Tokyo 24th Ward – 04 – There is Nobody Else

Last week’s tornado disaster was ambitious, but awkwardly executed and punctuated as it was by the introduction of Carneades, (AKA Goofy Anime Clown Villain #5,000,406), I didn’t feel the weight of those twelve deaths until here, when RGB are attending Kaba-sensei’s memorial service.

Shuuta blames their inability to properly work together to create a future whre no one got hurt, and now doubts his ability to be a hero to anyone, and thinks this is something to be left to someone else. Ran points out that there is no one else receiving calls from “Asumin”. They’re it. They can’t get discouraged—too many more lives are at stake.

Three months pass with neither a call from Asumi nor a message from Carneades, but there is an uptick in the distribution and use of a mysterious Drug rather unimaginatively called “Drug D”. This coincides with an impending deal with a foreign casino magnate (not Trump) to re-develop the 24th Ward’s near-lawless Shantytown.

While Kouki investigates from one side of the law with SARG, Ran, a Shantytown native, and his crew takes action from the other side, locating and neutralizing users and searching for the source of the drugs. It’s likely Ran & Co. suspect the drugs are being brought in specifically to facilitate the redevelopment venture at the cost of Shantytown’s culture and identity.

While Kouki and Ran are busy with the Drug D case, Shuuta stays on the sidelines baking bread, until one day at closing time Mari spots Kozue wandering off on her own and tells Shuuta to go after her. It’s here were we finally see how Kozue is doing, having lost her dad just when she was starting to get over Asumi’s death.

Kozue is standoffish with Shuu even as she calls him Shuu-ni-chan, even threatening to scream or report him as a stalker if he doesn’t buzz off. She also says he shouldn’t have saved her, which is just heartbreaking. But Shuu stays with her, because a big brother from another mother can’t let a young girl walk the mean streets of Shantytown all alone.

There’s every indication that Kozue is up to no good or, dealing with her pain by seeking dangerous situations due to her lack of regard for her safety illustrated by her comment Shuuta. But it turns out she’s on an errand of love, braving Shantytown to locate the latest tag from DoRed depicting a rocket powered “Kaba”, or hippo. Celebrating these tags is helping her work through her grief.

While Kozue and Shuuta are separated, she soon encounters Kunai, nominally part of DoRed, though someone Ran notes hasn’t shown up in a while. Kunai tells Kozue that Red from DoRed painted it, but he can’t divulge Red’s true identity any more than the people of Oz can know the real Wizard. Kunai also beleives there to be only two paths for those born in the Shantytown…a life of criminality, or a life of art like the one Red leads.

After Shuuta encounters Kouki apprehending a Drug D dealer, he bumps into Kouki, who sets his mind at rest by locating Kozue with his friend Kunai, then enlisting him to film him paint his latest Kaba tag. While he works, Ran reinforces Shuuta’s misgivings about turning the Shantytown into another surveillance district.

Kouki is all on board with such a transformation for the greater public good, but I’m glad Shuuta has another friend in Ran who can argue for the other side of the debate, which is that there are some fish who can only live in murky waters. The government and business interests are just looking for another way to tread upon the poor and disadvantaged by taking what little they have. There is certainly ugliness in Shantytown, but also beauty.

After Ran splits, Shuuta lingers by the new tag for a while, and eventually Kozue comes to him by seeking out said new tag. Her attitude towards him has softened now that she’s seen not one but two beautiful artistic tributes to her dad, and shows him the photos she’s taken of all the tags so far, though she wonders why Red is painting these when he knows the government will erase them by painting over them.

Shuuta counters that the art won’t be erased, because he’ll remember it, and the one who made it. Just like a loved one dying, a part of them will always remain in one’s memory and heart. She tells Kozue not to say things like she should have died in her dad’s place, and Kozue smiles and asks Shuuta to keep protecting her. He’s her hero, after all.

