Vanitas no Carte – 09 – Qui Chasse Les Chasseurs?

As soon as Noé blurts out Vanitas’ name, Roland Fortis not only treats Vanitas gently and warmly, but with pity. Roland is as immune to Vanitas’ barbs as he is to the idea that a vampire who trespassed in these catacombs shouldn’t be slain. And while Roland proves he’s a tough opponent in a battle thanks to his ability-enhancing drugs and a Durandal that’s full of tricks, he’s no match for the duo of Vanitas and Noé.

Even when they’re almost constantly bickering like an old married couple, the two manage to slip away from one of the church’s most powerful chasseurs. But it isn’t Roland’s power, but his personality that rubs Vanitas entirely the wrong way. Noé can see why: Vanitas has met his match: someone who will not for one second stop being the person they are. The only difference is Roland still works within the structure of the church while Vanitas is his own master.

As they evade Roland and his underlings, Vanitas reveals why he knows his way around the labyrinthine catacombs: he basically grew up there after vampires killed his parents and the Chasseurs took him in. While they intended to train him, he caught the eye of one Doctor Moreau—yeah, that one—and became his guinea pig.

That’s a pretty dark past for our boy, and explains a lot about his reluctance to get to close to anyone, Noé included. But when Vanitas keeps making “that face”, and then decides to take one of the Chasseurs hostage, Noé objects, the two have a fight, Vanitas says more than he should, gets Noé angry enough to use him as a hostage.

Noé’s plan, while hastily hatched, ends up working perfectly, as tossing Vanitas into the air for Roland to catch ensures Roland is exactly where he wants him when he wants him there. But rather than deal a potentially killing blow, Noé holds back: and not just so he doesn’t kill Vanitas.

As Noé said before, he kinda liked the cut of Roland’s jib. So do I, now that I know his airhead act wasn’t really an act, but that he can flip a switch and enter Serious Badass Mode whenever he feels like it. Noé intentionally doesn’t seriously injure Roland because he’s hoping he can be reasoned with and a truce can be struck…and he’s right!

Despite his underlings’ objections, Roland not only decides to sit down and listen to Noé and Vanitas, but even agrees to be friends with Noé. After a lifetime of hunting and killing dangerous, insane, or downright evil vampires, Noé is a breath of fresh air, so much so that Roland can’t believe he’s really a vampire.

As for the reason Vanitas is there in the first place, Dr. Moreau is up to his old tricks, operating right under the Chasseurs who cast him out. Moreau himself seems to have a screw or two loose, and looks like Dr. Robotnik’s cousin to boot. It’s an odd choice to introduce someone who clearly traumatized Vanitas as a goofy eccentric, but that kinda also adds a layer of menace to the guy. Hes so caught up in his experimentation he’s long ago abandoned all notions of human morality.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 06 – Gettin’ Tsige With It

Tsukimichi starts out rather dry with some TenSura-style sitting around talking, but last week’s cliffhanger is nicely solved as Rembrandt gravely underestimates Makoto. But even here Tsukimichi pulls off a nice trick, as Rembrandt isnt a haughty blowhard but just a guy who is desperate for the materials to make the Ambrosia that aids his cursed wife and daughters. When his employees hear that Makoto has enough Ruby Eyes for all three, they all rush in to tearfully congratulate him.

Makoto’s productive visit to Rembrandt leads to him officially signing up for the Merchant’s Guild, for which there is both a written and practical exam. Fortunately, the education in this isekai is far below the modern Japanese standard, so Makoto aces the written exam with ease. He also has no problem producing the rare items he’s tasked with procuring in the practical exam, thanks to his high-level wagon fellowship.

Just as Makoto is trying out what looks like a beer but turns out to be…banana, we abruptly cut to Tomoe’s little excursion in errantry, exposing her bandaged bosom as she poses over a massive Gain Crab she slaughtered with as much ease as Makoto slaughtered the Merchant’s Guild tests. It’s good to see that she’s not always thinking about where Makoto is or what he’s doing, but perfectly happy doing her own thing out in the isekai.

Tomoe is vibeing so hard on her historical drama reenactment, she returns to the Demiplane without so much of an “FYI” message to Makoto—who is telepathically linked, after all. Her giant crab feast is interrupted by a summons to the library from Emma, who wants her and Mio to work on translating Makoto’s many memories. In doing so, Mio becomes an anime and tokusatsu otaku, just as Tomoe became a historical drama otaku.

But despite Tomoe and Mio being like oil and water, they both agree on one key thing: the Young Master needs to get laid. Makoto is resolutely disinterested, averting his eyes from the two loosening their robes on the two inn beds and content with sleeping on what looks like Fushi’s chair from To Your Eternity. Perhaps it’s because, as the ED seems to indicate, they remind him so much of his sisters back home.

