The Rising of the Shield Hero – 10 – Growing The Party

Naofumi has been scarred by the injustices he has suffered throughout his time in this world. And since a large quantity of those injustices were perpetrated by the Melromarc royal family, he’s instinctively distrustful of any Melromarcs, even Melty, who has shown him nothing but kindness.

As a result, he turns Melty away, despite the fact the Queen sent her to him explicitly to reconcile and undo the harm the King and Malty have done to him. It’s in Naofumi’s best interests to actually trust Melty and allow her to help him, but he just can’t, due to his history and stewing resentment.

But as the next Wave approaches, Naofumi still manages to run into a bit of good karma, as three warriors and two mages whose families he saved in Lute Village offer to join his party and fight beside him. He’ll only trust them if they cough up 150 silver pieces; hardly chump change.

He’s not the only one stiffing people: the cathedral charges fifteen gold pieces per person for the “class upgrades” he, Raphtalia and Filo will require in order to continue efficiently leveling up. When he produces enough for just Raph to be upgraded, an elder sister steps in presenting a decree from the king prohibiting them from providing any upgrades at any price.

If only Naofumi had heard Melty out rather than turn her away, he might’ve found an easier way around the king’s decree. Instead, he has to seek an upgrade through the slave dealer, who doesn’t provide that service but does offer to relieve Naofumi of five gold pieces in exchange for wyvern talons for Filo’s feet.

Filo’s new talons, combined with Raphtalia’s sharp new sword, make quick work of a job request to defeat a monster in the capital’s sewers. That night, as Naofumi dresses Raph’s wounds with holy water, Raphtalia worries about Naofumi’s vow that once all of the Waves are dealt with, he’ll return to his world, leaving her and Filo alone. The discussion is sidetracked when Filo wakes up and accuses Raph of getting “lovey-dovey.”

The next day they head out, encountering a village whose scant inhabitants are starving to death thanks in no small part to the actions of the Bow Hero Kawasumi Itsuki. Once again, the supposed heroic actions of a hero who isn’t Naofumi has appalling side effects.

Naofumi gets to finally confront both Kawasumi for what he did to the starving village, and Amaki Ren for the plague he caused by slaying the dragon. For their part, neither of them stuck around those places long enough to witness the consequences of their actions, and while Ren believes Naofumi, Itsuki doesn’t.

Naofumi’s distrust for everybody that isn’t Raph or Filo is matched only by the other heros’ continued animosity towards him. It’s a vicious cycle, and so far only Ren has taken a logical approach resembling reconciliation. The other two seem like lost causes in terms of ever seeing Naofumi as anything other than bad news.

We’ll see if despite that there will be any improved collaboration between the four heroes when the second Wave appears, which it does by episode’s end. By this time, the five Lute villagers scounge together the silver for Naofumi, who gives them the accessory they thought they were buying without taking their silver.

He tells them instead to use the cash to buy better equipment. They’ll need it in the battles to come. Naofumi doesn’t even trust these people, who owe their lives and those of their families to his heroics. But maybe, in time, he can, and that will lead to him trusting others who mean him no harm, like Melty and her mother the Queen.

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The Rising of the Shield Hero – 09 – In Need Of A Good Heart-Melting

As Naofumi, Raphtalia, and Filo continue mopping up the beasts and healing all the villagers, they come across a nobleborn-looking girl among a pack of lesser filolials (which Filo thinks look tasty, the cannibalistic little imp). The girl, who introduces herself as “Melty”,  falls in love with the far larger and talking filolial, and the two become fast friends.

That night, she comes to Naofumi’s inn, requesting an escort back to the capital. As she’s nobleborn, Naofumi assumes he’ll get a handsome reward for returning her to safety, and so accepts.

But one of the queen’s spies is watching. While there’s more to Melty than meets the eye, she ends up loving riding in the Filo-drawn carriage, and at night strips down so she can sleep within Filo’s dense, thick, luxuriously soft feathers (great Foley work on those feathers).

When they reach the capital, Filo escorts Melty home, while Naofumi and Raph make a beeline to the cathedral, where they meet a particularly haughty and patronizing Pope.

He (or rather one of his nuns) tries to sell Naofumi a bottle of crude holy water for the exorbitant price of one gold coin, but his HUD detects its cheapness, and he ends up with a bottle of the pure stuff. So mission accomplished: Raphtalia should be good as new in no time.

