Cautious Hero – 05 – Heaven Hath No Fury Like a Goddess Scorned

With Mash all healed up and Seiya agreeing to let him and Eruru carry his stuff, Rista deems it time to head to the Dragon’s Den to recover a powerful new weapon. Seiya insists on making a stop to the Divine Realm first so that his new assistants can train a bit. After the torture of Seiya, Cerecus is happy to have a normal student in Mash, though Eruru doesn’ t make any progress with the fire goddess Hestiaca.

As for Seiya himself, he almost starts a fight he might not be able to win with goddess of destruction Valkyrie; thankfully Aria is there to calm the “exhibitionist” down. Instead, she introduces Seiya to the war goddess Adenela, whose disheveled appearance gets more and more girly as she falls deeper into love with him, only to be callously rejected, sending her into a fit of rage. Thus, Seiya has now proven a “goddess-killer” in two very distinct ways.

Seiya says sayonara to the Divine Realm, and the party begins their first real quest together, to the Dragon’s Den. Rista learns the hard way that he won’t let her peek at his true levels (the fake-out “1’s” even turn and poke her in the eye!). Mash and Eruru may be useful insofar as they can sense when they’re getting closer due to their dragon blood, but Seiya doesn’t let them actually fight any monsters on the way.

Instead, he simply relies on his “Automatic Phoenix” to instantly destroy any monsters under Level 30 within a certain radius. Mash can’t get close to any monsters, and the Phoenix even rudely knocks down one of Eruru’s fire arrows! Just when the two dragonkin think they can be of help by opening the gate to the den, Seiya simply smashes through it with his sword.

Inside they find a magical circle, and after Seiya tests it on a lizard (bemusing the people on the other side), the party uses it to transport to the remote Dragon Village. There they meet the…ahem, Mother of Dragons Leviae, who shows Mash how to turn into a dragon to boost his levels.

When Eruru asks if she can do the same, Leviae casually tells her that won’t be necessary, because she has a different role: that of Igzasion, the mightiest of weapons. That, of course, means sacrificing her life, something clearly Eruru doesn’t want. As for Seiya, his stone face doesn’t give away much, but could it be he wouldn’t be particularly enthused about Eruru dying?

Vinland Saga – 17 – Not Everyone’s Afraid to Die

The normally cautious Askeladd lashes out at his mutineers, throwing them off balance and allowing Bjorn to escape on the sled with Thorfinn, Prince Canute, and the Priest. But as he contemplates what could be the last moments of his life, he remembers a moment from his childhood when his dying mother told him about King Arthur, who is not only still alive and recovering in the mythical land of Avalon, but will return someday. When he does, she told Askeladd to serve him.

Mutineers manage to catch up to the sled, and realize that there’s no bargaining with Bjorn; if they want the Prince, they’ll have to kill him. Thus, they take the less sporting route by killing his horses, sending the sled and its occupants flying. Finn kills one of the pursuers and mounts his horse, abandoning the prince because killing Askeladd is more important. If Askeladd should die by someone else’s hands, I doubt Finn would ever forgive himself.

Askeladd fights of many of his men, who fall back and shoot him with several arrows, none of which immediately threaten his life (though infection could set in if his wounds aren’t tended soon). Then his life is saved…by Thorkell of all people, who has arrived, and orders his men to kill everyone but Askeladd. The mutineers reluctantly pick up their weapons and die as something resembling warriors, but Thorkell pushes Torgrim too far, and Torgrim simply…goes bye-bye.

That’s when Thorfinn rides in, plowing through mutineers and English alike with his horse and charging towards Thorkell, who without hesitation charges up and uppercuts the goddamn horse like it was nothing. I’ve harped in the past about some of the more supernatural feats of Thorkell and others, but in this case the silliness is a good complement to the seriousness of the situation. Finn tells Thorkell that he’ll kill him if he doesn’t give him Askeladd, and Thorkell is all to eager to let Finn try. Here’s hoping for Finn’s sake this isn’t like London.

Cautious Hero – 04 – Hairy Solutions to Hairy Situations

We pick up right where we left off, with Seiya categorically rejecting Mash and Ururu. He could be a little nicer about it, but the truth is he is far beyond them in power and they would slow him down. But for some reason, when Rista gains wings and tries to catch up to him, he takes his foot off the gas and comes back for her.

