The Promised Neverland – 15 – The Perfect Hideout

Emma, Ray, and their convoy of kids are ready to leave the safety of Sonju and Mujika’s forest tunnels and head to the location indicated by William Minerva’s pen. They’re trained and prepared to survive and run or defend themselves from the threats that may arise.

Mujika and Emma seem to have formed a genuine friendship, and Mujika gives Emma an ornate amulet as a going-away gift and to protect her. However, we learn from Sonju once the kids are gone that his intentions are less benign. Mujika pointed out that if they had turned the kids in to the farm they’d have been rewarded handsomely. But Sonju has other plans.

Their religion doesn’t forbid him from hunting or eating wild animals, so by letting these kids go, they will eventually breed, creating of a “wild herd” of humans he’ll be able to hunt without forsaking his faith. His face grows especially monstrous as he looks forward to the day he can eat human meat. Yikes!

Regardless of his long term plans, the fact is Sonju let this group of kids go and doesn’t intend to eat them. In fact, he rides back to where the farm pursuers are still searching and kills one of their trackers. The kids head out into the wastelands where demons rarely go, but when they reach the location indicated by Minerva’s pen, there’s nothing there.

Fortunately, the fact they’ve arrived at this spot unlocks more information from the pen. Once the password “HISTORY” is inputted, a detailed map displays, and a sliding door in the ground reveals a hidden hatch, Zelda-style. The group descends the ladder and begins to explore the space. Emma eventually finds a switch, and to everyone’s great joy, it works!

The lights reveal a fully-functional shelter, complete with cooking facilities, a dining hall, a library, a greenhouse with grow lights, a bathroom with hot water, and a security room with cameras on all parts of the surface. There’s even a piano, a radio, and a pantry curiously half-stocked with food.

There’s also a handwritten note from Minerva congratulating them for finding the shelter, which is theirs to use. Emma, Ray, and the kids immediately settle into the new digs, which seem at all times to be an all-too-good-to-be-true gift from heaven above.

Ray successfully finds the frequency of the 8:00 PM reports from the farms, and will be tuning back in daily to gain intel. Now that they have a shelter and the means of supporting themselves indefinitely, Emma already wants to move on to the next stage of the plan: rescue the remaining family at the farm.

She’s looking ahead even though they haven’t quite finished exploring the shelter. They’ve found all the good rooms, but there are clearly some not-so-good rooms, as initially found by Yvette, the walls of the dorms are strewn with the manic scrawling of people who lived there previously, and were either going mad from boredom or from suffering something more sinister.

Emma uses the pen to unlock a special door that leads to a small room with a payphone, which immediately rings when they enter. She picks up the receiver, and William Minerva is on the other end of the line. Is it a recording, or the man himself? What is the nature of those creepy messages on the dorm walls? Is this shelter really safe, or are those hidden passageways a cause for concern? I can’t help but feel after catching so many breaks since escaping the farm, their streak of good fortune may have run out…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Promised Neverland – 14 – Bless Us for These, Thy Gifts

This week the kids catch two key breaks. First, they weren’t captured or killed by the farm trackers or the wild forest demon. Second, Mujika and Sonju, the two demons who rescued them, don’t eat humans and have no intention to harm them. In fact, it’s been so long since they’ve encountered humans they’re happy to show them ample hospitality.

Sonju later tells Emma and Ray that after endless war and killing, humans and demons agreed stop hunting each other and split to the world into segregated halves. All the humans on the demon side were “gifted” to the demons and vice versa. With hunting forbidden, farms like Grace Field were established. And, oh yeah, the great split happened over a thousand years ago.

At first Emma and Ray are gobsmacked by the amount of real time that has passed, but then literally jump for joy. The fact that demons only rule half the world and humans are free on their half is a huge boost to their outlook. Even if Sonju says no one has ever crossed the boundary between worlds, well, Emma and Ray will simply be the first, that’s all!

The pair relay the news to the others and rallies them to their suddenly more concrete cause. The good demons, who practice their religious faith by not eating human flesh, show the group the proper way out of the tunnel network under the forest to eventually reach the spot indicated in Minerva’s pen.

On the way, they teach them all of the things they need to learn to survive on their own, from building fires and cooking to medicinal plants and archery. Gilda and the little ones harshly scold both Emma and Ray for being so reckless earlier. They can’t afford to lose either of them, so they have to start being more careful and speaking up if they’re hurt.