That would have been a lovely way to end the episode, but 24-ku demonstrates narrative efficiency by using the final few minutes to set up next week’s Trolly Dilemma. Carneade’s sigil appears in the skies over the ward and he hacks everyone’s TVs and phones, and shortly thereafter, RGB’s phones ring with “Asumi” on the other line. They were expecting her.

This time, it’s the cruise ship owned by the casino magnate that is the setting of the dilemma. A terrorist has rigged it with bombs. She offers two futures: kill the terrorist and save the ship and all the people aboard, or let the terrorist go and let everyone die? Shuuta and Kouki don’t understand…it doesn’t seem like that hard of a choice. But it is for Ran, because the terrorist they see in the vision—the one he’ll have to kill—is his friend and wayward ally: Kunai.

Just as Kunai is wrong about there only being two ways for someone from the Shantytown to live, Asumi is wrong about these being the only two outcomes. With what they see as a 1-and-1 record guiding the future so far, RGB will be extra-determined to manufacture a third outcome. The question is, will Shuuta, and more importantly Kouki, respect Ran’s desire not to kill Kunai?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shin no Nakama – 13 (Fin) – Warm Milk with Honey

Last week certainly ended about as distressingly as it could, what with a sword-hypnotized Ruti having just gravely, possibly mortally wounded Tisse and looking for her next target. So I was both surprised and satisfied with Red’s elegant solution: getting Ruti’s sword caught in his butter-soft bronze sword and flinging it away, thus snapping his sister out of it.

Could the solution have been more difficult and drawn out? Absolutely, but more action would have taken time away from the emotional fallout of what had just transpired. Instead, the awakened Ruti sees her only real friend with a gaping wound and can’t do anything about it; her Hero’s Blessing ignoring her call. Thankfully, Theodora has the power to heal Tisse.

Theodora doesn’t ask Ruti or anyone else for forgiveness, because she was doing both what she thought was right and what her own blessing demanded. However, recent events opened her eyes to the cruelty and crushing loneliness of an unwilling Ruti’s Hero Blessing, and she that even if Red hadn’t left, she simply didn’t need a party anymore. I have to concur with everyone else that Theodora would make a better hero, because it’s what she wants.

Turns out Ruti’s new Blessing is called “New Truth”, with a skill called “Ruler” she’s using to suppress the Hero’s Blessing, losing its boons along with its burdens but in the exchange, becoming the ordinary girl with free will to choose her own future. Feeling the cold and sneezing from it is an amazing new experience; Ruti even looks forward to her first cold! I can’t tell you how cute that is, or how lovely it is to see her finally enjoy being able to taste food again.

After so much excitement earlier in her life, she seems to want the same thing as her brother: a slow, quiet life. In her case, that means starting a farm that grows medicinal herbs, thereby not only doing what she wants, but doing it in part to help contribute to Red and Rit’s business. Naturally, Tisse will be by her side the whole way, supporting her, because Tisse is unassailably The Best…as is Mr. Crawly Wawly.

Before heading off with Tisse to find some suitable farmland, Ruti joins the others at Ares’ funeral. It’s to the credit of this mild-mannered and decent series that he doesn’t suffer eternal agony; indeed he is someone to be pitied and not hated, for his plight wasn’t much different from Ruti’s. The fact the First Hero had six swords lends credence to the possibility they were an Asura Demon—with no blessing, which means they were a hero by their own free will.

The episode’s title is “Guide”, referring to Red’s Blessing, which I’d honestly forgotten until it was brought up several times this week. After Gonz and Mido help Red and Rit fix and clean up their shop and home, Rit confesses to often freaking out at night, worried Red won’t be by her side when she wakes up, because he’s the Guide, and one day he may have to guide someone else. Red assures her that won’t happen; that his journey has ended, and that she is his one, only, final destination, because he needs and loves her as much as she does him.

