Engage Kiss – 13 (Fin) – Bless This Mess

Shuu, Ayano and Sharon are fighting as a cohesive unit, but against Kanna the best they can do is maintain a stalemate. Enter Tabula Rasa Kisara, who despite having no memories decides on her own not to let what seem like nice people die in a battle with a not-so-nice person.

The addition of Kisara to the battle definitely gives Team Shuu an edge as Kanna starts to flounder a bit, but then she summons three powerful demons, which means all of the other demon hunting contractors spring into action, for the city that’s the only home they have, for honor and glory, and money too.

When even Kisara can’t quite get to Kanna’s heart to seal her, Shuu lends her power in the form of a kiss. Turns out their old contract terms work just fine, and the newly re-Hot Topic’d Kisara has a stiff second wind at her back. She keeps Kanna occupied enough for Shuu to fire his demonic bullet. Asmodeus flees from Kanna, and Kisara carves her into ribbons, sending her back to whence she came.

In the aftermath, while some demons made it to the city, there were no civilian casualties, so the contractors call it a victory. Sharon admits the Abbey will still be coming for Kisara, but at least today, Sharon won’t be the one to kill her. Wondering where a demon girl fits in a human world, Kisara gets a supportive hug from Ayano.

The Hachisukas continue their sibling rivalry for control of the city—and international coverup to maintain their autonomy. Sharon makes a joke to Ayano about spending the night with Shuu before boating off to face inquisition. Shuu visits his parents’ grave and promises his work isn’t done, but he’ll do it the right way this time.

As for Kisara, she wants Shuu to teach her all the memories she lost, which apparently includes fulfilling the role of his girlfriend. Things are about to get hot and heavy in his apartment when the lights come on to reveal Kanna gobbling up all the food in the place. While the authorities kept her restrained in the bowels of city hall, this is only the latest of several escapes.

Those escapes result not in her unleashing demons on the city or causing any damage, but inserting herself back into Shuu’s home and life and voicing her disapproval of Kisara. Now Kisara has in Kanna what Ayano has in her: a younger rival for Shuu’s attention.

With Kisara, Ayano, and now Kanna all pointing weapons at him and asking whose side he’s on, Shuu’s in the messiest mess yet. And frankly, that’s the best way for this series to end: never taking itself too seriously and gleefully embracing the mess.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 12 – Atomic Tantrum

Kanna awakens from her brief nap at the crack of dawn and announces her intentions by attacking Bayron City’s airport. The airport is virtually abandoned, and the Hachisukas order everyone within a several-mile radius to evacuate, but since all that happens off-camera the stakes are localized to Shuu and the women in his life: Ayano, Sharon, Kisara, and of course Kanna.

Kisara is a complete amnesiac after severing her contract, having even given Shuu her memories from before they met. He calls her an idiot, but he won’t listen to the Kisara before the memory transfer, who told him to run and save himself. After all she’s done for him, she’s going to protect her this time, sealing that promise with a kiss on her forehead.

Sharon pulls up in her motorcycle to say goodbye to Ayano, since a church battleship is on its way and it won’t be sparing Kanna’s life, so they’ll be enemies next time they meet. However, between Sharon getting a call and Shuu receiving a new delivery, a plan is afoot.

For now, AAA and Ayano throw everything they’ve got at the approaching Kanna, who seemingly starts to target Ayano personally. She almost blasts her into oblivion from point-blank range, but Ayano is saved at the last second by Shuu swooping in to princess carry her away on his Eureka Seven-style hoverboard; the next-minute delivery he charged to Mikhail.

Shuu confirms to Ayano that all his memories are back and more by scolding her for seducing him when she knew Kisara would take those memories. But while Ayano is embarrassed, she’s also clearly elated that the Shuu she knows and loves is back and of sound mind.

As for why Kanna is targeting her, Shuu says he and Kanna have been connected through dreams throughout these twelve years, so she’s had to witness all of his romantic exploits without being able to affect them. As a result, she’s still three years old emotionally and scarred by those dreams. Since Sharon is also a target, she decides to come back and fight alongside Shuu and Ayano since Shuu called and apologized for forgetting her.

Flanked by Ayano and her bazooka and Sharon and her mech suit, Shuu flies up to meet Kanna and tries to play things softly at first, trying to appeal to her brotherly love and actually getting her to stop dead in her tracks. Shuu declares to her that he’s going to save her without losing anything—not his memories, and not any of the other people he loves.

Since saving her involves sealing her, Kanna can’t have that, and fights back. Shuu, Ayano, and Sharon make a great team and the battle looks great, but at the end of the day she’s still an S-Class demon, and none of them are.

Not only that, she’s clearly trying to kill them, while Shuu is determined not to kill her. When he’s about to deal a crucial blow with Kisara’s sword, Kanna shrewdly breaks out the waterworks, which causes Shuu to hesitate for a moment. That’s all she needs to blast him into the tarmac.

