Assassins Pride – 03 – A Fight in the Museum

What initially appeared to be a rest episode following the excitement of the tournament suddenly becomes much more in a well-structured, satisfying outing that elevates the series and makes me excited to keep watching.

The foreshadowing for what’s to come is right there at the start, as Melida echoes our curiosity about Kufa’s mysterious past. She rightly points out that there’s almost nothing he doesn’t know about her, so she wants to learn more about him. He even casually mentions he hails from “the land of eternal night”, beyond any safe human habitations.

That exploration has to wait, as Melida has a festival to attend, in which all the girls in her class wear the same dresses handed down by their senpais. Melida is looking forward to wearing the same dress as Elli, and vice versa, but Elli’s maid Othello has other ideas, and hand-makes a garment that, while gorgeous and of higher quality, brings bitter tears to Elli’s eyes as she has to run from her classmates’ harsh gazes and comments.

Melida and Elise aren’t just related, they’re the best of friends going way back, so it’s heartbreaking to see the adults (other than Kufa) treat them as if they’re enemies and pawns in the struggle for control of the Angel family. Neither of them want to fight one another; they want to support each other and have good times together. Is that so much to ask in a world of eternal darkness?

When the two are kidnapped by the Grimface Guild, their bond is tested once more when the shady man with the bandaged face announces his plan to forcibly take Elise’s Paladin Class and graft it onto Melida, overwriting her current Samurai Class. A dastardly plan, but good thing the guy isn’t too great with details.

While he sealed the mana of both girls, he failed to realize that the materials in Elli’s fancier outfit and tiara are packed with mana. Applying Kufa’s lesson about using whatever you can to survive, Melida fashions a torch with which she dispatches the low-level Lancanthropes of the kind Elli has always been afraid.

Melida’s pluck and resourcefulness buys time for the big guns to arrive and mop up, and it’s in his fight with Bandage-face that we learn that Kufa Vampir is, well, a half-vampire, or half-the strongest of Lancanthropes. It’s great to finally get a smirk out of the guy, and now I know why he had such a sedate performance in earlier episodes; he was repressing his true vampiric nature.

It could also explain why Melida is so smitten with him (since vampires can glamour humans), though I chalk that more up to the fact that among adults, he’s the only one to actually put faith in her abilities and not treat her like a pawn to be discarded if she doesn’t shape up. He’s also handsome, well-spoken, kind, and doesn’t forget that the one festival thing Melida was looking forward to most (other than being with Elli in the parade) was have a dance with him, so they do.

He also reiterates his undying commitment to her, having told the bad guy earlier that even if she ends up surpassing him and will set about hunting him, he’ll gladly stick his neck out. He’s all in on Melida, and I can’t blame him; the girl hustles and never gives up. She’s got nowhere to go but up…as long as Kufa can keep other assassins off her back!

P.S. Elli eventually changes into the same dress as Melida. Daaaaaaaaw.

Assassins Pride – 02 – The Right Time to Shine

In a welcome scene of student and teacher bonding, Melida learns that despite his stoic look and manner he’s both embarrassed to have to examine her body (her being a girl and all) but has been trained to hide his true emotions. While that was implied last week, it’s good to hear him actually voice it, as well as voice his sincere hope for her success.

While Melida’s mana has awakened, she’s not a Paladin, but a Samurai class, like Kufa. Kufa warns her to keep her awakening secret and forbids her from using mana against anyone but him. Since he estimates she’s currently only able to summon half of her mana, she’ll rely on the element of surprise to win in the school tournament.

Keeping cards close to one’s vest, and waiting for the opportune time to reveal them, are all part in parcel of what Kufa is all about. But he learns something about her too when she defends him against the mocking words of her “friend” Nerva: she’ll more readily summon what strength she has for others before herself.

When the tournament begins, even Melida’s allies aren’t aware she can use mana, and she doesn’t use it until Nerva is at the very height of her arrogance. Thankfully it’s not a one-sided affair, as there’s a lot of back-and-forth as Nerva ups her game. But in the end, there’s a card in Melida’s hand she kept even from her tutor, taking a page from his book.

That card is a phantom-blade technique he only demonstrated to her once, meaning she either learned it from that one time, or trained a bunch on her own. She thought mutliple moves ahead in her fight with Nerva, making it seem like she was totally out of mana, only to summon the rest of it when Nerva opened herself up to finish her.

