Isekai Ojisan – 03 – The Things We Do for Views

Takafumi returns home to find Fujimiya and what looks like Elf from the other world where his Uncle lived. It’s definitely an effective hook, and then the episode rewinds an hour and change to a stark reality of YouTubers in February 2018: if you didn’t meet a certain subscriber and view quota, you’d be cut off from what had been a nice little revenue stream.

Takafumi discovers that one reason their channel is struggling is Ojisan’s tendency to type elaborate but ultimately awful replies to each and every commenter, many of whom are then put off and unsubscribe. This current dilemma reminds Ojisan of when the barrier of the Sealed City fell and 1,000 beasts arrived at the walls.

Naturally, his nephew wants to see and hear about this, so Ojisan switches on the ol’ memory recorder and plays back the events of those days. Notable is how pretty much everything Elf says to him could come across as verbal harassment (rather than the tsundere flirting it is).

When Ojisan nonchalantly shatters the barrier and the beasts arrive, Elf is resolved to fight them all herself while he runs—she likes him that much. But after a serously badass weapon unsheathing sequence and blasting herself towards the walls like a missile, she ends up splatting on the newly-formed barrier, the result of Ojisan asking the spirits to repair it.

No matter; Elf doesn’t tell any of the townsfolk that he dropped the barrier to begin with, and in exchange simply asks him to buy her dinner. But Ojisan, who always interprets her words and body language the wrong way, instead leaves the city without her.

Takafumi hugs himself in despair, and this is what Fujimiya sees when she arrives, trying to make a habit of being around her old friend. The thing is, Takafumi remains disturbingly oblivious to her affections, and even leaves her alone in his apartment to take care of some random errand.

Ojisan may not have much real-world romantic experience, but he can tell Fujimiya’s a good girl and she wants to be closer to his nephew. Unfortunately, Fujimiya does not want to talk to some frumpy uncle about this, so Ojisan borrows Elf’s appearance and voice and insists he’s Takafumi’s “aunt” so they can engage in girl talk. That brings us back to the cold open.

In order to get to the bottom of why Takafumi stubbornly only thinks of Fujimiya as a friend, he taps into his memories and then visualizes them. in them, a cretinous child mercilessly beats upon a helpless young Takafumi. Fujimiya asks where she is…and then it dawns on her: she’s the cretin. Form her perspective back then they enjoyed a “bittersweet” relationship, but just like Ojisan with Elf, Takafumi saw it more as bullying and abuse.

Elf!Ojisan marvels at how his nephew even managed to recognize a grown-up Fujimiya on the street, but Takafumi says he’d never forget her, and holds up a fist for her to bump while blushing profusely. Takafumi then decides that he and Ojisan should record a video of “her” playing Guardian Heroes.

Ojisan is naturally psyched…until he sees the final product: the video doesn’t show any of the actual gameplay—just Ojisan in the form of a sexy elf girl in a long hoodie playing off-screen video games. Ojisan is shocked and appalled, but the video goes viral, with 200,000 views and counting. Takafumi celebrates the great success of his hunch, while Ojisan reverts to his normal appearance before a terrified Fujimiya. I could honestly watch this offbeat, eccentric dynamic packed with amazing reaction faces all day!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Isekai Ojisan – 02 – Neon Genesis Osananajimi

Ojisan’s Youtube views are dropping, so he institutes austerity measures in the home budget—though only after he orders a copy of a video game magazine listing the final results of Sega Saturn reader’s choice. He learns that one of his favorite games, Guardian Heroes, was only ranked 197th. I never played that, but I did play the heck out of a Genesis game by Treasure called Gunstar Heroes, which was immensely fun.

After summoning lighting to sufficiently punctuate his moment of shock despair, Takafumi gets him to stop talking about video games and show him another recorded memory from his time in the isekai. When the village elder shows him to the Frost Clan member Mabel, who goes ahead and tells Ojisan what’s needed to unfreeze her heart, only for Ojisan to ignore all that and defeat the dragon without her Frost Sword.

First Takafumi’s uncle misinterpreted elf’s tsundere behavior as shit-talking, then he totally circumvents the other world’s “quest”. Those blunders aside, Takafumi still thinks enough of his uncle to give him a Sega Saturn for his birthday, which they play to ring in the year 2018.

Ojisan also shows Takafumi how the other world celebrated the new year, only for him to simply eat some chicken by himself and retire to his room. When he mentions Mabel visited in his room later that night, Takafumi switches off the Saturn and demands to hear more.

Turns out Ojisan convinced Mabel that her ennui and reclusive behavior were simply living her truth, and that there was nothing wrong with that, and she should go on doing it if that’s what she wanted. It is, and she does, which even Takafumi can tell is both teaching and learning the wrong lesson!

When Fujimiya Sumika first encounters Ojisan, she assumes he’s a rambling old weirdo and commits to walking a different route. However, it’s thanks to this route that she’s unexpectedly reunited with her childhood friend Takafumi, who has since grown taller than her. Sumika, who we see was once very attached to Takafumi when they were kids, is clearly jazzed to see him again.

