Engage Kiss – 01 (First Impressions) – A Spare Key for Victory

From the fact his apartment lacks gas and electric when his pink-haired companion lets herself in to try to make dinner, to the fact his ex-partner Ayano foots the bill for his first meal in three days, Ogata Shuu is what is known in Japan as binbou—destitute. Regardless, he seems adamant about living his own life his way, even if his new independent business is not off to a strong start.

His companion, Kisara waits for him in the dark back home, having prepared a pretty impressive feast despite the lack of utilities. When he says he already ate, and vaguely smells of another woman, Kisara goes down a spiral of self-deprecation until he eats the cold repast. When he asks Kisara for the last of her savings for a cash-on-delivery, she posts an Insta of the two of them about to send themselves to heaven with sleeping pills.

But all is not lost. Poor as he is, Shuu still has a seat at the table of companies who bid over contracts to rid their floating city (in the water, not air) spelled either Veyron or Bayron of “Demon Hazards.” There’s a mid-level one wreaking havoc in a central casino, and Shuu ends up with the lowest dollar amount by far (less than $40K, vs. the second-lowest being $112).

The other bidders leave the virtual meeting in disgust, but Ayano’s mom’s company agrees to support him (with Ayano herself) in exchange for a hefty share of the extermination fee. Shuu shows up late for his own operation, but Ayano and her soldiers are consummate professionals as they mow down the demon’s minions.

The demon turns out to be tougher than its estimated C-Class level, putting Shuu’s back against the wall, but then Kisara, having forgiven him, arrives by passing through the floor. The only problem is, while her sword packs a punch, she only gets one good swing, which is deflected by the demon.

Kisara tells Shuu she’s out of power, and needs to recharge. The way she does that is by making out with Shuu, something he both seems to find uncomfortable and enjoys, but also causes him to pass out due to the exchange of energy. During their kissing, Kisara not only shows tongue, but fangs.

If passing through floors wasn’t enough of a giveaway, Kisara isn’t human; she’s a demoness who happens to be a higher level than the opponent in the casino. But initially she’s angry at Ayano for being another woman that exists in Shuu’s world and the two constantly launch attacks at each other that only hit the demon’s multiplying minions.

Their battle is the best part of the episode, but Shuu gets between the two, and Kisara declares she’ll finish his job if Shuu gives her an important token of their contract: his spare key. It doesn’t matter if she can walk right through his door; she wants to be able to unlock and open it whenever she wants, as a sign of his love and his trust in her.

Shuu relents, and upon receipt of the key, Kisara’s attack power reaches 11. The two count down together from ten, with Kisara blasting through the demon hazard’s shields and Kisara delivering the final coup-de-grace with a shot from his pistol. Their mission accomplished, Kisara ends up on top of Shuu and leans in for a celebratory kiss…

But unfortunately both of them went a little too far with the power, compromising the structural integrity of the entire skyscraper, which is actually crucial to keeping the entire city afloat. While I’m sure Veyron City is in no danger of sinking, Kisara flies around the skyscraper, apparently trying to keep it level, while Ayano remarks that B-Class or C-Class, the Demon Hazard they fought never had a chance against Kisara, who is a Super A-Class who happens to be on their side, possibly only due to her liking Shuu.

Part badass demon-hunting, part workplace romantic comedy, and part abject lesson in proper budgeting, Engage Kiss’ first episode is nothing if not…ahem…engaging. Shuu comes off as a useless mooch most of the time but comes through when it matters, while Kisara and Ayano should prove to be strong clashing personalities for Shuu’s attention and the spoils of demon-hunting victory. All in all, a fun and energetic start, but we’ll see if it will make the final Summer cut.

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 02 – Do It, Then Think Later

Remember when the latest season of TenSura started with a bunch of long, boring meetings? Well, in the first half or so of this episode Shield Hero takes the same tack, putting Naofumi and Queen Mirellia in a room full of crotchety generals bickering over who should take command or lead the forces against the rampaging Spirit Tortoise. It’s all…a bit dry?

It seems more fun outside as Filo and Rishia are joined by Elrasla, noted tough old broad, and Eclair, whose dignity and decency I admire even as I rack my brain trying to figure out who voices her (I’m sure ANN will list it eventually). They’re basically at the kids table on standby while the brass talks things out.

