Zombieland Saga: Revenge – 06 – Tae-Tae’s Big Adventure

Ookoba Shinta needs a big scoop to maintain his sanity in Saga, and he can’t quite take his eyes of the group of lookalikes of deceased famous people that is Franchouchou. He’s not a fan (though I guess he’s not not a fan either); he wants more answers about who they are and what their deal is.

Well, their deal is pretty simple: they’re 20 million yen in debt, all thanks to Koutarou (who brazenly ignores that fact, thus rejecting reality and substituting his own). They’re out of their creative slump due to the past few events that also didn’t cost them anything, but they still need to get that paper.

He even calls out Tae as someone who really should be at least trying to make some money, though Yuugiri simply sends her on a grocery errand. Ookoba encounters “Number Zero” in a crosswalk and decides to start following her. What he—and we—witnesses is a delightful day in the life of Yamada Tae!

A kind old lady gives her a snack. Some soccer kids give her a snack. She has a snack of edible offerings at the Yamada family ancestral grave. Then she shows up at the supermarket…where my favorite pint-sized bozozoku girl Amabuki Maria has a job trying to pay for a new bike for her mama. Maria can’t help but talk Zero’s ear off whenever they meet; probably because Zero is such a good listener!

Maria and her two BFFs have decided to “tear it up” in a new way, through dance, and invite Zero to a pharma-sponsored dance-off where they proceed to put on, shall we say, a heartfelt and upbeat but ultimately underwhelming performance. They’re no match for the five-time champion Cocco-kun, who is someone in a chicken suit.

Because Cocco-kun represents Tae’s ideal—a chicken big enough for her veracious appetite—she joins him in a breakdancing duel, scaring the shit out of the pharma PR exec but also blowing the top off the competition with her inhuman moves, including spinning on her head so fast her head looks motionless…because it is! Ookoba tries to snap a photo, but Romero ruins his shot.

Tae easily dethrones the fully human Cocco-kun and claims the ¥30,000 Grand Prize, but seems only interested in the Bonus Prize: a 10kg bag of onions—and tosses the cash in the trash. Fortunately, Maria fishes it out and tries to give it back to Zero-chan, attracting the attention of Saga Policeman A.

He recommends she spend it at the tracks…not the horseracing track, as he repeatedly pleads to his chief, but the boatracing regatta. There, like Maria and her little dance troupe, Korosuke’s princess Misa has also found a new way to tear it up, even though she’s yet to win a single race and wipes out almost every time. While the cop is busy, Tae places a bet, demonstrating how easy to use the machines really are.

Misa spots Maria in the grandstand and it lights a fire in her belly, because she’s a Misa on a mission, channeling Saki on her bike and pulling the legendary “eel goby turn” while shocking everyone who bet on her to DNF once more.

Maria and Misa’s Korosuke crew are elated, and then Maria takes a look at betting ticket and realizes to her shock that Number Zero increased her money over six hundredfold with a perfect trifecta (or something…I don’t know all the terminology!)

This means she turned her ¥30,000 into a cool ¥20 million—thus erasing all of Franchouchou (really Koutarou’s) debt in one day, while out on a little grocery errand. She either took Koutarou’s insistence she get out there and make some money, or it happened entirely by accident (after all, she did try to throw that ¥30K in the trash at first).

Zombieland Saga loves the fact that we both desperately want to know and don’t want to know more about Yamada Tae, and spent an entire Tae-centric episode proving that it really isn’t a detriment for her shroud of mystery to remain fully intact, even unto the end of the series. Tae more than proved she can carry an episode without singing, speaking, or her past being revealed, while Ookoba followed her all day only ended up with more questions.

Cheif among those crops up right at the end of his stalking session. When Tae’s head pops off and falls on the ground, Maria just happens to have her back turned, and Saki keeps it that way by pulling her into a romantic embrace. But Ookoba not only sees Zero’s head come off, he snaps a photo of it. Just when he was about to give up, his underling’s joke about those famous girls being revived as zombies suddenly doesn’t seem so far-fetched…

Read Crow and Irina’s discussion of this episode here!

Zombieland Saga: Revenge – 02 – Blazing Souls and Beckoning Winds

Franchouchou are training with renewed confidence after Koutarou pulled himself together, with Saki deciding to work on her abs with some sit-ups. Zombieland Saga’s slice-of-life scenes are always full of great little details, from the sound of the zombies’ bodies creaking, to the sound of Saki’s giant ponytail gently whapping Sakura. Koutarou announces their next gig as co-hosts of a TV tourism segment on Saga’s Yutouku Inari Shrine.

