The Faraway Paladin – 12 (Fin) – Illness of the Strong

Last week Will hit rock bottom as he fell into the same trap as countless other heroes, anime, isekai, or otherwise: trying to go it alone out of fear of getting others hurt. Fortunately, his beautiful first and best friend and brother Meneldor’s head is harder than it looks, and he’s not about to let Will slink off in the rainy night. Their first fight ensues, with Will even going so far as to break Menel’s arm so he can’t follow him.

He would’ve needed to break the other arm—and both legs, because Menel doesn’t give up. He employs the gnomes to knock Will on his ass so he can use his good arm to help Will up. Will surrenders. Reystov calls what befell Will to be the “illness of the strong”—an instinct to isolate oneself and take all the burdens on one’s shoulders—and knows many who succumbed to it and died.

Thanks to Menel, Will is able to realize the error of his ways. He can’t go it alone against the Chimera and demon forces trying desperately to keep the Beast Woods in chaos. He’s just one in a whole slew of variables in the equation necessary to break the demons’ hold on the region. Through careful scouting and preparation and by rallying his band of adventurers and priests, Will is able to attain a victory he’d never reach all by his lonesome.

Even the final boss chimera isn’t someone Will can take one by himself. Sure, he detects the monster using invisibility and even trying to trick them into lowering their guard, but Menel’s mastery of faeries, nymphs and gnomes provides decisive backup in the Chimera battle. With its defeat, Bee writes new songs of their heroic deeds to be spread throughout the lands.

As the party celebrates their triumph, Menel points out something that had totally escaped a naïf like Will all this time: that he is at this point the new de facto Lord of the Beast Woods. This is where Will learns another axiom common to heroes: true leaders don’t seek power, but it is thrust upon them. Will must either rule his new realm or choose some trusted people to do it for him as he continues his adventures.

And make no mistake: there will be more adventures. A second season of Paladin has already been announced, something I never felt was in doubt (though I’d also like to see second seasons of Shin no Nakama and World’s Finest Assassin). Will also has an ultimate goal: turning the City of the Dead into a City of Living—thus making Blood, Mary, and Gus proud.

Shin no Nakama – 13 (Fin) – Warm Milk with Honey

Last week certainly ended about as distressingly as it could, what with a sword-hypnotized Ruti having just gravely, possibly mortally wounded Tisse and looking for her next target. So I was both surprised and satisfied with Red’s elegant solution: getting Ruti’s sword caught in his butter-soft bronze sword and flinging it away, thus snapping his sister out of it.

Could the solution have been more difficult and drawn out? Absolutely, but more action would have taken time away from the emotional fallout of what had just transpired. Instead, the awakened Ruti sees her only real friend with a gaping wound and can’t do anything about it; her Hero’s Blessing ignoring her call. Thankfully, Theodora has the power to heal Tisse.

Theodora doesn’t ask Ruti or anyone else for forgiveness, because she was doing both what she thought was right and what her own blessing demanded. However, recent events opened her eyes to the cruelty and crushing loneliness of an unwilling Ruti’s Hero Blessing, and she that even if Red hadn’t left, she simply didn’t need a party anymore. I have to concur with everyone else that Theodora would make a better hero, because it’s what she wants.

Turns out Ruti’s new Blessing is called “New Truth”, with a skill called “Ruler” she’s using to suppress the Hero’s Blessing, losing its boons along with its burdens but in the exchange, becoming the ordinary girl with free will to choose her own future. Feeling the cold and sneezing from it is an amazing new experience; Ruti even looks forward to her first cold! I can’t tell you how cute that is, or how lovely it is to see her finally enjoy being able to taste food again.

After so much excitement earlier in her life, she seems to want the same thing as her brother: a slow, quiet life. In her case, that means starting a farm that grows medicinal herbs, thereby not only doing what she wants, but doing it in part to help contribute to Red and Rit’s business. Naturally, Tisse will be by her side the whole way, supporting her, because Tisse is unassailably The Best…as is Mr. Crawly Wawly.

Before heading off with Tisse to find some suitable farmland, Ruti joins the others at Ares’ funeral. It’s to the credit of this mild-mannered and decent series that he doesn’t suffer eternal agony; indeed he is someone to be pitied and not hated, for his plight wasn’t much different from Ruti’s. The fact the First Hero had six swords lends credence to the possibility they were an Asura Demon—with no blessing, which means they were a hero by their own free will.

The episode’s title is “Guide”, referring to Red’s Blessing, which I’d honestly forgotten until it was brought up several times this week. After Gonz and Mido help Red and Rit fix and clean up their shop and home, Rit confesses to often freaking out at night, worried Red won’t be by her side when she wakes up, because he’s the Guide, and one day he may have to guide someone else. Red assures her that won’t happen; that his journey has ended, and that she is his one, only, final destination, because he needs and loves her as much as she does him.

“Really? Then prove it!”, one might ask. Well, they proceed to do just that. After some adorable awkward fumbling attempts at foreplay, Red and Rit disrobe, hop into their big, newly-repaired bed, and make love for the first time. As one would expect of this show, it’s handled gently and tastefully. They even have a bit of profound post-coitus pillow talk, as Red admits his previous journey may be over, but he’s looking forward to a new one with Rit and the family they’ll have in the future.

Such is the narrative efficiency of this episode (without feeling rushed at all like a couple of previous episodes), we still have time for Red to take Ruti on a tour of Zoltan’s sights, sounds, and tastes. Thanks to New Truth she’s able to experience so much that feels like the first time, and is simply grateful she can be with her brother like old times…and sleep! Red promises he’ll always be there for her.

