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

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 12 (Fin) – Gochisousama

I love the battle music in PriConne not just because it’s tremendous in its own right, but reminds me of other great battle themes, like this one from early in Final Fantasy XIII-2, which gets me in the mood to write about this fantastic finale.

The final feast of PriConne 2 is a sumptuous multi-course smorgasbord comprised of myriad shapes, sizes and colors. Yuuki not only powers up Pecorine, but everyone, and the townsfolk rally for the sake of their princess. Kaiser is wrong; they’re not useless in just being able to yell. It’s because of them Peco and the others are able to fight and break through.

When Kaiser decides “screw it, I’m going to destroy this cursed world”, she brings up her two aces in the hole, Neneka and Labyrista, whose minds she’s overthrown. But their combined attack (which resembles the bankai Senbonzakura Kageyoshi) is blocked and nullified…by a reinvigorated Karyl, choosing the right side and sticking with it.

As the battle progresses, Kaiser (AKA Mana) longs to be reunited with someone named “Minerva”, without whom she’s endured crushing loneliness for countless time loops. Yuuki is able to release Kaiser’s hold on Labyrista’s avatar, and Labyrista quickly releases Neneka. Having lost her two most powerful weapons, Kaiser doubles down on her recklessness by letting the shadows envelop and overthrow her.

As final bosses tend to do, this turns her into a colossal slime monster, but thanks to the other guilds showing up to support them, the Gourmet Guild are able to leap inside the mass of goo, and Yuuki, Kokkoro and Pecorine are able to clear the way for Karyl to reach her majesty and try to save her.

In a gray morose world on the brink of destruction, Karyl, Kaiser’s Princess Knight, won’t let her body and soul vanish into the abyss. Even when the structure around them crumbles, Karyl doesn’t let go, and even though geting her there mortally wounded Yuuki, he chooses to go back and reach out to Karyl, pulling both her and Kaiser out of sure oblivion and back into the world.

The townsfolk rejoice as the Gourmet Guild emerge unharmed and victorious. Kaiser, either no longer a threat or unwilling to fight any further, accepts her loss and is arrested. Her spell on Peco’s parents is lifted, and they remember their daughter and embrace her.

Her friends look on with full hearts as she weeps buckets of tears of joy into the bosom of her mother the queen. And then she takes her rightful place back at Landosol Castle, addressing her adoring people.

Back at the Gourmet Guild, Karyl is the new chef, and assures the others that her meal might not look like much but it tastes great. Yuuki and Kokkoro praise her, but Kokkoro makes the mistake of serving tea to their fourth member, and all three of them suddenly feel her absence.

That is, until they hear her voice and see her in the doorway. While she’s glad her parents remember her and she’s a princess again, she still has a long way to go before she’s ready to rule the kingdom she just took back. So she re-joins Gourmet Guild as Pecorine, primed to go on a lot more adventures and gain the experience she’ll need once she comes into her throne.

This was a breathless banger from start to finish; an episode with a whole lot to do that managed to pull it off with a brilliant flourish before returning to the warm and peaceful Gourmet Guild house. It’s pretty much exactly what I was hoping for in a finale…I just wish we could spend a little more quiet time with the guild now that there are no more secrets or divided loyalties…just food, fun, and family!

P.S. While it’s a totally different an much older game, I feel compelled to end this write-up with one of my favorite victory themes, from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time:

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 11 – All Done But the Fighting

Saying she’ll protect Karyl is one thing, but Pecorine can’t get within fifty feet of her, as every time she brushes back a bunch of Shadows, another takes its place. Finally Kaiser deploys a “doll-ified” Jun as yet another shield, and Peco, who is already tiring, is gravely wounded when Jun drives armored fingers into her ribs.

Meanwhile, under the palace, Twilight Caravan have been hired by Neneka to get her true body back. When they find Christina there guarding it and spoiling for a good fight as usual, Eriko is more than happy to oblige, as she’s just as up for a tussle and a half. But as berserky as Eriko is, Christina’s Absolute Defense holds up.

While on the run with Yuuki, Little Lyrical and the civvies, Kokkoro is suddenly transported into Ameth’s realm, where they meet for the firs ttime even though Ameth sees her as a friend. She also sees Kokkoro as the only one who can be trusted with a special charm that will keep Yuuki’s power in check, as he’s currently unstable and liable to sacrifice himself to save any other member of the Gourmet Guild.

