In / Spectre – 15 – So Generous, It’s Creepy

This episode was an emotional roller coaster! It begins by rewinding from Yuki-onna’s request to Kotoko to the police detectives questioning Masayuki. Their reasons for suspecting him of murdering his ex-wife are numerous: Mahiru left a note accusing him should she die suspiciously; the beginning of his name scrawled on her hand; and camera footage of Masayuki with a woman that looks just like her.

The police have reasonable cause to suspect, but not arrest Masayuki, and his failure to definitively state he had no alibi doesn’t help his case. But what choice does he have? He can’t tell the police he was having tempura and drinks with a yuki-onna on the night of Mahiru’s murder. Why, they’d think he was nuts…even though it’s the truth! Days pass and the police don’t bother Masayuki again, but it’s still looknig bad.

Then Yuki-onna, who was present in rabbit form for the entire talk with the police, asks him if she looks like his ex-wife, and he admits that she does, so it was Yuki-onna in the camera photo. Hers was the face of the one person in his life who didn’t betray him, but he admits he felt bad for marrying for whom he was otherwise unsuited.

Masayuki decides he’ll head out and try to find the real culprit, but Yuki-onna tells him to wait, and when he keeps going with a full head of steam,. she freezes him in his tracks—literally! 

Yuki-onna correctly diagnoses this as Masayuki being impatient and restless and wanting to prove his innocence at any cost, but with no leads and nothing to go on, the best move is to stay put, eat some food, get some rest. Then she remembers that her Ladyship, the Goddess of Wisdom, is just the person to solve this case, so she reaches out to her.

Yuki-onna flies Masayuki deep into the mountains to a cave where Kotoko is waiting. Rather than her going right into the particulars of the case, Masayuki gets a better taste of who Kotoko is, namely someone still quintessentially human despite her status as a goddess to supernatural beings near and far. That’s because Kotoko is upset that Kurou blew her off and she had to get cold pork cutlet from the local konbini.

I was so happy to see my favorite goddess of wisdom meeting my new favorite human-yokai couple, about to dish out the solution to their problems. But that’s where the roller coaster starts hurtling down to the earth, as Kotoko points out that not only does Yuki-onna’s wishy-washy sense of human time make her a poor alibi, but Masayuki might have capitalized on that poor sense to manipulate her into trusting him implicitly.

With Yuki-onna’s unwavering trust, Masayuki could kill his ex-wife one night, have tempura with Yuki-onna, and say they were doing the latter on the night of the murder, thus making him look innocent in her eyes and persecuted by the police. He could even convince her to kill the business partners who betrayed him.

Kotoko is so precise (as always) in laying out this theory that it even had me questioning if Masayuki really did have such a diabolical plot in motion, and had pulled the wool over Yuki-onna’s eyes with food, drink, and companionship. But you know who didn’t suspect Masayuki, even after hearing all this? Yuki-onna herself. She prostrates herself, says Masayuki has a truly kind heart, and demands that her Ladyship reconsider her stance.

Kotoko responds to Yuki-onna’s display by making it clear she’s all too aware that Masayuki isn’t the culprit, and that everything she uttered about otherwise was a lie. Among the reasons she trusts Masayuki? He’s been refusing Yuki-onna’s sexual advances! If he’d wanted to gain her trust quickly, he’d have swept her off her feet.

While Kotoko’s theory of Masayuki being a yokai-manipulating criminal mastermind was harsh and at times cruel, it was still crucial for her to say what she said, so she could enlighten Masayuki to the fact that Yuki-onna trusted him so much, she was even willing to defy her goddess for his sake.

By underscoring the courage Yuki-onna demonstrated for him, Kotoko hopes Masayuki will make the effort to regain some of his own courage. Even if this criminal investigation is all tied up with a neat bow and he gets off scot-free (as he should), Kotoko suspects that won’t be the end of Masayuki’s troubles.

A new start is in order. Masayuki owns up to being terrified of interacting with people—that lack of interaction is why he doesn’t have a human alibi—and tenderly gathers Yuki-onna’s cold white hand into his to thank her for going to bat for him. As for the true culprit of his ex-wife’s murder? Naturally, Kotoko already knows that too!

In / Spectre – 14 – Youkai Alibi

In/Spectre can really spin a good yarn. This week we meet Muroi Masayuki, who is pushed off a mountain by his best friend. As he lays contemplating his imminent death, a spunky yuki-onna (Yuuki Aoi) pays him a visit. She’s not there to kill him, though she does think long and hard about it when he knocks her looks!

