Vanitas no Carte – 21 – Jetez un Coup d’oeil sous la Peau

This week segues nicely from the parting reveal of Domi as the culprit in the latest vampire attacks to the heartbreakingly tragic past events involving her, Louis, and Noé, this time from her perspective. In the aftermath of the bloodbath that claimed both Mina and Louis, Domi weeps at Noé’s bedside, blaming herself for involving Noé in trying to save Mina. Her sister Veronica lives up to the family name, pretending she never had a brother, and revealing that Domi and Louis were twins.

Veronica further twists the blade by saying the twin chosen to live was made on a whim, and thus wonders whether the right (i.e. more useful) twin was spared. Noé comes to and mistakes Domi for Louis, inadvertently compounding her belief that everyone would’ve preferred if she had died instead of Louis. She cut off all her hair and started dressing like Louis, trying to be what everyone wanted. Seeing her in this sorry state, Noé vowed to protect her at all costs from the darkness of their past.

Unfortunately, that past has re-surfaced thanks to the cheerful and mysterious white-haired lad, who introduces himself as Mikhail when Domi is out searching for Jeanne (presumably while Jeanne and the others were in Gévaudan, though I may not be right about that). Mikhail seems uniquely suited to bring out the pain in others, and uses it to take control of Domi.

Noé receives a note from Mikhail and arrives at the grounds of this world’s 1889 Exposition Universelle after dark, and finds Mikhail in front of a carousel and Domi standing atop a Ferris Wheel—two machines invented to imbue their riders with fun and joy. A third machine: a metal dog automaton, guards Mikhail, and he whips out his version of Vanitas’ book. Mikhail says if anyone harms him, Domi will jump, and introduces himself as Vanitas’ little brother, AKA Number 71.

Mikhail is here for one thing: Vanitas’ memories. He used Domi as bait to bring Noé to him, and will now use Noé to drink Vanitas’ blood and thereby gain those memories, including learning why Vanitas killed “father that day”. That Vanitas killed his dad comes as a shock to Noé; Mikhail can tell and concludes that even after all this time Noé must not know a damn thing about Vanitas. That’s hard to argue: it could be everything Noé knows is simply what Vanitas wants him to know.

Mikhail remedies that by pulling his shirt down (revealing the same spreading blue  malady that affects Vanitas) and offering his own blood for Noé to drink, making it a demand when Noé hesitates. When Jeanne learns Domi hasn’t been seen in three days she rushes to find her, but by then Noé’s fangs are already in Mikhail.

We flash back to Mikhail’s past, when she was in custody after her mother, a prostitute was found dead. Mikhail’s mom presented him as a girl and offered him to her best customers. He runs into a badly-wounded but still chipper Roland, who tells Mikhail he has a new home from this day. Roland is called away by Olivier, and Mikhail is suddenly grabbed and chloroformed.

When he comes to, he finds himself before the Marquiss Machina, and a boy he calls “Number 69″—a young Vanitas. Thus begins Noé’s long-awaited journey into his best friend’s murky past…but will they still be friends when Noé returns from that god-forsaken place? I see now why last week was so pleasant and lighthearted—it was a momentary breather the torrent of sadistic dread dished out in spades by this episode…and it’s only the beginning.

Vanitas no Carte – 20 – Juste Comme Vous Etes

This week is mostly an epilogue to the now-concluded Gévaudan arc, with both Vanitas’ and Jeanne’s associates dealing with the sudden reality that the two are now madly in love with each other. But because Noé is a big pretty dummy, he assumes something awful has happened to Vanitas, like a curse.

Vanitas’ half of the episode plays out much like one of my favorite bits from Kaguya-sama: Love is War (as reviewed by Zane) in which Kaguya is utterly convinced she has holes in her heart causing plain old lovesickness; her brain unable to comprehend what the heck her heart is even doing.

When a panciked Noé lists Vanita’s familiar symptoms, Orlok and his attendants throw them both out of his office without explanation—why bother explaining if these two are so dense they can’t see what’s blindingly obvious?

Vanitas runs off to contemplate things on a bridge, wallowing the whole time in unceasing affection for Jeanne. When a man walks past, explaining to his lover the very same symptoms Vanitas has, he still doesn’t quite get it, and runs of in a huff.