When Sonju heads to the surface to scope out the area for threats, Emma accompanies him, but not for a change of scenery. She wants him to teach her something he hadn’t to that point: how to kill a living thing. Sonju acquieses, and while Emma initially hesitates to loose her bow on an unassuming bird, she eventually does so, and hits the bird right in the head.

While a clean strike, the bird is not yet dead, so Sonju shows Emma the Gupna, a ritual that takes place to give thanks and show respect for the kill.. By plunging a vampiric Vida branch into the heart of the still-living bird, when the plant blooms it means the meat is safe to eat. It also means the gods have approved the meat for consumption

When Emma remembers the same plant being used on her family members, she retches, but completes the ritual, adding her own prayer: “We don’t want to be eaten. We want to live. But we’ve been eating others too. And if we can’t keep eating, we can’t survive.” When she returns to the caverns with Sonju, the kids notice something different about Emma. Indeed, while out in the forest, making her first kill, she was changed irrevocably. You can see it on her face, and in the haunting way she whispers “I’m okay.”

I for one am glad the kids not only caught a couple breaks this week, but were blessed with a path forward. Not only that, for a few days they were able to stop being runaways or survivalists and simply live like the kids they are, being fed and taught and not having to worry about running for their lives. Emma took an important step into the new normal by officially becoming an active rather than passive participant in the food chain.

P.S.Check out Crow’s Episode 2 review here.

Re: Zero – 30 – Partners in Crime

First of all, it’s classic Natsuki Subaru to compliment Echidna on her school uniform! Second, Re:Zero finally deigns to air its opening credits! After they roll, Echidna didn’t really send Subaru back in time; both her uniform, the classroom, and his parents were illusions created from his memories. After some rather half-hearted attempts to trip him up. Subie doesn’t take the bait; he’s now fully faced and accepted his past and is ready to move forward.

Echidna declares he has passed the trial…but it was only the first of three. Subaru stops her right there: Freeing the Sanctuary is Emilia’s job, not his. Unfortunately, when he comes to back in the ruins, Subie finds an unconscious Emilia enduring a terrible nightmare, and she wakes up in an acute state of panic. If she was facing her past, it’s clear she’s having a much tougher time than Subie.

Ram makes sure Emilia is comfortably resting, while Subaru and the others talk barriers. Otto wonders if those who can pass through it can simply carry those who can’t across while they’re unconscious. That idea is shot down by one Ryuzu Bilma, the elfish girl Subaru briefly spotted in the forest, who turns out to be extremely old (a “loli hag” as Subie artfully puts it).

Anyone of mixed blood who crosses the barrier will have their body and soul separated, leaving the formless soul within and a shell of a body without. In other words, the only way out for them is the lifting of the barrier. Subaru then stays beside Emilia’s bed until she wakes up in the morning, and unconsciously puts her hand on his arm, a gesture she immediately walks back.

Later in the morning Subaru warns Ram that not everyone within the sanctuary wants the barrier to fall, and he must be vigilant against any threats to Emilia from those elements. She also believes Frederica could have some kind of plan in mind she didn’t reveal to Subaru. That night, Emilia attempts the trial again, and while she’s not denied a second chance, it too ends in failure. Afterwards, Roswaal has Subaru meet with him in his room while Ram stands by.

The Margrave finally admits that he allowed everything regarding the Witch’s Cult attack on the village and manor to happen as kind of political gambit, knowing the villagers’ opinion of Emilia would improve if she saved them. Subaru is pissed, mostly because so much of Roswaal’s plan depended on Subaru not being “complete trash” and coming through. But Roswaal had faith in him then, and has faith in him now.

Subaru doesn’t tell Emilia any of this, respecting Roswaal’s wishes (and deferring to political acumen). Like Roswaal with Subaru, Subaru may not have the most concrete evidence that Emilia can and will pass the trials and free the Sanctuary, but he has faith nonetheless. Emilia is grateful for the belief in her and trusts Subaru, but asks him to simply continue believing in her—without “spoiling” her.

To that end, Subaru decides to appeal to Garfiel to free the villagers. Since Garfiel has Emilia working on the barrier, the villagers are no longer necessary, so he agrees. Garfiel will escort Subaru and the villagers back to Arlam. Subaru leaves with Emilia’s blessing and one last tidbit from Roswaal, via Ram: if he runs into trouble with Frederica or anyone else, turn to Beatrice, and tell her “Roswaal said to ask the question”.

En route to Arlam, Garfiel tells Subaru he can tell he went through a trial, and wonders why he can’t simply complete them in Emilia’s place.  Judging from how she acts whenever she fails an attempt, it’s clear to Garfiel what I mentioned earlier: that Emilia is having a hard go with facing her past, probably because a part (or all) of her doesn’t want to.