Unfortunately, since they’re in the capital, Naofumi is naturally uneasy about anyone approaching him. When a young, flustered guard does so, he and Raphtalia run away, eventually splitting up to lose him.

In the process, Motoyasu and Malty find Naofumi, and challenge him to yet another duel, since Motoyasu has fallen in love with the girl with angel wings following Naofumi around. He assumes she’s another slave and demands he free her.

This results in a huge dust-up, in which the many city bystanders not only have to dodge Motoyasu’s deadly attacks (he causes quite a bit of collateral damage, the bastard) but end up fighting each other over whether it’s cool for the two heroes to go at it in such a crowded public space.

Ultimately it’s Melty who breaks up the fight, and in the process reveals she’s not only Malty’s younger sister, but heir to the throne, as Malty is a problem child deemed unworthy to succeed the king.

She seems poised to join Naofumi’s party…right up until Naofumi tells her to get lost. He presumes that anyone related to Malty and the king cannot be trusted, and is trying to lull him into a false sense of security so she can stab in the back later.

There’s absolutely no evidence or indication Melty’s intentions are anything other than earnest and good, but I guess Malty did quite the number on Naofumi. There’s really no one he trusts other than Raph and Filo…which could well end up being detrimental to him.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 05

It’s an incremental episode with little action, but I can hardly complain when it’s also stuffed full of nice character beats from everyone. Take Nina, going shopping with Mugaro and naturally assuming he’s a girl because he’s so pretty, and dressing him accordingly. Nina cleans up pretty well herself, not that her standard, practical outfit isn’t nice in its own way.

Nina uses her super-strength to negotiate discounts, but it also allows her to stand up against a pimp-like human for torturing his slaves. Brand-new frilly dress or no, she’s ready to rumble with him and his bodyguards when Mugaro uses his red eye to vaporize all of the demon slaves’ collars, causing their former owner and his goons to flee.

Meanwhile, Kaisar is having a crisis of confidence, unsure if he’s worthy of captaining the Orleans Knights in Jeanne d’Arc’s stead. What’s so wonderful is how he expresses this frustration, inviting Rita to lunch, then sounding an awful lot like he’s about to confess to her. Rita is understandably miffed that Kaisar only wants to rant, and punishes him accordingly, while also telling him the old Kaisar of ten years ago may have been useless, but he was better than this Kaisar.

Bacchus’s moral dilemma intensifies when Sofiel pays him a visit complaining that he’s not doing enough to secure the “child;” but it’s only when Nina returns with Mugaro that he starts to suspect Mugaro is the very child he’s looking for. Sofiel thinks Bacchus is pathetic for not caring about staying in the human world forever, and it’s clear at least a part of Bacchus wants to obey her and produce the child…but another part of him doesn’t.

Getting punched by Rita motivates Kaisar to confront the King once more, and gives some very reasoned arguments, but Charioce argues his position well, too, even if he’s a bit overconfident he can become powerful enough to overcome the hatred his hatred will beget. Kaisar rightly believes Charioce’s way of doing things simply isn’t sustainable, and it’s only a matter of time before a large scale demon uprising is upon them (as we see earlier, Azazel is well on his way to starting it). But Charioce says he’s got it. To his credit, he doesn’t begrudge Kaisar living his life the way he chooses, as long as he doesn’t interfere with him.

One of Bahamut’s strengths is its ability to be so stern and serious in one scene, and so lighthearted and comical in the next—and sometimes both in the same scene. So it’s nice to see Kaisar and Charioce’s political debate followed by Bacchus and Hamsa’s ham-fisted attempt to see if Mugaro has two different-colored eyes, only to wake up and creep out Nina, who delivers swift justice and tosses them out of their own wagon.

No huge movement here, but still plenty of solidly entertaining scenes. Nina in particular continues to be a magnetic presence. I could honestly watch and listen to her read the phone book—which makes me that much more excited to see how she’ll fit into the coming confrontation.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 04

Like GenesisVirgin Soul is about two opposing sides who aren’t willing to compromise in the slightest, thus requiring a third party, impartial or not, to negotiate and avoid disaster. Only this time, the cooler prevailing heads are super-outnumbered, or in Nina’s case, is too much of a wild card herself to enact any change. When Nina hears what the king is doing to innocent demons, she makes a beaten-down Azazel hug her so she can turn into a dragon and put a scare into Charioce.

Instead, all she does is make the king stand in awe of her power, meaning he probably wouldn’t mind using her as a tool in his fight against gods and demons. Nina is, as Azazel says, like a  little Bahamut, which means as chaotic as she can be, she’s far more controllable than the titular beast. She causes plenty of property damage, but she’s in no danger of bringing down the world.

