Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 12 (Fin) – Becoming Less Terrible

After being deposited in the middle of a strange wasteland he eventually learns is a battlefield, Makoto is battling two tough cookies in Sofia Bulga (Sawashiro Miyuki!) and Mitsurugi AKA Lancer (Saitou Souma).  An excellent balance of aggressive offense and iron defense, Makoto is initially caught off guard, and were it not for his Dwarven clothes and accessories, he might’ve died right there and then.

However, for much of the start of the “battle” Makoto is holding back…like, a lot. And what a battle it becomes, as Tsukimichi clearly saved some of its animation budget for this exciting and dynamic showdown. It doesn’t really mattet who Sofia and Lancer are. The point is they are two of the many reasons Makoto needs to pull his head out of the sand and learn more about this world, and the people in it who can cause harm to his people.

But like I said, Makoto eventually lets loose, destroying one Dwarven ring afrer another and unleashing a massive flare of mana that literally changes the landscape while giving him the time he needs to escape his persistent pursuers. Even lying half-dead (and in Sofia’s case, naked to boot) in the middle of a suddenly picturesque lake Makoto’s magic created, the two are still determined to kill him next time they meet him. While I look forward to the attempt, I doubt they’ll ever catch our boy that off-guard and unprepared again.

The plans to attend Magic Academy and for Shiki to accompany him are still on, as he finds himself back in the Demiplane—and with Tomoe and Mio sleeping beside him in various stages of undress. After what happened (Shiki thinks it could have been the goddess trying to force Makoto to fight), the ladies want to go with him, but he insists they stay put. They’re his trump cards. When “the time for violence” comes, he promises he’ll call on them.

In other wrap-up news, Tomoe created a new fragment of herself, who Makoto names Komoe. She also enrolled the forest ogres into taming training for the Demiplane Ranking. the Illusory City is open for business, and Makoto’s general store in Tsige is booming on its very first day thanks to Tomoe, Mio, and Beren’s excellent marketing skills.

The night after the store’s grand opening the Demiplane has a huge celebration for both the opening and the Young Master’s goodbye. It should be clear to everyone by now that a second season is already in the works, as in addition to the typical finale recap/summing-up moments, there are a number of peeks at who and what that second season might involve.

After an extremely uneven penultimate episode, this one returned to that specific balance of serious and comedic that kept me into the show to that point. That is to say, the ship is righted, and I’m looking forward to more of Makoto & Co. down the road!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 11 – Playtime’s Over…Unfortunately

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 10 – Underlord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shiiiiiiiiiit…

KonoSuba 2 – 10 (Fin)

Well, like its last season, KonoSuba only ended up lasting ten episodes, but it delivered an action-packed and generally really good-looking finale that actually covered a bit of plot to go along with its omnipresent comedy. Plus, everyone had a chance to look really cool, even if things ultimately don’t quite work out as planned, as usual.

After using Darkness’ noble status to gain access to a contaminated hot spring, the party encounters Hans, the frustrated man whom Kazuma related with so much last week. Turns out he’s a leader in the Devil King’s army, and a deadly poison slime to boot.

Wiz is content to say hi to her old comrade at first, but when she learns he’s eaten the innocent hot springs overseer, she finally shows her teeth…and Horie Yui finally gets some meaty badass lines.

When the angry mob finally catches up to the party and sees Hans’ true form, they realize Aqua wasn’t a fraud after all. They send healing magic her way as she attempts to purify the spring, while Darkness protects them from errant slime bombs (even though they still hate her for being an Eris cultist).

Kazuma buys time for everyone by serving as a diversion for the slime and getting eaten (but not fully digested, facilitating his resurrection later) so Megumin can use Explosion magic to reduce the slime’s size, allowing Wiz to encase him in a Cursed Crystal Prison.

When even that’s not enough, Aqua draws power from her wishy-washy followers and their ridiculous credo (and that old man chanting about Eris’s padded chest) to land a GOD BLOW and GOD REQUIEM on Hans, finishing him for good, probably.

It’s perhaps the coolest and most badass we’ve seen Aqua look yet, and the shortened season clearly freed up significant fundage for a dazzlingly-animated battle…though Kazuma is dead for a full half of it, the camera still cuts to his dry bones often. He did his part!

Naturally, despite all the displays of badassdom, Aqua’s magic finishing moves ended up turning all the profitable hot spring water in Arcanretia into plain ‘ol water, and she’s run out of town by her justifiably angry, ungrateful followers.

The gang heads home the same way they arrived: by wagon (Wiz was greatly weakened and almost killed, again, by Aqua’s magic), and everyone is just happy to be home. Even after all he’s been through and all the failure and destruction his party has wrought, he still feels blessed to be living in such a beautiful, if often hard, world. It’s certainly better than being cooped up in his bedroom back in Japan, right?

