Summertime Render – 13 – The Rules Have Changed

When Ushio materializes beside Shinpei, she pounces on a confused Hizuru. Nezu prepares to aim his rifle at Ushio, but Shin asks him to stand down. Then Ushio takes Hizuru’s hand, sees everything she’s seen, and knows that even though she’s a Shadow, Ushio is their ally.

She’s always been their ally, ever since she printed the looping eye and brought Shin to the island. And since she’s a novelist, she’ll consider the incredible credible, and the unreal real. Shin believes their worst mistake last loop was splitting up, and having heard she died, Hizuru concurs.

They head to the Kobayakawa home just like before, only this time they have Ushio, and after Haine tried to corrupt her, she now believes she has the ability to erase a Shadow if she wants to. Since Shiori is Haine’s way of moving about outside the cave, she’s hoping erasing Shiori will eliminate that way at worst, and destroy Haine at best.

Hizuru cedes control to Ryuunosuke, who heads into the house…and gets their ass handed to them. The “four-armed one” smashes Hizuru’s head in with her own sledge, and Haine!Shiori reveals that thanks to the brand on Shinpei’s arm, whenever he shows up in a new loop, she can find him “lickety-split”.

With Hizuru already dead and Nezu following shortly thereafter, it looks very bad for our heroes. Then the four-armed one wraps those arms around Shinpei, and PreCure Ushio swoops in and beheads him with her hair. So ends the fifth loop; we hardly knew ye! In the timeless corridor between loops, Shinpei thanks Ushio (in wristwatch form) for her quick thinking.

He laments how he let his naivete get Hizuru and Nezu killed so quickly and let another loop go to waste…but there’s no time for sulking. Ushio reports that when she tried to scan four-arms she found no data, but he “smelled” like Haine. She also believes Haine is using the brand to pull her along with him through the loops.

Both agree that in the next loop they’ll have to be a lot smarter and more careful, since they no longer have much of the element of surprise. But to their surprise, they appear not on the 22nd as usual, but in front of their family restaurant, in the rain. Two students walk past—the twins Hizuru and Ryuunosuke.

Shinpei follows them inside with Watch!Ushio and learn that this is most definitely the past; back when the restaurant was celebrating ten years, and both of Shinpei’s marine archaeologist parents were still alive. Hizuru tells Asako and Ryuu that she’s met a friend…up at the clinic on the mountain.

Shinpei/Ushio follow the three (he’s not visible to anyone in this projection, which is one of Hizuru’s memories), and when Hizuru’s friend doesn’t appear, Ryuu and Asako split. Then the light in the window comes on as usual, and Haine (with two identical red eyes) greets Hizuru.

I thought we were going to spend some time in the fifth loop, but it’s smart for the second cour to subvert expectations and up the ante when it comes to the dangers Shinpei and his family and friends face as they continue to meddle. Even more ominous, Sou’s dick of a dad is aware of Shinpei and Hizuru snooping around where they shouldn’t, and also knows Ushio’s shadow is causing trouble.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S., The new OP is…fine, and I even find myself not skipping it for future episodes, but it’s no first cour OP, which really captured the heat and bittersweet longing of summer. This new theme (and the ED, for that matter) sound a lot more generic.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 11 (Fin) – Into the Darkness Together

Gyuutarou’s auto-destruct causes a huge explosion, but Tanjirou survives, and Lil’ Nezuko wakes up to purge the poison from his body with her Blood Demon Art. She then puts the immobile Tanjirou on her tiny back and dashes him across the ruins of the district, eventually coming upon Zenitsu and Inousuke, whom she also heals.

Finally, Nezuko and Tanjirou find Uzui and his wives, who are bickering with each other rather than hearing the final words he has to say. But before any of them know it, Nezuko has sidled up and envelops him in her pink flames. The wives have no idea what is happening, but when Uzui’s poison wounds vanish and he pulls through, they envelop him in hugs and sobs of relief.

Nezuko and Tanjirou then search for the heads of Gyuutarou and Daki, and find them still alive, bickering with each other over their loss to the humans as their heads slowly dissolve. When their argument escalades into saying they aren’t brother and sister, Tanjirou intervenes, saying that even if the entire world is against them, they shouldn’t be against each other; not in these final moments.

Daki then directs her ire at Tanjirou for lecturing them, but an in-depth flashback narrated by Gyuutarou shows that Tanjirou was quite correct. Long before he became a demon, Gyuutarou was cursed for being an extra mouth to feed in the poorest part of the district. When his sister, whose original name was Ume, was born, he leaned into his ugliness, found his strength, and found work as a debt collector.

Sadly, once Ume turned thirteen she joined a run-down house where her body could be sold, and the defiant nature Gyuutarou baked into her backfired. She took the eye of a samurai she didn’t want to sleep with, and was bound and burned alive while Gyuutarou was out on a job. When he grieves over her body, he’s cut down by that same samurai, but not deeply enough, and Gyuutarou in turn kills the samurai and madam.

