The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 01 (First Impressions) – Three-Second Rule

Now that’s more like it! While Lapis Re:LiGHTS felt sterile and lacked oomphThe Misfit has style, passion, and confidence in the story being told, and manage to mix some appealing character moments in with the obligatory introductions. It also teaches an essential lesson about being kind to others, especially family, and not judging books by their covers.

Within two minutes of arriving at the titular academy, our initially nameless MC makes a new friend and gains an enemy. During the entrance trials, that enemy learns that despite looking like a normal new student without a drop of royal blood, the MC makes sport of their duel, killing and resurrecting him at will until he loses the will to go on.

Contrast that with his attitude toward his new friend Misha, whose letter he picks off the ground before they met, can sense his immense power, and whom he invites for dinner at his loving, doting, conclusion-jumping folks. Those folks, by the way, reveal that their son is only a month old.

It’s abundantly clear before he says his name or reveals his true self that the MC is the reincarnation of the Demon King of Tyranny, Anos Voldigoad, and to its credit the show doesn’t over-explain anything. Instead it lets the cozy chemistry and quiet friendship between Anos and Misha play out organically, with her patting his head unbidden when he lists all the horrible names he’s been called.

Their instant easy rapport contrasts nicely with Anos’ absolute ruthlessness in the arena, be it a school-sanctioned trial or in the case of his would-be rival’s brother’s case, a sudden ambush. Where Zepes Indu was a cocky little shit, his brother Leorg throws racism into the mix, deeming only those of pure blood to be worthy of the Demon King’s power.

Before telling Leorg who he is, Anos simply shows him, by letting the older brother’s origin magic bounce right off (since Anos is the origin) then zombifying Zepes and forcing Leorg to reconcile with his brother in order to face him together. It’s interesting that this reincarnated Demon King isn’t so much concerned with toying with far less powerful opponents (though he does) as much as he wants to make them stronger so they can give him a fight!

Anos sensed from the start that as his descendants, the apples have fallen very far from the tree, but perhaps the first step to making them stronger is by strengthening the bonds of family. After all, he’s got himself some very fine parents, while Misha’s guardian also adores her (though her folks are apparently busy, she also has an older sister whom we’re sure to meet soon).

As Anos strikes down all comers, Misha stays by his side, heartened by his kindness and his offer to be comrades and friends, and there to tell him when his two-millennia-old jokes won’t cut it—an amusing quirk of Anos’ that isn’t overused.

Misfit of Demon King Academy is fun to watch but also gratifying because it feels infused with the enthusiasm of its creators, rather than feeling like an exercise of efficiently going through the motions. Most importantly, Anos is one cool, sassy dude; a nice complement to Misha’s understated charm. I’m definitely down to watch more of this!

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 06 – Bye-Bye Loneliness

After Karyl returns “30% better” (and a certain additional % traumatized) the Gourmet Guild departs from the big city for their first real quest. They’re headed to a village called Targum to harvest a treasured spice of the same name. There’s a palpable sense of adventure and occasion to leaving the walls of the city thanks to the heroic direction and stirring overworld score.

When they make camp for the night and Karyl is unsuccessful in catching any fish in the “useless” lake, she dreads a supper of bugs or frogs. Pecorine comes to the rescue with a plump fowl she caught in the forest, and slow-cooks in a pit for maximum juiciness. She also found some sweet ripe fruits, one of which Kokkoro is about to eat when the other three start acting drunk. Unsurprisingly, Pecorine isn’t that different drunk, while Karyl is sloppier and more sentimental.

The next day while everyone’s guard is down, Yuuki is suddenly captured by a mischievous behemoth, but he’s rescued by a forest elf archer named Aoi, who is a self-professed “lonely soul” so desperate for friends she made one out of a small log. Hanazawa Kana provides the voice for both Aoi and her woody friend, whose bizarre antics and monologuing even make Yuuki a little weirded out.