After a brief stop in the village, Subaru goes on to the manor, which is oddly empty and bathed in blood-red light—never a good sign on this show! As he desperately runs through the halls searching for Rem, we hear an odd squishing sound and he trips and falls…on his own bowels. As he lies in a pool of blood and guts, his assailant reveals herself: Elsa, his very first nemesis in this other world.

Talk about a blast from the past! We last saw her back in 2o16, retreating after being wounded but not killed by an all-out attack from Reinhard. I wrote “the fact she’s still out there with her chilling desire to disembowel everyone else is certainly disquieting, as is the fact that such a huge attack didn’t kill her.” Well, now she’s back, and Subaru is almost certainly primed to Return by Death. I wonder where and when he’ll end up?

3-gatsu no Lion – 17

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Note: I have taken over reviews of 3-gatsu no Lion from Zane in exchange for ceding Little Witch Academia to Franklin. Call it a three-way trade. What does Zane get? RESPECT.

This was the first 3G of the show’s second half that never really felt like it was dragging. Even in its “weakest” first section, there’s still the formal exchange between Rei and his father, as well as the sun shower and encounter with the ethereal Touji Souda, who could either be a god or a devil.

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Because his dad can tell by reading his face, Rei lets slip that Kyouko isn’t really staying over at his place all the time, and she derides Rei as a snitch under the bridge.

In a 3G first, the Kawamoto sisters finally see Rei with Kyouko, and their reactions are both priceless and true-to-character: Kyouko assumes Rei has found another home to ruin, Akari is polite and stays out of Rei’s business, and Momo is petrified of the Rei-bullying “witch.”

Hina is, well, pissed. So pissed, in fact, that she runs back to Rei and gives him a towering box of food to cheer him up—and all indications are she succeeds in the moment. She also makes sure to give Kyouko a withering middle-schooler stare before steaming off. Akari agrees “just a little bit” with her younger sister that it’s not fair that Rei should just take the “strong-willed woman’s” abuse.

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Kyouko is certainly cast as the Wolf to Red Riding Rei, but in the next segment, 3G turns that on its head, showing the far less outwardly confident and strong Kyouko. She basically stress-eats all of the food meant for Rei. She calls home to tell their dad where she is, but has to give the phone to Rei, because their dad doesn’t trust her.

Curling into (Rei’s) bed (again), Kyouko doesn’t know what to do with herself. She also doesn’t know why she chose Gotou, a man she can’t possibly bring home for Dad to see. In the night, Rei notices her checking her phone over and over, and the blue LCD light it creates, giving the impression the two of them are sinking into the bottom of the sea.

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Kyouko has crossed adulthood, but seems threatened by the only slightly-older Akari has achieved (in the brief, limited moment they crossed paths, that is). Rei is nearing adulthood, and at 18 will still be a second-year at school. Nikaidou has reached his rank, catching up to him, and is looking forward to proving his worthiness as a rival in an official match soon.

Rei puts it perfectly when he says he and Kyouko don’t know how to be proper siblings, nor can they be strangers, so they’re caught in between. Perhaps as they grow older and more mature they can learn and change. For now, Rei awaits the arrival of Spring, the first month of which I hear…comes in like a lion.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 16

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While it could be argued Hayashida-sensei got Rei in this hole by miscounting his absences, he gets resourceful in a bid to dig him out of it, including introducing Rei to the After School (Bunsen) Burners Club, a group of passionate nerds happy to help Rei out with science-y stuff. This was a lot of fun and engendered the most laughs; the mustachioed guy in particular was hilarious, somewhat Excalibur-like.

It’s a relief to the teacher to see Rei interacting and laughing with fellow students. The lesson he imparts upon Rei is that when he cannot overcome something alone, seek out someone to help; otherwise no one will ever seek him out.

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After a brief fake-out with a too-confident looking Gotou, we learn that Shimada was the victor in the third and final match, making him the challenger against the ethereal reigning champion Touji Souya. Gotou was prepared to give remarks on his loss, while Shimada is so spent from the exertion he can barely stand or talk. His spirits are buoyed when Rin asks if he can join his shogi workshop.

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Back at the Kawamoto’s, the girls and gramps are making special boxes for the girls festival and planning what kind of meal to prepare for the special occasion. Hina is frustrated that Rei hasn’t been by, and doesn’t understand why he’d deprive himself of food (and their company) for so long. Gramps understands, though; it’s a matter of pride. He’ll come back when he’s ready.