He does so in the most obnoxious way possible—thereby proving that he’s back!—by wearing a cardboard TV on his head and aggressively interviewing the idols. The details I loved here included the different ways they reacted to having a mic shoved into a facial feature, the change in the sound of their voice when the mic is close, and Tae’s spinning her head Exorcist-style once she gets the TV box…just ‘cause. It’s also the first time I’ve heard the current Japanese era of Reiwa—which began in 2019—mentioned in an anime.

Koutarou also mentions that they’ll be joined in the segment by The White Ryuu, a pompadour-sporting rock star from Saga who has also hosted a nationally popular radio show called So Saga Can Be Saga since 1992. Of the idols, only Saki shares Koutarou’s enthusiasm, as she’s a huge fan of everything White Ryuu, who is portrayed here by the real-life Hakuryuu, himself a pretty colorful character.

A little after Franchouchou arrive at the shrine and get set up with the TV crew, Ryuu makes one hell of a cool entrance, drifting in lying semi-supine across the hood of a ’59 Cadillac Eldorado. The White Ryuu is showing his age, with deep lines in a face partly obscured by a drooping, graying pompadour. It doesn’t matter; Saki is in awe, as am I! He explains he’s late because “the wind blowing down from Kyougatake gave me pause.” It won’t be his only mention of winds, nor the last philosophical thing he says.

In a refreshing development, the TV segment goes swimmingly, with a camera-shy Sakura bailed out by the consummate professionalism and knack for spontaneity of Mizuno Ai, as well as . The idols’ bubbly happy-go-lucky energy is nicely balanced (and sometimes usurped) by White Ryuu, who is full of bemusing little asides about life, society, and freedom.

In a beautiful little moment I’m glad was captured, Sakura asks Ai while they’re praying at the shrine if “zombie prayers count”, with a smiling Ai saying she’s “sure the gods are surprised we’re even here.” It reminds us something that you sometimes forget during their “human” segments: they’re zombies covered in makeup.

The segment is ready to wrap, but Ryuu insists on a torturous climb to the inner temple, where the zombie idols are fine but he collapses from exertion at the top. Even so, he raises a defiant fist and declares that “grasping hold of something real is never easy”, engendering a primal, avenging “RYUUUUU!” from Saki.

As the TV crew packs up, completely confused by everything Ryuu said, Saki has to hold herself back from picking a fight, just as she asked Sakura if she wanted to die when she said she’d never heard of him. To her, Ryuu’s words are like “fists fulla soul”, running out to say a proper goodbye to her idol and promising to start listening to his show again.

As he climbs back on the hood of his Eldorado (the guy commits), he says won’t be on the show much longer, as the winds are blowing him elsewhere. But he tells her not to sweat it, parting with the refrain “The answers you’re looking for can still be found in Saga.”

Back home, the other idols notice Saki is down in the dumps. The question of whether Saki is in love is brought up, and again we see how the different idols regard romance for idols. Junko is scandalized, even though plenty of her era’s contemporaries had secret love lives, while Lily is all for it, as long as it makes you shine brighter.

Sakura decides to approach Saki to find out for sure what’s troubling her, finding her out on the balcony listening to Ryuu’s show. Meeting him reminded her of how she thought everyone was out to get her, and how whenever she wouldn’t bow and scrape to them, they’d try to get rid of her. Even as a middle schooler she’d get in huge brawls, her victories leaving her lost and alone.

One night while lying on a riverbank she heard So Saga Can Be Saga from a fisherman’s radio, and White Ryuu’s positive affirmations to the troubled souls of Saga and beyond soothed her smoldering heart. Now we know why he said so many offbeat things during the segment: that’s his whole thing. And doggone it, he had some really nice things to say:

“No matter who you are, it’s rough not knowing where you belong. But it’s times like that you gotta keep your eyes and ears open. You’re gonna find somebody you feels the same way you do. Even now, me talking with you like this means you’re not alone.” Ryuu was right: Saki kept her eyes and ears opened and found Kirishima Reiko, jumping into her big brawl and fighting by her side, leading to the complex and deeply heartwarming relationship covered last season.

Saki is upset because she doesn’t want Saga or Japan to lose a voice like White Ryuu’s, finding and saving wretched souls like her. She’s lost enough already, damnit! So she hops on a bike (with Sakura accompanying her) and races to the radio station—utterly destroying the bike in the process—to confront Ryuu and beg him not to quit.

Ryuu welcomes Saki and Sakura (AKA Nos. 2 and 1) into the booth to discuss it. Saki tells him Saga is still full of folks who don’t know what to do with themselves, and even Saga itself doesn’t know what to do. Without him, where will smoldering hearts turn to? But Ryuu says that’s just it: the people need a place to turn to, not him.