She accepts his invitation to stop by his house, which she does after dropping off her groceries, only for the same weird old man she saw in the park to come in through the balcony sliding door. Ojisan initially treats Sumika as an enemy and tries to wipe her memory, but Takafumi intervenes, resulting in quite a bit of physical contact.

Sumika shakes off the attempted assault, but immediately takes the stand that Takafumi shouldn’t be letting his old uncle mooch off of him. When Takafumi confirms that his Ojisan actually does have magic powers he gained in another world, Sumika says what we’d all say: “So show me.”

It doesn’t take long even for someone like Ojisan to pick up on Sumika’s attraction to Takafumi, though she may deny it, leading him to bring up Evangelion, in which Asuka was a famous early example of the tsundere archetype (something Oji has yet to catch on to when it comes to Elf).

Sumika is actually moved by Ojisan’s sad tale that is actually ripped directly from the Saturn game Alien Soldier, at which point Sumika is fed up with having her emotions toyed with. Then Ojisan reads her mind, revealing she showered and changed before coming to Takafumi’s, and was disappointed to learn he had a roommate.

But while she’s disappointed, she also seems to still like Takafumi enough that she’s not going to stand by and do nothing while Takafumi is leeched on by a layabout charlatan. As with Elf and Mabel, I love Sumika’s dynamic character design. She’s cute, but still the tough kid she was when she first fell for Takafumi. It’s a shame Takafumi is 100% oblivious to her long-standing crush, but she and Mabel are fine additions to this colorful cast.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Isekai Ojisan – 01 (First Impressions) – SEGAwakening

Isekai Ojisan (Uncle from Another World) starts off efficiently and confidently. Takafumi’s uncle suddenly wakes up after 17 years in a coma. At first his nephew things he’s gone insane because he’s speaking in a bizarre language. But then Ojisan switches to Japanese, and demonstrates that he can do magic. Takafumi, who was about to basically kick his uncle to the curb, decides to rip up that paperwork and welcome him into his modest but too-large-for-one apartment.

There, Takafumi supplements his part-time job (or possibly replaces it) by making YouTube videos where Ojisan demonstrates his magic powers. They get decent views but also a fair share of haters, which disturb Ojisan. Since he hasn’t been in this world since 2000, for a Segaholic like him the Dreamcast was the pinnacle of gaming…and life.

Takafumi discovers that all phones are boring touchscreens now, and is crestfallen that Sega is no longer a console superpower. But Ojisan’s superpowers enable him to fly to the locations of Amazon and Ebay purchases so they don’t have to pay exorbitant shipping fees. He can also show his nephew his memories as if recorded with a 360-degree camera.

This is how Takafumi first sees the elf woman who apparently followed his uncle around for years and berated him. Little does the obviously romantically-stunted Ojisan know that Elf is of the type that would by 2004 be clearly classified as tsundere (though Asuka Langley Soryu was around three years before he was sent to another world).

There’s a running gag that his somewhat homely looks made most everyone in the other world—who is handsome, hot, beautiful, etc.—believe he was some kind of orc mutant. There’s a memory he plays (without audio) of rescuing three siblings from a real orc, and then they’re so horrified by his appearance the eldest bravely sacrifices herself, thinking he’ll kill her.

Visually speaking, the drab and de-saturated palette was a little concerning at first, but when we went into the other world where he lived, everything is bright and lacks the same rough texture—it’s a great contrast that also accentuates the heightened beauty of the other world and its inhabitants.

Overall it’s a great-looking show with a simple fish-out-of-water premise that’s easy to get on board with and enjoy the ride. The comedy hits, the faces are tremendous, and the cute tsundere elf girl is cute and tsundere. While it’s unfortunate the show is experiencing delays due to Covid, that affords me time to catch up.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 03 – All Things Strong and Beautiful

First, kudos must be dispensed to the OP and theme “Paper Bouquet” by Mili, which absolutely slaps. Second, kudos to the cool head and hewn granite abs of Princes Ashuna (MAO in a non-cutesy voice for once), who doesn’t flinch when a band of terrorists attempt to take her hostage.

The muscle princess is naturally on the same train as Menou and Akari, who also have to deal with the terrorists. One of them orders Menou (at etheric gunpoint) to strip, revealing any hidden weapons. To Menou’s shock Akari not only comes between them, but offers to strip in Menou’s place, protecting not only her person but her virtue as well.

Naturally, these thugs are no match for an established priestess like Menou. Momo, stashed a few cars back from them, makes similarly quick work of the terrorists before encountering Ashuna on the roof of the speeding train, also having no problem dispatching them.

Momo and Ashuna, not just a bodybuilder but a knight in her own right, proceed to exchange semi-cordial shit talk, complimenting each other’s strength, beauty, and fashion. Then, because Ashuna’s dad is on trial for heresy, she decides to go toe-to-toe with a Faust.

Their fight is marvelously epic and badass, but Menou’s got shit going on too. Turns out all of the terrorists swallowed red gems. This means once activated the gems consume the bodies in which they reside, then combine to form a summoned golem, in this case a red knight. Because Menou fights this knight in the engine room, the etheric engine is naturally damaged, causing the train to go out of control.