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The workshop is at Shimada’s house, a modest but gorgeous little home dramatically perched atop a hill in the oldest part of town. There’s a sense Rei has climbed a mountain to reach some kind of temple in order to aid him on his quest to enlightenment. In reality, he doesn’t spend enough time playing in non-competitive matches with peers, which is why Shimada was able to run roughshod over him.

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Shimada is glad to host three gung-ho shogi players in his home for the workshop, but once the three start getting defensive, digging in their heels and barking like petty feudal lords, the toll Shimada’s matches exacted upon his body are amplified, and he cuts the ‘shop short, blaming a stomachache.

Nevertheless, Rei is being exposed to different forms of play, with nothing on the line except his still-narrow personal view of shogi play. Nikaidou even follows him home, as their argument over use of certain pieces at a certain time inspires him to want to demonstrate to Rei what he’s on about on a shogi board.

Overall, this was a pleasant (if a bit thin-feeling) episode that shows some of the incremental steps Rei is taking towards…well, growing up, becoming both a better shogi player and a better man. Notably, there were no scary flashbacks (or scary Kyouko) to be had, but like Hina I too hope he’ll end his self-imposed exile from the Kawamotos soon.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 15

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Rei gets back to analyzing Kyouko, likening her to a glass with cracks that can never be fully filled. Rei blames himself and Kyouko’s and his dad for creating those cracks. Dad might’ve been the instigator, but Rei puts just as much weight in his role as object of favoritism, whether it was justified or not.

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The new wrinkle here is that Kyouko didn’t want Rei to go away, leaving her even more lonely. But he did. He felt he had to. Considering what Kyouko and her brother had to pay for Rei to be in the position he’s in, he felt it necessary to become an adult as soon as possible so he could “protect them”.

But leaving didn’t end Kyouko’s suffering, it only created a new void in her heart; a new crack. We also learn she first connected with Gotou because his wife is in the hospital, and the loneliness she perceives in him mirrors her own. I wonder if Kyouko ever expected Rei would up and leave the way he did – that he would challenge the status quo so forcefully, at such a young age.

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But leave and challenge it he did…and he failed, and got humiliated, and had his whole world turned upside down. And you know what? Even Grandpa Kawamoto knows (from experience) that failure is good; failure is necessary. No one ever knows that when it’s happening, because it feels terrible, as losing to Gotou in the first of three final matches feels to Shimada.

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Rei already shows some growth by ceasing his skulking and going back to the shogi hall to watch Shimada and Gotou in action with his colleagues. Unfortunately, due to a clerical error by Hayashida-sensei, Rei finds himself two attendance days in the red and heaps of schoolwork to do in order to prevent repeating the grade. Again, he faces potential humiliation and failure, but it will ultimately make him a better person.

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Shimada regathers himself and expends a great deal of his charisma in the second match, in which he manages to defeat Gotou and bring the series even. Afterwards Shimada walks with Nikaidou, who tells him why he wanted him to kick Rei’s ass so soundly.

Nikaidou’s many victories against uninspiring opponents who clearly didn’t work as hard as he did left him “reduced to a lump of ego”, with a head to match. That big head was split in two when he faced off against Rei, but Rei also pulled him out of the dirt and offered him water in the searing heat. Rei saved him, and he repaid the favor with Shimada’s help.

In an interesting merging of the two plot lines, Shimada spots Kyouko yelling over being rejected once more by Gotou on his way home. Seing the young, beautiful woman so strongly affected by the far older Gotou serves as another means of indirect psychological warfare (to go along with Gotou’s impressive arsenal of the direct kind).

But Shimada quickly snaps out of it: it’s just another momentary humiliation; another fleeting failure; either of which will only serve to make him stronger. So too will Rei grow stronger from such things. Now, Shimada, for the love of God: beat that pompous gangster!

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 25 (Fin)

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This was an episode full of tying up loose ends, the most important of which being Subaru presenting himself before Emilia a better and more useful man than the last time he saw her. He even gets to be a badass action hero! But as a loose-ends episode, it works very nicely, even if it’s not perfect, and leaves a lot hanging in the air (likely for another season, but not anytime soon).

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The first loose end is Betelgeuse, who very annoyingly won’t go down much of the first act. I was pleased Subaru used the Witch’s curse to expel Betelgeuse from his head so Julius could finish him, especially since we got a good look at the witch Satella herself. She does look a lot like Emilia…if Emilia were all black with a purple outline and glowing eyes!

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I rolled my eyes a little when moments after defeating Betelgeuse, Juli and Subie get a call from Felix about another problem fresh out of the blue: an unaccounted-for sack full of fire stones.

