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.

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Golden Kamuy – 09 – Henmi’s Last Gleaming

While Golden Kamuy isn’t the prettiest anime around by any means, it excels at building tension, constructing intricate close shaves, and making coincidence feel more like providence.

Asirpa discovers Henmi’s victim just a hair too late to warn Sugimoto, who follows when Henmi sends him outside so they won’t be interrupted. When the 7th arrives, Henmi takes Sugimoto to the big shot’s mansion, and Asirpa spots them from afar and follows them.

When Henmi and Sugimoto go up the stairs, the two 7th soldiers they find already on the upper floor catch just enough of Sugimoto’s cap to know it’s him. Henmi improvises, using the trusty giant knife he brought to kill them, but gets shot by one before he dies.

Sugimoto assumes the man just defended himself, and is even willing to carry him out when they happen to bump into Lt. Tsurumi (asking the whaling tycoon for weapons factory funds). Even Tsurumi is caught off guard when the old man decides to take matters into his own hands and unleashes the power of his prized Maxim machine gun.

Sugimoto escapes with Henmi in the chaos; Henmi’s infatuation for the Immortal only deepens as they run along the beach hand-in-hand. He’s about to kill Sugimoto with a blow from behind when he’s shot with an arrow from…Asirpa, who had been hanging back and watching things unfold.

Sugimoto proceeds to stab Henmi several times, but their position on the beach makes them vulnerable to orca attack, with one particular specimen chomping up Henmi and taking him away.

Henmi couldn’t be happier with how he’s meeting his end; shot by an Ainu girl, stabbed by Sugimoto the Immortal, to be finished off by an orca. Who could ask for more?

But Sugimoto doesn’t let the orca have the last act; stripping down (as Asirpa kinda sorta averts her eyes) and diving into the ocean to rescue Henmi, depending once again on his apparent inability to die. It pays off, but Tsurumi learns he’s working with the Ainu, while Hijikata learns more about Siraishi’s “friends.”

Back at the Ainu village Tanigaki is back on his feet and has been accepted by elder and child alike, but enters the elder woman’s hut to find Ogata and Nikaidou there, essentially holding the two Ainu hostage. Tanigaki lies (badly), but ultimately Ogata says he’ll let him be—only to fire off a shot from outside, so as to kill only Tanigaki and not the innocent witnesses.

Ogata misses only because Osoma pulled Tanigaki’s head back at just the right time to avoid the bullet. Some cat-and-mouse ensues, with Tanigaki testing Ogata’s accuracy, then putting up a smokescreen to escape the hut.

After retrieving Henmi (whose whimsical insanity I’ll miss), skinning him for the tattoos, and having some dinner at the Yanshuu canteen, Sugimoto, Asirpa and Shiraishi are approached by an old man who turns out to be Hijikata, in a nice bit of up-close-and-personal observation. Shiraishi knows full well who the old man is, but Sugimoto and Asirpa are oblivious. But the message to Shiraishi is clear: copy the tattoos and report back.

Back at the village, Ogata and Nikaidou have retreated after the smokescreen gave Tanigaki the upper hand. But he’s still wounded, and Ogata has no intention of giving up the hunt. Only Tanigaki won’t be unarmed; Osoma presents him with the late Nihei’s rifle, which holds only a single bullet. But hey, one is better than none!

Shoukoku no Altair – 03

We left Tintin Mahmut in dire straits last week, but still with an ace in the hole: his trusty eagle Snowy Iskender. As Zaganos, outnumbered 10-1, considers using poison to pull out a victory, the female Imperial officer stopping Shahra from cutting any more tent ropes, and Mahmut straight getting his ass kicked by the male officer, it’s all up to the bird.

I must say, this show’s clever (if sometimes credulity-straining) use of Iskender and the eagles to lend Mahmut a hand in times of great need add a sheen of destiny to his story, as if nature itself would prefer he succeed in his endeavors.

Or rather birds, plural: scores of them descend on the hostage tent and pull it away; conveniently dropping it on top of the Imperial soldiers standing by for orders to burn it. Instead, they are the ones who burn, in a nice bit of irony.

Iskender him(her?)self comes to Mahmut’s aid against the big guy, who after all has only one eye and thus has a depth perception shortfall that results in a rather creative death: Mahmut and the eagle work together to wrap a chain around the guy’s face and throat, and Mahmut snaps his neck.

