Mahoutsukai no Yome – 01 (First Impressions)

When we first meet Hatori Chise—who both resembles and sounds like the heroine Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, or perhaps her long-lost, much-maligned sister—she’s pretty much at rock bottom, having seemingly lost the will to live, signing away her human rights so that she can be chained and presented as an object to be purchased at an auction before some Eyes Wide Shut-ass muhfuckahs.

But holding true to the episode title “April showers bring May showers”, as well as the axiom “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, in this, her darkest hour, she is met by, and purchased with a winning bid of five million pounds, by an imposing man in a black cloak wearing a big antelope skull on his head (unless…that is his head).

Chise, fully prepared for whatever horrible fate might befall her upon being purchased (let’s face it, the kind of guys who would buy teenager girls in an auction are likely to be…not so great!), quickly finds that despite his fearsome appearance, her buyer Elias Ainsworth doesn’t want her to be his toy, but his apprentice. He’s a mage, you see; the “real deal”, and he believes Chise, who is what in his trade is called a “sleigh beggy”, can live a fulfilled life of purpose as the newest member of a dying breed of mages like him.

Teleporting her to his super comfy-looking country estate, swapping her chains for an protective adder stone, and showing her kindness she’s never known, Chise ever-so-gradually starts to learn that despite all of the hatred, abuse and suffering she’d endured her entire life up to this point, this place just might be different.

For the first time, she’s told she has a home and actually feels welcome there, and is told she’s family and someone to be protected and nurtured rather than spat upon and discarded.

Thus, when Chise is lured out for a midnight stroll by faeries who later show their true colors by trying to further lure her into their realm, Chise repays Elias’ kindness—and in doing so decides to trust someone for perhaps the first time in her life—by resisting the faeries until Elias arrives to shoo them off.

It’s then when, while princess carrying her home, Elias also confesses he doesn’t aim to merely make Chise his apprentice, but his bride as well. Her reaction to this information, as well as other instances of lighthearted humor, provide a nice ice-breaking contrast to the darker themes initially at play, giving way to a hopeful future in a real home with a real family that cares for them; things every child deserves. A very strong opening.

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Owarimonogatari S2 – 03

The first two 40-odd-minute episodes of this second “season” of Owarimonogatari, were good, but seemed to be lacking in something very crucial to an “Endstory” – an ending. So it’s just as well I was mistaken that there would only be two episodes, because this, the third episode, provides that ending.

And what a frikkin’ ending it is! Few series have been so painstakingly fastidious in their careful preparation of a nearly all-encompassing conclusion to the story of its protagonist than Monogatari has been with Araragi Koyomi. It’s only fitting that if indeed his story is over—a story in which he’s helped save so many cute young women, one after another—that the last person left for him to save is…himself.

At Shirahebi Park, formerly the site of Shirahebi Shrine and the town’s god, which was obliterated along with the lake by Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade landing there 400 years ago—a site of so many conversations between Koyomi and those girls—Izuko lays out the minimum requirements of victory.

First, that Hachikuji Mayoi be enshrined a the new god of North Shirahebi shrine, so that she has a purpose in the material world and won’t be swallowed by “the darkness”. Second: that Oshino Ougi be eliminated. Mind you, Izuko isn’t certain who or what Ougi is, only what she isn’t (i.e. Meme’s niece.)

That Ougi is a near-total unknown makes her a threat to the spiritual and physical health of the town, so she has to go, just as any of the other harmful apparitions that have cropped up.

As Itsuko convinces Koyomi (and me) of Ougi’s need to go, Ougi picks up Tsukihi (who is actually a phoenix in human disguise) from Nadeko’s house, where it was being underscored how much Nadeko thinks about and is working towards a finite future, whereas Tsukihi is content to simply live with others in an everlasting present.

I must admit, it felt for all the world like Ougi was either taking Tsukihi hostage (out of an abundance of caution in case Araragi didn’t join her side) or attempting to recruit the phoenix as a kind of last-ditch ally. In any case, the person Ougi is with quickly transitions from Tsukihi to Koyomi in that iconic ruined cram school classroom, who tells Ougi he’s ascertained her identity.

Ougi is, and always has been, him. She is he.

Eager to clearly explain everything, Owarimonogatari steps back a bit to the original meeting between Itsuko, Koyomi, Kiss-Shot, Mayoi, and Ononoki, and explains to Koyomi how Ougi is really him (all while everyone plays cricket in the park, after having played baseball earlier).