There wasn’t any doubt that sack would be stashed in the wagon Emilia and the village children just happen to be riding in, nor was there the slightest chance, even in an often sadistic show like this, that this latest particular bomb would go off.

When Subie and Otto are acting like a comedy duo in a wagon Otto has nitrous’d with his magic in the last episode, it’s reasonable to assume things will work out.

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The whole rescue attempt felt like an excuse for Subaru to confront Emilia as the one who led the army, something she only just learned about from some snot-nosed kids who don’t know how to keep their damn mouths shut. Betelgeuse’s extended demise further delayed the inevitable reunion, and by the time Betel had become a Ghibli Goop Monster with his head on fire, I had long since had my fill of the manic bastard.

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But the how of how Subaru came to triumphantly reunite with Emilia didn’t mar the fact that this episode took great strides to repair what had been an estranged relationship not just between these two, but between myself, representing the non-manga-reading audience, and Emilia. Takahashi Rie does a great job reintroducing Emilia-tan to us, as she gets to express a good number of powerful emotions during the final ordeal.

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Subaru basically gets to make the perfect series of gestures to reunite with Emilia, swooping in, grabbing the bomb, and running off to get it away, but not before telling Emilia he loves her. After smashing the whales, the giant fallen tree is the gift that keeps giving, as its trunk largely shields Subaru from the blast he’s still pretty close to when the stones detonate.

It is here when Emilia, still processing everything Subaru has done for her these last few days/weeks, completely unbidden, springs into action, rushing into the danger, desperate to find Subaru alive and alright. And perhaps because the show is finally done torturing us, he is!

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From there, there’s no long, sprawling epilogue, showing what becomes of who. Just a simple scene of Subaru lying on Emilia’s lap, the two of them overjoyed to be together again.

The way Subaru describes it, Emilia is made happy for the first time by the prospect of “special treatment.” This can’t quite match the Rem Confession episode in emotional power, but it comes darned close with much less time to work with.

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I also appreciated that Emilia doesn’t have an instant reply to Subaru’s confession. It’s all well and good to say “I love you too”, but loving and being loved are so new to her it’s going to take time. Time Subaru assures her she has.

Subaru doesn’t wake up back in front of that convenience store, but merely admires Emilia’s tearful, radiant smile, as the episode fades to white and we’re treated to an extended mix of the original ED.

All in all, an imperfect but still solid and satisfying, and entertaining finale. If a second season comes along one day (April 2020!—Ed.), I’ll surely be tuning in. If not, it was a fun ride. Often stressful, enraging, and heartbreaking…but also fun.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 24

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So, the first attempt to save the village and take out the Witch’s Cult was met by some mishaps, such as the time-consuming misunderstanding that led to a confrontation with Ram, the killing of villagers before evacuation was complete, Emilia taking the field of battle, putting herself at risk, and oh yeah, Subie getting possessed by Betelgeuse.

But when Julius and Felix killed him, he died and came back just like he always did, without any twists due to his possession. And fortune not only smiles, but beams on him, as he wakes up right in the middle of the planning phase, allowing him to casually introduce the new information he gleaned about body-snatching, the traitor in their midst, and Ram.

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His new plan revolves around convincing Emilia to go along with “Crusch’s plan” to evacuate the mansion and village, including Emi-tan herself. She agrees, because she believes the plan put before her, while not entirely or even partially of her own making, is the best plan as far as she can tell.

So she’s put on a wagon with some enthusiastic village kids, and sent off to safety, while Subie and the knights capture the traitor and take the metia he was using to pass information to the cult. It’s important to note Subaru himself wore the recognition-blocking robe Emilia threw at him, so she had no idea he planned all this.

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Suffice it to say, thanks to learning the lessons of last week’s ‘dry run’, everything goes off without a hitch, as Subaru once again confronts a Betelgeuse now weakened by a lack of fingers nearby. Subie also allows Juli to cast a spell, Nect, that lets him see with his eyes, allowing him to see the unseen hands and cut through them.

This achieved one of Subie’s secondary objectives: to properly make up with Julius. He is, after all, a crucial part of the plan and why, when the episode ends, it looks like the end is near for the Sin Archbishop, and very good for Subaru, who has once more learned from his past mistakes, put pride aside, planned carefully, and relied on and trusted in others.