Back in the bowels of the palace Christina eventually wears three members of Twilight Caravan down, but before she can stab Eriko through the eyes, the two other members of Caravan show up: Anna and Ruka. The latter even manages to land a strike on Christina, who then breaks out Absolute Offense on top of Absolute Defense. Still, Caravan’s goal is to set their client’s body free, not defeat her. But before Eriko can smash Neneka’s holding pod, someone awakens who shouldn’t have.

Pecorine, who simply won’t give up on Karyl no matter how many times Karyl tells her to run, charges up her Princess Strike and defeats (but doesn’t kill) Jun. Jun, free of the “doll-ification”, then serves as Peco’s shield when Kaiser lashes out with her own offensive magic.

With Jun as her shield, Peco loads up another Princess Strike, then another, then another, and what do ya know, it does the trick! Kaiser is finally taken down?! Of course, with several minutes left in the episode plus one more episode to follow, I had my doubts this was a real victory…

At least it allowed Karyl to finally come down from where she was suspended the entire episode, the poor thing, and land right in Peco’s arms. And after all the loud and intense battles, it was nice to have the world return to some kind of quiet, calm normal…even if only for a minute or so.

After that, the “Kaiser” Peco cut down turns out only to be a Shadow clone; the real, and far more scantily clad Kaiser, is the “someone” who woke up down in the palace basement. She’s awake now, and with one little flick of her wrist, Jun is suddenly out of commission. Peco and Karyl are pressed into the ground by intense gravity, and Kaiser prepares to make two more sacrifices to the cause…

…Which is of course when Yuuki shows up in full Hero Mode. Assuming next week is the finale, I’d be perfectly happy with a third to a half of it being taken up by the final battle ending in victory for the good guys, followed by the remaining portion given over to said good guys having a much-deserved rest and feast in Eustiana’s newly-liberated castle. Whatever happens, it is sure to be gorgeously animated.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 06 – The Green Knight

PriConne 2’s fifth episode felt like a season finale, so it stands to reason the sixth would be more of a cooling-off outing. It’s also a grab bag with the focus not on the Gourmet Guild but two other guilds, starting with Weißflügel (Landosol Division). Led by the young, hardworking Monika, her party consists of a narcissist (Yuki), a masochist (Kuuka) and a girl who loves explosives (Ninon).

Needless to say, any and all of Monika’s comrades make Yuuki look like Einstein, so it’s no surprise that they’re in heavy debt due to the collateral damage caused mostly by Ninon’s hobby. Yuuki hers about Fuuka from her boss in town, and finds her by the riverside with a massive pile of porn, which he promptly burns.

The Gourmet Guild is casually investigating a “Mystery Knight” assaulting townsfolk, and split into two groups. Yuuki and Kokkoro encounter the Knight, but they’re aided in the ensuing battle by an equally mysterious swordsman who wears a black mask over their eyes. The Knight vanishes in a cloud of smoke, leaving a slimy green residue.

The other guild introduced in this episode (unless I forgot about them from the first season) is NIGHTMARE, elite palace guards fighting for the good of Landosol. Tomo and her junior Matsuri fear their captain is the culprit of the attacks, but Christina, apparently the vice-captain, tells them they should have more faith in their leader.

When Monika discovers that the green slime can animate things like a cymbal monkey and thus potentially help the guild climb out of debt, she and the rest of Weißflügel find the source of the slime and start digging…until they accidentally unleash a massive torrent of the stuff, which envelops all of them, heads into town, and also envelops Charlie…the person who has been leaving porn by the riverside.

Tomo and Matsuri are in the middle of a battle against the Mystery Knight they believe to be their captain when that captain shows up to join them, proving they’re not the culprit. Rather, her armor has been taken over by the green slime, which merges with the “main” slime blob to create a huge boss fight in which the Gourmet Guild participates.

The combined forces of Gourmet and NIGHTMARE make quick work of the slime knight, with Tomo, Matsuri, adn their captain flashing some cool special moves and culminating in a classic Pecorine Princess Strike coup-de-grace—only one needed this time! Freed from the slimy green prison of their own making, Monika and Weißflügel lead the cleanup effort.