Ougi, originally introduced to Koyomi as a “fan” of Kanbaru, explains her name Ougi. Itsuko’s older sister (Kanbaru’s mother) faced a similar “unknown”, the “Rainy Devil”, who was the materialization of her self-control, and the left arm of which was passed to Suruga, her daughter.

When that arm came in contact with the First Minion’s energy drain, it connected the Devil, Koyomi, and Kiss-Shot, and by that route Koyomi’s desire to criticize himself for his actions were materialized into Oshino Ougi, or “Dark Koyomi.”

It’s a complex yet surprisingly elegant and satisfying explanation that ties together so many threads of the Monogatari mythos. Ougi is a fundamental product of all of Koyomi’s victories saving the girls in his life; victories that didn’t come without a great deal of self-doubt about the rightness or wrongness of the methods he used.

Itsuko used the immortal Tsukihi as a lure to draw Ougi out so Koyomi could do the same thing he’s done all along: “killing himself for the sake of others.” Ougi represents Koyomi’s adolescence, and it’s time to end it, and her.

It’s no coincidence that Koyomi is faced with having to “kill” his adolescence on the eve of graduation from high school and entry into college and adulthood. But when the true “darkness” opens up and is about to swallow Ougi, Koyomi finally goes against the grain and saves himself. 

He loses his right arm (and isn’t a vampire at the moment, so that’s a big deal), but Ougi is saved, and with it his adolescence (both his doubt, unfair self-critique, and love of young ladies)—even if it makes him “the worst” to put himself first.

Ougi is tickled, but saving Ougi only means he’ll be swallowed along with her by the “darkness”—until, that is, Hanekawa finally comes through, bringing Meme to the ruined classroom with only moments to spare, to declare that Oshino Ougi is his niece, and Koyomi has pushed her down and may not have the most honorable intentions with her.

These are lies, but the acknowledgement, like the words in a spell, are what were needed to legitimize Ougi’s existence in the world, and close the darkness. From that moment on, Ougi is no longer Dark Koyomi, or any part of him.

His adolescence is gone, replaced by nothing more or less than Meme’s ‘niece’. His lesson, all along, was that love isn’t forsaking yourself for the sake of others. He’s gotta think about number one from time to time.

But, as the epilogue illustrates, it’s not the end of Koyomi as we know him. He’s still him, which means if a young woman needs help, he’ll come to her aid and do anything he can. The difference is, that “anything” will now have a limit; “anything” is no longer “everything.” Koyomi can save and protect without sacrificing himself.

This is why the new god of North Shirahebi Shrine in Hachikuji Mayoi bows to him rather than the other way ’round; why an otherworldly powerful, fully-restored vampire in Kiss-Shot decides to return to the form of a far less strong young girl in his shadow; and before the graduation ceremony, Hitagi and Tsubasa let him go do his thing when he spots another young woman in distress.

And that’s it for Owarimonogatari! As I said, quite an epic ending; and one that covered a lot more than previous, “smaller” arcs. Chronologically speaking, Ougi Dark covers the second-latest Monogatari events adapted to TV, with only the already-released Hanamonogatari taking place later on the timeline.

I’ve yet to watch last year’s Koyomimonogatari ONA side-story, or the Shinobu-centric Kizumonogatari film trilogy that takes place at the very beginning of the chronological spectrum. Once I do, I’ll have watched everything Monogatari has to offer; a total span of 97 episodes. Of course, there are many novels that have yet to be adapted, so this remarkable run is most likely not quite finished.

Attack on Titan – 31

Last week was a barn-burner (or rather castle-toppler) that put everyone through the ringer, revealing Ymir’s true form and Krista’s real name, so you’d expect a quieter “breather” of an episode, and that’s mostly what we get, right up until the cliffhanger ending. And what a cliffhanger.

But again, things start out quietly, with a comatose Ymir being lifted to the top of the wall for eventual transport to Trost. No one seems to be in a particular hurry to get her medical attention, but then again, she’s proven to be far tougher than a normal human.

The delayed removal of Ymir from the vicinity can’t help but feel like stalling as Eren puts two and two together after a very out-of-it Reiner oh-so-casually informs him he is the Armored Titan and Bertholdt is the Colossal Titan, and their mission is to destroy humanity.

Reiner also wants Eren to come with them back “home”, wherever that is, and if he does, they might just forego destroying humanity. Reiner’s sudden openness leaves Eren a bit dazed, and he tries to chalk it up to Reiner starting to lose it after going through so much.