Gyuutarou always cursed the fact that for all of the misfortune he and Ume had to deal with, the world never once cut them a break and allowed them any good fortune. The nearest thing to providence came in the form of the former Upper Six, who gave Gyuutarou and Ume blood to drink, turning them into demons. Gyuutarou never regretted being one, but did regret that Ume could never live the life she should have. We see heartbreaking glimpses of that possible life.

Now in the void between worlds, Gyuutarou doesn’t want Ume to follow him any more, and is very mean about it, telling her to go in the opposite direction, towards the light, where perhaps she might be resurrected and have another chance at that possible life of comfort and fortune. But Ume won’t go that way. She pounces on Gyuutarou from behind and reminds him of his promise: they’d always be together. She’d rather follow him into the deepest darkness than step into the light alone.

While I’m usually not a fan of filling in character backstory after they’ve already met their fate, the postmortem backstory of Gyuutarou and Daki/Ume had ample emotional resonance, and gave this finale a quieter, calmer, yet still powerful rhythm, winding down the bombastic battle of previous weeks.

All’s well that ends well, with Uzui planning to retire and spend more time with his lovely wives, confident that Tanjirou is about to reach Hashira-worthy potential. Tanjirou, Nezuko, Inousuke, and Zenitsu also share a tearful group hug, reunited and in (mostly) one piece. Yet I’m sure Tanjirou’s joy is tempered by the “there but the grace of god go us” vibe from a brother-sister pair who weren’t as lucky as they are.

So ends the Entertainment Arc, where most other Winter shows have only hit their halfway point. What’s next for Demon Slayer? No official announcement follows end credits—an extended arrangement of the rippin’ good Aimer opening theme—but I can say with certainty the Demon Slayer anime will return (Update: it will!).

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 10 – (Be)heading for Trouble

As Tanjirou lies in the rubble, bloody and exhausted, he’s briefly transported back to his snowy home, where a pre, then post-demon Nezuko tells him to stop blaming himself (as if) and keep fighting. The vision is at least enough to wake him up, but he’s almost sorry he did.

That’s because the scene around him is a hellscape of flames, and among his allies, he’s the only one still conscious. Gyuutarou spends a good half of this episode taunting him and laughing at how “disgraceful” he is, especially to have to be protected by his demon little sister. It’s a welcome change of pace from the unrelenting battles of the past few episodes, with no score and only the flickering of flames accompanying the dialogue.

When Gyuutarou eventually falls, he’ll regret wasting so much time toying with Tanjirou, who was simply playing possum and waiting for a chance to stick a poison kunai in his opponent’s leg, then using Hinokami Kagura to attempt to slice off his head. When Gyuutarou counters with his blades, they’re deflected by Zenitsu, who while still asleep is back in the fight.

As Zenitsu continues to battle Daki, Tanjirou is bailed out by Uzui, who stopped his own heart to keep the poison from getting there, and can also double-wield even with just one hand. Daki, with his second wind, goes in for the win, having charted the musical “score” of Gyuutarou’s moves. Tanjirou keeps up as best he can as Uzui and Gyuutarou exchange slashes with increasing speed and ferocity.

When Tanjirou jumps into attempt another beheading, Gyuutarou stabs him through the jaw with his poison blade, meaning there’s just that much less time for Tanjirou to fight before succumbing that poison. Still, Uzui has him where he wants him, and Gyuutarou’s neck is exposed, so Tanjirou finds yet another higher gear, his scar seemingly spreading across his face in a flame pattern.

After a lot of screaming, Gyuutarou’s head is finally sliced off. At the same time, Zenitsu, with help from Inousuke (who moved his heart so it didn’t get impaled) slice off Daki’s head. The two siblings’ heads fly gracefully through the air, then fall to the ground, bounce, and roll to a rest right beside each other.

The battle is seemingly over, and the Demon Slayers have won…but then Uzui shouts “RUN!”, for Gyuutarou self-destructs, enveloping half the district in a massive fireball. As those flames die down the credits roll with a certain finality, until the post-credits omake is handled by pre-demon Nezuko.

Assuming Gyuutarou was destroyed in that blast, the question becomes who survived. Obviously Tanjirou, Nezuko, Inousuke, and Zenitsu. I find it hard to believe two straihgt arcs would end with the death of the Hashira, and the three wives haven’t quite gotten enough development (or screen time) for their deaths to make much of an impact…so we’ll see.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 09 – Mixing it Up

Perhaps realizing it hasn’t shown that much of Uzui’s life with his three wives, the show takes us back to when the four visited Uzui’s family grave and enjoyed a meal together under the cherry blossoms. Hinatsuru cements her role as the “mature” wife, while Makio and Suma are more childish.

While it doesn’t make much sense to include these moments right in the middle of a crucial battle with an Upper Six demon, I nevertheless appreciated an extra look at the mostly-absent wives, and Hinatsuru’s mature personality explains her presence fighting by her husband’s side.

