Skip and Loafer – 09 – A Taste of Summer

Synching right up with the official start of Summer here in the States, Mitsumi’s summer break arrives, and she leaves Nao-chan’s place early to hop on a train to the airport, then a plane to Noto. The immersive, almost meditative sequence unfolds with minimal dialogue, ambient sounds, and familiar images, perfectly capturing the exciting yet slightly lonely feeling of being on a trip.

The summer details don’t stop there. Mitsumi’s lively family picks her up and takes her home, where grandma is out back making special red rice and warns Mitsumi to cover her legs lest the skeeters eat them up. Her fam prepared a sumptuous feast and they go to town, then nap it off on the cool tatami. I totally get why Mitsumi’s such a good person…look where she comes from!

Then there’s the impossibly sweet reunion of Mitsumi with her bestest friend Fumi-chan. She literally jumps onto her like a baby panda on its mama. Fumi reports that she’s officially seeing the guy she spoke of before; she wanted Mitsumi to know first. They get together with the rest of their middle school chums and launch some fireworks on the beach.

The next morning Mitsumi oversleeps due to a excess food hangover. Her mom, who took the day off work to have more time with her, gives her some soothing watermelon. Each time Mitsumi takes a bite, we get a new idyllic image of summertime in the countryside. Her reverie is interrupted by Fumi, who joins the Iwakura siblings on a trip to the beach.

Mitsumi would go on to visit the beach every day, such that by the time she’s back in Tokyo for the new semester, she’s got a serious tan. The first person she encounters is Sousuke, which she takes as a good sign. When Kanechika tries to give Sousuke a script “just to read”, he refuses.

Mika has brought cookies from Kyoto for everyone, including her newest friend Nao-chan, while Mitsumi has brought her hometown’s famous squid crackers. In monologue, Mitsumi notes how the summer break was a month of transformation. Some couples were made, some broke up. Some friends grew closer, while others drifted apart.

Mitsumi’s spirits are lifted after her student council session and a detailed presentation on the upcoming school festival, which the president correctly presumes is unlike anything Mitsumi has ever seen (at least outside of TV shows). She’s super excited about the festival, and when she spots Sousuke walking alone, she wants to share her excitement with him (as well as her squid crackers).

When she finally catches up, she hands him a cracker and talks at length and with great enthusiasm about all things festival. Sousuke politely listens and adds a monosyllabic comment here and there, and then Mitsumi takes her leave, saying she shouldn’t be acting like a giddy schoolgirl, but more like a “cool and composed adult” like Sousuke.

As she walks away, in Sousuke’s mind he says she’s wrong: he’s frozen in place because he “doesn’t deserve anything”. He recalls her running in her bare feet, and also a long-haired blonde woman I don’t believe we know. He calls Mitsumi “so dazzling…and so far away”, but just then she turns back around and returns to him, offering two more crackers as she sensed he seemed down.

Will Mitsumi be able to pull Sousuke out of his funk without knowing what’s really causing it? I hope so, but the fact their class is putting on a play—the last thing Sousuke wants to do—the odds are stacked against her. But I’m sure as hell pulling for her to succeed!

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 19 – Cleaning the Stables

Miorine and Guel are headed to earth, unaware of just how dangerous a scorpion they have as an escort in Prospera, piloting Aerial. Miorine may be planning to bolster her presidential bonafides through direct talks with Earth, but Prospera has entirely different and far more selfish motives.

In one of the surprises of the whole show, Secelia has Martin give her a pedicure to put him in his place, but also offers him the advice he needed to hear: if he believes he sold out Nina to save Earth House, he needs to come clean to his house and seek forgiveness there.

Piel’s newest Elan is now with Shaddiq, telling him more people might support Miorine in the election if the Gundam they brought crushes the Earthians, but Shaddiq knows Miorine will do everything in her power to prevent that. Miorine isn’t fazed by the unarmed protestors, and alights from her limo to meet with Earth’s leaders face to face.

As Norea finally fills her sketchbook and breaks down from the grief of losing her sister and best friend Sophie and admits she’s afraid to die, Miorine receives the Earthians’ list of very legitimate grievances, including the Benerit group’s use of extralegal detentions, torture, and murder in their search for the Plant Quetta terrorists.

That said, Miorine brings GUND-Arm medical tech to the talks, and this intrigues one of Earth’s representatives to the point he agrees to a 10-day ceasefire until the election is over. If Miorine wins, then the real talks can begin. Seeing them shake hands after her hand was previously ignored feels like a big win for Mio. Turns out it’s the only win she’ll get, and an all too brief one.