In the end, Melida surprised Nerva to the point that after their match she returns the book she took from her and apologizes, apparently continue to value the “friendship” she said they’d have no matter what happens. I appreciated that extra dimension to Nerva, who isn’t just a sneering, bullying bitch after all.

Melida also addresses her father and master of the house, and as Kufa remarks, just the fact her father responded to her (by basically telling her not to get too cocky until she’s accomplished more) is another victory. If she continues to improve, it’s looking less and less likely Kufa will have to kill her, or worry about getting killed himself for failing.

But even with a chastened Nerva and an semi-acknowledging father, Melida faces a lot more adversity, both from her overachieving Paladin cousin Elsie to some unsavory lancanthropes lurking in the shadows.

Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! – 02 (Second Impressions)

Off to a rocky start, Mile settles on “It’s a family secret” as her default answer to Mavis, Reina and Pauline’s probing questions. This does not sit well with the other girls, nor does Mile’s attempt to lie about her backstory by telling them a tall tale… which turns out to be the narrative of the kingdom’s current best selling book. Fortunately, Mile is ‘saved by the bell’ and the quartet heads for their first orientation.

Mile continues to fail at her life goal of low-key living, while succeeding by every other measure. During armed evaluation, she one-hits her opponent for snarking on her flat chest. During magic evaluation, Mile intentionally mimics Reina’s fire spell, but at half-output… only for that to backfire too. Reina’s spell is a custom spell, and being able to cast it after only having seen it once, is beyond comprehension!

After an awkward tea-time interrogation, the girls choose to party-up for the first group assessment: kill 10 horny rabbits, the lowest level monster in the kingdom. To Mile’s consternation, this task proves difficult, as Reina and Mavis’ skills emphasize strength over speed and accuracy. Mile’s solution? Put on a turtle-house master beard, and go old skool dragon ball training montage on her team mates’ assess.

10 dead bunnies later (and a few surprise stone golems) and Mile’s team is the only party to clear hunter prep school’s challenge. What’s more, Mile’s fears that her secret re-life and genius skill rating would prevent her from making friends are proven unfounded. Mavis is inspired by Mile’s demonstration of human potential, Reina finds Mile’s practical examples quite helpful, and Pauline quietly takes note of magic x merchant-trade opportunities.

Little do they know, the B-Rank adventurers they beat last week have been sprung from prison and are will, no doubt, be looking for some payback later in the season…

As a specimen of the reborn in another world with great power (as a reward and not to defeat a global threat) Isekai sub-genre, WNwHdtIyn! further distinguishes itself by forcing Mile to face conflicts her broken power level cannot immediately resolve. Namely, making friends and overcoming her anxiety about being too good in the first place. It’s this anxiety, coupled with Mile’s slightly selfish touristy nature, makes her infinitely more interesting as a main character than other examples of the sub-genre.

Where Mile and Smartphone’s Touya both go out of her way to help and share her skills with strangers, Touya has no motivation beyond “being a good guy.” Toya literally jumps into a conflict between people in a dark alley without knowing what’s going on because… girls? At least Mile has met the inn keeper’s daughter, and formed a report, before being swept into the search for kidnappers.

TL;DR Mile’s character has faults, which grant her nuance. This makes her more of a person and less of an empty proxy for viewer escapism. Considering how played out Isekai escapism is at this point, WNwHdtIyn!’s choice is the right one.

Assassins Pride – 01 (First Impressions) – Change of Heart

Right away, Assassins Pride impresses with its striking setting: a world coated in unending darkness but for Flandore, a city-state in the form of a massive chandelier with city blocks within its lanterns. Even within these lanterns there’s an eerie feeling that it’s the middle of the night and always will be.

It is a world in need of a protagonist slightly more interesting than Kufa Vampir, who despite his cool name and profession (assassin), is dull as dry toast. At least he’s good at healing cats and catching clumsy young women like Melida Angel, whom he’s to serve as tutor and attendant. She’s a little more interesting thanks to her story, which is provided through Kufa’s narration as he writes in his journal.

Like him, Melida is a member of a noble family. Only nobles possess mana which is used to fight the lacanthrope hordes outside (and sometimes inside) the city. Her dream is to join the elite Crest Legion as a battle maiden, but…things are not going well.

While mana awakens in most noble children at around seven years, Melida’s has yet to awaken. As such, she’s an easy mark for mockery by her mana-using noble peers at the academy, and pity by her cousin Elise from a branch family, who has already surpassed her.

