Mahoutsukai no Yome – 11

Lindel’s fireside infodump-er-saga with Chise continues as he recounts his early travels with his new apprentice Elias. While making a house visit to heal a sick child, the child’s sister has “the sight” and spots Elias in Lindel’s shadow.

The girl assumes it’s an evil demon, and before long the entire village is mobilized against Lindel and Elias. When Lindel is injured by a thrown rock, Elias loses his temper and attacks the villagers with his thorny vine appendages, basically confirming their worst fears.

And here is the start of the trouble with Elias Ainsworth that I’ve had for the past ten weeks; a problem no closer to being solved in its eleventh. As Lindel’s master noted, he has a tiny amount of human in him, but there just isn’t enough humanity for me to fully emotionally connect.

That’s made any exploration of Elias and Chise’s relationship—in terms of her status as his future wife—feel incomplete and unsatisfying. As Lindel said to Chise, Elias “seemed to be missing something”, and for me, he’s still missing it.

(There’s also the little matter of Elias having a vague memory of—and occasionally feeling the urge to—eat humans, though Chise claims she’s never once feared Elias, even during that tense bed scene.)

But perhaps I’m not being open-minded enough with the premise that it isn’t that Elias isn’t human enough, but that for all the years he’s lived, Elias is still a child, and not just in Lindel’s eyes.

As a child, he’s insecure, emotionally stunted, and prefers the shadows. Chise, with her own stunted childhood, is in a similar state, leaving us with two would-be “lovers” who really have no clue what they’re doing.

A large part of that is neither Elias nor Chise have really taken the time to dig that deeply into who they are and what they want, aside from the big things like “survival” and “being wanted/needed”.

But never mind that for now; we’ve got a long way to go with these two crazy kids. For now, Chise gets tossed back into the water by baby dragons, meets a leviathan (neat!) and then sets to work whittling down a wooden log into her wand, which is meant to be an introspective process.

When night falls, Lindel, AKA Echos, sings the song of a hundred flowers, and all number of magical beings emerge and join in a dance. Chise dances for the first time, and then inadvertently opens a “water mirror” through which she can communicate directly with Elias.

Chise says Elias “looks troubled”, which is a bit silly since his bony face never really changes that much, and then the two remark at how much they miss one another, despite not having been apart all that long.

Home is cold without Chise, and Chise wants to show Elias the beautiful scene Lindel has created. “Two kids”, as Lindel said, both trying to figure out who they are and what the other person means to them.

And since Chise has learned so much about Elias—things he couldn’t or wouldn’t say—she wants to reveal to him more about her self; something she hasn’t yet been able to do to her satisfaction.

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Mahoutsukai no Yome – 10

Lindel sends a selkie along with one of the young dragons (now big enough for a human to ride) to invite Chise to the Land of the Dragons so the “Robin” can have a wand made. For this journey, Elias will stay behind, though Ruth will remain by her side.

Chise’s dragon ride through the wind and clouds is appropriately epic in presentation, with stirring orchestral accompaniment to boot. It’s also nice, for once, to have an episode without any imminent or even perceived threats. There are more sides to Chise’s life than peril…procuring a wand, for instance.

Nevin’s Tree is as big and majestic as ever, and Lindel directs Chise to saw off a piece of it for her wand. Her lack of surefootedness in the tree results in a spill and a demonstration of how crucial it is she have a familiar nearby to, among other things, catch her. Back home, Elias notes how quiet it seems without Chise.

While she’s hardly a Chatty Cathy, she’s a motormouth compared to Silver. Then Elias receives a message via bird-intercom from Adolf Stroud of the College administration, who’d like to learn more about what Elias has in mind for Chise’s future.

That night, Chise arms and hands are covered in scrapes and scratches, which Lindel instantly heals with a touch. As a “bedtime story”, and because Elias hasn’t told her, Lindel regails Chise with the tale of how Lindel met Elias.

Lindel himself didn’t even have a name before his master found him, and Elias has a similar “birth”, one brutally wintry day simply appearing out of seemingly nowhere, nameless, without any memories or idea of what he was. Lindel gave him a place to rest and a meal, but its clear if either of them want any answers, the best bet is to take him to his master.

Lindel finds his master with a sprig of spruce and a red string. When they arrive, when Elias is too big to enter the house, he shrinks himself to child-size. The master, kind and curious, pegs the creature as almost a fairy; as close as one can get, yet still with a bit of human, which pretty much describes the Elias we’ve come to know.

