The Detective Is Already Dead – 06 – Monsters and Maidens

Once Siesta busted through the walls of the huge complex beneath the Houses of Parliament, I knew we were in for some gleefully bizarre action. After explaining how she really doesn’t care about her sidekick enough to beg the government for a top-secret humanoid weapon, she puts Kimi in the only seat in the cockpit and sits on his lap as the pair go up against Hel and her eldritch abomination.

While in theory this would be a pretty cool battle, the execution greatly suffers, with both storyboarding, animation and sound contributing to an underwhelming spectacle. Rather than sitting on the edge of my seat, I was distracted by the fact the show had just written checks it could not cash. To borrow a Top Gear phrase: ambitious, but rubbish.

What keeps this sequence from bottoming out all together is the huming chemistry and always entertaining (if sometimes florid) banter between the Legendary Detective and her sidekick. Yet even as they remind us not to take the mecha/monster battle too seriously, the peril and urgency is suddenly ratcheted up when the battle takes to the skies of London.

It’s here where I kept thinking this could be it; when the Detective who is Already Dead…would die. She even ejects Kimi from the mecha and collides with Hel and her monster in a big explosion as the two combatants fall to the ground in a cloud of dust, smoke, and flame. Somehow, Kimi is able to meet right back up with Siesta, and gives her a hug, telling her never to do that again.

In a heartbreaking moment considering what we know, Siesta promises Kimi she’ll never suddenly willfully die without telling him anything. Then she defeats Hel rather easily by using a pocket mirror—one of her special “tools”—to cause her to stab herself with her own sword. She’s about to finish her off with a bullet when Hell yells “Chameleon!” and then vanishes. Clearly, she had a sidekick…so I guess Kimi was going to be her second?

Hel may not be dead, but neither is Siesta; instead she’s suffered a broken leg, which results in a cast and her and Kimi cohabitating so he can take care of her. She’s loving how much he’s loving this suddenly intimate situation, even if he tries valiantly to hide it. Why else would he head out to buy juicier apples?

It’s that little shopping trip that leads our trouble magnet of a sidekick to the next case, this one involving his discovery of a twin-tailed loli in an Alice dress and striped stockings sleeping in a wooden crate on the sidewalk. Voiced by Kugimiya Rie, the girl’s name is even Alicia, but other than knowing she’s Kimi’s age despite looking ten years younger, she doesn’t remember who she is or why she woke up in a box.

Kimi comes home to a Siesta who was not only wearing an apron (thus fulfilling Kimi’s lifelong dream), but preparing to bake a pie with the apples he was supposed to come home with. Instead, he comes home with an amnesiac girl who ate all those apples, and Siesta’s understandably a bit-miffed.

No matter; Siesta, Kimi, and Alicia discuss the situation over Darjeeling tea and apple-less apple pie. Siesta decides that this is their next case, but since she’s laid up with her injury, she asks Alicia to be the Detective in her place (she doesn’t pick Kimi despite his experience because he just has “the face of a sidekick”). Alicia agrees when she learns she can boss the sidekick around all she wants.

But just as this case gets started, a new one rears its head: Detective Kase barges in without knocking and smokes indoors while reporting that the heart-harvester has struck again: Hel is still at it. I guess we’ll see how Alicia fares as the Substitute Legendary Detective…or maybe the show will switch gears entirely and return to the present. I really don’t know anymore, and I guess, for now, that’s part of the fun.

Read Crow’s episode 6 review here.

The Detective Is Already Dead – 05 – To Hel and Back

This week dispenses with the present day event of Char preparing to reunite with Kimi and takes us back to when he has been Siesta’s sidekick for around a year. They’re on vacation at the beach, Siesta is showing off the ripped abs that make her a formidable combatant; she also gets to see that Kimi is in better shape than she expected.

