Re:Creators – 14

With the nature of the operation to bring down Altair in place, Kikuchihara brings in dozens of creators to brief them on how things are going to work. The anime that will unite all of the Creations’ worlds and stories will be called Border World Coliseum, and it will be unveiled at the “Elimination Chamber Festival” at Nissan Stadium.

The goal is not to make the best anime ever, but to create an anime—and source material and spin-offs of the existing anime—that the public will “accept”, as in, win their approval and fandom. Only then do they have a chance against Altair, who has no one, set, official Creator.

As such, the Creators are the ones who take center stage, with the Creations in the background searching for the new arrival. It’s a hit-and-miss affair; watching a limp battle between a bunch of thinly-drawn characters’ personalities in a nondescript room doesn’t exactly set the heart aflame.

However, it does demonstrate the problems that arise from sudden unexpected alliances in the industry, combined with a need to collaborate with one another despite wildly-different styles, all with tight deadlines many Creators are used to blowing by without consequence.

When Suruga draws an awesome drawing really fast right in front of Marine, who takes longer to produce art and doesn’t have a lot of confidence, Marine storms out to have a little cry. When Souta goes out to reassure her, he tells him there’s nothing he can say to convince her she’s not “bad”; all she can do is the best she can and hope this whole thing works out.

The grind of doing so can be painful and make her feel useless, but as the episode title continues, “it’s fun nevertheless.” That gets (the very useless-feeling) Souta thinking: maybe he should contribute something creatively to the operation. We don’t hear any specifics of his idea, but Matsubara and Suruga seem to think he indeed has an important contribution to make.

As for the newcomer, or rather newcomer(there were two such phenomena detected, suggesting two of them), the first appears before Selesia and Kanoya while they’re simply walking around town. She’s a high school student in a green uniform with rose-colored hair—an echo of Mamika’s pink

The new OP (with a nice new theme) suggests she’s from a Romance while the new ED suggests she’ll be on Team Beat Altair. Either way, there’s nothing like a couple of new players appearing on the board to freshen up the game.

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Re:Creators – 13

One thing on which Oigakkosan and I can agree is that one of the best scenes of Re:Creators to date comes at the end of the very first episode: a smash cut from the serious end credits to the newly-arrived Meteora and Celestia going on a convenience store snack spree on Souta’s dime.

It’s a successful scene for so many reasons, among them that it establishes the clever fish-out-of-water dynamic that was later largely abandoned once the battle with Altair began in earnest.

It was also a strong indication that the creators of Re:Creators had a sense of humor, and unlike some Troyca shows, wouldn’t mind cutting loose and having a little fun from time to time.

Aside from some in-show commentary from Chikujouin Magane, Re:C hasn’t done as much as either Oigakkosan or I wanted with the potential established in that first episode’s final scene. Heck, they even killed off my favorite Creation at the time (Mamika), the one with the most ridiculous attacks and sound effects.

Fortunately, and quite to my surprise, that cheeky, mildly self-deprecating tack returns with a vengeance in this, the ostensible recap. It turns out to be more of an Osterreich recap, as Meteora delivers a fun and amusing fourth-wall breaking commentary, even embellishing her own importance and appearance in the story.

Where her potential had been somewhat dulled by being trapped in the show, with Meteora free to discuss things like the synopses of the various characters’ anime (often lifting it verbatim from the official websites), she morphs into a neat audience surrogate, and share her opinions on how things have gone thus far the normal format of the show wouldn’t allow.

The show’s willingness to pull Meteora, the talkiest of the talky creations, out of the world of the show and into ours matches the premise of the show, and reestablishes that first episode potential by making sure my smile rarely leaves my face throughout her recap.

Initially portraying herself as far “sexier” than she really is; taking great pains to explain why Celestia lost her first battle against Mamika so badly; criticizing Yuuya and Alice (AKA Grasshopper Glasses and Muscle Brains) for so easily falling for Magane’s deceptions; it’s all great stuff.

At the same time, we’re getting little glimpses and tidbits of their stories before they became a part of Re:Creators.

After appearing again as a statuesque, scantily-clad pool hustler (with the other characters represented as balls), Meteora saves her most biting verbal venom for the show’s villain, Altair, tearing her character design apart as needlessly, annoyingly complicated, and suggesting that the producers change her outfit to a tracksuit and sandals (which we unfortunately never see, but which I’m sure a fan will draw at some point). Badly karaoke-ing “World Etude” was also a nice touch.