The extra speed doesn’t faze either Ashuna or Momo. Ashuna is enjoying the fight while Momo, still a novice but a Faust novice, laments how big of a hassle this “crappy little princess” has become. Momo turns her garrote-like saw blade into a humming sword, then a boomerang, which she uses to shoot some branches and twigs at Ashuna’s front, leaving her back wide open. Unfortunately for Momo, Ashuna manages to grab her and both are thrown from the train.

Menou’s fight with the red knight golem (such a cool concept btw) is complicated further by the arrival of Akari, whom Menou told to be a “good girl” but who thinks she is being a good girl by worrying about her new friend. Unwilling to find out what happens if the red knight swallowed up Akari (and her powers), Menou uses more ether than she’d like to defeat it quickly.

It should be noted that during both her battle with the knight and Ashuna and Momo’s duel, all three women experience a funky time shift of some kind. This almost certainly means Akari either consciously or unconsciously activated her time powers.

While the red knight is history, the train is still runaway and they’re nearing a station where another train is parked. With insufficient ether to stop it, Menou takes Akari by the hand and asks if she can borrow some of hers, something that normally wouldn’t be allowed…but her options are limited.

The yuri undertones of this scenario and Menou’s proposal are all too clear already, but become even more explicit when Menou actually borrows Akari’s seemingly bottomless stores of ether to bring the train to a stop. Menou mentions how she’s “lost most of herself a long time ago”, which means whenever she shares or combines ether with another, it causes a great deal of pain.

But while it may be painful for Menou, it merely tickles for Akari, who makes a few noises that could be construed as suggestive in addition to calling out Menou’s name during their, er, “ether transfer.” I apologize here as I’m not trying to make this seem hornier than presented (it’s actually presented quite matter-of-factly)—but Menou and Akari clearly share and go through something here.

The result of that something is that the train comes to a halt a mere inch from the stopped train. Somewhere in the woods Ashuna and Momo continue to spar, but thanks to Akari, Menou was able to save all of the innocent people on the train and deal with the terrorist threat. You have to think that with all of their wholesome interactions and Akari’s inherent goodness, at some point Menou has to start questioning her duty to execute her.

That’s not just true because Menou stood between her and a terrorist and offered to strip in her place, or give the little girl on the train courage to tough out the ordeal, or lent her the power to save everyone using a semi-taboo practice. No, what Menou contemplates—and which is vividly dramatized—is what really went down on that train before the day was saved.

Did the train actually crash in a timeline, killing everyone, and then Akari’s  time magic kicked in, rewinding things to before the point of no return? If so, how many times did Akari die and time reverse to get the right set of conditions for the train to be stopped safely? Like Menou, I can’t help but shudder to think, but it’s also fascinating to think about.

It’s a rare episode that can pull of so many cool concepts and action set pieces and still hold together beautifully thanks to skilled direction and pacing. It always helps move an episode along when it’s a train, but the technology, tactics, and emotions behind the characters were firing on all etheric cylinders here. I’m tempted to go back and immediately re-watch it, so thrilled I was by this ride. Time magic, indeed.

P.S. Somehow, the ED theme “Touka Serenade” by ChouCho kicks just as much ass, if not more, than the OP.

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 02 – Giving Herself Away

Menou isn’t expecting Tokitou Akari to walk out onto the balcony when she lands there, bringing them face to face. That said, the depth and quality of her training as an executioner is demonstrated admirably in their ensuing encounter. Menou first gets Akari to confirm she’s a Lost One by asking for her her class number. Then she immediately makes it plain that she’s on Menou’s side, trying to get her out of danger.

It’s interesting to hear Menou speak lies as easily as breathing this week, now that we’ve already seen her do this to the poor doomed Mitsuki last week. Akari agrees to escape with Menou, because she’s currently a prisoner in a fancy cage, so why wouldn’t she? But when Menou tries to kill Akari, the girl’s Pure Concept reverses time itself, nullifying the death she just suffered.

Menou has to once again improvise, asking Momo to distract the guards while she gets Akari out of the castle. From Akari’s perspective, Menou is playing the role of the valient knight saving her from her doom, right down to the mid-air princess carry. Akari can’t help but blush being in Menou’s sure grip. That night while Akari sleeps, Menou makes her report to Orwell, who tells her to bring her to the cathedral in Garm where there’s a ceremonial execution room that should do the trick.

The next morning Menou is all smiles with Akari, basically following her target’s lead by embracing their chemistry together and strengthening the illusion that they she has Akari’s best interests at heart, rather than preparing to deliver her to her elimination. I can’t underscore how tense and unusual this dynamic is. On one level I hate what Menou has to be, and that she believes Akari must die. On the other hand, maybe Akari does have to die to protect the rest of this world.

Momo’s fixation on her big sister figure/eternal crush was a bit one-dimensional last week, but here we see her jealousy over Akari’s sudden closeness to Menou combined with her genuine fear that Menou could be in over her head. Probably few people know Menou as well as Momo, and it could be she knows Menou has a nice and decent side that could prove a Lost One Executioner’s undoing. She forcefully insists she’s accompanying Menou and Akari on the train, albeit keeping out of sight.

