The Eminence in Shadow – 09 – Doing What They Must

It doesn’t take long for Sherry to tune the control unit, and she opens a hidden passage in a bookshelf to use the secret tunnels to get to where the artifact is so she can shut it down. She’s doing all of this for her father Ruslan, who took her in when her mother was brutally murdered.

She thanks Cid for all his help, and they go their separate ways. Once she reaches the balcony of the auditorium she finds out how bad things have gotten: the invaders are now simply picking off students for sport from above. Sherry wastes no time deactivating the anti-magic field, and when she does, Rose is ready.

Within seconds of getting her magic back, she slices the nearest invader to ribbons with a flourish of her drill-like ojou ringlets, and encourages everyone else to rise up and attack their captors; after all, they outnumber them. She tries to reach their armored boss man, whom even she isn’t sure she can defeat, but is soon surrounded and running low on magic.

Still, she fights on, confident others will fight if she dies, and eager to live up to the love Cid felt for her that led him to die for her. Things look dire until Shadow himself crashes through the ceiling and dispatches everyone around her. He’s not alone: his army of Shadows are with him, and mop up the invaders.

But the boss slips away, then hikes up the pressure of the oil lamps school-wide, causing an massive inferno. While I don’t hear a single cough from the ensuing smoke and flames, nor does anyone seem to be getting burnt by said flames … eh, whatever, maybe they’re special isekai flames.

The invader boss proceeds to start burning everything in Ruslan’s office, but Cid is there waiting for him, and knows who the boss is: Ruslan himself. Once he’d reached the absolute highest summit of swordsmanship, he became ill, and sought out a radical cure.

That’s how he ended up meeting Sherry’s mother. When she warned against using the artifact, Ruslan murdered her in a elaborate, grisly way, and while Sherry was present for that, it’s been established that she’s not very observant, and so never knew her adoptive father killed her mother.

Ruslan never gets into why he took the academy hostage, or why he set the academy on fire, but never mind, now that Cid’s there he’s not going to accomplish anything else. There’s a fun little fakeout when Cid lets Ruslan slash him right out the office window to his apparent death, only to reappear Batman-style in his Shadow form.

Ruslan fuses with the artifact in order to augment his power—as one does—but as you’d suspect, fighting him is still child’s play to Mr. Atomic, who doesn’t really have to break a sweat parrying his opponents’ lightning-fast fusillade of attacks.

When Cid has had enough, he ends Ruslan’s life in the exact same grisly way he ended Sherry’s mom’s … and just like that traumatic event, Sherry arrives just in time to witness a parent’s demise. Shadow departs as she screams out in anguish, not having the heart to tell her who Ruslan is and why he deserved this end. Knowing how much her dad meant to her, she most likely wouldn’t have believed him anyway.

While Ruslan was as two-dimensionally eeeevil as villains come (why else hire Oostsuka Houchuu to voice him?), he was never anything but a loving, supportive father to Sherry, and I was devastated watching her experience a repeat of her mother’s death. No one should have to face that. And now she’s an orphan again.

At the same time, I don’t blame Cid, because he did what he had to do. Even though Ruslan promised him that he arranged things so the real Shadow Garden would be framed for this entire terrorist attack, he shrugs that off. He never claimed he and his garden were walking the path of righteousness, but nor do they walk the path of evil.

Instead, they walk their own path. This comes as news to Alpha, who thought they were being righteous, but accepts Cid’s interpretation without hesitation, as does the rest of the organization. If Shadow is now the number one most hated and wanted fugitive in the kingdom, so be it—they’ll continue to do what they must.

As for poor Sherry, she and Cid share a muted farewell scene where she regrets not getting to know him better before heading abroad to a prestigious research institute. Before they part, perhaps forever, Cid asks her what she thinks she needs to do. A kaleidoscope of emotions fall over Sherry’s face as she’s momentarily unable to hide her emotions with a sad smile.

But she won’t tell Cid; it’s a secret. Does she, unlike so many others, know Cid and Shadow are the same person, and thus Cid is the one who killed her father? If that’s the case, is she going abroad in order to plan her revenge against him, or simply to start the next phase of her life as a researcher? It’s pretty ambiguous, and I like that.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Made in Abyss – S2 12 (Fin) – The Cradle Falls

As tends to be the case with momentous episodes of Abyss, I’m still a bit overwhelmed with emotion, but I’ll do my best here. As a resurrected, better-than-ever Faputa and a game Juroimoh prepare to battle the invading beasts, we’re taken back to simpler, more innocent times, when Faputa first found Gaburoon.