This happens just as Kisara arrives on the scene with a slight limp, but after how Shuu treated her in her hospital bed, not to mention the note on her hand written by her past self that says “Believe in him and fight together”, it looks like she’s ready to contribute if she can. She may not have any memories, but she’s still a demon.

I’m pleased that Shuu is now in such an optimistic place with all his memories back that he no longer wants to throw anything away in a lonely struggle to save his sister. With Ayano, Sharon, some form of Kisara, and presumably those other contractors who feel bad about sitting out the fight so far, Kanna is now the lonely one backed into a corner, and he’s got a fighting chance to get her back with minimal loss…assuming he survived that last blow, of course.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 09 – Somebody Set Us Up the Bomb

Will Bell have to fight his friend in order to stop her from murdering Jura? Well…no, because after Ryuu insists she didn’t kill Jean, it only takes a couple of “gotcha” questions for him to determine that Jura has been setting Ryuu up this whole time. Right on cue, Jura sports a villainous smirk and (somewhat forced-sounding) cackle.

Jura, a monster-tamer, has a surprise for Ryuu and Bell: a Lambton, which is not Lamb-themed Reggeton but a giant burrowing snake from the lower floors. Jura is controlling it with a magical stone around its collar that responds to a similar magical stone on Jura’s whip. A second Lambton attacks Lili, Aisha, Welf, and the others.

The Lambtons’ movements seem erratic, but once Ryuu discovers a pattern, she asks Bell to back her up while she brings it down. When the great snake tries to go to ground, Bell stops it with a Fire Bolt, and Ryuu finishes it off with a Luminous Wind.

Bell’s Party defeats their Lambton by having Haruhime cast Level Boost on Welf and Ouka to serve as the party’s shield while the archers riddle its head with arrows, and finally Aisha chops off its head with a Hell Kaios. They got the tools, they got the talent. It’s Miller Time.

But Cassandra is worried. This can’t be the disaster that causes a “banquet of tragedy”. Sure enough, it’s just the appetizer: Jura and the Lambtons were just stalling for time while Turk and the other anti-Ryuu squad mined the entire level with blazerocks. Once ignited, Jura helpfully explains that the Dungeon is made “delirious”.

This, in turn, awakens “Despair”, which like the Lambton has glowing red eyes. While Ryuu has fought Lambtons before, one look at her face, equal parts shock, anger, and fear, says it all: this guy is trouble. Unfortunately, this episode didn’t feel like much more than what it was: stalling for time before the main course.

Overlord IV – 11 – Knocked Back

After a solemn scene of King Ramposa mourning Zanac’s sure demise and excusing the palace staff in hopes some might get away under cover of night, Ampetif Cocco Doll joins his fellow Eight Fingers, and notes that all of them look all gaunt like “they’re on some fad diet” or “demons wearing the skins” of his former colleagues.

Turns out they’re that way because of what they’ve endured. Shalltear arrives, matter-of-factly gathers the Fingers and their 1,000 men and stows them someplace for the time being, and then it’s Cocco Doll’s turn to undergo the “baptism” Hilma and the others have already been through. But hey, at least now they’re under the protect of His Majesty the Sorcerer King.

As the twins and Cocytus lead his armies to certain victory, Ainz and Albedo (looking menacingly hot in her full black armor) await the ones who defeated the Death Knights. Our old-boy Azuth of Drop of Red is first to arrive. Aiz orders Albedo to take him on but not kill him; this is about information-gathering first and foremost.

Azuth flies off but Albedo stays with him, fully aware he’s leading her away from Ainz-sama on purpose. When he finally unleashes both physical and magical attacks, they bounce off Albedo like nothing, and when she strikes him, she notes that he’s “like tofu.” So, decidedly not the biggest challenge for the good Prime Minister.

Azuth’s chum (?) turns out to be far more formidable. A knight in platinum armor surrounded by four spinning weapons, he introduces himself as Riku Aganeia. He’s able to actually strike Ainz with his axe, and while it does no damage, Ainz is impressed enough to propose a deal. If this Riku Aganeia fellow becomes his subordinate, he’d be inclined to cease the destruction of the Re-Estize Kingdom.

Riku ain’t having it, and a wonderful little duel ensues, with Ainz never looking like he’s in trouble but nevertheless enjoying the bemusement and novelty of an opponent who won’t just die by, ya know, standing too close to him or something. Heck, Ainz can’t even break through the World Isolating Barrier Riku puts up.

While Ainz is keeping the proverbial kid gloves on, he decides to test the limits of this opponent’s power by first summoning a Doom Lord, who trades slashes and strkes with Riku’s four weapons and gives Ainz time to think. He then unleashes an “Elemental Skull”, which we unfortunately never get to see in action but is exquisite in its simple yet dread-inspiring design.

