Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 06 – The Green Knight

PriConne 2’s fifth episode felt like a season finale, so it stands to reason the sixth would be more of a cooling-off outing. It’s also a grab bag with the focus not on the Gourmet Guild but two other guilds, starting with Weißflügel (Landosol Division). Led by the young, hardworking Monika, her party consists of a narcissist (Yuki), a masochist (Kuuka) and a girl who loves explosives (Ninon).

Needless to say, any and all of Monika’s comrades make Yuuki look like Einstein, so it’s no surprise that they’re in heavy debt due to the collateral damage caused mostly by Ninon’s hobby. Yuuki hers about Fuuka from her boss in town, and finds her by the riverside with a massive pile of porn, which he promptly burns.

The Gourmet Guild is casually investigating a “Mystery Knight” assaulting townsfolk, and split into two groups. Yuuki and Kokkoro encounter the Knight, but they’re aided in the ensuing battle by an equally mysterious swordsman who wears a black mask over their eyes. The Knight vanishes in a cloud of smoke, leaving a slimy green residue.

The other guild introduced in this episode (unless I forgot about them from the first season) is NIGHTMARE, elite palace guards fighting for the good of Landosol. Tomo and her junior Matsuri fear their captain is the culprit of the attacks, but Christina, apparently the vice-captain, tells them they should have more faith in their leader.

When Monika discovers that the green slime can animate things like a cymbal monkey and thus potentially help the guild climb out of debt, she and the rest of Weißflügel find the source of the slime and start digging…until they accidentally unleash a massive torrent of the stuff, which envelops all of them, heads into town, and also envelops Charlie…the person who has been leaving porn by the riverside.

Tomo and Matsuri are in the middle of a battle against the Mystery Knight they believe to be their captain when that captain shows up to join them, proving they’re not the culprit. Rather, her armor has been taken over by the green slime, which merges with the “main” slime blob to create a huge boss fight in which the Gourmet Guild participates.

The combined forces of Gourmet and NIGHTMARE make quick work of the slime knight, with Tomo, Matsuri, adn their captain flashing some cool special moves and culminating in a classic Pecorine Princess Strike coup-de-grace—only one needed this time! Freed from the slimy green prison of their own making, Monika and Weißflügel lead the cleanup effort.

The Gourmet Guild gives Monika a cup of hot bouillabaisse to help restore her stamina. Later that night she makes her regular reports to her homeland via radio, imbued with a sense of esteem and kinship to the people of Landosol for working together to help those in need.

While definitely the weakest episode of PriConne’s second season owing to its glut of unfamiliar characters and the sidelining of the main quartet, it was still a fun and at times hilarious outing that emphasized the sense of community in Landosol. In any case, the wide variety of colorful characters has always been a feature of PriConne, not a bug.

86 – 21 – Good Knight

As expected, 86 gets right down to it with continuing the pursuit of Morpho. Shin seems to have gotten the hint that it’s to be a team effort, but then in the first five minutes he loses Anju, Theo, Kurena and Raiden in short order. They got him as far as they could take him; the rest is up to him.

Frederica, who had been riding with Raiden, transfers to Fido, whom Shin then orders to hide with Frederica confined in the cargo hold. He wants her, at least, to survive to try to do something about Kiriya, especially should Shin fail.

As Shin and Kiri/Morpho stare each other down, there’s a distinct epic “final showdown” atmosphere to the proceedings, which is all too appropriate considering how close we are to season’s end. It’s not as if this isn’t going to be resolved one way or another within these last episodes.

Taking out all of Shin’s comrades in such short order raises the stakes to a ridiculous degree; now most of the pieces are off the board. Shin is still flashing his gallows smirk, but isn’t in any hurry to commit suicide, and shows off his full complement of talents and skills as he draws ever nearer to Morpho.

Raiden, who we last saw with quite a bit of shrapnel in his arm, manages to gather himself enough to save Shin from what could have been a fatal attack, but it’s ultimately Frederica breaking free from Fido and contacting Kiriya directly that truly gives Shin the opening he needs.

It also gives Frederica the opportunity she’s always desired to try to bring her trusty knight back from the darkness. Alas, all that is left for him is the battlefield, even as his princess stands right there before him. Killing his fellow Nouzen Shinei remains a top priority, but when Frederica puts a gun to her own head, he’s suddenly very distracted from that priority.

Not for long, mind you, but long enough for Shin to reach Kiriya’s cockpit and put his very last round through his head. This final boss battle is 86 combat at its very best, with visuals at moments approaching the lyrical or profound. Fancy words aside, it’s very awesome looking, and accompanied by some top-notch SFX and that always excellent Sawano Hiroyuki score.

In the end, Kiri’s demise is immediately preceded by Frederica looking upon him, Shin, and Rei together in royal Giadian military attire, before Kiri joins Rei walking into the light, leaving Frederica and Shin. Seconds after Kiri dies, Morpho self-destructs, seemingly enveloping both Shin and Frederica and leaving us to wonder who, if anyone, will still be breathing next week. Until then, I need to catch my breath.