Thus Mahmut’s would-be tormentor is dunzo, and so is the Imperial plot to take Hisar. Ibrahim Vali opens the gates to Zaganos and his forces, and Mahmut makes the call to release all of the Araba, despite their rebellion. For that, and for all their roles in the brief Hisar rebellion, Mahmut, Ibrahim, and Zaganos are all brought before the Divan of the other 11 Pashas to testify and be judged.

To Ibrahim and Mahmut’s shock and delight, the former is not executed, but restored as Vali of Hisar. Zaganos is reinstated as Pasha. But Mahmut, as I figured considering the outcome of the other two verdicts, isn’t so lucky. He is stripped of his rank of Pasha, and demoted to Binbashi under Halil Pasha. He couldn’t have ended up under a nicer commander, but it’s still a huge step backwards for Mahmut, for whom duty is life.

Having tasted the sweet top only makes the demotion all the more bitter, but Mahmut does not contest or even disagree with the Divan’s judgment. There were always risks Mahmut exposed himself to by becoming the youngest Pasha, and that included letting emotional detachments make him forget that the role of Pasha is far more than going off alone to save one’s friend.

It’s just as bitter to think that by accomplishing so many great and noble deeds in Hisar, thwarting those who threatened peace while saving thousands of innocent people, in this case, was the wrong move, at least in his position. Being a Pasha must mean being more detached, more aloof from personal concerns, while far more attuned to the greater needs of the state as a whole.

It’s a big picture position, and Mahmut simply wasn’t ready yet. But he’s learned his lesson, and is eager to see more places, meet more people, and be reinstated as Pasha as quickly as possible…but not so quickly that he doesn’t do it properly.

Judging from the scheming of both Minister Louis and Lelederik, and the fact Louis is aware of Zaganos’ spy network (which Z gave Mahmut the means to contact) and is taking them out one by one, Mahmut can’t get back in the Pasha’s seat soon enough.

Shoukoku no Altair – 02

This week’s Altair begins with more of Mahmut’s backstory; specifically, when he was still in school and excelled at everything but convincing others to follow him—and inspiring loyalty is a key trait in a pasha. What inspired him to work harder to adopt that ability was a friend of his, the older Ibrahim, who vowed to become Vali of his hometown of Hisar.

Fast-forward to the present day, and Hisar is in rebellion, with Ibrahim at the center. Zaganos Pasha immediately sets off with a punitive force, but Mahmut breaks out his usual indignation with the situation, clearly having not learned how to properly engage with the impatient Zaganos.

Thus, he gets nowhere, and must follow Zaganos to Hisar to find out what’s going on. Shahra decides to tag along, because she belives she could be useful; I know of no other reason she has besides seeming to like Mahmut (who doesn’t return her interest, even for a moment).

Elsewhere in Hisar, the families of all thousand soldiers in the castle’s garrison are the hostages of an alliance between the Araba and the Empire. The deal is, Ibrahim’s and his mens’ loved ones will be seen safely to the Turkish capital if they hand over control of the city.

That would be bad news to Turkyie, as Hisar is a buffer between them and the Empire. Unfortunately, between the Imperial representatives, the Araban leader, and the local (female) lord who has brought a large force of her own to bear near Hisar, all the new characters create a bit of a haze and no one really stands out. They’re all just kind of around. But with the tent soaked in oil, there are certainly human stakes to consider.

When Shahrah gets a little dance party going outside that tent, it lures out one of the Imperials. Mahmut, Good Guy that he is, tries to tell the Arabans—happy to be gaining a new city and nation—that they’re all pawns in a larger game of geopolitical chess being played by Minister Louis, whom if I’m not mistaken was roundly beaten by Mahmut in his little fake arrow scheme.

Nevertheless, Mahmut is right in the thick of things, having to cross swords with an opponent of unknown ability (that turns out to be pretty formidable) out of loyalty to his friend Ibrahim. The Imperial tells him it’s no worth it, as Ibrahim had already failed in his role as Vali by letting personal emotions supersede his duty.

