Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 12 (Fin) – Becoming Less Terrible

After being deposited in the middle of a strange wasteland he eventually learns is a battlefield, Makoto is battling two tough cookies in Sofia Bulga (Sawashiro Miyuki!) and Mitsurugi AKA Lancer (Saitou Souma).  An excellent balance of aggressive offense and iron defense, Makoto is initially caught off guard, and were it not for his Dwarven clothes and accessories, he might’ve died right there and then.

However, for much of the start of the “battle” Makoto is holding back…like, a lot. And what a battle it becomes, as Tsukimichi clearly saved some of its animation budget for this exciting and dynamic showdown. It doesn’t really mattet who Sofia and Lancer are. The point is they are two of the many reasons Makoto needs to pull his head out of the sand and learn more about this world, and the people in it who can cause harm to his people.

But like I said, Makoto eventually lets loose, destroying one Dwarven ring afrer another and unleashing a massive flare of mana that literally changes the landscape while giving him the time he needs to escape his persistent pursuers. Even lying half-dead (and in Sofia’s case, naked to boot) in the middle of a suddenly picturesque lake Makoto’s magic created, the two are still determined to kill him next time they meet him. While I look forward to the attempt, I doubt they’ll ever catch our boy that off-guard and unprepared again.

The plans to attend Magic Academy and for Shiki to accompany him are still on, as he finds himself back in the Demiplane—and with Tomoe and Mio sleeping beside him in various stages of undress. After what happened (Shiki thinks it could have been the goddess trying to force Makoto to fight), the ladies want to go with him, but he insists they stay put. They’re his trump cards. When “the time for violence” comes, he promises he’ll call on them.

In other wrap-up news, Tomoe created a new fragment of herself, who Makoto names Komoe. She also enrolled the forest ogres into taming training for the Demiplane Ranking. the Illusory City is open for business, and Makoto’s general store in Tsige is booming on its very first day thanks to Tomoe, Mio, and Beren’s excellent marketing skills.

The night after the store’s grand opening the Demiplane has a huge celebration for both the opening and the Young Master’s goodbye. It should be clear to everyone by now that a second season is already in the works, as in addition to the typical finale recap/summing-up moments, there are a number of peeks at who and what that second season might involve.

After an extremely uneven penultimate episode, this one returned to that specific balance of serious and comedic that kept me into the show to that point. That is to say, the ship is righted, and I’m looking forward to more of Makoto & Co. down the road!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 04 – Town at the End of the World

Moonlight Fantasy really is running on all cylinders this week, giving us a deliriously fun blend of bawdy comedy and righteous violence against bad guys who have no idea who they’re up against. Makoto does very little this week aside from hear a little girl out and try and fail to reign his two overpowered companions, who themselves find it exceedingly difficult to hold back enough to keep their human opponents alive. That this is played for comedy—quite successfully, I might add—is a credit to the writing, direction, and above all voice acting.

Rinon is in a pinch: her big sister, whom she drew a sketch of and who looks just like Makoto’s friend Hasegawa from his world, is missing after setting out to repay her debts against the local unsavory element. In truth, Rinon is being used by those same fiends to rob something they believe to be a spoiled rich kid. Rinon’s love for her sister means she’ll do anything, even spy on and agree to steal from someone who was nothing but kind to her. Rinon’s pure heart and inner conflict serve as both moral lodestar and emotional core of the episode.

Rinon’s Hasegawa-lookalike sister Toa is very much just along for the ride once Tomoe and Mio find her wasting away in a dungeon. Mio soon heals her completely, then opens a hole in the wall of the cell, only to be confronted by the ringleader of the bad guys, a preening pimpernel who is the strongest adventurer in the city. He even manages to block Tomoe and Mio’s first blow, which was their best and most admirable effort of the episode to hold back.

Its also the last such effort, as Mils Ace’s unguarded insulting of their dear young master puts the Dragon Samurai and Spider Madam in a cranky mood. Tomoe dispatches Mils’ entire gang with one solid haymaker then creates an illusion of being choked by a tangle of snakes in the guy’s top henchman. Mio slaps Mils face so rapidly he’s left a grotesquely swollen mess. Annoyed by the narrowness of the hallway, the two then proceed to destroy the entire building.

As Toa stands by helplessly, Tomoe and Mio continue their bickering outside over who did more or was more useful to their master. They decide to keep the competition going by destroying buildings both nearby and far off into the distance, essentially levelling the city. This is after Mils attempted to take Toa hostage, only to be punched to the edge of space, never to be seen again.

The two eventually bring Toa before Rinon for a truly sweet and joyous reunion, accentuated by that time-tested anime custom, the dramatic still with the hand-drawn look. Moonlight Fantasy employs that a lot, and it’s never not great looking, even though they’re just stills. Later, Makoto confirms that Toa looks exactly like Hasegawa but for her hair and eyes. Part of me wishes she’d ended up in this isekai with him, but it’s apparently a coincidence…or is it???

All’s well that ends well…except for the fact that Makoto was trying very hard not to make too large an impact in his first human town. Tomoe and Mio, in their fixation on one-upping one another, deprived him of that desire, and for that, he uses Mio’s own spider silk to tie them up and then shot them into the stratosphere with an exquisitely made Dwarven bow. Amazing what an anime can do when it’s not just people sitting around talking! And to close it out with that absolute banger of an ending theme…*chefs kiss*

To Your Eternity – 12 – Crushmore

Don’t let the punny review title mislead you; this episode did indeed crush me emotionally, just as it emotionally crushed Fushi and Rean and physically crushed poor Big Gugu. From the moment the outcropping balcony crumbled from beneath him, I knew this would probably be the final act of the Gugu Arc.