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 06 – Rich People Light Switches!

Realizing it would be better to make money as an employee while messing with Sakurai than spend money as a customer, Uzaki gets a part-time job at the cafe. Sakurai takes her through a formal training session, but Uzaki has been there so often she already knows the ropes, and she and Ami use the time to wind him up. Then Sakurai’s friend Sakaki suggests the four of them go on a trip to the beach, and the beach episode is off to the races.

Ami is extremely intimidated by Uzaki’s bazongas in the changing room, but once outside is disappointed to see Sakurai busy hardcore swimming in the ocean while leaving Uzaki alone to be hit on others. When Sakaki breaks out the watermelon piñata, Uzaki’s chaotic fighting game-style directional outputs backfire, as he ends up stumbling onto her and his hand inexplicably ends up grabbing one of her boobs.

 

That evening, after making themselves at home at Sakaki’s family summer home (where Uzaki and Sakurai both marvel at the mod cons), and after some BBQ he suggests they have a good old-fashioned Test of Courage! While he had hoped Uzaki would get scared and seek comfort from Sakurai, the opposite happens, with the test having to be called off because Sakurai is absolutely paralyzed with fear. Like Kinomoto Sakura, the dude just can’t handle scary stuff!

Back at the house Uzaki wants to play video games, but Sakurai is already out cold. When she draws close, hoping to capitalize on his vulnerability, he grabs her and holds her close while still asleep. As she’s certain he’d never do this while awake, and recognizes that the whole reason he’s so wiped is that she ran him ragged with the test of courage, she decides it’s okay for them to stay in this position for a little while.

We never learn quite how long that is, but in the morning when they’re both brushing their teeth in the bathroom Uzaki mentions how he could probably do with a body pillow, Ami and Sakaki’s imaginations run wild. So the beach episode results in Sakurai reaching second base (while blindfolded) and spending the night with Uzaki (while totally unconscious). Still, you can’t say they haven’t technically gotten closer, which was Sakaki’s whole plan.

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 05 – Toothpaste Isn’t Food!

Sakurai can’t even daydream about falling in class without Uzaki getting on his case, and it just happens to be a class about dream interpretation. Uzaki is having so much fun mocking the issues behind Sakurai’s falling dream, she almost falls down the steps herself, but is tiny enough to be plucked out of mid-air and held in the safety Sakurai’s arms. Neither blushes about this unplanned close contact.

We finally see Sakurai spend some time with his male friend Sakaki Itsuhito, who is pained to hear that his pal has been wasting his crucial college days doing nothing of note. That is, until Uzaki arrives, he gets a taste of their dynamic, and he’s fully invested in helping them get together. This draws the ire of Ami, who prefers a hands-off approach and condemns any meddling on Sakaki’s part.

But as the final sequence shows, if they don’t do anything to move things along, Sakurai and Uzaki will become an official couple in, oh, about a thousand years. That’s because in the aftermath of an epic monologue defending the Choco-Mint flavor to the mint-adverse Sakurai, the two both realize they’ve shared indirect kisses from using the same toothpick to eat the candy. This is stuff middle schoolers would get bashful about.

So yeah, like Sakaki, I’m worried this thing will just keep spinning its wheels without intervention. The Uzaki in class and in front of Sakaki was much like the one at the glasses store—mercilessly mocking Sakurai and his flaws, yet still blushing at the indirect kiss realization. Hopefully something will come of their continuing to blush over one another…but I won’t hold my breath!

P.S. Like Uzaki, I am a dedicated Choco-Mintian. Death to the Anti-Mintite Brigade!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 15 – A Little Time Apart

Fresh off the loss of the Storm card to Syaoran, tempers flare between Sakura and Kero-chan. Kero is irritated by Sakura’s “moronic” voice, while Sakura is outraged that Kero threw all the contents of her desk drawer on the floor to make a home for himself. Their bickering puts Sakura in such a lousy mood her footsteps shake the whole house and even the normally mocking Touya is cowed by her dark aura!

The two don’t leave things in a good place, so when Kero-chan opens a package containing alcoholic chocolate, he eats it all and checks out of the Kinomoto residence altogether, leaving Sakura wondering where her familiar went off to.

Kero ends up sleeping one off on a couch in an alley, and is found by a little girl named Akane. When he wakes up to find himself in her home, he quickly learns that her dad has passed and her mom is busy at work, so she’s usually home alone and lonely. Kero’s heart is too big to ditch her so he adopts her name for him—Chau—and keeps her company.