Sure, he then accelerates so fast her boobs pop out, but it seems he had a change of heart about having her around just minutes after saying he “so didn’t need her” any more than the Dragonkin. Did he simply appreciate the effort she made to chase after him? Or just remember that she as a goddess can still do things he can’t, like open portals?

In any case, Seiya arrives at the site of the advancing undead army and uses not one but two Meteor Strikes to eliminate them all at once. When he appears fatigued, Rista lets him lean on her, but she’s annnoyed when he states he’s actually very far from having used up all his MP.

With Seimul safe, Seiya holes himself up in room at the inn, mastering synthesis, in particular making use of Rista’s stray goddess hairs to synthesize a powerful sword, but wanting her to provide one thousand more hairs to make more; Rista for her part is not prepared to go bald!

Then they get a delivery: a looking glass through which the Heavenly King Deathmagla presents a captured and tortured Mash. When Mash is defiant rather than begging for his life, Seiya decides to rescue him and defeat Deathmagla in one trip.

After using his goddess hair-infused sword to slice off Deathmagla’s hand through dimensional planes, he quickly withdraws to the Divine realm where the ten or so seconds before Mash is killed is stretched out to fifteen or so minutes, using that time to brusquely ask an amused Ishtar to open a portal to Mash’s location.

Once there, Deathmagla claims to have prepared for every contingency in creating an invincible boss in Dark Firus. But detail-oriented as he is, Deathmagla can’t hold a candle to Seiya’s preparation, as the hero uses previously-unseen high-level blunt abilities and an ice-element bracelet (again, synthesized with Rista’s hair, making her wonder if she has a hair loss problem).

Whether it’s turning back for Rista in the air or choosing to rescue Mash so he can carry his equipment, Seiya seems most motivated by those who demonstrate maximum effort, as he does. With only two Heavenly Kings and the Demon Lord remaining and Seiya’s continued exponential growth, Rista seems poised to save her first world…barring something unexpected.

Cautious Hero – 03 – The Goddessizer

While Ristarte is enjoying tea with fellow goddess Ariadoa, Seiya barges in to announce he’s not leveling up as fast by simply working out. Rista hopes this means he’s finally ready to start fighting monsters, but Seiya, ever cautious, still thinks it’s “too risky.” Aria suggests a compromise: if Seiya trains with a god, there’s no risk of dying, and he’ll level up faster.

Seiya’s all for it, and Aria introduces him to the stubborn Divine Blade, Cerceus, who certainly looks like he could take Seiya on. Rista leaves the two to train without checking in (knowing it angers Seiya), but each day she finds Cerecus in the cafeteria at lunch, looking more and more defeated and demoralized.

It gets so bad that she finds Cerceus hiding behind racks of nori, and learns that Seiya is already over three times stronger than him, but insists on training without breaks or sleep. When Seiya finds him and forces him to keep training , Rista can’t save him, as she’s summoned by the goddess Ishtar (who for the record is arguably less smokin’ hot than the Ishtars of DanMachi or Fate/Grand Order).

It’s both strange, sad, and funny to see Seiya, a human, reduce a god renowned for his prowess and doggedness in battle to a sickly, (relatively) emaciated god who’s lost the will to carry, look at, or even mention a sword. When Cerceus tells Rista her hero is sick, Rista’s grave, knowing look says it all. Still, Ishtar says Cerceus, who was once himself a human, is getting valuable training from Seiya.

Ishtar’s news for Rista was about an imminent attack from the Demon Lord’s armies the next town of Seimul in Gaeabrande. Rista and Seiya are to head to the town’s central church to meet his two allies, the mage Eruru and the swordsman Mash, both Dragonkin descendants. Since the enemy is undead, Seiya tries to buy one thousand vials of holy water to prepare, but grudingly settles for ten.

Seiya suddenly pours some of the water on the priest who introduces his allies, and that priest is revealed to be undead himself. Still, Seiya chops him into pieces without anyone even seeing him move his sword. Before he proceeds to “mop up” with a massively destructive fire spell, Rista just barely manages to get the two allies and a nun to safety.

When Seiya and Rista take a look at Eruru and Mash’s stats, Rista is encouraged, despite the fact they’re only level 7 and 8, respectively. Seiya is less enthusiastic, declaring the two are so not needed. You’d think he’d at least want them as porters for carrying more holy water…or human shields!

