The Rising of the Shield Hero – 09 – In Need Of A Good Heart-Melting

As Naofumi, Raphtalia, and Filo continue mopping up the beasts and healing all the villagers, they come across a nobleborn-looking girl among a pack of lesser filolials (which Filo thinks look tasty, the cannibalistic little imp). The girl, who introduces herself as “Melty”,  falls in love with the far larger and talking filolial, and the two become fast friends.

That night, she comes to Naofumi’s inn, requesting an escort back to the capital. As she’s nobleborn, Naofumi assumes he’ll get a handsome reward for returning her to safety, and so accepts.

But one of the queen’s spies is watching. While there’s more to Melty than meets the eye, she ends up loving riding in the Filo-drawn carriage, and at night strips down so she can sleep within Filo’s dense, thick, luxuriously soft feathers (great Foley work on those feathers).

When they reach the capital, Filo escorts Melty home, while Naofumi and Raph make a beeline to the cathedral, where they meet a particularly haughty and patronizing Pope.

He (or rather one of his nuns) tries to sell Naofumi a bottle of crude holy water for the exorbitant price of one gold coin, but his HUD detects its cheapness, and he ends up with a bottle of the pure stuff. So mission accomplished: Raphtalia should be good as new in no time.

Unfortunately, since they’re in the capital, Naofumi is naturally uneasy about anyone approaching him. When a young, flustered guard does so, he and Raphtalia run away, eventually splitting up to lose him.

In the process, Motoyasu and Malty find Naofumi, and challenge him to yet another duel, since Motoyasu has fallen in love with the girl with angel wings following Naofumi around. He assumes she’s another slave and demands he free her.

This results in a huge dust-up, in which the many city bystanders not only have to dodge Motoyasu’s deadly attacks (he causes quite a bit of collateral damage, the bastard) but end up fighting each other over whether it’s cool for the two heroes to go at it in such a crowded public space.

Ultimately it’s Melty who breaks up the fight, and in the process reveals she’s not only Malty’s younger sister, but heir to the throne, as Malty is a problem child deemed unworthy to succeed the king.

She seems poised to join Naofumi’s party…right up until Naofumi tells her to get lost. He presumes that anyone related to Malty and the king cannot be trusted, and is trying to lull him into a false sense of security so she can stab in the back later.

There’s absolutely no evidence or indication Melty’s intentions are anything other than earnest and good, but I guess Malty did quite the number on Naofumi. There’s really no one he trusts other than Raph and Filo…which could well end up being detrimental to him.

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Overlord III – 11 – Enri the Golbin General

While his father sent him on an intel-gathering mission to Carne ostensibly to protect his heir, First Prince Barbro is determined to earn the throne through distinguishing deeds, not simply sit back and inherent it (also, he must suspect either the nobles or his siblings will ultimately plot against his succession once daddy’s dead).

This would be all well and good if Prince Barbro were good at anything. But reader: He is not. Scratch that: he’s good at making increasingly bad decisions and only quitting when it’s too late to save either his army or his own hide. And it didn’t have to be this way; had he negotiated peacefully with Carne rather than try to kill her, she wouldn’t have blown the little horn Lord Ains gifted to Enri.

When Barbro’s troops reform after initially getting their clocks cleaned by Carne’s trained ogres, he forces Enri’s hand, and with no other options and Barbro’s horsemen nipping at the heels of the escaping children, Enri blows the horn, not quite knowing what it will do.

Well, the Horn of the Goblin General does no less than summon a massive, 5,000 strong goblin army, extremely well-equipped, well-trained, and unquestionably loyal to the person who blew the horn. We’re presented to wave after wave of (somewhat shoddy) CGI columns of all the various units kitted out in splendid battle attire.

Even Momonga/Ains is caught off guard by this sudden development; he had assumed the horn would summon twenty decent goblins at best, but nothing like this. He deduces internally that the size and strength of the army must be determined by the individual blowing the horn; in this case Enri.  She already had the loyalty and love of her village and its goblin garrison; the horn thus conjured a suitably badass force.

Needless to say, Barbro’s forces are routed and thrown into retreat, though as I mentioned, the order to flee is given too late. Later that night we learn the truth of the matter: Beta “added her voice” to Enri’s horn blow, resulting in the overpowered goblin army (even she was surprised by how big it was).

She also nonchalantly (as befits one of the Seven Stars) breaks the bad news to Barbro that his existence isn’t part of Lord Ains’ plans, and so he and his entire force will be massacred forthwith.

