Vanitas no Carte – 06 – His Lordship’s Guests

We learn the amorphous distorted-voiced monster isn’t named Charlatan, but is someone named Naenia who is merely part of Charlatan, when Noé is broken out of his jam by Vanitas, while Luca is protected by a no-longer-thirsty Jeanne.

The three-monster team of Charlatan decides to skedaddle before “The Queen’s Fangs” show up, and Domi rips her dress to provide protection for Vanitas while he deals with the remaining curse-bearers in the palace. One of them, a young girl, is to far gone, and Vanitas has to turn her to ash.

Here little old me I thought Domi was flamboyant; turns out she’s scared shitless of her big sister Veronica, who is the aforementioned Queen’s Fangs. Easily wearing three times her mass in fabric and a black fox mask, she unilaterally decides that the stinky mortal Vanitas is responsible for this fiasco, and decides to literally put him on ice.

Nothing and nobody can stop her and her crazy eyes…except the timely arrival of one Lord Ruthven, who cracks her mask with one tap of his pimp cane, then chides her for such an “unbecoming show of power.” Just like there’s always a bigger fish, there’s always a stronger vampire, huh?

Ruthven is ready to dispense some quick justice upon the on-ice Vanitas for turning the little girl into ash, but Noé comes between them and calls Ruthven out for not knowing remotely the whole story. Rather than angry, Ruthven is amused, but also chastened by the young buck.

He introduces himself a a member of the Senate in service of the Queen, then melts the ice to free Vanitas. But after his ordeal with Naenia and the attack from a Veronica who was not holding back, Noé finally collapses from exhaustion.

In his dream Noé’s tucked into bed, holding the hand of his Teacher, and curses himself for forcing his hopes and ideals upon Vanitas and feeling betrayed when he didn’t live up to them. The Teacher clarifies the mission he bestowed upon his student: not to determine if the book of Vanitas is a threat, but to meet those whose paths cross it, and judge it on his own terms—terms in which the Teacher clearly trusts.

When Noé wakes up he finds Vanitas perched atop a clock tower like a gargoyle, sulking. When Noé mentions how sometimes Vanitas looks like he’s “given up on something”, Vanny pulls a knife on him and says he wants nothing to do with him. Noé comes back by saying he’s never remotely liked him.

But as the sun rises between them, Vanita’s anger turns to more brooding, and Noé, feeling like he just might understand his companion a bit more, gives Vanitas a cool smile and says he’ll be remaining by his side for the time being. This comes as no surprise, as we know someday Noé will kill Vanitas…or will he?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 12 (Fin) – How to Melt a Frozen Heart

Nobimaru presses his attack on Yui, but learns he can’t even touch the nullstone without freezing and cracking his arm, as the thing literally feeds on life. Nobimaru, who is unquestionably loyal to Inari despite knowing full he’s nothing but a tool to her, allows himself a moment to stew in the knowledge that Inari knew about the damage the stone would do to him…and didn’t care.

But if Inari left him on his own to succeed or perish, Kabane won’t have it, and he steps in as Nobimaru’s flaming champion. The nullstone grabs still more power from Yui to give him an ice suit of armor, and just like that we’ve got a dazzling Ice Boy vs. Fire Lad duel. Kabane’s constantly burning and regenerating body provides some of the cooler images this vibrant series has yet offered.

Akira manages to use all the fog and steam the battle is creating to smash his ice cage and wastes no time coming between Kabane and Yui before either of them do any permanent damage. And it’s here where I must declare my undying love for any show whose MC crumbles into flaming pile of burning flesh and bones without anyone batting an eye.

Moments later, the nullstone has nearly sucked Yui’s life dry, and his own body begins to become brittle and crack. Fortunately, Kabane has regenerated enough to give Akira a hand pulling the nullstone out of Yui’s chest. Kabane then coughs up his lifestone, which merges with the other stone on contact, releasing it from Yui.

Right on cue, Inari arrives on the scene to snatch up the stone, but Inugami is right there to remind her that neither half of the stone is hers, so she an Nobimaru slink off. In yet another demonstration of empathy and fellow feeling, Kabane asks Nobimaru to go with them to the Ohana clinic where Aya can surely heal his ruined hand…only for Nobimaru to politely decline, intending to bear the wound as a warning not to get careless again.

As Yui recovers at the clinic (and Aya calculates the exorbitant bill), Kabane hangs around outside his door, waiting for him to wake up so he can ask him about his parents. Akira sees him out there and immediately apologizing for saying he hated him, which he obviously only did because he was afraid Yui would kill him. On the contrary, Akira reiterates his love for Kabane, and their little making-up dance in the hall is just precious as all get-out.