After Azazel’s ill-conceived standoff and Nina’s attack, things slow down considerably, as both are carted away by Rita in Bacchus’ wagon. It’s as good a time as any for Nina to let Azazel (and us) in on who and what exactly she is and how she got to be this way. Unlike other half-dragon children, she wasn’t able to transform easily.

Only when her heart raced from a cute guy does she transform, and then, exposively so. She treats it as a curse and a burden, which it most certainly is from her perspective, as she can’t even remember what she does while a dragon. That kind of loss of control probably isn’t that pleasant, to say the least.

After a half-hearted attempt to seduce Nina (by telling him if she can’t control herself, she should make love to him and let him try), he disappears, leaving Mugaro in Rita and Nina’s care.

Charioce, not totally believing Kaisar’s version of his relationship to Azazel, lets him live regardless since our favorite prettyboy saved the king’s life. Another familiar face is then introduced in the imprisoned Jeanne d’Arc, who won’t join Charioce’s crusade, and may just be the mother of Mugaro.

Then we learn where Azazel went off to: to find the headquarters of the organized demon army that’s itching to go to war with the humans. Azazel is only too happy to lead them in battle.

While there was more exposition and piece-moving than previous episodes, there was still the usual things to like about this Bahamut, not the least of which Nina turning into a dragon again, and her great reactions before and after she does (and her seiyu Morohoshi Sumire is knocking it out of the park). We’ll see if the cooler heads can make any progress with the extremists next week.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 03

Three weeks in, Nina continues to be the season’s MVP, as she lights up the screen with her ebullience. Hamsa puts the freeloader to good use taking the money of men who hope to best her in an arm wrestling match.

While this is going on, Bacchus is approached by the angel Sofiel, brought to Anatae on a mission from Gabriel herself to retrieve the boy we know as Mugaro. If Bacchus can find him, he’ll be welcomed back to Heaven.

Nina’s winning streak nearly ends when a handsome, reluctant young man wearing a hood gives her a run for her money. Still, she’s a dragon, and so summons the necessary reserves of strength to defeat him, going a little too far in the process

But when she lifts her blindfold, the look of him nearly has her transforming, and she has to flee into the carriage.

That night we get a lovely suppertime scene with Nina, Rita, Rocky, Hamsa and Bacchus enjoying a huge meal. Well, Nina enjoys most of it, proving that a body with her strength and speed requires a formidable amount of food to maintain. I don’t think I’ve ever been more entertained by the animation of Nina polishing off an ear of corn.

Nobody at the table is surprised by her ravenous appetite, but when she tells them a bit more of her story, she lets slip the name of her ‘bounty-hunting teacher’ who gave her her bracer: Favaro. Everyone’s reaction to this is priceless. I was surprised too, but it makes sense.

I also liked how when Rita said someone in Anatae knew Favaro better than her, Nina first suspects an old lover, only for that ‘old lover’, Kaisar, to come running towards them, looking desperately for Azazel.

Desperately, because King Charioce, frustrated that neither Orleans nor Onyx succeeded in nabbing the Rag Demon, has decided the next step is to put on a huge show of military force in the city square and start indescriminately torturing and slaughtering demons in order to lure the Rag Demon to them.

Kaisar isn’t at all okay with continuing to brutalize demons or gods, since he considers them friends (whether they do or not). But there’s little he can do; he’s already on thin ice with Charioce, along with one of the younger fellow knights.

As for the king’s plan, it works swimmingly: Azazel makes a dramatic entrance, perched above a tower. A battle is inevitable, but who will be involved? Nina and Kaisar are racing to the scene, and Mugaro looks poised to assist again if Azazel is on the ropes (which he probably will be, as he’s far from 100%).

And if Mugaro uses his power, there’s no doubt it will draw Sofiel to his location. Lots of different interests look ready to interweave. It ought to be quite a battle, as one would expect of Rage of Bahamut.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 02

How did Nina end up safely in Rita’s lab? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Not that I care; pairing the listless, sardonic Rita with the hyper, naive Nina is a great move. Rita’s assistant Rocky was fun too. But like last week, this episode of Virgin Soul ably juxtaposes moments of levity, comfort, and optimism with scenes of unspeakable horror, destruction, and dread.

