Slime 300 – 07 – Total Submission

Halkara is in trouble. Accidental or not, she assaulted the Demon King, who is still out cold, and the court is not forgiving about that kinda thing, so she’s on death row! Azusa and her new found family work to get themselves and Halkara out of the mess she made, because what is family for?

Laika reveals she can transform into a huggable mini-dragon, and flies off to gather some medicinal herbs. Azusa whips up an analeptic that is sure to wake Percora up—the only problem is how to get to her. Beelz sends Vania with the palace blueprints, and disguises Azusa in sexy demon doctor cosplay.

The courtiers and their burly guards are not convinced by the getup, but it matters little as the Witch of the Highlands is able to easily overpower everyone standing between her and Pecora’s bedchamber. She’s about to administer the medicine when Pecora suddenly wakes up and headbutts her.

Azusa insists the foul-smelling green liquid is not poison, but Pecora insists she prove her innocence by beating her in a duel and not killing her. The Demon King blows the side off her own palace and launches a fusillade of lightning-quick strikes, hitting nothing but air as Azusa expertly dodges.

When Peco taunts her opponent by saying an elf’s life is riding on the outcome, Azusa goes on the offensive, shooting herself high into the air, then striking Pecora’s giant sword with a satisfying BOOOONG, sending it flying out of her arms. When it comes down, it shatters into a thousand shards.

It’s at this point that the battle suddenly takes a turn for the amorous. Pecora lost the duel, but she actually won, because it was actually a test of Azusa’s strength and worthiness to be Pecora’s “Dear Sister”. For a while now, Pecora has yearned for someone stronger than her to worship and obey.

With this in mind, the Demon King makes Azusa touch her face and order her with a dignified big-sister tone to free Halkara. When Azusa does so, Pecora practically melts with satisfaction. Who knew the Demon King’s greatest ambition was to simp for a formidable domme?

When Azusa and Pecora have tea together, Pecora mentions how she read (perhaps in a yuri manga) about how an older sister kisses her younger sister, and wants to give it a try. They’re all alone, so Azusa doesn’t see the harm in giving the Demon King a chaste peck on the cheek.

The thing is, from the way the scene is animated and Pecora’s reactions, it hardly appears chaste to Halkara, Laika, the twins, and Rosalie. Halkara for one is ready to immediately accept her master’s preference for women and wish her well, but Azusa clears things up by giving her two daughters their first kisses, who then kiss her back. Kisses for everybody!

Pecora isn’t done with the surprised, as at the awards ceremony she not only welcomes Laika onto the dais with Azusa, but presents Flatorte, giving all three awards for peace. That’s when things again get a little kinky, as Pecora orders Flatorte to allow Azusa to touch her horns.

For a Blue Dragon, there is no more powerful gesture of total submission, but Flatorte allows it. Little does Azusa know that by doing so, she’s bound Flatorte to her for life, just as dragon knights once bonded with dragons they bested. On the ride home aboard Vania, the leviathan laughs about an old joke, sending honey water flying.

Flatorte proves her fealty and absolute devotion to protecting Azusa by shielding her from the honey water shower, necessitating a bath. There, Azusa gives Flatorte her one and only order: that she think for herself, act of her own free will, and stop awating her orders.

To Flatorte, an order to be free seems contradictory, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s an order from her master. She obeys, and later enjoys some quality time in Azusa’s lap, later broken up by an envious Laika.

A red and blue dragon living together under one roof isn’t going to be easy, but it’s not going to be dull either, and their shared love for their master should ensure their discord will only ever go so far, and may even soften into amity. However it goes, Azusa’s harem family has grown once more.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Re: Zero – 48 – Crunch Time

“Love Me Down to My Blood and Guts” almost feels like a finale. At the very least, it feels like the start of the climax of a epic blockbuster film. Every stop is pulled out and not a single moment of its 29+ minutes is wasted. You get a little bit of everything, starting with a well-balanced combination of badass action and lighthearted comedy.

Every wound Garfiel gives Elsa is instantly healed, but he doesn’t consider his fight futile, because he’s not necessarily fighting to beat her. He’s fighting to support his “Boss” Subaru, and no matter how many times Elsa heals and charges, he’ll keep meeting her steel with his.

That’s where we get a couple of impeccably-timed jokes, first with Garfiel boasting that the mabeasts will be no sweat for Boss, followed by the mabeasts being too much for Boss to handle. Subie also strikes out when he tries to demonstrate his real-world knowledge of dust fires, only to need to be bailed out by Otto and Petra igniting the beast with oil.

Those fires defeat the main mabeast but also beging to envelop the mansion. Subaru entrusts Rem and Petra to Otto while he runs into the flames to rescue Beako, whether she wants to go or not.

While the flames rage at the mansion, Emilia’s part of the episode serves as a calming, centering breath. Sure, she watched a number of unpleasant futures, but they come as a jumbled rush of voices and images, ultimately collectively blunting their individual discouraging effects.

There’s also the fact that they’re only “possible” futures, as Minerva tells her after the third trial ends. That means none of them are absolutely the real future, which means Emilia and those she loves will be able to avert disaster if and when it rears its ugly head.

Minerva appears to meet with Emilia in Bliss because Echidna was still “mad” at Lia for how the other two trials went, particularly the second. Perhaps Echidna really would have preferred to greedily feed off Emilia’s despair, but after reckoning with her past in the first trial, the witch’s prediction the other two would be a cakewalk turned out to be accurate.

