Jujutsu Kaisen – 10 – Working Overtime

It’s pretty bold to spend the first three episodes of your anime introducing your core trio, only for them to be together in part of just one episode, then keep them separated for the next six episodes, and likely more. It’s a risk a two-cour series can afford to take, and while part of me is miffed by the withheld gratification of watching the trio reunite at last, I can’t say I dislike what the show is doing in the meantime.

To live a day in Yoshino Junpei’s shoes, you have to take a look at the whole Jujutsu sorcery profession and say to yourself “So what?” He encounters cursed creatures just as fearsome as the sorcerers, only his are fully human. It’s what makes him such a good fit for Mahito’s mentorship: Mahito is among those cursed spirits who believe his kind to be the true humans, because at least they’re honest.

Human monsters like Yoshino’s peers who disguise themselves as high school students doesn’t fly for Mahito, who makes both study and sport of disfiguring the bodies that surround their souls. He’s made one human two stories tall, while another fits in the palm of Yoshino’s hand. But again, Mahito’s experiments are no sweat for the already horrror-attuned Yoshino.

When Yuuji and Ijichi track down Yoshino, the kid has just been given sanction by Mahito to kill someone he hates as if he were eating because he was hungry; life is meaningless, so you might as well do what you want. This is another form of the fundamental “honesty” Mahito and the other cursed spirits believe makes them more human than humans.

One of Yoshino’s teachers also tracks him down, and scolds him for not attending the funerals of his tormentors. This teacher saw Yoshino being bullied by those same three students, but seemingly chose to see it as four friends just messing around. For this, Yoshino is on the cusp of killing him as Mahito gave him leave to do, but Yuuji interrupts, using the low-level curse to test whether Yoshino can see and fight curses.

Meanwhile, Nanami encounters Mahito in the sewers and the two face off. The former severs the latter’s wrist with his weak-spot technique, but Mahito quickly heals by using his soul to maintain the original shape of his body. Mahito’s “Idle Transformation” is a bad matchup for Nanami, who relies on his technique to create debilitating wounds that last.

It appears that Yoshino can see the curse (which tracks, since he can also see Mahito), but the teacher doesn’t think Yuuji can possibly have anything to say to Yoshino that’s more important than what he’s saying. So Yuuji steals the teacher’s pants and runs off them. The teacher gives chase, but Yuuji is fast enough to loop around back to Yoshino.

Yoshino is willing and even intrigued to have a chat with Yuuji, who intrinsically sensed that Yoshino hated the teacher he was talking to. I’m still holding out hope Yuuji can save this kid before he goes too far down the cursed rabbit hole with Mahito, whom I can’t imagine truly has Yoshino’s best interests at heart.

As for Mahito, he starts getting confident that if he simply makes physical contact with Nanami enough, he’ll eventually be able to control his soul and transform him into one of this living sculptures. He also uses disfigured humans as weapons, extending the battle.

But lest we forget, Nanami is a former salaryman, and thus religiously sticks to the 10-to-6 business day model. Once his watch hits six, he goes into “overtime”, which means the kid gloves come off. The next stage of their battle should be pretty cool—as all battles in this show have been so far.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 09 – The Accumulation of Little Despairs

Yoshino Junpei is the victim of bullying by three thuggish guys, egged on by one girl who they think will let them bang her if they sufficiently impress her with their casual brutality. Yoshino starts skipping school and seeks refuge at the movies, but the bullies are there too, making a big ‘ol racket.

While Yoshino is too mild-mannered (not to mention just plain scared) to confront them, Mahito has no qualms about teaching them manners by disfiguring their faces to death. Earlier Yoshino said he probably wouldn’t push a button that killed everyone he hated, but would push one that killed everyone who hated him.

It’s an interesting distinction, and now it seems to be a reality thanks to Mahito. The question is whether Mahito and Yoshino just happened to cross paths, or if the cursed spirit sought to recruit a young follower. In any case, Gojou leaves the investigation of the theater killings to his pal Nanami Kento, with Yuuji riding shotgun.

Nanami is about as no-nonsense as Jujutsu sorcers come, and he insists that a overly gung-ho Yuuji only use “moderate effort” where it will suffice. He also makes it clear he considers Yuuji a child while he is a full-fledged adult. This is in stark contrast to Gojou, who is as much a big brother as a sensei to Yuuji.

Nanami teaches Yuuji how to sense and see “residuals”, the residue of cursed techniques, which lead them to a rooftop battle with a couple of curses. He shows off his ability to slice up a curse with the blunt end of a heavily-wrapped knife, while Yuuji demonstrates his “Divergent Fist”, the cool name Gojou gives to the natural inclination for his punches to hit once physically and then again with cursed energy for a double whammy.

But something’s off about these curses, and Nanami orders Yuuji not to finish them. Ieiri later learns that they were humans that were somehow transformed (and possibly given the ability to use cursed energy) by a particular cursed technique. (Quick PSA: do not play a drinking game whenever someone says “cursed” in this show, or you will surely die.)

As Mahito further schools up Yoshino on his elemental pals (Joujo, Hanami, and Zoidberg) from his sewer lair, Nanami instructs Yuuji to track down Yoshino with Ijichi to possibly learn the location of the culprit’s hideout. But as he confides in Ijichi, Nanami already knows exactly where the culprit is; he just doesn’t want to take a kid like Yuuji into a potentially lethal situation.

