Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 02 – Don’t Touch My Tomatoes

After her decisive win over the overconfident Guel Jeturk, Suletta is now the school’s ace pilot and fiancé to Miorine, heiress to one of the largest corporate concerns in a universe de facto ruled by corporations…Right? Uh, not so fast. The adults cry foul. Suletta’s Aerial is identified as an illegal Gundam, so both she and her suit are swiftly taken into custody.

If the prologue provided the backstory and context for Suletta’s background and legacy and the first episode established the school setting, system of duels, and the pairing off of Suletta and Miorine, this week is all about What Is To Be Done About Suletta, along with her suit that looks, sounds, and smells like a Gundam. We also know What Delling Did, and Aerial represents the ghost of a rival he thought he’d defeated over a decade ago.

While Suletta is interrogated and the old people comb through the implications, life goes on at the school. Rather than hailed as its new idol, Suletta is dragged through the scuttlebutt mud as a cheater, which explains how easily she won. Earthian Nika knows better, and doesn’t rise to the unrelated provocations from Spacians. She just hopes she can see Suletta—and her suit—again soon.

Miorine returns to her garden, her connection to Earth and also the one place where she actually has a measure of control. In true Rich Boy fashion, Guel does not come in person but sends his brother and peons to help clean up the mess he made Miorine accepts the offer, but warns them that if they touch her precious tomatoes, she’ll kill them.

Compare this to Suletta, whom Miorine readily allowed to taste of her tomatoes even when she was just an annoyance. Suletta then fought for her, totally unbidden, and became someone worthy of her hand (unlike Guel, who was merely given that hand). Only now her father is changing the rules Miorine thought she was following: Suletta is to be expelled, her suit scrapped, and he’ll find a new groom for her.

Miorine tries to let out her frustration by tossing the phone with this message, but the gentle tap against the glass accentuates her impotency and sense of being trapped within a birdcage. It’s so bad she can only escape her minders by going to the toilet, where the contractor she hired to smuggle her to Earth arrives to tell her it’s not too late if she still wants to go. The woman asks her to “make a decision she won’t regret”; Miorine decides she’ll run.

Delling once again takes great pains to make clear to everyone that he cares about his daughter less than just about everything else. That backfires here as he didn’t bother vetting the minders she was able to shake off.

Guel is slapped and chastised by his daddy for hurting the Jeturk reputation, but then the representative of Shin Sei, the company that built the Aerial, shows up at his office. Her name is Lady Prospera, presumably the masked “Char” character in this Gundam.

My ears immediately perked up at the name, the feminine version of Prospero from The Tempest: a duke overthrown by his brother years ago, cast adrift in a boat with his baby daughter, and used those years to learn magic. Sounds a lot like what happened to Suletta’s mom, huh!

Suletta is despondent in her cell, but is the recipient of a small kindness from one Elan Ceres, a soft-spoken, unemotional young lad who has “taken an interest” in her. That said, his previous statement about being unable to fall in love makes it seem more like that interest is more that in a fascinating new tool, not a new friend. But we shall see.

The grand inquiry is then held, with all representatives of the Benerit Group in attendance in a dark and brooding tribunal hall, the oppressive darkness a keen symbol that the light of democracy holds no sway there. Lady Prospera is not the slightest bit intimidated being in the literal spotlight, providing answers to all inquiries and pointing out that even if she can’t 100% deny Aerial isn’t a Gundam, they can’t 100% prove it either.

She also removes her bionic arm (more evidence this is Suletta’s mom) saying both her original arm and face fell victim to Mercury’s magnetic field, and that the tech within Aerial will enable the safer mining of Permet, a vital resource in mobile suit production. She merely asks that the group of which Shin Sei is a small but innovative member give them the support they need.

But nothing in this room is ever up for a vote. Delling Rembran sits above all, and his word is law. That word is no. Prospera can mince words and specs all she likes; as far as he’s concerned, Aerial is a Gundam, and both it and its pilot are to be disposed of. No one has the guts to summon even a word of objection.

That’s what makes Miorine’s sudden crashing of the inquiry so righteous. All these powerful people can’t make a peep, but the president’s 17-year-old daughter is more than happy to give him a piece of her mind. Rather than run off to Earth, Miorine had her smugglers take her here instead, which means she owes them a favor.

But no matter, she’s here, and when her dad overwrites his rules and admits that he is a king with all the power, Miorine remembers Suletta telling her she “gains two” by going forward…and challenges dad to a duel. Sensing family friction, Guel’s dad suggests that keeping Aerial around to see what makes it tick could be the boost the group has been looking for to recover their declining market share.

That corporate contrivance would seem to have worked, as Miorine is able to visit Suletta in a lovely reunion with strong romantic vibes—Miorine even gives Suletta a zero-g Wall Slam. Is it just a coincidence that Suletta’s hair is … tomato red? She fills Suletta in: the two of them are to fight her dad to make their betrothal stand. If they lose, Suletta gets expelled and Aerial gets scrapped.

Like last week, Suletta is exasperated, but I imagine she’s not about to lose her fiancée and her metal little sister. Not only that, there’s another Gundam-like suit—a red one—already out there on test runs, slicing and dicing lesser suits. Chances of Suletta and Aerial going up against this red guy are somewhere in the region of 100%.