Menou actually pretty much proves Momo’s concerns are legitimate by letting her have her way; a harder and less understanding superior would refuse Momo’s request and likely discipline her for insubordination. Menou and Akari’s arrival at the station is an opportunity for Menou to deliver some world-building exposition, as the trains run on ether, and magecraft is less magic and more a technology. When a lost little girl trips, Akari heals her, again making it clear Menou has to execute and ordinary, good person.

As charming as Akari is, with her references to an epic adventure together with shoujo-ai romantic undertones (it’s clear from the start Akari has a thing for Menou, and who wouldn’t when you’ve only seen the heroic and kind side of her?), by the end of this outing Menou is still committed to delivering Akari to her death.

Not just because it’s her duty, but because she truly believes that if left unchecked even someone as sweet as Akari could bring about the apocalypse. That’s not to say she won’t develop stronger misgivings about what she’s doing.

As for that “ceremonial room” (which is goddamn creepy hearing it discusses so causally), if it doesn’t work and Akari still can’t be killed, what then? In the absence of the means to kill her and any sign of her becoming a threat, Menou will only grow closer to Akari—and perhaps farther from the certainty of her organization’s cause.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 01 (First Impressions) – Pure, Just, and Strong

As isekai anime go, this one starts out pretty ordinary: after a stinger involving someone’s dream about being in a class where everyone likes them and they have one “best friend of all”, a boy, Mitsuki, is suddenly summoned into the court of a king, but when judged to be lacking, Mitsuki is promptly tossed out of the castle, where he meets the lovely priestess Menou.

Menou offers a roof under Mitsuki’s head and food and money if he’s willing to work for it. Menou informs him that he’s not the first “lost one” from Japan; in fact, this world has been so influenced by summoned Japanese, the culture there in full force. That said, this world still has its own strict social ladder in which the Faust, or members of the church like Menou, sit even higher than kings and lords.

Mitsuki laments he has no powers, saying the wizard back at the castle said they were “null”, but when Menou gets him to summon his powers, they learn that he actually has the power to nullify anyting, as in making it cease to exist. Once the kid realizes what this means, he immediately start to show signs that suggest he might well abuse that power if left unchecked…

…And so Menou checks him, plunging a dagger straight through his skull. Turns out her true duty is as an executioner of Lost Ones, neutralizing their threat to her world and its balance of power. This wasn’t Mitsuki’s story. It was never supposed to be. It’s Menou’s.

Mind you, Menou doesn’t enjoy doing this, it’s simply her duty, and considering how much chaos carnage a Nullify power could have caused, it’s a damned important duty at that. It’s just great to see the typical isekai (and typical dull MC) formula subverted so promptly and completely.

Menou understands all too well how important her role is, as she is the sole survivor of a calamity that resulted from a Lost One—another high school student from Japan—accidentally turning an entire town into snow (or something white and powdery).

Menou is saved when Flare, the priestess who will become her master, kills the girl. When the girl comes back as a giant snow monster, Flare’s old master Orwell takes care of it. I loved the haunting bleakness of the scene, with the snow (or whatever) serving as a stark contrast to the usual flame-themed dark flashbacks.

Back in the present, Menou meets with her aide Momo, who unlike Menou treats this whole business like a fun game, perhaps her way of coping with the things that must be done to uphold balance and peace (not agreeing with that philosophy per se, jut acknowledging it’s there).

Momo is also infatuated with Menou, an attempt to add some levity to a very dark and bloody business. When the king’s guards come to the church, Menou deals with them quickly and efficiently, while Momo takes care of the one who got away.

Momo determined that the second Lost One the king summoned after the boy Menou already killed is a “guest” of the castle. The king, being of the Noblesse class below the Faust, is hoping this Japanese girl could be used as a weapon to being the Faust down. The episode ends with Menou descending on the girl on the castle balcony.

Menou is immediately a complex and thus fascinating character to watch: ever since she was rescued from that disaster she’s been trained for nothing but what she’s doing, and even parrots Flare’s slogan that a priestess must always be pure, just, and strong. There’s a bitterness in the way Menou says it.

You could say she really is all three of those things, and that the potential threat of the Lost Ones justifies her cold vigilance and laser focus on duty. But to see her master Flare and her aide Momo seem to revel in their bloody deeds in the past and present, while she gives the boy she executed a proper burial, there’s definitely a kernel of moral conflict that this second Lost One will likely help to sprout.

Her Way of Life borrows a lot from its isekai predecessors, but I’ve always been one to say if you can tweak the formula enough that it’s fresh and execute it well, you’ve probably got me as a viewer. Menou’s complexity, concise world-building, the dark comedy of the would-be MC boy’s fate, and combat scenes that pack a punch all conspire to make this one a sure keeper.

Fabiniku – 08 – Night Pool

Jinguuji makes Tachibana make her first kill—a rabbit so they can eat—but it’s not just the two of them on their journey to the capital. They’ve picked up a hanger-on, Shen, who claims to simply want some company as they’re headed in the same direction. But Jinguuji suspects treachery afoot.