Yui eventually wakes up, and is ready to talk with Kabane, starting with the “Kemono Incidents”, a period of history forgotten by most humanity when kabane and humans were in devastating open warfare. An agreement was made to end the hostilities, and all the kabane higher-ups had stones like Kabane’s to maintain balance through the threat of force—the only way a group as fractured and ungainly as kemono could be controlled).

While this is a lot of exposition for a final episode, it provides welcome setup for a second season that, while not yet announced, seems likely due to strong manga sales and a studio that often produces sequels. It also includes Akira’s inner voice worrying about falling asleep during all this talking, which is a wonderful little moment.

As for the question of what’s to become of Yui, he’s content to shuffle off into the shadows and bear all of the horrible things he did. Akira won’t hear of it, and it takes a slap to Yui’s face to get him to listen when Akira says they’re brothers and twins and should share the burdens together. Yui is also heartened when Kabane forgives him, though the others know that’s just who Kabane is. He gives and forgives.

The gist of Yui’s stories (as well as Inugami’s contribution to the discussion) is that for Kabane’s parents to have had the lifestone meant they were either kemono chiefs themselves or found it themselves. The best way to learn more about his stone and all the others that are out there is to track down their owners, some of whom Inugami knows.

Meanwhile, Inari, in her appropriately noir-ish office at the police HQ, assures Nobimaru she’s not done trying to get her hands on either stone (now that they’re merged, which one she’d rather have is irrelevant). But she knows she can’t take from those the tanuki is protecting by force. So he tells Nobimaru to relay Kon’s next mission: to seduce Kabane and get him to give her the stone willingly.

While there’s nothing Inugami can do about that scenario, asking Kon to seduce anyone—particularly Kabane—seems doomed to failure. Neither Kon nor Kabane quite grasp the concept of love or romance quite yet, and Kabane clearly knows more since he now has more of it in his life.

But there’s no denying Kon is smitten on one level with Kabane, so it’s just as likely he’d seduce her to his side than she’d get him to give up the stone that—lest we forget—is crucial to keep him under control. As Akira goes on a trip with Yui and Shiki minds the shop, Kabane and Inugami prepare to head to Shikoku to meet the first of many stone-keepers.

Kon super-awkwardly inserts herself into their trip, and Kabane urges her to join them, which is fine with Inugami. He’s no fool, and so knows full well Inari sent Kon to try to steal the stone. But he also knows Kabane isn’t half as guileless and manipulative as he once was, and so he’ll probably do fine against Kon’s inept attempts.

The three board the shinkansen, bound for more adventures in search of answers to the mystery of Kabane’s folks. That should make for a heckuva second season, the announcement of which I eagerly await. Even if for some reason it never comes, I had a lot of fun watching this eclectic and lovable bunch of characters work through their dark pasts, and differences, grow closer as a family…and kick some monster ass together.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 11 – Let it Bro

Let it be said that the system the yuki-onna employ to keep the Snowy Village arrive is patently awful, not to mention extremely inefficient. And yet, with many a human tribe throughout history relied on the suffering and sacrifice of a “special few” in order to maintain their cultural and spiritual identity survival, it’s certainly nothing new, on either side of the human-kemono spectrum.

We take a look back at Yui and Akira’s past in the village throughout this episode, as Yui becomes the chief and is studded out to all of the 200 women of the village, a duty he keeps secret from Akira. Akira assumes he has to deal with difficult paperwork, and cheers him up with sasanqua camellia blooms when they’re able to talk to each other in the night.

Until a woman produces a male heir, his duties will continue; no mention is made of what happens to any new female children produced in the meantime. But Yui’s burden goes beyond simply being the physical tool with which to keep the village going. He has to deal with the constant competition for his favor, which adds to his emotional toll.

Back in the ice castle Yui built for his pure brother, Akira’s plushie informs him the others are frozen, but they are still alive. Kabane even manages to burst half of his body out of the ice. And while his bottom half grows back, the fact remains he, along with the still-frozen Shiki and Inugami, are still at Yui’s mercy.

Not sure what else he can do to protect them, Akira decides to scorn Kabane, saying he hates them and wants nothing more to do with them. When Yui returns, Akira shields Kabane from his frozen wrath and, knowing Yui will do whatever he asks, says he wants to move with him to a new place.

Kabane is left in a state of shock, thinking Akira really means what he said. Then Inari shows up in all her saxophone leitmotif-having glory. She assures him she’s not here for the Lifestone, but the Nullstone, which among other things could provide answers about his parents.

Seeing Inugami sealed up like a Thermos and reduced to communicating through the plushie (which can read his mind waves), Inari remarks that he’s gotten weaker…probably due to how he “makes too much” of “those useless children.”