So it’s R.I.P. Barbro–it’s probably better for the kingdom that he never ascended the throne–and all hail the Glorious Goblin General and victorious Chief of Carne Village, Enri Emmot. May she and Nphirea someday get to roll around in the hay without interruption from incompetent princes.

Overlord III – 10 – Prelude to War

Emphasis on prelude: this episode is all kinds of setup with no real payoff; a calm of political wrangling in the Kingdom before the storm of war with the Empire. Chief Warrior Gazef Stronoff knows what Lord, er, Sorcerer King Gown is capable of and makes it known to his king, but at the same time knows the king could never heed his advice to simply give up land without a fight.

A fight there must be, even if it won’t be like the other wars with the empire, all of them relatively quick, clean, and predictable. In a compromise to the noble and, er, ignoble factions, King Ramposa names Marquis Raeven as the leader of the forces who will defend the kingdom. The ep injects a bit of humanity in the guy by showing how much he loves his son. Unfortunately, Princess Renner has only a moment of screen time and no spoken lines.

While Raeven will lead the fight, the kingdom is counting on two months of stalling before the fighting actually begins, so they can prepare as much as they can. Of course, with another noble estimating Gown himself is as powerful as 5,000 men (five times Gazef’s strength), they face a very uphill battle.

Gazef comes through as honorable and levelheaded as ever, and reunites with his pals Brain and Climb prior to the war. The three agree to meet at a place in the capital to eat, drink, and celebrate when the war is done, but Gazef also warns Brain that he’d better not face off against Gown, or it will be the end of him.

99% of the episode is from the perspective of the opponent Gown has chosen, as part of his (really Demiurge’s) larger plan to gain power and territory for Nazarick. The final 1%, in which Gown takes the field of battle, opens a gate, and unleashes and entire legion of death knights, only comes during the end credits.

Renner’s King Ramposa’s eldest son and heir to the throne Prince Barbro, meanwhile, is sent to Carne to gather information, an errand he feels is both beneath him and meant to prevent him from achieving greatness, despite everyone’s insistence he’s the future king. But he should thank his lucky stars if he stays far, far away from the core of the battle in which Gown himself will take part; staying away means he’ll actually be alive to succeed his father.

Attack on Titan – 45 – Her Next Duty

The bad news? Rob Reiss transforms into an utterly massive Titan, far larger even than the Colossal. The good news? He’s no immediate threat to anyone in particular, just the structural integrity of the cavern and the chapel above it.

While neither of those two things survives the episode, everybody who set out to rescue Eren and Historia does. All the damage he causes allows Levi & Co. to escape Kenny’s trap and access the chamber where Eren and Historia are.

Even while free, Eren is lost. He was fully prepared to be eaten by Historia (and we later learn Historia momentarily considered transforming him and eating him so as not to be hated by her Dad). Between his antics and the sins of his father, Eren initially just sobs about being so worthless. His friends aren’t enthused. They risked their necks to get to him; the least he can do is not want to die, rendering their efforts in vain.

So Eren bucks up a bit, and bites down on a vial labeled “Armor.” The result of ingesting the serum within allows the Eren Titan to use the same Titan Hardening ability as the Armored Titan, building an avant-garde yet sturdy cage around his friends in order to save them from the growing Rob-Titan, which Levi dubs the “Big-Ass Titan.” It’s accurate!

Once they free Eren from his still fully-hardened Titan (sorry if that sounds a bit dirty), Levi & Co. take him and Historia and ge tthe hell out of there. As Armin and Moblit got the injured but stable Hange to safety earlier, the Scouts suffer no fatalities.

But there is that tricky matter of the Big-Ass Titan, which is a sight to behold; like something out of a Miyazaki film (Nausicaä, to be precise), yet like those Giant Warriors, not quite complete, and so it crawls awkwardly on its belly. Still, it’s so damn huge even in its current state it will reach the wall by dawn—and likely incinerate it.

When the initial plan to let Eren feed himself to Rob is shot down (there’s no guarantee Rob will return to being a human even if he eats Eren), the plan becomes “Stop the Big-Ass Titan at all costs.” Since Eren now has the Hardening Ability, there’s now a decent shot of repairing Wall Maria, but no repairs can take place until Rob is dealt with.

However, we do learn that Rob’s story about Eren’s father was naturally biased; in reality, Dr. Yaeger was trying to save humanity by destroying the line of the First King and the Reiss reliance on brainwashing. There’s also fresh mentions of the secrets in Eren’s basement, so there’s that.