86 – 16 – A Child’s Right to Dream

Hours before Giad’s command structure realizes the full extent of the Legion assault not just on the Federacy, but on the three other major powers, and fully mobilizes its forces, Shinei snatches Raiden’s pillow. It’s time to go to work. He gave Giad all the warnings he could to make their situation more tenable, but now it’s up to Nordlicht squadron to shore up the front lines.

Giad’s woefully inadequate defenses fold like a cheap plug suit before the sheer volume of Legion hardware brought to bear against them. The fleeting beauty of their glittering forms rising over the horizon gives way to carnage, fire, twisted metal, and blood. In other words, where Shin, Raiden, Kurena and Anju feel most at home…as awful as that is.

Despite being outnumbered hundreds-to-one, the four of them do what they do best and lay waste to the Legion, who don’t really have any tactics beyond “run straight at the enemy and kill”. They’re mechanized zombies, after all. Back at base, Frederica wishes she could be with Shin and the others, then wishes even more when she detects Shin…starting to lose it.

Shin wears an unsettling smirk in his eerily-lit cockpit as he goes totally bonkers berserk against any and all Legion in his path. He resembles more a ravenous beast killing for sport, not an elite soldier carrying out his duty. This is exactly what happened to Frederica’s knight, Kiri: he went too far, in his case trying to protect her, and completely lost himself.

Fortunately, apocalypse is postponed, as the Giad lines behind Nordlicht get their shit together, and the Legion withdraw. Immediately upon Shin’s return to base, Frederica is knocking on his cockpit, demanding he come out so she can berate him for being so foolish, then cry into his chest. This battle was a little too much for this child who carries such a heavy weight.

Meanwhile, in San Magnolia, three days earlier, apocalypse is looking a little more imminent, as military HQ is still an utterly ineffectual bacchanalian. Only Lena knows and cares about their impending doom, and prepares to mobilize all Processors, even pull them into the forbidden 85 Districts. General Karlstahl tries to stop her, saying if the Eighty-Six won’t fight the Legion for the Republic, and if they enter the districts, it will only hasten the rebellion that’s been a longg time coming.

Lena convinces Karlstahl to let her have her way, as he tells her the time has finally come for her childish, naïve dreams to shatter against hard, cold reality. He also intends to do what he wants, taking up a rifle and resolving to have her back until that shattering time comes. Lena, AKA Bloody Regina, rouses all Eighty-Six troops at once and orders them to battle. Like her Spearhead friends she’s convinced are dead, she’s going to go out fighting—for herself, and for them.

Roll credits and that sad, beautiful ending theme, and 86isn’t done torturing its characters, or us. Frederica reports to Shin & Co. that her Kiri, whom she can sense just as Shin could sense Kiriya, attacked the republic and entered the 85 Districts. As for his present whereabouts, that’s quickly answered when we see a flash of him saying he’ll kill Shin, and then the room where they’re in filling with a terrible light…perhaps the light of that dream-shattering reality Karlstahl mentioned.

86 – 15 – Tines Falling from a Comb

Shinei’s cordial, by-the-book adjutant is giving him a  report in the hallway of their base when a half-dressed Frederica half-sleepwalks right into Shin and calls him “Kiri”, short for Kiriya, her knight who she believes became a Legion because of her. Once she’s fully awake she’s mortified; a proper lady should never find herself in such a situation.

Of course, when we later learn she’s running around the barracks doing all the odd jobs the soldiers have no time to do, it tracks that she’d be exhausted. Meanwhile, the old Spearhead gang is back, but aside from some momentary cheeriness from Kurena, it’s a particularly dour affair. Frederica chalks it up to them getting worn down by their roles as lackeys of the army.

The start of the episode was the least interesting, with their unit commander Colonel Wenzel trying to make the strategic case for putting the 86 to “proper” use in her new prototype Reginsleifs. She seemingly gets her wish on the eve of a forecasted large-scale Legion attack that Shin knows is far, far larger than the conscientious federacy’s analysts predict.

After the briefing, Shin returns to his quarters to find Frederica there. He prepares coffee as she criticizes how empty his quarters are, comparing them unfavorably to those of Eugene, which she cleaned out after he died. Shin tells her she could have spared herself some pain by never getting to know Eugene, but Frederica doesn’t roll like that.

Some of Misaki Kuno’s best voice work is done as Frederica regales Shinei with the story of the siege that ended the empire, and Kiri’s fall as well. Even so, to her it’s always better to meet, know, love, and remember. If freeing Kiri of the Legion means losing Shinei or anyone else, she won’t have it.

Those connections are what make life living for most people, but Shinei has been living without a single thought about his future for so long, he’s never properly grasped that…until perhaps he met Lena and now Frederica. Just as the Shinei’s resemblance to Kiriya was a catalyst for her getting close to him, Frederica is like a subsitute Lena for Shinei right now, trying to keep him aware of the things in life other than war.

