Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 06 – Spitting in the Wind

After a comprehensive layout of the order of battle on both sides, the flatland goblins, giants, and mountain goblins advance on the three sides of the first unit, led by Deusolbert, Fanatio, and Eldrie, respectively. Eldrie falls victim to his inexperience and lets the goblins get too close, and their smoke bombs turn his flank into confusing chaos.

But Sir Deusolbert has a big ol’ quiver of giant arrows, each one of which is capable of blasting away dozens of foes in an instant. It’s impressive firepower…but there’s a limit to it, and when he runs out of arrows, he’s badly exposed and must rely on his men to protect him by essentially throwing their lives away—lives the Human forces cannot afford to lose.

Fanatio also looks poised to make quick work of the charging giants, until their chief starts to glitch and enters a kind of savage berserk mode that catches Fanatio off balance. Fortunately, her loyal lieutenant Dakira steps in and blocks the giant’s attack. Unfortunately, Dakira dies of her injuries, and Fanatio uses up a lot of time and energy eliminating the chief.

The episode ends with the front lines just barely holding together after just the first wave of Dark Territory forces, with Eldrie’s unit in particularly bad way. And that wave is nothing but cannon fodder; it felt like the knights were throwing their best weapons at this enemy without much thought to preserving some of that power for the tougher waves.

Then again, they don’t have a choice. Their regular soldiers are under-trained and untested, and even one of the younger Integrity Knights demonstrates he has no integrity by fleeing the battle to hide in a storage shed. The battle has barely begun, and the forces of the Human Empire have already taken a serious hit in manpower, energy, and morale.

Alice glides over all of this, holding her powder for the next waves to come, and summons a massive ball of…something. Destructive energy, I guess? Hopefully she can slow the enemy’s advance at least somewhat to allow the units to regroup, but it still feels like the Humans are going to need a lot more help, either from Kirito finally waking up (or at least instinctively contributing somehow) or the timely arrival of Asuna.

Attack on Titan – 27

After a quick check in with Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and Zoe as they prepare to head to Ehrmich District—during which Zoe hopes her new buddy Pastor Nick will be more forthcoming regarding Wall Titans—the story jumps to Sasha Blouse, and it’s her story that dominates the episode.

A flashback shows she was always ravenous about sneaking food, and was at the time totally against abandoning her huntress lifestyle for the greater good, as her father was contemplating doing. He told her to suit herself, but to be forewarned: If you’re not there for people when they need you, they won’t be there for you.

Arriving at her home to find an unfamiliar new village, she finds only two people still alive: a paralyzed mother being slowly eaten by a small Titan, and the woman’s daughter, who can only sit by, watch, and become profoundly traumitized. Good lord do the kids witness some hellish things in this show.

Sasha is there for the girl and her mother, but the Titan’s nape is too tough for the axe she wields. Her only option is to leave the mother behind to buy time for her and the kid to get away. The girl later says the rest of the village left her and her mother behind (Not cool, villagers. Not cool). Things get even more tense when Sasha’s horse runs off, and you can hear her struggling to keep the panic in her voice, lest she scar this kid eve more (too late for that, I think).

In the flashback with her dad, Sasha spoke in her country bumpkin accent. While running from the Titan with the girl, she remembers a random little interaction with Ymir and Krista, who argued about whether Sasha is kind and polite because she’s scared of people and ashamed of her backwater upbringing, while Krista likes Sasha is just fine, however she wants to be.

Kobayashi Yuu has always been such a great choice for Sasha, because there’s both a gentle and an intense side (usually hangry, but in this case because of the situation) and she nails both perfectly. It’s time to be not-nice when she tells the kid to “Get Runnin’!” Then blinds the Titan to disorient it; ditching the bow to make sure the last arrow finds its mark, and slipping out of the Titan’s grasp thanks to the great deal of blood spilled by its wounds.

Meeting back up with the girl, they soon hear horse hooves: her father and others from her village. It’s the first time in three years she’s seen her dad. He knows what she did for the little girl, and when he tells her “Sasha…Yer all I hoped for,” its a lovely, warm moment of reconciliation.

Sasha didn’t quite get it before she left home, but she does now. Livin’ in the woods alone just ain’t gonna cut it no more; people gotta be non-awful-like if they’re to be survivin’.

