Zombieland Saga: Revenge – 11 – Mall Zombies

Sakura wakes up in the morning to find she’s not feeling quite right, but it’s not due to her deteriorating zombie body, it’s because the mansion is literally adrift at sea. Yuugiri, master of understatement, declares things seem to have “taken a turn for the troublesome”.

Ookoba, who was about to publish an exposé that could have potentially shut Franchouchou down, is among those Saga residents wandering the muddy flooded streets in a daze. The goofiness of the floating mansion aside, this week takes a frank look at an all-too-realistic disaster befalling a part of Japan.

But when disaster hits, people tend to come together. After the mansion beaches itself and collapses (as flashes of their fun life there flash heartbreakingly by), Ai’s factory co-worker Machiko invites the girls to the Kaiton Mall, which has been set up as an emergency shelter. She finds a quiet spot for the girls to stay at the top of the stairs.

But the girls have no intention of sitting around idly. Even without Kotarou’s masterful human makeup at their disposal, they don’t shirk from pitching in wherever they’re needed, from helping out with cooking and distributing meals, to assisting with the sandbagging, to keeping the kids’ minds off their situation by having fun with them.

When night falls, many of the kids are scared and want to go home, but their tears dry up fast when Lily starts up her infectious scat-singing and dancing routine. The way Lily likes up the kids’ faces, even Saki can’t help but be wowed by Shrimpy’s idoly power.

The next day Ookoba finds himself at the mall, where NBK is interviewing the families who lost their homes and likely everything in them. To a person everyone keeps their chin up and stays upbeat and positive, both for their own sakes and for their children’s. That’s when Ookoba overhears a man being interviewed mention “the girls” who have been doing so much for the shelter.

On a makeshift stage lit by car headlamps, Franchouchou put on a show every night both to entertain the hell out of the kiddies (who are unassailably adorable) and soothe the adults’ hearts. There was more than one occasion when I teared up, their good works were so heartwarming.

The Grinch-like Ookoba was all gung-ho about exposing Koutarou’s “exploitation” of the idols for profit, but being in that dark mall full of people trying to avoid letting their minds stray to dark places, and seeing the light and joy Franchouchou give both on and off the stage, and he finally starts to understand why Koutarou brought them back to life.

And whither Koutarou, you might ask? Like the girls were initially on the S.S. Mansion, he’s in a somewhat ridiculous situation: the underground bar is completely flooded and both he and an ailing Gramps are just barely keeping their noses and mouths above water. Fortunately Policeman A finds them, making the first time Policeman A has done something useful!

Koutarou is freed from Davy Jones’ Locker none too soon, as the girls’ hastily applied makeup finally begins to chip, flake, and crumble. Before long all of them are in full zombie mode, and with a show to put on that night, their options are limited. An eavesdropping Ookoba spots them all with their natural looks, astonished more than anything else.

Koutarou is on his way to reunite with Franchouchou (thanks to a ride from Misa, using her boat to transport releif supplies) but won’t make it in time to help them. No matter; Junko comes up with a rather ingenious solution, using the materials she brought to make Ozaki dolls to make masks for everyone.

Unfortunately, while they’re able to sell the masks to the kids, who notice their resemblance to the dolls, as soon as the idols leap into the air and come back down, the masks crumble and fall away, and the crowd gets a good hard look at their dead gray skin, scars and bandages.

But here’s the thing: the kids are more confused than anything else. When the idols come clean and say they’re zombies, the kids dispute this. They define zombies as being scary. Franchouchou aren’t scary to them, they’re fun and cool and cute. Ergo, they’re not zombies, they’re Franchouchou.

Ai and the others go for it, hardly able to believe their luck. But in a way, it’s only appropriate that their hours of tireless, selfless hard work at the shelter, doing what they can taking care of others because it’s the right thing to do, be rewarded with a pass on their zombie “disguises.”