As Kufa watches Melida try in vain to best her particularly arrogant classmat Nerva and run off in tears, he considers his duty should it be determined Melida has no chance of ever awakening her mana: he’s to assassinate her. The rumors going around are that she’s not a true member of the Angel family, but the illegitimate child of her mother and a man who is not Lord Mordrew, explaining her lack of mana.

Watching Melida initially disgusts Kufa, to the point he believes offing her would be a “professional mercy” (and referencing the show’s title), since he’d be ending her suffering, knowing she’ll never be rewarded for it due to her true lineage. But when he enters her room to do the deed, she’s not there. Instead, she’s being chased through the streets by low-level Lacanthropes in what could be an attempt by her father to get her mana to awaken through combat.

But with zero mana, Melida is no match against the three pumpkin-headed scarecrow monsters. Kufa very much is, and exhibits a small measure of his power in dispatching them before they can cut her hair, which she cherishes as her mother’s legacy.

Watching her endure the beating, too proud to call for help, causes a major shift in his thinking, from pity bordering on disgust to admiration and a powerful desire to support her, even if it means hiding secrets from his bosses. He sees his own pride in her pride, and wants to validate if he can…because no one else will.

When Melida firmly agrees to do “the one thing” that could awaken her mana, but could also end up killing her, Kufa administers a dose of a potion to her (through a kiss), and for a moment, she seems to die, falling backwards into a deep, dark ocean, all of the color peeling from her body.

But after the end credits, not only is she still alive, but is impressing her maids with mana tricks. Was her mana really awakened, or did Kufa simply transfer some of his to her? Perhaps only by transferring some of his is there a chance to awaken hers? In any case, he knows he’s treading carefully, and the day may yet come when he’ll have to kill her. He just hopes it doesn’t.

Assassins Pride is…fine. It’s a no-nonsense opener that introduces the place, the players, and the stakes, but often lacked energy. The stateliness and good repair of Flandore calls into question the seriousness and urgency of the Lancanthrope threat (especially as we only see Level-1 scarecrows). The atmospheric setting and clean animation/character design did most of the heavy lifting, while Kufa and Melida felt more like archetypes than distinct characters. I’ll stick with it for now, but so far it’s nothing life-changing.

Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! – 01 (First Impressions)

12 years ago Kurihara Misato was a Japanese high school girl with good grades and no friends. She died pushing a younger girl out of the path of a speeding car cliché amd a god-character offered to re-born her in another world +plus give one gift. Feeling her grades contributed to her lack of school friendships, Misato opts for ‘being reborn with totally average powers.’

Misato’s final request is processed more literally than you might expect and “Mile” is born with power equal to her fantasy world’s mathematical mean. That is, exactly half way between the strongest living creature (elder dragons) and the weakest. To Mile’s mild annoyance, that pegs her 6,800 times more powerful than any other human…

Didn`t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! proudly announces what it is from the get go: a completely self0aware reborn in another world style Isekai, featuring a fourth-wall-breaking protagonist who is eager to share her absurd experiences via narration. From her amusement over the gimmicks of her new world (magic is actually thought translation via nano machines!) to screwing with the NPCs (pretending to get her hand eaten by a lifeless gargoyle) Mile and the constant monolog are there to explain the hours away. The result is oddly welcoming and a pleasant reversal of fish-out-of-water Isekai standards.

While you could be excused for groaning about a fifth Isekai running this season, this show is cute and chuckle worthy. Misato was no jaded Tanya the Evil, but there’s just a little snark to how she see’s her new fantasy world, and how she describes the characters living there in terms more familiar to us. (The fire mage is totally a tsundere) In purely Isekai terms, the vibe is enough to make it enjoyable to watch. Far more than Bookworm or Prodigies.

UchiMusume – 07 – Looking at Things

Latina looks at stuff!
Some stuff people.
Some stuff food.
Some stuff even animated
but some stuff static…
like a stone.

What began as a soft touch culture-crossing adoption story, with safe romps into medieval’ish fantasy life has become uneventful beyond the point of watchability. The sum total of this week’s non-looking at stuff content was a chat with a demon musician lady, who explained that Latina’s bracelet had her the full length version of her father’s name. This is common practice amongst demons living in the first demon lord’s domain.

Also, apparently, there are a lot of demon lords out there, with political and social ramifications to their deeds. I doubt UchiMusume will ever get to them though and I don’t care if it does. I’m dropping this show like a stone!

