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!

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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.

UchiMusume – 02 – Dead Dad and Rainbows

Dale and Latina are settling into their new routine as young adventure dad and adopted demon girl… and Latina is doing a much better job! She’s learning human language very quickly, helping prepare food and cleaning around the pub. These efforts are melting thuggish hearts left and right but Dale is an emo mess.

Buckling under Rita’s stern guidance, he lets Latina join Ken on a shopping trip and buggers off to work. As luck would have it, Latina gets lost on said trip but makes friends with a pack of local kids by the end.

She also shows us that she can cast magic and tragic love for rainbows.

The Good: UchiMusume nails all the feels about watching children grow up, including the nervous adults watching it happen. It also sneaks in subtle world building elements, like side conversations about work scarcity and the dysfunction of job searching now that quests get posted to the internet/magic job board.

The Bad: Dear lord was Dale’s OTT character shift hard to watch. From gushing over Latina’s cute pronunciation errors to moping at the bar, his characterization lost the grounding it carried last week.

The Verdict: Episode two continues UM’s trip down safe-feels-lane but it wasn’t uneventful. Better editing and less Dale could have added contrast to Latina getting lost but it worked as a platform to introduce more kids her age to the plot. It was also fun to learn that Dale’s part of town is the sketchy part of town in the eyes of the rest of the city.

My concerns are long term. UM has to be about more than cuteness and more than day to day life at a pub in a magic world. Introducing the mystery of Latina’s broken horn and dead dad and the hints that some crime may be involved will feel cheap otherwise.

For now, the cuteness is good enough. Bring on all the feels!

Fruits Basket (2019) – 01 (First Impressions) – Anywhere Can Be Home

Honda Tooru’s backstory is almost comically tragic: her father died of an illness when she was three, and one day her mother was killed in an auto accident. The only relative who’d bring her in was her pensioner grandfather, for whom she didn’t want to be a burden.

Then his house needed months of renovations, so he told her it might be best if she moved into a friend’s house…only she felt too bad about staying at her one friend’s tiny apartment or to be another mouth to feed at her other’s. So she started living in a tent she bought on sale.

Unbeknownst to her, this tent is on private property belonging to the Souma family, one member of which, Yuki, is in her class. When they cross paths while she’s exploring her tent’s surroundings, she meets Yuki’s older cousin, Shigure.

When Yuki and Tooru walk to school together, his fan club, “Prince Yuki” aren’t having it, and give her a multi-pronged verbal attack. She’s saved by her yankee BFFs, Uotani and Hanajima, who you’ll remember, are not aware that their lovely friend is essentially homeless. But they have her back. In exchange, she helps them ace Home Ec by doing all the cooking, which she’s of course happy to do.

After school, Yuki walks with Tooru and they discuss the Zodiac (a subject first broached when she saw Shigure’s Zodiac knickknacks). In particular, Tooru voices her love of the Cat, even though it has no official place in the Chinese Zodiac. Tooru declares the Cat an “idiot” and that the math was never there for it to begin with. Before Tooru rushes off to work, Yuki tells her to look out for her health—no doubt sensing how thin she’s stretched.

After Tooru gives her appalling sad life story so far, through which she’s remained strong, upbeat, and committed to taking care of herself and burdening no one, we see her working so hard at her job that her older co-workers consider her a godsend.

Later that night, as she’s walking (or more accurately teetering) “home”—to her tent—she’s spotted by Yuki and Shigure, on a stroll of their own. That’s when she first learns she’s squatting on Souma land. Shigure can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of a high school girl living in a tent…but as Yuki says, it’s not that funny. And it isn’t! It’s heartbreaking!

It’s doubly heartbreaking because no one, not even someone as strong-willed and determined as Tooru, can go to school, keep up with her studies, and work as many jobs as she can to pay for that school, all while living in a tent. When Shigure hears a wolf howling, that indicates to him that there was a landslide nearby; possibly near her campsite.

They rush there to find her tent buried under a huge mound of earth, but because the photo of her mother is in there, she starts clawing at it, despite the fact she’s already running on fumes and about to keel over from fever and exhaustion. Shigure makes sure she’s in bed at their place while Yuki employs thousands of rats to help him dig out Tooru’s effects.

Wait…thousands of rats? What’s that about???