Sasha may have found her dad and a little girl in her village, but when Connie arrives in his home village, it doesn’t look good at all…particularly the horrifying Titan with emaciated limbs lying face up on top of his family’s house.

Since we don’t see any bodies, there’s hope some or even all of Connie’s family got out, but more importantly, how did a Titan that can no longer move end up there? It looks like it could have been dropped down there like a giant sack of potatoes.

Keeping Eren and Mikasa on the sidelines hasn’t hurt the show two episodes in a row now thanks to a smidge more backstory on Sasha, whose gluttony shtick used to annoy me, but has become a much more sympathetic character…someone I definitely don’t want eaten.

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 04

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This week’s HGG starts out gently and quietly, with Manato and Shihoru returning from a dawn errand. Shihoru stops to feed the birds, and invites Shihoru to help. She’s startled by the birds, slips, and falls, but Manato catches her, protecting her from harm.

When she thanks him, he admits how glad he is to be talking with her again. Their interactions speak volumes. Manato is someone Shihoru can relie on to protect her; to catch her if she falls. Little did I know that this would be the last time they’d be alone together.

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Back in the ruined city, Haruhiro reports how each one of the party has gained a new skill, which when combined with their improving teamwork that covers one anothers’ weaknesses, results in a goblin-slaying bonanza; they can now take on three at a time, and are no longer squeamish about finishing off their quarry.

There’s a triumphant tone to this sequence, with our party kicking ass, taking names, and looking good doing it, all to some very upbeat, energetic battle music. The gang is finally getting the hang of it.

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When they settle in for lunch and some rest and relaxation, Yume goes off on a very long tangent about the deity she prays to and offers part of her food in order to keep her safe. The rambling irks Ranta, who wanted her story to have a point, but this is another example of simply passing the time, shooting the breeze, and gradually learning a little more about each other – and themselves; they are still amnesiacs – every day.

The casual joy of the scene is not lost on Manato, who proceeds to praise every other member of the party for their contributions, and how he’s happy they’re become a respectable party due to filling in each other’s gaps. He doesn’t get to talk about Haruhiro, as the party has to move on, but Haruhiro is sure he’ll have any number of chances to ask Manato what he thinks of him. Only, as it happens, he won’t.

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Haru sees a glint from the top of a building, and manages to save Manato from a sniper, taking the arrow in his shoulder. Soon, he gets another in his leg, and all hell breaks loose. Goblins of various sizes and skill sets come out of the stonework and ambush the party, who have to beat a speedy retreat to the forest.

As he runs, Manato, the party’s healer, vanguard, and glue, gets an arrow to the back, which pierces his vitals. He attempts to heal himself, but has lost too much blood, and passes out. Neither stopping the blood nor giving him mouth-to-mouth has any effect.

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His stunned, desperate party members take him to the priests to see what they can do, but there’s nothing they can do. No phoenix down; no Life spells; no respawning. In Grimgar, dead is dead, and that’s what Manato is. Worse, if his remains aren’t properly cared for within three to five days, he may rise as a zombie. Utterly dejected, you can taste the venom in Haru’s mouth as he asks whether the cremation costs money, then categorically rejects the priest’s charity.

What follows is an excruciatingly long and hard few scenes where Haru, Yume, Shihoru, Moguzo and Ranta simply sit or stand around, defeated, filled with grief, as they say goodbye to their friend and the one who bound them all together and never doubted them. In addition to huge holes in their hearts, they now have a gaping hole in their party with no more healer, a stinging irony.

Their first goblin kill was one of the first times we felt along with the party the full weight and stakes and cruel unyielding harshness of the world they now found themselves in without explanation. But Manato’s death was another first, and one that will be far tougher to recover from. There is no rage or talk about revenge in the end; only heartache and anguish.

In the first three weeks of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, we had no shortage of fantasy wrapped in a unique and refreshing realism, with all the horrors and joys of real life. Now, we’ve seen the ash, how far the realism goes, and a major death getting the weight and solemnity it deserves. Now all we can do is wait with nervous apprehension to learn how the party will carry on.

9_mag

Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 04

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Suffice it to say, I found last week’s Vanadis unremarkable. It wasn’t truly terrible, but I don’t feel empty superhero worship and fan-wank warrant much attention. Little did I know Vanadis aimed to trump itself in episode 4 with what felt like an endless stream of Dudes Frowning and Boob Jiggle.