“Really? Then prove it!”, one might ask. Well, they proceed to do just that. After some adorable awkward fumbling attempts at foreplay, Red and Rit disrobe, hop into their big, newly-repaired bed, and make love for the first time. As one would expect of this show, it’s handled gently and tastefully. They even have a bit of profound post-coitus pillow talk, as Red admits his previous journey may be over, but he’s looking forward to a new one with Rit and the family they’ll have in the future.

Such is the narrative efficiency of this episode (without feeling rushed at all like a couple of previous episodes), we still have time for Red to take Ruti on a tour of Zoltan’s sights, sounds, and tastes. Thanks to New Truth she’s able to experience so much that feels like the first time, and is simply grateful she can be with her brother like old times…and sleep! Red promises he’ll always be there for her.

This leads to a potentially cliché scene where Ruti sits down next to Red at the shop (because she’s tired…and appreciates how good it feels to sit down when you’re tired!) and gloms onto her dear brother. Rit, suddenly jealous, proceeds to grab Red’s other arm. The two glare and growl at each other…and then break into laughter, all while a bemused Tisse watches.

Suddenly, the guild girl arrives at the shop to report an emergency: some demons have captured the adventurers sent to deal with them. She doesn’t need the Hero, just a hero, which Ruti proves she is regardless of Blessing when she picks up her sword and goes with the guild girl…because it’s what she wants to do.

This was pretty much a pitch perfect finale and the perfect way to end the series: by giving me what brought me to keep watching in the first place: a warm, cozy, almost iyashikei atmosphere to an isekai setting. I now appreciate the more action and plot-oriented penultimate episodes more knowing they were meant to make us long for the slow life, just like Red, Rit, Ruti, Tisse, and Mr. Crawly Wawly.

If they make another season of this mug of warm milk with honey in anime form, I’ll watch it in a slow heartbeat. The post-credit scene with Yarandrala and Godwin hints that that’s the plan.

Shin no Nakama – 12 – Life Comes at You Fast

Even in his twisted current state, Ares believes what he is doing is both right and righteous. He was born to serve the Hero, but to do so, there must be a Hero, and it’s Ruti. He and Shisandan defeat Danan and make it to the chamber deep in the futuristic/ancient ruins where five of the six “Sacred Avenger” blades reside. They only need Ruti to touch one in order for the Hero’s Blessing to take hold once more.

But Shisandan, who like Ares wants nothing more than for Ruti to return to being the Hero, knows that won’t be enough; they’ll have to kill the one thing making Ruti not want to be the Hero most: her brother Gideon/Red. Neither Red, Rit, nor Ruti make it easy, as the three have no intention of letting Ares or Shisandan get their way, but those two find an odd ally in Theodora, who likewise defers to the Almighty’s Will.

A wyvern or two show up in the ensuing battle, and a magically-chained Rit rejects Theodora’s strict dogma that places so heavy a burden on unwilling shoulders. Ares, becoming more undone by the minute, conjures a giant iron cube that sends Red and Rit flying down the elevator shaft to their deaths, causing the biggest emotional outburst from Ruti yet.

Danan, who has recovered from his fight with Shisandan and Ares, uses “Rising Dragon’s Roar” to halt their fall and fly them back up to where Ares is. Ares, meanwhile, turns his attention to Tisse, and even squashes Mr. Crawly Wawly! Fortunately he’s fine, and he manages to clandestinely bind Ares’ hands with his spider silk, allowing Red to chop off his hands and deliver a near-fatal blow to his former comrade.

Ruti and Shisandan, who at some point fell down a level or two, continue to battle each other. The angrier Ruti gets, the more powerful she becomes, until she wrests one of Shisandan’s swords from him, slices him to bits, and beheads him. The animation and lighting here really bring the scene to life and lend it an epic quality.

Of course, it wasn’t Shisandan’s intention to win a fight against Ruti, but to get her to touch one of the Sacred Avenger blades. She does so, and almost immediately, it re-takes a hold over her mind and stifles both emotion and free will. After watching a Ruti enjoy her independence, it’s a gut-wrenching moment seeing it all snatched away in an instant.