Inari, meanwhile, uses her children like tools and discards them when they’re no longer of use. But like Kon, Nobimaru is all too happy to serve his mistress in all things, including going toe-to-toe with Yui, who encases Akira in a protective ice cage while he fights an ice-vs.-fire battle with the kitsune.

As the circumstances of Akira’s banishment are revealed—he had his first wet dream, so Yui sent him away before any of the women found out—Yui will do anything to preserve Akira’s perceived “purity”. And while both Nobimaru is hanging in there and the unkillable Kabane is on his way, it’s still looking like Akira will have to be the one to stop his twin brother from causing more harm.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 10 – Good for Something

When born in their snowy village far to the north, Akira and his twin brother Yui were the first male yuki-onoko born in a century. While they were treated like princes with every need tended to, they were also prisoners in a guilded cage, their mother dead and their father imprisoned and mad. Akira was weak and a crybaby, always being led around by Yui.

One day they found some supplies left behind by humans, including a magazine that teaches them about life in Tokyo. Fast-forward to the present, Yui is in Tokyo searching for his brother. When a drunk tries to extort him he demonstrates his immensely powerful ice manipulation. Immediately, we’re not quite sure we want this guy to find our kind, gentle Akira!

Unfortunately in an ongoing effort to be more useful, Akira ends up only making more work for Shiki and Kabane. Kon and Aya take the week off so that the focus stays on the core three lads and their dynamic. Akira writes a note and takes off on a jourey to find his brother, taking with him his plushie to which Mihei added AI when he repaired its stuffing. Sure, why not?

There must be some unseen force that draws the twin brothers together, because Akira finds Yui in his first five minutes of his “journey.” Akira buys him a crepe like the kind they saw in that magazine…but Yui doesn’t want it. Akira has shown that despite being a snow boy he’s the warmest of the lads. Even for a yuki-onoko Yui is oddly cold.

Still, when his brother mentions a certain frozen castle from a certain popular American film in which ice plays an important role, Yui instantaneously builds him a massive Japanese-style castle in the middle of a park. It’s a gorgeous and glorious thing, but also very unnerving, because it again demonstrates how powerful Yui is. Then he smashes Akira’s phone and locks him away.

Unaware their princess has been taken captive and locked away in a castle, Shiki and Kabane start clashing immediately in Akira’s absence. Kabane realizes, as Inugami hoped they would, that Akira is the glue that holds their little misfit group together. They decide to go find Akira, and his sole posting of the ice castle helpfully points them in the right direction.

As the post is now trending, a large crowd and even a reporter have arrived to investigate this strange ice castle that appeared out of nowhere. Leaving Inari to the inevitable cover-up, Inugami, Kabane, and Shiki confront Yui, who isn’t really interested in talking. Inugami also notices Yui has a “nullstone” lodged in his heart: basically the opposite of Kabane’s lifestone. which is keeping Yui’s heart well-chilled.

Akira learns that his plushie has Wi-Fi, but only just when Yui returns to tell him the claw-foot bath, four-poster bed and chandelier he requested are ready. Yui leads Akira downstairs, where he learns his brother has also decided to decorate a bit…with Akira’s frozen friends.

It’s pretty clear by now that the strength, precision, and control of his ice manipulation far exceeds Yui’s, and and that Yui isn’t the brother Akira knew, due to that nullstone. But assuming some combination of Kon, Aya, Inari, Nobimaru, and Mihei won’t drop in to save the day, it’ll all be up to our favorite useless scaredy-cat snow boy to set his twin straight and thaw his peeps.

Re: Zero – 44 – Prediction of a Happy Future

Lil’ Lia is all alone when Pandora approaches her. With Kugimiya Rie’s soft, sweet yet oddly menacing voice, Pandora begins the mind games, thanking Lia for bringing the key to her at the opportune time. When Lia says she knows of no such key, Pandora goes straight to threatening to “turn over” the forest looking for it. Then Lia says she’ll be the key, and it appears in her hands, though only she can see it.

For all intents and purposes, Lia herself is the key—she always was—and protected as such by being kept in isolation away from the seal she unlocks. But unlike the inanimate object with which she shares a purpose, she’s a key that made a promise to Mother Fortuna. This is when Pandora tells her she must make a choice: keep the promise and invite conflict, or break the promise and resolve “all this” harmoniously.

Pandora makes it clear that should Lia decide to keep her promise, she has a promise of her own: to open the seal by any means necessary. As if rewarding Lia for standing firm, Fortuna returns to her side, thanking her for keeping her promise. I may have faked myself out in believing Fortuna was killed by Pandora off-screen, and that she’s Lia’s biological mom.

She’s neither, and Lia is again referred to as “the Witch’s Daughter”, implying her birth mom is one of the witches. That’s not answered, but suffice it to say Fortuna doesn’t possess the ability to kill Pandora and make it stick; as a witch, Every time she’s struck down, Pandora can resurrect her body instantly, calling into question whether she’s even physically there.