It’s funny how when I first met Gugu and later Rean that I couldn’t imagine becoming as attached to them as I did March and Parona…but here we are. Such is the power of To Your Eternity’s straightforward yet compelling storytelling and beautiful character development.

Proving he is and always has been a good orb thingy and friend to humanity (heck, for four years he was a human), it only takes a moment after he is warned by his Creator to transform into his Giant Bear form in order to buy Rean’s party guests time to escape the crumbling mansion.

Also, in what is a nice touch, Gugu is rescued by a group of people brought by Rean, including her own husband-to-be. But not before one of the Nokker’s weird flesh tentacles sticks itself into his armpit and does…something, and whatever it is it can’t be good.

No sooner is Gugu saved than he runs into the wrecked mansion where Fushi is still holding on for the sake of Rean’s injured parents, who Gugu snatches up and takes to safety. Rean wants the boy she loves to stay with her from that point on, but Gugu breaks free from her grip; he has a brother to help, and Fushi, now back in his original younger Snow Boy form, is happy for the help.

That’s because he has no idea how to beat the Nokker this time. His creator didn’t bother him when he was determined to live as a human, but that turned out to be a two-sided coin: Fushi wasn’t ready for the Nokker’s new tricks, and the delay nin dealing with said Nokker costs him dearly.

At first, even Gugu’s new flamethrower mask can’t penetrate the Nokker’s stone armor, but with some help from March!Fushi and a steady supply of conjured spears, he’s able to open a crack in the armor large enough to shoot his booze flames, shocking the Nokker.

Unfortunately, he only made the Nokker mad, because it returns as a stone Giant Bear arm, plucks March!Fushi from the rubble, and squashes him like a bug, stealing the March form from Fushi once again. Just as the Nokker is about to crush Gugu, Rean leaps out of nowhere to push them both out of the way, paying him back for the now two times he did the same to save her.

As Fushi comes to in Snow Boy form, he realizes he is feeling pain, but it’s not his own, it’s Gugu’s. Whether due to their familial bond, the Nokker’s armpit injection, or both, Fushi can feel what Gugu feels…and it’s not good. Gugu’s broad back and trunk-like arms are the only things keeping untold amounts of rubble from crushing Rean to death.

It’s a situation that ironically and heartbreakingly traps the two in what is physically a very romantic and intimate position. Gugu takes the time to reassure Rean, even as blood starts to drip from his open mask. She sits up to kiss his face. He tells her he loves her. Then he dies, but we don’t see the moment it happens. Instead, we know it to be true for a fact because Fushi transforms into him.

Despite being distraught over losing his brother and best friend, Fushi wastes no time using his new Gugu form to fight the Nokker, blasting it repeatedly with flames and eventually getting it to leap into the ocean to chase him, where it eventually self-destructs, leaving only the weak, squishy core to slither away into the depths.

Fushi’s Creator appears to tell him which way the Nokker went, and tells him to go after it. He doesn’t, and once again the Creator doesn’t force him to do anything, though he does ask if it’s really already for the Nokker to make off with “a part of him”. Right now that doesn’t matter to Fushi, who has already lost a part of himself in Gugu, who died saving Rean’s life one more time.

In a scene reminiscent of Adult March after she died, Gugu finds that his face has healed and he has reunited with everyone: Booze Man, Pioran, Rean, Shin…but wonders where Fushi is. That’s when the illusion crumbles. After his soul spends a little while longer with a distraught Fushi, telling him he has no regrets, Rean runs back to the Booze Man’s house as soon as she’s healed from her injuries.

Fushi panics, not wanting to appear as the younger Fushi before Rean, but with his March form stolen by the Nokker the only other human form he can assume is Gugu. Rean mistakes him for the real thing and tells him she loves him. After they share a hug, and Fushi wonders Why am I me? Rean asks where Fushi is, and Gugu!Fushi tells her he died.

Booze Man, who already knew Fushi would be taking his leave in order to protect them from his enemies, prepares some food and money for him, and while Rean is told Gugu is only “going shopping”, a part of her surely realizes this is the last time she’ll see him, as much as she doesn’t want that to be so. So she’s glad when he refuses to take her ring back from her, as he tells her to keep it so she’ll always remember him.

A little later, Rean’s father finds her lying out in the field of purple flowers she and Gugu promised to pick together. She tells her father she won’t be getting married, because she’s in love with someone. That someone isn’t around anymore, but she’s sure Fushi is with him.

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

TenSura – 36 (S2 Part 1 Fin) – Hell Is Empty, and All the Demon Lords Are Here

Rimuru Tempest wakes up in the resurrected Shion’s lap, after a nap of three days. Benumaru asks him for the password they agreed on—when he says “Shion’s cooking…”, Rimuru needs to say “…tastes like shit.” Naturally Rimuru can’t do that, so he contextualizes it as something Benimaru came up with…which he did.

But no sooner does Rimuru wake up does he meet with Albis, Suphia, and Phobio of Eurazania, who report that Demon Lord Milim Nava declared war on their nation. Demon Lord Carrion ordered his lands evacuated—including his underlings—for the ensuing one-on-one battle.

There seems to be something off about Milim here, almost like she’s being controlled. Because of that, Carrion believes he’s more than a match for the dragon girl, and unleashes his ultimate skill Beast Roar right off the bat. The attack does nothing but cause one of Milim’s arms to sting a bit, but it’s more than she expected.

She decides to answer in kind with a skill she’s been working on called Drag0-Nova, which—Milim-Nova was right there!—is not only exceedingly more powerful than Carrion’s best, but utterly destroys the terraced Eurazanian capital. Things go from bad to worse with the Beast King being jumped by Sky Queen Frey, who presumably slits his throat.