We’ll see if Yuuji’s emotional intelligence can break Mahito’s hold on Yoshino, or if the two lads are fated to become enemies in the slowly-brewing human-curse war. Apparently, Yuuji carrying around a small cage containing Boglin-like curses has something to do with the mission…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. I realize nine episodes in and I haven’t commented on the OP, ED, or omaki segments. All three are excellent on all counts, with particular praise going to the jaunty beat and expressive dance animation of the ED and the omaki skits’ ability to drop all pretense and simply have more comedic fun with these colorful characters.

TenSura – 25 (S2 E01) – Brandy in the Bath

TenSura returns after a rambling first season finale, multiple OVAs, and full-length recap, only to give us a tedious, redundant, and lazily-executed clip show (it’s literally just clips of past events flying by), followed by a woefully generic opening theme. Thankfully things look up from that rough start, but it’s clear TenSura remains quite unconcerned with exercising airtime discipline in between big arcs.

Once Rimuru leaves the five kids in the care of Tiss-sensei, the main order of business is establishing diplomatic relations with the Animal Kingdom of Eurazania. Rimuru tries on a number of outfits to send off his delegation, led by a much-matured Benimaru, and when his speech is too short, he adds a bit more to the end of it, somehow moving Rigurd and Gabiru to tears.

With Benimaru’s delegation properly sent off, focus shifts to preparing the assembly hall for the arrival of Eurazania’s delegation. Vesta uses his noble background to help ensure all the diplomatic “i’s” and “t’s” are dotted and crossed, while underlings like Treyni announce that the Eurazanians are five days away.

That means they won’t arrive before Youm and his two buddies, who have aligned themselves with Rimuru and Tempest and have been spreading the word to other humans that the monsters of Tempest are nothing to fear. Rimuru welcomes them with brandy and a hot bath, again demonstrating that comfort and relaxation are chief tenets of the Tempest lifestyle.

The next day, Rimuru and his retinue welcome the Eurazanians, who arrive in a procession of gaudy carriages drawn by giant fluffy tigers. The delegates who have come on behalf of Demon Lord Carrion are the Three Beastketeers: Albis, Suphia, and Grucius. Among the three, Suphia is the most outspoken, and the anti-slime insults fly with abandon.

Rimuru asks Youm to fight the rude and fiery Suphia, but Shion steps forward and fights her instead, without her sword, resulting in the episode’s first cool fight between overpowered warriors. The second fight begins shortly thereafter when Grucius, “runt” of the Beastketeers, takes on Youm in a daggers-vs.-sword duel.

Rimuru had hoped things would go a little more smoothly and less violently, but there can be no diplomatic progress without mutual respect, so it becomes necessary to prove to the Beastketeers that the warriors of Tempest should be respected. Or as Seraph from The Matrix Reloaded once said: “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 13 (Fin) – A Hero’s Hero

When Hero Kanon was murdered, he used Evansmana’s power of breaking destiny to prevent Anos from becoming the Demon King of Tyranny, and taking his place as Avos. Now he wants Anos to kill him, believing his sacrifice will break the chain of hatred that is the Asc spell. Now that Ray/Kanon’s affection for humans has taken a more specific form in Misa, he can no longer wait for “someday” to arrive and bring peace; it has to happen here and now.

Anos initially seems willing to play along, pulling out all his OP magic tricks to destroy all but one of Kanon’s sources. But then, at the last minute, Anos lets Kanon stab him through his own source. As the boundaries of their battlefield drop, he slips Avos’ helmet on his head, making it appear to everyone assembled that Ray has defeated the Demon King.

Anos hoped this would extinguish the humans’ hatred, but the Asc is still going strong within Diego, who musters his ten thousand Zeshia troops and orders them to extinguish all demons. Eleanor enters the fray to try to halt their advance, while Commander Jerga himself appears in monumental scale to finish the job.

Ray/Kanon tries to attack the giant Jerga with Evansmana, but his holy sword has no effect on the “true sacred magic”. Enter Misha and Sasha, who know their King will resurrect, and in the meantime will do what they can to protect their demon brethren.

To that end, they use their Necron family magic Dino Jixes to merge into a single entity that fights alongside Ray/Kanon while Eleonore and Misa attempt to hold back the Zeshia army. It’s ultimately all about buying time and hoping the Demon King returns.

Just when Jerga seems ready to unleash a holy magic spell to exterminate all demons, it is negated by a giant black and red magical circle, and all the hundreds of Zeshias fall to the ground, stunned. Anos makes his re-appearance, having used Ray/Kanon’s killing blow to repair his source via source magic.

In this final stage of the battle, Anos and Ray/Kanon fight side-by-side, while the Demon army commander helps Eleonore and the Human forces. When Jerga tries to use Asc, Anos counters with an Asc of his own, fueled by the Fan Union’s latest song. He even summons Delsgade!

Soon, even Jerga’s hatred is transformed into love as he sees the shell necklace he gave his beloved wife. The present era of peace asserts itself and the united forces of Humans and Demons fight together to eliminate a solitary man’s two thousand-year-old grudge.

At this point we’re running out of episode, so Misha and Sasha split back into two girls in order to welcome Anos back to the world of the living, while Ray returns to Misa and embraces her with love. As the credits roll, the whole, the Anos & Co. return home, where his parents meet his “third wife” Eleanore (whom he converted into his magic so she’d no longer be misused) and learn of her ten thousand “children”.