Kemono Michi: Rise Up – 03

Runaway Dragon-Girl and her attendant (vampire?) Carmilla join Rise Up!’s main cast this week. One of them gets a body slam and the other tries to eat Genzo’s dog Hiroyuki… before declaring she wants to spend the rest of her life with him. (the dog, not Genzo)

Beyond that, Genzo’s farm/petshop is coming along but he’s gonna run into money trouble sooner than later. (That dry petfood is expensive!) and there are only so many heroes that can call GenzoDemon Beast Killer” and get knocked out, so Shigure can ‘discover’ and pawn the equipment they leave behind. Yes that’s still happening and it’s still hilarious!

If you are familiar with Rabujoi, you know I run out of review-steam when I run out of new things to say about a show. Rise Up! is one of the first good shows to reach that mark this season — it exudes charm and it’s comedic timing is masterful and I love watching it. However, that masterful timing and formulaic comedy sensibility is the only thing I have to say about it?

To that end, I will probably wait until episode VI to give a mid season review, and maybe an end of season wrap up after that. It is absolutely worth watching each week, and looks on track for the top 15 of my Isekai Ranked list. No need to ramble on about it in the mean time.

Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! – 02 (Second Impressions)

Off to a rocky start, Mile settles on “It’s a family secret” as her default answer to Mavis, Reina and Pauline’s probing questions. This does not sit well with the other girls, nor does Mile’s attempt to lie about her backstory by telling them a tall tale… which turns out to be the narrative of the kingdom’s current best selling book. Fortunately, Mile is ‘saved by the bell’ and the quartet heads for their first orientation.

Mile continues to fail at her life goal of low-key living, while succeeding by every other measure. During armed evaluation, she one-hits her opponent for snarking on her flat chest. During magic evaluation, Mile intentionally mimics Reina’s fire spell, but at half-output… only for that to backfire too. Reina’s spell is a custom spell, and being able to cast it after only having seen it once, is beyond comprehension!

After an awkward tea-time interrogation, the girls choose to party-up for the first group assessment: kill 10 horny rabbits, the lowest level monster in the kingdom. To Mile’s consternation, this task proves difficult, as Reina and Mavis’ skills emphasize strength over speed and accuracy. Mile’s solution? Put on a turtle-house master beard, and go old skool dragon ball training montage on her team mates’ assess.

10 dead bunnies later (and a few surprise stone golems) and Mile’s team is the only party to clear hunter prep school’s challenge. What’s more, Mile’s fears that her secret re-life and genius skill rating would prevent her from making friends are proven unfounded. Mavis is inspired by Mile’s demonstration of human potential, Reina finds Mile’s practical examples quite helpful, and Pauline quietly takes note of magic x merchant-trade opportunities.

Little do they know, the B-Rank adventurers they beat last week have been sprung from prison and are will, no doubt, be looking for some payback later in the season…

As a specimen of the reborn in another world with great power (as a reward and not to defeat a global threat) Isekai sub-genre, WNwHdtIyn! further distinguishes itself by forcing Mile to face conflicts her broken power level cannot immediately resolve. Namely, making friends and overcoming her anxiety about being too good in the first place. It’s this anxiety, coupled with Mile’s slightly selfish touristy nature, makes her infinitely more interesting as a main character than other examples of the sub-genre.

Where Mile and Smartphone’s Touya both go out of her way to help and share her skills with strangers, Touya has no motivation beyond “being a good guy.” Toya literally jumps into a conflict between people in a dark alley without knowing what’s going on because… girls? At least Mile has met the inn keeper’s daughter, and formed a report, before being swept into the search for kidnappers.

TL;DR Mile’s character has faults, which grant her nuance. This makes her more of a person and less of an empty proxy for viewer escapism. Considering how played out Isekai escapism is at this point, WNwHdtIyn!’s choice is the right one.

Cautious Hero – 02 – Is This Really Going to Work Out?

First off, while the promo art shows six other characters, I’m glad the focus stayed with Ristarte (AKA Rista, or Listarte/Lista) and Seiya. Nothing worse than introducing a bunch of new characters before we’ve had a proper amount of time with the core duo. In this case, it behooved the show to maintain that focus for their first “town mission” scenario, start to finish.

Seiya flees Chaos Machina to his hut in the Divine Realm to continue working out, even as Chaos beheads one townfellow and threatens to behead Mina’s dad. Things get a bit awkward, pacing-wise, as Rista tries in vain to urge Seiya to get moving.