The problem is, Hinatsuru is not a Demon Slayer, and while her kunai attack momentarily turns the tables, Gyuutarou soon shakes it off and grabs her. I’m baffled why he doesn’t simply kill her right then and there, but he loses his chance when Tanjirou, finding what seems to be his eighth or ninth second wind, swoops in to save Hinatsuru from Gyuutarou’s clutches.

In a move that acknowledges she’s a liability on this particular battlefield, Hinatsuru finally departs to hide. With Inousuke and Zenitsu having no luck closing in on Daki, Tanjirou leaves Uzui’s side to help them out, in hopes that three demon slayers will be able to break through her shield of belts.

Inousuke uses Beast Breathing to launch himself at top speed towards Daki’s neck, completely disregarding defense, which is provided by Tanjirou and Zenitsu and their water and lightning breathing, respectively. It’s great to see these three kids not only near the top of their game (though Tanjirou is pretty beat up) but working as a cohesive unit.

And it works! After some effort and more Beast Breathing, Inousuke manages to saw off Daki’s head, and decides to run around with it like a rugby ball so that it won’t be able to reattach. But while Daki’s head is extremely weakened, Gyuutarou is not, and he’s mad, quickly catching up to Inousuke and stabbing him through the back.

Tanjirou, wondering where the heck Gyuutarou came from, spots Uzui lying unconscious in a bloody heap, one of his hands chopped off. Now Inouske has been gravely injured, Tanjirou has got to be running out of even his final reserves of stamina, and Zenitsu is the only member of their party not injured…but you have to think it’s only a matter of time.

Will Hinatsuru return with Makio and Suwa to try to save their hubby? Will Nezuko have to wake up and bail out her brother once more? Will another Hashira have to save the day? Will Inousuke finally have to throw out that boar mask now that it’s been stained with his life’s blood? I have no idea how many more episodes this arc runs for, but it definitely feels like we’re nearing the end of this battle.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Attack on Titan – 78 – Dropping the Ball

The incremental struggle of the two Yeager Brothers continues, with Eren stoving in Porco’s head before continuing to grapple with Reiner and Zeke finding himself wounded and on the ground. The two are so close and yet so far, and the Marleyan Eldians are doing everything they can to stop them from coming together.

But Pieck was right: they didn’t hit Zeke hard enough to keep him from letting out a roar if that’s what he wanted to do. Colt rushes to him with the news Falco had injested some of Zeke’s spinal fluid, asking for nothing more than to let Gabi take him and ride a horse far enough out that Falco won’t be affected by the roar. He has Zeke’s sympathies, saying it’s a “shame”, but Zeke lets out a roar anyway.

As a result, hundreds of soldiers who drank the wine with Zeke’s spinal fluid are transformed into pure Titans, including Falco. Colt holds him tight the whole time, and gets burned to death as a result, leaving Gabi all alone to watch in horror as the Falco Titan gnaws at Reiner’s nape. Pieck gets another shot off despite being harassed by Mikasa and Armin, but Zeke is only faking his death.

Eren senses this, crystalizes his Titan body to restrain Reiner, pops out, and continues to rush towards the still-alive Zeke hiding under the Beast’s skeleton. But what had been a short distance for a Titan to cover becomes a much farther distance for Eren on foot. Before he can close that distance, Gabi gets ahold of an anti-Titan rifle…and blows Eren’s head off.

That’s a hell of a midway point to an episode that already featured the deaths of a great many secondary and tertiary characters in short order, but it was clear this wasn’t the end for Eren. We’re taken back to when he was in the Marleyan hospital, where Zeke met with him and appears to agree to Zeke’s plan for euthanization. However, when Zeke tosses him the baseball, he fails to catch it; it lands on the ground behind him.

2001: A Space Odyssey-style trippy montage ensues, returning us to the present and then to a place outside of normal time and space altogether: the “Paths” of which Zeke reported dreaming in the first episode. There, Zeke is chained to the sand as a solitary figure approaches Eren, who can move freely. The figure is the founder Ymir, source of the power to achieve their dreams.

It’s only here, where he believes Zeke needs his cooperation in order to proceed and is thus at his mercy, where Eren finally tells us what Armin convinced himself into believing, and tried to convince Mikasa and the others as well: Eren was only going along with Zeke. He has no intention of carrying out the Eldian euthanization. But in revealing his true feelings, Eren screws himself over, because Ymir gives him the cold shoulder.

Eren may be free to move about this uncanny land of the Paths, but he has no authority or dominion over Ymir because he lacks the blood of the royal family whom she obeys. Zeke does, and over the “mind-numbing” time he spent in the paths, figured out a way to do away with his bloodline’s vow renouncing war. Zeke’s chains were only an illusion; they crumble at his command, and Eren is shackled by another.