First, the levity, comfort, and optimism: Nina is still crashing at Bacchus’ carriage with Hamsa, and in her letters to her mom back home we see she’s from a Dragon Village full of dragons in human form who transform into dragons when upset—or in Nina’s case, gets too excited over an attractive man. And there are a lot of those in Anatae.

Yet she insists to her mother that she’s just fine, and having a blast in bustling capital. The montage that accompanies her letter doesn’t seem to suggest otherwise; everyone she interacts with on a daily basis in the city seems to love Nina, and so they should.

Then the Rag Demon, AKA Azazel had to go rain on Nina’s parade, confronting her and demanding she join his cause as a kindred demon. Nina doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and in any case can’t actually look at his face too long lest she turn into a dragon, so it makes for a very interestingly staged discussion.

Azazel has little patience for Nina’s coyness and confusion, so he takes her to the hind end of the city, scattered with suffering, starving demons. Ever since Good ol’ King Charioce sacked the Demon capital Cocytus, the demons have been brought to the human world and sold into slavery.

Azzy is perhaps too zealous too soon (he fully deserves the flying arm punch Rita sends his way to rescue Nina), but I’m glad he puts a crack in Nina’s pristine view of her city life. She didn’t know anything about this horrible stuff because she never looked.

I’m not sure how likely Nina is going to suddenly join Azzy’s cause, which would require her to do the thing she least wants to do: be a dragon. But he provides her vital food for thought, and more importantly, she’s no longer completely oblivious to the very real and very unfortunate situation demons find themselves in.

Kaisar somehow ending up at the manor of some particularly awful aristocrats (who like to do all manner of awful things to demons they presumably buy) seems a bit convenient, like Nina ending up at Rita’s lab safe and sound, but again, I don’t mind. Kaisar and his Orleans Knights were dismissed from Rag Demon hunting after they failed Charioce for the last time. Maybe he was reassigned to security detail?

In any case, he walks in on Azazel killing the humans, and begs him to stop, because revenge will only lead to more hate, etc., etc. Even when Azazel tells him to actually take a second to look around at the despicable doings of the men he’s killing, Kaisar is firm in wanting to stop the killing first and foremost.

Azazel basically warns him to stay out of his way: he’s a human, after all, and humans are Azazel’s enemy. He hates them, and that hatred is as pure and deep as Kaisar’s chivalry.

Little does Kaisar know the king ordered him followed and watched, which leads to Azazel’s location being ascertained by the Onyx Soldiers who replaced the Orleans Knights in the hunt. It’s not a dragon rampage, but Azzy’s battle with the Onyx soldiers is another good one. When his ranged attacks fail against the soldiers’ armor, he goes with straight-up brute strength, delivering brutal blows and stabbing out eyes.

But the Onyx soldiers have the abilities appropriated/borrowed/stolen from the Gods, and they use those powers to bind Azazel. He’s saved by his mute companion Mugaro, a former slave himself, using a power that makes him seem like more of an angel than a demon, and sporting blue-and-red eyes in the process. When Onyx reports back about the kid with the powers, Charioce is intrigued. He believes he knows who Mugaro is.

Another strong, fantastic looking episode, sporting the show’s OP (another stylish, badass, metal affair) and ED (a super-cute 16-bit sidescroller featuring Nina and her entourage). Virgin Soul continues to be top-notch entertainment, with its new star Nina all but stealing the show. Honestly, if it keeps up at this clip, I won’t even mind if Favaro only shows up at the very end, Luke Skywalker-in-The Force Awakens-style.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 01

The age of man revering the gods has ended.

Bold, resonant words from a leader of humans invading and destroying the godly sanctuary of Temple Ark. That’s right, it’s not the gods and demons going at it, but humans, all hepped up on power they’re not supposed to possess. Now we’ve gotten to the good stuff…Shingeki no Bahamut has returned, and it’s just as lush, gorgeous, and engaging as I remember it.

Whither Favaro Leone? That’s one of many questions left unanswered in the season two premiere of Virgin Soul. Instead, we have a new heroine in Nina Drango, who is as adorable as she is tough as nails. She has superhuman strength, speed, and stores of energy, which not only make her very popular in the burgeoning Royal Capital of Anatae, but also give her the idea to take up some bounty hunter work, provided by Bacchus and Hamsa, who grudgingly allow her to crash there.

Nina also has an interesting little quirk that seems like just that at first: she’s extremely bashful around handsome men. And who’s more handsome than King Charioce XVII’s right-hand man Kaisar Lidfort? For chrissakes, he’s got better eyelashes than Nina. The two meet while both on the lookout for the “Rag Demon”, a wanted vigilante who seems to be in the business of freeing his fellow demons from bondage, and also bears a striking resemblance to everyone’s favorite fallen angel, Azazel.