That final scene really brings is back to one of the more unique aspects of the series, which was that the main antihero always had a loving home and family to go home to and enjoy some piping hot mushroom gratin. It’s welcome and necessary follow-up to an disorienting kitchen-sink final battle that in the end was only slightly more over the top than previous climactic battles.

While I maintain that things got overstuffed towards the end and that 5-6 additional episodes would have been ideal, Demon King Academy was nonetheless a fun new take on the OP Asshole MC, tempering extremely arcane magical jargon with a surprising amount of heart.

Deca-Dence – 12 (Fin) – A New Grand Process

When Jill tells Natsume that Kaburagi has connected with Deca-Dence to become Kabu-Dence, Natsume is momentarily bewildered by her Boss’ constant changing forms. But change is at the heart of this episode, and ultimately the salvation of free cyborgs and humans both.

Everyone rallies behind Kabu and Minato, with the Gears logging in en masse to participate in the game’s climactic “Final Mission” while Donatello fills in Kurenai and the Tankers.

Minato and Jill are concerned that despite a successful connection, Deca-Dence isn’t doing anything. That’s because Kaburagi first has to deal with something very similar to Neo in The Matrix Reloaded when he meets The Architect. In this case, it’s The System itself, telling him that even bugs are a part of the system, meaning anything he does will be within the System’s calculations.

But if that were the case, why try to stop him? Kabu doesn’t buy that cog-in-the-machine crap anymore; he’s living his life by the precepts gained through Natsume: push yourself to the limits in order to help create a better, freer world. With that declaration, and Natsume simultaneously smashing her arm to pieces “waking” Boss up, Kabu-Dence finally stirs to life.

With glowing tendrils it reaches out at all the hunks of debris throughout its surroundings, which were brought back to life thanks to the Gears and Tankers topping them off with oxyone. To Kabu’s distress, one of the people helping is Natsume, initially trying to push a huge part all by herself before being joined by Kurenai and her Tanker comrades.

With less than ninety seconds until total spacial displacement, Minato orders the now charged and upgraded Kabu-Dence cannon to fire upon Gadoll omega, the beam of which Donatello deflects by sacrificing his Gear avatar. It fires, and there’s a big boom but…it doesn’t work. The beam wasn’t strong enough to break through omega’s adamantoise-esque shell.

With under forty seconds on the clock, Kabu seems resigned to oblivion…until stored memories of Natsume’s best and most formative moments flash before his visual interface. Natsume herself was drawn within Kabu-Dence’s machinery, and her presence seems to snap Kabu out of giving up.

Kabu-Dence’s limiter is suddenly removed, enabling a far more powerful attack even with the oxyone stores depleted. The blast is enough to destroy Gadoll omega, but completes the destruction of Deca-Dence as a mobile fortress in the process.

Whether due to the strain of the limit break attack or damage to his body caused by falling debris, Kaburagi concedes that his time has finally come. The System was right about one thing—that he was going to die either way. Left out of that statement is the fact he wouldn’t die until after he successfully broke that system, with the help of his friends.

When Natsume finally finds Kabu’s cyborg body, his face is broken and the one light remaining behind is about to go out. Natsume lets some tears fall, but she doesn’t lose it; she merely expresses gratitude to her boss and assures him she’ll be okay on her own from now on. He gave her and every human and free cyborg a chance.

Three Years Later, and Deca-Dence is now a bustling city surrounded by verdant farmland, where humans and cyborgs peacefully coexist. Under “Supreme Administrator” Minato’s leadership and Jill’s scientific prowess, the game has changed: no longer a brutal battle in which Tankers were cannon fodder and servants, now cyborgs share in the labor and betterment of the new civilization beside their human friends.

Natsume has started a business taking cyborg tourists out on exploration and adventure trips. Her new arm can become a helicopter rotor, which is pretty awesome and also makes her a kind of unique conduit between the human and cyborg experience. As she promised, she made a life for herself and thrived without boss around. But that doesn’t mean when Jill eventually manages to bring Kaburagi back, using his backup data and a new avatar body, she isn’t glad to see him again!

It’s a fast, focused ending and the epilogue-over-end-credits is perhaps a bit rushed (I’d have loved to spend more time in this lush, just new world). But seeing Natsume’s face light up once more as she recognizes him emerging from the glaring sunset is as fitting image as any on which to close the book on the tremendously entertaining and unflinchingly relevant Deca-Dence.

Season Average: 9.17

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 12 – The Necklace

Eleanor explains to Anos that Hero Kanon’s right-hand man Commander Jerga feared that the humans would forget their grudge against demons in time, rendering them vulnerable for destruction. So he used taboo magic to split his source into two distinct spells. One is Asc, the manifestation of his grudge that infects every human, including the hero academy students.

The other spell, Eleanor, was a “bust” because while she performed her role of creating source clones, she failed to absorb any of Jerga’s hatred. She believes Anos can end Jerga’s grudge by destroying her, but her clone children begin to gather around her and beg Anos to save their mother.

And, oh yeah…Jerga freaking murdered Kanon, when the hero wouldn’t support the generational spread of hatred into the future. While Hero could have instantly resurrected himself, he didn’t, apparently washing his hands of humans and their inevitably treacherous ways.