Frederica tells Shinei like Lena did to start thinking about his future; even if it’s just his next leave, that’s a start. As for Raiden, he’s a bit irked that Shinei unilaterally revealed to the military that he can hear the voices of the Legion, something they all agreed to keep secret lest it make things unpleasant for all of them.

Raiden and Shinei don’t feel like friends here, because they’re really more like brothers. Strained brothers, due to Shinei being his usual mostly opaque self and Raiden actually starting to think about a future himself. He’s worried for Shinei like a brother too, not due to the coming Legion threat, but becaue the Giadians are “no saints”.

The credits end with the first Lena sighting in what seems like forever. Whether this harkens a Lena-centric (or even half-Lena) episode next week obviously remains to be seen, but it’s clear the calm before the next coming storm is just about over.

86 – 13 – Tired of Resting

In a wonderful, succinct yet detailed montage, we see that the surviving members of Spearhead have settled into normal life in the Giad Federacy.

Raiden got a job with a moving company and made some buds; Theo draws his surroundings and gains praise from passersby; Kurena frequents the shops and boutiques, Anju takes up cooking classes, and Shin studies up in the library. There he meets Eugene Rantz and his little sister Nina, who has befriended Frederica.

After their horrible ordeal getting to the Federacy, followed by the roller coaster of being confined to a facility until being adopted by Zimmerman, the five former child soldiers have certainly earned some peace and respite.

But while they’re living in peace, they’re still not at peace. There’s a restlessness lurking behind their mundane days in Giad. These are kids who never considered what their futures might be, suddenly being given the opportunity to choose whatever futures they want.

But especially for Shin, it’s a false choice. At least his immediate future seems to be returning to the battlefield, for many reasons, not the least of which is freeing all of his colleagues whose souls remain at the mercy of the Legion. They call to him in his dreams, but when he raises the pistol he used to end their lives and spare them further torment, his hand is empty; Ernst returned his scarf, but not his pistol.

Shins new friend Eugene is poor, and in order to provide for and protect Nina, he’s enlisting in the service. The military is lauded in Giad the same as San Magnolia, and Eugene is eager to see the new mechs in the Christmas Eve military parade.

In a wonderful piece of cinematography, Shin looks down at The Skull Knight book, then looks up, and we see laundry flowing behind him through the window, emulating the knight’s cape. There is no pageantry to the military for Shin or the others; only necessity, purpose, pride, and obligation.

After each of them witness the military parade and are each quite put off by the pageantry, it’s Kurena who firsts breaks the dam of complacency. She’s seen and heard enough of this “peace,” and now it’s time to return to where she belongs: the battlefield. The other four quickly concur, glad someone was able to finally vocalize that they’ve all simply spent to much time “resting.”

Ernst objects to their sudden decision, but there’s nothing sudden about it, the five have said from the beginning that this is they always intended. And we the audience can play the concerned parent figure like Ernst and say that they only feel that is all they can do because it’s all they’ve done, and because the Republic and the Legion took everything else.

It’s the precocious Frederica, exhibiting surprising maturity and clarity, who tells Ernst that if he keeps these kids from doing what they want to do he’d be no different than the Republic. She also decides to reveal that she is the last surviving Empress of Giad and carries the responsibility for unleashing the Legion in the first place.

The thing is, that was ten years ago when she was even wee-er than she is now, so Shin and the others don’t hold it against her. It was really the Republic that took everything from them. Ernst grudgingly agrees to allow the five to do as they please, but only if they enter officer training, so that they’ll have more options when the war is over.

Of course, none of them were thinking about that possibility, even though he says it’s a certainty that the war will end. As for Frederica, she’s determined to join them, that they might help her find and put to rest her valliant Knight Kiriya, who was taken by the Legion just like Shin’s brother.

Lena takes the week off, and that’s a boon here in terms of portraying Shin, Anju, Kurena, Raiden and Theo’s transition from acceptance of their new lives to the realization that here, for once, they can choose what to do and where to go, and a mundane peaceful life in the Giadian capital just isnt’ their scene.

Whether next week focuses solely on Lena or is another split episode of the kind the last cour did so well, I’m simultaneously happy and terribly worried for our Eighty-Six. Part of me wishes they would just stay in that capital and live quiet peaceful lives…but that’s not up to me, or anyone else but them.

Vanitas no Carte – 02 – A Matter of Application

I’ll admit it: I missed the airship this week. They didn’t show as much of it as I would have liked even last week, just as they don’t show quite as much of Steampunk Paris as I’d like. That said, what we do see impresses “country bumpkin” Noé once he and Vanitas are released from jail on the orders of Count Orlok, a vampire charged with maintaining the human-vampire balance in the city.

While Orlok claims the Book of Vanitas to be a bunch of hooey, he’s also stolen the book, and intends to execute Amelia and “rake Vanitas over the coals” for his role in abetting her escape. Noé, clearly has strong feelings about “curse-bearers”, or vamps born under a blue moon based on flashbacks involving a childhood friend who became one.

