Mahoutsukai no Yome – 02

This week, Chise gets a better idea of what her new life will be like, though she still dreams about the awful life she used to lead; a life she was willing to discard because she didn’t think it had any value. Now people treat her gently and with respect.

Silky, Elias’ “landlady” cooks and cleans and provide Chise with clothes. After watching her mother commit suicide after telling Chise she shouldn’t have been born, this kind of care seems welcome.

Chise accompanies Elias to London—an up-to-date London that includes The Shard—and while there he swaps his “bony” face for a human one—a handsome one, at that.

Elias takes Chise to the shop of another mage, Angelica, who has some issues with how Elias procured his new apprentice, and is taken aback when a simple rookie mage test—turn a crystal into one’s favorite flower—nearly gets out of hand, with Chise transporting herself to a memory of her and her mom in a field of poppies.

Elias tells Angelica that Chise is a Sleigh Beggy, an individual for whom the miracles that comprise the practice of magic come far more frequently than they would for someone less attuned to magic. After seeing the crystalline growths that populated Angelica’s arm, I felt nervous about Chise’s feet upon creating a partial landscape of her memory from that crystal.

Angelica doesn’t blame Chise, though; she didn’t know Chise is a Sleigh Beggy—something Elias didn’t tell her because that’s a dangerous nugget of information in their line of work. But like Elias, Angelica can tell that, like her own daughter, Chise will make a fine mage one day; it’s just a matter of proper training. Chise and Elias head from London back to the countryside.

After meeting with the local priest, who more or less gives Elias and Chise his blessing and an offer of assistance, Chise and Elias head to Iceland, a a land of dragons—and Chise almost immediately gets kidnapped by one said dragon.

Again, this show makes me recall Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, whose redheaded heroine was kidnapped more than once and had to be rescued, though during captivity she helped facilitate that rescue. We’ll see if Chise manages to use her newfound magical powers to regain her freedom, rather than simply become a damsel in distress for the gallant Elias to save.

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Mahoutsukai no Yome – 01 (First Impressions)

When we first meet Hatori Chise—who both resembles and sounds like the heroine Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, or perhaps her long-lost, much-maligned sister—she’s pretty much at rock bottom, having seemingly lost the will to live, signing away her human rights so that she can be chained and presented as an object to be purchased at an auction before some Eyes Wide Shut-ass muhfuckahs.

But holding true to the episode title “April showers bring May showers”, as well as the axiom “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, in this, her darkest hour, she is met by, and purchased with a winning bid of five million pounds, by an imposing man in a black cloak wearing a big antelope skull on his head (unless…that is his head).

Chise, fully prepared for whatever horrible fate might befall her upon being purchased (let’s face it, the kind of guys who would buy teenager girls in an auction are likely to be…not so great!), quickly finds that despite his fearsome appearance, her buyer Elias Ainsworth doesn’t want her to be his toy, but his apprentice. He’s a mage, you see; the “real deal”, and he believes Chise, who is what in his trade is called a “sleigh beggy”, can live a fulfilled life of purpose as the newest member of a dying breed of mages like him.

Teleporting her to his super comfy-looking country estate, swapping her chains for an protective adder stone, and showing her kindness she’s never known, Chise ever-so-gradually starts to learn that despite all of the hatred, abuse and suffering she’d endured her entire life up to this point, this place just might be different.

For the first time, she’s told she has a home and actually feels welcome there, and is told she’s family and someone to be protected and nurtured rather than spat upon and discarded.

Thus, when Chise is lured out for a midnight stroll by faeries who later show their true colors by trying to further lure her into their realm, Chise repays Elias’ kindness—and in doing so decides to trust someone for perhaps the first time in her life—by resisting the faeries until Elias arrives to shoo them off.

It’s then when, while princess carrying her home, Elias also confesses he doesn’t aim to merely make Chise his apprentice, but his bride as well. Her reaction to this information, as well as other instances of lighthearted humor, provide a nice ice-breaking contrast to the darker themes initially at play, giving way to a hopeful future in a real home with a real family that cares for them; things every child deserves. A very strong opening.

Fate / Zero – 10

Fate/Zero takes a slight detour from the various machinations of all the Masters of the Holy Grail War to focus on one of their children, specifically (one of) Tokiomi’s (two) daughter(s), Rin. I know Rin from UBW as a kind, brave, talented and headstrong young mage, and her seven-or-eight-year-old Zero self seems to possess all those same qualities.

