Overlord IV – 13 (Fin) – Princess Front-Renner

We open on Mare, perched on a rooftop, surveying the Royal Capital, and suddenly he starts to weep. Is the meekest, gentlest Floor Guardian lamenting having to kill every last man, woman and child in the city? Of course not….he’s anxious about his destructive magic not being up to snuff and a few of those men, women and children surviving and escaping. Lest we forget: our pals from Nazarick are supervillains. Granted, some of them are adorable.

Princess Renner sure didn’t seem concerned about the impending invasion of the Sorcerer Kingdom, did she? Clued in as we the audience are not only to the twisted personality she conceals, as well as her dealings with Albedo, explain her attitude, but not the actual means by which she manages to slither out of this crisis and turn it to her advantage. Climb proves his loyalty by declining an offer from the King both he and Renner wouldn’t mind: approving a marriage of the two.

While Aura dispenses with Old Samurai Dude before he can even introduce himself, then leaves the others to her beasts before strolling into the capital’s repository of magic items, Climb takes a rucksack filled with the Royal Crown, heirloom tomes, and other items that are a part of the royal legacy, and hides them away in the warehouse district.

On his way back, he encounters Mare, who is kind enough to tell him to run away if he wants to live. Remembering Renner’s order for him not to fight, but run—the better to return to her side safely—Climb does just that. But as he turns toward the palace, he finds it’s already been encased in Cocytus’ ice.

The Snow Maidens grant him access to the throne room, where he finds Ainz, Albedo, Demiurge, and Cocytus, along with a frightful sight: Renner kneeling beside her father, who is lying dead in a pool of his own blood, some of which is on Renner’s hands. Demiurge commands Climb to prostrate himself, and Climb figures they used mind control on Renner to make her kill the king.

Ainz tells Demiurge to release Climb, and even allows him the privilege of fighting him one-on-one. Climb’s a tough customer, but it’s safe to say he’s no Gazef, nor is he Brain, and we know how things went for those warriors. So Ainz is just toying with him. That said, Climb manages to pull off a move that impresses Ainz before using “Grasp Heart” to kill him.

…But this is not the end of Climb. He wakes up, to find a relieved Renner leaning over him, but something’s different. The dialated pupils, the sharp black nails, the fangs and little wings. Renner explains that she pledged her allegiance to The Sorcerer King, and was transformed into an immortal demon. She asks Climb if he’ll become a demon and pledge allegiance to Ainz as well, so that they can be together for eternity.

This may be a lot all of a sudden for Climb, who had only just been resurrected from death, but I wasn’t surprised when he assented to Renner’s offer without hesitation. After all, he’s sworn to be her shield, whether she’s a princess or a demoness.

After meeting with and thanking her new superior Albedo, Renner celebrates having gotten everything she wanted for the low low price of betraying and sacrificing her kingdom.

She does so by singing a hauntingly beautiful song while dancing with herself and laughing maniacally in a gorgeous and stunningly animated sequence, which was both a complete surprise and a season highlight. Renner—the real Renner—has never looked more radiant, and will fit right in at Nazarick. I’d be ride-or-die for her too if I was Climb.

Whither Lord Philip Montserrat? Well, his last pleasure in life is getting to gaze upon the loveliness of the Lady Albedo when she deigns to visit his family manse. She then presents him with the heads of his family members before killing him. An inauspicious demise for a character who was never anything but an arrogant but disposable pawn.

In the center of the ruined capital of the fallen Re-Estize Kingdom, Ainz Ooal Gown sits upon a impromptu throne of rubble, flanked by Albedo, as Marquis Raeven and the other great nobles kneeling before him, pledging their allegiance. Raeven assures his new king and overlord that the destruction of Re-Estize will serve as an abject lesson to other nations not to mess with the Sorcerer Kingdom; a lesson that likely won’t be forgotten for millennia.

Citing this as a very good justification for what has been done, Ainz lets himself be satisfied and content. To make the land as sweet as honey, he had to burn part of it down. But there’s much more to be done, which will no doubt be chronicled in the forthcoming third Overlord film, along with a presumed fifth and possibly final season.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 04 – The Last Girl

Ayano and her AAA strike force go in guns blazing to deal with a D-level Demon Hazard, but she recognizes one of the men tangled up in the incident, who is then carted off to the hospital as his lover cries out in the crowd. Ayano then meets with Linfa to again ask for her help out with the police, and we learn that they’re old friends to the extent Linfa can tease her about dating the “younger” Shuu, literally tripping Ayano up.

The next day, Kisara snaps a picture of what looks like Ayano meeting some dude at a love hotel, but she and Shuu learn that Ayano is working with an Anti-Demon Bureau detective to learn more about the whereabouts of the mafia member Tony Rossi, who then ended up murdered in his bed in an apparent gang war retribution.