Short review: Vanadis’ fourth episode is very long on misogynistic boobsploitation and very short on character development and world-building.

Long Review: This was a stinky turd. So hold your nose! We’re diving in!

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Dudes Frowning…

Titta the twin-tail maid is super in love with her boss and, well, owner, Count Tigre but she has a problem: her character type has been done to death in anime and, when you scrape away the dead skin of her loli-type harem appeal, Titta serves one purpose: she shows us that Tigre is desirable to women, without Tigre having to do that on his own as a character.

Gekkan-Shoujo Nozaki-kun exposed this phenomenon last season and the summary is that visual storytellers don’t always have time (or any idea how to) convey that their characters are stylish/sexy/powerful so they fill their side characters’ monologues and dialogues with “isn’t that character cool” and “wow he’s so powerful” filler.

It’s a remarkably effective tool, even when used poorly, but when you start to see it in use, the shine wears off and it feels cheap.

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Dudes frowning and Sexy jiggle…

Speaking of cheap, Vanadis wastes no effort on humor. Instead, it spoon feeds us shovels full of yuk-yuks like Titta walking in on Lady Eleonora straddling Tigre with her sword in his mouth. I guess gender reversal oral rape humor is funny.

Apparently, not so much to Titta or Tigre though…

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…boobs frowning, sometimes also jiggle…

Then Ellen returns to her kingdom’s capital to report to her king and meets a bigger pair of breasts (Sofya Obertas) that support her and an angry little pair of breasts (Ludmila Lourie) that hate her. She doesn’t help the relationship by insulting the angry Ludmila for being small nor does she capitalize on Sofya’s assistance.

At least, not while on camera. It’s later stated that Ellen spent more time having important conversations about politics while there, and that the king gave very interestingly worded orders to her that are intended to put Alsace in the ‘screwed’ category.

But, for all we know, she could have spent hours watching Sofya’s boobs slowly enter the frame like a squishy star destroyer chasing down rebels, and crushing their star systems…

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We don’t actually see anything other than Ellen make the king angry for potentially dragging his kingdom into an unprovoked war and Ellen instigating a fight with Ludmila Sure, Sofya fills us in on some background and points out Ellen’s poor choices, but it’s all very talky — and not very talky about anything of note!

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I can’t really tell, but I bet this dude is frowning too!

Then Ludmila shows up at Tigre’s house and is all like “Ellen is rude as shit but I just wanted to say you’ve got some enemies you probably can’t win against and we should go somewhere else to talk about it because reasons.”

Then Tigre, Ellen, Ludmila and Lim go on a horsey ride where there tits can bounce really well — so well and from so many angles that I’m insulted how poorly the battle graphics have been rendered in previous episodes — because they need to go to another location because reasons.

Then Ninjas attack!

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Lady Limalisha’s right breast gets bitten by a snake during the attack and Tigre has to suck out the venom and pretty much everything I’ve said about how terrible this episode was seems trivial by comparison.

This scene makes absolutely no sense as it was animated. One second, Lim is able to cut Ninjas out of the sky, the next she’s surprised by a snake falling from the sky and unable to swing her raised sword at it. Must’ve been a ninja snake.

Then, as Tigre is sucking, even more Ninjas attack and Ellen is totally not ready to kill them with her magic wind sword that she’s holding at the ready so Ludmila saves everybody by casting an ice spell that either we see in super super-slow-mo or the ninja’s ‘fall’ from the sky at a leisurely pace.

I mean, Ludmila has like ten seconds to cast a spell that kills the ninjas that are currently falling at them from the trees. It’s a fucking joke, and I do not use profanity lightly!

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Dudes frow… oh never mind!

Vanadis is fanservice. Fanservice with no spin and no purpose other than keeping our eyes on a show that doesn’t even bother showing us it’s exposition scenes but tells us they happened off-camera!

In simple terms, it’s insulting and cynical. Women hate women — and hate on women over their physical attributes and squabble over men. Even powerful women are half-useless half the time and, when it comes down to it, a man’s gotta suck their fat tits to save their lives anyway so why not paint them like cows and be done with it?

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This dude is frowning and so am I

Its story is an empty shell of uncooked politics and military drama, drawn in with acceptable but unremarkable quality. Without its tits, Vanadis is nothing and in this day and age, where well-drawn boobs are free and plentiful, Vanadis has no right to exist. Vanadis is horrific, hateful garbage.