Levi adds to Historia’s burdens by informing her that Erwin has insisted that once the latest battle is over, she will have to take up the mantle of Queen in order to give the regiment coup legitimacy and appease the public. Both Connie and Jean rightly pipe up that that shit ain’t fair, Historia has only just turned the page and gained as sense of individuality, only to be thrust into yet another duty.

I’ve really enjoyed Tori’s rise to prominence since her true identity was revealed; she’s basically a co-protagonist alongside Eren, and watching her decide her course in life in a world where such a thing’s a great luxury, has been a delight.  She’s grateful for their defense, but she agrees without complaint…but with one request: If she’s to be queen, she’s going to give it all she’s got in the battle that proceeds her coronation.

That means donning the uniform of the Scout Regiment, strapping on her ODM gear, and taking her place beside her comrades—her friends—her true family—to whom she owes not only her life, but her sense of self. Rob isn’t her dad anymore; he’s the enemy. It’s time to go to work.

Attack on Titan – 44 – Eat Me, Save Humanity

As Rob Reiss prepares to instruct Historia to inject a serum that will transform her into a Titan so she can eat Eren, Hange and Levi’s team enters the cavern, sporting some unconventional tactics in order to level the playing field against Kenny and his intensively-prepared anti-personnel troops.

With a combination of surprise, gunpowder, signal flare smoke, and pure guile, Eren’s allies are able to get right on top of Kenny’s people; the hard part is having to make the decision to kill their fellow human beings for the first time.

The sequence is taut and intense, but doesn’t forget to show those tiny moments of hesitation that linger in the thoughts of Sasha, Jean, and Connie. Not surprisingly, there’s nary a shred of hesitation in either Levi or Mikasa.

Kenny himself enters the fray, and quickly finds his nephew Levi is a lot tougher than he gave him credit for, successfully wounding him in the midsection and forcing him to retreat almost as quickly as he arrives.

But his presence gives his second-in-command the opening she needs to deal a crushing blow to the Scouts: by getting the advantage over Hange Zoe and seriously wounding her. If she isn’t able to get back up, that’s a huge blow for the good guys (even if it’s been demonstrated that neither Hange nor anyone else is 100% good or bad here).

This season of Titan continues to be generous with its answers regarding what the heck is up with this world, filling in a few more of the many blanks that have lingered for nearly four dozen episodes. Rob is the source of more world history wisdom. Turns out most of society, due to the mind control of the Reiss Titans, don’t recall any history beyond 100 years…no doubt since an ignorance populace is easier to control.

The Founding Reiss Titan used its power to built the Walls that protect humanity, but also passed on all the knowledge that proceeded the boundaries of the rest of mankind; how the world as they know it was formed and how to preserve it. That is now Historia’s repsonsibility; she has to eat Eren in order to inherit Freda’s memories as well as her powers.

When an eavesdropping Kenny hears that only someone with the blood of the Reiss’ can inherit the full power and memories of their predecessor (meaning if he took the serum and ate Eren, it would be meaningless) he’s pissed.

More than having planned to betray Rob, he knew Rob knew he’d betray him one day, and even counted on it, but not until it was all but too late to do anything about it. Rob releases Kenny from his service, and Kenny in turn decides to make things interesting by removing Eren’s gag and cutting him so he’ll transform and give Historia a fight.

That would have likely been something quite awesome to behold…but something perhaps more interesting happens instead: Eren doesn’t transform. He doesn’t want to; he wants to die. He sees himself as the cause of all of the trouble they’ve been in up to this point, and more importantly, all of the people who died, who he lists in roughly the order in which they died.

With both Rob and Eren begging her to inject herself with the transformation serum and eat Eren, Historia seems stuck between a rock and a hard place…but there’s still the matter of what she, an individual, wants to do, even if her duty seems clear, while her victim is ready to die for the sake of humanity and correcting perceived wrongs, both his and those of his father.

But then she remembers Ymir, telling her whether she’s simply trying to do something “nice” (i.e. what she thinks everyone expects of her). She also rememebers that time on top of that castle, when Ymir, before transforming, tells her that all she wants is for Historia to live a life she’s proud of.

‘Tori can’t do that if she injects herself. She can’t do that if she eats Eren. She can’t do that if she exterminates the Titans. Rob calling what she’s becoming to be something akin to godhood is the last straw. She slaps the syringe out of Rob’s hands and it shatters on the ground.