That night, Shuu tracks down Ayano and suggests they pool resources and work together, apologizing when it seems she’s pissed about something, but that’s the straw that breaks the camels back. Ayano unloads about how Shuu is always apologizing without compromising or listening to her opinions or feelings, and only seems to trust the demon girl.

Ayano also brings up the night of his birthday when she was preparing a party but waited all night and he never showed, eventually doing his apology schtick when he finally did. When Shuu apparently can’t recall this clearly important memory, an exasperated Ayano runs off in tears.

It isn’t Shuu who tracks her down, but Kisara, who has decided it’s time to tell Ayano that Shuu is the way he is now because those precious memories only exist in her head due to his contract with her. During a sober but cordial meal, Ayano laments how Shuu is now someone without a past or a future, and if he keeps this up, he won’t be Shuu anymore.

Indeed, that’s already happening, as he has lost the memories that tied him more closely to Ayano, and is stuck having to apologize for things he can’t remember, all due to the supernatural factor of his new “relationship.” Ayano is committed to not letting Shuu die (either in body or soul) while Kisara is not only fine having a partner who will never love her like he loved Ayano, but fine being his “last girl” at the end, when Shuu can no longer even be called Shuu.

The main draw this week isn’t the gang war between the Italian and Hispanic mafia, both of whom seem to be using demons in their scuffles and causing even more chaos than they normally would…although it’s a good story with lots of clues and twists, especially when it turns into something totally different, stemming back to that woman crying out for Tony in the cold open.

Instead, it’s the dynamic between Shuu and his “first” and “last” women in his life, the impossible choices he made to fulfill his dream of avenging his parents, and the present and future fallout of those choices. He, Ayano, and Kisara form a truly tragic trio where no one will really come out 100% happy.

To add insult to injury, the fact that Tony’s lover Maria has become a demon with blades for arms and is looking to murder everyone involved in Tony’s death creates a parallel tragic romantic route between our protagonists and the ostensible antagonist. The show also makes excellent use of mirrors and reflections to highlight how there are multiple perspectives in play and no one is 100% right or wrong (it also looks cool, especially in the mirror-filled bathroom).

Ayano and Shuu’s work and life are now colliding rapidly, as Ayano is Maria’s next target for elimination. In a testament to the complex yet tight writing, it makes thematic sense that an Ayano distraught over hearing the horrible truth about a man for whom she still cares a great deal, has isolated herself and is thus more vulnerable to attack than she otherwise would be.

While Ayano is clearly in a pickle here, I don’t expect the show to take her off the board just five episodes in. That said, Shuu may well have to give up even more of himself (and memories of her) to save her next week. It continues to be a shitty deal for all involved. This is a much darker and more brooding series than I thought it would be (especially with the upbeat OP and ED) but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 03 – What He’s Losing

Before greeting the day, Shuu has a dream about his parents and sister Kanna being killed by demons—Kanna while begging her brother to save her. This is apparently a frequent dream, and he reacts to it as he probably always does: with a kind of grim gratitude. Clutching a photo of his family, he tells them it’s alright: he still remembers them.

There’s a new caterpillar-like demon crawling around Bayron City’s ever-important energy production sector. They mayor’s office learns of this prior to any auction, while Shuu receives a photo of the demon to show Ayano. They meet in a park of some significance, and she makes a point to dress as cute as possible, but also points out all the times he’s betrayed him when asked.

Nevertheless, she recognizes that Shuu should have leave to take this new demon out. He wins the auction to do so by underbidding everyone, but his winning bid is nullified when new info suddenly comes in stating that because the demon is holding a core equivalent to a week’s worth of the city’s electricity, it is not to be eliminated.

Since Shuu doesn’t have the resources to capture, the job falls to AAA. Through Miles explaining the situation to detective Mikami Tetsuya, he once fostered Shuu, and Shuu became the city’s best and only true hope at demon extermination thanks to his contract with a demon. That said, the government only grudingly recognized his new company.

Ayano leads the AAA operation, but the effort to capture the demon goes pear-shaped when the huge caterpillar transforms into a huge moth that shoots powerful lasers. One by one, Ayano’s support is wiped out. Shuu calls Ayano’s mom, who quickly signs him to a contract to clean up the mess. To do so, we see that Shuu has to do more than simply make out with Kisara.

For one thing, we learn definitively that Shuu doesn’t love Kisara; even she knows that. We also learn that due to how “troublesome” this foe is, Kisara’s going to need something extra. Shuu thus decides to sacrifice another set of memories—the ones from when he an Ayano happily lived together—to give Kisara the power she needs.

The kiss is merely a conduit through which Kisara receives and consumes his memories. No sooner do their lips part does a mass of rubble start descending upon an injured Ayano, only for Kisara to save her at the last moment. The soundtrack gets down to business as she takes the fight to the big moth, dodging its laser beams and delivering brutal blows to its thorax.

