KonoSuba 2 – 07

ks271

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.

ks273

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.

ks274

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!

ks275

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.

16rating_8

Advertisements

KonoSuba 2 – 06

ks261

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?

ks262

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.

ks263

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.

ks264

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.

ks265

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.

ks266

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.

ks267

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.

16rating_9

KonoSuba 2 – 05

ks251

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.

ks252

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.

ks253

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.

ks254

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.

16rating_9

Hataraku Maou-sama! – 01

maousama1

The Devil King Sadao is on the cusp of conquering his world when he is suddenly beaten by Hero Emilia and a coalition of human forces. He and his general Alsiel escape through a gate and end up in modern-day Tokyo. They take on the human names Maou Sadao and Ashiya Shirou, and as Shirou investigates way to restore their power, Maou pays for their modest living expenses with job at a MgRonald restaurant. He rises fast, but one day when he almost uses magic, he’s later confronted on the street by none other than Hero Emilia, who knows who he really is.

Even while enjoying the fast-paced and slickly-animated prologue, we were a little nervous about cracking open a series about Maou and Yuusha just a week after finishing another one, but the episode quickly jumped from the world of fantasy to the ordinary world and a highly entertaining and funny fish-out-of-water story. Like MJP, this first episode was a lot of fun, and while it contained quite a bit of plot to get things moving along, that plot never weighed it down; it had a lovely casual flow. It’s brimming with creativity, impeccable comic timing, and a nice helping of slice-of-life.

It’s great to see how fast these two dark lords get the hang of Japanese society, and while their ultimate plans are world domination, in the meantime, Maou is just a pleasant, decent, kind guy, who takes his MgRonald job very seriously. Also, his co-worker Sasaki Chiho is adorable. Shirou is a little worried that his boss might be getting too comfortable in this world, so he’s working feverishly on a way to get their magic powers back. But they might both be SOL if the hero (here a heroine) has anything to say about it.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This was directed by Hosoda Naoto, who also did Mirai Nikki.
  • The cab-hailing scene was pretty funny.
  • I tellya, that MgRonald doesn’t seem like that bad a place to work. The break room is downright livable!
  • Something tells us Emi planned to have Maou and Shirou move in to that initially seed flat that they eventually make their home. Perhaps she and that weird Witch of the Waste-looking landlady are in cahoots.
  • Maou looks a little like Okumura Rin from Blue Exorcist, but thankfully doesn’t sound like him. For the record, he’s voiced by the same guy as OreShura’s Eita.

Car Cameos:

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 12 (Fin)

maoyu12

Yuusha coaxes the ancient Demon King to leave Maou’s body, which is his property. The Mage goes to the Winter King & Co. with information about a smallpox vaccine, which could be used to end the war. The crazed one-eyed commander attacks the Maid sisters, but the young soldier intervenes and kills him. Onna-Kishi drives away the Central army. Back in the Central capital  the leader of the church conspires with a demon general, promising him the Southern Triad he’s about to conquer. Maou addresses her people in the Demon realm, telling them her intentions to begin negotiating a peace with humans, an arrangement the Alliance merchant supports. Maou, Yuusha, Onna-Kishi, the three maids have a celebratory feast, and Maou reflects on the progress she and everyone else has made.

This didn’t really feel like an ending. Aside from a few flourishes and jumping from place to place a bit more rapidly, it wasn’t all that grand. But maybe it wasn’t the episode’s intention to feel like an ending. In fact, it’s the continuation and beginning of far more things than it is the end of. Now reunited, Yuusha will remain by Maou’s side, providing awesome displays of power when necessary, or just a warm shoulder to lean on. She has sown the first seeds of liberalism and enlightenment-style civilization, but many, many challenges lie ahead. Maou is proud of the progress and in awe of the humans who have helped her and themselves. But no one’s under any illusions that it’s smooth sailing from here on out.

