Bokutachi no Remake – 05 – Wings of Song

I know I almost always rag on a series doing a cultural festival episode, as they typically end up pretty formulaic. But at the same time, there’s a reason that formula often works so well: it raises the stakes for all the characters by making them do things outside their routines or comfort zones. Remake’s art festival gives us a ton of wonderful little moments, plus a couple of big ones with lasting ramifications.

Things start out in Nanako’s favor, as Kyouya is so supportive of her honing her singing, she instinctively falls into his arms—though she warn him later not to get “the wrong idea.” She’s similarly flustered when Kyouya first sees her in her outfit for the maid cafe, with her, Shinoaki, and Keiko each donning different styles. The cafe is such a success, they actually poach people who were going to watch the films.

One of those who came for the films but also stopped by the cafe is Eiko, whom Kyouya can’t quite mask his surprise for showing up to something that fundamentally doesn’t seem to be her thing. I really enjoy the interaction of Eiko and Kyouya as two people who did interact in Kyouya’s initial future (unlike the others)—I just wish she had more to do than try to apologize to Nanako, only for Kyouya to say theres no need, as her stern lecture helped Nanako more than it hurt her.

On the last day, Kyouya attends the visual art exhibition with Shinoaki, spots a painting that looks familiar, and when he studies the name tag he recognizes the name, then gets all dizzy and faints. Whether due to overwork, a side effect of his time travel, or a little of both, he wakes up in Shinoaki’s lap in a quite, private back room. It’s here where Shinoaki tells Kyouya how much his care and support and praise has helped her, and leans in for a kiss, only to be stopped an inch from Kyouya’s lips by a phone call.

There’s an emergency on the main stage, as the “secret guest” band got double-booked and will be a no-show. Keiko suggests they just ask around; it’s an art school, there are plenty of people who will want to perform on stage. But both Kyouya and the music professor believe Nanako can and should do it. Nanako disagrees, feels the pressure of all those people rejecting her, and flees the tent.

Kyouya chases after her while Tsurayuki keps the crowd busy with some clown tricks. Nanako expresses how terrified she is; he tells her she’s scared because she’s serious about doing a good job. And to assuage her fear about the crowd of hundreds, she shows her the YouTube page of her singing videos, which have quickly garnered tens of thousands of views and spirited discussion about the unique appeal of her voice.

Of course, we don’t learn that this is what Kyouya showed Nanako until after we see her take the stage in her maid outfit, give a meek introductory speech, and then kick into full Performance Mode. It only taks a couple of bars for the crowd to get drawn in, and before long, they’re dancing and swaying and fully on board. Nanako, in turn, feeds off their energy and truly shines. Kyouya knew she would, because she’s the famous N@NA from his time.

After her encore, a winded but joyful Nanako rushes to the tent to see Kyouya, who among the crowd of hundreds was likely the one person she was singing for, in addition to herself. But the others tell her Kyouya went off somewhere. We then see him with Shinoaki, who mustve gotten a little lightheaded as a result of all the hard work she’s done and the size and heat from the crowd. Shinoaki stands up so she and the seated Kyouya are of a height, and then leans in and finishes the first kiss they started earlier.

Nanako is just in time to witness this kiss, and watches Kyouya and Shinoaki looking every bit like a couple through the light of a fountain, holding crepes for her and Kyouya. You can see her post-performance high evaporate from her face, and her reflection in the babbling fountain is a nice visualization of how all of a sudden everything is out of sorts again, just when things seemed to be on the right track.

And all because despite herself she’s developed feelings for Kyouya, who let it be said is fully deserving of those feelings. It’s just, Shinoaki likes him too, and unlike Nanako she’s never tried to qualify or deny it. We’ll certainly see how this incident affects the group dynamic, and whether the official establishment of this love triangle will destroy what Kyouya believes he was brought back in time to do.

Slime 300 – 04 – Mount Rokko Rumble

Turns out Laika’s announcement she’s returning to her home isn’t a permanent arrangement; she’s simply attending her older sister’s wedding, and invites everyone to join her. They’re all pumped for a dragon wedding, with Halkara in a particularly romantic mood (and somewhat disappointed by Azusa’s complete lack of love life).

Laika also provides transportation in her dragon form, and Halky gets motion sickness. After they land and she’s able to hurl (with Azusa lovingly holding her hair back) Halky says she wouldn’t mind a kiss, but as there’s sparkly vomit drips from her mouth, Azusa ain’t interested!