That brass is soon joined by the same woman voiced by Hanazawa Kana who asked Naofumi to please kill her last week before suddenly disappearing. We learn her name is Ost Hourai, and while everyone knows her as the concubine of the now-deceased king of the Tortoise Kingdom, reveals that she’s actually one of the Tortoise’s familiars in human form.

She was created to seduce her way to the highest levels of human political power, and then use that power to get them to start wars. The Spirit Tortoise, ya see, uses human souls to stop the Waves. But someone has gone and unsealed the Tortoise itself, and its resulting rampage is not by choice.

Ost is there to help in any way she can, but rather hilariously, none of the advice she offers is anything anyone in the room doesn’t already know. I love how offbeat and quirky she is, it really spices up the otherwise dull meeting scenes (as does the Kevin Penkin score, as always). Also nice is Raphtalia meeting Naofumi on a moonlit bridge that night, telling him if the other generals will follow a good plan, they just need to come up with one.

Naofumi thinks he has one, and will utilize the unique qualities of the various allied kingdoms to pull it off. Manpower, siege machines, mages, and explosives, there’s a wealth of resources with which he will stop, pin down, and eventually behead the Spirit Tortoise. Everyone pitches in, even Rishia and Ost pulling Tortoise research duty at the library.

One night while Naofumi’s suddenly much bigger party is gathereda round a fire, Ecliar mentions that she brought some new weapons and gear from Elhart in Melromarc, including a new sword for Raph, a new gauntlet for Filo…and a stat-boosting Filo mascot suit for Rishia, which is pretty adorable.

It’s while she’s in that bird suit that Ost picks up on Rishia being in love with the Bow Hero, and encourages her to “get intimate as soon as possible” and not overthink things. Honestly I can’t imagine what Rishia sees in that stuck-up prick, but hey, you can’t choose who ya love!

While a bit stronger than last week owing to Ost’s weirdness (and Eclair’s profound uprightness), this was still a table-setting episode packed with exposition and information leading up to the trip to the Tortoise-beheading fireworks factory…and is thus scored accordingly.

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 01 – The Tortoise and the Hero

lot has happened in the real world since the last Shield Hero aired in late July 2019. It actually feels like much more than three years ago…more like thirty! And that’s even taking into account we saw Naofumi, Raphtalia and Filo in Isekai Quartet, the last episode of which aired just when shit was starting to go down in 2020.

Anywho, this episode marks a relatively understated, workmanlike return to the world of Shield Hero, with Naofumi settling in as lord of Lurolona Village, where the old and young, strong and weak alike train for the next Wave of Catastrophe, including his newest party member, Rishia, who rather comically must wear a penguin mascot suit to up her stats.

The relative peace of the status quo is rocked by the sudden arrival of a flock of monstrous bats. Raphtalia and Filo make quick work of them, but Naofumi’s HUD identifies them as “Spirit Tortoise Familiars.” Also, the next Wave countdown has cirously…stopped.

Naofumi and the other Cardinal Heroes are summoned to Melromarc where Queen Mirelia explains what’s happening: the Spirit Tortoise has revived and is starting to wreak havoc on the kingdom that bears its name. However, the other three heroes aren’t interested in assisting. After the meeting Rishia beseeches her former boss Itsuki, who tells her she’s not strong enough to fight for him.

After Naofumi gets Rishia a new sword at the weaponsmith’s, Raphtalia suggests they head to the slave merchant to make Rishia one of Naofumi’s slaves so that she can be stronger than Itsuki’s party members. Naofumi bristles at the idea, as he believes only Raph would volunteer to be a slave.

However, Rishia wants to become stronger, and she’s willing to be tattooed on her decolletage and endure the pain of forming a contract in order to do it. Rishia may be convinced she’s a failure, but if Naofumi and his party can offer her a chance at redemption and to prove herself to Itsuki and her former colleagues, she’s game.

With that, Naofumi’s party loads up the Filo-drawn wagon and journey to the Spirit Tortoise Kingdom to meet this latest non-Wave-related threat. While stopping to camp for the night, Filo reveals her ahoge serves as an antenna for direct communication with her queen, Fitoria.

She tells Fitoria they’re headed for the kingdom, and Fitoria responds that Naofumi will now face the choice she spoke of before: do something about the Spirit Tortoise, but also learn to get along with the other three heroes, or she’ll personally kill them all. Yes Rishia…even Itsuki!