The others eventually find Yuuki, and Aoi leads the guild to Targum, where they meet Misato, who along with her sister and Hatsune form the group called Forestier. She’s glad for the spice harvesting help, and announces that a third group, Elizabeth Park (to which llama-girl Rima belongs) is also on their way to the village. The Gourmets eventually encounter the eccentric Hatsune sleep-flying…a term I didn’t know I needed in my life until I witnessed it!

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Park encounters a lot more trouble than a Yuuki-glomping behemoth. Rima and her three comrades (including Hatsune’s ill sister Shiori) encounter strange “dark doppelgangers” of themselves (just like a woodsman did earlier in the episode). Liz-Park proceeds to fight them to a stalemate until a powerful warrior named Christina blasts the foes away and challenges them to a fight.

Shiori is separated from the others, and her dark double returns and appears to consume her in a ball of dark energy, leaving no trace. Even though I’ve just met Shiori (and her very extra sister), her fate represents the most genuine unknown peril we’ve seen befall someone. I imagine spice harvesting won’t be at the top of Forestier’s list of priorities next week…they’ve got a sister to save!

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 05 – Hospital of Horrors

This week Yuuki has a bad fever, so the girls take him to the hospital. At least, they think it’s a hospital. The eccentrically dressed (even for this world apparently) Doctor Mitsuki and her nurse Nanaka assure them that they’ll have Yuuki feeling “30% better” in no time, and to leave him in their care.

Turns out Mitsuki and Nanaka are part of a guild of dark mages called Twilight Caravan who bring in the injured to use for their experiments. Their third member Eriko, possibly the most unhinged of the three, is the very person Yuuki “rescued” with an onigiri, and is convinced he’s her “soulmate.” What she intends to do with him is left shrouded in mystery…but it can’t be good, right?

What had been a “make sure Yuuki gets the medical care needs” mission turns into a “rescue Yuuki from the demonic hospital full of loons”—note neither has anything to do with cooking or food. Kokkoro creates a diversion with her stinky backwater ritual while Karyl and Pecorine grab Yuuki and sneak him out of the hospital. But Karyl realizes if the others are going to get away successfully, she must offer herself as bait to distract the doctor and nurse.

While Yuuki is rescued, the party simply swapped his captivity for Karyl’s, who appears in the sky with her thumb up in a less-than-convincing sign she’s okay. However, when they visit another doctor in town, he confirms that Dr. Mitsuki is legit and that the lad will be on the mend in a couple of days. That means Karyl will probably be fine when—and if—she’s released.

While I usually don’t give much thought to source material of anime I watch, the fact that this is based on a game with lots of colorful players was not lost on me when a bunch of new characters were introduced. This week there’s no sign of those, but instead we get yet another set of introductions, and while they are indeed colorful there’s not much else to them, and their antics rob time from the core quartet and their culinary mandate.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 04 – Cleans Up Nice

While Shironeko frustrates, PriConne delights, never more completely as this week, which leans heavily into slice-of-life to great effect. The Gourmet Guild’s new hall is a big mess on the inside, and takes the leadership role in making it into a home they can be proud of.

When Pecorine and Yuuki take all the furniture out, Peco discovers something important to their guild is missing: a big table at which to dine together. So she sets to work chopping down a tree to build one while Yuuki joins Karyl on deep-cleaning duty.

Kokkoro heads into town to buy some sundries, and meets former knight, now orphanage director Saren and her clumsy but loyal maid Suzume. Like every other character so far, both are effortlessly attractive in their design and style.

Saren seems much like Pecorine: someone from on high who has come down to live a life worth living, while Kokkoro bonds with Suzume over their appreciation of and devotion to their respective lords. Other nice details: the donkey is CGI, which is better than a badly-drawn donkey in my book!

It’s here where I’ll admit I love episodes in which a big mess is cleaned up. One of my favorite examples is the interior of Howl’s Moving Castle. Karyl seems to share my love of cleaning one’s abode in order to reflect one’s clarity of mind, and takes great pride in evicting every bug an snake and eradicating every spot of dirt or dust from the hall until it gleams.

However, there are still one or two bugs when she’s spotting Yuuki as he cleans the high windows from a stack of chairs. When Karyl panics and thrashes about, Yuuki takes a spill and is briefly knocked out. This is when he meets the host avatar from the first episode.