And just in case there was any doubt that Suletta x Miorine is most definitely A Thing, well … consider the Ship deployed.

Overlord IV – 10 – The Pursuit of Happiness

When the Floor Guardians note how easily the man in the red powered suit defeated two Death Knights, Ainz breaks out his patented “Just as expected”, awing his underlings by revealing the true reason he sent a lesser force to a lesser town: to bait the Kingdom’s most powerful protectors: Drop of Red.

Renner meets with her brother Prince Zanac, for perhaps the last time, as Ainz is sending his army to their royal capital and intend to raze it to the ground. Both seem resigned to that fate, with Zanac volunteering to lead the troops while Renner escapes “when the time is right.”

Evileye and Blue Rose end up meeting with Drop of Red’s leader, Azuth, in a brothel, only for their character designs to be somehow outdone by a third Adamantite adventurer party: The Black Scripture, from the Holy Kingdom. They wish to recruit Drop of Red and Blue Rose as allies in the fight to “secure the future of mankind,” i.e. defeat the Sorcerer King. Blue Rose refuses, at least for now, while Azuth is certain attempting to defeat the Sorcerer King is a fool’s errand.

Prince Zanac leads what’s left of Re-Estize’s forces out to the field outside the capital wearing Gazef’s armor, then rides further out on his own to request an audience with Ainz. It is granted, and Ainz makes things proper with a table, chairs, and water goblets. Zanac’s main question to Ainz is why he’s going about this in such a cruel fashion. Ainz states simply that Zanac’s kingdom is to be made an example of, so no one will dare oppose his Sorcerous Kingdom ever again.

When Zanac asks further what Ainz’s goal is, he simply states “happiness”—for himself and those he cares about (the Floor Guardians and other underlings). Zanac can’t really argue with that, and withdraws from the discussion with just one final request: that whatever magic Ainz uses to kill him and his people, it at least be done quickly and relatively painlessly.

Zanac is surprised by how human Ainz is, and how he’s a far more worthy king than he could ever be. However, Ainz thinks the same way: that someone so outwardly unflappable and dignified as Zanac represents true royalty. Contrast that with his nobles, who rebel against him before the battle begins, beheading Zanac and taking his head before Ainz as a tribute, as well as pledging their allegiance to the Sorcerous Kingdom.

Until his last moments, Zanac Varleon Igana Ryle Vaiself stood tall with sword in hand, while these nobles kneel and simper. Frankly, it disgusts Ainz and turns him off personally overseeing the entire invasion operation. He tells the nobles they’ll get a “suitable reward”—the sparing of their families’ lives—then sends them away, but tells Albedo to send them to the Neuronist, and only to let them die (albeit not slowly) if they beg for death.

He then puts Cocytus and Mare in charge of the impending battle, having “lost interest” due to the cowardly actions of the nobles. They should have let their prince lead an army into a dignified, honorable battle; now they’ve signed their own death warrants for certain. As for Renner, she’s now de facto Queen…of a soon-to-be ruined Kingdom.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Overlord IV – 09 – Baking a Softer Biscuit

After chastising a courtier for interrupting her, Albedo cuts to the chase: The Sorcerer Kingdom is declaring war on the Re-Estize Kingdom, but they won’t deploy their forces for a whole month, and Ainz promises not to use any “large spells” like the one that killed 200,000 on the Katze Plains. Brain knows Ainz is planning something (duh).

A month later, and Ainz has already taken steps to ensure a swift invasion of Re-Estize, focusing on destroying the villages near the borders in order to prevent outside forces from interfering. But he’s loath to reveal to his always-gung-ho generals the fact that he’s holding back on purpose, resulting in some humans surviving and escaping.

While not wholly his idea, since Ainz is, deep down, just a regular human gamer, he’s both more empathetic and respectful of the opinions of fellow “lowly” humans, or in this case, slightly-less powerful underlings, like Albedo’s older sister Nigredo (who is missing her face skin…if she ever had it) and the dog maid-themed Pestonya. They urge their overlord not to snuff out a race as innovative as humanity too rashly.

The Sorcerer Kingdom’s latest target is the seaside town of E-Naeul, who have contracted the mithril adventurer group Four Armaments, led by a cool beauty and including a slightly perverted mage. Like many new Overlord introductions, this four-person party brings an immediate lived-in quality with their easy banter and subtle swagger. At the end of the day, they’re professionals, and if their job is to hold E-Naeul as long as they can, they will hold.

The zombie rabble that constitutes the main Sorcerer Kingdom force isn’t particularly intimidating; the onna kishi who leads the Four Armaments is far more concerned about the two giant Death Knights, wondering if only two were sent because that’s all it was assumed would be needed to cause the town to fall.

After provoking the Death Knight to charge the front gates, The onna kishi has her partymates buff her up with attribute enhancements, and she conjures a doppelganger of her hand axe so every strike counts twice. More than anything, she doesn’t flinch even a little bit in the face of a massive undead warrior getting all up in her space.

While she’s not taking any damage thanks to her superior speed and agility, she’s not really causing any to the Death Knight, and when the dual-wielding Death Warrior catches up with its companion, it starts to look like even one of the more renowned adventurer groups in the kingdom is going to start experiencing what the “stick” in Ainzs’ carrot-and-stick plan entails.