He never said the show would be shutting down, only that he’d be departing. But not before finding someone with the passion in their soul to take over for him, and he believes that’s Saki and Franchouchou. He says they have the spark that lights a fire in folks. Brooking no input from the suits, he bequeaths the show to the idol group right there on the air.

Before Ryuu hops on his Cadillac’s hood to be pushed by the winds of Kyougatake, Saki confesses her love for him. He’s flattered, but assures her her passion will be needed elsewhere. Then he says what might just be the saddest string fourteen words ever uttered on Zombieland Saga, knowing what we know: “Look me up when you’re a bit older and have grown into fine women.”

As they watch the sun rise on Saga together, Saki tells Sakura that no longer how much time passes, she’ll never grow up into a fine woman. At first she tries to laugh it off with a brave smirk, but her eyes become flooded with tears and she’s suddenly on her back sobbing. Then Sakura starts sobbing, and I tellya, I had to fight back tears too! Then Sakura starts drying out like a mummy, and I was laughing again.

That’s the beauty and the magic of Zombieland Saga, which is so much more than a show about down-on-their-luck idols. The futures they should’ve had taken from them, and now they must try to build new futures from whole cloth. While initially depicted as “lame” and washed up, White Ryuu was a revelation here, imbuing the episode with wisdom, gravitas and optimism.

I never, ever tired of his entrances and exits atop his ridiculous car, while the episode completely sold Saki falling for him, making his parting words all the more heartbreaking. The only thing this episode was missing was a performance, which is what we get during the end credits, and it’s appropriately a heartwarming cover of a White Ryuu song. The idols’ outfits look great, the lighting looks great, their singing sounds great and the dancing animation is fantastic.

Saki assures the rapt audience that anyone lost out there will be able to see her soul burning, just like Lake Imari’s breakwater lighthouse. Taking over the mic at So Saga Can Be Saga, joined by the rest of Franchouchou, she tells the listeners to find their way back there if they ever feel worried or alone.

Zombieland Saga: Revenge – 01 (First Impressions) – The First Ragged Cry of Rebirth

After their miraculous show in the snow at Arpino, Franchouchou’s first CD sold like hotcakes, but then Koutarou booked them for the 30,000-seat Ekimae Fudosan Stadium (EFS)…and only 500 fans attended, or 1.66% capacity. They failed to get even a single encore, and ended up in humongous debt.

That would’ve been the end of the road for most idol groups, but the Franchouchou girls weren’t ready to throw in the towel. Sakura, Ai, Saki, Junko, Lily, and Yuugiri all secured jobs with which to gradually pay off that debt, and are working towards a comeback show at the metal club where it all began a year ago. But even a month after EFS, Koutarou remains a drunken, disheveled, distraught, and infuriating mess.

He’s convinced it’s all over for Franchouchou and his Saga project, even dramatically standing on the edge of the water during a horrific storm and ranting incoherently. The girls start to consider that it may not be just about the money, because there’s no way he could’ve reasonably thought they could have sold out a stadium show. They break into his office and find a demo tape of the song they were going to perform as an encore but never did.

After Yuugiri, working at a fancier bar using the skills learned in her past life, encounters a horrendously drunk Koutarou mistakenly sticking his head in, then going outside to vomit. He’s in a very bad way!

The day of their concert arrives, and Sakura tries one more time to get through to him, but ultimately loses her patience. She returns to the others, and they go forward with the metal show, despite the fact almost no one in the crowd wants to see an idol group aside from their handful of hardcore fans.

The girls are confident if they can just take a step in the right direction they can begin the hard climb back to recognition, but the crowd is, to say the least, impatient and hostile. Their performance suffers due to Koutarou not being there, but a grizzled bartender eventually guilt-trips him into running to the venue, where he yells for an encore from the back and starts a huge brawl.

Re-energized by the timely arrival of their eccentric producer, Franchouchou slaps their collective cheeks, bears down, and belts out the encore song with power and confidence. As with the last season, the group is CGI, but I wasn’t bothered.

On the contrary, the performance really packed a punch, especially since the CG looks like an improvement on the first season. Even after that, they only get mild applause, but they managed to pull it off. The zombie idols clawed their way back from the dead…again!

A bit later, the girls assemble in the basement and are further heartened to find that Koutarou, still bearing the scars of the concert brawl, has shaved, cut his hair, and dried himself out. Recognizing how they’ve been able to pull off everything he’s asked for (aside from the totally unreasonable EFS gig). With their producer’s head back—and pocket squid—in the game, the Zombie Land Saga Project continues apace.