12 hours before, before bailing out the scouts at Utgard, Hange reports that she’s finally received documents on Annie, and has learned she came from the same place as Reiner and Bertholdt. Furthermore, Reiner’s unit was given false information that would seem to incriminate him as working with the female Titan/Annie.

Armin also remembers Reiner demanding to know Eren’s location. Considering all this was swishing around Eren’s head, yet he held out a sliver of hope that they were just wrong, and his comrades Reiner and Bertholdt are innocent, made Reiner’s casual confessions that much more deflating.

In his discussion with Eren, Reiner eventually “snaps out of it” and decides that after three years, it’s time for him and Bertholdt to get back to their original mission, as they’re both warriors and the mission is the most important thing.

But just as he’s about to grab Eren, Mikasa appears from behind and slashes at him, acting when Eren cannot. I did originally think it odd Mikasa was walking away with the others, leaving Eren behind, but she turned back in short order, and could tell there was something rotten about the nature of the talk.

Mikasa is not quick enough to kill Reiner or Bertholdt, and they transform into Titans in a huge cloud of dust, grab Ymir and Eren, and make their escape down the side of the wall. Eren, remembering all the good times he had with his now-former comrades, isn’t having it, and finally transforms himself into a Titan, in order to dole out punishment on the two traitors. So much for rest for the weary.

Attack on Titan – 30

In true Attack on Titan momentum-killing fashion, we cut away from Titan-Ymir’s impending brawl with the other Titans to the fateful night Krista and Ymir shared back during Winter Training. There, it wasn’t Titans that threatened their lives, but the freezing cold of the blizzard they found themselves caught in.

Krista is determined to drag their injured comrade Daz back with them, but he’s half-dead already, and he’s slowing them down so much they may all freeze before returning to base. No, Ymir doesn’t think Krista is trying to save Daz. She thinks she’s trying to end her own life and pass it off as heroism.

In a flashback within the flashback, we learn why, and the root of Ymir’s interest in Krista: she learned that Krista was the illegitimate child of a noble, and thus ineligible to succeed him. Rather than just killing her, they changed her name and forced her into the cadets. Considering Krista a kind of kindred spirit, Ymir doesn’t think Krista should make the people who cast her aside happy by dying just yet.

As the flash indicates, Ymir transforms into a Titan to carry Daz back to base, having conveniently buried Krista in the snow. By the time Krista returns to base on her own, she’s stunned to find Ymir and an alive Daz beat her there. She asks Ymir how the hell it’s possible, and Ymir tells her…but only if she keeps an important promise.

Back in the present, it would seem that Krista either Ymir’s secret, after being plied with wine by Ymir shortly after learning the news. As it happens, Reiner and Bertholdt’s friend was killed by Titan-Ymir, so for a moment Reiner takes his blind rage out on Krista’s slender leg, before pleading ignorance of Ymir’s secret form.

Meanwhile, Titan-Ymir is kicking ass, but in her efforts to keep the tower from falling, is at a distinct disadvantage. You can’t play offense and defense at the same time, and noticing Ymir’s attempted heroics, insists that Ymir not die here, and instead tear the dang tower down, which she does. After that, everyone grabs Ymir’s hair and she flies them to safety.

“Safety” being out of range of the crumbling tower, but once all the stunned Titans get back up, they find themselves sitting ducks. There’s a horrifying oment when a Titan confronts Krista and goes for her head, but just then, Mikasa blazes in to take the beast down.

The cavalry has arrived, and their arrival brings a huge jolt of adrenaline to what had become an increasingly hopeless scenario. Eren even manages to sneak in “his first kill”, though I assume he’s talking “as a scout”, as he’s killed plenty as a Titan.

Once the remaining Titans are mopped up, everyone turns to Ymir, who has returned to human form, but is in rough shape. Krista talks hold of her and fulfills her promise, telling Ymir her true name: Historia. Then Ymir closes her eyes and smiles.

While I’m not left 100% sure this means Ymir is dead, with missing limbs, and a chest wound, she’s certainly not fighting anytime soon. Still, it was another emotional journey that deepens two more scouts, even as it seemingly takes one of them away.

Ymir clearly isn’t a saint (from the looks of what she did to Reiner’s village) but she’s not quite the devil, either. She decided long ago she’d go her own way, and that way included supporting Krista whenever she could, even at the cost of her life.

And Krista, who never made that deep of an impression in the first season (though I briefly mistook her, not Annie, being the Female Titan) really comes to life, both through her backstory and the passion she exudes. That character work makes this a solid outing, despite not touching on any of the show’s other, arguably larger extant mysteries.