He accuses Mahmut as failing for the same reason, but vows not to take his life until the Imperial army is within Hisar’s walls and he can claim victory. And that’s where we leave things: with Mahmut in some very deep water; but with a few pieces (like his at-large golden eagle) to work with, he’s certainly still in the game.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 03

This week the party of Mercenary, Zero and Albus arrive in the bustling trading town of Formicum. Zero reports to the guards at the gate that she and Albus are Merc’s sex slaves, and they’re allowed to pass at half cost…though it could be argued you can’t put a price on Merc’s reputation.

Once there, Zero shows Merc some gems, and he tells her she only needs one small one to buy a fine set of new threads, which she does. I like the look, even if the clothes are a bit baggy on her. Zero also shows off her utter lack of modesty by trying to change in front of men and women alike. That’s so Zero!

Once they’re settled in…at an inn, Merc tries to sneak out but Zero spots him and they go out drinking, only to re-encounter another Beastfallen who has three captive girls who Zero knows are not witches. So Merc enters and wins a duel with the wolf-man and the girls are freed.

The sprightly dialogue between Merc and Zero continues to entertain, and it’s always fun to watch Merc take down a baddie. But as Merc’s defeat is never remotely in doubt, the whole episode lacks any kind of serious stakes. Still, it’s a pleasant enough watch for an overcast Monday afternoon.

Drifters – 05

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This was a particularly shitty episode of Drifters – and I say that not due to a lack of quality (it remains consistently average most of the time), but due to the sheer amount of excrement used as a weapon against the Orte soldiers in the Elven Rebellion. The three samurai help the Elves train for the battle, then Toyohisa leads the fight, which is waged with arrows and blades covered in crap, and a well full of crap so wounds can’t be washed.

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In this regard, Nobunaga shows just how ruthless he can be, employing the very natural processes of life and death to his advantage, and rightfully expecting the Orte troops to crumble once they see the tactics being used against them.

However, Nobunaga also knows that Yoichi isn’t the biggest fan of such “dirty tricks”, nor that Toyohisa knows how to do anything other than compel others to fight and then fight himself. He proposes the storming of the lord’s castle, but it’s up to Nobunaga to formulate a plan to do so.

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The castle-storming (involving the elves disguised as troops returning…the Orte don’t seem that bright) leads us to a discovery that makes the enemy even more baldly despicable: not only did Orte abduct all of the female elves, but soldiers have been free to have their way with them in a filthy, hellish nightmare setting that make Toyohisa change his mind about accepting anyone’s surrender. If they’re going to act like beasts, he’s going to slaughter them like beasts.

The three amigos made some progress, but we may be starting to see cracks appearing between them even as their quest to conquer everything in sight is just beginning. And while this episode wasn’t marred by any other Drifters or Ends, showing us the dirty, smelly side of war was ultimately more gross than engrossing.

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GATE – 16

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Considering how last week ended, one would think we’d be in store for some adventures with the party of Inami, Tuka, Rory, Lelei and Yao, right? Wrong. We only see them for less than five minutes this week. The rest of the episode somewhat disappointingly checks in numerous other plotlines, darting from one place to another for the apparent purpose of making GATE as complicated as possible.

We see more Yanagida than Itami this week, as he explains Itami’s actions to the General, then convinces another one (far easier than he expected) to mobilize a unit to support Itami. Then he meets with the old dude who gave Itami advice last week, who turns out to be a king, and negotiates a deal for tax-free non-currency mining rights. If this all sounds a bit dry, you’re not alone.

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Things get a little spicier when Yanagida’s various dealings intersect with Tyuule’s order for her spy in Arnus, Delilah, to assassinate Noriko, who has learned her family is missing and presumed dead and isn’t that upset when an assassin crawls out of the shadows.

Yanagida stops Delilah, but her being an extremely adept warrior, she’s able to dodge his bullets and plunge her knife into his side. He responds by emptying his clip into her. I suppose this is some kind of commentary on the combat prowess (or lack thereof) of “administrative” soldiers like Yanagida. In any case, Tyuule’s plot is foiled. I wonder what she’ll try next.

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I’ll admit, while it’s kinda random, I still enjoyed watching the pair of F-4 Phantoms messing around with the Fire Dragon, whom they intercept without much trouble, test its speed, maneuverability, and intelligence, then duck out before it barbecues them.

I know, Itami needs the dragon alive so he can show Tuka the thing that kill her father and hopefully snap her out of her psychosis, but wouldn’t it have been more prudent to simply fully arm those fighters, sortie a couple more, and take the big guy (or gal) out? I guess they’re not willing to risk losing a plane or a pilot on a dragon that, at the end of the day, isn’t threatening JSDF assets…yet.