Historia decides to free Eren, because she likes him a heck of a lot more than she likes the rest of humanity. As far as she’s concerned, they can all get wiped out by Titans—hell, she’ll even lend a hand, declaring herself both “humanity’s biggest enemy” and “the worst girl who ever lived”…neither of which are true. Humanity’s true worst enemy? Itself. Historia Reiss? More badass than bad.

Unfortunately, Historia is also her own worst enemy, as she breaks the syringe but then rushes to free Eren, leaving the puddle of MacGuffin transformation serum completely unprotected, ready to be lapped up by anyone. And not just anyone laps it up; Rob does, not long after telling Tori in no uncertain terms that he should never be the one to transform. We didn’t learn the reason why, but I imagine we will, very soon.

Attack on Titan – 43 – One Human or Less

Eren wakes up in the strange blue cave, a place he’s never been, but which he still finds familiar. Rob appears with Historia and tells Eren there’s a reason for that. Then Rob and Tori place their hands on his back, and the memories come back fast and furious. Not those of Eren himself, but those of his father, and how he came to inject his son with the royal power of Titans.

The memory awakening works both ways, with Historia suddenly remembering her half-sister Freida, who would periodically visit her to make sure she was doing okay, each time using her Titan “Scream”-derived power to wipe all of Tori’s memories before departing.

Rob completes the puzzle by combining Historia’s memories of Freida with those from Eren’s father Grisha’s POV, while also explaining the severe damage to the chapel above. Grisha came to steal the Titan powers from the Reiss’, specifically Freida, and while her Titan form was the most powerful, she lacked Grisha’s combat experience, and he ate her, thus stealing her Titan-controlling “Scream.”

Grisha then passed “Scream” to Eren via injection. To ensure no other Reiss would have the power, the Grisha Titan slaughtered Rob’s entire family. Only Historia wasn’t there, and she still carries the noble blood. Now that Rob has Eren, he no doubt intends to recover “Scream” for Historia. Whether she understands that will mean the end for Eren, I can’t yet say.

Back in the capital, Pyxis tells Erwin their coup is all for nothing if Rob Reiss obtains Eren’s “Scream.” They may have toppled the fake king, but they seem reluctant to let another take up the mantle of leadership so soon…not if they’re not sure it’s what’s best for humanity, which is all Pyxis cares about, and the only reason he sided with (the very sadistic) Zachary and Erwin.

Rob trusts Kenny, but he probably shouldn’t, if Kenny’s smirk and scoff upon turning his back on Rob is any indication. Not to mention the fact Kenny is an Ackerman, a clan of warriors who once served as the swords and protectors of kings.

They started to become persecuted along with the Asian races, both groups that were immune to the royal power to wipe memories. We learn this in a flashback in which Kenny talks with his grandfather who is on his death bed. We also learn of Kenny’s sister Kuchel, who was pregnant with (I’m guessing) Levi at the time.

In any case, if the goal is to save Eren from being eaten, Mikasa, Armin, Levi, Hange, Sasha, Connie, and Jean will have to get through Kenny and his slightly depleted but still formidable Anti-Personnel Control Squad.

Attack on Titan – 42 – The Lone Choices of Many Change the World

The plan Erwin sets into motion doesn’t just belong to or rely upon him. He must sit there, in front of the nobles sentencing him to death at the tacit approval of a fake king and watch how things unfold. However, he does betray a wry grin upon realizing that the right people made the choices he hoped they would. That’s when a representative of Pyxis’ Garrison Regiment bursts in and announces that Wall Rose has been breached by the Colossal/Armored Titan duo.

The members of the ruling government immediately show their colors by ordering all of Wall Sina’s gates closed, abandoning everyone in the breached Wall Rose in order to preserve government stability. Rather than risk a civil war between Rose and Sina over dwindling resources, they’d rather every man, woman, and child in Rose perish.

It proves too much for Nile, who refuses to carry out the order. Before he can be relieved or punished, Premier Zachary and his men burst into the throne room and, along with Pyxis, announce a military coup. Their reason? The government just violated the vary inviolate law not to put personal gain before what’s best for humanity.

Furthermore, the “King”, who never so much as lifts his head throughout this entire ordeal, is merely a dotard who has to be kicked awake by one of the councilors using him as a puppet for so long. The old government officials are arrested and led out, and eventually Irwin climbs the very gallows where his execution was to take place to announce the change in leadership.

Thanks to Flegel Reeves, the press reports what actually happened for once, and Hange meets back up with Levi Squad in the woods to deliver the good news themselves: The Scout Regiment are no longer criminals or fugitives, but free men and women. However, one could say the easy part—dispatching the overconfident government—was the easy part. Finding and rescuing Eren and Historia could prove more difficult.