But then, suddenly, the Death Knight’s head is blasted off, and the knight crumbles into a pile of ash. The shots came from high in the sky, where a figure in a high-tech red metal mech suit is brandishing an equally anachronistic machine gun. The Death Warrior does its best to deflect the red one’s shots, but eventually falls as well, and the red one simply gives a friendly gesture and flies off into the wild blue yonder.

With the biggest enemy threats removed, it’s highly likely the Armaments and town forces will be able to repel the remaining zombies and prevent E-Naeul from falling. But when reports come back of the Death Knights’ defeat, Ainz shocks his Guardians by remarking that he expected this. So who is the one in red, who is identified by the Armaments as an adamantite adventurer…and will Ainz eventually have to fight them?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Overlord IV – 08 – The Dumbest Noble

The Dwarven arc is…done, I guess? Moving on, we return to the Re-Estize Kingdom, where royal siblings Zanac and Renner discuss what to do about the Sorcerer Kingdom. Renner wants Zanac to be installed as king ASAP, but also suggests that declaring themselves a vassal state like the Empire might not be the worst idea.

Meanwhile, much further down the line, Baron Phillip Montserrat is already half in the bag at a maid bar while chatting with a couple of his baron bros. Despite being cordial with Albedo, when he learns how the Sorcerer Kingdom is making bank with its agricultural exports, he proposes that something be done about it.

That something happens, a report is filed that finds itself on Albedo’s desk, and before you know it, Ainz and his Floor Guardians are all back in Nazarick. I guess with teleportation it’s not that crazy; it’s just been a while. Hilma Cygnaeus is brought before Ainz, and she does a pretty good Albedo impression.

Ainz dominates her mind and determines she wasn’t directly responsible for the attack on his merchant convoy, but learns that Montserrat was. This is when Ainz sits back and lets Albedo, Demiurge, and the others explain the situation to him (under the guise of explaining it to the other Guardians). The byproduct of his passivity is all the Guardians agree that the Kingdom should face severe punishment.

This results in Prime Minister Albedo arriving in the Kingdom to have an audience with the King, Zanac, and Renner. The King asks what she’s there for, but he already knows. Rather than give the Sorcerer Kingdom Montserrat’s head, however, he offers his own, surprising kids, court, and Albedo alike.

There’s been a lively pace to geopolitical developments throughout Overlord IV, and this episode is no different, checking in on players we hadn’t seen in a bit while giving us an always-welcome Guardian reunion at Nazarick. Through it all, Ainz is going with the flow, trusting his people to offer him sage council and continuing to let them think he’s five steps ahead when he’s actually catching up.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Overlord IV – 01 – A Land as Sweet as Honey

Overlord’s fourth season—and the first episode of Overlord I’ve seen in 1,373 days—announces it’s going to be the same old Overlord by starting off with Albedo rolling around in bed pretending a pillow is her beloved Ainz-sama. Ainz has to contend with maids constantly fussing over him (and sitting beside his bed at night and not sleeping). The household staff is led by Fith, who has him dress in robes of red and gold rather than his usual sinister black.

It’s a casual easing back into this quirky world of overpowered monsters-as-workplace protagonists. Ainz sifts through a lot of carefully-prepared paperwork that he admits (only to himself and the audience) he doesn’t know a whole lot about—he is just a salaryman back home—but such are his subordinates absolute trust in and love of him that he can BS his way through pretty much any situation.

After some lap time with Aura, Mare, and Albedo (the red makes him look like a regal, skeletal Santa) Ainz meets with the always extra Pandora’s Actor, who will be taking over Albedo’s duties while she’s off in the Re-Estize Kingdom. As Pandora’s “father”, he expresses his wish for his “son” to surpass his original settings.

Pandora also gets Ainz thinking about the bigger picture of what kind of leader he wants to be in this new Sorcerer Kingdom. Right now there’s almost no commerce, the city is short on supplies, and the adventurer’s guild is all but abandoned. But in this world, the adventurers are essentially security or exterminators.

Ainz wants to change that, by absorbing the guild into his kingdom and giving them a new directive: actually, ah, adventuring. Exploring new places and gathering information, in ways his subordinates would have more difficulty both due to how powerful they are and how much they detest lower forms of life.

Ainz wants to build a kingdom and a guild he’d be proud to show his old friends, whom he believes may still be out there somewhere. But he knows he can’t do it alone. He’s going to be leaning on Demiurge (all too happy to serve), Albedo (who is all too happy for him to lean on her), and the rest of his colorful crew of cretins.

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 11 – It’s Kyou Ethnina’s World, We’re Just Living In It

The Shield Hero Gang is finally reunited, only with Filo sporting a steep decline in attack power due to her change of species and Raphtalia donning an adorable miko outfit. Kizuna also reunites with her comrades L’Arc, Therese, and Glass for the first time in years.

The warm feelings of those reunions are chilled somewhat by the sight of Kazuki, whose two improbably loyal and devoted aides are trying to stich him back together. Unfortunately, he jumps the gun and his top half ends up separated from his bottom half, hopefully fatally.

Oh, and Kyou Ethnina also has an improbably loyal and devoted aide? A samurai girl who is going to kill his enemies? (Throws hands up) Ok, Shield Hero, why not?!

