Vinland Saga – 07 – Getting a Head in France

The Danish King Sweyn orders his armies’ English advances halted to give them time to rest for the winter. That means Askeladd’s crew’s contract work with the army ceases, which means they have to do as the birds do: migrate south in search of food.

It turns out there are already various factions within France fighting one another, including a siege on the Loire river in which a numerically superior Frankish force is unable to take a fort held by only a handful of their enemies. Askeladd sends in Thorfinn, older but still a kid, to make a deal with the besieging army.

Their general—who has a distorted cartoony design that resembles a fat toad, and with a weird voice to match—reluctantly agrees to ally with Askeladd’s men for the siege. The general’s out-of-place appearance is another sign that while Vinland Saga can be very realistic when it wants to be, it’s still depicting a highly stylized version of history and reality.

A more overt sign is when Askeladd’s men join the Frankish general’s armies in the siege the next morning, they come lugging their three boats on their shoulders and running at full speed; at least 25mph (the current record for human speed is Usain Bolt’s 27.8mph; he was not carrying a viking ship).

So yeah, even if the Vikings did carry their ships around on occasions when it was necessary to take land shortcuts, they certainly didn’t carry them that quickly, and I imagine when they were done carrying them they didn’t have enough energy remaining to not just fight a battle, but absolutely dominate in it.


Of course, challenging realism in this show is a slippery slope, so I’ll stop there, as it’s more plausible that after however many years Thorfinn has trained and killed for Askeladd, he’s become a finely-honed, ninja-like killing machine. There’s a long line of soldiers between him and their commander, but he cuts through them all like butter. Unfortunately, when he beheads the commander, the head falls into the lake, and the whole reason he went up there was to claim their leader’s head.

The Frankish general/prince was planning to betray Askeladd when it made the most sense to do so, but Askeladd betrays him first, pillaging the village of all treasure and leaving the worthless empty fort, and the victory, for the general.

Presenting the head of the commander, Thorfinn formally challenges Askeladd to the duel he’s owed once more, and Askeladd formally accepts…but only after they’ve escaped to safety. That means rowing their three big viking ships—likely overladen by treasure and other spoils—down a steep waterfall. Not only do the ships make it down without a scratch, but not a single gold coin spills out.

Despite all the action in this episode, it still felt rather static, in that Thorfinn and Askeladd’s unresolved conflict hung over everything, and the fact it was once again delayed despite Finn meeting the requirements feels like another artifical delay, for which their French excursion felt like so much window dressing. The comic-relief buffonish toad man and questionable physics further undermined the outing.

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To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 11 – A Blatantly Obvious Explosion of Suspiciousness

After that harrowing flight (during which Touma never answered the “beef or fish”, resulting in Index being served no food at all), Kaori and Knight Leader escort the pair to an audience with the British royal family, led by the very laid-back Queen Elizard (who carries herself more like a mafia don and would rather do business in a track suit) and her three daughters: Rimea, Carissa, and Villian.

The assembled individuals lay out the threats to Britain, both external (from France) and internal (a four-woman group called “New Light”). Index has been summoned to assist in the analysis of the magic used so that they can more properly locate the threats. As for Touma? Kaori doesn’t want civilians involved, but unless he wants to pay room and board in Buckingham Palace, he’s strongly “encouraged” to actively serve the interests of British peace.

That night (or thereabouts) New Light springs into action, which involves the four of them splitting up and taking up positions while carrying checkered magical storage cases. The clumsiest of the quartet, Lessar, nearly mixes her case up with that of a drunk at a pub where she’s enjoying a repast of fish and chips (good thing Index wasn’t watching), and ends up being chased by the always lovely Oriana Thompson, backed up by Touma.

Meanwhile, the New Light leader is cornered by Amakusa then chased through the London Underground by Itsuwa, before brandishing the weapons of Thor (though not his famous hammer) and slipping away. The two other members are taken down, so Touma and Oriana believe they only have to deal with two more.

They then learn that the four were carrying out a relay, magically transferring the true contents from one to the other. Before the relay can be broken by Oriana and Touma, Lessar completes it to a fifth case, which is held by Knight Leader, working for the second princess, Carissa.

The box contains “Curtana Original”, the powerful ceremonial sword wielded by Britain’s sovereign which contains the power of the Angel Michael (her mother only has “Curtana Second”, which presumably isn’t as powerful).

And so, Touma finds himself in the middle of a battle between British princesses and their allies for control of the kingdom, and with both Curtana and the legendary Norse ship Skidbladnir, Carissa seems to have the upper hand, having used New Light as glorified couriers.

It’s an exciting, action-packed romp in a vibrant new London setting where none the players, not even the royal ones (I liked their selfie with Touma) take themselves or anything else too seriously. This is all a bit goofy and ridiculous, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun!

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 10 – Next Time, Just Use Tsuchimikado’s Quinjet

As Itsuwa searches the internet for a sexy outfit to counter Kaori’s maid assault, Knight Leader stands ready to instruct Kaori on how to act like “a proper English lady” (and presumably dress like one, neither of which appeal to her), while a chance encounter between Touma and Misaka results in the latter getting “overcharged” at the vending machine.

Touma comes home to Index with instant yakisoba, but their meager repast is interrupted by a call from Tsuchimikado, whom Touma demands to keep it short, and he does: “Get your ass to Britain.” A moment later a knockout gas grenade is thrown into the apartment, and Touma and Index pass out.

At some point between then and when we next see the pair, they were given a choice to board Tsuchimikado’s supersonic jet for travel to Britain, but Touma chose the more comfortable alternative of commercial air travel aboard “Air Bus 365” (which sounds more like a make and model of plane than a flight number).

