Dororo – 04 – Tears In Rain

Osushi is a merchant who used to be far better off, but her parents died and her brother Tanousuke went off to fight for his lord. She’s prayed for his safe return every day since…for five years. Dororo, not exactly master of tact, tells her that’s…pretty long.

But Dororo is also a master of reading people, and he can immediately tell she came from money despite her tattered clothes. Osushi’s prayers are answered, but the brother who left her to uphold his honor and loyalty is not the same man anymore.

When Hyakkimaru, standing in the rain, “listening” to the drops fall, rushes towards the red sword he sees in the distance, he and Dororo find an entire convoy of people slaughtered. The swordsman tells them his blade thirsts for blood, always.

To Hyakkimaru, it’s just another demon, even if it’s using a human as its instrument. He makes good use of his prostheses by taking having his fake leg run through then tossing it aside, separating it from the man. But when Dororo runs to retrieve the leg (as he always does) and touches the sword, he becomes its new servant.

Like the One Ring, the sword bends its holder to its own twisted will, putting Dororo in a trance when he tries to resist. Back in the village, Osushi has retrieve the sword’s original holder, who turns out to be her brother Tanousuke. While initially elated by his return, he was accompanied by so much blood and death and won’t speak to her, so she knows something’s not right.

Filling out the broad strokes of the cold open, we see Tanousuke’s lord order him to use a dull, rusty sword he’d pulled out of storage to behead a captive. But with each captive he kills, the sword, called Nihiru grows sharper…and thirstier. Eventually Tanousuke turns the blade on his lord (serves the lord right, really) and massacres the entire camp.

Needless to say, if there’s any part of Tanousuke left, that part probably laments still being alive and being used only to quench Nihiru’s thirst. But the part of him the sword twisted into its service only wants Nihiru to return to him, hence his utter ignoring of Osushi’s tearful pleas to stay with her.

Nihiru has Dororo bring the sword to Nihiru, but is intercepted by Hyakkimaru. For a moment, Dororo isn’t sure Hyakkimaru knows he’s not a foe, and attempts to dodge his strikes, but there’s no doubt who’s the superior warrior. Thankfully, Hyakkimaru merely knocks the sword out of Dororo’s hand without harming him.

Unfortunately, Tanousuke is there to pick Nihiru back up, but the sword has taken its toll on his body and mind, and he can’t quite keep up with Hyakkimaru, who kills Tanousuke and breaks Nihiru’s blade. Her brother’s imminently peaceful expression upon dying, as if he’d finally been released from an extended stay in hell, is little consolation for poor Osuhi, who is alone once more.

Nihiru, being one of the demons in the Hall of Hell with which Daigo made a deal, releases another part of Hyakkimaru upon its defeat: his real ears and sense of hearing. The first things he hears in his life are the steady falling of rain and Osushi’s weeping.

Meanwhile, back in the Hall of Hell, Daigo is now aware that someone out there is killing off the demons he made a deal with. Even if the demons haven’t double-crossed him yet (why would they uphold their end of the deal once they got his son’s parts? They’re demons), the good fortune he’s enjoyed is unlikely to last if Hyakkimaru continues knocking them off.

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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 2 – 02

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The expressions on the faces of Kazuma on Aqua kinda match up with my feelings about this episode, which was, in a word, listless. They still have the mansion (for now), but all their other earthly goods are gone. Megumin brings in a cat, so now the party has a mascot. The three worry about what might be happening to Darkness.

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Then Sena observes as the party strikes out into the snow to do what it does best: nothing right. Granted, this is a show all about the ineptitude of the party, so it’s not like I expect competence. It’s just that the slimy giant toads were already done last season, and despite casting Megumin’s rival Yunyun and Sena into the slimy fray, it all comes off as a bit stale.

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In other news, Kazuma and Megumin’s stubborn pride leads them to share a bath together, when neither wants to lose face by backing down from threats of…bathing together. To be fair, it’s a huge bath, so I don’t really see the problem as long as they’re covering up, which is the case here. Nevertheless, this is another retread from last season, with Megumin instead of Darkness.