Since Kero is also the responsible and technologically savvy sort, he sendsa facsimile—that’s right kids, a FAX!—to Sakura letting her know he’s fine. Tomoyo quickly uses her hacker skillz to pinpoint Kero’s location based on the fax number, just as Akane learns Kero can fly and starts to float out her own window. At first it’s fun, but soon Kero realizes the Float card is causing Akane to fly to dangerous heights.

Thanks to Tomoyo Sakura is able to Fly to the vicinity and catches Kero just as he runs out of gas trying to catch the ascending Akane. Sakura seals Float, then uses Wood to grow a tree that cushions Akane’s fall. Akane then moves away with her mom, who switched jobs to spend more time with her, meaning she won’t be lonely anymore.

Kero returns to Sakura’s, where she prepared a neat little mini-apartment in her drawer, acknowledging his need for privacy. However, their reconciliation is curtailed when he breaks the cardboard bed she made for him and he questions the craftsmanship. But as the past day’s events proved, they’re much better working as a team than apart!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 03 – In Good Faith

When Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ apartment building for the next tutoring session, he’s determined not to slip up, yet is flummoxed by the auto-lock door and intercom. Fortunately, Miku is not only forgiving, but welcoming.

So far I’m thoroughly  enjoying the variety of the sisters’ greetings, and what those say about them:

Episode 2
Itsuki: “Wh-What? Stop staring. It’s rude.”
Yotsuba: “Good Morning!”
Nino: “You again?”
Ichika: “Hey, Fuutarou-kun.”
Miku: “…”

Episode 3
Miku: [Cheerfully] “You’re going to tutor us, aren’t you?”
Itsuki: “So you had to come.”
Yotsuba: “Welcome, Uesugi-san!”
Nino: [Glares, slams door]
Ichika: [Still in bed]

Fun details like this help up the sense of chaos and the difficulty level of Fuutarou’s task. When he has four of the five gathered for the session, he takes a moment to admire the progress he’s made. But in fairness, Yotsuba’s friendliness was pre-loaded into the equation. The only real progress he made has been with Miku.

While Ichika is sleepy and disinterested and Itsuki passively abstains from his tutoring, Nino is by far the most hostile, and proceeds to actively sabotage Fuutarou’s efforts by clearing out the room one sister at a time. Yotsuba has to sub in for the basketball team. Ichika has to get to work. Itsuki will have more quiet at the library.

That just leaves Miku, who genuinely wants Fuutarou to teach her history. Nino takes a different tack with her, suggesting her interest in Fuutarou is romantic and insulting her taste in men. When Miku stands up for herself, Nino challenges her to a cooking contest to determine who’s more homely.

Under ideal circumstances Nino would win this one running away. But since Fuutarou is poor, frugal, and has an underdeveloped palate, he judges both their dishes to taste good, resulting in a tie. Then again, Miku’s omerice may just look awful but taste great; inner beauty and all that.

A telling sign of Nino’s true beef with Fuutarou comes when Miku blushes with pride when Fuutarou’s praise for a dish she had no confidence in. Nino can see the effect Fuutarou has on her sister, and she hates it. Still, Nino wins the day, because thanks to all her stalling tactics there was never any actual tutoring.

Not only that, Fuutarou’s own confidence has taken a hit, as he no longer believes it’s possible to get along with Nino in this world. Miku disagrees, assuring him if he approaches her in good faith she’ll come around…but it’s up to him to determine how to do that. Fuutarou then takes off, but forgets his flash cards, and Miku buzzes him back in before taking a shower.

He returns to find Miku is already out of the shower and is drying her hair. But wait, that’s not Miku, it’s Nino! I’m not sure if Fuutarou is colorblind, but one thing’s for sure: Nino is almost blind full stop. She mistakes Fuutarou for Miku, apologizes for how she acted, but blames Fuutarou for inciting the enmity between them.

When Nino asks “Miku” to grab her contacts, Fuutarou can’t find the appropriate shelf, so Nino comes to help look and gets very close to him. When he withdraws, she assumes Miku is still mad and has a mini-tantrum, bumping her arm on the cabinet and shifting some books. Fuutarou dives onto her to shield her, and she finally realizes there’s an intruder in the house.

Fuutarou tries to explain but is interrupted by Itsuki, who snaps a compromising photo that, if taken out of context, could ruin Fuutarou’s chances of ever setting foot in their apartment again. This is, of course, what Nino has been lobbying for from the get-go.