Sure enough, Shen drugged Jinguuji’s rabbit stew, making it hard for him to move. When Tachibana emerges from the apartment after a call of nature, she finds two strapping lads shirtless and ready for a donnybrook. Jinguuji insists Tachibana flee and he’ll figure it out, but to their surprise, Shen isn’t interested in Tachibana at all, nor does he find her cute in the slightest.

Tachibana, who believes her “only identity” in this world is her cuteness, is rarin’ for a fight, but as she bickers with Shen Jinguuji only grows more immobile, at which point Shen moves in for the…well, not kill, but back massage. Turns out Jinguuji was seriously fatigued and Shen just wanted to work on him. Of course, that doesn’t justify drugging people (in Tachibana’s case, with laxative!)

After Jinguuji and Tachibana institute a ten-meter rule with Shen, they arrive at Ishurna, the royal capital. After a brief tour and a bite to eat, they head to the supposed location of the prophecy they’re after: the Temple of the Goddess of Love and Beauty. When a fully-clothed, angelic priestess greets them, Jinguuji is extremely thrown off, having expected some kind of “night pool party”.

But once the priestess lures them in and asks them to change into extremely skimpy swimwear, they learn she herself is sporting a purple slingshot bikini under her robes, and takes them to the main area of worship—the very pool party/bacchanalian of Jinguuji’s imagination! It’s here where the priestess, who let the two wear their clothes, insists that they take if off and show the goddess what they’ve got.

When the priestess does reveal Tachibana in her microbikini, she also notices the seal on her neck, and everyone at the pool immediately loses their chill and starts talking about whippings and prison islands. That’s when Jinguuji takes some heat off Tachibana by tearing into their “crappy goddess”, then plowing through their feeble attacks.

He seems ready to give the slingshot priestess one of Brock Lesnar’s F5s when a well-dressed redhead busts into the temple and issues a “royal command”: the two weirdoes were summoned by the goddess and are not to be harmed! Could this woman be an oasis of sanity in a night pool of chaos, or simply guide our couple from one crazy scene to another, different but equally crazy scene?

Fabiniku – 07 – A God This Delicious

When Tachibana ends up a captive of the squid worshippers, such is the Premier’s vanity that she commits herself entirely to a beauty contest between her and Tachibana regardless of the fact the winner will be sacrificed to a giant squid. Even so, she loses to Tachibana.

Jinguuji and a village trader (who develops a thing for him) soon find and free the Premier, and they discuss strategy over her first hot meal in days (she’s been through some shit). The Premier agrees to work with Jinguuji to kill the Giant Squid God and save Tachibana.

Alas, any admiration or affection she might’ve been developing for Jinguuji is dashed when he uses her as literal floating bait for the squid, whom we learn is very particular about the girls he eats. After a whole day, the squid finally takes the bait at dusk. All the while, Jinguuji has noticed his strength has been sapped of late.

As Tachibana is carried in a cage litter for the seaside sacrifice, she curses the fact she and Jinguuji chose now to have another big fight. She remembers the first one, when she (or rather he at the time) fell behind in his studies and got mad at Jinguuji for not being an easy tutor.

The “useless eggplant” moniker was born, and the two friends didn’t speak for days. However, present-day Tachibana isn’t about to die before she can make up with Jinguuji, so she busts out of the cage and manages to wrest loose her tiara, thus instantly charming the men holding her captive.

This plan backfires when the wives and lovers of those men threaten to kill Tachibana before the squid can. Jinguuji tries in vain to pull the giant squid out of the water with his diminished strength, but regains that strength and then some when he hears Tachibana give an honest and heartfelt rant to the villagers about not judging people by appearances and taking responsibility for themselves.

Jinguuji rips the giant squid out of the water and impales its head on the statue of itself where Tachibana is clinging to dear life. Wounded but still alive, the squid notices Tachibana and attempts to eat her, and the Premier, soaked in black ink, almost helps by pulling Tachibana in.

But then Jinguuji tosses her his trusty Damascus steel kitchen knife, and the Premier, who you thought could sink no lower, pulls what in Demon Slayer parlance could be called a “Sleeping Zenitsu”, which is to say that for a brief moment she does something incredibly impressive and cool—in this case lopping off the squid’s tentacles and rescuing Tachibana in style.

The timing couldn’t be better, because up until this point the Premier had been little more than a walking joke and punching bag. Here, she plays a crucial role in ensuring Tachibana is safe…and goes a step further by grilling the village’s god and having a feast. Her actions are so audacious, the villagers agree to give up their power struggle make her their new leader.

Naturally the Premier isn’t interested, and as she runs from the villagers, Jinguuji and Tachibana make up. It’s not surprising that Tachibana even forgot she was mad at him, considering how much happened to her over the course of a day.

The episode ends with them basically exchanging vows: Jinguuji is to never take his eyes off Tachibana, while Tachibana is to never leave him again. Unfortunately, the Demon Lords generals have now learned that Jinguuji’s power is diminished when he and Tachibana are separated. Their vows will be more important than ever as they draw closer to the capital.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fabiniku – 06 – Cellophane Squid

When Schwartz summons the sleepy and adorable Goddess of Night (Noto Mamiko), the Lord, Lucius, and the town guard all bow their heads, while the goddess notices Tachibana, shrinks to human size, removes Tachibana’s pink coat, and reveals the tattoo that identifies her as a hero of the Goddess of Love and Beauty.

