The Rising of the Shield Hero – 12 – The True Battle Of The Wave

Glass dismisses three of the four heroes as nothing but “servants”, and her appraisal isn’t off-base, as their best meteor attacks fail to put a scratch on her, and all three go down with one strike, no doubt wounding their egos as well as their bodies.

That leaves Naofumi, Raphtalia, and Filo to deal with her, and while she’s somewhat impressed by his stout defense (as befits the Shield Hero), nothing offensive he can throw at her is any more effective than his beaten fellow heroes.

She breaks out of the Shield Prison immediately. Filo’s kicks are fast but still can’t touch her. Poor Raph’s swordsmanship isn’t even “worth mentioning.” She even calmly basks in the enveloping flames of Naofumi’s Rage Shield like it’s a sauna; “too cold” to burn her. This Glass lady is tough, and if the first Wave seemed to easy, it’s clear the difficulty level has risen exponentially.

That brings us to Naofumi’s final trump card, the Iron Maiden, so effective against the soul eater. Turns out it’s just as useless on Glass as Shield Prison. Glass’ withering criticism of her opponents’ attacks almost grows tiresome—we get it, Naofumi can’t beat you at his present level—but just as she’s ready to take him out, a countdown starts on his HUD, which indicates the Wave “period” is about to end.

Rather than give Glass the last word, Naofumi has Raph cast Fast Light, and the two of them jump on Filo who gets them the hell out of there. She doesn’t chase, and her attacks aren’t effective at long range, so she calls it a draw, this time. But when the next Wave arrives, she promises to kill them unless they grow stronger. Much stronger.

The second Wave disperses, and Naofumi is quickly summoned back to King Melromarc’s court for some backhanded thanks and demand that he explain how he gained so much power—more than “befits a Shield Hero.” Naofumi, no longer having any more shit from this royal family, tells the king he’ll talk…if he bows down and grovels.

This act of disrespect leads the king to call in his guards, but Naofumi is quite right when he says he can take them all out and walk out the front door without any difficulty, and the guards waver. When the king says he’ll punish Naofumi’s “slaves” in his stead, that really rankles him, and he promises him if anything happens to his underlings on account of more dirty tricks, the king will “wish he had never been born,” then stalks out unopposed, like a boss.

Princess Melty later hears of the “hostile” exchange between her daddy and Naofumi, and tells her father that their country will be put at risk until they reconcile. Her older sister Malty intervenes and tries to make a stink of matters, but Melty shuts her down almost immediately, and with good reason: she’s the one who was trusted with the title of crown princess.

Naofumi shakes off his unpleasant experience at the palace and gets re-outfitted by Elhart, who fills the wagon back up and throws in some gifts for good measure: a new sword for Raphtalia, along with a bladeless mana sword, a shield scanner thingy for Naofumi, and gloves that will increase Filo’s strength.

Naofumi is looking forward to being nowhere near the royal city, royal family, or the other hero jerks. Unfortunately, the peace doesn’t last long, as Melty and her retinue track his party down and urges him to return and make peace with her father. Naofumi is as stubborn as the king, and his strong passes ignite Melty’s secret weapon: the Entitled Person’s Tantrum.

But as she protests his obstinance, Naofumi senses something’s UP—set-up to be precise. Of what kind, he soon finds out: one of the knights who escorted Melty rushes at her, sword drawn, and Naofumi draws her back and shields her…with his shield.

Obviously, these knights are in Malty’s pocket (I doubt the king is awful enough to off his own heir). Honestly, it kinda just makes her look foolish and pathetic—why try to assassinate her sister in front of the Shield Hero, who could easily protect her? In any case, if Melty doesn’t re-join the party next week (or whenever the next episode airs), I’ll be shocked.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 11 – This Wasn’t In The Game…Because This Isn’t One

With his wagon bursting with medicines, spare weapons, and other supplies, Naofumi and his suddenly larger party teleport to the site of the second Wave, teleporting us from the safe, familiar capital to another chaotic and brutal magenta-skied war zone.

The rapid transition and immediate dive into the battle is effective, and now that they have more numbers, Naofumi’s team can more quickly and effectively evacuate and defend the village closest to the Wave. Naofumi, Raph and Filo handle the tougher baddies while the others handle the small fry.