Minerva is decidedly unwrathful in her interactions with Emilia. In fact, she treats her a lot like Mother Fortuna treated her, with tenderness and love, embracing her when Emilia turns back to see her. I suppose Minerva knew her mother, and maybe even knew Emilia as a baby, which is why she’s so aunt-like here?

In any case, Emilia has passed all three trials, and gains access to a tomb where the intricate barrier spell emanates from the deceased Echidna’s chest. With a cute little “Hi-yah!” Emilia deactivates the barrier and exits the graveyard, only to be welcomed by a raging winter storm.

Elsa and Garfiel are still going at it in the midst of the spreading flames when Maylie bursts through the outer wall with her giant hippo. Frederica isn’t far behind, turning the duel into a battle between sibling duos. After some trash talk the four get down to business, in a fury of bloody, kick-ass combat.

Frederica takes on all of Maylie’s other mabeasts, then Garfiel starts getting serious by transforming into his beast mode, ripping half of Elsa’s face off then not only going toe-to-toe with the hippo, but twisting and ripping it’s damn head off. Unlike the hippo, even Gar’s most vicious attacks fail to faze Elsa.

It’s at this point Garfiel realizes he’s dealing with a vampire. Elsa takes a few moments to tell the story of where she came from, and how she suffered to get to this kind of existence. When she was caught and stripped by an shop owner while stealing off starvation, Elsa reached for a shard of glass and opened the man’s belly.

Elsa, who’d previously only known the cold bleakness of her homeland, was both soothed and excited by the warmth of blood and innards, and never looked back. She tells Garfiel all of this because she finds him so precious and endearing. When he says there’s already a girl he likes, she clarifies that she only has business with his insides, and her love for him will begin after she kills him.

It’s a stirring final monologue for a baddie who has been around since Subaru first arrived, and distinguished by the utter inability to kill her. However, thanks to an assist by Frederica using Maylie to distract her, Gar gets in close and bites Elsa in the neck. Elsa bites him back, but he gives as good as he gets.

Before Elsa’s wound heals (or perhaps it won’t heal because of where he bit her), Gar lifts up the giant headless hippo and throws it on top of her. In her final moments, she recalls the very first thrill of disemboweling someone, then exclaims “What a thrill” in sheer ecstasy before being crushed with an ugly crunch. Hard cut to the title card and that oh-so fitting title, “Love Me Down to My Blood and Guts”.

At this point we’ve reached the 21-minute mark, which is when most other anime are rolling credits. Re:Zero keeps it going with an entire extra act, which is perhaps the most visually stunning and emotionally affecting in an episode that’s already full of those.

It deals with Ram and Puck fighting Roswaal, a battle that moves outside to protect Ryuzu Meyer’s crystal. Roswaal stirs shit by confessing to messing with Puck’s contract with Emilia when she was depressed after her fight with Subaru, essentially kicking her while she’s down in hopes Subie would scoop her up and do everything for her.

Roswaal admits to always looking back on the past, and with fondness, deeming all the wonderful things that ever happened to be in the past, and all that exists now is a phony standing atop a pile of corpses. Puck name-drops Beatrice, provoking him into launching fire attack.

Roswaal is disappointed in Ram’s weak outing thus far; as he wanted her to exact justice for her brethren and find happiness by defeating him. That’s when Ram drops a bombshell on him: he never properly realized her true intention: that she really was a demon, and not someone who was in love with Roswaal.

It’s a confession she delivers while both of her eyes exposed, a trademark of the demon maid sisters. When Roswaal asks her what of keeping her promise to her brethren, Ram simply says she’s prioritizing her own feelings over those of the dead. Puck, energized by Ram’s confession, grows to mammoth size (though maintaining his cute appearance) and seals Roswaal in a giant ring of ice, through which he can spot multiple Rams flitting back and forth.

Roswaal begins destroying the ice walls and the giant ice crystal attacks Puck rains down on him, but in the process he ends up with one of the crystals directly behind him. It shatters on its own and out comes the real Ram, snatching the gospel Echidna gave him, while suffering a horrific wound. Calling it “the root of all evil”, she drops the book in the fire, destroying it.

She wears a smile as she says “Now, at last…” before being hit by Roswaal’s retaliatory flames, which cause a huge explosion that consumes them both. Then the credits roll, and for me at least, the process of starting to breathe again commenced. As it has demonstrated many times in its previous forty-seven episodes, when Re:Zero decides to go big and epic, it does not disappoint.


RABUJOI
WORLD
HERITAGE
LIST

TenSura – 30 – The Shizu Hits the Fan

Rimuru bids goodbye Ingrassia and to the kids, leaving them with parting gifts: Chloe gets Shizu’s mask, while everyone gets cool cloaks made by Shuna. He’s about to teleport home with Ranga when the Great Sage announces a massive barrier is in place preventing that. Huh…that’s odd!

One of Souei’s clones appears telling his master to run. Rimuru orders Ranga into his shadow, and another barrier goes up: he’s unable to use skills. He casts Resist successfully, but all magic skills are severely limited, which is just what his opponent wants.

Back in Tempest, things do not go well for Rimuru’s strongest generals. Hakurou steps in to save Gobta , but due to the effects of the barriers, he’s easily defeated by Kyouya. Shion hangs in longer than Shougo expected, but in her weakened state she too is no match for the otherworlder.