Her witch’s tricks also victimize poor Geuse, who arrives in the nick of time with plans to help Fortuna. It’s important to note that he hasn’t “changed sides” here; his bloodshot eyes simply cause him to see Fortuna as Pandora and Lia as Fortuna, so when he uses his newly acquired Unseen Hands, it is Fortuna who receives the full brunt of the attack, which proves fatal.

As Pandora assures Geuse that his “love was not wrong”, and nor was offering up his soul to save the one he loved. In her last breaths, Fortuna expresses regret for not being able to keep her promise to her sister-in-law, saying she’ll never forgive her. Lia forgives Fortuna in her mother’s place.

Fortuna isn’t dead for five seconds before Pandora says Lia is no longer bound by promises made to a dead woman. Not the most tactful witch, is she?! Lia removes her flower hairclips and replaces them with one of Fortuna’s, which resembles a snowflake. She then interrupts Pandora with a simple “Die”, exploding her with a giant snowflake.

Again and again Lia’s ice magic destroys Pandora’s body in the blink of an eye, and again and again Pandora returns a blink later, telling Lia it’s pointless to continue. As Lia gets more and more upset, her ice magic gets out of control, covering Fortuna, an emotionally wrecked Geuse, everyone in the village, and all of Elinor Forest.

Lia herself becomes encased in ice, and Pandora accepts that she’ll have to wait a bit longer to unlock the seal, but it will happen. Before taking her leave, she touches Lia’s face, removing all memories of their encounter and knowledge of her existence, telling her to “fill the emptiness” however she likes.

Before her breakthrough with Subaru, learning all of this may have broken Emilia, but she accepts everything she’s seen without complaint, or protest, or emotional breakdown. Because she’s able to part with her greatest regret and accepted her past self, she’s completed the first trial, just as Subaru did.

While she regrets she wasn’t strong enough to do more, Emilia is pleased to learn she never broke her promise to her mother to obey Fortuna. She never yielded to Pandora and even forced her to withdraw. She now has her gaze focused on the future, one in which the permafrost is lifted from Elinor and her friends awaken from their deep slumber so they can yell at her.

When (not “if”) that happens, she vows to keep apologizing until they forgive her, so they can all live in the world her mother, Fortuna, and Geuse loved. Echidna can rail against her all she wants about delusions, pushiness, insolence, egotism, selfishness, and hypocrisy, but she can’t deny the effectiveness of Emilia using her mother’s sacrifice as an “excuse” for her resolve, to see that the future she dreams of come true.

Echidna parts ways with Emilia, telling her that while two trials remain, because she’s now “fighting back” they shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Was that a backhanded compliment from someone who claims to despise Lia? I believe it was! With that, Emilia wakes up within the graveyard, still festooned with Subaru’s well wishes. As her eyes fill with tears, Emilia apologizes to her mother, and prepares for the second trial.

Meanwhile, Bilma and Ram help take Shima somewhere where she can rest, now that she’s successfully told Subaru the true purpose of the Sanctuary. Armed with this knowledge, he, Otto, and Garfiel pay another visit to Roswaal, who is again in full makeup and costume; his “war paint”, so to speak. Subie’s glad to see him taking their battle seriously, but brings Otto to point out that the Margrave’s carefully set up game board is already falling apart.

Roswaal doesn’t recognize Otto, because the prophesy in the gospel makes no mention of him. While this irks Otto, it’s actually good, because it meant he could act freely without the bounds of destiny licking at his heels. It was entirely thanks to Otto that Subaru was able to find the backbone he needed for this battle. Subaru and Otto virtually break the fourth wall in musing about a male character playing that role rather than the love interest.

Subaru has brought Otto, as well as the “tamed” Garfiel, to show Roswaal that the writing is on the wall—and he’s not talking about his encouraging messages he left for Emilia. With Roswaal’s game board quickly falling into ruin, Subaru has come to ask for his surrender. He probably won’t get it so easily, but like Pandora asking Emilia to unlock the seal for her, he had to ask!

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 19 – Bros Before PoHs

Once Kirito is awake and functioning, he hasn’t time for breakfast or even to splash water on his face; he has to fight PoH immediately. Maybe he has a little rust to shake off, because he’s soon pinned down and even gets his throat nicked by PoH’s massive cleaver. That’s when his old friend Eugeo shows up in ethereal form to keep Kirito steady and tighten his grip.

Together, the two release Recollection in order to log out PoH’s entire red army without causing them any harm, then absorbs the amassed sacred resources to heal all of his friends and allies. In one last parting shot of Yuuki, she expresses relief Kirito is working to make the Underworld a beautiful, fun and joyous world like those of SAO and ALO were meant to be.

