Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 11 – Playtime’s Over

TRIGGER WARNING: This episode contains a sequence of graphic violence.

The last nine episodes and change of Moonlight Fantasy have largely consisted of Makoto, Tomoe, and Mio basically goofing off while demonstrating their immense powers in this world. Then, just when he’s gained a third companion in the newly-humanized Lich he names Shiki, Tomoe starts bleeding profusely and keels over.

Like most of Moonlight’s cliffhangers, I expected this one to be resolved in the first five minutes, possibly in a comedic way. It…didn’t. Shit suddenly got real at the end of last week’s episode, and it stays real and very dark for the vast majority of this week. It’s almost as if Moonlight wanted both Makoto and us to experience the sudden realization that we don’t really know the first thing about this new world.

The adventurer woman and her two associates raid the Illusory City, and the magical ring Drahpnir explodes in an ensuing fight, killing an orc who was just doing his job as well as Tomoe’s Fragment, hence her keeling over. In response, and after reading her deeply prejudiced memories, Makoto takes his revenge on the adventurer woman by stalking her, cutting off her forearms, and then stabbing her through the throat. Fuckin’ Yikes.

It is without doubt the most dark and disturbingly violent this series has ever gotten, and it doesn’t spare the blood. Like Tomoe’s collapse, it comes out of nowhere, but maybe that’s the point: this show is done taking it easy on Makoto, and is now treating him more like Re:Zero treats Subie: like the new world he’s in is always trying to kill him and those he holds most dear, and surviving is a constant struggle.

While it’s laudable for Moonlight to take a chance at going dark, it kind of undermines that a bit by throwing us back in its usual goofy comedic milieu before we’ve even had sufficient time to process the shocking gore we just witnessed. Makoto brutally murdered a woman, and is back to being the straight man in between Mio and a recovering Tomoe bickering. After a memorial service, it’s just tonal whiplash. It’s…odd.

But while things return to “normal”, the reset button is not hit on Makoto’s psyche. His experience that night changed him forever, and also told him that if he wants the Demiplane to be safe, he’s going to have to learn a lot more about this world. For him, that means leaving Tomoe and Mio and enrolling at a university in the neutral town Rembrandt told him about.

But in the first instance since the first episode of the Goddess interfering in his existence on this world, when he goes through a mist gate to the city with Shiki, he ends up materializing alone in the middle of another wasteland, and is immediately attacked by Sophia and Mitsurugi, who don’t just look like a couple of tough customers…the former is able to lop off a couple of Makoto’s fingers!

The shit truly hit the fan at the start of  this episode, and by the end Makoto finds himself just about neck-deep in it. I appreciate the show’s ambition in picking the path of grim drama, but I can’t deny my neck still aches from that sudden direction change. All that said, this episode, the second-to-last of this cour, makes the previous ten feel like an extended prologue to the real story.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. It remains bizarre that nearly all humans think Makoto without his mask is some kind of hideous monster, when his character design just doesn’t read that way. The show could at least show us how they see him through their eyes…

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 10 – Underlord

After two straight cliffhangers involving the two forest-dwelling sisters, Eris and Aqua (which does sound like a sports drink!) are effortlessly defeated by Makoto and Mio. The weaker adventurers are teleported to the Illusory City, which is apparently an actual physical place…albeit a foggy one.

Eris and Aqua are fun enough in their quirky/serious sister act, but when they take Makoto and Mio to the “Forest Ogre” village is when the episode really starts to bog down. I honestly cannot tell you how many village elder scenes I’ve sat through in my day, but it’s a lot.

Most of them put in more effort than Moonlight Fantasy here. It’s all very by-the-numbers listless, aside from Mio’s adorable envy at Eris and Aqua’s shisho holding Makoto’s hand a second longer than she got to

The obligatory village banquet takes place, and again, it’s just kinda there, not really distinguishing itself in any way. Thankfully, Ains Ooal Gown’s freakin’ cousin crashes the party and livens things up. Yes, the lich has more vitality than the anonymous, homogenous villagers. The lich talks a big game, but obviously Makoto ain’t losin’ to no skeleton.

Rather than kill him, they take him to the Demiplane to hear his story. He’s been striving all his life (and death) trying to become a “Grant”, a rare and special human that can travel between worlds. [Nudges your side hard] Sounds familiar, mmmmm? 

