undead OverLord, people; and Clem’s victims were above all “tools to raise his name,” not friends. His beef with her is the fact she destroyed his tools, not that she cut his close human bonds.

Furthermore, he treats Nphirea’s rescue as a transaction; his granny agrees to pay him everything she has to save Nphi, and Momon has no cumpunction whatsoever about exploiting a grandmother’s unconditional love. Notably, there’s a lot less internal monologue from Momonga this week, suggesting an ever-greater comfort in his new, apparently permanent overlord skin.

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Like Clem’s imperfect plan, even in an episode where most of the characters from the last couple of episodes have been murdered finds places to infuse moments of comedy, such as when Nabe has to carry Hamusuke on her back as she flies over the undead army in the cemetery.

Between that and all the scroll spells they cast to locate Nphirea, there’s a firm practicality to Momon’s course of action, which isn’t ideal due to the time constraints. He may not know the bad guys’ plans, but he knows Nphi isn’t long for his world if he dawdles. But in taking out the bulk of the zombie army before several city guard witnesses, he’s already succeeded in furthering his name. He just has to stick the landing by defeating the bosses.

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Finally, Momon and Nabe come face to face with Clem and Khaj, and I’m reminded of the cocky Slane army with their formidable-looking mecha-angels. Clem and Khaj aren’t exactly shaking in their boots, and Nabe’s first lightning spell, while taking out all of Khaj’s subordinates, only manages to give him a small scratch. So either Nabe’s going too easy on him, or he’s the first truly tough customer she’s had to deal with.

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Similarly, Clementine, she of the many tones of voice and twisted facial expressions, is confident she can take Momon, because she only knows of a few people who can hold their own in a fight with her. Of course, since one of those names is Stronoff, we know for a fact Momon will have no trouble eliminating her…eventually.

So it’s less a matter of if he defeats Clem, but how. Just to turn things around and piss her off, Momon declares he’ll implement a handicap in fighting her, refusing to go all out on her, no matter what. We’ve only seen playful, confident Clem up to this point, but I’m certain next week we’ll see her truly pissed off and on the defensive for perhaps the first time in her life. But one thing I can’t believe is that Momon will lose. If he does, it’ll be because he wants to.

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Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail 4

Roanapur has become a great big sopping sponge utterly saturated by blood, a lot of it Roberta’s. Since taking ALL THE DRUGS IN THE WORLD, she’s gone from redlining the crazy-o-meter to liquifying the needle. She probably spent her few off-camera moments licking windows. But the one wild (literally feral) card Rock can’t predict is unquestionably the crazy-ass core of this OVA series. Some want her. Others want to be her.

While I’m aware of the mission, Rock has a loftier scheme in play. He’s spewing virtually nothing but metaphors at this point, and he’s developed an evil smirk. Garcia and Fabiola want to get Roberta back, but at this point that seems pretty unlikely. Their Roberta was lost a long time ago; they’ve been chasing an ideal that doesn’t exist.

Interesting too how Fabiola seems to have Revy totally figured out. Revy is chasing an ideal too; her ideal of Rock. The raving Rock of this episode is a completely different person from the squirelly salaryman of yore. Yet Revy has to believe he’s still the same ol’ innocent Rock. If he isn’t, he’s no different from all the other maniacs in her life. Revy’s had too rough a life to know that much about love, but she seems to have been in love with Rock for some time. She just can’t or won’t acknowledge or act on it.

While he goes on about ridding Roanapur of “troublemakers”, I’m left wondering if Rock even cares about the conclusion. Right now the journey seems to be all he cares about; the process; not the result or destination. As Lagoon Company heads up into the Golden Triangle with a cargo of army dudes, Roberta is hot on the trail on a jetliner. The endgame draws near. Rating: 4