The Rising of the Shield Hero – 20 – Strong Bonds

Well, look at that…Queen Mirelia understands that you need to have a camp and supplies if you’re mobilizing a large force. She also understands the need to make a regal impression in front of that force, as she suits up in her armor against the wishes of her Shadows. Finally, it seems she’s ready to take a more active role, promising to bring the Pope and his flock to justice for their treason.

Meanwhile, in the magic Cathedral, the Pope manages to block, parry, or nullify pretty much every attack thrown his way, and unlike his opponents, he doesn’t particularly care if his acolytes push themselves so far they end up dying; he considers that martyrdom (though I bet if you asked him to lay his life down he’d have a different view).

When the other heroes urge Naofumi to break out his “overpowered” Rage Shield, the cursed dragon within takes hold of him. Like Emperor Palpatine, the dragon wants Naofumi to let the hate flow through him—not just the dragon’s hate, but his own, amassed during all the various injustices that have befallen him since arriving in this world.

Thankfully, Raph, Filo, and Melty pull him out of his rage spiral by reminding him that they love and support him, and aren’t about to lose him to the darkness.

Naofumi promises not to let the shield get the better of him, and coordinates with his allies and the other heroes to press the attack against the Pope.

But no matter what feints and combos they throw at him, he calmly deflects it all, and serves up more innane religious babbling as if anyone wanted to hear any more. All the while, his followers outside fall and expire one by one. He can’t keep this up forever.

Ultimately, the Pope decides to concentrate his remaining Mana into a large-scale illusion spell that creates a kaleidoscope of Pope clones along the inner surface of the Cathedral, enabling him to attack his foes from above and every angle.

It’s almost game over for our heroes, but Queen Mirelia casts an Icicle Prison spell that freezes him in place for them to finish off. Naofumi delivers the coup-de-grace by casting Blood Sacrifice, which, you guessed it, requires him to expend the majority of his own blood.

At first it looks ineffective, but the blood creates a mechanical serpent that bursts out of the ground, snatches up the Pope, snaps his staff, and basically dissolves him into a pool of blood. With that, the Cathedral falls, the Heroes are free, the lame boss I never cared about is gone (hopefully for good), and Queen Mirelia introduces herself to the nearly-bloodless Naofumi, apologizing for not showing up sooner and promising not to let him die.

Obviously, he’s not dying—we have at least five episodes left—but hopefully this victory marks the beginning of détente and future cooperation between Naofumi and his fellow Heroes. I’m just glad this Pope-Coup mini-arc is behind us, and that it was resolved in reasonably satisfying fashion.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 07

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After just leaving Aihara Aiko and her squad behind to die, Guren indulges Yuu’s desire to save the hostages rather than kill them to end their suffering and retreat. But since these noble attacks are decoys to allow the main Shibuya force to move without detection, it doesn’t really matter how they proceed at Nagoya city hall, as long as the count of able-bodied soldiers doesn’t go down too far.

Shinoa tells Yuu to be calm more than once when discussing what’s to be done about the hostages, but she’ll suffer no deviation from her orders: if they can’t save the hostages in five minutes, everyone is to retreat, no ifs ands or buts. Narumi’s squad will back hers, while Guren, Shinya, and his team will target Crowley, Belle, and Horn. But as Shinya and Yoichi’s first shot demonstrates, these nobles won’t go down so easily.

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While I can see what the show was trying to do by building up the attack, the orders not to die and the setting of the watches, and all the talking didn’t help the pace of this episode, nor did the apparent contradiction in abandoning one squad to die but saving another in a much more dangerous situation. But when the battle finally begins, things pick up nicely, as we see just how easily Guren’s people can mow down vampire foot soldiers.

Still, it’s nobles Guren is after, and when he finally crosses swords with Crowley, what is surely his best strike is easily turned away. Crowley is more bemused than anything else by the sudden attack, but admits to his two lieutenants that in the short-term, humans can actually be somewhat entertaining. The result of their efforts isn’t in doubt for him, but he’ll patiently see what they can do.

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Guren on his own is clearly not enough against Crowley, but Shinya undermines the element of surprise by announcing he’s behind Crowley. Before he can say “checkmate”, both Guren and Shinya are in a pile, and have to regroup. Meanwhile, Yuu and the others are done early, so under pressure from Yuu, Shinoa decides to dedicate three minutes—no more—to helping Guren out. Interestingly, this week there’s no downing of PEDs, though one would think those would come in handy against nobles as they had in the past. Maybe they took some earlier and they haven’t worn off yet?

