Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 04

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In Magipro, Ruler is what Mokuou Sanae can’t be in the real world: in control. She always ranked at the top of her class, but speaking out of turn at the office where she worked got her reassigned by a boss who wanted her to learn her place. She always saw everybody in the world as idiots to be brought to heel. It’s how she ruled as Ruler, and it was her downfall.

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Getting Ruler’s backstory was a sure sign that she’d be the next victim, despite having come up with a devious scheme to steal Snow White’s Magical Candies. As it happens, her desire to keep distance from her subjects by insulting them at every opportunity became her fatal flaw when she relied on Swim Swim to transfer Snow White’s candies while she held her pose to keep Koyuki from moving (the flipside of her magical power to control).

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As such, Swim Swim took it upon herself to doublecross Ruler, only taking half of Snow White’s 50,000+ candies and distributing them evenly to all but Snow White herself, La Pucelle…and Ruler. That puts Ruler in last place at the time of the rankings, and it kills her.

Tama seems torn up by the coup, but the twin “angels” are fine with it, and acknowledge Swim Swim as their new leader. In a nice twist, Swim Swim was the young girl who Nemurin said could be a princess if she tried hard enough. But Swim Swim couldn’t be the true Ruler until the old one was eliminated. And so it comes to be.

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The entire situation disgusts Koyuki, who was ready to die rather than let anyone else die in her place before she learned Swim Swim only took half of her candies. But Souta isn’t so dedicated to Koyuki’s ideals, especially if it means Koyuki’s death. So La Pucelle re-vows to be Snow White’s knight, doing whatever is necessary to keep her alive and safe – whether Snow White wants such treatment or not.

With the sixteenth magical girl entering the field, Koyuki will no doubt continue to need protection, not just from those who would eliminate her, but from her own stubborn refusal to defend herself at the cost of others.

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KonoSuba – 02

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That forthright pledge to strike out into the wilderness on a daring kill quest turned into an excuse to sleep in for Aqua, much to Kazuma’s chagrin. I like how the ending of the last episode was played straight, only to be flipped into another failure by the Worst Party in the World.

When they do get out into the field, Kazuma’s shortsword is no match for the giant toads they’re trying to kill. Worse, Aqua spends their first battle either laughing uncontrollably at Kazuma’s expense (she still has a mean streak!) or praising her master goddess powers, right up until she’s swallowed. That leads to the line of the episode: “Don’t get eaten!” (Akin to “Esteban was eaten!”)

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Aqua doesn’t take disappointment or defeat well, as we saw from how she reacted to Kazuma forcing her to accompany him to the alternate world in the first place, and how she cries a lot when things don’t go her way.

Still, she tries her best to do a good job; it’s just that her offensive capabilities are, shall we say, limited, even against the relatively docile giant toads. She almost gets eaten again, giving the quest a nice comic rhythm (and those legs sticking out of the toad’s mouth is a nice sight gag).

So Kazuma has to save her again, and in the process manages to kill two of the five toads necessary to complete the quest on the first of three allotted days. What’s somewhat amusing is we never see how he beats them.

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Overlooking entirely that seemingly impossible feat, Kazuma nevertheless knows if they’re ever going to make enough money to make adventuring even worth it, they need a new party member. When Aqua posts a hastily-scrawled recruitment poster, there are predictably no elite takers (despite the clout she believes she has with everyone).

Instead, a pint-sized arch priest answers the call, introducing herself as Megumin with a long-winded and elaborate chuunibyou introduction that leaves both Kazuma and Aqua a little incredulous. I’ll point out that Megumin is voiced by Takahashi Rie, one of may favorite new seiyus (who did fine work in Sore ga Seiyuu and Gakkou Gurashi).

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However, her credentials check out, so they take her out to the field, where Aqua rushes headlong towards the nearest toad without any kind of backup and promptly gets glomped up again. Megumin’s explosive magic is indeed very, very…explosive, and she takes out one toad with one blast.

The only problem is, that’s about it for her as far as battlefield presence. Her sole attack causes instant KO…which is quite the liability! After using the spell, she can’t move, and the explosion rustled a third toad from its sleep. That toad glomps the helpless Megumin up, leaving Kazuma to defeat the remaining two frogs to save his party members, again, amusingly, totally off-camera.

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It’s clear that if they face anything with claws, teeth, speed, or pretty much anything more threatening than smelly slime, this party is going to be killed very, very quickly. Adding insult to injury, Megumin proclaims she can only cast the most powerful explosion spell and nothing else, not because she’s unable to cast other magic (which might be of better help in a party), but because she doesn’t wanna.

That unreasonable attitude is enough reason for Kazuma to dump her (something all the other parties in town must have done by now), but he realizes he has a lemon too late: some townsfolk see him struggling to pry her off of him, and see all the slime, and suspect the worst. And Megumin takes immediate advantage, showing off a bit of that crimson demon intelligence.