Following her father’s every word of guidance, young Rin seeks to develop a “reserved and elegant” magic befitting the Toosaka name; of course, she’s just a little kid, and as such has far more potential than proficiency, but Tokiomi is a patient teacher and clearly has big plans for his progeny. However, it’s not safe in Fuyuki City, so he sends her and Aoi out of town for their protection, giving Rin a mana compass as an early birthday gift/bribe.

Rin is well-liked at school, happily spreading her considerable book smarts to her classmates and defending the weaker ones from bullies, who show no interest in going up against her. But one day classmates start to disappear from her school, one ends up dead, rumors fly, and finally her good friend Kotone vanishes.

Rin being Rin, she doesn’t leave the solution to this problem up to the adults, and hops on the night train to Fuyuki to sleuth around…rather randomly actually, but hey, this show is called Fate, so it must be fate that Rin happens to find the perpetrator of the kidnappings in the space of a few hours of wandering the night streets (which the episode makes clear are no place for young kids).

Rin follows the strange man with two kids in tow and a glowing purple bracelet. She doesn’t follow him particularly quietly—causing a racket when she accidentally knocks over some garbage—but she eventually comes upon an abandoned bar where she finds Kotone and many other kids in some kind of trance that renders them unable to defend themselves.

While trying to rouse Kotone, Uryuu appears, and is happy to find another “guest” has arrived of her own accord. Considering Uryuu is the “kid murderer” among the Masters in the Grail War, it seems only fitting to show him from the perspective of a kid, particularly the kid of another Master.

Unfortunately for Uryuu, Rin isn’t your typical grade-schooler, and she summons all her spunk in maneuvering herself into a position to grab Uryuu’s bracelet and destroy it with her mana.

At first, the bracelet seems to affect her like the other kids, but she fights it back, and the bracelet eventually shatters, staggering Uryuu and awakening all the kids, who Rin leads out of the bar. Uryuu is less concerned with them escaping than the condition of the bracelet and the mood of the “big guy” (Caster) when he hears of this incident.

The police are called and all the kids are reunited with their parents, but Rin stays in the shadows, not wanting to take any credit for her heroics lest she be scolded and sent back not homebut away from it. All of a sudden, some of Caster’s tentacle demons take an interest in her, but they are eradicated by Matou Kariya, who either happened to be passing by, or had been monitoring Rin the whole time, concerned for his old friend’s daughter’s safety.

Aoi arrives in the park to find Rin sleeping peacefully, being guarded by Kariya, whom Aoi hadn’t seen since his grotesque transition into Berserker’s Master. He promises Aoi that he’ll win the war and free Sakura from the torture of being a Matou Mage. Aoi worries Kariya will kill himself after killing Tokiomi.

As for Rin, her big adventure taught her that she still has a long way to go before becoming a reserved, elegant mage. But with hard work, perseverance, and obedience to her folks, well…we know how she turns out. It is a bit sad to think that the course of her life, as well as those of Ilya and Sakura, are already all but mapped out, due to their obligation to their families. But that’s just Mage Life, I guess.

Tales of Zestiria the X – 06

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The two-part Berseria mini-arc comes to a very exciting and promising close, though its greatnss is blunted by the fact this is likely the last we’ll see, as we’ll be returning to Zestiria next week, meaning this is goodbye to Velvet Crowe for now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the Zestiria story so far, but Berseria might just be the better scenario, as evidenced by her showdown with Praetor Exorcist Oscar Dragonia…then with an actual dragon. Velvet is a particularly rootable badass avenging her little brother, and she doesn’t back down from the white cloaks for a second.

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Ufotable puts on its expected clinic when it comes to smoothness and inventiveness of combat, putting the exorcist’s by-the-book style up against Velvet’s more improv style.

We’re also somewhat clunkily introduced to Magilou (real name much longer), the comic relief mage who becomes the third member of Velvet’s party as the two of them plus Rokuro all want the same thing: to get off this island.

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To do so, Velvet must devour a mortally wounded Seres in order to absorb her power and her “Arte” overpowered attack. Seres gives up her life willingly, so that Velvet can continue the good work of opposing Artorius’ ideals.

Seres is putting her faith in Velvet and her new friends to finish the job she started by freeing her from the prison. Velvet also receives the comb that once belongs to the brother she cherished, no doubt an important talisman.