Glass is so happy and relieved to see Kizuna she doesn’t want to stop hugging her, even if Kizuna finds it hard to breath; it’s Peak Endearing Glass, though you could argue she had a lot more edge when she was a baddie. The group ends up in Sikul Castle, where we learn…L’Arc is the young king of Sikul. The hits keep coming!

Naofumi, Kizuna, and their super-sized mega-party are determined to kick Kyou’s ass, but they need equipment. Kizuna hits up her longtime midriff-bearing blacksmith Ramona and gives her the unenviable task of doing a week’s worth of work in a night’s time.

After placing the order, the group is suddenly ambushed by Kyou’s samurai aide, who is determined to end all of them, scolds them for outnumbering her, and bears a creepy sword with an eyeball.

Needless to say, while she has no shortage of spirit, the girl is no match for the combined power of Naofumi and Kizuna’s parties, and when she’s disarmed, the sword takes on a mind of its own, restrains her with tendrils, and seemingly sucks up her energy.

Therese, L’Arc, Kizuna, Naofumi, and Glass all work together to separate the sword from the girl and send it high up into the sky, where it self-destructs, taking with it the girl’s undying loyalty for the guy who almost blew her the ef up!

Her name is Yomogi, and as befits a hero who cannot kill another person, Kizuna decides to take her to her party’s home and headquarters, where she herself hasn’t been in years. Naofumi protests such light treatment of an ally of Kyou, but doesn’t stop Kizuna from doing things her way.

Sending everyone else away to prepare for the fight with Kyou, Kizuna removes Yomogi’s restraints, asks her to sit down and relax, and serves her tea. In exchange, she learns that Yomogi and Kyou are childhood friends, that he was always a little off, but apparently in a less evil way at first, such that even someone with a rock for a brain like Yomogi was drawn to the knowledge he possessed and dispensed.

However, in the midst of her discussion of her childhood friend, Yomogi concludes that if Kyou has indeed gone off the deep end behind her back, then she’ll help stop him, while also sharing in whatever punishment is chosen for him, even death. While I doubt Kizuna will take her up on that, I’m sure she’s happy for another strong fighter on her side.

Alas, the next day when the mega-party picks up their completed equipment from Ramona’s, Kyou’s big scheme kicks into gear. The countdown rapidly drops to zero, Waves of Catastrophe appear in the skies, and Naofumi and Kiuna’s parties are separated via warping.

Whatever semblance of positive feelings Yomogi might’ve had for her childhood friend are dissolved in the midst of this spectacle. All this time she thought he was occasionally going a little too far in order to stop the waves, but his actual goal was to summon them. Dude’s gotta go!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fabiniku – 10 – It’s Only Natural to Help

Without having really thought through a promise like “I’ll do anything for you!”, Tachibana proceeds to serve as Yugrain’s sister-in-arms in the burgeoning rebellion against her father. Men loyal to the king proceed to list the particular type of woman who would sway him to their side, and when Yugrain can’t be that girl, Tachibana picks up the slack. Before you know it, they have a huge army!

Just as Tachibana and Jinguuji stumbled upon a captive Premier a couple episodes back, Tachibana just happens to encounter Maria, whom we know failed her intelligence mission, tied up knots that are almost too specific, like someone well-versed in rope play was simply showing off. Tachibana is distracted and only makes the knots worse rather than loosen them…which kind of describes her and Jinguuji’s fight this week!

Yugrain’s Head Maid, who on the one hand crafted both the cute idol costumes and strategy for the princess’ rebellion, seems to be hiding contempt for Yugrain, and is revealed to be an agent (if not general) of the Demon Lord when she gives Tachibana an otherworldly massage after a tough day of rabblerousing and worried about people seeing up her way-too-short skirt.

Clearly the Head Maid intends to turn the power of Tachibana, the hero of the Goddess of Love and Beauty, to the Demon Lord’s advantage. While working on Tachibana, she falls asleep and dreams of the day she first met Jinguuji. Tachibana was the victim of bullying, but Jinguuji put a stop to it with his overwhelming strength and sense of honor. Tachibana wonders if all along she was simply causing more trouble for him.

Back at the palace, Jinguuji is distracted from being worried about Tachibana for at least a little while by the arrival of Schwartz, who Lucius has taken under her wing. Schwartz may not know much about court etiquette, but he and Lucius are there to help the king put down his daughter’s rebellion, preferably without bloodshed.

Schwartz ends up harnessing the newly-recovered holy sword Gram by slicing through not only the rebels’ weapons and memories, but their clothes as well, sending them into confused retreat. Lucius only lets him bask in the light of his own magnificence for so long before giving him a punch back down to earth.

Schwartz may also still be a bit high on his victory when he teases Jinguuji, saying he’s this out of sorts after Tachibana “cheated on him” just a little. Even a joking implication sends Jinguuji into a heretofore unseen bloodlust as he tries to extract further intent from a terrified Schwartz’s jibes. However, this interaction is interrupted by an earthquake felt by all…are the demon lord’s minions making their move?