Zombieland Saga picks its zany story back up nicely without missing a beat, offering the same wonderful blend of weirdness (the foley on their undead body movements is always great), charming camaraderie, heartfelt drama, and of course, Miyano Mamoru being a completely unhinged lunatic! I for one am overjoyed the zombie idols are back!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

You can read Irina and Crow’s discussion of Zombieland Saga: Revenge’s first episode here!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 02 – Matcha Soda

While there are a couple of friendly voices among them (namely Ichika and Yotsuba), as a group the Nakano quints are adamantly opposed to being tutored by Fuutarou. When he challenges them to score at least a 50 in a test he provides, they manage to score 100…combined. They then physically run away from him, but they underestimate how bad he needs the money, not to mention not shirking from this challenge is a matter of personal pride.

Fuutarou knows the sisters hate studying—and him, Yotsuba and Ichika aside—but he’s determined to find a way to get to them, even if it’s one sister at a time. This week his focus is on the third sister Miku, the only one to score a certain question correctly. When he approaches her about it he’s interrupted by Yotsuba and then Ichika, the latter of which thinks they should be more focused on falling in love than studying.

Little does Ichika know that Miku has already fallen in love…with Sengoku period warlords. She slips what looks like a love letter in Fuutarou’s desk and meets him on the rooftop to confess that love, which he thought for a minute was love for him. She dismisses her encyclopedic knowledge of them to be something weird, but he encourages her to have faith in what she likes, finally seeing a path to get her excited about studying.

Miku initially agrees to let him tutor her, but when she offers him a can of her favorite matcha soda and mentions it doesn’t have snot in it, Fuutarou fails to identify the reference, and she recinds her offer to cooperate, labeling him as “all talk.” This irks him, so he checks every Sengoku book in the library, and the next day challenges her to a trivia game. Because it’s a subject near and dear to her heart, he knows she won’t back down.

However, she not only backs down, but runs away, forcing Fuutarou to chase after her as they play a game of warlord shiritori, until they both collapse from exhaustion. Miku removes her stockings and shoes and relaxes on a bench as Fuutarou gets her a matcha soda and tells her he figured out the snot reference—but only after Yotsuba googled it for him. Miku reiterates her lack of confidence in herself, telling him she’s the “biggest loser” of the group, and that her four sisters can do anything she can.

Fuutarou counters by showing her the sisters’ test answers, which show that no sisters got the same answers right. That means it goes both ways: Miku can do anything her sisters can, if she applies herself. Fuutarou can see light at the end of the tunnel; if each quintuplet has a specialty that will help make being tutored acceptable, than he can pool their collective knowledge to help them all succeed.

But while he seeks to be the grand uniter of the quintuplets, for now it’s just Yotsuba and Miku who have stopped running away from studying, and from him. Complicating matters is Yotsuba’s suspicion that Miku is in love with Fuutarou, which Miku neither confirms nor denies but blushes an awful lot when pressed. This proves to be a fascinating journey!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 01 (First Impressions) – Five Times the Tutoring Trouble

Uesugi Fuutarou is a studious loner from a poor family trying to have his frugal lunch when an unfamiliar redhead in the uniform of another school tries to take a seat at the same spot with a 1000-yen megafeast. When he starts rudely studying in front of her, she spots the 100-scored exam he blatantly left out in the open, and she gets an idea: this guy could help her study! Instead, he storms off, telling her she’ll gain weight if she keeps over-ordering lunch. Wrong answer, pal!

Fuutarou later realizes the error of his ways, especially when his sister Raiha informs him that a lucrative tutoring job is available, and the redhead is the client. It turns out this girl, one Nakano Itsuki, is one of five quintuplets who have transferred to the school, all of them in need of tutoring. His other initial interactions include the flirty, teasing Ichika and the friendly Yotsuba. The quiet Miku and hostile Nino round out the quintet.

When Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ opulent penthouse apartment, he’s met with resistance at nearly every turn, with the exception of the kind Yotsuba, who tries to help him wrangle her skeptical sisters in a harrowing room-by-room gauntlet. Even when they’re drawn together at the coffee table, it’s only because of the promise of cookies—no one ends up doing any actual studying during his first tutoring session.

Nino even manages to get Fuutarou out of the house by drugging his water, but Itsuki accompanies him on a taxi ride home. That’s when Fuutarou’s secret weapon imouto Raiha comes into play, using her cuteness to get Itsuki to join them for dinner. That’s when Itsuki learns that Fuutarou’s family is depending on the five-fold tutoring fee he stands to gain to pay off debts.

In light of the fact she’d be hurting more than him if she refused, Itsuki agrees to let him continue his tutoring sessions, with the caveat that she won’t accept “tutelage” from him, but will seek to improve her scores without his help. That’s good enough for Fuutarou, but he has yet to realize the gravity of the task before him: all five of the quintuplets are failing, which is why all five transferred to his less prestigious school.