Attack on Titan – 29

Titan, you can only zoom in on the pained-looking eyes at some one so many times before I start thinking to my self well, she’s definitely hiding something, and in this show, ‘hiding something’ usually means ‘they’re a Titan’.

And so it’s the case with Ymir, who laughs about Conny’s report on his village a bit too much; specifically the part where the fallen Titan on his house reminded him of his mom.

But before her Ymir’s big telegraphed reveal, she, Krista, and the other gear-less rookies play a tense waiting game once the Titans show up.

The elite scouts show off their stuff, but considering the Beast Titan is arranging this siege, watching them exert so much steel, gas, and energy to what will likely be the first of many waves was a bit disheartening.

Not that the scouts have any choice but to fight, mind you—A., it’s their duty; B., they’re totally surrounded.

Inevitably, the Titans get in the castle, and the few moments before Reiner opens a cellar door to reveal a particularly creepy one are absolutely dripping with tension and dread. It’s so quiet down there, but as most Titans don’t speak, silence doesn’t mean safety.

The rookies make use of what they have—a pitchfork, an old cannon, scrap wood—to kill this Titan, but a second one shows up, one that gives Reiner a vicious arm wound before he picks him up and places him in a window so Ymir can kick him out.

Krista rips up her skirt to make Reiner bandages and a sling, and he contradicts Ymir’s claim he’s not interested in girls when he thinks “gotta marry her” (Krista, not Ymir).

But more distressingly, they’re just about out of effective makeshift weapons, and the barricade for the door into the castle seems laughably flimsy against the onslaught of Titans outside.

Those Titans just keep coming, and when the Beast tosses some horses and rocks at the castle towers, two of the four scouts are killed instantly. It turns out they were the very, very lucky ones. Titan goes Full Sadist in depicting the visceral demise of the final two elite scouts, both of them, by the end, reduced to crying and screaming like young children before being disembowled and devoured.

All the one poor guy hopes for before the end is to have a drink from the bottle of booze he found, but to add insult to fatal injury, Krista used it all up disinfecting Reiner’s wound. Titan doesn’t just drive the knife in and twist it, it pulls the knife back out, then drives it back in, twists again, then drops an anvil on you for good measure. Brutal.

In the face of all that casual brutality, the arrival of dozens more Titans, and the fact the tower they’re standing on will certainly crumble and fall within minutes it’s kind of amazing that none of the rookies want to give up yet, although Krista specifically wants weapons so she can die in battle like the four scouts. Ymir doesn’t like that attitude, so she decides: she’ll be the weapon.

She takes Conny’s dagger and leaps off the tower, confusing everyone (except Reiner, who found it odd Ymir could read the language on the canned herring label), then transforming into a wild-looking Titan. The cavalry didn’t come from without for this group of rookies, but from within. But will she be enough?

It’s another strong outing from Attack on Titan to close out its first quarter, and it’s a close call between this and the Sasha episode for best episode so far. This week the claustrophobic pressure was kept up by remaining at the castle and only at the castle for the entire duration; no cuts to see what was going on elsewhere.

That extra focus, and the increased horror elements made this a must-watch, even if there were times when it was hard to watch.

Attack on Titan – 28

Conny’s village is full of questions. If the Titans attacked, why is there no blood? If the villagers evacuated, why did they leave all their horses? And what’s with the emaciated Titan on top of Conny’s house? Why did he hear it say “Welcome home?” There are all intriguing mysteries on top of the ones we already have, but the squad has to keep moving, and Conny has to forget about what may or may not have happened to his family and continue his duty.

Krista and Ymir, like Conny, must feel pretty vulnerable without their battle gear, but they’ll simply have to trust that the soldiers around them will keep them safe. Instead of fighting, Krista & Co. will be called upon to bear witness and send reports. Krista is fine with staying, and feels bad that she’s made Ymir join the scouts, but Ymir insists she’s here “for herself and nothing else.” Another Titan in hiding, perhaps?

This is often a creepy show, what with all the bizarre-looking naked humanoids running around eating people, but Titan manages to up that creep-factor not with Titans, but with a lack of them, or anything at all. Two units travel in the pitch black darkness, not knowing what could be just out of range of their light. Turns out, it’s another unit also looking for the gap in Wall Rose…but neither unit actually found one. What exactly is going on here?