When Riku raises his giant sword to strike Ainz down, Ainz suddenly acts more like the human narrating his thoughts, even getting down on the ground as if groveling. He tries words with Riku, asking if it’s really so wrong for a nation to respond when its food supplies meant for the Holy Kingdom were stolen; Riku simply says he’s gone too far, and must now perish as punishment.

Naturally, that ain’t happening, and Albedo comes crashing through the barrier like it’s made out of stunt glass and starts whaling on Riku, enraged by how he spoke to Ainz-sama. Ainz orders her to stop, and then once more asks Riku to become his subordinate. Instead, Riku teleports away.

He later meets up with a thoroughly defeated Azuth, who laments that the kingdom will surely fall now that they know the strength of their enemies. Ainz’s hunch that Riku was controlling the armor remotely is proven correct; the one pulling the strings was Tsa, a powerful Dragon Lord.

Tsa uses terms like player and NPC, and while he may have lost this round, he believes there is a way to defeat the Sorcerer King, and is going to give it some serious thought. As for the “Ainz” his puppet fought, it wasn’t Ainz at all, but Pandora’s Actor posing as Ainz (with Albedo doing a bang-up job acting like he’s Ainz-sama).

Pando certainly gave up the game when he acted all goofy for that one moment, but it was still a nice surprise. I love how the battle we saw was between two proxies of the two far more powerful entities sitting back and collecting the data. In this case, neither know their counterpart’s true power, only that of the proxies they fought. We’ll see how their next encounter shapes up.

Overlord IV – 10 – The Pursuit of Happiness

When the Floor Guardians note how easily the man in the red powered suit defeated two Death Knights, Ainz breaks out his patented “Just as expected”, awing his underlings by revealing the true reason he sent a lesser force to a lesser town: to bait the Kingdom’s most powerful protectors: Drop of Red.

Renner meets with her brother Prince Zanac, for perhaps the last time, as Ainz is sending his army to their royal capital and intend to raze it to the ground. Both seem resigned to that fate, with Zanac volunteering to lead the troops while Renner escapes “when the time is right.”

Evileye and Blue Rose end up meeting with Drop of Red’s leader, Azuth, in a brothel, only for their character designs to be somehow outdone by a third Adamantite adventurer party: The Black Scripture, from the Holy Kingdom. They wish to recruit Drop of Red and Blue Rose as allies in the fight to “secure the future of mankind,” i.e. defeat the Sorcerer King. Blue Rose refuses, at least for now, while Azuth is certain attempting to defeat the Sorcerer King is a fool’s errand.

Prince Zanac leads what’s left of Re-Estize’s forces out to the field outside the capital wearing Gazef’s armor, then rides further out on his own to request an audience with Ainz. It is granted, and Ainz makes things proper with a table, chairs, and water goblets. Zanac’s main question to Ainz is why he’s going about this in such a cruel fashion. Ainz states simply that Zanac’s kingdom is to be made an example of, so no one will dare oppose his Sorcerous Kingdom ever again.

When Zanac asks further what Ainz’s goal is, he simply states “happiness”—for himself and those he cares about (the Floor Guardians and other underlings). Zanac can’t really argue with that, and withdraws from the discussion with just one final request: that whatever magic Ainz uses to kill him and his people, it at least be done quickly and relatively painlessly.

Zanac is surprised by how human Ainz is, and how he’s a far more worthy king than he could ever be. However, Ainz thinks the same way: that someone so outwardly unflappable and dignified as Zanac represents true royalty. Contrast that with his nobles, who rebel against him before the battle begins, beheading Zanac and taking his head before Ainz as a tribute, as well as pledging their allegiance to the Sorcerous Kingdom.

Until his last moments, Zanac Varleon Igana Ryle Vaiself stood tall with sword in hand, while these nobles kneel and simper. Frankly, it disgusts Ainz and turns him off personally overseeing the entire invasion operation. He tells the nobles they’ll get a “suitable reward”—the sparing of their families’ lives—then sends them away, but tells Albedo to send them to the Neuronist, and only to let them die (albeit not slowly) if they beg for death.

He then puts Cocytus and Mare in charge of the impending battle, having “lost interest” due to the cowardly actions of the nobles. They should have let their prince lead an army into a dignified, honorable battle; now they’ve signed their own death warrants for certain. As for Renner, she’s now de facto Queen…of a soon-to-be ruined Kingdom.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Overlord IV – 09 – Baking a Softer Biscuit

After chastising a courtier for interrupting her, Albedo cuts to the chase: The Sorcerer Kingdom is declaring war on the Re-Estize Kingdom, but they won’t deploy their forces for a whole month, and Ainz promises not to use any “large spells” like the one that killed 200,000 on the Katze Plains. Brain knows Ainz is planning something (duh).

