Bofuri – 12 (Fin) – Oh, the Atrocity!

When Payne exacts [Sword of Judgment] on Maple, it looks like the end of her fun has come at last, but she survives with 1 HP thanks to [Stout Guardian]. When her mech’s [Counter] connects, Payne reveals he also has [Stout Guardian]. Maple breaks the stalemate with [Atrocity], transforming herself into an eldritch beast and simply eating all of the Holy Sword members in the cave. When they re-spawn, they accept their loss at Maple’s fairly-acquired mega-skill, especially since they still have their orbs and remain in the lead.

Now that all of Maple’s secret skills have been revealed, there’s no reason to hold back anymore. All of Maple Tree rides Atrocity!Maple as they mop up the remaining guilds. But when they spot the Flame Emperors being attacked from all sides, they don’t add to the piling-on. Instead, they defeat all of the Emperors’ attacking enemies, preserving the big guild to assist in whittling down the smaller guilds (and earning a bit of goodwill).

The third day of the event has barely begun when the admins decide to call it with only six guilds remaining, all receiving the same reward. After debating whether to re-nerf Maple, one of them is consigned to the fact that whether they like it or not she is the face of the game, and an inspiration to other adventurers who hope to one day face her. So they let her be, checking in to see what weirdness she’s up to: being a woolly mech volleyball for May and Yui!

Maple Tree, meanwhile, claimed the third spot, just below the Emperors and Holy Sword. Maple graciously invites both guilds to Maple Tree’s hall in order to share in an end-of-event party. While everyone was all-business during the event, it’s good to see there are no sore losers or grudges, just pleasant conviviality and mutual pride in battles well-fought.

It’s a good way as any to end a show that, for its protagonist, was first and foremost about having as much fun as possible, and sharing that fun with as many friends as possible. Its upbeat outlook is most welcome in these trying times.

 

MAPLE WILL RETURN IN BOFURI II

Bofuri – 11 – Maple’s Inferno

BOFURI shifts seemlessly to Shounen Battle Mode as Maple sends May and Yui off on MegaSyrup and fights Mii, Misery and Markus. At first it’s largely a stalemate, with the Emperors’ attacks unable to do much damage and Maple unable to go on offense. Mii forces the issue with her Noble Phantasm ultimate attack [Prison of Flame], forcing Maple to bust out [Machine God] earlier than she wanted.

Overmatched by Maple’s firepower and with her support KO’d, Mii uses [Self-Destruct] while riding Maple’s back, only to learn upon re-spawning that Maple wasn’t harmed by her suicide attack, leading to another patented Mii-Tantrum. Both the tough and crybaby sides of Mii were well-performed by Satou Rina. As for the Emperors’ orb, it was snatched away by a grunt in the midst of the chaos, so Maple Tree comes away empty-handed.

That proves strategically costly, as Maple Tree couldn’t afford to spend that much effort on one foe with no payoff. Both small and medium guilds are dwindling as Maple Tree barely hangs on to the bottom of the Top 10. While that feat is impressive, it only intensifies the target on their back as one of the last remaining small guilds. Subsequent raids prove fruitless, and Sally senses an attack from one of the big guilds coming, so prepares to move their orb off-base.

Those plans come too late, as Sally miscalculates that a big guild like Holy Sword would take forever to mobilize. Instead Holy Sword only sends four, led by Payne, perhaps the game’s most powerful player. Maple stands ready to test that title as the other three Holy Swords battle the rest of Maple Tree.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Payne, ultra-buffed by his comrades, does critical HP damage to Maple. If she’s KO’d it’s probably all over. Can Maple recover and can her guild snatch some kind of consolatory victory from the jaws of certain defeat? We’ll find out in the finale.

Bofuri – 10 – The Little Guild that Could

Maple Tree’s haul totals ten orbs, but that’s only good enough for 17th place. To reach the Top 10 they’ll need more, and the easy pickens from smaller guilds like theirs will be gobbled up quick. That means an already tired Sally must sally forth into the night, where her style of attacking is most effective. Kasumi, Kuromu, Iz and Kanade also strike out to gather more orbs, confident Maple can hold the fort with May and Yui.