PoH is no longer able to summon more soldiers or restore his own vitality, so all Kirito has to do is give him his best shot, resulting in a very sick explosion complete with long booming bass. While he has a giant hole in his chest, PoH still vows to log right back in, or otherwise just find him and Asuna on the street and slit their throats.

In response to that, Kirito prevents him from ever logging out for a good long time by basically planting a new Gigas Cedar inside the hole in PoH’s body. The tree rapidly grows and merges with him until his face is embedded in the bark. Kirito muses that perhaps in a couple centuries there will be a village at that spot like Rulid, and two kids will try to chop him down.

I almost hoped he’d shout the one-liner HAPPY ARBOR DAY“, but that would have admittedly been pretty tacky. With PoH/Vassago taken care of (hopefully for good), everyone finally rushes in to celebrate Kirito’s return. There’s lots of tearful moments, but none more powerful than when Asuna finally embraces her love; the pure unbridled joy on her face is devastating in its effectiveness.

Okay…next crisis. When Miller’s tech tries to increase time acceleration past a certain level and hits a security lockout requiring a key, his colleague shoots the lever, which for all he knows could have killed their boss and everyone in the Underworld. Instead, it releases the acceleration limiter, which means in fifteen minutes time there will pass too quickly for human fluctlights to handle.

Considering four episodes still remain after this one, I could have done without a literal ticking clock here, especially when there’s no chance whatsover those fifteen minutes will occur in real time. There’s been so much twisting and turning of time in WoU already, it just feels excessive. Hopefully the wounded Higa can fix it before the time is up (with Kikuoka’s help).

Until then, the stakes and urgency of Kirito’s mission were just raised a hundredfold. It’s good then, that he has the ability to quickly fly (with Asuna in his arms) to Alice’s location, just as Miller is about to kill her two dragons, who ignored her orders to abandon her and go make babies.

Like Asuna, Klein, Ronie, and everyone else who is glad he’s awake again, Alice tears up when he sees Kirito back in action, just when she needed him most. Interestingly when he appears Asuna isn’t with him; I wonder if she’s hanging back in reserve or if Kirito has a plan. In any case, the stage is set for Gabe vs. Kirito. If past epic duels this season are any indication, it should be a sakuga smorgasbord.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 18 – Back in the Game

This week, we get into Kirito’s head as he gets up from the symbolic “desk at school” and starts off to his symbolic “home”, passing Alice and Eugeo without noticing them while in transit. Higa was successful in connecting him to his friends, and process of awakening has begun. He just needs a little more time.

While Asuna is certain she can no longer even stand, she’s helped up by the spirit of Kanno Yuuki, who gives her angel wings with which to take up the fight with PoH anew. The art style again shifts to Not Fuckin’ Around Mode, and Asuna proceeds to mop the floor with PoH. Unfortunately, he’s only stunned temporarily, as Sortiliena notices his weapon is absorbing sacred resources. Within moments he’s on his feet and turning the entire force of foreign players on the Japanese.

Meanwhile, in Kirito’s head, he’s forced to walk down memory lane, specifically all of the worst memories he’s had since entering SAO, including  the death of Sachi and the Moonlit Black Cats on the 27th floor, long, long ago, and the time he carved Nobuyuki Sugou up like a turkey. These memories disgust Kirito, and he’d rather tear his own heart out than keep watching and hearing them.

Kirito is momentarily snapped out of it by the appearance of Sinon, Suguha and Asuna, but it’s still not enough for him to forgive himself. Just as Higa is pondering what fourth person could be used to, a fourth connection is established not by a person but an object: the Blue Rose Sword. The remnants of Eugeo merge with Kirito’s own memories of him to create a spectral Eugeo who urges Kirito to wake up and keep fighting, for there are so many people waiting for him.

The first thing Kirito does when he wakes up is use Enhance Armament to freeze PoH and his forces in their tracks. When even this fails to restrain PoH and he rushes Asuna, Sortiliena, and Ronie, Kirito puts up a shield around them, then pushes PoH back, neutralizing him for the moment. From there, Kirito can finally get back to his feet. An elated Asuna simply says okaeri—welcome back—and Kirito replies tadaima…I’m back.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 33 – A Thawing of Relations

Winter has arrived, as has the first freeze, and as Sakura’s class will be going on a field trip to the ice skating rink, she tries to get some practice in on her blades, only to fall on her bum. Any soreness is forgotten when she learns Yukito is spending the night at her house to study for exams with Touya. She even has a couple “anyahns” for Yukito, something she’d previously saved for Mizuki-sensei.

That night, however, she doesn’t dream about Yukito. Instead, she has the same dream she’s had several times now, only the details are becoming clearer and easier to recall upon awakening. She distinctly remembers a full moon and someone with long hair. While this figure resembles Mizuki-sensei, Kero mentions the name Yue, I believe for the first time. Could the reddish hue of the dream figure’s hair be a red herring?