She’s pleased he’s managed to find so many companions who will help him grow, but warns him to be careful, as “the enemy” knows of his existence. It’s appropriate that the first person he sees when he comes to is Karyl, as he learned she’s having the “toughest time”.

With Yuuki back on his feet, Peco announces the table is done. It’s a beaut, too: sturdy, welcoming…and too big to fit in the doorway. I loved watching the trio attempt different formations and angles to no avail, but it’s not the end of the world. After all, if Peco could build such a fine table in a day, she can easily modify it so it will fit through the door.

While traveling home, Kokkoro and Suzume get lost in the forest and then the donkey runs off. Fortunately, they meet someone both useful and entertaining in Rima, a stylish, anthropomorphic llama, who is able to quickly deal with some bandits before eating a Metamorapple” to transform, mahou shoujo style, into an equally stylish woman. I’m sure we’ll meet her again, but even if we don’t, she certainly made an impression!

Kokkoro finally makes it home to find the filthy hall she left has become a cozy, spotless home. Pecorine has just whipped up a huge pot of tasty beef stew to celebrate a day’s hard work and commemorate the Gourmet Guild’s first night in their hall. The potential future trouble the host warned Yuuki about when he was out couldn’t feel further away.

That new table is a place you can’t help but want to have a seat at, just as these are people you can’t help but want to be friends and comrades with. It’s slice-of-life with a twist of fantasy done absolutely right, and like Peco with food of all types, my appetite for this kinda stuff is nigh boundless!

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 03 – Bugs are Best with a Squeeze of Lemon

Karyl spends the better part of a day observing from afar as Pecorine eats and eats and eats some more—all while her own stomach goes empty. This is just the vulnerability needed for Pecorine, Kokkoro and Yuuki to invite her to share a meal (of bugs) with them, and melt her icy heart just a little bit more. That said, she still outright refuses to join their Gourmet Guild, which makes the meek Kokkoro sad, as the gesture of officially signing everyone up is very important to her.

Thanks to Pecorine’s bottomless appetite, she’s soon out of cash, but the proprietor of her go-to restaurant offers her a part-time job. This further complicates Kokkoro’s plan as now some of Peco’s time is already taken up with work. However, Peco’s energy and passion for food makes her the perfect hostess and waitress, and even persuades some brand-new pint-sized patrons to try the bug menu when Karyl breaks cover to stop her.

Karyl has actually come because she has new orders from her apparent femme fatale boss: she’s no longer supposed to assassinate Pecorine, just observe her, so joining the guild now aligns with her objectives. Everything is interrupted by the sudden arrival by a huge ogre-like brute who will have the restaurant shut down if the food he’s served isn’t perfect.

When he breaks the proprietor’s wrist, it’s up to Peco to whip up the bug menu…but it’s Karyl with the lemon juice assist that wins the ogre over. That is, until he decides to toss the rest of his food on the ground. That’s when Peco summons her “princess knight power” to toss the brute out on his can.

Having helped save a beloved business from being shuttered, Karyl accepts the invitation to the Gourmet Guild, in her typical tsundere way (“you’d better be grateful!” and such). With that, the quartet is now officially a guild, and they can commence their quest for unique culinary treasures.

Princess Connect continues to emanate thick waves of charm from each of its characters and this week shows an ability to balance its core party with a host of new characters, all deployed surgically rather than crowding the scene. The mysterious demon girl Yuuki feeds, the adorable would-be guild Little Lyrical, Karyl’s boss, all show promise, while it’s great that the guys who stole Peco’s sword are now best buds with her.

Honestly, anyone would be a fool not to be friends with her: we’ve yet to see anyone who can match her prowess in battle…or at the dinner table!

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 02 – Friends are Delicious

Well, that didn’t take long. Princess Connect soundly beat Shironeko Project this week, and it wasn’t close. And it did it with a no-holds-barred charm offensive, introducing the fourth member of the party: a twin-tailed tsundere catgirl named Karyl (Kyaru).

