Vanitas no Carte – 02 – A Matter of Application

I’ll admit it: I missed the airship this week. They didn’t show as much of it as I would have liked even last week, just as they don’t show quite as much of Steampunk Paris as I’d like. That said, what we do see impresses “country bumpkin” Noé once he and Vanitas are released from jail on the orders of Count Orlok, a vampire charged with maintaining the human-vampire balance in the city.

While Orlok claims the Book of Vanitas to be a bunch of hooey, he’s also stolen the book, and intends to execute Amelia and “rake Vanitas over the coals” for his role in abetting her escape. Noé, clearly has strong feelings about “curse-bearers”, or vamps born under a blue moon based on flashbacks involving a childhood friend who became one.

Noé is having none of Orlok’s games, and smashes his desk to splinters with a kick to get his attention. He insists the book be returned to Vanitas so the two of them can apprehend a vampire who has been murdering humans in Paris, bring him to Orlok, and show the count firsthand how the book can save vampiredom.

After a conversation on their target, one Thomas Berneux, over rooftops with those awesome airships floating impossibly in the sky, the two soon find Tommy in the middle of trying to take his next victim. Noé gives Vanitas the opening he needs to use the book to temporarily paralyze him. Everything is going smoothly…until two new faces arrive.

They are the pint-sized Luca and his “chevalier” Jeanne (clearly taking after d’Arc), who are convinced Vanitas is using the book to create curse-bearers, not cure them. Clearly they’re misinformed; while the book can be used for such a nefarious purpose, Vanitas uses it to heal, not harm.

The thing is, even Noé is no match for Jeanne, who isn’t interested in talking things through, so the pair have to make a run for it. But as much as he claims to dislike Vanitas, as long as he keeps committing “resoundingly righteous acts” such as saving Amelia, he’ll keep protecting him with his not inconsiderable vampire strength and speed.

There were a couple nice bursts of action and Vanitas and Noé continue to be a hoot to watch, it can be hard to keep track of the show’s ever-expanding glossary of names, positions and terms, and thus hard to get too deeply invested. It’s as if Vanitas no Carte is so intent on setting up its many and varied game pieces on its ornate board, it forgot that the game actually has to start at some point!

Vanitas no Carte – 01 (First Impressions) – Airships and Airheads

Bones usually does a good job, and Vanitas is no different: it’s a slick, classy, attractive, crowd-pleasing steampunk vampire caper with airships and a healthy sense of humor and great sense of comic timing. It can also be dark and bloody and downright distressing when it wants to be. Vanitas, like its namesake antihero, can and does essentially do whatever it wants whenever it wants, and does it with the utmost style and swagger.

It is also super playful with its reveals in its first episode. I assumed the crowd in the opening were in a town square, only to pull back on a massive ornate airship straight out of Final Fantasy. I was pretty sure the white-haired Noé was a vampire, but that fact is only revealed for certain when it has to be, which is when Vanitas goes after him for protecting Amelia, another vampire who spends much of the episode not feeling so swell at all.

Noé may be a vamp but he’s also a good dude, and whether Amelia is a vamp or not he’s not about to let Vanitas get a clear shot at her with his knife. Another reveal comes when we learn that not only is Vanitas not bent on destroying all vampires like his namesake, but he’s not even a vampire—he’s just a human who is extremely hard to kill thanks to the book he carries.

The show looks great from start to finish, the action and magical artwork is seamlessly integrated, and Murr the Cat is cool. Everything about this production screams consummate professional. The classical music adds more class, and the ED absolutely WHIPS. In fact it’s one of the best anime themes I’ve heard since Dororo’s OP. Its smooth, slick, futuristic production perfectly compliments Vanita’s brassy retro aesthetic.

Vanita’s last trick is framing the entire opening episode as an entry in Noé’s memoirs, which he ends by saying that despite how chummy they seem to be, Vanitas will one day die by his hand. The show can be pleasantly goofy at times, but it’s declarations like that that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I’m in!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 03 – Waking in the Light

Grimoires sap the MP of humans but in exchange allows them to use powerful magic; the demons assume Syalis would try to steal one in order to gain said magic, but really she just wants to read something boring so she’ll fall asleep!