Yuki-onna subverts Masayuki’s idea of her kind by building an conjuring an igloo around him so he’ll last the night, then flying him down the mountain in a princess carry, all for half of the cash he’s carrying. Once back in town, he’s able to walk in on his former friend lying about what happened and finger him for attempted murder.

Eleven years pass, and Masayuki moves back to the town by the mountain where he met the Yuki-onna. As luck would have it, he doesn’t need to search far for her, as she’s enjoying soft serve in human form. When he tells her about the time he met a yuki-onna she’s initially furious he broke his vow of silence, but he’s sure she’s the same person, so he technically isn’t.

Masayuki is coming off a divorce from a woman who cheated on him and tried to kill him, as well as the hostile takeover of his company by another former friend. Understandably distrustful of future human interactions, he sought her out. Yuki-onna is eminently interested in human food and drink (and cars!), so he agrees to buy her booze and cook for her at his bachelor pad.

An adorable, mutually beneficial friendship ensues. The connection to the In/Spectre we know finally comes when Yuki-onna speaks glowingly about her lady and Goddess of Wisdom, Kotoko. Yuki-onna cleared befriending Masayuki with Kotoko, and even got approval for sexual relations with him should things go that way (as long as they use protection!)

The good vibes suddenly sour when detectives come to Masayuki’s door to inform him that his ex-wife has been murdered, but that’s where Kotoko comes in. Yuki-onna reports that she knows for a fact Masayuki wasn’t the culprit because she was with him at the time of the murder. The problem is she can’t go to the cops and Masayuki can’t say the source of his alibi is a yokai.

It looks to be a fascinating case, and one that has a lot more resonance now that I’ve come to know and become quite fond both Yuki-onna and Masayuki. They make a surpassingly cute and charming couple whose playful banter and cozy chemistry rivals Kotoko and Kurou, and if anyone can get this out of this legal dilemma, it’s the Goddess of Wisdom.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In / Spectre – 13 – Things That Go Thump in the Night

When In/Spectre last aired, I said I’d hope we’d get more of the adorable duo of Kotoko and Kurou as they investigate and resolve more supernatural cases. Thirty-three months later here we are. There’s a lot of expository dialogue between a ghost and two youkai that bring us back up to speed on what this show is about, and Kotoko and Kuro’s abilities.

This is the same old In/Spectre, which means it is absolutely packed with scenes of people doing nothing but sitting or standing and talking. If that was fine with you in the first season, it will be fine here, as it is with me. There are three things that makes this not only tolerable but enjoyable for me, and that’s Kotoko’s magnetic charm, Kitou Akari’s firm yet affable voice, and Manabe Akihiro’s beautiful accompanying score.

The spook-of-the-week initially seems to be artificial, Kotoko tells the ghost and youkai discussing it that the scary thumping in the night wasn’t a supernatural phenomenon, but the sounds of an escaped monitor lizard illegally owned by the building manager. The truth is that an ancien cursed sumo doll was making the sounds.

Kotoko not only works out a deal with the manager that gets Kurou a cheap new place for them to live, but she and Kurou take the doll out to the isolated woods. There, she instructs Kurou to fight with the four-armed, horned sumo demon that manifests. This doesn’t go well at first, with Kurou suffering a number of gruesome deaths.

Of course thanks to eating of both mermaid and kudan flesh, Kurou is immortal and can see and choose the future. In between death and revival, the future he picks involves basically pinning the sumo down, exposing his back and enabling Kotoko to stab him through the throat with her cane.

It’s a victory, but not an ideal one for Kurou, who had hoped Kotoko could have been kept out of harm’s way. But Kotoko remains steadfastly unafraid of dangerous situations, and knew she could score an easy blow against a being that would not attack her due to her goddess status.

All of the various supernatural beings that dwell in the woods come out not just to gaze upon their kawaii Goddess of Wisdom, but thank her for dealing with the sumo doll. They all still consider Kurou a terrifying monster, but as long as he’s by Kotoko’s side and she’s vouching for him, they’ll accept him.

As for me, I’ve long since accepted that this is one of the talkier anime out there, and that more often then not that’s an asset and not a liability. And with all the reintroduction out of the way, next week’s dialogue will be less about what we already know and more about what we don’t.