They arrive at the capital of the kingdom as it is already under siege by massive swarms of bat monsters in the air, primate-like beasts on the ground, and scores of refugees running for their lives. They hear rumors that three of the four heroes were already killed going up against the Tortoise.

Filo’s two-way connection with Fitoria pays off again when the queen confirms that none of the three are actually dead; they were just rumors, thus calming Rishia down. Filo and Raphtalia then get to work eliminating the baddies while Rishia leads the people back to the safety of the capital’s walls.

Naofumi ends up using one of his many abilities to lure a huge host of enemies in his direction, then uses Dark Curse Burning to eliminate them all in one fell swoop, though not without bearing a physical cost he can’t hide from the trusty Raphtalia. In the aftermath of the battle, a mysterious, slightly pious-looking woman flat-out asks him to “please kill” her. To quote Rishia … Kweeeeh?

Love of Kill – 02 – Slow Road Ahead

When two of the four shows you’re reviewing are Attack on Titan and Demon Slayer, you tend to have a higher baseline when it comes to production values. Love of Kill did not impress with its visuals this week, and oftentimes, especially when a car model was involved, it downright stunk.

But I’ll watch an ugly show if it has something else to grab my interest. Alas, this episode doesn’t move the needle all that much with the weird quasi-romance between Song and Chateau. He gives her the location of a dead target and a living woman, but a mysterious motorcyclist starts shooting at her, and before she knows it, she’s driven off a cliff.

The woman dies, and Chateau survives. First the motorcyclist pays her a visit and shoots her phone, then Song arrives and takes her to a hotel, where she’s running a fever. She still doesn’t trust him, but she’s in no condition to reject his help. Despite how little the show is giving us and how terrible it looks, part of me still wants to see this through…but I should probably resist that urge.

Love of Kill – 01 (First Impressions) – With a Song in Her Heart

Bounty Hunter Chateau Dankworth (Oonishi Saori) comes afoul of a killer more skilled than she: Song Ryang-ha (Shimono Hiro). He overpowers her, but it’s not her life he wants to steal; it’s her heart. So he lets her go in exchange for her name and number.

While Chateau’s options were limited that night, she quickly comes to regret the one she chose. Song proceeds to constantly text, call, and even send her a video of a target of hers he caught first, and is willing to offer her in a trade.

They meet at a juice bar Song digs, but as you’d expect, Chateau wants to get down to cold, logical business, not juice. Her gambit involves surprising and then stunning him with a taser, but he’s to quick, and almost seems to predict her movements. It’s gotta be frustrating for a skilled killer like Chateau to more than meet her match.

Song’s terms for giving her her target are nothing monetary. Rather, he wants to go on a date with her for Christmas Eve. Chateau, who distrusts anything free but can’t pass up the opportunity to cross a name off her list, goes along with it, showing up an hour late doing the bare minimum needed for their encounter to be interpreted as a “date”.

Song takes thing to a fancy hotel room with a gorgeous city view, complete with dinner and a 1982-vintage wine. Chateau wisely remains at a remove, wondering out loud how Song plans to “use her” and why she’d be “of interest” to him. To Song’s credit, he doesn’t try anything truly vile, and when Chateau wants to leave, they check out.

Before parting ways at the station, Song does get in a quick farewell hug to “confirm” something: her “scent” doesn’t bother him, while everyone else smells “putrid”. We end with a cryptic voiceover portending a “final stop” in their romance “ending in tears”, then a flashback to a young Chateau in the back of a car, presumably her parent murdered in the driver’s seat.

Love of Kill had me feeling a lot of things. Contempt for Song, mostly, and sympathy for Chateau, who couldn’t escape his clutches if she tried. I love stoic, logical characters like Chateau; even though she doesn’t really say or do much, she exudes a wonderfully cool detached aura, which makes Song’s stalking that much more upsetting.

The thing is, as someone rather desensitized to antiheroes (Soprano, White, Draper, and Dexter to name a few), I didn’t despise Song, and even kinda sorta came to understand why he decided to pursue Chateau with such gusto. If everyone in the world “smelled” terrible to you and made you sick, what would you do if you suddenly found someone who didn’t?

So far I can’t really see Chateau falling for this guy, but at the very least they seem to be kindred spirits: killers keeping themselves at an expansive remove from the rest of humanity. Regardless, I definitely want to see where this goes.