Armed with a beautiful bento prepared by Touya and Yukito (such a nice couple), Sakura hits the rink with her class. While she’s not sure on her feet at first, she quickly gets the hang of it (as Tomoyo predicted) thanks to some pointers from Mizuki-sensei. Syaoran also figures it out…just a tiny bit slower than Sakura. Meiling, meanwhile, bundles herself up like a button-cute Matryoshka doll, not used to Japan’s cold winter.

Turns out she doesn’t just have a ridiculously low tolerance for cold; temps throughout the rink and cafe soon drop below zerc degrees C, and soon everyone except Sakura and Syaoran are encased in ice, in one of the more overtly frightening scenes CSS has turned out. As expected, it’s the Freeze Clow Card. If they want to free everyone, Sakura will have to seal it.

Turns out Freeze is a hugely aggressive dick, and even with the heightened agility of Jump, Sakura takes a bit of a beating. Thankfully Syaoran is not only there to catch, shield, and protect her, but doesn’t get bashful about all the close contact. He even hacks away at the ice that starts to gather around her, then shows off his newly-learned skating skills to distract Freeze and allow Sakura to seal it. Since he made the sealing possible, Syaoran earns the card’s loyalty.

After Freeze is sealed everyone thaws out and no one is the wiser. As Sakura hands out hot drinks to everyone, her eyes meet Syaoran’s and she gives him a cheerful smile, and Syaoran can’t help but blush…again. Unfortunately for Meiling, he’s well on his way to having a crush on her. I’m not sure how Syaoran will eventually wrest Sakura’s primary affections from Yukito, we’re not even halfway through the show’s run—so he’s got time!

Bofuri – 04 – Bird (Ice)Box

Maple and Sally’s foray into the sprawling second level is uneventful until the former falls through a hidden trap into a large cavern containing a club-wielding jester boss. The girls work together to defeat it relatively easily. Maple exhibits her new skill “Cover Move”, which enables her to finally keep up with Sally by mimicking her movements in exchange for double damage. Since zero doubled is still zero, it’s another NWO hack for Maple.

After one day they only have two medals, but when they encounter Kuromu and his party on the snowy but notably not cold mountain (a nod to RPG characters rarely bundling up in cold locations), he reports they’ve got zilch. Feeling indebted to him for his earlier assistance, Maple lets his party go through a one-time use teleport gate, only for the gate to almost immediately reappear, suggesting the boss made quick work of the Kuromu crew.

Maple and Sally use the gate, which takes them to the lair of Silverwing, their toughest boss challenge yet, featuring multiple attack vectors. For once, the usually OP Maple is pushed back by attacks, her HP is depleted, and even the outer layers of her armor is destroyed. Thankfully, ten Devours are enough in concert with Sally’s quick harassing attacks and Mirage skill, which enables Maple to slip in under the big icy bird and deliver a Hydra coup-de-grace.

For their trouble, the duo gains give medals for a total of seven, as well as two mysterious monster eggs. They head to warmer climes and warm them until they hatch, revealing a turtle familiar Maple names Syrup and a white fox familiar Sally names Oboro. Like their masters, Syrup and Oboro feature high defense and agility, respectively, and level up and gain skills as they’re used. They both make adorable additions to the party.

The familiars can also be stashed away when not needed, or in the case of Maple and Sally trudging through a desert inhospitable for either animal. Upon reaching an oasis, the two meet their first PvP opponent: a raven-haired maiden in pink samurai garb, brandishing a katana. She placed sixth in the previous event, and looks to rise in the player rankings and is perhaps thinking of adding Maple and Sally’s seven medals to her own collection.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 02 – Breaking the Ice

It may be Summer IRL, but the days are getting colder in the world of Takagi-san, such that puddles made by rain a day ago are frozen solid the next morning. Takagi can tell Nishikata has an unbearable urge to pick that ice up, and so makes a contest out of it.

Naturally, despite Nishikata’s extensive activity in such training, she gets him to drop it by declaring whoever breaks their ice first loses, and has to warm the hands of the winner. He’s about to take her hand when she asks for the hand warmer he offered earlier. A reprieve!

Another morning, Nishikata believes he has a surefire way to get Takagi to lose, by telling her he changed something about his appearance and challenging her to correctly identify that change. This backfires spectacularly when Takagi gives him a thorough visual examination, even tickling his side and getting very close up to smell him.

In the end, Takagi correctly concludes he trimmed his hair, though whether she was going with the answer with the best odds is a mystery. Nishikata’s punishment is to try to guess how she’ll change her appearance tomorrow, knowing full well he’d never look her over as thoroughly as she just did.