Once the village is cleared out, the underlings stay behind with the ex-adventurer Granny who Naofumi once saved, enabling the core trio to join the other three heroes, two of which are already locked in a heated battle aboard a flying pirate ship with a kraken attached to its keel. And immediately, there’s a problem: nobody’s working together.

When Naofumi arrives, Kawasumi is on the ground, while Motoyasu and Amaki are bickering over whether to defeat the Skull Captain or Kraken bosses. Naofumi attempts to bring order to the chaotic situation, and determines that the bosses themselves aren’t the proper targets; their shadows are.

Once Raph and Amaki have stabbed those shadows, numerous soul eaters emerge and combine to form one big nasty one that’s immune to the Shield, Bow and Sword Heroes’ fire-based attacks. Naofumi orders Filo to use wind and speed magic to attack the boss, but between her and Raph, there simply isn’t enough damage being done.

They’ll be there all day and there’s no telling how much destruction will occur in that time, so Naofumi reluctantly whips out his Rage Shield, knowing full well how hard it is to control. Raphtalia offers her moral support, and Naofumi ends up back in that “in-between space,” where this time he’s confronted by the enraged soul of the zombie dragon he defeated.

Once he has his Dragon Zombie Shield, Naofumi begins to press his attack on the soul eater, all while the other heroes and their parties are standing around twiddling their thumbs. Raphtalia reprimands them, basically shaming them into finally finally assisting Naofumi—and in a support role, no less.

With help from Raphtalia, Naofumi doesn’t allow himself to be consumed by the dragon’s hatred, and regains his composure, rebuking Malty’s comparison of him to nothing but a wild beast. He summons Iron Maiden, a titanic prison of spikes that closes in on the boss and crushes it.

The other heroes can only look on in awe at Naofumi’s power, as they don’t have anything like what he just demonstrated. Motoyasu backs down from his sore loserdom when Filo transforms into the cute little girl he loves so much, but the Waves are curiously not going away.

Turns out that mega-soul eater wasn’t the final boss for this particular Wave. Instead, it’s another maiden—a raven-haired on with two fans who introduces herself as Glass. She was watching the four heroes and only deems Naofumi to be worthy of going against her.

This was not only a return to the high-stakes, high-intensity atmosphere of a Wave (accompanied all the excellent Kevin Penkin music), but some decent development in the relationship betweeen the heroes. For the first time, they’re all fighting in the same place, and it’s clear they’ll need each other to defeat some of the tougher foes the Waves throw their way.

Ushio to Tora – 06

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U2T turns in yet another beautifully balanced blend of action, supernatural peril, comedy, drama, and even a little quiet romance in it’s beach episode. And hey, what do you know, the girls aren’t wearing string bikinis! They do run into an urchin who likes tossing sand on people’s stuff, and Ushio smacks him upside the head because it’s the kind of shit he hates, because he used to do it.

Meanwhile Tora is enjoying the ocean—the one thing in the world that hasn’t changed in 500 years!—and comes upon its guardian, Umizatou, who wants assistance dealing with an ayakashi, a kraken/leviathan/Monstro-like superbeast made from the souls of those lost at sea. Tora is game for a challenge, but Aya-tan is in a much higher weight class.

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Back on dry land, Asako chases down Tatsuya, the little kid Ushio smacked, having known a kid who lost his mom and acted out. He runs afoul of some toughs, but the badass Asako makes quick work of them (God, I love her) comforts Tatsuya, and fixes the toy phone his mom gave him. They then decide to go out in a boat…

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…Just when the ayakashi draws closer to the shore. He swallows up Tora, who tells Umizatou to summon Ushio, and then the ayakashi swallows up Asako and Tatsuya, boat and all. Interestingly, cell phone signals aren’t effected by the beast’s tough skin or ethereal barrier, and she gets in touch with Ushio, who tells her he’s on his way. Tatsuya is freaked out, but Asako is (quite understandably) scared too.

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Yet she teaches him an important lesson there: one can’t think about how scared they are when they’re scared. Fear is the mindkiller and all that, so even if she’s acting less scared than she is, she’s going to put on the act to keep hope alive. When things start attacking them, hope arrives in the form of Tora, who isn’t rescuing them out of the kindness of his heart per se, but only fears harsh reprisal if Ushio learns he let them die. I believe this is also the first time Tora talks directly to Asako, after interacting with Inoue last week (Inoue kinda gets this week off, but that’s okay).