UchiMusume – 06 – Shopping and Death

Dale’s most recent growth spurt has stretched his coat to tailoring limits. For whatever reason, replacing it requires him to return to his home town, far from the capital. Less surprising is Latina’s desire to come with him.

Dale and a Lady Elf Mage shop for Latina’s combat-grade magic gear, Ken takes Latina to Ruby’s dad’s blacksmith shop to buy a multi-purpose knife, and Rita reveals that she’s pregnant. When Dale and Latina finally do leave town, they travel the opposite direction in order to visit Latina’s dad’s grave… and slaughter two waves of woodland creatures along the way.

From the very beginning, the basis for this episode was a miss for me. Character age and aging are tricky to capture in anime and Dale’s change of height was difficult to identify. The very idea felt out of nowhere, as did Rita’s side plot about having a baby. None of the cast have grown emotionally since we first met them. Growing physically makes that disconnect even more apparent.

At least Latina’s dad’s grave looks like its flipping off the viewers. It gives me a gentle chuckle every time I see it.

While many things technically happened this week, few developments are consequential. Shopping is shopping, after all and unrelentingly uneventful but earnest nature of UchiMusu has become exasperating.

If UchiMusume ever gets to its mystery, or any plot arc whatsoever, it’s going to be rushed. Combined with its bare bones animation and nonexistent audio design, it is highly unlikely to feel satisfying. At the risk of repeating my previous reviews, UchiMusume has good bones but it lacks the skill to do anything at all with them.

UchiMusume – 05 – Kidnapping is Fun!

Latina experiences snow. Later, guys try to kidnap her, while Dale is killing magic animals. Fortunately, the elderly thug intervenes and the guardsman take her home.

Uchi has it’s charms. It has enough charms to keep me watching. However, it does not have the muscle to cash in on its ‘darkness behind the happy facade’ theme and… well… there’s no plot developing in the meantime.

Isekai Cheat Magician – 04 – Dropped

Isekai Cheat treated us to an episode long fight sequences. Cassamir revealed his plans to manipulate Taichi for his own gain, even if Rin and Myura have to be raped in the process. Hurt Me More Girl… promised to get hurt more in the future. The Red Elemental was defeated by Taichi’s inner power in Taichi’s time of need.

It was barely animated, moved the plot forward at a snails pace and we learned nothing of consequence in the process. Two more villains and a third maybe villain were introduced during the end credits. I don’t know who they are, how they relate to the plot, and don’t care anymore. In short, it was a miserable experience.

The verdict: ICM has become a bit tricky to review. I have no interesting words to describe its visual style, and it’s awkwardly structured narrative is overshadowed by an eye gouging sluggishness. Who cares that the assassin’s decision to… do something? took three episodes to reveal, or that Rin and Myura’s relationship (and the pair’s relationship with Taichi) isn’t developed on screen when the actual focus of each episode is characters sitting or standing motionlessly in a room?

There’s no reason for me to write about it and even less reason for you to read about it. A Dr Stone drop, this is not…

UchiMusume – 04 – Calling Social Services

 

Latina begins her first year of school but a psychotic nun with PTSD is serving as her teacher. While friends run to her rescue, Latina is traumatized by the nun’s physical and emotional abuse. So much so that she breaks off her other horn and nearly dies in the process.

Chloe’s slap to the face and Dales gentle reminder that everyone eventually dies, and that everyone is scared of that fact, cuts through Latina’s self hatred and fear of being left alone. Then she sings off-tune at her recovery party.

The Verdict: Like last week, UchiMusume hints at seriously dark undertones, especially surrounding Dale himself. He apparently wields significant influence — enough to threaten the church itself! However, like last week, this contrast doesn’t have the art style to back it up with emotional punch, and the goofey side is too damn goofey to take seriously.

Isekai Cheat Magician – 03 – Fruit PUNCH

After an awkward wet dream, Taichi and Rin are summoned by the Guild Master. While he motionlessly expositions the guild quest system, it becomes apparent that someone forgot to animate his lips. That’s okay. Rin and Taichi beat up a bar full of black market thugs off screen anyway.

Later, Rin and Taichi beat up a trio of assassins, and level up to Rank D. Then they have sacks of money for some reason before Myre asks them to join her party. Apparently we’re not supposed to laugh at a show for having characters ‘miss’ each other even though we, the viewer, have experienced less than ten minutes (and zero developments) of that separation.