Noé is having none of Orlok’s games, and smashes his desk to splinters with a kick to get his attention. He insists the book be returned to Vanitas so the two of them can apprehend a vampire who has been murdering humans in Paris, bring him to Orlok, and show the count firsthand how the book can save vampiredom.

After a conversation on their target, one Thomas Berneux, over rooftops with those awesome airships floating impossibly in the sky, the two soon find Tommy in the middle of trying to take his next victim. Noé gives Vanitas the opening he needs to use the book to temporarily paralyze him. Everything is going smoothly…until two new faces arrive.

They are the pint-sized Luca and his “chevalier” Jeanne (clearly taking after d’Arc), who are convinced Vanitas is using the book to create curse-bearers, not cure them. Clearly they’re misinformed; while the book can be used for such a nefarious purpose, Vanitas uses it to heal, not harm.

The thing is, even Noé is no match for Jeanne, who isn’t interested in talking things through, so the pair have to make a run for it. But as much as he claims to dislike Vanitas, as long as he keeps committing “resoundingly righteous acts” such as saving Amelia, he’ll keep protecting him with his not inconsiderable vampire strength and speed.

There were a couple nice bursts of action and Vanitas and Noé continue to be a hoot to watch, it can be hard to keep track of the show’s ever-expanding glossary of names, positions and terms, and thus hard to get too deeply invested. It’s as if Vanitas no Carte is so intent on setting up its many and varied game pieces on its ornate board, it forgot that the game actually has to start at some point!

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent – 04 – With Great Magic Power…

Both Johan and the Royal Magi Assembly director are bound by duty to report Sei’s handiwork to the king, but the only other person powerful enough to properly appraise her power—and determine whether she is the true saint—is the Grand Magus, who is currently in a “deep slumber”.

Meanwhile Sei continues to whip up potent potions at a rate so prestigious Johan has to eventually kick her out of the lab so she doesn’t use up their entire supply of herbs. Sei is working harder than ever, just like she did in her old office job, but the key difference is working hard here is making her happy, and it’s also helping the kind (and handsome) knights like Ser Wolff out a bunch.

She’s so satisfied with her work, in fact, that even when King Siegfried Salutania himself casually approaches her in the library, both to apologize for his son Prince Kyle’s rudeness and to offer her a reward for her services, Sei turns down all material offers. The work, and the good it does, is its own reward.

When the knights again return from a tough battle in Groshe Forest, she finds that Ser Wolff has lost a hand in battle, and as efficacious as her potions are, they aren’t enough to heal him or the many other maimed knights in the infirmary. Worse still, because the commoner Wolff can no longer serve as a knight, he’s lost the right to live in the palace and must return to his hometown, his dream shattered.

Sei, who had just been studying more powerful healing magic, knows that if she succeeds in restoring Sei’s hand she’ll likely no longer be able to pretend she’s an “ordinary person”, and her extraordinary powers will give her even more responsibilities and attention. But whether Wolff was the friend to her he is or just a stranger, she knows full well she wouldn’t be able to do nothing. So, in a powerful scene full of awe and wonder, she takes his arm and gives him his hand back.

When she realizes there’s more work to be done in the infirmary, Sei pulls up her sleeve and gets to work, not stopping until every knight is made whole again. This culminates in using an area-healing spell on the less-injured knights, which drains her energy considerably. Johan and Hawke arrive not to scold her for working too hard or exposing her saintly power, but to praise her for her good works and offer a shoulder to lean on.

Even though part of me, like Sei, fears her peaceful life is about to become more hectic and complicated. That’s especially once the Grand Magus wakes up and appraises her, setting up a confrontation between her and the other Saint, Aira Misono.

I doubt I could pretend any more than she could that I wasn’t the immensely powerful Saint I clearly was. She didn’t ask for the power, or to be summoned, or to be initially passed up for Aira by the prince. But now it’s no longer about what she might’ve wanted, but how she can help the most people. She’s ready to say goodbye to the illusory quiet life where no one expected anything of her, and not look back.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent – 03 – The Ice Knight Melteth

It’s a hot one at the research institute, so Sei dips her feet in some cold water, only to be visited by her present semi-crush, Albert Hawke. Once she’s decent, he asks if she’d like to join him on a trip into town on her day off, and she accepts. Between helping her out of the carriage, buying her a snack, using his ice magic to chill her drink, and holding her hand virtually the whole time, Al is a perfect gentleman.

When Al asks Sei if she wants anything at a jewelry store, she declines. On the carriage ride home, she falls asleep on his shoulder. Then before they part he presents her with a gift from the store anyway: a lovely hair ornament with jewels the color of his eyes. Sei had a wonderful time and wouldn’t mind doing it again. But due to her lack of a love life in her previous life, she doesn’t realize she was on a date until Johan breaks it to her the next day.

Liz too is proud of Sei for successfully melting the heart of the infamously cold Ice Knight (whom we learned is also a rare ice mage). Sei then ends up doing some work with the Royal Magi Assembly enchanting “foci”—essentially small gems and baubles—with magical properties and affinities. Casting these enchantments comes as easily to her as walking or talking, which isn’t surprising…she is a Saint, after all.