Falmuth’s vanguard of knights arrive in the city, and Shougo immediately accuses Shion of attacking him, leading the knights to invoke “human law” and essentially sack the city. It is truly gutting to see children crying in allies, the capital in flames, and a bloody shoe in the streets.

Rimuru needs to get back, but that’s just not going to happen anytime soon. His opponent is Sakaguchi Hinata, Chief Knight of the Imperial Guard and Captain of the Holy Knights. Titles aside, her only master is the god Luminous. Rimuru tells Hinata he’s Japanese too, but she’s not there to listen to a monster, she’s there to avenge Shizu, her dearest friend.

Both we and Rimuru soon learn Hinata is not all talk, and is not fucking around. It’s been ages, if ever, since we’ve seen Rimuru so consistently on his back foot. Hinata’s attack and defense is so quick and precise, Rimuru feels like he’s fighting the Great Sage herself—who helpfully points out that seven strikes from Hinata’s Dead End Rainbow will kill him…and she’s already struck him four times!

Rimuru’s crucial error was walking so recklessly across the Holy Field, the Western Holy Church’s “ultimate anti-monster barrier.” Even a high-level spiritual monster such as himself has most of his strength sapped, and much of what’s left is spent sustaining his existence within the barrier. When Rimuru summons Ifrit to even the odds, Hinata uses her unique skill Usurper to try to frikkin’ steal him, forcing Rimuru to call him back.

Her Usurper reminds him of his final trump card, Gluttony. Great Sage accepts his Awaken! order just before Hinata runs him through, so while he’s not dead, because he’s given way to Gluttony, he loses consciousness, which he describes as sinking into darkness.

That’s not good! None of this is good! Rimuru, his generals, and his capital are all in serious trouble, and he never saw any of it coming, while the baddies are only just getting started. If ever a Milim ex machina were needed, it’s now!

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 14 – Aurora Boarialis

Tanjirou punches the boar-man to get him off Zenitsu, breaking his ribs in the process while scolding him for raising his sword(s) to a fellow Demon Slayer. The boar-man, named Hashibira Inosuke, decides to fight Tanjirou hand-to-hand (and foot-to-foot).

As both have cracked ribs, they fight on more or less an equal level. Inosuke has an advantage in flexibility and how damn low he can get (Tanjirou likens it to fighting a four-legged beast). Tanjirou isn’t really trying to fight, but when Inosuke won’t let up, he deploys his secret-weapon: his titanium-hard skull.

The headbutt is devastating enough to knock Inosuke’s boar mask off, revealing a beautiful, feminine face that seriously freaks out Zenitsu (though to be honest everything freaks the guy out). Inosuke passes out, then wakes up to find the others burying bodies from the mansion.

When he says he won’t help, Tanjirou chalks it up to Inosuke’s wounds hurting too much, only angering the boar-man more. A Kasugai crow arrives, gives the three rescued siblings a wisteria charm so they can return home safely, and leads the three slayers to a manor with a Wisteria crest at the gate, ordering them to rest there until fully recovered.

A comedy triad ensues at the inn-like manor, whose owners were saved by Demon Slayers and thus allow them to stay there free of charge. Tanjirou is glad for the change of clothes, food, and bedding, and even Zenitsu mostly calms down, but Inosuke is constantly trying to pick a fresh fight with Tanjirou.

Fortunately our laid-back protagonist doesn’t rise to the provocations, preferring to rest up so that he can more effectively fight the real enemy: demons. When the three lay down for the night, Inosuke tells the others how he, an orphan with no family, stole a Nichirin blade from a Demon Slayer who “trespassed” on “his mountain”, then heard about the Final Selection and basically thought it’d be cool to do that.

Zenitsu steers the conversation to the box Tanjirou has been carrying, and asks him straight up why he travels with a demon. Tanjirou thanks Zenitsu for protecting it even though he knew of its contents, and the praise goes straight to Zenitsu’s head (though he vehemently denies he’s strong). Before Tanjirou can tell him that the demon is his sister, Nezuko starts scratching at the door of her box, scaring the shit out of Zenitsu.

She crawls out and grows to her normal size. Once Zenitsu gets a good look at her, he draws his sword on Tanjirou for keeping such a “cute girl” in a box and not telling anyone, and threatens to “purge” him. Meanwhile, Inosuke can’t remember why he first picked a fight, and falls asleep instantly, missing the big Nezuko reveal. This was probably the most laid back and fun episode of Demon Slayer to date, a well-timed breather from all the recent demon battles.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Jujutsu Kaisen – 16 – To Panda or Not To Panda

The new Bromance for the Ages is off to a good start, with Toudou eager to teach his new best friend how to use one’s mind, body, and soul as one, in order to eliminate the lag inherent in Divergent Fist.

Yuuji proves a quick study, much to Toudou’s delight, as it means he doesn’t have to use kid gloves. At this point it seems unlikely Toudou will carry out Principal Gakuganji’s order to kill Yuuji, or even allow anyone else to do so. What kind of friend would he be if he did?