We not only learn that Jinguuji could be considered Tachibana’s “weapon”, as Gram is (or rather was) to Schwartz. They also learn that Tachibana’s charms affect different people in different ways. The lord hopes to enter into a mutually beneficial political marriage with Tachibana, which she seems to be receptive to owing to the promise of three meals and a nap per day.

Jinguuji proves to be more than just her weapon in this world, but also an important devil’s advocate. Tachibana is only looking at the surface benefits and ignoring the disadvantages of the arrangement with the lord. Chief among them is the fact that she and Jinguuji  have been having fun traveling the world rather than staying and working in one place. Rather than let the town become their next office, the two decide to continue their vacation.

While resting in the apartment between towns, Tachibana unearths a composition book from when she and Jinguuji  were in elementary school. Tachibana wrote that her dream of the future was “cellophane tape”, which Jinguuji admits made so little sense he was actually afraid. But it’s instructive that in response to the question “if you could only take one thing on an island with you, what would it be?” The young Tachibana wrote “Jinguuji”.

As for Jinguuji’s dreams for the future, he doesn’t let Tachibana read that part, scribbling over it with permanent marker. This results in a spat between the two, with Tachibana huffing as she walks ahead of him and calling him a useless eggplant. It’s this state of rancor in an unfamiliar land that contributes to Jinguuji losing track of Tachibana.

In the process of looking for her, he finds the same cart in which they briefly spotted the captive elf premier. She’s been taken prisoner to be used as a sacrifice to their deity, which demands only the most beautiful people. The vain she-elf tries in vain to use her “allure” to get her captor to free her.

To add insult to injury, the squid vendor shows up with a captured Tachibana, claiming she’ll be an even more beautiful sacrifice. Obviously Jinguuji will show up in time to save both beautiful women, but until then it looks like we’re in store for a lot more chaotic, irreverent comedy. I’m here for it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fabiniku – 05 – Ch(armor)ed

Lucius, perhaps sensing that Jinguugi and Tachibana might be useful, has them accompany her and the captive Schwartz to defeat a “Living Armor”. On the way, Lucius admits even he is not immune to “Audrey’s” charms, and feels compelled to give her a candy.

The peculiar thing about the Living Armor, which introduces itself as “Vizzd The Incomparably Skilled”, doesn’t so much kill its victims as…steal their clothes. Schwartz runs in headfirst and is the first to be disrobed, followed by Lucius, who is revealed to be a woman—which wasn’t really a surprise.

When Tachibana gives Lucius her pink dress to cover up, she reveals her slip, setting Jinguugi off. When he puts his jacket on her, the Charmed status only increases—such is the power of the “boyfriend shirt” effect. This leads to the two bickering about their “preferences” while Vizzd can get neither a word nor a blow in edgewise.

Jinguugi’s Charmed status and increasing irritability results in him making quick work of the Living Armor, revealing that Vizzd is really a small girl aligned with the Demon Lord was piloting from within. Lucius takes her to the station an interrogates her, but Vizzd is rescued in the middle of the night by a fellow Demon Lord underling, Kalm.

The next morning, Schwartz is hoping to get a peak at Tachibana in her bedclothes (which, dude), only to discover Jinguugi’s “Door to Tachibana’s old apartment” skill. Schwartz notes how much it seems to be a place where a guy lives, which is the perfect opportunity for Tachibana to reveal that she was once a 32-year-old male salaryman.

Schwartz is crestfallen, but Tachibana shows off her effortless ability to make friends—an ability Jinguugi has always been both envious of and perplexed by. Turns out Schwartz didn’t even know he could bring up a menu with his stats and skills. He seemingly activates one when a massive purple mouth-like opening forms in the sky above them…or could the color be a hint that this is that Kalm lady?

Fabiniku – 04 – The Black Swordsman

After much walking and much complaining by Tachibana, she and Jinguuji arrive in the first decent-sized town in this new world. Jinguuji doesn’t want to cause another incident like the one in the village where every man basically went nuts over Tachibana’s Unparalleled Beauty, so he hides it in the most inelegant way: a brown paper bag.

The Browns Fan look does keep men from becoming enthralled, but Tachibana does not like it. She wants Jinguuji to buy her a sword, so she takes off the bag to persuade him, and very nearly does. When the weapons store owner presents a golden hair ornament that will divert everyone’s gaze from its wearer, Tachibana tries to haggle the price with her beauty. This leads to more chaos, and to Jinguuji having to toss Tachibana into the apartment for her own safety and that of the people she instantly bewitches.

Back in the wilderness, she proposes staying in the apartment while Jinguuji does all the long-distance walking, but reconsiders this arrangement when heasks her what would happen if she was in the apartment when he died. The solution is that Jinguuji simply spent most of their gold on the dang crown, which Tachibana loves. As she walks through town, no bag on her head and enthralling no one, she notices how everyone is instead focused on her handsome companion.