Suletta, having hit rock bottom last week, finally begins her slow ascent. Emerging from her bedroom to eat, ChuChu drags her out to be with the rest of Earth House, who have prepared a sumptuous breakfast. It’s here where Suletta realizes she still has a family that cares about her.

Martin then arrives and comes clean as Secelia advised, and receives the forgiveness he wanted but didn’t think he’d get. Suletta knows Nika wasn’t trying to cause any harm but only protect her own family. As Lilique puts it, even if it wasn’t the best way, it was all she could do. Suletta lingers on that.

While Mio handles the talks, Guel went with Kenanji to speak to Sedo, the Dawn of Fold-affiliated kid who he knew from when Guel was their captive. Sedo wants to join Grassley House’s academy for war orphans like the “Prince”. Kenanji gets angered by this, because “Prince” is the name of one of Grassley’s finest graduates: Shaddiq.

It doesn’t take much to put two and two together and realize that Shaddiq, in concert with Fold, organized both the Plant Quetta and Open Campus attacks. Guel informs Mio, who tells him to return to Space and try to find evidence. She imagines Shaddiq is keeping his adoptive father Sarius at Grassley house.

But even Shaddiq’s plans seem to be in peril due to the whims of one Prospera Mercury, who uses Aerial’s abilities to take control of a piece of Earth artillery and have it fire at her, giving her the justification to retreat. But instead she heads to a secret Space Assembly League facility—Ochs Earth—and lays waste to the Gundams stored there.

While fighting breaks out, it’s covered on the news waves. Feng and her companion, who pose as smugglers but are really Space Assembly League agents, secure Bel and even learn about Quiet Zero from her, but while trying to move her to a secure location Prospera’s aide kills Feng and Bel just narrowly manages to escape with Feng’s partner.

The end result of Prospera going her own way is that conflict between Earth and Space flares back up and escalates. Blood is spilled mere moments after Mio got her ceasefire, leaving her entire trip a failure and making her the face of the entire fiasco.

But when Suletta watches the newsfeed and sees Aerial among the burning rubble and crying children of Quinharbor, she finally understands why Eri pushed her away, and told her to stop clinging to her and their mother. Eri kept Suletta out of this mess so she could rise to fight another day. There’s even another Gundam looking for a pilot that I’d say has Suletta’s name on it.

If last week Suletta hit rock bottom, this week Mio-Mio seems to be in the same spot. Both her designs on forging a peace with Earth and her presidential prospects are in tatters. She, like Eri, was right to try keep Suletta out of this, even if her methods were extreme. But now that just means that Suletta has the freedom to choose what to do with herself. I imagine she’ll forgive Mio and try to save her. Suletta’s rise towards agency and selfhood begins now.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Swordsmith Village Arc – 06 – Fifth Wheel

So Genya didn’t suddenly turn into a mindless demon, he’s just…really jazzed up on rage? So much so that he’s drooling profusely? Genya is also determined to become a Hashira first by defeating an Upper Six. To his, Tanjirou, while being choked by Genya, bucks shounen hero conventions and says “Fine, whatever, become a Hashira! I’ll help you…just don’t slash my little sis!”

When the four emotion demons regenerate and the one with the leaf blows the smell of the hot spring’s sulpher away, Tanjirou can smell a fifth demon, one they’ll have to kill in order to truly defeat the others. As he and Nezuko fight the other four, Genya chases the fifth, who is tiny and quick as a Cactuar…and also strong enoguh that Genya’s blade snaps when he strikes him.

The episode is then paused with one of the bigger demon’s staffs inching closer to the back of Genya’s head, and Genya thinks of his incredibly tragic childhood, when his tiny mother became a demon and killed all of his and his brother’s siblings. When he saw his blood-covered brother standing over the dead corpse of their mom, he accused him of being a murderer.

Then we get a flashback within the flashback, which really is a bit much, to show what we’ve already been told: that after their dad was stabbed, they promised to protect the family. This was evident when they nodded without words before the brother went out to look for their mom, and a rare instance of showing and telling too much.

It’s repetitive storytelling, especially when we consider that our protagonist Tanjirou also had his whole family be killed save one sibling. Add to that some action sequences that aren’t quite as flashy as last weeks, the demons keep regenerating and have grown stale, Okamoto Nobuhiko’s tired shrill yelling shtick, and a complete lack of Mitsuri (and barely any Tokitou), and this was not Demon Slayer’s finest outing.