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The five minutes of the core gang go by far too quickly, but they’re an exciting five minutes, as the dragon comes before them, Rory and Lelei do their thing to keep him busy, and Inami puts an RPG launcher in Tuka’s hands and tells her to fire. She misses, and the dragon skedaddles, but perhaps the experience will make her more lucid?

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GATE – 15

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My first thought as to why Tuka is crying? Why, because she and the other two main girls have barely been in this second season. And what we have seen – her wandering around, looking for her dead father – was troubling.

When Itami finally has time to visit the trio, he learns that Yao Haa Dushi told her the flat-out truth – that her father was killed by the fire dragon – and Tuka just couldn’t handle it. The result is a state of psychosis in which she searches the camp endlessly for her father, forgetting about food and sleep; it’s so bad Lelei has had to sedate her periodically.

When Tuka sees Itami after waking up from one such sedation, she sees him as her father and embraces him accordingly, much to everyone’s dismay.

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Yao freely admits to “breaking” Tuka, something she did to force the hand of Itami, someone she believes will be able to help her slay the fire dragon and avenge her people. Yao is as fanatical as Tuka in this desire, only she hasn’t succumbed to as deep a madness as Tuka has. It’s cruel manipulation of our blonde elf, but you can’t fault Yao, who had been refused by everyone else in the JSDF.

Now, as she sees it, in order for Tuka to be healed Itami must make sure she gets the same thing Yao wants: revenge. Only then can she accept her father’s death and move forward. Unfortunately, the only way to get that revenge is by slaying the fire dragon, a foe Itami isn’t keen on facing off against anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Pina informs Diabo that Zolzal has been named their father’s heir. I’m not sure if he’s on Zolzal’s side or Pina’s, but he lets Pina know Zolzal told him to pick a side, that he doesn’t think Zolzal’s reign will last long, and that he’ll bring everyone down with him if he can. If Pina wants peace with Japan, she may have to do something about Zolzal, which would mean defying her father.

Finally, we see Tyuule’s true colors, as she’s been manipulating Zolzal into a pliable, unstable state of supreme arrogance, and is now confident he’ll do whatever she says, she tells an informant who sneaks in to make a delivery in exchange for being allowed to lick her leg. Tyuule hopes to incite a war that will destroy the empire, using Misako as the match to light the fire. Tyuule remains an interesting wild card; on no one’s side but her own, herself fueled by revenge.

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Itami is loath to carry out the plan Yao wants, because he wouldn’t be able to secure a large enough group to bring the dragon down (you’re probably talking about sustained air assault with gunships, rockets, and missiles, plus artillery to finish it off). He believes if he goes in with a small group, they’ll get wiped out, and the last thing he wants is to lose anyone in battle, especially for what is essentially a personal mission.

While he ponders the situation, he decides to go all in and pretend he’s Tuka’s father for the time being. Tuka is elated about this, and they hit the town on a father-daughter date, spending every moment of Itami’s R&R together (she even sleeps with him in bed, naked for some reason…)

While it’s nice to see Tuka so happy, it’s a false happiness that cannot be sustained. Eventually Itami will have to tell her the truth, and she’ll go right on denying it, or possibly plunge deeper into madness. Itami himself dealt with the loss of his father (if I’m reading the flashback correctly, his mother, herself mentally unbalanced, killed him and was committed for it, leaving Itami alone), so he can certainly relate to Tuka.

That new tidbit about Itami’s life makes us wonder if he’s ever actually fully processed that loss and moved forward, or if a part of him is still trapped in the past, if not to as extreme degree as Tuka.

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When Itami has to return to the capital to translate – this time a longer-term arrangement, he breaks it to Tuka as best he can, but the pain in her face is plain to see before she replaces it with an understanding smile.

He crosses paths with Yao once more, who reminds him playing house isn’t going to work forever (no shit Shirlock), and even Lelei and particularly Roroy also appear to be concerned about how long the charade should be allowed to go on.

Heck, posing as her father is messing Itami up, to which his comrade Yanagida suggests: why not just go on the damn mission and slay the dragon?