Buried and covered in flowers, Faputa brought bits of scrap to him to enable to repair himself, while he tought her language, specifically that of her mother Irumyuui. What looked like an upside-down person turns out to be the symbol for haku, or that which matters most to someone. We watch, this time from Faputa’s perspective, as she encounters Riko, Reg, and Nanachi.

Gabu teases Faputa for resorting to subtler, more indirect methods that only served to confuse our lead kids—call it a measure of the shyness she inherited from her mother. Back in the present, while Faputa presses the battle, a transformed Majikaja serves as an escape vehicle for Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, as well as Moogie, Pakkoyan, Maaa, and other Hollows.

Maji takes them to Wazukyan, from which Vueko has already escaped and who is near death. In his usual friendly way he warns Riko that there is nothing ahead for her but despair, but she tells him as he crumbles to dust that things won’t necessarily go the way he’s foreseen.

As Riko is reunited with another page from her mother’s journal, the freed Vueko ascends a staircase while thinking about the one solid decision she made in her life: the choice to become Irumyuui’s mother. Unfortunately, she forgets the Sixth Layer’s curse is loss of humanity.

A quick-thinking Pakkoyan sacrifices herself to keep Vueko from being killed, but she is still transformed into a non-verbal hollow. Nanachi takes Vueko and brings her aboard Majikaja with the others.

Reg shocks Faputa by joining him in battle—this time on the same side—and apologizing for challenging her. Riko blows Prushka once more (causing her to pass out with a bloody nose), and Riko goes into Overdrive, allowing him to dispatch one of the two turbinid dragons who pose the greatest threat to Riko and the others.

This also gives Faputa time to go to Moogie and the other surviving hollows with the goal of consuming them and their value so she can do what she came here to do: put her long-suffering mother to rest. Just as they had no problem giving parts of themselves to resurrect Faputa, they have no problem becoming the nourishment Faputa needs.

After sending the black-turned-white goo throughout the structure of IruBuru, causing it to crack and shatter, Faputa is drained of energy an no longer able to fight. A piece of falling rubble wallops her and she begins to fall. She thinks of Vueko, the one person she has no memory of. She also thinks that the end is near; that she’ll die when she reaches the bottom. But she doesn’t; Reg snatches her with his extend-o-arm.

The rubble does a number on Majikaja’s body, and when he can no longer move, his true, semi-gaseous form emerges and briefly possesses Faputa. When he too passes, Faputa is able to come face to face with Vueko, her spiritual grandmother, and while Vueko can no longer talk, Faputa can hear her lucid thoughts.

Vueko tells her the kind of girl Irumyuui was, how Faputa is similar and how she’s different, before passing away peacefully, full of nothing but love and gratitude for the little girl that changed her forever. Faputa sheds tears for Vueko, despite her not “belonging” to her, and Riko, Reg, and Nanachi gather around to offer comfort.

The village borne from Irumyuui is now a pile of rubble, and Faputa’s mother is finally free. Following the customs she learned from Gabu, Faputa gives Vueko a proper burial, then sets up some companions with some smooth rocks so she won’t be lonely. After this, Faputa seems unsure what to do next, freed from “value” and now having been given the choice to live her life as she sees fit.

Reg suggests she join them. While he still can’t remember her or the details of their promise, he still wants to know her now, and go on an adventure with her. Faputa isn’t at all opposed to this, but does not agree right then and there. That’s to be expected of someone who has only very recently discovered such a thing as free will beyond an now-fulfilled genetic duty.

What I’ve described so far are the myriad events that unfolded in this double-length season two finale, but there’s no substitute for experiencing this episode and all of its nuances for yourself. It was one of the finest episodes of anime I’ve had the privilege to watch, and like Vueko with Irumyuui, I’ll never forget it.