Shin no Nakama – 08 – Happy Wife Happy Life

For the second straight week Shin no Nakama wades deeper into plots, false identities and shadow players. But what keeps me engaged and coming back is the wonderfully tender and naturally progressing romance between Red and Rit. The double bed has arrived, and while both blush like beets, they still jump into bed together.

They almost go too far with their flirting (considering the walls are thin and Al’s a guest). Between gestures and facial expressions, the animators put a lot of love into the scene, and I love the detail about Rit being self-conscious about her hand callouses, only for Red to say he likes them, or how both display catlike reflexes when they hear Al stirring.

The scene carries a lot weight, both emotionally and critically, especially considering all the external forces tugging on these lovebirds. Are we being set up for heartbreak? I don’t know; all I know is I’m just not the biggest fan of…any of the show’s various plots, other than Red and Rit’s romance and the plight of Ruti and her party.

Whether it’s the axe murderers ending up as the pawns of axe demons forming contracts with them due to the drug (or something) or Bighawk capturing Al so he can use him as pawn to spark a rebellion against the powers that be in Zoltan…it’s all very meh and distant, in stark contrast to all the good relationship stuff.

Mind you, with the OP and ED this show has, I was fully ready for a show that didn’t have a central plotline, but instead focused on the main couple’s growing love and the details of their new slow life. As new characters and villains are introduced and more things happen in Zoltan, the less interested I become. It’s a weird contradiction.

Take Albert: I knew he laid claim to the strongest adventurer in Zoltan, and had the Champion blessing, but I still didn’t know him well enough as a character to care about the many twists and turns he goes through this week. This more dramatic stuff like Albert saying Red joining him will change the course of the entire world…it mostly just rings flat.

I care about Red, Rit, and Ruti, and that’s pretty much it. Normally that’s not enough for me to stick with a show, but I’m genuinely curious to see how far their romance goes, just as I’m constantly worried for their future.

That’s a tension the show could lean into, but it genuinely seems more interested in Bighawk turning into a goofy white goat man, breaking Albert out of jail, then meeting with Ruti. The show wants to keep expanding the world, while I just want to soak in the warm tub with a cup of mead!

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 07 – Incidental Income

Makoto brings to Rembrandt a talented alchemist in Hazal, but he’s super-nervous, which makes him clumsy. Fortunately, Makoto is able to parkour himself into a position to catch the precious vials of ambrosia medicine. When it comes time to administer them to Rembrandt’s wife and daughters, Makoto employs the same Judo his sisters used on him to put the women into restraining holds without injuring them.

Makoto leaves the Rembrandt manor having cured his beloved family, and Tomoe and Mio are waiting for him. Unfortunately, so is a band of adventurer assassins. Makoto dodges, but Tomoe and Mio intentionally don’t, so as to gauge their adversaries’ power. Turns out it’s nothing to worry about. That’s when we learn that Makoto now has a system for employing his ultra-powerful retainers.

In this situation, that system involves Mio pretending to take the gold of the lead adventurer—named Lime Latte, which does sound like a gross Starbucks drink—and simply sitting this one out. She, Tomoe, and Makoto coordinate via telepathy, making it look like Mio is betraying Makoto for a quick buck. In reality, she has every confidence Tomoe and/or her Young Master can handle Lime and his crew without her.

And they do—obviously—but while there’s no tension about who will emerge victorious, some actual nuance emerges with regards to their adversary. While Lime and his crew agreed that Rembrandt needed to be taught a lesson, he just thought they’d be putting his wife and daughter into a harmless deep sleep. The witch doctor who approached him duped him into something far more sinister.

Our of gratitude and respect for Makoto, Rembrandt spares Lime’s life when he profusely apologizes. Later, Tomoe even gives Lime the katana the dwarves made her—which she deems “imperfect” but is without doubt the most valuable thing Lime has ever touched—and even takes him on as a squire of sorts. Looks like we’ll be seeing more of Lime.

Lime, who unlike the baddies in the previous town is not a manifestly bad guy, but Tomoe, who Sees All, eavesdrops on Rembrandt and his trusty butler Morris talking about the possibility of taking hostile action against the Young Master should his trading company continue to prosper.

This week, the bad guy turned out to be not that bad, while the apparently good guy with the recently cured wife and daughters may not be too good after all. I for one welcome this infusion of shades of grey!