Ookoba can also hardly believe how lucky the girls are, but now appreciates how many risks they take every day of their existence. Koutarou sidles up to him and declares, simply, that Franchouchou are the [dis]”embodiment of pure idols”, and Ookoba is in no position to disagree.

As he lovingly reapplies each of the girls’ proper makeup to make them look alive again, Koutarou declares that their revenge concert at EFS will go on as planned in sixteen days, with little or no practice. It has to go on, especially now. Saga was hit by catastrophe, but came out all the stronger and closer for it.

As he takes his leave, Sakura tracks him down and thanks him for making her in idol from the bottom of her no-longer-beating heart. Sakura’s words cause Koutarou to recall flashes of his own failed past trying to make it big  when he attended Sakura’s funeral and held her battered, un-mailed audition package. While he knew he couldn’t save Saga on his own, he reached out to Gramps to bring back Sakura and the rest of the best of Saga throughout history.

For what I believe is the first time ever, he fully acknowledges Sakura, telling her she has “it”. She and the others have the potential to become “eternal idols loved around the globe, and being Franchouchou’s manager, he’ll eternally have “it”, too. It all starts with their revenge!

Irina and Crow talk episode 11 here. Check it out!

Slime 300 – 03 – The Elf and the Fly

Just as Shalsha and Falfa are reading about the Elves of Hrant, one arrives at the door in a state of anxiety, demanding to be let in.

Her name is Halkara, and she’s a very successful apothecary and energy drink entrepreneur who happened to make a demon named Beelzebub mad when that drink caused an adverse effect. She also has a killer bod!

While her extra witch outfit is far too tight for Halkara’s three sizes, Azusa agrees to keep the elf under her protection, casting a barrier over the house and inviting the elf to join her foraging for medicinal herbs.

Azusa ends up learning a lot about the mushrooms of the forest, as well as the existence of a condiment very much like soy sauce. Halkara also accidentally eats an aphrodisiac mushroom (due to poor sorting methods) and starts involuntarily making advances on Azusa, who isn’t interested in a drug-addled tryst!

Halkara eventually recovers, and the matter is not spoken of. Then they find that there’s a huge reward poster at the guild for anyone who can locate Halkara. Azusa preps for a potential confrontation by having Laika take her daughters to safety, but Beelzebub was there all along in the form of a bee.

Beelzebub attempts to seize Halkara, abut Azusa won’t hear of it, and the two agree to take it outside and settle it with a fair fight. Beelzebub immediately makes use of her ability to fly, but ends up hitting the inside of the barrier and gets zapped. Azusa takes her in and heals her with magic.

After recovering, Beelzebub reveals that it wasn’t Halkara’s energy drink that made her sick, but overwork. She and the other demons actually love her product and only came to meet her in person and procure more. With the misunderstanding cleared up, Laika and the kids return.

Beelzebub still wants to have that fair fight sometime, while Halkara wants to move her production to Azusa’s province for tax purposes, so Azusa’s family swells by two. Her peaceful life is as lively and fun as ever, but the episode ends on a cliffhanger as Laika declares she’ll be returning to her own home.

Slime 300 – 02 – And Then There Were Four

When Azusa tells Laika that all she did to reach her level was kill around 25 slimes per day, her pupil is a little surprised. She expected Azusa had worked hard enough to sweat blood. That’s when Azusa reiterates that if you are sweating blood, you’re doing it wrong; “it” being life. And she should know.

As for cooking, Laika’s portions are understandably dragon-sized. Azusa’s appetite shrinks before an omelette the size of an average dog, but one taste and she’s convinced of Laika’s skill. Laika also draws a magic circle for Azusa to cast a protection barrier around Flatta, earning the love of the townfolk.

Yep, Azusa and Laika’s slow life in their newly-build log mansion is pretty sweet. Then one day, a little girl with blue hair and green eyes knocks on their door, declaring herself to be Azusa’s daughter, Falfa. She’s there because her twin sister Shalsha is plotting to kill Azusa.