Before falling asleep, Tooru tells Shigure about how her mom only had a middle school diploma, and wanted her daughter to experience high school life rather than go right into the labor force. Tooru also recalls the last morning her mother was alive. She’s haunted by the fact she was studying all night and so slept in and didn’t get to say “itterasshai.” 

It was the one and only time she never said it, and that was the day she was killed in the accident. Like I said, Tooru’s story would be ridiculous if it weren’t presented to straight-forwardly and soberly. Once she’s out, Yuki admits that compared to her, he’s spoiled beyond belief.

After a dream of her mom that has her waking up with tears in her eyes, her first thought is to recover the picture, only to find Yuki outside, picture in one hand, and her other stuff in the other. He says there’s an extra bedroom on the second floor, and she’s welcome to stay there until the renovations at her grandfather’s are complete.

True to form, Tooru doesn’t want to be any trouble to them…but she isn’t. Besides, he and Shigure were just talking about how their household is in dire need of someone who is good at cooking and cleaning; Tooru likes doing those things—she even cooked for her mom! So it’s not like she’s going to be a freeloader.

All she has to do, Yuki says, is be Tooru and “go at her own pace.” That moves Tooru, because her mom said those same words to her.

It doesn’t take long for Tooru to learn that she’s not going to be the main source of trouble here, nor a source of strangeness. There’s plenty of that in the Souma family, as while they’re airing out her new room, a guy named Kyou who was lurking in a tree bursts through the ceiling and picks a fight with Yuki.

In the ensuing chaos, Tooru trips on a piece of wood and lands in Kyou’s chest in a kind of pseudo-hug. Kyou instantly transforms…into a cat. Her first thought is to rush him to a hospital, but a piece of wood falls on her head, and she falls into both Shigure and Yuki, transforming them into a dog and rat, respectively.

So there you have it; the secrets out: the Soumas are a family of animals representing the Chinese Zodiac, who normally have human form, but transform when hugged. Shigure understanding the wolves’ howling; Yuki’s inherent hatred of cats, it’s all explained. But more importantly, Tooru is no longer on her own.

There are people—strange, supernatural people, but people all the same—who have opened their home to her, and won’t hear of her roughing it any longer as she works herself into another fever. And while neither Yuki or Shigure represent a pig, their place is a mess, which is where Tooru’s skills come in. It’s a mutually beneficial situation.

I’m happy for Tooru, and can’t wait to see how her new housemates handle her discovering their secret. I may have gotten into this show nine weeks late, but it’s right up my alley, with a winning premise reminding me a lot of Kamisama Hajimemashita. Of course, that show is based on a manga first published seven years after the original anime adaptation of this show, so this has the older pedigree.

In any case, there’s a lot of warmth, moving drama, lighthearted comedy, and plenty of potential for romance here, and I’m looking forward to catching up with the rest of the anime-watching masses on what looks like one of the Spring’s consensus best.

Sarazanmai – 02 – Let Slip the Cats of War

As a reward for defeating their first kappa zombie, Keppi bestows upon the boys a silver “Dish of Hope” they can use to wish for anything. Enta snatches it and accidentally wishes for a hatchback-sized cucumber roll, shattering the dish and leaving the three with no reward (unless they’re going to eat that roll…which is on the ground).

Kazuki is eager to earn another dish that he can use not to fulfill his own wish, but that of his little brother Haruka. We learn that he is the “Harukappa” to whom Kazuki is sending selfies of himself-as-Azuma Sara. Kazuki’s only wish is that Haruka is happy, and a dish can only help that cause.

Meanwhile, Kuji Toi is up to more criminal mischief on behalf of his older brother, while Enta receives a Kappazon package meant for Toi—containing a handgun of all things—strengthening Enta’s belief he’s Bad News

When Nyantaro, the fat, awesome neighborhood cat Haruka adores, sneaks into Toi’s weed-growing lab and steels a shipment hidden in cat treats, another ludicrous chase ensues. Kazuki (dressed as Sara again) stops Toi when he threatens Nyantaro with his metal ruler, and refuses to get out of his way or stop following him.

The chase leads them to a couples-only theme park, an employee of which dresses the two up in bee costumes and insists they hold hands the entire time they’re in the park. Kazuki and Toi hold hands and chase Nyantaro on ride after ride, but can’t manage to close the distance, since we’re talking about a neighborhood cat here: if he doesn’t want to be caught, it’s not happening.