Things get even worse when she ascends to where Red and Rit are, he greets her warmly, and without warning she lunges at him, sword drawn. It’s only thanks to Show MVP Tisse Garland (never thought I’d write that!) putting herself between Ruti and Red that he’s not killed right then and there. But things don’t look good for Tisse, while nobody who tried to wrest Ruti from her blessing is safe now that she’s been re-brainwashed by the sword.

This is all very intense and dramatic and I’m not sure how our happy couple (or poor Tisse!) is going to get out of it alive, let alone content to return to their slow life. There’s only one more episode to sort it all out.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Faraway Paladin – 09 – A Wyvern in Whitesails

Will, Menel, Bee and Tonio arrive in Whitesails, and Will is understandably overwhelmed by how big and full of people and activity it is. Bee suggests the quartet wash off the road at the local public bathhouse and then grab a bite to eat at a local tavern. After that, Will gets down to business.

He arrives at Whitesails’ main temple, a gigantic classical structure that feels more like a tourist trap. After meeting with an acolyte, he encounters the temple’s head bishop, Bagley, who is a gruff, no-nonsense operator who nonetheless can sense the power of Will’s faith, and approves having him added to the priestly registry. I’m sure we’ll see more of Bagley, along with the Vice Bishop (the young woman in the end credits) soon.

Will and his party aren’t able to relax long in the cushy accommodations the clergy provides as a perk of his registration, as the city is suddenly attacked by a wyvern. Within seconds it manages to destroy crucial infrastructure, kill dozens, and leave hundreds more in a state of chaos. Will hurries to meet the threat, but initially lashes out with his longest-range lightning magic, and misses.

Menel gets Will to calm down and focus, and summons the faeries to help Will create a lightning spider web that brings the wyvern down to the ground. Once there, the wyvern threatens to spread both its fire breath and a dark miasma all over the temple grounds, but Will first spears it in the midsection then relies on Blood’s hand-to-hand training to wrestle the beast down and break its neck.

He does this in full view of dozens of shocked bystanders, who aren’t quite sure how to react to what they just saw. That’s where Bee and Tonio come in. Bee strums her lute and sings a song of the Wyvern Killer saving the city, and Tonio ensures word of their friend’s heroism will spread throughout the city. In this regard, Will’s party truly is optimized for both creating and distributing his growing legend.

Killing the wyvern also gets Will an audience with Ethelbard, the fair and honorable young lord of Whitesails and all of Southmark. That said, their meeting is a bit tense, as it was when Will first entered the temple, as Ethel isn’t quite sure who he’s dealing with or what to make of him. That soon changes when he learns that half of Will’s party wasn’t directly involved in the battle, and that he did most of the work.

After officially thanking him for saving the city, Ethel asks if there’s any reward he’d want, and Will is ready: he wants Ethel to send troops to the Beast Woods to aid the villages suffering demon attacks. Ethel says that’s a tough ask, as his forces are already spread thin, and the dark miasma turns any beings it touches into savages, further complicating matters.

Will requests an alternative: he will use his own funds to raise an army of mercenaries and adventurers to protect those areas Ethel’s armies cannot. Ethel immediately sees this as a potential threat to his authority, even if Will doesn’t intend it as such, and even weighs the pros and cons of simply killing Will before he becomes too much of a problem.

Obviously he’s not going to be killing Will—I doubt Gracefeel will allow that!—but the more macro Will’s efforts become, the more he bumps up against established powers and enters a realm in which he’s all too green: politics. Again, this is where an expert merchant like Tonio and an expert storyteller in Bee will surely come in handy.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The World’s Finest Assassin – 03 – Wonderful First Time

Lugh’s very first magic lesson with his new mentor Dia goes awry when Dia, unaware of just how much goddamn mana her student possesses, tells him to put as much as he can in one of her family’s Materia-like Fahr Stones. He does so, and it quickly turns into a magical bomb that shatters every window in the Tuatha De mansion. Even so, his parents aren’t angry, they’re proud and excited.

