Attack on Titan – 52 – Hoover Hardens his Heart

On the eve of the present battle, Bertholdt and Reiner recall the Battle of Trost when Marco Bott overheard them talking about Titans and their mission, simply by chance. They tell him they were just joking, but know Marco is sharper than that.

Annie soon joins them as they restrain him, and Reiner decides to remove his ODM gear. Shortly afterward he’s found and eaten by a Titan as the three watch in horror and remorse. Their secret was safe for a little longer, in exchange for their friend and comrade dying horribly.

Back in the present, while having coffee with War Chief Zeke (the Beast Titan) and discussing Annie’s capture, Zeke questions their commitment, but they resolve to end this with him tomorrow. At dawn, Bert and Reiner go to their separate positions, with the latter chiding the former for being so timid when he’s perhaps the most powerful Titan of them all.

Reiner encourages Bert to think for himself and not just wait for others to give him a signal to act. That’s all well and good if you’re the Armored Titan, but it’s a little different when your Titan is so big his transformation is basically a nuclear bomb.

Back to the latest point of the battle up to now, with half of Reiner’s head blown off, his Titan still manages to call out, which is the signal Bertholdt, hiding in a barrel, was waiting for. The Beast Titan tosses the barrel into the town. Irwin, Hange, Levi, Armin, and everyone else watch as it sails over them, and Armin realizes it’s Bertholdt is in there and they’ve got to get away.

But just when he seems ready to transform, which would be game over for everyone in the town, Bert spots the KO’d Reiner and hesitates. He fires up his ODM instead and rushes to Reiner’s side, where he learns Reiner transferred his consciousness to his nervous system as a last resort. Bert asks Reiner to flip himself over to protect his exposed nape when Bert transforms.

While Armin wasn’t able to negotiate with Reiner, he wants to at least try with Bertholdt, probably assuming the more timid of the two will be more willing to listen. But while Eren’s been mastering physical Titan hardening, Bert has been busy becoming mentally tougher, and meeting with Armin is the last bit of proof he needs to confirm that he’s finally ready to take the next step.

Bertholdt has no ill will towards Armin or his other former comrades; indeed, he regards them as “precious”. But they also have to die, because that’s what needs to happen. That’s the plan of all Titans, and those they serve. That it’s unfortunate doesn’t change the fact it’s inevitable truth that not even Bertholdt can avoid any longer.

Mikasa tries to take him out of the equation all together with a sneak attack, while Armin mentions Annie to try to throw him off emotionally, but Bertholdt shows he can and will deal with all psychological comers, and that he can live with whatever the result of this battle.

With that, Bert transforms, unleashing the nuclear-esque explosion virtually right on top of Hange Squad, while Levi and Armin’s squads just barely get to a safe distance. But no distance is safe once the transformed Colossal Titan starts scooping up flaming bits of town and launching them into the air, creating a kind of meteor shower for all surviving scouts to contend with.

Armin freezes up a bit, as the original plan to retreat back to Irwin and fight the Colossal in a battle of attrition will no longer work; not when Bert can put a wall of flame between Irwin’s forces and the Beast Titan. Armin’s only choice is to fight and defeat the Colossal Titan there and then, with only the forces he has. Needless to say, it will be a colossal undertaking, and they’re colossal underdogs.

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Isekai Quartet – 05 – A Talent Show of Ice and Fire

No more messing around: it’s time for the class talent show, with participants chosen at random by Roswaal. First up is the TA, Mr. Rerugen, whose tortured rendition of his country’s national anthem evokes pity and disgust to a degree Darkness deeply envies.

Subaru thinks he can do better with a cat’s cradle shaped like Tokyo Tower, but if the other Japanese are impressed they don’t mention it, while nobody else (including Rem) knows what the heck a Tokyo Tower is. Rem, meanwhile, impresses Cocytus with her flail skills.

Poor Lt. Grantz learns the hard way never to get involved in a talent show skit with Darkness, who urges him to punish her with a whip in front of a mortified class, all of whom label him a scumbag despite the fact he didn’t do anything. When it’s Aqua’s turn, she almost takes out Ains’ crew with a Turn Undead spell, but Kazuma stops her.

The KonoSuba theme continues, including three distinct riffs on the KonoSuba bumper card, only they say “IseQuar!”, and with Megumin doing what we all knew was coming: showing off her Explosion magic to a legitimately impressed (not to mention power-obsessed) crowd. The KonoSuba contingent may be the smallest at four persons, but they’re no slouches in the magical department.

Of course, while Megumin’s Explosion even impresses Ains Ooal Gown, she can only do it once a day, which gives Ains the opportunity to end the talent show not with a bang, but with icy briskness, summoning a shitload of magic circles and changing the weather from a temperate spring/summer day to clouds and snow flurries.

