DanMachi II – 08 – Whatever It Takes

Mikoto arrives in the midst of Bell’s beatdown at the hands of Aisha, but the latter takes her down with one strike, then continues wailing on the Little Rookie. Turns out Haruhime, donning a red cloak, is the source of Aisha’s power boost. Phryne also gets in on the game, snatching up Bell for herself and chaining him to the wall of her secret love nest.

Bell is lucky he couldn’t manage an erection, because Phryne has to leave him to find an “enhancement” medicine, allowing the one other person who knows about the dungeon—Haruhime—to sneak in and rescue him (after slipping the keys to the captured Mikoto).

Bell mentions his and Mikoto’s present efforts to buy her, for which she’s grateful to the point of tears, but it doesn’t seem like she’s interested in going anywhere or doing anything other than what was decided for her long ago: as Take tells Hestia, she’s to be sacrificed to the Killing Stone, a magical object that optimizes Renard power.

In Haruhime’s case, she’s able to provide a level boost to Aisha, but once the ritual is complete and the stone shattered, that power can be spread to many other Ishtar Amazons, giving them the offensive edge they need in a war against the more powerful-on-paper Freya Familia.

Once Haruhime gets Bell back to the Pleasure District and urges him to flee, Mikoto meets up with them, having learned about the Killing Stone thorugh books in Ishtar’s palace. Aisha also arrives, and snatches Haruhime back up. She dares Bell to do something—anything—to try to get Haruhime back, but Bell freezes. In that moment, he wavers between the desire to save her and his reluctance to get Hestia Familia tangled up in a war they can’t win.

He’s so frozen in hesitation, Mikoto has to grab his hand and run before the other Amazons can capture him. In short, this episode was a bit of a downer, as Haruhime has seemed to be a doomed character ever since her introduction. One wonders if her fate is sealed now that Bell lost his last best chance to save her, or if he can summon the same resolve Haruhime has and risk everything to challenge her death wish.

Heck, even if Bell wasn’t particularly emotionally invested in Haruhime’s fate, it just seems like a very bad idea to let Ishtar gain such a dangerous military advantage, considering she basically screws her underlings (like Aisha) into obedience. Here’s hoping for some kind of light at the end of this tunnel.

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DanMachi II – 07 – Symbol of Destruction

When Hestia learns Bell went to the Pleasure District and spent all night there, she’s not happy to say the least. Still, Mikoto, Welf, and Lili pitch in on his punishment (cleaning up for the neighbors), since it was Mikoto’s fault they all ended up in the district.

As it happens, Haruhime was the renard Mikoto was looking for. Despite Haruhime’s line about being no good for a hero, he wants to help Mikoto save her. Lili warns the two that nabbing Haruhime would likely start a war they probably can’t win against Ishtar; Welf agrees.

Hermes, fresh from being ravaged by Ishtar, wants to speak to Freya, but only ends up getting the ear of Syr, who is very concerned that Ishtar somehow found out about Bell. Not that Hermes had any choice; it’s clear he’s the lesser god in that particular equation.

At the Guild, Eina is as unsettled as Hestia that Bell spent the night in the Pleasure District, but also confirms Ishtar Familia’s formidable economic and military power, telling him that many of its Amazon soldiers may be grossly underrated in the official books—not a crew to be trifled with, but we knew that.

That night, after Aisha gifts Haruhime with some candy from the Far East, Mikoto stops by to say hello, only to be rejected. Haruhime has clearly closed the book on the part of her life before she became a prostitute, so as far as she’s concerned, Mikoto is a stranger. Aisha catches the whole encounter, and if anything, looks guilty.

Mikoto fills Bell in on the details of her past with Haruhime; she and Chigusa lived in a shrine with other kids and gods; Haruhime was a noble lady, but alone. Sensing her loneliness, Mikoto led nightly raids to set Haruhime free to run and play with them.

They eventually moved to Orario to seek their fortune, but Haruhime was deceived by a “heartless person”—I’m thinking Aisha, who may not be so heartless—and sold into sexual servitude.

After a chance encounter with Hermes, he echos Lili and Welf’s worries about crossing Ishtar, but proposes an alternative: if you have enough money, you can buy a prostitute; one of Haruhime’s purportedly low status would only cost 2-3 million; a very doable fee for Mikoto and Bell.

He also mentions to them, as friends, that he delivered an artifact to Ishtar the other day called the Killing Stone, and tells them to make of that what they will. Back at Ishtar’s palace, she orders her top soliders (including her Captain, Phryne) to hunt Bell down, capture him, and bring him to her unspoiled. Once she’s done with him they can do with him what they will.