I really shared in Rista’s frustration during the scene leading up to Seiya’s logical-sounding rebuttal.  Not only does it seem absurd for a hero to just keep doing push-ups while people are dying. When she prepares to storm out, calling him a terrible hero and a coward, he makes his position clear: if he goes in half-cocked and gets killed, everyone in the village—and possibly the world—die anyway. So he must be perfectly prepared.

Seiya seems to be proven right when in the battle Chaos Machina constantly unveils previously-hidden, increasingly more powerful forms to counter his leveling up. But once Chaos transforms into a kind of Bahamut ready to smash him into dust, Seiya blocks her strike with one hand. Turns out the stats on Rista’s scan were grossly underrated due to a “Fake-out” ability. Seiya had more than enough power to defeat any form of Chaos from the beginning!

Because he’s so overly cautious, at least one innocent man died needlessly. Things get worse when, after eliminating Chaos Machina, he repeatedly burns the charred remains—little more than scraps of charcoal—with his hidden abilities, setting all of the town’s shops (and some of its people) aflame. You’d think he could move the collected remains somewhere where there wouldn’t be such horrific collateral damage, but Seiya’s caution only applies to his own survival. More so than Goblin Slayer, Seiya’s an unrepentant bastard.

That’s just one way he’s not quite the hero Rista hoped for; he’s got all the stats but none of the…heroism. Before leaving town, Mina’s dad offers some money as thanks, but Seiya demands all his money…and after burning half the town, too! She also has next to no power when it comes to where they should go and what they should do next; she thinks they should move to the next town, but he demands they return to the Divine Realm so he can work out more…and so they do.

Cautious Hero’s second episode lacks the novelty of the first, but is still both fun and watchable. I appreciated its willingness to let its simple character dynamic play out. Now I imagine it will rinse and repeat with a new and more powerful foe, introduce more characters, or both. I’d say it’s the right time for a new face or two. Otherwise, Seiya being ruthlessly condescending to Rista while spamming enormous fire spells on nothing but dust will get stale.

Kemono Michi: Rise Up – 02 (Second Look)

Between his heroic pro-wrestler muscles, love for animals, and need for cash, Shibata Genzo clears a dizzying number of guild missions this week. Unfortunately, Shigure and… whoever that demon ant is… are the only people who know Genzo’s latter motivations and he is quickly dubbed “Demon Beast Killer” by his fellow guild members. That does not go well for them, of the walls of the guild, in hilarious fashion!

As with last week, Rise Up’s humor is elevated by how straight it’s played. Genzo’s behavior may seem random, but it sticks to a nicely defined character, and that character plays off of Shigure’s limited morality very nicely. However, the contrast truly works because no one else is strange. From bankers to adventurers, the NPCs of this world react to weirdness in a believable way: they are cautious, confused, or simply don’t understand what Genzo is even saying. This interplay makes the limp bodies hanging from the walls and NPC commentary while Shigure steals a downed adventurer’s sword even funnier.

Genzo’s character continues to develop too, this week showing how he thinks of Orcs as basically human. Maybe he gets along with them even better, since ‘speaking with his fists’ resolves his Orc quest pretty quickly. The match itself was rendered quite nicely. Naturalistically may not quite be accurate… but it has a grounded feel. It’s probably what you wresting fantasies looked like, if you had them in your youth?

As a comedic, hero-style Isekai, comparisons of Rise Up and Cautious Hero are inevitable this season. To me, Rise Up gives us more insight into what everyone is thinking and feeling, and also keeps the action more grounded. The result is a bit more plain looking, with fewer opportunities for vivid color and over the top character designs. However, I laughed more often with Genzo and crew. (though not quite as loudly)

In closing, there’s something really nice about how different the character builds are from typical anime. Genzo has a brick wall thickness and weight that further sells the ‘realism’ angle. Heck, even Shigure looks like a muscled adult.

If ratings were simply how happy a show made me, Rise Up would score a 10! Its dedication to well told jokes carries it predictably through. Sure, that predictability limits surprises but it absolutely deserves your attention.

Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! – 01 (First Impressions)

12 years ago Kurihara Misato was a Japanese high school girl with good grades and no friends. She died pushing a younger girl out of the path of a speeding car cliché amd a god-character offered to re-born her in another world +plus give one gift. Feeling her grades contributed to her lack of school friendships, Misato opts for ‘being reborn with totally average powers.’