Vinland Saga S2 – 17 – Going Home

The fight between Snake and Thorfinn is impressively badass as expected. He’s shocked a warrior of Snake’s skill is guarding a farm, and Snake is shocked a warrior of Thorfinn’s skill is a slave. But Sverkel was right: it really came down to luck who ended up as what.

Snake is a warrior of Miklagard, AKA Constantinople (now Istanbul), but he can only imagine what “monsters” surrounded Thorfinn, and how he must not have “experienced a single good thing” to be a match for him.

Call it a combination of Thorfinn being unarmed and a little rusty, or chalk it up to Snake simply being a bit better, but Thorfinn isn’t able to keep Snake away from the cart where Gardar lay. Gardar’s last line of defense is Arnheid, begging Snake not to take his life.

Snake is unequivocal: Gardar took the lives of five of his men, so he must die. He and his men may be “stupid nasty scumbags” who can’t even use their real names, but he’s right that Gardar’s life isn’t worth more than those five. So he stabs Gardar in the gut with his sword.

While he’s telling Thorfinn and Arnheid that they’ll be bound pending punishment fitting their actions, Gardar grabs Snake from behind and puts him in a chokehold. Neither Snake nor Thorfinn can so much as nudge Gardar’s tree trunk-like arms. The only one who can stop him from killing Snake is Arnheid, whose voice breaks him out of his trance.

Gardar and Arnheid take Sverkel’s cart (with his permission and blessing) and they intend to ride it home to their son Hjalti. Arnheid doesn’t tell him the truth because, well, why spoil the last moments the two of them have? Gardar drifts in and out of consciousness, and has visions of abandoned souls lining the road.

He also dreams of the day his son was born, took his first steps, pissed on his face while he was changing him. These memories are as full of love and happiness and joy as reality is full of pain, anguish, and despair. They were the best days of his life, when he was with his wife and son, at home, living in peace. No matter what happened afterwards, they lived those days together.

Gardar also relives the day he decided to leave his home and family to fight for honor and wealth, only he’s watching himself leaving while sitting beside Arnheid and Hjalti. He couldn’t see her face then, but he does now, and he’s filled with regret for leaving.

When he comes to one last time, he asks Arnheid how old Hjalti is (six), imagines he’s forgotten them but still become a prankster like him, and is certain that he’ll want to go off on Viking adventures. But he tells Arnheid he won’t let him go. Then he takes her hand and slumps over in her lap.

As Arnheid sheds tears as her husband’s life fades, Gardar finds himself riding the cart into his village, untouched since he last left it. He spots Hjalti on a sad looking morose until he spots his dad and starts running towards him. Gardar is home. Arnheid holds him in her arms, welcoming him home. Snake’s men catch up to the car and surround it, their shadows long in the low sun.

This was perhaps the most heartwrenching depiction of a death we’ve seen on Vinland Saga. In this period of Thorfinn’s life the loss of even one life is terrible and agonizing to behold, but also beautiful and sublime. Arnheid got to see her Gardar in life and Gardar will get to see their Hjalti in death. And one day, they’ll all be reunited in the hereafter; a family shattered by war and violence whose bonds of love frayed but never broke.


Vinland Saga S2 – 16 – Casting Their Lots

Einar is on the move again, with Thorfinn following him. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, just that he knows he can help Arnheid. Maybe with violence, maybe with something else, but he can’t live with himself knowing she and her unborn child could be in danger.

When they arrive at Sverkel’s house, Arnheid is doing her regular daily chores, but it doesn’t take long for Thorfinn to realize Snake and two of his men are watching from within. Arnheid is bait for Gardar, whom Snake believes is still on the run.

Saco Mayumi puts on a powerhouse of a dramatic performance as Arnheid, trapped between her lowly station as a slave, her love for her husband, her yearning to return to their blissful past, and a wish to bring her child into a better, happier world. She truly looks and sounds like she’s carrying the world on her shoulders.

When our boys draw in close, Arnheid admits to freeing Gardar’s bonds. In the moment, she was still dreaming of a possible life with her family: her, Gardar, and her new child. When she says this and weeps bitter tears, Einar makes up his mind. If she wants Gardar to escape, she’ll have to escape with him, and he’ll help them.

Thorfinn closes ranks and agrees to help too. For Einar, it’s the only choice. For Thorfinn, it’s choosing to abandon his life of pacifism before it began, but to help his friends. Awake in his bed, Sverkel tells Snake he’s not one of those people who believe “inferior” people are destined to becomes slaves; it’s just a matter of luck. Einar, Arnheid and Gardar were incredibly unlucky.