She’s also gung-ho about starting a war with Freya, so whatever Bell and Mikoto do or don’t do, a sizable war is inevitable. Eager to make the money needed to buy Haruhime quickly, Mikoto and Bell head to the dungeon to waste some beasts; Welf and Lili heard their plan and agree to help out.

Only Ishtar’s people are lying in wait, and once Bell is separated from his party, he’s scooped up and attacked…by Aisha, who seems to have gotten buffs thanks someone who looks like a disguised Haruhime. As a Level 3 going on 4, Aisha is more than a match for Bell, and soon has him on his back. Barring an unforseen miracle, it would seem Ishtar has her prey, and the perfect provocation to spur Freya to war.

DanMachi II – 06 – Orario Vice

When Bell, Lili and Welf are concerned about Mikoto acting weird, they follow her one night, and to her surprise she ends up meeting with Chigusa and entering Orario’s famous pleasure district, which is run by the wealthy and powerful Ishtar Familia (Ishtar is the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of love, war, and fertility).

Turns out Mikoto and Chigusa are searching for an old friend of theirs from their original home in the Far East, where she was a noble. Chigusa spotted her in the district and came to Mikoto, who saught confirmation before coming to the rest of Hestia Familia.

Lili, and certainly Hestia, would rather the adorable Bell be anywhere but the pleasure district, where he is  almost constantly approached, accosted, and embraced by dozens of beautiful, available women, including Aisha, one of Ishtar’s higher-ups. Separated from the others, Bell never had a chance to escape their clutches.

Right before he’s surrounded and picked up and taken to Ishtar’s palace to be passed between several eager Amazonesses, he spots an ethereal, yukata-wearing fox woman in a window, who judging from the glimpse of her last week, is the person Mikoto and Chigusa were looking for.

Ishtar herself has no time for a first-timer like Bell, but her underlings are all but willing to suck him dry, so to speak. The start of their fun is interrupted by the huge and grotesque Phryne, and Bell uses the distraction caused by the Amazons’ bickering (and his adventurer’s sneaking skills and speed) to slip away.

He ends up in the courtyard of one of the district’s fancier-looking brothels, and who does he encounter within one of the rooms but the straw-haired fox woman, named Haruhime, who assumes Bell is there to buy his first sexual experience.

It seems despite being more experienced than Bell, the sight of his collarbone still overwhelms her, giving him the opportunity to tell her he’s not there for sex, just to hide from the Amazons. She can understand; it’s tough to be a first-timer in a district where it’s the occupation of so many women to kidnap and have their way with you.

As they spend the rest of the evening chatting, discovering that they share a love of stories about heroes that originally drew them to Orario, Ishtar has a meeting with Hermes, who has delivered something to her that is of importance in her ongoing rivalry with Freya. When Hermes is reluctant to tell her what other weaknesses Freya might have that she can exploit, she removes what little clothing she is wearing in order to force the issue.

Haruhime tells Bell that while she loved those heroic stories, she no longer sees herself as someone worthy of being saved or protected. Despite her noble appearance and cushy digs, she doesn’t seem to see any nobility in her profession, only filth. It really brings Bell down, who doesn’t agree that she should have to sacrifice her dreams simply because circumstances, many of them not of her making, landed her in a brothel.

Still, he runs off into the night none too soon, as Aisha shows up immediately after to escort Haruhime back to her chambers. As for Ishtar, she gets the information she wanted out of an overwhelmed Hermes in bed: Freya is obsessed with Cranel Bell, and she can hurt her by stealing him from her.

So now Bell finds himself in the sights of not one but two distinct and powerful goddesses of love, war, sex, and fertility, and almost certainly doesn’t want his first encounter with Haruhime to be his last. If he’s the hero he thinks he is, he’ll no doubt try to find a way to free her from servitude.

DanMachi II – 01 – May I Have This Dance?

After a four-year pause, DanMachi resumes, starting with Cranel and his party (Lili, Welf, and Mikoto) on thirteenth floor, taking care of business. The baddies are threatening; the action is smooth, slick, and packs a punch. Mikoto is a nice addition with her lightning-quick, multidirectional katana strikes.

While unwinding at the tavern, talking about the future of this party full of members of different Familias, Bell is suddenly verbally accosted by a young pipsqueak, backed up by a group of his friends all wearing the same military uniform: that of the vaunted Apollo Familia.

He says a couple of the wrong things about Hestia, and Bell gets mad, but it’s Welf who stoves in the kids face with a flagon. One of the kids’ much tougher (Level 3) friends quickly rearranges Bell’s face and nearly chokes him to death; he’s “saved” by Bete, complaining about the noise.