We learn a little more about the two bishounen cops from the end of last week, who appear to do an elaborate song and dance of their own to extract desire and create a new cat-based kappa zombie boss.

It’s apparent these two and Keppi’s three young helpers are working at cross purposes, but the cops’ specific motivations, beyond their commitment to “wring out the desire”, remain mysterious.

Not soon after their “performance”, thousands of cats start to float up into the sky, including Nyantaro, and Enta and Keppi (disguised as his date) meet up with Kazuki and Toi to discuss the situation. Enta warns Kazuki to stay away from the kid he’s currently holding hands with, but in order to get his little brother’s favorite cat back, he needs Toi’s help.

Events from there follow a pattern now familiar after the first go-around last week (in what I like to call the Ikuhara Formula): Keppi turns the three lads into kappa, they attack the zombie boss (this time a giant cat), and when they determine its secret (he kidnapped cats and shaved them to give himself a coat of fur so his girlfriend would take him back! Of COURSE!!), they  break through and extract its shirikodama.

Once that’s done, the guys go through the titular sarazanmai, during which it’s revealed that Nyantaro was owned by another family before Kazuki stole it so Haruka could have a cat (even if it was only a neighborhood cat). He defends what he did because he did it for his brother’s sake; his happiness trumping all other considerations.

With the second boss defeated, the lads receive another silver dish of hope, and Kazuki and Toi immediately argue over it, with Toi even brandishing his gun. Since both have brothers they want to make happy, and Keppi informs them they’ll need five to grant a real wish, Toi cedes the dish to Kazuki, but he’s getting the next one.

That night, Kazuki finally completes his mission to take a Sara selfie with a cat (specifically the rescued Nyantaro), to Haruka’s delight. Exhausted from the day of activity, he passes out right there in the park, where he’s approached by none other than Enta…who promptly kisses him! Looks like he’s got a secret too—one that re-contextualizes why he was so concerned with Kazuki hanging around Toi.

The two cops also now realize somebody is out there working against them. It’s likely only a matter of time before the two opposing groups clash. In the meantime, on with the hope-dish collecting!

After two episodes, I now have a better grasp of the beats and rhythms of a show that definitely dances to the beat of its own drum. With less head-scratching to do I could concentrate better on all the little details that contribute to making Sarazanmai such a fun and exciting little show that’s unafraid to challenge contemporary “norms”of gender and sexuality.

Sarazanmai – 01 (First Impressions) – Secrets, Lies, and Butt Stuff

“The world is full of connections,” muses Yakaza Kazuki at the start of things. Yeah, no duh, Kierkegaard. That’s especially true in Tokyo (Asakasa specifically), where many people are connected both by technology and the relatively small amount of space they share. There’s one connection in particular Kazuki never wants to lose.

Turns out that connection is a ritual exchange of selfies with the local idol, Sarakappa, who is constantly keeping the folk appraised of the latest Asakusa news via the public video screens. While Sara herself is taking a selfie, she happens to catch someone breaking into a car. That someone is Kuji Toi, who chases after her.

Instead, Toi encounters Kazuki, notices he has the same phone strap as the girl, and lunges at him with his ruler-cum-slimjim. Kazuki happens to be grabbing at statue of the Prince of the Kappa Kingdom, and in the ensuing violence, the statue is destroyed, releasing a great gust of wind.

The next day at school the two lads hear a clear ringing bell no one else can, and start compulsively acting like kappas, dousing themselves with water, doing a sumo dance, or eating cucumbers. Neither knows what the heck is going on.

The ringing leads them back to the destroyed statue (now a crime scene), where they are introduced to the actual Prince of the Kappas, Keppi, whom they awoke with their roughhousing. Keppi seems level-headed enough…until Toi dares to call him a “frog.”

Keppi reaches into their anuses (yep) and extracts their shirikodama, an organ containing desire, then gobbles them up and transforms them into kappas themselves. When Kazuki’s best mate Enta arrives to see what’s up, he ends up calling Keppi a frog, so he’s transformed as well. It’s a very gross process!