Tomoe, demonstrating a knowledge of other worlds that surprises Makoto a bit, says Grants are Grants not for what they are, it’s more bestowed upon someone by dint of having found a passage between worlds.

Lich (I didn’t hear a name) ends up forming a contract with Makoto, and gains a ripped bishounen body, which combined with seiyu Tsuda Kenjirou being particularly velvety, makes the Lich the third member of Makoto’s now unisex harem. But no sooner does he gain one member than he seems on the brink of losing another!

Without any explanation whatsoever, Tomoe keels over and starts bleeding out. It’s the highest stakes we’ve ever seen in this show. And while I’m fairly tired of these cliffhangers-for-the-sake-of-cliffhangers, I need to know dear sweet dashing Tomoe will be okay. Wait…what’s that? The next episode is titled “Goodbye?!” 

Shiiiiiiiiiit…

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 09 – Into the Woods

As two forest-dwelling sisters named Aqua and Eris bring ruin upon any intruding adventurers, Makoto celebrates the anniversary of the establishment of the Demiplane by meeting one-one-one with its denizens, from Akina the Alke (who has learned to perfectly mimic humans) to Liddy the Lizardman (who still looks like a lizardman). He also learns that when he pats the head of Tomoe’s fragment, she feels it too.

After a night of meeting, greeting his many admirers from Demiplane society, Makoto goes off on his own to practice his archery. Only both Tomoe and Mio suddenly feel his presence vanish, and find that by focusing on archery, he’s dying and being reborn over and over again. By being continually reborn, his mana continues to expand, as does the demiplane. Tomoe worries it will lead to the Goddess ordering his elimination.

Thus Makoto must learn to mask his enormous mana even more, both with his own magic and the gear the dwarves make for him. In the meantime, he still has a business to get up and running, which means returning to Tsige, where he helps a demihuman in need who also happens to look  a bit like him.

A prostitute witnesses his kindness and decides to reward him with a night of fun, but a jealous Tomoe and Mio come out of nowhere to drag him off. He doesn’t want to tell them he loves them like family—as the ED indicates, they’re basically surrogate sisters. But by not saying so he creates a misunderstanding, and both women feel they need to make him a man immediately. Thankfully, he cools them off with an ice spell before they can assault him.

The next day Tomoe, and Mio in particular, regret how aggressive they were, and Makoto lays down some boundaries. That said, he’s happy to have Mio accompany him to Tinarak Forest to check out the ambrosia flowers that grow there. Makoto slips into the habit of his previous life in his world by offering to “hold handsies” with Mio, like he once did with his sister. Mio, obviously elated, takes his hand without hesitation.

Alas, she only gets to bask in the loveliness of that moment for 31 scant seconds before she and Makoto are rudely interrupted by two different parties: a trio of human adventurers led by the prostitute, and the pair of forest-dwelling sisters. Obviously Makoto and Mio are more more than a match for either, so it will really come down to how Makoto will de-escalate the situation and come to an understanding.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 08 – Tough Love Tomoe

For a show called Moonlit Fantasy, there’s an awful lot of reality rearing its practical head this week. Tomoe reports that the orc and lizardmen warriors are, in a word, terrible; not 10% as strong as she’d like them to be. No doubt inspired by her historical dramas, Tomoe organizes a tournament of sorts in which the various races fight each other, thus making each other stronger. Mio doesn’t really participate in any of this, while Makoto simply has to sit and look stoic.

Makoto factors even less in the next segment, in which Tomoe focuses her drill sergeant skills on the four-person party of Toa, Hazal, and the elf and dwarf women. Blessed as they were by the goddess, she knows there’s a lot more she can get out of them if properly trained, which translates to exhausting, torturous and life-threatening for the four adventurers.

When the four go up against a group of boss-level monsters called shadow tails, they forget their training and three of them rush headlong into the fight while Hazal stays back and heals/supports. This is all wrong, and is the real reason they think they can’t beat the beasts, not because they’re not powerful enough. She has them set a trap and then play to their strengths, and they make quick work of the shadow tails, surprising themselves in the process.

They’re again weary when Tomoe sends them to clear out an entire cave of shadow tails, this time without her supervision, but just as the guild girl is telling Tomoe what a low chance of success the four will have, they burst through the doors of the adventurer’s guild tired, bloodied, but victorious. Tomoe isn’t just talk (and mimicking TV); she really can bring out the best in people.