We learn all we need to know about her as she observes three cats playing together while a fourth keeps its own company. Karyl identifies with this cat. Who needs friends?

Well, if your friend happens to be Pecorine, you don’t have to answer that question. The crusader lights up every scene she’s in, managing to be immensely powerful and a complete airhead without coming across as annoying or cliched.

That’s a fine line to walk, but she walks it extremely well, owing to her cool character design, fluid, lively movements, and of course great voice work from MAO. It’s just barrels of fun watching her wake up in a stable after a rager then win an eating contest for breakfast!

Karyl seems intent on making Pecorine acknowledge her power. She also has the ability to control animals, like an Orc just outside the city. Pecorine deals with the orc easily with her bare hands, and Karyl gets knocked out by that very flying defeated orc!

The reason Peco was in the right place was that she spotted the sword thieves (who are still around and still fun characters in their own right) and was attempting to catch up to them—not because they stole her sword (she thinks they’re just minding it for her as a favor!) but to deliver “Beriberi’s” medicine.

Karyl just so happens to witness the thieves get snatched up by a dragon, who was lured to them by Peco’s valuable sword. Since Peco, Yuuki and Kokkoro were nice to her, she decides to lead them to the dragon’s lair, but won’t lift a finger to help them separate the sword (or the thieves) from its clutches.

Karyl’s ulterior motive is to use her magic to control the dragon and demonstrate her power to Peco. Interestingly it’s not Peco but the amnesiac Yuuki who leads the charge against the dragon, defiantly standing before it, attracting it with his cloak like a matador, only to get hilariously snapped up as the dragon takes flight.

Peco tags along, first using her sword as a handhold and then the afro of one of the thieves. His roots eventually give way, sending Peco flying, but she manages to position herself above the dragon’s head and delivers a devastating blow, knocking it out of the sky and saving both Yuuki and the thieves from a sticky end.

Throughout all of this, Karyl is manipulating the dragon, having made it fly erratically to shake Peco off. However, on the ground she is helplesss against Peco’s luck, pluck, and brawn, the dragon proving to be no big deal at the end of the day.

Pecorine also ends up reunited with her sword, which is actually a good thing for Karyl, because the monsters she controls always have a tendency to land so close to her they manage to squash her. She’s saved by Peco and her sword, and Peco then goes into all-out Crusader Mode, cleaving the dragon’s fire breath then blowing it away with a devastating strike.

In the aftermath, all Karyl can do is gawk at Peco’s glowing magnificence…and you can’t blame her! This right here could have been the best battle of the season so far…something I did not expect, but for which I’m very grateful. The animation was smooth and sweeping and packed a huge punch, and underlining all of it is Peco’s God-Level energy an enthusiasm.

In the end, the quartet returns to Landosol (bathed in the light of another gorgeous golden sunset) and tucks into onigiri made from leftover lunch rice. Pecorine proposes the four of them create a “Gourmet Guild”, the object of which is to discover the tastiest dishes in the realm. Yuuki and Kokkoro are all about it, but Karyl reverts to tsundere mode and huffs off, offended that Peco would think she’d be happy about being included in such nonsense.

However, Karyl has a change of heart when she spots the three cats now playing with the lonely fourth. She takes a bite of the onigiri, made with love by Kokkoro for her companions, and thus tasting better. And while she claims to still not need friends, her recent escapades indicate otherwise. There’s no question of her eventually joining the guild.

Princess Connect Re:DIVE looks and sounds great, has an infectiously upbeat tone, and is legitimately funny. Kokkoro’s expression whenever Yuuki is suddenly injured is growing on me, while Peco is never not entertaining, whether she’s kicking serious ass or being a charming space cadet. I also like how food will be the focus of the party’s efforts going forward. It took two episodes, but I’m sold!

Tower of God – 02 – The Irregular at God Tower High

The battle royale continues until there are only 200 fighters remaining. At that point all fighting stops, and Bam and Aguero don’t have to fight the big Croc-man Rak Wraithraiser. The second test is totally different from he first: find two allies in five minutes. Bam already has one, and with so little time, he and Aguero simply have to stall Rak until time’s up and then glom onto him. It’s in this manner Bam finds himself on his first team.