Shuu wakes up very out of it, but is reoriented by a note on his hand (“Aim at Kisara”) and a locket containing a photo of the family he lost. He readies his rifle, aims and fires where his note told him, which is at the core Kisara already cracked open. It takes not one but two of his fang-bullets to shatter said core and defeat the demon.

In the aftermath of the battle, Ayano limps to where Kisara is inspecting the corpse of the demon moth, asking if she has to thank her for saving her life. Kisara says no…but she feels she should apologize to Ayano. After all, she took Shuu’s happiest memories of him and Ayano together, which he willingly sacrificed in order to keep Ayano safe (and to further his objective). Watching flashes of these memories hit me hard.

Earlier, we learned from Kisara that the outfit Ayano wore at the park meeting was the same one she wore on her and Shuu’s first date. As the keeper of Shuu’s stolen memories, these latest ones related to her “rival” Ayano, it’s no surprise Kisara has adopted a kind of vicarious romance with him. This is not your usual love triangle, and I really dig this dynamic.

The last two episodes established what an unappealing, miserable wretch Ogata Shuu is, while this latest one went a long way towards explaining, if not excusing, why that is. He’s not only “the worst”; he’s the product of a lot of shitty circumstances: the loss of his family, the city government’s combined dependence on and disdain of him, and most importantly, the fact he’s just not the same Shuu anymore.

He’s lost more than his family; he’s lost parts of himself. I daresay I sympathize with the guy. He, Ayano, and Kisara are tragic figures: him because of what he’s lost and will continue to lose, Ayano because she in turn lost (most of) the man she loved, and even Kisara because Shuu will never love her. It’s kind of a bummer, but I respect the show going to these dark places while also delivering top-notch action.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 02 – Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You

Demonstrating her competence but also her codependence, Kisara wastes no time using her newly acquired spare key to at least try to get Shuu’s home and business in some kind of discernable order. That means meals composed entirely of bean sprouts. Kisara’s classmates, who clearly aren’t aware she’s a demon, are worried about her boyfriend…and bandages.

There’s also their senpai Mikhail, who is the mayor’s son and claims to be the next mayor. Despite being handsome and rich, no one can stand him for more than 30 seconds, and we also learn his claims are false; he has two older half-sisters clearly jockeying for their father’s job.

Realizing he and Kisara will legit starve if he doesn’t do something, Shuu visits Ayano at the gym with hat in hand. Ayano, a pushover and enabler of the highest order, gets him a job with AAA as a subcontractor, even though she sees Kisara’s photo in bed with him.

The job in question involves running security for a gala celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bayron’s founding. There’s no auction because there’s no confirmed Demon Hazard, but the deputy mayors are fine with having security who can deal with demons if necessary, especially as there’s threat of a radicalized citizen seeking to assassinate their dad.

While Ayano complains about how hard it is to move in her fancy dress and an adorable Kisara trying to get some of the buffet food into tupperware and avoid Mikhail, Shuu runs into Miles, a cop and old acquaintance whom we learn Shuu lived with for a year after his parents were killed by a demon.

During the mayor’s speech, which is filled with political platitudes, hypocrisy, and outright lies, the demon terrorists pops out of the wall to strike…but Kisara is right there to stop him.

She pulls the demon out of the auditorium and into a quiet hall where they can minimize collateral damage (though with the tallest skyscraper on the island now a teetering ruin, you’d think the damage has been done!). Ayano joins her with her troops, and when she trips on her dress she shoots it so it’s shorter and ditches the heels.

With Kisara, Ayano, and Shuu working with a measure of coordination, it isn’t long until the perp is cornered, with neither French kissing nor Kisara transforming into Demon Mode remotely necessary. That’s for the best, as Shuu and Kisara learn from their boss that the suspect is to be taken alive.

Here’s where the true demon of the on-the-fly logistics and financial sensibility of Shuu rear their ugly heads. With no non-lethal capturing gear, he orders it online at great expense—100% of the $3K they stood to make on this job. To add insult to injury, the delivery van arrives so promptly it does the job of pacifying the low-level demon, rendering the purchase (which is no doubt non-refundable) completely unnecessary.

But before that fun and creative set-piece where the Amazon of this city wins the day, the baddie tries and fails to say his piece and try to get Shuu of all people on board. It’s amusing that Kisara and Shuu are too busy bickering over finances to listen to him, but after the job is complete they confirm they did hear a bit of what he sad about the governments lies and secrets, which led to the loss of Shuu’s parents.