Zeke doesn’t blame Eren for his Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal, but rather their horrible father for brainwashing him and involving the two brothers in this whole horrible business. But with involvement comes terrible purpose. Eren was the key to Zeke gaining the power of Ymir. He played himself into quite a predicament…but something tells me Zeke shouldn’t celebrate his victory quite yet…

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 08 – Collecting from the Blessed

Gyuutarou deeply resents Uzui’s talent and lucky lot in life, but that makes Uzui laugh. Not only does he not consider himself talented in the least compared to some of the other amazing Hashira he knows, but he’s one of only two surviving siblings in the Uzui family, and of them, only he decided to live life as a better man and shinobi, not treating his subordinates like pawns or his wives as expendable.

At the end of the day, Gyuutarou isn’t interested in Uzui’s life story, only killing him and continuing to be ridiculously evil, so seven minutes in, the their battle continues. While Uzui’s resistance to potion is impressive, it is not absolute, and he’s definitely at a disadvantage against both Gyuutarou and Daki. So he’s happy when his underlings make flashy entrances all at once.

Inousuke and Zenitsu take on Daki on the roof, with the latter showing off some lightning breathing (there’s nothing flashier than lightning) and the former showing off…well, his usual bluster and confidence. But when Gyuutarou closes one of his eyes below them and it appears as a third eye between Daki’s, the two are suddenly in synch, with his blood slashes and her beefed-up belts packing a nasty one-two punch.

While the brother and sister are fighting in harmony, Uzui’s poisoned state combined with the others’ inexperience mean they’re totally out of synch, a vulnerability Gyuutarou can easily see and is ready to exploit. That said, Uzui, Tanjirou, Inousuke and Zenitsu still have numbers on their side, and are just able to hold of the horrifying flurry of blood and belt attacks.

Their four-on-two advantage becomes five-on-one when the still-hobbled Hinatsuru makes it to a rooftop and fires off a fusillade of wisteria-laced kunai that Gyuutarou cannot escape. Even though Uzui gets hit by some of the blades, the wisteria doesn’t affect him, while it makes Gyuutarou slow and numb.

Hinatsuru’s assist seems to be just the thing to turn the tables in the battle, as now Gyuutarou is as poisoned as Uzui, and has slowed enough that Tanjirou can come within an inch of his neck. Of course, we know that he and Daki can (most likely) only be defeated if they’re both beheaded. But as next week’s episode is “Defeating an Upper Rank”, I imagine one way or another Daki and Gyuutarou are going down, perhaps after one or two more turns of the tide. Should be fun…and flashy.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 07 – Tantrums and Lullabies

While Tanjirou is unconscious, the transformed and leveled-up Nezuko goes to absolute town on Daki, to the point where, again, I kinda felt sorry for the poor demoness. When Daki tries to counter by slicing her opponent to bits, Nezzy’s blood not only coagulates, keeping all her parts together, but burns Daki everywhere it splattered, reminding her of her human death in flames long ago.

The problem, is, Nezzy has no limiter but Tanjirou, and by the time he comes to she’s already inadvertently wounded some human bystanders (not to mention scared the absolute shit out of them). When she smells the humans’ blood, she can’t help but charge towards them. Thankfully, Tanjirou is there to stop her from killing anyone. But he calm his sister down and protect the bystanders from Daki, who is partially healed and pissed.

Things look bad for Tanjirou, but Uzui shows up just when he should, cutting all of Daki’s attacking belts in the blink of an eye. And nobody, not even Daki, realizes that he also beheaded her with that same arriving attack. Uzui doesn’t consider her an Upper Rank, as how could someone of such rank be holding their head in their hands like she is now?

Just as I love how Daki is someone with whome you can occasionally sympathize, I also love how nonchalant and casual Uzui goes about his business. When he sees a hulked-up Nezuko trying to break free from her undersized brother, he basically tells Tanjirou to get it together put Nezuko to sleep already. The problem is, Nezzy doesn’t seem to be listening to him.

That’s when Tanjirou takes Uzui’s offhand advice to “sing her a lullaby”, which he does while she struggles. Suddenly she’s transported back to better days when she was walking with her mom, who was singing a lullaby to her baby brother. Big Nezzy bursts into tears, then shrinks and falls right asleep, ending one of the many threats facing the Demon Slayers.

The next problem is that despite being beheaded, Daki’s body isn’t disintegrating. Daki doesn’t think much of this, as perhaps it will just take a while, until Daki starts having a full on tantrum about how mean everyone’s been to her. Then she calls out to her “brother”, and Uzui instinctively goes in for the kill…only for his strike to miss. A second demon sprouts out of Daki’s back and moves her to safety.

The second demon is her brother, Gyuutarou, as grotesque a demon as she is beautiful. He heals her and calms her down in much the same way we’ve seen Tanjirou calm his demon sister. What with Nezzy being almost ever-present in her box, you could say both pairs of siblings are attached by, well, not the hip, but certainly the back.

Uzui didn’t consider Daki an Upper Rank because she was so easy to behead, but beheading didn’t kill her, and now we learn that she’s not only not a single demon, but the brother within her is the demon Uzui has been searching for all along. It made me wonder if you somehow managed to separate Gyuutarou whether Daki could be redeemed, as he’s the brains behind their symbiotic existence, controlling her from within.