More precisely, Falfa and Shalsha are twin “slime spirits” born from the souls of all of the slimes Azusa killed over the years. While Falfa harbors no ill will, Shalsha has been training her mind and body to destroy Azusa the first chance she gets, and when she demonstrates her Smite Evil spell that negates all of Azusa’s magic, it looks like she just might succeed!

That is, if Azusa were all alone. Even though Azusa is ready to meet her fate, satisfied she lived a good slow life for three centuries, Laika won’t allow Shalsha to hurt her master. Shalsha folds like a manila folder once Laika hits her with a single Dragon Punch.

In her fifty years of existence, Shalsha poured all of her effort and mana into the Smite Evil spell targeted at Azusa, so she’s extremely weak against anyone other than Azusa. The spell also only lasted around an hour, which expires once she comes to, so she’s also harmless. Falfa manages to talk Shalsha down from her grudge; after all, everyone kills slimes every day!

With two adorable new daughters in her lap and a huge house built for her by Laika, Azusa suggests they move out of their shack in the forest and move in with their mama! The sisters agree, and the quartet hits the town for some shopping to prepare for a welcome party. On the way, Shalsha tells Azusa that there are both good and evil slimes, and she has no trouble killing the evil ones herself.

The new family of four sit down to another massive Laika feast, although this time the amount of food is more appropriate. Azusa makes sure both the sisters and Laika eat their celery soup, and while she wasn’t expecting a slow life with a big family, it’s nice in its own way, making things more fun and lively. It also means a lot more chuckle-worthy gags!

Slime 300 – 01 (First Impressions) – Living La Vida Slow-ca

Isekai Series #48,763, the obnoxiously titled I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, starts out super-dark (albeit tempered with kiddy art) with its workaholic protagonist Aikawa Azusa literally dying at her desk. She encounters an angel in heaven who reincarnates her as an immortal in some nice relaxing highlands.

Azusa is pleased with her forever-17 looks and witch getup—complete with a hat big enough to make Elaina blush. She’s also glad that the only enemies in these lush, verdant highlands are harmless slimes, which she decides to defeat at the rate of ~25 per day in order to fund her knew laid-back life.

Azusa goes on to live a slow, peaceful life in her secluded cottage, tending her field, making medicines from herbs, and basically just kicking back…all while defeating around 25 slimes a day, exchanging the crystals they drop for coin at the nearby village’s adventurer’s guild. This goes on…for three hundred years.

Before she knows it she’s the oldest and most venerable person in the village. The episode intentionally underplays this massive passage of time, comprising over three average human lifespans, but also underscores just how badly Azusa needed a long, long vacation from her hellishly busy past life.


When a guild clerk checks Azusa’s stats for the first time in three centuries, they learn she’s reached Level 99—slow and steady truly has won the race. When rumors spread of the power of the “Witch of the Highlands”, adventurers visit her wanting to test their skills against the best.

Of course, Azusa doesn’t really want to engage in such sparring, any more than she wanted to make a name for herself. She’s always been content to live her slow, peaceful life. But when the adventurers insist, she quickly dispatches them without breaking a sweat, and before she knows it a big red dragon is at her door, looking for a fresh challenge.

A short but sweet aerial battle ensues, with Azusa easily countering the dragon’s fire breath with her ice magic, which she then uses to fuse the dragon’s mouth shut. It plummets to the ground and then does exactly what Azusa had hoped it wouldn’t do: trash her beloved house, which in 300 years had gotten just the way she liked it.

Adding a slug to the face for good measure, Azusa makes the dragon promise to fix her house up, and it sheepishly departs to collect the gold it’s been hoarding in its mountain lair. Azusa’s seiyu Yuuki Aoi carries the episode with her highly versatile voice that darts from charming and sweet to annoyed and threatening at the tip of a giant witch’s hat.