Shuu’s response is that he has no choice. He tried going independent, but it’s a dog-eat-dog floating island, and the very government that messed up his life by keeping the existence of demons secret is the same one he works for in order to eat. He doesn’t like it, but it is what it is. The question is, how long will that remain so?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 01 (First Impressions) – A Spare Key for Victory

From the fact his apartment lacks gas and electric when his pink-haired companion lets herself in to try to make dinner, to the fact his ex-partner Ayano foots the bill for his first meal in three days, Ogata Shuu is what is known in Japan as binbou—destitute. Regardless, he seems adamant about living his own life his way, even if his new independent business is not off to a strong start.

His companion, Kisara waits for him in the dark back home, having prepared a pretty impressive feast despite the lack of utilities. When he says he already ate, and vaguely smells of another woman, Kisara goes down a spiral of self-deprecation until he eats the cold repast. When he asks Kisara for the last of her savings for a cash-on-delivery, she posts an Insta of the two of them about to send themselves to heaven with sleeping pills.

But all is not lost. Poor as he is, Shuu still has a seat at the table of companies who bid over contracts to rid their floating city (in the water, not air) spelled either Veyron or Bayron of “Demon Hazards.” There’s a mid-level one wreaking havoc in a central casino, and Shuu ends up with the lowest dollar amount by far (less than $40K, vs. the second-lowest being $112).

The other bidders leave the virtual meeting in disgust, but Ayano’s mom’s company agrees to support him (with Ayano herself) in exchange for a hefty share of the extermination fee. Shuu shows up late for his own operation, but Ayano and her soldiers are consummate professionals as they mow down the demon’s minions.

The demon turns out to be tougher than its estimated C-Class level, putting Shuu’s back against the wall, but then Kisara, having forgiven him, arrives by passing through the floor. The only problem is, while her sword packs a punch, she only gets one good swing, which is deflected by the demon.

Kisara tells Shuu she’s out of power, and needs to recharge. The way she does that is by making out with Shuu, something he both seems to find uncomfortable and enjoys, but also causes him to pass out due to the exchange of energy. During their kissing, Kisara not only shows tongue, but fangs.

If passing through floors wasn’t enough of a giveaway, Kisara isn’t human; she’s a demoness who happens to be a higher level than the opponent in the casino. But initially she’s angry at Ayano for being another woman that exists in Shuu’s world and the two constantly launch attacks at each other that only hit the demon’s multiplying minions.

Their battle is the best part of the episode, but Shuu gets between the two, and Kisara declares she’ll finish his job if Shuu gives her an important token of their contract: his spare key. It doesn’t matter if she can walk right through his door; she wants to be able to unlock and open it whenever she wants, as a sign of his love and his trust in her.

Shuu relents, and upon receipt of the key, Kisara’s attack power reaches 11. The two count down together from ten, with Kisara blasting through the demon hazard’s shields and Kisara delivering the final coup-de-grace with a shot from his pistol. Their mission accomplished, Kisara ends up on top of Shuu and leans in for a celebratory kiss…

But unfortunately both of them went a little too far with the power, compromising the structural integrity of the entire skyscraper, which is actually crucial to keeping the entire city afloat. While I’m sure Veyron City is in no danger of sinking, Kisara flies around the skyscraper, apparently trying to keep it level, while Ayano remarks that B-Class or C-Class, the Demon Hazard they fought never had a chance against Kisara, who is a Super A-Class who happens to be on their side, possibly only due to her liking Shuu.

Part badass demon-hunting, part workplace romantic comedy, and part abject lesson in proper budgeting, Engage Kiss’ first episode is nothing if not…ahem…engaging. Shuu comes off as a useless mooch most of the time but comes through when it matters, while Kisara and Ayano should prove to be strong clashing personalities for Shuu’s attention and the spoils of demon-hunting victory. All in all, a fun and energetic start, but we’ll see if it will make the final Summer cut.

Komi Can’t Communicate S2 – 11 – Don’t Wake the Beast

Ever since telling Tadano that the chocolates she gave him were the best ones she made (which might as well be proposing) Komi has been worried about seeing him again. When she does, she drops a face Tadano is both bemused and oddly a little happy to see, seeing as how it’s been so long since he’s seen it. Then, because the show keeps trying to make an unrepentant pervert happen, Ren gets anoher segment to herself to demonstrate that there’s no redeeming her.

She seems contrite about hesitating to mention a tear in Komi’s tights, but it’s all a ruse to get Komi to remove the torn tights so Ren can wear them on her head. Komi chasing Ren through the halls is beautifully animated, but still left a bad taste. Even in the heightened reality of this show’s classroom, wearing Komi’s used tights on her head and running around he school is just a bit much.

Onigashima Akako is lot easier to love, as she’s typically a very cheerful and lively young woman until her demon meter fills up with all the myriad little daily mishaps and snafus that impede her flow…and she becomes a demon. Her old friend Ren knows to keep her distance during such times, and warns Tadano to do the same.