After an in-between in which Mina laughs at Yukari’s bangs which she trimmed too far, Valentine’s Day arrives, and Nishikata, while telling himself he doesn’t expect any chocolate from Takagi or anyone else, is still expecting chocolate.

As Mina learns the hard way, Tanabe-sensei doesn’t tolerate the distribution of chocolate on his watch. Mano almost works up the courage to hand Nakai some non-obligatory chocolate, but his ever-present friends ruin her timing and she runs off.

Nakai may be dense but has the good sense to chase after Mano, who is able to successfully give him the chocolate (which he tells Tanabe-sensei is a book she borrowed). As for Nishikata, he goes the whole day without being given any chocolate, only to find a box in his shoe locker, obviously left there by Takagi, who tries to get him to identify her as the one who put it there.

Nishikata doesn’t give in, so Takagi keeps the mind games going by offering him a small piece of obligatory chocolate, while strongly implying that not all the chocolate she gave him is obligatory. Her status as giver of the shoe locker chocolate remains unsaid, but like many things between these two, it doesn’t really have to be said.

There’s no one else from which Nishikata would get non-obligatory chocolate, and there’s no one else to whom Takagi would give chocolate.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 21 – Love Isn’t Control, But Friendship Is Power

One would think a duel as significant and built-up as the one between Kirito and Eugeo would last an entire episode, but that assumption gives Administrator too much credit. Eugeo’s hasty synthesis was willing, not by force, and it happened in a profound moment of weakness for Eugeo.

He and Kirito cross swords and give each other matching cuts, but once Kirito asks Eugeo to recall who gave him his Baltio-style moves, not to mention all of the people waiting for them to return home with Alice, Eugeo’s piety module is quickly exposed.

But while Eugeo wakes up and even says Alice’s name, there’s still something off about him, and I dreaded Kirito dropping his guard, and with good reason: Eugeo uses Enhance Armament to bury both Kirito and Alice in ice before returning to the top level.

There, a skeptical Chudelkin asks if Eugeo eliminated the rebels, to which Eugeo responds the Pontifex only ordered him to stop them, and stop them he did. That’s not sufficient for the Prime Senator, who heads down below to finish them off, thereby playing right into Eugeo’s hands.

Without Chudelkin, Eugeo is all alone with Administrator, who assumes that while his piety module was compromised, he’s still loyal to her. But when she removes it outright in order to recalibrate it, she’s only freeing him to recall more memories, which motivate him to break free of her emotional and magical hold and attack her with the dagger provided by Cardinal.

Administrator is taken aback, but her shielding is close to perfect, and tells Eugeo that no blade, even one fashioned by Cardinal, can pierce her skin. As we know from the OP and flashbacks, Administrator prefers to hang around in the nude, and once her “loving partner” gig is up, she dispenses with the clothes and provokes Eugeo by mocking Alice’s ordeal (her synthesis was forced over many agonizing days).

That’s when Chudelkin returns all beat up to warn his Pontifex that the other two are free, and Kirito and Alice arrive on the top floor. Eugeo intended to make up for his initial betrayal by taking care of Administrator alone, but she’s too strong. In fact, it will be a miracle if the three of them working in perfect harmony can overcome her knowledge of nearly every cheat code in the world.

Still, Administrator isn’t interested in fighting the three directly; not while she has one last subordinate standing in Chudelkin. She fires him up by agreeing to let him have every inch of her body for one night if he can eliminate the rebels, and he uses his fingers, toes, and eyes to summon his trump card: a monstrous fire genie.

Chudelkin has always been a wild card since his first appearance (which is only fitting as he looks like a Joker), so I honestly don’t know how Eugeo’s ice, Kirito’s black sword, and Alice’s scattering blades will hold up against this boss, but the important thing is that the three are finally fighting on the same side.

P.S. We get new OP visuals (same theme) as we’ve completed Alicization “Rising” and begun Alicization “Uniting” – featuring Kirito trying to hold his own against a very capable (and very nude) Administrator.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 13

This week’s cold open drips with dread as an evil-sounding guy asks what the adorable Chise will find “at the end of her journey with the failure born in the shadows of the forest”, which doesn’t strike me as the nicest way to describe Elias Ainsworth. Maybe the guy has some kind of grudge? Or maybe he’s jealous that Elias found a Sleigh Beggy?

After that, things take a much lighter tone, as Chise, Ruth, Elias and Silky deal with a sudden infestation of “woolly bugs” in dire need of shearing. Just when Elias steps away for a moment, an icy bug steals Chise’s body heat, but she isn’t in any lasting danger. Elias merely needs to warm her back up.