While it’s generally good fun watching Tomoe put Toa & Co. through their paces and showing them they’re stronger than they thought, Makoto is relegated to side character status, asking Rembrandt for some shop space to rent. Rembrandt gives him a counteroffer of some space in a neutral city where the Kingdom in which Tsige resides can’t bother Makoto with their passionate devotion to espionage.

Mio also gets very little to do until the very end of the episode when Makoto orders her to Tinarak Forest to gather ambrosia fruit. But as another adventuring party trudges through the dense woods, they are shadowed by a pair of silver-haired elves(?) who don’t think very highly of humans at all. In all, it was a serviceable, functional episode, but it was neither all that exciting nor all that humorous. It was just kind of there.

Meikyuu Black Company – 07 – Operation Eternal Capital

Just as Preston seems to be enjoying Moonlight Fantasy more for the interaction of its endearing cast and not necessarily its world-building or plot, I too prefer when MBC keeps things simple.

That didn’t happen this week, as the meeting with the Demon Lord—who is Rimu’s twin sister—sits on her throne and delivers one long and convoluted infodump about What’s Going On, What’s At Stake, and Ninomiya’s crucial role in Saving the World.

The Demon Lord’s exposition is actually accompanied by actual imagery of a temporal war between the forces of natural order in the world and the corrupting expansion of Raiza’ha that left unchecked will render the planet incapble of supporting life.

But that conceptual ambition isn’t matched by sufficiently impressive visuals. Also, the bottom linie is Ninomiya is standing around either nodding his head or adding his two cents here and there.

Ninomiya, Rimu and Ranga actually arrive at the Demon Lord’s castle as Raiza’ha of the future is about to bring about the end of the world, so at the end of her spiel it’s time for the three to return to the past from whence they came.

Well, Ranga comes from the future, but he’s all in on going back in time with Ninomiya and Rimu. The DL does give Ninomiya a Matrix-like blue-or-red choice, but rather tan return safely to Japan, Ninomiya accepts the challenge of the mantle of savior of this world.

Upon returning, Ninomiya learns he and Rimu were gone a month, and not only is he penalized for the unapproved time off by his boss Belza, but his accommodations were assigned to another employee.

Since he arrives just in time to save Shia and Wanibe in the Dungeon, he, Rimu and Ranga take it upon himself to crash at Shia’s (admittedly pretty nice) apartment until further notice. She’s not particularly thrilled—and is perplexed by the sudden appearance of the extremely cute Ranga—but she’s also a nice person, and so accepts the freeloaders.

That night, the gang avails themselves of a rare instance of Raiza’ha footing the bill at a traditional business dinner and drinks, though Ninomiya must foot the bill for Rimu and Ranga as they are not Raiza’ha employees.

Ninomiya wants to be above socializing with the “rabble” but he knows the consequences of letting Rimu go hungry for too long, and so accepts the additional debt on top of the cost of being AWOL for a month.

In a show as irreverent towards The System as MBC, it’s not surprising that Ninomiya would be sent back to the past as the world’s only hope of salvation only to be treated like a problem employee by the very company that will be responsible for the worlds destruction in 300 years if he didn’t come back.

He also faces a rude awakening as he commences Operation Eternal Capital, as the difficulty of the Dungeon that leads to the ancient ruins has increased quite a bit since he last tackled it. That said, with the power of Rimu, Shia, Ranga, on his side (and Wanibe too, I guess), his Meikyuu Black Company is putting its best foot forward in this quest to save the world.

I just wish the production values were doing the same, but this was a distractingly janky-looking episode, especially when contrasted with the smooth CGI go-go-dancing of Rimu and the Demon Lord in the new ED.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 07 – Incidental Income

Makoto brings to Rembrandt a talented alchemist in Hazal, but he’s super-nervous, which makes him clumsy. Fortunately, Makoto is able to parkour himself into a position to catch the precious vials of ambrosia medicine. When it comes time to administer them to Rembrandt’s wife and daughters, Makoto employs the same Judo his sisters used on him to put the women into restraining holds without injuring them.