An impromptu tribunal of the quintuplets is then enjoined, with Ichika presiding as judge (you better call her “Your Honor”!), Itsuki as the prosecution, and Miku as the defense. When Miku clarifies that she let Fuutarou back in to get (not take) his flash cards, Nino again accuses her of having feelings for the guy.

When Nino and Miku’s bickering intensifies, Itsuki tries to restore calm, but is brusquely dismissed by both of them (she is the youngest after all). Ichika then recalls how well they all used to—past tense—get along as sisters, which is the last straw for Nino, who runs right out of the apartment. Miku tells Fuutarou to let her be, and Raiha informs him dinner is ready, so Fuutarou takes his leave.

On his way out he encounters Nino skulking outside, and takes a seat opposite the door with the excuse that he doesn’t want to go home until he’s “solved a problem” on one of his flash cards. In reality, he wants to once again approach Nino in good faith. He’s realized now that she considers the apartment to be their place (as in her sisters’), and that an outsider like Fuutarou has no place there.

Fuutarou can relate, having a sister himself whom he loves more than anyone else, and would never want her to hate him. But rather than come to a breakthrough in his favor, Nino resolves to not accept him as her tutor, even if it makes all her sisters hate her. Thus Nino cements her role as the toughest nut to crack so far. But if anything is worth doing…

Taketatsu Ayana, veteran sister seiyu, is really the ideal voice for Nino: with a sharp confrontational edge by default balanced by a tender vulnerability under the right conditions. The question is, will Fuutarou ever learn what those conditions are? Based on this weeks events, not anytime soon! Fortunately, he has other fish to fry (i.e. quintuplets to recruit) who may not be quite as obstinate as Nino.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 08 – Oil and Water

“YOU CAN’T HIDE FROM ME.” “Uhh, I’m not hiding?”

First of all, a heartfelt Arigatou gozaimasu to all producers and creatives involved in the continued production of Railgun T (and heck, all anime) even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t take their efforts for granted, and hope they’re staying safe as they work. If they can’t proceed without putting themselves and/or others at risk, then production must obviously cease.

However, that is not currently the case, and we have finally been blessed with a new episode of Railgun T after two weeks off. It was worth the wait. The previous episode promised a showdown between Mikoto and Misaki, but it ends up being way more of an exchange of info, and thankfully Misaki doesn’t have to be “persuaded” by Mikoto to talk.

“What kind of LUNATIC wears long gloves and thigh-high stockings with a gym uniform?!” “Um…a STYLISH one!

Misaki is revealed not only as a more dimensional antagonist (and she’s undoubtedly hiding something from Mikoto), but someone who, either due to her life experience or ability or both, simply cannot fully trust others to help her out, as Misaka always has. It’s why she never came to Mikoto asking to join forces against Kihara Gensei and Kozaku Mitori.

She can’t read Mikoto’s mind like she can most others, but she does think it was choices by Mikoto, who once trusted everyone blindly, led to the Radio Noise and Level 6 Shift projects. Instead, she kept a chaotic element like Mikoto out of her plans, and made sure her chaotic friends wouldn’t interfere or get into danger.

Nothing like a spot-o-tea to center you…

Of course, even with their minds and memories manipulated, Kuroko, Ruiko and Uiharu are gradually piecing things together. While Mikoto told them to stay put at Judgment, that doesn’t mean Kuroko can’t track down Kozaku Mitori’s file (if any).

Even though Uiharu was unknowingly working at cross purposes, Kuroko and Ruiko are willing to trust her now to use her skills to help out. And even with their memories scrambled, Mikoto in turn trusts all of them. Compare that to Misaki, who bypasses trust altogether in making people into Mental Out minions to do her bidding.

Misaki Shoujo Pose, Meet Misaka Shounen Pose

Incidentally, Mikoto is able to chat with Misaki while the latter is already on her way to Kihara Gensei’s location (and assures Mikoto that neither MISAKA or the other Sisters are in any immediate mortal danger). It’s fun to see how Misaki gets around quietly—by simply Mental Out-ing a random truck driver into an impromptu Lyft.

She even tells Mikoto she can sit this one out if she doesn’t feel right about joining forces now. Of course, there’s absolutely no way Mikoto is turning down a change to “pull the plug” on Kihara. In fact, she rushes ahead so fast, she exposes Misaki’s abject lack of athleticism—something Mikoto hilariously mistakes as being set up. When Misaki chalks her slowness up to having a more mature feminine figure, Mikoto mocks her “shoujo manga” eyes, and the two start bickering like, well, two middle school girls.