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In any case, Guren and Shinya, wounded and soundly outmatched, are forced to scurry from one room to another at an increasingly slow clip, with Crowley and his ladies always catching up. Yet as long as they’re keeping the nobles busy, the mission continues to be a success. It’s just…it would be really nice if these three vampires could be brought down.

But considering how easily we’ve seen Guren take care of Yuu, I don’t see how Yuu is the man to do it. It will have be a concerted team effort, as it was for their first bagged noble. But all that might be moot once Mika arrives. Could he join forces with Yuu to beat Crowley, in service of his ultimate goal to free and protect Yuu from those who would hurt or use him? Stranger things have happened.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 06

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Unlike the foppish Lucal, Crowley isn’t above treating the humans as a legitimate threat, or at least a nuisance more pressing than a smattering of ants at his feet. Testing the power of the demon gear of a dead soldier on his lieutenant Chess, then cutting himself and noting it isn’t healing; he’s carefully assessing the advancing enemy before acting.

But this isn’t out of respect for a worthy adversary. In fact, judging from their casual attitude and banter, Crowley and his ladies are just as certain in the supremacy of vampires. Rather, Crowley suspects the humans are getting help from a high-ranking vampire traitor, and he has a pretty good idea that it’s either Ferid or Krul.

What would surprise Crowly is if his treacherous comrades were the ones having their strings pulled by a lowly human. Such a human might even hold his interest for a measurable amount of time, insomuch as a cool-looking bug would for you or me.

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As Crowley watches, waits, and thinks, Shinoa and Narumi’s squads stand by awaiting the other squads at a rendezvous point. The focus of last week’s battle, here they’re only around for a bit, to show Guren the teams have gelled nicely and that he was right to put Yuu under Narumi’s charge; the two are a lot alike and both enjoy the occasional joke.

But it’s easy to joke around a bit when you’ve come off your last battle unscathed. And the result of a squad that didn’t fare to well is the focus of this week, which could just as easily be titled The Passion of Aihara Aiko. Aihara’s squad of fifteen completed their mission objectives, but lost eight in the process, and Aihara is extremely upset and guilty about it, and her mask of stoicism quickly falls.

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Guren can’t wait for the other squads, so he takes Shinoa’s and Narumi’s and his own and head to city hall to rescue the hostages, leaving Aihara and her men to stay behind in case other squads arrive. Another decimated squad joins them, but so do a couple of Vampire Chinooks. Aihara takes one out with her bow, but the second drops its troops, led by Lacus, Rene…and Mika.

When the vampires capture all of Aihara’s men, she orders them to bite down on their suicide pills. Just like that, her unit is gone, and there’s only her and Mika, who pulls the pill out of her mouth before she can join her comrades. He wants one thing: info on Yuu. And he’s willing to spare Aihara to get it.

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As Lacus and Rene survey the area Aihara and Mika’s exchange is masterful. She’s initially defiant and tells him to go ahead and kill her, but she then gets the feeling there’s something different about this particular vampire while Mika knows she’s met Yuu.

The two then do a little bit of play-acting, with Aihara agreeing to “inform” on the other humans if he spares her life. In this way, she tells only Mika that Yuu is headed to city hall, but sends Lacus and Rene in the wrong direction, which is what both she and Mika want, for different reasons.

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Mika’s fine with leaving Aihara alone at that point, but she doesn’t want him to leave her alone; she wants him to kill her, because her squad, her family, is all gone, and she thinks it’s because of her. She has nothing left to live for. Mika refuses to do it, but she forces the issue by attacking him. She thanks him with her dying breath as she falls to the ground. Lacus and Rene shrug and head off.

Honestly I didn’t remember much about Aihara Aiko until this week, but I will surely remember her now, in this, the tensest and most affecting episode of Seraph 2. Her palpable despair, her sense of loss, her fleeting ‘dance’ with Mika, and the increasing unlikelihood she would come out of all this alive; all of it combined to form a sad but brilliant self-contained tragedy that underlines the challenges humanity faces in directly taking the vampires on.

It also underscored Mika’s single-mindedness. No Crowley- or Hiiragi-type big-picture stuff here: Mika wants to live happily ever after with his family Yuu safe in his arms. And woe betide any human or vampire who stands in the way of that goal.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 05

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This is it; no more messing around: it’s time to start killing vampire nobles. Narumi and Shinoa’s squads plus Shinya are tasked with destroying Lucal Wesker, a foppish vamp who loves drinking blood on his favorite park bench that offers snipers a perfect target. But he sits out there in the open to make a point: he doesn’t fear livestock. He should.