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That night, as he watches the moon to think about whether to do just that, he meets a wizened old man from the special region with an prosthetic arm and leg, things Japan brought that make it possible for him to continue living his normal life. This old man knows what’s eating Itami before he even sits down: he’s worried about the cost of action. His advice is to listen to his heart, which already knows the answer. Sometimes you gotta act even if it’s dangerous.

So on the dawn when he’s about to head back to the capital via helicopter, after saying his goodbyes he spots a tear on Tuka’s face the moment before the cargo door closes, and jumps out of the helicopter to stay with her. The old man gave him a nudge, but it was Itami who made the leap.

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And that, ladies and gentlemen, means Itami won’t be doing any dreary capital duty anytime soon. No, he’s going on an adventure with Tuka to find and destroy the Fire Dragon. Sure, she still thinks he’s her father, but he can sort that out later.

I don’t know why Itami thinks it will just be him and Tuka, but he’s quickly corrected when Rory makes her presence felt, bites his arm, and forms a contract whereby his soul his hers if he dies. Lelei and Yao also join the party.

At this point I was wondering why he didn’t ask his closer subbordinates with whom he’s been in so many scrapes to volunteer to join him; I’m sure they’d come along if offered the choice. But that’s okay. I’m happy with the five-person group, and looking forward to watching them hopefully kick some fire dragon ass.

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GATE – 14

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Here I thought the earthquake would be a major calamity for the Special Region, utterly unequipped to deal with a natural disaster that does plenty of harm even in modern Japan. But it’s “only a 4 or a 5”, by Itami’s reckoning, as he and Sugawara weather it calmly while Pina and her maid are shaking in their nighties.

The quake passes, but Pina knows she’s not the only one of her people who was scared shitless, so she rushes to the palace to meet with her father, bringing Itami and Sugawara along.

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Their coridal meeting is interrupted by the arrival of Prince Zolzal, who wastes no time at all confirming what a woman-hating creep his is by bringing in Noriko, a Japanese hostage from when their armies invaded the Ginza. Noriko looks as beaten-up and beaten-down as the bunny chief from last week, but Itami and Shino waste no time rescuing her from Zolzal’s clutchs and doling out swift punishment.

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When Zolzal orders his men to attack them back, Itami steps back and lets Shino take care of everything. She bayonets all approaching fighters, then guns down those with shields (the bullets go right through them and their primitive armor).

We’ve seen Shino-As-One-Girl-Wrecking-Crew before, but having her do her thing in the middle of the Imperial throne room sets a new high for audaciousness. It’s also never not fun to watch her go on a spree, even if, again, I’m not so sure SDF protocol is being followed here.

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But while it’s fun, and I’m glad Zolzal quickly gets his just desserts for all the shitty slimy stuff he’s done (and I’m sure he’s done much more we’re not privy to), and Shino’s fists carry with them all the manifest despair and loathing and suffering of Zolzal’s victims, being brought down upon him, it’s also a bit, well, easy. 

I mean, of course this guy is a loathsome little shitstain, and of course when someone actually fight starts whaling on him, he crumbles into a crybaby.

But I’m going to call this scene exactly what it is—Tarantino-esque revenge porn—and while I considered Shino’s actions justified (if a little over-the-top), it would have been more satisfying if there was a little more moral ambiguity to the exchange. The stark black-and-whiteness sapped the scene some of its power.

Interestingly, it’s Tyuule the bunny chief who stands between the prince and Itami, begging the LT not to kill her abuser. I’m thinking perhaps she has her own plans for him, plans for which she’s endured much suffering, and they won’t work if he’s dead. I look forward to the time she can repay him for everything he’s done, but with her people’s safety to consider, she’s playing the long game.

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The Japanese government acts swiftly upon news of Japanese hostages in the Special Region – by bombing the Imperial Senate, sending the message that they’d better release the others if they don’t want to lose anymore buildings.

We learn of the existence of another brother of Pina and Zolzal’s—Diabo, which sounds kinda like “diablo”, only he seems like less of a devil than Zolly…though he may just be better at hiding it. Zolzal also calls his sister a traitor, opening up the possibility he takes her prisoner, stripping her down and beating her, as is his M.O. with captive women.

They have a little chat about how Zolly knows he’ll be named emperor over Diabo, even though his father won’t actually give up all his power. Tyuule’s presence by his side and in his bed is starting to make more sense if she is indeed plotting against him, it’s best to keep your enemies close. And as we know with that tan elf chick who hasn’t shown up yet (Ducy), the warriors of other races resolve to do whatever they can to protect their people.