While her house is in ruins, Azusa stays at a complementary guest room at the village office, and due to all of the goodwill she’s earned from the villagers and their descendants—from staunching a plague to protecting them from the red dragon—she never has to pay for a room, a drink, or a meal in that village ever again.

Azusa is surprised then, when a cute redhead with horns pays her a visit the next day and introduces herself as Laika, the red dragon she defeated. Laika has brought the gold, and begs Azusa to let her be her pupil. Azusa isn’t sure what she can teach her, but she does like the sound of someone to do all the housework, so she agrees. Laika gets to work building a larger dwelling from scratch that will accomidate them both.

When the sun begins to set, Laika assures her new master that she can work through the night to finish the house, but Azusa takes her face in her hands and delivers a “hard no” to that offer. As someone who literally died from working too hard, she’s not about to let her pupil threaten her health by doing the same. Too often “working hard” is overused in a positive light.

Instead, she tells Laika to watch the darkening sky, which is telling them she’s done enough for the day. That said, Laika is incredibly industrious, and the new larger house they’ll share is soon completed. Rather than kick Laika into the kitchen to make supper, Azusa takes her by the hand and they head into the village to celebrate.

While I wish Slime 300 had a more imaginative title, I am glad slimes were more of a means and not an end to Azusa’s story. I find her dedication to living a quiet peaceful life quite admirable, and it’s a nice contrast to more ambitious witches like Elaina, who starred in an more ambitious but ultimately uneven series.

By comparison, Slime 300’s wonderfully simple plot, lush idyllic land-and-townscapes, competent magical combat, and the all-star voices of Yuuki Aoi and Hondo Kaede (Maple from Bofuri) make it well-positioned for a low-stakes, high-comfort isekai viewing experience. It also featured more frequent and effective comedy and a more interesting heroine than The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent, so if I end up picking only one to watch, 300 has the early edge.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Gleipnir – 13 (Fin) – The Truth is Out There…Not Here

As Honoka/Aiko’s “Ghost” “erases” another classmate (perhaps involved in the bullying that caused Aiko’s suicide) in front of Elena, Shuuichi and Claire ask Sayaka’s gang to give them all the coins they collected so they can go back to living normal lives while the two of them “end the game” for good. It’s a neat strategy, but unfortunately we never get to see it realized in this frustratingly incomplete finale.

Claire finally gives Shuuichi an ultimatum: either they hang out at one of their houses or they’re through, having had only this one summer together before going their separate ways. It’s a bit out of left field, but the result is Shuuichi invites her to his house, which is filthy and no place for a makeout session. When Claire tries to get answers, a repressed memory of Elena in the same position surfaces, and in a panic, Shuuichi nearly assaults Claire before returning to his senses.

Ultimately, Sayaka’s gang decides they’ll give their coins to Elena and not Shuuichi. Chihiro makes the exchange, but is interrupted by the arrival of Shuuichi, whose memories continue to surface. He now knows that Elena used her ability to erase his memories so Honoka/Ghost Aiko wouldn’t go after him. In effect, she did the same thing to him that he and Claire want to do for Sayaka’s crew: shoulder all the burden.

Shuuichi wants more answers, but Elena is elusive, and a fight ensues, that while technically impressive and exciting, doesn’t really amount to much. With his memories returning Honoka/Ghost Aiko appears and prepares to erase Shuuichi altogether. While he’s busy with “ghost clones” Elena slips behind him and uses her ability, locking the memories of her back away and saving his and Claire’s lives.

And that’s pretty much where we leave things: a stalemate with no time left; an ellipsis. Kaito and Ghost Aiko guard the landing site that Shuuichi and Claire are still determined to reach, reuniting with Sanbe for that purpose (Hey Sanbe). Sayaka and the others go back to their lives.