So as useless as Megumin (and possibly Aqua) might be, Kazuma is stuck with both. He’s so down in the dumps about the prospect of making enough money to make the whole enterprise worth it, his guard is down when he encounters a stunning onna-kishi named “Darkness” who looks like a serious operator…that is until she tries to talk and things are…a little off.

No doubt her tryout period will go about as well as Megumin’s, and she’ll find some way to coerce Kazuma into letting her into the party. Or maybe Kazuma will have no choice either way. Can’t sleep in stables forever!

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KonoSuba – 01 (First Impressions)

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Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (KonoSuba for short) is refreshing. I passed it by believing it no more than a lame SAO-or-the-like clone, but as Preston was with Grimgar, I was glad to be wrong about that. But it takes a totally different approach to its sudden fantasy RPG milieu.

For one thing, it hums along at a breakneck pace, and also provides clear (and kinda harsh!) background: protagonist Satou Kazuma finds himself in the afterlife after dying not by heroically pushing a classmate out of the way of a runaway tractor, but simply dying of shock, complete with doctors and family laughing at his passing.

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It’s also a very comedic show, unlike the shows I thought it’d be aping, it charts its own course, and that course leads to frequent laughs. The goddess assigned to guide him in the afterlife and choose what to do with himself (go to heaven or be reborn in a new, alternate world) is Aqua, and while initially serene, quickly shows her endearingly smug, haughty side (and seiyu Amamiya Sora’s great range).

Aqua reminds me a little of Hotaru in Dagashi Kashi, in that she’s a character who totally owns herself. The difference is Aqua is a little more self-aware; she knows she’s hot stuff, and she’s appropriately cocky and brusque with young Kazuma, getting digs about his “shut-in NEET” life and super-undignified end every chance she gets.

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To its credit, KonoSuba also knows the advantage of balance and restraint in a comedic presenation, which means it doesn’t simply pile harships onto Kazuma. In fact, the tables turn devastatingly quickly for Aqua when Kazuma decides the “thing” he will take with him to the next world will be her, a request another goddess accepts without complaint and sends both Kazuma and a very shocked and scared Aqua off to their new life together, in order to defeat the “Devil King”.

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The fantasy world they end up in is familiar, but I like how the two react very differently to suddenly being there. Kazuma simply goes with the flow, making use of his extensive knowledge of RPGs. Aqua…starts off by having something like a panic attack. She’s very disoriented and nervous, and assumes Kazuma is useless, but when he turns out not to be, her manner with him softens appropriately. (He then later turns out to be not very capable after all.)

Of course, when Kazuma learns they need money to register as adventurers, it falls to Aqua to try to procure some funds, which she does by essentially begging a kindly religious man; something she’s not proud of. However, they get the registration fees, and get an assessment of their stats before choosing their jobs.

Despite being average at everything (save slightly higher intelligence and extremely high luck), Kazuma insists on being an adventurer, while Aqua is amazing in everything but intelligence and luck. In other words, these two complement each other perfectly.

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With the “character creation” taken care of (both for Kazuma and Aqua and the show itself), they go on to “begin their adventures.” What follows is a wordless but wonderful montage of the two settling into a life of strenuous manual labor, digging holes, carrying loads, and building and plastering walls.

The montage progresses from the two just getting by and sleeping in hay with manure, to getting slightly better at their jobs, earning enough dough for food, baths, bedding, and eventually booze and carousing (followed by Aqua vomiting rainbows…more than once).

This sequence reminded me of the classic Shinji and Asuka training montage—not a bad thing to be reminded of, and probably not an accident. Kazuma and Aqua start out with very low opinions of each other, but the more they work together, the better they manage in this new world.

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Another choice Aqua gave Kazuma when they first met was to spend eternity in “heaven”, but only as an old man sitting around for eternity. It wouldn’t be what it’s cracked up to be in the living world, she warned. But Kazuma chose reincarnation, and now we see him reaping the benefits of that decision.

Sure, there are conflicts and hardships, but also mirth and vitality. They’re just scraping by, but they’re alive, damnit. And we’re talking about a goddess who never knew what it was like to be alive before she met Kazuma, and an otaku who had a very narrow scope and short duration to his previous life.

Then, suddenly, Kazuma jumps up out of bed, startling Aqua (who sleeps beside him, no big dealio), and realizes: this isn’t right. They fell into a comfortable rut of being day  laborers, but they came to this world to defeat the Devil King. Only then can Aqua go back to being a goddess, and can Kazuma receive a gift from the grateful gods.

So they agree to return to the original plan, starting by striking out in the wilderness on a “kill quest” to test their abilities and hopefully bag a monster or two. I can’t wait to see how they manage to muck it up!

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