Eren & Co. finally reach Ehrmich District, and Levi makes sure Pastor Nick gets a good long look at the faces of the masses of people and families being displaced due to the wall falling. It seems to work, at least a little, as after being harangued again by Hange, he finally gives up one name: Krista Lenz—who he and his order were instructed to monitor, and who may “know the truths which even we cannot perceive.”

Hange believes that Eren may be able to repair the wall breaches…with hardened Titan skin, of the same type that didn’t evaporate after Annie returned to human form. Sasha also re-joins her comrades.

Krista, Ymir, & Co. end up spending the night in an abandoned castle none of them knew about until the moon came out. To their misfortune, a hoard of Titans besieges them, the first instance of Titan night-fighting. It may well have something to do with the fact this is the same group that hangs around the Beast Titan…maybe he trained them?

In any case, Ymir looks shiftier than ever, but she and Krista can only sit back with the other rookies and hope the pros get the job done. Meanwhile, Hange mentions an abandoned castle which I assume is the same one here, and heads there with Eren & Co.

KonoSuba 2 – 10 (Fin)

Well, like its last season, KonoSuba only ended up lasting ten episodes, but it delivered an action-packed and generally really good-looking finale that actually covered a bit of plot to go along with its omnipresent comedy. Plus, everyone had a chance to look really cool, even if things ultimately don’t quite work out as planned, as usual.

After using Darkness’ noble status to gain access to a contaminated hot spring, the party encounters Hans, the frustrated man whom Kazuma related with so much last week. Turns out he’s a leader in the Devil King’s army, and a deadly poison slime to boot.

Wiz is content to say hi to her old comrade at first, but when she learns he’s eaten the innocent hot springs overseer, she finally shows her teeth…and Horie Yui finally gets some meaty badass lines.

When the angry mob finally catches up to the party and sees Hans’ true form, they realize Aqua wasn’t a fraud after all. They send healing magic her way as she attempts to purify the spring, while Darkness protects them from errant slime bombs (even though they still hate her for being an Eris cultist).

Kazuma buys time for everyone by serving as a diversion for the slime and getting eaten (but not fully digested, facilitating his resurrection later) so Megumin can use Explosion magic to reduce the slime’s size, allowing Wiz to encase him in a Cursed Crystal Prison.

When even that’s not enough, Aqua draws power from her wishy-washy followers and their ridiculous credo (and that old man chanting about Eris’s padded chest) to land a GOD BLOW and GOD REQUIEM on Hans, finishing him for good, probably.

It’s perhaps the coolest and most badass we’ve seen Aqua look yet, and the shortened season clearly freed up significant fundage for a dazzlingly-animated battle…though Kazuma is dead for a full half of it, the camera still cuts to his dry bones often. He did his part!

Naturally, despite all the displays of badassdom, Aqua’s magic finishing moves ended up turning all the profitable hot spring water in Arcanretia into plain ‘ol water, and she’s run out of town by her justifiably angry, ungrateful followers.

The gang heads home the same way they arrived: by wagon (Wiz was greatly weakened and almost killed, again, by Aqua’s magic), and everyone is just happy to be home. Even after all he’s been through and all the failure and destruction his party has wrought, he still feels blessed to be living in such a beautiful, if often hard, world. It’s certainly better than being cooped up in his bedroom back in Japan, right?

KonoSuba is the kind of show that could simply keep on going, and the parting message that thanks us for watching doesn’t rule out a third season. But ten is a good number for a season of KonoSuba, and a year is a good amount of time to have in between those seasons, so no rush.

KonoSuba 2 – 09

This week Aqua leans in on the job one would think she was born (in human form) to do: the job of a high priest. That means confessional duties, which she takes very seriously, to the point of stonewalling Kazuma and forcing him to “confess” to breaking her favorite cup and drinking her good hooch, at which point she gets flustered and whiny.

You can’t say Kazuma doesn’t know how to press her buttons! But she’s also cheeky enough to give an old man troubled by the temptation from Eris’ boobs a mantra to repeat whenever he feels that temptation again: Eris pads her chest. The artful way she says it really makes it sound like a mantra, too.

Kazuma, now convinced he won’t be able to get Aqua to reign in her overzealous, abusive followers (who have reduced Megumin to a crumpled ball of nerves, but continue to turn Darkness on), hits the baths. The mixed baths.

There, he sees (and sees, and sees) a buxom (and creeped out) she-elf, a man on the brink from all the proselytizing, and hears an earful of genuinely good things said about him by Megumin and Darkness, but only because they thought he wasn’t there, trying to spy on them.

Still, it’s nice to occasionally hear from the characters why they stick together.