The fact that Jinguuji is also wearing a Japanese business suit attracts one person in particular…Kirito! Well, he claims his name is Schwartz von Lichtenstein Lohengramm, but he’s actually a fellow Japanese guy who was summoned there by a goddess (not the same goddess who summoned Jinguuji and Tachibana, mind you). He assumes to have met a fellow “hero” in Jinguuji, but Jinguuji isn’t interested in the guy, who is clearly an otaku.

Schwartz also picks up a weird vibe from Jinguuji and Tachibana as they bicker, first thinking of them as a couple, then wondering if they’re a father-daughter pair, but the daughter has developed feelings for her dad which…the kid clearly reads a lot of light novels, okay?

Schwartz gets it into his head that he need s to prove that he’s a hero to these two, so he whips out his holy sword Gram and launches an attack at Jinguuji. We learn from his inner dialogue that the attack was much stronger than he expected, and that he hasn’t quite mastered his sword. This affords Jinguuji another chance to demonstrate his catlike reflexes when it comes to getting Tachibana out of harms way.

It also results in Schwartz being arrested by Lucius, an officer of the town watch, for destruction of property, with Jinguuji and Tachibana also brought in for questioning. Lucius’ boss gives Schwartz a chance to prove he’s a genuine hero summoned by a goddess by giving him a mission-based quest like one gets in RPGs. It looks like Jinguuji and Tachibana will also get roped into the mission to subjugate a “living armor” that collects magic items. Should be fun!

The Genius Prince’s Guide – 04 – Lord Gerard the Airborne

Whew…I must confess my head is spinning a bit after all that political ballet, which basically proceeds from the opening minutes (after the newly finished OP airs) to the final ones (there’s no ED this week). It begins with Wein revealing that he knows Lowa’s real real reason for being in Natra.

First, the weapons shipments meant to bolster the empire against civil war are distributed evenly among the three princes, to maintain the three-way stalemate. Their resulting collective weakness will lead to rebellions, but Lowa’s warnings fell on deaf ears, so her plan is to control which nation rebels first so her brothers would be persuaded to take the rebellion seriously.

Mind you, Lowa doesn’t want the rebellion to succeed, but she wishes both for the peace and security of the empire and to ascend as its empress. The nation she’s chosen to bait with an offer of marriage is Marquess Antgatal, who has a dimwitted boor of a son, Lord Gerard.

Lowa had hoped Antgatal would invate Natra to claim her hand, then have Wein and Natra thwart them to protect the throne. But then Lord Gerard arrives, apparently uninvited but lured by a letter to meet with and propose to Lowa in person.

Wein remains friendly and polite despite Gerard looking down on him, which makes Ninym so upset she has to calm herself by enjoying a brief spell sitting in Wein’s lap. As Wein unravels what he believes to be Lowa’s scheme with Gerard, we cut to Lowa discussing these same matters with her retainer Fisch.

The two have a little battle of wits in separate rooms, each tipping their caps to their respective geniuses. Wein intends to support Lowa in her manipulation of Gerard, but won’t go so far as to lend military support in the crushing of the rebellion.

At that evening’s banquet, even Lord Gerard can tell that Wein and Lowa go way back from their glances at each other. But he cannot possibly fathom how many intricate gears are turning in his host’s nor his would-be-fiancée’s pretty heads. He plays every bit the predictable pawn, putty in their collective hands…until he hears that Wein can handle himself with a sword.

Wein and Lowa’s internal duel of wits is totally usurped by Gerard’s desire to put the prince in his place and impress his future bride with a mock duel of wooden swords. Wein has to delicately balance not totally whooping Gerard’s ass but also not losing so blatantly he either comes off as taking a fall, or just plain weak.

I love how he only has moments to consider what amount of force and skill he should employ against his opponent, and the long and wide-ranging ramifications of such a seemingly innocuous activity. I also love how Lowa reacts to him having to duel someone well beneath his ability.

It’s just that neither one of these schemers could have predicted in a thousand years how the mock duel would end: with the drunken Gerard charging Wein, missing, and then crashing through the window of the banquet hall, and over the damn balcony, breaking his neck. It’s an expertly delivered and timed bit of absurd slapstick that also happens to instantly blast all of Wein and Lowa’s carefully laid schemes into smithereens.

Gerard’s father, Marquess of Antgatal, soon becomes convinced his son was lurder to Natra to be assassinated, and that the princess must’ve had a hand in it. War between Antgatal and Natra seems certain. Wein wants to be the first of the three parties to take the initiative in this newly swept-clean game board, but Lowa beats him to it by visiting his office…to surrender.

She’s decided that preventing the rebellion and saving her empire is more important than claiming the throne—for now—so that’s what she’ll focus her efforts on from now on. Wein has bad news for her if she was planning to borrow Natra’s armies: his kingdom can only afford to deploy 500 troops against Antgatal’s 4,000+.

With a military solution untenable, Wein seeks a political one, in which he and Lowa get Antgatal to confess to his knowledge of the brewing rebellion before a mass uprising occurs. Wein, Ninym, Lowa, and Fisch hole themselves up in the parlor for a long night of planning all new devious schemes. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Genius Prince’s Guide – 03 – Two Peas in a Pod

Last week’s episode might’ve featured a literal gold mine, but the ambitious battle animation of the first two episodes was writing checks it couldn’t cash, which I found distracting. This week is much more my speed, as even though it is mostly just characters standing or sitting around talking, the characters and the things they’re talking about present a gold mine of narrative and interpersonal intrigue.