When they arrive at the village of Red Dragons on the volcanic Mt. Rokko, Azusa & Co. are dwarfed by Laika’s partying and feasting family and friends, but Azusa also learns her pupil once attended the dragon equivalent of a fancy rich girl’s school, which is a nice mental image. Laika’s mom is warm, her dad is loud, and her sister Leila and her husband-to-be are glad she’s there.

But then the festivities are crashed by the Blue Dragons and their leader Flatorte, who is bitter and envious that in 400 years she hasn’t been able to marry. She and her band of goons start ruining everything with their icy cold breath. Azusa is initially content to leave internal affairs to the dragons…but then the Blue Dragons go and make her kids cry.

From that point on, Azusa goes into full Protective Mama Witch Mode, making full use of her maxed-out stats to mop the floor with all blue dragon comers. After her significant powers have been largely underplayed the last three weeks, here we finally get to see her in action—and more importantly, motivated by her love of her family and desire to keep them safe.

Flatorte proves a slightly more challenging opponent then the grunts, but she’s still no match for Azusa’s fire magic, as well as her devastating Flying Axe Kick—all executed perfectly even in her nice going-to-a-wedding clothes and shoes!

They move on to the village to find the Blue Dragons there have already been handily dealt with by Beelzebub, who just happened to stop by to avail herself of the mountain’s famed hot springs and didn’t like how the dragons were threatening to cause trouble, so she cast a severe weakness spell on all of them. This nets Beel a big Azusa hug she claims not to want, but her blushing indicates otherwise.

Azusa then has Flatorte assume her human form and agrees to release her and the others only if they promise to cease their hostilities with the Red Dragons via a non-aggression pact…and pay for the damage and grief they caused. With that, the second dragon reception can commence, in which all the dragons are in human form, and Halkara quickly succumbs to the open bar.

Even Flatorte (who is quite the cutie in human form) offers a concilatory rose to Laila for her wedding, only for the Red/Blue Dragons’ “complicated” relationship to rear its ugly head once more, as Laila can’t help mock Flatorte’s lack of success in love.

Azusa has a quiet moment of rest away from the party with Laika, who asks her master if she can use her as a lap pillow. At the episode’s beginning we saw this is what Leila did for Laika whenever she was feeling down, and Laika understandably feels a little lonely about her sister being married off. Azusa is all too happy to be her pillow whenever needed.

Upon returning to the party, Beelzebub already has a completely boiled Halkara on her back and suggests everyone stay the nightat the hot springs hotel. All are in agreement, and once they’re all in the baths Azusa basks in the light and warmth of her colorful new family. Isekai OP ass-kicking and Iyashikei-style coziness combine for the best episode of Slime 300 yet.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia – 11 – Leap of Faith

Since his bitter defeat against Tiamat, Ritsuka has been on a serious goddess-collecting kick. First Ishtar, then Jaguarman, and now Quetzalcoatl this week. What’s that, you say? Ritsuka and his collection of servants were able to overpower “Kuku” and force her to to admit she’s better off on side Chaldea? Well…no, she actually kicks every one of the servants’ asses without breaking a sweat.

Instead, Ritsuka determines that the only way he’ll gain Kuku’s respect and trust is by trusting her when she says she’d rather not kill humans, and demonstrating “height and courage”. A bruised Ishtar carries Ritsuka high up in the air with her flying bow Maana, and he takes a flying leap, risking his life. He wakes up in Kuku’s lap, having won her over.

Romani admits that all’s well that ends well, but if Ritsuka had been wrong, it would have been Game Over for humanity, so…maybe don’t do that again. In a chat with Mash, she agrees with Ritsuka that despite being told Romani is hiding something, they should trust him and keep moving forward until the end.

Interestingly, it isn’t Kuku who visits Ritsuka in the night to relieve him from his watch, but Ishtar. She admits she’s been pleased with his progress, both in gaining the alliance of goddesses and learning how to properly interact with her. The two have made a habit of chatting under the stars like this, and it’s never not a lot of fun to watch—especially when Ishtar transforms into (presumably) an Archer servant from past singularities (not to mention her human vessel).

What everyone thought would be a triumphant return to Uruk with both a new goddess and the Axe of Marduk, turns to the next crisis, as Siduri runs out to tell them Gilgamesh is…missing. Gil wakes up in a dark cave dotted with strange light fixtures…Kur. Apparently, he’s dead now. That’s not good…

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 10

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Another unfamiliar ceiling…and another unfamiliar but very welcome occurrence: that we may be able to bask in Subaru’s latest victories. He’s alive, the kids are safe and their curses are removed, and neither of the twins are dead, hate him, or want to kill him. This calls for a celebratory steamed sweet potato and some Puck-applause!