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Mochizuki Noriko is brought back to base and her injuries are treated. You can feel the traumas she endured in her eyes and the sound of her voice (not sure who the seiyu is, but she does a fine job); but also her relief and joy at being free, something she probably gave up on when she was one of Zolzal’s sex slave. But her troubles aren’t over; it’s heavily implied her family was killed in a Special Region raid while they were distributing flyers about her disappearance. Talk about a rough hand to be dealt.

And speaking of those missing family, Tuka spends the entire episode looking for her father, though again we only see her for a couple of beats. Next week’s episode is titled “Tuka Luna Marceau”, which bodes well for getting her more involved in a show that for the last two weeks has seriously snubbed her, Rory and Lelei.

However, I see that it did that for a pretty good reason: to remind us quite unambiguously that the SG isn’t just some charmingly primitive fantasy land. It’s brutal, and cruel, and dark, and sometimes the only way to deal with it is by knocking out a couple of its teeth.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 07

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After just leaving Aihara Aiko and her squad behind to die, Guren indulges Yuu’s desire to save the hostages rather than kill them to end their suffering and retreat. But since these noble attacks are decoys to allow the main Shibuya force to move without detection, it doesn’t really matter how they proceed at Nagoya city hall, as long as the count of able-bodied soldiers doesn’t go down too far.

Shinoa tells Yuu to be calm more than once when discussing what’s to be done about the hostages, but she’ll suffer no deviation from her orders: if they can’t save the hostages in five minutes, everyone is to retreat, no ifs ands or buts. Narumi’s squad will back hers, while Guren, Shinya, and his team will target Crowley, Belle, and Horn. But as Shinya and Yoichi’s first shot demonstrates, these nobles won’t go down so easily.

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While I can see what the show was trying to do by building up the attack, the orders not to die and the setting of the watches, and all the talking didn’t help the pace of this episode, nor did the apparent contradiction in abandoning one squad to die but saving another in a much more dangerous situation. But when the battle finally begins, things pick up nicely, as we see just how easily Guren’s people can mow down vampire foot soldiers.

Still, it’s nobles Guren is after, and when he finally crosses swords with Crowley, what is surely his best strike is easily turned away. Crowley is more bemused than anything else by the sudden attack, but admits to his two lieutenants that in the short-term, humans can actually be somewhat entertaining. The result of their efforts isn’t in doubt for him, but he’ll patiently see what they can do.

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Guren on his own is clearly not enough against Crowley, but Shinya undermines the element of surprise by announcing he’s behind Crowley. Before he can say “checkmate”, both Guren and Shinya are in a pile, and have to regroup. Meanwhile, Yuu and the others are done early, so under pressure from Yuu, Shinoa decides to dedicate three minutes—no more—to helping Guren out. Interestingly, this week there’s no downing of PEDs, though one would think those would come in handy against nobles as they had in the past. Maybe they took some earlier and they haven’t worn off yet?

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In any case, Guren and Shinya, wounded and soundly outmatched, are forced to scurry from one room to another at an increasingly slow clip, with Crowley and his ladies always catching up. Yet as long as they’re keeping the nobles busy, the mission continues to be a success. It’s just…it would be really nice if these three vampires could be brought down.

But considering how easily we’ve seen Guren take care of Yuu, I don’t see how Yuu is the man to do it. It will have be a concerted team effort, as it was for their first bagged noble. But all that might be moot once Mika arrives. Could he join forces with Yuu to beat Crowley, in service of his ultimate goal to free and protect Yuu from those who would hurt or use him? Stranger things have happened.

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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 04

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Stella’s first battle is over before it begins, when her lower-ranked opponent forfeits out of a desire not to be hurt too badly. When she checks in on Ikki, he’s studying tape on his opponent, Kirihara Shizuya, and his “Area Invisible” technique that’s such a mismatch against Ikki’s swords skills. He seems focused and committed, and promises her he won’t lose. And Stella, having come off an easy victory, having lost to him herself, and used to Ikki acting tough and cool, believes him, without suspecting anything amiss.