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I’m not sure what would have improved this episode, but less (or no) Yunyun might’ve done the trick. The projections of her and Megumin’s most embarrassing moments were good for a chuckle, but otherwise she was half-baked and didn’t bring enough new out of Megumin to make her worth having around. This episode just felt like it lacked energy, and wasn’t up to the standard KonoSuba programmed me to expect through its much better efforts.

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KonoSuba 2 – 01

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I have wrested control of KonoSuba reviewing duties from Zane, but we both watched this first episode of its much-anticipated sequel, and it does not disappoint, picking up right where it left off. KonoSuba 2 continues its predecessor’s generosity – you get a lot of bang for your buck. This episode featured five distinct scenarios, all the source of a great many laughs.

People initially come to Kazuma’s defense, first by talking about other bad stuff he’s done, but quickly wilt into the background when Sena, the prosecutor charged with arresting him, makes it clear she has no qualms about putting others in jail for the same charges as Kazuma. Here, Kazuma learns the true value of his “friends” at the tavern.

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However, his core friends don’t give up, as Megumin causes an explosive diversion, allowing Aqua to sneak to the prison where Kazuma is held and give him a pin with which to pick the cell lock. Of course, it’s not that kind of lock. When she returns with a hacksaw, she tosses it to him, even though he can’t reach the window bars, as it never occurred to her to saw the bars herself. The failed attempts re-establish the party’s general incompetence in all things, but especially seemingly simple things.

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That being said, Kazuma exhibits in a hilarious interrogation scene with Sena that he can more than make up for his lack of stupidity with an abundance of embarrassing details about his life, which he has no choice but to elaborate on in front of Sena, a lie-detecting bell, and an enthusiastic stenographer.

In what’s my favorite part of the episode, Kazuma starts out under the stern Sena’s heel, but once the bell seems to prove his innocence, the tables turn completely, and Sena is suddenly docile and contrite. Fukushima Jun and Nabatame Hitomi put on a voice-acting clinic playing the swiftly evolving moods of Kazuma and Sena.

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Naturally, Kazuma gets too full of himself and says something the bell identifies as a lie (b/c he knows Wiz) which is enough for Sena to send him to trial – an open-air trial with the gallows hanging courtroom adjacent. Sena starts breaking down Kazuma’s character with the unflattering testimony of witnesses.

Here the show flexes its memory, using that testimony as a means of refreshing us on what Kazuma has done (not all of it is stuff to be proud of, after all), and Aqua and Megumin fail to provide a robust defense. Kazuma only goes free when he tells the bell he’s not involved with the Devil King, and even then after Darkness has to reveal her Dustiness heritage to override the local Lord leaning on the judge to convict.

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But with each victory comes another defeat, something that one both expects and doesn’t expect on KonoSuba, so engrained is my fantasy anime way of thinking. A brutal and unjust middle ages-style legal system actually worked out for Kazuma in the end…but only because he knew someone important.

That’s his luck in play, but there’s never enough to, say, avoid having his, Megumin’s, and Aqua’s assets snatched up in order to pay his debt to the Lord Aldarp, who emerges as perhaps the next big bad.

And so the party now has to somehow make back enough money to get rid of that debt with nothing but the clothes on their back and their wits, all without incurring more debt or breaking more laws that will get them executed. It’s a hard knock life in this beautiful world.

Any promising opportunities are to be looked upon with suspicion, but even that vigilance will prevent be from being surprised or even shocked by what fresh indignities KonoSuba has cooked up for Kazuma & Co.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 08

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Every time it looks like one guy, say Iga, has the inside track (gradually teaching Kae to be comfortable touching a guy with innocent handshakes), conditions allow for a shake-up. Enter Nana, who is concerned about being the least close to Kae of all the others.

When Kae, dirt broke from the pilgrimage, gets a job at a theme park dancing in a Puri Puri Moon show, it’s Nana’s time to shine, as he’s watched, danced, and sung every song in PPM’s repertoire every weekend with his adorable little sister Kirari.

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As such, Nana is the one and only one who can get closer to Kae this way. The others try, but the hiring staff of Usami Land find other part-time jobs that better fit their particular skills and circumstances. As for Nana, he puts everything he has into training for the role of the Dark Prince, even at the cost of his health, suddenly collapsing with fever.