While running he happens to trip on a man sitting outside a café, who happens to be Roland, who invites him for a cup of joe and introduces him to Olivier. Desperate for advice, Vanitas asks Roland if he has any romantic experience; Roland says the guy he wants is Olivier, whom women love and men want to be. The two off-duty Chasseurs humor Vanitas by accepting that he’s talking about “a friend of his.”

This “friend” is experiencing this unyielding aching in “their” heart, preventing them from sleeping or thinking straight. But Vanitas is so out of sorts he dispenses with the “my friend” thing altogether. When Roland suggests that from what he’s heard, the woman feels the same way for him, Vanitas believes that to be ridiculous…why would anyone love him?

Meanwhile, back at Oriflamme Castle, Jeanne gives her report to Master Luca, hastening to add she left Gévaudan without learning where Chloé was bound, in case she were questioned later. She also reports that she now knows the sort of person Vanitas is, and how she can’t get him out of her mind. Just as she shines for him, he shines for her, the revulsion totally gone.

Luca can’t believe what he’s hearing, and is also quite a young man inexperienced in such matters, so he drags the blushing Jeanne to Domi, who is just aghast by this heretofore unseen version of Jeanne. Domi can understand her falling for her Noé…but Vanitas? She and Luca take her to the garden to discuss things “rationally”, but the more Jeanne speaks on the matter, the more it’s absolutely clear she loves Vanitas.

She even makes it quite clear she might not be able to stop herself from pouncing on him and consummating their love the moment she sees him again. While older than Luca, this passion is far beyond Domi’s tender slow-burn romance with Noé. Domi, true to her upbringing, says letter-writing is the first step to courtship, but Vanitas and Jeanne have already gone further than that.

Jeanne is also taking after her mother, and the way she kept pushing her dad down until he was hers, like a lioness bringing down a wildebeest. As shocked as Domi is, she is glad to see this side of Jeanne; a Jeanne that doesn’t need to be protected; who got back up after being trodden upon by her past. But her thoughts also go to a darker place without warning…more on that later.

That night, Noé joins Vanitas on the rooftop watching Paris glimmer and sulking. He tells Vanitas that Orlok’s attendants reported a new string of vampire attacks in the city that might spell a new curse-bearer on the loose. Alas, Vanitas is still in no emotional state to think about the next “case study”.

That said, Noé feels he has to say something, and that this time is the right time to say it: back in Gévaudan he met someone (Astolfo) who hated vampires with all his heart. He believes here but by the grace of God—or “the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings—goes Vanitas. He’s just glad Vanitas wasn’t the vampire-hating Chasseur he had to face down in that forest. He likes Vanitas “just the way he is”. And if Vanitas can be liked, he can be loved…and is, by Jeanne!

As for that weird moment when Domi got fixated on Noé in her thoughts, well…looks like she’s the culprit in the nighttime attacks. But it isn’t by her will: she’s being controlled by a young-looking cheerful curse-bearer with short white hair. This person is frustrated that Domi has not brought them Noé, and so is moving on to Plan B: using Domi as bait. Looks like we have our setup for the remaining episodes of the cour.

While the Gévaudan arc was a nifty and action-packed piece of time and reality-bending drama, I’ve been on record as saying I’m just as happy (if not moreso) by looser episodes like this where everyone is simply hanging around. Vanitas’ obliviousness and the reactions of the people he and Jeanne interact with make for great comedy. Of course, as the last moments show, the fun could only last so long…

Fabiniku – 02 – Fanning the Fires of Fancy

Jinguuji and Tachibana discover that they can summon the latter’s apartment—recreated in perfect detail, right down to the trash—anywhere they want, a portable inn. Unfortunately, Tachibana only has two small TV dinners and nothing else in the way of food. When Jinguuji asks him what he’d do if there was a major earthquake, Tachibana, unguarded, says that obviously Jinguuji would come and save him!

That sweet sentiment aside, the current situation is they have a place to sleep and a reliable source of water, but will have to secure more food soon. Fortunately, a typical medieval fantasy village is not far from where the Goddess dropped them off. When Tachibana (wearing the clothes his sister left at his place) comes afoul of some bandits, they immediately fall in love with her, resulting in all of them brawling each other for her hand.