Misato’s final request is processed more literally than you might expect and “Mile” is born with power equal to her fantasy world’s mathematical mean. That is, exactly half way between the strongest living creature (elder dragons) and the weakest. To Mile’s mild annoyance, that pegs her 6,800 times more powerful than any other human…

Didn`t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! proudly announces what it is from the get go: a completely self0aware reborn in another world style Isekai, featuring a fourth-wall-breaking protagonist who is eager to share her absurd experiences via narration. From her amusement over the gimmicks of her new world (magic is actually thought translation via nano machines!) to screwing with the NPCs (pretending to get her hand eaten by a lifeless gargoyle) Mile and the constant monolog are there to explain the hours away. The result is oddly welcoming and a pleasant reversal of fish-out-of-water Isekai standards.

While you could be excused for groaning about a fifth Isekai running this season, this show is cute and chuckle worthy. Misato was no jaded Tanya the Evil, but there’s just a little snark to how she see’s her new fantasy world, and how she describes the characters living there in terms more familiar to us. (The fire mage is totally a tsundere) In purely Isekai terms, the vibe is enough to make it enjoyable to watch. Far more than Bookworm or Prodigies.

Fruits Basket – 21 – Prince Yuki, The Witch, and The Demon Queen

The cold open was so different from what I’m used to with Fruits BasketI momentarily thought my fansub might be a mislabeled episode of some dark mystery or maho shoujo anime. That is, until the appearance of Hanajima Saki, just before Minagawa Motoko wakes up from her nightmare in her hair bonnet.

Motoko is the third-year rep for the Souma Yuki fan club, Prince Yuki, of which we haven’t seen much since much earlier episodes. But along with her first- and second-year counterparts Yamagishi Mio and Kinoshita Minami, Motoko is committed to “getting rid” of the vile “witch” Honda Tooru.

They believe she has stolen their beloved Yuki’s heart with an evil spell, but she’s under the protection of the “demon queen” Hanajima Saki, whom they must defeat in order to get to Tooru.

If it sounds like these three girls have a case of chuunibyou, well…it kinda is, what with the specialized jargon, military-like procedures, and serial pose-strikin’! But mostly, they’re simply jealous of Tooru and Yuki’s relationship, despite knowing next to nothing about it, and believe their numbers give them the right to determine what’s best for Yuki.

While Motoko, Minami and Mio all have the same idea of Saki’s home (a haunted western mansion surrounded by graves), they’re surprised to find it’s…just a normal house. Her room is normal too, aside from the persistent black-and-purple theme (she even has some of the same shoujo series as they do!).

They’re looking for a weakness…anything they can use. Instead, they find Saki’s little brother, Megumi, who was hiding in the closet and only comes out when Saki tells him to.

Megumi: New friends of yours?
Saki: No. They’re strangers that happen to go to the same school and be the same gender as me.

I love how Saki and Megumi never for a moment stop being the people they always are, but by doing so keep the three Prince Yuki reps in a perpetual state of unease and dread. Saki warned them not to say their names in the house, and later Megumi explains why that is: all he needs is someone’s name to put a curse on them…or to counter-curse their counter-curse.

When the youngest of the reps starts wanting to leave immediately, the three finally come out with it: they want Saki to tell Tooru to stop being so close to Yuki. Megumi immediately takes their position for what it is—jealousy—and in trying to explain that it’s not jealousy, just being mad about someone having something they don’t have, she just ends up…describing jealousy.

Both Megumi and the musical score turn serious when he gravely warns them not to assume they can do what they want just because they like someone, and that pushing such intense love as theirs on someone can burden or hurt them, not loving them back. He asks them to consider how Yuki feels and respect those feelings, before they end up making him hate them.

Then he gravely says their names, one after the other, which sends them bolting out of the house, passing by the youngest (and most normal) Hanajima sibling in the process. They clearly forgot that Megumi could hear them using their names while he was hiding.

Hopefully, Motoko, Minami and Mio learned something from their visit to Saki’s house about taking such strong and unyielding positions about things they know so little about…but I’m not going to hold my breath, because the next day they’ll still have their huge fan club with its book of rules, and their two simultaneous, contradictory believes Yuki shouldn’t belong to anyone, but also should secretly belong to each of them.