Anos and Eleanor are interrupted by Diego and his guards, but they’re interrupted by the arrival of the three remaining brainwashed Seven Elder Demon Emperors…along with a masked Avos Dilhevia himself.

Diego and Avos project their images over the human and demon capitals, respectively, in order to drum up support for a new war against each other. Both the human and demon crowds welcome a return to hostilities. It’s as if Diego and Avos were coordinating with each other.

Not content to sit back and let this play out, Anos resolves to prevent the war before it starts. Naturally, he is accompanied by Misha, Sasha, Ray, Misa, the Fan Union, and the four Elder Demon Emperors loyal to him.

The day before they head out, Ray comforts a nervous Misa, believing his own lack of nerves to be a sign he once fought in the war two thousand years ago. He also asks for half of Misa’s single-shell necklace, which tradition states is a essentially a proposal.

The next day, with the Fan Union providing rearguard support, the Necron sisters neutralize the advancing demon armies to the west, while Ray and Misa are tasked with neutralizing the armies to the east. Anos himself heads to Avos’ fortress, and Misa informs him remotely that she’s lost sight of Ray. Uh-oh…

As the two opposing groups of Demon Emperors fight (three on Avos’ side, four on Anos’), Anos and Avos meet in the field, and Anos connects the dots. After Jerga’s betrayal, Kanon resurrected as a demon: Ray Gransdori. As for Ray? Well, he’s Avos Dilhevia, and has been all along.

While Anos states Ray’s knowledge of the neckless and ability to wield both a Unique and Holy Sword as evidence Ray is Kanon, looking back there were other little clues here and there that in hindsight indicated Kanon/Ray was Avos. There’s…a lot that happens and is revealed this week, and it’s a bit rushed, but that it all mostly makes sense and holds together is a testament to the writers, as well as the adapters who clearly had their work cut out for them reducing the source material down to thirteen episodes.

Anos also deduces that Kanon must be trying to “save something (or someone) new” by posing as a fake Demon King. Did he become Avos and stoke a new war knowing the true Demon King would stop him, and end the grudge Jerga had spread? Does he truly love Misa, or was he just playing her? Despite all we’ve learned, the final episode still has plenty to reveal.

Deca-Dence – 11 – Being a Mistake is What Makes It Right

Spoilers: Natsume does not meet her maker by Hugin’s hand this week. Instead she’s saved by two things: Hugin’s momentary distraction with the new Gadoll bug, and Kabu managing to log back in as the orange Gear and shoot Hugin through the chest, thus logging him out of Deca-Dence. It’s a bit convenient and plot-armory, but fine, it’s not like I wanted Natsume’s story to end in that trailer.

After that, Natsume must quickly wrap her head around the fact that the Boss she knows who is lying dead on the ground is just an empty avatar, and the Boss himself is in the orange Gear body. Minato’s crew determines the massive Gadoll to be a bug that survived the GGS. The System designates it Gadoll Omega, and orders Deca-Dence to take it out.

But while this Gadoll bug isn’t that much larger than the largest Gadoll they’ve fought and defeated in the past, it’s much tougher, not only absorbing Deca-Dence’s fist blow in its crab-like claws, but shoving Deca-Dence back, doing critical damage to its movement apparatus. When Solid Quake’s orbital HQ uses its Solid Cannon from orbit, the Gadoll meets that beam with its own red one…and wins.

It’s the first time we’ve seen the pristine Solid Quake HQ ship damaged, and it’s enough to spook The System into pure Self-Preservation Mode. To that end, the entire Deca-Dence program is being shut down. Hugin is replaced by Munin, who politely announces to Minato that all Deca-Dence facilties are to be reverted along with Omega via the spacial decompression device—a fail-safe in case the game ever threatened the System.

Suddenly, there’s six hours until the end of everything on the planet surface, including what remains of humanity. But Jill, reestablishing contact with Kabu, says there’s still a way for a user to log in with Deca-Dence itself as their avatar. She knows this because prior to being designated a bug, she helped build Deca-Dence’s core.

Kabu and Natsume go their separate ways, but Natsume assumes they’ll meet up again at some point, while Kabu is ready to not return, as he’s volunteered to take the reins of Deca-Dence. His jeep passes Natsume, marking the first time she’s seen his cyborg form. Of course, she only gets a brief glimpse and has no idea it’s him.

At the epically huge and cool-looking core, Minato confronts Kabu, telling him there’s still time to run, to which Kabu asks where to? When Minato admits he has no idea what he should believe or do anymore, Kabu tells him he was once the same way, and simply waiting to be scrapper, until he met Natsume the Tanker Bug, who taught him he can make his own choices.

Then the best thing ever happens: Natsume meets Kabu’s cyborg comrades…and after a few moments of profound confusion, accepts it, finds them adorable, laughs, and introduces herself. Now Jill sees why Kabu has gone so far for a human bug’s sake. Jill herself has a bug still within Deca-Dence she’s hoping will make a difference.

Minato decides to help Kabu log in as Deca-Dence after all. While it’s true Deca-Dence is an absolute wreck, perhaps being under Kabu’s direct control (rather than the System’s) combined with Jill’s surprise bug, could conspire to unlock heretofore unseen abilities.