Hestia, ever the goddess of warmth and kindness, is proud of Bell for fighting for her name, but impresses upon him how sad she’d be if he got hurt again for her sake (Lili tends to Welf).

The next day, after reporting the fight to Eina, Bell is approached by two Apollo’s children—Daphne and Cassandra, whom I’m sure we’ll see later—who present him with an invitation to a Banquet of the Gods.

Since Hestia and Apollo have a sour history (she rejected his offer of marriage—Poseidon’s too—choosing instead to remain pure), there could well be some unpleasantness, but Hestia is excited nevertheless, in part because she gets to take a child plus-one.

It’s an occasion when everyone gets to show off how nicely they clean up, and while his hair remains stubbornly messy, even Bell looks pretty damn dapper in his tux.

It’s also an effective way of re-introducing all the gods, goddesses, and children after a long hiatus. Still, it’s hard to feel easy at the house of Apollo, the Familia Bell & Co. “disrespected” so recently. You can’t trust a god with children that…sophomoric.

Hestia and Loki snipe at one another as Bell and Ais give each other eyes, but neither has the guts to defy their goddess right in front of them. Even so, Bell lingers a bit as Ais walks away, and once he turns his head, Ais turns back too. Though members of different Familia, particularly those whose gods don’t like each other, don’t often mix, Bell and Ais clearly don’t feel that way.

While out on the balcony, Bell spots the Apollo child who almost killed him talking to someone and gets suspicious, but is saved from locking eyes with him when Hermes shows up and, after hearing Bell explain why he became an adventurer (at least in part to meet cute girls), steers him in the direction of one with whom Bell should dance.

A completely unexpected but utterly delightful dance scene between Bell and Ais ensues, the two looking absolutely killer in their classy duds, but looking even better because of how much goddamn fun they’re having dancing with each other.

I was gradually reminded of a similar dance scene in FFVIII (that was top-notch CGI in 1999!), starting out awkwardly but becoming smoother as the two grew more comfortable. Even if it was shameless bait for AizBell shippers, I don’t care; it was freaking beautiful and I loved every moment of it!

Unfortunately, the episode’s crushing low immediately follows its dizziest high, as Apollo pulls the plug on the pleasantness and reveals his resting crazyface. Yep, he’s one of those…gesugao or whatever…

Previously described as “spiteful”, he demonstrates he’s petty too, calling Bell and Hestia out for the bar fight his children started, then using it as a transparent excuse to challenge Hestia to a “War Game” between their Familias. And if he wins, he’s claiming Bell.

And there you have it: one of the littlest Familias (but sporting the biggest heart in that of Hestia) going up against one of the biggest, most powerful and militaristic. Assuming allowing outside help (like Ais, for instance) is forbidden, Hestia, Bell and Lili will surely have their work cut out for them!

Kino no Tabi – 07

Eating a hot dog reminds Kino of a time she once unsuccessfully tried to get one over on her Master, who was cooking hot dogs at the time. Kino then shares a story with Hermes that her Master shared with her, about a country with a big clock tower and, suspiciously, an even bigger police force.

When Master’s young male apprentice is framed for drug possession and locked up, and she is unable to bribe the dirty cop to let him go, Master uses some of her Apprentice’s infiltration equipment and uses an elaborate set of diversions in the form of city-wide trash can bombs to clear the jail of police and slip in wearing one of their uniforms.

The Apprentice knew she would come—like Kino, he knows very well how good she is—and the question is not can they leave, but how. Both Master and Apprentice agree to make a bang rather than sneak out; demonstrate their full power to an arrogant bully that could use a good nosebleed.

For three days and nights they hole up in the central clock tower, shooting any and all policemen who draw within range, but not killing anyone; only wounding them. They cause such a disturbance, the police start to lose their grip on the country, as the public and their leaders demand something be done.

Master and Apprentice do not relent as smaller and smaller formations of police form up at the base of the tower. All are scattered by gunfire, until the very petty-tyrant commanding officer who sat on his petty throne and told Master no price was high enough to free her companion, is now the one who must offer a price to the Master—and it better be high enough, or more bullets will rain down.

It’s a good story, and one I’d think was apocryphal were it not for the somewhat magical realist nature of Kino’s world. Not to mention it just makes sense that the woman who made Kino the kind of “traveler” she is would be that badass!

Kino just so happens to be in the neck of the woods of that Clock Tower Country, and when she arrives in the courtyard where many shots were once fired without taking a life, she finds a monument made from a door blown off one of the police trucks back then.