This leads to a potentially cliché scene where Ruti sits down next to Red at the shop (because she’s tired…and appreciates how good it feels to sit down when you’re tired!) and gloms onto her dear brother. Rit, suddenly jealous, proceeds to grab Red’s other arm. The two glare and growl at each other…and then break into laughter, all while a bemused Tisse watches.

Suddenly, the guild girl arrives at the shop to report an emergency: some demons have captured the adventurers sent to deal with them. She doesn’t need the Hero, just a hero, which Ruti proves she is regardless of Blessing when she picks up her sword and goes with the guild girl…because it’s what she wants to do.

This was pretty much a pitch perfect finale and the perfect way to end the series: by giving me what brought me to keep watching in the first place: a warm, cozy, almost iyashikei atmosphere to an isekai setting. I now appreciate the more action and plot-oriented penultimate episodes more knowing they were meant to make us long for the slow life, just like Red, Rit, Ruti, Tisse, and Mr. Crawly Wawly.

If they make another season of this mug of warm milk with honey in anime form, I’ll watch it in a slow heartbeat. The post-credit scene with Yarandrala and Godwin hints that that’s the plan.

Takt Op. Destiny – 12 (Coda) – Addio, Signor Disperazione

After one more look at the OP, beautifully animated but for the fact Anna and Cosette lack toes (that always bothered me), we go right into the final boss battle. Orpheus packs a punch and has a suitably calm yet menacing voice, but by making it a two-against-one fight, she allows herself to be distracted by a kick to the fact from Takt, allowing Destiny to blast the top half of her away.

She eventually regenerates, but it takes enough time that Takt is able to continue on to Sagan. It then becomes a duel between Destiny and Orpheus, and the lack of a frail human in their midst means they can really let their bedazzled hair down and have a proper brawl, captured with all the requisite concussive Mappa/Madhouse sakuga.

Turns out Orpheus really is the final true boss; Sagan can’t do anything but try to convince Takt that his cause is right and just. Oh, and the show finally lets us in on the secret of why exactly he’s doing all this: he wants to lure all of the D2s in the world to a sacrificial North America so he can take them all out at once, thereby saving the remaining six populated continents. Uh, my dude … Antarctica was right there!

Turns out both Heaven and Hell, and thus Orpheus, aren’t really trying to save the world so much as save their Conductor, whom they love despite his fatal flaw of choosing the wrong continent to sacrifice. Just as Takt isn’t hearing Sagan’s excuses, Destiny most emphatically Does Not Care what Orpheus says or thinks, and somehow powering up, manages to pummel the hell (and heaven!) out of her. Destiny just wanted it more, I guess!

Destiny joins Takt, cementing Sagan’s defeat, as Takt uses her sword to kill him, which shuts down all of the D2s running amok in the crippled Symphonica. Sayonara Sagan…you were never much of a character, and the little bit of pathos the episode tries to squeeze out of your situation in the eleventh hour didn’t really work. You were just another of the dime-a-dozen villains populating lesser anime. Takt Op. Destiny deserved a better baddie.

It’s main duo won me over, however. Destiny has been showing more and more emotion as she’s come into her own as an individual and not just an musical alien inhabiting Takt’s dead soul mate. She basically becomes another soul mate to Takt, staying beside him, holding his non-existent right hand as they lay on the beach, then giving him a farewell kiss before vanishing in a cloud of rose petals. It’s a beautiful scene filled with bittersweet love.

That brings us to the brief epilogue, which indicates Takt made it into suspended animation alive. Anna has joined the Symphonica, trading her belly-bearing tops for the organization’s marching band-y uniform. She also looks after a gold trinket with red trim, the only thing Destiny left behind, and which seems to allow Anna to transform into the next Destiny. As her out-of-left-field kiss hinted, she’s dedicated herself for being there for Takt when—not if—he wakes up. There’s still a lot of D2s out there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 23 (Part 2 Fin) – Be Strong and Wait

My interpretation of Eris’s reasons for deciding to sleep with Rudy and then run off with Ghislaine is twofold: First, she wanted her first time to be with Rudy, whom she loves more than anyone else. Second, her note about not being “well matched” should be taken literally: she is overmatched by him. Their encounter with Orsted proved it. So off she goes.

She couldn’t have imagined this would cause Rudy to revert to his old self, the one who, once shamed at school in one of the worst ways possible, could no longer leave his room, despite being surrounded by love, understanding, and kindness—first his parents, and later his neighbors. He rejected them out of paranoia they were all laughing at him. So in he stays.

This episode seems to hint that the isekai world is merely in Rudy’s head, and that he wasn’t actually hit by a car as he would have us believe. If that’s the case—I have no idea, and I’m also fine if it’s meant to be ambiguous—the isekai world is no longer an escape. He may have been reincarnated and given a second chance, but he’s the same depressed, paranoid, emotionally stunted man he was in the old world. Eris leaving him and him not being able to understand why was the straw that broke the ground dragon’s back.

He may not be surrounded by the same support system as the old world, but things are definitely looking up in Fittoa. I realize that part of why it looked so wasted and bleak last week was because Rudy and Eris (and we) were comparing it to how it once looked before the disaster. But also the bleak washed-out look reflected Rudy’s post-Eris leaving mood. But color is slowly returning to the land, and there’s hope in the voices of the survivors as they plant new crops.

As they  toil and sweat, the people of Fittoa long for a “return to normal”, but the old normal is gone and never coming back. That’s true for everyone, as Ruijerd confirms that the curse that makes humans afraid of him is gone. I’m so glad we got to see the big guy one more time, and his exchange with the three friendly townsfolk is one of som many scenes this week that moved me to tears.