From Yuuji vs. Toudou we shift briefly to Panda/Nobara vs. Momo, who looks for all the world like Kiki’s buddy and is voiced by Lil’ Taiga herself, Kugimiya Rie. The odds are evened when Ultimate Mechamaru emerges from the soon-to-be-felled trees. Panda estimates the robot to be somewhere in the Grade 2 range like him, but Mechamaru corrects him, saying he’s more of a semi-Grade 1.

It’s appropriate for the two most different sorcerers from among their peers would go up against each other, but throughout their hard-hitting battle, Mechamaru continues to look down on Panda as “just another Cursed Corpse”, when in reality, Principal Yaga created the first CC with emotions.

Mechamaru, meanwhile, is merely the robot remote-controlled by a human born with profound physical disabilities. He lies in a tub surrounded by tubes and covered in bandages, virtually immobile and in constant pain. The trade-off for such an existence is a ridiculous level of cursed energy that can be used at range.

Panda has a couple other secrets that give him the upper hand in their battle. First, unlike most CCs he has not one but three cores in his body: his “panda” core, his brother’s “gorilla” core, and his “bashful” sister’s core, represented by a flash of light. Mecha disables two of the three, but Panda is still going strong in Gorilla mode, and manages to trash the robot before it learns the location of his last core.

On the one hand, this was a fun battle between two extremely quirky characters that pulled double duty in explaining who and what they are and what makes them tick. On the other, part of me was perfectly fine with neither of these characters being explained beyond “one is a panda and one is a robot.” Now that the show has answered a bunch of questions about the two, there’s less mystique there.

Finally, the Panda vs. Mechamaru duel was the one I was least invested in compared to the three others that bookend the episode: Yuuji vs. Toudou, Nobara vs. Momo, and Maki vs. Miwa. I’m probably not alone in this, which may be why the show chose to resolve this battle first.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 15 – My Best Friend

The first group battle of the Exchange Event begins, and is ultimately notable not just for its various character pairings, but for what it lacks: Sukuna, the ultimate target of the Kyoto sorcers, barely makes a peep, and the only demon that’s slain is a small frey that got in the way of Toudou’s fist, and incidentally, saved Yuuji’s life. Even Gojou is only appears at the beginning to start the battle and at the end of the omake.

That means the episode belongs to the Tokyo and Kyoto students, and both as complete groups and once split up, they very ably and entertainingly carry the day with scene after scene of badass and/or hilarious interactions, starting with Toudou Aoi and Yuuji. Yuuji lucks out by having the same type (tall, large posterior), which temporarily sents Aoi into a kind of idyllic school drama daydream in which he gets shot down by Takada-chan but comforted by Yuuji.

They are now best friends, so when Aoi’s Kyoto classmates, led by Kamo Noritoshi, converge on Yuuji with the goal of assassinating him, Aoi uses a cursed technique to make Yuuji and Noritoshi switch places, then tells Nori and the others to buzz off. This is his fight, he’ll say when he’s done, and he’ll decide—not Nori, not the principal—whether Yuuji dies.

It’s clear the Principal has more to contend with than the threat of Sukuna if his own elite students are in such disarray. Much to Yuuji’s confusion, they scatter as Aoi commands, while their witchy comrade Momo’s air superiority is suddenly nullified by Megumi’s Nue. They were counting on her for the actual group battle part, involving locating and defeating demons.

Once the Tokyo kids realize the Kyoto kids are trying to kill Yuuji, they rethink his use as a decoy. Inumaki is sent to start exorcising, Panda and Nobara keep Momo busy, and Maki ends up with Miwa Kasumi, by far my favorite and the most “normal” person in perhaps either school.

Yuuji takes off the kid gloves and demonstrates to Aoi’s boundless joy that despite being way skinnier he packs a lot more raw power. Of course, Aoi’s gotten to the point where he can focus that power a lot better than Yuuji, and in any case has a whole bag of cursed tricks at his disposal. Aoi is having fun until his thoughts linger on how Yuuji’s Divergent Fist feels, and decides, quite loudly and emphatically, that it is WRONG.

Kasumi would really rather not kill Yuuji or anyone else, and makes it known to Maki that she’s not an asshole like the others; she just wants to do well in this event so she can get good recommendations, ascend the ladder to a well-paying position, and move out of the poorhouse with her two brothers. Maki is both admiring of Kasumi’s wholesomeness and mortified by the fact Kasumi must spend considerable time with Mai.

As for Aoi’s problem with Yuuji, he flat-out tells him it won’t be enough to defeat him, cool name, signature move or no. As soon as it starts, their BFFship is threatened. Yuuji doesn’t really care about that, but he does care about winning. He was never going to be satisfied simply buying time for his comrades. If he could hold out against a monster like Mahito, than he should be able to beat a fellow human.

I’m looking forward to more of their forest sparring, which was superbly directed and animated, as one expects of Jujutsu Kaisen by now. But the mood-lightening omake ends this week’s episode on a funny note, going through everyone’s different romantic types. Kasumi seems to put the most thought into it, and she’d be absolutely over the moon to learn that she’s exactly Gojou’s type! Great stuff.

DanMachi III – 12 (Fin) – The Hero (and the Status Quo) Returns

As Asterius walks along Daedalus Street in search of the “ultimate adversary” of his dreams, Hermes clarifies his request for the Xenos to “die”. Rather, he’ll need some of them to die by Bell’s hands, so that Bell’s honor and reputation can be restored. Whatever else Hermes is planning, Bell continuing to be the beloved Little Rookie is a big part of it.