Jinguuji rounds up all the ruffians, and with Tachibana’s intensely persuasive adorableness they learn the location of their base. But when Jinguuji tells Tachibana to hang back while he handles things, she says that isn’t right. It reminds him of how the two of them first met in middle school.

Jinguuji was raised to be someone who could follow orders, resulting in everyone dumping all the work onto him. But Tachibana pitched in when he didn’t have to, and in doing so restored Jinguuji’s faith in humanity.

Combined with the Goddess’ “Curse”, Jinguuji’s reminicing about his beloved best friend results in him thinking about dating and marriage. When he checks his lovey-dovey behavior by smacking his head into a tree, Tachibana uses a handkerchief to stop the bleeding, and in doing so inadvertently exposed a bit of cleavage.

This, in turn, causes the “Charmed” Jinguuji to wrap Tachibana tightly in his blazer so she’s not revealing any skin. The two bicker as the bandits emerge from their base, thinking they have the upper hand, but the moment they say something about Tachibana, he buries them one-by-one in the ground like rice plants.

With the bandits defeated, Jinguuji and Tachibana discover an expansive horde of loot. They give much of it to the village (from which it was originally stolen anyway), but Tachibana does ask the village to provide her with a new outfit: a pink smock-like dress with a red bow and black fingerless gloves. By now, Tachibana has started to embrace the “omnipotence” of cuteness.

Unfortunately, her “Troublemaker” passive skill results in the bandits’ hideout burning down, along with the entire forest, which comes as a horrendous shock to the local Elven premier. While a step down from the first episode (as second episodes so often are), I’m still enjoying the chemistry between the two old friends, complete with looks back at how and why they are friends.

Fabiniku – 01 (First Impressions) – Old Pal-idigm Shift

Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout is a stupendously ludicrous title; honestly, even my horribly punny title would be better. Fortunately, the show seems to be far more clever and engaging than its name, and it all comes down to its nucleus of two old friends.

Ordinary but horny Tachibana Hinata and hot but woman-averse Jinguugi Tsukasa aren’t friends because they’re similar—they couldn’t be more different—but the fact of the matter is they’ve been friends for 25 of their 32 years, and you can feel that history in the way they act.

A combination of a typical night of drinking and the classic tongue-in-cheek serious-voiced narrator gives us the skinny on their attributes and internal thoughts about one another. Tachibana is trying to get Jinguuji married off, while Jinguuji is fine being with Tachibana forever.

The mixer they attend goes poorly for Tachibana as usual (all the women gave Jinguuji their contact info) and he gets so drunk he’s face down in the park wishing he could be a beautiful woman whom everyone fawned over. Then an exhibitionist goddess makes it happen!

Just like that, Tachibana and Jinguuji find themselves in a strange forest in the daytime. More concerning, Tachibana’s body melts into green goo than reconstitutes into the body of a petite blonde beauty (with very sharp teeth!) voiced by MAO.

As Tachibana so eloquently puts it, she’s gained stuff up top and lost stuff down below, but her speech patterns and mannerisms are still the same old Tachibana Jinguuji knows…and she’s honest, loves, either in the same way as the friends played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in Superbad, or something more romantic in nature.

It’s not even that much in doubt that at least part of Tachibana feels the same way…and that’s before they insult and anger the naked Goddess of Love and Beauty while she’s trying to give them their mission to save the world that she casts some kind of mysterious curse on them.

The immediate effect of this curse seems to be that Tachibana and Jinguuji suddenly find each other even more attractive, something neither one wants the other to get wind of. Their brains simply are too used to each other as best mates to properly process what their hearts are doing.

To their credit, neither one immediately dismisses their feelings as a direct result of the curse. Maybe the curse increased their affection for one another, but it was always there. Only now Tachibana is a woman, and because she is still fundamentally Tachibana, she also happens to be the only woman the distrustful-of-women Tachibana could ever fall for.

This results in a Love is War style battle of wills, with the two trying to get the other to admit their attraction. As the the one with the cute girl’s body, Tachibana goes on the offensive, only to find Jinguuji irresistible simply by being Jinguuji.

Meanwhile, Jinguuji hides his outsized reactions behind his usual stoic calm—a skill well-honed throughout the years staving off all those women who fancied him. He’s never thought about his type, but now he knows it, and it’s his best friend in a girl’s body.