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 03 – The Sorrows of Young Master

~Moonlit Fantasy~ is scratching all the right irreverent isekai itches as Makoto comes to terms with the fact he now has not one but two gorgeous and horrifyingly powerful women in who are also a lot to deal with. That said, no one can blame them for their personalities considering one is a ravenous spider monster and the other was a freaking dragon.

While they’re ever deferent to their master (and grateful for the names he gives them, which also makes them even stronger), things never get skeevy the way they often can in these scenarios, and more admirably, Makoto has no desire for things to take that turn.

Makoto also learns that while Tomoe and Mio are essentially his retainers, they themselves have their own personal armies of dragon men and spider people, respectively. Combined with elder dwarves and orcs, Makoto quite suddenly finds himself at the nexus of a burgeoning multicultural nation-state that would make Rimuru Tempest take notice.

Still, Makoto isn’t primarily interested in statecraft or harems, but in following his parents’ path in this Isekai. Combined with being a bit demi-humaned out, he soon sets off for a human settlement. Unfortunately, the first human he spots—a lovely lass with flowing golden locks—runs away from him like he’s some kind of monster, and when he approaches the town, they’re ready for battle and loose a cloud of arrows at him!

Makoto thinks it’s because he’s ugly, but it’s really because his immense aura appears to humans like he’s being accompanied by several demon lords; plus he doesn’t speak the common tongue, only demi languages, thanks to the Goddess. So over a month or so, Makoto learns Common while an elder dwarf crafts a ring that can absorb and compress his aura.

Armed with this ring (plus many more—a delightful sight gag), a mask, and flanked by Tomoe and Mio, he heads back into town…which is unusually expensive. He also pays a visit to the adventurer’s guild, where Tomoe and Mio’s levels are 1,320 and 1,500, respectively, but despite his power, his is still only 1.

He and his retainers cause a big ruckus at the guild, resulting in them being followed by those adventurers who aren’t tolerant of boisterous newcomers. Makoto assigns Tomoe the task of guarding their wagon while he and Mio go out for dinner. While Tomoe is eventually approached by a group of baddies, Makoto and Mio encounter a little girl in rags…and then the episode ends!

While the baddies will no doubt regret going up against Tomoe very soon, I’m more intrigued by this girl. Whoever she is, and for whatever reason she approached Makoto, she’s prominent enough in the OP for me to presume she’ll play a larger role in the near future. For now, her appearance is little more than a tease, but it wrapped up a very brisk, fun episode.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 02 – Kiss of the Spider Woman

Shen may be a cool beauty now, but Shen finds her obsession with the historical dramas in his head tiresome. She even accidentally draws out a catgirl dating sim and mimics that style of speaking, which is to say it’s clear Ayane Sakura is having a ton of fun in this role. Shen is able to access a “demiplane” that is now a lush and fertile land following her contract with Makoto. After returning to the Orcs, she invites them to leave their wasteland village and settle in the verdant demiplane.

There’s just one hitch: the Black Spider of Calamity is on a rampage nearby, and soon breaches the boundary of the demiplane. Shen is busy princess-carrying the elder dwarf the giant spider was chasing, so it’s up to Makoto to deal with it. He comports himself well as expected, and we get another surprisingly well-animated and impactful battle. To both Makoto and Shen’s digust, the spider seems to enjoy the pain Makoto is doling out, and wants more.

Makoto pours all of his energy into dispatching the spider, passing out from the effort. Shen unilaterally decides that as the spider pretty much matches her own power, the best thing to do is for her to form a contract with Makoto, as she did. The Spider lady does just that, and when Makoto comes to, he beholds her human form: a raven-haired, straight-banged mistress who, while cute, also seems a bit off. She and Shen should prove entertaining companions as he sets off to follow the path of his parents.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 01 (First Impressions) – Oh, The Humanity!

Unknown to regular kid Misumi Makoto, his parents are actually immigrants from another world who made a deal with that world’s Goddess. They were able to travel to Earth, and in return Makoto is summoned to the other world to be its hero in a time of increased strife.

The only problem is, the Goddess is very shallow, and deems Makoto too ugly to be any hero of humanity. She reluctantly gives him the ability to read and write the local languages and dumps him at the edge of her world. Her fellow god Tsukuyomi assures him he’ll be okay, as living on Earth was akin to walking around with heavy weights on his limbs.