The sudden pairing of the two rivals is immediately bursting with charm, comedy, and chemistry. I’m glad that unlike Baba, there’s no cruelty or sadism in her activities. Of course, she could show her ugly side once Kihara is dealt with. But if that’s the case, she’d better be prepared to tango with one pissed-off Railgun.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 11 – Making Beautiful Music Together

After a moment’s confusion by Souma’s insistence Erina treat their two-course meal as a Shokugeki in and of itself, it occurs to her that he’s right: classic teamwork has never been their strong suit and never will be. Instead, they have to challenge each other to the very hilt, which means an inter-Shokugeki Shokugeki is the only way to go.

Because I am a joyless person, I often skip to the end of Shokugeki no Souma episodes to get a glimpse at who might win, even if it’s somewhat obvious. I won’t do that for potentially game-changing or arc-resolving episodes, however, and so I didn’t do that here.

With only ten minutes remaining, Erina crafts the dish that will beat Souma’s and score the rebels victory over his father and Central. Everyone notices she’s working with a lot more forceful passion—like Souma usually works. She also uses Souma as an assistant, trusting him tasks that will be essential to the success of her dish, and thereby demonstrating splendid teamwork under fire.

When Erina describes her completed main course as a “chicken-and-egg rice bowl”, Azami refuses to even taste it, so disappointed in how far his daughter has fallen. Instead, he has Eishi and Rindou serve as his tasters. Of course, first they have to taste Souma’s dish, which they find so impressive they can’t imagine anything better could follow it up.

But not only does Erina’s Le Plat Veritable: The True Gourmet That Escaped Paradise, Delinquent Daughter Style surpass Souma’s dish, a reality is created for its tasters in which basically no dish could ever have followed Souma’s up so perfectly or surpassed it further. Even more shocking, a vital part of the dish is a croute containing…squid and peanut butter!

Long derided as a form of culinary torture, in the hands of the god tongue it elevates the Jidori chicken in her dish, but also connects it to Souma’s appetizer, creating a synergy between two seemingly vastly different plates that could never have been predicted. Erina may have had to push herself beyond her usual effortless culinary elegance, but when you see her beaming face, you know she enjoyed the hell out of it.

But while Eishi and Tsukasa acknowledge the dish, Azami is still dismissive, calling it a “pile of slop” filled with the “unnecassay passion”, pain and suffering of its chef. He likens Erina’s chosen path to that of his senpai, Souma’s dad, and said it will only lead her to the “Wastelands,” suffocation, and despair. But then Erina insists he taste it and give her and the rest of Totsuki his impressions.

Try as Azami might to fight back the reflexes of his body with the stern logic of his mind, but he cannot. When he reiterates his fear Erina will walk the Wastelands alone, Hisako comes forward and contradicts him, not as Erina’s servant, but as her friend.

Azami’s Gifting ability affects not just those in his immediate facility, but the other members of the Elite Ten, the rebels, Hisako, even Urara! Clothes are torn off left and right as a great distant hammer drums out a beat: beautiful music that Souma and Erina have created. Then Azami’s clothes tear away as well.

What her father calls “contamination” are the precious experiences Erina has had with people of so many backgrounds, skill sets, and values, expanding her culinary universe in ways she could never have imagined, providing the “ulimate spice” for her cooking. Urara has no choice but to declare the rebels the winner of the final bout and of the Team Shokugeki.

All that’s left to do is for someone to say “Glad you enjoyed it!”…and Souma defers to Erina, who is, after all, The Boss.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 10 – The Battle Within the Battle

The final bout is here, and Souma and Erina are forced to work together on a two-course meal. It goes about as well as you’d expect. Souma seems determined to challenge Erina at every turn, even after he lost rock-paper-scissors and got stuck with the first course. Meanwhile, Eishi and Rindou work like a well-oiled machine, and the latter presents their appetizer before the rebels even start cooking.

It’s a mushroom mille-fille using the formic acid from ants of all things to provide a unique and tantalizing tang, and it’s so delicious and well-composed, Azami’s “Gifting” ability—inherited by marrying into the Nakiri family—suddenly activates, disrobing some of the rebels (though I’m not sure why Ikumi is embarrassed, she rarely wears much to start with!)

Rindou’s dish is specifically crafted not just to show what her mastery of rare ingredients can do, but to provide the perfect preamble for Eishi’s main: a delicate yet powerful salt-crusted venison that transports everyone who eats it to a culinary Eden. It’s the ideal Azami talks about when he talks about Central, and even Souma has to admit it’s pretty powerful. But this isn’t a battle to determine whose cooking is best, necessarily, but how they come upon those flavors. It’s about the creative freedom of all chefs, not just an elite few.