Saki, on the other hand, took Megumi’s words to heart about jealousy, because she admits that’s what she’s felt ever since Tooru started living with Yuki, Kyou, and Shigure and had many adventures with them and the other Soumas. She tells herself she mustn’t let those feelings of loneliness make her selfishly think her needs and desires vis-a-vis Tooru are any more important than those of others.

With that, her loneliness is extinguished when Arisa and Tooru arrive at her front door; turns out Tooru doesn’t have to work until later, so she can hang out with Arisa and Saki. That brings a big, bright, very ungothic smile to Saki’s face.

The next morning, Motoko again awakes from a nightmare involving the “demon queen” Saki and hell, let’s call him Saki’s “death squire” Megumi. Minami and Mio also had nightmares, even though Saki teases them that the “curse” won’t take effect for three days.

But like their vilification of Saki and Tooru, perhaps those dreams are nothing more than a manifestation of their ugly jealousy, which starts as less ugly loneliness. After all, not a single member of Prince Yuki can possibly be happy, since they all love him, yet cannot be with him.

*  *  *

After twenty-one episodes, who is my favorite Fruits Basket character? Uotani Arisa. NEXT QUESTION. Who is my second-favorite? Hanajima Saki. NO MORE QUESTIONS. 

Both women are as strong as they are because they are able to be upfront and honest about their “weaknesses,” and while they have no time for childish challenges thrown their way by their would-be, so-called “adversaries,” they’re not above putting a good ol’ scare into them—and not below delivering wise advice when it’s called for. Tooru is as blessed to have them as they are blessed to have her in their lives.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how goshdarn funny this episode was…I was laughing from start to finish at the Prince Yuki reps’ petty machinations and while watching their absolute drubbing at the hands of a young woman (and little brother) they never had any business trifling with.

Machikado Mazoku – 02 – A Demon Girl and Her Money are Soon Parted

Yuuko may consider Momo her mortal enemy, but the feeling isn’t mutual, and that isn’t just down to because Yuuko is so weak (she is) or because she’s so powerful (she says she’s not even that strong as magical girls go). Momo could always just ignore Yuuko and retire to her big modern house after school, but she doesn’t.

She entertains and indulges Yuuko at every turn, as if she’s happy for the company, even if that company wants to drain her blood. At the same time, she could just be playing a very shrewd and subtle long game, with the end goal of keeping Yuuko broke and powerless, which Yuuko’s mom says is the magical girl M.O.

When Yuuko reports her lack of progress, her mom decides to up her monthly allowance to 500 yen (~$5), an extravagant (by Yoshida family standards) budget with which to purchase weaponry to defeat Momo. Her friends end up taking her to the mall and Momo tags along, further proof that she either wants to be friends with Yuuko or wants to bankrupt her, or both!

Looking around in vain for a weapon under 450 yen (she gave Momo 50 as part of a 10-installment repayment plan for train fare) exhausts Yuuko and makes her hungry, and Momo and her friends point her in the direction of an udon restaurant, where she spends all but 120 yen. Momo then points out a soda machine, and Yuuko buys a coke with the last of her cash.

Clearly, neither a war of fists or a financial battle will be enough to put a dent in the pink magical girl. Perhaps nothing Yuuko can muster will ever make her a legitimate threat, even with Momo stepping back from her magical girl duties, she’s still a Level 99 against her 1. That’s why Lilith is poised to join the fray. But more likely than not she won’t be much of a threat to Momo either…

While perhaps not quite as strong as it’s first episode (few second episodes are), I’m still very much enjoying MachiMazo’s blazing color, rapid-fire comedy and cheeky irreverence. So I’ll be back for more!

Machikado Mazoku – 01 (First Impressions) – Don’t Think This Means You’ve Won!

One morning Yoshida Yuuko wakes up with horns and a tail, and her mother reveals that her family are descendents of the “Dark Clan,” whose powers were sealed by the Magical Girls of the “Light Clan” long ago. It’s why her family lives in poverty. But now that she bears the horns and tail of a demon girl, she is named “Shadow Mistress Yuuko” (sent by fax) and must seek out and defeat a Magical Girl in order to restore her clan’s former glory!

The casual blending of the supernatural and the mundane, and the superb, energetic performance of Kohara Konomi, form the beating heart of this slick little slice-of-life comedy that’s also a charming underdog story and a send up of the demon/magical girl genre in which it operates. The moment the town’s magical girl, Chiyoda Momo, rescues her “mortal enemy” from a truck (transforming in just 0.01 seconds!), you know this is going to be a wonderfully extreme mismatch.