As the two struggle with their new reality, a seemingly harmless and cute-looking fluffy white bunny thing interrupts. No sooner do they call it cute than its face unfurls reveal a grotesque monster. Suddenly survival mode overrides scoring flirting points against one another.

Jinguuji instinctively gathers his suddenly much smaller, lighter, and pleasant-smelling best friend in a princess cary and shows off the fruits of leg day. The two fall down a cliff, enabling the monster to catch up, but rather than continue running, Jinguuji decides to make a stand. He never let some woman take away his best friend, and he’s certainly not about to let some nightmare-faced Gossamer do it!

That’s when he punches the monster right in its core, quite unexpectedly creating a huge hole in said monster’s body. Turns out while he doesn’t look any different, Jinguuji is actually a Level 70 badass. Yes, it’s revealed this world has RPG-style menu screens that pop up in front of one’s face.

Tachibana is a Level 1 Hero, by the way, making Jinguuji her ideal trusty knight. As for their castle, Jinguuji is able to summon what looks like the door to a modern Japanese apartment with one of his active skills; the proverbial rest and save point.

While all the isekai and RPG trappings and their quest to defeat the Demon Lord are sure to play a larger role as our two best friends continue to explore their new lives (and meet more people), I hope the focus remains on how the bond between those two old friends continues to morph and evolve due to a very new and unexpected development.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 22 – Home Alone

Following his extremely close brush with death by Orsted’s hand, Rudeus has a series of disturbing dreams while unconscious, which are something of a culmination of his journey and his yearning. All this time he’s not only sought to keep his beloved Eris safe and restore Ruijerd’s rep, but to return home to his family. These dreams give him a glimpse of what that might look like, but also show him his old reality of being alone in a dark, cluttered room, only to be impaled once more by Orsted.

He awakes to find Eris dozing peacefully beside him as usual, and Ruijerd sitting by the fire keeping watch. Ruijerd is still trying to wrap his head around a Man-God and the fact the Seven Gods of ancient times are still kickin’ it. For a second, I thought Rudy was going to tell him that he came from another world. Instead, he says the Superd curse has been fading since Ruijerd shaved his head, and is all but gone; this moves Ruijerd to tears. Ruijerd!

After many travels and trials and tribulations, Dead End have come to their destination, Rudy and Eris’ home, only to find it a grey, dreary ruin, lacking all the green vitality it had before the disaster. As Rudy walks pasts spots where he, his mom, dad, Roxy and Sylphie once shared simple moments made so much more meaningful by the fact those moments are no longer possible; only in memory. Again, it feels like the series summing things up.

Now that Rudy and Eris are home, and no longer children, Rujierd declares them them as no longer needing a babysitter. He treats them like children once more by patting them on the head, then says goodbye, hoping they’ll meet again someday. It’s a perfect farewell for Ruijerd, as there’s little more he can teach Eris. Now that she and Rudy are back home in their new, more adult-ish form, it’s time for them to stand on their own, just as Ruijerd must walk on his own, after Rudy helped him take the first step.

The good news: Ghislaine is in town, as is Alphonse, both alive and well. The bad news: Eris’ family is dead. We know her gramps was executed, but her parents passed away after being teleported. Alphonse is primarily concerned with the future of the Boreas family and the fate of their lands and people. To that end, he mentions an alliance whereby Eris becomes the concubine of a neighboring lord in order to secure that future. Ghislaine is against it. Eris needs time alone…not even Rudy can stay by her side.

Later that day Rudy learns that Sylphie is among the missing, but not confirmed dead, so she’s out there somewhere. That was the first hint that his and Eris’ paths would diverge, but it didn’t come into focus until later that night when Eris visits Rudy in his tent wearing a flowing nightie. Eris mentions that she just recently turned fifteen—of age in her society—and for her birthday she wants a family. She wants Rudy to be that family; she wants them to sleep together.

Rudy hesitates, his head swimming with all the reasons he shouldn’t; Eris is feeling hopeless and needs connection; he’s not fifteen yet…but then Eris draws closer and tells him all the reasons they should, and so they do. What ensues is one of the more tasteful lovemaking scenes you can pull off considering the ages of the participants. In any case, it’s a long, long time coming, considering how much these two have come to love each other.