If this were the soul of Rudeus Greyrat, not an old grizzled assassin in Lugh’s body, there might be ample potential for pervy unpleasantness (especially considering Lugh is seven and Dia ten). Fortunately, there’s none of that; even when Dia decides to sleep with Lugh, it’s no big deal. When she teaches him mana conversion for his “first time”, it’s oddly intimate, but ultimately pure.

Another common pitfall for a dynamic like this is to assume that in addition to the young callow student being attracted to his pretty older teacher, the two always have to be bickering or competing. Instead, Lugh and Dia collaborate equally, with Dia bringing her knowledge of the spells of this world to the table and Lugh applying his ability to synthesize his own spells. Together, the two literally make gold out of thin air.

Two weeks pass, and Dia is feeling sad about having to leave, as there’s nothing more she can teach him. So in addition to gifting her with an impossibly sharp beta titanium knife, Lugh earnestly promises her that if she even needs him, he’ll go to where she is without fail. Two weeks may not seem like a long time, but lest we forget, they’re probably share a father, and kids always bond faster than adults.

With the pure, charming innocence of Dia departed for her home, Lugh’s dad admits that despite only being seven, Lugh is ready to learn more about the family business. To whit: Lugh takes him to a prison full of death row inmates from around the kingdom who are there for the purposes of experimentation in the service of further honing their assassination skills.

When Lugh asks why his parents didn’t simply raise him to be an unfeeling killing machine, Cian’s answer is both profound and obvious: because while they are assassins (and damned good ones), they’re people, not tools. In contrast to his previous life, Lugh must use his own humanity in addition to knives and guns to optimize his assassination skills.

The final three minutes turn the chipper magical training nature of the epiode to that point on its head, as Cian orders Lugh to make his first kill. The convict is seemingly scared out of her mind and tearfully begs Lugh not to kill her, but Lugh doesn’t shrink from his duty, lopping off a hand with his own titanium blade and telling her she’ll die a relatively peaceful death.

This draws out the true criminal, who is not scared of dying and curses Lugh to be sent to a hell full of demons. To this, Lugh responds that that might be a nice change of pace next time he dies. This is dark, good stuff. Its consistent, sincere, and serious tone (matching our protagonist’s demeanor without his adult voice intruding upon his new world) more than makes up for its merely adequate visuals.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

Shin no Nakama – 02 – Party of Two

As expected from the spoilery ED, Red doesn’t remain alone in his shop for long, as he’s joined this week by Rizlet of Loggervia, AKA Rit, whom we learn is both a B-rank adventurer and a princess. She took it upon herself to leave her kingdom, lest those who favor her over the crown prince instigate a power struggle.

She’s very happy to have run into Red, an old “comrade” from back when his party crossed paths with her in a pub. A huge chunk of this episode consists of flashbacks to those times, which on the one hand gives the episode a static quality, but on the other, at least shows us who these two people are, through who they once were.

Rit was all gung-ho about fighting on the front lines for her people until she was hoodwinked by a general in the Demon Lord’s Army, who killed her sword shishou and assumed his form. Red (then Gideon) swooped in like a trusty knight to save her, but a lot of people she cared about died, for what she believed to be her mistake.

Rit holes up in her lavish royal bedroom, but Gideon sits beside her and tells her that while he knows she’s afraid of losing more people, he also knows she still wants to fight, and gives her an opportunity to do so. They end up handing the Demon Lord’s Army a satisfying defeat…off-camera. If there’s one thing this somewhat action-packed episode of Shin no Nakama taught me, it’s that it has no business trying to do action—you can actually hear the animation budget creaking and straining.