As a result of that objective, Elias stays with Chise until she wakes up, and the opportunity arises for the two to finally talk a little more about how they feel about each other. Chise had been torturing herself about the “timing” of what she’d say, not the content, and that’s evident here as she’s quite eloquent once the obstacle of when to tell him is gone.

She’s able to clear up a couple of things with Elias—that she’s not afraid of him like most humans are, and that she wants to keep the memory of him going wild, even if it wasn’t pleasant, because it’s the memory of “someone important to her”, which is to say, someone she cares about.

Elias continues to emphasize that he can’t truly emphathize with Chise, or even honestly tell her what his feelings are, because the creature that he is just doesn’t allow for that, or at least hasn’t up to this point.

Elias can say that his home was dreadfully cold when Chise was gone, now it’s much warmer, and he prefer the latters. He also knows that while he may be Chise’s magic teacher, Chise is his human teacher. They have a lot to teach one another.

Chise, unfortunately, doesn’t know not to answer the door alone late at night if she’s not expecting someone, and Elia’s door sadly lacks a peephole, so when Chise opens the door to find the many millennia-old Ashen Eye on the other side, she’s wide open for whatever Ashy might want to do.

Ashen Eye is, of course, the creepy guy we heard talking at the beginning. He seems to be obsessed with Chise, but at least partially informed by a longstanding resentment of humanity he’s built up over the centuries.

He claims he has no intention of “harming” Chise at all, but apparently “transforming her into a red fox” doesn’t fall under the “harm” category of “harm.” So what’s Ahsen Eye’s game, and how will Elias (or Fox Chise, for that matter) deal with him?

I’ve learned not to immediately think everyone who does something weird like this to Chise is automatically a villain with ill intent. It’s possible he’s just teaching both of these youngins a lesson in not answering your door. But that creepy cold open weighs on me…it’s more likely he’s up to no good.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 03

Just after daydreaming about that horrible day Michella went blind, an out-of-it Leo bumps into a big bully who takes his wallet containing Michella’s allowance. Chain witnesses Leo in a bind, but apparently has other matters to attend to.

Steven and his maid Veded prepare a super-classy dinner soiree, while Zapp is recruited by Tracy to find her oriental shorthair cat Mizaria…or she’ll cut his dick off with magic.

So yeah…lot’s going on this week! But hey, it’s not Hellsalem’s Lot if every day that ends in “-day” if a lot’s not going on. Did I mention Count Gigagigafutmassif is on the move…and that he’s taller than any skyscraper in the city?

What has always enhanced the already lush texture of KS&B’s great variety of stories is how they intertwine in interesting ways, much like Durarara!!. The fortunes of the various Libra POV characters this week also vary wildly as the episode progresses.

Zapp immediately runs into problems trying to find Tracy’s cat, and while Leo arms himself with a stun baton to get his wallet back, the bully just slugs him and uses his own baton on him. Of course, Leo can defeat him at any time with his eyes, he just doesn’t feel right using them for self-serving purposes…even when failure means Michella going without.

As for Steve, his snobby dinner party goes positively swimmingly…until he goes into the kitchen alone, turns around, and every one of his guests is pointing a biological gun at him. Fortunately, Steve is not one to get so easily ambushed, and took steps to ensure he could use his ice magic to get the upper hand anytime he wanted.

Steve also doesn’t bother handing his guests over to Libra, instead relying on his own special squad to “take care” of them in ways of which Libra’s leader wouldn’t necessarily approve. Bottom line: You come at Starphase, you best come correct.

These amateurs did not. Steve also rethinks whether he’s been enjoying ordinary life too much, considering his duties and the nasty enemies those duties can sometimes create.

Chain clearly saw Leo getting tossed by the bully, but takes a backdoor approach to getting Leo’s wallet back: she turns on her charm (wonderful stuff from Kobayashi Yuu here), promises a good time if the brute can beat her in shots, then drinks him under the table with ease, grabbing not just Leo’s wallet, but the bully’s toady.

It was nice to see a baddie put in his place with something other than brute force, even though Chain could have obviously dropped the guy anytime she wanted. This way was more fun for her!

Alas, Chain did Leo’s work for him, which means he never managed to get one over on his bully. It’s just as well; considering the handicap he demands of himself (no use of the eyes), he’s just not a fighter, nor should he be.

Since his toady was robbed by Chain, the two have to pay their bar bills with…their bodies, leaving them as nothing but heads hopping about in glass bulbs, to be attacked by…Mizaria!…who is then picked up by…Veded!, who finds her way back to Steve just as a united Leo and Zapp pass by.

Speaking of fortunes, we never see Zapp actually retrieve the cat and return it to Tracy, leaving the status of his manhood in tongue-in-cheek doubt. The closing shot—of Chain paying for her big night with a long prayer to the porcelain god—was pitch perfect way to close this fun, diverse outing.