This is how he has truly become Emilia’s knight.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 23

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False Alarm: No Fresh Hell, just not completely dealt-with Old Hell on this week’s menu. Hell leftovers, if you will. Ram puts the convoy under an illusion spell because she fears Subaru switched sides and the convoy is his invading force. This is due to a misunderstanding: the letter sent to the mansion was blank, usually a declaration of war.

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No harm, no foul, then, right? Ram accepts Subaru’s explanations, and while she’s not in love with him like her sister, he and she still have quite a bit of history which enables her to withdraw her aggressive stance with confidence.

It’s also confidence Subaru needs in order to tell the people of the village they need to evacuate. At first a couple of malcontents curse the “half-elf” who brought this upon them, but with Ram’s help, Subie successfully persuades the villagers, even the racists, to cooperate.

Just when Subie is about to head for the mansion with Juli and Felix, the latter discovers one of the merchants has been possessed by a member of the witch’s cult. The man self-destructs, nearly killing Felix and Subie, and the remnants of Betelgueses fingers attack the village.

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Smoke (and Unseen Hands) fill the sky, blood stains the ground, and the scene starts to resemble one of Subie’s past nightmare scenarios. But this time, at least he isn’t singularly responsible for failing to detect the cult’s inside men. He’s just one part of an alliance made up of far more capable people than he who also missed this one.

That being said, and in spite of her earlier warnings to the villagers falling on deaf, non-pointed ears, Emilia arrives to help deal with the threat and protect the villagers who still live.

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She and Puck manage to take out all of the fingers…that they know of, all of whom talk and move and act like Betelguese. But even Lia’s last defeated opponent isn’t the end. When one of Juli’s lesser spirits, deployed to protect Subie, leaves Subie’s body, Betelgeuse possesses him.

Since we’ve never seen Betelgeuse leave a body that went on to survive, it sadly looks like the end for this version of Subaru, as he compels a reluctant, emotional Felis and Juli to kill him before Betelgeuse completes his hold. When the curtain falls on the episode, it would seem they obeyed him.

Will we shift to the focus of everyone but Subaru now that he’s left this world, or will we continue to following him as he respawns…wherever it is he respawns? Whatever the case, I doubt this turn of events will be resolved as quickly as Ram’s misunderstanding…

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 22

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With the White Whale(s) vanquished, Subaru redirects his allied force towards the Witch’s Cult, which no one will be taking lightly despite the huge advantage they seem to have. This requires Subie to more-or-less make up with Julius, who has just arrived to help.

Subie still maintains he hates “Juli’s” guts, but the two still exchange apologies and words of gratitude. While Puck assures an exhausted Lia that she and the manor will be safe, Subie uses his stench to lure the cult members, who appear right on cue.

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It’s the return of Smug Subie, as he’s holding all the right cards this time, and it’s the cult and Betelgeuse who don’t have a clue what’s coming. Mimi and Hetaro swoop in and demolish Betel’s base with their shouts, then Old Man Wilheim bisects Betelguese from behind.

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It’s almost too easy, leading me to wonder when the other shoe will drop. Sure enough, in the midst of celebration and preparation to go after the ex-sin archbishop’s “Fingers”, Unseen Hands quite suddenly appear out of the woods and quickly kill five anonymous members of Subie’s allied force, then an arm drags Subie into the trees.

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There, he meets someone of indeterminate gender but the same exact manic way of speaking and biting their nails raw as Betelgeuse. This person’s only problem is they dawdle far too long before killing Subie, and Mimi, Hetaro, and Wil are able to arrive in time to kill them and save Subie.

Now that they know the remaining 99 or so cult members could all be Sin Archbishops, Subie laments putting everyone in such grave danger. Wilheim won’t hear of it: he asks Subie to keep fighting as long as he’s still standing. Not to become stronger, but simply to be strong. This guy speaks from experience, so Subie takes the simple but powerful words to heart.

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With that, the hunt for the remaining fingers, and the evacuation of the village and manor in Margrave Mathers’ lands continues. Just as Subie is heeding Felix’s suggestion that he should finish making up with Julis, he sees a blue petal float past his eye, and everything freezes.

He and his ground dragon are left alone in the blue, icy stillness, with a blue flower-clutching Ram before him. What fresh hell is this?

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 21

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Even getting as far as Subaru did in forming an alliance to fight the White Whale felt like a victory to me, but the fact remained, the actual battle was far from over after some hard fighting last week. Subaru hadn’t gotten an arc victory since saving Rem eons ago. The victory we got this week was a little safe, but it was what I wanted when I wanted it, so it’s all good.