The Rag Demon literally bumps into Nina, sending her flying through the air, and we’re treated to a steadicam shot of her appearing still as the world around her spins around and around and she realizes who it was who bumped into her.

The gorgeous setting is matched by even more masterful direction and camerawork, with lovely organic sweeps, zooms, pans, yaws, pitches POV shots…look, I’m not a cinematographer, okay? I don’t know all the jargon. But I know what’s good, and this is very very good stuff.

Turns out, that little quirk of Nina turns out to be much more than that. Climbing to the top of a tower inspired by the Canpanièl de San Marco in Venice, she comes under attack from the city’s dragon knights, beleiving her to be in cahoots with the Rag Demon. She falls and is caught by Azazel, and her close proximity to him finally causes her to blow: streaking through the sky in a pink flare that lands in a building, then emerging…as a really cute, precocious, cool-looking red dragon.

The city defenses give her a fight, but she’s ready for one, and gives as good as she gets in a virtuoso display of destruction. Even the mecha-like giant fighting suits the humans have are little match for her power, which is just as considerable in dragonform as it was when she was in the form of a 16-year-old girl trying to make it in the city to support her mom back home.

The carnage and destruction continues, until suddenly everything goes quiet and white, and Nina wakes up on an operating table, fan blades spinning above her, and none other than Rita at her bedside, sporting her characteristically ambiguous expression. Bored, tired, unimpressed? Probably none of the above; Rita seems aware she’s got herself a rare specimen on her hands: a girl who can become a dragon.

As for the illustrious and well-loved King of Anatae, Lord Charioce XVII: he is the man we see in the beginning, raiding a sanctuary of the gods and no doubt pillaging divine tech, ignoring warnings that humans will never be able to control such power. Nina, in her naivete, goes along with her fellow citizens in voicing her gratitude for the king.

There’s lots of juicy meat to sink our teeth into in this new Shingeki no Bahamut. Familiar faces and places, an instantly rootable new heroine and a fantastic battle combine to get things off to an auspicious start.

Tales of Zestiria the X – 18

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This week Sorey & Co. finally make it to Pendrago, but not before Sorey meets with Emperor Doran of Rolance, who is sympathetic to Sorey’s cause because he’s been informed of the existence of malevolence, just as have all of his predecessors, by storytellers like Mayvin. Sorey even learns about Velvet Crowe, some of whose exploits we saw in the first season.

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While chatting with the emperor, who has decided to accompany Sorey to the capital should there be any problems with access, Rose is wondering what to do next. She’s done so much in the name of justice and righteousness, and yet she’s never seen the malevolence that is the true cause of the world’s ills, nor has she ever seen her “guardian angel” Dezel. She wants to rectify that.

To do so, Dezel tells her she must become the shepherd’s squire, as Alisha has done. Lailah goes over the pros and cons while everyone is en route to Pendrago, and while Sorey seems reluctant to tie his life to Rose’s (if she fails and he dies, she dies too), Rose is pretty adamant, and there’s never any doubt she’ll be Sorey’s squire.

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When she finally does, it’s pretty abrupt, and in the middle of the city’s main church where the malevolence is intense and focused around a dead dragon. It’s a nice transition from what Rose sees before her transformation to after, when she can not only see the malevolence oozing from the dragon, but Dezel and all of Sorey’s seraphim pals.

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When trying to purify the dragon on his own fails, Sorey pairs up with Rose, who takes on some of the malevolence flowing into him, and after some spirited synchronized yelling, and some tactical support from the seraphim, the blue flames overcome the red, the dragon is purified. The rains cease, the clouds part, and the sun returns to Pendrago. Not too tricky a mission, when all’s said and done.

Of course, the next crisis is just around the corner in a tornado-filled Ladylake, as Alisha reports to Sorey using her squire-telepathy skills. Rose is ready for her next mission as his squire, so they seem poised to head out immediately, having proven beyond doubt to the doubters that the shepherd’s power is not only real, but vital.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 01

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(Disclaimer: I have never played any of the Tales games; my RPG experience is limited to Final Fantasy and Skyrim. Therefore I have no knowledge of Zestiria, its story or its characters.)