The Gourmet Guild gives Monika a cup of hot bouillabaisse to help restore her stamina. Later that night she makes her regular reports to her homeland via radio, imbued with a sense of esteem and kinship to the people of Landosol for working together to help those in need.

While definitely the weakest episode of PriConne’s second season owing to its glut of unfamiliar characters and the sidelining of the main quartet, it was still a fun and at times hilarious outing that emphasized the sense of community in Landosol. In any case, the wide variety of colorful characters has always been a feature of PriConne, not a bug.

The Faraway Paladin – 03 – Guardians of the Seal

Last week I was just complimenting Paladin for not wandering down the same seedy allies as Mushoku Tensei, but as Will is growing closer to adulthood, Blood decides to get him drunk and then try to spy on Mary undressing. There are a lot of problems with this—mostly that Mary is for all intents and purposes Will’s mom—but thankfully they fail, Will gets a swift slap in the face, and it’s over.

The next day is the day of the big duel between Will and Blood, and the combat animation and modeling was, if I’m being generous, a little rough. The surroundings at least were pretty, but the duel was not. It was also over seemingly as soon as it began, with Will figuring out that he has to bounce off Blood’s sword to get close. I will say Will’s trick of getting his opponent’s blade stuck in his ribs is a clever one…it just makes no sense that there’s black between those ribs.

The remainder of the episode has Blood and Mary basicaly giving Will a big old infodump of all the things they kept from him until he was old enough to hear and understand it. The two of them plus Gus were once humans, but in order to rid the city of demons loyal to the High King of the Eternals, they made a deal with the evil god Stagnate, and became undead guards of the seal keeping the High King at bay.

That was 200 years ago. At some point Will appeared in their lives, and Mary and Blood decided to raise him like a son. But now it’s time to say goodbye, and not just because Will is of age. Stagnate, it seems has come to take what’s left of the three in exchange for the peace they’ve enjoyed. He also probably wouldn’t mind having Will too.

Then Gus arrives and tells Will to take Mary and Blood and get out of there, presumably so he can engage in epic battle with Stagnate without worrying about collateral. I gotta say I’m not optimistic about that battle being any more impressive than this week’s duel, but I do care about what happens to this family.

The Faraway Paladin – 02 – Hero or Die

There’s not much of a sharp edge to Paladin, and yet it’s anything but soft. It’s as wholesome as Mushoku Tensei is raunchy, but it never feels too sweet. In fact, despite three of the four on-screen characters so far are a skeleton, a mummy and a ghost, there’s a profound realism to the proceedings. It’s a wonderfully balanced show that draws you effortlessly into its world.

William could easily have come off as boring or far too squeaky-clean for his own good. But he’s just such a goshdarn nice kid, you just want to protect and root for him. Now that he’s thirteen, the fruit of his three surrogate parents’ labor is starting to show: the kid is a badass. Blood knows this, which is why he leaves Will in the dungeon below the ruined city without escort. He’ll be fine!

But while Blood is passive in his instruction, teaching Will a lesson through the absence of his big, burly, protective person, Gus pushes Will to the absolute emotional limits with some truly diabolical mind games. Will doesn’t know if Gus is serious about trying to kill him, nor does he know if the dungeon and the city of death above it are somehow controlling Gus. All he knows is he’d rather die than hurt his “grandpa”.

With a father figure in Blood, a mother figure in Mary, and a gramps in Gus, Will has quite possibly the coolest and most loving families anyone could ask for, alive or undead. And yet questions like who his blood parents were and what happened to them and the city trouble him. He becomes more self-aware, introspective, and curious as he nears his fifteenth year, which in this world means you’re an adult.

Before the coming of age rituals that are certain to come, Gus and Blood show Will a more mischievous side by having him collect coins in the dungeon and then gamble over backgammon. This draws the ire of Mary, but both misbehavior and scolding are equally important lessons as Will will soon strike out into a world that will try to prey on his kindness and relative naïveté.