Gros and three others decide to acquiesce to Hermes’ request, and make a big show of attacking a square full of civilians and adventurers. With this “stage production”, Hermes is conceding that Ouranos’ desire for humans and monsters to achieve piece was little more than a pipe dream. He just can’t see thousands of years of continuous enmity ever ceasing.

The moment Eina is threatened by Gros (who I believe is being berserk-ified by Asfi), Bell comes between them, and Gros’ inner voice hopes Bell will defeat him before he kills her. But Bell isn’t altogether interested in playing the exact role Hermes laid out for him.

Rather than raise his blade to Gros, he simply puts his arms up and serves as Eina’s human shield. Gros ends up shoving him back. That’s when a frustrated Hermes has Asfi berserk-ify Asterius, who flies at Bell like a bat out of hell and presses a vicious, building-smashing attack.

Bell somehow manages to hang in there, and DanMachi’s Big Battle Theme starts to play as their epic duel carries through the night and into the dawn. Unfortunately, while the battle is quick, brutal, and fun, it also can’t really hold a T to Bell’s duel with Ais. In addition to Ais being easier on the eyes, it was more satisfying on both a thematic and character level.

Asterius’ whole deal is that Bell apparently beat him once, and he wanted another shot at him, and…that’s it. Everyone else allows the battle to unfold without interruption in part due to Ottarl, operating on Freya’s wishes. Asterius ends up delivering a huge defeat to Bell, and even though the battle served a purpose—both to rehabilitate his public image and serve as cover for the Xenos’ escape—Bell is still super upset about losing.

Satisfied that their head-to-head record stands at one win and one loss apiece, Asterius withdraws. We later see his arm is restored, as Fels heals all of the Xenos injuries once they arrive in Knossos. Wiene is happy where she is and not crying over missing Bell, and the Xenos have a new haven in which to survive and maybe even thrive…just separately from humans for the foreseeable future.

I can’t help but be a little disappointed that more effort wasn’t spent trying to move the peace process forward, but at least from Bell’s perspective part of the reason that process failed was he just wasn’t strong enough. Even though he beat Bell, Asterius isn’t standing still, and continues training the moment he’s healed.

Bell too returns to the battlements of the castle where he and Ais have met and trained so many times, and is surprised when she too arrives at that spot, telling him she had a feeling he’d be there. Bell asks Ais once more to teach him how to fight. He wants to become stronger, and their friendship remains strong enough to have survived the recent adversity.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 07 – Starting Over from Zzzzero

While there was no danger of Syalis’ antics growing stale at the Demon Castle, there’s nothing like a change of venue to freshen things up. That change occurs when Twilight’s rival Hades kidnaps Syalis in her sleep and deposits her in the far more rundown (but quieter!) Former Demon Castle.

The overarching joke this week is that Hades acts precisely like Twilight and his underlings when they first captured Syalis. Now they know better and harbor a healthy fear and respect for the pint-sized princess, while almost pitying Hades for not knowing what’s coming down the pike.

Predictably, Syalis doesn’t panic or cower before Hades or his adorable henchmen triplets Ker, Ber, and Os. Her first instinct is to simply sleep, in lieu of anything better to do. Then she puts her head on the appallingly cheap pillow and gets a nasty case of deja vu from her first night in Twilight’s castle.

Armed with a new quest to improve her pillow as the first step in a process, Syalis immediately returns to her usual relentlessly resourceful and determined self. When Ker, Ber, and Os try to intimidate them, she casually tosses an explosive pompom at the cell gate and sends them fleeing in terror.

Syalis’ search for fluffy bedding materials takes her into direct contact with Hades, but since he’s busy on the videophone gloating to Twilight (and laughing an exaggerated laugh like Rintarou Okabe) he doesn’t notice her literally ripping his clothes off for repurposing.

She gets an assist from her “friends” at the Demon Castle when they make such a ruckus on the phone, Hades is distracted. They even get him to look and levitate upwards so she can snag his fur boa, and when she does they cheer like Houston celebrating a successful rocket launch!

The pillow, however, is merely the first step. Syalis’ second quest involves improvement of her bedding in general. She soon finds that this Former Demon Castle has a lot more traps, but thankfully none of the needles, flying axes or fireballs end up killing her, and she meets a kindred spirit in Hypnos, the “personification of drowsiness”.

Syalis is immediately impressed by Hypnos’ dedication to sleep and begins calling him “Master” and asking him to teach her. When he shows her that the undersides of the tiles of an electrified walkway are fluffy fur, she jumps several steps ahead, killing the power source and gathering all of the furry tiles.

This sets off a number of traps, but Syalis must have been trained in martial arts and self-defense, because she’s able to dodge all of them, impressing Hypnos enormously. Her final bed contraption consists of a large mobile fur mattress that moves along a track, avoiding fireballs as she sleeps.

But as she’s starting a third quest for another comfortable night’s sleep, Twilight and some members of his Big Ten Council prepare a rescue mission to retrieve their captive. Lower-ranking people in the castle note how quiet and boring it is without the princess. They all want her back!

Hades remains in blissful ignorance, believing it laughable that the princess could leave her cell, let alone do all of the stuff she’s done. Yet she’s in his personal fur stash gathering materials, and just as he’s discussing all of the status-boosting weapons Ker/Ber/Os can use to repel Twilight and his compatriots, Syalis is destroying those very weapons in order to make a comfy neck pillow.