This continues the quasi-romance, but as important as Siesta ends up being to Kimi in the present once Nagisa shows up with her heart, they never actually dated. That said, Siesta never let Kimi forget she was a woman, he was a man, and if “no one is watching”, why not have a little more fun?

The duo return to business in London where a modern-day Jack the Ripper named Cerberus is poaching hearts of their victims. Detective Kase only shows up long enough to hand Kimi her lit cigar and lighter along with what seems like a tough serial murder case. Obviously, Siesta is already well into this case; the main issue is that every time she gets close to Cerberus they manage to slip through her fingers, suggesting a powerful sense of smell.

Siesta neutralizes Cerberus’ olfactory advantage by using Kimi as bait. At first it looks like Char was sent by Siesta to protect Kimi, but when Char calls Siesta by her name instead of “Ma’am”, Kimi exposes her as an impostor. Sure enough, “Char” is really Cerberus, who is also a werewolf, hence the great sense of smell. Bereft of any other weapon, Kimi tosses Kase’s lit lighter on the bed, starting a fire that activates the sprinklers.

This whole time, a special gas was released in Kimi’s room by Siesta, which when mixed with the water of the sprinklers, blocks Cerberus’ sense of  smell. This allows her to get the jump on him, blasting through the window, shooing him with her silver rifle and delivering a kick for good measure. While clearly fluster moments earlier, Kimi breathes a sigh of relief, implying he never doubted she’d show up in time.

Unfortunately, Cerberus nearly gets away, only to be beheaded and de-hearted by his boss, Supreme Leader of SPES, codenamed Hel (Norse goddess of the dead). With her black hair, red eyes, and evil affiliation, Hel is very much Siesta’s opposite.

Hel uses some kind of magic eyes to stop Siesta dead in her tracks, and then takes Kimi hostage. Cuffing him to a chair in a huge facility beneath Parliament, she reveals a giant monster she’s been feeding human hearts. You’d think someone with this power and reach would have made sure Kimi didn’t have anything on him he could use to unlock his cuffs. Alas.

Hel is interested in Kimi because the Secret Writ she follows already predicts that Kimi will work for her someday in the future. She doesn’t see him as a magnet for trouble, but an entity who brings out trouble; a “pivot point” of the world—the perfect person to have around if you want to “save” the world by destroying its present version.

But yeah, Hel spends too much time talking about her plans and the facility they’re in, giving Siesta time to use an industrial mech to blast through the stone walls to rescue Kimi once more. Kimi is her sidekick, and she’ll be damned if she’ll let anyone poach him.

Want to read more about this episode? Head over to Crow’s!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 01 – The Start of Something Beautiful

My entry into the gorgeous, charming, feel-good world of Cardcaptor Sakura was the Clear Card arc of Winter 2018, twenty years before the original. Now that Netflix has notified me that the original is mine to watch in all its 4:3 late-nineties glory, I simply couldn’t resist.

That’s not to underestimate the scale of such an undertaking: the original series runs a cool 70 episodes split unevenly across two major arcs (compared to just 22 for Clear Card), but you’ll note that I didn’t say when I’d complete this task; just that I’d plan to. It will certainly take a while.

In a show hailed as quintessential Maho Shoujo anime for everyone, Kinomoto Sakura holds the same position among mahou shoujo heroines. If you don’t know her, know that what she lacks in academic ability she makes up for with athleticism, cheerfulness, and just generally being one of the most goshdarn adorable characters in all of anime, both in design and Tange Sakura’s fabulous voice.

It’s honestly pretty thrilling to watch Sakura’s origin story unfold in this first episode. It’s a tale simply and confidently told, and there’s a refreshing quality to the late-90s animation style—not to mention Sakura’s totally bodacious habit of rollerblading to school (something she’d sadly given up by high school). CCS’s production quality in its day was a large part of its wide appeal, and it holds up extremely well.