They’ll need everything they can get in the forthcoming finale, as the twin existential crises of the still-evolving Gadoll (and its brood) and the countdown to self-destruct will both have to be dealt with if anyone is to survive.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 11 – There Are No Heroes Here

With the lake drained of water (holy or otherwise), the multi-pronged fight between Anos and his cohorts and four reincarnations of Hero Kanon’s sources, including their secret weapon, the mute, petite, first-ranked Zeshia. As the fight commences, one hears a dread voice in the air saying kill the demons—even though this is supposed to be a friendly class competition!

As expected, the demons fare well, as the hero reincarnations possess far more arrogance than actual talent. As Misha builds a sturdy castle within their barrier, Sasha makes the jock hero wither in despair while Ray bests the self-style sword ace of the heroes. They only protest harsh treatment when they get a taste of their own medicine.

That leaves Zeshia and Four-eyes against Anos, and let’s be honest, it was always going to end up with Anos winning walking away. Zeshia’s acrobatics are impressive, but even when the heroes summon all of the love of the ten million people of their city, it only takes the eight girls of Anos’ Fan Union to counter that magical enhancement. Quality over quantity.

The heroes’ primary misconception is that demons cannot love, when it’s obvious that the relationships between Anos and his friends and family are suffused with the stuff. When Eleanor summons Anos to the shrine, vowing to help them stop Zeshia, he sends Misha instead, and she’s brutally stabbed by Diego, who has gone absolutely mad with hatred for all demons, vowing to exterminate them all here and now.

Anos doesn’t allow Misha to suffer long, disabling Diego before healing her wounds, then killing Diego, bringing him back to life with the hilarious line  “If you have time to be dead, answer me.” Diego has been using his students as puppets and “Kanon” fodder to carry out his vendetta, proving to Anos that he has nothing to do with the true Hero Kanon, who would rather suffer the destruction of six of his seven sources than allow anyone to sacrifice themselves for his sake.

Gathering a still-woozy Misha in his arms, Anos proceeds to a chamber where he finds a nude Eleanor within a bubble of light, and she declares that she is…”magic.” And here I thought she was just a friendly upperclassman and helpful school tour guide! In any case, she’s not necessarily an enemy of Anos & Co., so I’m eager to learn what her deal is.

Deca-Dence – 10 – Not All Right At All

When Kaburagi tries to tell Natsume the truth in a masterfully-directed scene in which we feel her disorientation, Natsume passes out, much like Neo when Morpheus first tells him he’s in the real world (though she doesn’t vomit). Could it be her status as a bug depended on her believing the lie? Did Kabu break her with the truth?

We’re left in suspense after she faints, as the episode cuts to the three techs evacuate the Gadoll Factory. The director tells his subordinate to simply leave the tiny cute Gadoll, as it’s already dying, and the Gadoll sticks two little tendrils into him. By the time he notices they left red welts on his green belly, the elevator goes out of control.

As Kaburagi drives Natsume back to Deca-Dence, she wakes up yelling and he puts the brakes on. Once he calmly explains to her what’s going on, she takes hold of the part about him deceiving her. She’s not shocked anymore so much as betrayed and disappointed. She also wishes Kaburagi never told her the truth—saying this through broken glass is a nice touch, as her world is now thoroughly shattered.

After what is no doubt a wordless trip home, Kabu returns to find Pipe has disintegrated along with the other Gadoll as he expected (it’s an absolutely gutting scene, and perfectly staged and lit). Natsume hangs around the elated Tankers celebrating the apparent end of the war, but when she’s approached by Kurenai, she runs off.

In a way the truth as told to her by Kabu did break her. Wallowing in a dark alley, she no longer knows what to do, who to trust, or if any of her efforts ever mattered in the first place. Having pushed herself to her limits, she finds herself in the same position as Mei when Natsume became a soldier: why couldn’t things stay the way they were?

It’s only when Kaburagi is about to log out when he notices the note Natsume wrote him still lying unread on his desk. It’s a simple message, with the part about letting her know when he’s back crossed out, but still readable. Kabu decides the best way to apologize is to hand-write a letter of his own to her.

The Tankers may be celebrating, but the revolution is not over, and they’re far from free. The cyborg admins basically put Deca-Dence on pause for all Gears, and Hugin stalks around the Tank searching for Natsume. This is especially chilling since Kabu logs out after writing his letter, leaving Natsume alone and exposed.

As for the little Gadoll that could, it is reborn within the dead green factory director’s belly (he and his team don’t survive the elevator drop) It bursts out, Alien-style, then proceeds to devour the three bodies, and begins to…grow.

With the prison overrun by police when Kabu logs out, he, Jill, Donatello and the surviving inmates flee in a jeep, which I believe is the first time we see cyborgs interacting directly with “human” machinery. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition to say the least! When Kabu learns Hugin is in Deca-Dence he races to get to Jill’s hideout so he can log back in.

Hugin hasn’t quite found Natsume, but Kurenai does, and allowing Natsume to talk about how she feels (or doesn’t feel) without judgment. Asking questions about what she should think or feel or do, Kurenai tells her simply that she’s glad she’s back and unharmed, and everything else is up to her; the opinions of others are ultimately only supplementary to her choices. It’s a lovely, elegant scene between the two women in which Kaburagi doesn’t even come up.