Phobio further reports to Rimuru that Demon Lord Frey was last seen flying to Demon Lord Clayman’s domain, suggesting either an alliance with Frey and Milim, or he’s somehow pulling their strings. Even with his and Raphael’s evolution, Rimuru isn’t keep about going up against three Demon Lords.

Fortunately, there’s a super-strong ally he kinda forgot about: the butler-like unnamed archdemon. Rimuru is surprised he wants to serve under him, but agrees, and even gives the guy a name: Diablo. Last week I wondered if this guy was somehow affiliated with Clayman, and that Rimuru fell into a trap by naming him, but it seems Diablo is wholly loyal to our blue blob.

But even with an archdemon by his side, Rimuru still worried that there are just too many problems to deal with at once, from Clayman, Milim, and Frey to the political situation of Falmuth to Sakaguchi and the Western Holy Church. But Raphael chimes in that the last thing might not be a problem for long.

That’s because in her new souped-up evolved Raphael form, the non-corporeal guide formerly known as Great Sage has nearly cracked the Unlimited Imprisonment that seals Veldora. Excited by the news, Rimuru heads to Veldora’s cave, where his adventures reincarnated as a slime first began. Ya know, before he massacred thousands of humans!

(And no, in case you were wondering, Rimuru doesn’t waste a single thought on the terrible things he did to bring back Shion and the others. I guess the ends justified the means, and he’s resolved to carry the mantle of Demon Lord from now on.)

Rimuru creates a double of himself, both to serve as a new humanoid vessel for the freed Veldora and to get a look at his slightly taller, slightly more beautiful appearance. Once the Soul Corridor between Rimuru and Veldora is established, Veldora Tempest the dragon is dumped into the double, which transforms into Veldora Tempest the man. 

Between him and Diablo, and the fact when it comes down to it he and Milim are best buds, Rimuru is well-positioned for future success against the myriad problems that stretch before him and his country, which will be explored in Part 2 of this second season, which will air this summer.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TenSura – 35 – The Conditions Have Been Met

Once he began eliminating soldiers of Falmuth by the thousands in service of his goal to evolve into a Demon Lord, it marked the official end of the “happy-go-lucky” Rimuru Tempest…or at least it should, if we the audience are to feel any sympathy at all for the scores of human beings he’s coldly murdering.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Reyheim—the mastermind behind this whole invasion—is spared, along with Falmuth’s King Edomalis. Folgen and Razen aren’t so lucky, getting headshotted just when the king feels like they have a shot at retreating. Even when Rimuru looms high above them with their literal lives in his fingers, Edomalis can’t help but look down on the slime.

With his soul quota at just over halfway met, Rimuru makes use of his new unique skill “Merciless”, which uses the remaining soldiers’ own lost will to fight to kill them all at once. With the requisite number achieved, the “Harvest Festival” begins. It cannot be stopped, and when it ends, Rimuru will emerge a Demon Lord.

The process also makes him extremely sleepy, so before he passes out he summons an archdemon and two underlings to fight and capture the one survivor the Great Sage detected amongst the dead, then has Ranga take him, the king, and the archbishop back to the capital, so the festival can continue in safety.

Shuna places the unconscious Rimuru atop a dais in the center of the plaza, and the Great Sage, which Shuna refers to as “Words of the World”, proceeds to give updates on the process. Benimaru hopes the Rimuru who emerges won’t “become a different person”, but…he kinda already did that when he chose this path, didn’t he?

Rimuru evolves into a Demon Slime, with vastly improved physical abilities. All of the skills he’s acquired in the past carry over or are evolved into even more powerful skills. The Great Sage also attempts to evolve, failing hundreds of times before sacrificing “Degenerate” and eventually becoming the ultimate skill “Raphael – Lord of Wisdom”.

Despite getting shot in the head by Megiddo, Razen’s “Survivor” served as an Auto-Life spell, keeping him alive. Unfortunately, he is immediately approached by the archdemon, whom he unwisely assumes is no match for him. His Nuclear Cannon is literally blown away by the archdemon as one blows a stray hair out of one’s face.

When Razen summons a spirit knight, the archdemon casually sidles up and smashes its core, destroying it in the blink of an eye. Turns out while spirits are typically superior to demons, the age and experience of the summoner matters, and Razen is still “far too young”. When Razen realizes nothing he can do will put a scratch on the “primordial” archdemon, he passes out in fear.

Meanwhile, in the plaza, the evolution is complete, and Rimuru’s closest companions are bestowed with a “gift”—which they can sense makes their connection to him even stronger. Like Rimuru when the Festival began, they all pass out from the process, but Rimuru regains his familiar human body, only now he features scarlet eyes.

Speaking with what sounds like a combination of his voice and that of the Great Sage (sorry, Raphael), he uses his new skill Beelzebub (basically Gluttony on steroids) to collect all the magicules within the anti-magic barrier, then separate them into individual souls which hang over all of the corpses.

When the archdemon returns to his side with Razen, and says there are still insufficient magicules to revive everyone, Rimuru is prepared to expend his own life energy to make up the difference. The archdemon informs him that such a sacrifice is not needed; his two underlings will gladly sacrifice themselves instead.

Rimuru accepts the offer, and the ultimate secret art of Spirit Resurrection commences. Mjurran is amazed by what she’s witnessing. Grucius knows Lord Carrion could never match this power. The archdemon is determined to become Rimuru’s subordinate “at any cost”.

Rimuru/Raphael then repeats the “3.14%” chance of successfully reviving the dead, estimating that number should be revised quite a bit upward since the probability was calculated before he attained Demon Lordship. Sure enough, the wounds of the corpses are healed, Shion’s hand moves, and her eyes open.