The Quintessential Quintuplets (lets call it QQ) aired back in Winter 2019, but I neither watched nor reviewed, and it seems I missed out. I figured “5/5” would be the appropriate time to correct that error, but unfortunately I’m a couple days off. No matter: QQ is a ton of fun right off the bat. The premise couldn’t be simpler or more obvious and familiar, but the execution is solid.

Production values are high, the character designs and personalities are distinct, diverse, and well-balanced, and the all-star voice cast is pitch-perfect. Everyone comes off as likable despite their flaws, and the comedy works more often than not.

Sometimes you just need a good high school harem rom-com (this episode is intriguingly book-ended by marriage scenes), and there’s no harm in looking back to the recent past for a shining example, which is what we seem to have here.

Elfen Lied – 06 – Debts Paid and Unpaid

Kouta and Kakuzawa’s assistant Arakawa find the professor’s body (and head) in the basement. Arakawa isn’t particularly devastated by the sight of her lover beheaded, but perhaps she’s in shock. Not to mention she has no idea why he has horns like a Diclonius. A shaken Kouta returns home, but in the middle of talking with Yuka a switch seemingly flips in his head. He suddenly can’t remember what he was saying, and goes to bed.

Out on the street and still lucid, Lucy reaches into the head of a passing girl, either wiping her memory of seeing her…or killing her. The next day, Yuka insists on accompanying Kouta as he continues his search. The two end up taking shelter at a shrine, revealing their feelings for each other, and kissing. In a show with so much violence and cruelty, a tender scene like this is welcome, and Noto Mamiko’s voice emanates kindness and gentleness.

While walking to school, Mayu spots Bando on the beach, and makes the terrible mistake of approaching him. Mayu can’t help it; she was worried about the guy and is glad to see he’s alright, because she’s a good girl. To repay his debt, Bando gives her his number for her to call if she needs help. Ironically, when he learns she knows about Lucy, Mayu has to use that call immediately…on him. His honor forces him to let her go, but his toxic masculinity put her in that situation in the first place.

The rain stops, and Yuka’s lovey-dovey-ness turns to embarrassment, and then jealousy when she and Kouta encounter Lucy. They’re shocked to hear her form complete sentences, but when Kouta insists they return to his house, she tells him she doesn’t deserve his charity. She mentions something from the past that triggers a memory in Kouta’s head. Lucy herself remembers her and Kouta playing in the ocean as youths, before reverting to Nyu and cuddling with him.

I wonder if Kouta will continue to remember those repressed memories involving Lucy, and how he’ll respond to them. He’s thrown caution to the wind regarding “Nyu” to this point because he thought they had no prior connection. What if she killed his sister Kaede?

In the meantime, Kurama couldn’t kill Nana. We learn he’d already killed his birth daughter in the past (presumably for having horns) and lost his wife to suicide shortly thereafter. But if he wanted Nana to survive, you’d think he wouldn’t have left her on that god-forsaken beach, where Bando (who apparently lives there) can immediately find her. I’d have shipped her to the other side of the country, if not continent…

DanMachi II – 05 – Assets and Liabilities

In what is very much a post-climactic battle, catching-your-breath episode that doesn’t skimp on the fanservice, Hestia Familia familiarizes themselves with their sprawling new digs, which have been purged of Apollo’s, er, distinctive decor.

As thanks for joining her familia, Hestia also made sure Mikoto had a huge cypress bath and Welf has a well-stocked forge for blacksmithing. It’s nice to see Hestia and Bell somewhere other than dilapidated ruins.

Considering how all of Apollo’s assets were seized in addition to his mansion, such relatively extravagant renovations don’t seem like a problem; Hestia is rolling in cash now, and everyone in Orario wants to join the David that defeated the Apollo Goliath.

Only one problem: while Hestia is rallying the new recruits, Mikoto happens to find a debt slip in the amount of 200 million valis, incurred by Hestia for Bell’s blade. Bell faints upon hearing she spent all that money she didn’t have for him.

Just like that, the hordes of recruits scatter and Hestia’s children are contemplating some overtime in the dungeon. But she’s committed to paying back the debt on her own, and reiterates as such after overhearing Bell speak such kind words to her in the bath. As for Apollo’s money? All spent on renovations. Not the best with money, this Hestia!

Hestia Familia’s going to be alright; at least, depending on what news Shigure delivers to Mikoto about a certain fox/dog-eared woman—who features prominently on the show’s promo art and is thus probably going to play a sizable role going forward.