KonoSuba is the kind of show that could simply keep on going, and the parting message that thanks us for watching doesn’t rule out a third season. But ten is a good number for a season of KonoSuba, and a year is a good amount of time to have in between those seasons, so no rush.

KonoSuba 2 – 03

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KonoSuba calls back to its first season more this week, but for some reason it didn’t bother me as much, probably because it’s always a hoot to watch Kazuma and Megumin explosion training montages, and even more of a hoot to have Kazuma and Aqua tackle a dungeon, with no one but each other to bounce off of.

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The episode also doesn’t hesitate to remind us that Kazuma is a bit of a cad and a perv, considering the “rustling” going on when he and Aqua used to sleep in the stables. But with Darkness away (having seemingly but probably not unspeakable things done to her) and Megumin sitting out the dungeon (an accidental explosion could kill them all), the balance of the episode has a fleet, stripped-down feeling to it.

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Also, it manages to surprise by making this one of the times when Aqua is not only the most capable party member, but absolutely essential to clearing the dungeon. Whether undead are naturally drawn to her or not, one can’t deny she’s good at dispatching them, and with style to boot. I loved how a string of anti-undead spells were suddenly interrupted by an exuberant “Nature’s Beauty!” for good measure.

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Once they reach Keele, the former court wizard who has a whole story and after whom the dungeon is named, there’s a bittersweetness to the fact he became a lich to protect his love, and thanks to Aqua, can return to her through purification.

Kazuma is pleasantly surprised throughout the dungeon trek with Aqua’s staggering awesomeness, right up until he realizes the reason they’ve been chased around by undead all this time was because of her.

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Still, I maintain it was a good thing Aqua accompanied Kazuma. They got a bunch of loot, and Kazuma was reminded that Aqua isn’t always useless, and sometimes he is. Unfortunately, none of the gold they make goes towards their towering debts, because they instead end up buying the house however many rounds it takes to send Aqua into the alley to vomit the gold away.

As is so often the case, Kazuma & Co. can’t help but take two steps back for every step forward, at least as far as money goes. But that was still a damned entertaining dungeon trip.

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KonoSuba – 08

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Winter isn’t Coming, it’s already here, and Kauzma and Aqua are finding it impossible to continue living in a freezing cold stables. One wonders where Megumin and Darkness are living. Anyway, Kazuma decides the best way to make enough money to pay for warmer digs is to gain a new skill.

The person he asks for that new skill is a friendly lich named Wiz. Her introduction is initially a bit confusing, becaue Kazuma and Aqua seem to know her well, yet couldn’t recall who the heck she was. Turns out she’d never been introduced until now. Furthermore, they learn for the first time that she’s actually one of the eight generals of the Devil King’s army.

As such, she was a contemporary of the late Verdia, though quite amusingly she’s not choked up about his demise, considering he often tossed his head by her feet so he could look up her skirt. The Devil King needs a better HR person, ’cause that shit can get you sued. Also, due to her undead nature, Aqua constantly wants to eliminate her.

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Kazuma doesn’t let her, and gains a skill from Wiz that drains an opponent of magic and health. Then a happy coincidence occurs, as someone comes in Wiz’s shop needing a big haunted mansion exorcised. Kazuma and Aqua take the job, and Megumin and Darkness join them at the impressive and comfy-looking new place.

Of course, I assumed Kazuma and Aqua would end up right back in those freezing stables, huddling for warmth without regard for propriety. Because since when is a seemingly awesome mansion not have some huge problem with it that renders it utterly unlivable?

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Sure enough, even though Aqua seemingly does some exorcism work on the place, Kazuma is visited in the night by not one or two but hundreds of that good old cliche, creepy laughing dolls. He eventually finds Megumin in Aqua’s room, wanting to go to the bathroom with her.

Kazuma also has to go really bad, so the two have to deal with constantly being surrounded by creepy dolls and having to hold it in to the point of agony. Megumin even leaves her pants and pantsu behind in the ongoing chase.

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The cliched creepy dolls (and ludicrous number of owls!), along with the much more mundane need to pee really bad, made for a reasonably chuckleworthy combination of problems.

Though it’s all resolved pretty easily in the end, Kazuma forces Aqua to give back their “special reward” for eliminating all the new spirits that had taken up residence in the mansion, after he realizes it was her own magical barrier that kept the spirits from going where they wanted – the graveyard where they met Wiz.

All’s well that ends well, though, as the party finally has a respectable place to live, and Kazuma is a little closer to achieving the ideal “down-to-earth lifestyle” he desired. Adventuring will surely be more rewarding now that he’s not risking hypothermia every night!

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