Snake’s not in the mood for the old man’s philosophizing. Gardar killed five of his men, he must die, period. He says he can’t sit there, holding his sword, crying himself to sleep about his unavenged men. Sverkel then says she should put his sword down; his land and farm is Snake’s if he wants it, as thanks for reading the bible to him.

Snake declines the offer. He isn’t interested in working the land or growing anything. There’s a lot we still don’t know about Snake, aside from the fact he’s not Norse and has a very unusual sword. He’s also extremely sharp, so I was almost surprised when he and both his men rode after Einar in a cloak, believing him to be a fleeing Gardar.

His absence allows Thorfinn to get Gardar out from under Sverkel’s bed (he helped Arnheid when she asked) and into a cart, where the three of them will head to the border where Snake and his men can’t easily operate. But Snake eventually realizes “Gardar” was running too fast, and returned to the house, not on his horse but on foot. There, he gives Thorfinn an ultimatum: give up Gardar, or die.

Having already cast his lot with both Arnheid and Einar, Thorfinn can’t turn back now. The only way he will be able to get everyone out of this is with violence, something he was once—and still is—extremely good at. Askeladd appears beside him and places his fist on his shoulder.

He tells Thorfinn that it’s okay to fight if it’s to help people who matter to you. As long as he understands that Snake probably has a good reason to fight too…likely beyond the money Ketil is paying him.

Snake advances, and even unarmed, Thorfinn is able to knock him back and dodge his incredibly quick and complex sword swing. Askeladd then scoffs at Thorfinn, telling him he’s not going to survive a fight against Snake if he’s “half-asleep.”

If he’s in this, he’s gotta be in this all the way. So he puts up his dukes, as if he were holding his twin daggers. Snake realizes what the stance is about, and prepares for a fight. This is for all the marbles.

Vinland Saga S2 – 14 – Weathering the Storm

As son as Gardar showed up, I knew someone’s blood would be spilled under the gray storm clouds that day, I just didn’t know whose. When he approaches Arnheid, he asks about their son Hjalti, whom we know isn’t there. Before Arnheid draws too close, she’s yanked back by Snake, who isn’t having any of this.

Gardar is wounded, so once Arnheid is out of harm’s way, Snake hits his weak spot and knocks him out. The slave killed his master and is wanted by that master’s uncle, so he’ll face justice. Thorfinn has to hold Einar back from interfering, but Snake doesn’t care about a slave’s opinion on the matter.

Einar keeps stewing about it that night, but when he stands up from the table, Arnheid tells him to have a seat; dinner will be ready soon (incidently, it’s also stew). She tells Einar that in situations like these, no good can come of action, so inaction is the best course. Don’t run into the storm and get consumed; stay put and wait it out.

Arnheid then tells Einar a little about herself, and how she lost her son because of pots. Specifically the iron deposits that would make pots and sickles and such for the humble farming village in Sweden where she, Gardar and Hjalti lived peacefully, neither rich or poor.

Thanks to a friend, Gardar got caught up in a village-wide campaign to arm up and fight for those iron deposits, lest they end up in the hands of someone who will upset the balance of power in the area. This meant every young and able-bodied man left the village to fight.

This left the women, children, and elderly on their own when the Vikings arrived. The village was pillaged and burned, the old and infirm killed, and the women and children separated and taken away to be slaves. In telling this tale, Arnheid rightfully gives Einar absolutely no ground upon which to stand, for he too wants to fight when no good can come of it.

Arnheid also tells them that she’s currently carrying Ketil’s child, and intends to raise it on the farm, certain that Ketil will accept it and be pleased with it. With that in mind, there is no choice but to wait through the storm—in this case, Gardar himself, gone mad from his long suffering.

But later that night, Arnheid prepares to leave the safety of the cabin and head out to the storm, if only to clean Gardar’s wounds. She’s stopped by Sverkel, who heard her tale and offers one of his own. Like Ketil, Sverkel is not someone any Norsemen would follow if they knew the truth about how they lived their lives.

When Ketil fell in love with a beautiful young woman and an up-and-coming warlord wanted to claim the same woman, Sverkel let it happen, because he feared the consequences. That warlord ended up taking an arrow to the back from an entirely different enemy, and in the ensuing battle, the woman Ketil love died in her wedding garb.

Sverkel doesn’t intend to convince Arnheid to stay put and do nothing. He knows firsthand that even when trying to weather a storm, it can leave scars that last a lifetime. He’s just sorry he can’t help her. Arnheid decides to head out after all, to the stockade where her husband is being held, if only to look upon him one more time.

She may be inviting ruin upon herself and her unborn child by walking into such danger. Gardar may not be all there in the head, and even if he was, he probably doesn’t deserve someone like Arnheid after he abandoned her for some stupid iron.