Sakura’s mom died when she was three, but she has a kind, loving archaeologist father and a big brother who, while a little antagonistic at times, clearly cares for her as well (he also has a best friend in Yukito, on whom Sakura has an innocent crush). She also has a best friend in the super-rich but kind videophile, Daidouji Tomoyo, who will get a more detailed intro next week.

What Sakura categorically wasn’t prior to this episode was involved in anything remotely magical. That changes in a hurry when she hears strange animal noises coming from her dad’s basement study, and encounters a glowing book full of cards. One of them is called “Windy”, and when she says the name, a gust of wind blows all of the other cards out of the house and into the vast outdoors.

While I’d hardly label Sakura an überklutz, it’s somehow appropriate that the genesis of her magical girl status was an innocent moment of clumsiness. When the magical creature who was making the noises presents himself to her as the tiny yellow creature Kerberus, we learn that he too was asleep at the switch, making this card-losing screw-up both their faults.

Kero-chan’s Osaka accent and general cozy casualness about this whole situation makes him as instantly endearing as Sakura herself. But now that Sakura has woken Kero up, her duty is clear: take up the mantle of Cardcaptor and, well, capture the Clow Cards.

It’s a wonderfully elegant premise that promises a vast and deep collection of clever monster-of-the-week stories that all coalesce around that central goal to re-complete the collection. The first card Sakura captures is “Fly”, which takes the form of an ornery bird she must both flee from and chase on her rollerblades…in her pajamas. That’s right, no fancy magical girl battle costumes as yet!

This process, like the next few capture missions surely will be, involves quite a bit of trial-and-error, which is to be expected, but Sakura’s pluck, determination, and heart means once she sets herself to the task, she doesn’t stop until she’s unleashed Windy, restrained and sealed Fly back into the card.

She then learns she can use Fly to…fly, which she does in a beautiful closing sequence that Kero-chan suggests is the beginning of a beautiful working relationship. Sakura on the other hand insists she hasn’t told Kero she’s not necessarily her girl for card-capturing going forward…bless her heart!

After a super-upbeat ED with what sounds like music from a Genesis-era Sonic game (not a bad thing!) we get Kero’s post-credit omake segment, in which he makes keen observations about Sakura’s wardrobe in the episode, among other things. I may have watched Bleach and met its small yellow mascot Kon first, but Kero-chan beats him in the head-to-head matchup every time.

The more cards Sakura collects, the more abilities she’ll have in her repertoire to capture still more cards. The dynamic of Sakura figuring out the best way to utilize those abilities with Kero’s help, as well as the inevitable Daidouji wardrobe supervision and clashes with the villain seeking the same cards, all figure to make this a yachtload of fun to watch.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 06

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And so, aboard a zombie dragon, our variably gallant anti-heroes narrowly escape the clutches of both Azazel and the Jeanne d’Arc-led Orleans Knights–oh wait, scratch that. They’re free for just a few hours before they’re eventually taken prisoner by the latter. But our pals thrive in constant peril, so I wasn’t concerned.

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Azazel, meanwhile, is going to have to try to live (or unlive?) down the humiliaiton of letting Amira and the humans slip through his fingers. Heck, Lucifer won’t even see the man, and both Cerberus and another co-worker are quick to lay into the convert. I for one am glad Azazel’s failure isn’t simply shrugged off. He has to redeem himself, which means going after that God Key.

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Favaro, Kaisar, Amira and Rita are brought before the king in the royal capital of Antae, but their al fresco trial is crashed by not one or two but three angels – Raphael, Michael, and Uriel, who direct the king to place Amira under heavy guard and spare the lives of her companions.

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I love everything about this scene. The angels beaming onto the scene, as if on some medieval teleconference, reducing the impressive-looking King to a mere errand boy. His Majesty assumed the angels would want the captives executed at once, but the angels show everyone a feed of angels struggling to keep Bahamut contained. Amira is one of the keys to Bahamut, and they fear the emotional damage of having her friends executed could make an element that is presently stable unstable.