Kae has him brought home, then takes care of him by cooking him food before he takes his medicine. She manages to bond with Kirari a little, but not to the point Kirari is willing to let Kae have her brother, whom she wants to marry. But their shared knowledge of PPM is a definite ice-breaker.

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Then things get dark, and I mean really dark, as a fever-addled Nana, essentially dreaming while awake, grabs, kisses, and holds down Kae, who isn’t strong enough to break away. If it wasn’t for an improbable Iga to the rescue, who knows what might have happened.

The show does not contend for a second that Nana was just getting the better of his hormones to awful result; he was well and truly not in his right mind. I have no reason to doubt that, and neither does Kae, but that doesn’t change the fact it was an awful and terrifying experience; one that makes her nervous about touching any guy again, including Iga, the guy she was making such nice gradual progress with.

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After apologizing profusely both on the phone and in a very public display of begging outside Kae’s bedroom window (much to the chagrin of her older brother), Nana regains Kae’s trust in the heat of a PPM show gone awry, when three otaku n’er-do-wells must be dealt with, requiring Kae to take Nana’s arm/hand on numerous occasions.

I’ll admit the frozen faces of the character outfits were a little unsettling (not to mention an obvious trick to save money on animation), but that’s often how such theme parks operate; the labor they have at their disposal isn’t always going to remotely resemble specific anime characters.

Indeed, the frozen faces served at least two laudable purposes: they provided a literal “padding” between Kae and Nana to facilitate healing between them, and it also served as a semi-biting commentary on the culture of such shows: play the right tune and bust the right moves, and facial expressions, to say nothing of plot and character, are all irrelevant.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 07

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In the most bizarre and surreal episode of WagaMoDo, the newly-restored duo of Kae and Shina suddenly declare they have to go on a pilgrimage to the resting place of Hyakki Sametora, the feudal lord upon which the Lord in their anime is based. The only truly enthusiastic guy is the history buff Mu, but the other three tag along nonetheless. Reasonably priced-but-not flashy hot spring innage ensues.

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The night they stay at the inn, Iga accidentally falls on Kae during a pillow battle, and her reactions indicate to Iga that she didn’t dislike that accident. When they end up on the same swan boat (to the possibly cursed island where the lord’s head is believed to reside), he takes her hand and tells her if she’s not used to being so close to a guy, to get used to it…and she does not protest.

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Unfortunately for Iga (but fortunately for us), when a sudden storm maroons the group on the island, Kae ends up rescued by Mu (while Iga has to give Nana mouth-to-mouth; an event Shina captures from many angles with her waterproof phone). When Kae collapses from fever, Mu has no choice but to get her to shelter, disrobe her, and use his body heat to get hers up. He does so with the utmost gentlemanliness, while Kae is too out of it to be embarrased.

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After that…things kinda go off the rails, as the show suddenly picks up a lot of supernatural elements. The ghost of the lord makes the others walk around in circles, then attacks Kae and Mu, who use the charms they bought at the gift shop to neutralize him. Eventually Kae “exorcises” Sametora when he realizes his legend is not a negative one (thanks in part to the anime that pretties him up and makes him either a top or bottom).

All the supernatural elements are (mostly) explained at the very end once the group gets to shore by a very unexpected and hilarious twist: the restaurant where they ate lunch accidentally used hallucinogenic mushrooms, so they were tripping balls the whole time, likely including during the storm and “lake whirlpool”. Overall a pretty fun episode.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 06

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This week’s WagaMoDo explores one of the pitfalls of fujoshi friendships: what happens when they develop opposing views on which guy in a new anime is on the left side of the shipping “x” and which guy is on the right. Kae is adamant that it’s Lord x Akane; Shina the opposite.

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Once the guys figure out what the heck the girls are actually on about, they set to work trying to mend fences. Igarashi in particular tries to counsel Shina on the error of her ways, but both girls remain ruthlessly stubborn, finally entering into a fan-fiction writing duel that Shina will likely win with her superior writing experience.