Rimuru has achieved everything he set out to do in this operation. With the exception of the archdemon’s fight with Razen the action in the episode was minimal, replaced by the procedural formalities inherent in such a momentous evolution. And all it took was for Rimuru to become the very thing the humans of Falmuth feared he would. Will it be back to business as usual in Tempest, or will there be any ethical or karmic blowback?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TenSura – 34 – The Turn of the Tide

No more talking or planning…it’s time for action! As I’d hoped, Tensura delivers with a crowd-pleasing sequence of pulse-pounding duels and battles that all pack a punch in different ways. Free of the anti-magic and demon-weakening barriers, Rimuru’s generals can really cut loose, and they do.

Working alone, it takes no more than sixty seconds for Benimaru to eliminate the entire unit guarding the device to the east. Gabiru’s unit’s aerial attack makes similarly quick work in the south while Souei’s underlings apologize for defeating the troops around the northern device so quickly and easily.

With three of the four devices destroyed, all that’s left is the west, where Rigur and Gobta handle the knights while Hakurou and Geld deal with the otherworlders Kyouya and Shougo, respectively. These two thrilling duels form the backbone of the episode, and they do not disappoint.

Hakurou, normally a pretty chill guy, is still steaming from having been jobbed in his last scrap with Kyouya, who conveniently forgets that the barriers made life much easier for him, and prevented him from experiencing anywhere near Hakurou’s true power.

Hakurou is all too happy to demonstrate that things will be a little different this time around, giving as much trash talk as he’s getting from the young cocky pup.

Again Kyouya tries to trick Hakurou by turning his sword into dozens of flying blades, but this only further disappoints Hakurou for having to deal with a “less than second-rate” opponent resorting to tricks to try to defeat him. Each of Kyouya’s blades are turned to dust, and not one lands a single scratch on the old man.

Kyouya seals his doom by relying on his All-Seeing Eye to detect Hakurou’s movements while yelling out the incredibly lame line “Rest in pieces!” Hakurou, who appears to be standing still, warns Kyouya “you can’t see nothin’ yet”, then everything goes white and blue as he unleashes Crestwater Slash.

Not only can Kyouya not dodge the strike that separates his head from his body, but his All-Seeing Eye keeps working normally even after he’s been beheaded, until his vision finally catches up with Hakurou’s movements. That means Kyouya gets to experience the singular horror of being aware his head was chopped off. Tensura is not fuckin’ around here!

Next up: Geld vs. Shougo. Shougo starts warming up by trying to get Geld to remove his armor for the sake of a “fair fight”, but Geld doesn’t take the bait; he knows more than anyone that in war you use every weapon at your disposal. Shougo thinks he’s got an easy fight when he busts out Berserker and Diamond Skin, but like Kyouya, he’s soon exposed for the overconfident,  second-rate novice he is.

Shougo’s skin may be diamond-hard, but it’s also extremely susceptible to Geld’s Rot, which attacks Shougo’s limbs and forces him to retreat. He runs into Kirara’s tent, where she’s just chilling out wondering what all the noise is…and strangles her to death. Kirara: we hardly knew ye.

Shougo uses her soul to acquire the Survivor skill, which he believes when combined with the Berserker skill will make him virtually invincible. The operative word there being “virtually”, Geld catches up to him and starts beating the ever-loving crap out of him while going heavy on the Rot.

Shougo continually heals, but he still feels the pain and horror of Geld’s attacks. Confident he’s suffered enough, Geld prepares to deliver a finishing blow, but it is blocked by Shougo’s ally, Lord Razen, who recognizes the power of both the Orc Lord and a Kijin and decides to teleport away. Hakurou reveals that had they killed Razen, it would have triggered “nuclear strike magic” that would have wiped everyone and everything in and around the city.

With the fourth of four devices destroyed, the anti-magic barrier falls, which is the signal both for Shuna and Mjurran to initiate their own barrier to replace it, and for Rimuru to begin nourishing his Demon Lord seed. Razen ends up killing Shougo’s soul with a spell and then possesses his body, which is still equipped with both Berserker and Survivor. Just like that, the three otherworlders are off the board. They were assholes, and will not be missed!

Razen believes he’s now powerful enough to face a Demon Lord, but you’d think he’d no better than to write checks he’s not sure he can cash. Just then, Rimuru places an anti-magic barrier around Falmuth’s army and activates Megiddo, AKA Armageddon.

Thousands of tiny drops of liquid spread forth from dozens of larger balls, and then a net-work of glowing white magical strings pelts the soldiers below, insta-killing them with incredible speed. By the time the episode ends, over 5,500 have been killed—more than halfway to Rimuru’s goal.

There’s no going back now. These humans and their actions convinced Rimuru beyond any doubt that there can be no peace without war, overriding his past human form’s aversion to killing. Falmuth and the church started this war, but Rimuru intends to finish it more powerful than ever. In a way, this episode marked the beginning of the end of the Old Rimuru.

Vlad Love – 05 – Bleed the Parents

First, I must issue a correction: Vlad Love doesn’t forget everything that happens from week to week. That said, it forgets quite a bit, or at least hand-waves it away. That’s fine; this show is on drugs; who am I to pick apart its whimsical relationship with logic and reason?

Brass tacks? Yes, Mai might have transformed into a dragon and leveled a city, but more importantly (to the show at least), Mai has been outed as a vampire. While all of Mitsugu’s classmates might’ve had varying motives for involving themselves with Mai, they must now band together to protect her.

To that end, Dr. Chihiro crosses her legs Basic Instinct-style to the board of directors and gets approval for night classes at school, which Mai, Mitsugu, and everyone else will begin attending. They’ll also all be included in the Blood Donation Club Chihiro advises, despite Mitsugu objecting to male members. Type-A Jinko joins too, meaning all four major blood types are now represented.