As Souma cooks, he is constantly turning to Erina to taste things, tuning each of his ingredients like one would tune the strings of a guitar before a concert, “taking advantage” of her God Tongue the way her father wants to in his Central regime. His resulting dish combines two of his specialties—dishes only he could come up with—into one super-specialty that maximizes both his resourcefulness and playfulness with Erina’s God Tongue ability.

That resulting dish, “Countdown Caveman Meat, Cheeky Youngster Style”, wows all the judges and even causes another bout of Gifting from Azami, who cannot deny Souma juggled some very disparate flavors and techniques into a fascinatingly odd yet still cohesive plate. Unfortunately…it ain’t an appetizer. For one thing, the portion of meat presented is huge, and comes with a side of veggies. It appears to be its own meal, and for that reason, in this two-course Shokugeki, it gets a zero.

Everyone on both sides of the war is shocked that Souma, known for his rashness, would be so thoughtless as to sabotage the crucial final bout by failing to follow the simple rule of creating a dish that must come before another. But Souma hasn’t gone mad; he’s done this to challenge Erina one final time, when it matters most.

He tasted all of the mains she made the previous night; none of them would have beaten Eishi’s venison, because they weren’t her specialty. Souma went and created the best flavors he, Yukihira Souma, could make. Now it falls upon Erina to beat those flavors, and even overcome his un-appetizery portions, with her own gourmet specialty. In effect, Souma started a Shokugeki within the Shokugeki. If she can beat his dish, they lose. Time to put up or shut up!

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 09 – And Then There Were Four

Tsukasa Eishi’s exquisite, multifaceted Lievre a la Royale easily defeats Satoshi, which is a little disappointing after the latter had been built up as a worthy challenger. Anyone is going to have a hard time beating Eishi, because the kid puts absolutely everything he has improving his art.

The thing is, the rebels are going to have to find a way to beat him, because the fifth bout will be the final, one way or another. Eishi and Rindou will go up against Souma and Erina, with the task of creating both an appetizer and main course that exemplify a “true gourmet meal.”

In the aftermath of the bout, Takumi asks Rindou why he sensed so much unease from her during their match. She dismisses him and runs off, but Megishima also sensed that unease.

In a flashback sequence, we see that despite Eishi’s less-than-stellar social skills, he and Rindou were nigh-inseparable friends who always had fun cooking. Somewhere along the way, Eishi stopped having fun. After gaining the First Seat he was always endlessly praised at banquets, but always felt a bit…off.

Then, in Las Vegas and again in L.A., he met Nakiri Azami, who put his off-ness into words: the people who praise him are pigs who don’t really know what true cuisine is. Azami gradually built Eishi up to believe he was the up-and-coming Picasso of cooking, and there’s only two people who can truly judge Eishi’s cooking, him, and Eishi himself.

Meanwhile, on the rebels side, Souma and Erina bicker constantly on who is going to cook what dish and who will take the lead with the main course. I’m with Erina on this one; she’s got the God Tongue and the former Elite Ten seat, after all.

Their dispute lasts until the next day, when the bout is about to begin, an exhausted-looking Erina finally wins a game of rock-paper-scissors against an equally exhausted-looking Souma. It’s not the best start for the rebels’ last hopes, especially since Eishi and Rindou come out looking like a million bucks.

I’m well aware this ain’t gonna end with Souma & Co. getting expelled, but I’m interested to see how the seemingly invincible Eishi is rendered vincible. If anyone can do it, it’s our boy Souma and Miss God Tongue.

Cop Craft – 05 – A Brief Dream Before the End

Suddenly up against an ancient lauden neiven—vampire in the common tongue—Tilarna nearly finds herself outmatched, but gets some backup from her partner, who makes use of a fire extinguisher to disorient the baddie. Tilarna relieves the vampire of one of her arms and Kei fills her with bullets, but she still escapes.

Tilarna feels responsible for Chapman’s death, as she should have known sooner what they were dealing with; Kei does his best to assure her it’s not on her, it’s just the job. Using both K9 units and Tilarna’s excellent sense of smell (at least when it comes to latena), they continue the search.

After the vampire kills a truck driver, causing him to crash, witnesses recall seeing her wearing a dress that looked like black flames—Tilarna recognizes it as a magical illusion spell that provides clothing when naked (and scolds Kei for thinking about her demonstrating it). But it’s also clear the vamp has some of her power back.

The duo heads to the mall where she lies in wait. Kei ends up thrown off a high balcony into a fountain and gets knocked out, while Tilarna is captured. When she awakens both she and we get more of a feel for their adversary, who after all is extremely disoriented in this strange new place. However, she’s sharp enough to know of the “greater gate” in the “Book of Niba,” a prophecy that has apparently come true.