Mifune, perhaps the most ineffectual character of the entire series, is resigned to moving on from Shuuichi, who was never aware of her feelings. But the power couple is still in the game, and still determined to end it. It’s just unsatisfying that we probably won’t see that end in anime form. Thirteen episodes should’ve been enough to tell this story.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 05

(Click here for an ambient accompaniment to this review)

Dwarfed as they always are by their vast, abandoned urban labyrinth, the girls come upon habitations. They grossly underestimate the number of people who could live there—millions, not a mere thousand, but it that speaks to their extended isolation in general.

They explore inside one and find a place that, in another time, and if the city around them wasn’t totally dead, they might’ve lived. At least for one night, they stay in the room, and as they each imagine how they’d furnish it, those items magically appear, as if the girls were sharing the contents of their minds’ eyes.

Still, they decide they can’t stay any longer; they’d run out of food for one; the automatic lights would keep them up for another (unless they find a switch). Their “house” is now the Kettenkrad; they feel most comfortable aboard it, always on the move.

But due to the little amount of sleep they got under the lights, Chito falls asleep at the handlebars, and only Yuuri waking up and rousing Chito stops them from crashing. Still, they need to stop and rest, which they do in an eerily gorgeous geometric landscape, surrounded by clusters of buildings suspended on tall poles.

While their brainstorming in the house was more magical realism, Chi’s bizarre dreams enter the world of the surreal, and also highlight what could be some deeply-ingrained anxiety over Yuuri. Her more aggressive personality and “bigger” presence give her monumental scale, suddenly of a piece with the colossal surroundings, and only Chi alone, small and vulnerable.

First MegaYuuri blows Chito off a carefully balanced pile of rocks (like the one they built before going to sleep), then Chito finds herself in a vast ocean, riding the same kind of fish they ate a couple episodes back, only for Yuuri to appear in monstrous fish form to try to eat Chi, who wakes up with a start. To her irritation, Yuuri, still asleep, seems to be dreaming about eating something…or someone.

(Now let’s switch it up to some rain.)

Girls’ Last Tour has always been a very immersive, atmospheric, and for all its fantastical ruined landscapes, naturalistic show, but the last segment, “Sound of Rain”, really kicked those qualities up to eleven. When it starts to rain, the girls find shelter under a partially-collapsed structure of unknown purpose. There, they dry their jackets, Chito reads, and Yuuri gets bored.

But when she focuses in on one raindrop hitting a surface, then another, she decides to place objects under those drops, eventually creating a relaxing orchestra of sound that is random-sounding at first but suddenly snaps into a musical rhythm—which turns into a new song that plays as the credits roll.

The sounds took me right back to the last time I sat on the porch and simply listened to the gently falling rain. Kino doesn’t have the monopoly on the “Beautiful World”; it’s here too, in all its glory.

Dagashi Kashi – 11

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Any DK segment with a healthy dose of Endou Saya is fine by me, and we get that in this week’s first segment, as Hotaru has her and Coco hide under a box so they can observe firsthand why Coco’s dad is so amazing.

Of course, due the the close quarters (and their adolescence), initially all Coco and Saya can think about is the face they’re so close together in a dark, confined space. Naturally Hotaru thinks nothing of this.

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Somehow, Hotaru’s plan kinda works: You doesn’t notice that big box with peeping holes, but Coco comes to think a little higher of his old man after he sees how expertly he deals with a customer. Specifically, a young boy comes in with a girl he likes, but doesn’t have enough money to buy two pieces of Cola Gum.

Why doesn’t the boy just buy gum for her, then? I don’t know, but the girl seems ready to wash her hands of him right there when You suggests he unwrap the gum to see if he won another piece. He doesn’t, but he grabs the little insert and sayshe won, letting him take a second piece. The boy thinks he won, the girl is impressed; everyone’s happy.

This exchange reminds Saya of a time when she and Coco were that age, and she kept winning gum from unwrapping winning wrappers. She surmises that You was letting her win so she’d have more fun, but Coco knows better: Saya has scary good luck when it comes to candy; as good as Hotaru’s is bad. If only Saya had as good luck with Coco!