That night at supper, Aqua is in another state, this time because she was kicked out of the very church that worships her, for accidentally purifying the hot springs.

In an ill-conceived effort to re-win the people back, she decides to blame the purification on the Devil King, and asks her party-mates for help in her crusade to save her people and their town. Darkness only agrees to help when Aqua gets up in her face (and purifies her grape juice…how rude!)

I also greatly enjoyed the running gag of Aqua’s holy-element tears of distress actually doing harm to poor, undead Wiz, to the point she’s basically on the verge of death this entire episode.

Kazuma and Megumin are out, obviously, because they have no interest in helping the townspeople, who in their opinion ruin an otherwise perfectly nice town.

In an otherwise lovely day, those people proceed to do jut that: ruin Kazuma and Megumin’s day with constant urgings to join the church, until the two are on the brink of madness.

The townsfolk may be unrelenting in their enthusiasm for aggressive recruitment practices (we witness a number of fine examples), but they’re not fools. Their golden goose is the hot springs, and when Aqua seems to be the culprit in purifying them, they’re not happy.

They also don’t believe, even for a second, that she’s actually the goddess Aqua…even though she is. These are people who live among magic, fantastic beasts, and demi-humans. But the suggestion that Aqua might be an in-the-flesh goddess elicits only stifled laughter or anger.

That anger boils over into an angry mob surrounding the gorgeous inn where Aqua and the others are staying. And all I can say is, how has it taken this long for Aqua to end up with an angry mob (with torches and everything!) eager for her blood? I guess she’s just been lucky.

In any case, the peoples’ refusal to believe their own goddess contrasts with non-Axis followers Darkness, Megumin, and Kazuma’s acceptance of Aqua in their party. They’re all misfits, after all. These guys just don’t do well in big crowds.

And while the mob doesn’t pose any danger (one EXPLOSION from Megumin could resolve the standoff) and may not even be picked back up next week. But it’s a fitting end to a visit to a city Kazuma and Megumin can’t leave soon enough, Darkness can’t help but love, and where Aqua may have lost faith in the faithful.

KonoSuba 2 – 08

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Whether he wanted to be or not, Kazuma & Co. are involved in the mission to repel the herd of running hawk kites in heat. Darkness selflessly sacrifices her body to the stampede, only for each and every bird to dodge her, which kinda turns her on anyway.

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Darkness’ stimulation continues when Kazuma takes command and uses Darkness as a lure to lead the kites into a cave, the entrance to which Megumin explodes. The armored darkness proves too heavy for Kazuma, so he follows her suggestion to tie her to the wagon and drag her behind, which she really enjoys. It’s basically a Darkness clinic.

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Kazuma’s plan to use all the weird abilities and quirks of his comrades (I call it ‘accidental competence’) works like a charm, and that night the convoy want to reward them handsomely…only Kazuma can’t take their money, because he knows something they don’t: the herd only showed up because they were drawn to Darkness, the “hardest” obstacle in the area.

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Everyone (except Megumin) awakes in the middle of the night to a horde of zombies, which Aqua quickly exorcises (along with Wiz, whom she overlooked), and again, the convoy wants to reward Aqua and her party, but Kazuma won’t take the money, because again, the zombies only showed up because of Aqua.

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Forget Aqua’s parlor tricks: this party could make some serious money luring baddies into the vicinity of people, then save those people from those baddies. No one is the wiser here, and I bet Kazuma, and possibly the honorable Darkness, are the only ones who would protest such an arrangement, on ethical grounds (which is funny considering Aqua is a goddess).

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When the party finally arrives in Arcanretia, it appears to be a lush gorgeous city with clean air and beautiful people, but things turn sour in a hurry when every other person in town turns out to be pushy zealots of Aqua’s Axis cult, which is fine with Aqua, but no one else.

These zealots pull out all the stops proselytizing Kazuma and Darkness and trying to get them to sign up. Darkness also gets turned on when she bears her Eris necklass and the Axis followers react with disgust and spit on the ground.

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The Axis followers gradually wear Kazuma down to the point he’s vulnerable to a cute litle girl who trips on a stone. Kazuma and Darkness help her, and she asks his name, and to show her how to write it on a piece of paper…which is the form to join the Axis cult.

With that, Kazuma finally loses it, as any of us would, tearing up the form and making a big loud scene. Darkness may love the abuse the Axisers pile on her, and Aqua may love the positive attention, but this is definitely not a place for Kazuma to heal and relax.