The demon realm initially takes her announcement of a moot to mean they’re going to war with the humans, not about to make peace. Rogue demons are in league with the human church, scheming in gilded halls to keep the people down with constant war and strife, undermining everything. And they have honest-to-goodness guns, which is worrying. The vaccine likely won’t go down easy, if the potato incident is any indication. And those are just the obvious bumps along the road, many more could spring up that can’t be predicted. So there’s a lot on the demon king’s plate, but she’s come too far and loves the world too much to give up.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • All Yuusha had to do was yell a little and hug Maou for the evil demon to release her? Alright then.
  • Maoyu’s cast ballooned in later episodes, as it had to in such a wide-reaching series about an entire world (two, if you count the demon realm). Still, even with the simplified character names, there was too much going on. The best episodes of Maoyu manage to world-build while remaining focused on a small number of characters or events. This episode was overstuffed.
  • The scene of the maids being attacked by the one-eyed guy could have been left on the cutting floor. We didn’t believe for a second he’d succeed. Ditto the baffling scene of the Mage in some magical place, talking to her two alter egos. Talk about a peripheral character!
  • Yuusha accidentally destroying a mountain – on the one hand, it was funny; on the other, we don’t see how a good number of demons would be upset about him destroying a whole friggin’ mountain. Hopefully he or the Mage can fix it.
  • We like how casually it’s revealed that the church is in league with demons disloyal to Maou. The lie the perpetuate mirrors the lie about the demon realm itself being another world only accessible via the gate, when in reality it’s just deep beneath the human world.

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 11

maoyu11

When White Night Country launches a surprise attack against Iron Country, A demon army approaches from the south. The Winter King and Onna-Kishi lead up the defense against White Night, while Yuusha heads south to deal with the demons. He encounters the Mage, who tells him to destroy the gate after she teleports the entire demon army back home. Yuusha discovers the demon world is merely deep underground, and blasts into the central castle where he finds the head maid has been maimed by Maou, who has been corrupted by evil demon kings of the past.

Like Spice & Wolf, Maoyu hasn’t been content to just tell the story of its small cast of characters, but lay out in great detail the mechanics of the world in which they live. Here in Maoyu, though, the hero and demon king aren’t just two people trying to find their way in the world, but are crucial players who will shape its future…especially now that we know the demon world and human world aren’t even separate realms. The series has also been very stingy with the female Mage, but now that she finally has more than a few moments of screen time, she doesn’t waste any time establishing that she’s properly badass…and has multiple personalities to boot!

Yuusha is now faced with the same situation in the first episode: crossing swords with the Demon King (or at least catching her scythe in his palms). But as that goes on, the gears of the world keep turning, with everyone’s favorite alliance merchant making a counter-move to Central’s reissuing of currency. Wheat is used as a food, a currency, and a weapon of war (when Onna-Kishi taints some to prevent a cavalry attack). We also get a peak at three of the “students” Maou, Maid Chou and Onna thought  They’re all making names for themselves. One on the battle lines, one negotiating with the merchant, and Maid Ane spreading the truth in print.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 10

maoyu10

Maid Ane’s speech leads to the Winter King abolishing serfdom in a bid to attract people to settle in the Southern Nations, enlisting bards to spread word of the advantages while also spreading literature made on the printing press. Word of a new church rising and other happenings in the South intrigues the merchant, who decides to involve the Central aristocracy in a price war, starting with wheat. The South responds with tariffs, and war becomes imminent, though Yuusha insists on a fight without casualties.

CMaou and Yuusha are playing the long game, but their efforts are starting to show, as the serfs of a good chunk of the continent have now been freed, and the war between men and demons is about to be usurped by civil struggle brought on by a shortage of resources. Or, in this case, the illusion of a shortage. The merchant, playing his own game (or “waltz”, as he calls it), is inspired to cause a huge stink. He thinks on the words Yuusha said to him about the thing that exists beyond profit and loss, and he knows coexistence with demons is a part of that.

His scheme causes the Central Powers to lash out, and in turn forces the Southern Powers to defend themselves from being raided of all their food. Meanwhile, somewhere in the demon world, Maou is still undergoing evaluation as the Head Maid stands guard and recollects her master dreaming up this whole game more than fifteen years ago, before she was the king. It’s nice to see Maou’s lost none of her determination and hope since then, and indeed passed it onto her would-be enemy.


Rating: 7 
(Very Good)

Maoyu Maoyuu Yuusha – 09

maoyu9

Maid Ane prepares to act the part of the Crimson Scholar. The plan is for the Winter King to deliver her into the custody of the messenger sent by the Central church who claim Maou to be a heretic. As she is paraded out, placed in stocks, and whipped, Yuusha is poised to save her, but she deviates from the set plan and delivers a speech to the masses assembled before her, drawing from what she’s learned from the Head Maid, about not being an insect. She moves the crowd to turn against the messenger, and even inspires the Winter King to place her under his protection, and orders the Centrals to skedaddle.