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The next segment starts leisurely with Coco and Hotaru waiting for the next train after just missing the previous one. Hotaru, in her typical blithely oblivious way suggests passing the time by “sucking on something.” Whoa there, Coco: she’s just talking about suckable kombu (seaweed).

While not technically a candy, neither are a lot of the snacks at Coco’s store. But Miyako Kombu was developed to be sold in a place with lots of people coming in and out all the time; i.e. a train station. After the history lesson, Hotaru’s mouth is parched due to all the talking she’s done, so breaks out a refreshing Ramune.

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After offering Coco some (and inadvertently, an indirect kiss as well), he mentions that “Ramune” is a Japanese bastardization of “Lemonade” brought to Japan by Commodore Perry back in the 1850s.

Underwhelmed by the roteness of his story, Hotaru takes the history lesson to the next level, in a hilarious reenactment in which Perry talks in the manner of a contemporary hoodlum, and in which she credits his ramune with convincing the Japanese to open their borders to international trade, despite having plenty of their own problems.

This was a ludicrously funny little bit, punctuated by the disturbing sight of Hotaru’s face morphing into Perry’s as she imitates his voice.

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All that aside, the reason for the train journey comes up. Coco needs art supplies; Hotaru wants to go on a candy shopping spree. As it turns out, only Hotaru boards the train, as if leaving for good, suddenly giving the scene—and the episode—a welcome bit of serialization.

Hotaru tells Coco she knows he has his own aspirations in life, and doesn’t want to force him to succeed his dad’s shop. But forcing and persuading are two different approaches to achieving the same end.

Having stayed in town these past eleven weeks (or however long it’s been by the show’s calendar), Hotaru quite suddenly decides to leave it up to Coco to contact her when he’s made a decision. She’ll be waiting…only she just didn’t bother to tell him where.

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Dagashi Kashi – 10

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This week’s DK starts off with a little mystery, as Tou is confronted by an out-of-breath, distraught Hotaru who has been running in her stocking feet, takes Tou’s hands, and begs him for help. But with what? What is her big issue? And where are her shoes?

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After the credits, we’re in Coco’s store, only Hotaru isn’t there. She hasn’t come by for two days, which to Coco isn’t just bizarre; it’s a little scary. When he doesn’t find her at Saya’s cafe either, the two pay a visit to Hotaru’s massive house for the first time, and find Hotaru in her pajamas and a surgical mask, looking very much the worse for wear.

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They mystery deepens as Hotaru seems to freak out whenever she sees Coco’s face. And while she seems interested in the snacks he brought for her, she always ends up recoiling in fear, and can’t complete a sentence without wincing in pain multiple times.

Turns out the mouth ulcer she had last week—and continued to torture with pop rocks and the like—has only gotten worse, swelling her cheek to a ludicrous degree.

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When pressed for answers, Hotaru tells them the tale that led to her encounter with Tou the other night. She used Pop-a-Fortunes to try to wish for her mouth to heal before a new Baby Ramen flavor release, but the candy instead tells her to go on an “outing”, which she goes on immediately (without putting on her shoes).

That led her to Tou, who gave her advice to abstain from candy until her mouth fully heals. That way, the candy will taste even better, since absence makes the heart (and stomach) grow fonder and all that. The only problem is, that abstinence has led to candy withdrawal.

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When Hotaru just can’t hold back anymore, she has to be physically restrained by both Coco and Saya. Her cuckoo clock snaps her out of her trance, letting her know to take her disgusting-looking but lovely-smelling homemade medicine.

That “medicine” turns out to be the culprit behind her increasingly huge mouth ulcer: it’s made from a combination of powdered pine, melon, and “American Cola” drink mixes. In other words, it’s pure sugar.

Upon learning Hotaru’s cure (and her candy abstinence) is a sham, they take off, leaving her to continuing drinking her nasty—and very harmful—witch’s brew. But what’s the daughter of a candy company to do?

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