I enjoyed how everyone, well, enjoyed the sudden coming of snow…and Subaru for his part doesn’t bring up the fact that Lia beheaded him in similar weather once upon a time, in a different timeline. Mostly, everyone came away knowing each other and their abilities (or lack thereof) that much more.

Goblin Slayer – 08 – Good as New, but Still Scared to Death

Goblin Slayer is Resurrected by a miracle that requires him to share a bed with a virgin—in this case, the Priestess. While he’s out, he remembers his harsh but fair master who taught him how to slay goblins, breaking him down then putting him back together into someone who won’t freeze and do nothing, but act when action is needed…even if it kills you.

Or, in GS’ case, almost kills him. The miracle works, and we get our first look at a maskless, armor-less Slayer, although his eyes remain obscure both in flashback and present. The Sword Maiden pays him a visit (I imagine it’s her bed he and Priestess are in), but she couldn’t be the virgin the miracle needed, thanks to the Goblins.

She confides in him how even though she defeated the Demon Lord, she remains scared to death, and in need of people to help her overcome that fear. We’ll learn that that constant fear is something GS shares.

Dwarf, Elf, and Lizard reunite with GS and Priestess and they go into town for their first meal since GS went down; a meal they promised to have together. GS and Priestess then split off and head to the shops. Priestess could easily replace her damaged chainmail, but for her its sentimental value vis-a-vis GS outweighs the difficulty of repairing it. GS also acquires new weapons, since he lost them all in the ruins.

They share a sunset by the sea with a new invention called “ice creme” and after being chided earlier for being so taciturn with the Priestess, he actually opens up about that fear he once had to just take one step forward, lest the ground swallow him up. He’s still “scared to death” just like the Sword Maiden, and not amount of noble feats will change that.

What changed was what they do with that fear, and how they keep living in spite of it. In both cases, neither would still be alive were it not for a little help from their friends. Back at the farm the cow girl assures her father that despite having been gone a long time, the GS will be back.

Resurrection apparently doesn’t require much recovery time, since GS is back in action in the ruins with the rest of the party, after acquiring a mystery burlap sack from the Black Mage. Their next big foe is not a goblin, but a “creature of Chaos”: a giant eyeball with tendrils coming out of it, each tipped with more eyeballs. Whenever something enters the room where it resides it blasts it with a stone-melting energy beam.

GS knows he can’t just rush in and stab or blugeon the thing to death, so he formulates a game plan that requires the cooperation and coordination of everyone in the party. The Elf rushes in to distract the Eyeball, allowing the Dwarf to slip in and hit it with some sleep-inducing fire wine. Once GS empties the burlap sack—full of ultra-fine flour—into the room, creating a huge cloud of the stuff, the Elf shoots an arrow into the side of the eye, and then everyone retreats from the room, behind the Priestess’ Protection.

The Lizard sends a Dragontooth Warrior in, which the Eye instinctively targets and fires its beam—igniting the flour like coal dust in a mine. The resulting explosion kills the creature, without the GS using fire, water, or poison. That leaves the adventurers standing before the thing it seemed to be guarding: some kind of magic mirror.

I was a bit surprised so little time was spent without GS in the picture—the Priestess wasn’t even awake during that time—but considering the name of the show perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Not to mention this is a world of fantasy and magic in which death isn’t always irreversible. It was also good to learn a bit more about our boy, and for him to actually open up to the Priestess, who has certainly earned the right to know more, having saved him and all.

Golden Kamuy – 15 – The Brains are Always Delicious

I think the mad taxidermist exited stage right at just the right time; before his antics grew repetitive and boring. His legacy is briefly carried on by the Nikaidou brother who lost an ear to Sugimoto, and is part of the contingent that attacks the house to destroy evidence of how to identify the fake skins.

In the ensuing fracas, Sugimoto ends up saving Ogata’s life, while Nikaidou ends up losing an ankle and a foot to Hijikata’s blade. The cat watches the house burn, and its meow either signifies “good riddance to bad rubbish” or “feed me.”

The newly-formed Hijitaka alliance splits in two, ultimately to rendezvous at Ashibetsu. Both parties have a camp dinner, with Asirpa trying to get everyone to like woodcock brains and Hijitaka and Nagakura reminiscing on when the latter discovered the former was in prison, when both were younger men.

One man who can tell fake skin from real is Nopperabo, and so Hijitaka plans to utilize Shiraishi’s Escape King skills to break in and meet with him. Only two problems: Shiraishi is worried about getting killed by Sugimoto for discovering he’s been passing intel to Hijitaka, and when he tries to peace out, he’s surrounded by troops.

Golden Kamuy is staying fresh and nimble by serving up new character dynamics as a result of the shifting alliances, but draw quite a bit of value from the resulting banter. Asirpa and Sugimoto aren’t featured as prominently this season, but that’s not really an issue as the show has such a deep and strong bench.