She’d normally chalk his state to the result of a human transformed after abusing black magic, but she keeps her other guess close to her chest. All she can get out of him memory-wise is a color: red. She tells Lindel to take care of him, giving him the name Elias. Lindel is initially hesitant, but when Elias starts to take off (not wanting to be a bother), he agrees, though makes sure to call him his “acquaintance”, not his “apprentice.”

Back in the present, Elias’s bird-call from Adolf is interrupted by Renfred, who warns Elias that he’ll “ruin” Chise if all he does is let her live with him. Everyone from the college to Lindel wants her to spread her wings, but Elias is taking things slow, and Chise, happy simply to be wanted by someone, is being complacent on purpose.

Of course, this episode only provided part of Elias’ past, and we still don’t know exactly who or what he is, particularly before that scene in the forest where he had to fight back wolves. Ultimately, Chise’s future is up to her and no one else, but she’ll need more knowledge before making any concrete plans.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 04

Grimoire of Zero continues to feel episodic; last week was the big city episode, while this was largely a transitory outing, full of little slice-of-life vignettes that serve to deepen our understanding of who Mercenary, Zero, and Albus are—not to mention having the latter two bounce off the former, both literally and figuratively.

One thing is clear: Albus has quickly softened his “kill all beastfallen” stance, while Zero, neophyte to the outside world that she is, has formed a very close bond with Merc, considering him not just an employee, but a project.

She and Albus repeat the joke about them being sex slaves to the gate guards, but when one of the children he scared away is hurt (when another beastfallen shoves her out of his way), Zero makes it look like Merc fully heals the young woman’s ankle.

Changing hearts and minds will be key if the war between the factions of this world is to ever cease. After that, the downright leisurely pace of the episode is mitigated somewhat by the fact the trio covers a fair amount of ground, much of it very picturesque (see above).

Albus gets some pointers on fishing magic from Zero, while Zero also attempts to give Merc a kiss (and is rebuffed by the bashful tiger).

The trio tucks into another fine meal by Merc (who wants to one day open and run a tavern), and learns that Albus was orphaned and raised by his granny, and that Zero grew up in the caves studying sorcery and may well have developed her Grimoire of Zero in order to eat better. Not a bad reason, if you ask me!

Continuing the theme of Zero wanting to get closer to Merc, she offers to train him in magic, which will keep them together for some time. All this sticking around with people for an extended length of time is clearly a new concept for Merc, but I don’t think he loathes it as much as he sometimes protests; quite the contrary.

Thinks finally take a turn for the dark, and a rather sudden one, at that, once the trio reaches the outskirts of their next destination, the village of Latette. Albus knows the village well, and a dog he knows comes to greet him, but it’s carrying a burnt doll. The trio looks on and is horrified to see it is also smoldering; its inhabitants burned alive.

Is it mere raiders, or more likely, hostile witches fighting in their late idol Sorena’s name to exact revenge on humans? Whatever it is, our trio will likely have to tread carefully once again, and avoid revealing too much of themselves to strangers—something they now have no trouble doing with each other.

Grimoire of Zero has its charms, but it isn’t particularly spellbinding; it’s a bit of a dawdle at times. It’s certainly no match for recent fantasy adventure shows like Grimgar, Alderamin, or Re:Zero. If it was airing any other day but Monday I’d have probably already dropped it, but after a four-episode sample, I believe I’ve watched enough after all.

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.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 02

Wenias is a world where inaccurate assumptions abound while forgiveness is in short supply. It’s in a state where most witches hate humans, most humans hate witches. And it’s one assumption—that Mercenary is a witch-hunter rather than a present witch-harborer—that leads to an episode of trouble for Merc, Zero, and their third member Albus.

Merc & Co. are welcomed to the village with open arms, because they appreciate his service as a beastfallen witch-hunter. But when an old woman reports a ring stolen and Albus produces that very ring (which he found in the spring outside of town), the villagers, wracked with grief and pain from witch raids, turn on a dime and demand justice.

The villagers have been through too much, and suspect outsiders so much, that it doesn’t matter if Albus is in fact innocent, and they’re immune to calm discussions, only taking it as further proof of guilt. So Merc has to scoop up Zero and Albus and skedaddle while they still can. But the villagers, desperate to blame and punish someone for their ills, pursue them deep into the forest.