But the march of time is relentless, as is Will’s drawing nearer to the line between child pupil and adult paladin. He’s to swear an oath to one of the gods and thereby gain their divine blessing (along with a degree of hardship in exchange), and at some point Blood will challenge him to a serious one-on-one duel. There’s the bittersweet feeling that Will’s three parents don’t want him to leave the nest, but it’s inevitable that he’ll have to, and essential that he’s thoroughly prepared.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Meikyuu Black Company – 04 – Shiacalypse Now

Shia leads Ninomiya and Wanibe on a training expedition on the second floor, armed not just with a sword, those lovely star-filled eyes, and those diamond highlights, but a filled-to-brimming tank of enthusiasm for Being a Good Corporate Drone and Doing One’s Duty The Right Way.

Ninomiya has even less energy for this nonsense than usual because he has to produce five million gold in a month or his loan shark will take his life. He doesn’t have time to do things by the book. With his literal life at stake, one can’t begrudge him embracing methods some might call…unsound.

The team encounters a Majin, the monster of legend that causes a “Death March”—treated by Raiza’ha as an unavoidable but potentially profitable natural disaster. Turns out Shia’s employers set her up to be the latest in a long line of powerful human sacrifices to appease the Majin.

What they didn’t count on is that one of the grunts with her is Ninomiya Kinji, who has an ant army at his disposal and soon starts farming monster parts for gold.

As for the Majin, it’s too tough even for the great Shia (its laser beams really pack a punch), so Ninomiya suggests they retreat. Unfortunately the emergency magic crystal dagger used to transport back to the surface only works on one person.

Naturally, Shia gives it to Ninomiya, but her ensuing melancholy goodbye melts his cold cold heart and he not only stays behind with her, but throws the dagger at the Majin, transporting it to the surface where it becomes the company’s problem, as it should be.

The Majin, drawn to Shia’s considerable mana, eventually makes his way back down into the dungeon, where Ninomiya is ready for him in the form of a giant pit trap into which the Majin falls. Ninomiya then has his ant minions fill the pit with cement, and has Shia dry it with her wind magic. When that isn’t enough, he sets the whole thing on fire. Shia can’t argue with Ninomiya’s ends, but the means disturb her.

When the Majin still won’t die, Shia resolves to defeat it, as is her “duty and destiny”, even at the cost of her life. It’s here where Ninomiya unfortunately decides grope her, losing a lot of goodwill he’d built up recently. He admits he looked up her family history, and how her father was of the absentee adventurer variety.

He deduces that Shia has been “brainwashed by thoughts that benefit Raiza’ha”, in part because she was happiest once she joined the company. But just because it improved her life doesn’t mean that life is theirs to throw away and call it “duty”. Raiza’ha isn’t a nation, and Shia isn’t a soldier. She’s just a damn at-will employee.

After being rescued in the nick of time by Rimu, who then quickly dispatches the Majin she reports was “incomplete”, Ninomiya claims victory…for himself, continuing to cement his role as an incorrigible sonofabitch. But he made some good points to Shia about casting aside the corporate conditioning and determining what she wants to do with her life.

If that’s continuing to work hard, fine. If it’s working hard for a company that just tried to sacrifice her to an eldritch abomination, that’s not fine. We’ll see if Ninomiya’s core message gets through to Shia, despite the messenger being a cad.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 13 – What Is a Proper Death?

Yuuji is in the fight of his life, but he’s also in the middle of a lecture. Nanami may not be a teacher, but he’s still going to coach up the young buck so he doesn’t get himself killed. Yuuji, for his part, pays attention. He’s not the kind of hero who’s going to defy his sensei because he thinks he knows better or thinks he’s strong enough.

Nanami’s plan with Mahito is simple: wait for an opening, then rain blows upon him with Yuuji. It takes a little under four minutes, but the two jujutsu sorcerers eventually get the timing right, and then it’s open season. That’s when Mahito plays dirty, unleashing a trio of deformed humans on Yuuji, knowing he doesn’t have the heart to kill them.

Only, to Mahito’ surprise, he does. It happens offscreen, but Yuuji deals with the humans before they kill him. That’s when Mahito decides to push all his chips into the pot with Domain Expansion, engulfing only Nanami while Yuuji is trapped outside. Nanami, all but certain this is the end for him, looks back on how he got back into sorcery in the first place.