Fabiniku – 09 – Royal Rebel

After saving Tachibana and Jinguuji from the pool party, royal intelligence officer Maria gives them a tour of the palace before an audience with the king. When Jinguuji is rightly suspicious about how well-timed Maria’s arrival was and how quickly an audience was arranged, Shen emerges from beneath the floor, having alerted Maria to the presence of the Hero.

The king and his advisors, while dressed only in loincloths, give Tachibana a warm greeting befitting a hero. The king himself belts out the prophecy they’ve been after since arriving in the capital, and it turns out to sound a lot like a gyaru wrote it in the age of TikTok. However, they translated it to mean someone like Tachibana would one day arrive to defeat the Demon Lord.

Our pair are given all the resources at the kingdom’s disposal, which Tachibana chalks up to her Charm effect working on the king and his advisors in a subtle but powerful way. At a formal ball to celebrate her arrival, Tachibana’s dress causes Jinguuji to imagine them marrying and growing old together.

Tachibana is then banished from the ballroom. She wants to drink and be merry, but when she insists, Jinguuji goes so far as to grab her by the arm and give her a serious scolding for acting so recklessly. While Tachibana does have a penchant for getting into trouble, I do think he’s being too harsh on her here.

She runs off, and encounters a beautiful young woman sitting at a window. When this woman prepares to jump outsaid window, Tachibana has to stop her, and does so by asking for advice. While Tachibana tries to put things as unromantically as she can, the woman sees right through the word-mincing.

She can tell Tachibana is depressed that “the gentleman” she’s thinking of won’t look her way or praise her. As Tachibana goes on both inside and outside her head, the woman concludes that Tachibana must love him very much. This is spot-on, though that love isn’t as necessarily romantic in nature as the woman must suspect.

In any case, Tachibana’s talk with her leads her to cancelling her suicide for the time being. She introduces herself as Yugrain, the first princess of the kingdom. She then stops by as Tachibana and Jinguuji are having a meal to anounce her intention to accompany them on their quest.

Yugrain and Jinguuji develop as instant a disdain for each other as she and Tachibana developed a rapport. The two verbally spar, but Jinguuji doesn’t want another hanger-on, and is willing to leave it to her father the king to “smoothly, efficiently crush” her heart.

Sure enough, Yugrain storms off in an adolescent rage in response to her father forbidding her from going. Tachibana follows her, and pointedly tells Jinguuji not to follow her. She gets Yugrain to cheer up by saying that she’ll do anything she can to turn that frown upside down. In Yugrain’s case, that’s starting a rebellion in her own kingdom to spite her baka dad.

The king’s council debates how to handle this rebellion, and when the king rules out any military action, everyone turns to Maria to handle the princess carefully and quietly. Alas, she fails and is captured by the rebels off-camera.

All the while Jinguuji goes over Tachibana’s words to him—don’t follow me—as he sits stoically on a balcony, wondering what she wants him to do. Maybe don’t be so dang cold to her all the time and not shit all over her new friend!

Fabiniku – 08 – Night Pool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fabiniku – 01 (First Impressions) – Old Pal-idigm Shift

Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout is a stupendously ludicrous title; honestly, even my horribly punny title would be better. Fortunately, the show seems to be far more clever and engaging than its name, and it all comes down to its nucleus of two old friends.

Ordinary but horny Tachibana Hinata and hot but woman-averse Jinguugi Tsukasa aren’t friends because they’re similar—they couldn’t be more different—but the fact of the matter is they’ve been friends for 25 of their 32 years, and you can feel that history in the way they act.

A combination of a typical night of drinking and the classic tongue-in-cheek serious-voiced narrator gives us the skinny on their attributes and internal thoughts about one another. Tachibana is trying to get Jinguuji married off, while Jinguuji is fine being with Tachibana forever.

The mixer they attend goes poorly for Tachibana as usual (all the women gave Jinguuji their contact info) and he gets so drunk he’s face down in the park wishing he could be a beautiful woman whom everyone fawned over. Then an exhibitionist goddess makes it happen!

Just like that, Tachibana and Jinguuji find themselves in a strange forest in the daytime. More concerning, Tachibana’s body melts into green goo than reconstitutes into the body of a petite blonde beauty (with very sharp teeth!) voiced by MAO.

As Tachibana so eloquently puts it, she’s gained stuff up top and lost stuff down below, but her speech patterns and mannerisms are still the same old Tachibana Jinguuji knows…and she’s honest, loves, either in the same way as the friends played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in Superbad, or something more romantic in nature.