But the pitfalls of a tiny guild like theirs trying to compete with the big dogs becomes clear when a nearly gassed Sally bites off more than she can chew and is surrounded by Frederica’s Holy Sword soldiers. She messages Maple that she “might die, sorry”, and Maple rushes to her rescue in Angel Mode and mows the Holy Sword columns away with her Hydras and mech beams.

Maple saves Sally (and her haul of orbs), but leaves the base defense to just May and Yui, who are ambushed by Shin of the Flame Emperors Dread of the Holy Sword, who was watching the guild’s movements. Though he picked the perfect time to strike, the twins manage to avoid KO just long enough for Maple to return with Sally.

Maple KOs Dread, who promises he’ll be back with friends. Frankly, Kanade leaving the base for a mere handful of orbs wasn’t worth it. Had the twins died just a few minutes sooner, Dread would have made off like…well, like a bandit! Kanade, with her insta-spells, would have been ideal backup.

Still, everything turns out fine this time. Sally unveils Maple Tree’s “Plan B”, which essentially swaps who’s on offense and defense. Maple, May and Yui are a three-boss demolition team that mercilessly carves through the guilds Sally mapped out, while the rest of the guild stands by at the base. I doubt I’ll ever tire of the interplay of their cute appearance and mild manners with the utter ruin they dole out.

It’s not long until the next victim on Maple’s list are the vaunted Flame Emperors, led by the legendary Mii. Neither Markus nor Misery—neither of them exactly pushovers—can do much more than slow her down a little. Anything that traps Maple in her tracks is quickly reduced to rubble by the twin hammer girls.

In fact, once they’ve thrown everything they can at Maple to no avail, Misery and Markus resign themselves to death and defeat…until their commander Mii arrives in a streak of flames, just as Maple came to Sally’s aid. Thus the stage is set for the biggest showdown of NWO so far, something everyone watching on the sidelines has been waiting for.

Will Mii’s presence enable Markus and Misery to regroup and keep the twins busy, leaving Maple more vulnerable? Or will Mii fall to Mega-Maple’s might just as so many others before her, and have a big ol’ whiny tantrum about it? We shall see!

Bofuri – 09 – Capture the Orb

On the eve of the fourth event, a guild competition, the members of Maple Tree train, level up, and in the case of Maple, the twins, and Sally, relax a bit on the water. The competition is essentially a five-day capture-the-flag battle, which means small guilds like theirs will have little time to rest.

Just before the event begins, Sally catches Fredrica of the Order of the Holy Sword scouting them, and challenges her to a duel. Freddie yields before the battle gets too serious, but both she and Sally gain valuable information about each others’ skills, or Freddie would, if Sally wasn’t using her “coax” ability to send inaccurate information.

Once the event starts, 5/8ths of the guild remains in their base to defend the orb, while Kasumi, Kuromu, and Sally go on the offense. Sally in particular proves adept at both obvious frontal attacks and sneaky stealth attacks in capturing multiple enemy orbs. She also faces off with a Holy Sword member who, like her, is essentially a super-ninja.

At least this week, Sally is the busiest member of Maple Tree, as she darts from one base to another snatching orbs, including right out from under the Flame Emperor’s leader, Mii (voiced by Satou Rina, AKA Railgun’s Misaka Mikoto!). Mii is able to catch up, but Sally uses Vanish to escape. Mii spams Flame and Flame Lance to no avail, and with no one around to see, she drops the facade of steely confidence and sobs about not wanting to be leader anymore—immediately rendering her more interesting!

When a guild attempts to get their stolen orb back from Maple Tree, everyone is under Angel Maple’s ultimate defense, so the poor intruders can do nothing but get slaughtered by the might of Maple’s comrades. Maple doesn’t have to lift a finger, and the direct strike of a sword bounces right off her cloak.

In all, it’s a good start for Maple Tree, but as the small fry are weeded out the tougher players will turn their focus on her. There’s a well-struck balance between total ownage and the challenge of making the top ten with such a tiny guild.