We watch him live his life in a pinstripe suit stealing money from wealthy people in order to make other people wealthier. It’s a job he’s good at but gives him no joy, and he believes no one would miss him if he simply ceased to exist. Then, when a cute young woman at the bakery has a low-level curse on her shoulder, he exorcises it, she thanks him profusely, and he decides right then and there to give Gojou a call.

Of course, while more rewarding and a better use of his time and talents, jujutsu sorcery was always going to be a higher-risk proposition. Mahito thanks Nanami for getting him to unleash his domain, but Mahito isn’t interested in the gratitude of a curse. He’s gotten enough thanks from people like the bakery lady that he has no regrets.

Only before Mahito can do Nanami in, Yuuji successfully busts through the domain from the outside, which is far easier than trying to break out. Because Yuuji is the vessel for Sukuna’s soul and Yuuji is now within Mahito’s domain, Mahito touches Sukuna’s soul a second time, and Sukuna punishes him—a flick of his hand puts a gaping gash across Mahito’s chest.

With his cursed energy depleted from summoning the domain, Mahito puts everything he’s got left into making himself as big and fat as possible. Yuuji proceeds to put everything he has into a Divergent Fist, which pops Mahito like a balloon, but crucially does not kill him. He’s able to slip back into the sewers. Nanami has his colleague Ito try to track him down, while Yuuji passes out from exertion and his many wounds.

When Yuuji wakes up he’s back at the school, specifically the morgue, where he reflects on the human life he was forced to take, and how it led to the realization that while he’s been trying to ensure everyone gets a “proper death”, he has no idea what that is. Nanami has news for him: no one does. All he knows is there will be many more people like him who will need him, so he’d better not die improperly himself.

Back at the late Yoshino Junpei’s high school, the lead bully Itou is called out by his peers filling out surveys, and the ineffectual teacher who looked the other way for so long develops a spine. He knows both he and Itou bear the crime of killing Yoshino’s heart, and will have to keep bearing it the rest of their lives. While Junpei died far too early, his death wasn’t without purpose.

Meanwhile, Yuuji is back on his feet and above ground at Jujutsu High, meeting Nanami and Gojou in the hall as a full-fledged jujutsu sorcerer. While Mahito & Co. will surely go after him in hopes of releasing Sukuna (who Mahito believes can singlehandedly usher in the “Age of Curses”), his more immediate concerns are reuniting with Megumi and Nobara (at last!) and participation in the Kyoto Sister School Exchange Event.

As for this episode, I consider it the best of Jujutsu Kaisen yet, an absolute tour-de-force of combat animation and sakuga, staging, pacing, atmosphere, peril, and sweet, sweet near-victory. Nanami’s backstory was well-timed, efficient, and effective at giving the guy some dimension, while Mahito remained an entertaining adversary to the bitter near-end.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 12 – Shape of the Heart

Last week barreled through a rapidly-created friendship between Yuuji and Yoshino Junpei, yet despite that story being told at breakneck speed, it still worked; i was still emotionally invested, and like Yuuji was dearly hoping Junpei could be saved.

Granted, that wasn’t going to happen without a little bit of tough love in the form of a physical showdown between the two. At first glance Junpei seems as bad a matchup with Yuuji as Mahito vs. Nanami: he can use his jellyfish shikigami to dull Yuuji’s blunt-force blows.

Well…until he can’t, and Yuuji punches the shit out of the jellyfish. Junpei tries to explain while he fights why what he’s doing is right and just, but like myself Yuuji wasn’t really listening, and in any case isn’t buying what Junpei is selling about nobody having hearts, or people being free to kill those who wronged them.

But when Junpei breaks out the jellyfish cutlery, Yuuji fails to dodge on purpose, because he realizes he’s dismissing Junpei’s point of view from a place of ignorant privilege. Especially considering how short a time he’s known Junpei, Yuuji admits he doesn’t know the full story about what’s going on…which is why he stops fighting and asks Junpei to tell him.

Once he does, Yuuji suggests Junpei come to Jujutsu Tech with him, not only to hone his abilities, but to find out who cursed his mom and bring them to justice the right way. Junpei might even have been receptive to such an offer, as he’d no longer have to attend the school where he’s so horribly bullied. Alas, it’s not his call…it’s Mahito’s.