In a fine conversation in their horse-drawn coach, Zachary and Irwin discuss why they made the choices they did. Zach was more concerned with sticking it to the government officials he hated so much than saving humanity, but concludes and he and Irwin aren’t so different: their actions may ultimately save humanity or may not, but the similarity is in the fact that both of them saught to preserve their own lives.

What of Eren? He wakes up deep beneath the Reiss family chapel, a cathedralic cavern made of eerily blue luminescent rock, chained to a great plinth. The night Wall Maria fell five years ago, Rob Reiss lost his entire family to “raiders” who destroyed the above-ground chapel, but the level of destruction doesn’t fit the M.O. of raiders. I’m guessing the damage was caused by a Titan.

And that cave is apparently where new Titans are made, by feeding humans who can transform to humans who can’t, imbuing them with the power to do so. It looks like Eren is the dish and Historia the intended diner. Will Mikasa and Armin make it in time to stop this?

Attack on Titan – 41 – Nobody Knows a Damn Thing

This week begins with Marlo and Hitch, a pair of military police on patrol in the woods, just shooting the shit with a little mild flirting mixed in. They’re not evil or anything, just ordinary people…just two more bricks in the wall. They find Armin by a stream, and when they try to arrest him, they’re ambushed by Levi and Mikasa.

They don’t expect any valuable intel from these two grunts…they’re merely one step in a whole sequence of steps that might lead them to Eren and Tori’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Hange rescues the Reeves scion, Flegel, and challenges him to do more than spend the rest of his days scampering around like a rat.

Levi first chooses Sasha to tie up and guard the prisoners, but Jean volunteers to do it, and takes Marlo and Hitch to a secluded spot where he threatens to kill them. He then stumbles—on purpose?—and gives the captives an opportunity to kill him.

When they don’t—both lost people in Schoess District, but Marlo seems sincere about wanting to side with the Scouts—it would seem they both passed Jean’s “test.” Two more soldiers for the revolution, perhaps.

Flegel is cornered by military police once again, but all by design. As gratitude for letting them find him, they agree to tell Flegel why his father was killed: he betrayed the police, who threatened him with death if he didn’t agree to kidnap the scouts.

It’s a very inflammatory monologue—perhaps too conveniently so, considering Flegel is not the only one listening. The supposedly “deserted” area where he let himself get cornered happened to be the perfect spot for Hange and her men to turn the tables.

Even better, dozens of the public overheard the police’s schemes, including two journalists. After seeing Flegel face up to his enemies even at the risk of his life, will they or other citizens feel motivated to question the “truth” the military police dispenses? We shall see; that’s certainly what the Scouts want and need: public support to sway back in their favor.

After ambushing a checkpoint, Levi tries to beat intel out of its commander, but when he finally pretty much breaks him, the guy has little of value to say because he wasn’t trusted with the location of Eren and Tori. Kenny—whose last name is Ackerman, we learn—is too cautious for that.

Finally, in the royal capital, a beaten, tortured, starved, one-legged Erwin Smith still manages to maintain both his sanity and dignity, casually asking one of his tormentors about his family. Erwin is brought before the king for sentencing.

Erwin is to be the first of the Scouts to be officially tried, found guilty, and executed, and the Military Police won’t stop until they’re all gone…all to maintain the kingdom’s secrets.

Attack on Titan – 40 – Truth Desert

Titan is effective because the audience shares in the characters’ frustration that their world is shrouded in mystery and they have no idea what The Truth really is. They have to either be content with smaller truths— Historia’s identity as true heir to the throne, for instance—or theories, like the one where the false king altered the memories of those who settled within the walls, and altered history along with it.

As Historia is meeting her father for the first time in years, she goes over her own sad, well, history in her head. She had an objectively horrible mother who never showed her love, but with no frame of reference for what a “normal” mom-daughter relationship should be, getting violently shoved away for trying to hug her made her happy, because it was something.

The first words Tori’s mother said to her were basically the same as the those with which Tori’s mother left the world: words expressing regret she ever gave birth her. Rob Reiss was and in the present still isn’t proud of having to send his daughter away, but the alternative was her sharing her mother’s fate that one night, when the men in black coats and hates came.

Meanwhile, at the farm, Hange returns Sannes to his cell, and reveals to him that his friend Ralph didn’t sell him and the king out, he was simply used as a pawn to get Sannes to betray the king. Hange has very little patience for their weeping and moaning, and voices that lack of patience…emphatically.