The first grimoire doesn’t make her sleepy, but unbeknownst to her it lowers her MP to critical levels. As a result she’s unable to stand or walk and must roll around like a log. That said, she doesn’t die and require resurrection by the Cleric!

As she bounces down steps and pinballs off statuses, she inadvertently unlockes the most powerful Forbidden Grimoire’s seal. Once again, the princess manages to foil the castle’s defenses quite on accident!

When Azalif, Spirit of the Grimoire is awakened, he assumes the princess wants to use him to break out of the prison and lend power to the Hero. Instead, she smushes him back into the grimoire.

Syalis rejects all of Azalif’s offers to help her defeat the Demon Lord, but when he mentions she can “incapacitate” everyone in the castle, she performs the spell, which again uses almost all of her MP.

Everyone in the castle falls into a deep sleep for three days…except for Syalis, the caster. Not about to be defeated, she finally completes the quest by using a grimoire…as a pillow.

One day, Syalis becomes obsessed with the pressure points that aid sleep, but her teddy slave is too soft and plushy to apply the necessary pressure, so she breaks out of her cell to find someone who will.

Preferring to keep her intentions vague, she only makes things awkward for everyone, including the Demon Lord himself, with her misleading phrasing:

I need someone to touch my body.

I’ll fall asleep in an instant, so please touch me in my room.

You…Don’t say a word and push here.

The Demon Lord relents, presses the right spot, and Syalis goes out like a light. But she soon realizes that without sunlight (the castle resides in eternal night) her internal clock will become more and more messed up and she’ll never feel rested.

Making use of various items she’s stolen in past episodes, she escapes to the Forest of Sacred Treasure to investigate a bright light that turns out to be the Demon Lord’s ultimate weapon: the Sword of Valor.

The demons assume the princess is escaping to meet up with the Hero and prepare to chase her down, only for her to quietly walk past them and back towards the castle, the sword on her back gleaming and humming along. Of course, she has no intention to use it as a sword, but as a makeshift sun to greet her in the morning.

As with all of the things she’s done, the Demon Lord is terribly bemused and befuddled, but that’s Princess Syalis for you—always in her own world, seeking nothing more or less than the best possible night’s sleep.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 05 – Dark Side of the Academy

In a so-far unrelated story, Last Order escapes the taxi, only to be retrieved by Uiharu. GROUP’s Accelerator and SCHOOL’s Kakine Teitoku are both attacked by members of, er, MEMBER, but both of them win easily as their opponents grossly underestimate their power. Meanwhile, BLOCK prepare to execute the next phase of their plan, unaware that one of their members is really GROUP’s Etzali.

Their plan involves breaching the city wall to allow five thousand of their armed mercenaries to storm in, but Etzali throws an Aztec wrench into their plans, and then a fleet of helicopter drones make quick work of most of their army. Tsuchimikado and Musujime get more intel about BLOCK’s plans, which lead them to the Reformary.

There, Etzali meets an old comrade in Xochitl, who only joined MEMBER in order to gain the opportunity to fight and kill him for betraying their organzation (the South American one, not MEMBER).

Xochitl comes with a full head of steam, but her choice of weapon – an aztec sword that isn’t metal, can’t cut through bone, enabling Etzali to use his arm to block without totally losing that arm, and knocking her down. Tsuchimikado and Musujime get beaten up by BLOCK’s right-hand woman Teshio Megumi, but Musujime regroups and despite accidentally teleporting her feet and ankles into the floor, manages to get the upper hand on Teshio.

Outside, Xochitl begins to unravel as if her body were an unfurling bandage, as she used a grimoire to transform her body into a living weapon, and it’s now at its limit. Etzali intends to keep her from dying, but we don’t see the result of that as he meets up with the other members of GROUP inside.

Finally, Kakine Teitoku, having easily defeated the MEMBER member who attacked him, beats the location of ITEM’s hideout out of Frenda, and heads over there, likely to do more damage to that group. In short, a lot of groups got tangled up this week, and a lot happened, but Crowley and Academy City are still safe…for the moment.