Makoto leaves the Rembrandt manor having cured his beloved family, and Tomoe and Mio are waiting for him. Unfortunately, so is a band of adventurer assassins. Makoto dodges, but Tomoe and Mio intentionally don’t, so as to gauge their adversaries’ power. Turns out it’s nothing to worry about. That’s when we learn that Makoto now has a system for employing his ultra-powerful retainers.

In this situation, that system involves Mio pretending to take the gold of the lead adventurer—named Lime Latte, which does sound like a gross Starbucks drink—and simply sitting this one out. She, Tomoe, and Makoto coordinate via telepathy, making it look like Mio is betraying Makoto for a quick buck. In reality, she has every confidence Tomoe and/or her Young Master can handle Lime and his crew without her.

And they do—obviously—but while there’s no tension about who will emerge victorious, some actual nuance emerges with regards to their adversary. While Lime and his crew agreed that Rembrandt needed to be taught a lesson, he just thought they’d be putting his wife and daughter into a harmless deep sleep. The witch doctor who approached him duped him into something far more sinister.

Our of gratitude and respect for Makoto, Rembrandt spares Lime’s life when he profusely apologizes. Later, Tomoe even gives Lime the katana the dwarves made her—which she deems “imperfect” but is without doubt the most valuable thing Lime has ever touched—and even takes him on as a squire of sorts. Looks like we’ll be seeing more of Lime.

Lime, who unlike the baddies in the previous town is not a manifestly bad guy, but Tomoe, who Sees All, eavesdrops on Rembrandt and his trusty butler Morris talking about the possibility of taking hostile action against the Young Master should his trading company continue to prosper.

This week, the bad guy turned out to be not that bad, while the apparently good guy with the recently cured wife and daughters may not be too good after all. I for one welcome this infusion of shades of grey!

Meikyuu Black Company – 06 – Meteoric Rise, Temporary Escape

Ninomiya celebrates his promotion to the Demon Lord Army’s Western Invasion Force Director with a trip to a hot spring with Ranga and Rimu. He revels in the fact that at this pace of advancement he’ll soon be a board member who can meet the Demon Lord face-to-face, and possibly return to Japan.

Little do the three know that they’re under surveillance from a camera owned by one of the Three Ravens, high level corporate executives who feel threatened by Ninomiya. One is an old fart who’s always spitting and wearing out the phrase “kids these days”; one is a voluptuous meatheaded amazon, and one is a four-eyed calculating perv.

Knowing what we know about Ninomiya, Rimu, and Ranga, it was a foregone conclusion that their petty schemes would fail one by one, much like Wile E. Coyote is always defeated in his efforts to capture Road Runner. Meathead unleashes a giant worm which Rimu quickly deals with; the worm even joins Ninomiya’s team!

When it’s the old fart’s turn, he challenges Ninomiya to cultivate some barren land, which is easy thanks to giant worm tilling and Ranga’s growing magic. Finally, the four-eyed perv tries to take unconsensual photos of Ranga nude, only to be defeated by the revelation he’s a boy.

If the first half is all about Ninomiya continuing to rise due to his ability to assemble a powerful and talented team, the second half is all about one of its members: Ranga. In what is clearly a dream in the style of Alice in Wonderland, Ranga witnesses the drudgery of unending labor in the form of a group of rabbits turning a wheel to power the Queen’s fountain.

When he laments that she can’t get them more tolerable hours or paid time off, he suddenly shrinks to a tiny size. While escaping the horde of evil rabbits (very Re:Zero-esque, that) he falls through a chute down into a massive underground…internet café.

If the rabbits toiling above ground represented one extreme of the labor spectrum, this café represents the other: all the mole people there have no goals other than repeating the same actions over and over again, calling into question whether life is even worth living.

From corporate grunts to NEETs, oppression and stagnation, Ranga finds himself trapped, both spiritually and physically (in a cage). His ancestor Belza, the Queen of this world, insists that he take her place by her side. That’s when the real Ninomiya stomps the White Rabbit Ninomiya and head-butts Ranga back into reality.

Apparently, the team was on a mission to defeat a Mobile Suit-like giant robot when it shot a strange beam into Ranga’s head, placing him in that dream prison that drew upon his own fears and insecurities. When he asks Ninomiya if always running away is bad, he tells him perhaps usually, but there’s always the useful phrase “strategic retreat”.