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Preston’s Take

I’ll admit, Franklin’s review of this episode spooked me into waiting this long to watch it for the purposes of keeping up for next week, which is my turn to review. But having  finally watched it, I’m struggling to see exactly what all the outrage was about. This wasn’t a particularly good episode of anime, or even Vanadis; (the first episode of which remains its best by far.) But it was far from appalling. 

His arguments for why the episode wasn’t good definitely hold water, to be sure. There were more boobs in this episode than previous ones, but we knew from the OP we’d be seeing more war maidens and thus more boobs. I’d kinda gotten used to Ellen and Lima’s boobs, but so many more are stuffed into the frame this week, it got a bit silly.

There were a couple of women who weren’t shown in the best light; Titta’s character really is just “she loves Tigre but it will never be”, while Lima…wow…that breast bite was random! But I just wasn’t nearly as offended by this episode as Franklin. Horrific and hateful never really entered my mind so much as dumb and unremarkable.

Whether next week improves significantly will determine whether we continue reviewing this show at all.

5_mag

Madan no Ou to Vanadis – 03

Titta does not like Tigre and Elen's present status. No she does not!
Titta does not like Tigre and Elen’s present status. No she does not!

I’ll admit, Lord Zion Thernardier is an irredeemably evil scoundrel, coward, and lowlife, rendering him rather generic and boring. The battle waged by Tigre and Elen’s forces on the Molsheim Plains to defend Alsace? That’s another story. Even if Zion’s existence was a chore, the episode that ended with his timely and welcome demise was well-orchestrated piece of fantasy warfare.

Alright Legolas, don't get cocky
Alright Legolas, don’t get cocky

This was a great battle, full of careful preparation and build-up but plenty of withheld information to make the specific unfolding of the battle a surprise. Elen’s army is only 900 against Zion’s 2,700, but if they maintain their kill ratio of 3-to-1 as they did in repelling the raid on Alsace, they shouldn’t have a problem. That ratio is made possible thanks to some clever tactics devised by Torn. Oh, and having his steward nearby to toss him fresh quivers – good to see the episode took logistics into account.

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The movements of both armies are covered by an occasional cut to a strategic game board-like construct with CGI figures representing the units, and a well-informed narrator delivering the play-by-play. I actually really liked this method, as it not only satisfactorily explained what was going on in the action sequences, but split them up to avoid monotony.

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As soon as I saw those two dragons last week, I knew Elen would be facing off against one or both of them. She for one, wasn’t expecting a dragon, but as a War Maiden/Vanadis, she’s more than capable of dispatching one on her own, albeit by breaking out a heretofore rarely-used Rey Admos, which she doesn’t use on people.

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“SIGH…Why do I have to work for this shitstain?”

Lima’s unit of knights retreats, luring Zion’s flying column of knights, whose horses trip over a great rope made from smaller ropes gathered from the townsfolk of Alsace. After the earth dragon falls and a force of 2,000 enemy cavalry appears on the horizon (with only 100 riders, but it’s dark and the ruse works), Zion orders his knights to retreat and challenges Tigre to a duel. Tigre, who has been taking out enemies three per loosing of his bow.

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Zion initiates the duel believing his prowess at jousting will win the day over the lowly huntsman, but he doesn’t consider the fact that if enough arrows go to the same place in his thick shield, eventually a hole is going to be made – one that goes right through his arm. But as Tigres and Elen’s forces fight each other, Zion escapes on the flying dragon, abandoning his forces altogether.

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We did it!

Tigre – and I – curse the fact Zion still isn’t dead (even if there’s a good chance he’ll succumb to infection), but then his bow starts to glow blue and talk to him in a gentle female voice, urging him to shoot the dragon. When he nocks, the bow borrows and merges with the power of Elen’s blade Arifar, and the arrow cleaves Zion’s dragon in two. Daddy’s gonna be pissed.

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Halved ‘im!

So this was a fun battle with lots of cool tactics and ruses that a military tourist like myself can really get into. It also showed us just how much ass Elen can kick when she chooses to. I’m not opposed to seeing more battles like this, but it suffered a bit from a weak, boring enemy (Zion) whose defeat was a foregone conclusion. Also, he fell in a lake and still may not be dead, which would frankly suck. But still, well done this week, Vanadis!

7_mag