A month later, and Ainz has already taken steps to ensure a swift invasion of Re-Estize, focusing on destroying the villages near the borders in order to prevent outside forces from interfering. But he’s loath to reveal to his always-gung-ho generals the fact that he’s holding back on purpose, resulting in some humans surviving and escaping.

While not wholly his idea, since Ainz is, deep down, just a regular human gamer, he’s both more empathetic and respectful of the opinions of fellow “lowly” humans, or in this case, slightly-less powerful underlings, like Albedo’s older sister Nigredo (who is missing her face skin…if she ever had it) and the dog maid-themed Pestonya. They urge their overlord not to snuff out a race as innovative as humanity too rashly.

The Sorcerer Kingdom’s latest target is the seaside town of E-Naeul, who have contracted the mithril adventurer group Four Armaments, led by a cool beauty and including a slightly perverted mage. Like many new Overlord introductions, this four-person party brings an immediate lived-in quality with their easy banter and subtle swagger. At the end of the day, they’re professionals, and if their job is to hold E-Naeul as long as they can, they will hold.

The zombie rabble that constitutes the main Sorcerer Kingdom force isn’t particularly intimidating; the onna kishi who leads the Four Armaments is far more concerned about the two giant Death Knights, wondering if only two were sent because that’s all it was assumed would be needed to cause the town to fall.

After provoking the Death Knight to charge the front gates, The onna kishi has her partymates buff her up with attribute enhancements, and she conjures a doppelganger of her hand axe so every strike counts twice. More than anything, she doesn’t flinch even a little bit in the face of a massive undead warrior getting all up in her space.

While she’s not taking any damage thanks to her superior speed and agility, she’s not really causing any to the Death Knight, and when the dual-wielding Death Warrior catches up with its companion, it starts to look like even one of the more renowned adventurer groups in the kingdom is going to start experiencing what the “stick” in Ainzs’ carrot-and-stick plan entails.

But then, suddenly, the Death Knight’s head is blasted off, and the knight crumbles into a pile of ash. The shots came from high in the sky, where a figure in a high-tech red metal mech suit is brandishing an equally anachronistic machine gun. The Death Warrior does its best to deflect the red one’s shots, but eventually falls as well, and the red one simply gives a friendly gesture and flies off into the wild blue yonder.

With the biggest enemy threats removed, it’s highly likely the Armaments and town forces will be able to repel the remaining zombies and prevent E-Naeul from falling. But when reports come back of the Death Knights’ defeat, Ainz shocks his Guardians by remarking that he expected this. So who is the one in red, who is identified by the Armaments as an adamantite adventurer…and will Ainz eventually have to fight them?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E07 – A Boom, a Whoosh, and a Hug

The first day’s haul at the beach shack is beyond Ms. Amane’s expectations. Emi meets with Maou, Ashiya, Urushihara, and Camio at the lighthouse to discuss Amane, who is clearly no ordinary human.  Camio explains that the Demon Realm split into hardliners and pacifists after Maou’s fall.

A group of the latter, all ginned up by Olba Meyer, are on there way to Choshi now for the Sacred Sword, AKA Alas Ramus. Both Emi and Maou want to take responsibility for the war they started without leaving it all to Amane, powerful though she may be.

It’s actually a relief that Amane isn’t specifically after Maou or Emi or the sword, and even delivers Maou’s sword that Camio brought along when he arrived in Japan. When a Gate opens and the demon soldiers start pouring through, Emi flies over to meet them first and starts cutting them down, though notably not killing them.

When their leader steps in to have a duel, Emi is game, and has Alas scale down so it’s a more even fight. The fight never happens, though, because Emi bought all the time Maou, Ashiya, and Urushihara needed to transform into their demon forms of King Satan, Sariel, and Lucifer. The troops and their leader are immediately cowed by the presence of their masters.

With a final flourish, Maou puts his arm around Emi and tells his underlings to return home with the message that the king lives and is gathering his power on Earth to bring peace to the demon realm once more. The demons and Camio return peacefully through the light of the lighthouse, and then Maou, Emi, Ashiya and Urushihara close the Gate.

Chiho, Suzuno, and Amane greet the four when they wash up on the shore, most of their power expended. Amane is glad the mess these folks brought to her little seaside town has been cleaned up, but also tells them that they have to leave as the magic they used has upset the balance of one of the few places where souls can be cleansed during Obon.

The bad news is, Maou & Co. are fired and in a flash of wind Amane and the beach shack have vanished, but the good news is that Amane paid them handsomely for their work, and Maou’s apartment has been repaired, so after a tour of Choshi, the crew is poised to return to the “Castle”.

Maou explains that the sword Camio brought him was made of his magic-packed horn that Emi had cut off, and then perhaps chooses his words poorly when he boasts to Emi that once his power is fully back he’ll “dominate” her and everyone else. That gets both Emi and Chiho upset and demanding either an apology or clarification.