An old man with a cane and and a granddaughter explains to Kino and Hermes that the memorial is a tribute to the two “Travelers of Justice” whose brazen acts freed the people from a corrupt and oppressive law enforcement system by essentially wearing them down until they grew ashamed of their conduct and shaped up.

Kino and Hermes alike are a bit amused that the country took Master and her Apprentice’s actions in such high esteem, but was the Master simply keeping her skills sharp in service of escaping the country, or did she have grander plans for that three-day-and-night stand?

We’ll never know, nor will Kino, but after this black-and-white and sepia-tinged look back to the past, she turns Hermes around and continues forward, into that Beautiful World, to  make some history of her own.

Kino no Tabi – 06

This week is spent “up in the clouds” and barely involves Kino at all—she and Hermes only bookend the episode. In their stead, we get a lovely, beautiful, and heartwrenching semi-allegorical tale up in the mountains involving a new character, an orphan girl (voiced by Minase Inori, who is everywhere), sold into servitude, constantly treated like crap by her merchant owners, adult and child alike.

The episode wastes no time portraying those owners as a complete waste of life; they never let off the gas pedal of abuse, both verbal and physical, and the girl just…takes it all. They ask if she hates them, and she says she doesn’t. She doesn’t hate, resent, or wish harm on anyone; to do so would be a sin. They mock her piety, believing only humans who act inhuman survive in this ugly world.

Of course, part of the title of this show is The Beautiful World, with the understanding that the world is beautiful because it isn’t…but the mountaintop environs are ironically utterly gorgeous. If only the girl had better company.

She realizes too late that the herbs she picked and added to the soup for dinner were poisonous, and all attempts to warn her owners fall on deaf ears. She steels herself to drink the soup and die with them rather than live as a murderer (however unintentional), but a boy seals his fate by knocking her bowl out of her hands; she’s later hit with a rock and knocked out.

When she wakes up, the merchants are still alive, and the boy has convinced his father to sell him the girl so he can take his time killing her in order to “become a man”, which is what we’d call overkill. What the hell is this kid, the Devil’s Spawn? In any case, the poison kicks in and they all die before the girl’s eyes.

The only survivor is the man who told his younger colleague, essentially, that the girl being a slave while they’re free comes down to luck; “there but for the grace of God go I” kinda deal.

He believes that until his death, which is semi-self-inflicted, as he pretends to instruct the girl on how to use his rifle to kill herself, but fixes it so she shoots him instead. Before he dies, he unchains her, and with his last breath, tells her to live her life; she’ll understand someday why things happened this way.

To the girl’s shock, there’s a voice coming from one of the wagons. It’s a talking motorrad (in the form of an adorable Honda Motocompo) who has been listening to everything going on, and congratulates the girl on her freedom.

The girl still wants to die, but in the same vein as the last man to die, the motorrad tells her the only way to die is to live life. No one knows how or when death will come, but it comes for everyone. The circumstances that led to the girl’s current position shouldn’t be considered grounds for immediate death. Indeed, it was clearly her fate to survive, escape the shackles of bondage, and strike out on her own. Why else would she meet a talking motorrad immediately after her last captor died?

We see Kino and Hermes arriving at the camp where the bodies of the merchants remain; not much time has passed since the girl and the motorrad left. But as the credits roll we learn what became of her: she was accepted as an immigrant in a new country after telling them her story, took up photography, and became successful and esteemed.

She took on the name Photo, and kept her first friend, the motorrad whose name is Sou, close by the whole time. Sou believes she’s happy. She certainly looks content. I wonder if she’ll ever meet Kino…

Kino no Tabi – 05

“Hero” is rarely a title rightly given to oneself; it must be earned and bestowed upon them by those who deem them a hero. And sometimes it’s not the hero’s choice; they just are a hero, because that’s what the people say. Kino runs into one of those people, a tour guide and true believer who fawns over the great hero of her people and gives them a tour of his modest house.

While in there, the tour guide tells Kino and Hermes a number of stories about the relics on display, like a shovel that let him plant flowers anywhere (that was probably for digging poop holes) or his special knife (which is just a souvenir from another country).

Finally, Kino and Hermes meet the hero’s motorrad, kept in perfect running condition, but not ridden since his master’s death. He’s in his version of Hell, and wants desperately to either be freed or destroyed. Kino can do neither; not without deeply offending the people. Would YOU want to get on the bad side of that tour guide? Nuh-uh.

However, before leaving town Kino is approached by a boy who dreams of being a traveler, like Kino and the hero of their country. Kino nudges the kid in the direction of the hero’s doomed motorrad, leaving it up to the kid whether he’d like to take it for a ride. I doubt he could ever go back if he did, though!