This would be fine, with the biggest problem keeping Index fed and quiet, but due to Touma’s boundless misfortune, the airliner they happen to board has been infiltrated by anti-Britain terrorists with agendas related to heightening tensions between the magical forces of Britain and France.

When Touma discovers something is amiss when searching for (what else) Index’s meal (we’ll never know—beef or fish?!) the flight crew arrests him lest a panic brew in the cabin. One of the terrorists then captures Index and tries to kill her, but Touma manages to rescue her. It’s a tense, claustrophobic situation and the flight crew seems ill-equipped to stop the terrorists, leaving it up to Touma.

On the ground in Britain, Laura Stuart and her logistics nuns represent at least one of the groups trying to bring the plane down (in her case, allowing it to land safely on a closed-off country highway). But their magical manipulation of the plane’s fuel gauges are overridden and the terrorist gets the pilot to regain altitude, so Laura has to switch to Plan S…for Stiyl Magnus, making his first appearance in the trequel.

Touma manages to track down the first terrorist and punches him out, but it isn’t long before he realizes there’s definitely a second, armed terrorist in the cargo hold. He uses hot tea to expand the ductwork so he can slip into the hold undetected, just like they do in the movies! Unfortunately the second terrorist is less of a pushover and has a grenade in his hand.

That’s when Stiyl arrives, perched atop a second plane below Air Bus 365. He uses his cards to neutralize the second terrorist, scolds Touma for not doing the bare minimum to protect Index, then departs as quickly as he arrived. Hi Stiyl, Bye Stiyl!

Air Bus 365 lands safely at Edinburgh; this is reported on the radio being listened to by what looks like another new group of magical users who are about to initiate a plan that will “break up the paradigm that is Britain,” suggesting they’ll be a key part of the complex magical conflict to unfold in this new arc, with Touma right in the middle of it.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 02 – We’ll Always Have Avignon

As Stiyl interrogates Lidvia and Biagio in the Tower of London (er, whoever they are), Touma lands in the Rhône River, right by the Pont Saint-Bénézet. Fortunately for him, an ally is on that bridge and jumps in the drink to save him.

That ally is the kind and lovely Itsuwa of the Amakusa Sect, who must change into skimpier clothes when her outfit is soaked by the rescue, leading to a couple of awkward scenes between her and Touma.

What connects Stiyl’s interrogation and Touma and Itsuwa’s advrentures in Avignon are The Right Hand of God, a group of individuals who have apparently successfully purged themselves of most of the original sin inherent in all humans, giving them some angelic powers.

Touma also learns that the Document of C is officially the reason for the demonstrations. Whomever has the relic wields more power than a president with Twitter, able to mold the masses into believing whatever they say, even if there’s no proof to back it up. In this case, they are being told the Academy City is evil and the source of all their ills.

Touma teams up with Itsuwa to locate the geoducts being used to remotely control the relic from the Vatican. In the process we once again witness the unique and charming Amakusa tradition of hiding magic in ordinary everyday objects like bottled water…or underwear.

Itsuwa’s attempts to render a geoduct inoperable are interrupted by a member of the Right Hand of God calling himself Terra of the Left. Despite the earthy name his attacks seem to be wind-based, but Itsuwa dodges and Touma nullifies the strikes with his Imagine Breaker.

Of course, it’s the same age-old problem with Touma: his power is almost strictly defensive; he can hold off Terra but can’t defeat him. Perhaps the addition of Tsuchimikado to Touma and Itsuwa’s ranks will help break the stalemate.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 3

And…the adorableness continues apace. No surprises here. This week we find out that Yune always wanted to travel to Europe, but now that she’s here she’s still not quite sure what she wants to do, or where else she may want to go next. I have to say, for a little girl to travel from Japan to France may not be all that big a deal these days, in the 19th century it must’ve been a momentous experience.

Claude learns from her and Oscar about Japanese houses and Sumo (leading to some hilariously inaccurate mental images) and how Japanese eat (with what appears to him to be dolls’ bowls and cups). We also learn Yune has an older sister, Shione (that’s funny, after the first episode I had complained that Yune was too young…and she had an older sister all along? Argh.) Yune’s name, it turns out, means “the sound of hot water,” something Claude learns while rather rudely interrupting her letter-writing (although to be fair to him the letter wouldn’t have made it to Japan on the flimsy paper she was using.)

Learning what her name means inspires Claude, who had been suffering from “smith’s block” to that point, uses the kanji “sound” in a sign, and makes a successful sale to a music store. He then buys Yune some high-quality stationary and the two meet after a brief rain to witness a typical but still achingly beautiful Paris sunset, that makes you feel like everything’s right in the world. Meanwhile, the entire Gallerie du Roy is the property of an unpleasant, bratty blonde girl who demands her footman locate the Japanese girl post-haste. Ruh-roh. Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 2

As the tiny Yune darts around learning about cheese, fresh bread, breakfast, spoons, and evil department stores, I couldn’t help but conclude than she, Claude and Oscar were having way more fun than I was having watching it. That’s not to say it isn’t fun; the episode was pleasant enough, but now we’re two weeks in and we still have no idea who Yune is and why she accompanied Oscar to France.

Perhaps that’s unfair. In a season full of complex narratives and sprawling casts, it can be tempting to try to fit this round peg into a square hole. No such luck; this series is unapologetic as it is diligent in its detailed depiction of ordinary everyday life in this time and place. The nearest thing to a looming conflict seems to be the big-box store, which looks like an elegant destination for shoppers, but a cancer to local specialty store owners who will die off one by one in its price-cutting shadow.

Will that shadow gradually move in and ruin the light and breezy mood of this series? Unlikely. One thing’s certain: Claude has warmed up to Yune much quicker than I envisioned. So far, this is about a girl in a strange new land, but knows the language, has made friends, and is discovering the foreign culture. What happens next? Rating: 3