But Arnheid braves the wind and clouds nevertheless. In a world where women cannot overturn the decisions of men, she stopped Einar from very likely getting himself killed, and has now decided to see the man she once loved and had a life with, before turning the page once more.

This episode isn’t what I’d call “fun”, but it does feel significant and important. Arnheid and Sverkel’s stories are the stories of countless people, both those who lived centuries ago in darker times, and those living in our slightly-less-dark times. That, and the emotional and visceral reaction I got from hearing these crushing tales of injustice and woe, is why this makes the List.


KonoSuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World! – 01 (First Impressions) – The Eleven

After the KonoSuba Movie expanded on the origin of Megumin’s chuunibyou style, this third full season of the series takes us back to before she met Kazuma, Aqua, and Darkness, and before she mastered her beloved Explosion magic. One day she witnessed it being used by a beautiful mage to destroy a giant monster in one fell swoop.

From that moment, Megumin decided that’s the kind of mage she wants to be. In the meantime, she lives a simple but carefree life in the village of Crimson Demons, catching crawfish with her little sister and #1 Fan Konekko by her side.

Megumin’s first encounter with Yunyun is when she notices a “hungry look” in her face while passing her near a sunflower patch. Megumin shoves a crawfish in that hungry face, even though Yunyun insists that’s not what she meant. Megumin didn’t know it yet, but she’d just met her top rival.

Megumin’s family is by no means rich, but it’s a house full of warmth and love. When they make a big payday off their magical wares at a far-flung bazaar, her folks make a huge feast, and then present Megumin with a new uniform for attending magic academy. Watching their daughter strike poses in her new cloak brings no shortage of joy to their hearts.

The academy for Crimson Demons known as the Red Prison, features a class of eleven, which may be magically auspicious, but also means there’s an odd girl out: Yunyun, whose name no one can quite remember. Despite being the village chief’s daughter she has very little presence. But she still makes a strong impression by declaring Megumin her rival. Megumin is happy to be challenged.

When Megumin notices it’s missing from the textbook and asks her professor Pucchin about Explosion magic, he tells her and the class that they should avoid studying it, as it’s a kind of “joke magic” with limited applications. Everyone in class assumes Megumin is joking and laughs…except Yunyun, who can tell Explosion magic is important to her rival.

In the Red Prison equivalent of P.E., Pucchin tells the students that the most important part of magical combat for Crimson Demons is looking cool. Thus, their answers to his questions are scored not just by their factual content, but the style with which it is delivered. With everyone else paired up, Yunyun ends up with Pucchin, who shows little patience for her hesitation in trying to look cool, saying it’s embarrassing.

That may not be a common Crimson Demon sentiment, but Megumin pretends to be ill and sits out the rest of class so that Yunyun can get paired with her partner, Arue, who is actually better than the teacher at getting her to come out of her shell. Then Rain falls, the headmaster’s ambulatory tulips scatter, and the students get drenched in mud tracking them down. Once that’s done, Yunyun tells Megumin that whether Explosion magic is a joke depends on who is wielding it.

Megumin’s response is to tell Yunyun not to get too friendly with her rival, bringing a smile to Yunyun’s face. Later, at sunset, Megumin again remembers the day a mage fired off an Explosion spell that changed her life. She can’t cast it yet, but I’m looking forward to watching Megumin, Yunyun, and their nine classmates becoming the best damn Crimson Demon mages they can be!

After this first episode, I’m more confident that spinning off the series with Megumin was the right move. I’ve always been a fan of her energy and charisma, and was always impressed she actually managed to master such a ridiculous spell (though not without passing out after using it).

Takahashi Rie and Toyosaki Aki bring out a winning chemistry between Megumin and Yunyun, as we saw their unspoken friendship begin with little gestures of kindness and caring. It’s not often laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it is sweet, charming, and KonoSuba through and through.

Vinland Saga S2 – 13 – Revolt of One

This week’s cold (or rather burning hot) open had me a little confused. Was this an older, long-haired, wilder version of Einar we’re watching as he burns down his owner’s house and kills him, leaving only his wife and infant child? That would have been quite the time jump, and brings up all kinds of questions, like why he has wrist chains, or what happened to Thorfinn…and Arnheid.

That wild, violent escaped slave looms as we transition back to Ketil’s farm, where both Snake, Thorfinn and Einar note that Sverkel should have been home by now. They find him face down in his field, but he’s alive, so they take him home. Ketil’s wife appoints Arnheid as his caretaker, and while he may not be that keen on being taken care of, there’s a warm and lovely family atmosphere to the dinner Arnheid prepares for everyone.