At school (which the narrator describes very literally when Yuuko asks “What’s up with this school?”), Yuuko’s friends don’t seem all that concerned with her horns, and soon point her in the direction of Chiyoda Momo, for whom Yuuko is absolutely no match.

Yuuko flubs her words when trying to formally initiate a duel, and Momo doesn’t bother dodging her attacks, letting Yuuko wear herself out. Like when she rescued and then fed her, Momo, while polite, is just barely restraining her arrogance and superiority.

Unlike Yuuko, Momo is rolling in cash from the look of her postmodern mansion and chic decor—but she seems to live all alone with her cat, no one to share all that square footage. She’s bored and alone! When she saved Yuuko it had been a long time since she even had to transform.

Even if they’ll remain “mortal enemies”, perhaps Yuuko could be someone to make things interesting in Momo’s life for a change. As for Yuuko, she’s resolved to improve her offensive capabilities (leveling up from…Level 0), training beside the river as her sister spots her. As she exclaims every time she’s retreated from a fight she knows she’d lose, Momo hasn’t won yet—not as long as Yuuko still has the will to fight.

Machikado Mazoku is a lot of fun, and is backed up by above-average production values and exquisite attention to detail (Momo wears Crocs! The background characters play very goofy games!). It constantly makes fun of itself with characters’ side commentary, and the jokes-per-minute ratio is quite good. All in all, a solid way to spend twenty minutes of your Thursday afternoon.

One Punch Man 2 – 02 – This Isn’t Normal

When the ruffians get predictably rowdy, Sitch sics his heroes on a couple of them, leading the werewolf-like Garo to step to and waste everyone; only Sitch is spared as a witness; Garo promises to be back “in six months.” Hey, even human monsters have to manage expectations!

Meanwhile, both Hellish Blizzard and Sound-o’-Speed Sonic are headed to Saitama’s house. The former is flanked by two goons, while the latter is first detected by Geno’s cybor-sense. Saitama, meanwhile, is just having fun playing with King’s PSP, which he stole and accidentally erased King’s data.

Saitama would much rather spend his afternoon playing games than dealing with anyone, but as usual he doesn’t get his way. Blizzard arrives first, asking Saitama to join her faction, and threatening reprisal if he declines. Naturally, Saitama refuses, and flings her so-called goons off the damn balcony.

Even though he’s just met her, Saitama can tell that Blizzard isn’t hero material as long as she uses weaker people to prop herself up while bullying others into joining her. Saitama doesn’t care about rankings (nor should he, considering how under-ranked he is), and proves Blizzard can’t make him do anything by easily weathering her esper attacks.

In the middle of their spat, Genos and Sonic show up, and Saitama and Blizzard are witnesses to their street brawl. Blizzard is astonished that someone like Genos is calling Saitama his “master”, while she considers Sonic to be another S-Class monster far beyond her abilities.

Genos and Sonic proceed to show her just how powerful they are, with increasingly fast and devastating attacks, but it leads to nothing but a big ol’ stalemate. When Genos loses his temper and prepares to blast the whole damn area to smite Sonic, Saitama intervenes…because he doesn’t want his area blasted.

Sonic thus gets what he wants: another one-on-one round with his “rival.” But again, Sonic is put in his place all too quickly and easily, thanks to a “side-stepping” attack by Saitama that multiplies Sonic’s ten afterimages exponentially. Defeated, Sonic retreats, but promises this isn’t over, because of course he does.

Back at Saitama’s place, Blizzard explains why she’s so obsessed with keeping the top B spot and gathering followers: she’s never been anything but second-best in a family that also contains Terrible Tornado, her older sister. She’s then overwhelmed again when King arrives…only to ask Saitama for his game back.

It’s clear to Blizzard that not only is Saitama no normal Class B hero, but has a preternatural ability to draw the strongest monsters into his orbit, where he can then demonstrate how much stronger he is than those comers. And that’s his appeal: overwhelming power, minimal ego and ambition. He’s a hero for fun. Why do people have to keep making it not fun?

Speaking of which, Garo comes across a Class A hero by chance and ends him without breaking a sweat. No doubt Garo will soon find himself another one of Saitama’s satellites…perhaps they can make each other break a sweat for once.