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E04 – The Traveler King

With Gabriel promising to return tomorrow, Maou and his generals and frenemies adopt a fortress mentality, sending the normal human Chiho off while Ashiya and Urushihara stay on stanby at Suzuno’s. That leaves Maou and Emi together with Alas Ramus at his place.

While Emi is weary of this arrangement, and can’t commit to allying herself with the devil, she will do what it takes to keep Alas out of harm’s way, so in that regard her and Maou’s interests are aligned. When they turn in for the night, Alas makes sure to grab both of them close.

While initially uncomfortable with the proximity, Maou and Emi bask in their “daughter’s” unbridled love and exuberance, while Emi is genuinely moved by Maou’s bittersweet improvised tale of a traveler who became a king.

Emi gets a literal rude awakening around 5:00 in the morning from Gabriel, who was simply lying in the room waiting for them to wake up (ambushing a sleeping couple is beneath him). Gabriel continues to be a paragon of reasonableness, but makes it quite clear: he’s leaving with either Emi’s sword or Alas Ramus.

We learned from further explanation form Suzuno earlier that as the Guardian Angel of the sephira Yesod of the Tree of Life, Gabriel has a claim to both sword and Alas, as they are shards of Yesod. But that doesn’t matter to Maou, who planted and nurtured the seed that became the apple that became his near-as-makes-no-difference daughter.

When saved from death and reborn (you can see himself in his bedtime story), Alas was a symbol of hope he gained, so Maou offers his head in exchange for letting Alas at least stay with Emi.  Gabriel laughs at Maou and Emi in marital synch one minute, and is choking out Maou the next. He’s out of patience.

But while Emi’s sword can’t do much against Gabriel, and Maou is far to weak to stand against him, Alas is more than up to the task. All it takes is hurting her Papa to send her glowing with rage and blasting out the side of the wall, taking ol’ Gabe for a violent aerial tour of the city at near-dawn.

Emi gives chase, and when she gets her sword shattered by Gabriel, Alas backs her up—as long as Emi tells her she and Papa will be together with her forever. After Urushihara cows Gabe’s Angel guards with the sheer power of his former archangel status, Suzuno takes Maou on a ride to where Emi and Alas are an unceremoniously lobs him at Gabriel.

While grabbing and restraining Gabe, Maou tells Emi to hurry up and kill the two of them, something Emi isn’t going to do even without Alas being right there watching. So Gabe shakes free, leaving Maou to fall. No one can get to him to stop his fall…except for Alas.

Emi then whips out a fresh sword and her armor (complete with a partial maho onna-kishi transformation sequence) to warn Gabriel to get lost, even managing to slice his cheek and make him bleed. But before he goes, he makes it a point to admonish Emi and tell her to reflect on “what sort of being she is”.

Emi returns to earth exhausted but none the worse for wear, but the damage is done: Alas is gone. After saving Maou, she said she wanted to be with them forever she’d have to say goodbye “for now”. Maou is devastated, but as Chiho learns while having coffee with Emi, by “for now” Alas meant only for a short while, as she has now fused with Emi’s sacred sword (now a dagger).

Emi presents Chiho with her very unique predicament of wanting to defeat the Devil King someday, but not being able to do it with a weapon that’s also his child! Emi’s fine with that; she’d rather Maou and Emi simply continue to get along, even if watching them grow kinda-sorta closer thanks to Alas leaves her out in the cold romance-wise.

Alas also insists Emi not let Papa suffer longer than he needs to, and has them reunited that evening. To Emi’s surprise, seeing Alas again actually brings tears to Maou’s eyes; Chi-sis explains to Alas that people also cry when they’re happy.

We find out that Gabe told Emi he hoped she’d prioritize the world’s safety, and then learn that Lailah, Emi’s mother, was the one stole Yesod in the first place. Could Emi’s mom be the woman who saved Maou’s life? There’s a lot of intrigue (and potential dread) on the horizon, but Alas wielding her innate power has at least bought this little pop-up family a little more time to be happy.

Overlord IV – 01 – A Land as Sweet as Honey

Overlord’s fourth season—and the first episode of Overlord I’ve seen in 1,373 days—announces it’s going to be the same old Overlord by starting off with Albedo rolling around in bed pretending a pillow is her beloved Ainz-sama. Ainz has to contend with maids constantly fussing over him (and sitting beside his bed at night and not sleeping). The household staff is led by Fith, who has him dress in robes of red and gold rather than his usual sinister black.

It’s a casual easing back into this quirky world of overpowered monsters-as-workplace protagonists. Ainz sifts through a lot of carefully-prepared paperwork that he admits (only to himself and the audience) he doesn’t know a whole lot about—he is just a salaryman back home—but such are his subordinates absolute trust in and love of him that he can BS his way through pretty much any situation.