It feels like the episode will continue with the night class plot, it changes gears when Mitsugu notices more bats than usual flying over her house, and she finds a huge package has been sent to Mai from Romania. Turns out it’s her father, Gilles de Rais, who is grateful Mitsugu is taking care of his daughter, and is also a hugger and garlic-lover.

At the (apparently rebuilt) gyoza restaurant, Gilles orders ten of everything, while Mai is singularly focus on one thing: her “ugly bitch” of a stepmother who is the reason Mai left home. Still, this is the first time in a while Mai feels like an actual character with consistent attributes, as she’s not under the influence of a any particular type of blood.

Their dinner is interrupted by the sudden and unannounced arrival of Mitsugu’s archaelogy professor dad, who in a neat twist is a famed vampire hunter in the mold of Van Helsing. Venerable veteran Nakata Jouji voices her dad, lending depth and gravitas to a fairly two-dimensional role (naturally, he and Mai’s dad go together like gasoline and flame).

Add “Van Helsink’s” desire to drive a stake in Gilles’ heart to Chihiro’s intention to draw at least two liters of Gilles’ blood, and the resulting volatile situation results in the second destruction of the gyoza restaurant, complete with Mitsugu and Mai fleeing an explosion Hollywood-style.

Back at home, Mitsugu and Chihiro try to calm the two fathers, but when Gilles lists all the secondary-to-tertiary family members Mitsugu’s dad has already staked, and Mitugu threatens to kill the rest of his family, the two nearly come to blows once more, until Chihiro sedates them. Then Mitsugu has to sedate Chihiro when she tries to draw blood from Mai’s unconscious father. One wonders where all those huge syringes come from…

The next morning, Chihiro and Gilles are gone (the latter being shipped back to Romania), and Mitsugu’s dad remains strongly opposed to Mai continuing to stay in his house, let alone being his daughter’s friend. Mitsugu rightfully declares that someone who barely ever present in the household doesn’t all of a sudden get to set its rules, nor can he dictate with whom she can be friends.

Her dad races off to Europe to intercept Gilles, continuing their interminable game of cat-and-mouse. But his words—about Mai being an “enemy of humanity” and that no good will come of being friends with her—stick with Mitsugu. There’s a look of disbelief, but also doubt. What if her father, no stranger to vampires, is right?

This was some welcome drama and character development in one of the most grounded and coherent episodes of Vlad Love to date. I just wish the fathers, like all the classmates, didn’t reduce the ever-important Mitsugu/Mai time to the bare minimum.

Vlad Love – 04 – All Concerned Parties

In a particularly chaotic episode, Mitsugu is captured by the president of the Torture Club for allegedly getting to close to Nami, the Dance Club president, whom he is stalking. Due to their mutual interest in Mai, Karate Club president Kasuno teams up with Nami to free Mitsugu, who packs a bag for Mai, who is apparently no longer safe in her home.

The pair head to Dr. Chihiro’s “house”—more of a mad scientist’s lab—only for Chihiro to have a predatory ulterior motive for harboring Mai. After Mitsugu sedates Chihiro, every other member of the cast shows up in sequence, demanding answers about who Mai is.

Kasuno and Nami end their brief alliance and their respective clubs “fight” each other, all while Maki films it and Kaoru runs around cosplaying as a Chun Li-like character. The Disciplinary President Jinko then shows up, demanding everyone stop breaking the rules.

The sudden surge of characters interacting means Vlad Love relies far too heavily on sliding inset portraits of characters talking and reacting, such that the episode at times looks more like a PowerPoint presentation than animation. There’s so much of this it borders on ludicrous—nay, it is ludicrous!

Then Mai drinks some very suspect blood from Chihiro’s vast collection and transforms into Salamander, and world-ending dragon, and starts destroying the city with her fire breath while Chihiro has a lengthy, meandering, and seriously unfunny monologue about how she came upon the blood.

From there Mitsugu and her classmates fade away and the focus shifts to a kaiju movie-style sequence in which military command center instructing fighter pilots to attack Dragon!Mai. This sequence is very sluggish, full of throwaway characters worrying about being sued for copyright infringement—an old, played-out joke that just won’t die.

Speaking of dying, once the fighters are authorized to open fire, the resulting battle over the city is cool-looking, though it also results in the death of Mitsugu and all the other characters in a massive explosion. Once again, the story ends up in the papers, and we can look forward to everything resetting back to a measure of normalcy next week.

Once again, the surfacy spectacle is occasionally diverting, but it’s hard to care about anything or anyone when everyone is doing little more than yelling at or slapping each other, and nothing that happens ever matters. Mai becomes an unthinking force of nature, while Mitsugu becomes just one more victim of the destruction. Once again I’m forced to ask: where is the vlad love in Vlad Love?

Attack on Titan – 66 – What You Saw That Day

Eren has Lara Tybur in the palm of his hand but isn’t able to do anything with the super-hardened crystal she’s encased in, and she initiates a last-ditch attack that immobilizes him. This gives Pieck, Porco, and Zeke a chance to rally the troops.

Pieck’s machine gun armaments are particularly effective against the Paradisians’ ODM Gear. Gabi also has a gun, and runs. Even if it looks like she’ll never be able to make the slightest dent in this chain of events, well…let’s just say that’s how it looked for one Eren Yeager many years ago.

Reiner was already begging for death before the attack began; now he’s lost the will to even wake up from unconsciousness. He was able to save Falco, but that’s as far as he’s willing to go. He’s as much paralyzed as Eren, but by choice. He was already the aggressor; what’s the point of starting the cycle over?