Other teams are similarly products of circumstance or proximity, such as the elite-level Anaak and Hatz being teamed up with the much weaker Shibisu. I was glad to see little bits and pieces of other characters’ personalities, from these three to Shibisu’s female counterpart to the guy who just likes sleeping. This is a quirky bunch, and a few will be sticking around longer than this week.

Interestingly, it was at this point that I started thinking of Tower of God so far as a high school affair in another skin. Most participants (the human/oid ones anyway) are fairly young, and exhibit certain qualities that remind one of the jock, class clown, loner, slacker, etc. archetypes. Aguero could be a StuCo member, while Rak a beefheaded athlete. Bam is, of course, the transfer student; the irregular.

Every one ends up on a floating structure called Evankhell’s Mothership, and are met by administrator Lero Ro. He’s a Ranker, which means he’s already made the climb to the top of the Tower. If Bam is a Red Whistle (in Abyss parlance), Lero is a White, having been all the way to the end and back. Doing so means he’s mastered shinsu, a water-based magic that gives one immortality and immense strength.

Lero creates a shinsu barrier to push the remaining contestants back, and they must pass through it to pass the test. Either due to Black March or his innate magical potential, Bam is the only one who isn’t pushed back and instantly passes. Lero chalks it up to luck, the most essential commodity in the Tower.

While they wait for the others to pass, Lero explains irregulars (Bam’s classification). They weren’t chosen by Headon, and they don’t follow the Tower’s rules. When Bam’s team, Shibisu’s team, and others pass through, Lero takes his leave of Bam, but warns him about getting too close to Aguero. With that, we move on to the venue of Test #3.

While it lacked the sense of occasion and epicness of the premiere, this second outing was marginally more interesting due to the more diverse forms of testing. It makes sense that the first test would be a simple battle to weed out half of the participants. Fighting prowess is a necessity in the Tower, but it’s clear that being able to ally oneself with strong friends, not to mention endure high levels of shinsu, is even more crucial.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 01 (First Impressions) – Beautiful Candy

From the director of KonoSuba comes an anime that also takes place in a beautiful fantasy world. I’d argue it’s slightly prettier as a show, but lacks the “bite” and “spark” of its isekai counterpart. That said, there are some well-timed jokes, particularly involving two mangy wolves who can’t keep their jaws off the protagonist.

That said, the characters of Princess Connect! could easily populate the world of KonoSuba, what with their detailed and elaborate outfits. Unfortunately aside from the “amnesiac” protagonist, the “eager-to-please” elf guide, and the “space cadet” onna-kishi, there’s just not much to define these characters. They’re just…nice. Just nice people. Where’s the fun in that??

That said, it is nice for a change to have a protagonist who simply shuts up and lets things unfold around him. In Yuuki’s case, that’s because he remembers almost nothing about his first go-round in this world, and his vocab is limited. So no snarky narration either!

Mostly, Princess Connect! draws you in with its exquisitely lovely scenery and lighting. Whether it’s a grassy field at mid-day, an ornate cityscape at sunset, or forest-nestled ruins, the eye candy is strong, it is everywhere, and it screams “quality” to an extent I didn’t really get from Shironeko Project.

When things heat up, PC also demonstrates a keen eye for action, as the onna-kishi, ditzy as she is, demonstrates some awesome offensive power. She reminds me a lot of Darkness if she wasn’t a masochist and her aim was better. That the episode ends with her tripping balls on mushrooms is pretty great though!

Where Shironeko had a strong (and very urgent) narrative thrust that made its environments secondary to the characters occupying them, PC is content to relax and take its time, often pulling far back from the characters to admire their lovely settings. While this didn’t knock my socks off, I’ll stick with it for now, since it’s hard to walk away from such luscious visuals. I just wish it leaned into the comedy more.