When Twilight & Co. finally confront Hades, the two Demon Lords seem poised for an epic one-on-one battle, which is interrupted by the sight of Syalis flying off in a flying contraption also meant for Ker/Ber/Os. Twilight & Co. peace out, taking a rain check on that duel, and chase after Syalis, who reunites with a Demon Teddy and sleeps soundly on the bag of stolen furs as the contraption flies her back to the Demon Castle—a place she’s come to think of as home.

No Guns Life – 23 – Pulling Your Own Trigger

Deep within Juuzou’s sub-brain and in contact with his subconscious, Tetsuro assures his friend that he’s not there to pull his trigger (a somewhat dirty-sounding string of words, but that’s an observation I’ll table for this review), but to get Juuzou to realize and accept that it’s his trigger to pull: his will, his choice, his wish. By hanging in there against Seven, Kronen buys the kid the time he needs, even though from the outside it looks like his sub-brain is toast.

With Seven/Pepper and Juuzou’s battle attracting the media and crowds of gawkers, Cunningham decides it’s time to sweep their operatives under the rug, and sends an elimination squad after Seven and Peppeer. I expected the pair to be betrayed by Berühren, just as I expected Seven to easily repel their would-be killers. However, Pepper’s hand is blown off and she starts to bleed out.

Rather than getting Pepper some medical help, Seven decides to obey the last order his Hands gave him: destroy everything. That includes the EMS officers and crowds gathered around the plaza. Kronen can’t stop him, but Juuzou does. Having successfully “pulled his own trigger” as Tetsuro suggested, Juuzou can draw on powers previously only available when he had a Hands, but without a Hands.

As a Gun Slave Unit in the military, Juuzou put all the decision-making on his Hands. As a resolver in the city, Juuzou worked to fulfill the wishes of his clients so he wouldn’t have to think about his own. But thanks to Tetsuro, he now knows he’s not beholden to anyone, even his past self. He can choose to move forward and fight for what he wants. So can Seven, but Seven won’t hear him out, and their destructive duel continues.

At Berühren HQ the board makes preparations to bring Tetsuro in, having been impressed with his recent progress and not wanting the only successful instance of Harmony on the loose. However, one board member, the woman, vetoes the decision. She wants to watch Tetsuro a little longer without interfering, so see what else he might show them. Berühren still considers Tetsuro a tool and their property. Hopefully he’ll prove otherwise in the next and final episode.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 20 – Starburst Scream

Asuna gets to use her avatar template Stacia’s special move (always a great sound effect) to create an earthen staircase with which to convey Alice to the World’s End Altar. She and Alice are able to get away because Gabriel Miller has to get past Kirito first.

When asked who he is, Kirito momentarily blanks, but Eugeo reminds him: he’s Kirito the motherf***ing Swordsman. A duel filled with bombastic bright lights and colors ensues. Kirito loses his lower half but fights on. Gabe transforms into a neon angel/demon entity.

This showdown has been built up for years, so why did it feel somewhat …  underwhelming? It was okay—it wasn’t great—and it did kind of…go on. I can offer several reasons. First, we’re epic dueled out. Second, while featuring some impressive visuals this fight wasn’t as good as the one between Subtilizer and Bercouli. Visually things got a bit abstract, muddled, and even a little dull. Kirito’s edge—the love amassed from everyone’s hearts—was always going to beat Miller’s hate and greed.

Mostly the lavish duel just felt superfluous; ceremonial. A formality for Kirito to get through, perhaps so that the final final threat can come to light. At least the fight was generously punctuated by beautiful callbacks to the very beginning of Alicization and cameos from both friends and former foes. I also appreciated seeing everyone wake up in the normal world hoping they did enough, providing a neat contrast to the fantastical environs of Underworld.

I also liked how…ho-hum the Worlds’ End Altar looked. Rather than a towering baroque basilica, it’s a relatively modest shrine in a pleasant, tranquil garden. When Kirito reaches it, Alice has already logged out…or has she? Whatever happened to her, she’s no longer in the Underworld, nor are Suguha, Shino, and everyone else.

Kirito assumes he’s the only one who didn’t make it out before the acceleration factor grew too high for fluctlights to bear. He gets on his hands and knees and starts to weep, lamenting how he’s alone again and separated from those who love him. That is, until, quite curiously, Asuna appears, with a reassuring smile.

We know she’s still beside him in the STL room at Ocean Turtle, and so weren’t subject to the logout failsafes of the other players. But whether they’re stuck in there or there’s (more likely) hope for them to get out in one piece, it’s clear Asuna won’t let Kirito face the latest, and possibly final trial of Alicization alone.

Star Trek: Lower Decks – 03 – Buffer Time

While in the turbolift trying to make small talk with the captain, Boimler ends up letting slip two words no senior officer should ever hear: buffer time. Once she learns the lower decks are over-inflating work time estimates (the way even Scotty used to do) in order to secure more free time, the captain puts an immediate stop to it.

And I do mean immediate: suddenly everyone is equipped with a PADD that issues a ticking clock for every task they perform—like an Amazon fulfillment center technician. Free time is eliminated, which means stress and anxiety build up with no time for release…or adequate sleep! And as the TNG episode “Night Terrors” thoroughly demonstrated, Starfleet officers need REM sleep.