It’s torture, and the episode is very good at heightening his stress until he blows. Only Megumin and temporary party member Wiz aren’t completely unhinged about something this week. Another wonderfully manic and hilarious outing.

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KonoSuba 2 – 07

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For the first act of this particularly energetic, at times hyper KonoSuba, Megumin is the straight man, watching aghast as Kazuma and Aqua act disgustingly pleasant to each other; even as Aqua purifies Kazuma’s finest tea into plain hot water, he just keeps politely drinking it.

They’re acting this way because they think they’re rich, after a visit from Vanir results in an IP transfer deal that could net them 300 million Eris (or 1 mil a month). After, well, dying last week, I can understand why Kazuma wouldn’t mind hanging up his adventurers’ boots and living comfortably ever after.

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Of course, I neither expect the windfall to come (unless its made of wind, not cash) as Vanir is a sneaky slippery demon, nor for Kazuma to give up his overarching mission to defeat the Devil King; as annoying and useless as Aqua is, he still made a promise to her, and Kazuma is (usually) a man of his word (I can’t speak to Vanir).

Anyway, Kaz holds off on making a decision (lol he’s never getting that cash) and accepts Megumin’s suggestion the party head to Arcanretia, the city of water and (hopefully for Kazuma, mixed) hot springs so he can convalesce after cheating death. They bring Wiz along as well…Wiz being kind of a waste of Horie Yui.

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After winning every game of rock-paper-scissors against an increasingly flustered and desperate Aqua, and using Darkness’ vitality to heal Wiz (who was blown up by Vanir, long story) the party heads off aboard hired wagons in a beautifully-shot scene that is played straight.

Naturally, I was expecting something ridiculous to kill all the good normal vibes before the convoy left the city walls, but surprisingly, nothing happens!

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Instead, the ridiculousness happens en route, as a flock of ground-based birds known for stampeding toward the hardest objects they can find in a chicken-like mating ritual target Darkness.

I liked the fact the convoy had its own party of adventurers to take care of any problems, but once Kazuma learns it’s their—or rather Dark’s—fault the birds are there at all, his party mobilizes.

Or, I should say, Darkness runs out to meet the herd, a hired adventurer accidentally binds her, and…well, not sure what happened next, but afterwards Kazuma is apologizing profusely. Presumably, at some point, they’ll arrive at Arcanretia.

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KonoSuba 2 – 06

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KonoSuba 2 is again in top-form this week, starting with a wonderful domestic scene of Darkness and Megumin trying to force Aqua to go outside with them, but she doesn’t wanna. She tries to deflect by calling them kids (even though she’s acting more like one herself) then wonders why they won’t ask Kazuma instead. Kazuma is relaxing under his kotatsu…wait, kotatsu? In this wonderful, alternate world? What gives?

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Vanir, as it happens, isn’t dead. He merely lost an extra life, and now he’s Vanir II. I got a big laugh out of that, and Vanir’s constant posing and amusingly over-the-top monologues. It wouldn’t be the first or the last of this episode, though the fact he and Kazuma are in business making items from his “homeland” (like said kotatsu) is an interesting angle, it’s not lingered on long.

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Once he finally deigns to emerge from his cave, Kazuma heads to the weaponsmith to collect the weapon he comissioned: a katana. He also tries on some impressive full plate armor, but can’t move in it, and any attempts to look cool result in knocking other swords down, or whacking the side of the door.

He then has to give his sword a name, and of course all the usual famous sword names enter Kazuma’s head – Masamune, Muramasa, Kotetsu, etc. He lets his guard down, and Megumin unilateraly brands the sword Chunchunmaru, in keeping with her usual moe naming style.

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His sword thus named, the quartet strikes out on a quest—I believe the first non-dungeon quest they’ve undertaken at full strength. There’s a certain triumphant quality to seeing the four out their, under the big blue sky, running their checklists and making sure they’re prepared to take on the vast group of Lizard Runners they’re tasked with taking out.

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Naturally, any enemy in KonoSuba that is described as being “trampling” in nature will, ultimately, end up trampling upon one or more of Kazuma’s party, or indeed himself. I got a kick out of Aqua’s too-late advice and too-soon rash magic that brings the herd straight to their location. The lizards themselves were also hilariously twitchy and neat.

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Kazuma manages to snipe the “Princess Runner” all the others follow, but when she lands she knocks him off the tree and he hits the ground hard. The injury is bad enough to land him in the hereafter with Eris, who he confirms is the true heroine of his story, if only he could spend more time with her.