Last week’s prologue started relatively upbeat but grew very dark and sinister and apocalyptic very quickly. This week’s episode isn’t quite done torturing Princess Alisha, who faces grief, loneliness, a sea of bugs (which a cute little familiar she apparently can’t sense tries to help keep away), and then upside-down water she drops out of, as if passing from one world to another.

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I love the Alice in Wonderland sense of awe and, well, wonder in Zestiria’s many imposingly beautiful-vista money shots. Alisha gets a brief respite on a sunlit grassy cliff beside a dramatic waterfall. She inadvertently activates a pillar that reveals an entrance to another ruin behind that waterfall, and her lonely quest continues.

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Meanwhile, good friends Sorey and Mikleo have a hobby much like Alisha and her friends of yore: exploring and investigating ruins. On this day they discover what they believe to be the mythical capital of Seraphim, breathtakingly perched off the face of a mountain. At this point, it’s pretty clear these two and Alisha are on opposite sides of this ruin, and will ultimately meet at some point.

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The thing is, Mikleo isn’t human, and Sorey a human raised by Mikleo’s kind, while Alisha is human. That doesn’t stop Sorey from having the same book Alisha has, and the same thirst for ancient knowledge about the Seraphim who foster him.

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Their aged master warned them not to stray too far into the ruins, but curiosity gets the best of the lads, who end up being attacked by lightning that seems to be summoned by the ruins themselves as a defense system. But their only escape from the lightning is to go inside the ruins, where a platform Alisha was standing on was obliterated by the same lightning.

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The ruin is a great RPG-style dungeon with multiple levels, obstacles, and hidden paths that are revealed with Mikleo’s magic. As predicted, Sorey and Mikleo do spot an unconscious Alisha and Sorey rushes to help, against Mikleo’s warnings to stay away from humans.

When Ali comes to, her first question is whether Sorey is “The Shepherd,” and with that, the party swells to three, and she’s not alone anymore. But it’s also clear she’s far she was in the smoke-and-flame-wreathed prologue, down (or up) the proverbial rabbit hole; a stranger in a strange land; etc.

I’m eager to see who she fares here, with the two who will become her quest companions, as well as the assembling of the rest of the colorful party we see in the OP and ED. So far, it’s a fun, gorgeous, richly-detailed show that is still managing not to bury me in lore or jargon.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 14

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It stood to reason Subaru wouldn’t quickly or easily fix things with Emilia, or even figure out how to fix things with Emilia. As disheartening proof, Emilia doesn’t even appear this week; her absence creating a yawning void when combined with where she and Subaru left things. Still, I had no idea things would get so much worse so quickly. And yet they do: Re:Zero lets the shit fly free into a very big fan, and nobody comes out clean.

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What’s devastating about what transpires centers on some intentionally harsh words from Felix that sort of echo what Julius had to say (and what he risked his career and chivalry to try to teach Subie, to no avail): Even if Subaru had a plan, even if he involved himself, even if he risked everything to try to do something to protect Emilia, it wouldn’t matter.

That’s how out of his element he is: those who would be his enemies (or at least the political rivals of Emilia) are doing their utmost to simply keep Subaru out of it, not because they’re worried he’d make things worse, but because he’d only end up dead, accomplishing nothing.

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Subie being Subie, he respectfully dismisses stern warnings from both Crusch (who if nothing else was a decent host) and Felix (who had been healing his gate) and heads back “home” to Roswaal Mathers’ domain as soon as he hears of reports of suspicious movement near the mansion.

The one bright light in the yawning abyss this week was Rem, staying by Subaru’s side no matter how pathetic he gets (indeed, largely because he’s pathetic), not due to any contracts or obligations or honor, but because she wants to.

We know what that means even if Subaru isn’t particularly receptive to it: Rem cares about him, at least as much as he cares about Emilia, and she won’t leave his side. Her “save a tiny bit of that for me”, talking about his feelings for Emilia, might be the saddest line of the show.

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But as far as she takes him, even Rem can’t find it in her to bear Subaru to whatever is going in the Mathers lands. Instead, she leaves for the mansion in the night, leaving a note pleading Subaru to heed her words. Stay behind; wait for her return; trust in her.

He can’t. He uses every means at his disposal to get closer and closer to the place no one wants him anywhere near for his own good. He takes Rem’s note as another endorsement of the “Subaru can’t do anything” narrative.

When he’s running in the dark and becomes suddenly surrounded by a circle of sinister-looking magicians who don’t even bother to kill him before racing off, it’s clear that Yup, he can’t do anything. Not about this.