In the final scene, we’re back in the conference room from the previous episode with all the characters assembled, everyone but (regular-looking) Meteora frozen in time while she walks around with a spotlight above her.

Here, before returning us to the “normal format” and those final moments of the last episode in preparation for the show’s second half, Meteora aims to assure those who are concerned about the future of Re:Creators that, far from a sign of diminishing quality and an “industry in crisis”, this recap was always meant to be.

As a recap, it succeeds in going over the various players, where the sides stand, and what’s at stake. But what makes it a far better recap than I could have imagined—and a more effective episode than some of the normal format ones that preceded it—is its willingness to let its hair down and have some fun with its admittedly cool premise.

In doing so it demonstrated bolder, more creative thinking, and gave me fresh hope the show will find its second wind. One thing’s for sure: I’ll never watch Meteora—or listen to her many measured words—the same way again.

Re:Creators – 12

For an episode that purports to have new urgency by doing without the usual OP, this was a jet-cooling return to the less-than-stellar form of some of Re:Creators’s earlier episodes, in which far more is told than seen, things we already basically known are repeated to us so the characters can catch up (almost never a good look), and stakes and details are painstakingly set for a pivotal battle…later.

First off, Souta completes his confession, which was a little puzzling to me, because we, the audience, learned nothing new about what happened to Shimazaki, unlike last week. We knew he chose not to do anything to help her, and that eventually led to her offing herself, and that he ran away and tried to forget about her.

There’s at least a little bit that’s new as we get more interactions between Alice and her creator, whom she’s even more disappointed in after watching Selestia’s creator demonstrate his love for his creation by quickly revising her in the battle. She wants the same thing for herself, so she can save the world, but her creator says it’s up to her.

As he dangles from her flying horse high over the forest, she gets him to admit an embarrassing truth: he actually does love his creation, doesn’t want it to be cancelled, and believes it’s a world that’s worth Febby sacrificing her blood to protect.

She releases him and tells him to draw what he wants for the time being. The bond they’ve forged may make it difficult for him to join the other creators, so perhaps she succeeded in taking a potential weapon against Altair off the board.

Speaking of that weapon, the static group in the boring beige conference room has a nice long chat about Altair’s power and myriad, constantly-multiplying special powers, thanks to fandom. Clearly many a consumer felt a connection to Altair’s aesthetic and background, and she’s all too happy to draw power from people living in the very world she intends to overturn.

There’s great discussion of some clever concepts, including using the resources and reach of the (dubiously reliable) government to build up their own levels and abilities, as well as construct a kind of “birdcage” in the story world with which to capture Altair.

To maximize their power and have any chance against her, they have to create a gripping narrative that will capture and, more importantly, hold the interest and stir passion in their audience. They have to save the world with a story.

Altair may be singleminded but she’s no fool, and wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s a plot afoot to stop her using the same means from which she draws power. But she’s confident she still has the upper hand in the situation (no doubt fueled by the deep-seated despair that brought her into existance in the first place).

She also has a new member of the team to replace the KO’d Mamika: Celestia’s partner, whom I highly doubt Celestia will want to fight. With his arrival, and the popping up of two or three more creations she hopes to get to first, Altair likes her odds in the battle that’s coming.

KonoSuba – 06

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This week lampoons the “Epic Boss Rematch” common to fantasy anime, inverting it in numerous, hilarious ways. First, the Dullahan Verdia has to come to town to confront Team Kazuma and complain about how they haven’t come to his castle yet.

Unbeknownst to Kazuma, Megumin has continued her bombardment of that castle, while Aqua assisted by carrying her home each day. You didn’t think she stopped blowing the joint up just because she didn’t appear on camera doing so, did ya?

Verdia then attempts to look down on the party (having formerly been a noble knight) for not avenging their fallen comrade, only to see Darkness is alive and well and appreciates his praise. It’s only when a fed-up Verdia threatens to slaughter the town that Aqua switches from mocking mode to attack mode.

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Her impressive Holy-based magic proves painful against Verdia, but doesn’t have the effect she intended (utter decimation). Now that she’s shown she’s not the magic novice he assumed, the gloves come off as he summons an undead army to, well, chase Aqua, then Aqua and Kazuma around.

Kazuma gets the idea to lead the army and Verdia into a trap with Aqua so that Megumin can blast them – and she does blast them, creating a giant crater in the earth – but while Megumin is out for the count, her efforts only made Verdia even madder.