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Shina is so caught up in her “justice” that by the time she’s loudly gloating her (surprisingly narrow) victory, Kae is on her hands and knees on the roof, sobbing her eyes out, still not willing to concede Shina’s right. That’s when Iga brings the hammer down: Shina, who claims to love only what is beautiful, has done something ugly…and she knows it.

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We get a lot of Shina’s backstory, from when her talents were shrugged off as a product of her family’s wealth and status, to her need to “find a place for herself” in the world, to her interactions with Kae, whom she always thought was beautiful.

Reminiscing on the events that led to her friendship to Kae, Shina soon realizes she must make amends. Enter Iga once more, giving up Kae’s whereabouts when she won’t answer Shina’s call. Shina arrives just as Kae is also coming around to realizing that she doesn’t want her friendship with Shina to end just because of a relatively petty squabble.

They both compromise, stating Akane and his Lord to be “versatile.” A great episode that deepens our understanding of Shina and presents a very realistic situation in which something small and seemingly innocuous can turn into something big and destructive, but the two girls’ friends never stopped trying not to force them back together, but get them to see for themselves that together is where they belong.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 04

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The next chapter of Re:Zero gets off to a strong start with a great Eva reference from Subaru followed by his and our dashed expectations he’d wake up with Emilia sitting by his bedside.

Instead he’s greeted by no one, walks down a hall loop, then solves it on the first try with his game master-infuriating natural luck, coming afoul of a “drill loli” sorceress who burns him, claiming it’s just a test to determine if he’s friend or foe.

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Waking up again in the same bed (the ceiling now familiar), he hears snide commentary in stereo about himself, then finds two maids, Ram and Rem, standing in his room. Emilia appears, and all is well. He surveys the massive estate where they’re staying, shows “Emilia-tan” Japanese morning calisthenics (a great cultural crossover), and meets the lord of the mansion, Roswaal L. Mathers, whom he not unreasonably mistakes as some kind of jester.

During a sumptuous meal, Emilia informs Subaru that she is one of the candidates in the running for ruler of Lugunica (her insignia was proof of her status), and with the present king’s whereabouts unknown, things are uneasy in the kingdom. As such, one can’t fault Subaru for requesting something relatively modest as thanks for saving her: he wants a job at the mansion. And hell, who wouldn’t? The place is fantastic.

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Once he’s fitted for a butler’s uniform, the twin maids show him the considerable ropes of estate maintenance. He proves he’s not particularly skilled at anything beyond solving Betty’s door magic on the first try every time, but it’s all stuff he hasn’t done before, so some teething is expected.

Ram and Ren are patient and discover some surprising things about Subaru (like his sewing skills), but are quick to nickname him Barusu (a blinding curse) and don’t go easy with the barbs. It’s a great sequence of Subaru once again starting to find his place, and it lulled me into a comfortable place.

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Ram, who it would appear has some kind of special relationship to her lord, reports to him that Subaru doesn’t make the best butler (or spy, most likely) and doesn’t believe interfering in his friendship with Emilia is necessary, since they’re both kids and “nothing will happen.”

That line is accurate due to the personality of Subaru and Emilia, but also proves prescient. But before it does, Subie and Emi have a nice little chat in the masnion’s yard/field. Emilia offer to heal Subaru’s wounds, but he wants to keep them as proof of his efforts.

He also asks Emilia on what amounts to a date in town when both are free, and Subaru ignores her concerns that being with her would be troublesome for him. When he goes to bed, he can’t even sleep, he’s so excited about their day tomorrow, until he starts counting Pucks.

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But then morning comes, and Ram and Ren call him a guest, and his wounds are gone. Return by Death has occured, only with a new spawning location: the bed in Roswaal Mansion. But when did death occur? Was his power trigger by something else? It’s another stunning turn for a show that’s been full of them.

This truly is a gem of a show that lulls us (along with Subaru) into a sense of comfort and security, then resets all the progress he made. Having to start over from scratch in this new timeline will be particularly demoralizing for Subaru, even though neither he no nobody ended up dead—as far as we know—this time.

But it speaks to the confidence of this show that it can sweep the slate clean with such regularity. Reset buttons are typically a way of making quick, neat endings; of making things easier for the writers. Here, the resets make things harder, since an entirely new route and new bonds must be forged.

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