But while there’s no telling what Akako is capable of when she’s in Demon Mode, that doesn’t stop her friend Komi from catching her headphones before they fall into the sink and then untangling then for her. The random acts of kindness move Akako to tears, and she invites Komi (and the others) to the batting cages, where like Sachi in Cuckoos she goes to blow off steam.

The final segment introduces Satou Amami, who while cute is rather one-note as the helpful student who will never refuse any request for a favor, no matter how much it might inconvenience her. When her friend suggests she try asking someone else for a favor for once, Amami turns to Komi, who enthusiastically agrees to lend a hand with morning classroom clearning (as does Tadano).

Finally, Komi’s class trip friend Katou Mikuni hopes to use shogi problem to bring Komi and Tadano closer together, only for the two to uncharacteristically clash over the proper shogi moves, leading to silent brooding. Najimi remarks how the two have become close enough now to have quarrels, causing both to blush.

In all, it’s a perfectly okay grab-bag of a Komi outing; nothing spectacular or world-changing, but Komi does officially make a few more friends, giving her a total of 27 with 2-3 episodes left.

Slime 300 – 06 – The Gang Meets the Demon King

Beelzebub shows up at Azusa’s place to announce that the Demon Realm has awarded her a special Medal of Honor in recognition of ending the conflict between the Red and Blue dragon tribes. It will be awarded in the Demon Realm, which means Azusa and her suddenly quite large family will have to take a trip. They’ll also need some nice dresses to wear.

The problem is, because Rosalie isn’t corporeal and her clothes are simply an afterimage from her life, she’s unable to change into a dress. Shalsha consults a friend who researches ghosts, and Azusa eventually uses her Create Magic to invent a spell that will enable Rosalie to wear whatever she wants. With that issue sorted, Beelz arrives with their ride to the realm: a massive leviathan.

That leviathan happens to be carrying a five-star hotel and spa on her back, making her far more hospitable than the White Whale from Re:Zero. She also has a sister in Vania who serves as chief steward in human form. The two switch off their roles, and when Azusa & Co. meet her, she’s in the baths while on the clock, irking Beelz.

But what Vania lacks in modesty, she makes up for with tremendous culinary skills, preparing a lavish multi-course meal with the highest class ingredients. After dinner, Azusa’s brood luxuriates in the baths, with the warning that if they stay in the water for too long they may melt.

That night, Rosalie, who never sleeps, is joined on the balcony by Halkara, who can’t sleep. When Rosalie thanks her and says she’s in her debt for freeing her from the factory, Halkara tells her there’s no debt to forgive; as her master Azusa would say, they’re family now. It’s why the next morning everyone is so concerned that Halkara melted when she went off for a midnight dip. Turns out she was simply sleeping under the bed rather than on it.

The Leviathan finally arrives in the Royal Capital of Vanzeld, and the group is dropped off at the Demon King’s central castle. Azusa is understandably weary about meeting someone with such a sinister title, but Beelz assures her that the Demon King is kind of heart, and will not be offended by minor breaches in etiquette.

Upon entering the Demon King’s throne room, both Azusa and Halkara mistake the diminutive child for someone other than the Demon King she actually is: Provat Pecora Allieres. Halkara is mortified upon learning this, but when Provat tells her not to bow to her and promises never to harm any of them, Halkara shoots up a bit too fast, smacking Provat in the head and knocking her out.

With that, the King’s guard swarm and surround Halkara and the others, and when Azusa appeals to Beelzebub, Beelzebub admits that Halkara will, in all likelihood, be executed for assaulting the Demon King. Hopefully Provat will wake up and this can all be cleared up—and even if it isn’t, Azusa is probably powerful enough to spring everyone. But until further notice, Halkara is placed behind bars.

Slime 300 – 05 – Who Ya Gonna Call?

Azusa and the others get the wrong idea that Halkara is preparing to move out, so they arrange a surprise party, only to learn she was only looking for a new location for her energy drink factory. The fact remains, she’s working long nights and Azusa is concerned. Turns out the reason is that there’s a ghost at the new factory that has scared away all of Halkara’s local employees.

In order for Halkara to start coming home at a reasonable time, the “bound spirit” must be dealt with. Azusa summons Beelzebub for this purpose, though because her incantation is a little off, Beelz ends up in the bathtub full of cold water (for the crops…it’s eco-friendly!) As Azusa and Halkara cower and tremble behind her, Beelz quickly finds the ghost and makes her visible.

Her name is Rosalie (voiced by Sugiyama Riho, Minare from Wave, Listen to Me!), and she’s the ghost of a girl who took her own life centuries ago after her parents were preparing to sell her off for “chump change”. In the ensuing years, she “went bad”, which explains her rudeness (and makes Sugiyama a great choice).