There is sure to be another film or a third season that will continue Riko, Reg, and Nanachi’s journey still deeper into the Abyss, into darkness warm and cold, cursed by love and longing. This sequel had large shoes to fill and filled them ably. So too will the next sequel.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Classroom of the Elite – S2 08 – The Sword of Truth

Class D splits into study groups, with Suzune and Kikyou overseeing. When two students paired up despite having the same strengths and weaknesses ask for help, Yukimura volunteers to lead their group, and Suzune has Kiyotaka join them. After his performance at the relay, his classmates tell him he should stop holding back.

When Kiyotaka agrees to sit in on Suzune and Kikyou’s group, Maya tags along, and despite him not putting in any effort, other students still view them as a cozy couple. Honestly I feel bad for Maya, who could have had a crush on virtually anyone else and fared better.

Two notable exceptions are Ryuen and our two-faced charmer Kikyou, whom Suzune meets one-on-one in an empty classroom. She tells Kikyou that she only knows vague rumors about what went down in middle school, Kikyou has no way of trusting her. So Suzune proposes a bet.

She’ll let Kikyou choose one of the eight subjects they’re being tested in. Whoever gets the higher individual score will win. If Kikyou wins, Suzune will leave the school of her own free will. If Suzune wins, Kikyou will cease her vendetta. Suzune brings in Manabe, whom both trust and respect, as a witness, and the bet is formally agreed to.

Of course, Kikyou is well aware that Kiyotaka is listening in on Suzune’s phone, so later that night she meets with him and Suzune and proposes an amendment to the bet: if she wins, Kiyotaka leaves the school too. Suzune is against it, but Kiyotaka will bet on Suzune winning every time.

In exchange, he asks that Kikyou tell them both exactly what happened. If they’re putting their school lives on the line, they deserve that much. Kikyou agrees, and slides into Dark Backstory Mode. It all started in grade school when she’d get praised and recognized for every little thing she said and did.

When that automatic praise stopped and started to be distributed across her classmates, she vowed to become the friendliest, most helpful, most trusting classmate she could be; indispensable to all. This took an emotional toll, and she needed an outlet for her pent-up rage and resentment. Perhaps misguidedly, she chose a public blog.

While she changed all the names in her blog entries, it became a receptacle for all the class’ dirty little secrets, which she of course collected by being everyone’s best friend. The system worked until someone found the blog and exposed her, and suddenly she was everyone’s worst enemy.

Rather than cower or run, Kikyou fought back, dumping all of the secrets she hadn’t written about in her blog to that point. With that tinder she set the entire class against each other, resulting in its rumored annihilation.

Suffice it to say, she wants anyone who knows anything about this incident out of her life so she can reset things as everyone’s best friend. So now Kiyotaka and Suzune know the full story, and the full depth of Kikyou’s depraved, bottomless desire for recognition, praise, and of course, dirty secrets.

Even now she’s collected enough of Class D’s to destroy the class, but would rather not. Instead, she’s staking everything on getting a better math score than Suzune. I can’t imagine she’ll succeed. It’s not that such an outcome wouldn’t be interesting; it just doesn’t seem plausible for our two leads to suddenly drop out.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 06 – Killing Her Properly

A part of me was disappointed with how relatively cleanly Menou’s path to redemption became when Orwell went full Genie Jafar levels of evil. But I shouldn’t have worried; Virgin Road pulls off a rip-roaringly epic mid-cour finale that’s both ass-kicking and heartwarming.

While Menou fights Orwell down below, Akari’s “blanching” is interrupted by an automated time magic spell, which revives who I’ll call Akari Prime, who knows everything that has happened in all the previous time loops she’s experienced.

It’s thrilling to see this knowing Akari easily dispatch her captors, as well as to learn that she knows Menou has been trying to kill her, but she loves her so much that if she must die, she wants no one but Menou to kill her.

Akari ZAPs herself back to a simpler, earlier version of herself, but keeps a sense of deja vu and her love for Menou, which is clearly the most important part of her existence. No wonder Akari fell for Menou so hard in such a brief time together. Akari Prime also does something pretty “mean”, but also necessary to defeat Orwell.

In the bowels of the castle, Momo and Ashuna are stalemated against the demon and red dragon. But then Akari remotely ages Momo’s most prized possession: the ribbons Menou gave her when she was little. Now, we know Menou is excellent at wielding ether but has a very short supply. But her aide is no slouch in the ether-wielding department, and possesses vast stores of the stuff.