Alas, that night was just another dream. In the morning, Rudy only gets a few magical moments of having “gotten it made” as a normie before he realizes Eris isn’t in the bed, has chopped off her hair, and left him a note stating “You and I aren’t well-matched right now. I’m going away.” Rudy learns from Alphonse that Eris set out on a journey with Ghislaine, and told him not to tell Rudy where.

So Rudy finds himself back home, totally alone but for Alphonse, with whom he never had the closest or warmest relationship. No more Ruijerd, and more devastatingly, no more Eris, on whose proximity day and night he’d become so accustomed. He wanders the tent city aimlessly, wondering what Eris meant in her note. I suspect she meant for it to sting so he wouldn’t follow, as she has things she needs to do without him at her side to rely on.

But Rudy doesn’t know. He’s not back in his smelly apartment in Japan, but he’s just as alone now as he was then. The question is, what will he do and where will he go next? His mother and Sylphie, for instance, are still missing; does he set out alone to search for them? Does he rejoin his dad and Norn and aid their efforts?

His possibilities are as endless as the horizons of this sprawling world, but just right now he’s paralyzed with sudden, crippling loneliness—the end of one journey marks the start of a new and far more difficult one.

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 12 (Fin) – Spring at the Latest

Not entirely surprisingly considering the pace of the storytelling so far, there is no miracle insta-cure for Bocchan’s curse this week. Instead, he heeds his mother’s summons and comes home for the first time in years. Upon meeting with his mother after all that time, she simply tells him it’s too late and they’ll talk tomorrow. Viola and Walter assure their bro that Mom was actually being “kind” tonight.

Thankfully for Bocchan, Alice tags along for his awkward trip to the main house, and is an immediate hit with the house staff, who are amazed what a spitting image of her dearly departed mother Sharon she’s become. Bocchan’s mom even mistakes Alice for Sharon, with whom she was very close and was never the same after her death by as-yet unexplained circumstances.

Bocchan’s mom may be too tired to talk late at night, but Alice is delighted when Bocchan stops by to chat. Alice assures him the staff treated her kindly, and she’s very happy to hear Bocchan was able to speak to his mother normally, even if briefly. When it looks like Alice is dangerously close to touching his lips with her own, Bocchan retires for the night, and Alice lies in the warm spot he left.

The next day, Viola takes Bocchan to the grave where he was cursed by a woman in white. They cross paths with their mom, who tells Viola not to stand so close to her brother and again insists she start dressing like a proper lady; Viola pays her no mind.

The night of the big dinner, Bocchan’s mom has him seated at the far end of the table. Turns out she only summoned him there to inform him that due to his father’s deteriorating health (oddly we never see him) Bocchan must break the curse by Spring or Walter will be named the family head.

When Bocchan insists on discussing another matter and brings up Alice, his mom thinks he’s joking if he thinks he’ll be able to marry the one he loves. But Bocchan won’t stand for her calling Alice a “lowly maid”, nor will he have what he’s talking about mistaken for japes. He forcefully tells her that Alice was the one who pulled him out of the abyss, and he’d be dead were it not for her.

Further, he, Walter and Viola aren’t her things, they’re her children, and sometimes there are things more important than wheeling and dealing. He storms out of the room without finishing the soup course, and Viola and Walter also excuse themselves to show him out. None of them see their mother smile, as she’s impressed and proud that Bocchan has grown into a strong young man who can talk back to her.

There’s a sense of triumph in seeing Bocchan flanked by his siblings in the hall. Unlike their mother, they no longer see him as a freak or monster, but simply as their brother, who had some misfortune. At the same time, they also envy him for having been able to live outside of the harsh stern structure of the main residence. He’s been able to live his own life with Alice and Rob.

That said, the curse remains, and Bocchan is still determined to get rid of it, hopefully by his mom’s Spring deadline. As they play cards by the fire, Bocchan tells Alice that she’ll always have all of his love, even if he doesn’t come right out and say he told his mother he’d be marrying her. When he later falls asleep at the card table, Alice lays a blanket over him and says “I love you.”