Fate / Zero – 08

Maiya has orders to escort Iri away from the castle, but the orders aren’t so precise that Iri can’t countermand them when she senses Kotomine Kirei approaching. She doesn’t want that guy anywhere near her Kiritsugu, and Maiya feels the same way, so the decide they’ll do what they can to keep him away.

Neither of them are any match for Kirei’s considerable mage-executing skills, so all they can do take up as much of his time as they can. The bravery, grit, and selflessness the women exhibit without Saber by their side is something to behold. There’s no doubt Kirei is a fearsome, superior foe, but it doesn’t matter: he’s not getting to Kiritsugu, period.

Meanwhile, a bullet from Kirei’s pistol gets through Kayneth’s quicksilver defense, but he chalks it up to a fluke and a moment of poor focus to the disgust of fighting such an awful mage, and redoubles his defenses…which is exactly what Kiritsugu wants.

Saber and Lancer are having no luck, as there’s no end to Caster’s minions as long as he’s holding his noble phantasm, an old grimoire. Rather than keep hacking away, Saber clears a path with an Air Strike, through which Lancer dashes and slashes the book with Gae Dearg, and just like that Caster is defenseless and must withdraw.

Saber and Lancer’s ‘knightmance’ proceeds apace when Lancer senses his Master is in danger, Saber senses it’s because of her Master, and gives Lancer leave to tend to Kayneth, in accordance with the ideals of nobility and chivalry, while she rushes to help Iri and Maiya.

The next time Kiritsugu fires his pistol into Kayneth’s heightened magical defense, it scrambles the opponent’s magical circuits, causing him to cough up a good deal of blood and pass out. Kiritsugu remembers his mentor(?) explaining the bullets which contained his own ribs in powdered form; but he was only given 66 of them, and we see him use two on Kayneth.

And even that doesn’t kill Kayneth, only gravely wound him. Lancer arrives to rescue him and withdraw, and tells Kiritsugu that he’s only alive because of his Servant Saber’s devotion to the right-and-proper precepts of nobility; because she is the King of Knights. I’m sure Kiritsugu’s glad Lancer didn’t kill him, but less pleased Saber let Lancer get away so easily.

What’s so great about this situation is that everyone has a reasonable position here and nobody is outright right-or-wrong. In a way, Saber went rogue, but again…Lancer would have Kiritsugu him if not for her.

As he beats Maiya to a pulp and chokes then stabs Iri (who he thinks is a homonculus), Kirei can’t fathom why not one but two people challenged him, of their own accord for Kiritsugu’s sake. Kirei has been operating under the assumption that Kiritsugu is, like him, friendless, alone, and understood by no one. But he’s wrong…and I kind of pity him for being so.

One could say Kiritsugu using Iri as a kind of “decoy master” smacks of cowardice, but that position doesn’t take Iri’s (and Maiya’s) feelings into consideration. They do protect him of their own accord, as we witnessed here, and they will continue to do so.

Kiritsugu seems to know this, because when Saber finally comes and touches the injured Iri, she is immediately healed by the scabbard Avalon implanted within her according to her husband’s wishes—something only he and she knew about. Kiritsugu is not alone, because there are those who don’t want him to be.

Dantalian no Shoka 1 – First Impressions

A relatively ordinary young man is chosen by fate to protect a delicate, pallid, otherworldly girl who happens to be a repository for 900,666 mystical grimoires. She’s a walking, talking, bratty library who likes to eat. Sound familiar?

Well fear not, this isn’t an Index ripoff…far from it. It’s GAINAX, back with something completely different after the yet-to-be-concluded Panty & Stocking. Dantalian no Shoka (which refers to the girl, Dalian) is a 1920s era magical mystery romp, which so far happens to be quite good.

The chemistry between Dalian and her new keeper, ex-pilot Huey (or Lord Henry Disward) is more dynamic and complex than that of Index and Touma, the former was pretty much a pet of the latter – with magical powers. Dalian may look childish, but she has a sharp tongue and is quick to scold Huey for his ignorance.

Their literary banter is infectious, as is all the mystical exposition that forms the climax. , It also features drop-dead gorgeous lighting and backgrounds, a trippy live-action ED, and Miyuki Sawashiro lending her strong voice to Dalian. This makes a fine addition to an already very promising summer season. Rating: 4