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When Rokuro and Magilou run into some trouble with the dragon, Velvet re-emerges from the dungeon she was thrown into, and proceeds to devour the dragon, gaining even more power. Oscar is pretty powerless to stop her, and she, Rokuro and Magilou take the one surviving ship off the island.

Velvet sets their destination: Loegres, the capital of Midgand, where her quest to defeat Artorius will continue. And that, it seems is where we will leave Velvet and her little band of badasses. I’ll be sad to see them go, but I have no doubt the continuation of Zestiria won’t disappoint either.

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GATE – 10

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Itami’s awkward situation is resolved when a “rude” cell phone interrupts Rory’s advances. Moments later, the three special forces teams converge, and Rory takes them all out as they take out one another. So in effect, Rory ends up getting off; only as a demigod, and not as a human.

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The group then goes back on the run, commandeering a van and booking it for Ginza, where the visitors are to pay a visit to the memorial honoring the victims of the special region’s initial invasion attempt. Kuribayashi way way way overreacts to her CO’s ignorance of the situation by pulling a goddamn gun on him (one would think such actions usually warrant court martial).

His ex-wife uses the web to make sure there will be a big enough crowd of fans waiting for them in Ginza to dissuade the bad guys from making any further attempts to kidnap the visitors. She also shows she knows Itami to a T when she accurately describes just how each of the three visitors appeals to him, whether it’s Tuka’s looks, Rory’s personality, or Lelei’s vulnerability.

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The less said about the U.S. president speaking directly to a covert field agent—without any organizational distance or attempt to achieve plausible deniability—the better. Sorry, but a sitting president is more likely to be jizzed on by a salmon than be this idiotically close to this sensitive and covert an operation.

“Agent Graham” is introduced as one of the only survivors of Rory’s massacre (why she spared anyone is also beyond me), and he still tries to salvage the situation by attempting to pluck one or more of the visitors from the streets of Ginza, where the throngs of fans have amassed and been parted like the waves of the Red Sea by Rory, resplendent in her gothic lolita garb.

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Itami, Kuribayashi, and Tomita escort the visitors to the memorial, with all eyes and cameras on them, foiling any designs Graham may have had. Kuribayashi also bumps into her sister, a rookie news reporter, and report everything they’ve been through and everyone who has been chasing them on live TV. Within minutes, all of the CIA agents in Japan are arrested—which almost makes up for her pointing a gun at Itami earlier.

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After praying at the memorial, the group goes back through the gate and returns to the Special Region base. Itami is exhausted, wishing he’d been able to go on an actual vacation, while the three girls all look back on their visit with fondness, whether due to the dazzling technology (Lelei), the shopping (Tuka), or the opportunity to kill lots of people (Rory).

Pina, on the other hand, took something else away from her visit to Japan: they are an enemy her empire will never be able to defeat, and if her empire fights a war, they will not only lose, but be utterly destroyed. She vows to head back to the capital to put an end to the war once and for all. Something tells me she’s going to run into some opposition…probably from some old men.

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GATE – 09

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GATE’s ninth episode starts out doing well by me, serving up more of what I want the show to focus on: Itami and his circle of comrades and friends in a slice-of-lifey manner. Sure, Pina’s constant mistaking the world for her own gets old pretty quick, but I chuckled at their sudden fascination with BL literature. It’s also fun watching Rory haughtily claiming not to need any other garb, then changing her mind as soon as she sees something she likes.

Then Itami is approached by none other than the Japanese Defense Minister in Akiba, who orders him to take the Special Regioners to the designated safe house: a hot spring inn. Thus begins one of the stranger and yet also somehow duller onsen episodes in recent memory.

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I say dull because there’s nothing that goes on that is particularly unique or interesting about their stay. They’re having a lot more fun than I am watching them, and other than learning a little more about Itami through his ex-wife (who apparently chose to marry him rather than starve) nothing much of consequence was revealed about anyone (save one person; more on that later). And fine, Drunk Kuribayashi was cool too.

I say strange because the whole time they’re relaxing and bathing and drinking, the inn is surrounded by Japanese special forces assigned to guard them, along with a bunch of American, (and Russian, and Chinese) agents, locked in a pretty uninspiring special forces forest battle.