The gross weirdness continues when Keppi assigns them their mission: extract the shirikodama from a “zombie kappa” in the “Field of Desires,” a realm between life and death where no humans can see them, but where the kappa and zombie kappa dwell.

This particular zombie is hoarding stolen “Kappamazon” packages, and his deep dark secret is his compulsion to empty the boxes and place them on his head while naked. The three kappa-lads work together to sing a musical number, blast through the zombie’s defenses, reach and enter his anus, and successfully extract his shirikodama. Again, quite gross!

After the extraction, before they pass the shirikodama to Keppi, the three undergo the titular “Sarazanmai”—a connection of mind and soul between the three. Within that state, Toi learns that Kazuki and the girl he saw were one and the same, and Enta learns his best friend cross-dresses as an idol, all to send selfies of himself as Sara religiously.

The other two learn Toi is a car thief, but Toi isn’t outwardly ashamed by that, but after the initial embarrassment has passed, neither is Kazuki. Even when Enta tells him he’s cool with his “quirk”, Kazuki insists he isn’t asking for understanding, only for his secret to remain his and his alone…which is fair.

Post-ED (a lush merging of live-action footage, augmented reality lightwork and animation with a very catchy peggies song) there’s another strange incident involving two very pale, stylish cops extracting something from their prisoner, but that will have to wait until next week.

Sarazanmai is nothing if not visually bold and doggedly inventive with its madcap brew of mythology, symbology, philosophy, and sociology you tend to get from the work of Ikuhara Kunihiko. Its narrative isn’t always the easiest to follow but you can be assured it’s going to look and sound cool and explore ideas few anime do (especially when it comes to contemporary social issues), which definitely helps.

Non-fans of kappas (or, incidently, Ikuhara) probably need not apply, nor should anyone who is uncomfortable with the occasional…stylized anal extraction. But there’s a lot to like here so far.

Goblin Slayer – 02 – Not a Man’s Man, but Maybe a Goblin to Goblins

This week begins from the perspective of a rose-haired farm girl who is going off to the city. She gets into a fight with her childhood friend, a boy who can’t go with her. Jump forward to the present, and the farm girl is a very buxom farm woman who prefers to sleep in the nude.

She’s friends with the Goblin Slayer, who rents a place to stay at the farm. He has a routine of inspecting the entire area for signs of goblins, keeping her and her dad uncle safe for no charge. He never removes his mask—not even for breakfast—but it’s clear the farm girl knows who’s behind it.

When they go into town, she can see that while she admires the Goblin Slayer a great deal, neither he nor his singular task of goblin slaying are particularly well-regarded. His fellow Silver-rank adventurers look down on his shoddy arms and armor and his weak chosen opponent, while the Porcelains wonder if he’s really worthy of Silver.

And yet, while they’re all jockeying for position to get the highest-paying or most dangerous quests, he waits until the end, when all the goblin-slaying requests remain unclaimed. The priestess is there too, and will stay by his side even though he refuses to go to the aid of another party of rookies.

Turns out those rookies come back alive, well, and victorious; it’s often just the roll of the dice out there. As for Goblin Slayer and his new companion, together they bring down an entire mountain goblin fortress. The priestess uses a new miracle, “Protection”, but to trap the goblins to choke and burn in the flames.

The Priestess doesn’t much like using the Earth Mother’s miracles for such heartless slaughter, but as the guild admin opines, the Goblin Slayer is doing something that needs to be done. There has to be someone out there culling the herds of the weakest rung of foes, or else they won’t be so weak for long. That makes him, and anyone who aids him, a net good for society, methods be damned.

The farmer’s daughter niece knows this, and also is simply glad her childhood friend is still by her side, even if he never takes off his mask. Her father uncle warns her not to get too involved with the guy, whom he believes “lost it” ever since their village was raided by goblins, introducing the GS’s motivation.

While certainly unglamorous, the GS’s adventures are known by at least one bard in a city, who tells the tale of how even after he saved the fair maiden from the goblin king, he left her to keep wandering the wilds the rest of his days, slaying and slaying and slaying some more goblins.

A tough-looking she-elf approaches the bard after a performance to ask if it’s all true, and he answers in the affirmative, letting her and her party (an old dude and some kind of lizard-man, also tough-looking) know where they can find him. Do they seek a fight with our tortured, single-minded slayer…or a team-up?