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Alice is different. Her woman’s intuition, if you will, senses something is off with Ikki on this particular momentous, high-pressure occasion. She learns about how years ago there was a conspiracy to get Ikki expelled for some petty infraction, and how Shizuya attacked him brutally, but Ikki wouldn’t fight back no matter what, worried (rightly so) that he’d be kicked out for it.

Alice comes to the conclusion Ikki is so used to being downtrodden, both physically and mentally, by those who see themselves as better than him, that he’s developed a hard skin that prevents him from hearing the “screaming in his heart”—that release valve everyone has.

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Now that he has to either win the Seven Star Battle or be expelled, that pent-up anguish has a profound effect on Ikki, such that he does not strike the moment that gives him the best chance at victory: before Shizuya activates Area Invisible. He can’t, says Alice: he’s too damned nervous down there.

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And so, Shizuya, who is perfectly confident in his ability to hide and attack from the shadows like a hunter or assassin, has his way with Ikki, riddling him full of arrows. Ikki collapses in a pool of his own bloood, Shizuya mocks him, the crowd starts laughing and mocking and chanting “Worst One” and it’s almost a nightmare come true for Ikki, until a fed-up Stella stands up and tells the crowd to shut the hell up, and tells Ikki to stop looking pathetic and get up.

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So he gets up. He puts his cool face back on. He can, because Stella’s loud public words of encouragement wash away the nerves. He calms down, then uses his trump card and steals the “logic” of Shizuya’s ability, so he can see right through it every time. Shizuya is able to switch from tactic to tactic, but ultimately they’re all part-and-parcel of his ability, leaving nothing with which he can hold Ikki back other than cowering and crying “uncle.” Ikki spares his life (by one millimeter!) and wins. Then he passes out.

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When he comes to, he’s in the hospital, a dozing, drooling Stella by his bedside, his sister crying into Alice’s shoulder outside because it’s not to be for her. And since he has her alone, Ikki, who won his battle thanks to Stella, confesses to her, and expresses how important she is to him.

Her lovely dere response includes a closed-eyes first kiss and a small nod indicating she feels the same way about him. Then Ikki draws her into a big warm hug (bawww) and promises he’ll one she’ll face in the Seven Star final. You don’t get that a lot in anime these days: a couple working towards facing off against each other in the final battle. I like it!

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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 03

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The Stella x Ikki romance is humming along so well, Stella judges it time to ask him out on a Saturday date. Unfortunately for her, Shizuku had the same exact idea at the same time, sending a text to her bro as Stella trying to get the words out, which Ikki responds to immediately.

When Shizuku brings her roommate “Alice” (a man who identifies as a maiden), it turns into a group date, with neither Stella nor Shizuku happy about the other being there. Alice briefly flirts with Ikki as a joke, but otherwise isn’t in the running.

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Typical harem date hijinx ensue, from Shizuku holding Ikki’s hand (“normal sibling behavior”), to Shizuku calling out Stella on her self-description as Ikki’s servant when she tries to get closer to him, to Ikki wiping cream off Shizuku’s cheek and eating it, then Stella covering the lower half of her face in cream in order to attract similar treatment (Ikki just gets a towel). From Shizuku’s reaction to Ikki’s cream swipe to Stella’s ham-handed counterattack, it’s clear these two are new to the seduction game. It’s a process!

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But thankfully, the whole episode isn’t just a lightweight date, when the mall they’re in gets taken over by gun-wielding, hostage-taking masked goons working for a Blazer named Bisho. It happens when Ikki and Alice are in the john, and Alice hides them in the shadows using his handy shadow-manipulating device, but Stella and Shizuku are among the hostages.

No matter, they put aside their rivalry and start working to resolve the situation. Shizuku needs Stella to stay put and stay off the radar, but when the tough guys start beating an insolent mother and son, she stands up and uses her power to protect them, blowing her cover.

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When Stella goes head-to-head against Bisho, his “Ring of Judgment” absorbs her strikes and fires them back at her with equal force. But he respects her courage and offers to spare the hostages if she supplicates herself…in the nude.

Not wanting any innocents hurt, she starts to strip, but before she can remove her bra, Shizuku springs into action, having prepared a water-based magical barrier that protects the hostages from bullets and allows Ikki and Alice to take out Bisho, while Stella takes out the henchmen in her undies.