Rosalie has wanted to leave the factory for a while, but without success. After her offer to erase her without a trace is shot down, Beelzebub suggests that if she possess one of them, she’ll be able to relocate. Halkara seem the most suitable vessel as she has the most “weak points.” The possession is successful, and Rosalie!Halkara strikes a samurai pose as she accepts Azusa’s kind offer to live in her house.

A problem arises when Rosalie arrives at Azusa’s to find she isn’t able to separate from Halkara’s body; apparently they were ridiculously compatible! After a number of attempts to shake, shock, and spook Rosalie out of Halkara’s body, Azusa gets the idea to make her drunk (easily done with Halkara’s tolerance). When Rosalie passes out, Halkara’s personality surfaces.

That just leaves the matter of how to exorcise the dormant ghost from her body. Beelzebub has a solution: toss her into that eco-friendly cold bath water. Rosalie pops right out from the shock, and is now successfully separated from the location of her death.

With that, Azusa arranges for Rosalie to meet the townsfolk to prove she’s a friendly ghost, and she’s happy to use her ghostly telekinesis to do chores for people to build goodwill. Rosalie announces she’s Halkara’s newest employee at the factory, and nobody needs to fear her. And that’s how Azusa’s family grows by one once more.

Slime 300 – 04 – Mount Rokko Rumble

Turns out Laika’s announcement she’s returning to her home isn’t a permanent arrangement; she’s simply attending her older sister’s wedding, and invites everyone to join her. They’re all pumped for a dragon wedding, with Halkara in a particularly romantic mood (and somewhat disappointed by Azusa’s complete lack of love life).

Laika also provides transportation in her dragon form, and Halky gets motion sickness. After they land and she’s able to hurl (with Azusa lovingly holding her hair back) Halky says she wouldn’t mind a kiss, but as there’s sparkly vomit drips from her mouth, Azusa ain’t interested!

When they arrive at the village of Red Dragons on the volcanic Mt. Rokko, Azusa & Co. are dwarfed by Laika’s partying and feasting family and friends, but Azusa also learns her pupil once attended the dragon equivalent of a fancy rich girl’s school, which is a nice mental image. Laika’s mom is warm, her dad is loud, and her sister Leila and her husband-to-be are glad she’s there.

But then the festivities are crashed by the Blue Dragons and their leader Flatorte, who is bitter and envious that in 400 years she hasn’t been able to marry. She and her band of goons start ruining everything with their icy cold breath. Azusa is initially content to leave internal affairs to the dragons…but then the Blue Dragons go and make her kids cry.

From that point on, Azusa goes into full Protective Mama Witch Mode, making full use of her maxed-out stats to mop the floor with all blue dragon comers. After her significant powers have been largely underplayed the last three weeks, here we finally get to see her in action—and more importantly, motivated by her love of her family and desire to keep them safe.

Flatorte proves a slightly more challenging opponent then the grunts, but she’s still no match for Azusa’s fire magic, as well as her devastating Flying Axe Kick—all executed perfectly even in her nice going-to-a-wedding clothes and shoes!

They move on to the village to find the Blue Dragons there have already been handily dealt with by Beelzebub, who just happened to stop by to avail herself of the mountain’s famed hot springs and didn’t like how the dragons were threatening to cause trouble, so she cast a severe weakness spell on all of them. This nets Beel a big Azusa hug she claims not to want, but her blushing indicates otherwise.

Azusa then has Flatorte assume her human form and agrees to release her and the others only if they promise to cease their hostilities with the Red Dragons via a non-aggression pact…and pay for the damage and grief they caused. With that, the second dragon reception can commence, in which all the dragons are in human form, and Halkara quickly succumbs to the open bar.

Even Flatorte (who is quite the cutie in human form) offers a concilatory rose to Laila for her wedding, only for the Red/Blue Dragons’ “complicated” relationship to rear its ugly head once more, as Laila can’t help mock Flatorte’s lack of success in love.

Azusa has a quiet moment of rest away from the party with Laika, who asks her master if she can use her as a lap pillow. At the episode’s beginning we saw this is what Leila did for Laika whenever she was feeling down, and Laika understandably feels a little lonely about her sister being married off. Azusa is all too happy to be her pillow whenever needed.

Upon returning to the party, Beelzebub already has a completely boiled Halkara on her back and suggests everyone stay the nightat the hot springs hotel. All are in agreement, and once they’re all in the baths Azusa basks in the light and warmth of her colorful new family. Isekai OP ass-kicking and Iyashikei-style coziness combine for the best episode of Slime 300 yet.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Slime 300 – 03 – The Elf and the Fly

Just as Shalsha and Falfa are reading about the Elves of Hrant, one arrives at the door in a state of anxiety, demanding to be let in.

Her name is Halkara, and she’s a very successful apothecary and energy drink entrepreneur who happened to make a demon named Beelzebub mad when that drink caused an adverse effect. She also has a killer bod!