Einar mentioned earlier he’s considering taking Ketil up on the offer to become a retainer, if only to stay with Arnheid and possibly one day free her. When Thorfinn asks if he’s really that in love, Einar says it isn’t like that, and perhaps that’s true, and Arnheid is fufilling the role of the sister Einar lost years ago. In any case, these fun and happy times simply can’t last, because this is Vinland Saga.

Turns out the longhaired murderous escaped slave is from a neighboring farm, owned by someone Snake knew mistreated his slaves. The owner’s uncle is offering a 3-horse reward if anyone can catch him, but as stealthy as Fox is, the two men he’s been saddled with are so loud they wake the slave up from his nap before they can charge and capture him.

As Sverkel’s condition worsens, Arnheid regards her scratched and battered hands (other anime have face games, Vinland has a hand game) just as a horse whinnys; it’s the escaped slave riding hard across Ketil’s farm. Snake orders him to stop and runs for his sword as Fox and one of his men give chase (the second man was killed).

Then Arnheid gets a glimpse of the fugitive, runs out to him, and yells “Gardar!” And Gardar stops and strikes a heroic pose, declaring that he’s finally found Arnheid…his wife. That’s quite a setup for the second cour, before the next storm—Canute’s men—even arrive.

I can’t imagine Gardar will survive if Snake and his men have anything to say about, so it comes down to what becomes of Arnheid. It’s bad enough she’s a slave, but to have to watch her husband be killed while trying to be free? That’s a tough hand to be dealt.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. All due respect to Survive Said The Prophet, but their new cour 2 opening theme “Paradox” can’t hold a candle cour 1’s “River” by Anonymouz, which was so good I watched the OP in its entirety every week. Ah well…

NieR: Automata Ver 1.1a – 08 – Sea Breeze

When they return to the Resistance base, 2B and 9S ask Lily if she’s ever seen A2, whom Commander White has ordered them to pursue, investigate and ultimately eliminate. Since A2 saved her life, Lily lies and say she never heard of her, but I imagine 2B doesn’t believe her.

The YoRHa duo asks the quiet twin redheads Devola and Popola, who sugges they ask Jackass. However, Jackass is currently scouting in the Flooded City. That gives us yet another gorgeous, haunting establishing shot, along with some scenes of 2B and 9S dwarfed by their surroundings as they run and leap about the ruins.

When 9S starts thinking and asking questions about 2A, like why she’s still fighting MLs if she’s a deserter, 2B tells him curiosity could get them destroyed, so best not to think too much. Then 9S suggests they take a break, and he removes his boots, socks, and even visor to play in the water. 2B grudgingly follows him (though wisely doesn’t try to pull off those thigh-high boots). It’s nice to see their eyes for once.

Since Jackass’ signature is hidden for some reason, 2B and 9S split up to cover more ground. 2B is the one to find Jackass, who is absolutely rocking a bright red bikini as she fishes for mackerel, whose oil can prove fatal to androids (but she wants it for research). Like Lily, Jackass claims not to know 2A (though she may be telling the truth)

When 2B fails to contact 9S due to jamming, we switch to 9S’s POV. Turns out he split of from 2B so he could contact Operator 6O, upload some photos for her hobby, and also hack into the Bunker’s monitoring systems. He eavesdrops on Commander White having an uncomfortable chat with Command about sacrificing someone (the Resistance, 2B, and 9S, possibly both). Then Command notices a security breach and 9S is cut off.

But it isn’t command that jams his signal from 2B and Jackass, it’s 9S entering a weird room full of handmade drawings and paintings of him and 2B, including when they were wading in the water just moments ago. Unless previous versions of themselves did this same thing, someone here is not only watching them but is also a very fast painter. Very weird and intriguing.

9S catches glimpses of long silver locks, and so assumes it’s 2A, but the fact that Eve can’t sense his elder brother indicates that that long hair actually belongs to Adam, who is lures 9S down a dark, creepy hall before knocking him out. While this probably doesn’t bode well, I am glad the Adam/Eve and 2B/9S’s stories are finally connecting.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. The post-ED puppet shows continue to make me LOL every week. It’s always nice to see that an otherwise quite serious show has a sense of humor. Also, we got a little bit of the Bunker theme again, which might be my favorite piece from Taro Yoko. It really does feel like you’re floating around a space station overlooking a ruined planet.