Before they move out, however, Yuu stretches and makes a dig about their target’s name, which is just more ammo for the Narumi team to think they can’t count on these newbies. Both Shinoa and Yuu apologize, with Yuu solemnly stating he only remembers the names of those he wants to protect, then surprises his new comrades by stating all their names, gaining more of their trust.

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Meanwhile, Yoichi is up in a radio tower, learning the sniping ropes with Shinya. But Lucal senses their first shot before they fire it, and sacrifices his right-hand man to block it. He blocks Yuu’s strike with one hand and stops Shinoa’s scythe with his other. At this point Lucal is more displeased with having spilled his glass of AAA four-year-old female blood; it would have been cooler if he’d continue holding it and handle the humans with one hand, without spilling. Alas.

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If nothing else, this fight shows that Guren was right to increase manpower per noble, as Lucal is perfectly able to withstand even a multi-pronged attack with the element of surprise against him. But getting away from one onslaught means sacrificing his own left forearm, which Shiho uses as bait while provoking him to enter their formation, which he does.

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Lucal finally got fed up with being messed with by all this livestock, and when he figures his time is up, he refuses to give them the pleasure of having finished him, doing the job himself. I really thought the redhead Yayoi Endo was a goner, but Lucal merely shoved her aside. Their mission is a success, and the Narumi team learns that the Shinoa team, and even Yuu, are people they can put their trust in. It was an enlightening, complete team effort.

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But these two teams are clearly two of the best; after all, three teams each were sent after other nobles. We watched the best take care of business, but the not-best didn’t fare so well. Their hard-won victory begs the question of how the other teams are doing. We don’t see them, but instead check in on Guren as he barely finishes a noble on his own; his elite team of five is working alone.

A dying survivor then arrives to report to Guren that the city hall team’s mission was a fiasco: 26 killed, 19 taken hostage. Guren knows it’s a trap. His comrades know its a trap. But they have to go anyway. His team will join with Narumi and Shinoa’s squad, and take out the target: 13th Progenitor Crowley Eusford, who I recognize from last season as the first noble Yuu & Co. encountered. I bet he’ll be a bit tougher to bring down than Lucal.

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OverLord – 10

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News from Albedo that “Shalltear has revolted” was definitely a nice stab to end last week’s battle with Clementine and Khajit, and left me with a complex response. On the one hand, if it’s true that Shalltear revolted, it means this world is a lot more dangerous than had been apparent thus far.

But if Albedo was simply overreacting based on her latent dislike of and rivalry with the vampiress, it still speaks to a trend of internal court strife that started out playful and harmless but could spell big trouble, even for the Supreme Lord.

I’m pleased, then, that the actually answer to the question of what happened with Shalltear fell somewhere between those two possibilities, with qualities of both.

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I’m also pleased that OverLord’s quality of storytelling did not falter greatly just because Momonga was out of the picture for the vast majority of the episode. He’s a powerful, dominant presence both in the world and show, so his absence, while felt, was mitigated by giving us a closer look at Shalltear, including her downright frightening “attack” form.

Like Albedo and Narbarel, she looks about as far down as humans as one can, but goes further, looking upon them as food, or, at best, an entertaining “playmate.” But someone who considers humans even more as mere food and toys is the accompanying maid Solution, who is beautiful and seductive, but in reality is a shape-shifting slime monster whose boobs turn into a mouth that swallows a hapless dolt whole.

But interestingly, it’s not a total cakewalk for Shalltear & Co., at least not as much as it was for other Nazarickians thus far. Shalltear not only comes across the redhead to whom Momon gave a red potion (which she uses to save herself), but a well-coordinated force of NPCs manages to hold off a few of Shalltear’s attacks, and may or may not have taken temporary control of her mind.

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It’s that event, and its registry on the master screen, that causes Albedo to suspect a revolt. We can be reasonably clear she’s mistaken, however, and that the reality is more complicated; another mystery Momonga has to figure out with that big bony head of his. I appreciate the nuance of the situation, which is far more interesting than if Shalltear had suddenly decided to rebel against the lord she’s always loved (long before Momonga altered Albedo’s personality to love him), which would be way out of character.

And that’s also something the show keeps present in our own heads: the (anti-)heroes of Nazarick who serve Lord Ains Ooal Gown are the product and offspring of their creators, “supreme beings” like Ains who just happened to also be his friends (at least friends within the game, if not outside of it in the “real world”). As such, aside from his love hack of Albedo which was his doing, everyone who serves Momonga is acting in accordance with the parameters set by their creators, i.e. those friends of his.