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I enjoyed Krusch going all in on another Subaru Crazy Plan, then using him, the “weakest among them”, to rally her depleted troops. Subie’s plan is indeed quite crazy, as it involves Rem firing him up to the “lead” whale that’s controlling the other two, and using the Witch’s curse to lure it where he wanted it – underneath the colossal tree Krusch agrees to topple.

The timing works out extraordinarily, almost lazily well, and it seems like an unspeakable crime to bring down a tree that must be many millennia old, but their options were limited, and that whale had to go.

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From there, Wilhelm, who is not dead and escapes from the whale that swallowed him, delivers the coups-de-grace to the whale. In the process, we see that Wil challenged Theresia to a duel shortly after she was named Master, and he won the duel, making him demonstrably the better sword.

I still maintain that Theresia would have preferred the man she love live a long life not dedicated to facing and fighting the whale that killed her (and very likely getting himself killed in the process). But Wil needed this for closure, and to make up for failing to protect her.

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Both Wil and Krusch express their deep gratitude and desire to continue working together. Subie even half-jokingly suggests Krusch as his #3 Girl, though Krusch only admits to the occasional tug of the heartstrings. She also vows to always be friendly and show favor to him, no matter what happens in the selection fight to come. Krusch is great.

Speaking of great, Rem is too injured to move and immediately join Subie on his next mission to destroy the cult, but he reiterates all the ways she’s already saved him, and how she can let herself rely on him now and again. He also promises she can remain by his side when they return to one another, and share a farewell Eskimo kiss.

I like how this episode contained the climax and end of the battle as well as all the celebration and rest needed. Next week, one of only four episodes left (that I know of) will thus be able to focus on Subie’s goal to eliminate the cult and its threat to Emilia, whom I also hope we’ll see at some point.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 20

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In an initially cryptic prologue, a young man who looks like a more well put-together Subaru approaches a fair lass who looks like a redheaded Emilia. It’s actually a very young Wilheim van Astrea meeting his future love, Theresia, but I’m sure the resemblances aren’t an accident.

Theresia may be gone and isn’t coming back, but this entire grand battle is Subaru’s attempt to prevent history from repeating itself, by protecting Emilia from her demise (and himself from Puck’s primal wrath). He couldn’t do it alone, so he called upon those with whome he shares common purpose, and the result unfolds this week.

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Watching him dust himself off and craft the plan and set up the pieces made for a World Heritage List-worthy outing; and while it wasn’t really in doubt that the payoff would, er, pay off, there was also a lingering feeling that Subaru was due for another setback. This is Re:Zero, after all. Not victory comes easily, nor on the first try.

That being said, the joint Karsten/Hoshin army packs a wollop, unleashing all their best attacks and dealing serious damage to the whale, who is none to happy that the ambush tables were turned. One weapon even turns night into day, which makes the battle a lot easier to see. This isn’t ufotable-level combat, mind you, but it doesn’t need to be, and gets the job done.

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After Wilhem cuts out one of the whale’s eyes (GROSS!), it unleashes a cloud of fog, and its counterattack begins. We see concern in Crusch’s expression as the sky dims, and Wil remembers telling the lovely redhead in the ruins how his sword is the only way to protect someone as a knight.

He failed in that task, but not for want of trying, and is resolute in his desire to make up for the failure by vanquishing the whale once and for all.

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But the whale has more tricks up its sleeve: its fog cleaves the earth and utterly destroys a good chunk of the force. Many of the survivors succumb to the whale’s devastating, mind-piercing song, which makes them hurt themselves. Fortunately Felix is there to neutralize the effects with his healing magic.

Subaru sees that someone needs to step up and change the tune of this battle, and decides it should be him. He openly mentions Return by Death, which has the desired effect of infusing him with a fresh batch of the Witch’s stench, drawing the whale to him like a fish to a lure.

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This gives Wilheim a fresh chance to do more damage to the whale, but he ends up in the wrong position at the wrong time: right in front of the whale’s mouth as it scoops the earth around him up like a cloud of shrimp.

Wil stops and recalls one last tim, the night he was saved by the Master Swordsman, who turned out to be Theresia. The fact is, he was never strong enough to protect her; instead, the reverse was the case. Even when he lashed out in frustration, Theresia proved she was the better swordsman, even if she didn’t understand why.

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But Wil never got over the fact he could not protect the woman he loved, nor stop her from protecting him. He saw himself as the expendable one, and would have died happily if it meant she could live on, or even better, especially if she could then step down as Master Swordsman.