Eren, full of terrible purpose, tries to bite through Lara’s crystal but only ruins his Titan’s mouth. As Levi stalks the Beast Titan, Eren transfers out of the immobilized body and into a fresh Titan body. Gabi has stopped running, but still has her gun, and wants to use it. Against Eren. Against his allies. Against the demons of Paradis. Then Armin Arlert makes his appearance.

Having hidden aboard an unassuming fishing boat that drifts right into the middle of the Marleyan fleet, Armin transforms into the Colossal Titan, which we recall is a cataclysmic event in and of itself. It’s as if a massive bomb were detonated over Liberio’s waterfront.

The eerie blood-red glow calls to mind Evangelion and the God Warriors of Nausicaä—the 80s precursor to Colossal Titans. The Marleyan navy is obliterated; even the water the ships were floating is all boiled away. Armin climbs out of the Colossal, looks upon his mighty work, and despairs. This is essentially the very same sight Bertoldt Hoover saw in Shiganshima.  What’s past is prologue.

Levi takes out the Beast Titan. Sasha shoots dead one of Pieck’s gunners, then her reinforcements carpet bomb the Cart Titan. The only Marleyan Titan still in the game is Porco in Jaw, who uses his speed and agility to deliver some wounds to Eren. Only Eren uses Lara’s crystal to block one swipe, and thus Porco inadvertently teaches him how he’ll crack that particular nut.

Levi cuts Jaw’s legs off, and Eren uses him as a nutcracker. The crystal doesn’t just crack, it shatters into a million pieces; Lara is just a spray of blood, most of which Eren swallows up, thus gaining the Warhammer power. Zeke is out of commission. Pieck looks near death. Jaw himself is about to be eaten by Eren. And oh yeah, Hange Zoe has arrived via armored airship to retrieve the assault force.

All Gabi can do about this situation is call out to the only Titan left: Reiner. So she cries out to him, in an extended scene that I hope Ayane Sakura recorded in parts because it sounded painful to scream that much. Falco joins in, and their two-kid chorus reaches Reiner, even though he’d prefer if they just stayed quiet.

Reiner knows if he gets up, he’ll be giving Gabi and Falco a good chance of dying even more horribly than they might have otherwise. All the same, he can’t ignore their cries. He transforms behind Eren, interrupting his eating of Jaw. He’s not in his full armor—indeed, he already looks exhausted before raising a hand to Eren, and certainly not particularly happy to be here once more. But if certain kids won’t let him die in peace, he’ll just have to die more violently, even if those kids will rue the day they asked to be saved.

Well, that was a goddamn downer. It feels downright wrong at this point to outright root for the Paradis forces. Heck, even Mikasa and Armin look like they’d rather be anywhere else…like back on that gorgeous beach. At the same time, did they have a choice? Willy Tybur was coming for them with the full force of the Marley Titans. The majority of Eldians of Paradis don’t deserve death any more than the Eldians of the Liberio Internment Zone.

In any case, a large number of lives were going to be lost. The only question was from where those lives would be taken. There are no heroes here, and probably never were. Only warriors on both sides sacrificing their humanity to try to ensure their side suffers a little less this time around.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi III – 08 – Suffering Fools

Every season of DanMachi has come with one or two absolute bangers that are both the culmination and transcendence of every preceding episode to that point; a climax that feels epic and cinematic in scope; that pulls out all of the stops. This season’s banger has arrived, and it simply rules.

Bell, foolish as he is, is able to create just enough deniability to not be branded an enemy of humanity on the spot: the vouivre is his catch, and he won’t let anyone else touch it. That said, when Wiene slithers away, crashing into every other stone building and causing it to topple, it doesn’t inspire much confidence he has his quarry under control!

When other Xenos emerge from Knossos, Loki Familia is ready, with Bete, Tione, and Tiona making quick work of Gros, Lyd, and various small fry. It’s especially fun to see the two Amazon sisters in action again. They’re ordered only to disable, not to kill, but it’s clear they could kill easily if they needed to.

Fels summons an Adamantite Golem, but Tiona cuts it down with one swing from her massive two-sided sword, as if to say “That all you got?” As it turns out, it isn’t: the Xenos’ least talkative but most powerful member, the Black Minotaur Asterius, arrives fresh from killing Dix in the halls of Knossos, that’s when Loki’s vanguard starts to have some problems.

The Minotaur proves a worthy match to all three active combatants, then pulls out a magical axe that shoots them so full of lightning they become numbed and paralyzed. That’s Finn’s queue to send in their heavy hitter, the War Princess herself and Bell’s would-be girlfriend…Ais Wallenstein.

After ethereally floating down to street level, Ais unleashes an Aerial Tempest combo, and suddenly the Minotaur is down an arm. The moment Ais takes the field, you know shit’s getting real, but that’s by far the most damaging blow she’s able to land, as in the ensuing fight Asterius is able to keep up with and defend her lightning-fast attacks. He’s no slouch!

But when the Minotaur slashes her left shoulder, Gareth and Finn step in to relieve her and prepare a pincer when Hermes’ chienthrope child Lulune covers the area with smoke bombs, allowing Asterius to flee. It’s clear Hermes wants Ouranos—and Bell—to succeed.

As for Bell, he continues to chase a berserk, raging Wiene as she leaves a trail of destruction in her wake. When adventurers and guards try to attack her, Bell launches Firebolts in their general direction (but without intent to harm them). Little does he know their arrangement through the city blocks is no accident.

Wiene ends up being led straight into the amphitheater, where she’s surrounded by more than two dozen mages who fire lightning attacks at her in unison. One of Dix’s henchmen delivers the coup-de-grace before being crushed to death by Gros. The arena floor collapses and Wiene and Bell take a tumble.