Golden Kamuy – 14 – Mine Madness

Tsurumi’s new pet insane taxidermist Edogai has completed the fake skins for his master, and even found the time to create a Tsurumi “doll” with “spare parts”, much to the consternation of his two minders, Maeyama and Tsukishima.

Things shift from lighthearted fun with body parts to real danger when Ogata kills Maeyama while Tsukishima is away. Edogai makes use of one of his bearskins to disguise himself and escape, making for quite the spectacle. We know Edogai doesn’t get out much, which explains why he remains in the bear outfit throughout his escape.

As a result, it doesn’t take long for Ogata to spot and catch up to him, but Tsukishima is very good at his job (keeping Edogai safe despite himself) and snatches him up in a mine cart. Sugimoto and Shiraishi, who arrived to inspect Edogai’s house (and where Ogata met Shiraishi in the room of corpses and reminded him of his obligations to Hijikata), give chase in another mine cart.

They catch up, but become separated again when the tracks split. Ogata himself follows in a third card, but after some dynamite, the release of firedamp, and several gas explosions, the entire mine becomes even more of a deathtrap than when it was functioning normally. Edogai’s leg is crushed under rocks so he gives his humanskin bag to Tsukishima, entrusting him with getting the fake skins back to Tsurumi.

Sugimoto tries his damndest to break through the wooden barriers the miners made to stop the airflow, but lacks the strength. Fortunately, none other than Ushiyama spotted Sugimoto and Shiraishi heading into the mines via cart, and when things turn pear-shaped, he rushes in to save them both, to Asirpa’s relief.

With that, you have two of the three major factions of the show suddenly sharing a meal together, Last Supper-style: Hijikata and Sugimoto are officially introduced, Ogata is revealed as having betrayed Tsurumi (which doesn’t sit well with Sugimoto, who is, after all, a soldier himself), and Shiraishi’s secret of passing info to Hijikata is not exposed…for now.

As for Tsukishima, he makes sure Edogai didn’t die in vain. The skins reach Tsurumi, as well as Edogai’s last word: “iron.” Tsurumi learns that you can tell a fake skin by the tannins Edogai used, which make the skin turn black when wet and in contact with iron—an interesting parallel to the Huki leaves Asirpa and Sugimoto munched on last week.

Unfortunately for those two, Tsurumi is the only one who knows what’s fake and what’s real. He’s achieved his goal of making life far more difficult for anyone else seeking the treasure.

KonoSuba 2 – 08

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Whether he wanted to be or not, Kazuma & Co. are involved in the mission to repel the herd of running hawk kites in heat. Darkness selflessly sacrifices her body to the stampede, only for each and every bird to dodge her, which kinda turns her on anyway.

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Darkness’ stimulation continues when Kazuma takes command and uses Darkness as a lure to lead the kites into a cave, the entrance to which Megumin explodes. The armored darkness proves too heavy for Kazuma, so he follows her suggestion to tie her to the wagon and drag her behind, which she really enjoys. It’s basically a Darkness clinic.

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Kazuma’s plan to use all the weird abilities and quirks of his comrades (I call it ‘accidental competence’) works like a charm, and that night the convoy want to reward them handsomely…only Kazuma can’t take their money, because he knows something they don’t: the herd only showed up because they were drawn to Darkness, the “hardest” obstacle in the area.

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Everyone (except Megumin) awakes in the middle of the night to a horde of zombies, which Aqua quickly exorcises (along with Wiz, whom she overlooked), and again, the convoy wants to reward Aqua and her party, but Kazuma won’t take the money, because again, the zombies only showed up because of Aqua.

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Forget Aqua’s parlor tricks: this party could make some serious money luring baddies into the vicinity of people, then save those people from those baddies. No one is the wiser here, and I bet Kazuma, and possibly the honorable Darkness, are the only ones who would protest such an arrangement, on ethical grounds (which is funny considering Aqua is a goddess).

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When the party finally arrives in Arcanretia, it appears to be a lush gorgeous city with clean air and beautiful people, but things turn sour in a hurry when every other person in town turns out to be pushy zealots of Aqua’s Axis cult, which is fine with Aqua, but no one else.

These zealots pull out all the stops proselytizing Kazuma and Darkness and trying to get them to sign up. Darkness also gets turned on when she bears her Eris necklass and the Axis followers react with disgust and spit on the ground.

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The Axis followers gradually wear Kazuma down to the point he’s vulnerable to a cute litle girl who trips on a stone. Kazuma and Darkness help her, and she asks his name, and to show her how to write it on a piece of paper…which is the form to join the Axis cult.

With that, Kazuma finally loses it, as any of us would, tearing up the form and making a big loud scene. Darkness may love the abuse the Axisers pile on her, and Aqua may love the positive attention, but this is definitely not a place for Kazuma to heal and relax.