Hachi-nan tte, Sore wa Nai deshou! – 01 (First Impressions) – A Slight Improvement

In this suddenly wintry economic climate filled with the fear of viral transmission, the prospect of nodding off in front of your self-quarantine dinner and waking up in a completely different world…doesn’t sound so bad?

Our protagonist doesn’t live in Coronaland (the first anime to reference is probably a couple seasons off), so his is a more general ennui towards his meager lot in life. But when he wakes up at a sumptuous wedding banquet in the body of a five-year-old boy named Wendelin, he rightly presumes that lot has improved greatly.

Alas, the extravagant banquet was only to keep up appearances for the noble guests of his noble family. In reality, they’re dirt poor, sad little lords of a backwater knightdom. Their grand manor is falling apart, and the next meal he has is dry brown bread and soup that’s mostly just water.

Not only that, he’s not the third son of the lord of these lands, but the eighth, when factoring in two half-brothers. Meaning despite technically being nobility, nothing of the very little his family has will ever come Wendelin’s way. And yet, this is still probably a better deal than his salaryman existence.

That’s because in this world our protagonist has mana, which means he’s able to perform magic, something only one in a thousand people in this world can do. Yet after reading a very brief note on how to use a crystal ball to measure his mana, his father’s library doesn’t have any other material on harnessing that mana. More to the point, his Dad can’t even read!

He heads out into the woods to try to figure things out on his own, hastily drawing a magic circle, striking poses, and calling out names of spells to no avail. That’s when he’s approached by Alfred Rainford, a former court magician who sensed Wendelin’s mana and is confident he’s bound for great things.

When Alfred accidentally drops a boulder on a giant wild boar, he helps Wendelin summon his wind power and unleash it on the charging boar. It doesn’t do much, but it’s pretty good for a very first try, and Alfred takes care of the boar with a much stronger and more focused wind spell. Still, he thinks Wendelin will surpass him one day.

Sure enough, this episode begins ten years after the MC arrives in this world. He’s a cool cocky teenager wearing the same magician’s robes as Aldred, and having tea with no fewer than four pretty ladies (who mercifully don’t fight over him). I’m not quite sure such a flash-forward prologue was necessary, but I guess the show didn’t want to keep us in the dark about whether Wendelin would make it in this world.

The 8th Son? Are You Kidding Me? is…fine? It borrows elements from Youjo Senki, except that the MC becomes a boy rather than a girl and is in a Renaissance-era world rather than WWI steampunk. It has some decent moments of levity. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in its spirit of escapism. But even with Re:Zero 2 pushed to the Summer, this show is likely to be supplanted by better isekai anime airing later this Spring.

Tower of God – 01 (First Impressions) – They’re Just Like You

This is the story of Rachel, the girl who climbed the tower so she could see the stars, and Bam, the boy who needed nothing but her.

I like it—Succinct and concise. Efficient and elemental. Stark, yet beautiful. Before we’re tossed into the present, we get a brief look at the past: the last time Bam saw his beloved Rachel. Rachel is bound for the greater heights (literally) of the Tower, and Bam can’t go with her, so it’s farewell.

Rachel’s intolerance of the darkness of their world, and desire to see the stars at the top of the Tower, meant more than remaining with Bam. Meanwhile Bam can’t tolerate living in a world without Rachel; she’s his Eureka to his Renton. So when the opportunity to climb the Tower presents itself, he takes it.

That means dealing with the Tower’s caretaker, Headon, who presents the first test: avoid a giant steel-clad eel and break a black sphere. Two other challengers appear in Princess Yuri (who gives off strong Tohsaka Rin vibes) and her attendant Evan. They lend him a “Pocket” that translates their speech and does other things.

Yuri isn’t impressed by the frail-looking Bam, but the point of the test isn’t to defeat the giant eel, but simply to stare death in the face and not flinch. Needing to be with Rachel more than he fears deah, Bam passes that first part of the test. And because he has a cute face, Yuri lends him an heirloom of her family, a sword called Black March.

Bam lets the eel swallow him and then wounds it from within, but the black sphere proves too hard, even for Black March. That’s because Bam is trying to use his own strength without asking Black March to lend him hers. Yuri is again skeptical it will listen, but like her Black March likes his cute face.