For now, she’s very much one-half of the latest boss, and powerful enough that even Uzui will have to break a sweat. With Inousuke and Zenitsu finally catching up and Tanjirou ready to rejoin the fray once he stashes Nezuko away (which…rats), this arc is ratcheting up at precisely the right time.

Mars Red – 01 (First Impressions) – On a Silver Platter

Tokyo, Japan, 1923: Major Maeda Yoshinobu is escorted to a maximum-security underground prison at Tsukishima Island housing a single inmate: Misaki, an actress who was performing Salome at the Imperial Theatre when she was turned into a vampire. When Maeda meets her through thick glass, she’s still reciting the lines of the play, as if she were still on stage.

Later on, a suspiciously vampiric-looking young man at the theatre tells Maeda that when the lights go out and the curtains rise, the audience is transported to the underworld. I can’t help but watch Maeda and his chatterbox underling’s journey deeper and deeper into the Tsukishima  facility and think they too are on a journey to the underworld.

While Japan and its military are rapidly modernizing and westernizing, it’s ironic that the covert vampire hunting unit Lt. General Nakajima has created deals with ancient monsters. The general reminds Maeda not to allow sympathy or pity to dull his blade, and Maeda assures him if Misaki cannot be brought to their side, he’ll promptly dispose of her.

Maeda visits the theatre, where the stage is still a mess of blood and ruined scenery, and he meets the inscrutable actor Deffrot, who played Jokanaan, AKA John the Baptist, whose head is served to Salome on a silver platter as payment for her Dance of the Seven Veils. In a very neat piece of “camera”work, the shadow of Maeda’s head is cast on the play’s poster, held in Salome’s hands.

Outside the theatre Maeda is approached by a young lady he mistakes for Misaki, but she introduces herself as Shirase Aoi, a reporter for the Nitto News. Maeda ignores her requests for comment and access to the theatre, and then Moriyama arrives by car to report that Misaki has escaped. For a second there, I wondered if Aoi was Misaki after all.

As Moriyama speeds Maeda back to Tsukishima, Misaki effortlessly smashes through all of the steel doors and barriers in her way, takes a bullet with barely a flinch, bleeds black blood, bites a neck, casually nudges a bullet away and dodges the others with her vampiric speed. Through it all she moves with a dancer’s grace, embodying the role of Salome—whom I learned was transformed by French writers from her biblical role to the “incarnation of female lust”.

A different dance ensues, with both Maeda and Misaki gradually making their way to the same spot: across the Nihonbashi bridge to Marunouchi Plaza at Tokyo Station. It’s the capper to an episode that serves as a Where’s Where of Taisho-era Tokyo.

Misaki gets closer and closer to Maeda, but when he grips his sword and prepares to draw, she places her hand over his, embraces him a little while longer, then steps aside and lets herself be consumed by the morning light, without further bloodshed. The same stigmata design on her tongue appears on the spot where she incinerated.

Back at HQ, General Nakajima promotes Maeda to Colonel and puts him in command of Code Zero, with the mission of apprehending or disposing of vampires in Japan. If I had to describe Mars Red in one word, it would be classy. Given another word, I’d use deliberate. As Maeda navigates a Tokyo in flux and deals with Misaki, every scene is given room to breathe.  Maeda is a bit of a stiff, but still…I’m intrigued.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 10 – Not So Black-and-White

Armed with her new Migurd blade, Eris has no trouble taking out the low-level beasts who roam the wasteland, leaving no one for Rudy or Ruijerd to fight. She’s taken to the adventurer’s lifestyle like a fish to water. Their first true test occurs upon entering their first demon city, Rikarisu, which I have to say is a looker of a city, with dramatic terraced blocks clinging to massive cliffs and a central palace seemingly made entirely of a strangely pristine material.

Rudeus buys Eris a new cloak with cat ears which she vows to treasure forever, then they head to the city’s adventurer’s guild to commence his scheme. Ruijerd was granted access to the city because Rudy dyed his hair Migurd blue. When he arrives at the guild and says he’s got a genuine Superd in his party, the guild members simply laugh, because Ruijerd’s hair is blue, not green, and he’s wearing the necklace Roxy gave Rudy.

They don’t end up taking any jobs, but the guild visit is still a success … and not because Rudy got to leer at the three-breasted clerk (which blessedly the sum total of his perviness this week). He intended for the guild members to laugh at Ruijerd, as it give the impression he’s no one they have to fear. It’s the first step to rehabbing the Superd’s reputation.

After Eris marvels at the way the evening light turns blue when filtered through the crystal embedded in the stone cliffs, the party of three, calling themselves “Dead End” (which is one of the names for the feared Superd) heads to an inn. Another young adventurer takes interest in Eris, but she can’t understand him and ignores him. When he grabs her, the button of cloak Rudy gave her falls off, and she absolutely wails on the poor guy.