Bofuri – 04 – Bird (Ice)Box

Maple and Sally’s foray into the sprawling second level is uneventful until the former falls through a hidden trap into a large cavern containing a club-wielding jester boss. The girls work together to defeat it relatively easily. Maple exhibits her new skill “Cover Move”, which enables her to finally keep up with Sally by mimicking her movements in exchange for double damage. Since zero doubled is still zero, it’s another NWO hack for Maple.

After one day they only have two medals, but when they encounter Kuromu and his party on the snowy but notably not cold mountain (a nod to RPG characters rarely bundling up in cold locations), he reports they’ve got zilch. Feeling indebted to him for his earlier assistance, Maple lets his party go through a one-time use teleport gate, only for the gate to almost immediately reappear, suggesting the boss made quick work of the Kuromu crew.

Maple and Sally use the gate, which takes them to the lair of Silverwing, their toughest boss challenge yet, featuring multiple attack vectors. For once, the usually OP Maple is pushed back by attacks, her HP is depleted, and even the outer layers of her armor is destroyed. Thankfully, ten Devours are enough in concert with Sally’s quick harassing attacks and Mirage skill, which enables Maple to slip in under the big icy bird and deliver a Hydra coup-de-grace.

For their trouble, the duo gains give medals for a total of seven, as well as two mysterious monster eggs. They head to warmer climes and warm them until they hatch, revealing a turtle familiar Maple names Syrup and a white fox familiar Sally names Oboro. Like their masters, Syrup and Oboro feature high defense and agility, respectively, and level up and gain skills as they’re used. They both make adorable additions to the party.

The familiars can also be stashed away when not needed, or in the case of Maple and Sally trudging through a desert inhospitable for either animal. Upon reaching an oasis, the two meet their first PvP opponent: a raven-haired maiden in pink samurai garb, brandishing a katana. She placed sixth in the previous event, and looks to rise in the player rankings and is perhaps thinking of adding Maple and Sally’s seven medals to her own collection.

Bofuri – 03 – No More Maples!

As expected, the admins at NWO reign in Maple’s invincibility somewhat, as she’s now only able to use her Devour skill ten times a day and can now take a degree of damage. Maple isn’t happy, but Sally reminds her of all the damage based effects now available to her.

Before heading to the dungeon that leads to the second level, the pair do some sightseeing. They spot a pair of newbie sisters just starting out, visit a cafe where they meet others who ranked high in the first event, and get a lead on a sidequest in the North Forest.

We learn Sally is super afraid of any kind of ghosts, making Maple the steady party member for this particular quest. They locate a cabin with a hatch that leads an underground passage. There, a man in apparent constant pain is tied to a chair.

Maple’s potion has no effect, but Sally casts a string healing spells, exhausting her MP, and he’s finally healed. Their prize for completing the quest is a Super Speed Skill. Sally celebrates by showing Maple a “never-ending sunset area” where they can just relax and soak in the gorgeous view.

The next day they tackle the dungeon to the second level, which contains a formidable boss: a humongous stag that forms from a tangle of huge vines. Maple’s Hydra attacks have no effect, and the stag launches an earth-shattering counterattack. With no agility, Maple has to be yanked to safety by Sally, and she lands awkwardly, resulting in a brief K.O.

Sally, on the other hand, sticks her superhero landing perfectly and presses her attack on the stag, using her high speed and evasion traits to deliver a death by a hundred slashes followed by an authoritative coup-de-grace. It’s the second straight episode with an exciting, kinetic Sally battle.

With the boss defeated, a disappointed Maple comes to, and the pair continue to the second level’s gathering area, where Iz presents Maple her new white shield, which Maple calls Shirayuki (nice name). The chibi dragon MC then appears to announce the start of the second event: this time, it’s a treasure hunt, and Maple and Sally are able to form a party together.

Since players are allowed to kill other players for their medals, and Maple not only already has a gold medal but has only ten Devours per day, she’ll be even more of a target for opportunistic opponents, so both she and Sally will need to be on their guard. It’s the end of Easy Street…so much the better!