As long as Ranga’s overall goal hasn’t changed, he’s free to run away as many times as he needs to for the sake of future victory. Of course, Mobile Suit Gundam, the source of inspiration for their defeated mecha, was packed with those kinds of strategic retreats.

Defeating the mecha means Ninomiya can finally meet the Demon Lord…and she (or he) appears to be a Bahamut-like dragon in human form, like Rimu. Like Ranga last week, s/he asks Ninomiya to “save this world”. I know what he’ll probably say: Assuming he does, can he go home?

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 06 – Gettin’ Tsige With It

Tsukimichi starts out rather dry with some TenSura-style sitting around talking, but last week’s cliffhanger is nicely solved as Rembrandt gravely underestimates Makoto. But even here Tsukimichi pulls off a nice trick, as Rembrandt isnt a haughty blowhard but just a guy who is desperate for the materials to make the Ambrosia that aids his cursed wife and daughters. When his employees hear that Makoto has enough Ruby Eyes for all three, they all rush in to tearfully congratulate him.

Makoto’s productive visit to Rembrandt leads to him officially signing up for the Merchant’s Guild, for which there is both a written and practical exam. Fortunately, the education in this isekai is far below the modern Japanese standard, so Makoto aces the written exam with ease. He also has no problem producing the rare items he’s tasked with procuring in the practical exam, thanks to his high-level wagon fellowship.

Just as Makoto is trying out what looks like a beer but turns out to be…banana, we abruptly cut to Tomoe’s little excursion in errantry, exposing her bandaged bosom as she poses over a massive Gain Crab she slaughtered with as much ease as Makoto slaughtered the Merchant’s Guild tests. It’s good to see that she’s not always thinking about where Makoto is or what he’s doing, but perfectly happy doing her own thing out in the isekai.

Tomoe is vibeing so hard on her historical drama reenactment, she returns to the Demiplane without so much of an “FYI” message to Makoto—who is telepathically linked, after all. Her giant crab feast is interrupted by a summons to the library from Emma, who wants her and Mio to work on translating Makoto’s many memories. In doing so, Mio becomes an anime and tokusatsu otaku, just as Tomoe became a historical drama otaku.

But despite Tomoe and Mio being like oil and water, they both agree on one key thing: the Young Master needs to get laid. Makoto is resolutely disinterested, averting his eyes from the two loosening their robes on the two inn beds and content with sleeping on what looks like Fushi’s chair from To Your Eternity. Perhaps it’s because, as the ED seems to indicate, they remind him so much of his sisters back home.

Meikyuu Black Company – 05 – The Rise of General Ninomiya

After a very nervy and fun fakeout in which Ninomiya dreams he’s back on Earth but Rimu followed him and is wreaking havoc on the city, he wakes up somewhere else entirely…or rather somewhen else. He was summoned to save humanity, who have been living in the underground town of Marcia for the last three centuries. This appeal is initially clumsily made by Marcia’s “Priestess”, Ranga (voiced with great verve by M·A·O), whom Ninomiya discovers is a boy…by grabbing his crotch.

This is obviously a despicable act, but not shocking considering it’s long since been established that Ninomiya is a slimebag. The “cute girl is really a boy” trope is also particularly outmoded and tone-deaf, especially for a show spouting progressive socioeconomic theories. It also isn’t dwelled on for too long, so I won’t either. Suffice it to say Ranga is determined to make his “Lord Messiah” fall for him—Why, I cannot say—but also is mainly on board so he can get to the surface; he can’t stand living underground.

When Ninomiya bristles at helping a bunch of needy losers, Marcia’s mayor Zazel pulls an old 9mm pistol on him, only for the gun to get chewed on by Rimu. Ninomiya, a constantly snacking Rimu, and Ranga travel across the surface by motorcycle. There, Ninomiya learns this isn’t a different world, but the same old Amuria, just in the future.

Raiza’ha Mining Corp. basically destroyed human civilization and made it ripe for conquest by the Demon Lord. Now the monsters rule the surface. Ranga directs the trio to what is “probably” the Demon Lord’s castle, but turns out to be home to the Demon Lord’s deputy assistant section chief, General Ant.

This ant turns out to be Ninomiya’s old friend and comrade Ant A, who treats them to a feast while he unburdens himself with the monsters’ current troubles. These are put into relief when one of the conquered humans bursts in complaining about the horrific conditions under which he works.