She is so freaking pissed when the dragon’s flame burns away what’s left of her ribbons, she goes absolutely ballistic, unleashing an attack that brings half of the castle down on top of her. For one terrible moment I thought she’d ethered Ashuna, but not, the swole princess not only escapes, but has never had more fun.

Following Momo’s lead, she whips out a mega-blade to defeat the demon with no regard for the corrupt castle where she was brought up. Then it’s Game Over for Orwell at the halfway point of the episode, because Akari and Menou are reunited. That means Menou’s ether supply is no longer of any concern.

That said, it’s her against Orwell and her Red Angel automaton, but the advantage doesn’t last long when Momo, still super pissed, brings down the cathedral’s barrier and beats the red angel to a pulp. Momo takes advantage of her competent aide’s distraction to create a diversion of bubbles…and etheric camouflage.

By appearing as Flare, she’s able to make Orwell hesitate for just the few moments she needs to throw a knife at her unguarded head. But it still is guarded, as the apparently not-too-judgey cathedral itself protects her simply due to her position as Archbishop. This even surprises Orwell, who thought for a second she was a goner.

She isn’t, which means she’s still quite a handful for Menou what with her RGB wand, and Menou knows it. In order to defeat her she’ll have to use Akari’s Pure Concept and delve deeper than she ever has into Akari’s subconscious.

I lit up when I heard that, because that means Menou is going to catch a glimpse of Akari Prime, who is still in there somewhere. A trippy dream sequence ensues as Menou enters Akari’s mind while dealing with her own subconscious, which admits she was never able to become the villain Flare taught her to be.

Just as Akari always has Akari Prime in the back of her mind ready to protect her, Menou always harbored a desire to be a non-sarcastically pure, just, and strong priestess. And in a way, she has remained that, as she didn’t go along with Orwell’s scheme.

Subcon Menou is ready to take her own life with her blade when she’s stopped by Akari in the classroom of her school. There, Akari tells her she’ll be her best friend, no matter what happens.

This acknowledgement of their bond allows Menou to unlock her and Akari’s combined powers, against which Orwell’s RGB wand is absolutely no match. The white beam overwhelms the rainbow beam, and rather than her planned de-aging, Orwell’s aging is ultra-accelerated to just a few moments before her death.

She almost seems to regret having cast aside all that was just and pure for her own path, and considering it led to her ruin, I can’t blame her. But this isn’t her story, it’s that of Menou and Akari, and of Momo and Ashuna, the latter of which finds the former sleeping off her berserkness. She tells the slumbering Momo that she genuinely enjoyed fighting by her side.

In the aftermath of the battles that claimed both the Noblesse’s castle and the Faust’s cathedral, the public report is that Orwell died in battle, her heretical crimes never to be revealed. She wasn’t too big to fail, but the Faust are, which means Menou still has a job, and still has values to uphold.

In a beautiful callback to last week’s shopping, which feels like a dang year ago, Menou instantly cheers a contrite, weepy Momo up with twin red scrunchies, which immediately become her new most prized possessions. Menou also explains how the Akari now among them is a regressed version of one from a distant future, but despite “resetting”, she maintained her affection for her. As we saw, that’s a feature, not a bug, of Akari’s magecraft.

Menou decides she’ll stay by Akari’s side in order to find a way to kill her. After all, Akari is still an existential threat to the world, something Prime Akari is aware of. Because of that and her love for Menou, she not only doesn’t hold it against her, but welcomes the day Akari will kill her.

We catch a glimpse of that future in the form of a nightmare non-Prime Akari has before waking up in her hotel room with Menou. It’s definitely a nightmare for Akari Prime, because it’s the day Menou dies before she can kill her, leaving the deed to Flare.

All Akari Prime can do is keep going back, making adjustments, and maintaining her faith that one of these times around, her beloved Menou will kill her properly.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 06 – No Regard for Safety

Tanjirou continues to just keep up with Daki, until the battle in her pantry results in her absorbing the belts of her subordinate/familiar and leveling her up, complete with more veiny skin and brighter, longer hair. All the commotion finally causes one of the townsfolk to emerge from their home to complain. Daki isn’t pleased by this human’s attitude.