International politics come to the fore when the U.S. President essentially blackmails the Japanese Prime Minister into taking the guards off of the Special Regioners, leaving them exposed to capture. The show also implies that had they not been ordered to stand down, the Japanese SFG would have eliminated all of the enemies easily. We get it, show; you reeeeally don’t like bureaucrats.

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But the whole idea of A.) those enemy forces getting so close to the inn in the first place and B.) everything about the president and prime minister mostly struck me as dumb. Dumb to the point of making me question continuing to watch this show, so tired am I of our diverging priorities. The high-level political stuff is already insufferable, and there’s every possibility there will only be more of it in the second cour.

There’s a little consolation in the fact Itami and Rory are the last two standing after a night of drinking (both of them would also be the two most aware of what’s going on outside), and Rory lamenting that once she rises to godhood she’ll lose both the pain and pleasures of the flesh, before coming onto Itami, who is, after all, unmarried, available, and conscious.

But the final scene isn’t fooling anyone. There will be no getting it on tonight for Itami and Rory, as their activities are sure to be rudely interrupted by an approaching group of American guerrillas. I hope they don’t get far with their kidnapping plans and/or Rory puts the righteous hurt on them for ruining one of the last moments in her semi-mortal life to get some.

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OverLord – 07

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This new world Momonga finds himself seems a little smaller this week, as the girl Nphirea likes (and is sadly unable to propose to) turns out to be Enri, the girl Momonga saved. She summoned helpful goblins who help keep the village safe and are even training the villagers to defend themselves. I for one am glad not all goblins are bad. Of course, Nphirea former knows him as Mr. Momon, while Enri knows him as Lord Gown.

Thus Momonga ends up getting caught in his own web of lies. Fortunately, Nphirea doesn’t have a malevolent bone in his body; he just wanted to follow and learn from Momon, and promises to keep the fact he has multiple identities a secret. Nabe offers to kill herself for blabbing about Albedo, but Momonga considers the incident closed and all is forgiven.

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Nphirea asks Momon not to kill the Wise King of the Forest if he encounters it, lest the power vacuum of the forest lead to an uptick in monster activity (the King is the lesser of two evils). His domain is a lovely, lush, dense forest primeval that reminds me of Mononoke-hime, and Aura’s giant talking beast friends continue that theme…

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…As does the unveil of the Wise King himself: a giant talking hamster. I…was not expecting that, though when I first saw the squirrel-like eyes in the dark I suspected something rodent-y. This is absurd and a little trippy, and Momonga, knowing an ally of his had a similar pet, doesn’t really want to deal with this guy, so I really like how everyone else is so in awe of this Wise King, despite being a giant hamster. Even Nabe sees power in its gaze (I didn’t catch a gender).

He also achieves what he wanted originally: to gain prestige and create buzz back in the city by capturing and registering the legendary beast, while inspiring Nphirea to ask if he can join his team. Momonga gently refuses, but promises he’ll help protect Carne, and in the meantime Nphirea is welcome to keep observing and learning from him.

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Back in town there’s the sense that everyone had just undertaken a great adventure and are now back home sweet home. Nphirea himself is ready to settle in for the night when he notices his grandma isn’t around, and that’s when he finds Clementine lying in wait for him, offering her chilling sing-song “Hiiii.” This is not good news for our long-banged pharmacist, but it is good news for the show. Things are moving along, slowly but surely.

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OverLord – 06

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OverLord continues to plod along at a leisurely, deliberate pace, but there’s something to be said for a show of this genre to not move at such a breakneck speed that nothing that happens matters as much as what happens next. Momon is playing the long game here, so it makes sense for the show to focus on his first job as an adventurer, protecting Nphirea alongside the Swords of Darkness.

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This episode was almost assured an 8 just for the scene of Demiurge walking in on Albedo in Ains’ bed with her recently-crafted Ains body pillow. Utterly ridiculous? Sure, but I won’t deny I laughed out loud at that ridiculousness. And Demiurge’s casual reactions completed the sale. Momonga’s changes to her character are locked in, he must reap what he’s sown. I wonder if Albedo’s obsession will only get worse to the point it becomes a crisis…but considering the comedy angle with the pillow, I also highly doubt it.

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Back in the field, Momon gets a chance to both see the DarkSwords do their thing, and to show them what he’s capable of, which is bringing down a giant ogre with one swipe. Nabe takes two out with one lightning bolt, not even having to unsheathe her sword. The Swords don’t embarrass themselves either, as Momon notes how good of a team they are because they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work to close each others’ gaps. The ogre/goblin mob didn’t have a chance.