That being said, she’s still a vampire, which means she can’t resist an easy meal—particularly Tilarna’s delicious noble blood. Unfortunately she delays her dinner a hair too long, as Kei and a SWAT team storms the location and rescues Tilarna.

The wounded vamp once again gives the cops the slip, but Tilarna remain hot on her trail. Tilarna suggests they try to take her alive “if possible” so they can try to learn something from her, but Kei very much doubts they’ll be in a position to hold back.

A strange voice leads the vamp down into the subway tracks—the voice of a wizard, who like Tilarna wants to extract some knowledge from the vamp if he can. But between the feeling she finds herself in hell to the belief she comes to that she’s merely in a brief and very bizarre dream before her end, she’s not interested, and instead drains the wizard dry to recharge.

Tilarna and Kei arrive, and once again have a hard time bringing her down. She pounces on Kei, warning him no man has ever walked away from three battles with her, unless he’s some kind of prophesied warrior. Ultimately, the vamp’s ignorance of the fatal effect of a subway train hitting her leads to her demise, while Tilarna leaps to Kei’s rescue at the last second.

Naturally, Kei doesn’t properly thank Tilarna for saving him again, which really steams her beans, so she starts viciously kicking him in the back. It’s an oddly perfunctory ending to what had been to that point a rather thoughtful and intriguing story.

After all, the vamp wasn’t necessarily pure evil—a gal’s gotta eat—but as the episode progressed, she was more a subject of pity than disdain. She simply didn’t belong, it would have been extremely hard for her to try, and she didn’t even seem to want to stay, almost preferring oblivion to such an unfamiliar land.

Cop Craft – 04 – Temporary Insanity

Picking right back up from last week, Tilarna and Kei reach the roof where the fairy Leahyah is trapped in a psychic bomb on a timer. Zelada is ready with magical blue flames that horribly burn the better part of Kei’s back.

As Tilarna tries to counterattack with little success, Kei focuses not on what his eyes see but on what he hears, knowing Zelada is hiding himself with illusion magic. His pistol, which Tilarna said had a certain level of latena, briefly glows purple before he gets a shot off, and it’s a direct hit.

Tilarna presses the attack by claiming one of Zelada’s arms, but he throws himself off the building rather than suffer the dishonor of being killed by a human and a pipsqueak knight. With Kei too burned to get up, the clock winding down on the bomb, and no known way to defuse it, Tilarna sits down with Kei and Leahyah for their final shared moments alive.

Realizing the child she helped when she was lost in the forest is ready to die beside her, Leahyah sacrifices her body before the bomb detonates. With no other choice, Tilarna uses the resulting output of latena to cast a healing spell on Kei. With Leahyah dead, Tilarna and Kei have failed in their primary mission.

Tilarna prepares to board a ship back home where she’ll return a disgraced and dishonored knight, but is ready to face the music. He gives her the floral broach he got back from O’Neill, and she thanks Kei for his partnership, praising him as a “gallant doreany soldier” when they part.

And from the time they bid one another farewell, Kei goes through the rest of the day positively miserable—more so than usual for him. Then he comes home and hears the TV is on, tuned to a basketball game. He draws his gun, looks inside…and finds Tilarna, in casual clothes, lazing on the couch with Kuroi.

She changed her mind: Zelada may not be dead, and there are other threats in San Teresa, so she got a field commission to detective in order to continue serving as Kei’s partner. Kei tries to seem put out, but there’s no doubt he’s happy about this.

On their next arrest raid, Tilarna and Kei are front and center when they take the door, but in her medieval overzealousness Tilarna also takes the finger of a gunman. She thinks nothing of it—she was simply serving justice—but their new chief, Zimmer, lights them both up, saying whatever the “alien” (as he racistly refers to Tilarna) does, her partner Kei is just as responsible.

Thus the old earlier dynamic Tilarna and Kei being at each other’s throats continues apace, with Kei refuing to thank Tilarna for rescuing him and Tilarna repeatedly punching Kei in the back. This all looks like flirting to other detectives, who show them an old wooden coffin with Semanian writing…and a Semanian mummy inside.

They take the mummy to the medical examiner (and Kei’s ex), Dr. Cecil Epps, who resents having to perform an autopsy on an archaeological artifact, but becomes fast friends with Tilarna when the two women share their mutual disdain for Kei. Though Tilarna still isn’t quite clear what an “ex” is, she does chalk up her reunion with Kei as a bout of “temporary insanity.”

The pair is summoned to the station to speak with the suspect whose finger Tilarna sliced off, and she immediately establishes herself as the “bad cop” by pulling her dagger and tossing the perp around. It ultimately pays off, as she learns from where they stole the coffin…and realizes that Cecil is in mortal danger.