What we thought would be an action-packed rescue mission in which the hero saves Ane from a public stoning in the knick of time, turned out to be something more akin of a one woman play – and that’s totally okay with us. As Ane was shoved around in stocks and whipped until her back is raw and bleeding, something awakensin her, and she decides to improvise a passionate, rousing, incredibly powerful speech to the people the church want to stone her, and it’s the church officials who end up getting stoned. So Yuusha doesn’t have to lift a finger (though it was nice to have him there just in case things went sour.)

When the head maid called Ane and her sister insects, it was cruel, but it was also true. Though they were serfs – two of seven siblings, the rest of whom were raped or killed or died of disease – they were also humans, and had the ability to choose their fate. They could choose to fall in line and obey whatever master or noble or priest came along, or they could choose to become better than they were. Ane and her sister gained the awareness of that choice and made themselves better. And now the serf, who was so close to death when she first met Maou, has found her voice, and as Yuusha puts it, her words have the power to cause entire armies to withdraw.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 08

 

maoyu8

With Maou away to renew her license, Yuusha tries to use Maid Ane to fill in for her, using the magic ring. However, the young merchant isn’t fooled. Yuusha takes him to Gate City, demonstrates its value, and offers to sell it to him in exchange for showing him something that “cannot be expressed in loss and gain.” Onna-kishi wants Yuusha to officially knight her, and he assents. A messenger from the Holy Capital informs the Winter King the Crimson Scholar (Maou) has been branded a heretic and must be arrested. The King goes to Yuusha, who will give the church Ane, disguised as the Scholar, then rescue her later.

Kings and Politicians are just another kind of merchant: peddling influence and resources. But they are driven by a desire for power, total victory, and the destruction of their foes. But true merchants understand there can be no business if there’s no one to do business with. Thus, every gain comes with a loss, and a balance is maintained. This is what Maou and Yuusha want: not for the demons or humans to defeat and rule over the other; but peaceful coexistence. This is already happening in Gate City, which Yuusha shows to the merchant to prove it’s not just a pipe dream.

The soldiers are gone, but the merchants remain, and they dont’ care if their business partners are demon or human. The city is offered to the merchant in exchange for his help in finding that elusive place beyond loss and gain they’re searching for. Onna-Kishi also moves forward: even if Yuusha will never be hers, she wants to be his; their quiet little knighting scene is wonderfully presented. This is just when her former charge, the church, has made a move against Maou. Were she in the human world, she’d probably let herself get arrested as part of a scheme. But she’s indisposed, so the hero must improvise.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 07

maoyu7

After the battle, Yuusha returns to Winter’s Pass Village to spend time with Maou, but Onna-Kishi is competing for Yuusha’s attention. While in the Gate City, he is accosted by the Dragon Archduke’s daughter. Minor earthquakes start cropping up in the village. Maou travels to Iron Country to inspect her prototype for a printing press. While she shares a bed with Yuusha and Onna-Kishi, Maou announces she must return to the demon world to have her king’s license renewed, lest civil war rend the realm. She leaves Yuusha in charge and gives Maid Ane the ability to mimic her appearance.

Maou isn’t about handouts. Better to teach someone how to fish or grow crops or use a printing press than to just supply such things to them already done. After all, if Maou’s plan works out, she won’t be around forever to see it sustained. And so the latest and best weapon in her arsenal is education. The serf girls who became her maids are microcosms of the amazing change education can bring in people. There’s a huge difference between knowing one’s plight but being unable to change it, and not even being aware of said plight, or of the possibility of a better life. The maids didn’t until they were shown and taught.

In this regard, Maou seeks to bring a dark world into the light…but educating the masses is a double-edged sword. The social structure of the current world is a certain, if imperfect, form of stability. Awakening the masses means inviting further conflict. But Maou doesn’t believe keeping one group of people ignorant and subservient to another is the proper way to peace, and in any case, there really is no true peace, as long as people like the disgraced Gate city administrator are plotting in dark rooms. It dawns on us we haven’t mentioned that Yuusha was in bed with two girls this week…but since nothing happened, we didn’t really see the need.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 05

maoyu5

Yuusha has been away from Maou for a year, planning to take Gate City. The Holy Capital and church launch a massive fleet of ships to retake Bright Light Island from the demons, but are defeated at sea, causing the death of the Winter King. The Winter Prince takes the throne and chooses Onna-Kishi as his commander for another attempt at the island. Before she leaves, Maou confesses she’s the demon king, but Kishi already heard it from Yuusha, and is fine with it, and agrees to be friends. Yuusha visits Maou in the night and they dance to the music of the New Years festival.