Bofuri – 02 – The No-Damage Duo

Bofuri’s second episode is split between Maple’s first NWO battle royale and when Risa finally joins her. The battle is a cakewalk for Maple, whose ultra-defensive specialization ensures she takes no damage in the process of bagging more than two thousand kills, most of them absorbed as MP by her Great Shield.

Maple actually gets pretty fierce once various parties start ganging up on her, even paralyzing and poisoning those who flee to up her kill count. Compare that to when she’s waiting for enemies, killing time by innocently drawing intricate Yakuza dragon and Nazca lines. I really dig Maple’s low-key drawing talent, which comes through in the game!

Leading up to Risa’s arrival, I was starting to think it would be a running joke for Maple to bring up the fact Risa hasn’t joined her in the game yet, and that she might never join her due to various circumstances IRL. However, once she finally enters (as “Sally”, her real name in reverse), it’s as a “Swashbuckler” class, high on agility and evasion.

This complements Maple’s tank class perfectly, especially when they have to get somewhere far away fast. Sally simply carries the ridiculously slow Maple on her back as she races across the overworld, while Maple dispatches incoming enemies with ease.

Their destination is an underground lake where they can find a particular kind of fish, the scales of which Maple needs for the white shield she’s having Iz forge once she has enough cash. The duo spends a lot of time fishing, while Sally maxes out her swimming and diving skills and finds a cool underwater dungeon.

Tanks like Maple can’t swim, so it’s all up to Sally to take out the beastly aquatic boss at the end of this dungeon. It’s a cool design with lots of pyrotechnic attacks. While both the boss and Sally are CG, and the frame rate screeches to a near-halt, that’s somewhat mitigated by the blur used to indicate they’re underwater. It’s also an exciting, fast-paced, and well-directed battle.

When it’s over, Sally returns to a worried Maple with a new awesome-looking outfit. That’s when the game’s dragon mascot informs them that the second level of the game will soon be opened for those who meet the conditions. In need of a new pair of boots to complete her Swashbuckling look, Sally tosses Maple on her back and races back to town.

The news of multiple levels to the game satisfactorily explains why Maple was able to become so powerful in so short a time: she’s still only on the first of those levels. This fact, and the tough fish boss fight, bode well for their future adventures and battles posing a greater challenge.

One of many details I’m liking about Bofuri is the restrained use of cutaways to online chatting, between the A- and B-parts and before the end credits. The chatting chronicles Maple and Risa’s progress and rise in notoriety. Like similar cutaways in Durarara!! it adds depth, texture and a sense of community to the show.

Bofuri – 01 (First Impressions) – I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense

Kaede‘s friend Risa recommends that she start playing a fun new VRMMO called New World Online…so she does. That’s pretty much it! Oh, and because she doesn’t want to get hurt, virtually or otherwise, she uses her entire allotment of status points on Vitality, or defense, thus becoming a slow but stalwart Tank-class character named Maple.

When Maple finally encounters low-level monsters, they can’t hurt her, and to her dismay, the first of them (a cute bunny) disintegrates before her eyes. However, the violence remains PG-rated throughout, and she continues to gain levels, skills, resistances, and status points—all the latter of which she puts into ever greater defense. Maple’s single-mindedness and bemused commentary keep things lively.

Eventually she heads to a dungeon and buffs her way to the boss, a 3-headed dragon with poison breath that destroys her shield and shortsword. Still, once she gains a poison immunity, she nibbles the dragon to death, and earns some cool armor, among other treasures and abilities, as a reward. Bofuri is not on my list, but it’s competently generic and harmlessly pleasant.

Chihayafuru 3 – 06 – Just Taichi, and Yet Not

Jeez Louise, I thought the last couple episodes were tense. Put Chihaya and Taichi in their first official match together—a finals match, no less—and everything is upped to Eleven. No one dare leave, even Arata, lest he miss watching something he knows deep down he needs to see.

