Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 14 – Aurora Boarialis

Tanjirou punches the boar-man to get him off Zenitsu, breaking his ribs in the process while scolding him for raising his sword(s) to a fellow Demon Slayer. The boar-man, named Hashibira Inosuke, decides to fight Tanjirou hand-to-hand (and foot-to-foot).

As both have cracked ribs, they fight on more or less an equal level. Inosuke has an advantage in flexibility and how damn low he can get (Tanjirou likens it to fighting a four-legged beast). Tanjirou isn’t really trying to fight, but when Inosuke won’t let up, he deploys his secret-weapon: his titanium-hard skull.

The headbutt is devastating enough to knock Inosuke’s boar mask off, revealing a beautiful, feminine face that seriously freaks out Zenitsu (though to be honest everything freaks the guy out). Inosuke passes out, then wakes up to find the others burying bodies from the mansion.

When he says he won’t help, Tanjirou chalks it up to Inosuke’s wounds hurting too much, only angering the boar-man more. A Kasugai crow arrives, gives the three rescued siblings a wisteria charm so they can return home safely, and leads the three slayers to a manor with a Wisteria crest at the gate, ordering them to rest there until fully recovered.

A comedy triad ensues at the inn-like manor, whose owners were saved by Demon Slayers and thus allow them to stay there free of charge. Tanjirou is glad for the change of clothes, food, and bedding, and even Zenitsu mostly calms down, but Inosuke is constantly trying to pick a fresh fight with Tanjirou.

Fortunately our laid-back protagonist doesn’t rise to the provocations, preferring to rest up so that he can more effectively fight the real enemy: demons. When the three lay down for the night, Inosuke tells the others how he, an orphan with no family, stole a Nichirin blade from a Demon Slayer who “trespassed” on “his mountain”, then heard about the Final Selection and basically thought it’d be cool to do that.

Zenitsu steers the conversation to the box Tanjirou has been carrying, and asks him straight up why he travels with a demon. Tanjirou thanks Zenitsu for protecting it even though he knew of its contents, and the praise goes straight to Zenitsu’s head (though he vehemently denies he’s strong). Before Tanjirou can tell him that the demon is his sister, Nezuko starts scratching at the door of her box, scaring the shit out of Zenitsu.

She crawls out and grows to her normal size. Once Zenitsu gets a good look at her, he draws his sword on Tanjirou for keeping such a “cute girl” in a box and not telling anyone, and threatens to “purge” him. Meanwhile, Inosuke can’t remember why he first picked a fight, and falls asleep instantly, missing the big Nezuko reveal. This was probably the most laid back and fun episode of Demon Slayer to date, a well-timed breather from all the recent demon battles.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Re: Zero – 31 – Not Unfolding as Specified

You didn’t think he’d set things right in one try, did you? That isn’t the Re:Zero’s style. Subaru and his friends will have to suffer and die a lot more until this latest puzzle is solved. Things will get much worse before they get better. Let’s just say I’m glad I have CCS to balance the “ani-negativity”!

Subaru returns to the tomb where he’d just completed the first trial, and finds a shuddering Emilia in over her head. When he later tells everyone he passed the first trial, there are two more, and he can do it in Lia’s stead, nobody, especially Lia, is okay with that plan.

Roswaal, whom everyone there but him serves, wants Emilia to liberate the sanctuary, no doubt as a necessary test that she’s worthy of the throne, but perhaps for other reasons as well. Subaru understands, and meanwhile there’s still the possibility Frederica is up to something.

He decides to head to the manor so he arrives two days earlier than last time, hoping to head Elsa off. Ram grudgingly accompanies him, and is as dry and withering in her disapproval of Barusu as you’d expect when they set off on Patrasche.

Still, Subaru notices something “off” with Ram, and oddly enough, when he made an offhand joke about throwing her as a decoy, she too is surprised how much it bothered her; as if it was something that actually happened.

In truth, it did happen, but in a previous loop but Ram can’t remember clearly, perhaps due to losing all memories of Rem. Speaking of which, Subie decides to tell Ram everything he can about her lost twin sister before they reach the manor.

The two are greeted by Petra, who is too cute for Subie to resist hugging, while Ram is pleased with her manner. Subie gives Ram some time alone with the sleeping Rem and speaks to Frederica, who is pleasant and polite as always, even when Subie starts questioning her.

Frederica claims not to know anything about a teleport trap or conservatives who want to keep the sanctuary barrier up, but as Ram notes (and her and Freddie’s back and forth is great), she could not tell them anything even if she wanted to, due to her oath. Subaru will have to use force to break that oath. For her part, Frederica says she won’t resist.

Their exchange is interrupted by the appearance of Elsa, holding her knife at Petra’s throat. Frederica reveals her beast transformation ability, which proves more effective than Ram’s Al Huma El Fula magic. Still, all they manage to do is flee from Elsa briefly, and Subaru is stabbed in the shoulder by a needle-like blade dipped in who-knows-what.

Ram breaks it to Subie that sacrifices will have to be made if some of them are going to survive this. To that end, Frederica uses the blue crystal to fully transform into a stylish blonde lion-like beast (I’m sure she and Kero-chan would get along famously) and leaps back into the manor to stall Elsa.