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That night, the team feasts, and Momon runs into a practical problem, as he can’t eat or drink without exposing the fact he’s just a skeleton beneath his armor. But he has a bigger issue in that spending all this time with a tight-knit team of adventurers is incredible nostalgic, to the point of wistfulness and melancholy. He remembers he used to be like this with his comrades, and is resigned to the fact they may all be dead now, and he alone ended up in this weird new world.

It’s also nice to see people acknowledge responsibility for what they carelessly say to each other, whether it’s the flirty guy asking if Nabe is Momon’s lover (causing her to carelessly blurt out Albedo’s name) or the boy mage carelessly telling Momon he’s sure he’ll see his friends again when he doesn’t know that.

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As for Clementine, she prowls the streets of E-Rantel, killing and torturing and un-killing for intel on Nphirea. But when she visits Khajit, the two don’t seem on the friendliest terms. Khaj wants to turn E-Rantel into a city full of undead, but doesn’t that mean Clementine won’t have anyone left to kill, torture, and turn undead?

How will she satisfy her “corrupt personality” in Khaj’s undead E-Rantel? The clash of Lawful (Khaj) and Chaotic (Clem) Evil makes for a good antagonistic duo, and Clem’s Yuuki Aoi really chews the scenery well with her up-and-down voice.  I just wish one of them would encounter and face off with Momon already.

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OverLord – 05

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Momonga’s starts to fulfill his desire for the name Ainz Ooal Gown to become known far and wide throughout the world starts out modestly, by entering E-Rantel posing as a young adventurer “Momon”, accompanied by one of his battle maid Narbarel AKA “Nabe”. He knows that he can’t conquer a world he knows next to nothing about, and a great way to learn more is to play things by the book and rise in the ranks of the adventurer guilds.

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Momonga is making a conscious effort to do things carefully and empirically, not making to much noise. Yet his potential to be a bull in the proverbial china shop is evident when he tosses a would-be bully across a tavern, knocking over another adventurer’s precious potion. He gives her one of his to make things right, but his potions are red, not the usual blue, so she takes it to the local pharmacist, Nphirea, who then learns about Momon and is intrigued.

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By then Momon, needing coin but unable to secure high-level jobs, agrees to join an adventuring party, Swords of Darkness. Nphirea seeks out Momon, and both he and the Swords agree to accompany him as his bodyguards on an herb-collecting excursion. Even after annihilating an entire Slane army, Momon remains cautious and is hesitant both to guard Nphirea alone at his present state of knowledge of the new world, and also just plain doesn’t want to go back on his word to join the Swords of Darkness, instead including them.

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Throughout all of this, Nabe remains dutifully by Momon’s side, voicing her displeasure with having to jump through hoops for human trash (though I understand why he didn’t bring Albedo along; she’s more powerful than the battle maid and hence hates being around humans even more than Nabe). There is something to both Momon and Nabe having to restrain themselves in order to fit in and get the knowledge and experience he wants out of this.

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Meanwhile, the next antagonist in Momon’s adventure reveals herself to the audience with lots of helpful expository dialogue with another baddie. They’re members of the secret society of Zuranon, and she, Clementine, has secured a magical item that consumes the one who uses it. She’s heard about Nphirea in E-Rantel, and wants to use it on him, gaining the help of Khaj.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, and the inevitable showdown between Momon/Nabe/Swords of Darkness and these would-be spreaders of chaos and death. But the long and short of it is, we didn’t get to see any of that in this episode; it was largely setup, albeit with some decent world-building.

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OverLord – 04

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Everything about the mages the Slane Theocracy sends to Carne, led by Nigun Grid Lewin of the Sunlit Scripture, indicates they’re tough customers by any measure, and there’s no better way of demonstrating that than by methodically beating down Re-Estize’s head warrior Stronoff with wave after wave of summoned Escaflowne-style mecha-angels.

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Stronoff has offensive magic and is able to carve through a few dozen, but they just keep coming, and his soldiers aren’t strong enough to help him. On the edge of defeat and death, Lord Momonga—sorry, Ainz Ooal Gown—uses the item he gave Stronoff to switch places with him, with Stronoff ending up in the villager’s shelter and Ainz and Albedo facing off against a huge and confident Slane force.