It’s torture, and the episode is very good at heightening his stress until he blows. Only Megumin and temporary party member Wiz aren’t completely unhinged about something this week. Another wonderfully manic and hilarious outing.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 09 (33)

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Another week closer to the end, another incremental episode that can’t help but feel over-contemplative, repetitive, and dilatory. The suspense is building…I guess…but only in fits and starts, not a surging stream. Last week everyone moved a little closer to a final showdown in front of Russia Sushi; this week everyone moved a little closer to a final showdown in front of Russia Sushi.

Anri and Saki have been milling around, and Nasujima has been standing around smirking for ages. Akabayashi serves as occasional narrator this week, weighing whether he should get involved somehow, for Anri’s sake.

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At the construction site, Mikage fights to a draw with Varona and Kasane; because none of the three actually wish to fight. Mikage even agrees with Varona that Izaya’s chances against Shizuo are slight, but she wants to see Izaya go all out for the first time. The results are…disappointing.

Back in the beginning of Durarara!! fights between Shizuo and Izaya were almost played for comedic effect: these were just two diametrically opposed dogs who no one could convince to ever like. It’s almost as if a kind of twisted relationship deeper than friendship evolved from their intense conflicts. But I fear that conflict’s grown a bit stale, like the Neo-vs.-Smith by the end of the Matrix trilogy.

Izaya decides the best way to kill Shizuo is by carbon dioxide asphyxiation, so he leads him into an area where a pocket of the stuff slowly chokes him. Then Izaya tosses a match, apparently abandoning that method and settling for blowing Shizuo. (Also, CO2 isn’t flammable, so I guess there was something else being pumped in there).

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There’s a big bang, but it’s quickly swallowed up by Celty. Like Izaya, we’re not sure what Celty’s game is; as far as we know her memories are gone, and yet here she is, showing allegience to the explodee rather than the exploder. Is it the basic morality and kindness that made Shinra fall for her in the first place, shining through even in her rebooted state? The episode doesn’t say; we don’t get to see or hear from Celty other than when she consumes the boom.

As for Shizuo, he naturally survives the blast, and pulls down the entire steel structure upon which Izaya stands, sending him plummeting. Before he can hit the ground, Shizuo belts him with a girder like a bat hitting a ball, sending Izaya flying through the starless urban night he loves so much. Much has been made of Shizuo’s monstrous strength and durability, but Izaya is clearly not just a regular human either, as he’s always surviving or dodging Shizuo’s attacks.

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The Kodata gang is reassembled (sans Erika, but plus Saki, Anri, Namie, Mika and Seiji), and Kodata warns Anri to get out of town, but she won’t. Her eyes flashing red (like Shinra’s), she tells him there’s “something she has to do,” which is see this thing, whatever the heck it is, all the way through.

Chitoge and Masaomi get a birds-eye view of the situation on the ground, with swirling masses of ordinary people moving around in strange mechanical patterns, around the Russia Sushi epicenter. They spot un-Saika-fied but masked Blue Square members down below, and Chitoge goes to see if one of them is Mikado; we later see it isn’t, and Mikado is on his own with his gun in his jacket.

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Finally, in one of the more unexpected pairings, Manami ends up helping a wounded Shinra enter a taxi so he too can get to where everyone else seems to be going. While en route, she tries to avail herself of Izaya’s one and only true friend’s insights about the best way to get him to despair as much as possible.

Shinra’s answer probably isn’t satisfying: Izaya, whom Shinra believes may be the most human of all of them, is a bottomless receptacle for all the worst impulses and actions of humans. He’ll accept it all and love humans unconditionally; not because his soul is strong, but because it’s fragile. As for Shinra, as the unnecessary flashbacks repeated, he is willing to lose his humanity and become a demon for the woman he loves.

Another few inches forward we lurch.

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KonoSuba – 04

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This week’s KonoSuba felt like three separate and distinct KonoSubas in one, all coalescing at the end around a single theme: whether Aqua is any good. We begin with Darkness showing off her repaired armor (and somewhat sadly asking Kazuma to praise her sometimes) and Megumin getting really excited about her new Manatite staff.

Kazuma also isn’t wanting for anything, as he later buys clothes and equipment better suited for his environment (albeit the same green shade as his tracksuit). All three spent their cabbage spoils wisely, but Aqua didn’t. In fact, she spent all the money she had and built up a 100,000-eris bar tab, thinking she’d be good for it, only for most of her cabbages to turn out to be lettuce, which isn’t worth nearly as much.

This is ridiculous and hilarious and makes perfect sense, since Aqua has so little luck. Kazuma, meanwhile, is roling in luck and cash, and wants to move out of the stables, but instead pays Aqua’s tab, after she tries pretty much everything: flattery, begging, and finally shaking her bum.

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Part Two of the three parter is the marvelous story of how Kazuma is forced to tag along on Megumin’s practice sessions far from town (where she won’t get scolded by guards) so she has someone to carry her home (just thinking about the silliness of such arrangement would send any milk I’m drinking out my nose).