This week, after a whole year, Maou and Yuusha finally meet and touch, at it was about time. Both were on the edge of doubting their own wills, and their courage was failing, but the power each exerts on the other, if only briefly, was enough to recharge their batteries, so to speak. Bottom line: the power couple can get more done if they’re apart than if they’re both chilling in the same village. So rather than constantly hang off each other, they’re more ships passing in the night. Their faith in one another sustains them, and when it doesn’t, well, they meet again, exchange a few barbs, and try to see who can blush the most.

Yuusha, bred from birth to be a hero to mankind, sees the suffering of the demons and doesn’t like it. It’s clear to him that Maou’s way is better: if there was a clear victor, that victor would believe they could treat their defeated foe however they like, and a vast number of living beings would suffer. Yuusha isn’t on board with that. At the same time, some battles apparently have to be fought even in the service of ending war, so it’s better for such battles to end quickly than get drawn out. Myriad game pieces are being moved about the world, while Yuusha and Maou continue to dance to their own beat, fueled by one another.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 04

maoyu4

Maou hosts a young merchant and member of the Alliance for negotiations: she offers the idea of introducing corn crops in regions where previous agriculture had failed. The merchant is intrigued, and smitten by her fire, going so far as to propose marriage before they part ways. Maou has also not seen Yuusha for six months. Yuusha is afraid to get too close to her, lest his demise cause her sorrow. Onna-Kishi trains the town nobles in Yuusha’s stead, and Maid Ane asks her to help teach her how to fight.

Maou declares the second-strongest bond between heaven and earth is having something to gain from one another. It is with that belief that she reaches out to any and all that could help her gain what she desires: world peace. Even if the Alliance, which depends on the furtherance of the war to prosper, cannot share that particular desire, they’ll still make a huge amount of profit from corn, and so contracting with her is still the right move. This week Maou proves adept at negotiating, even while she wears her heart on her sleeve with regards to that ultimate goal of hers.

That brings us to the strongest bond: love. Yuusha, who has exiled himself from the one he gave himself to, can’t quite grasp what use he is to Maou, but in reality, the hero is the most important thing to her. She is uneasy and distracted by his conspicuous absense, and even breaks out the Yuusha pillow! Her…enthusiasm for him is keeping him away because he’s afraid. Not of sex, but afraid of what taking the next step will do: make it that much harder for Maou if she were to lose him. But like Maou, perhaps it isn’t good for Yuusha to think too much about such things.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha – 01

Fifteen years into a brutal war between the human and demon worlds, a Hero (Yuusha) and four companions set out to fight for glory. The hero eventually leaves the others behind and races to the castle of the Demon King (Maou) to slay him. The “King” turns out to be a beautiful woman, who tells him slaying her won’t end the war. She convinces him exchange ownership of one another and join forces with her to find the right way to end the war and bring peace to both worlds.

We love anime with a Final Fantasy-like epic vibe to them, and this series truly delivers, and then some. FF can be a bit stodgy, taking itself too seriously for its own good. That’s not the case here, as there’s a nice balance of the serious thematic elements of a huge war, while also finding time for tongue-and-cheek moments. Some are sophomoric (such as Maou’s boobs and fantasies), others are more clever (her horns are just a removable accessory). The entire situation is a bit absurd, and the series itself is aware of this, but it’s not too winky, either. This is also a departure in the typical FF story in that in FF Maou may well be the Big Bad or Final Sorceress Boss the hero builds up to.

Here, Yuusha marches right into the final dungeon and points the sword at her. Every fiber in his uncomplicated Hero being is telling him the only right and proper thing to do is slay her and the war will end and everyone will be happy. Maou represents a more realistic, modern mind who knows things won’t be that simple. Too much of humanity depends on the war for survival to end it carelessly, and yet the suffering the war is causing cannot be allowed to continue if Yuusha and Maou are to claim victory. Yuusha’s initial quest has ended and his duty and purpose usurped. Now he allies himself with his former archenemy and are about to embark on an entirely different quest that will challenge everything he once knew about the world.

We look forward to watching the ensuing adventures, as adeptly directed by Spice & Wolf chief Takahashi Takeo, who reunites the lovely Koshimizu Ami and steady Fukuyama Jun. It was a very gorgeous, fun, and enticing start.


Rating: 9 (Superior)