Magia Record – 06 – Dark Wings, Dark Deals

After waking up to breakfast at Yachiyo’s sad, lonely, empty boardinghouse, Iroha decides to do a little more exploring around Kamihama before heading home. Her unyielding desire to find Ui literally leads her down the wrong road, in this case a sketchy underground market populated by witch-like beings.

Yachiyo warned Iroha to be cautious and hide her magical girl identity, but within a minute of arriving at the market, she meets another magical girl, Felicia Mitsuki, and the two drink a mysterious “Lucky Owl Water” offered for free by the beings, which they market as a “distillation of joy” to anyone who drinks it.

The Felix Felicis-like bevvy sets in immediately, with Felicia easily dispatching a witch, Iroha treating her to ice cream, and both of them getting good luck messages on the sticks. They hit the arcade and casino to let that good luck ride, winning at everything they play and raking in the cash.

Cash that Felicia needs, by the way, as she was orphaned by witches and must take care of herself. She labels herself as a mercenary, offering her not inconsiderable witch-hunting skills in exchange for cash money. As the two celebrate their luck, numbers everywhere gradually count down from 24, portending doom.

Meanwhile, there’s another new old face in Kamihama: Sakura Kyouko, from the original series. She’s still fond of perching on roofs and is looking to kill some witches. Yachiyo, who encounters her, tells her there’s plenty of witches to hunt as long as she abides by the rules: no harming other magical girls, and no poaching.

Both Felicia’s on-again, off-again party and Yachiyo learn through Yakumo of a new rumor of Lucky Owl Water, as well as the catch: after 24 lucky things happen to the drinker, they start experiencing bad luck, at least until they drink more Owl Water. It’s basically an addictive drug, only instead of affecting your body or mind, it affects your luck.

Yachiyo and Tsuruno meet up with Iroha and Felicia in order to find a way to cancel the effects of the water, which Yachiyo believes can be achieved by destroying the main body of the Uwasa, or rumor. But first they have to find it, which means returning to the market where Iroha and Felicia first encountered the water pushers.

Predictably, they offer nothing but more Owl Water as a corrective, and Felicia loses her temper and lashes out at them, causing them to disperse. Yachiyo laments that Felicia didn’t just drink more water for now, in order to buy them more time to find the Uwasa.

Instead, Felicia and Iroha are down to 13 lucky events before shit starts going down. The quartet are soon surrounded not by witches, but mysterious girls in black cloaks who all finish each other sentences and call themselves “Wings of Magius.” Like the magical girls, they want to destory all witches, but they go about it in a very different way.

When these Wings fail to recruit the magical girls, they appeal to Felicia’s constant need for income and offer to hire her as a mercenary. Her reward will be what her wish to Kyuubey probably was, but is naturally yet to be achieved: revenge.

Iroha had already hired Felicia to help her find Ui, offering her a home-cooked meal, but I think she just got outbid, and Yachiyo is proven correct about the dangers of getting involved with someone who puts their own desires before the safety of her peers.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 01 (First Impressions) – Back to Fantasy Basics Done Right

Golem, Guardian of the Forest, never once doubted his purpose in life: to observe and protect the natural processes of the forest with a minimal of interference. Enter Somali, a human girl in chains he encounters. Suddenly, the parameters of his purpose have changed dramatically, and lacking emotions, he isn’t quite sure why.

What if, a fantasy anime didn’t start with a guy being transported from Japan to a new world? Or if, humans weren’t in charge, and monsters and demi-humans weren’t an oppressed minority? Somali and the Forest Spirit provides a welcome return to classic meat-and-potatoes fantasy slice-of-life, in the best traditions of Studio Ghibli—not to mention Disney.

The premise couldn’t be more elegant: Stoic Golem meets Exuberant Kid. While he teaches her how to live, she teaches him how to feel. But the fact said kid is a human is a big deal in this world. There was a legendary war between humanity and monsters, and the monsters won. Humans became a source of food, then curiosity before all but dying out.

Somali, therefore, is endangered in more ways than one. The sense of dread and imminent danger of revealing her lack of horns (sewed into her hood), as well as when Somali strays from Golem to follow a not-quite cat, brings a nice sharp-but-not-too-sharp edge to the proceedings. So does the fact the Golem’s arm is damanged; he may not be able to protect her from everything.

Still, while there are certainly dangers in store (though they may or may not reach the level of Made in Abyss craziness), the heart of Somali is the never unhumorous repartee between the two leads. Somali talks, well, like a kid should talk (Minase Inori is right in her wheelhouse), while Golem is much more verbose and robotic, as one would expect from a Golem.

With rich and lovely visuals, an appropriately otherworldly yet conventionally-orchestrated soundtrack, a strong central duo with fun dialogue, and just the right amount of inherent danger, Somali and the Forest Spirit checks all the boxes for a MagicalChurlSukui-Approved anime. Onward!