Overlord III – 06 – Incapable Nobles and Dirty Jobs

Far from Nazarick and Carne lies the vast, mighty, and vibrant Baharuth Empire, led by the dashing young “Bloody Emperor” El Nix, and backed up by his Court Wizard Lord Fluder and his Four Imperial Knights, whose titles represent the four elements.

El Nix orders both parties to investigate Jaldabaoth, whose recent attack on the Re-Estize has led the empire to delay their annual war with the clearly militarily inferior kingdom, as well as Momon, who defeated him. Of course, we know “Jaldabaoth” was merely Demiurge, and Momon is Ains.

Demi’s plan to make Nazarick a great country and make Ains’ name known throughout the known world is grand and intricate, and involves Ains going to the imperial capital Arwintar as Momon of Darkness, with Gamma AKA Nabe in tow, the Adamantite adventurers on the prowl once more.

Meanwhile in the kingdom, the eldest son Prince Barbro attempts to insert himself in a position of power above his younger brother and his sister Princess Renner, neither of whom seem too concerned. Barbro takes offense to a commoner like Gazef having his father’s noble ear.

Gazef endures Barbro’s barbs and later spars with Brain Unglaus as a delighted Climb observes. Gazef is by the king’s side, while Brain and Climb are by the princess’. Big or small, they’ll doubtless all have roles to play in this new arc.

The episode than shifts to yet more new faces: the four members of Fortnight, one of the many teams of “Workers”—mercenary adventurers unsanctioned by the guild. Workers do the jobs official guild adventurers either can’t or won’t do. In this case, the “dirty” job is to investigate a certain tomb. I wouldn’t be surprised if the name of this tomb rhymes with “Jazamick”; then again, maybe not. We shall see.

Fortnight (note the different spelling from the popular video game) is composed of the fighters Hekkeran and Imina, the crusader Rober, and the mage Arche, daughter of one of the “incapable” (i.e. incompetent) noble families that Emperor El Nix has stripped of their nobility. Arche is a third-tier magic user who can also detect the levels of other users.

She uses these talents to make money to pay off her family’s debt, but when she returns home to find her father still spending money he doesn’t have on trinkets, she decides to officially freeze her folks out (her mom doesn’t get to speak), and vows to take her little sisters and make her own way—which would mean no more dangerous adventuring.

The other members of Fortnight declare other reasons, but you can tell they care about Arche and want to help her and her sisters stay above water, though if she leaves them they’ll definitely miss her magical prowess.

The next day, Fortnight joins a bunch of other Worker teams of various dispositions on the grounds of their client, Count Femel. They are also introduced to Momon and Nabe, who’ll be joining them on their quest.

Their presence makes me less sure that the tomb they’ll explore is Nazarick, but whatever tomb it is and whatever’s waiting for them, with Momon and Nabe around, the Workers are going to get a good show.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens – 01 (First Impressions)

Three percent of the population of Fukuoka’s Hakata district is hitmen. In the first Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens, we meet a number of them…and I don’t like any of them. They’re either dull, or assholes, or both.

One of the assholes is a cross-dressing dude who is trying to kill his way out of debt for his little sister’s sake. He’s hired to murder an employee at a club who was skimming profits to the tune of 10 million.

Many hours later, a shaggy detective is tasked with discovering the club employee’s murderer…only to be the cross-dressing hitman’s next target.

Another asshole is the son of the mayor, who has a habit of abducting women, taking them to hotels and beating them to death if they won’t let him have his way with them.

This horrific monster is the spawn of Hakata’s mayor, who suggests minimizing his own exposure by giving the brat women with no families who have recently been brought into the country via human trafficking.

Meanwhile, the brat’s friends lynched a foreigner who is now in a coma, and the foreigner’s foreigner friend wants revenge, so calls upon some hitmen, which includes a little blonde girl, because sure, why not.

They end up mistaking another hitman hired to kill the attacker, who is on his first job since being transferred to Hakata from Shinjuku by the professional killing company he works for, RED RUM (har har).

Mr. Shaggy Detective has some conversations and does some snooping around the club, which leads to the aforementioned cross-dressing hitman to come after him. However, the cross-dressing hitman isn’t very good at his job, and the detective is able to make the first move.

This is all very dreary and unappealing so far. An entire city of hitmen is obviously ridiculous, so this show scaled it back to “three percent”, which is probably an abnormally large proportion but it doesn’t sound like a lot, it just sounds kinda limp.  And it doesn’t really matter how many hitmen reside in Hakata if none of them could create a single positive impression on me. Pass.

3-gatsu no Lion – 27

As part of repaying his debt he feels he owes her, Rei wants to help Hina in anyway he can, and that means getting a new perspective on the matter of bullying. Hayashida-sensei misunderstands at first. Rei isn’t the one being bullied. Indeed, he proudly proclaims his hard-won and long-standing invisibility at school.