The elders are astonished that not only is the final two high schoolers, but of the same society. They may not be aware of just how close these two are, but it becomes plain once their match shifts into gear.

You can expect the finer points of karuta in Chihayafuru, but don’t sleep on Kana’s mom’s encyclopedic knowledge of traditional Japanese dress, how it makes those who wear it carry themselves differently, and even the symbolic and spiritual significance of the obi.

Very cool stuff…this show is like a cultural bath bomb. I also liked how the nerves of both Chihaya and Taichi were exposed not necessarily in their game, but in the fact they both forgot to gather up their sleeves with the strap thingies called tasuki.

As for the match itself, Chihaya and Taichi demonstrate they’re both at the top of their respective games. Chihaya has more rest…and speed, and is starting to hear words better, but Taichi has a number of strategies to turn her offensive game in on itself, like a placement that seems needlessly reckless and whack-a-doo…until it actually starts working, frustrating Chihaya.

Once she remembers Sakurazawa’s tip about maintaining posture, Chihaya sits up straight and looks at her opponent, who may feel like a stranger in the match, but is still, at the end of the day, Taichi. Neither of them would be there without the other, and here and now, there’s no one either of them want to beat more. It’s a dense, weighty atmosphere, moving some to tears, and it’s absolutely must-watch Chihayafuru.

Chihayafuru 3 – 05 – Unpredictable, Scary, Fun

This week we learn Inokuma’s parents were karuta players, and she learned at a young age that parents could treasure something as much as their kids, which is why she can still play and compete without reservations. Still, just as she’s bent on taking Chihaya out of her comfort zone, one of her kids gets unruly, and Chihaya notices he’s wearing a Daddy Bear shirt, and gets even more comfortable.

Everyone is impressed by Chihaya’s calm and easy demeanor despite being a mere high schooler in such a high-leverage match. Porky is less surprised: he knows Chihaya likely only assigns that intimidating queen mantle to one and only one person: Wakamiya Shinobu. Until she gets to play her again, everyone else is an obstacle, and she won’t be stopped.

Despite all these close matches, someone has to eventually lose…I just never imagined Arata would be the first one eliminated! His opponent Tsuboguchi had an amazing streak of luck, winning the last five cards. Arata is quietly outraged, but that’s karuta: it never ceases to produce a result no one could have predicted.

Murao ends up defeating an exhausted Dr. Harada, but it takes a lot of energy to do so. Chihaya also manages to knock off Inokuma, (then immediately passes out after thanking the reader), and Taichi shocks the room by eliminating Sudo Akihiro with a huge gamble at the end, going for the card closer to Sudo.

The semifinals are then set: Taichi vs. Murao, and Chihaya vs. Tsuboguchi. Since the latter two are in the same society and Chihaya is asleep, Tsuboguchi yields the match to Chihaya, instantly elevating her to the final. Dr. Harada can’t say he’d do the same; even a beloved student should be considered a fierce adversary to smite; Tsuboguchi agrees, but only where Taichi is concerned. That said, Chihaya’s future opponents in her quest for the queen won’t be so accomodating with her narcolepsy.

Before Inokuma leaves, she meets with Sakurazawa and they exchange contact info to practice together in the near future. Watching Inokuma no doubt made Sakurazawa’s passion for karuta burn again, but the latter tears up due to being fairly certain the game has passed her by. In any case, she knows Inokuma was never the same after losing her “Impassionate” card; turns out her surname was once Chihara, which is why she and Chihaya shared an affinity for that card.

The semifinal goes much quicker than the quarter since it’s just one game, but it’s also not as close: Murao is still feeling the residual weight of his game with Dr. Harada, and Taichi capitalizes on every advantage to take an easy win, adopting a far more defensive game than usual that really compliments his skills. He’s also motivated by the fact that Chihaya isn’t in the room while Arata is watching him for the first time from the sidelines.

Taichi is on a roll, so we’ll see if his momentum will be slowed by a head-on final match with none other than Chihaya. He’s been able to overcome all other psychological hurdles, but this could prove his toughest yet. It’s the biggest match yet in which they’ve faced each other. I forsee it will be unpredictable, scary, and fun in equal measure, and can’t wait to watch it unfold, whether it takes one episode or two.