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Then, after shaking the king’s hand, Favaro immediately proceeds to upset Amira immensely, telling her he’s done risking his neck for her, wants his demon tail gone and to be left alone. It cuts Amira to the quick, and I must say, it’s not Favaro’s best moment, but this is who he is: almost always lookin’ out for Number One.

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Favaro and Amira don’t part on good terms when the former checks out what the demon alert warns of: a group of colossal ghouls headed towards the city. He then watches as Jeanne rides out with her heavenly spear and turns the ghouls into mincemeat with an awesome display of pyrotechnics. It’s a neat reminder of just how serious the demon threat is, and how vital Jeanne’s skills are. One even has to wonder how the city survived in her absence.

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Back in heaven (I guess?) the lady angels direct blame at Bowie-esque Michael for allowing Amira to escape with the key in the first place, causing this tenuous situation. Michael, for his part, did manage to cut one of her wings off, but the fact of the matter is, Amira is able to transform between angel and demon.

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After a night of epicurian delights, a very drunk Favaro settles in for the night against a cold stone wall, but is confronted by an uncertain Kaisar. No doubt Favaro is at the stage in his evening where the booze has stopped flowing and the boobs have stopped bouncing and he can’t help but look back upon how he treated Amira and feel a little regret, and so tells Kaisar to make with the dinner knife he swiped from the dining hall and have at him. He is a nefarious, lying, backstabbing villain, after all. Favaro, naturally, is armed with a fork, which can double as an afro pick if the need arises.

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This dinnerware duel, another novel invention of an gloriously inventive show, is broken up by Rita, who manages to smack both of them in the face with her arm-cannon to announce that Amira has flown the coop. They split up to look for her.

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The mysterious cloaked man who breaks Amira out claims to be able to fulfill her wish: to know who she is and what she was meant to do. He has a gem that glows like hers, and she even entertains the possibility this is her father, though that could just be because Favaro said she had to have a father because everyone has a father. Even though she’s surely quite angry with Favaro, his influence is felt.

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The episode could’ve ended right there, but it wasn’t done yet. We get one of the more intriguing conversations of the show, one between Favaro, who has stumbled upon a stone statue of Bahamut, and an off-duty Jeanne in street clothes. Jeanne tells Favaro the tale of Bahamut, who was sealed when Zeus and Satan sacrificed themselves, and the prophesied hero who would protect the world when Bahamut returned. Jeanne’s people believe she’s that hero, and she, once a simple farm girl, has come to as well.

Because of her own humble beginnings, she questions Favaro’s notion that he doesn’t have anything to do with this mess of angels, demons, and prophesies. I question it too: If booze, girls, and freedom were all he really needed, he wouldn’t be standing in that courtyard talking to Jeanne-freakin’-d’Arc. He met her, and Amira, and reunited with his old frenemy Kaisar for a reason. There’s a greater role than the one he’s settled for so far. He need only step upon the stage.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 05

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Bahamut delivers yet another exceedingly exciting, breathlessly swift-moving episode where no one is standing still long. Favaro teams up with Rita to infiltrate the enemy castle, then convinces Kaisar to put aside his vengence for the moment so they can rescue Amira. The plot is pretty straightforward, which works in its favor, because what makes the episode truly special (and immensely fun) is the execution and details of that plot, along with its ability to utilize — and reward us for — our emotional investment in the characters.

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Last week Azazel snatched up Amira and Kaisar with the tentacles from his boss flying bio-castle, Gregor, and is enjoying a fine repast as Amira is tortured by Pazuzu. I loved the almost office-like atmosphere of the villans’ lair. Kaisar also has to watch, and when he brings up Favaro as the demon who tricked Amira into stealing the God Key, they all heartily guffaw. It’s great how as clearly evil as these guys are, Favaro is even worse than all of them in Kaisar’s mind.