It’s not even that much in doubt that at least part of Tachibana feels the same way…and that’s before they insult and anger the naked Goddess of Love and Beauty while she’s trying to give them their mission to save the world that she casts some kind of mysterious curse on them.

The immediate effect of this curse seems to be that Tachibana and Jinguuji suddenly find each other even more attractive, something neither one wants the other to get wind of. Their brains simply are too used to each other as best mates to properly process what their hearts are doing.

To their credit, neither one immediately dismisses their feelings as a direct result of the curse. Maybe the curse increased their affection for one another, but it was always there. Only now Tachibana is a woman, and because she is still fundamentally Tachibana, she also happens to be the only woman the distrustful-of-women Tachibana could ever fall for.

This results in a Love is War style battle of wills, with the two trying to get the other to admit their attraction. As the the one with the cute girl’s body, Tachibana goes on the offensive, only to find Jinguuji irresistible simply by being Jinguuji.

Meanwhile, Jinguuji hides his outsized reactions behind his usual stoic calm—a skill well-honed throughout the years staving off all those women who fancied him. He’s never thought about his type, but now he knows it, and it’s his best friend in a girl’s body.

As the two struggle with their new reality, a seemingly harmless and cute-looking fluffy white bunny thing interrupts. No sooner do they call it cute than its face unfurls reveal a grotesque monster. Suddenly survival mode overrides scoring flirting points against one another.

Jinguuji instinctively gathers his suddenly much smaller, lighter, and pleasant-smelling best friend in a princess cary and shows off the fruits of leg day. The two fall down a cliff, enabling the monster to catch up, but rather than continue running, Jinguuji decides to make a stand. He never let some woman take away his best friend, and he’s certainly not about to let some nightmare-faced Gossamer do it!

That’s when he punches the monster right in its core, quite unexpectedly creating a huge hole in said monster’s body. Turns out while he doesn’t look any different, Jinguuji is actually a Level 70 badass. Yes, it’s revealed this world has RPG-style menu screens that pop up in front of one’s face.

Tachibana is a Level 1 Hero, by the way, making Jinguuji her ideal trusty knight. As for their castle, Jinguuji is able to summon what looks like the door to a modern Japanese apartment with one of his active skills; the proverbial rest and save point.

While all the isekai and RPG trappings and their quest to defeat the Demon Lord are sure to play a larger role as our two best friends continue to explore their new lives (and meet more people), I hope the focus remains on how the bond between those two old friends continues to morph and evolve due to a very new and unexpected development.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The World’s Finest Assassin – 12 (Fin) – Gungnir Big or Gae Bolg Home

We know it’s going to be a different kind of episode when we begin with the Robo-Goddess in her realm, which has taken on the stark monochromatic aesthetic of the OP (which remains my favorite of the Fall). It seems the World’s Finest Assassin is her latest and possibly last best hope against the Hero ending the world.

Back on that world, her champion Lugh is ready to burn Dia’s house down and whisk her away with the story that she committed suicide so that none of the sides in the war could have her. There’s just one problem: Setanta MacNess has arrived with Gae Bolg, and partially demolishes the castle before Lugh can implement his plan.

Lugh deflects Gae Bolg’s attack with one of his “grenades”, then launches the biggest cannon attack he has. Setanta survives the blast with some superficial wounds that soon heal, but the knight is amazed at having finally seen and tasted his own blood, goes into Berserk mode while maintaining his sense, and challenges Lugh to a duel.

Suspecting Setanta is indeed the Hero as Maha’s intelligence suggested, Lugh makes it clear to Dia that he can’t run from Setanta’s challenge, nor can he have a hope of winning a duel against him. That said, Lugh also reminds Dia he’s neither knight nor hero, but an assassin. Assassinating’s all he can do, and it’s all he will do against Setanta.

After a little trash talking and negotiating of the terms of the duel, Lugh gets Setanta to agree that the duel will begin when a coin he flips into the air hits the ground. This essentially locks Setanta’s gaze on the coin, so he doesn’t look up when a solid tungsten missile comes crashing down on top of him, causing an enormous explosion and shock wave.

That solid tungsten missle was initially casually launched into orbit while Lugh was still in Dia’s castle, but is the culmination of months of careful preparation and collaboration. He and Dia designed the spells to launch it, and he and Tarte scouted the island Maha found to test it. It even employes the same shielding Tarte used to help Lugh conserve his energy on the way to Dia. The name of the spell is Gungnir, which is fitting as Odin’s spear is believed to be the prototype of Cúchulainn’s Gae Bolg.