When he brings up Hina, then describes her personality in such great detail and then presents his passion and motivation on the matter (“my duty as a human being” and such) Hayashida starts thinking that there is someone Rei likes. Of course, Rei isn’t thinking that way at all; Hina is not just a dear friend, but close to family, and his lifesaver to boot.

Hayashida gives Rei some good advice, including to tread carefully and not make a big fuss at school, lest it just make things worse for the victim, but to instead listen very intently to her feelings on the matter; how she’d like the matter resolved.

You know Rei is super-serious about this endeavor because he has a back-up plan: if Hina has to change schools or get a private tutor, he means to support her, not just emotionally, but financially. To that end, Hayashida spots a stack of shogi tournaments into which Rei has entered, calculating all of the winnings he’ll amass, which makes him a bit worried.

Despite saying he (literally!) can’t afford to lose again, he does inevitably lose, and is so angry he wrangles an all-to-willing Nikaidou to strenuously train with him. Nikaidou thinks Rei finally has fire in his belly and is utilizing his Best Friend; Rei just wants money to repay Hina!

The next day, Rei helps Akari lug home a whole mess of groceries she got a big sale. When Rei tells Akari his weight, she hurries home to start cooking, and won’t hear of Rei leaving.

There’s something about Rei, perhaps in part his personality; and the experiences he’s had (the loss of loved ones being something they share), that has Kawamotos pour their hearts out at him. Akari feels she can talk to him, and criticizes herself for the job she’s done as surrogate mom to Hina, lamenting she’s “no good.”

Only nineteen herself when their mother died, Akari had barely lived any life before suddenly becoming a mother of two. She did her best, but in hindsight worries she instilled “ham-fisted” ideals into Hina, which led to her predicament with her friend and the bullies.

Akari admired Gramps simply praising Hina’s courage, but she hates the part of herself for wanting Hina to simply run away rather than do something that would cause her to be unhappy or alone. This is, of course, silly; Gramps has lived a long-ass life, of course he’s going to have more wisdom on these kinds of things. Akari is too hard on herself here.

Rei reassures Akari that just as Hina did nothing wrong in fighting the good fight, neither did Akari. After all, Akari raised the girl who saved Rei’s life; that makes Akari his savior too. Had Hina been raised not to be as kind as she is, or to think of herself before others, Rei might not even be there talking to her.

His honest words cheer Akari up, and she fixes a big ‘ol pot of curry for dinner. When Gramps returns from the theme park with Hina and Momo, he complains that Rei is there “again”, but he’s only joking around, and orders him to sit, eat, and stop making him feel like the bad guy.

While stepping back into the house, Hina hands him a cartoon cat phone strap that somewhat resembles him, as thanks for everything he’s done. Hina expects Rei to think it childish, but he tells her he’s moved, and thanks her. It’s such a nice, quiet, warm moment shared between two people who will hopefully be thanking each other for being there for one another for a good long time to come.

KonoSuba 2 – 03

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KonoSuba calls back to its first season more this week, but for some reason it didn’t bother me as much, probably because it’s always a hoot to watch Kazuma and Megumin explosion training montages, and even more of a hoot to have Kazuma and Aqua tackle a dungeon, with no one but each other to bounce off of.

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The episode also doesn’t hesitate to remind us that Kazuma is a bit of a cad and a perv, considering the “rustling” going on when he and Aqua used to sleep in the stables. But with Darkness away (having seemingly but probably not unspeakable things done to her) and Megumin sitting out the dungeon (an accidental explosion could kill them all), the balance of the episode has a fleet, stripped-down feeling to it.

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Also, it manages to surprise by making this one of the times when Aqua is not only the most capable party member, but absolutely essential to clearing the dungeon. Whether undead are naturally drawn to her or not, one can’t deny she’s good at dispatching them, and with style to boot. I loved how a string of anti-undead spells were suddenly interrupted by an exuberant “Nature’s Beauty!” for good measure.

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Once they reach Keele, the former court wizard who has a whole story and after whom the dungeon is named, there’s a bittersweetness to the fact he became a lich to protect his love, and thanks to Aqua, can return to her through purification.

Kazuma is pleasantly surprised throughout the dungeon trek with Aqua’s staggering awesomeness, right up until he realizes the reason they’ve been chased around by undead all this time was because of her.

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Still, I maintain it was a good thing Aqua accompanied Kazuma. They got a bunch of loot, and Kazuma was reminded that Aqua isn’t always useless, and sometimes he is. Unfortunately, none of the gold they make goes towards their towering debts, because they instead end up buying the house however many rounds it takes to send Aqua into the alley to vomit the gold away.