So we’ve reached the end of the first part of Bocchan and the Black Maid’s story of finding light, hope, and love in the darkness…but only for now. With the promise of a sequel at the conclusion of the episode, I’ll surely be watching when its pure, sweet, charming central couple returns.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 11 – The Logbook

Viola’s mom kicks her bitchiness up to 11, not only insisting her daughter dress a certain way, but accept the fact that she can’t wear what she wants or live her own life. For her mom, Viola’s future consists of being married off to the eldest possible son of the richest possible family.

Not content to sheepishly accept her status as a mere commodity to be traded, Viola “runs away” from home with her luggage, though she only ends up having a girl’s sleepover with Alice and Caph. Viola’s situation reminds use that she suffers a curse just like her brother: one that threatens to limit her prospects for life. If, say, Bocchan were to lift his curse and become the head of the family, he’d likely let Viola live her life as she saw fit.

That’s one reason why Viola gives Alice an old servant logbook which may hold answers about when and how Bocchan’s curse was first established; that, and Viola really does care for her brother. Alice ends up discovering a passage about two women in white nun’s habits visiting the main house right around the time Bocchan was cursed. It’s clearly no coincidence.

One of the white nuns in question is Daleth, leader of Zain and Caph’s order, and thanks to her being able to use the eyes of various wildlife to spy on Alice, Daleth knows the maid has her hands on the logbook. She orders Zain to take it and destroy it, with the implication that if he doesn’t harm could befall Caph. But when Zain is honest about what he’s doing and why, Bocchan offers the book back for Zain to burn. He knows Zain would do anything for Caph, just as he’d do anything for Alice.

Zain ends up “destroying” the book with his magic, but retains a tiny scrap with which he can fully restore the book once Daleth’s eyes are no longer watching. But it’s doubtful he was able to fool Daleth, who finally reveals her face this week, as wel as the bombshell that she has the corpse(?) of Alice’s mom Sharon in her possession.

The slice-of-life episodes made sure we thoroughly cared about Bocchan, Alice, Viola, Caph and Zain so that when the plot-heavy episodes like this come around, they have some bite. There’s now a non-trivial possibility the curses is lifted next week. But even if it isn’t, I don’t see Bocchan and Alice’s love for each other waning anytime soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 10 – Not Weird at All

While sleeping in her little cabin, Alice dreams of when she was a little girl, hiding behind her mother Sharon’s skirts at the sight of Rob but always waving to young Bocchan, who always waved to her. Even back then, he didn’t see her as a servant, but a normal girl he wanted to befriend. We’re not talking about Prince Joffery here!

After that dream, there’s a sequence involving Caph going food shopping for the first time while Zain keeps an eye on her. Once she figures out what it means to “pay” people “money” for things, she gets the hang of it, and even stops a boy that was trying to pickpocket her from getting impaled on a sharp cast iron railing. Zain only comes in to “bail her out” insofar as he helps her pick up the dropped groceries.

When Bocchan can’t sleep, Alice offers to sleep in his bed with him until he can, then runs off to change into her pajamas without waiting to hear if he was okay with that. Having Alice next to him is stressful at first, but when he sees her beauty up close and how calm and relaxed she is, he manages to calm down. Granted, that would have happened faster if she hadn’t tried to strip out of her PJs more than once!

The meat of this mostly slice-of-life episode involves what should happen if Bocchan lifts the curse. Yes, he’ll presumably return home and take his place as the next family head. But what of Alice? While Bocchan professes his love for her and assures her if his family objects to their marriage, he’ll cut ties with them. That is the last thing Alice wants, but believing his future to be more important than hers is the last thing he wants.


After singing a lovely, pure duet of the nursury rhyme “The Owl and the Pussycat” together, Bocchan ends up insisting on escorting her back to her cabin, armed with the scarf and gloves she lovingly knit for him.

Assuming the curse will end some point before the end of the show’s run, Alice seems convinced she and Bocchan won’t be able to see each other anymore, at least not they way they currently do. But who says that’s the way it has to be? Doesn’t Bocchan get a say?

TenSura – 45 – Demon Lords “R” Us

From the battles of Benimaru, Gobta, Gabiru, Geld, and the Beastketeers we rewind a bit back to Rimuru’s palace, where he sees Shuna off before heading through the ominous portal from which an extremely powerful demon maid named Misery emerges to escort him to Walpurgis. Before heading off, Veldora and Ramiris tell Rimuru the names of the other demon lords: the giant Dagruel, the vampire Roy Valentine (and his predecessor …Milis?), the demon Guy Crimson, and the lazy Dino.