As a result of heightened anxiety and increased fatigue among the crew, mistakes are bound to be made. Mistakes like, say, when someone brings along not only the wrong cultural artifact for a diplomatic mission, but one that enrages the aliens to such an extent that they decide to launch an invasion of the Cerritos—the crew of which is in no condition to repel boarders.

Character-wise, Rutherford and Tendi are so slammed by work they come pretty close to taking it out on each other. Boimler, who was already operating on zero buffer time, is happy as a clam even as the rest of the crew crumbles, and Mariner ends up on the ill-fated away mission with the first officer, Commander Ransom, a Starfleet officer in the Kirk/Riker mold.

When the aliens do board the Cerritos, each member of the crew is so lost in their own personal hell of ticking clocks and trying to make up time that will never be made up, there’s barely any time to notice there are intruders aboard ship, let alone do anything about it.

As such, the intruders initially run wild, spraying graffiti all over the exterior and corridors of the ship, despite only being armed with spears, which as Boimler points out are no match against even one hand phaser. Soon he learns the senior officers and captain have also shifted to the new work schedules, resulting in the captain having to virtually run the bridge all by herself.

Down on the planet, the aliens (who are a pretty standard Star Trek alien race of the week) decide that if Ransom or Mariner can defeat their hulking champion, they’ll let them and the other officers go free. Mariner shows Ransom all of the scars that show she’s best suited to participate in the gladitorial match.

Even so, Ransom refuses to let his subordinate fight for him; indeed, he’d rather—and does—stab Mariner through the goddamn foot so that she has no choice but to stand down. While Trak makes clear part of command is being able to send junior officers to their probable deaths for the good of the ship, this is not one of those instances, and Ransom is personally eager to test his mettle—not to mention his honed physique, which Mariner can’t help but notice.

While Mariner and Ransom ultimately bond over their shared near-death experience (and Ransom’s righteous beat-down of the so-called champion, who turns out to be a lot more interested in reading books than fighting) Boimler snaps the captain out of her devotion to the scheduling system that could lead to the loss of the ship.

Realizing perhaps to late to be credible that eliminating down time is a bad idea, the captain makes a shipwide announcement to all crew to bend or break every regulation necessary to secure the ship. The crew then proceeds to use the very PADDs that had been oppressing them to beat the alien intruders back to their ships.

The ship is saved largely due to Boimler urging his captian to essentially backtrack on a system he believed would have ensured maximum crew efficiency. But realistically, that would only happen if everyone was a workaholic like Boimler: the real world is different. And so it is that Boimler’s name is affixed to an edict essentially calling for laziness where indicated, contrary to his hallowed values.

When Tendi assures him no one will ever remember “the Boimler Effect”, we jump forward to the distant future in which it’s being taught in school—and they built a statue of him. That said, he’s not as important a historical figure as Chief Miles O’Brien…obviously!

Stray Observations:

  • The entire main premise of the Cerritos-based plotline is an homage to officers like Scotty and LaForge being lauded as “miracle workers” for getting work done far quicker than estimated, when in reality they just know how to manage expectations.
  • Ransom’s duel with the huge alien champion is akin to Kirk’s battle with the Gorn in “Arena”, as well as other bouts that usually caused his uniform to tear or even fall off.
  • I appreciated Mariner’s mixed feelings about Ransom’s fight, both being outraged that he’d fight in her place and kind of turned on once it’s clear Ransom’s got this.
  • Interesting how Mariner and her Captain/Mom have barely interacted so far. One assumes Boimler/Tendi/Rutherford will learn about that connection at some point…
  • The gold plaque Boimler receives is similar to the dedication plaques that hang in some corner of the bridge of every Starfleet ship.
  • The future teacher describes the eagle on Statue Boimler’s arm as “The Great Bird of the Galaxy”—which was the nickname of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
  • Chief O’Brien probably needs no introduction. His illustrious career spanned from the first episode of TNG and the last episode of DS9 and beyond. He also devised Scotch-flavored chewing gum, bless him.

Deca-Dence – 06 – The Shaw-Clank Redemption

When Hugin zaps Kaburagi, it doesn’t result in his death; he’s not even sentenced to be scrapped, despite becoming one of the bugs Hugin loathes so. Instead, he’s sent right back down to the surface to spend the rest of his existence in a Bug correctional facility. From the moment he gets there, all of Kaburagi’s thoughts are bent getting back to Natsume—if she’s still alive.

Note the background cameo by…the Coronavirus?!

One minute I thought the hand-off to Natsume—the “true protagonist” of Deca-Dence and “hopeful future of bugs” personified—was complete, and the next we have an episode entirely dedicated to Kaburagi’s time in prison. Mind you I’m not complaining, as the show has shown a penchant for subverting expectations in clever and satisfying ways.

There’s also a wonderful symbolism in Kaburagi having to reach rock-bottom—in this case a prison underneath a lake—before he can rise again to reunite with and support Natsume. There actually is a time when Kabu seems to lose heart, but he knows exactly what to do to restore hope: listen to a stored recording of Natsume telling him she’ll push herself to the absolute limit. He can do no less.

The warden says to work hard and you’ll be treated well, and so that’s what Kabu does: even if all he’s doing is shoveling rock-hard Gadoll shit into a giant hole, he’ll stand tall and proudly and diligently do that duty without complaint…even when other inmates tell him no one ever leaves.