Only one villager—the old woman who lost the ring—has the trio’s side, and shows them a safe escape route. She does this to thank Albus for finding her ring—which was given to her by none other than the great witch Sorena—but also because she to is a witch, albeit one in hiding.

The older generation seems more open to negotiation, cooperation, and forgiveness regarding “the other side”, while the younger people on both sides want blood and fire to satisfy their thirst for justice. And yet just like this little incident with the ring in the village, Sorena herself fell victim to a misunderstanding, having been performing magic when a plague broke out.

She was blamed and burned to death, leading to the violent witch rebellion that rages on. But the witch-in-hiding with the ring believes there’s still hope that witches and humans can—and must—coexist peacefully, someday. The developing Merc-Zero-Albus trio is small-scale but important proof that she’s right.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 01 (First Impressions)

In a world where witches are hunted and burned by normal humans, a half-man, half-cat “beastfallen” witch-hunting mercenary encounters a petite, seemingly young witch named Zero in a forest.

They make a pact: the Mercenary will be Zero’s guard as she searches for her associate Thirteen. In exchange, she will make him human. She’ll do so using magic from the Grimoire of Zero, so-called because she wrote it. She impresses that upon a young witch named Albus who tries in vain to hunt the Merc. 

Fresh of the heels of Re:Zero, this similarly-named, similarly-set new show eschews the modern-guy fish-out-of-water angle for a more straightforward pact-between-classic-foes story.

The nameless (for now) Mercenary fears and hates any and all witches, and kinda hates himself too, for causing his family and village to suffer and die. But he’s got a good heart, so he’s not going to leave a hungry, cute little girl in the forest.

Does he bite off more than he can chew, oh, definitely. And a great deal of the appeal of this otherwise not-too-original fantasy milieu is in the relationship that forms between the Mercenary and Zero, complete with lots of informal, playful banter.

It’s an intro that doesn’t try to do too much, but gives us a good-enough glimpse of the situation and then focuses on the two lead characters, quickly breathing life into both so we care about them immediately.

Is there excessive explanation of “sorcery” and “magic” and the differences between them? Sure, but because Merc wasn’t totally informed himself, Zero’s lessons at least serve the story rather than simply bring us up to speed.

Also, there’s the fact that this seemingly-young girl literally wrote the book on magic, to the extent that fellow magic-user Albus has his ass handed to him when going up against the author. And they’re on a journey to a place with a defined goal, which can be nice for contrast when watching other, more mysterious shows.

Add the fact it’s a Monday show, and Zero looks like a keeper.

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 28

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There’s a basic sincerity to ATM!. For all the panty shots, unintended compromising positions Tenchi ends up in, and occasionally clunky delivery of plot or exchanges of dialogue, it’s heart is almost always in the right place. It’s not just here to titillate us or make us laugh; it wants us to care about its characters too, because they care about each other. Specifically, Tenchi cares about his students, and won’t sit by while one sits on the roof suffering.

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Kinojou Beni’s story isn’t complicated: she came to this planet charged with protecting Momo and hence possessing immense strength, but she lost her memories and fell in with the sworn enemy of Momo’s Student Council. She knows she’s not a normal human, and she fears truly hurting someone someday with her power. Someone…not Tenchi.

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When Tenchi arrived, it set something into motion for Beni: suddenly, there was someone else with freakish strength, who stands (or tries to stand) alone, above all the warring clubs and school rivalries. Only unlike her, he almost never uses them, except to prevent harm or protect others. She resents his passivity, and wont say anything to him unless he demonstrates his strength, which means swinging her spiked club at him.

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Tenchi won’t rise to her violence, however, and the precise thing she fears occurs when Momo suddenly pops on the roof to see what the ruckus is about. Tenchi manages to block the terrifying blow, and he and the two girls end up on the ground, and appear to be sharing a loving embrace, but we know Tenchi is only holding them to protect them. Such subtleties do not move Kurihara-sensei, who drags Tenchi away.

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That leaves Beni with Momo, who takes her hand, concerned about her cuts. In that moment, Beni gets a flash from the past of a baby clutching her finger in apparent friendship. But Momo backs away from Momo, either unready to remember or unwilling to risk hurting her again. What she hasn’t grasped yet is that maybe it’s okay to be friends with Momo.

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