After some lap time with Aura, Mare, and Albedo (the red makes him look like a regal, skeletal Santa) Ainz meets with the always extra Pandora’s Actor, who will be taking over Albedo’s duties while she’s off in the Re-Estize Kingdom. As Pandora’s “father”, he expresses his wish for his “son” to surpass his original settings.

Pandora also gets Ainz thinking about the bigger picture of what kind of leader he wants to be in this new Sorcerer Kingdom. Right now there’s almost no commerce, the city is short on supplies, and the adventurer’s guild is all but abandoned. But in this world, the adventurers are essentially security or exterminators.

Ainz wants to change that, by absorbing the guild into his kingdom and giving them a new directive: actually, ah, adventuring. Exploring new places and gathering information, in ways his subordinates would have more difficulty both due to how powerful they are and how much they detest lower forms of life.

Ainz wants to build a kingdom and a guild he’d be proud to show his old friends, whom he believes may still be out there somewhere. But he knows he can’t do it alone. He’s going to be leaning on Demiurge (all too happy to serve), Albedo (who is all too happy for him to lean on her), and the rest of his colorful crew of cretins.

Engage Kiss – 01 (First Impressions) – A Spare Key for Victory

From the fact his apartment lacks gas and electric when his pink-haired companion lets herself in to try to make dinner, to the fact his ex-partner Ayano foots the bill for his first meal in three days, Ogata Shuu is what is known in Japan as binbou—destitute. Regardless, he seems adamant about living his own life his way, even if his new independent business is not off to a strong start.

His companion, Kisara waits for him in the dark back home, having prepared a pretty impressive feast despite the lack of utilities. When he says he already ate, and vaguely smells of another woman, Kisara goes down a spiral of self-deprecation until he eats the cold repast. When he asks Kisara for the last of her savings for a cash-on-delivery, she posts an Insta of the two of them about to send themselves to heaven with sleeping pills.

But all is not lost. Poor as he is, Shuu still has a seat at the table of companies who bid over contracts to rid their floating city (in the water, not air) spelled either Veyron or Bayron of “Demon Hazards.” There’s a mid-level one wreaking havoc in a central casino, and Shuu ends up with the lowest dollar amount by far (less than $40K, vs. the second-lowest being $112).

The other bidders leave the virtual meeting in disgust, but Ayano’s mom’s company agrees to support him (with Ayano herself) in exchange for a hefty share of the extermination fee. Shuu shows up late for his own operation, but Ayano and her soldiers are consummate professionals as they mow down the demon’s minions.

The demon turns out to be tougher than its estimated C-Class level, putting Shuu’s back against the wall, but then Kisara, having forgiven him, arrives by passing through the floor. The only problem is, while her sword packs a punch, she only gets one good swing, which is deflected by the demon.

Kisara tells Shuu she’s out of power, and needs to recharge. The way she does that is by making out with Shuu, something he both seems to find uncomfortable and enjoys, but also causes him to pass out due to the exchange of energy. During their kissing, Kisara not only shows tongue, but fangs.

If passing through floors wasn’t enough of a giveaway, Kisara isn’t human; she’s a demoness who happens to be a higher level than the opponent in the casino. But initially she’s angry at Ayano for being another woman that exists in Shuu’s world and the two constantly launch attacks at each other that only hit the demon’s multiplying minions.

Their battle is the best part of the episode, but Shuu gets between the two, and Kisara declares she’ll finish his job if Shuu gives her an important token of their contract: his spare key. It doesn’t matter if she can walk right through his door; she wants to be able to unlock and open it whenever she wants, as a sign of his love and his trust in her.

Shuu relents, and upon receipt of the key, Kisara’s attack power reaches 11. The two count down together from ten, with Kisara blasting through the demon hazard’s shields and Kisara delivering the final coup-de-grace with a shot from his pistol. Their mission accomplished, Kisara ends up on top of Shuu and leans in for a celebratory kiss…

But unfortunately both of them went a little too far with the power, compromising the structural integrity of the entire skyscraper, which is actually crucial to keeping the entire city afloat. While I’m sure Veyron City is in no danger of sinking, Kisara flies around the skyscraper, apparently trying to keep it level, while Ayano remarks that B-Class or C-Class, the Demon Hazard they fought never had a chance against Kisara, who is a Super A-Class who happens to be on their side, possibly only due to her liking Shuu.

Part badass demon-hunting, part workplace romantic comedy, and part abject lesson in proper budgeting, Engage Kiss’ first episode is nothing if not…ahem…engaging. Shuu comes off as a useless mooch most of the time but comes through when it matters, while Kisara and Ayano should prove to be strong clashing personalities for Shuu’s attention and the spoils of demon-hunting victory. All in all, a fun and energetic start, but we’ll see if it will make the final Summer cut.