Rumors leak of her adeptness with enchantments, and the First Order of Knights puts in an order with the Assembly for more enchanted foci. Its silver-haired director beseeches Sei to assist them with a bit of a rush order for which she’ll be compensated, and she completes the work so quickly and successfully, she manages to squeeze a rare smile out of the guy.

Sei is given one of the buffing foci she enchanted as payment, which she then has embedded in a charm necklace which she presents to Al in his office. He thanks her by kissing her hand, only adding more fuel to the fire of their budding romance. To which I say: Good for you, girl!

With Ishikawa Yui voicing Sei, I can’t help but want her to be happy…especially after Eren did Mikasa so dirty in Attack on Titan! Otherwise, this is a pleasant if somewhat inconsequential series I’ll probably be sticking with for Yui and the comfort food factor.

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent – 02 – Exhausted…In a Good Way

When the Research Institute is rewarded for their diligent work healing the knights’ wounds after the salamander incident, Johan asks Sei if there’s anything she wants, and the result is a brand new kitchen. While contractors in this new world are unreal, the cooking apparently sucks, at least when judged by Sei’s palate.

Johan informs her that chefs will be hired, but Sei actually enjoys cooking. When she presents him with a simple yet savory herb-crusted chicken, he’s bowled over. I find it beyond charming that in this series, the OPed MC makes the best-tasting food anyone’s ever eaten, not just because of her magical power, but because no one in this world has ever tasted food from hers.

Another day, Johan introduces Sei to Albert Hawke, the knight commander whose life she saved with her high-level potion. Sei is not only amazed how perfectly he healed after being on death’s door, but he just happens to be her type, standing out in a world full of handsome men.

It’s Sei’s lucky day, then, when Johan tells her Hawke is going to the southern forest with his knights for a hunt, and she’s welcome to join for a medicinal herb-gathering mission. She also prepares lunch for everyone, and Albert makes it a point to sit close to her as he praises her luxurious cuisine. Sei returns home to her room exhausted, but in a good way—not in the way that eventually did her in in her old world.

The next morning, Sei discovers that the lotion she crafted for her face and skin has also somehow corrected her eyesight, eliminating the need to wear glasses anymore. She also learns from Johan that the meals she’s been preparing have resulted in attribute boosts. If her ability got out it could cause chaos, so he gives her the day off.

Given a surprise vacation day for being too good at what she does, a bored Sei discovers the huge and inviting Beauty and the Beast-style library at the royal palace, and meets one Elizabeth Ashley, a noblewoman who looks like a porcelain doll. Before she sets off back to the institute, Albert offers her a ride on his horse. When she says she’s never ridden, he simply rides home with her in a princess lift.


Sei soon befriends “Liz” Ashley, who informs her of a beautifukl new girl at the academy who grew close with several already-betrothed male classmates, leading one of their fiancées to stop coming to class due to her acne. Liz believes this girl’s confidence would return if her skin condition were resolved, and is cetain Sei is the one to resolve it.

Liz introduces the girl, Nicole Adler, to Sei, who offers her a bottle of lotion she crafted. Nicole is dubious until Liz dabs a bit of it on her own skin, which instantly polishes it to a glorious shine. Nicole’s eyes emerge from her long bangs, and she gives a heartfelt thanks to Sei. Later, she writes her to say the lotion worked wonderfully, and invites her to dinner sometime.

So yeah, it’s all coming up Sei. After all of her hard work in her old world led to her demise, here her hard work has wonderous, even miraculous results that make her the toast of the research institute and royal palace alike. But she’s not totally bereft of problems, as Liz reports fresh rumors involving Sei and a certain “Ice Knight” whose heart she’s apparently thawed with her beauty…

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! – 01 (First Impressions) – Falling From Grace

With the director of Master Teaser Takagi-san (and this years excellent Those Snow White Notes!) and the creator of KonoSuba, you could say my hopes for this series were somewhat inflated from the get-go. So I regret to report that while this opening episode of Combatants Will Be Dispatched! was okay, it was not great. It didn’t come close to meeting those hopes.

We open with our (anti)hero Combat Agent Six meeting with two busty women in elaborate, skimpy fantasy cosplay and equally lofty names and titles. Everything is serious for the first few seconds as they inform Six of his mission to investigate an Earth-like planet. But then Six calls out Astaroth and Belial for their chuunibyou getup and dialogue.

While this knocking on the fourth wall is a common occurrence in KonoSuba, and it’s intriguing that Six’s two bosses have real Japanese names, his joking around felt premature and forced here, which can be said about a lot of the ensuing comedy. KonoSuba’s jokes based on Kazuma’s perviness and fish-out-of-water status was comparatively so natural and effortless.

It doesn’t help that right off the bat these characters are all some combination of generic, unlikeable, and inconsistent. Astaroth and Belial seem to be in a position of authority, yet Six apparently helped the two found the “Kisaragi Corporation” they all work for, and Astaroth even seems to be harboring a crush on him.