Sure enough, Makoto is able to execute a superhero landing on his first try from a several thousand-foot drop. After three days of wandering, he encounters a cute orc girl with very creepy hands being attacked by a two-headed dog. Without even trying that hard, he puts his fist all the way through the great beast, saving but also frightening the orc, whose name is Emma.

But as she can’t fight or flee, Emma takes him home, makes him dinner, and teaches him magic. Turns out while he’s only Level 1, he’s a quick learner. In no time at all he’s conjuring flames without a verbal incantation. It’s all very pleasant!

To thank Emma for her hospitality, he sets out to deal with Shen, to whom she was about to sacrifice herself. Turns out some goblins were using the legend of Shen to subjugate the orcs, and Makoto accidentally kills them all and destroys Shen’s torii gate.

Shen appears in the form of a giant green dragon, and while Makoto is more than a match for them, Shen possesses the ability to trap their victims in an illusion borne of their own memories; in this case Makoto being asked out by his cute, taller kohai. He soon realizes this isn’t real and breaks free.

Shen, who is extremely intrigued by Makoto’s memories of another world, suggests they form a contract, and Makoto agrees. Shen was hoping for more of a 50/50 arrangement, but such is Makoto’s latent magical power it becomes more like 80/20 in the kid’s favor. Shen transforms into a cool samurai-esque beauty. Roll credits and a charming Irish-y ED with Enka-like vocals.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy is one of the latest products to come out of the non-stop isekai anime Play-Doh extruder, containing nothing original and breaking no new ground. But it’s self-aware, well-executed, the pace is brisk and efficient…and I’m a sucker for friendly dragons! It’s no KonoSuba, but its also not as mean, and Makoto is much more likable than Kazuma. We’ve also only met two-thirds of the main trio, so I’ll stick with this for now.

Re: Zero – 39 – Two Clowns at the Mercy of Fate

As with NeverlandRe:Zero’s second season picks up right where it left off when we last tuned in: with Otto administering some tough love on Subaru, who ultimately aceepts the merchant’s offer of help. His confidence and that wry glint in his eye restored, Subaru marches into Roswaal’s room and makes a bet: he’ll save everyone in the sanctuary and mansion without sacrificing anyone, all without resorting to Return by Death.

Roswaal notably doesn’t smile throughout this entire exchange until Subaru makes his resolve plain (and acknowledges the greed inherent in his plan), and Roswaal accepts the bet. Otto wonders if it’s simply because Rosy has never lost a bet. But like, er, an angry mob storming the U.S. Capitol to hijack democracy, there’s a first time for everything, and if all goes according to plan, Roswaal may find himself on the losing end of a bet for the first time.

Subaru isn’t going to rely only on himself to save everyone, but instead rely on and put his trust in his friends and allies. Otto got things started, but he alone won’t be enough. Ram seems intent on remaining on Roswaal’s side, though out of deference to their unspoken friendship she does give Subaru a key clue: that Emilia hasn’t figured out why she’s struggling in the trial, and won’t be able to pass until she does.

Subaru also visits Ryuzu for help, and learns that the Ryuzu he’s speaking to is one of three “supervisors” of the crystal, among the first four copies. Shima was once the fourth, but was relieved of her duties for her role in rescuing Garfiel from the graveyard when he attempted the trials. Thus Subie learns that a big part of why Gar is against the barrier falling is due to the fact his mother abandoned him and Frederica and “chose the outside.”

Emilia is exhausted when Subie visits her and asks her directly to tell him about the trial so far. He doesn’t promise she’ll feel better for telling him, but wants to share the burden of worry with her. She mentions how she was once frozen in ice (as we saw in the Frozen Bonds OVA), suddenly remembers her mother, then recalls a deal she made with Roswaal: if she won the Royal Selection, he would thaw the forest where her folks remained frozen.

Emilia feels she should be ashamed to seek the throne for such “personal reasons”, but our boy Subie can relate, to say the least, and assures her that wanting to help people is noble no matter how small the number. With Subie offering his unconditional trust and support, and helping her take the first step to resolving her trial stalemate, Emilia is able to finally fall sleep.

Unfortunately Emilia doesn’t awaken as peacefully as she falls asleep, as she sees a fuzzy memory of when she was a small child being separated from her mother before waking up in tears. Subaru took the step of pretending to try to harm Emilia so Puck would finally emerge in corporeal form, and he’s there when Emilia awakens.