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When Ushio finally arrives, the ayakashi proves a tough customer, and everyone ends up precariously dangling from it’s digestive wall and hanging on for dear life. When Asako passes out, it’s up to Tatsuya to forget about his fear long enough to climb down Ushio and Tora and grab hold of her before she’s sucked down into the stomach.

Ushio then tears a piece of his spear’s cloth, and the spear homes in on the ayakashi’s internal eye and stabs it. Thus weakened, Ushio and Tora (with the others in tow) combine spear and lightning to tear the ayakashi a new one, releasing a huge number of trapped souls in the process. It’s a great sequence, full of carefully-orchestrated chaos.

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The beast thus vanquished, Ushio, Asako and Mayuko head back home, having made friends with Tatsuya, who learned a lot from them (I continue to enjoy Ushio and Asako’s semi-flirtatious repartee). Ushio told him what Asako’s dad told him years ago, which is why one day he showed up looking from her perspective like he’d “grown up” a little bit: his mom is always watching, so not only shouldn’t he act out, but he shouldn’t ever feel scared or alone.

But what’s this? Umizatou knows the name Aotsuki Ushio, and apparently thinks his mom is still alive, and warns Tora to cut all ties with him as soon as possible. Is he merely talking youkai-to-youkai, and not understand the friendship growing, or will Ushio one day be unable to stop either himself, the Beast Spear, or both from whacking his increasingly loyal, empathetic tiger-like buddy?

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 05

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Early on, this episode threatened to deep six itself by freeing the good guys almost immediately thanks to appallingly bad guards, who are basically just like fuzzy stormtroopers in terms of effectiveness. It also cut too often to the horrendously dull, genetic evil Izhmash who orders executions like I order cheese fries and is constantly berating his staff, though considering how poorly they perform, he’s not outside his rights to do so.

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However, releasing the Chaikas, and Tooru, early, is a blessing in disguise. First of all, we can justify it with the simple fact that as tough as these mass-produced demi-humans and Fayla are, our heroes are pretty damn tough too. They’ve been through their share of toughs spots before. While it doesn’t quite excuse how lame Izhmash isI can buy that a highly isolated and reclusive research facility would overestimate the power of their heretofore untested creations against a battle-hardened group of prisoners.

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But back to our friends’ early release: it forces Red Chaika to work with White (White probably doesn’t have a problem working with Red) to escape. This results in some priceless dialogue between the two, both of them speaking weirdly like they do. White Chaika also frees the doll-like Niva Lada from her restrains and brings her along, which proves crucial later in the episode. (Fun note: Trabant, Bogdan, and Lada Niva are all brands Eastern European cars. Not to mention the Acura siblings…)

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It also gives Chaika the opportunity to really let its hair down and play with all the pieces it’s set up the last couple episodes, all RPG-style. The allies are all separate at first, but gradually unite into a mega-party of Tooru, Akari, Chaika, Red Chaika, Niva Lada, David, Selma, Kiril and Ursula (the two scorned demi-human guards). It’s like a big party on the secret island with past enmities being put aside so they can all focus on their common goal: surviving.

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But as ineffectual as the mass-produced Fayla and demi-human troops are, there’s still a crapton of them, and the group starts to get fatigued from fighting off wave after wave of them. That’s where we’re force to introduce another Star Wars similie. All the beasts they’re fighting are being controlled form one central location: a tower that is essentially a giant Gundo. Take out the tower, and the droid Fayla army will shut down.

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When Chaika’s own Gundo can’t penetrate the tower’s defensive magic, Niva Lada assesses the situation and reveals her true form: a gigantic, awesome-looking uber-Gundo that blasts the lame villain to smithereens. Obviously, Izhmash was not prepared for this level of resistance…which explains why the island was concealed from the outside world by magic!

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One thing I didn’t like: when asked about what will become of all the freed Fayla and demi-humans, Kiril just says they’ll eventually just die. Why can’t the beasts just live out peaceful lives on the island, no longer chained by the big Gundo tower? Well, because they were born and bred to be hunters and killers, and I guess they’re not capable of evolving beyond that narrow purpose.