Rudy keeps the situation from escalating out of control (and incidentally getting kicked out of the inn or worse) by healing the party Eris attacked with his magic, impressing them and leading them to invite him into their party. Rudy politely declines, but he knows one thing for sure: the three of them can’t live off F and D-ranked jobs, the only ones newbies are allowed to take.

That night Rudy dreams he’s in his old body in that strange white void with the even stranger Man-God. The guy insists all of Rudy’s choices are his own, but strongly suggests he take the lost kitten job the next day. Rudy wakes up to find Eris is still up. She can’t sleep because she’s worried about whether they’ll ever get home.

Running around in the wastelands killing beasts is one thing, but I imagine once everything quieted down and Eris had a chance to think about their situation, I’m not surprised she’d get scared and worried. Rudy sits next to her and assures they’ll make it back, and Ghislaine and her grandpa will be waiting for them.

The next day Rudy takes the lost-kitten job as the Man-God recommended, which lead them to discovering another party of three running a pet-kidnapping racket. Rudy turns the ground beneath their feet into mud, then Eris and Ruijerd push them back against the wall so Rudy can bind them with earth magic.

When Rudy tries to question their insectoid leader, he gets shoved back hard, taking the wind out of him. Before he can get up, Ruijerd hacks the guy’s head off, and it rolls right beside Rudy. Ruijerd’s explanation for why he just killed someone: “he hurt a child.” This is when we and Rudy learn that Ruijerd is a  very black-and-white, good-and-evil type guy, especially where kids are concerned.

One side-effect of Ruijerd spilling blood so easily is that the other two adventurers’ lips are instantly loosned, and they spill the beans about kidnapping pets then claiming the rewards. When Rudy learns they’re a D-ranked party, he decides he’ll have them advance to C-rank, and use them to nab higher-paying B-ranked jobs.

Ruijerd is extremely opposed to teaming up with “villains”, and even grabs Rudy by the shoulder in protest, breaking his own don’t-hurt-kids policy. Eris punches and kicks him as hard as she can, reminding him he too did bad things in the past that don’t automatically make him evil, and that he should just shut up and leave it to Rudy, who only has his and her best interests at heart.

Ruijerd calms down, and reiterates that he won’t walk away from his promise to get the two of them home. They escort the D-rankers, a lizardman and bee-woman, to the guild, where they upgrade to C-rank. Rudy orders them to take a B-rank job, while he’ll take an F-rank job, with the understanding they’ll be swapping jobs. A nosy horse-man adventurer whom I’ll call Bojack for now almost catches wind of this plan, but assumes the lizard guy is just trying to look cool in front of the newbies.

The episode ends somewhat awkwardly right there, but that’s ultimately okay, as it accomplished a lot. We got to see Eris in action (and absolutely loving it) and saw our first demon city in all its glory. Rudy doesn’t grope anyone or make any gross comments, and is even thoroughly shaken when Ruijerd demonstrates his far-too-rigid code of morality. Now I look forward to their first monster-slaying quest. Here’s hoping Rudy can keep his green, now blue-haired friend in check.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Crow’s review of episode 10 here!

Kemono Jihen – 03 – Good Fox Girl

This week Inugami sends Kabane to the woman he spoke to at the end of last week: Police Superintendent Inari Yoko, performed by Kana-Hana in her most imperious ojou-sama voice. Inari may as well be Empress of the Police, as she has every officer in her thrall.

Shiki and Akira escort Kabane to the Shinjuku police station, but the desk officer claims not to know about their appointment. Then a blonde girl their age with a fox-ear hoodie comes for Kabane and only Kabane, then takes him to a waiting Inari, who immediately asks to see his lifestone necklace.

Once Inari has the stone, she has the girl, Kon, slice Kabane’s head off, then has police officers seal the head in a case and take the body away for disposal. When Kabane returns to the lobby with the case, Akira and Shiki sense something is off about him.

Kon, voiced by Hanamori Yumiri (who often voices maids or other dutiful characters) lives only for Inari to tell her she’s a “good girl”, disguises herself as Kabane to shoo the other boys away. But when Shiki insults her beloved Inari-sama, she drops the disguise and prepares for a fight.

Because Kon, like her mistress, is a kitsune, she can shoot fireballs from her tail, and does so…a lot. Shiki uses his silk to pull a bunch of furniture together to form a shield, then snatches the case from Kon, who’s too concerned with burning everyone and everything to keep a firm grip on it.

Shiki opens the case to reveal the real Kabane’s head, the shock of which causes Akira to faint. Kabane instructs Shiki to throw him at Kon, and he’ll deal with her. Shiki is dubious, but sure enough Kabane is able to disable the enraged fox girl with a bite to the shoulder.

With Kon out cold, the lobby returns to normal; all the fire was just an illusion. Free from the case, Kabane grows his body back from his neck down in a very cool (but far more casual) Titan-style transformation. Shiki can’t deny Kabane got the job done and saved him and Akira, and after giving him his jacket to cover up, offers his fist for Kabane to bump…which he does wrong of course.