Her elation is short-lived, as Puck is tiny—able to fit in the palm of her hand—and also has some sad news: he’s decided to break their contract, first forged when she was in dire need of protection from the arbiter Melakeura back in Frozen Bonds.

There are two primary reasons for this: first, the contract is blocking memories essential for Emilia to continue with the trial (and, incidently, life). Second, Puck is confident he can entrust his daughter to the one whose love for her is second only to his own: Natsuki Subaru.

That night, Emilia takes Subaru’s hand and asks him to stay with her throughout the night. With the seal on her memories broken, it will be a long and painful one. In one new memory, Emilia is being embraced by someone she calls Mother Fortuna, telling her that “all the people who told you ‘that kind lie’ wanted to protect her.”

Emilia wakes up, calls Fortuna a liar, calls Puck a liar, and when she sees Subaru isn’t there, calls him a liar. But I imagine Subaru had to leave her bedside to begin implementing all the various conspiracies he’s arranged with Otto. That morning, Emilia is missing, and Ram and Garfiel lead the search, but Subie already knows where she is: in the Graveyard. He sits beside her with an open ear and open heart, ready to help her get through this.

Re:Zero Season 2 Part 2 isn’t messing around. The witch’s tea party is over, as is Subaru’s crisis of confidence and competence, and oh yeah, Puck’s gone, just like that! It’s far more development than I expected, and with Emilia’s memory block finally lifted, her trial can proceed with the aim of raising the barrier on the Sanctuary. Takahashi Rie does some of her most beautiful and vulnerable voice work, and I expect we’ll get more of it.

Re: Zero – 38 – The Starting Line of Resolve

Just as Subaru is dealing with Echidna’s apparent heel turn, along with the antics of all the other whimsical witches, Satella shuffles back into his presence, forever enrobed in black miasma, loving him and wanting him to love her. But for the first time, Satty has more to say about love, specifically begging him to love himself more.

Subie isn’t about to be lectured by a bunch of witches. The way he does things and saves those he loves is his business, and if he has to keep suffering and dying, so be it, as long as he doesn’t lose anyone else like he lost Ram. He’s had so much of his fill of these witches he decides to peace out by biting his tongue and bleeding out.

But when it comes down to it, he doesn’t want to die, or even be hurt. Minerva can sense this, and so heals him with a headbutt. The witches share the sentiment that Subaru is someone worth keeping alive and watching, and so he acknowledges that each one of them has helped him in some form or another.

Heck, if not for Satella, he wouldn’t have Return by Death, his only means thus far of doing anything in this world. Yet when Echidna holds out her hand for Subaru to take, promising him she’ll take him to whatever future he desires, he rejects it. If he’s going to find his value to others beyond his continued death, he feels he must look for it himself.

Before parting, he does take the hand of the most unexpected witch: Satella’s, promising he’ll endeavor to love himself a little more, and also that one day he’ll honor her wish to return and “kill” her.


Of c0urse, even if Subie is proceeding without direct witch assistance, he’s still going to need allies. He awakens outside for once; Otto tells him Patrasche entered the graveyard to retrieve him. When Subaru asks why, Otto mocks his denseness; clearly, it’s because Patrache loves him and cares about him. And despite his tsundere reaction, Otto clearly feels the same way.

But while Subaru has loving friends in Otto and Patrache, he’ll find no such affection from Roswaal, beyond his role as the margrave’s avatar of hope. He insists on Subaru following his recommendations to put Emilia first and everyone else second; Roswall sees Subie as a tool to save only one and no one else. Doing everything for Emilia’s sake, to him, means ignoring everything she wants.

That said, Roswaal believes Subie has yet to find his resolve, and indeed is only barely on the starting line on the road to that resolve. So he forces the issue, copping to having ordered the assassins at the mansion. By creating a situation where even someone with Return by Death can only be in one place at one time, he’s forcing Subie to make a choice: Emilia, or the others.

And I thought Echidna was bad! She’s only true to her nature as a witch of greed; Roswaal is, and fully admits to being, completely insane, and has been so ever since he first saw the witch’s eyes. But to him, insanity is a requisite, not a liability, to achieving his goals, and he wants Subie to be just like him.