As is so often the case, Kazuma & Co. can’t help but take two steps back for every step forward, at least as far as money goes. But that was still a damned entertaining dungeon trip.

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KonoSuba 2 – 02

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The expressions on the faces of Kazuma on Aqua kinda match up with my feelings about this episode, which was, in a word, listless. They still have the mansion (for now), but all their other earthly goods are gone. Megumin brings in a cat, so now the party has a mascot. The three worry about what might be happening to Darkness.

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Then Sena observes as the party strikes out into the snow to do what it does best: nothing right. Granted, this is a show all about the ineptitude of the party, so it’s not like I expect competence. It’s just that the slimy giant toads were already done last season, and despite casting Megumin’s rival Yunyun and Sena into the slimy fray, it all comes off as a bit stale.

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In other news, Kazuma and Megumin’s stubborn pride leads them to share a bath together, when neither wants to lose face by backing down from threats of…bathing together. To be fair, it’s a huge bath, so I don’t really see the problem as long as they’re covering up, which is the case here. Nevertheless, this is another retread from last season, with Megumin instead of Darkness.

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I’m not sure what would have improved this episode, but less (or no) Yunyun might’ve done the trick. The projections of her and Megumin’s most embarrassing moments were good for a chuckle, but otherwise she was half-baked and didn’t bring enough new out of Megumin to make her worth having around. This episode just felt like it lacked energy, and wasn’t up to the standard KonoSuba programmed me to expect through its much better efforts.

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KonoSuba 2 – 01

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I have wrested control of KonoSuba reviewing duties from Zane, but we both watched this first episode of its much-anticipated sequel, and it does not disappoint, picking up right where it left off. KonoSuba 2 continues its predecessor’s generosity – you get a lot of bang for your buck. This episode featured five distinct scenarios, all the source of a great many laughs.

People initially come to Kazuma’s defense, first by talking about other bad stuff he’s done, but quickly wilt into the background when Sena, the prosecutor charged with arresting him, makes it clear she has no qualms about putting others in jail for the same charges as Kazuma. Here, Kazuma learns the true value of his “friends” at the tavern.

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However, his core friends don’t give up, as Megumin causes an explosive diversion, allowing Aqua to sneak to the prison where Kazuma is held and give him a pin with which to pick the cell lock. Of course, it’s not that kind of lock. When she returns with a hacksaw, she tosses it to him, even though he can’t reach the window bars, as it never occurred to her to saw the bars herself. The failed attempts re-establish the party’s general incompetence in all things, but especially seemingly simple things.

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That being said, Kazuma exhibits in a hilarious interrogation scene with Sena that he can more than make up for his lack of stupidity with an abundance of embarrassing details about his life, which he has no choice but to elaborate on in front of Sena, a lie-detecting bell, and an enthusiastic stenographer.

In what’s my favorite part of the episode, Kazuma starts out under the stern Sena’s heel, but once the bell seems to prove his innocence, the tables turn completely, and Sena is suddenly docile and contrite. Fukushima Jun and Nabatame Hitomi put on a voice-acting clinic playing the swiftly evolving moods of Kazuma and Sena.

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Naturally, Kazuma gets too full of himself and says something the bell identifies as a lie (b/c he knows Wiz) which is enough for Sena to send him to trial – an open-air trial with the gallows hanging courtroom adjacent. Sena starts breaking down Kazuma’s character with the unflattering testimony of witnesses.

Here the show flexes its memory, using that testimony as a means of refreshing us on what Kazuma has done (not all of it is stuff to be proud of, after all), and Aqua and Megumin fail to provide a robust defense. Kazuma only goes free when he tells the bell he’s not involved with the Devil King, and even then after Darkness has to reveal her Dustiness heritage to override the local Lord leaning on the judge to convict.

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But with each victory comes another defeat, something that one both expects and doesn’t expect on KonoSuba, so engrained is my fantasy anime way of thinking. A brutal and unjust middle ages-style legal system actually worked out for Kazuma in the end…but only because he knew someone important.

That’s his luck in play, but there’s never enough to, say, avoid having his, Megumin’s, and Aqua’s assets snatched up in order to pay his debt to the Lord Aldarp, who emerges as perhaps the next big bad.

And so the party now has to somehow make back enough money to get rid of that debt with nothing but the clothes on their back and their wits, all without incurring more debt or breaking more laws that will get them executed. It’s a hard knock life in this beautiful world.

Any promising opportunities are to be looked upon with suspicion, but even that vigilance will prevent be from being surprised or even shocked by what fresh indignities KonoSuba has cooked up for Kazuma & Co.

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