NieR: Automata Ver 1.1a – 07 – Missions Don’t Need Hairpins

“Emotions are prohibited”, and yet Operator 6O contacts 2B to tell her she’d look good with a lunar tear (a kind of lily) in her hair. Why would YoRHa androids care about aesthetics aside from their practical or tactical use? Maybe, I guess, because enough time has passed and these androids have lived and been regenerated enough that they do have emotions, and it’s a fool’s errand to deny or suppress them.

2B has shown time and time again that she not only has emotions, but is willing to let them guide her actions rather than her strict YoRHa programming and independent from Bunker directives. It’s why when Pascal reports that Little Sister is missing after looking for parts for her Big Sister, 2B agrees to a sidequest to find her. It’s not like they have anything else going on.

Pascal gives 2B and 9S a lift to the Forest Kingdom with his new flight attachments, and the androids learn that he can change out his body parts as needed. That leads to a talk about how much can be changed before Pascal is no longer Pascal. He believes that as long as the heart of someone, be they human, Machine Lifeform, or android, remains, they are still themselves.

Within the Forest Kingdom there’s a sprawling ruined castle of brick and stone, calling to mind not just Castle in the Sky but the classic video game Ico. The visuals and soundtrack combine for another another triumph of location establishment and atmosphere setting. But while the kingdom is supposed to be guarded by a fierce ML fighting force, nearly all are destroyed, and by someone who knew what they were doing.

Various record chips held by the castle’s defeated occupants contain not just a dispassionate record of events 256 and 128 years ago, but a history of their kingdom, from when their first king declared their kingdom, to when he died and was succeeded by a new “Little King”. There’s also a record of four hours ago, when the intruder is revealed to be a female android.

As they’re walking on a bridge high above a long drop,  the stone beneath 9S’ feet crumbles, but Pascal saves him. 9S is shocked by this since he’s been badmouthing Pascal and all MLs the whole time, and even afterwards he still can’t fully trust him. But they eventually find the Little Sister, who has fallen in love with one of the castle guards and wishes to be married.

With one sidequest complete, the sister’s new fiancé gives the androids another: save the Little King, who is under threat from the intruder. They reach the throne room and find the King—the Machine Lifeform version of a babe in riveted metal swaddling clothes—but they are too late to save it, as it is run clean through by the blade of the female android intruder.

The Pod identifies this android as the ex-soldier A2, currently classified a deserter and a fugitive (and I’m guessing she’s the “Number Two” from last week’s exploration of Lily’s past). After crossing blades and having hers shattered by 2B (the upgraded model must have an advantage), 9S asks A2 why she betrayed Command. A2 responds that Command was the ones doing the betraying.

Judging from what went down last week, I’m not skeptical in the least about A2’s assertion. She runs off before 2B and 9S can question her further, but I hope we get to see her again. I’m also eager to see what Adam does when he feels he and Eve have amassed enough knowledge…and clothing.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World – 09 – Restaurant: Possible

Alina comes to Mitsuha’s store requesting a consultation: Her family’s modest restaurant is under attack from a wealthier rival after Alina rejected his son’s advances (she only has eyes for her dad’s handsome apprentice). Mitsuha is happy for another consultation gig, so she takes the job on, while Princess Sabine mimics her every move.

The plan is 3-pronged: get the restaurant back up and running under the current staff, recoup the losses from the days it was closed, and thwart and deter any further attempts at sabotage from the competition. Mitsuha asks Alina’s dad to ditch the usual master-apprentice process and directly teach his apprentice and daughter how to make the necessary dishes.

Mitsuha also employs the maids who were her first customers to spread word that Paradise Restaurant is the only one in town that serves the vaunted “Yamano Cuisine.” She even hires the mercs Grit and Ilse to wait tables, something they’re all too happy to do after getting burned out from hunting. When the owner of the rival restaurant shows his face, Mitsuha is ready.

The rival owner rolls in with two royal guards in tow and with charges of wrongdoing, accusing Paradise of serving counterfeit Yamano cuisine. He’s brought Mitsuha’s apprentice, Mr. Marcel, to judge the quality of the food, a decision that ends up blowing up in his face when Mitsuha emerges from the kitchen and within minutes Marcel is in the kitchen helping out!

Before the rival owner can make any more objections to a situation already well out of his control, both the entire Bozes family and the King and Chancellor arrive at the restaurant; the former because they heard Yamano’s cuisine was being served, the latter because Sabine is working there.

The rival owner is arrested on suspicion of arranging the assault of Alina’s dad, and all’s well that ends well. Mitusha even enlists the king’s help matchmaking so Alina can get with the apprentice. She only makes a single gold coin, but considers it worth it because she had fun with her new friends. 80,000 gold may be the destination, but she’s enjoying the journey!