Another one of those scenes is where Eris confirms my interpretation of why she left Rudy (not that it was very much in doubt), with touching details like observing how the hands of the one she relied on for so long were smaller than his. The wind blows her cat-hood off her freshly short-cropped hair as she climbs atop a rock to shout out her love of Rudy to the mountaintops, and her resolve to become strong enough to protect him when next they meet.

We also get brief check-ins with Tona, Zoruba, Geese, and the young adventurers they met in the Demon Continent. Everyone is moving forward, with their experience with Rudy and Dead End being something they’ll always treasure, even if they never see them again. Roxy, meanwhile, inadvertently becomes Kishirisu Kishirika’s newest savior when she pays the tiny troublemaker’s bar tab from the rowdy night before.

love how we get the briefest peeks of that party that pack a punch when we see how drunk Roxy got and how bad her hangover must be. But she’s rewarded for her generosity to Kishirika by learning that Paul, Lilia, Norn and Aisha are safe and sound and reunited in Millishion. We get to see—and cry from—this reunion scene. But Norn still wants to know where her mama is, and we learn that Zenith is alive somewhere in the Labyrinth City of Rapan on the Begaritt Continent.

Roxy also learns from Kishirika that Rudy is in emotional turmoil, but rather than go to his student, she trusts that he’ll pick himself off and be able to move forward without her assistance. She and her party are headed to Begaritt. At the same time, it’s a beautiful memory of Rudy, taking over the end-of-the-evening chores for Zenith when he sees she’s tired, that finally gets Rudy to sit up, get out of bed, and step outside his tent with his cloak and spear.

He’s able to push past the fear of everyone laughing and mocking him, because Zenith is family, alone, and in need of help. Unaware that Roxy is also headed there, almost ensuring a reunion, he has to go find her. For that, he has to get up and take one step, and then another, past the pain of being left alone.

In the real world, Rudy does the same thing, and while it’s a mystery whether this is symbolic look back at his past life or his actual life running parallel to his fantasy life, it’s a major breakthrough for our protagonist. Like the people of Fittoa planting new crops, Rudy doesn’t give in, stays strong, and looks toward a future where his family is reunited.

Meanwhile, at Ranoa Magic Academy, Sylphiette, sporting Oakleys and whose hair is now white, makes the case for the academy recruiting Rudy. It’s clear he too will need to be stronger if he’s going to defeat the Dragon God. But with Sylphy here and Eris working to become stronger, he won’t be alone in that effort. He just doesn’t know it yet, but hopefully he can follow the advice of his original parents and continue to be strong and wait, just as we must all be strong and wait for Part 3.

The aquatope on white sand – 24 (fin) – Fishness as usual

The eight-word review? It stuck the landing with heart and soul. Aquatope wraps with three big events, the first of which is the most workmanlike. The entire staff is mustered to stock the new White Sand Dome, and it unfolds mostly without dialogue, just showing us just how complex such an operation is, and how speed and efficiency is balanced with the utmost care and delicacy with the living things they’re welcoming to Tingarla.

The second big event is the first wedding ceremony. We start with Kaoru and Chiyu joining Kukuru, Fuuka, and Karin in preparing the little personal touches that make the ceremony special and memorable, like name cards that feature a sea creature that matches the personality of the named. The barefoot magical affair goes off without a hitch; even Suwa can’t help but smile at the success, both in terms of getting a couple married and getting their family and friends interested in aquariums.

The third big event is the Grand Opening of the White Sand Dome, for which there’s a line going out the door and all the staff are out on the floor to greet them. Karin is now an attendant, and Kukuru’s grandparents attend and are proud of the growth they see in Kukuru. That said, she still wonders if she made the right choice to stay in PR and asks her gramps what she should do. His wise-as-usual advice: do yourself the favor of turning the path you chose into the correct one.

Kukuru and Fuuka take a break at the White Sand Dome, and Fuuka recalls how when she first got to Gama Gama she felt like she was drowning in a dark sea, which is just how Kukuru felt after Gama Gama was razed. But neither of them feel that way anymore. They love Tingarla, and right on cue, the same “effect” once thought to only occur at Gama Gama happens in the White Sand Dome, as Kukuru’s parents and twin sister join her and Fuuka in reveling in the sea life.

The fourth and final big event is, of course, Fuuka departing for Hawaii (specifically Oahu, as we later catch a glimpse of Honolulu). The difference between their last airport farewell and this one is like night and day. There’s no frowns or tears, all smiles and heads held high. Kukuru says “off you go” to Fuuka like she’s leaving for school for the day, not two years. “I’ll be back,” Fuuka replies in the same casual way. By the time Fuuka is in the air, Kukuru is already back to work at Tingarla.

As I suspected, the two years practically fly by, both in that we get a time jump to Tingarla’s third anniversary and the day Fuuka and Kaoru return home. There are a lot of subtle changes you’d expect, both in Kukuru’s hairstyle to her more confident demeanor at her desk. You can tell she’s taken on what’s in front of her with all her heart, and thrived.

She’s not alone: Kuuya has embraced his role as chief attendant and senpai to his old friend Karin. Udon-chan is now Tingarla’s chef. Kai is back as an attendant, and Choko has found a pretty young mate. Suwa has promoted her from Plankton to Nekton…though honestly I would have been a lot happier if he just called her by her damn name.

While in the taxi back to Tingarla with Kaoru, Fuuka gets out to stop by the shrine to Kijimunaa that she and Kukuru set up in a little wooded area not far from the aquarium. Fuuka gives the deity an offering of Hawaiian Macadamia nuts. These last two years, she and Kukuru have continued to do what’s right, and everything has worked out.