She demonstrates her heightened power by destroying the entire block in the blink of an eye, killing several bystanders. I appreciated that the show finally acknowledged that this wasn’t just an abandoned part of the city, but an extremely dangerous place to hold a fight with an Upper Six, resulting in horrific bloodshed. Tanjirou is slashed across his chest shielding the complaining man (who still loses an arm) and for a few moments, despairs.

Then he remembers the letter from Kyoujirou’s father apologizing for his behavior, telling him he’s actually proud of both of his sons, and saying the red mark on Tanjirou’s head means he was chosen to wield Sun Breathing. Tanjirou isn’t so sure; after all, it’s not a birthmark but a burn sustained saving his little brother, then made worse during the selection. Even so, he’s still going to fight as long as he can. He grabs Daki by the leg and the dazzling battle continues on a rooftop.

Tanjirou says things to Daki that may just be representing his own sense of justice, but they match what his father said to Muzan once upon a time. Since Muzan’s cells are in Daki, so are the memories, mixed with fuzzy memories of the destitute human she once was. Seeing this, and watching Daki waiver in the present, give her character depth and even pathos, especially as Tanjirou gets stronger and faster and cuts through her many belts.

Even so, Tanjirou is only human, and has eventually bled and exerted himself so much he can no longer move and barely breathe. The timing couldn’t be worse, as he was less than a second away from beheading Daki for good. Thankfully, Daki is caught off guard by suddendly self-KO’ed opponent. Before she can kill him, Nezuko finally, finally takes the stage in her brother’s place.

Daki quickly makes mincemeat of Nezuko, whom Muzan ordered her to kill and whom she sees as an only partially-formed demon who hasn’t eaten enough humans to be a threat. However, Nezuko is as pissed at Daki as she is at Muzan for killing her and Tanjirou’s family. That rage causes her heal as fast as an Upper Six, power up into an adult form covered in leaf tattoos, and chomps through her bamboo gag, revealing her beautiful avenging scowl for the first time in a while.

Tanjirou’s brother once told him that it scared him when Tanjirou or Nezuko got mad for their siblings’ sake, because they would lose all regard for their own safety. Now that’s basically how Tanjirou and Nezuko always roll these days, so while Nezuko is stomping on Daki’s skull now, it may only buy her and Tanjirou a little more time. Tengen, Inousuke and Zenitsu need to hurry their asses up.

The Faraway Paladin – 10 – Kicking Despair in the Face

When last week ended with the sour note of Prince Ethelbald considering killing him, Will does what Lugh Tuatha Dé would have done when he first entered the room: size up his opponents in a potential fight. He thinks better of starting anything, and instead puts his faith in his ability to speak from the heart and plead his case earnestly.

Will tells the Prince that as the bearer of Gracefeel’s torch, it is ones like him who must march first into the darkness. Ethel says such a path will only lead to despair, but Will is well aware; he has business with that despair, and will be sure to smack the shit out of it when he sees it.

Ethel is charmed and disarmed by Will’s utter frankness, which makes the sudden intrusion of Bishop Bagley almost unnecessary. I say almost, because it’s a key moment when we see that despite Will being an official novice of the temple for barely a day, Bagley will go to bat for him, even standing up to the Crown Prince.

Ethel acknowledges Bagley and the temple’s authority, and proposes a collaboration: he wishes to appoint William as a knight, and since he is also a warrior priest, that will officially make him the titular paladin. Both the responsibility and profits of Will’s exploits as paladin will be shared by the temple and the crown.

We also meet one of the final two unknown characters in the end credits: Anna, the bishop’s lovely adopted daughter and attendant. She’s one of many adopted children from an orphanage he once ran—demonstrating again that beneath all the bishop’s brusqueness is a heart of gold. Anna already knows this, and that her father’s façade is a misleading yet very necessary portrait of the real man beneath.

When Will later asks Bagley why he eschews the blessing bestowed on him by his guardian deity’s divine protection, Bagley tells him he’s known far too many with such blessings who eventually lose them by making the mistake of thinking the power is their own to use how they please. I’ll just say here: the dialogue this week really is a cut above.

Will can admit to using it for the sake of convenience at times, but the reasons have always aligned with Gracefeel’s teachings of stamping out evil, helping the week, and ending suffering. Bagley keeps all of his blessings and prayers stored within him, and uses his own gifts of playing the role of the loud, greedy, borderline corrupt asshole so well, people believe that’s who he is.