Back at the M.E.’s office, Cecil has delegated the CT scan of the mummy to her assitant, Chapman, who either hates her or has a secret crush on her he’s not handling well. That means Chapman becomes the mummy’s first victim, as Cecil enters the CT room to find all his blood being drained and drunk by the now fully animate vampire.

Tilarna arrives to save Cecil, and the vampire says something in what she identifies as “the old language.” The vampire is superbly nimble—not to mention extremely creepy—and even naked, unarmed, and without her morning coffee, still proves more than a handful even for Tilarna. Perhaps she’ll get some timely backup from her partner and his latena-infused sidearm.

While Cop Craft’s fish-out-of-water buddy cop dramedy is deceptively simple, it sports some of the summer’s best and most creative cinematography and action animation, and Tilarna’s striking character design is one of the coolest (and cutest) while Yoshioka Mayu does some great work as her seiyu. And despite its perils, San Teresa is still a really fun place to spend time.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 22 – What Now?

Last week felt like a finale, but I’ve suspected for a while now we’re in for second season of Shield Hero down the road. With that in mind, it hardly comes as a surprise that this week’s episode slows things down substantially—a calm after the storm, if you will—with only three more episodes remaining this season.

Naofumi is summoned right back to Melromarc by the queen, who holds a party honoring their service as a front for a conference meant to ensure the four heroes reconcile and start working together. Raphtalia and Filo finally get the class upgrades they’ve so desperately needed (though they don’t get to choose their class, in part due to Filo’s cowlick). We also learn Mirelia is as fanatical about Fitoria as her daughter.

It doesn’t take long for bad actors to slip right back into bad habits, whether it’s a drunk knight spouting anti-demi vitriol and starting brawl in the banquet hall, to Malt–er, Bitch attempting to poison a pie meant for Naofumi’s party. It escapes me why she wasn’t simply banished from the palace.

Things don’t go any better in the closed-door session of the Four Heroes, with Mirelia mediating. Even though his name has been cleared, Motoyasu is still loyal enough to Bitch to declare Melty is lying about the poisoned pie, even though Bitch still has her slave crest and owned up to the crime.

That’s just a small taste of the inflexibility Naofumi faces. As Raph fights the drunken knight, and others start fighting each other, the other heroes only reluctantly spit out a bit of what they’ve learned about leveling up. The three heroes then turn on one another when they have opposing views about what’s most important when upgrading weapons, or the specific contents of their respective HUDs.

The bickering gets so bad Naofumi puts up his hands and leaves the room with no progress made and only a modium of intelligence learned. He can now, at least, tell Fitoria that he made an honest attempt to reconcile with them, and it went nowhere. There may just be too much bad history for them to cooperate except under the most dire circumstances, like the Pope’s attempted coup…or the next Wave.

What little insight Naofumi does gain he puts to immediate use, learning that he has to “believe in” the other heroes’ claims of a weapon-copying functionality in the for it to actually appear on his HUD. The other bit of news the Queen had for them is that the Cal Mira Archipelago has been “activated,” meaning all XP earned there is boosted for a limited time.

It’s a location someone as underleveled as Naofumi can’t pass up, even if it means crossing paths with the other heroes, so after bidding farewell to the Queen and Melty (for the second time in as many episodes), he tries out his new weapon-copying skill at Elhart’s shop (much to Elhart’s dismay) and the party heads out to the harbor where a ship will them to Cal Mira.

By request of Raphtalia, they make a detour to her home village, whose scant survivors have set up a cemetery on a seaside cliff. She pays respects to her departed friend Rifana and folks. Naofumi’s earlier offhand words about leaving her and Filo one day have also stuck with her, and she asks Naofumi straight-up not to leave her, as she doesn’t know what she’d do if he wasn’t in her world.

Naofumi promises, but he may not be able to control when his summoning is reversed, be it when the Waves are defeated or not. For now, he resolves to stay in this world as long as he is able, until Raphtalia and Filo find happiness—and not just the happiness of being beside him. In both cases, they have potentially happy futures without Naofumi: Raph in her village, with all the other survivors tracked down; Filo as the new Queen of her kind.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves: it’s time for some serous leveling up. As is typical, Naofumi is given the short end of the stick when his private cabin is stolen by the other heroes and their parties, who arrived before him. But as chance would have it Naofumi and his party end up in the same room as the tough-looking but friendly male and female adventurers they met at Raph’s village.

Could these two potentially end up a part of Naofumi’s party, or are they merely two of the hundreds of rivals for that sweet Cal Mira bonus XP?