He tries to do just that, but before long the voice of Aqua permeates the realm, getting increasingly worried and upset Kazuma won’t wake up. Darkness and Megumin also chime in, with the latter doing something to his body that leaves him no choice but to return to them. Maybe he’ll see Eris when she “sneaks out” one day? Probably not.

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Everyone is clearly very glad Kazuma is back, underscoring the familial bond the four share, despite (or because of) all their bickering and sniping.

And that ‘something’ turns out to be labelling his dick “The Holy Sword Excalibur”, which he doesn’t realize until he takes a bath back home. In his shock he runs out to find Megumin, and loses his towel, leading to the priceless reaction shot of Aqua you see above.

This week delivered laughs both clever and dumb from start to finish. I daresay KonoSuba has fully re-attained my interest, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come next week.

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KonoSuba 2 – 05

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No matter how much ass Aqua kicks, she always finds a way to negate every positive contribution she makes to the party. To whit: the magic circle she set up in the dungeon a couple weeks ago is causing monsters to pour out and cause a big to-do. So the gang has to go back to the dungeon and sort it out.

Megumin continues to wisely stay out of dungeons, and this time Aqua joins her in passing on the adventure, so this time Kazuma is paired up with Darkness. Both of them have complicated feelings on the matter of being alone together in dark places.

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In a twist, no less than a commander of the Demon King’s armies, Vanir, has set up shop in the dungeon. Vanir is your typical blowhard villain, though he brings some vibrant enthusiasm and tongue-in-cheekness to his role.

After some initial success making contact, Darkness is unable to land a hit, and only manages to defeat Vanir when Kazuma trips on a bit of stone, crashes into Vanir, who by sheer dumb luck ends up getting slashed. With his body gone, the mask that remains latches itself on Darkness, and the fun begins, as Vanir is shocked to find Darkness is actually pretty okay with being possessed by a demon.

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She’s so okay, in fact, that every time Vanir thinks he’s achieved “full domination”, Darkness chimes back in. The back-and-forth repartee between a defiantly turned-on Darkness and an increasingly flustered Vanir should get old quick, but never does.

Aqua is ready with exorcism magic, but due to Darkness’ intense magical resistance, it’s a big chore bringing him down. Darkness ultimately has to consent to being blown up by Megumin, who, after all, has been practicing as is pretty good at making a big-ass explosion.

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In an even bigger twist, in light of defeating Vanir (and the mobile fortess earlier), Sena and the state she represents lifts all suspicion from Kazuma (who did, after all, help defeat a Demon King Commander right before her eyes) and the party still clears 40 million eries after their debts are taken care of.

Not a bad night’s work in the dungeon, and entertainingly done in the zany, hyper-caffeinated way I’ve come to expect of earlier KonoSuba. I had grown a bit weary of Kazuma & Co. being broke and miserable; it’s good to see them enjoy a victory, even if something might come up early in the next episode that’ll slap them back down into the muck.

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KonoSuba 2 – 04

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This week KonoSuba ditches the dungeon for another common fantasy-world trope: the undesired arranged marriage. Darkness makes her triumphant return, but faces a crisis: as a condition of Lord Aldarp showing lenience to Kazuma, Darkness must meet Aldarp’s son Walther and consider an arranged marriage, which Darkness’ father also wants, since he likes Walther.

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Darkness believes bringing Kazuma and Aqua to the meeting will help get her out of it, but Kazuma, wanting to be rid of a crusader who can’t hit anything, tries to sabotage her plan, performing the duty of keeping her from saying or doing anything that would torpedo the marriage.

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Of course, we know Darkness to be a incurable masochist, so the fact that Lord Walther is a kind, gentle, focused, valiant, and hard-working knight makes him perhaps the worst possible type for “Lalatina”, who prefers someone she describes in great detail which seems to match Kazuma quite nicely.

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As Darkness and Kazuma grapple in a match the latter ends up winning due to his admirable command of lascivious talk (and knowing inherently precisely how to push Dark’s buttons), Walther can tell that while Darkness is a very interesting woman, he’s not the right match for her.

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It was nice to see the guy the girl is being forced to marry turning out to be a great guy, only for the girl to utterly reject him anyway because she prefers awful guys. It was also nice to see how well Darkness’ dad Ignis knows his daughter, and how much he loves her anyway and merely wants her to be happy…and to one day produce a grandchild for him to dote upon!

This was another humorous KonoSuba romp that really let Darkness shine while showcasing her odd but charming chemistry with Kazuma.

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