Fortunately it doesn’t have to lean on that as a strength. Instead, your enjoyment of this episode will depend on how much you buy into Red and Rit’s once-and-future relationship. The two try their damndest not to get too lovey-dovey, but at the end of the day Rit is asking not just to work at Red’s shop but also move in with him, and Red isn’t really putting up much resistance after an initial moment of shock. I enjoyed their chemistry, and the balance of their attraction.

So this episode took a step away from its borderline iyashikei premiere, but in the service of showing us how Red used to be in the party and how Rit used to be before their sudden reunion. I look forward to watching them working and living together. As for the party, the apathetic behavior of two of its members suggets Ares’ move to banish Red was a wholly unilateral one that doesn’t sit well with them.

Shin no Nakama – 01 (First Impressions) – La Vida Tranquila

What’s this…the second-straight new Fall fantasy series that’s neither pervy or nasty or reveng-y? Don’t get me wrong, all of those things can and have been done and done well, but that’s precisely why I don’t need any more of them anytime soon.

If a fantasy or isekai series wants my attention, it needs to play a different tune, and despite its ludicrously long full title, Shin no Nakama ja Nai to Yuusha no Party wo Oidasareta node, Henkyou de Slow Life suru Koto ni Shimashita does that by simply taking it easy.

After a typical fantasy/isekai introduction showing the Hero in battle while describing the geopolitical situation, the gentle, upbeat, relaxing OP shifts tone gears and gets us in the right state of mind for what’s to come. Our protagonist Red, the hero Ruti’s big brother, was cast out of the party for being a liability, so he sought the slow quiet live in remote but verdent outpost of Zoltan.

With an affinity for navigating dense forests and identifying and locating medicinal herbs, Red’s modest but very achievable dream of opening an apothecary shop and kicking back while letting higher-level adventurers save the world, is an admirable and relatable one. Not everybody wants everything…for some—maybe most—a certain amount is sufficient.

This is why despite a promise of a feather in his adventurer’s resume and promotion from D-rank to C, Red politely declines to joing Zoltan’s local party to take down an owlbear (which is a wonderful hybrid beast IMO). But then  his friend Gonze’s little brother (or was it his son?) Tanta comes down with a rare fever.

Red braves the forbidden mountains (and risks guild expulsion) and brings down the owlbear in order to gather the needed blood needles needs for Tanta’s medicine. Red didn’t jump at the chance to undertake this, as he cares little for honor or glory, only the dignity of a comfortable and rewarding life.

But to help a friend in need, he’ll do absolutely anything he can. It’s great shorthand for the fact Red is…a pretty nice guy! But being a nice guy and being good at collecting herbs meant it was taking a very long time for him to save enough to have his apothecary shop built.

By saving Tanta’s life, Red inadvertently put Gonze, an accomplished carpenter, in the position of having to repay a life debt. Red has enough money for the materials for the shop, so with Gonze more than willing to build it for free, Red finds the plans for his dreams suddenly accelerated. His good deed was rewarded.

A bit later, another hero arrives in the beautiful and chivalrous Rit, wondering why the guild girl Meg is dressed differently. Meg tells her all about the party for Red’s shop’s grand opening, as well as what kind of adventurer and man Red is.

Rit is intrigued, but unfortunately she and Red don’t end up meeting this week. Instead, we’re treated to another lovely, relaxed, Yuru Camp-like ending theme played over visuals of Rit and Red becoming fast, close friends…and possibly more.

Red may have been cast away by his elite party-mates, but he still has something important to contribute in this world. It says a lot that someone with such honest and modest designs for their life should have the misfortune of having fallen behind in his party mitigated by having his dreams essentially made true in the first episode.

This isn’t a show about him achieving the goal of running an apothecary…that part is done. Now we’ll get to see if that goal ends up being what he wanted (I’m guessing yes by the “slice-of-life” label of this series), and more importantly, I can’t wait to see him and Rit meet, as the ED wrote some very pleasant checks I’m hoping to be cashed soon.