Attack on Titan – 46 – Playing to the Crowd

The Rob Reiss Big-Ass Titan is coming; there’s no getting around it. And it’s attracted to huge groups of people, so it’s avoiding villages and going straight for the densely populated Orvud District, which Erwin keeps UN-evacuated.

Using the citizens of bait may at first seem to run counter to their first mission to protect the people, but if Orvud is emptied the Titan will head to the main wall and possibly break all the way through to Mitras.

I assumed we’d get some kind of Battle of Helm’s Deep-style all-nighter siege, but dawn arrives far quicker than I expected, but both the wall defenses and the Scouts are as prepared as they’re going to be.

They’ve got a plan. Historia isn’t sitting on the sidelines to let her future subjects bear the brunt of the battle; she’s on the front lines, against Erwin’s urging. She muses that if she’s to be accepted as the new ruler, she must earnit with deeds, not simply lean on her name.

In a nice nod to the opening, which IMO is the best of any Titan season, Eren notices a trio of kids not unlike him, Mikasa and Armin back in episode one, on a similarly lovely day, before the Colossal Titan attacked.

Showing Eren looking behind his back and seeing who he must protect is a nice move, and the three kids are the first citizens who I actually want them to protect (a bunch of others are annoyed they have to carry out an evacuation drill).

As for Eren punching himself until the weak, ineffectual, useless brat within him is “gone for good”, that doesn’t work quite as well, but I like the fact that he’s inspired by Historia’s transformation into one of the strongest among them.

When the Rob Titan reaches the wall, no amount of artillery bombardment does much good, and he puts his hands on he top of the wall and stands up, revealing his face and half of his head has been sheared away.

The Scouts shoot more gunpowder into him, and Eren transforms into a Titan to personally deliver another load of powder directly into the very large and open head cavity, thus destroying the core from the inside.

This is where the wheel is broken and history doesn’t repeat itself; the three kids are scared, but their homes and families are spared the cruel, gruesome fates of Eren’s, Mikasa’s and Armin’s.

Even more significant, the fates conspire to make Historia, not Eren, the public savior of the day, as the assembled masses watch in awe as she delivers the killing blow to the Titan core high over the city, before landing in a wagon.

Little do they know she just had her first—and last—fight with her dad. And she won.

When she rises from her fall, she promptly tells all within earshot her name, Historia Reiss, and her position: their ruler. It’s yet another badass moment in perhaps the best character arc Titan has yet delivered. She achieved what she set out to achieve: gain credibility with the people and legitimize her claim to the throne though great heroic deeds.

Meanwhile, Kenny bleeds out against a tree not far from the destroyed Reiss caverns, his entire team destroyed in the fracas the night before. Levi arrives to confront and possibly arrest him, but takes a look at Kenny’s burns and wounds and declares him beyond healing. Kenny isn’t so sure, and presents a syringe of…something. Is that Titan serum? Whatever it is, Levi needs to be on guard.

Overlord III – 03 – No Mere Village Girl

This week dispenses with Nazarick entirely and stays focused on Carne and Enri in particular as she suddenly faces a multitude of challenges as its de facto leader.

The young goblin Agu reports that he and his fellow tribesfolk were running from the Giant of the East and the Great Snake of the West, who in the absence of the Great Beast of the South (AKA Hamusuke) are gathering armies to fight the King of Ruin.

Carne Village may well be unable to escape getting entangled in such a conflict, and when the battle comes to its boundaries, they need to be ready. In an odd bit of timing, Beta Lupusregina has paid Enri a visit, and offers to ask Lord Gown for help, but Enri wants to first see if the village is capable of handling its own affairs.

Later that night, the Goblins capture several Ogres who Enri is able to convince them to fight for her, thus bolstering the defense of the village.

When Nphirea informs Enri he won’t be able to accompany her to E-Rantel tomorrow, Enri laments that she may be the only one in the world in her current situation. When they cut to another person in such a situation, Lord Gown, I half-expected him to sneeze, since someone was talking about him.