With Wiene now near death and no longer thrashing about, Bell is able to replace her jewel, but while she regains her “humanity”, it seems too late to save her, as she begins to turn to dust, like someone snapped away by Thanos. As tears well in her eyes, Wiene smiles. She had a dream that no one saved her, but it was just a dream. In reality it’s Bell, whom she loves, who saved her, and for that she is happy and grateful.

It’s obviously heartwrenching to see her vanish in a cloud of black dust while Bell embraces her, but thankfully we don’t have to endure the despair for long, as Fels decides to whip out a spell he’s been attempting for 800 years and long since condemned as useless: Dia Orpheus, which essentially rewrites the rules of the universe to return Wiene to life and to Bell, back in her humanoid child form.

This time it works; Fels achieves a miracle. And one could hope that this time it worked because it had to in order to restore hope of humans and Xenos coexisting. That’s only possible because of Bell, who, foolish as it was, rushed headfirst to protect them when they were being unjustly demonized and oppressed.

After Wiene is returned to the other surviving Xenos in their hideout, Bell returns to the surface, and the city is half-destroyed, due in large part to his chasing Wiene around. Eina asks him if it’s true he exposed the city to danger and allowed other adventurers to suffer injury. When he responds in the affirmative, she slaps him…then hugs him, not wanting it to be true.

But there’s no overlooking the destruction around them, nor the injuries of the adventurers involved in the incident. Bell likely has a lot to answer for. Hesita & Co. stayed out of the fighting, and I doubt Bell will be expelled from the Guild with Ouranos in charge. But surely some measure of sanction or reckoning awaits him. As he couldn’t let Wiene die—and she didn’t—it will have been worth it no matter what. But that doesn’t mean Everything’s Going to Be Okay.

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 04 – The Princess and the Cook

Elaina begins a love story—complete with ornate storybook illustrations—though aside from her love for her parents, it’s not something she knows a lot about. That makes the next stop on her journey potentially quite edifying. At first, a grand city looks to be in ruins, smoldering and covered in snow and ash.

The palace is the last building standing, and within she finds the last person in the city, Princess Mirarosé—a princess without subjects who looks exactly like her painting, as if it were painted that day. Curiously, aside from her name, Mirarosé isn’t sure about much of anything, as she’s suffering from amnesia.

Elaina joins the princess for a cup of tea (without mentioning the front door she broke), and Mirarosé shows her a letter she found that provides some but not all answers. There is a monster, Javalier, who appears at sundown to wreak destruction upon the city and eat its subjects. Elaina gets a first-hand look at the monster in action.

As a magical barrier prevents Javalier from attacking, Mirarosé and Elaina are safe. But the letter beseeches her to go out and slay Javalier with all due haste, as it will never stop chasing her or cease its reign of destruction until it is no more. Mirarosé, who has recently learned she is a witch, resolves to take it out.

Elaina basically says “Good luck with that!” but will be watching from a safe distance and nothing more. Mirarosé respects and even appreciates her plain, almost curt honesty: it is true Elaina stands to gain nothing from risking her life to help.

That said, Elaina does avail herself of a guest room for the night—complete with a soft fluffy bed that gives her no shortage of pure joy—as well as a sumptuous (and lovingly animated) breakfast of bacon, eggs, and fresh-baked bread. While they eat, the princess tells Elaina how she can feel the hatred in the author of the letter, and is starting to feel the same way.

As thanks for Mirarosé’s hospitality, Elaina agrees to help her prepare for the battle, if not help her fight it. We watch Elaina’s considerable magical talents on display as she charms an army of doors, buckets, and stuffed animals (of dead kids no less) to dig a massive hole in the city’s central square. Elaina offers to make dinner for Mirarosé when she’s done, and kindly asks her not to die.

When the sun falls, Elaina can’t help but leave the safety of the palace to help in case Mirarosé needs it. Even though she’s only spent a day with the princess, she doesn’t want her to die, and so will do what is necessary (without putting herself in danger) to prevent that from happening. I appreciate Elaina’s change of heart while maintaining her pragmatism.

At this point the episode certainly seems to be setting Mirarosé up for a glorious but inevitable death. Of course, I should have expected Elaina would have something more interesting in mind for the climax, which follows one hell of a beautifully choreographed and animated battle between Mirarosé and the raging Javalier.

She isn’t just a witch, she’s a hella powerful witch, employing wind, fire, ice, lightning attacks as well as red plasma beams and summoning thousands of swords like Gilgamesh. And by the time she beheads the trapped, exposed, and wounded Javalier, she’s recovered her memories, which brings us back to the cold open story of the Princess and the Cook.

When Mirarosé’s father found out she was carrying the child of the lower-class cook, he ordered the cook’s torture and execution…as Mirarosé watched. In response, she cursed her father, transforming him into a monster that would destory his city and eat his subjects—while still being fully aware he was their king. She wanted him to feel the same helplessness she felt when she lost the thing she loved most.

After cursing her dad (who presumably killed the queen during one of his nightly rampages), Mirarosé wiped her memories but left a letter for her future self to discover. The rest of the story, we know: Mirarosé succeeded in every aspect of her plan, fully avenging her lover—who taught her how to bake—and her child, the fate of whom is only implied.

When Elaina takes her leave, she watches as Mirarosé lays out breakfast for her long-departed lover and speaks with him as if he were there. It would seem the combination of her trauma and subsequent trials, and the crushing loneliness of her present situation have conspired to drive her mad. And yet she seems content, and at times even giddy.