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For course, every silver lining has its cloud, which in this case is Beako’s latest unfortunate news for Subie: He still carries the curse of the mabeasts who nommed him, and that curse will allow them to essentially “eat” him remotely by taking all of his mana.

He has only half a day. No surprise, then, that Rem has already gone out alone to hunt down the mabeasts who are on the other end of the curse, thus “canceling the meal” and saving Subie, whom she’s clearly become rather fond of.

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Going into that forest is not for the fainthearted, but Subie isn’t letting his Return By Death skill undermine his commitment: he’s going in like he has only one life to live, because he really does only have one life he wants to live, and it’s one where everyone, including Rem, is alive.

Joining Subie is Ram, who warns him she’s not quite the fighter her younger sister is, though she has a pretty nifty Clairvoyance skill, as well as some intimidating wind-elemental magic. Emilia is too drained from healing Subie, so she’s out, as is Puck, while Subie arms himself with the “sharpest sword in the village”, presented as a gift for his heroism.

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Notably absent from the party? Beatrice, despite her likely being more than capable of contributing offense. So while imperfect, the Subie/Ram duo gets off to a good start, with Ram showing off the damage her wind magic can do.

Then Subie gets a bright idea, using the very curse keeping him from talking to others about Return By Death to lure all mabeasts to his and Ram’s location, luring Rem in turn. For the record, Rem is looking particularly badass and dangerous this week, as her Demon Mode makes her a formidable but also reckless and unstable killing machine.

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Despite Rem’s initial good intentions (saving Subie), she’s gotten a little too carried away by the power of her horn (which Ram lacks), so it also comes as no surprise that after surviving a potentially fatal fall off a cliff, Subie and Ram have to deal with a rabid Rem who isn’t too picky about her targets.

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I thought for sure this is how the episode would end: Subie unexpectedly catching a mace to the head and waking back up in the village inn with a sleeping Emilia by his side. It is a new “save point”, after all, and I assumed his Return By Death was only delayed last week so it could occur this week.

Mind you, I wasn’t happy about that prospect, which is why I was happy that Re:Zero decided not to kill Subie this week, either! This suggests an awareness of the potential for “Reset Button Fatigue”, especially after we only got a grand total of five minutes of victory to bask in.

That suspension of Subie’s death wasn’t certain at all, though. I like how the episode kept me guessing till the end, with a thoroughly berserk and unpredictable Rem waving that flail around and Subie seemingly having few options.

Of course, I was also amused by the tactic he employs in his effort to cut Rem’s horn and restore her to normal: by tossing Ram straight at her, as a smokescreen for his strike. It almost works on the first try, too…but as Subie said earlier, the “difficulty level” is demonically high, to the point where nothing will work on the first try.

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That being said, “Fate-sama” quickly gives Subie a second chance to take out Rem’s horn, and he re-resolves himself not to wuss out at the last second, out of fear of killing either twin. That horn has simply gotta go. I hope he can get it, just like I hope all the mabeasts killed this week mean he’s no longer going to be remotely eaten.

Re:Zero’s action isn’t regularly head-and-shoulders above Kabaneri (despite being better in every other category) but it really distinguished itself this week with some cool and exciting animation, made all the more compelling by how much we care about the combatants. Rem truly came off as a force of nature ready to explode. Here’s hoping she doesn’t!

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 09

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This week served a full plate of contradictions. The tasty morsels include: Subaru recounting the aspirations of each village child to compel Rem to participate; Roswaal, King of Exposition, wearing reasonable clothes and flying off without any exposition; and Rem and Emilia devouring scenes bond-strengthening with Subaru. We also finally learn the source of the curse and witness some brutal combat in the forest.

Of all shows, Re:Zero has been remarkably good at packing its plates—often skipping opening or closing credits—and even though very little narrative has actually happened, the density and emotional impact has always earned it for me. Unfortunately, parts of this episode were slow, as if intentionally dragging its feet for an unearned cliffhanger ending. Additionally, many of the slower scenes were static, and the general animation quality was noticeably lower than normal.

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Focusing on the good, Re:Zero just nails Emilia’s character. She could very easily be the Perfect Nice Girl central love interest, but the fact that she really doesn’t know Subaru’s motives—that she really doesn’t understand him at all—but accepts that he’s probably a good person anyway gives her a lot of nuance.