NieR: Automata Ver 1.1a – 06 – Do Androids Dream of Electric Lambs to the Slaughter?

Lily keeps shooting looks 2B’s way, and this week we learn why. She once met an android that shared 2B’s face: No. 2, an previous-generation model. 2 was a lot more animated in their speech, and she led an early YoRHa squad that, like the resistance, had been hung out to dry by Command. Back then, Lily’s resistance squad was led by Rose, who decided to join forces with No. 2 for a mission that neither of their groups could accomplish alone.

While there was initial distrust on both sides, Rose’s decision to cooperate rather than fight paid off and the “family” thus grew. There’s both an 86 and Iron-Blooded Orphans vibe to this group of misfit fighters who got the short end of the stick. Their familial chemistry and rapport with one another felt lived-in and genuine; everyone supporting one another and staying in good spirits to distract from their unfair plight.

One day, Lily was not looking well at all, and her eyes suddenly turned red: a sign her data has been overwritten by a logic virus. This is actually the first time I realized that Lily and the other members of the resistance were also androids (unless they aren’t, it’s not made crystal clear). But Lily definitely is, and even though Rose’s first instinct is to kill her before the virus spreads, No.2 deflects that bullet, and eventually everyone helps hold Lily down so No. 21 can purge the virus.

But saving Lily delayed the combined unit’s plan to infiltrate the target server facility, which is overrun by hundreds of thousands of enemies when they arrive. The Bunker will not provide backup, but the mission must be executed no matter what, so one by one Lily’s comrades sacrifice themselves so she can get to the server. She does, but at the cost of her entire family, including her big-sister figure Rose.

In the present Lily is far calmer, more composed and confident, but she remains haunted not by dreams—as 2B says, androids don’t dream—but memories of the things that happened, and regret about what could have happened to possibly save some of the people she cared for. In lieu of dreams or souls, androids are who they are due to their accumulated memories and experiences.

2B leaves Lily with a comforting rhetorical question: what if someone from her family were still alive out there, somewhere? And sure enough, a long-haired woman with the same beauty mark as No. 2 and 2B is revealed to be still out there fighting the good fight. Will Lily and her savior No. 2 unite, and what will happen when 2 and 2B meet? Whatever happens, I hope they can all be allies. Nothing can happen in this world without them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World – 03 – Swiss Army Mitsuha

With all of Mitsuha’s intricate preparations complete, all that’s left is to get chummy with the nobles of this world. When she’s stopped at the gates for lack of appointment or invitation, she improvises. She pretends to have been struck by the Count’s sons’ carriage, and they bring her right into the manor. This way, their first interaction is one in which they have done her wrong and owe her amends.

Once she’s “recovered”, Mitsuha formally introduces herself as “Mitsuha von Yamano” of the distant land of Japan. Her story is that she was separated from her traveling companions and her life was in danger, but she was saved by the people of this land. She offers a Swiss army knife of all things as a token of her gratitude, and her hosts are impressed by its craftsmanship.

That night she wows them with an evening gown and pearls, which while the cheaper cultured kind, are deemed so perfect by the Count’s wife Lady Iris that she goes on a tirade about how they can’t possibly exist in this world. She also meets the Count and Lady’s two sons and daughter, all younger than her, and explains the true reason she’s here was due to a succession dispute in her land.

Freed from that dispute, and from the titles and riches of her homeland, Mitsuha is determined to start over and make her own way by opening a general store in the capital. Mitsuha manages to appeal to Lady Iris by offering her “priceless” necklace because she reminds her of her own mother. She also tells them that all proper ladies in her country are trained in the “knife arts” and carry a blade on them at all times.

As the night goes on, Mitsuha continues to entertain her hosts over tea with her stories and ideas about how they can boost their flagging crops, her ambition on full display. The Count notes how it’s so fun chatting with her he’s lost track of time, and when she accidentally knocks over her cup, she’s suddenly reminded of a real interaction she had with her parents back when they were still alive. She realizes that she never truly wept for her lost family members, and finds herself unable to hold back genuine tears.

After how the interactions with her brother were happening in her head for mostly comedic and expositional purposes, it was surprisingly touching to see that this interaction with another family made her yearn for her own, and properly grieve them for the first time. And even though that wasn’t her intention, it only supported her calculated plan to gain the nobles’ trust and affection.

The next morning they send her off on a carriage to the capital with attendants with both the financial and moral support to get her empire started, with the understanding that she’ll always be welcome in their home. It’s a win-win-win situation for Mitusha “von Yamano”, and her future is looking bright!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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