Last week the only thing tethering me to this show was the winsome dynamic between Prince Wein and his self-professed “Heart” Ninym. But now I have a third character to invest in: Touyama Nao’s Second Imperial Princess Lowellmina Earthwold, AKA Lowa. Wein and Ninym’s old classmate and notorious partner in crime at Imperial military academy has come to propose marriage to Wein.

Lowa is, in a word, awesome, defying standard princess archetypes, and someone I fell for immediately. Lowa and Wein’s audacious scheming (and Ninym’s patience with both of them) harkens back to when they were all teenagers. When in public, in the presence of members of the court and other underlings, they comport themselves the way a Prince of Natra and a Princess of Earhwold are expected: formal and cordial.

Of course, Wein suspects the marriage proposal to be nothing but a pretext for Lowa’s latest scheme, so he and Ninym hide in chests reported to contain local Natran garb for Lowa to wear. She sniffs out the ruse instantly, then asks Fisch, the Imperial ambassador who now works directly under her, to guard the door while she chats with her old friends.

It’s here where Lowa, Wein, and Ninym can speak more like the comrades they were. At first it seems Fisch occupies too high a station for guard duty, but then Lowa reveals her purpose beyond marriage to Wein: she wishes to take advantage of the power struggle between her three brothers to seize the empire for herself…with Wein’s help!

All three princes could easily stomp out Natra, but they’re not united, and Lowa believes that she, a fourth choice, could break through the chaos and bring stability to the empire. Wein believes that Lowa proposing a coup is a bluff, but isn’t yet sure of her true true goal.

This is the same kind of scheming that made Lowa, Wein, and Ninym’s circle of friends famous at the academy, only now writ large, as both she and Wein occupy thrones and are now playing the real game. And not for one moment does Lowa seem in over her head or overly arrogant.

She’s just as sharp-witted and detail-oriented as Wein (likely more so since he’s the lazier of the two) leading Ninym and the others to call them two peas in a pod. But with at least the pretext of marriage and potential bluff of war laid out, the episode splits into little vignettes that enrich both the setting and its characters.

Falanya summons Ninym, weary about all the changes going on and worried she’ll be left behind. Ninym, showing her tender side, assures Falanya that with all the changes going on, one thing will stay the same: her brother will always cherish her, as she cherishes him. We learn Falanya always thought her brother would wed Ninym, but Ninym tells her she doesn’t need to be his consort; she’s already his heart. While that’s a sweet sentiment, it’s a bit bittersweet that even Ninym is certain Wein could never marry a Flahm like her.

Lowa continues her charm offensive by having Ninym and Fisch join her for a hot bath in Natra’s luxurious facilities. There, she insists Ninym dispense with all the formalities just as the three of them dispensed with their clothes. The two regail Fisch with a story from their military years, when Ninym challenged someone to a duel for being a racist jackass and mopped the floor with him, thereby gaining the esteem of the whole class.

I love the built-in history with Ninym and Wein that accompanied Lowa’s introduction. She just feels like an old friend. There’s also a wonderful bit of tension in not quite knowing exactly what she’s up to, though I’m loath to believe whatever it is would make enemies of her two friends.

From the baths, we check in on Wein tutoring Falanya, and by extension us, in the history of the empire, specifically how one formerly independent kingdom neighboring Natra, Antgatal, betrayed an alliance of similar kingdoms by joining the empire. Antgatal’s king was rewarded the title of marquess and given leave to govern his own lands. This segues nicely with Ninym mentioning Lowa’s prime suitor, the son of Antagatal’s marquess.

But Lowa doesn’t seem particularly interested in a political marriage to the grandson of an infamous charlatan. Indeed, she doesn’t want to be anyone’s consort, but has designs to rule as Empress. The genesis of this ambition was nurtured by Wein himself back in their academy days, when he said that just as people stopped eating with their hands and started using utensils, great change can come once enough people adopt it.

Wein knows Lowa would face a treacherous road should she decide to upheave the male chauvanist imperialist structure, where the majority of vassals support one of her three brothers while ignoring her despite her talents. To defeat the existing ideology, she must strengthen her own and wage war; the only other path is submitting to social norms and feeling dead inside.

Back then, Lowa asked Wein if, should she wage this war, he’d help her. He quickly responded “no”—and got a swift kick for it—but that’s mostly due to his lackadaisical nature that abhors responsibility, which to a degree still endures but is something he can ill afford to flaunt what with the fact he is prince regent of a relatively vulnerable kingdom. He eventually told her that if he couldn’t escape her entreaties, he “might help out a bit”, which brings an easy smile to Lowa’s face.

Back in the present, Princess Lowa wakes up, having dreamed of that conversation with Wein, to learn from Fisch that she’s been invited to tea by the Prince Regent. Knowing full well he’s not just interested in small talk, but trying to pry more information out of her about her designs, she enthusiastically accepts the invite. I too can’t wait for their next interaction.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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