Fabiniku – 09 – Royal Rebel

After saving Tachibana and Jinguuji from the pool party, royal intelligence officer Maria gives them a tour of the palace before an audience with the king. When Jinguuji is rightly suspicious about how well-timed Maria’s arrival was and how quickly an audience was arranged, Shen emerges from beneath the floor, having alerted Maria to the presence of the Hero.

The king and his advisors, while dressed only in loincloths, give Tachibana a warm greeting befitting a hero. The king himself belts out the prophecy they’ve been after since arriving in the capital, and it turns out to sound a lot like a gyaru wrote it in the age of TikTok. However, they translated it to mean someone like Tachibana would one day arrive to defeat the Demon Lord.

Our pair are given all the resources at the kingdom’s disposal, which Tachibana chalks up to her Charm effect working on the king and his advisors in a subtle but powerful way. At a formal ball to celebrate her arrival, Tachibana’s dress causes Jinguuji to imagine them marrying and growing old together.

Tachibana is then banished from the ballroom. She wants to drink and be merry, but when she insists, Jinguuji goes so far as to grab her by the arm and give her a serious scolding for acting so recklessly. While Tachibana does have a penchant for getting into trouble, I do think he’s being too harsh on her here.

She runs off, and encounters a beautiful young woman sitting at a window. When this woman prepares to jump outsaid window, Tachibana has to stop her, and does so by asking for advice. While Tachibana tries to put things as unromantically as she can, the woman sees right through the word-mincing.

She can tell Tachibana is depressed that “the gentleman” she’s thinking of won’t look her way or praise her. As Tachibana goes on both inside and outside her head, the woman concludes that Tachibana must love him very much. This is spot-on, though that love isn’t as necessarily romantic in nature as the woman must suspect.

In any case, Tachibana’s talk with her leads her to cancelling her suicide for the time being. She introduces herself as Yugrain, the first princess of the kingdom. She then stops by as Tachibana and Jinguuji are having a meal to anounce her intention to accompany them on their quest.

Yugrain and Jinguuji develop as instant a disdain for each other as she and Tachibana developed a rapport. The two verbally spar, but Jinguuji doesn’t want another hanger-on, and is willing to leave it to her father the king to “smoothly, efficiently crush” her heart.

Sure enough, Yugrain storms off in an adolescent rage in response to her father forbidding her from going. Tachibana follows her, and pointedly tells Jinguuji not to follow her. She gets Yugrain to cheer up by saying that she’ll do anything she can to turn that frown upside down. In Yugrain’s case, that’s starting a rebellion in her own kingdom to spite her baka dad.

The king’s council debates how to handle this rebellion, and when the king rules out any military action, everyone turns to Maria to handle the princess carefully and quietly. Alas, she fails and is captured by the rebels off-camera.

All the while Jinguuji goes over Tachibana’s words to him—don’t follow me—as he sits stoically on a balcony, wondering what she wants him to do. Maybe don’t be so dang cold to her all the time and not shit all over her new friend!

Attack on Titan – 80 – When the Walls Fell

Eren thanks his older bother for taking him into their Dad’s memories…it’s how he was able to push Grisha into fighting the King of the Walls. Eren saw his future when he kissed Historia’s hand, but Zeke still thinks he has Eren in check. After all, Eren didn’t know he couldn’t use the Founder’s power in the Paths. What Zeke didn’t know is that Eren would rip off his own thumbs to escape his bonds and stop Ymir from obeying Zeke’s command.

What follows is the long, sad story of Founder Ymir, from back when she was just an ordinary girl delivering water to those who needed it. One day, her world was set ablaze by a raiding army, and her life of selfless service became one of brutal servitude. When a pig escapes the barn, all the other slaves point their finger at Ymir, as if confirming that she is the one to bear all of the pain and suffering of this world.

Ymir is “freed”, but only so her captors can hunt her. Run through by two arrows, she collapses at the foot of a massive tree, with a hollow that leads to a massive underground lake. There, she encounters…“something”. Be it an alien, parasite, or god, it imbues Ymir with the power to transform into the first Titan—the Founding Titan.

The King of Eldia uses Ymir as a weapon with which to create a massive empire and conquer Marley; he also claims her as his consort. She bears three daughters—Maria, Rose, and Sina—and when an assassin tries to kill the King, Ymir takes a staff through the chest. In one of the more graphic scenes of the whole show, he eventually chops Ymir up and forces his daughters to eat her so the Titan power can be carried on.

Ymir’s daughters procreate, then their offspring procreates, each time creating a new branch on the tree of life in the Paths. Meanwhile Ymir returns to the form of a young girl walking slowly across the endless sands, up and down ramps, building Titans one bucket at a time. Even after death, she could not escape servitude, nor the responsibility that came with her chance encounter with “something.”

That is, until 2,000 years later, when Eren arrives, and instead of ordering to end the Eldians forever, he gives her a hug and tells her she’s neither a slave nor a god, and never was. She’s just a person; a person who has been waiting for someone like him. For the first time, Ymir’s empty eyes come to life and shed tears, and she makes the same face Eren made when he saw his future four years ago.

I don’t know if it’s Ymir, the “something” within her, or both who decide to side with Eren, but it is the “something” we see connecting his head to his neck even though Gabi just blew it off. Thanks to them, Eren is still alive, and the Rumbling commences.