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But, of course, that’s far too harsh, and being far too narrow-minded about who is responsible for who’s downfall and death. But harsh and quick-to-judgment is Kaisar’s M.O. in dealings with Favaro. Meanwhile, Favaro is able to convince Bacchus to lend him his flying carriage, but only if he pays the “fare”, which Bacchus leaves up to him. Favaro chooses to sacrifice his bounty hunter armband — practically his livelihood, up to this point — making him just another outlaw. That’s dedication, especially for a demon-girl who gave you a tail and your childhood friend who wants to kill you.

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Rita and Favaro prove just as irresistable a duo as Kaisar…moreso, even. Unlike the upstanding-to-the-point-of-back-spasms Kaisar, Favaro and Rita remain stubbornly morally ambiguous (although one could argue that Kaisar’s vendetta and bloodlust are hardly morally pure virtues, even if he thinks he’s righteous). For half a ‘mo, Favaro considered the advantages of having Amira and Kaisar out of his hair, but sees that Rita is willing to spring into action, so he follows her lead.

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On more than one occasion, Rita wonders out loud why Favaro is going so far, as if to validate the fact she’s doing the same thing for Kaisar. And so they egg each other on to be the brave, and valiant heroes. And they proceed to kick some Gregor dungeon grunt ass on their way to where Amira is being held.

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Kaisar, who is also there, was told all about what Amira is and what she did, but he ends up being used as a pawn by his captors, who egg him on into taking care of their intruder problem for them. And after all that traveling, Favaro is a half-step behind the rested and super-pissed Kaisar, who’s still convinced Favaro is guilty of putting Amira in danger too. Again, this is a perfectly reasonable position for someone with his level of loathing towards Favaro.

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Rita ends up breaking up the fight by launching her separated arm at his face and calling him a “brat”; which is a pretty awesome way to break up a fight!

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Having had some sense knocked into him, Kaisar agrees to table his quarrel with Favaro until Amira is safe and they’re all off Gregor — but only after Favaro makes a gesture that limits his options in a future he’s classically never planned for: he tells Kaisar when the time comes to face him, he won’t run.

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As all that’s going on aboard Gregor, we get a little surprise: Jeanne d’Arc! Here I thought we had been watching flashbacks of yore, but she’s actually been in the same present as Favaro & Co. all along. In a gloriously staged deus ex machina, she arrives just when the Gregor is about to pass through the gate to the Demon capital of Cochytus. In a particularly bad-ass tactic, her Orleans Knights close the gate while Gregor is only partially in, thus slicing that portion off and crippling it.

We get a good helping of how Orleans fight: with arrows and catapults and spears, all thrown and launched through magic circles that intensify their offensive effect. This time, the battle was in broad daylight, and thus easier to see!

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Favaro and Kaisar work together to take out Pazuzu and use the handy chains and pulleys to lift themselves to safety. Azazel attempts to re-take Amira into custody, but is slapped back and forced to retreat when some form of demon guardian shields her.

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All’s well that ends well, with Favaro, Kaisar, Amira, and Rita flying off into the sunset aboard a zombified dragon, presumably to continue their odyssey to Helheim. But a lot of uncertainty lies on that horizon. Azazel & Co. will be back on their tail before long, as will the Orleans Knights. Favaro has cast aside his career and agreed to face of with Kaisar, and still has a tail. Rita could zombify or eat the others at any time! (though that’s unlikely). And the angels are having a heckuva time keeping an awakening Bahamut at bay, which is an existential threat to the entire world.

But so soon after surviving the day by the skin of their teeth, I’m sure the crew isn’t particularly concerned about what may come tomorrow. Instead, they’re probably content to enjoy that sunset and that smooth ride of that Zombie Dragon, which I’m sure is the name of a band.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 04

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I will never tire of Amira’s many expressions

Put simply, Shingeki no Bahamut simply kicks ass at telling rousing, impeccably-orchestrated stories of adventure. Last week featured a town of illusion and undead ruled by a powerful, devious, but ultimately bored necromancer. Rita ended up following Kaisar looking for a change of pace and a little excitement…and her decision paid almost immediate dividends.