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Lewin and his forces look strong and they feel strong, and they definitely did a number on Stronoff. But as great and famed a warrior as he is, Stronoff is still only a human, and so are they. And the strength and magic of humans turn out to be of no consequence to Ainz and Albedo. He entered the battle prepared for a tough fight, but he turned out to be overly cautious. But that’s okay, because expected them to put up a fight too.

Which is why it’s so strange that I don’t feel cheated in the slightest by the fact Luwin and the Slane mages are nothing but ants before the power of Ainz. After watching them have their way with Stronoff, watching Ainz utterly turn the tables by defeating every weapon at their disposal with comical ease was a lot of fun. I keep using that word because that’s what this show is: loads of badass, giddy, contagious fun.

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Even Albedo (who granted is infatuated with Ainz) can’t restrain her glee at the spectacle she witnessed, setting aside her objections about him even bothering to face such puny opponents and reveling in his awesomeness, along with the way he used Stronoff as a pawn to collect more information on the strength of the local powers, which he’s determined is pretty pathetic.

Back home at Nazarick, Ainz declares his new name and orders the assembled guardians to make sure it becomes an eternal legend that spreads across the world. That, Inner Ainz believes, is the best way (not to mention the most entertaining way) for him to attract the attention of other human players from Yggdrasil. If they made the trip with him to this new fantasy world, he intends to find them.

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OverLord – 03

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From his magic mirror in the Tomb of Nazarick, Momonga is able to watch a group of knights sack a village, brutally slaughtering men, women, and children with impunity, and he realizes something: it’s not really bothering him. The sight of such real violence would have made him sick in the world he came from, but here he finds himself unusually hardened. Instead of watching the pillaging with outrage or disgust, he sees it as an opportunity both to test his abilities and gather information.

But he also wishes to repay a debt to “Touch Me”, another player who once saved him from a band of enemies because “it was common sense”. Do unto others, and all that. Momonga didn’t even have to ask, and neither to the villagers of Carne, as Momonga practices various magics while saving a couple of little kids from their doom, for which they’re grateful, if a bit freaked out by his scary looks.

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It’s immensely fun to watch as he uses lower-level spells to smite the murderous knights, and a slightly higher-level one to reanimate one of their dead into a giant, virtually invincible zombie warrior. Even if he’s a stranger in a strange land figuring things out, he has the advantage of being one of the most powerful beings in that land, at least compared to the people he’s encountered.

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Other than Sebas in the cold open, the fully-armored Albedo is the only one of Momonga’s guardians who appears this week, and while it seems like she’d rather smash all the lowly pathetic humans into jelly, she stays her hand and obeys every order her beloved issues.

It’s great that not only are we following extremely powerful, elite beings in relation to their world, but they might not even be the good guys. Only Momonga, who is, at least in his thoughts, still human, even bothered visiting this village, dragging Albedo along more for procedure/precaution than necessity.

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Touch Me’s words about rescuing the weak being common sense ring true, as Monomga, AKA Ainz Ooal Gown, collects some useful info about some of the geography and politics of the world he finds himself in. But he also reflects an empathy for humanity his beastlike guardians lack; reflected in the Chief Warrior of the Kingdom of Re-estize, Gazef Stronoff, who came from a village much like Carne Village, always wished for help to come when trouble struck.

Help never came for him, but now he works to make sure other villagers aren’t subjected to the same disappointment and neglect. The strong have a duty to protect the weak. Momonga just happened to beat him to it in Carne. And as Stronoff arrives, ahead of another wave of potential enemy knights, Momonga may end up in deeper than he wanted at this juncture, but with all the tools he needs to prevail.

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GATE – 08

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GATE benefits from a major change of scenery, as suddenly its the Special Regioners who are the fish out of water, emerging from the gate into a wondorous, perplexing, and at times frightening world of skyscrapers, subways, and ramen.

Pina and her blonde comrade are whisked off to negotiates with envoys of the prime minister, while Itami, Kuribayashi, Rory, Lelei and Tuka prepare to present their testimony before the Diet. They’re escorted by a shifty-looking guy who looks like he might be trouble, but turns out to be not that bad a guy after all.

He’s done his homework on Itami, and it’s not altogether surprising to hear he’s always been a bit of a lazy fellow. But not only did his laid back attitude get him into Ranger training—which he passed, to Kuribayashi’s shock—he’s also  a member of the “S” special forces, outraging her even more.