These conditions are, hilariously, the norm in both Japan and America: 8 hour days, only two days off (AKA the weekend), and a scam called insurance. While it’s a pretty on-the-nose critique of our present late-stage capitalist dystopia in which we live, there’s definitely something to plainly listing all the ways it sucks through the voice of someone acting like it sucks, rather than it being the norm.

Of course, this and many of the other humans aren’t aware that it could be much worse than the status quo; it could be like the state of Raiza’ha at the height of its power, when employees were treated like dispensable slaves. Seeing which way the wind is blowing and reunited with his good friend Ant A, Ninomiya decides to ditch the mission he was summoned for and join Team Demon Lord.

By employing more draconian labor practices upon the conquered surface humans while at the same time incentivizing rule-followers and hard-workers with the ability to boss other humans around, he quickly reorganizes the entire social structure of the human subclass, while increasing efficiency, output and earning favor with the big guy.

This results in Ninomiya returning to Marcia in a gaudy Captain Harlock outfit. As the Demon Lord’s newest deputy assistant section chief, General Ninomiya declares that he’s going to be running Marcia from now on. Flanked by Ant A, Cerberus, Rimu, and a Ranga who is simply going with the flow at this point, I’m not sure the underground humans have any choice but to submit, desperately short on supplies as they are.

At any rate, Ninomiya Kinji has once again climbed to the top of his situation by being nothing more or less than the asshole he is and always will be. We’ll see how long it lasts and what form his likely inevitable downfall takes.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 05 – Ruby Eyes and Caveman Meat

With Zetsuya left utterly destroyed by Tomoe and Mio’s OP one-upmanship, they, along with Makoto, Toa, Rinon, and a “fellowship” of other adventurers (an elf, a dwarf, and a dude) pile into a wagon and head for the next human town, the less feral Tsige.

While stopping at an guild outpost Makoto manages to convince Tomoe of the merit of becoming a “knight-errant”, or ronin, and she heads off on her own, never to be seen again!

Tomoe would be a huge loss if the other characters both old and new couldn’t hold their own, but they totally can. Toa’s penchant for graphically dissecting defeated monsters while looking exactly like Hasegawa haunts Makoto, while a Mio without a Tomoe to snipe at is still jockeying for her master’s attention…though she deems Rinon “a charming little girl” for assuming Mio and Makoto are dating.

Makoto and his new friends are reluctant to part once arriving at Tsige, so they have a big celebratory feast at a blue-collar tavern of Toa’s choosing. Perhaps due to him being served one too many orders of  Brazen Youngster-Style Primeval Meat, Mio’s dreams of a steamy night alone with Master are dashed when he hits the hay and falls right to sleep. There’s also the fact that he’s just a kid, and has eyes only for Hasegawa or her isekai equivalent.

Thanks to the use of Mist Gates, Makoto and Mio return to the Demiplane where a far more confident and forthright Emma is waiting for them, along with Mini-Tomoe, who also has no idea where her counterpart is. I like how Makoto obviously isn’t worried about Tomoe (except perhaps whether she’ll destroy any other towns), but he does seem to miss her towards the end.

So did I towards the end, but like Makoto I was sufficiently distracted by the lively goings-on quickly of his expanding Demiplane empire, including that one grizzled dwarf who is absolutely hell-bent on creating a garment or accessory that will kill Makoto instantly. He’s got a long way to go!

On the way to Tsige Makoto uses his trusty bow to swiftly deal with some pretty rare monsters, who drop valuable ruby eyes that the Rembrandt Trading Company is looking for. The only problem is, Makoto has heard some ill rumors about misfortune befalling anyone who deals with Rembrandt.

Thankfully, this does not dissuade Makoto from doing a deal with them anyway, though as soon as he arrives he is summarily rebuffed. Perhaps he needs a bit of Tomoe’s memory-altering powers…or maybe he’s going to try to negotiate his way to a profit without the many OP tricks at his disposal. Either way, Makoto & Co.’s journey has never not been extremely fun, zippy, and more often than not, hilarious.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S., the show has now cycled through three distinct EDs. This one went back to showing Makoto and his sisters growing up, which is very sweet and uplifting. My favorite, however, continues to be Tomoe and Mio’s shred-tastic power metal cover of the first episode’s Enka-style ending, as seen below:

That’s the good shit.