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 12 – Savage Burn

After some glimpses of both Naofumi and Kyou’s past lives in the real world—the latter having nothing but contempt for those days and said world—we see the transported Cardinal Heroes of this world just managing to hold their own against the new Waves of Catastrophe, while Naofumi, Raphtalia, Filo, Rishia, and Yomogi enter Kyou’s lab. They’re met by three of the late Kazuki’s ever-loyal attendants in chimera form, and Raph makes quick work of them with her katana.

After that, Kyou does his gloating villain thing and then sends a zombified version of Kazuki after them. While Raph and Filo deal with him, Naofumi and Rishia break through and reach Kyou. Kyou is good enough at what he does to enrage Naofumi enough for him to draw upon the Rage Shield, which quickly takes control of his persona and even tries to choke out Rishia, saying some horrifyingly mean things about her in the process.

Rishia doesn’t take the insults personally, but insists that the rage shield release Naofumi immediately. But what ultimately quells his rage and frees him from the shield’s hold is an echo of Ost, who asserts that he doesn’t need the shield’s flames. Naofumi wakes up flanked by Raph and Filo, accepting the anger he feels for Kyou but letting it pass and moving forward—much to Kyou’s consternation.

Wielding the Vassal Weapon of the missing Mirror Hero of this world, Naofumi ethers Kyou, not because it’s the right thing to do or because it will save this world, but for himself, of his own free will. Even as he is defeated, Kyou seems to think that Naofumi’s troubles are far from over, so he should enjoy his victory while it lasts. After one last appearance from “Ghost Ost”, Yomogi thanks Naofumi for defeating her friend gone entirely astray.

After that, the Waves of Catastrophe vanish and Naofumi’s party is reunited with Kizuna, Glass, L’Arc and Therese. There’s talk of returning to L’Arc’s palace and having a celebratory banquet, but a one-minute countdown sudenly begins on Naofumi’s HUD, the result of having defeated Kyou and retrieving the Spirit Tortoise’s power; the reason he and his party were able to travel to this world.

Kizuna tears up as she accepts the fact their goodbye must come far sooner than she thought, and Naofumi invites her to come by his world anytime she likes, assuming she’s able to do so. Back home in their world, Naofumi is given a medal and the title of Viscount by Queen Mirelia, and learns that the other three Cardinal Heroes made themselves useful while he was gone by repelling the Wave that appeared at the same time it did in Kizuna & Co.’s world. But while things are relatively peachy, other problems remain to be dealt with, like a new awakened Guardian Beast, the Phoenix.

While there’s still an episode remaining, this felt like a finale, and not a great one. Things felt incredibly rushed, Naofumi moving past his rage felt like a retread of last season; the occasionally fun Kyou was profoundly one-dimensiona, and while Ost was a warm and loveable character, her emotional involvement in this episode and arc felt unfinished and unearned.

While it wasn’t without a couple of decent episodes, I’m sad to say this second season has proved to be a pale shadow of his predecessor. That said, there’s one episode—and an entire third season—to come. Maybe they’ll be better.

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 12 (Fin) – Something That Ended Ages Ago

The end of what I hope to be only the first of a split-cour series starts with the final boss battle between the unlikely but awesome duo of Menou and Ashuna and Centipede Pandemonium, whom I’ll henceforth call Centipan. The cent- is key, since around 100 people were sacrificed to create Centipan, which means she’ll have to be killed at least that many times to be defeated.

Unfortunately, every segment of Centipan that is broken off goes running off into the city to wreak havoc—this is Chaos Pure Concept, after all—forcing Ashuna to break off in order to save the people. Menou’s piss-poor ether capacity once again rears its ugly head, as Centipan relieves her of her Scripture and trusty dagger. That’s when Ashuna tosses her giant sword Menou’s way, since she can destroy the segments with her bare fists.

Menou swinging Ashuna’s sword around is #Goals, but the weapon quickly drains what little ether she has left. Fortunately, soon after telling Akari that there’s a way to go back to Japan, the other ‘Moni leaves Akari alone and flies off on wings made of shadow. This leaves Akari free to join the battle with Menou exactly when Menou needs her (and her ether) the most.

While the train episode was the only other time I can think of that Akari and Menou joined forces, it’s not “ticklish” to Akari this time, as the two simply combine forces to create a massive blade of flame that obliterates Centipan with a single satisfying swing.

All that’s left of Moni is her quickly dissolving head, but that’s enough of her to give Menou one last piece of advice: the Sword of Salt she once visited wth Flare? That’s powerful enough to kill any Pure Concept, even Akari. But true to her chaotic nature, Moni tells Menou this knowing that Menou isn’t totally 100% sure she wants to kill Akari, even if it’s her duty and probably the best thing for both Akari and the world writ large.