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The continued inflation of Itami’s badassdom aside, the Diet session, broadcasted live to the whole country, starts off with a very clearly anti-JSDF Diet member hoping to use the session to further her agenda and mar the SDF’s reputation. She’s actually the worst part of the episode, because the show is so transparently contemptuous of her and her political positions.

As one of the show’s first depictions of an anti-military Japanese politician, she comes off as shrill, ignorant, and unreasonable.  That being said, it’s still fun to watch the three Special Regioners deal with her, particularly Rory. And the response of the public through social media and the like also added to the spectacle. And she’s certainly not wrong in saying while a fourth of the refugees were killed by the Fire Dragon, the SDF saved the other three fourths.

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The grilling doesn’t last that long—curiously, only the female Diet member asked the Special Regioners any questions—and Pina’s conference with the Japanese envoys also goes well. From there, the group leaves on a bus, only the bus is a decoy, as they end up taking the subway, and when the subway closes down, someone tries to steal Rory’s scythe only to be crushed by it, being utterly unable to lift it.

The complex journey is a means of throwing off those elements who received leaked information about the Regioners’ movements, and while the gang never seems to be in that much trouble, the fact all these modern modes of transportation almost send Rory into a panic attack makes it clear the ordeal isn’t a mere cakewalk.

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When Itami’s grizzled escort throws out his back trying to pick up Rory’s scythe (watching her twirling it with ease as he’s carted off is, I’ll admit, pretty funny), Itami leads everyone to the home of his ex-wife, who is living in an apartment with dwindling utilities, and rejoices at the arrival of hot food. Lazy, Otaku, Ranger, S, ex-husband: we just keep learning new things about Itami.

And to be honest, I’d much rather the story stick to him, his various relations and his Special Region friends, then dive to far into the larger world affairs. Mercifully, we only see glimpses of the world leaders as they watched the Diet session. But the quasi chase the gang underwent is a reminder they’ve got to watch their backs, perhaps more so in Japan than in the other world.

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Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 01

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During the town sakura festival, Isone Kotoha and Kishi Touka find a lost little girl, Lily. Mayor Yarizakura Hime takes her to Hiizumi Akina and Nanami Ao, who reads her mind and makes a crude drawing of the parents. A bored Hiizumi Enjin starts trouble to entertain himself, summoning dark lightning that turns several goldfish into enormous menaces that bounce around town. Hime, Akina, Kotoha and Ao work together to capture all the fish and defeat the final “boss” fish. Lily finds her parents, but it’s later revealed she’s actually an adult mage acquainted with Enjin who was testing the skills of the town’s protectors.

This episode starts off slowly, like a slice-of-life but radiates calm confidence as a pleasant, ordinary sakura festival takes a turn for the bizarre. Kotoha’s cheating with the fish-catching foreshadows the foe of the week: a school of mega-goldfish bouncing around like gargantuan medicine balls. Hardly a world-class threat, but as Enjin remarked, merely a “gentle nudge,” the first, and likely easiest test for the quartet who comprise the intrepid Hiizumi Life Counseling Office. Yet it still demonstrates their superb teamwork and complementary abilities.

Most anime series we try to watch are either fun/interesting to look at or sets forth some kind of original, appealing ideas. Out of the gate, Hana no Uta is both, like the Hoshi no Umi OVAs that preceded it. The visuals are polished and bright, and whenever something “supernatural” happens, the animation crackles, pops, and bangs with engaging playfulness and a little alarm. There’s a lot of nice detail and flair in the characters’ movements. Combine that with the charming, whimsical concept of jumbo goldfish, and the twist that the lost girl who was really a powerful (and stylish) new adversary in disguise, and you have an auspicious start to a promising series.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Some of our favorite funny little moments: Hime eating an enormous mass of festival fare in one gulp; Ao having a ton of fun with a toy plane, and a panicky Touka telling a calm crowd not to panic.
  • The cold open had a nice WTF quality to it, with Kotoha summoning a giant fish tank in the night sky, which then evaporates in a cloud of pigeons.
  • We also enjoyed the reveal that Ao’s crappy drawings of Lily’s “parents” were actually dead accurate, as the sexy witch conjured them from small cow dolls.
  • Those who’ve watched YQ know the first blow Hime lands with her spear is rarely effective.
  • The only letdown this week? Akina didn’t yell “TUUUU-NIIIING-GUUUU!”