In scene where the two run straight at each other and embrace, I had all the feels. I could feel the love between these two young women; I could feel the relief they were back on the same island together; and I could feel the strength and wisdom they’ve both amassed, finding and nurturing their new dreams. The spirit of Gama Gama lives on in both of them, and as Gramps said, the hardships they both endured eventually led to wondferful rewards.

To Your Eternity – 20 (Fin) – Goodbye For Real

It’s a quiet, contemplative finale for To Your Eternity, as Fushi tracks down Pioran and finds that she’s barely scraping by. Yet he’s reluctant to reintegrate himself into her life, as he fears she’ll simply be the next victim of the Nokkers, as Uroy, Oopa, and Mia became.

Fushi happens to have assumed all three of their forms, and he’s in Mia’s when Pioran finally gets wise to his, well, tentative stalking. He may be in the form of a girl, but Pioran immediately identifies him as Fushi, her old immortal friend. Just when he was trying to say goodbye for real, Fushi ends up back in Pioran’s orbit.

The creator narrates that he’s watched over Fushi, Pioran, and the donkey for a good while, and watched as Fushi continued to develop a full sense of self. When Fushi asks what Pioran wishes more than anything else, Pioran says she’d like to be young and beautiful as she once was. Fushi feels a nobility in Pioran, and being by her side is a noble enterprise.

But eventually the Creator’s warning comes to pass: eventually all mortal things wither and die. Pioran develops short-term memory loss and dementia, periodically cursing Fushi while begging him to kill her or leave her behind. Fushi doesn’t; he simply continues caring for her as they travel nowhere in particular. One day, Pioran is nearing death, but lucid enough to call out “the one following Fushi around”—the Creator.

She begs him to let her be reborn into something “that can be more useful to Fushi.” One thing I’ve always wondered is who is the girl in the OP with the purple-grey hair strolling on the beach. Now we learn, it’s Pioran, made young and beautiful again by the Creator, if only for a brief time before dying…and being transformed into an orb like Fushi.

Fushi mourns the loss of Pioran, and when he conjures the paper and pencil he uses to document his days, he comes across a parting note from the departed Pioran: “Do what you want to do, like I did!” He seems to take those words to heart as several decades pass. We encounter an adult Fushi having apparently just defeated a Nokker and laughing over his victory.

This is the end of the story of Fushi…but apparently only until Fall 2022, as a second series is planned for that time. We’ll see how his struggle with the Nokkers progresses, who else he meets who changes him and whose form he eventually assumes, and how many other ways this show will make me cry like a baby. If Pioran is still around in some form, it would be great if they could reunite. Fushi and Nokker!Hayase…less so.

While many episodes suffered from an untenable schedule and pinched production budget, and the Jananda arc was ultimately the weakest, this final episode marked a successful return to the series’ exploration and reflection on mortality, morality, and family, and made me excited for what’s to come.

The Promised Neverland – 23 (Fin) – Easy Win

“It’s an ending, that’s enough!”—Marge Simpson

I thought of those sage words—spoken to end a discussion of whether another ending was happy or sad—after the end of The Promised Neverland. This finale was, without a doubt, a series of scenes where dialogue is exchanged and things happen.

Like the previous episode, in which every single thing that needed to go Emma’s way did go Emma’s way, not a lot of it holds up to even cursory scrutiny. Unlike the previous episode, it wasn’t packed with enough stuff to keep my mind from dwelling on just how goshdarn fast things are moving.

And yet, it’s also an episode that tends to drag and sag during lengthy dialogue scenes. Starting the episode with Peter’s backstory, such as it is, was an…interesting choice? It really did nothing to make me care about him one way or another; I’m not surprised in the least he had his own brother Minerva killed, or that he rejected Emma’s call to join her in building a new world.

Ratri would rather slit his own throat (which he does) then even try to live in such a theoretical world; going out as a “Ratri”, descended from those who originally negotiated the great pact that split the human and demon worlds in two. Isabella and the mothers, who all seem to speak with one united voice, are also initially reluctant to go with Emma, who manages to convince her to change her mind. All is forgiven!

Now for the journey to the gate to the human world. Wait, the elevator takes them right there? And the pen, already literal deus ex machina, also happens to unlock the completely unguarded gate? Oh, and Emma, along with Norman, Ray, and the Lambdas, decide not to go through that gate? I commend the composer for accompanying the gate scene with suitably epic music, but other than that it’s just a lot; all at once, and all too easily.

The decision to remain while Don, Hilda, the mothers and the kids all go ahead to the human world is simple: Emma’s job won’t be done until all the farms are shut down. With Mujika’s help, she intends to create a new pact that won’t allow demons to raise children for meat anymore. So I guess Sonju was just joking when he was hoping to eat some free-range kids in the near future?

I was also a little worried when Emma and the others not going through the gate simply left them without checking out if it’s even safe on the other side. Those worries were short-lived, as beyond the white void is…modern-day New York City, immediately followed by an unanimated slideshow of the kids gradually assimilating to life in such a world. Judging from the stills, they don’t have much difficulty at all!

We then switch to a slideshow of Emma & Co. on their crusade that for all I thought would take the rest of their lives. I mean, you’re talking about rescuing each and every child currently imprisoned in the demon world. It’s a herculean effort many times larger than the already ridiculous operation that liberated Grace Field House in a single night with zero casualties.

But nope, it only takes a couple years or so. Emma, Norman, and Ray just suddenly appear by Hudson Bay one day, their mission apparently accomplished. Phil’s happy about it, because he doesn’t have to make good on his promise to go back after her. It’s all a little sudden, and random, and rushed, and weird. All my goodwill was spent mindlessly enjoying last week’s all-too-easy victories.