Ashuna congratulates Menou on her victory and decides to “let it slide”, “it” being the fact that Akari is an otherworlder. As for Moni, another version of her in a spooky graveyard resurrects Manon. At first Manon is confused why Moni would do this, she then remembers her mother telling her how she had a sister who was full of energy and loved movies. Moni was once just an ordinary movie buff from Japan, and she may now not remember who she was or that she had a sister. And yet she saved her sister all the same.

With the big battle taken care of not long after the halfway point of the episode, there’s adequate breathing room for some epilogues. A rapidly recovering Momo gets some quality time with Menou, who tells her about the Salt Sword. Menou thanks Pastor Sicilia, and as she walks back to her inn contemplates two different roads: one where she executes Akari with the Salt Sword, and the other where she discovers a way to “fix” Akari so she won’t destroy the world and herself if left unchecked.

And then, of course, there are the sweet, sisterly scenes between Menou and Akari, who greets her with a big hug and probably only grudgingly agrees to sleep in a separate bed from her. When Menou starts to say something like Akari is her…something, Akari is very vexed by her simply trailing off, gets out of bed and tussles her until Menou says she’s her “source of stress.”

The next morning, Menou and Akari take the first step out of Libelle and head back on the road to the “Sanctuary” hand-in-hand. The previous night, Momo resolved to execute Akari in Menou’s place, knowing that the more time she spends wth “Boobalicious”, the less inclined she’ll be to murder her.

The parting mic drop belongs to Flare, sitting on a throne and planning to kill her apprentice “for the zillilonth time”, crystalizing the reality that she’s been interfering in Akari’s attempts to get Menou to execute her by murdering Menou herself. It’s an enticing place to pause and hopefully not end, as there’s tons of material for this story to continue.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 11 – Let’s Get Nuts!

Pandemonium is the ultimate agent and wielder of chaos. None of the Jokers have anything on this mirthful, pint-sized Giallo buff. Haruno Anzu typically voices her with a singsong child’s meter with a healthy share of “Maa’s!”, which rides the line between ironically effective and annoying, but also makes it that much creepier when ‘Moni speaks more quietly and seriously.

While Menou expends all of her ether on a mere warm-up fight with Moni, Akari seemingly heals Momo with her power, which made me think Momo would possibly play a role in the battle. Ashuna also gets reports of around a hundred people in town suddenly melting into red goo, making the princess primed to get involved in whatever’s up on the island.

I’ll tell you what: nothing good! Giant four-eyed rats with human legs sticking out of their backs? No freakin’ thank you! But it’s par for the course for the B-movie-obsessed Moni. She’s not trying to take over the world. She’s just trying to be as entertained as she can possibly be watching humans try their absolute best…then die horribly.

When Menou does run out of her own paltry stores of ether, Moni shoves her out of the castle with a giant hand, but that’s when Ashuna officially joins the battle, pretending she’s meeting Menou for the first time and offering her own seemingly unlimited stores of ether for Menou, who is far better-equipped to use it.

The duo of Menou and Ashuna proves extremely successful, at least at first, as Menou connects the earthly and heavenly veins, builds a massive Pseudo-Cathedral atop the castle isle, and sucks Moni into a bloody singularity, then an endless loop of detainment. Logically, the battle should be over. It’s not.

That’s because with Moni around, chaos reigns. Kill her once or a hundred times, it may not even be the real one you’re killing. Moni not only survives, but summons a gigantic eldritch abomination from the fog in order to show just how tough a cookie she is.

The kaiju obliterates the castle isle in one blow (which is sad, that was a hell cool-looking isle; reminded me of Ico) but the dashing Princess Ashuna saves Menou with a princess carry—just before that, she showed genuine affection and concern for her reluctant bae Momo.

So the giant monster is out there, but Menou soon determines it’s not a real threat; it’s still basically trapped in its current location by the fog, and that fog soon starts advancing on both the monster and Moni. While all this is going on, Akari is kept from joining Menou and Ashuna in battle by another Moni, who prefers mind games to blood and gore.

Moni felt like chatting with a fellow Japanese. Moni knows Akari can only use her Pure Concept of Time so much before it starts to degrade her soul into nothingness. There’s also the side effect of losing your memories from your previous life, but Akari, who was bullied at school in her old life, is only concerned with keeping her memories of Menou.

Akari destroys Moni with one shot from her fingertip, but Moni soon comes back and continues to mess with Akari, telling her that there’s a reason she’s failed so many times. Someone more powerful is impeding her efforts—someone with access to something called the “Astral Archive”, an entity composed of all the collected memories of the planet, the source of the power of ether, and the origin of the lord written in the scriptures of the Faust.

In other words, it’s probably Flare. So as Moni threatens to wear out her welcome by transforming into a CGI centipede girl (which while creepy and menacing, lacks visual mass and weight and is thus less impressive than the kaiju she summoned), she’s looking more and more like an intermediate boss on the way to the true big bad: Menou’s mordant mentor.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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