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They do so, and Ikki overcome’s Bisho’s weapon by simply cutting his hand off, and all’s well that ends well, with a somewhat woozy-from-exertion Ikki running to embrace Stella (who is surprised by but also happy with such a affectionate gesture. And he doesn’t hug Shizuku!)

But there’s a baddie hiding amongst the hostages too: a woman who threatens to kill another woman nearby if they don’t stand down. Fortunatly for Ikki & Co., an “ally” appears out of nowhere and basically cleans up the mess they were in, saving everyone.

That “ally”, which I put in quotes because he’s someone who seems to do such things in order to get all the credit and groupies, is Kirihara Shizuya, someone with whom Ikki has a past. Specifically, Ikki “ran away like a coward” rather than do battle with him an unspecified time ago.

Ikki tries to be cordial, but Kirihara’s barbs annoy Stella to no end. Worse, Kirihara gets a new text message: the first opponent he’ll face will be Kirihara. I doubt Ikki will be running away this time, and will have a plan to beat him.

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Owari no Seraph: Nagoya Kessen-hen – 01 (First Impressions)

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“It’s no longer clear who’s on your side and who’s not.”

That line by Shinoa reflects the main theme of this new episode of Owari no Seraph, and possibly of the season to come. On the battlefield, it was humans vs. vampires. Off it, all bets are off. Shinoa is worried Guren is using Yu for some dark purpose; Guren is worried about Yu switching sides when the Hiiragis summon him for an interview; the powerful Hiiragis, who essentially run the human resistance against vampiredom, have clearly been spooked by recent events, and suspect spies are in their midst.

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Meanwhile, Yu has pretty much fully recovered form his battle wounds, Shinoa is her usual, artificially bubbly and chipper self around him, always deflecting more serious matters…until it comes to the Hiiragis. She warns Yu that they’re scary. Guren makes an appeal to Yu’s loyalty to his family, which now consists of his unit. Mitsu warns Yu that they’re terrifying. 

But Mitsu also laments that she was promoted despite not doing anything of note on the battlefield. The New Yu who was born last season comes out here, expressing his support for her promotion rather than mocking her family connections. A lot of this show revolves around things the protagonist has little or no idea of, and the fact both Shinoa and Mitsu come from big families escaped him all this time, and in any case wouldn’t have affected their status as his family.

Still, even if she’s half-joking in deadpan, it’s a little unsettling for Shinoa to accuse Mitsu of ratting Yu out in exchange for that promotion.

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When Yu arrives at the Hiiragi “interview”, he first has to dispose of a captive vampire, then cross swords with both Hiiragi Kureto and Hiiragi Shinya. Kureto in particular isn’t all that pleased with Yu flaunting his ignorance, both of who Kureto is, and how much he still has to learn about Cursed Gear.

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But the trio of Hiiragi’s in that office aren’t half as scary as the ones who enter a dark room with a one-way mirror, revealing Shiho and Yoichi, bound and beaten. Kureto is convinced Yu is a vampire spy, and if he can’t convince him otherwise, he’s going to kill the two them. It’s a taut, tense scene, one in which the classic shonen hero is put on trial by the bureaucracy that has been in the shadows all along.

Yu doesn’t say anything particularly convincing, but the answers he does give help Kureto figure out for himself that Yu was rescued by Guren for a purpose, which must have something to do with the fact Yu was a human experimentation subject for the Hyakuya vampires. Yu dismisses all this as some bullshit feud between Kureto and Guren.

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When Yu finally emerges with Shiho and Yoichi to a relieved Mitsu and Shinoa, the camera pans around to reveal Guren is there too, only far away. The distance signified to me the lack of trust everyone in the unit has for him right now. But he admits he rescued Yu because he had value, and he says all the other right things to keep Yu on his side, for now.

As for Mika, who it seems will always be on Yu’s side if he has any say in the matter, is dealing with blood withdrawal, but refuses a human child Ferid offers as food to arrest his aging. This scene seemed to me a way to again portray Ferid as an awful guy, while the possibility exists he’s working with Guren—perhaps the very vampire spy the Hiiragis are looking for—against the vampire leadership.

The Hiiragis are Guren and Ferid’s enemy. Tepes is Guren and Ferid’s enemy. So are they operating in an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” mode? Whatever the case may be, Yu, Shinoa & Co. will clearly need to watch their backs vigilantly this season, and not just against vampires.

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