She finds an abandoned castle perched atop a cliff, and day after day, once a day, blasts it with explosion magic, and every day, Kazuma carries her home. At first, it’s a chore, but he starts to get into it in spite of himself, gradually becoming a kind of aficianado; the equivalent of an “explosion foodie.”

Every explosion has its own intensity and personality, and Megumin has good and bad days. They bond through the experience, and Kazuma’s previously dismissive attitude toward her gives way to a kind of respect and understanding.

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His attitude towards Aqua, on the other hand, remains extremely dismissive. Aqua seems happy to be bringing home free dinner (and I’d be happy too!) but Kazuma is restless. He doesn’t think they can beat the Devil King, and he thinks a lot of that has to do with Aqua not being the all-powerful goddess he thought he had.

A Megumin aptly puts it, his “verbal lashings are pretty nasty;” subjecting Darkness would bring her tears of joy, but they only bring Aqua tears of sorrow (though Aqua reacts interestingly to Darkness’ interest in being reamed by Kazuma).

Kazuma’s war with Aqua is put on hold when a Dullahan arrives in town – one of the Devil King’s top generals. Looking kinda like Ains Ooal Gown’s cousin, his main grievance is with the constant explosion spells being cast on the castle where he’s taken up residence. Heh, I knew that castle wasn’t abandoned!

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After failing to pass of blame to another town wizard, Megumin steps forward and actually takes responsibility, though she refuses to apologize for or cease doing what is, for her, as natural and necessary as breathing. If she has to fight the Dullahan into submission for him to understand, so be it. Aqua arms herself and stands beside Megumin in solidarity.

Then the Dullahan, out of patience, prepares to his Megumin with a Death curse that will kill her in one week, but Darkness races in front of her and takes the curse instead. Now, I know enough about Death spells to know they’re typically not reversible; once you get one, it’s only a matter of time. This incident actually heightened the peril dynamic of the entire show for me; it looked like it was actually going to get serious.

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Of course, this being KonoSuba, feelings like that don’t last long, but that’s just fine, because the route it takes instead is true to its mission statement to send up every fantasy trope it can find in the most creative way possible. Because the Dullahan death-cursed a masochist, he only made things weirder and more of a hassle for himself, so he retreats before Darkness jumps on his horse.

Before he does, he challenges the party to come after him, and if they can fight their way through his castle fortress and get to him, he just might lift the curse. After he leaves, Megumin again shows she has heart and guts by resolving to take that challenge. Kazuma, who as we saw bonded with her somewhat in training, declares his intent to accompany her. It looks like the party is about to embark on a grand adventure to save their selfless comrade.

But NOPE, Aqua just uses her magic to instantly lift the death curse from Darkness as easily one balls up a tissue and tosses it in a dustbin. JOB DONE. I have so say…I wasn’t expecting that at all, but again, it made perfect sense.

Aqua had been beaten down the entire episode as an underachieving, whiny, pathetic excuse for an arch priest, but ends up the heroine, gaining the adoration of the entire town while utterly sapping Kazuma and Megumin of their motivation. So going back to the question of whether Aqua is any good…well, she is, but only at very specific things at very specific times. If this bizarre party is going to thrive, it will do so mostly by threading needles.

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KonoSuba – 03

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And then there were four. Two of whom, Megumin and Darkness, are extremely eccentric individuals with no concept of personal space whom Kazuma wants nowhere near his party, even though he’s well aware he and Aqua aren’t enough to make it in this world. (It was also a little mean of him to call Megumin a “little girl”…she may just be small for her age!)

Ultimately, Darkness doesn’t endear herself to Kazuma so much as she simply doesn’t go away and refuses to take no for an answer, because for her, “no” is a pleasurable experience. The sterner and harsher the rejection, the happier she seems to get. Kazuma’s usual arsenal of repelling barbs only embolden the bombshell.

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KonoSuba enters ecchi territory when Darkness’ thief friend Chris teaches Kazuma the “Steal” ability, then challenges him to steal back his coin purse from her. Instead, he scores her panties, which distresses Chris to no end and makes Darkness jealous that she isn’t the one being humiliated in the streets.

That being said, Chris is otherwise a pretty normal and capable kinda person, one of the first to enter Kazuma’s circle. So of course he ends up doing something terrible to her, due in part because he’s an adolescent virgin shut-in. He ends up with her panties because it’s where a part of his dirty mind happens to be during the Steal process.

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Just as Megumin shamed Kazuma into surrender last week, Chris shames him in front of the entire adventurer’s guild (though it’s at least partially an act). I gotta say, while Kazuma sports the lion’s share of annoyed, exhausted, and flabbergasted expressions, he gets plenty directed at him here, even from Aqua and Megumin.