Mahito arrives with all his usual immaturity, vivaciousness and swagger that make him Gojou’s cursed spirit counterpart. Without hesitation, he uses Idle Transformation on Junpei, transforming him into a grotesque monster that called to mind both Made in Abyss Attack on Titan, and of course Parasyte: The Maxim.

It was one thing to see a curse sneak up on Junpei’s mom; her death happened off-camera. But to see Yuuji’s new friend, someone who was just a kid being led down the wrong path by a literal curse, cruelly disfigured beyond repair was f-ing hard to watch. The transformed Junpei attacks Yuuji, who tells Sukuna that he’ll do or give up anything if only he heals him…and Sukuna refuses.

This shocks Mahito, whose entire plan (or rather Getou’s) was to back Yuuji into a corner so he’d have no choice but to form a pact with Sukuna, whereupon Mahito and his friends would introduce themselves to the King of Curses and seek an alliance in the war against humanity. Instead, Yuuji remains Yuuji, and Junpei dies (from the shock of the transformation) while clutching his friend.

From that point on, Yuuji has HAD it with Mahito, explodes with shounen energy and starts whaling on the guy. Of course, physical attacks are of limited efficacy against a curse that can change his physical shape at will, but that first punch makes Mahito’s nose bleed, which is something.

Unfortunately, Mahito has something for Yuuji too; part of being able to change his shape means he can transform into any number of frightening weapons, from a chain of razor-sharp blades to piercing spikes large and small that riddle the reckless Yuuji with holes.

Throughout this fight, in which Mahito hangs in there in a rather bemused state, still feels he can salvage the plan. Yuuji made clear he doesn’t want to exorcise Mahito, he wants to kill him, so if he can’t kill him alone, he’ll have no choice but to switch out with Sukuna.

Mahito is even fully prepared to transform every student in the school until Yuuji is enraged enough to switch out. However, when Mahito gets an opening, he can’t resist trying to use Idle Transformation on someone who is “aware of the outline of their soul”, as Yuuji is.

It doesn’t go well. Rather than touch Yuuji’s soul and transform him, Mahito is shunted to Sukuna’s Innate Domain, where Sukuna sits upon his giant throne of bones, looks down on a frightened Mahito, and gravely warns the “fool” to “know his place.” He’ll let him off with trying to touch his soul once, since they both shared a laugh at Yuuji and Junpei’s expense. But ther won’t be a second time.

Mahito ends up back in the outside world, and his failed technique opens him up to a series of brutal skull-crushing headbutts from a committed Yuuji. Mahito stops playing around and slips out of Yuuji’s hold, and is about to bash him with a giant cudgel arm when Nanami swoops in to absorb the blow.

Next, Nanami asks for a report from Yuuji, and is irritated when Yuuji reports that he couldn’t save two people (Junpei and his mom) before reporting on his own physical status. To Nanami and many other sorcerers, looking after oneself trumps worrying about others. I’m sure he hopes it’s something he can exorcise from Yuuji, but for now, he recognizes that he’s still just a kid. A kid full of holes.

Now that a capital-A Adult has arrive at the scene, we’ve arrived at the beginning of the endgame to the Mahito battle. Nanami has already determined his attacks are ineffective, but he is able to limit his movement. Combined with Yuuji’s ability to make him bleed, hopefully the two of them working together can defeat the patchwork curse…or at least force him to retreat. If not, heck…maybe they’ll get a surprise assist from Gojou.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 05 – Don’t Lose Heart

When Megumi returns to the detention center he senses the Innate Domain has been closed off, indicating the Special-Grade is gone. Only it isn’t Yuuji who meets him outside, but Sukuna. Apparently Yuuji is having trouble switching back, and Sukuna makes it even harder by ripping out Yuuji’s heart, which Yuuji needs to live but he doesn’t.

Even with a gaping chest wound, Sukuna!Yuuji is able to flick away any and all of Megumi’s attacks, and he eventually realizes Megumi is trying to get him to restore Yuuji’s heart. Megumi throws his bird and giant snake, only for Sukuna to beat him mercilessly across the town.

Sukuna ultimately doesn’t take the bait, but Megumi is finally able to get Yuuji to resurface by explaining he saved Yuuji because he couldn’t bear to watch a good person like him die, even if saving him was dangerous.