Upon entering the gates of another country (the only gate through which travelers can enter or exit, oddly enough), Kino and Hermes find themselves in a dark wood, out of which a man appears and, talking to them as if he knows them, asks if they’ve seen his lover or were sent to give him a message about her. The man’s maid/caretaker catches up to him and takes him back home.

Kino and Hermes go into town and get the skinny on the man from the folk at the inn: He was the hero of their revolution, who had fallen in love with a farmer’s daughter. When the day of the revolution came, he launched a grenade at the escaping royal family’s car, killing them.

His actions secured liberty and a new government for the country, but the princess whom he’d slain turned out to be the farmer’s daughter. Wracked with grief and betrayal, the people say he went mad; and has had to be cared for by one caretaker after another.

For five years, he’s waited for his lover to return, and everyone keeps lying to him. Apparently no one wants to be the one to give him the bad news that she died, because they all say they’ll continue to lie until he dies or they do.

After helping the man’s caretaker get her wagon out of the mud, she offers them tea at the house the government built for the man. After sending him away by lying about an engine noise at the gate, she sits down with Kino and Hermes and tells them the truth: she is the princess, the royal family the man killed were body doubles, and her real family is safe and living comfortable lives out of danger.

Despite the man not knowing who she really is, the princess is still happy, and never wants things to change. The next day, when Kino and Hermes prepare to leave, the man runs out to meet them once more and tells them the truth: he’s not really crazy; he’s actually happy with things the way they are. Everyone in this country is happy lying to each other for their whole lives. I’m not sure if I should pity them or envy them.

Kino no Tabi – 04

This week KnT switches things up a bit, following Shizu and Riku’s Journey rather than Kino and Hermes’. We saw a moving country on the land last week; here, it’s a moving country on the sea; a Ship Country.

Shizu is invited aboard and brought before the ruling “Tower Clan”, who look like black mages. They offer him a choice of roles while aboard: serve them as a kind of rent-a-cop, or join the common people. Unsurprisingly to us, the humble prince chooses the latter.

He meets a cute, tiny girl named Tifana, or Ti for short, who doesn’t speak, but takes him and Riku all over the ship (despite choosing manual labor, he never has to do any). The general sorry state of the ship, periodic shaking, and numerous flooded compartments tell the tail of a ship that has long been neglected and may not even be afloat much longer.

As per usual, KnT doesn’t skimp on the gorgeous environment; quite a departure from the clean, gleaming, well-maintained Moving Country. When he finds what looks like a long-abandoned control room, he has Ti point out all the places where there’s flooding. The situation is dire, and the rulers of this country have much to answer for…or so he thinks.

Ti, meanwhile, conveys so much despite never speaking; she takes a liking to Shizu, and doesn’t seem to have anyone else. It’s a lovely, immersive moment when Shizu shields her from a sudden rainfall with his jacket and the two quietly listen to the nice, calming sound of the rain hitting the fabric.

Ti then takes him to the country’s roof, and the endless ocean sprawling out before him makes him feel like he’s flying above it. After experiencing this unique and exhilarating sight, he turns to the tower at the country’s center, and remembers that this could all end up under the see unless he does something.

That “something” means confronting the Tower Clan, and when they rebuke him, readies his sword. But another traveler arrived aboard the country who chose the opposite path: that of serving the leaders. When this traveler lifts their mask to reveal Kino, I was nearly bowled over. There‘s Kino!

She and Shizu aren’t on opposite sides long, as the clan quickly accuses her of plotting with Shizu, changes course, then sentences the two to remain aboard to die with the other people.

Shizu and Kino quickly answer by storming the tower and easily overpowering its haughty occupants. When they reach their Jedi Council-like observation deck, Shizu is asked by their leader if he wishes to be the new king, to which he says if necessary. With that, the black cloaks and hats fall to the floor, no longer occupying bodies.

It’s Shizu’s country now, and he promptly points it towards land, opens the gates, and has everyone come out. He tells them that the days of the country functioning properly, or at all, are numbered, something he may well be right about. However, he didn’t consider the fact that the people don’t care. They don’t want to live on the land; they never have. They’d rather die at sea. In trying to be the hero, Shizu only made himself the villain.

When Shizu turns Ti away to join the others, she suddenly stabs him in the gut with a knife, cursing him for leaving her nowhere to return to (as she says, speaking for the first time.

Hermes fills Kino, Shizu, and Riku in on who Tifana really is: the abandoned daughter of passing travelers who shares her name with the ship itself. Hermes also describes the country’s inhabitants as the descendants of children whose parents were killed by a plague, leaving them alone and with no one to lead or take care of them; enter the Tower Clan.