One of those complacent inmates is also his bunkmate, Sarkozy, who tells Kaburagi that not only is Natsume probably still alive, but the Gadoll attacks have paused. We later cut to the Gadoll factory to see Gear-like scientists growing and raising a fresh batch of Gadoll.

All Natsume and Kurenai can do back at Deca-Dence is keep doing their jobs, stay alive, and hope Kabu is alive and will come back soon. Sure enough, he’s on his way to doing just that, as thanks to Sarkozy he encounters a group of hard inmates with access to a contraband Deca-Dence terminal.

The leader of those inmates is his old comrade and fellow ranker Donatello, who initially regards Kabu with contempt and distrust, as he chose to obey the system rather than being imprisoned. Kabu declares the past is past, and he’ll do and risk anything necessary in order to get back to Deca-Dence.

Even though Donatello and the others find Kabu’s attachment to a “novelty” Tanker is laughable, he agrees to give his old friend a chance, but first he must defeat him in a “death dive”, a duel in which the two will fight with shovels and try to knock each other into the giant vat of Gadoll dung.

I have to say, it’s an immensely entertaining fight, with Donatello attempting to use brute force and familiarity with the surroundings to overpower Kabu, and Kabu using his speed and agility to get onto Don’s head so he can rip off his horn and threaten to stab him with it.

The two end up both falling into the poo, but survive thanks to Kabu’s operational jet-packs. Donatello accepts defeat and agrees to give Kabu access to the equipment—after the two wash off all the poop. He’s warned that he won’t be the old Armor Repairer Kaburagi anymore, but inhabiting an avatar who will likely be a stranger to Natsume.

Kabu doesn’t care. This is his only chance, so he’ll take what he can get, as he always has. The episode ends with him selecting to start a New Game on the main menu, leaving us hanging until next week to learn who he’ll ultimately become, where he’ll end up, and whether he can stay under Hugin’s radar this time.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 05 – Very Old Friends

In a flashback to two thousand years ago, Anos sends his most trusted subordinate Shin to defeat the Great Water Spirit Lignon, which he does easily. When Anos offers him a reward, Shin asks to be resurrected, even if his resurrected self loses his memories and experiences, he wants to remain by his lord’s side.

Back in the present, Emilia also announces a new transfer student, a prodigy known as the “Master of Magic Sword”, and that the class will start sword training with two Elder Demon Emperors. She also tries to pretend the specter has been “stolen” in order to deprive Team Anos of a perfect score, only for Anos to pull said scepter out of one of the students ordered to hide it.

Before he does, one white uniform comes to his defense: Misa Iriologue, a demon-spirit hybrid and member of the Unitarians, who work towards a more racially and class-equitable nation, one not dominated by “Royalty” who just happened to be born with pure blood.

Misa and her associates believe Anos is the Demon King of Tyranny. Not only does she want to join Team Anos, but she wants to tell them more of their efforts in hopes Anos will join the cause, as one Elder Demon Emperor already has.

I never thought MDKA would have been able to pull off sociopolitical worldbuilding with an Anos fan club full of bookworms who swoon and faint in his presence and consider the same air he breathes to be a direct kiss…but here we are!

The Unitarians seem like a nice bunch of hardworking girls who just want to make the world a more just and equal place, and while Anos has thankfully never come off as a horndog in want or need of a harem, their mission statement aligns with his own distaste for blood purity trumping merit.

During the sword training, Anos is the first and only student to successfully pull his sword out of the ground, Excalibur-style … until a second student does it with similar ease. He’s the new transfer student and sword prodigy, and my first thought was that he was the reincarnated Shin.

My confidence that this Ray Gransdori is Shin is reinforced when he shocks Emilia by declaring he’d rather have a competent leader giving him orders than lead a team himself. He also pays Anos’ “Misfit” label and white uniforms no mind; it’s clear he shares both Anos and the Unitarians’ belief that parentage isn’t as important as achievement.

Anos initially refuses Ray’s request to join his team because he doesn’t want to make it too easy for him. Both he and Ray have clearly been rearing for a good sword battle lasting more than a couple seconds, and no one else has proven a challenge to either. Anos issues a challenge: Ray will lead Misa and the fan club against Team Anos, which they get to join if they fare well.

With her new ice ring, Misha is able to build a giant ice castle in a matter of moments, while her and Sasha’s newly upgraded sources (due to the time travel stuff last week) mean they are now considerably more powerful, and when they join forces are able to easily bring down the fan club’s golem-like mobile castle.

While the “kids” play with castles and immensely powerful magic spells, Anos and Ray have a good old-fashioned sword duel, only Ray’s sword is dull and Anos’ sword is just a tree branch. The ensuing clash is everything both of them could have hoped for, and you can tell they’re having a ton of fun.

Anos obviously bests Ray, but Ray proved he’s worthy of joining the team. Ray also has a strange feeling that they’ve crossed swords before. Surely Anos could tell from the way Ray fought and the instinctive desire to serve him that he has his right-hand-man back.

Sometimes when a transfer student shows up they’re meant to be a rival or obstacle to the MC, but this was a nice subversion of that formula. It’s also refreshing to have a male character who isn’t Anos—or an asshole. Both he and Misa are welcome additions. On to the Magic Sword Tournament, in which Anos and Ray are clear favorites to make the finals.