At the same time, brief cuts to his sister Ruti at points in the episode suggest that even if he’s moved on from his past as an adventuer in the Hero’s Party, that past, and that party, might not quite be done with him.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tokyo Revengers – 04 – Crybaby Hero

So far Takemichi’s mission has been all about saving Hinata, and just in case we forgot, she demonstrates that she’s a hero in her own right, using her cuteness and forwardness to make some boys make space for an old lady to sit down on the train. From this display, to how embarrassed she is by her mom, to the way she watches fireworks, she is unassailably one of the Best Girls.

It’s not a question of if Takemichi can save her…he has to, or this show and I are going to have some words. But of course, it’s not so simple, just as Takemichi trying to hold Hinata’s hand somehow goes wrong and he ends up shaking young Naoto’s instead, thus torpedoing a beautiful romantic scene he never experienced the first time around. Heck, he’d never even been in Hinata’s room before.

It’s for the best that Takemichi return to the present, even if it was on accident. For one thing, it confirms that no matter which timeline he’s in, shaking Naoto’s hand sends him to the other, and his body ends up in a state of “suspended animation”, meaning they shouldn’t do it again except in the safety of Naoto’s apartment.

Takemichi also learns that while there’s still much more to be done, he did manage to change history again; specifically, Akkun’s fate. Originally, Akkun did stab Kiyomasa and ended up being arrested and convicted at sixteen. But now that Takemichi’s bravery stayed Akkun’s hand, he went on to join the Toman Gang, meaning they have a potential in for meeting with present-day Mikey.

After tracking down his old contact book, Akkun’s old phone number amazingly still works, and leads him and Naoto to a hostess club Akkun runs. There, Akkun introduces himself and his new, close-cropped and life-worn appearance. Honestly upon seeing him I worried he was dying of a terminal illness, or had become a drug addict.

Instead, Akkun is simply haunted. Takemichi is right that Akkun considers them friends for life, but he admits that he was the one who pushed Takemichi onto the tracks. That should have killed him, but Naoto saved him, which planted the seed in Akkun’s head that Takemichi can travel through time.

Takemichi tries to deflect Akkun’s ideas as insane ravings, but the bottom line is Akkun had been waiting for him. You see, it may look like he made the big time and has anything and anyone he wants, but the one thing he doesn’t have is freedom. He’s one of Kisaki Tetta’s soldiers, and the way he talks about him, disobedience is death. As for Mikey, Akkun hasn’t seen him in years.

Akkun must’ve been following Kisaki’s orders when he pushed Takemichi, but between failing to kill him and telling Takemichi all these things now, Akkun has already sealed his fate…at least in this timeline. So as Takemichi watches in horror, Akkun climbs up to the ledge, tells his “crybaby hero” Takemichi to save everyone, then jumps to his death. As Takemichi cries out in anguish, Kisaki is on that same rooftop, utterly unmoved.

It must’ve been tough to witness what he did, but in doing so Takemichi finally realizes this is about far more than Hinata. Hinata died because Mikey turned evil, but he turned evil because of Kisaki Tetta after Ryuugjuu Ken died. If Takemichi wants to have any chance of saving Hinata, he’ll have to save Akkun and Draken too. He has to stand his ground, tears and all, and keep fighting for a brighter future for everyone.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Promised Neverland – 18 – The Norman Invasion

After a recap week, Neverland is back, and as good as its been all season, although not for the reason you’d think. Norman’s back, and that’s great! Emma can’t believe it’s not a dream, and I don’t mean that metaphorically. This literally doesn’t seem real that their old friend is alive, well, and not just deep in the anti-demon resistance, but its leader. It changes everything.

Norman comes to the Temple where he receives a hero’s welcome from the other kids. Like Emma, they initially can’t believe it’s really him, but unlike her they weren’t in charge of ensuring everyone’s survival all this time. They see how they’ve fared, and how things aren’t going so well, and how now that Norman’s here everything will be fine.