When he demonstrates his new Steal ability on Megumin, he claims her panties as well, which astounds him because he thought the loot he’d receive would be more random (not that he’s complaining). Darkness continues to make her case for joining the party, feeding off of Megumin’s energy.

Kazuma, a little thrown off what game he usually has by the craziness, ends up motivating both Darkness and Megumin by pointing out how tough his and Aqua’s quest to defeat the Devil King will be. In fact, all the talk about how tough it will be make Aqua nervous and reluctant to proceed.

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Circumstance brings this Dream Team of Ineptitude together in the form of a town-wide emergency quest alert. A swarm of…something is quickly approaching the city, and all adventurers gather at the gates to meet it.

When that something turned out to be flying cabbages, well…I nearly fell out of my chair. Yes, in this alternate world, harvesting cabbages is more of a hunting frenzy, as they don’t go gentle into that good…salad.

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After mutiple swings from her sword fail to claim any heads (of cabbage) Darkness decides to prove her worth by serving as a shield for some overwhelmed fighters, getting more and more excited as the cabbages pummel her and her armor is shed and her clothes torn, she feels the uncultured men gawking at her and feels tremendous, wonderful shame.

Megumin inadvertently causes a near-“crisis” in Darkness by launching another one of her patented one-off explosion attacks, being as unable to hold back as Darkness. But while there’s quite a bit of collateral damage, she’s able to harvest enough cabbages to give the party a very nice payday (Correction: her explosion doesn’t really help much; it’s Kazuma who collects most of their cabbages with his Lurk skill.) Aqua is able to do little things like hydrate the other adventurers and keep the cabbages cool.

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After tasting this world’s cabbage for the first time and being pleasantly surprised by its superior flavor, Kazuma looks around to see what fortune hath wrought: he is now “cursed” by not just a variably competent arch priest and unreasonably specialized arch knight, but a gorgeous but clumsy, masochistic crusader.

I placed cursed in quotes, because that’s only one limited way of looking at his situation. Sure, he may foresee hardships in the future with a party that looks a lot better on paper than in the field, but time should yield better teamwork, and even when everyone screws up it tends to turn out okay.

Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness may be as much blessings as curses in this wonderful world. And together they’re a swirling vortex of comedy gold. Which is a blessing for us.

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P.S. Tilt-shift is often over-used in live-action TV, but I love its usage in KonoSuba’s beautiful ED.

KonoSuba – 02

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That forthright pledge to strike out into the wilderness on a daring kill quest turned into an excuse to sleep in for Aqua, much to Kazuma’s chagrin. I like how the ending of the last episode was played straight, only to be flipped into another failure by the Worst Party in the World.

When they do get out into the field, Kazuma’s shortsword is no match for the giant toads they’re trying to kill. Worse, Aqua spends their first battle either laughing uncontrollably at Kazuma’s expense (she still has a mean streak!) or praising her master goddess powers, right up until she’s swallowed. That leads to the line of the episode: “Don’t get eaten!” (Akin to “Esteban was eaten!”)

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Aqua doesn’t take disappointment or defeat well, as we saw from how she reacted to Kazuma forcing her to accompany him to the alternate world in the first place, and how she cries a lot when things don’t go her way.

Still, she tries her best to do a good job; it’s just that her offensive capabilities are, shall we say, limited, even against the relatively docile giant toads. She almost gets eaten again, giving the quest a nice comic rhythm (and those legs sticking out of the toad’s mouth is a nice sight gag).

So Kazuma has to save her again, and in the process manages to kill two of the five toads necessary to complete the quest on the first of three allotted days. What’s somewhat amusing is we never see how he beats them.

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Overlooking entirely that seemingly impossible feat, Kazuma nevertheless knows if they’re ever going to make enough money to make adventuring even worth it, they need a new party member. When Aqua posts a hastily-scrawled recruitment poster, there are predictably no elite takers (despite the clout she believes she has with everyone).

Instead, a pint-sized arch priest answers the call, introducing herself as Megumin with a long-winded and elaborate chuunibyou introduction that leaves both Kazuma and Aqua a little incredulous. I’ll point out that Megumin is voiced by Takahashi Rie, one of may favorite new seiyus (who did fine work in Sore ga Seiyuu and Gakkou Gurashi).

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However, her credentials check out, so they take her out to the field, where Aqua rushes headlong towards the nearest toad without any kind of backup and promptly gets glomped up again. Megumin’s explosive magic is indeed very, very…explosive, and she takes out one toad with one blast.

The only problem is, that’s about it for her as far as battlefield presence. Her sole attack causes instant KO…which is quite the liability! After using the spell, she can’t move, and the explosion rustled a third toad from its sleep. That toad glomps the helpless Megumin up, leaving Kazuma to defeat the remaining two frogs to save his party members, again, amusingly, totally off-camera.