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Chaika, on the other hand, is, even if she’s confused and doesn’t know what to do next. In this, she and Red Chaika differ: Red (at least outwardly) refuses to believe Izhmash’s lies; but even if he was telling her his truth, that truth is worthless to her; she’ll find her own truth. She’ll determine her own purpose. And so must our Chaika. Like Red, she’s not alone, and has friends (and a powerful new weapon in Niva) that give her far more options than base Fayla.

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 04

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The island that Chaika, Fredrica, Tooru, Akari, Red Chaika, Selma, and David land/wash up on may as well be called the Island of Answers. But Chaika should’ve been careful what she wished for: she got a lot of answers on this island, but none of them good.

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Obviously, we knew from its magic camouflage that this was no ordinary island, a point driven home by rampant Fayla of many kinds, as well as a force of “demi-human” soldiers serving as the island’s guard. Among the people who arrived here, Chaika is probably the weakest on her own (and gets captured almost immediately), but even Akari needs to be bailed out by our favorite “Do whatever the plot requires” character, Fredrica.

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Tooru finds the underground compound where Chaika is being held and springs her, and the two put behind their very brief falling-out. They sneak past the demi-human guards and when the way in is blocked by guards, they look for an alternate way out, and that’s when things get weird…and very expository!

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You see, this island is the top secret facility of the Gaz Empire Institute of Magic, presently being run by Viktor Izhmash. Looks like the Chaikas were far from the last remnant of Gaz’s empire; much of his ambition is still alive, well, and still very much in the game right here. And wouldn’t you know it, Chaika comes upon a dying captive kraken who agrees to answer her questions. What he doesn’t do is promise she’ll like the answers.

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Those answers include the fact that everything Chaika and the other Chaikas have done so far has been solely because they were engineered to do it. She and they have acted with a directive implanted in their brains, along with false memories of being Gaz’s daughter (turns out he never even had a daughter!) to give them the emotional connection needed to want to gather his remains.

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Some Chaikas are collecting remains, like Trabant and Bogdan. Others, like Layla, cast away that purpose and chose a new one, though her story didn’t have a happy ending either. And others, like Vivi, were never fully formed. But now a lot of what we’ve seen from the Chaikas makes sense. They’re not clones; they’re genetically and mentally modified orphan girls, spread out across the land, tasked with facilitating Gaz’s return.

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It’s all pretty darn ghastly, isn’t it? Here was Chaika, just trying to gather her father’s body so she could give it a proper funeral, being told that not only was her urge to gather remains merely a front for a far more sinister grand plan, but she’s not even related to the guy!

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Yes, everyone is Izhmash’s prisoner and he plans on labotomizing the Chaikas and probably using the others for experiments or Fayla food or the-gods-only-know what else, but that’s almost beside the point, since Akari and Fredrica are still very much free and Izhmash isn’t aware of their presence on the island. So it’s a good bet our friends will be rescued, but to what end? Chaika has just had it confirmed that her entire existence to this point has been a lie. Where does she go from here?

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 04

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I will never tire of Amira’s many expressions

Put simply, Shingeki no Bahamut simply kicks ass at telling rousing, impeccably-orchestrated stories of adventure. Last week featured a town of illusion and undead ruled by a powerful, devious, but ultimately bored necromancer. Rita ended up following Kaisar looking for a change of pace and a little excitement…and her decision paid almost immediate dividends.

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“D’you even know how to USE that?”

Entitled “Reunion at Ysmenport”, we’re immediately treated to a beautifully-rendered, well-worn and lived-in city; I could almost smell the fish…and other things such cities have. As street swindler ends up giving both Favaro and Kaisar information how where to get where they want to go. Favaro needs to get to Helheim (and can only keep up the lie about knowing how to get there for so long. Kaisar simply wants to get to Favaro.

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Mmmm…you gotta love crab.

What ensues is perhaps the most complete and exciting episode of the series so far, a journey on the high seas with giant sea monsters of varying tastiness, demon sailors, zombie sailors, demon sailors fighting zombie sailors, demon girls fighting sea monsters, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a lot going on!