Now that he knows the truth, Shizu commits to taking care of Ti from now on, for which she’s very happy and grateful. But as Shizu, losing blood, starts to pass out, Ti fears he’ll die and leave her alone again, and pulls the pin on a grenade to end them both.

Fortunately, Kino’s there to shoot the grenade away and tend to Shizu’s wounds. Once he’s healed enough, she and Hermes take their leave, hopeful they’ll cross paths with Shizu, Riku, and Ti again. I hope so too; they make a fun team.

Kino no Tabi – 03

While resting before trying to figure out what to do next, Kino hears some rumbling in the distance. An earthquake? An avalanche? No … a country.

Neither this country nor any of its inhabitants are ever given names—the people only introduce themselves by their title(s)—but it is the coolest country Kino has visited yet: a country that moves.

Technically, that makes it a gigantic vehicle, so Kino does what one does when a vehicle approaches: thumb a lift. While the country-tank is initially a menacing thing, a kindly voice asks Kinos her intentions.

She’s then welcomed aboard with open arms by the immigration and diplomacy officer, who has a comfortable room available, with a bed with clean white sheets Kino probably hasn’t seen in a long time.

After beholding the consequences of shushing Hermes (who warned Kino to dry her hair before going to sleep) and fixing her bed-head, Kino continues her tour of this wondrous, awe-inspiring place full of contradictions—the same contradictions that face every country.

The country is powered by an advanced, self-maintaining reactor, but in order to avoid overheating (or perhaps a straight-up meltdown), the country has to be kept constantly moving, meaning the drive motors and caterpillar tracks must be carefully maintained.

But that’s not the only reason they keep moving: the people of the country, like Kino, want to explore the world as she does. The only difference is they all go together as a country, and take their country with them. That means leaving quite a mark, but the people have long since made their peace with that.

While maintaining the motors and tracks must be quite a feat, the scenes of life Kino sees are of a peaceful country where families relax in the lush rooftop park and schoolchildren paint murals on the country’s outside shell. Contemporary cars are driven around, and tablets are used. It’s a very comfortable living.

Throughout this flowery tour I kept waiting for the catch, but in terms of the people turning on Kino or becoming threatening in some way, that never happens. These are nice people, but their country is a huge nuisance what with the tracks it leaves, particularly when butting up against a conventional, immobile country.

Still, the leaders have no problem allowing Kino into their command center. After asking for and being forcefully denied passage through the country, those leaders simply shrug and order the country to press on. That means firing a laser to obliterate the border wall in their path.

While armed with artillery and missiles, nothing the other country has is any match for the moving country, which mows down everything in its path. Those aboard it can only apologize and assure them they’ll be out of their hair within half a day.

When the other country finds something they can damage—the children’s mural—the moving country goes on the offensive. Wishing to minimize casualties on the other side as much as possible, Kino steps forward offering her assistance.

She heads out to a vantage point, armed with her persuader sniper rifle, and efficiently destroys all of the missile guiding sights—without killing their operators. She also takes out a couple of stray missiles for good measure.

With that, Kino cements her role as a friend of the Moving Country…but she said at the start she was only there for a sightseeing visit of 5-10 days, and when those days are up, she bids the country farewell.

On to the next, not-moving country, but Hermes relays to her the very distinct possibility the next children’s mural will feature her fighting off the missiles.

And while the Moving Country is extremely intrusive to other countries its path happens to intersect with, it’s not like they have a choice! If they stop, the reactor blows. If they just drive around in circles, they’ll eventually lose their minds.

Moving is how this country survives. There is a cost to that survival, but it is acceptable. If they wanted, they could easily conquer and subjugate any other country or countries they wished, but they don’t. They only destroy what they must to keep moving.

Kino no Tabi – 02

Kino may be small, soft-spoken, and polite, but she’s also a powerful badass. As such, she knows that she must occasionally push herself as far as she can go, not only to explore her limits, but to keep her skills from getting rusty.

It’s with this in mind that Kino eagerly arrives at the “Coliseum county”, where newcomers must fight others, often to the death, in order to win their citizenship.

The eternal tournament could be called the ultimate diversion for a corrupt king trying to maintain his grasp on his little kingdom, which is rotting and falling apart at every turn. They don’t even keep the coliseum properly maintained.

All of this disrepair must be particularly distasteful to someone as obsessed with being on top her game as Kino, who is underestimated by each of her opponents but defeats them all with ease, without killing a single person.