And let me tell you, it is something to see. The walls begin to crumble—not just Maria, but all three—and out of their ruins, a terrifying legion of Colossal Titans. But even they are dwarfed by Eren’s latest and possibly final form, an intricate construction of ribs and spines. There are now three different orders of scale—Mikasa and Armin, the Colossal Titans, and whatever Eren has become.

Fortunately for Mikasa and Armin, they are not crushed or obliterated in the clouds of debris the Rumbling creates. Armin is proven half-correct, in that Eren was their ally all along, and looking after the people behind the walls. I say only half-right because Armin did not imagine Eren would bring all three walls down. Doing so means he has far larger designs than merely crushing the Marley alliance.

Eren confirms those greater ambitions in a telepathic communication that reaches every single Subject of Ymir, both on Paradis Island and the rest of the world. He’s sick of the world trying to annihilate his people, so instead he and his army of Wall Titans will annihilate the rest of the world. He won’t stop until every enemy city, town, and village, and every non-Eldian life, is extinguished. I don’t see how anyone can stand in his way.

Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 07 – Mars (Enterprises) Attacks!

“Everyone’s so worried about me…What am I, a little boy?” I doubt the people warning Makoto are doing so because they think he’s a kid, but because there is much he has to lose by diving too deep into this latest mess. Like his mother, his newly adopted sister Shungui, the family produce stand, and his reputation as a neutral troubleshooter.

Unfortunately, we don’t see his mom or Shungui either this week or last, which is a shame, not just because they could put the impudence of Makoto’s words into relief and even offer him perspective, but because I like those characters, and Shungui in particular seemed like someone we would be and should be seeing more of. Alas, Makoto is on an island at the beginning of this episode.

Ikebukuro is on the knife’s edge; war could spill onto the streets at any moment…yet he still finds time to work on Toshiaki’s film at the video store. His police buddy informs him “Shadow” is a lone operator, while his Hidaka PR buddy Saru informs him that Mars Enterprises hired both the Shadow and the masked thugs to create imbalance as a preface for expanding into Ikebukuro.

Unfortunately, Takashi is once again ghosting him, and the minute Makoto is off the phone with Saru, he has the bunny mask thug’s knife to his neck, clarifying that he and his guys have a grudge with him and Takashi personally. Bunny Mask is also helpful enough to perform his scene right in front of the “making of” camera, which is just icing for the cake in terms of how sloppy the masked thugs are.

Makoto determines that the masked thugs are Yamamoto and his men, who worked for OK Holdings and were previously run out of town. He informs Hiroto personally, but the Knight is already on his horse, and his men are itching for a confrontation with Takashi for control of the G-Boys present and future.

He finally gets to meet up with Takashi, who notes that one piece his old friend has left out of the equation are the Red Angels. Whether Makoto simply took Kyouichi at his word or has a blind spot due to his officially neutral status, Makoto isn’t willing to entertain the possibility the Angels could exploit the G-Boys civil war to expand their own influence.

Finally, and apparently quite by chance, “Shadow” presents himself to Makoto in the park. He further clarifies matters, saying the only job he did was on Donglong, while the thugs did the jobs on Hiroto’s men. He adds that they did a crap job while both they and Mars used the “Shadow” brand without his consent. This caused Shadow’s reputation to take a hit, and he paid Mars back by beating up each of their board members.

Shadow seems to consider himself an underworld equivalent of Makoto: an independent troubleshooter who works for justice (Shadow works for money; justice is just gravy), and someone for whom “reputation is paramount”. In the interests of preventing war, Makoto decides to ask Shadow to take care of the “weak link”: the war-mongering Hiroto.

Makoto institutes this gambit as much out of a desire to prove he’s not “just some kid” or a “nice guy”, but someone willing to do whatever it takes to protect the peace and balance of his town. But the gambit backfires, as Hiroto’s men blame King for the beating of their Knight and begin the march to war.

After consulting with Takashi once more, Makoto gets Kyouichi to agree to back Takashi in order to “quell the disturbance”. Kyouichi proves himself an honest and honorable man by doing his part, marching his Red Angels between Hiroto’s men and Takashi and declaring an alliance with the latter, then getting Hiroto’s uneasy No.2 to drop his bat and back down with a mere look.

With war averted—arguably way too neatly, but averted all the same—all that’s left is to take out the trash, i.e. Yamamoto and his ragtag quintet of thugs, who end up coming to them as Takashi and Makoto film a scene in Toshiaki’s film. In the adult video section, Yamamoto & Co. surround the two, but suddenly Shadow appears to even the odds. He takes out two of the thugs, and Takashi takes out the remaining three including delivering a knockout blow to Yamamoto.

The excellent fight scene really underscored how overmatched Yamamoto and his thugs were. Once the masked thugs identities and motives were made clear, they never had a realistic chance to instigate a full-scale turf war, especially since revenge was Yamamoto’s primary goal. Hopefully he won’t need a third demonstration of the futility of seeking revenge.

Toshiaki finally finishes his film, and it’s a hit, so he plans to make more, and Makoto notes the firm dedication inherent in Toshiaki’s efforts. He saw that same dedication in Shadow’s no-nonsense way of operating, and in Kyouichi’s dedication to protecting the town he’s come to like. After dancing on a razor’s edge these last two episodes, Makoto seems content to continue dedicating himself to selling fruit. Gotta pay the bills!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 06 – Shadows in the Knight

Ikebukuro is a town of balance, and that balance ensures peace. But one otherwise ordinary night, a group from the G-Boys Hiroto Faction are pulled from their van and viciously beaten by toughs in animal masks. Makoto is busy acting in an indie film being directed by the clerk of a doomed video store.