While her extra witch outfit is far too tight for Halkara’s three sizes, Azusa agrees to keep the elf under her protection, casting a barrier over the house and inviting the elf to join her foraging for medicinal herbs.

Azusa ends up learning a lot about the mushrooms of the forest, as well as the existence of a condiment very much like soy sauce. Halkara also accidentally eats an aphrodisiac mushroom (due to poor sorting methods) and starts involuntarily making advances on Azusa, who isn’t interested in a drug-addled tryst!

Halkara eventually recovers, and the matter is not spoken of. Then they find that there’s a huge reward poster at the guild for anyone who can locate Halkara. Azusa preps for a potential confrontation by having Laika take her daughters to safety, but Beelzebub was there all along in the form of a bee.

Beelzebub attempts to seize Halkara, abut Azusa won’t hear of it, and the two agree to take it outside and settle it with a fair fight. Beelzebub immediately makes use of her ability to fly, but ends up hitting the inside of the barrier and gets zapped. Azusa takes her in and heals her with magic.

After recovering, Beelzebub reveals that it wasn’t Halkara’s energy drink that made her sick, but overwork. She and the other demons actually love her product and only came to meet her in person and procure more. With the misunderstanding cleared up, Laika and the kids return.

Beelzebub still wants to have that fair fight sometime, while Halkara wants to move her production to Azusa’s province for tax purposes, so Azusa’s family swells by two. Her peaceful life is as lively and fun as ever, but the episode ends on a cliffhanger as Laika declares she’ll be returning to her own home.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 02 – The Scent of Kindness

After an emotional grind of a first episode, it was nice to start the second with some lighter comedy, starting with Tenjirou absolutely insisting on paying someone for materials he then expertly weaves into a basket for carrying Nezuko during the day. He may no longer have parents to answer to, but he was raised right.

There’s a lot of physical comedy inherent in Nezuko hiding in the darkest places she can find, even if she has to dig, as well as her neat trick of shrinking just enough to fit in the basket. Kitou Akari, well-known to me as a seiyu with a very precise and matter-of-fact meter, does a lot with little nonverbal sounds.

Her placid stare and bamboo gag conceal the smoldering demon within. While on the way to Mt. Sagiri they encounter a demon eating three humans, and Nezuko’s mouth waters profusely at the sight and smell of her new preferred food. Nevertheless, she doesn’t join, and has her brother’s back when the demon attacks him.

When characters are relatively still or moving slowly, we get beautiful backgrounds and vistas. When there’s action, the camera mixes frenetic 3D POV views with wide static or panning shots, to allow the motion to breathe. Every moment is a visually stunning spectacle, with a gorgeous cinematic score backing it up.

Tenjirou and Nezuko’s battle with the demon also blends action and comedy seamlessly, as Tenjirou deals with the peculiar circumstances of going toe-to-toe with a demon for the first time. What would’ve been a fatal hatchet to the throat is quickly-healed scratch, and even when the demon’s head and body are separated, the body still fights while the head grows arms and suddenly it’s as if there are two opponents.

Tenjirou is eventually able to disable the head, then tackles the body off a cliff before being caught by Nezuko. That’s when Urokodaki Sakonji arrives, to see if Tenjirou has what it truly takes to be a demon hunter. Unfortunately, taking forever to make decisions and showing empathy and kindness for your lethal foe are traits Tenjirou possesses in abundance, and are not ideal traits for a demon hunter.

That said, Tenjirou is clearly a tough kid with a head like a rock and keen sense of smell, and Giyuu respectfully asked Sakonji to train him as there’s just “something about” him and his sister, so Sakonji sets to work training him. The test begins with a grueling trek to Mt. Sagiri, with Tenjirou running while carrying his sis. Then he’s made to climb the mountain, and, as night falls, climb back down while avoiding a ridiculous number of punishing traps.

At first, Tenjirou is overwhelmed by exhaustion, the thin air, and his lack of early progress. But he hunkers down, slows and controls his breathing, and uses his nose to detect the traps and avoid…most of them. Just before dawn he arrives at Sakonji’s front door, the mountain having thoroughly chewed him up and spit him out.

It’s enough for Sakonji to accept him as his student. But the true challenge will be whether Tenjirou can learn to switch off his kind heart when it becomes a threat to his safety or an obstacle to his duty.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 01 (First Impressions) – A Spark in the Gloom

When the immensely popular and critically acclaimed ufotable series Demon Slayer aired between April and September of 2019…I missed out. Being highly susceptible to FOMO, when it first appeared on my Netflix home screen, I decided to dive in, buoyed by going back and catching up on the currently airing Jujutsu Kaisen.

With the first episode in the bag, I can confidently say that this is right up my alley, and I really should have cracked it open back in Spring 19. In my defence, back then I was busy watching the excellent Dororo reboot, Part 2 of Attack on Titan’s third season, and the second cour of the promising Rising of the Shield Hero, so I wasn’t just twiddling my thumbs.