So if it was Shalltear’s creator’s will that she revolt against Ains, so be it…but neither I nor Momonga are willing to concede that absent further information. For now, he simply has to find Shalltear…and hope whatever she has doesn’t spread to his other generals.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 07

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This week the Supernatural Club changes the future, not to save lives (as in Steins;Gate) but to save reputations. No one wants to be pegged as the one who set fire to the old school building, after all.

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Yamada and Miyamura end up at the house of “shut-in” Sarushima Maria, a returnee who also happens to be a witch. Her power is precognition, and saw sees a future in which she was blamed for burning the building, which is why she doesn’t go to school.

Then Yamada appeared beside her in the vision, which why she expects his arrival. He tells her the first step to figuring this whole thing out is by kissing her, which she agrees to. What Yamada wasn’t expecting was a french kiss!

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Yamada experiments on his new copied power by kissing Miyamura, then gets a vision of being slapped, which comes to pass when Nene stops by and her skirt caught on her sweater, revealing her panties. But because his vision is from Miyamura’s POV, Urara determines that Maria’s vision is being seen by another person, who could be the arsonist.

Maria admits she did kiss one other guy (and likely french kissed him, at that): one Tsubaki Kentarou, an old friend and fellow returnee. Yamada confronts this Tsubaki, who promptly tells him he’s in love with Urara and wants Yamada to arrange a meet-up for them.

Tsubaki then leads Yamada to the old school building, site of the fire, to do something he does whenever he gets depressed: make tempura. While insanely random, it does explain how the school gets set on fire; it’s an accident; one that they must now prevent.

The next day, when Tsubaki is expecting Urara, he gets Yamada and Miyamura instead, with Yamada insisting they kiss. But not only is Tsubaki not into guys, he’s extremely strong, and the other guys are unable to get him to kiss Yamada.

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That gambit failed, and they return to the clubroom to find Maria there, who knew it would fail. She came to kiss (i.e. french) Itou, who witnessed the fire from the club room where a clock read 8:03 PM. (BTW, I love how tall Maria turns out to be—she reminds me of Kino Makoto—and the fact Itou seems to be instantly smitten with her, perhaps due to that french kiss)

That means if they can keep Tsubaki from cooking tempura past that time, the future will change and the fire in her vision will be prevented. But how to do that? The episode doesn’t make it so easy. Tsubaki certainly wouldn’t cook tempura if Urara accepted his confession, but she can’t do that, because as we know, she likes Yamada.

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Yamada believes he’s cracked it: switch bodies with Urara and agree to a date with Tsubaki while delaying a situation where he could confess to her as long as possible, thus staving off the fire. This is another episode in which Yamada’s brute strength is useless and he depends on his friends to help him sort through the tangle of temporal probabilities.So I like his little dance as Urara when Tsubaki agrees to the plan.

Only problem is, Maria still sees the school fire in the future, only this time Itou (very hot and bothered by another Maria frenching) is with them at the fire now rather than by the clock. Worse still, Yamada-as-Urara stumbles into an extremely romantic place while parting ways with Tsubaki, and Tsubaki follows her and exploits that location to confess.

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This puts Yamada in the unenviable position of having to answer a confession aimed at Urara, but Urara, in his body, prevents him from saying anything by kissing. Now back in her own body, Urara tells Tsubaki “this is the way it is”, pressing herself into Yamada to make her rejection clear.

By doing this, Urara has all but assured Tsubaki will make tempura tonight, and indeed he races to the school to do just that. Yamada follows him, but isn’t strong enough to get into the kitchen. That’s when Urara arrives, which draws Tsubaki out. Yamada pounces on him, and in the confusion, the time when the school catches fire passes. Mission Complete! Maria embraces Itou in joy and relief.

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She also takes Yamada aside after the club celebrates to give him a big ‘ol hug, but also tells him one of her visions was of Urara standing alone before the fire; just like the cold open. She switched bodies with Yamada during Tsubaki’s confession so she could take his place in the vision, protecting him from being blamed for an arson.

While Yamada meekly thanks her at first, he continues to say “as if I’d thank you!”, and tells her never to do something so stupid again. Thus this whole exercise in changing the future Maria saw was also an exercise in romantic development, as Urara moved to sacrifice herself for Yamada’s sake, something Yamada appreciates but doesn’t want.

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The way things turned out, they worked together to resolve the issue, and neither of them had to take the hea, and hopefully that’s how they’re operate as they discover more witches.

The cast is ballooning, and Tsubaki is a somewhat simplistic character whose role in the club is still not very clear, but I did like Maria. I expected the pink-haired popular-looking girl would be a pain, but she turned out to be a big-hearted statuesque, french-kissing delight. On to the next witch!

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