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It’s clear that if they face anything with claws, teeth, speed, or pretty much anything more threatening than smelly slime, this party is going to be killed very, very quickly. Adding insult to injury, Megumin proclaims she can only cast the most powerful explosion spell and nothing else, not because she’s unable to cast other magic (which might be of better help in a party), but because she doesn’t wanna.

That unreasonable attitude is enough reason for Kazuma to dump her (something all the other parties in town must have done by now), but he realizes he has a lemon too late: some townsfolk see him struggling to pry her off of him, and see all the slime, and suspect the worst. And Megumin takes immediate advantage, showing off a bit of that crimson demon intelligence.

So as useless as Megumin (and possibly Aqua) might be, Kazuma is stuck with both. He’s so down in the dumps about the prospect of making enough money to make the whole enterprise worth it, his guard is down when he encounters a stunning onna-kishi named “Darkness” who looks like a serious operator…that is until she tries to talk and things are…a little off.

No doubt her tryout period will go about as well as Megumin’s, and she’ll find some way to coerce Kazuma into letting her into the party. Or maybe Kazuma will have no choice either way. Can’t sleep in stables forever!

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Norn9: Norn + Nonet – 02

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Last week’s episode-ending bang came from an attacking ship from the outside. One of its two crew members boards the Norn, testing Mikoto’s defensive powers and warning her that she and the other ten are the true “disaster.”

So begins an episode full of mysteries big and small, most of which remain too obscure to really care about. Rather than feeling all that enticed, I felt a bit left out as the episode kinda did its own thing, darting from one activity to another.

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It actually reminded me of playing a game with lots of long cutscenes, which while very technically impressive and pretty, are still cutscenes, meaning I’m waiting to get back control of the game.

Seeing Koharu’s powers in action was pretty righteous, but was undercut by the just-along-for-the-ride, autopilot feeling emanating from the rest of the episode.

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With the attackers repelled, the second half of the episode focuses on who their foe was and what they want. It is believed someone was “working on the inside”, so everyone suspects everyone else, and gets paired up so they can keep an eye on/out for one another.

In two of the three cases of guy-girl pair-ups, it is implied the guy and girl have some kind of unpleasant past that drew them apart, but everyone’s very tight-lipped on what those pasts entailed, only that they were painful in some way.

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Naturally, Koharu gets paired up with Kakeru, and they set to work replanting the orchard she accidentally incinerated, her love for him growing with each planted sapling and descending sakura petal. He even has a little fun with her isolated upbringing by joking that they must sleep and bathe together…ribbing that was more awkward than witty.

Then, one morning, while Koharu is watering her garden, some snot-nosed kid from 2016 shows up, having no idea how he got there. We saw him earlier in the embrace of a mysterious woman in a big pretty blue chamber, perhaps the core of Norn; now he’s out and very confused.

I know how he feels! This episode was a random jumble of strange events, mysteries, and clashing tones, resulting in a kind of indifferent shrug…and I’m only now mentioning the bevy of miniature duck slaves who serve the Norners their meals! My resulting impression was…a lot more ambiguous than last week. Ethereal scenery alone will not save this show!

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Ore Monogatari!! – 04 (Belated)

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Gosh dang…it is indeed Spring…and that might be the best episode I’ve watched all Spring. There’s certainly no more adorable and rootable couple than Takeo and Yamato. I get on people for taking selfies, but Yamato is allowed, dammit!

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The episode starts off with Takeo still reeling over the happiness in his heart over snagging an honest-to-God girlfriend in Yamato who is herself utterly devoted to him. She derives as much joy from telling her friend on the phone “I’m with my boyfriend!” as Takeo derives from hearing the words.

Yamato asks if Takeo would be okay with doing a Single’s Meet with her; all he has to do is wrangle five of his single friends. He has way more than five, because he’s a great guy. And when Yamato’s five friends lay eyes on Takeo for the first time, their reactions are…understandable, considering they’re products of society, naturally attracted to Suna.

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Whether it’s saving Yamato from falling by plucking her up like a ragdoll, carrying huge loads in their way, or opening a non-twist-off bottle, Takeo’s feats of strength don’t impress them so much as…well, scare them. Like the mom with the baby whose stroller Takeo took to the top, the mom is scared of the big bad-looking guy, while the hot guy next to him gets all the love, even though he doesn’t want it. Suna only smiles and laughs in reaction to something Takeo is doing, which makes the girls swoon.

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Takeo is also a somewhat naive guy who thinks Yamato’s friends will be good people because she’s a good and genuine person. Suna warns him about such assumptions, and then they’re shattered altogether when Takeo and Yamato overhear two of her friends talking shit about him behind her back, calling him “barely human” and a “gorilla.” It’s cutting stuff, and to it’s credit the episode doesn’t hold the elephant in the room back. On the surface, to most people, Takeo is a frightening bear-man.