As for the departing Elaina, well…her expression is worth a thousand words. In the cold open, she asked “Why do they call it ‘fall’ in love?”, which sounds like love is a trap, which is kind of is…it’s just that ideally falling in love won’t result in your lover’s summary torture and execution. And hopefully, should she ever fall in love, Elaina will fare better than poor Princess Mirarosé.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 13 – No One Card Should Have All That Power

This week is I believe our second look at the Tomoeda summer uniforms, and Sakura is feeling good about the day. Her class is going on a field trip to the zoo, she wakes up without anyone calling her, her dad makes her a huge and sumptuous lunch, and she even encounters Yukito—on his own for once—on her way to school!

The only potential fly in the ointment is a morning news report of how a giant (and very heavy) “King Penguin” slide at the local park was completely inverted by some unknown force. When similar loud noises, shaking, and destruction of animal enclosures occur at the zoo, Sakura (and Kero-chan, who stowed away in her bag) assume it to be a Clow Card.

Not just any card, but Power, a deceptively tiny and weak-looking card who never the less packs a punch, even lifting an elephant high into the air (Sakura rescues the beast with Windy). Power then turns on Sakura and won’t stop chasing her until she decides on a test of strength, and Sakura picks the first thing to pop into her head: a tug-of-war.

Even with the grateful elephant helping out, Sakura is losing the battle until Syaoran shows up and uses Time to freeze everyone but himself and remove the rope from Power’s clutches. When he restores time to normal, Sakura has won the challenge, and Power allows herself to be secured quietly. She’s a powerful and showy card, but also an honorable one!

Tomoyo puts Sakura to work immediately restoring the penguin slide to its proper orientation, and snaps a picture for her own amusement. When a gust snatches it away and Yukito catches and sees it, Tomoyo explains that it’s a “composite photo”, so no harm, no foul.

Knowing what I know about Yukito from Clear Card, its interesting to see him outside the “circle of trust” that currently consists of Sakura, Kero, Tomoyo, and Syaoran—not to mention his role as Sakura’s primary crush!

Fruits Basket – 04 – Boarish Manners

That meek, soft-spoken girl at the door who wants to see Ryou? Uh, she’s not so meek once she sees him for the first time in four months. She delivers upon him a beatdown the likes of which we’d yet to see if this series, far beyond his sparring with Yuki. Turns out that’s just how Souma Kagura expresses her affection…with extreme prejudice. Her two-sided personality is voiced by the supremely talented Kugimiya Rie.

Kyou’s two years older, self-professed fiancee (based on a promise he made at knife-point when they were kids), Kagura demands to know where she stands, and doesn’t like how there’s another woman living in his house, albeit one who can’t hug him without making him turn into a cat. Since they’re both Soumas and Zodiac animals, she can hug him freely.

Kagura is clearly much stronger than Kyou, and so basically rolls himself into a ball and endures her savage beatings, but he dares to silence her when she starts mentioning his “true form” to Tooru. As someone who hasn’t yet found her first love, Tooru can’t help but feel a little jealous that Kagura loves someone as deeply as she does.

Repairing the substantial damage to Shigure’s house takes up much of the day (especially with Shigure and Yuki pointedly not helping), and before long, Kyou’s stomach starts to grumble. Tooru offers to start dinner, as is routine, but Kagura stops her in her tracks. Tonight, she’ll be the one to feed her beloved Kyou. The resulting feast reduces the food supply in the fridge to nothing, but as seems to be Kagura’s M.O., she got a little carried away.

As good as the food looked, part of me expected it to taste vile or some such, but nobody even gets to eat any of it, as Kyou snaps at Kagura when she says it’s ready, and she responds by driving him through the floor and onto the feast, ruining it all. With no other food to cook, Kagura heads out to the grocery store in a huff.

It isn’t until she’s at the checkout that she realizes she left her purse at home, but Tooru bails her out by paying for her, and the two women walk home together. When asked, Tooru specifies her “love” the sign of the Cat more than overt romantic love for Kyou himself, and is “humbled” by the extent of Kagura’s love.

Here we have another example of Tooru not judging someone as volatile as Kagura, but rather believing in her and her long-standing love for Kyou. Kagura in turn thanks Tooru for coming for her, and the two make hamburger steaks together. This time, when everything is ready, Tooru climbs up to the roof to tell Kyou.

Up there, she tells him how lucky he is that someone cares for him and worries about him so much—not surprising, coming from someone who was loved by her parents, but lost them far too soon.

She also brings up peoples’ dreams, whether Kagura’s dream of marriage to someone she can truly embrace, to Kyou’s love of martial arts. Tooru sees another side of Kyou as he lights up talking about martial arts. It’s clearly not just about beating Yuki, but becoming better and better at it.

When Tooru gets Kyou to come down to eat, Kagura presents him with a hamburger steak a little different from the others: his has a fried egg on top, like the fried egg he was drawing in the sand when they first met, which was when Kagura basically fell for him. Kyou tastes his dinner and through his sheepish silence expresses his approval and thanks.

The next morning, Kagura has to leave, and bids Kyou farewell with a big hug, followed by one last beatdown. Kyou says some unkind words, and Kagura responds by punching through the front door…and straight into the chest of the paperboy.

Yuki manages to distract the civilian, but Tooru finally learns that Kagura is the sign of the Boar—very appropriate considering her propensity for charging headlong towards her goals. When Tooru compliments her as the cutest boar anyone could ever ask for, she transforms back into a woman—a naked woman, on Kyou’s back.

That brings us to a cliffhanger that threatens the relative peace of the last four episodes, as well as the status as Tooru’s new home and life. She gets a call from her grandfather, and the contents of the message are enough of a shock for her to drop the gardening books she checked out. Is Tooru doomed to lose everything once more, after an all-too-brief taste of happiness?