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When other adventurers attack him, he uses more of his own magic to apparently kill them, and for a few moments, the show almost seems to enter serious territory, as Darkness is visibly horrified by this turn of events. It’s her turn to take on Verdia, to avenge those dead men, so she leaps into action.

Only problem is, as awesome as she appears as she’s fighting him, her “finishing blow” completely misses, turning her pink with embarrassment. Even so, she wields an effective weapon against Verdia: her ability to weird him out with her masochistic ranting. This is a chaotic party that can keep any foe off balance enough for one of them to discover a weakness, which Kazuma does…and it’s water.

The whole town starts firing water spells at Verdia, turning the battle into a kind of aquatic dodgeball. Amusingly, Aqua wasn’t paying attention this whole time, and when Kazuma insults her, she makes the prevailing issue herself rather than the battle at hand.

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When she finally unleashes her high-level water spell on Verdia, she exhibits the same profound lack of subtlety that is Megumin’s specialty, only with water instead of fire. A vast column of the wet stuff comes crashing down on Verdia, dousing him but also wrecking the city walls. Oops.

Greatly weakened by the torrent, Kazuma is able to steal Verdia’s head, and Aqua finishes him off with Holy magic. Victory is theirs! But Darkness knows that victory came at a cost: she reminisces on her interactions with the three fighters who Verdia killed (another funny send-up of an activity common to the genre), only to turn around to find them alive and well, thanks to Aqua’s resurrection magic, leaving her with egg on her face.

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After a job – well, not well done, but done, the party celebrates at the guild hall (with Aqua getting toasted pretty quickly). Kazuma, to his surprise, his praised by everyone in the hall for his party’s deeds, and they’re awarded a cool 300 million Eris for taking out a General of the Devil King.

With this new fortune, Kazuma announces he’s going to retire and live a simple, quiet life henceforth, abandoning his plans to defeat the Devil King himself. This disappoints his three party-mates, but he doesn’t care. But when the guild official comes back with the bill for all the damage Aqua’s flood did to the city, they end up 40 million Eris in the hole, and Kazuma ends up having to cancel his retirement before he was even finished announcing it.

It’s the very end, when Kazuma laments the possibility of spending the rest of his life fighting battles with this inept party that will often cost more than they’ll make them in profit, that rings a bit false. This life looks like a shitload of fun, with minimal risk. I know Kazuma and I are different personalities, but I don’t see why he’s in such a hurry to leave this world. Methinks he doth protest too much!

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KonoSuba – 05

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I’m compelled to borrow my illustrious colleague Oigakkosan’s “My Goodness!”, as there’s so much good stuff to unpack in this latest  KonoSuba (the first episode I’m actually watching on time!).

First, as Kazuma is lamenting how differently the reality of his dream of cutting it up in an awesome fantasy world has turned out to be, Aqua seems to pick up on that frustration by requesting the party strike out on a new quest. The thing is, she also proves his point, because the main reason she wants a quest is money: she’s tired of working part time in the market and being in debt, not of the fact she’s not on a heroic odyssey.

Fortune would seem to smile on Aqua as she discovers a quest that is right up her water goddess’ alley: lake purification, with a chance of scattered alligators. For that latter bit, she intends to depend on Kazuma and the others, which is when Kazuma borrows from his past world by suggesting Aqua perform the purification from within a sturdy cage (a la shark researchers).

Two problems: transporting her in said cage really makes it look, as she puts it, like some rare beast taken away to be sold. And once she’s been dunked in the lake, where nothing of note happens for hours she likens the sensation to being a tea bag steeping. These are wonderful metaphors borne of a very bizarre and specific situation.

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Of course, those alligators do eventually arrive, but Kazuma, Megumin, and Darkness do nothing in response, part bored into a state of apathy, part confident the cage will hold, requiring no action from them. The cage does hold, the lake is purified, the alligators withdraw, and Aqua completes the quest all but single-handedly…

…but there’s a cost: her nerve. She’s profoundly traumatized by two-plus-hours of being harassed by the beasts as she frantically accelerated her purification. So traumatized, in fact, that she won’t leave the cage even when it’s time to do so, deeming the world “too scary” to return to just yet.

I tellya, if I’d experienced what she had for as long as she had, I’d probably be in a similar state!