This is a fact Takeo knows all too well, to the point that the insults roll right off him; he’s heard it all, both to his face, behind his back, and in people’s eyes. He’s more upset about Yamato being hurt, causing her to exclaim to them “He’s really super-cool!” before running off.

Fortunately, Takeo is able to head her off in no time, as his gait is significantly longer, and assures her everything is fine. He brings out one of his simple yet powerful sayings, about their being “all kinds of people”, without whom they wouldn’t have met. Yamato, bless her, finally wonders if maybe she just didn’t properly explain to her friends how cool Takeo is, blaming herself for their ignorance.

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Then…the frikin’ cafe EXPLODES.

I must say, I really wasn’t expecting that, but there was foreshadowing earlier, what with the bucket and boxes blocking the hall and the locked emergency exit. This establishment has lots of fire code violations, which lessened the randomness of the incident. In any case, with the two girls who talked shit about him still inside the burning building, Takeo doesn’t hesitate to rush in to save them.

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He’s able to carry one of the girls out to safety, then uses his big body as a shield to protect the second from getting smashed by debris, allowing her to run out on her own. After calling fire and ambulance, Suna calls Takeo, and tells him he’d better come out of the cafe soon, because Yamato has to be held back from going in after him by her two friends.

There’s true love in action here, people. Not only between Yamato and Takeo, but Suna and Takeo, who tells him with a voice that almost breaks that his life will be too boring without him. Like the Hulk, Takeo summons an extra reserve of strength to slip out from under the debris and blast out of the cafe window in dramatic fashion.

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Yamato rushes over to him and is almost lost in his arms as they embrace, with Takeo completely oblivious that his back is still on fire. The girls he saved thank him, and all the girls’ hearts skip a beat when he shoots them a look of affirmation, in spite of themselves. Takeo may not be their type, but now they know he’s a great guy and the right match for their Yamato. And they know they were wrong to insult him.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a non-harem romantic comedy in my stable; one where the guy and girl don’t get lost in tangled webs of misunderstandings and omission and hesitations and love triangles. This couple is alright; heck, Suna sees them old and wrinkly talking about how much they love all four of the seasons.

But more than taking the roads less traveled, no other show this Spring captures how gosh-darn good it feels to be in love and be loved back. Food tastes better, the air smells fresher, and the sun shines brighter. Things that are indisputably awesome: Takeo; Yamato; Suna; and this show.

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Zankyou no Terror – 02

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Nine and Twelve are most definitely, as Shibasaki’s old cop partner/boss and current head of the terrorist investigation says, trying to pick a fight with the country. I can take an educated guess why: the country they’re picking a fight with is the one that made them the super-intelligent, resourceful terrorists they are. Or heck, maybe it’s not revenge after all, but just a simple challenge: “If there’s someone who can stop us, come forward; we’re waiting”.

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Maybe the likes of Nine and Twelve can no longer go on living out their existences devoid of challenges or legitimate checks on their abilities. Someone does indeed answer the call, after a fashion: Shibasaki, the washed-up detective sharing a dark, dank office with another cop who spends most of his shift surfing the web, which is ironically how Shibasaki was exposed to the YouTube videos “Sphinx” posts before each attack. This week, they get all “Oedipal.”

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This was a particularly literary episode of Zankyou no Terror, as the police pick apart that Sphinx nickname in an attempt to try to piece together the M.O. of their adversary. Interestingly, as brash and devastating as last week’s attack was (the Tocho cost taxpayers so much money it’s nicknamed “Tax Tower”), there were no fatalities, which if anything is an even greater sign these two kids know what they’re doing. It’s also easier to root for them when they’re doing all they can to minimize public harm.

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Speaking of which, that first attack was also apparently the first time their desire to minimize casualties took a more specific form, vis-a-vis, Mishima Lisa. Nine doesn’t simply call her an innocent witness, but an accomplice. He twists the dagger by telling her there’s no going back. And yet there’s barely any further contact between them this week, save one scene where Twelve cruelly threatens Lisa, saying he’ll kill her if she puts a toe out of line. I guess he thought his Nine’s approach was too soft?

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I like the idea that Twelve thinks Lisa needs a stronger message, because it means he sees more to her than a helpless, hapless little girl. I’m hoping to see more of the strength and guile still hidden within her that we caught a glimpse of last week when she took that leap of faith. It’s also encouraging that Shibasaki was very close to foiling their latest attack on a police station, after he dismissed the most obvious answer to their YouTube riddle.

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Again, the details this week shine: Lisa being almost perpetually dunked in an inky darkness, so much so that when she’s finally out in the bleak sun she looks terribly vulnerable; the devious noodle delivery service-as-bomb delivery system; the Sophoclean analysis. There was also the feeling the mouse was still very much in control here, but the cat has woken up, stretched, and is alert and ready to hunt. How many more brilliant attacks can Sphinx pull off before they’re caught? Will Lisa become a true accomplice?

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