That said, when Natsume returns to her home and finds and read’s Kabu’s heartfelt letter, she learns a lot more about him, how he was about to off himself when he met her, and how she changed him for the better. The words of his letter are beautifully accompanied by a montage of the moments in his and Natsume’s lives that he mentions.

With this, Natsume rushes to Kabu’s trailer, and just happens to whack him in the head when she throws open his door; he had just logged back in; great timing! Natsume gets everything he’s said now, but doesn’t like the connotations in the letter that suggest that he’s leaving again. If he is resolved to breaking all the rules, as she says with certitude: “he’ll have her help”.

It’s an absolutely heartwarming reunion and reconciliation of our co-protagonists, and Deca-Dence knows it…which is why it chooses the very moment Kaburagi agrees to let her keep helping him that he’s impaled through the chest by Hugin, who expected him to return to his trailer.

In his haste to reconcile he completely forgot the danger he and Natsume were in. His life’s blood splatters across a shocked Natsume’s face, and back at the hideout Jill tells the logged-out Kabu he can’t return to the Kaburagi avatar. Natsume is all alone with his lifeless avatar, and a sinister, smirking Hugin tells her she won’t escape, for The World Must Be Rid Of Bugs.

If that weren’t enough, our little Gadoll friend has grown quite a bit…into something that looks bigger than all of Deca-Dence; perhaps the largest Gadoll ever. Kabu and Jill watch as it rises over the horizon, no doubt still hungry and ready to devour everything and anyone it can get its hands on.

This giant Gadoll, sole survivor of the GGS, may even be out of the control of Hugin and the system, unless that ship in orbit has some serious space-to-ground firepower. If that’s the case, perhaps the Gadoll can be somehow used to help break the system, instead of just everyone.

Stay with me here…but what if the Gadoll, with their potential for collective intelligence, know that Kaburagi and Natsume were kind to Pipe? That’s all I’ve got for now, because as audacious as Deca-Dence continues to be, I can’t see this ending with the heroine being unceremoniously killed off.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 10 – Magic Cheaters Never Prosper

Just because the Demons are in hostile territory doesn’t mean they all start getting along. When top-ranked third-year Royalist Revest Aynie learns how early Anos arrived, he suspects cheating, but Anos doesn’t rise to his provocations, instead praising Revest for requiring so little time himself.

Yet when Revest is chosen as the first Demon Academy student to compete in a magical competition against a Hero student, he can’t even cast a spell on a mouse, much to the amusement of the extremely arrogant and haughty Hero Academy’s headmaster, Diego.

Anos reveals that the humans cheated, casting an anti-demon magic spell. This becomes a common refrain this week: the Hero Academy blatantly cheating at every turn, while the Demon Academy’s Royalist faction shoots themselves in the foot for refusing to maintain a united front with the Anos and their Hybrid comrades.

In Melheis’ report to Anos, he cannot find a mention of Hero Kanon being murdered by a human in the legends, but does interpret a passage he found to foretell that when the Demon King returns to Azeshion—i.e. Anos right now—the Hero will return with the Spirit God Human Sword Evansmana in hand: the holy sword forged to destroy him anew.

Sasha and Misha aren’t about to let Anos spend a quiet evening to himself in his room…not when there’s a night festival to attend! As the three walk the stalls together, Anos spots Ray and Misa, but Sasha urges him not to approach them.

That’s because she can tell they’d only be intruding. Ray, grateful for Misa’s help in saving her mother, wants Misa to cheer up and forget the problems with their academy factions for one night, and accept a shell necklace he won at the shooting game. I for one am fully aboard this adorable ship!

The next morning the Hero and Demon Academies participate in the main inter-academy competition, which involves a battle beneath the lake where there are underwater ruins and caverns, a truly awesome setting. Less awesome is the fact the Humans are cheating again.

The very water in the lake is mixed with Holy Water, which increases their magical ability but is toxic to demons. It’s even more toxic for Revest and his pureblooded elite Royalist team; had he drawn upon the ranks of Hybrids, they might have stood a better chance in the face of the Human cheating.

Instead, Revest & Co. are utterly defeated by the trio of Hero reincarnations, and he and his team have to be rescued by Anos. Menou-sensei, a longtime mentor and friend of Revest who knows how kindhearted he is and how hard he fought for his top-ranked position, tries to heal him, but her magic has no effect since he has a stigma caused by Holy magic.

Among the Demon Academy contingent, only Anos has the power to heal the stigma, and despite Revest hating Anos with every bone in his body, accepts Anos’ help for Menou-sensei’s sake. Perhaps this is the first step towards the Demons finally forming a united front and dispensing with the infighting that falls right into the Hero Academy’s hands.

Having stayed on the sidelines, Anos, accompanied by the Necron sisters, Ray, Misa, and the Fan Club, challenge the Hero trio to a round two, but not in the Holy Water-infused lake. When one of the heroes jokingly says they’ll wait while the lake is drained, Anos proceeds to…drain the motherfucking lake, using a massive fireball to steam all of the water away, creating an even more dramatic venue for the next battle.

Diego and his Heroes were able to steal a couple of cheap wins this week, but the tide has not just turned, but vanished into thin air! I imagine even if and when the Humans deploy their secret weapon (described only as “that” and appearing as a young lady with black hair), Anos will be ready and able to deal with it. And if not, he’s got all his allies by his side to support him.