Lugh’s extremely aerospace-y and not necessarily assassin-y or knightly gambit pays off. He takes a considerable lick himself, but soon awakens to a concerned Dia, whom he’s so relieved is okay he kisses her just as the sun rises over the mountains. When Dia asks why he agreed to take on a non-Tuatha Dé matter, Lugh tells her he never forgot his promise to always come running.

As he promised Tarte, Lugh arrives home having failed his first assassination job ever yet still triumphant, because he brought Dia with him. Cian decides its best for now for Dia’s identity to be concealed; she’s to live with them in Tuatha Dé as Lugh’s younger sister, with her shared bloodlines with Esri making it a believable lie.

With that settled, Cian brings up another order of business: the Hero has apparently arrived in the Alvan Kingdom. Lugh’s confused by that, since he assumed Setanta was the Hero. Alas, he apparently wasn’t; the actual Hero, whose presence closely precedes the certain arrival of the Demon Lord, is one Lord Epona Rhiannon, and the close-up on his alternate-Lugh like visage is the last image we see in The World’s Finest Assassin.

Despite the fact there’s no immediate news of a second season, I can’t believe we won’t be getting one sometime down the road. There’s a lot of story left to tell and a lot of cute moments between Lugh/Dia, Lugh/Tarte, Lugh/Maha, or any other combinations therein. Not to mention…what if this Epona lad is just like Lugh: originally from another world?

That’s one of dozens of questions I’m hoping a sequel would explore. Until then, this was a bold ending to a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing isekai series.

The World’s Finest Assassin – 11 – The Ultimate Tool

I’ll start with the only flaw of this episode, which is that it takes a while to get out of that drab brown room where Lugh’s dad explains…a lot. Turns out thee client for killing Dia is Dia’s father, but he only wants everyone else, including the enemy forces besieging Viekone Castle, to believe she’s been assassinated.

Lugh has the choice to turn down this job, as it involves getting mixed up in the affairs of kingdoms other than the Alvan royal family. But of course Lugh takes the job, because he owes Dia for teaching him magic, loves Dia, and promised he’d run to her if she ever asked for help, which he believes she did…just without words.

Lugh’s dad, who similarly only broke his oath of loyalty to Alvan for the sake of his wife Esri (also a daughter of House Viekone, by the way) is both proud and amused his son turned out to choose his love from the same family.

Lugh’s dad also chose him because he’s probably the only one who can pull this off; his pops knows that with the mana it will take to reach the castle in time, he’ll be too depleted to be effective. Tarte also knows she can’t go with him because she won’t be able to keep up with him, but she does offer to “carry him” at least partway there.

Tarte does so by creating a wind cowl and running just ahead of Lugh. These things in concert greatly reduce the physical and magical strain on Lugh, allowing him to conserve his strength for the trials that await at his destination. I frankly love how Tarte has scienced the shit out of this; it’s a brilliant, elegant, and very cool-looking solution.

As the pair pick up speed and scream across huge vistas that give the episode a Lord of the Rings-like epic, sprawling vibe, Tarte’s inner monologue reiterates that she knew all along Lugh didn’t save her life for her sake, but so he could make her into a tool. She hastens to add that while many might be saddened by that, it made her happy.

She’d been discarded by her family as a useless extra mouth, but he gave her a use, a purpose, a reason to keep breathing. And if Lugh so thoroughly rejects the idea of becoming a tool, Tarte is resolved to become the ultmate tool for him, doing whatever needs to be done, whenever it needs to be done for him.

When Tarte tuns out of mana, her wind cowl shatters, and she’s sent flying by the sudden burst of unshielded wind, Lugh catches her in his arms and keeps her from injuring herself. Lugh thanks her for helping him conserve, and marvels at how far he’s come in so little time.

Tarte asks Lugh if he really loves Dia like he says; Lugh answers in the affirmative. So Dia asks Lugh to promise he’ll return with Dia. He does, then dashes off, leaving Tarte alone in a vast field of grass, bathed in the gorgeous sunset, with a majestic mountain backdrop, and Tarte begins to weep…because Lugh, whom she loves so much, didn’t choose her.