Erwin meets with Pyxis to inform him of the coup he’s planning; after he has words, Pyxis agrees to lend his support when the time comes, but the Military Police is working even faster than they are, and when Erwin’s presence is demanded at the scene of Reeves’ murder, Erwin doesn’t hesitate naming Hange his replacement as commander of the scouts in his absence.

I’d congratulate Hange on her sudden promotion, but she just took command of an organization that is about to be unjustly branded an enemy of the state. What had once been a position of great esteem is now a thankless job. Not that that matters to Hange—she’ll do her duty to the fullest.

Erwin walks into what he knows to be a frame-job, but still makes sure to let Reeves’ family know he intends to avenge the man’s killers, and even though they’ve been carefully conditioned to blame him, Erwin’s pure charisma seems to have an affect on them. On the rooftops Kenny watches scouts all over the city get rounded up as criminals, but prefers to let Levi come to him.

Before being arrested, Erwin told Pyxis a story about his childhood, when his father used to teach his history class. Erwin asked a question his dad had to evade, but later that night explained his theory to his son. In a truth desert like the world in which they lived where others only encountered mirages, his father had found an oasis. But Erwin, young and stupid, blurted out his father’s theory in public until the wrong ears caught it, and that was the end of Erwins’ father.

Since then, Erwin had always suspected his father was killed by the government, and if that happened, it meant there was merit to what his father believed, so he came to believe the theory was fact. To get closer to The Truth, the current government and its fraud monarchy must be replaced, and Historia enthroned as the true queen.

With the military police prowling for any scout and the government on high alert, no part of Erwin’s plan will be easy. In the midst of all this intrigue, I’m sure a number of scouts are almost wishing for the days when all they had to do was…kill Titans. Of course, that (relatively) easier life was only possible because they were more in the dark than they are now.

Attack on Titan – 39 – Breaking Bad…For the Greater Good

Things used to be so…simple. Or at least, it used to feel that way. Kill the Titans or they’ll eat you; for the sake of those you love, or duty, or plain old revenge. Not only are things not that simple anymore…they never really were. The further behind the wall you get, the more complicated things seem to get, but  at least there are two simple truths to grasp: one, Historia Reiss is the heir to the throne, and two, not all humans are on the same side; not by a long shot.

For whatever reason the Titans are not an imminent threat to mankind’s survival, so now their internal divisions are laid bare before us. Chief among those divisions are the Scouts vs. the Military Police, and Levi and his squad find themselves outnumbered, out-maneuvered, and generally out-matched by the MP contingent led by Kenny, the man who raised Levi and still thinks he’s a kid that can be jerked around.

It takes every last ounce of grit and resourcefulness, but Levi just manages to get one over on Kenny and his cohorts, in an elaborate but very slick sequence involving a showdown inside and outside of a saloon (apropos considering Kenny’s cowboy-western style).

Levi figures out pretty quick that it’s time to start killing his fellow humans lest he get killed, but other than Mikasa, the other squad-mates have trouble adjusting to the very abrupt change in mission. Jean almost pays dearly when he hesitates to kill the woman at the reins of the wagon carrying an unconscious Eren and Historia.

But the woman hesitates too—whether she personally knew Jean (sister?) or just noticed how young and scared Jean looked—but Mikasa is a beat too late to kill her. Instead, it’s Armin who carries out Levi’s order to kill, and just like that, he’s a changed man.

He later laments that they’re no longer “good people”, let alone “good guys”, as they’re no longer taking the lives of monsters that would otherwise eat them and others. Now they’re fighting for a faction of humans, not all humans, and are forced to kill to preserve the way of thinking they deem to be more “right”.

While it’s hard to see what choice they have, I still acknowledge Armin’s lament, and share in it. These kids wanted to serve their people, but now that Eren and Historia are being hunted not by Titans but other people, they must do things they never thought they’d ever consider doing. Perhaps even worse: they quickly learn they’re pretty good at it.

By the end of the episode, Levi and Hange have resided over murders, kidnapping, and torture…but also become reasonably certain that Historia is now in the hands of Rob Reiss, of the Reiss family, who are the true heirs to the throne. But the Trost merchant who played both sides and helped them capture Sannes is later killed by Kenny, leaving his company and the futures of the people who depended on its business in question.

Sannes too proves a true patriot, unblinkingly believing that the horrible things he and his men did throughout the years were absolutely necessary for the survival of the kingdom and preservation of peace within the walls. From his perspective, what he did was as important (or moreso) than the Scouts killing Titans.