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Thankfully, that state doesn’t magically disappear in the second half of the episode, 4-koma anime-style. The episode not only remembers it, but adds a fantastic new variable to the equation: the gallant Mitsurugi Kyouya, who is a veritable wellspring of fantasy tropes KonoSuba puts thoroughly through the wringer, to my surprise and delight.

Kyouya, like Kazuma, died (likely in a less hilarious fashion, though we don’t learn that), and was sent to this world by Aqua with her blessing and the mission to defeat the Devil King. Rather than bring Aqua along with him, Kyouya requested Gram, the Cursed Blade that has made him a very rich and powerful adventurer, complete with fancy armor, jewelry, and a couple of loyal groupies constantly bickering over him.

You don’t get any more cliche’d than Kyouya’s kind, but the show squeezes a lot more out of Kyouya than I expected, turning lemons into delicious lemonade. That’s because Kyouya happens to spot his goddess and muse Aqua-sama being paraded in the streets in a horse-drawn cage, which is decidedly not where he thought he’d see her, ever.

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What follows then, is a glorious clash of Kyouya and Kazuma, or rather Kazuma’s party. While Aqua snaps out of her funk when Kyouya reminds her that she is, in fact, a goddess, she wants nothing else to do with the cat. None of Kazuma’s girls do! It’s as if they’re inoculated against the fantasy hero archetype. More than that; they’re allergic to him!

When faced with his arrogance and presumptuousness for just a couple minutes, Aqua just thinks something’s off about the guy; Megumin thinks he’s rude and wants to explode him, and he evokes a rare and undesirable urge in Darkness that flies in the face of her usual instincts: she wants to hit him. She must realize that if she were in Kyouya’s party she’d never have her masochistic desires properly addressed.

Pissing them all off even more is that Kyouya won’t drop the matter and let Kazuma pass. Instead, he challenges Kazuma to a duel, one Kazuma accepts, starts, and ends in the space of a few seconds, with a few lightning-quick yet fluid moments, Kyouya is on his back.

Kazuma’s inner monologue predicted a duel would eventually take place, but I’m so used to that being a bad thing, that fact that Kazuma wasn’t the underdog here didn’t occur to me until he Stole Gram right out of Kyouya’s hands and bonked him on the head with it (great sound effect on that).

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Then, when his two groupies show up to avenge him, Kazuma continues to fly in the fact of convention by threatening to steal their panties if they press him further, really turning the sleeze up to 11 until the girls are running away crying. It’s harsh, but Kazuma didn’t approach them or their honey; they approached him. Mess with the perverted bull, you get the perverted horns.

One would think Kyouya Team would have learned its lesson, but Kyouya can’t help but be the valiant knight standing up against “Kazuma the Brute”, as he’s known in some circles for his inappropriate conduct with girls. He also seeks to “rescue” his goddess from Kazuma’s clutches, but Aqua responds to his second offer by cold-cocking him, delivering on her earlier vow to sock him if she saw him again.

But even if Kyouya is eminently punchable, Aqua’s violence isn’t senseless, it’s justified. She was looking forward to a 300,000-Eris reward for purifying the lake, but the guild deducted 200,000 for “cage repair” – a cage rendered useless when Kyouya prized the bars. Aqua also shows off her sneaky-playful shrewdness by demanding not 200K, but 300K from Kyouya, which he pays her on the spot.

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Now that she’s rolling in cash, Aqua treats herself to a feast. And as if Kyouya hadn’t been stomped on enough, when he asks for his cursed sword Gram back, Kazuma informs him that he doesn’t have it; he sold it! That’s right; “our” hero didn’t ever even want the damn thing, even though it was part of his original dreams.

I’d like to think getting a good look at the “pathetic cheat” Kyouya has changed his thinking a bit on whether or not things have turned out bad. I mean, sure, he still wants to take on the Devil King, but there are worse things than having three not unattractive women by your side, not fighting over you at all! Plus, think of what all that Gram cash could buy. He could snatch up the stables and convert them into luxury lofts, with bidets and a pot-filler…and a trash compactor!

As for Aqua’s true identity being revealed…well, it isn’t, because Megumin and Darkness simply don’t believe her (having food on her face couldn’t have helped her credibility any). The matter is interrupted by another “emergency”, but at this point I know better; there’s no real emergency. Just the Dullahan, who’s really miffed they haven’t come by his place yet. This guy’s reminding me more of the Black Knight all the time…

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