That said, I’m glad I went back to check this out. While the number of characters and storylines are sure to balloon before long, I loved how simple it starts out: a boy carrying a wounded girl through a bleak wintry forest. I can’t stress that “bleak” part enough—once Kamado Tanjirou returns home to find his entire family slaughtered but one sister, I couldn’t help feel like we were entering Grave of the Fireflies territory.

I won’t spoil Grave for those who haven’t seen it; suffice it to say it’s by far the darkest and bleakest Ghibli film and one of the saddest films ever, and things don’t end well for its pair of siblings. Demon Slayer differs in that while Tanjirou and Nezuko suffer horrendous tragedy, the opening episode ends with a spark of hope that breaks through the unyielding cold.

Granted, that hope is a spark and only a spark, made possible by a titular demon slayer named Tomioka Giyuu staying his hand when it comes time to execute Nezuko. Did I mention demon blood got into her wounds, thus transforming her into a demon? Well, that’s the sitch, because it wasn’t enough that Tenjirou lose his mother and other siblings.

While this could easily have descended into tragedy porn, there’s a sense that things can’t get any worse, and that it’s always darkest before the dawn (though Tenjirou is warned to keep Nezuko out of direct sunlight). That fact is reflected in the stunningly gorgeous wintry mountain landscape, which at least started out bright and cheerful before the clouds amassed.

Tomioka admits he shares part of the blame for Tenjirou’s plight; if he’d arrived a few hours earlier he could have stopped the demons before they attacked. But he didn’t get where he is today by dwelling on the past. What keeps him from killing Nezuko is that despite most likely starving for human flesh, rather than eat her knocked-out brother, she shields him from Tomioka. Instead he places some kind of pacifier in her mouth that seems to calm her (and give her a very cute surprised expression).

So the story so far is simple and familiar: kid loses almost everything, and seeks to find and kill (or…slay) the demons responsible, and save his sister. Naturally, he’ll need to become stronger to do that, and Tomioka tells him to head to Mt. Sagiri to find a man named Urokodaki Sakonji.

ufotable, renowned for its action sequences, wows with the landscapes first, but is no slouch when it comes to the showdown with Tomioka and the Kamado siblings. The action is beautiful and precise, but not overly flashy or show-offy. Tomioka is so quick it’s as if he can teleport. Tenjirou is a lot more clumsy in his movements, as befits his desperate mood, while the demonic Nezuko is both beast-like and balletic in her strikes, leaps and lunges.

All in all, Demon Slayer is off to a stirring, enticing start, front-loading the tragedy but also presenting its hero with a chance to claw back from the brink and salvage what remains of his shattered life. I’m glad Tenjirou isn’t left all alone, and while Nezuko is a demon, and that sucks, there seems to be enough of her left that she’s not an immediate threat to him. As their quest begins, so does my quest to cover it. Better a bit late than never, eh?

Gleipnir – 05 – Man Gotta Have a Code

The cold open establishes the hazards of the woods where the Gatherers are gathered. One of them is searching for coins when she’s surrounded by a group who claim the woods as their turf. But if there’s no risk, there’s no reward. Claire believes the right strategy is to meet the danger head-on, lest the coins all get snatched up while they’re being slow and cautious.

Her strategy is soon put to the test when they encounter a demonic-looking Gatherer with swords for arms. But despite his evil looks there’s a reasonable man inside—a college student named Tadanori Sanbe. He reveals his identity as thanks for when Claire puts her life on the line to fight him; all others have run from him, and with good reason: he’s hella strong.

Claire wonders if she erred here, but when Sanbe reveals he’s a decent guy, and Shuuichi’s gun manages to pierce one of his arms, the duo splits up, with Shuuichi as the bait giving Sanbe a bear hug while Claire holds him at bay with the gun. Sanbe, who is very samurai-like in his outlook, takes the defeat in stride, and is also bashful around a half-naked Claire.

Their friendly chat is suddenly interrupted by another Gatherer in the form of a green Titan. He’s snapped photos of everyone and declared them his new slaves, and promises he and his friends will do all kinds of awful stuff to Claire in particular. This gives Sanbe the chance to reveal another part of his code: he won’t kill needlessly, but a threat from a scumbag is met by swift, deadly force.

Claire is delighted that Sanbe is clearly on the stronger side of the scale, so it’s great that he’s now on their side: he’ll help them collect coins if he can continue testing his strength and honing custom unique martial art. He has no qualms about partnering with two worthy adversaries.

It’s clear now that at least where fights are concerned, Claire is no longer the puppet and Shuuichi the puppeter: there’s true cooperation at play…not to mention Claire remains steadfast in her commitment to die with Shuuichi. Sanbe’s an interesting Chad-like addition to their weird little party.

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