In that regard, Levi, Hange, and those under their command have joined the ranks of Sannes and the Military Police: dirtying their hands and eroding their souls for what they believe to be the right reasons. To survive against Kenny and the royals presently in power (who have no intention of giving that power up willingly), and to rescue Eren and Historia, they’ll have to be as ruthless as the Titans that invaded their city and ate their friends and family.

Dagashi Kashi – 03

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On a hot day, as kids we’d usually go for a soda (or pop, depending on what state we were in), snowballs, soft serve, or frozen yogurt. It never occurred to me how great it can be to eat hot things when it’s hot out. Hotaru demonstrates this, I think, by firing up a stove to the shop and cooking up some tonkatsu Butamen; kind of a a mini ramen cup.

Tou, who’s back after a week off, put together what was going down and invited himself, knowing that in return for the intense heat, he and Kokonotsu would get to watch a cute girl eating noodles, not to mention getting so hot her dress gets see through. Naturally, Hotaru is totally oblivious to all of that.

Her only concerns are candy, snacks, and acquiring You for her father’s company. And that’s the other side of it: she doesn’t realize the power she has over Kokonotsu, courtesy of her looks and close casual manner with him. As far as she knows, the battle will be won with her convincing arguments for the primacy of candy.

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So rather than seduce him, which just isn’t in her character, Hotaru continues cockamamie plans, one of which involves You pretending to be a lifeguard to make extra bucks on the side, since the shop doesnt’ do. She’s unaware of her ability to seduce, so instead she tries to guilt trip.

She and You (also back after one week off) are awfully proud of their plan and are regarding one another in a better light all the time, but snagging him all comes down to her ability to convince Koko to take over the shop. Alas, an attempt to show the wonder of candy through strategic placement of kurukurubu jelly sticks in the pool backfires when Koko, Tou, and Saya see the “no food or drink” sign.

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The last segment is somewhat strange, in that Hotaru’s interaction with Kokonotsu is minimal. Like Hotaru with You in the previous segment, this looks like an effort to explore each two-person combination in the lean five-person cast. Hotaru curbs her suspicion that Tou is a pathetic confectionary tourist and shows him the proper way to deliver a Botan Rice Candy (with its edible wrapper) to one’s mouth: the same way one delivers a fastball to the plate.

Finally, after Koko shoos her off while the shop’s A/C is fixed (which seemed kinda mean; though Hotaru was somewhat in the way), Hotaru interacts one-on-one with Saya a little more. Just as Hotaru thought Tou might be testing her (though he wasn’t; he’s just an idiot), Saya sees Hotaru’s desire for “girl talk” that starts with a quesiton about Koko has her thinking Hotaru is testing her.

She is, but it has nothing to do with Saya’s crush, only the fact she’s never seen her with candy, something Hotaru cannot stand by and allow. She gives her some “Neon Seven”, a very cryptic kind of candy that Saya initially picks at wrong (both of their close-up expressions are hilariously rendered) but eventually learns to eat properly.

Saya is amazed and entertained by Hotaru’s wealth of knowledge (as anyone would be), and the two end up talking so long Hotaru never goes back to Koko’s…which kinda serves him right for shooing her off!

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Dagashi Kashi – 02

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Dagashi Kashi continues to be Shidare Hotaru’s (and Taketatsu Ayana’s) world; everyone else is just living in it. Kokonotsu lives in a goldmine of candy classics, Hotaru has more passion for them in one of her brightly-painted nails than Koko’s whole body. There’s a tremendous enthusiasm gap here, but the hope is Hotaru will eventually wear Koko down into accepting succession of his father’s store (though who knows if it’ll happen).

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Until then, Koko can hardly complain about being bored with Hotaru around; there’s literally never a dull moment with her around, getting into a big lecture about the proper way to eat Kinako sticks, then breaking out tablets of non-alc Namaiki Beer she somehow proceeds to get piss drunk on (and Hotaru is possibly even more entertaining in this state).

In both cases, Hotaru, despite being so well put together fashion-wise, doesn’t seem to know some of her mannerisms and phrasing can be inadvertantly titillating for Koko. There’s this subtext of Hotaru growing up so fast into the candy and snacks savant she is now (she could probably run her dad’s company today), she never had either the time or the inclination for romance. And yet, she’s by any measure extremely happy and fulfilled.