We still get our goddess moment-of-the-week, but like previous ones it’s more of a brief and well-timed interstitial that doesn’t break the episode’s momentum. It is odd how all of a sudden the Goddess is talking like a robot, but one thing is clear: as of 14 years ago, she found a soul suitable for stopping the Hero’s rampage, and awaits his death.

Lugh arrives to find 1,500 enemy troops besieging a Viekone Castle with less than 200, but they seem to be holding the enemy off, thanks in large part to the “metal pellets” of Dia’s magic rifle. Lugh’s first task is to ensure the Castle isn’t sacked before he can fake Dia’s assassination, and he does so by wrecking the enemy forces’ shit.

Identifying all of the high-ranking magic users with his eyes of appraisal, he takes them out first. When the troops start huddling together for defense, he uses a Fahr stone to replicate the power of a grenade launcher, taking out large groups of the enemy at once. With the enemy in disarray, the Viekone forces use the opportunity to exit the castle to mop up.

After having used wind magic to listen in on the besieging army’s communications, he uses that same magic to detect a path devoid of sound, where he knows he won’t run into anyone. That path leads him all the way to Dia, who almost seems to sense he’s watching when she says “It’s all right. I trust you.”

Lugh reaches her and her father Count Viekone without being detected, and Dia rushes to hug him, absolutely overjoyed to see he actually came. But there’s still hard work ahead, including “killing” Dia and getting both her vassals and the army to believe she’s really dead, all without killing her. I hope he can keep his promise to return to Tuatha Dé together with Dia.

The World’s Finest Assassin – 05 – Making a Name, then Taking a New One

When Lugh goes into town with Tarte by his side, he’s practically mobbed by townsfolk eager to give him free stuff as thanks for all the kind assistance he’s given them. Whether it’s developing a fertilizer for the grocer’s onions, replenished a water supply, or mended the leg of a cow, he demonstrates every day that being a noble is more about power and strength, but winning hearts. And he’s not shy about one of those heart’s being Tarte’s.

One night Cian summons his son to the dark room where he usually examines his growth. Instead, he does so in another manner, by asking Lugh “how Tarte is.” After reporting how in two years Tarte has become the equal of any member of the branch families, he also assuages his pops’ suspicion that Tarte was a spy meant to steal Tuatha Dé techniques.

Lugh admits it was incredibly fortuitous for him to just happen to run into someone like Tarte, but he can’t very well say the Goddess drew him to her she’s too busy watching the other hundreds of “finest” fighters not doing as well as Lugh.

Cian eventually invites Lugh to a special training center where they go up against each other. Lugh is impressed by his dad’s ability to mask his true movements and intents with traps and feints, but at the end of the day Lugh is faster, stronger, and if I’m guessing right, possesses at least a decade more experience in assassination that Cian, and wins the day. Huis dad couldn’t be prouder.

From there, we get a glorious montage of Lugh accompanying his father on jobs, which begs the question, just how many people need assassinating in this kingdom that Cian is so damn busy? That said, I’m willing to table that question since it’s fun watching the two slink around, Lugh dying his hair black so he doesn’t stand out, and just offing dudes in all manner of ways.

Cian and Esri hold a grand banquet to celebrate the next step in their son’s progression: moving on his own to Milteu to pose as the son of a wealthy and powerful merchant, the better to gain access to the fortresses of nobles in need of killin’. It seems like an awfully public party with lots of opportunities for agents of those nobles to infiltrate. Then again, it might just be Tuatha Dé and its branch families who are invited.

One branch son who is not ready to accept Lugh as the future main family head is Ronah…until literally moments later when his throat is nicked and his arm broken with ease by Lugh, proving on the spot who the “stronger” person is.

But to the show’s credit, Ronah isn’t just cast aside as an upstart punk who got taught a lesson by the protagonist. Instead, he accepts his loss and is determined to improve. Lugh encourages this, and even offers to make Ronah his subordinate and knight, gifting him a superlight sword of his own design. Ronah is all for it, and wishes Lugh well on his next journey.

While Lugh is “leaving the nest” and his parents, Tarte naturally tags along…who would dress him? Apparently Esri taught Tarte…something that she’d rather not elaborate on when they’re about to depart. But once in the wagon on the way to Milteu, Lugh reminds Tarte that he’s not Lugh anymore, and won’t be for two years. He’ll be Illig Balor, son of the head of the Balor Trading Company.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The World’s Finest Assassin – 04 – Nice to Be Needed

Ansatsu Kizoku is by no means the best-looking or most original anime of the Fall, but it just might have the best structure, or rather most interesting structure to its narrative. I love the way it darts and weaves back and forth through time. Macro-wise, we’ve already seen Tarte in action, but this is the episode that truly introduces her as a character, not merely an ass-kicking machine.