But that’s not exactly fair to Theresia, and I’m glad the show brings up the fact Wilheim’s desire for revenge, and putting himself in the literal jaws of the whale, may not have been the right thing to do, or indeed what Theresia wanted. She died to save him so he could live on. But he spent the last fourteen years living only for this day. Whether he survived this battle or died fighting, he was going to end things. And I’m not sure Theresia would approve, especially since we learn there isn’t just one white whale, but several. Talk about a Re:Zero knife twist!

What if now, Subaru has to die, plan all this out again, and the next time, include Priscilla and possibly others? I’m also weary that the Witch’s Cult will take advantage of the Karsten’s scattered, weakened army to launch their own strike. The plan was sound, it just wasn’t quite enough to end things. Will Subie be able to accomplish what Wilheim couldn’t—save the one he loves—without sacrificing himself?

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 19

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I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER.

It’s a tired phrase, but I can’t think of a more apt use for it than the latest Re:Zero, where Subaru gets to start over from Zero and doesn’t squander the chance. Rather than begging like a babbling loon for an obscure, partially-formed goal, he comes to Crusch Karsten—and Anastasia Hoshin, and the Merchant’s Guild—with a sensible, viable arrangement, with the White Whale Problem at the core.

In this manner, Subaru unwittingly becomes the catalyst for a grand battle that was in the making long before he arrived in this world. EVERYONE detests the White Whale. Thanks to his past lives, he not only knows how to properly approach and negotiate with these people—from a position of strength and common cause, and pride—he knows where the White Whale will show up next, and most importantly, when, thanks to his “metia.”

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When Subaru is speaking to Crusch, and Felix, and Wilheim in a manner that makes them receptive, he seems to find the unlikely hero within himself, a hero who has united groups with various opposing interests in less important areas but a shared loathing of the White Whale.

And because of the way he composes himself and presents his plan, everyone is not only willing, but eager to hear him out. Crusch is suspicious at first, but she can see the wind of dishonesty when someone lies, and Subaru, though clearly still intimidated, is making an honest, courageous effort that she doesn’t overlook.

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Part of me hated Crusch for so cruelly refusing Subie’s assistance the first time around, but I couldn’t blame her, as he was giving her no reason to help or believe him. Here he did his homework, recalling all the various goings-on in his past loops (combined with Hoshin’s major burn) to uncover the battle Crusch was preparing for anyway, and offer something that could give them all a decisive advantage over their foe.

Everyone works through the night to get ready, and Subie meets Hoshin’s mercenary captain Ricardo, and numerous veterans who came out of retirement to, like Wilheim, avenge their lost loved ones upon the Whale. Subaru sees this is bigger than him, but none of this would be possible without him. He’s making it, dammit…he’s making it!

It’s so good just to see everyone smiling and laughing again, even if it is, in part, to hide how goshdarn scared they all are of the task before them.

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This week, Subaru succeeded in all the ways he failed in previous attempts to save Emilia all by himself, or with last-minute help from others. Even though Priscilla isn’t a part of the alliance (and is totally absent this week), her reaction to Subie trying to kiss her feet was a powerful lesson Subie keeps with him, and is brought up again when he chooses his ground dragon, a breed known for its intense pride. He can’t accomplish anything alone, and he can’t inspire or convince others without that pride.

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Last week was ALL Rem and Subie, elevating Rem to “Best Girl of the Year” status for many. I don’t have many strong arguments against that, so I’ll let it stand, especially when she doubles down this week on her absolute faith in Subaru, keeping his spirits up even when he starts to doubt if his cell phone will actually help them (considering how cruel this show can be, I too was worried this to all be for nothing).

But now Rem isn’t the only one trusting of or grateful to Subaru. He’s convinced two candidates battling for the throne to join forces, for crying out loud. And the merchants! As for stern-faced Wilheim, he gets a lot more fine strokes this week as one of those older men in this world who lost something to the WW, and is grateful for the opportunity to avenge his wife (who was once Master Swordsman, underscoring how dangerous the WW is).

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Perhaps one of the best moments of a highly satisfying and morale-boosting episode, another gem in a show full of them, is the moments of silence as the hour of the Whale’s arrival approaches. There’s so much built-up tension, combined with the possibility that it might not show up, or that the Witch Cultists would ambush the army.

Then the silence is broken by a strange electronic musical noise that took be totally off-guard (even though he said he’d set it earlier): Subaru’s cell phone alarm.

The cheerful chime feels like a terribly foreboding harbinger to some foul occurrence, but then the whale makes its appearance, and Subaru charges in first with Rem loosing her magic with extreme prejudice. That changes Crusch’s face from terror and worry to a defiant smirk, and the battle begins.

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