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“D’you even know how to USE that?”

Entitled “Reunion at Ysmenport”, we’re immediately treated to a beautifully-rendered, well-worn and lived-in city; I could almost smell the fish…and other things such cities have. As street swindler ends up giving both Favaro and Kaisar information how where to get where they want to go. Favaro needs to get to Helheim (and can only keep up the lie about knowing how to get there for so long. Kaisar simply wants to get to Favaro.

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Mmmm…you gotta love crab.

What ensues is perhaps the most complete and exciting episode of the series so far, a journey on the high seas with giant sea monsters of varying tastiness, demon sailors, zombie sailors, demon sailors fighting zombie sailors, demon girls fighting sea monsters, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a lot going on!

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Taking an undead necromancer hostage: Not a good idea

But it’s not just action: after three episodes of Kaisar chasing Favaro across the ends of the earth, we finally learn why: Favaro’s dad was the one who attacked the convoy carrying the king’s tribute, which was overseen by Kaisar’s father. Kaisar and Favaro were childhood friends despite being from different classes, but Kaisar saw what happened as a betrayal, and his desire for revenge has driven him on a continuing quest to nail Favaro to the wall.

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Ruff! Ruff!

Oh, and also…the demons in demonworld finally stop commenting on what’s transpiring in the regular world and spring into action! I’m not the biggest fan of the dog-demon-girl with her puppets Cerberus (!), but at least these guys are consistent. Every time Amira transforms, they’re able to locate her.

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All that work, and it tastes like crap.

Amira does so when that giant crab emerges from the deep and threatens the ship…and Favaro. While there was probably no way Favaro could have dealt with the beast himself, it was still a risky move that ends up giving Favaro’s dad’s old friend and fellow “honorable thief”, Captain Amon, an opportunity to reveal himself as having “gone into business for himself”, just like Favaro. The jewels he and Favaro’s dad stole were filled with magic that brought forth killer demons, and only Amon survived, but he did so by becoming a demon himself…a bounty-hunter demon! And right now, Amira’s price is so high, Amon is fine simply killing Favaro rather than turn him in.

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So boss.

Meanwhile, Kaisar and Rita have not been standing still. They secured passage on another ship, which turns out to be pirates who aim to rob Kaisar and sell the girl. What’s so great is that so many people would find this a relatively alarming situation, but Kaisar knows what he’s doing and easily dispatches several pirates with his superior swordsmanship.

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Also, Rita isn’t really a “girl” anymore; not entirely. What she is is someone who you most definitely want on your side. The pirates numbers are meaningless; she kills them all then reanimates them as a freaking Zombie Pirate Crew under her command. It just keeps getting better!

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She rams her newly-acquired (and much larger) ship into Amon’s and that’s when the previously-mentioned battle between amphibious demon sailors and zombie pirate sailors commences, with Favaro, Amira, Amon, and eventually Kaisar literally above the fray in the rigging. Up here we get some Pirates of the Caribbean-style tightrope combat for good measure.

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Frankly, I really liked Amon as a friend of Favaro’s and as a link to his past, but not all baddies can become allies like Rita. Speaking of baddies, after Amon is vanquished, the head demon dude Azazel sends a giant tentacle to pluck up Amira, inadvertently bringing Kaisar along for the ride, too. He stops Cerberus from killing him instantly, but whatever he has in store for the bonus human can’t be good.

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I…I didn’t see that coming! Who am I kidding, I hardly saw anything coming this week, and that’s why it was so fantastic. I was almost always on the edge of my seat. Now we have quite a predicament on our hands: both Favaro and Rita’s traveling companions have been taken prisoner by powerful but unknown foes. Will these two team up to get their respective partners back? I’m guessing Favaro still wants to get rid of his tail, and Rita wants to turn more things undead, sooo…yeah.

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