We begin with Tarte in pretty much the most dire situation someone can be in. Winter is coming, so the family decided to cast her out so there’d be enough food (it’s implied their lord overtaxes, which caused families to make impossible choices). Starving and running out of strength, she’s set upon by a pack of wolves.

Here’s what immediately made Tarte interesting: she smiles moments before her death. She neither fears nor blames the hungry wolves; hell, she respects them. If this is how she goes, at least she’ll be put to good use keeping other living things alive. When her family abandoned her, she felt she had lost all reason to exist. Then our friend Lugh arrives, and uses the wolves to practice his killing skills while Tarte watches.

Mind you, Lugh doesn’t arrive to save her until after we get an extended scene of him at the harvest market, watching the townsfolk prepare for the winter by preserving and rationing. There’s even a brief little aside of comic relief when the Goddess checks in on another person like Lugh who isn’t faring so well. It’s when Lugh goes hunting so his family will have meat in the winter that he comes across Tarte.

Tarte happens to be backing a huge amount of mana—more than he’s seen in anyone in town—and the grizzled assassin in him knows it can’t be a coincidence; the Goddess must have sent her to him. The thing is, that seemingly throwaway gag of her watching The World’s Finest Special Ops Guy become a NEET over four decades proves she’s not always watching Lugh and making things happen. Sometimes…things just happen, like meeting Tarte.

Lugh’s initial interactions with Tarte are seemingly kind, if somewhat emotionally distant and logical. It’s only after he’s struck a deal for her to bind herself to him mind body and soul that he reveals he manipulated this font of mana into someone who would never betray him; someone who owes their existence to him and so exists only for him.

Two years pass, and Lugh has been training Tarte into the fellow assassin he’ll need to take on the Hero. He hasn’t told her why he’s training her, nor is she curious. When he performs the same examination of Tarte that his father performed on him, it’s super clinical, medical…professional. Lugh may have the body of a twelve-year-old, but he’s no Lewd Rudy.

When I think about how Lugh interacted with Tarte with such precision calculation, I remember what his father said: they are people, not tools. A tool would not have been able to get Tarte to trust him or devote herself to him so easily, but Lugh has been raised to be empathetic and curious, and so is a much better judge of character than your stock killing machine.

The same can be said of Tarte. Takada Yuki does such a fine job initially voicing the starving Tarte and then imbuing her voice with more strength and confidence once two years pass. Tarte may be really really good with a spear (collapsible or otherwise), but she’s also a good person…or as she once said of Lugh, a good person “as far as I’m concerned”.

How we treat others matters. Tarte witnessed Lugh slaughter the wolves with the deftness of a surgeon, and hears how he’s killed people and will go on killing people as part of his duties. But he’s still a good person to her, because he and he alone saved her when he didn’t have to.

Now that both Dia and Tarte have been properly introduced (and are both exceedingly charming, rootable characters to complement Lugh’s aloofness) I imagine the cool beauty Maha’s story is next up. I’m looking forward to more taut, confidently structured storytelling.

The World’s Finest Assassin – 02 – New World, Same Calling

This episode does away with both OP and ED to shove in as much material as possible about this new world and how our antihero will be living it. He agrees to the goddess’s proposal to kill the Hero before he goes insane and destroys the world, then picks out his five skills and elemental affinities. It’s honestly a bit pedestrian, as this lengthy first act of preparation can’t hide the fact it’s primarily exposition.

Our grizzled assassin is then transported to the womb of Esri Tuatha Dé, born, named Lugh by his father Cian, and declared the heir to the Tuatha Dé legacy…which just happens to be assassination. Seven years pass in this second act, which is just as well, as scenes of Lugh as a baby and toddler were going to be tedious. We see scenes of Lugh’s family of three’s happy life, including an extremely detailed explanation the nutritional benefits of rabbit stew.

We then get a look into the family’s seedy underbelly. Turns out that the public face of the Tuatha Dé clan is not of assassination, but medicine—they control both life and death, keeping the royals healthy while eliminating their enemies in the shadows. Lugh’s father doesn’t just teach him combat, but chemistry. He also performs ocular surgery that gives him Mystic Eyes, allowing him to see great distances clearly as well as visualize the mana emanating from every soul.