The night before the final match, Kino tells Hermes to be near the arena so they can leave as soon as she’s done. Victory is never in doubt here, it’s only a matter of how Kino achieves it. Her finals opponent is a capable-looking fellow named Shizu, armed with a katana.

Kino lets Shizu get close enough to slash at her, but blocks his strike with guards hidden in her sleeves, and on his upswing, she trains a hidden pistol at Shizu, forcing him to concede defeat.

The crowd shouts “KILL! KILL! KILL!”, and Kino does kill…their king. Her question about spectators getting killed by stray bullets being of no consequence comes into play here, as does her homemade explosive round that explodes the king’s head, leaving no doubt that he’s gone.

As victor of the tournament, Kino gets to make a new rule for the games, and it’s this: everyone, not just newcomers, must fight each other to the death; the last person standing will be the new king. As she leaves on Hermes, the town starts tearing each other apart.

Shizu catches up with her by a lake and thanks her for killing his father; he was the prince who was cast out of the country and sought revenge, but Kino denied that revenge, taking care of the king herself. She also meets Shizu’s loyal talking dog Riku, whom I’d like to think whispered to Shizu that Kino’s a girl (her earlier “don’t call me boy” to the guards was another hint).

As for why Kino set the people of the town against one another and blew the whole thing up…I suppose a part of her didn’t like how they were exploiting misinformed newcomers looking for a verdant paradise, like the couple she and Hermes met on the road one day, and met just the woman another day (the man was killed in the tournament).

Now it’s a more fair, internalized system. Whether it makes the country a better or worse place is of little consequence; Kino is off to the next country.

Kino no Tabi – 01 (First Impressions)

After fourteen years, Kino is back on broadcast. I only caught a handfull of episodes from the original series, but the formula seems to be pretty much the same: Kino is on an unending journey astride her trusty motorized steed Hermes, traveling from country to country and never spending more than three days there, the “perfect length.”

The first country she encounters here is one where “killing is not prohibited.” Since she’s good on the quickdraw, she’s confident in holding her own there, but also curious if the country will be what a fellow traveler moving there expects it to be: a place where he can kill with impunity, and the home of an infamous serial killer, Regel.

Upon entering the country, Kino finds it to be a placid, bucolic place, where people walk the streets without fear and warmly interact with one another. Everyone also seems to be armed. The country’s culinary specialty is a delicious-looking tower of crepes. An old man representing the country invites Kino to settle there; Kino kindly declines.

Then the boorish traveler Kino encounter outside the country’s walls appears and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t give him all of her stuff. Kino hides behind Hermes, preparing for a protracted fight, but before the man can fire at them, he’s shot through the arm by a crossbow-wielding lady from the window of a nearby building. The entire town, fully armed, descends upon the man.

Then their leader, Regel himself, informs the traveler and would-be killer of the true way of things in this country: while killing is “not prohibited”, it isn’t permitted. The only killing that’s done is by the citizens as a whole; rising as one against anyone who would try to kill another. It is their way of maintaining justice and peace, and at least in their case, it seems to work.

Back on the road, Kino encounters a second traveler, who unlike the first is trying to find a safe country where he doesn’t have to worry about killing others to survive. While there is killing in Regel’s country, it’s not the kind this fellow need worry about. The legend he hears is not of the serial killer Regel, but of the country’s famed crepe towers.

As for Kino, she’s headed for the next country, which is sure to be completely different from this one, which will no doubt provide another fable about a certain aspect of life.

Yuuki Aoi is a worthy successor to Maeda Ai, and aside from some bursts of action (in this case violent and bloody) the overall presentation is calm, relaxed, and understated, as befits a slice-of-life series that focuses on a very unique and interesting transient life. Count me interested!

DanMachi – 13 (Fin)

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Rather than end its 13-episode run with a “To Be Continued” or other cliffhanger silliness (though I’m not even sure if this was meant to get a second season), DanMachi decides to spend its last episode the same way the end of a good RPG ends: with a huge final battle and a classic “good ending.”

The end definitely snuck up on us, and thus it was hard not to feel like things were rushing a little, but I was still glad for the finality of the boss battle, and all the character work and action it entailed.

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The boss himself is…well, naked and kinda dumb-looking, which has been DanMachi’s problem from episode one: none of the enemies are particularly scary-looking or even particularly creative in design. This is something the most recent GARO almost always got right (to say nothing of the nightmare-inducing Gauna of Hannah’s Sidonia.)

In addition to being somewhat goofy-looking, this boss doesn’t really DO much besides mill around waving his arms around. I’m not sure I buy the fact they can’t escape the level either; if the entire town can be mustered to fight the boss, surely some of them can use their magic to open an escape route.