It’s okay. Rin, Taichi and Myre go to a pear orchard and beat up monsters. Some lady kills animals and maybe a person at night and swears revenge…

Isekai Cheat Magician thinks it is better than Maou-sama Retry. This is not the case. It is dull because it is poorly paced, often not animated, and filled with generic characters who lack motivation, consistency, and context. Viewer discretion advised!

UchiMusume – 03 – Pie and Dragons

Our tale continues with Dale lamenting that he needs to go to work and leave Latina behind. There is much rolling on the ground and shouting like a child. Awkwardly, every character that deals with Dale from that point forward channels what we the audience are feeling: Dale is acting out of character and it is very very annoying.

While Dale is away, Ken teaches Latina how to bake Shepherd’s Pie. This incidentally reveals that Ken is not only a retired bad ass adventurer, but that he personally mentored Dale along the way. From the glimpse we see, Ken’s axes are probably the same axes hanging on the tavern wall.

Then back with Dale, we get murder. Emotionless, trouble free, murder. Apparently, in addition to Adventuring, Dale serves as an assassin for hire. In this particular case, he is killing supporters of the 7th Devil Lord. A young woman is among them and she looks, perhaps suspiciously, like she could be Latina’s mother.

UchiMusume’s sudden dark turns were a pleasant surprise this week. In addition to Dale’s brief kill spree, Latina reveals that her Father died because he wouldn’t abandon her. Emphasis on Latina being the one cast out by Demon kind. Latina, not her family, is the one in trouble.

The Verdict: There is value in contrasting Dale’s dopey side with his murder machine profession. However, the dopey side is too annoying to watch. This is worrisome because UchiMusume has good bones that are already straining to support the weight of its lack luster production values.

Also, the magic system of goofy long winded chanting is kinda stupid.

Isekai Cheat Magician – 02 – Lost Ones

Episode two devotes significant air time to the explanation of magic, power levels, magic user types and their characteristics. Rin is on par with the strongest mages of the realm but also has the unique power to control all 4 elemental forms of magic.  Meanwhile, Taichi is completely unique, having direct control over magic on a scale strong enough to defeat entire kingdoms on his own.

Following a few interlaced training montages that skip through the 3 weeks it takes Rin and Taichi to become skilled at combat, Lemiya and Myura reveal that ‘Lost Ones’ have arrived from other worlds before and, since Rin and Taichi were obviously summoned from another world, they probably need to track down the super mage that summoned them to figure out what is going on.

Call it a poorly paced mess, or fault it’s fannish compulsion to explain the details of magic, this episode successfully established its central characters, setting, challenges and immediate objective. Taichi lacks imagination and ambition, which make his absurd level of magic power a dangerous weapon if Lemiya (or someone else) can wield him for their own objectives.

On the flip side, Rin is creative and thoughtful enough to keep Taichi tethered. While her friendship with Myura could be a vector of weakness, Myura already considers Rin an equal. Perhaps even a friend.

Regardless, Taichi and Ren are ready to become adventurers, no doubt spending an episode or two fleshing out what that means, before setting out to find whoever summoned them and for what purpose.

Isekai Cheat Magician does not entirely feel like it knows what it is doing. In principal, this is a story of two friends who are both fish out of water. Taichi and Rin have a long history, which allows the script to play off their shared growth and conflicts.

For example, Rin’s ability to learn magic quicker than Taichi was a great chance to expand their relationship. Does Rin always do better than Taichi, does that bother him in some way, or does it flip the script on their expectations and change the dynamic of the relationship? Making Rin ‘more powerful’ than the hero could have been interesting in itself.

Unfortunately, Isekai Cheat Magician plays it straight. Taichi is the hero and he is the most powerful. Rin is his support and she gets powerful magic to lend that support. Evil is afoot. They will probably stomp all over it.

The verdict: ICE contains nuggets of interest. Rise of the Shield Hero aside, it’s not that common for characters living in another world to understand that outsiders can be summoned, and typically summoned for a good reason.

There was also a weird scene where Taichi kills a wolf and we get a close up of the wolf’s eyes as he does it. At first, alert but scared, then degrading to red lifelessness. Coupled with a scene of Rin killing monster rabbits, and ICE hints that Rin and Taichi (and the ‘good guys’) may not really be purely good after all. That seems awfully high above ICM’s head though…

As an episode, it was adequate but the abrupt jumps in time squeezed out any sense of satisfaction. As a show, there are glimmers of potential, but it is doubtful that ICM will come anywhere near that potential.