It’s a fitting setting in which to begin for an episode about the wider downfall of Ikebukuro’s hard-fought peace. Also on the film crew is Crow, an underling of Hiroto, whose boys were hit by the animal maskers, apparently led by a mysterious figure called “Shadow”. Hiroto suspects the attack was a warning from his boss, “King” Takashi, to keep his ambitions in check.

Before Makoto can confer with Takashi, Hiroto’s boys are hit by the Shadow again, and hard. In lieu of any word from King, Makoto meets with another childhood friend, Saru, the Hidaka Group’s PR man. He knows that Shadow is apparently elite muscle-for-hire, and that Hidaka’s position is that balance should be maintained, using his ice cream to illustrate his point.

He also warns his friend Makoto to “know where to draw the line” in his involvement, lest he end up in trouble. That’s when Hiroto reaches out to Makoto through Crow, and Makoto learns Hiroto is now having his men call him “Knight”—a direct challenge to King. With command of a third of the G-Boys, among them some of the toughest fighters, his faction has been waiting for someone to “pull the trigger” at them for some time.

In other words, even if it is King sending Shadow against his men, it doesn’t matter. He wanted an excuse to move anyway, and he got it. The spark has been lit, and the Hiroto faction is a tinderbox. Makoto gets him to agree not to move against Takashi until he’s spoken to him, but Hiroto warns if his boys are attacked one more time, it will be war.

With Takashi still not taking his calls, Makoto has no choice but to meet with the Red Angels instead. Kyouichi says he isn’t attacking Hiroto’s boys, as he has no reason to start a war that will endanger his people. However, he hastens to add, should one drop of Red Angel blood spill from the crossfire of an imminent G-Boys civil war, they’ll show no mercy.

Makoto walks down a dark Ikebukuro alley late at night with Sunshine 60 looming in the background. The mass of the tower behind him makes him look that much smaller and more alone; the town’s chief diplomat who has yet to make contact with the leader of its most powerful gang. Even as he makes no progress, he is followed by a sketchy guy in the shadows whose face he never sees, perhaps as subtle and bloodless warning as he’s going to get to quit while he’s still neutral.

As timing would have it, Takashi calls him immediately after the frightening encounter, and they meet in West Gate to talk for the first time. King hesitated to answer his buddy’s calls because he didn’t want him involved, because he can’t guarantee his safety this time. This enrages Makoto, with good reason.

When you think about it, he is one of the strongest and bravest players in this town precisely because he works alone and has no sworn allegiance, except to Ikebukuro herself. He commits to finding out who the Shadow is and who sent him to attack Hiroto’s men. As if to answer that question for the audience, the camera lingers on Isogai as he and Kyouichi walk on a bridge as cop cars race past.

Makoto and King end up shaking hands, symbolically sealing Makoto’s fate as a declared ally of King and thus a legitimate combatant in the G-Boys war to come. Because it is coming; and Makoto is out of time to stop it. The Shadow attacked Hiroto’s boys a third time, and this time a group from Dongfeng were hit as well.

Hiroto justifiably doesn’t care about the attack on Dongfeng muddying the waters; too much of his boys’ blood has been spilt. Just as Makoto is confident he can keep both King and Knight at bay, Knight draws his sword: he’s quitting the G-Boys, and no longer taking orders from Takashi. Their meeting in the alley was but a mere formality.

Maintaining peace and balance is not Hiroto’s goal. He’s thirsted for power, and is now taking the opportunity to grab it. Once he’s in charge of the G-Boys, he dreams of expanding their influence across all of Tokyo. Obviously, this is folly, and Takashi tells Makoto that it’s a product of his lack of strategic experience (Lao Tzu would also have some criticisms of Knight’s approach).

The episode ends with another suspicious lingering camera shot at Kyouichi, who is apparently pleased with how things are going. Did he and/or Isogai hire Shadow to destabilize the G-Boys? Were they simply biding their time all along? Or are they just looking forward to their largest rival eating away at itself from the inside, poised to fill the vacuum that results?

Whatever the case, IWGP is on a certified roll, following up two strong case-of-the-week episodes with a headfirst dive into the central gang conflict. It may be too late to keep a war from starting, but perhaps Makoto can still find a way to end it before it causes too much damage.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 06 – Truth is the Sword, Lies the Scabbard

Elaina’s next destination is an island city-state whose name has recently been changed to “Land of Truth-Tellers”. Their king has initiated a barrier around the whole of his domain in which no one can lie, either verbally or by writing. Elaina is weary of entering such a place but deems it worth the risk if it makes for a good story.

This being our ever-confident Elaina, she first tests the truth-telling effect by trying to say “I am not beautiful,” and later tries to write “I have a twisted personality”. Instead she ends up saying she is beautiful and writes that she’s pure of heart—both of which are the unvarnished truth.