Lugh, no stranger to the field in which he is straining, only a stranger to the particular methods of this new world, impresses his parents to the point they hire someone to teach him how to wield magic far earlier than most children would. His instructor is someone we met last week: Dia, from a prominent family of mages. She may be tiny, but she’s no child, and one of the strongest five mages in the land. In other words, a perfect tutor for Lugh’s continued development.

The World’s Finest Assassin – 01 (First Impressions) – One Last Job

From it’s bold, brash OP, TWFS has the confident swagger of a James Bond film, placing us right in the middle of a highly distasteful Rich Guy Girl Auction, run by the diabolical Lady Collide. Little does she know that two of her lots are undercover magical assassins, who make it a point to kill every last dusty pedo in the joint. It’s stylish fantasy pulp, and the action and teamwork keeps me interested…

…But then the story takes a 90-degree turn off to an entirely different world—our own. There, an elite but grizzled assassin is on One Last Job that he completes to the letter, not hearing a word of his young apprentice’s desire to be a hero of justice and kill all the mafia guys. This guy may be old, but he’s still sharp as a diamond-cutter, as he demonstrates again and again that his student has indeed much to still learn.

But between an unexpected drone/car chase and the presence of the relative newbie, “Allen Smith” is sufficiently thrown off his game enough to board a commercial airliner not thinking the “Organization” who raised him would kill everyone on that plane to assassinate him. That’s just what goes down, and the sardonic assassin can only chortle and admire the “marvelous coffin” his employers arranged for him

But when he dies and ends up in a deep ocean of darkness (naked, thus balancing out the fanservice quota somewhat) all he feels is bitter frustration. He was prepared to end his career as an assassin, but wasn’t done training others.

Fortunately for him it’s not the end: an aloof and somewhat eccentric goddess (Tamura Yukari) plucks him out of oblivion and prepares to drop him into a world of swords and sorcery. She’s got a new job for him, which provides a great hook for the second episode: assassinate the hero of that world. After the baffling choices and disappointing visuals of The Detective is Already Dead, I’m game for something like this.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 01 (First Impressions) – Oh, The Humanity!

Unknown to regular kid Misumi Makoto, his parents are actually immigrants from another world who made a deal with that world’s Goddess. They were able to travel to Earth, and in return Makoto is summoned to the other world to be its hero in a time of increased strife.

The only problem is, the Goddess is very shallow, and deems Makoto too ugly to be any hero of humanity. She reluctantly gives him the ability to read and write the local languages and dumps him at the edge of her world. Her fellow god Tsukuyomi assures him he’ll be okay, as living on Earth was akin to walking around with heavy weights on his limbs.

Sure enough, Makoto is able to execute a superhero landing on his first try from a several thousand-foot drop. After three days of wandering, he encounters a cute orc girl with very creepy hands being attacked by a two-headed dog. Without even trying that hard, he puts his fist all the way through the great beast, saving but also frightening the orc, whose name is Emma.

But as she can’t fight or flee, Emma takes him home, makes him dinner, and teaches him magic. Turns out while he’s only Level 1, he’s a quick learner. In no time at all he’s conjuring flames without a verbal incantation. It’s all very pleasant!

To thank Emma for her hospitality, he sets out to deal with Shen, to whom she was about to sacrifice herself. Turns out some goblins were using the legend of Shen to subjugate the orcs, and Makoto accidentally kills them all and destroys Shen’s torii gate.

Shen appears in the form of a giant green dragon, and while Makoto is more than a match for them, Shen possesses the ability to trap their victims in an illusion borne of their own memories; in this case Makoto being asked out by his cute, taller kohai. He soon realizes this isn’t real and breaks free.

Shen, who is extremely intrigued by Makoto’s memories of another world, suggests they form a contract, and Makoto agrees. Shen was hoping for more of a 50/50 arrangement, but such is Makoto’s latent magical power it becomes more like 80/20 in the kid’s favor. Shen transforms into a cool samurai-esque beauty. Roll credits and a charming Irish-y ED with Enka-like vocals.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy is one of the latest products to come out of the non-stop isekai anime Play-Doh extruder, containing nothing original and breaking no new ground. But it’s self-aware, well-executed, the pace is brisk and efficient…and I’m a sucker for friendly dragons! It’s no KonoSuba, but its also not as mean, and Makoto is much more likable than Kazuma. We’ve also only met two-thirds of the main trio, so I’ll stick with this for now.

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