Why, then, does Six let the two women, along with generic “scientist girl” Lilith, boss him around by shoving him into a teleport tube to this random planet? Six is introduced to the “high spec pretty girl” android Alice and shoved in a teleport tube before there’s any satisfying explanation of what exactly is going on. The episode is waving its hands at us saying “just go with it,” but I’d have preferred something more solid to go with!

My initial theory, as Six and Alice are dispatched to the Earth-like world (appearing 30,000 meters above the surface) is that Astaroth, Belial, Lilith and Six are gamers in some kind of VR-RPG. That explains how they alternate between playing their roles as agents of universal domination and a group of regular human friends.

The remainder of the episode is all about Six landing in a vast ruddy alien wasteland, heading to a nearby city, and learning about his new android assistant. Alice’s primary feature is an apparently city-leveling self-destruct, which calls to mind KonoSuba’s Megumin’s all-or-nothing Explosion. Otherwise she’s just a little girl, and as such, when packs of dog-like beasts attack, it’s up to Six to defend them.

Alice also serves as a rather clumsy provider of exposition, explaining how Six amasses “Evil Points” by doing bad shit, which he can then spend on stuff by writing it on paper and scanning that paper with a gizmo on his wrist. While somewhat novel, it seems like a rather inefficient system. Also, while we know Six starts out with 300 Evil Points, we don’t learn how many he spends to put a shotgun in Alice’s arms.

The show seems to be full of decisions and details that force me to think about why those choices were made instead of just sitting back and enjoying the silliness. Alice just said she was physically just a little kid, yet we see her moments later wielding a shotgun without issue. And why just a plain-old shotgun? It’s a fantasy anime, why not come up with a more imaginative weapon?

After defeating the beasts, Six and Alice are approached by Snow, a female knight straight out of SAO. While initially both suspicious of the two but otherwise noble and dignified, Snow’s not-always-hidden “other side” is apparently extremely obsessed with recognition, money, and glory—in the same way Darkness is obsessed with being punished and ravaged.

Snow is also the personal knight for the Kingdom of Grace’s lovely Princess Tillis, and she’s apparently such a good bodyguard that she lets two total strangers—a highly-trained spy and his android assistant/bomb—into the same room with their weapons! Grace is also a land where real-world items like tanks are regarded as mysterious ancient artifacts.

One such artifact used to make it rain in the kingdom, but is malfunctioning. Alice shows her worth by fixing it, only for Six to insist on resetting the activation password to “Dick Festival”. He helpfully explains that making Princess Tillis say those words will net him Evil Points, and I can’t argue with him there.

The problem is, Tillis’ father, who I’ll call “King Santa” for now, would also have to say those words, so Six and Alice end up tied up. Even so, the King is grateful the artifact was repaired, and Tillis, citing her country’s desperate need for warriors to fight beasts, decides to make Six one of her knights. Snow is dubious, but Six reminds her she said she’d take “full responsibility” for whatever happened with the rain-making machine.

As a result, Snow essentially gets demoted to Sir Six’s XO in their interceptor group. Along with Alice, the three-person party has been set—I just wish I was more excited about it! Not helping matters is the fact that while overall the series looks fine, there are some glaring off-character model moments that are less excusable in a first episode whose job is to impress.

But mostly, Dispatched! is too similar to KonoSuba not to invite unfavorable comparisons to the older series, which not only aired first but crucially also aired at a time when I frankly had more of a stomach for Kazuma / Six / Rudy’s pervy antics. If I’m sick of Six’s schtick one episode in, it does not bode well for the future.

The next-episode preview is presented as a broadcast on a TV in Kisaragi Corp.’s break/club room as Astaroth, Belial and Lilith have tea and snacks, adding credence to my theory the “corporation” is more of a gaming club formed in high school. We’ll see if the show can redeem itself next week.

Hortensia Saga – 02 – The Girl Who Cried Werewolf

While Alfred is on monster patrol with Maurice, Marius is helping carry flowers for Nonnoria, who visits the Albert family grave to pay her respects to those who took her in when she was orphaned. Marius looks back four years ago to the dreadful night she lost everything she had, when Maurice told her she’d have to cut her hair and live under an assumed identity “until the time came” to reclaim her kingdom.

When talk of Magonia (complete with flying cities and fantastical beasts) comes up—specifically, a shapeshifting  monster that dwells in the nearby Tron Cavern—young Conny desperately wants to see and prove his skeptical big sis wrong. The next day, just after Alfred, Marius, and Maurice head to the cavern to investigate, Conny’s mom arrives at the Albert’s door. Sure enough, the little scamp went off on his own.

Even though help is on the way, Tron is a veritable labyrinth, so Nonnoria fills her knapsack with a ridiculous amount of supplies and heads out without a second thought with Qoo (basically a Moogle), showing what she’s truly made of even though she’s otherwise a complete space cadet. She finds Conny before the others, but they’re still lost, and then get chased by goblins.