Inari, who thinks she just pulled off a neat little theft, watches the lifestone transform into a tanuki figurine in her hand, then gets a call from Inugami, who has just picked up the kids. He’s not surprised things went down like they did, and says she owes him for her treachery. He also warns her that the lifestone is Kabane’s, and if she tries to take it again she’ll have to deal with him.

I for one like how Inari and Inugami never got into a fight, or even showed their true forms; handling things on the phone like regular humans and threatening with words is enough to maintain their territorial balance. That said, Kon didn’t get the memo, and is still wandering the streets trying to retrieve Kabane’s head for her mistress.

Kon ends up approaching the others after they have a Kabane-welcoming meal of Chinese and pancakes, only to immediately pass out from exhaustion and hunger. Inugami brings her into the agency and feeds her pizza, but at the first sight of Kabane she lunges at him with a beheading strike.

Inugami, realizing the proper way to deal with her, tells Kon that Inari wouldn’t be happy if she knew her “good girl” wasn’t minding her manners. No standing on the table, no leaving leftover food out, and no beheading hanyos. While not technically in her thrall, Kon’s daughterly devotion to Inari is absolute, and so she behaves herself.

This episode was a lot of fun, giving the three kids more time to gel in both casual and hectic situations, introducing the adorably dutiful Kon (who is a lot like Kabane) and her haughty mama figure. I like how Shiki is slowly warming to Kabane, and if Akira had a real Twitter I’d definitely follow. This is the kind of show where your protagonist gets beheaded one afternoon, but you know he’ll probably be fine and ready for pancakes that evening.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 15 – Scratch Off

After coming so close to a good ending only for a crazed Ooishi to kill everyone, Rika is buoyed by her friends to try five more loops before using the fragment of the weapon she can use to kill herself for good. I figured the loops would gradually unfold in the next few episodes. Instead, we get all but one in one go!

This new loop starts out promisingly, with Ooishi and Keiichi getting along famously over their shared love of mahjongg (stop trying to teach us mahjongg, anime!) Ooishi’s mahjong buddy also makes an appearance: Akasaka, who is introduced with a soft filter and angelic light.

Back in 1978, one of Rika’s predictions saved his wife Yukie’s life, and he’s come to return the favor. Rika asks him to stay for the entirety of the Watanagashi Festival, and he agrees. Rika is genuinely happy and hopeful about this development!

Then there’s a smash cut to her covered in stab wounds and bleeding out on a tatami mat. Akasaka is the crazy killer scratching his throat out. Even as she burns Rika laughs out loud at how whimsical fate is, puts up her hand, lowers one finger, and snaps.

The episode doesn’t bother with the lighthearted fluff; we just fast-forward directly to the killing, as Mion and Shion’s mother is this loop’s crazed slasher, and she uses her katana to behead her own daughter, vowing to erase their family’s blood for good. Rika lowers two fingers and snaps just as her shoulders are relieved of her head.

In the next loop, Kimiyoshi is the killer, and drags Rika by a rope, rows her into the middle of a swamp, and tosses her overboard with a rock to drown her as a sacrifice…but not before Rika has to endure way too much unhinged monologue and bad breath for her taste. As she sinks into the swamp, she lowers three fingers and snaps.

Just when we’re wondering what ridiulous hell-scenario Rika will end up in next, there are columns of riot police outside the cosplay cafe, where a very itchy Keiichi is bludgening everyone to death, including Rena, who can’t get him to wake up from the bad dream. Rika gets Keiichi to end her life quickly by telling him the secret to getting rid of the “maggots in his neck” is to bash her skull in and eat her brains. She lowers four fingers and snaps.

These loops have become the most unbearably hellish torture for Rika, who is trapped in the goriest version of Groundhog Day ever. It is by far the bloodiest and hardest-to-watch episode of Gou to date. Those scratching sounds…Jesus. If Rika keeps to her plan, she’ll only have one more life to endure before ending it by her own hand. But will that really work?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Elfen Lied – 05 – Good People are Hard to Come By

Kurama looks out at the ocean, perhaps grieving the loss of Nana, while Kouta and Yuka wake up to find Mayu has run away. The episode delves into her past, and not surprisingly for this show, it’s horrific. Habitually sexually abused by her stepdad and shunned by her mother, one night she refuses to undress, and runs.

She doesn’t stop until she reaches the ocean, and seems poised to walk in and not come back. She’s stopped only by the dog Wanta, whom she assumes was discarded like her. Back in the present, Wanta (AKA James) is claimed by his owner, leaving Mayu alone again. She hides among crates in the cold, dark night, utterly miserable.

Some cops find her, but thankfully so do Yuka and Kouta, who remembered she hung around the beach a lot. They bring her back to the house, but she’s not sure why, because no one in her life has ever given a damn about her except to use her. It never occurred to her that good people existed.