Her best scene this week is no different: she enters mid-conversation, not even knowing what Subie has said to Ram and Rem, gets the gist, and gives him a little prayer for safety. Their back and forth is compact, simple, but full of lovely facial expressions. Seriously, just watch how her mouth subtly changes when she’s happy, exasperated, or bemused.

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Rem gets two solid scenes as well, and while both are much more Subaru-pushed than the scene with Emilia, they are still quite touching. Also, narratively advancing, as we learn a little more about the need for barriers to protect human settlements from the creatures of the witch, and that Subaru reveals he knows she can smell the witch on him.

I greatly appreciated how these scenes are painted as less romantic than Subaru’s scenes with Emilia. Here he has a kind word, makes a pinkie-promise, and shows his trust in Rem. It’s friendship, not harem-building, and that adds nuance to the format that easily could be about getting all the girls.

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Intentional or not, the last strong scene starts and ends poorly. The animation leading up to the fight was lackluster, there was a lot of static dialogue, and we still don’t know the motives of the villain. That abruptly changes with Subie’s epic kill. Like his fight with Rem several weeks ago, this had a ‘screw you I can take a beating’ vibe that makes all of the Subie fights enjoyable to watch.

Rem’s fight was decent too, for the most part. I get the sense that it ate most of the episode’s budget and the brutality was sweet but the storyboarding was weak. Call me a grouch, but having back-to-back ‘saved by your partner’s sacrifice’ moves, plus Rem being smashed by what looked like a dodge-able earth attack, felt generic. Eye-rolling, honestly.

The uneven quality of the fight aside, Rem’s brutality is a nice contrast. Specifically, we’ve only seen this kind of slaughter from evil characters before and, that’s kind of the point with Rem.

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Because this episode really works or doesn’t based on its reveals, and you will probably only enjoy it more if you’re looking at some of the details, this review has largely been spoiler-free.

Technical shortcomings aside, my biggest criticism is that for all the things I didn’t spoil, a lot wasn’t answered. As Rem says, she has a lot of questions and we better be ready to answer…and hopefully soon.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 08

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Subaru wakes up, in the bed, once again, with the twin maids sitting beside him.

This time, he volunteers to work at the mansion once more and spends as much time with them as he can, working his utmost to earn their trust from the start, so they won’t suspect and kill him! His second priority is finding and stopping the shaman who killed him (and most recently, Rem) in previous loops.

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For the latter part, Subie learns from Puck that he has the somewhat rare “darkness” alignment, rather than any of the standard four elements. Excited to be able to focus his mana through his “gate” and perform magic for the first time in this world (aside from Return By Death, obv) he gets a little too carried away and blows out all his mana at once.

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Like Explosion Girl Megumin in KonoSuba, this exertion leaves him barely able to move, but he’s absolutely committed to continuing his tireless work with Ram and Rem, knowing his life and future may well depend on the results. Everyone notices that Subaru is simply trying way too hard, hiding his churning troubles beneath an overly chipper, caffeinated exterior. Something has to give, and it does, when he’s overcome by nausea.

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Emilia is outside the bathroom when he boots, and he can’t fool her any longer, so she takes him up on his desire to lay his head in her lap when the need arises, and it arises. Emilia is so kind and tender and matronly as she gives Subaru something he’s needed for some time: a pressure valve.

Safe in her lap, free of complications, he can let it all out, and Emilia is glad to see him not holding it in. In fact, it proves to her that he’s a truly good person, and she relays that to Rem. It’s such a lovely, calming scene, and the episode perfectly built up all that pressure and tension.

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His Emilia-aided lap pillow catharsis, then, turns out to be the means by which he achieves his first objective: earning the trust of the staff. Emilia assures Rem, who tells Ram, who tells Lord Roswaal. I’d like to think that’s how it works, anyway!

That catharsis and its positive effects would not have been possible if Subie had been a mere house guest and not someone doing his part in the mansion with the maids. He’s done being lazy and half-assing things; that’s how people have died in the past.

Of course, there’s still that shaman to contend with. He believes both he and Rem (at different times) were hit by a fatal spell in the village. Now he and both sisters will be going to the village together, and thanks to “Beako”, he knows there’s a way to detect a spell before it’s cast (much like a boss’s big timed attack in RPGs).

But once that spell is cast, it can’t be un-cast, so I hope to hell he’s careful and doesn’t have to go through all of this yet again. Another important thing he learned was that people who help him prefer simple thanks to elaborate apologies.

Honesty and simplicity are Subie’s tools of salvation. Cry when he has to, accept help without shame, and thank those who give it. If these people see every side of him, not just the artificial ideal, they just might not end up being the “poisonous flowers” he dreads.

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