So it’s a totally, completely, 100% happy ending for Emma and the kids, who’d basically ceased enduring serious hardship or encountering setbacks of any kind after being forced out of their bunker hideout. But for me, it just feels like an ending, and a blessed one, as my enthusiasm for the direction of the story was waning by the day. An ending is enough.


Read Crow and Irina’s discussion on the final episode of The Promised Neverland right here!

Re: Zero – 50 (S2 Fin) – Number One Knight

The only thing standing between Subaru & Co. and winning the day is one of the Three Great Mabeasts, the Great Rabbit, who surround the Graveyard just as Subaru returns from the mansion with a newly-revitalized Beatrice. What with the weakness of her contractor (Subie) and the length of time since her last real battle (400+ years), Beako deems she has just the right handicap to make the fight interesting.

With that, she unleashes El Minya—a shower of pink crystal shards that obliterate bunnies on contact. They keep coming, but her contractor, Subaru maintains hand contact and uses El Minya as well until the Rabbits, not being truly infinite, reach their maximum number. Subie then builds a crystal paddock to restrain them, which Emilia traces and reinforces with her ice magic, rising them off the ground.

Having been given sufficient time to prepare it, Beako finishes the Rabbit off with Al Shamac, transporting it in its entirety to an isolated space—like the forbidden library—from which it will never be able to return. A great psychological weight lifts from everyone—and myself!—when they realize that the battle is over, and they won.

Just when Beako is hoping for a little more enthusiastic celebration, she gets more than she bargained for when Subie lifts her up and spins her around in elation. Beako and Roswaal pay their respects to Echidna, their mother and teacher. Beako realizes for the first time that the Roswaal before her is the Roswaal she knew—the product of soul transcription, Echidna’s dream was realized.

Given some time to themselves outside the graveyard during a gorgeous sunrise, Emilia bashfully, adorably broaches the topic of “the baby in her belly!” It’s a phrase that nearly causes Subie to jump out of his shoes, but is only the result of some god-level trolling on Puck’s part, who convinced Lia that a mere kiss like the one she shared with Subie is enough to create life!

What follows is a “purification ritual” at the chapel, in which everyone in the main circle Roswaal wronged is given a much deserved slap or slug to the face. Ram, who is recovering quickly thanks to Beako, doesn’t stop them, as not even she can deny he’s made mistakes—one of them never being aware how much she loves him until now.

Emilia and Subaru knows they need Roswaal’s power for the Royal Selection and Battles to Come, but what’s stopping him from turning on them again? He removes his shirt to show just that: an oath sealed by a curse, which he received after losing to Subaru (on whose chest it would have appeared had he lost). Gar and Petra object anyway, but defer to everyone else, while Lia is sufficiently satisfied upon hearing a simple “I’m sorry” from the margrave.

A little time passes, but not much. With Roswaal’s mansion in ruins, the house of Annerose Miload, of a Mathers branch family, serves as the venue for the knighting of one Natsuki Subaru by one Emilia. Before the ceremony, Roswaal informs Subaru that he still intends to bring Echidna back, blood, breath, and soul.

Because he lacks the Tome of Wisdom, and the pain of losing what may be lost in his quest to revive teacher might surely cause him to Burn Everything Down, he instead vows to keep a close eye on Subaru and the path he walks. Like Roswaal, Subaru has lost so much, but every time he picks up the pieces, refusing to lose anything, bearing every wound those initial losses create.

After some flowery dialogue, the deed is done; Subaru officially becomes Sir Subaru. Subaru marks the occasion by telling Emilia how sexy and cute she looks in her be-knighting outfit, and in another sign of how much stronger she’s become, Lia laughs it off and sticks out her tongue rather than crumbling before praise. More importantly, Subaru now dons world-appropriate clothes that match Emilia’s white-and-purple theme.

As the well-earned party rages indoors, Subaru goes out onto the balcony for some quiet contemplation, and Emilia soon joins him, accurately accusing him of being drunk…on himself and the atmosphere, not booze. Emilia tells him there’s something she wants to talk to him about, and asks him to come to her room later to do so, employing a pinky swear to seal their agreement.

Subaru assures her no matter what she needs to say, he’ll never become “disenchanted” with her. After all, she just made him her Number One Knight! Emilia compliments Subaru’s sweet face, and remarks that the scene they’re beholding just might be her “ideal”, and she’ll never forget it. It was at this point I was convinced a shoe or two would drop, pulling the rug from everyone’s feet and plunging the celebratory mood into some fresh devilry as White Fox often does.

But it didn’t! The fact Rem never woke up aside, this was a totally happy ending, not leaving us with any cliffhanger we’d have to stew with for an unknown duration until a third season arrived to sate our hunger anew. And I’m very happy about that, and where everyone stands at this stopping point.

The gorgeous way the episode fades to white as Subaru and Emilia dance a waltz while surrounded by friends and allies—that’s pretty much my ideal too! Emilia finally got the character-building arc she deserved, and cemented her role as Best Girl. The Royal Selection, Rem’s reawakening, and dealing with the Sin Archbishops can wait. For now, Let’s party!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 70 (Fin) – The Card of Love

With all of Clow’s cards now converted to Sakura Cards and her tussles with Eriol & Co. at an end, Sakura has little to think about but Syaoran’s unexpected confession. It puts her in a dazed state, and it’s hard to look directly at Syaoran or talk to him normally as before, something you know troubles her.

That said, he does tag along with Sakura and Tomoyo to Eriol’s mansion, which was once Clow Reed’s, after hearing the news that Eriol is moving back to England at once. While the three approach wearily, the only threat to Sakura is the surprise of a party popper upon being welcomed to a tea party held by Eriol, Spinel and Nakuru.