After demonstrating perfect praying form that reminds Will of Mary, Bagley tells Will not to accept Ethel’s offer of knighthood, for his own good. But Will has already made his decision—or rather, the decision was made when he was first given Gracefeel’s blessing: She wishes to achieve something through him, and becoming a paladin is the way.

Will then meets the final mystery character from the ED in the tavern, who I’d simply been calling “Aragorn” to this point since he reminds me of his “Strider” ranger persona. His real name is Reystov, and Bee knows him as as one of the strongest adventurers who nevertheless never gives her detailed enough accounts to write proper songs about him.

In this way, Reystov, like Bagley and Will, is merely acting as a corporeal agent of his guardian deity (if that is indeed where he gets his power). He doesn’t care about fame, only getting shit done; getting paid and having fun are nice perks. When Will says he’s assembling a team to go to the Beast Woods and defeat the demon boss, Reystov is in.

With that, Will is officially created a paladin by Prince Ethelbard in a ceremony officiated by Bagley’s Number Two and public pious face of the Temple. With Menel, Bee, Tonio, and now Reystov and additional adventurers, he has the beginnings of the holy army with which he will purge the Beast Woods of evil and suffering. Can’t wait!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Faraway Paladin – 09 – A Wyvern in Whitesails

Will, Menel, Bee and Tonio arrive in Whitesails, and Will is understandably overwhelmed by how big and full of people and activity it is. Bee suggests the quartet wash off the road at the local public bathhouse and then grab a bite to eat at a local tavern. After that, Will gets down to business.

He arrives at Whitesails’ main temple, a gigantic classical structure that feels more like a tourist trap. After meeting with an acolyte, he encounters the temple’s head bishop, Bagley, who is a gruff, no-nonsense operator who nonetheless can sense the power of Will’s faith, and approves having him added to the priestly registry. I’m sure we’ll see more of Bagley, along with the Vice Bishop (the young woman in the end credits) soon.

Will and his party aren’t able to relax long in the cushy accommodations the clergy provides as a perk of his registration, as the city is suddenly attacked by a wyvern. Within seconds it manages to destroy crucial infrastructure, kill dozens, and leave hundreds more in a state of chaos. Will hurries to meet the threat, but initially lashes out with his longest-range lightning magic, and misses.

Menel gets Will to calm down and focus, and summons the faeries to help Will create a lightning spider web that brings the wyvern down to the ground. Once there, the wyvern threatens to spread both its fire breath and a dark miasma all over the temple grounds, but Will first spears it in the midsection then relies on Blood’s hand-to-hand training to wrestle the beast down and break its neck.

He does this in full view of dozens of shocked bystanders, who aren’t quite sure how to react to what they just saw. That’s where Bee and Tonio come in. Bee strums her lute and sings a song of the Wyvern Killer saving the city, and Tonio ensures word of their friend’s heroism will spread throughout the city. In this regard, Will’s party truly is optimized for both creating and distributing his growing legend.

Killing the wyvern also gets Will an audience with Ethelbard, the fair and honorable young lord of Whitesails and all of Southmark. That said, their meeting is a bit tense, as it was when Will first entered the temple, as Ethel isn’t quite sure who he’s dealing with or what to make of him. That soon changes when he learns that half of Will’s party wasn’t directly involved in the battle, and that he did most of the work.

After officially thanking him for saving the city, Ethel asks if there’s any reward he’d want, and Will is ready: he wants Ethel to send troops to the Beast Woods to aid the villages suffering demon attacks. Ethel says that’s a tough ask, as his forces are already spread thin, and the dark miasma turns any beings it touches into savages, further complicating matters.

Will requests an alternative: he will use his own funds to raise an army of mercenaries and adventurers to protect those areas Ethel’s armies cannot. Ethel immediately sees this as a potential threat to his authority, even if Will doesn’t intend it as such, and even weighs the pros and cons of simply killing Will before he becomes too much of a problem.

Obviously he’s not going to be killing Will—I doubt Gracefeel will allow that!—but the more macro Will’s efforts become, the more he bumps up against established powers and enters a realm in which he’s all too green: politics. Again, this is where an expert merchant like Tonio and an expert storyteller in Bee will surely come in handy.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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.

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