Of course, they don’t consciously put it in a way that diminishes Emma’s leadership to this point. Instead, they see it as a great lifting of a weight from her shoulders she never should have had to bear alone. But with the lifting of that weight naturally means there will be a shift in power and authority.

That’s especially apparent when Norman regales the group with what he’s been up to since he left Grace Field House. Rather than processed for food, he was sent to Lambda, a facility for testing and experimentation. There, he made use of his superior intellect to wreck the place, freeing himself and many other captives who had suffered horribly.

Ever since then, he’s been developing a means of utterly defeating the demons: a drug that will cause them to degenerate into wild beasts who will turn against each other. In effect, it’s a biological weapon, and Norman intends for its widespread use in order to decimate their tormentors.

There’s no doubt that if the drug works as Norman claims, it will usher in a new era of freedom and peace for humanity. This is a big deal. And when you consider all he’s accomplished in the same amount of time Emma and her group have only barely managed to feed themselves, it really puts Emma’s relative lack of progress in relief.

Of course, Emma’s overwhelming concern with Norman’s plan is that it’s so barbaric, and renders humans as no better than the worst demons. Demons have names, thoughts, family. She wants a future where they don’t have to hate, fight, or kill. Ray can sense this, and he gets it out of her fairly easily, which means those so-called “secret” thoughts could have come out at a far worse time, in front of a far less receptive audience.

Ray doesn’t agree with Emma. He’s fine with annihilating the demons, but he also wants to make sure Emma makes her feelings known to Norman. They don’t know, for instance, if Norman knows about demons like Mujika who can maintain their intellects without human meat, so it could be an exchange of information that could help Emma better determine and articulate a more peaceful counterproposal.

As soon as they reach Norman’s holdfast and meet his fellow Lambda escapees, the immense scale of Emma’s task becomes clear. After what they and their friends both dead and alive endured at Lambda, Cislo, Vincent, and Barbara harbor a pure and intense hatred of demons. Cislo can’t wait for the high that comes from massacring demons, while the suspicious-looking haunch of meat Barbara is chomping on turns out to be demon meat.

That’s right: Barbara says her anger melts away when she eats their meat. She believes every single demon should suffer what they endured, and worse. The atmosphere wasn’t altogether welcoming at the beginning of the scene, but as the Lambda kids start talking about how much they hate demons, the mood of the scene turns that much more sinister, to the point I feared for Emma’s safety!

Indeed, when Barbara can see what she’s saying is disturbing Emma, she makes it clear that Emma better not have any disgusting ideas about changing Norman’s plan. Cislo and Vincent tell Barbara to take off and cool down, but they feel the same way: the demons must go. When they leave Emma and Ray to wait for Norman, Ray tells her there’s no stopping hatred like that once it’s begun.

I honestly couldn’t help but think of the current situation in Attack on Titan’s final season, in which the “good” and “bad” sides have long since melted away, and everyone arms themselves with enough hatred to commit any atrocity against anyone who stands in their way. I’m with Emma that this isn’t the right way to forge a future, but I’m also with Ray: in this climate she’ll be steamrolled by the hate long before she can come up with, let alone implement, an alternative plan.

When Norman is free, he sits down with his brother and sister, and shows them a bottle of the drug that will be used in the plan. Emma doesn’t even get to the part where she objects to that plan when Ray mentions the demons who didn’t eat humans. Norman reacts in a way neither Ray nor Emma expected: like someone who had staunchly believed their nemesis was dead and buried suddenly having to call that into doubt.

Referring to Mujika as the “Evil-Blooded Girl” while glaring and grasping his face dramatically, Norman shows a side of himself Emma has never seen, and part of the New Norman with whom the other Lambda kids are familiar and comfortable. No doubt Norman cast away those parts himself that weren’t relevant to The Cause. And now she and Ray may be the bearer of news that could ruin his intricate plan for demon eradication. Not the reunion anyone wanted!

Read Crow and Irina’s discussion of the episode here.

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