Eriol explains how all the Clow Cards would have eventually lost their magic if their new master didn’t make them her own. So he created “mischief” that enabled her to do just that. Had he told her, she wouldn’t have had the genuine urgency to successfully convert them.

Mizuki Kaho then arrives, having met Eriol while in England. When she learned he was Clow’s reincarnation, she resolved to help him pass the mastery of the cards to Sakura. Clow also tells Yue that while the Clow Reed he loved is gone and won’t be coming back, Yue is free to call him anytime to talk about Clow.

Syaoran gets a call from his mom and reports to her that the Cards are all converted and the threat to Sakura passed, and while we don’t hear the rest of the call it’s clear he’s being summoned back home to Hong Kong. He meets with Sakura after school, but doesn’t tell her he’s leaving. Instead, he expresses how glad he was to meet her, and how he became a better person thanks to her.

While Sakura feels likewise, she’s still not 100% sure what she’s feeling about Syaoran, but before she can say anything he makes a speedy withdrawal. For not waiting to hear Sakura’s answer, Syaoran gets a deserved scolding from Meiling over the phone.

Meanwhile, Sakura plops on the bed, physically fine but emotionally all over the place. She knows Syaoran feels different in her heart from anyone else, but because she’s feeling something she’s never felt before, she can’t describe it, even to herself.

It’s only thanks to Terada-sensei, care of Tomoyo, that Sakura even learns that Syaoran is getting on the 11 AM flight to Hong Kong. She retreats to her room and begins to cry, but her tears create a magic circle and we witness the creation of an all-new Sakura card. We don’t get to see what’s on the front side, but judging from Sakura’s smile I was pretty certain it had something to do with love.

With that, Sakura makes a mad dash to the airport (it would have been cool if she released her wand and flew there) just in time to catch Syaoran. She doesn’t say “I like you too”, but she doesn’t have to, thanks to Mr. Wei, who brought the teddy bear Syaoran left on his dresser.

Both Syaoran and Sakura know what giving the bear to someone means, so Sakura asks for the bear, and Syaoran gladly, tenderly gives it too her. It’s a beautiful, heartwarming ending to an always beautiful and heartwarming series, which is finally at its end.

I’d heard great things about the original Cardcaptor Sakura while watching and writing reviews for Clear Card, and now I can say with certainty that the original is the superior show by a large margin. That’s not to take away from Clear, which was still a lovely show, but this original was just that damn good. It was a particularly welcome salve in these trying times.

I’ll close by suggesting that if you’ve been reading these reviews without revisiting the show and want to be cheered up, head over to Netflix (your streaming service may vary depending on country) and get to (re-)watching—you’ll be glad you did!

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 23 (Fin) – A Hug and a Sword

She may have put up a brave front for most of last week’s episode, Alice’s cracks show at a cocktail party and culminate in an escape from Rath altogether. Kirito just gets off the phone with Rinko when he receives a large package.

Sure enough, it’s Alice, who shipped herself to his house! It strikes just the right balance of hilariously ridiculous and tremendously sweet, especially when you consider Alice isn’t just any heartsick maiden, but an artificial life form.

Alice has been unfathomably lonely since awakening in the real world, and who can blame her? She’s literally the only being of her kind in that world. She’s lost and adrift, but the sight of Kirito—or rather the physical presence Kirigaya Kazuto—soon soothes her, especially when wrapped in a big hug. He also tells her she is his hope, and the hope of all decent people in the world.

But Kirito can discern that she needs more than a tour of his humdrum family home. He takes her to the nearby dojo puts a practice sword in her hand, and the two spar. After defeating him with a cheekily improvised move called “Iron Headbutt”, Alice’s confidence and sense of self is restored. All a knight needs is a sword and a cause, after all!

Alice stays the night, and gets to witness a rare sight for SAO: the entire Kirigaya family seated around the dinner table. After his dad asks him to once again apologize for stressing them out during his latest mission, Alice herself defends Kirito as a hero in her world.

To her surprise, her father responds with pride that he’s aware of Kazuto’s accomplishments, and that he’s already a hero in the real world as well, making his son blush. Kazuto also informs his parents of his new course in life: to earn a degree in electronic engineering and join the Oceanic Resource Exploration & Research Institution, AKA Rath.

That night, Alice sneaks into a sleeping Kirito’s room, but not for that. She received a strange message through the network, and with Yui’s help Kirito determines the message is code for a specific IP address in which to re-access the Underworld.

Kirito, Alice, and Asuna meet at the Roppongi facility where Rinko helps them log back into the Underworld, two hundred years after leaving it. The three are shocked to find they’ve spawned not on the Underworld, but in orbit of it, out in space!

There has clearly been some possibly Macross-inspired technological advances in those two centuries, because Tiese and Ronie (or two people very much like those two) are “integrity pilots” locked in a desperate space battle with an eldritch abomination called “The Abyssal Horror”, all eyes, mouths, and tentacles.

Since the pilots are in trouble, Kirito, Asuna, and Alice all pool their considerable offensive powers in order to freeze, impale, and utterly destroy the spacebeast, all while the pilots gaze in awe and recall that the trio are historical figures back in the Underworld. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the planet surface and how things have advanced.

Granted, that would probably have been digging too deeply than what was required of this episode: a worthy send-off for Kirito, Asuna, and Alice, and a tantalizing sneak-peak at their next adventure, called the “Inter-Intellegence War.”

Whenever that new anime is released, I’ll certainly be there to follow our old friends as they hopefully manage to avoid falling into comas or being held hostage by perverts! Until then, I bid sayonara to the now-completed War of Underworld and ja ne to Sword Art Online. It was quite a fun ride.