Deca-Dence – 09 – Pushed to the Limit

After a cool Kaburagi warns Kurenai not die before he returns, calling her the “strongest, finest woman alive”,  he and Natsume take advantage of the chaos of the latest Gadoll battle to slip through and on to the factory’s barrier unnoticed.

On top of wondering if all the parts of their intricately constructed plan to break the system move how and when they’re supposed to, Kabu is dealing with a crucial unknown: how Natsume will actually react when she learns the truth about the Gadoll, the world, and him.

But when they reach the barrier, before Kabu can tell her anything she urges him to keep up, walking straight through the barrier without any problems. Both impressed with her resolve and realizing he shouldn’t be clouding her focus, he remains silent, and the operation proceeds.

And what an operation! Deca-Dence has been carefully preparing both the practicalities of the plan, the geography of the prison and factory, while also fleshing out all of the players involved. It’s an absolute treat to watch this episode wind up the sum product and let ‘er rip.

Turk initially performs his part of the plan, leading the inmates in a full-on riot in which they toss explosives into the piles of Gadoll shit and create a massive cloud of pollution that not only infects the lake’s clear water the Gadoll need to maturate, but causes to activate their natural defense systems, i.e. Zones.

The pollution of the lake and the berserk Gadoll and their Zones conspire to create utter havoc within the factory, allowing Kaburagi and Natsume to slip in without any of the preoccupied staff noticing. But upon entering a compartment that leads to the “Gadoll Genocide System” they must activate, they’re stopped dead in their tracks…by Hugin, tipped off by Turkey.

A desperate battle between Kaburagi and Hugin ensues, with Jill using her hacking prowess to make it appear that not only are their several dozen Kaburagis to target, but the “Natsume” whom Hugin impales with his hand (causing my heart to skip a beat or two in horror) is really just a hologram, and the real Natsume is safe behind a bulkhead.

Turk sits back and watches his betrayal bear rotten fruit as enhanced security forces start mowing down inmates. When Sarkozy asks Why? Turk simply laughs and tells him that’s how the cookie crumbles, and if he doesn’t like it, tough. Sark understandably feels betrayed by Turk, but still lacks the willpower to do anything about it.

When Jill discovers they’ve been betrayed and Turk and Sark are the culprits, she yanks Donatello (fighting one last Gadoll battle as a Gear) out of Deca-Dence and has him hunt Turk down, ultimately tossing him in the giant churning vat to drown in rotting Gadoll shit—a fitting end for someone “fine with the way things are.”

Turk’s comeuppance comes just after he left a wounded Sarkozy for dead, ultimately only interested in getting a pardon and rejoining the outside world. But as he suffers a lethal oxyone leak, he remember’s Kabu’s words about taking himself to his very limits.

Rather than lie around and die, Sark decides to take himself to his limits as well, and in doing so becomes the hero he was so intent on becoming. By injesting a tube of super-concentrated oxyone liquor (the titular “super charger”) he essentially becomes a walking bomb whose body is the fuse. Leaping into the vat after Turk, he detonates the Gadoll shit within.

The resulting explosion takes out the factory’s reactor, meaning Jill and Kabu’s plan is still viable. The fouled water starts bursting through vents and walls, including in Hugin’s face at a crucial moment that gives Kabu and Natsume time to escape.

They reach the room containing GGS controls, Kabu hits a couple buttons, and he and Natsume pull two levers in tandem. The GGS works instantly, as Gadoll everywhere spontaneously burst into clouds of black ash, much like victims of Thanos’ Snap.

This confuses Natsume, as the control screens glow within her puzzled eyes: there was no main nest to destroy, just levers to pull…what’s that all about? Injured, possibly seriously, by his scrap with Hugin, Kabu decides to simply come out and say it: the world, the Gadoll, and even his body are manufactured.

Just like that, Natsume’s world is changed forever, and with it the status quo of Deca-Dence. And it was all perfectly set up and executed. Now we await her reaction—and learn whether these revelations end up pushing her sanity past its limits.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 09 – The Other Side of the Story

Flash back two thousand years to the Human capital of Gairadite. Anos stops by, walking nonchalantly through every barrier the Humans can throw at him. But he’s not here to conquer, but to forge a peace. Hero Kanon is incredulous, but seems willing to hear Anos out. His general Jerga…isn’t, and ends up with Anos’ hand through his chest.

Back in the present, Menou Historia has “temporarily” replaced Emilia-sensei, and informs the class of the impending inter-academy classes in three weeks. We learn Demons and Humans use magic in very different ways.

A select team of students will travel to Azeshion’s Hero Academy, Arclaniska. For everyone but Anos it will be everyone’s first trip to the Human Realm, and he wants to make sure they’re ready, tirelessly sparring with Misha, Sasha, Lay, and Misa.

He also gives Lay a magic sword that was once master by his right-hand-man, whom I assumed was Shin, before remembering the promise he made to Kanon after getting stabbed by the Hero: that if they reincarnated in 2,000 years it would be as friends. So is Lay Shin, or Kanon? It’s not that clear.

Meeting with the newly-freed Melheis, Anos learns that Gaios and Ydol are on the mend, while the Humans’ Hero Academy has raised an elite class of reincarnated heroes, suggesting they may be preparing…something. The students are expected to find their way to Azeshion on their own within ten days; Team Anos (minus the fan club) are teleported there in one second.