The sword is also moved by Bam’s story of being saved by Rachel some time ago, when he was trying to break out of a dark place rather than cutting into one. Rachel told him about the stars in the sky.

He comes to see her as one of those stars, which means to climb the Tower and reach the sky is to return to where she belongs. He, in turn, wants to return to her warm, celestial light. Black March stuns the eel and shatters the black sphere, and Bam is transported to the second level for the next test.

Yuri, initially surprised by Bam, now knows the score, and decides that she and Evan will follow. Because there’s something she loathes more than she fears death, and that’s boredom. Not a princess to live within the walls of the palace, she seeks adventure, excitement, and entertainment, which Bam looks primed to provide.

The second test takes the first—facing death and not withering—and adds a new challenge: summoning the will to take life, not just preserve one’s own. It’s a battle royale involving 400 “regulars” (Bam is non-regular) that quickly drops below 300. Bam realizes what he must do and prepares to do it, but ends up locked in a firing circle with three other combatants, including a blue-haired student and a lizardman-like hunter.

Tower of God is disciplined, refined, and concise in its themes and crystal clear, if relatively shallow, in the motivations of its characters. It balances the simplicity of those elements with solid, confident execution. I dug the Bones-style character design and the rough old-school line work, and of course, Kevin Penkin’s gripping, eclectic score; he’s a composer who instantly elevates any work he’s tied to. Hayami Saori soars as Rachel in a role perfect for her.

Tower of God, the first big-league anime from Lee Jong-hui (AKA SIU) and animated by the venerable Telecom studio, has apparently been hugely anticipated by fans of his webtoon (which has amassed 4.5 billion views worldwide). Speaking as a newbie, I can see why. Everything in this episode conspires to create a gravitas that’s hard to fake—an atmosphere of seriousness, significance, and auspiciousness that calls to mind shows like Steins;Gate and Attack on Titan, which have their own massive fan legions.

To quote the space rabbit Headon, “I’m interested in seeing what’s next.”

P.S. Read Crow’s review of Tower of God Episode 01 here.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 01 (First Impressions) – Back to Fantasy Basics Done Right

Golem, Guardian of the Forest, never once doubted his purpose in life: to observe and protect the natural processes of the forest with a minimal of interference. Enter Somali, a human girl in chains he encounters. Suddenly, the parameters of his purpose have changed dramatically, and lacking emotions, he isn’t quite sure why.

What if, a fantasy anime didn’t start with a guy being transported from Japan to a new world? Or if, humans weren’t in charge, and monsters and demi-humans weren’t an oppressed minority? Somali and the Forest Spirit provides a welcome return to classic meat-and-potatoes fantasy slice-of-life, in the best traditions of Studio Ghibli—not to mention Disney.

The premise couldn’t be more elegant: Stoic Golem meets Exuberant Kid. While he teaches her how to live, she teaches him how to feel. But the fact said kid is a human is a big deal in this world. There was a legendary war between humanity and monsters, and the monsters won. Humans became a source of food, then curiosity before all but dying out.

Somali, therefore, is endangered in more ways than one. The sense of dread and imminent danger of revealing her lack of horns (sewed into her hood), as well as when Somali strays from Golem to follow a not-quite cat, brings a nice sharp-but-not-too-sharp edge to the proceedings. So does the fact the Golem’s arm is damanged; he may not be able to protect her from everything.

Still, while there are certainly dangers in store (though they may or may not reach the level of Made in Abyss craziness), the heart of Somali is the never unhumorous repartee between the two leads. Somali talks, well, like a kid should talk (Minase Inori is right in her wheelhouse), while Golem is much more verbose and robotic, as one would expect from a Golem.

With rich and lovely visuals, an appropriately otherworldly yet conventionally-orchestrated soundtrack, a strong central duo with fun dialogue, and just the right amount of inherent danger, Somali and the Forest Spirit checks all the boxes for a MagicalChurlSukui-Approved anime. Onward!

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.