Tales of Zestiria the X – 02

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The gorgeous landscapes and stirring score of Zestiria continue to immerse me deeply into its world; in this case, the land of the Seraphim, along with Alisha. Sorey takes her to his home village, Elysia, because he has no other choice; human or not, he can’t just ignore her or leave her there.

In a nice twist, being a human with no prior contact, Ali can’t see Mikleo or any of the other villagers, so it appears at first that Sorey is all alone. But Alisha still believes in the Seraphim, and is convinced that they, and the Shepherd in particular, are humanity’s only hope.

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It’s a good thing Sorey is so nice and neither Gramps or the villagers press for her expulsion; what could she do by going back alone, now? The horrific events that transpired on her particularly bad day are now the stuff of her nightmares, but just when that fear makes her doubt her faith, Sorey shows her the exterior of the grand ruins she found herself in last week, including the mural and glove of the Shepherd (which he gifts to her). It’s not just legends.

I also like how Gramps and the others realize this human has a good heart and isn’t the kind of threat that would invite “calamity”, as they originally feared. You can feel how unwelcome Alisha feels at first, but as their attitude towards her softens, her stay becomes more peaceful.

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Naturally, she can’t just stay in the clouds with the Seraphim forever, so she heads back the way she came to Hyland, hoping there’s enough of her world left to save. I was surprised she wasn’t asking Sorey to accompany her and participate in the Sacred Blade ceremony…until she did just that. If Sorey indeed wants a world where humans (not just him) and Seraphim coexist in peace and harmony again, this could well be the way.

Alisha leaves, her hope and optimism that a hero will rise restored (and likely of the belief it’s a good chance Sorey is that Shepherd), but the moment she’s out of sight, Gramps detects a hellion in his territory, and Sorey and Mikleo rush to meet it.

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The fox-faced hellion injures a Seraphim and then tangles with the two young fighters, showing impressively explosive speed, nimbleness, and strength.

It’s a short but fantastic battle that came out of nowhere, and felt even more fast and chaotic due to my being lulled into placid “village time” to that point. Quiet and still, or frenetic action; this show can do it all.

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After Gramps scares off the hellion, what it said about its “main dish” concerned Sorey, who concludes it was after Alisha all along. So he heads off on his own to catch up to her and protect her from what could well be a foe far out of her league.

To Sorey’s delight, Mikleo appears, and will accompany him on his journey to Alisha’s capital, with wise words from Gramps: be free, find your own path, and live life to the fullest. They strike out as the sun starts to come up, and the entire world seems to unfold before them in all its glorious majesty. This looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 01

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(Disclaimer: I have never played any of the Tales games; my RPG experience is limited to Final Fantasy and Skyrim. Therefore I have no knowledge of Zestiria, its story or its characters.)

Last week’s prologue started relatively upbeat but grew very dark and sinister and apocalyptic very quickly. This week’s episode isn’t quite done torturing Princess Alisha, who faces grief, loneliness, a sea of bugs (which a cute little familiar she apparently can’t sense tries to help keep away), and then upside-down water she drops out of, as if passing from one world to another.

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I love the Alice in Wonderland sense of awe and, well, wonder in Zestiria’s many imposingly beautiful-vista money shots. Alisha gets a brief respite on a sunlit grassy cliff beside a dramatic waterfall. She inadvertently activates a pillar that reveals an entrance to another ruin behind that waterfall, and her lonely quest continues.

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Meanwhile, good friends Sorey and Mikleo have a hobby much like Alisha and her friends of yore: exploring and investigating ruins. On this day they discover what they believe to be the mythical capital of Seraphim, breathtakingly perched off the face of a mountain. At this point, it’s pretty clear these two and Alisha are on opposite sides of this ruin, and will ultimately meet at some point.

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The thing is, Mikleo isn’t human, and Sorey a human raised by Mikleo’s kind, while Alisha is human. That doesn’t stop Sorey from having the same book Alisha has, and the same thirst for ancient knowledge about the Seraphim who foster him.

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Their aged master warned them not to stray too far into the ruins, but curiosity gets the best of the lads, who end up being attacked by lightning that seems to be summoned by the ruins themselves as a defense system. But their only escape from the lightning is to go inside the ruins, where a platform Alisha was standing on was obliterated by the same lightning.

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The ruin is a great RPG-style dungeon with multiple levels, obstacles, and hidden paths that are revealed with Mikleo’s magic. As predicted, Sorey and Mikleo do spot an unconscious Alisha and Sorey rushes to help, against Mikleo’s warnings to stay away from humans.

When Ali comes to, her first question is whether Sorey is “The Shepherd,” and with that, the party swells to three, and she’s not alone anymore. But it’s also clear she’s far she was in the smoke-and-flame-wreathed prologue, down (or up) the proverbial rabbit hole; a stranger in a strange land; etc.

I’m eager to see who she fares here, with the two who will become her quest companions, as well as the assembling of the rest of the colorful party we see in the OP and ED. So far, it’s a fun, gorgeous, richly-detailed show that is still managing not to bury me in lore or jargon.

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