Season Average: 8.55

Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia – 21 (Fin) – A Small Story About Us

This week is essentially a nice, breezy extended epilogue, full of goodbyes and see-ya-laters. After waking up back in Babylon, Ritsuka and Mash are received by Quetzalcoatl and Jaguar Warrior, who took part in ensuring the two returned safe and sound. They exchange proper goodbyes, and Big Sis Kuku makes sure to give Ritsu a big ol’ hug before vanishing into the either.

From there, Ritsuka and Mash return to the Chaldean Embassy, where Ishtar and Merlin are waiting for them. Ishtar reports that Ereshkigal is resting in the underworld, which will take a half century to repair after the destruction Beast caused. (Sadly, there’s no update on Ushiwakamaru’s fate). After bickering with Romani a bit and giving Ritsuka a flower memento, Merlin returns to his Tower of Avalon.

Gilgamesh and Ishtar are the last two servants to bid the Chaldeans farewell before the Rayshift home. Gil marks the occasion by gifting them a Holy Grail (though since the kids are underage they can’t drink the wheat ale within, so Gil chugs it). Ishtar vows to remain in this land until the end of the first Uruk dynasty, and Ritsuka and Mash are transported away. Thus concludes the Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia.

As we learn after the credits, Babylonia was only the seventh singularity in need of repairing to save humanity, not the final one. That, as Romani announces to a just-returned Ritsuka and Mash, is The Grand Temple of Time – Soloman. It would seem a Master and his Servant’s work is never finished.

And there you have it! It’s been a long journey since Episode 0 aired last August; certainly our own world has changed immensely since then. Grand Order was a fun and often exhilarating escape to a world where the small story of two people traveling between the pages of history, keeping those pages stitched together and ensuring humanity’s survival…with a little help from their friends. This ending made me again wish the previous six singularity arcs had been adapted to anime, but…c’est la vie.

Dororo – 24 (Fin) – Proof of Existence, Proof of Humanity

In the end, the brothers Hyakkimaru and Tahoumaru only had to endure one last thing: the missteps of their parents. When Hyakkimaru was born, Daigo decided to sacrifice him to the demons. Nui would have Tahoumaru later, but she never stopped loving her firstborn, and that ate at her second in its own way. Even Mutsu and Hyougou couldn’t replace the love of a mother that he always lacked.

As they continue their swordfight in the castle, Tahoumaru goes on about how the likes of Hyakkimaru doesn’t belong within the walls, and that unlike the post where Mutsu and Hyougou marked their heights over the years, there’s nothing there to prove his existence. This is ironic, as the castle itself is burning and crumbling around them, and all of that physical proof Tahoumaru values so along with it.

But even though Tahoumaru still has his human eyes, Hyakkimaru can still see the void in his brother’s heart; the same sense of lacking something as himself. They are no different, and despite their crazed fighting and bizarre modifications, they are both humans who have simply forgotten themselves, lashing out to fill those voids.

As Nui and Jukai enter the castle to try to stop the fighting, Hyakkimaru ends things on his own, not by killing Tahoumaru, but by sparing him. The demon eyes in his head still burn even after Tahoumaru accepts defeat, but he rips them out and offers them to their rightful owner. Hyakkimaru’s false eyes are ejected and his human eyes restored.

As a mass of demonic crystal surges with anger, the castle starts to come down, but both Nui and Jukai arrive in time to save him from being crushed by burning debris. He plunges his swords into the crystal mass, apparently exorcising the residual evil energy, but that also completes the destruction of the temple literally kept up by the power of those now-forsaken demons.

Jukai, Nui and Tahoumaru do not escape, but perish in the flames, while Dororo finds Hyakkimaru and the two climb up the well Nui used to gain access. Hyakkimaru sees Dororo with his own eyes for the first time and calls him—calls her—pretty, which really throws Dororo off. Biwamaru, who helped get them out of the well, stands with the two as they watch Daigo’s castle and surrounding lands burn in a purifying fire.

Once the flames recede and the smoke clears, Dororo is back in the village of survivors and invalids led by a few able-bodied individuals, including those he suggested start to live life without depending on samurai, using money instead of swords to maintain that life.

When they ask where that money will come from, Dororo says he’s got it covered. Dororo has decided, then, what to do with that fortune: use it to realize a community that runs itself, without fealty to some stern-faced lord.

As for the lord, Daigo is not quite ready to give up his quest to restore his lands to prosperity, no matter how many people, including Hyakkimaru again, he has to sacrifice to the demons in a new pact. That is, until Hyakkimaru takes a sword and instead of plunging it into Daigo’s back, pierces his helmet instead.

The helmet is a powerful symbol of Daigo’s status as something other than a mere human, so its destruction is a symbol of Hyakkimaru’s hope his father will live on as a human, something he too plans on doing. In the end, Daigo laments ever making the pact, as he now realizes he might have achieved prosperity simply by raising Hyakkimaru and letting him succeed him.

Bittersweetly, it’s not Happily Ever After for the duo of Dororo and Hyakkimaru. The two go their separate ways; Dororo to lead a new community in keeping with the legacy of her rebellious parents, and Hyakkimaru to learn how to walk the path of humanity after a lifetime of survival-and-revenge mode. With his new eyes, heart, and purpose in life, he has truly been reborn, and until he finds his way, it’s not safe for Dororo to be beside him.

However, the ending suggests that one day the two are reunited, as the young “boy” Dororo runs across a pier with a hopeful smile, he transforms into Dororo the older and more beautiful woman. At the end of the pier is a slightly older-looking Hyakkimaru, in all his human glory, welcoming her with a warm smile. It’s a shame a passing look is all we get, rather than an after-credits scene of the two conversing—but then again, perhaps their reunion is meant more symbolically, as something to which they both aspire.