While his penchant for “collecting girls” continues to irk Yuka, she doesn’t protest when he decides to let Mayu stay with them indefinitely. Mayu’s mother all too easily signs away guardianship to him. Wanta comes back to her (his old owner was not a good person, it seems) and she returns to school with a smile on her face, now in a much better place.

Kouta and Yuka return to college classes too, but inexplicably take Nyu with them. I understand how they might be worried about her wandering off again, but it just seems like a really, really bad idea considering how much they don’t know about her situation.

Sure enough, the professor of their new class is Dr. Kakuzawa, son of the head of the research facility where Lucy was being held. He takes Kouta and Yuka aside, warns them of the laws they’re breaking by having the girl in their custody, and makes Kouta agree to leave Nyu with with him.

Fearing the consequences and cowed by an authority figure, Kouta ignores Nyu crying out his name (she’s learning more words than just “nyu”), and later can’t help but shed tears over their separation. Yuka reproaches him for crying (“You’re a man!”) but then starts crying herself.

They get home and tell Mayu, who plants the seed in Kouta’s head that maybe the professor wasn’t telling the truth when he said Nyu’s family was worried and wanted her back. Gee, ya THINK?

Sure enough, Kakuzawa’s intentions with Nyu are anything but honorable. He strips her down, ties her up, and injects her with drugs. But while he’s still undressing in preparation to rape her, Nyu wakes up as Lucy, and plainly asks him who he is and what he wants.

Kakuzawa tries to give her his spiel about replacing the human race with superior Dicloniï, revealing his own sorry horns. Lucy plainly ain’t buyin’ it, and helpfully relieves him of his head, causing a fountain of blood and saying she doesn’t need someone like him.

Truer words have never been spoken. Like Mayu, she needs good people like Kouta and Yuka, particularly when she reverts to Nyu. It’s just a shame those good people aren’t the brightest…

Cop Craft – 12 (Fin) – Forgivable Evils

What had the makings of some kind of grand conspiracy is ultimately boiled down to A Wizard Did It in the exceedingly tidy Cop Craft finale. Captured last week, Tilarna ends up in a penthouse with that wizard with her hands and feet both cuffed. It’s also one of the only instances I can recall where she’s not wearing her Semani cape, revealing an elegant midriff-bearing top.

She has to sit and listen to Zelada drone on about how he believes decadent Earth culture will eventually overwhelm destroy Semani culture: weapons, tools, sex…and that awful, awful rock music. Despite it seeming an awful lot like that ship has sailed, he’s working to make two societies to hate each other…or something. The nerve of someone in Carmen Sandiego pimp cosplay decrying decadence!

Meanwhile, the FBI agent rather ineptly attempts to extract Kei’s iPhone password so he can destroy the last photo of Marla and the assassin (Randall is killed off-camera). Kei, ever the smartass, starts to give it to him: “F-U-C-K-Y…” Hee-hee.

While the camera made sure to show us that Tilarna’s legs were cuffed, Kei’s legs are completely free, and his arms are cuffed to a flimsy folding chair that isn’t even bolted down. All it takes is for Mr. FBI to get too close, and Kei has him in a leg headlock. It demonstrates less how badass Kei is (and he is), and more how excruciatingly dumb Mr. FBI is.

Meanwhile, after ranting virtually all night, Zelada senses that Kei has gotten free and is killing his puppets. After all this time, and with little reason to keep Tilarna alive, Zelada nevertheless takes his sweet old time before finally deciding that yup, he should kill Tilarna. It’s like he’s waiting for Kei to arrive and save her, because that’s what the plot demands!

Even with arms and legs cuffed, Tilarna is also a badass, and manages to dodge Zelada’s attacks until Kei bails her out. Zelada’s invisibility is overcome by activating the sprinkler system (how ’bout that!), but the weakened Tilarna can’t handle the sword, so she and Kei switch weapons, with Tilarna pumping Z full of lead while Kei beheads him with her sword.

With that, our buddy cop odd couple waits for backup that will be late because the town is rife with violent protests. Kei leaves it up to Tilarna whether to give the photo of Marla to the police as evidence of her role in the assassinations, and after weighing the options, decides to do so.

Donald—er, Domingo Tourte wins the mayorship after Marla is arrested, but things eventually cool down as Tilarna thought they would, because for all its warts, San Teresa is still a good town filled with mostly good people. That’s why, as she writes to her father back home, she’s decided to stay put, serving as Kei’s partner in stylish crime-fighting.

And there you have it! A rushed ending, perhaps, which did itself no favors with the idiocy of its villains, but far from eye-gougingly terrible. I’d say Cop Craft would have benefited from another twelve or even six more episodes to give the conspiracy and photographer arcs a little more fleshing-out, but honestly the show probably would have found a way to squander them and be forced to end just as abruptly.

I will say that even if I wasn’t always in love with what Cop Craft did with the episodes it had or the world it built, it was still a neat world, with a solid core duo of likable characters, a smattering of cool supporters, and a fun soundtrack. It wasn’t flawless, but it wasn’t all bad either—much like the situation Tilarna and Kei find themselves in when the end credits roll.

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