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In case he didn’t get the message there, he finally arrives at the village near the mansion, and it’s the site of a massacre of men, women, and children. Was this the result of the intense public prejudice against Emilia’s half-elf lineage, which she barely ever mentioned to Subaru? Was it those magicians? I don’t know, but I’ll admit the sight shocked me.

But the village was nothing compared to Subaru entering the Mathers Mansion, seeing a bloody mace, and then coming upon the lifeless, bloodied body of Rem, as she recites her letter to him. I can’t believe Rem is dead any more than Subaru wants to, and though I wouldn’t put it past Re:Zero to make these myriad tragedies stick, one can’t discount the fact Subaru can do something no one around him knows he can do: die, and by doing so, blow up everything that’s transpired to this point.

Will he do that? If he does Return by Death, where and when does he wake up, and what the hell can he do to prevent this? As for if he doesn’t RbD, well…I don’t particularly want to think about that.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 13

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The royal selection process becomes a lot more interesting when Reinhard officially endorses Felt, but you can’t take the slums out of the girl, and Felt turns the court off with her poor breeding and independent, tell-it-like-it-is nature. I’m still firmly on Team Emilia, but I do enjoy Felt rubbing her contempt for the situation in everyone’s faces.

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Rancor builds among the court that just as a sewer rat shouldn’t be allowed to participate, neither should Emilia, a “filthy half-devil” with The Witch’s features. That sets off Subaru, who shouldn’t even be there to begin with, but he won’t stop barking, until Anastasia’s knight Julius confronts him, questioning his claim of being Emilia-tan’s “best knight.”

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Not to side against the protagonist, but Subaru is way out of line here, and I’m not sure I’m supposed to believe otherwise. Emilia really doesn’t want to grab him by the arm and lead him out like a mother taking control of her unruly child, but that’s exactly what happens, and it’s pretty ugly.

Far more surprising, and not altogether plausible, is Old Man Rom’s entry into the throne room to rescue Felt. He’s arrested immediately, and only spared summary execution when Felt changes her mind and agrees to participate in the selection.

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Mind you, Felt’s going to do things her way, which means rule with a healthy hatred of the country she struggled to mightily to survive in, and those who rule it. She breaks off an intense pledge to destroy the country all these rich bastards hold so deal and build a new one in its place. It sounds, on the surface at least, a lot like Emilia’s “everyone is equal” platform, only those who were on top in the old system won’t be equal to the 99% under Felt’s rule.

Felt may be just as contemptuous of the process as Subaru was, but she has a right to be, when considering the life she’s lived and the fact she’s a legitimate participant; Subaru is nothing but an interloper, good intentions be damned. And when Julius challenges him to a duel to show him what the knights he mocked are made of, Subie continues to learn, quite painfully, just how out of his element he is in this arc.

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It’s brutal to see him so out of sorts and so powerless to do anything about it. And this time, he doesn’t even have Emilia backing him up, because he’s going against his promise to stay put, which was a really bad decision.

Also bad? Thinking his Shamac spell would be of any use against a knight of Julius’ stature. Subie cannot lay a finger on him, and gets beaten within an inch of his life for refusing to yield. He also ignores a frantic Emilia’s cries to stop this madness, but he ignores them.

This is about more than just preserving Emilia’s pride—something he’s all too ill-equipped to so anyway—but his pride as well. The only problem is, he’s all alone on this one.

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What’s shocking is just how little Subaru realizes how much harm he’s done in these last two episodes. That makes it that much more torturous when Emilia finally lets him have it after he wakes up from his unnecessary beating. Her anger and disappointment cast a gloomy pall on what would otherwise be another gorgeously-lit bedside scene.

To be fair, Subaru physically can’t tell Emilia about any of the previous timelines, but even if he could, how can she trust anything he says when he so brazenly breaks promises he made to her and causes so much chaos in the midst of a delicate succession process?

The time for second chances and slaps on the wrist are over for Subaru, who has never seemed more out of place in this fantasy world. Bottom line: the Emilia before him and the “vision” of Emilia in his mind, are two different people, and he has to come to terms with that.

What does Subie do to counter Emilia’s litany of harsh truths? He digs himself an even deeper hole, selfishly rattling off all of the ways Emilia is indebted to him. That goes about as well as expected: Emilia agrees to repay all of those debts quickly, so they can then part ways, then walks out of the room, stating how she had—past tense—hopes for him. Ouch.