Meikyuu Black Company – 04 – Shiacalypse Now

Shia leads Ninomiya and Wanibe on a training expedition on the second floor, armed not just with a sword, those lovely star-filled eyes, and those diamond highlights, but a filled-to-brimming tank of enthusiasm for Being a Good Corporate Drone and Doing One’s Duty The Right Way.

Ninomiya has even less energy for this nonsense than usual because he has to produce five million gold in a month or his loan shark will take his life. He doesn’t have time to do things by the book. With his literal life at stake, one can’t begrudge him embracing methods some might call…unsound.

The team encounters a Majin, the monster of legend that causes a “Death March”—treated by Raiza’ha as an unavoidable but potentially profitable natural disaster. Turns out Shia’s employers set her up to be the latest in a long line of powerful human sacrifices to appease the Majin.

What they didn’t count on is that one of the grunts with her is Ninomiya Kinji, who has an ant army at his disposal and soon starts farming monster parts for gold.

As for the Majin, it’s too tough even for the great Shia (its laser beams really pack a punch), so Ninomiya suggests they retreat. Unfortunately the emergency magic crystal dagger used to transport back to the surface only works on one person.

Naturally, Shia gives it to Ninomiya, but her ensuing melancholy goodbye melts his cold cold heart and he not only stays behind with her, but throws the dagger at the Majin, transporting it to the surface where it becomes the company’s problem, as it should be.

The Majin, drawn to Shia’s considerable mana, eventually makes his way back down into the dungeon, where Ninomiya is ready for him in the form of a giant pit trap into which the Majin falls. Ninomiya then has his ant minions fill the pit with cement, and has Shia dry it with her wind magic. When that isn’t enough, he sets the whole thing on fire. Shia can’t argue with Ninomiya’s ends, but the means disturb her.

When the Majin still won’t die, Shia resolves to defeat it, as is her “duty and destiny”, even at the cost of her life. It’s here where Ninomiya unfortunately decides grope her, losing a lot of goodwill he’d built up recently. He admits he looked up her family history, and how her father was of the absentee adventurer variety.

He deduces that Shia has been “brainwashed by thoughts that benefit Raiza’ha”, in part because she was happiest once she joined the company. But just because it improved her life doesn’t mean that life is theirs to throw away and call it “duty”. Raiza’ha isn’t a nation, and Shia isn’t a soldier. She’s just a damn at-will employee.

After being rescued in the nick of time by Rimu, who then quickly dispatches the Majin she reports was “incomplete”, Ninomiya claims victory…for himself, continuing to cement his role as an incorrigible sonofabitch. But he made some good points to Shia about casting aside the corporate conditioning and determining what she wants to do with her life.

If that’s continuing to work hard, fine. If it’s working hard for a company that just tried to sacrifice her to an eldritch abomination, that’s not fine. We’ll see if Ninomiya’s core message gets through to Shia, despite the messenger being a cad.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 04 – Town at the End of the World

Moonlight Fantasy really is running on all cylinders this week, giving us a deliriously fun blend of bawdy comedy and righteous violence against bad guys who have no idea who they’re up against. Makoto does very little this week aside from hear a little girl out and try and fail to reign his two overpowered companions, who themselves find it exceedingly difficult to hold back enough to keep their human opponents alive. That this is played for comedy—quite successfully, I might add—is a credit to the writing, direction, and above all voice acting.

Rinon is in a pinch: her big sister, whom she drew a sketch of and who looks just like Makoto’s friend Hasegawa from his world, is missing after setting out to repay her debts against the local unsavory element. In truth, Rinon is being used by those same fiends to rob something they believe to be a spoiled rich kid. Rinon’s love for her sister means she’ll do anything, even spy on and agree to steal from someone who was nothing but kind to her. Rinon’s pure heart and inner conflict serve as both moral lodestar and emotional core of the episode.

Rinon’s Hasegawa-lookalike sister Toa is very much just along for the ride once Tomoe and Mio find her wasting away in a dungeon. Mio soon heals her completely, then opens a hole in the wall of the cell, only to be confronted by the ringleader of the bad guys, a preening pimpernel who is the strongest adventurer in the city. He even manages to block Tomoe and Mio’s first blow, which was their best and most admirable effort of the episode to hold back.