While touring the city, Sasha notes how it’s not that different from the Demon capital. When Anos compliments her eyes again, they start to go out of control until Anos calms her down. He promises not to treat her like a child if she’ll promise to use her eyes to protect everyone if he’s ever unable to do so.

They arrive at the front gate of Hero Academy Arclaniska, where they’re met by third-year student Eleanor Bianca, a friendly, cheerful young woman happy to show them around and impressed by Anos’ knowledge of the Hero Kanon.

When Eleanor tells them how Kanon defeated Anos and built the walls, Sasha is outraged, but Anos far less so. He understands how in order for his peace plan to ultimately work, humans had to make a story in which they were the good guys and victors. What’s odd is, Humans believe the name of the Demon King of Tyranny to be Avos Dilhevia as well.

As for Hero Kanon reincarnated, since he had seven sources (or “hearts”), each could be reincarnated into a different body. Four of those are current students in the elite class, and two of them, Ledriano and Laos, confront Anos when they hear he can’t “accept the defeat” his founding ancestor suffered (of course not knowing Anos is the founding ancestor).

After Laos comes at Anos and is handled easily, Ledriano begs Anos’ forgiveness for his comrade’s rudeness and requests that he and Sasha leave for now. Surely these two will see each other again when the inter-academy skirmishes start. But later Eleanor warns Anos that if he’s looking for the original Hero Kanon reincarnate, he may be disappointed, since Kanon was murdered two thousand years ago…by a fellow human.

Featuring a new setting of the Human Realm with its requisite hierarchies, players, and alternate history, this first episode of the inter-academy mini-arc is functional, if uninspiring, expanding the show’s world but lacking the awe and excitement of the previous episode’s battles. There were moments this week when I wished the details of the mythology were less muddled, but that’s at least partly the point: a lot can change in two thousand years.

Deca-Dence – 08 – Demolishing the Crap Factory

When Kaburagi announces his plan to destroy the Gadoll Factory to his fellow inmates, they think he’s touched. Their cyborg forms are trapped in the underground poop prison; their avatar forms in Deca-Dence have chips that instantly log them out if they touch the shield surrounding the factory.

Well, not every avatar has a chip: Kaburagi’s original avatar doesn’t, so all they have to do is log in and steal it from the avatar deep storage. That means a heist, though if we’re honest the most useful member of his team by far is the sardonic super-hacker Jill.

And what a heist it is! Watching our robot inmate friends in slick human forms with Skittle colors dart around the storage facility just as Hugin responds to a tip that Minato is illegally hoarding the very Kaburagi avatar they’re after.

The speed and complexity of the storage module tracks, their precise timing, and Hugin’s agile menace, combined with how loud and clumsy Sarkozy is being (Turkey has to snap his neck, causing him to log out)—it all conspires to kick the tension up to 11.

Thankfully, Kaburagi and Donatello manage to secure the avatar before it reaches its destination, replacing it with a sex toy that Hugin will let slide as long as Minato “enjoys it alone and in private.”

While Donatello gets the other inmates on board with destroying the poop factory (aided by Jill telling them the poop they clean up is recycled, refined and injected right back into them—a literal toxic cycle) Kaburagi decides to reunite with Natsume and Kurenai in the creepiest way possible: by sidling up to them from behind and reaching out to touch her shoulder.

While the ladies hit him, when they realize who he is they’re both elated. Natsume doesn’t even bring up the fact he left without saying anything, as she knew it had to be something important…and it was: finding the source of the Gadoll.

Just as all avatars with chips cannot cross the factory shield, it will also terminate all Tankers. But since Natsume is a Tanker Bug who is already considered dead, Kabu is confident she’ll be able to pass through with him, which is important, since he can’t bring the factory down alone.

When Kabu brings up the fact it may well be a one-way mission with no guarantee either of them will survive, Natsume urges him to dispense with such talk. She’s not quite the same kid Kaburagi left behind. She’s stronger, wiser, and braver…and she’s coming with him, no matter what. It isn’t even a question.

During their chat, Kabu gets a call from Minato asking to meet him in the prison immediately. Minato has been a good and loyal friend to Kabu, but like Fei with Natsume, had placed limits on how far that friendship can go. Like Fei wanted things to stay the same, Minato wanted Kabu to keep his head down. Threatening to blow up the Gadoll Factory and bringing down the entire system…ain’t that.

He’ll admit he wasn’t following a command of the system when he saved and helped Kabu, but that’s one thing; destroying the system is another. Whether due to the privilege of his position, emotional distance from the human beings in the Tank, or effective conditioning from the system (or all three), Minato believes there must be a system for there to be order.

Where did freedom for all get humanity? Bought out and treated as livestock by their own creations. Having never met someone like Natsume to transform his way of thinking, or instill a sense of envy for humans’ innate ability to think for themselves and choose their own path, Minato can’t see what Kabu sees. He may not immediately report Kabu, but Minato isn’t a bug.

I’m not sure that’s that—Minato may well change his mind—but Donatello’s sidekick Turkey is already forging his own path, believing Kabu’s plan to be folly and the only option is to make a deal with the authorities and save Kabu and Don “from themselves” as he sees it.

Sarkozy seemingly falls for Turk’s plan, so now Kabu and Natsume will face threats from all directions. No matter; obeying the system is no longer an option, and can no longer be called true living. They’re going to break it or die trying.