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Taking an undead necromancer hostage: Not a good idea

But it’s not just action: after three episodes of Kaisar chasing Favaro across the ends of the earth, we finally learn why: Favaro’s dad was the one who attacked the convoy carrying the king’s tribute, which was overseen by Kaisar’s father. Kaisar and Favaro were childhood friends despite being from different classes, but Kaisar saw what happened as a betrayal, and his desire for revenge has driven him on a continuing quest to nail Favaro to the wall.

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Ruff! Ruff!

Oh, and also…the demons in demonworld finally stop commenting on what’s transpiring in the regular world and spring into action! I’m not the biggest fan of the dog-demon-girl with her puppets Cerberus (!), but at least these guys are consistent. Every time Amira transforms, they’re able to locate her.

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All that work, and it tastes like crap.

Amira does so when that giant crab emerges from the deep and threatens the ship…and Favaro. While there was probably no way Favaro could have dealt with the beast himself, it was still a risky move that ends up giving Favaro’s dad’s old friend and fellow “honorable thief”, Captain Amon, an opportunity to reveal himself as having “gone into business for himself”, just like Favaro. The jewels he and Favaro’s dad stole were filled with magic that brought forth killer demons, and only Amon survived, but he did so by becoming a demon himself…a bounty-hunter demon! And right now, Amira’s price is so high, Amon is fine simply killing Favaro rather than turn him in.

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So boss.

Meanwhile, Kaisar and Rita have not been standing still. They secured passage on another ship, which turns out to be pirates who aim to rob Kaisar and sell the girl. What’s so great is that so many people would find this a relatively alarming situation, but Kaisar knows what he’s doing and easily dispatches several pirates with his superior swordsmanship.

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Also, Rita isn’t really a “girl” anymore; not entirely. What she is is someone who you most definitely want on your side. The pirates numbers are meaningless; she kills them all then reanimates them as a freaking Zombie Pirate Crew under her command. It just keeps getting better!

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She rams her newly-acquired (and much larger) ship into Amon’s and that’s when the previously-mentioned battle between amphibious demon sailors and zombie pirate sailors commences, with Favaro, Amira, Amon, and eventually Kaisar literally above the fray in the rigging. Up here we get some Pirates of the Caribbean-style tightrope combat for good measure.

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Frankly, I really liked Amon as a friend of Favaro’s and as a link to his past, but not all baddies can become allies like Rita. Speaking of baddies, after Amon is vanquished, the head demon dude Azazel sends a giant tentacle to pluck up Amira, inadvertently bringing Kaisar along for the ride, too. He stops Cerberus from killing him instantly, but whatever he has in store for the bonus human can’t be good.

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I…I didn’t see that coming! Who am I kidding, I hardly saw anything coming this week, and that’s why it was so fantastic. I was almost always on the edge of my seat. Now we have quite a predicament on our hands: both Favaro and Rita’s traveling companions have been taken prisoner by powerful but unknown foes. Will these two team up to get their respective partners back? I’m guessing Favaro still wants to get rid of his tail, and Rita wants to turn more things undead, sooo…yeah.

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Ao no Exorcist 11

I ragged on this series’ sixth episode – the kitchen demon – as filler, and this week was also filler. But it was better filler. It came after we got to know a little more about the characters involved – particularly Izumo. She can act bratty and superior, but that facade conceals inner turmoil and vulnerability. She’s a tough nut to crack, but she can be cracked. This week, it took a Kraken…and a hard-headed local kid.

I should tip my hat the producers for at least not giving us what was expected – a full-on beach episode that’s all fanservice and little or no peril, where the major conflict is who has the sexiest swimsuit. That can be left to throwaway OVAs, or even better, DeviantArt. In fact, the cast is pared down to just Izumo, Renzou (pinkie), and Rin, with his new familiar Kuro (who sort of comes in handy). This gives these three characters more time to gel, but unfortunately the main character of this episode is neither of them.

It’s a punk kid. I don’t typically like little kids, especially when they sound like Black Star, whose voice is perhaps even more annoying than Rin’s (when he’s screaming). The kid is constantly belting out macho proverbs his missing dad taught him, and he gets a crush on Izumo after saving her life in the sea. But while there was a lot of build-up to the big bad of the week, the kraken turned out to be domesticated, completely deflating whatever peril the episode had. In short, if this series can keep it to two filler eps per half, it should still be okay. Rating: 3