In any case, both souls, once having lost and suffered so much, seem to be in a much better place, and have stepped out of the darkness and doubt and embraced their respective selves. While I wish we’d seen more of Dororo-as-a-leader, considering where we started, this was a logical and satisfying enough place to end.

Zoku Owarimonogatari – 06 (Fin) – Twenty Percent Interest

As is usually the case when involving Oshino Ougi, there’s a sinister aura to the “ghost classroom” where Koyomi finds her; like the last level of a game that may well end up kicking your ass because you’re under-leveled. That Ougi is wearing Koyomi’s boy’s uniform actually adds both to the sense of unique occasion and ominousness.

But if Monogatari has taught us anything, especially from the likes of Shinobu and Ononoki, it’s not to tell a book by its cover. This isn’t going to be a battleground, because Ougi isn’t Koyomi’s enemy. Ougi is Koyomi, and vice-versa. Case in point: the only reason their uniforms are swapped is because she thought it would be a funny prank.

Rather than a battle of fists or magic, this will be place where these two sides of Koyomi take the various pieces he’s collected in this mirror world and start to fit them together. Ougi starts with the easiest, most obvious, and yes, most cliched hypothesis: It was all a dream. Not just the mirror world, but all of Koyomi’s dealings with everyone thus far.

When Koyomi says if it was all a dream, he’ll consider it a happy one, wake up, stretch, and live out the day in a good mood. She withdraws this rather uninteresting theory relatively quickly, but answers him directly about being his double, not the Koyomi of the mirror world. She came to the world with him and helped him along the way, such as asking Black Hanekawa to save him.

She did this in part because Koyomi’s best interests are her best interests, but also because despite all her glaring and teasing, but because she is truly grateful to him for saving her from the darkness. That’s a tidy segue into the reflection rate of mirrors, with which Koyomi is already familiar thanks to Sodachi, who said that most mirrors only reflect 80 percent of the light.

The 20 percent that isn’t can be said to be absorbed, or erased, or executed. In any case, it goes into the darkness; into nothingness. Until that morning when Koyomi noticed his reflection had suddenly stopped moving. Koyomi didn’t pass through the mirror into a new world; he pulled a mirror world out of the mirror, saving the 20 percent of light that would have been lost—utilizing his innate mastery of all oddity qualities.

As has been established earlier, this world doesn’t really make sense as a reflection of Koyomi’s original world because the people in it aren’t mirror images, but other sides of who they fundamentally were, are, or could be. Here Koyomi learns why those other sides are what they are.

Gaen Izuko’s bitter memories created Gaen Tooe. Hanekawa’s regret about leaving town created her mini-me. Shinobu and Ononoki regained the humanity they lost. Koyomi’s regrets, and those of everyone else, that they either forgot or wanted to forget or pretend never existed, came back in this world. They gained their lost twenty percent back.

Ougi mentions that this isn’t something to be undone with the snap of fingers; Koyomi and everyone else actually experienced what it was like to regain that percentage, for good and ill, and will carry it with them from now on, even if they all revert back to the people they were before the mirror world was pulled out.

Perhaps most poignantly, the mirror world proved to Ougi—and any potential specialist who might place a target on her back—that there was value in Koyomi saving her from the darkness. That the darkness itself was wrong to think she had no reason to exist. In this mirror world, Ougi was Koyomi’s fail-safe. Without her, this story might’ve ended under the fist of the Rainy Devil.

In part as thanks for that, Ougi presents Koyomi with a zero-reflection, 100-percent absorption rate mirror, or a “slice of darkness” he’s to offer to Mayoi at the Shrine of the Polar Snake. There, at that focal point of the town, it will absorb the twenty percent of light he pulled out of the mirror, restoring the world to its previous state. But again, the “reminder” everyone got of that light—of their almost-forgotten regrets—will remain. With that, Ougi leaps out the window, her work there done.

Back home, Koyomi gets a knock at the door. It’s his girlfriend, Senjougahara Hitagi, trying out a new, adorable look that isn’t based on Hanekawa’s style. Her late arrival provides the perfect capper for a wonderful epilogue that explores how far Koyomi has come, and how he fears not knowing where to go from there.

He explains his last two days to Hitagi, about how after losing his title as high school student he looked in the mirror and summoned his regrets. Mind you, those myriad regrets weren’t all resolved to his or anyone’s satisfaction; they were simply remembered, faced, and acknowledged, which enables him to step towards the future a little more informed, so that he might hopefully avoid actions that will create more regrets.

In this regard, Hitagi’s total absence from the mirror world makes sense: Where she’s concerned, Koyomi has no regrets, and it’s reasonable to assume neither does she where he’s concerned. Koyomi creates a microcosm of his occasional hesitation when the two come to a crosswalk, where he used to stress about whether to lead with his right or left foot when the crossing light signals “go.”

Hitagi has a wonderfully Hitagi response to that: just plant both feet and take a leap, which is exactly what she does after taking Koyomi’s hand. Then Araragi Koyomi delivers a  stirring final monologue: “The long-continued story having come to its end, I remember my memories, leave my business unfinished, and leaving ample aftertaste and black space, towards the next story, we take a leap.”

Whew. It’s been quite a ride, leaping from one story, one oddity to the other over ten years and one hundred and three episodes containing many more individual chapters. I don’t think it’s a gross exaggeration to declare Monogatari, when taken as a whole, to be the most rich and satisfying collections of anime I’ve ever experienced.

It’s a series that has demanded time, patience, and at times, a certain twisted sense of humor, or tolerance for same. It’s downright bittersweet to think the book of Araragi & Co. has finally closed for good. But I’m glad I took the leap. Or should I say, a huge, joystick-pushing, lake-obliterating jump.

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