Nonnoria huddles against the cavern wall with Conny and Qoo, hoping Alfred will make it in time to save them just as he saved her before from a wolf. He does, with Marius and Maurice close behind. Then they notice a blue light that leads them to a moonlit spring. There, the beast makes its appearance, in a form identical to the werewolf that killed both of their fathers.

Ever since hearing the Tron monster could take the form of a wolf, Marius has been uneasy, but once she sees it, she freezes in terror, as if being transported four years into the past to the night she could do nothing but watch in horror as her life was taken away.

As Alfred fights the werewolf, Marius retreats, slips, and falls into the spring, and she relives more memories of the night Maurice whisked her out of the capital to the Albert Dominion. Maurice is aided by an even grizzlier Sir Balthazar, who warns him the Pope may be in cahoots with Camelia to install Prince Charlot as a puppet king.

While Princess Mariel wants to stay and protect her little brother, the fact is neither she nor her remaining allies are strong enough to stop the coup that has unfolded. The only thing for it is to disappear until the time is right. When she arrives at Albert’s lands, she finds kinship in Alfred’s grief for his lost father. When she comes to in the cavern, Alfred has fished her out of the spring.

It turns out the “werewolf” was only an impostor, as the cavern monster takes the form of the thing you hate most. Alfred assumes he provided the werewolf template, and Marius isn’t able to tell him her father was killed by the same monster at nearly the same time.

They head home, Conny is reunited with his family, and Alfred scolds Nonnoria and Qoo for racing into danger. Marius’ last memory is of cutting her hair with a dagger, which not only marked a profound turning of a page in her life, but in the present represents her willingness to turn the page from those horrible memories and re-fix her gaze on the more important present and future.

I once again enjoyed this episode, which was absolutely fine, if not particularly original. In fact, I liked it a bit more than the premiere, which to its credit had more narrative lifting to do out of the gate. Conny requiring rescue was hilariously telegraphed from a country mile away, but Nonnoria going into Battle Maid Mode was unexpected, and I came away actually liking her in spite of her deeply annoying voice and extra-ness. If nothing else, she can really spin a knife.

As for the romance angle, Alfred had no idea he was carrying a girl on piggyback. Who knows when he’ll learn the truth, but I hope it’s sooner rather than later in the 12-episode run—and not because he walks in on her or something. If there’s anyone in the world she could trust to tell, it’s him.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 01 (First Impressions) – Getting Serious About Living

Fast on the heels of Zane’s Horimiya comes another contender for Anime of the Season: Jobless Reincarnation, the latest in a rare collection of common stories told uncommonly well. Our protagonist is a 34-year-old NEET hit by a car and killed, but he’s reincarnated as a baby in a fantasy world with all his adult mental faculties and memories intact.

That all-too-familiar premise (for the record, the source LN dates back to 2012) hardly does Jobless justice: from the moment our boy realizes he is the child of the well-endowed young woman who just gave birth to him, his droll adult voiceover (Sugita Tomokazu, I believe) provides a hilariously dry running commentary on his new world.

Rudeus or Rudy, as his parents Zenith and Paul name him, grows up fast, going from a highly mobile infant to a precocious toddler. When he falls down go boom and his mom uses a real healing spell on him, he seeks out the five tomes in his family’s house, learns to read, and gradually learns how to wield water magic.

There’s a wonderful procedural structure to Rudy’s early journey of just figuring things out, but not so rigid a structure that it detracts from the human and emotional sides of his experience. His precociousness also goes noticed by Lilia the live-in maid, as Rudy’s facial expressions betray an older man’s inner wisdom of the world.

While his first attempt to conjure water results in him looking like he fell asleep and wet himself, Rudy hangs in there, gathering any and all basins in which to deposit the water he conjures. Notably, he is able to use magic without the incantations or magic circles the books describe as vital to the process.

Without really trying to, his magical growth remains largely hidden from Zenith and Paul, who are portrayed as dimensional characters with their own needs and wants (they get it on often, as one would expect of a healthy young couple). His family’s home is his entire world, and he’s usually shut up in his room, much as he was as a 34-year-old NEET. This explains a bit why we don’t get to see as much of his family as I’d have liked.

With that hikikomori mentality in mind, it’s as symbolic as it is momentous when Rudy accidentally obliterates the wall of his bedroom with his most powerful water conjuring yet—a giant orb that streaks through the bright blue sky, creating rain for the crops and a rainbow as well. The top-notch animation really sells how powerful—and frightful—magic can be in untrained hands, and how exciting it is to “figure things out.”

When Zenith sees him unharmed and with the magic book nearby, she puts two and two together, and cannot contain her pure joy and delight to have reared a magical prodigy. She and Paul bicker over the promise that he would be raised as a swordsman, but Lilia (showing she’s more than a mere maid—more of a second wife) suggests “Why not both?”