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So far, in this arc, the bad guy is Subaru, but I hope it doesn’t stay that way. The hole he started digging last week became a virtual mine shaft into the bowels of the Earth, and he has no one to blame but himself. Climbing out won’t be easy, even if he dies and wakes up back before all this awful business at the palace.

At the moment, I can’t see any other way to earn back the trust and respect he lost today than…by not losing it to begin with. But what would impress me even more is if Re:Zero Subie didn’t rely on the Reset button, but found another way to redeem himself.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 12

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No sooner does the Twin Maids arc conclude than the pieces are gathered for the next arc, one centered on the struggle to claim the throne. Those pieces include a grizzled chauffeur who is clearly more than one; a catgirl emissary who turns out to be a guy for some reason, and the other young women vying for the crown, including one who was in my blind spot.

Meanwhile, all’s well at Roswaal’s mansion, and Rem is far more affectionate towards Subaru. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to show us much of Emilia and Subie’s date in the village, but I’m not complaining about the show’s efforts to move on to the next big storyline without undue dilly-dallying.

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Subaru is able to accompany Emilia to the capital, but mostly so he can be treated by the catlike Felix, a skilled magician and healer. But we know what he’s really coming: to look after Emi-tan and make sure no more trouble befalls. her. Emilia, for her part, would rather Subie take it easy after nearly being eaten by evil dogs so many times.

The return to the capital is marked both by reunions with old faces (the apple vendor; Old Man Rom) and new (the lovely but insufferably haughty Priscilla Barielle and her knight). Another knight kisses Emilia on the hand and sets Subie off; I for one think he’s being a bit over-possessive throughout the episode. His heart’s in the right place, but don’t crowd the girl, Soobs.

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Emilia tells Subaru to stay put when she answers the summons for the latest selection process at the palace, but Subie can’t stay put, and Rem, now a solid friend, ally, and admirer, doesn’t make him stay, and even gives him her blessing. Emilia’s reaction to seeing him there—with rival to the throne Priscilla on his arm, no less—is understandable; she was really hoping Subie would prove she can trust him not to go overboard for her sake by giving him One Job, and he could not obey.

Sure, it’s for her to say where Subaru should go and who he should meet with, but it’s not Subaru’s job to watch and inspect every move she makes, either. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s looking like these two could use some space, or a least some perspective. Who are they to one another, exactly, could help inform how they interact and avoid clashes of this nature.

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Two capital characters conspicuous in their absence throughout the episode were Reinhard and Felt, as the last time we saw the two the former had knocked out and arrested the latter. I joined Subaru’s curiosity in what the heck actually went down with all that, and this episode gives us the answers we seek.

Felt is, like Emilia, Priscilla, and two others (one with a Kansai accent, rather bafflingly), a candidate for the throne. Not only that, she’s the one Reinhard will be routing for to become queen. Felt’s entrance at the end is pretty badass, and the look in her face is appropriately bemused and overwhelmed.

Not only that, Felt is someone, like Emilia, I’ve always rooted for, but now they find themselves on different sides of a power struggle, with eager entourages and followings watching their every move. This should be interesting!

Subaru may not have died and reborn in a long time—something that builds its own tension—but for now, that takes a backseat to more pressing issues of imperial rivalry and intrigue, just as Emilia was mostly on the margins of the Twin Maids arc. May the Best Girl win!

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Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 09

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It’s with a semi-heavy heart that I bid adieu to perhaps the strangest Fall show I’m watching. Its episodes are usually fairly fun, but has lacked substance and cohesion. The show’s M.O. is to introduce two or more new cute female characters per week, and the show has gotten very crowded and unfocused as a result.

This week it’s two of Kuon’s “sisters” from her homeland, who baby her like a couple of mother hens. Their treatment of her is over-the-top to the point of incredulity, and we’re talking a show were almost everyone has tails and fuzzy ears. I will say I liked the little mini-arc the Big bird and tiger had, but it’s all just so darned random.

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Random, but at the same time, very workaday. Much of this show has been Kuon and Haku eating and bathing while encountering the new characters of the week, many of whom have stuck around, leading to a huge entourage of people, many of them princesses.

It was  also nice to have Haku inadvertently demonstrate how well he’s come to know Kuon by visiting all of her usual haunts, and going somewhere he knew she’d never go (the BL bookstore) only to find her hiding there. But it’s not much we haven’t seen before, and nothing that reignited an interest in continuing the show for a whole second cour. As you can see, I can barely scrape together 250 words about it. That’s when you know it’s time to say sayonara.

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