Subaru runs out, determined not to be anything like him, but the shock of learning he’s been set up in this way by Roswaal for just that purpose sends him into another uncontrollable fit of despair, running through the forest until he trips and takes a tumble, then repeating over and over what he should do, and coming up blank.

When in such a state, there’s nothing for it but for someone to pull him out, and Otto happily takes up that mantle by punching Subaru in the face. Subtle it ain’t, but it was what Subie needed, when it was needed. Otto scolds him for continuing to put up a brave face right up until he’s on the edge of madness-by-despair.

Hopefully Subaru has gotten the hint that yes, doggone it, people like him, and with our without the witches’ help or Roswaal’s hindrance, they’ll find out what to do together. Unfortunately, we won’t find out what until part two in January 2021, when hopefully things will be looking up a bit in our own world!

Re: Zero – 37 – Seven’s a Crowd

Returning by Death to the graveyard and Emilia, Subaru is more determined than ever to save her and the people of the sanctuary and mansion, even at the cost of his life. But upon returning and begging Echidna for an audience, he starts to experience what a voice much like his own voice calls “unthinkable presents”: visions of the worlds after he’d died and Returned by Death. Worlds that kept going without him.

Again and again, he witnesses what he’s indeed never considered: that in those worlds he leaves, those he leaves behind still suffer his loss, and he certainly feels both the crush of those deaths now compounded by his guilt over causing further pain to those he loves. Then again, this could be the second trial, and not true reality.

Those experiences flash by faster and faster, giving us not only a glimpse of how Emilia, Beatrice and Ram (among others) react to his demise, but serving as a kind of mini-montage of all the times he’s died period, starting from the very beginning. Then, all of a sudden, we hear a familiar voice…of Rem. Rem is there to comfort Subaru and urge him to basically lay down, rest, and let her shoulder his burdens.

Once the shock and elation of reuniting with a conscious Rem wears off, Subaru realizes this isn’t Rem. Rem may love and dote upon him, but at the same time, no one is stricter when it comes to him overcoming the pain and standing back up on his own two feet…Starting Over from Zero and such!

Turns out it’s not Rem after all, but a very flustered Carmilla, Witch of Lust, sent to the graveyard by Echidna to keep his mind from being totally worn away by the trial, an illusion that drew upon his memories. The trial, to, Subaru, would seem to present a series of failures, almost mocking his efforts as pointless.

However, Echidna assures him that he is where he is now due to everything he’s seen, done, and experience, good and bad. It mattered. None of it was a waste. To that end, since he’s here now, she wishes to enter into a formal contract with him, forming a bond between their souls that will enable her to help him when it’s needed, and will grant her the ability to Return by Death with him.

It’s hard to see her sudden dropping of this proposal to be the sum product of a deliberate and calculated effort on her part to butter him up and come across as a reasonable, even benevolent ally. To make her promise to help him achieve the future he wants—not to mention use her body, mind, and soul however he likes—appealing.

When the other witches (including Sekhmet, Witch of Sloth, who constantly yawns!) appear up one by one to warn Subaru not to take the deal—there’s too much fine print Echidna isn’t telling him—she launches into a passionate monologue describing in detail all of the ways she’ll help him, declaring it, essentially, a “vow of love.”

But as with Carmilla as Fake Rem, the vow feels hollow and performative to Subaru. Echidna may indeed be a kind, gentle, naïve maiden, but she’s also a witch, and the Witch of Greed, no less. It is her greed that primarily drives her wish to contract with him, as it would “contribute greatly” to the satisfaction of her curiosity. But that assumes she can ever be satisfied.

By the time miasma is coming off Echida and her face has become more demon-like, Subaru finally asks her what he wanted to from the moment he returned: Does she know Beatrice? Yes. Does she know “that person” whom Beatrice has waited? No. In fact, Echidna always intended, and has been waiting all these 400 years, to see whether Beatrice would choose “that person” herself.

Basically, Echidna is pointing out that she gave Beatrice a raw, cruel deal before asking Subaru to trust her enough to give her a “taste” of everything he is, was, and will be. And Subaru isn’t having it. He declines her offer, and while Echidna looks disappointed and even miffed, she probably doesn’t think her fight for Subaru and his Return by Death is over just because he refused once.

Still, before we see fully how she’ll deal with that refusal, the seventh witch, Satella, makes her appearance, just in time for the second season’s first cour finale next week. I’m hoping she has a bit more to say to Subie than “I love you”!

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