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The show clearly understands the concept of distractions, decoys, and well-timed combos, because several of each are unleashed on the boss, to no avail due to his ridiculous regeneration ability. Dumb-looking or not, this is definitely the toughest boss the show has given us yet.

The combo that works in the end is akin to saving up all of the full overdrive gauges of your whole party, then unleashing those overdrive attacks in quick succession to bring the beast down, or at least shave off a decent amount of his HP.

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Ryuu, Mikoto, and Welf are involved in the final combo, which sufficiently softens up the boss for Bell’s “Hero’s Strike”, which causes a fade-to-white yet still doesn’t quite finish the boss; for that, he has to use the trusty runeblade Hestia made for him (and which symbolizes their love and devotion to one another) to crack the central crystal and send the boss to Nowheresville.

The final casualty list? Well, no one we know. In fact, those scumbags who kidnapped Hestia last week even gain a grudging respect for Bell, a nice bit of development even if its for characters we care about. As for those we do care about, they’re all fine, in good shape for what I imagine to be a second season a year or so hence.

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At least, that’s what I hope. After all, there’s still a lot of stories to be told both inside and outside the dungeon, many levels yet to explore and conquer, not to mention Bell being the “Last Hero of the Zeus Familia” or something.

As for Freya…well, not sure why her character existed at all this season, except that she’ll eventually play a bigger role later on, when Bell presumably grows ever more powerful and popular.

Until then, I bit adieu to DanMachi, a solid action fantasy with lots of heart, likable characters, and rich world-building that never failed to entertain.

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DanMachi – 12

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This week’s DanMachi was a bit of a two-face: starting with a bit of a plodding lull thanks to the low-danger surroundings, but escalating into more exciting RPG-style action, complete with a kidnapping, an unfair duel, and the arrival of the cavalry.

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But first, all the girls are nude, Wooooo! Seriously though, this wasn’t that exciting, but I was surprised and a little impressed that when Bell inevitably ended up in the midst of the girls, he didn’t receive a beating. The girls’ reactions range from quietly embarrassed to indifferent to downright glad (the latter in the case of the Sand Snake-like girls and Hesty, she of the ample bust).

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Also not particularly bothered by Bell (who is the victim of a prank by Hermes) is Ryuu, whom he finally gets a chance to thank for coming to his aid. Ryuu tells him she planned to come at some point to pay respects to her familia, who fell into a rival familia’s trap and were massacred.

Ryuu was the only survivor, and after she avenged her familia by single-handedly killing the other, she was banned from the Guild. Syr found her lying in the street and brought her to the tavern, where Mama Mia brought her in despite knowing what she did. It’s a nice bit of backstory from one of the more interesting characters in DanMachi, due to her complexity.

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Ryuu’s no saint, but she can tell Bell is a kind person worthy of her respect and friendship, who like her benefactors, can see the good in her, being good himself. But we see the other ugly side of people (not just humans, since Ryuu is an elf) in Moldo, a veteran adventurer disgruntled with Bell’s rapid rise. Wanting to put him in his place, he kidnaps Hestia and challenges Bell to a duel.

It isn’t until the duel starts that Bell learns Moldo has invisibility magic, which is a bit too on-the-nose dirty for the bad guy. He says he’s not shameless enough to hurt Hestia, but his tactics certainly seem cowardly. But that’s the thing: his tactics make him stronger, at least initially, in the fight, and his cohorts rally behind that power, despite the cowardice of it.

That’s because, well, they’re weak too, and opportunistic. Even though they outnumber Bell’s friends who come to break the fight up, they seem outmatched by them.

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That being said, neither side “wins” the battle, because Hestia unleashes her divine power to compel everyone to cease fighting. It’s cool to finally see her exhibit abilities beyond reading Bell’s back and pulling off a ridiculous dress like a rock star. As she emits and otherworldly glow, it’s clear no one wants to mess with her.

By the way, it looks like Hermes wants to test Bell’s abilities, or, as he says, teach him about the cruelty and injustice inherent in humanity. Not sure why he thinks Bell will learn such a lesson especially when Bell has plenty of really good people as friends and allies. The fact of the matter is, there’s good and evil in everyone.

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The second half of this episode makes up for the slower first, and even the first half had that nice interaction between Bell and Ryuu. And I especially liked how after Bell ran off to save Hestia, she ends up saving him and everyone else from a protracted brawl. It remains a very balanced relationship. Bell is still very naive at times, but he also happens to have the strength—and friends—to deal with the predicaments his naivete gets him into.

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