Rudy’s parents—his dad’s a Knight who basically runs the village, and so is not without means—hire a magical tutor to train him, but both they and Rudy are shocked to find she’s no bearded retiree but an adorable young woman with bluish-violet air, ably voiced with by with vulnerability and defiance by Kohara Konomi.

We have the fascinating situation in which Rudy is mentally older than his parents, let alone this mage Roxy Migurdia, and his otaku side comes out when he first sees her and sizes her up (or down, as it were). Roxy isn’t aware of this, has dealt with other parents who thought their kid was The Chosen One, and is dubious of Rudy’s abilities.

Still, she does her job, showing him how a focused magical attack can cleave a tree down in one swipe, then how said tree (treasured by Rudy’s mom) can be repaired with healing magic, which Roxy also knows. Then Rudy demonstrates he can use magic without incantations (again, accidentally, as he’s thrown off when Roxy’s skirt flips up), and re-fells the restored tree, and Roxy knows she’s dealing with someone worth training.

Roxy takes the blame for the tree, but Rudy uses a dating sim-esque line to comfort her, and it works. Then the family welcomes Roxy like one of their own to a sumptuous welcome banquet, and during these lovely warm images Rudy beautifully recites the mission statement of the show:

“It’s like a dream…a dream I’m having as I die from that crash. No, even if it is, I don’t care. In this world, I bet even I can make it. If I live and try as hard as everyone else, get back up when I fall, and keep facing forward, then maybe I can do it. Maybe even I, a jobless, reclusive bum like me can get a do-over at life…and get serious about living.”

I would never have thought I’d be so quickly and easily drawn into yet another Isekai series, but the characterizations and technical execution are so well done, the world it’s crafted so gorgeous and inviting, and the comedy so effortless, it renders Jobless Reincarnation all but irresistible. Yes, we’ve seen this story before, and yes, Rudy is a bit of a creep, but for once it doesn’t matter, at least for me. It goes without saying I can’t wait to see more.

P.S. Looks like Anime News Network’s early reviewers of JR weren’t as enamored as I was, focusing on Rudy’s abhorrent skeeviness and the fact this premise has been done to death.

While I respect their takes, which are just as valid as my own, I prefer to take a more clean-slate approach to the show, and execution can—and in this case, does—outweigh familiarity.

Also, and this is key, Rudy isn’t supposed to be immediately likable or virtuous. He’s just started on a long road of redemption, and his closing monologue suggests he wants to become a better person than he was in his past life.

P.P.S. Crow has written on this episode as well. Check it out here.

Hortensia Saga – 01 (First Impressions) – A Glimmer of Hope in an Age of Turmoil

What have we here….an un-ironic, non-isekai, no-nonsense Euro-style medieval fantasy epic? Welcome to Hortensia Saga, which plunges us right into the thick of an attempted coup…what odd timing

One of the king’s loyalist retainers transforms into a giant werewolf and kills him right before his daughter’s eyes, and then goes on to kill one of his baddest-ass knights, Fernando Ober (or Albert, depending on the subs).

The late Fernando’s brother Maurice Bauldelaire (Hi, Tsuda Kenjirou!) arrives at the Ober estate to tell his nephew Alfred the news that his father is dead, making Alfred the new Lord of Ober.

Maurice also rescued the adorable Princess Mariel, who cut her hair short and poses as a young lad named Marius whom Alfred takes under his wing as his squire. That’s fine with Mariel, who wants to become stronger so she can protect those she cares about.

Marius and Lord Alfred were brought together by shared tragedy and grief and become fast friends. If Alfred is aware Marius is actually a princess in disguise, he never mentions it, even after four years pass and she becomes his trusty squire. That’s a helluva time jump, and I kinda wish a little more time was spent on developing their friendship, but alas, this saga has a lot of ground to cover.

In those four years both were trained by Maurice and feel ready for their first real battle against the forces of Camelia (the retainers who betrayed the Hortensian crown). It doesn’t go particularly great, as their allies were pre-slaughtered and both youngins have to be saved by Maurice, but the two had each other’s backs, didn’t give up, and escaped with their lives, so call it a learning experience.

Marius is sufficiently injured that she doesn’t wake up for days, but when she does, Ober’s maid Nonnoria (Ueda Reina, pushing a bit too hard) is there to welcome her back to the land of the awake.

Marius joins a discouraged Alfred at his family grave where they met four years ago, Alfred declares his resolve to become much stronger, and Marius declares she’ll become stronger right beside him. The one thing they can’t do is give up hope. Little does Al know his squire is a girl and the heir to the kingdom he serves!

I was ready to pass on Hortensia when its opening sequence involved a hefty helping of lazy CGI extras, and featured characters who weren’t that much better designed or animated. If you’re going to go as arrow-straight with your milieu as this, you’d better bring it with the execution.

What actually kept me watching was the voice acting of Horie Yui and Hosoya Yoshimasa, two seiyuu I admire but haven’t seen in a lot of leading roles of late. Their work elevates a classic but bland premise, a rushed narrative, and merely serviceable production values. I’m putting this in my “maybe” pile for this season.

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