As Rimuru, Shion, and Ranga walk through the portal to a very important and potentiall very perilous meeting, Shuna arrives at the outskirts of Clayman’s castle, flanked by Souei and Hakurou. They’re surrounded by a mist that dulls their magical senses, and before they know it they’re surrounded by an undead army led by Adalman, the Index of Clayman’s five fingers.

While Souei and Hakurou buy time by battling a zombie dragon and knight, respectively, Shuna uses an Alignment Field to cordon herself and Adalman off so they can have a nice little magic battle. It seems like it’s been ages since the good princess got something to do, but it was worth the wait, as she kicks some serious skeleton ass.

Mind you, Shuna doesn’t move around much, nor does she ever raise her voice. But that’s fine; the dignified, elegant princess isn’t one to scurry around or shout. She stands with absolute confidence in her power as she calmly counters his Acid Shell with her Flame Wall and his Curse Bind with her Holy Bell. That last one surprises Adalman, who didn’t know a monster could summon a Divine Miracle.

When she rewrites his suicidal Disintegration mega-spell with Overdrive and disperses most of the undead army, she also inadvertently lifts the binding curse Clayman cast Adalman and Co. in order to have their…er…undying loyalty. But now that he’s been soundly defeated by a worshipper revere-er of Great Rimuru, Adalman is all about meeting the Lord Slime, and happily offers to guide Shuna & Co. to Clayman’s castle.

As for Great Rimuru, he encounters Guy Crimson (who definitely has his game face on), Dagruel, Guy Valentine, Milis (possibly), and Frey for the first time, and has some harsh words for Leon regarding what he did to Shizu that results in Leon inviting Rimuru to his castle…assuming the slime survives Walpurgis.

That’s when the other new kid on the block Clayman arrives, with a very out-of-it-looking Milim in tow. Rimuru surely could tell something was very wrong when Milim didn’t immediately run to him and gather him into a warm embrace—they are BFFs, after all. But what really sets Rimuru off is when Clayman, clearly drunk on power, strikes Milim in the head. Everyone is shocked by Clayman’s conduct, but Rimuru is just mad, and promises Clayman’s death won’t be painless. Can’t wait to see it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 09 – Secondborns Roasting on an Open Fire

It’s Christmas, and for the first time, Bocchan is going to host a party. Caph and Zain are coming, and so is Viola with the gift of a handkerchief for Rob. When their mom insists that Viola spend Christmas with “family” she does just that: by spending it with her dear brother. Strangely enough, Walter ends up doing so as well, as he replaces Viola’s driver in order to get a better idea of who he’s dealing with in Bocchan.

Zain ends up finally telling Caph she’s pretty while she’s apparently napping, but she was actually awake and heard his words. In her haste to see Rob, Viola drops her gift, which is picked up by Walter, who then finds a Santa costume in the hall and puts it on just as Caph crosses paths with him. Since Caph still believes in Santa she assumes the gift is for her.

As Caph and Viola bicker over the gift, Walter comes down the chimney in a cloud of soot and issues a challenge his older brother: the first one to discover the secret of the curse will become the new head of the family. As for their mother, well, she gets to eat dinner alone, because she’s an awful bitch who tried and failed to ruin at least two of her three kids!

As the new prologue to episodes states, Bocchan is never lonely, ever since he decided not to give up, and to instead spend his days together with Alice, whom he loves and who loves him in return. Alice very much wants a kiss under the mistletoe, and part of me thought this was the moment they learned the curse didn’t affect her…but she settles for sharing the “coldness” of the snow by lying down next to Bocchan after he trips and falls.

It’s a pleasant if somewhat static episode. I couldn’t care less about Walter and his challenge, but it was sweet to see Zain and Caph’s relationship take a baby step forward. As for the curse, there’s still three episodes to break it. Better get cracking, Bocchan!

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 08 – Beauty and the Grouch

This week’s first segment introduces us to Bocchan’s younger brother Walter, and…he’s a lot. First and foremost, he’s a bit of an arrogant prick, already measuring the drapes for his ascension to head of the family. He’s also got a complex about being called the secondborn son…even though that’s what he is. His goofy antics and physical comedy aside, Walter is not a good guy. At least Viola visits her big brother and treats him like a person!