We also learn about Tsumiki, someone important to Megumi (I’m guessing his sister) who was cursed and died in the hospital as Megumi couldn’t do anything. But as soon as Yuuji snaps out of it, it isn’t long before he dies from having his heart ripped out…and that’s that.

We meet who I presume to be a high-level sorcerer or priest (or both) and three eclectic Curse buddies in Tokyo, then cut to the morgue where Gojou, Ijichi receive Ieiri, who apparently intends to thoroughly dissect Yuuji’s corpse. Finally, we’re back at Jujutsu Tech, where Megumi and Nobara quietly commiserate about the loss of their comrade.

The show is extremely intent on making it known that yes, Yuuji is dead and no he won’t be coming back. To that end, Megumi and Nobara’s second-year upperclassmen Zenin Maki, Inumaki, and Panda meet with them and inform them they’ll be participating in the Kyoto Sister School Exchange Event, basically a competition between the two Jujutsu schools.

Megumi and Nobara are happy for a distraction from their grief, and then we’re back in Tokyo where the sorcerer/priest guy is at a café talking with Curses bent on eliminating the Jujutsu sorcerers once and for all. He tells them that in order to succeed in that effort, they’ll first have to neutralize Gojou Satoru, then get on Sukuna!Yuuji’s good side.

The Curse is confused…isn’t Itadori Yuuji dead? The sorcerer/priest grins, telling him he’s not so sure. Of course he isn’t! Yuuji’s the damn main character, and this isn’t Gurren Lagann; he can’t just stay dead, especially when we’ve seen him heal bits of his body. He’ll be back; it’s just a matter of when and how. No doubt the “how” will involve coming to some kind of understanding with Sukuna.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 04 – You’ve Really Made the (Special) Grade

After the conclusion of last week’s episode, a log entry details an incident involving a Curse at a juvenile detention center to which three first-year Jujutsu Tech sorcerers respond—and one of them dies. 

This episode chronicles that incident, in which our newly formed trio of first-years are immediately dropped into a seemingly no-win scenario involving the very highest level of Curses: a “Special-Grade.” As the coordinator Ijichi puts it, carpet-bombing one of these with cluster bombs merely evens the playing field a bit.

Suffice it to say the Curse inhabiting the detention center is way out of Yuuji, Megumi, and Nobara’s league. But not only do they have to face this threat on their own (Gojou-sensei is away, possibly dealing with other threats), this is usually the norm: there simply aren’t enough high-grade sorcerers available to deal with all Curses, which means students are pressed into service. Talk about School of Hard Knocks.

Still, Yuuji isn’t about to shirk his duties, however insurmountable the odds may be. That’s because he hears the cries of a guardian of one of the inmates. But they enter a house of horrors with the Curse’s illusory abilities twisting the interior of the facility to have impossible interior heights and vanishing exits.

When Yuuji finds the inmate the woman was crying about already torn to pieces, he wants to get the body outside so the guardian knows for sure he’s dead. Megumi tries to get his head back in the game; this is about verifying the five inmates in the center, not rescuing anyone. Besides, the inmate Yuuji would have saved had killed a girl while driving without a license. Megumi makes Yuuji consider the crimes those he saves might commit.

Kobara tries to break the two up, but falls through the floor. When Megumi wonders why the Curse wasn’t detected by his demon dog, he sees the dog smashed into a wall, and a second later, the immensely creepy and powerful Special-Grade Curse appears before them. When Yuuji tries to use his blade, the Curse lops his hand off. Shit just got real…fast.

Yuuji sents Megumi away to save Nobara, who ends up swarmed by weird doll faces and eyeball Curses from above. She quickly runs out of ammo and is nearly swallowed up, but Megumi arrives in time to save her by having a giant frog he summoned pluck Megumi away from the curse with its tongue. Nobara, by the way, hates frogs.

As for Yuuji, he struggles with whether to unleash Sukuna onto this Curse. As Sukuna is “King of Curses”, he’d have no problem defeating it…but Sukuna threatens to kill Megumi and Nobara if Yuuji lets him out, as punishment for not fully relinqueshing control of his body. Yuuji tries to focus his cursed energy into his fist on his own, but the Curse easily blocks his punch.

Then Yuuji hears the howling of one of Megumi’s demon dogs, indicating that he successfully recovered Nobara, and he lets Sukuna out. He tried his best on his own, but the only way to fight a Special-Grade is with a Special-Grade.