When Enri reaches the gates of E-Rantel, she’s quickly arrested and brought in for questioning. The wizard on duty identifies some powerful magic both in Enri and in the trinket Lord Gown once gifted her, which she learns is worth thousands of gold.

Just then, Momon enters the room, has a quick side-chat with the wizard, and Enri is released, just like that. It’s nice to have friends in high places, and nothing is higher than Adamantite.

Enri visits the very bureaucratic Adventurer’s Guild having to plead poverty, or at least tell them her village can’t bear the cost of the protection it will need without a subsidy from the city, acknowledging it won’t cover the entire cost. Enri drifts off while waiting, but when she wakes up, everything seems to be arranged, almost as if the attendant had been threatened to assist Enri or else…

Upon exiting the city (where goblins dare not enter) Enri gifts her protectors with stout new weapons. Upon returning home, she discovers a kind of “reverse coup”: everyone has conspired to agree that she and she alone should lead the village. It’s an honor she never asked for, but one for which no one else is better qualified.

Even Beta believes that, but as Enri is being officially installed, Beta hovers high above, laughing, when Yuri Alpha arrives beside her. While we had witnessed Beta being all buddy-buddy and helpful with Enri, here we see a different side of her; a sadistic side.

Now that things are going so well for the village, she really wants to burn it all down to see everyone’s faces. I wonder if Lord Gown would approve, if Beta is just having a moment, or if she truly hopes to watch the village perish. I for one hope she’s disappointed, and Enri and her ragtag defense force can hold off whatever’s coming from the forest.

3-gatsu no Lion – 31

Rei is enjoying a big feast with the Kawamotos before he heads off to Osaka for the Newcomer Tournament final, but Hana isn’t. She can’t eat a bite; her stomach hurts. It’s because she’ll be heading off too: to Kyoto, on a multi-day class trip.

Rei immediately knows why Hina is feeling the way she is, and gives what advice he can to help ease her pain, since he’s felt it too. He vividly imagines the hell she’ll have to face while on the trip, ostracized by her peers. She’s going into battle just as much as he is. And like him, she wants to win.

When Rei meets Kawasaki Junko, the game records of his semifinal match with Nikaidou have already said a lot about the guy (except that he looks really old for someone 26 and under). Knowing he couldn’t beat Nikaidou in a quick game, Kawasaki did everything he could to lengthen it, knowing Nikaidou’s health would give out and the match would be his.

Knowing this is how Kawasaki wins fills Rei with rage, and he almost plays right into his opponent’s hands when a voice inside him stays his hand: it’s Nikaidou’s words ringing out: don’t attack, defend; take care of your shogi and yourselfPerservere. It’s what Nikaidou did, even though he failed. It’s what Hina is doing in Kyoto.

Back on course, Rei contains his anger and focuses it on persevering, on enduring the mind games Kawasaki is playing, and by focusing on the shogi, and when the match is over, Rei is the new Newcomer King, while Kawasaki is a fief in the land of losers where he deserves to be for his callus, unchivalrous play.

Rei does not savor the victory long, because he knows Hina’s still out there battling. After a fellow player gives him some stomach medicine Shimada recommended, Rei races to Kyoto by bullet train, and using Hina’s class trip schedule, combs the shopping venue where her class is supposed to be.

Then he remembers his own times of loneliness during such trips, and how a mall full of laughter and fun would be the last place he’d be. Instead, he searches the river, the place back home where she’s always run to be alone.

Her reaction to Rei suddenly appearing there, just when she was about to start crying, is hard to put into words. Poweful? Sure. Heartlifting? You bet. When he was younger, Rei had to face many battles alone.

Now he knows how much better he’d have fared if he had someone beside him to make things even a little more endurable, and happens to have someone in Hina who he can ensure won’t endure her battles alone.

All it took was being there—in that particular time and place—to be hugged, to be a font for her tears, to remind her she isn’t fighting in vain, and that it’s going to be alright.