While her official stance is neutral, I imagine Viola prefers Bocchan to Walter, and hopes he’ll break the curse. During her latest visit, she meets Caph, initially assumes she’s a burglar (not a bad instinct!) and attempts to tackle her, only to bounce off her bust. Then she sits on Caph and ties her up by the fire, which is the scene Rob walks in on, much to Viola’s dismay.

While Viola is charming, cute and fun to watch, the real meat of the episode comes in the final extended segment, during which both Bocchan and Alice play a game of chess during a snowy winter night and reminisce about a similar night years ago, when Alice was appointed Bocchan’s maid. Bocchan was in a much darker, more nihilistic emotional place then, and his first instincts were to dismiss Alice and suspect she’s laughing at him on the inside.

This is because, no doubt due in part to the trauma of suffering the witch’s curse, he doesn’t remember Alice. He certainly isn’t aware of just how momentous him taking her hand and helping her off the ground meant to her at that difficult time in her life. That’s right: the kid who now kills anything he touches once essentially saved Alice’s life…with his touch.

No matter how many insults Bocchan flings Alice’s way or derides her mere presence, or tells her he flat out hates her, Alice does not bend, at least not in front of him; we see a rare moment of her vulnerability after he leaves his room and sighs. When he gives her an ultimatum of cleaning his rock starred-up room in three days or she’s fired, she does it in one night, even though she cuts up her fingers picking up shards of glass.

When Bocchan sees Alice isn’t leaving, he decides to leave instead, trudging out into a winter storm until he’s lost and freezing. It’s then that he decides it would be better to just die than continue living the joke of a life he’s endured thus far, unable to touch or be touched.

But it’s while lying in the snow that he finally remembers who Alice was. That’s when Alice arrives to help him up the way he helped her up years ago. The only difference is there’s an umbrella between their hands this time. Alice fell for Bocchan that day, and never stopped falling for him since.

The Witch told Bocchan “No one shall love you, and you shall love no one. You will live a life of misery.” But that’s no longer true once the two come in from the cold and warm themselves by the fire. Alice does love and care for Bocchan, then and always, and Bocchan soon comes to love her right back as the misery in his life gives way to that love and the joy it brings.

Could it be that ever since that snowy night, the witch’s curse has been broken all this time, except that he can only touch Alice? If Bocchan can touch Alice, could it be long before he can safely touch Viola, or Rob, or Caph and Zain, or Walter…or even his mother? Maybe it will all come down to loving and being loved. We shall see in the final third of Duke of Death and His Maid

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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!

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 07 – Suspension Bridge Effect

Not about to be discouraged by Daleth’s insistence they give up, Alice spends much of the episode trying to find alternative methods of lifting Bocchan’s curse. She begins by procuring a second-hand witch’s cauldron complete with a book containing recipes for curse-lifting brews. Unfortunately it’s unsuccessful, but it as worth a try.

In the next segment, Alice finds some odd sheet music from a composer named MacFarlane (not Seth) who wrote the music in white ink on black paper because it looked cool, which also makes it hard to read. That said, it’s believed if you play his piece perfectly it can lift a curse, so Bocchan does just that, powering through both the distracting ghost of MacFarlane and Alice’s usual flirting. Turns out the curse that is lifted is…the curse of MacFarlane’s ghost.

When Bocchan accidentally breaks a flowerpot, he runs and hides from the wrath of Rob, and Alice tags along. While he started out the segment wanting to create the “suspension bridge effect” in her by scaring her and causing her heart to race, the fact of the matter is there’s no need to scare her. Alice’s heart is always racing when Bocchan is around, racing all the faster the closer in proximity they are. She’s long since established she’s not scared of dying, she just loves the guy.

The final sequence, which takes place after the credits, involves Bocchan and Alice sharing an Alice in Wonderland-themed dream in which they must secure the White Rabbit in order to exact a wish from Alice (the book version).

Their mission is derailed by the fact they can touch one another in the dream, with Bocchan waking up just before committing to kissing his Alice. The book Alice is mad for them totally slacking off, but Bocchan is content to fall back asleep, hoping to pick up his dream with Alice where he left off.

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