Sukuna proceeds to toy with his fellow Special-Grade, and demonstrates that despite technically having the same ranking, the gap between their power is so great, relatively speaking the other Curse is as ignorant of the true nature of Curses as a whelp like Yuuji.

To see a Curse that so easily had its way with Yuuji be neatly sliced with ease, Damien Hirst-style, really drives the point home: Ryoumen Sukuna is a force to be reckoned with. The entire boss battle is a tour-de-force of combat animation.

From those slices, Sukuna pulls out one of his own fingers, which will be the third of twenty Yuuji consumes. But here’s the thing: Yuuji never awakens, even when Sukuna tells him to do it already, before he displays a truly devilish smirk—the same smirk a fox might have if it just gained access to the hen house.

That’s what makes this merely part one of two. Nobara is off to the hospital, while Megumi will head back to the center to wait for Yuuji. It also remains to be seen exactly how “lost” within himself Yuuji is, what devilry (if any) Nobara gets up to while he has more time, and if Megumi gets his wish of a Grade-1-or-higher sorcerer (ideally Gojou) arriving to save the day.

All I can say is the first-years did remarkably well considering what they were up against…and that I hope, if they all get out of this alive, they can get an easier mission next time.

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – 12 (Fin) – Traipsing in Place

Iska can’t protect Sisbell from Masked Lord and the Empire’s Object, but thankfully he gets an assist from his fellow members of Unit N07. He buys time by hacking at Object until Nene can launch a rocket barrage that disables the mecha dragon, all while Sisbell wonders why these supposed enemies are protecting her from their own superweapon.

Meanwhile, Jihn is able to keep up with Masked Lord, despite the fact the guy has backup mages and the ability to teleport weapons and himself. After a brief knife fight, Masked Lord decides to limit his attacks to fire-based, which are nullified when Mismis activates her Astral Crest. Jhin blasts Mask’s Mask off, and he withdraws for now, having not looked particularly powerful.

Since Object is a final boss of sorts, it stands to reason it has multiple stages; in its second, it has a quick-recharging mega-cannon that causes a great deal of collateral destruction. Sisbell finally contributes to the battle by using her time magic to conjure a sandstorm from the past, which Iska uses as cover to shatter Object’s core. However, that just unlocks it’s third and final form, in which it sucks Sisbell into its core and starts babbling in the ancient Astral language.

This third stage proves too much even for Iska, which provides the perfect opportunity for Alice to show up. They once again put aside their individual rivalry to fight side-by-side, and with a bunch of acrobatics and ice magic they manage to destroy the final form and free Sisbell.

It’s all pretty by-the-numbers, really. Masked Lord is basically nerfed in his fight with Jhin, while Iska and Alice don’t do anything that different from their previous team-ups. Also, the fact their main opponent was a mostly mindless giant monster meant their victory doesn’t really move the needle where their peace process is concerned.

All it does is take one of the Empire’s weapons off the board…and the Eight Great Apostles aren’t even that miffed about it! Alice and Sisbell have their obligatory fight over Iska, with Alice in the uncomfortable position of pretending she doesn’t know Iska while protesting Sisbell’s familiarity with him. Iska rejoins his unit, who helped make sure the civilians were safe off-camera.

Then there are a whole lot of scenes of things the show didn’t have time to cover in depth: Mask’s plans for Kissing to enter the election, the Queen bringing Elletear before her and asking if she’s the real Elletear (?), Risya and Nameless tipping their hats to Iska’s skill. Perhaps most relevant to Iska and Alice’s hopes for peace is the meeting of Salinger and the Emperor, but neither character was that well developed, so who knows what that fruit if any that team-up will bear.

Actually, we do know: no fruit at all, because this is the end of the season! It ends with one more scene of our two heroes sharing a bench in the neutral city, promising each other not to let anyone else know they know each other and looking forward to their next meeting, where they’re tentatively planning to finally have their decisive fight, but probably won’t.

The show ends with an ellipsis and a bunch of question marks rather than any full stops, leaving me similarly noncommittal to engaging with a second season. Better shows have done more with just twelve episodes, and looked much better doing so. If I could use Sisbell’s ability and go back in time, I’d probably just skip this.

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