Its also the last such effort, as Mils Ace’s unguarded insulting of their dear young master puts the Dragon Samurai and Spider Madam in a cranky mood. Tomoe dispatches Mils’ entire gang with one solid haymaker then creates an illusion of being choked by a tangle of snakes in the guy’s top henchman. Mio slaps Mils face so rapidly he’s left a grotesquely swollen mess. Annoyed by the narrowness of the hallway, the two then proceed to destroy the entire building.

As Toa stands by helplessly, Tomoe and Mio continue their bickering outside over who did more or was more useful to their master. They decide to keep the competition going by destroying buildings both nearby and far off into the distance, essentially levelling the city. This is after Mils attempted to take Toa hostage, only to be punched to the edge of space, never to be seen again.

The two eventually bring Toa before Rinon for a truly sweet and joyous reunion, accentuated by that time-tested anime custom, the dramatic still with the hand-drawn look. Moonlight Fantasy employs that a lot, and it’s never not great looking, even though they’re just stills. Later, Makoto confirms that Toa looks exactly like Hasegawa but for her hair and eyes. Part of me wishes she’d ended up in this isekai with him, but it’s apparently a coincidence…or is it???

All’s well that ends well…except for the fact that Makoto was trying very hard not to make too large an impact in his first human town. Tomoe and Mio, in their fixation on one-upping one another, deprived him of that desire, and for that, he uses Mio’s own spider silk to tie them up and then shot them into the stratosphere with an exquisitely made Dwarven bow. Amazing what an anime can do when it’s not just people sitting around talking! And to close it out with that absolute banger of an ending theme…*chefs kiss*

Meikyuu Black Company – 03 – Chekhov’s Confusion Grass

Ninomiya was hoping he and Wanibe would have more freedom once they joined Exploration Division Group 3, but instead they find themselves at a corporate training retreat on Pig Pen Island, where an orc drill sergeant makes them do backbreaking labor without food or water, all while audio discs and black mages brainwash them into buying into total devotion to The Company. Even Ninomiya falls under their insidious hyper-capitalist spell.

It’s only when Ninomiya discovers some confusion grass (thanks to Wanibe’s horticultural expertise) that the pair are able to turn the tables. By microdosing the grass, they’re able to break free of the brainwashing, which had the retreat participants emptying their wallets to buy overpriced idols of the CEO. Ninomiya gets back at them by sneaking the grass in the mages’ food, leading to Pig Pen Island’s…explosion.

After the retreat, the pair are assigned to Exploration Division HQ and introduced to their new supervisor, Kinou Shia. Between her diamond highlights and starry eyes, she’s a shoo-in for a Kill la Kill character, but while she appears to be (and fights like) your standard OP onna-kishi, she was handpicked by the CEO to whip rookies like Ninomiya and Wanibe into shape. Instead, she manages to put Wanibe in the hospital with a playful shove.

Shia shrugs off the workplace injury she caused and gives Ninomiya a tour of HQ. She’s particularly proud of the corporate store, but Ninomiya is #Unimpressed, and lets her know it. Shia is clearly a Raiza’ha True Believer, and has the brawn to back up her zealotry. All Ninomiya can do is go along for the ride when she throws him over her shoulder.

Their next destination is the third floor of the dungeon—where Ninomiya had already visited thanks to the shortcut portal he found. There, they encounter a middle-level monster whom Shia orders Ninomiya to attack. When the beast charges her instead she demonstrates her awesome power, arresting its advance dead with her blade and then cleaving it in two.

When one of Ninomiya’s communist ant drone friends appears, Shia orders him to kill it—especially if it’s lost the will to fight—but Ninomiya won’t obey. When Shia insists, and then attacks him when she believes he’s in cahoots with the monsters, he summons a very well-fed Rimu. Shia bonks her on the head with her sword, and Rimu grows into her adult form and blasts Shia several feet into a rock wall with a single fist.

Having met her match, Shia is tied up and, once Wanibe provides a Polaroid camera with which to snap a photo of her consorting with monsters for blackmail purposes, Shia is officially welcomed into the Meikyuu Black Company. Despite being far weaker than Rimu (but on the other hand, less hungry), Shia should make a fine new member. The company’s mettle shall be tested when a dragon-like eye lurking in the darkness suddenly opens…

Rating: 4/5 Stars