Despite the seeming benefits of a society without lies, she finds the town quiet and oddly tense. She’s also approached by an unwashed young woman who asks non-verbally via a notepad if she’s the witch dispatched the United Magic Association. Again Elaina tells her the truth: she isn’t.

It’s when Elaina witnesses two young men fighting in the streets while others do nothing and watch that the problems with a lie-free society become clear: if everyone always says the truth, it’s much easier to end up in fights, which is why most people simply stay quiet. If you don’t have anything nice to say, etc.

But one witch decides to break up the lads’ fight mid-punch—Saya “the Charcoal Witch”, who is the UMA witch dispatched to the town! She’s so elated to see her beloved Elaina that her time-freezing spell dissipates and the lads punch each other square in the jaws. Elaina tries to take Saya’s extremely heavy feelings in stride.

Another effect of the truth barrier is that Saya, who is naturally quite the chatty person, will and does say everything rattling around in her mind, including all the things she wants to do with Elaina. But duty calls: she meets with the notepad woman, Eihemia the Quicksand Witch, who gives them the full situation.

When the King (with whom Eihemia was secretly infatuated) demanded she make his kingdom free of lies, she went all out to do so, locating a sword (which he’d later truthfully declare “lame”) powerful enough to serve as a vessel for the truth barrier’s magic. Unfortunately, in doing so Eihemia loses all of her magic and even her voice.

That means even though she did exactly what the king wanted, she ended up losing all the things that made her a useful member of his court, and she was banished from the palace. Had the episode wanted to go darker it could have explored what Eihemia has been forced to do to survive on the streets in a town with no lies, but it does not go there, which is probably for the best!

Her solution is clear: destroy the sword, and her magic and voice will be returned—as will the ability of the kingdom’s people to lie. Elaina and Saya get around having to write the truth by cleverly piecing together separate sentences then putting them together to gain access to the palace.

Once inside, they soon end up fighting off magical attacks from the king and his sword, one of which hits Saya square in the back and hurts like a bitch. When the king’s guards arrive, Elaina has Saya take care of them in the background while she reasons with the king.

The crux of her argument for destroying the sword: good people sometimes lie, while bad people will always find ways to bend the truth through the various loopholes in the barrier magic. To keep people from the little white lies we tell each other to get along every day will eventually be the kingdom’s undoing.

If truth is a sword, Elaina puts succinctly, lies are the scabbard that keep us from swinging that sword recklessly. Of course, scabbard in Japanese is apparently Saya, so Saya momentarily thinks Elaina called her name. Elaina then uses her broom to disarm the king and conjures a hammer to smash the sword to bits, thus lifting the curse of unchecked truth from his kingdom.

Eihemia’s voice and magic are restored, and she and the king reconcile when he agrees that some degree of lying and being lied to is necessary in any society. She returns to the court, and the king apologizes to his people. All’s well that ends well, and Saya gets paid for her trouble!

That turns out to be a good thing, since she had recently spend all of her money on matching dolphin necklaces for her and Elaina for when they crossed paths. Before heading back to UMA HQ, Saya takes her time tenderly putting the necklace on Elaina. Then the two pinky-swear to meet again someday.

This week was Elaina very nearly at its best. I for one don’t mind the darker stories like the one with the princess and dragon, but this was also great stuff; a feel-good fable-like high concept adventure that’s balanced by solid comedy. And of course, it is improved immeasurably by the return of the delightful Saya, voiced by Kurosawa Tomoyo, who brings so much effervescent vim and vigor to her characters.

Bofuri – 08 – Maple Ex Machina

In preparation for NWO’s third event, a cow-hunting expedition, Iz kits out Maple, Sally, and Kasumi in some adorably warm wool outfits. But this is event that values high agility, so Maple doesn’t contribute as much as she could to the final cow count. Rather, she stumbles and falls off a mountain and into a fierce battle with an increasingly gross demon boss. She’s swallowed up, but eats her way free.

For defeating the demon Maple gains some frightening new skills, including the ability to transform into Atrocity, complete with a deep and demonic version of her own voice. At the gate to the Third Level, the rest of the party just stands back with sweat drops and lets their adora-monstrous friend do her work against a tree monster that never had a chance.

The third level turns out to be a distinctly cyberpunk world full of whimsical machinery and flying vehicles (she’s no longer alone in the skies with her giant Syrup). The party splits up to get a sense of the place, and Maple ends up feeding an old man on the street who gives her a rare quest that leads to an encounter with what I believe to be the first generation Machine King.

The former king is malfunctioning and changes its form and demeanor several times, but Maple is quick enough to keep up with those changes, and in one of the king’s lucid moments, he bestows upon her the skill [Machine God], which enables her to transform into a powerful, midriff-bearing cyborg killing machine straight out of Gurren Lagann.

An intense robo-duel ensues until Maple is the last one standing, packed with some really nice smooth and dynamic animation and lighting effects. Once things have died down and Maple gets a look at herself, she not unreasonably wonders what the heck just happened. Will she be able to change back to normal, as with [Atrocity]?

One hopes so; she’s going to have trouble fitting through the guild hall door with all that paraphernalia! Whatever happens, the paradigm of NWO has shifted once more as the scale of its world has expanded and evolved. As she collects more ridiculous skills, her ability to surprise us with fun combinations increases. As Kanade puts it: “Watching Maple never gets old.”

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