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On the other hand, Koko, and Saya for that matter, are still very much kids at heart. Koko doesn’t want to give up on his manga dream and gets embarrased when Hotaru does or says certain things, while Saya likes Koko, but Koko is of course oblivious. I do appreciate that while there is a clear love triangle here, Saya’s the only one remotely aware of it, and in any case the show doesn’t push too far on the romance or triangle angle.

Instead, what would have been another quiet, hot, boring small town day for Koko and Saya becomes…something else entirely, thanks to Hotaru happening to pass by showing off her Ramune Whistling skils, then going on to recite the entire history of the whistle, telling it like some kind of school drama, and casting both Koko and his father in unsubtle attempt to try to convince Koko that following his father is the best path for him.

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To his credit, Koko stands his ground. Convincing him isn’t going to be easy, if it’s even possible, but if anyone can do it, Hotaru can. She even gets Saya’s blessing, since if Koko doesn’t take over the store, it might mean he’s leaving town; leaving her behind.

So now both Hotaru and Saya share a desire to keep Hotaru right there, in the Shikada Candy Shop that is his destiny. The episode closes out with some menko, a card-flipping game Saya turns out to be really good at despite having never played, to both Hotaru and Koko’s dismay.

The trio just seems to be having a ton of fun, and I’m having a ton of fun watching them. I didn’t really miss You or Saya’s bro Tou, though that’s not to say I’d mind if they show up next week. In fact, I like that the show can keep characters in its back pocket and still run the table.

The only character who must be in every episode is Hotaru; she’s the linchpin of this whole nutty operation.

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Dagashi Kashi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Simply put, Dagashi Kashi is a taut, crafty, stylish laugh-riot. It is life from lifelessness. I had an absolute gas watching it, and it never failed to surprise me with a goofy facial expression here or a momentary trip to a different genre there. And the premise should prove to be a veritable goldmine of comedic and romantic material.

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The cast is lean, but makes every shot count: Shikada Kokonotsu (“Coconuts” to his friends-I’ll call him Koko) is the son of an animated small-town candy shop owner, Shikada You (a hilarious Fujiwara Kenji), who really wants him to succeed him as “ninth generation head”, but he’s currently in his mangaka stage.

Enter Shidare Hotaru of the famous Shidare candy company, who is looking for You but encounters Koko instead and immediately sets to work testing his confectionery instincts with umaibo.

The classic gothic lolita garb-donning young woman proves extremely eccentric, and well, very animated. Not just a pretty face with concentric irises, she’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and country boy Koko is super ultra intrigued. Taketatsu Ayana really sinks her teeth into the role with relish.

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In fact, once You returns, Koko gets swept up in the combined madness of his dad and Hotaru, who formally relays her father’s desire for You to come work for his company. You flatly refuses, but when Hotaru hears of You’s desire for Koko to inherit shop, she makes a counter-proposal on the spot: if she can convince Koko to take over the shop, his dad will take the job.

She may be mad as a hatter, but she knows what she’s doing when it comes to business and snacks. I myself know the joy of extravagantly shoving too many hot fries down my gullet. One of life’s little thrills!

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You wastes no time mistaking Hotaru for Koko’s girlfriend, which Koko vehemently denies (while blushing, natch) but Hotaru doesn’t dismiss the idea. She doesn’t say anything about it, actually. That segues nicely to Koko’s present love interest in the town, Endou Saya, whose brother Tou is Koko’s best mate (Saya is ably voiced by Numakura Manami)

Koko is oblivious to Saya’s feelings, but never fails to compliment her coffee as the only coffee he ever drinks. When a possible rival in love is brought up, she shows off her fiery temper, but even dropping dozens of sugar cubes in Koko’s coffee doesn’t faze him.

When Saya comes face-to-face with her competition, it’s quite by accident—as in Hotaru had an accident on her bike while too closely inspecting the message on her popsicle stick, and fell into a muddy rice paddock.

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Saya gets Hotaru in the shower, but when Tou walks in on Hotaru and sees her nakked, Hotaru doesn’t even flinch, introducing herself and apologizing for putting Tou out. Later while enjoying some free coffee (which Hotaru agrees is wonderful), she breaks out some “Young Donuts” out of seemingly nowhere. No matter what, Hotaru seems to be equipped with the right snacks for the right job.

There, Hotaru regails Saya about her mission and the “contract”she’s ended up in, which should keep her in town for the foreseeable future. Of course, she’s so flowery and dramatic and vague, it’s as if she’s telling some kind of fantasy epic. Which is kinda is, to her. Her victory is dependent on convincing “the one who would succeed the legend.” This should be a sweet ride.

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