Despite Ram’s logic, Subaru (and Petra) are determined to save Rem and Beatrice if they can. They’re immediately confronted by a Mabeast, which Ram manages to lure away, leaving just Subaru and Petra. Moments after dressing each others wounds, things get very violent and fuzzy, as we follow events from Subaru’s POV.

When things come back into focus, Subaru is still holding Petra’s hand, but her arm is no longer attached to anything; we then see she’s been crushed by rubble. Subaru runs to Rem’s room, but is once again stopped by Elsa. She talks as though both she and her unnamed client (the Witch’s Cult?) are aware of Return by Death, and that they’d planned for another attempt by Subaru.

Subaru is prepared for Elsa’s killing strike when he’s suddenly thrust through a door, only it doesn’t lead to Rem’s room, but to Beatrice’s library. Beatrice, the one person in that manor with sufficient power to stand against Elsa, even if things didn’t go so smoothly last time she and Subie met.

Only Subie is not happy about being saved. He’s ready to scrap this loop and use Return by Death, not yet willing to accept the sacrifices of Ram, Petra, and Frederica. But as Ram said earlier, he may not have a choice, and is only delaying the inevitable.

Re: Zero – 30 – Partners in Crime

First of all, it’s classic Natsuki Subaru to compliment Echidna on her school uniform! Second, Re:Zero finally deigns to air its opening credits! After they roll, Echidna didn’t really send Subaru back in time; both her uniform, the classroom, and his parents were illusions created from his memories. After some rather half-hearted attempts to trip him up. Subie doesn’t take the bait; he’s now fully faced and accepted his past and is ready to move forward.

Echidna declares he has passed the trial…but it was only the first of three. Subaru stops her right there: Freeing the Sanctuary is Emilia’s job, not his. Unfortunately, when he comes to back in the ruins, Subie finds an unconscious Emilia enduring a terrible nightmare, and she wakes up in an acute state of panic. If she was facing her past, it’s clear she’s having a much tougher time than Subie.

Ram makes sure Emilia is comfortably resting, while Subaru and the others talk barriers. Otto wonders if those who can pass through it can simply carry those who can’t across while they’re unconscious. That idea is shot down by one Ryuzu Bilma, the elfish girl Subaru briefly spotted in the forest, who turns out to be extremely old (a “loli hag” as Subie artfully puts it).

Anyone of mixed blood who crosses the barrier will have their body and soul separated, leaving the formless soul within and a shell of a body without. In other words, the only way out for them is the lifting of the barrier. Subaru then stays beside Emilia’s bed until she wakes up in the morning, and unconsciously puts her hand on his arm, a gesture she immediately walks back.

Later in the morning Subaru warns Ram that not everyone within the sanctuary wants the barrier to fall, and he must be vigilant against any threats to Emilia from those elements. She also believes Frederica could have some kind of plan in mind she didn’t reveal to Subaru. That night, Emilia attempts the trial again, and while she’s not denied a second chance, it too ends in failure. Afterwards, Roswaal has Subaru meet with him in his room while Ram stands by.

The Margrave finally admits that he allowed everything regarding the Witch’s Cult attack on the village and manor to happen as kind of political gambit, knowing the villagers’ opinion of Emilia would improve if she saved them. Subaru is pissed, mostly because so much of Roswaal’s plan depended on Subaru not being “complete trash” and coming through. But Roswaal had faith in him then, and has faith in him now.

Subaru doesn’t tell Emilia any of this, respecting Roswaal’s wishes (and deferring to political acumen). Like Roswaal with Subaru, Subaru may not have the most concrete evidence that Emilia can and will pass the trials and free the Sanctuary, but he has faith nonetheless. Emilia is grateful for the belief in her and trusts Subaru, but asks him to simply continue believing in her—without “spoiling” her.

To that end, Subaru decides to appeal to Garfiel to free the villagers. Since Garfiel has Emilia working on the barrier, the villagers are no longer necessary, so he agrees. Garfiel will escort Subaru and the villagers back to Arlam. Subaru leaves with Emilia’s blessing and one last tidbit from Roswaal, via Ram: if he runs into trouble with Frederica or anyone else, turn to Beatrice, and tell her “Roswaal said to ask the question”.

En route to Arlam, Garfiel tells Subaru he can tell he went through a trial, and wonders why he can’t simply complete them in Emilia’s place.  Judging from how she acts whenever she fails an attempt, it’s clear to Garfiel what I mentioned earlier: that Emilia is having a hard go with facing her past, probably because a part (or all) of her doesn’t want to.

After a brief stop in the village, Subaru goes on to the manor, which is oddly empty and bathed in blood-red light—never a good sign on this show! As he desperately runs through the halls searching for Rem, we hear an odd squishing sound and he trips and falls…on his own bowels. As he lies in a pool of blood and guts, his assailant reveals herself: Elsa, his very first nemesis in this other world.

Talk about a blast from the past! We last saw her back in 2o16, retreating after being wounded but not killed by an all-out attack from Reinhard. I wrote “the fact she’s still out there with her chilling desire to disembowel everyone else is certainly disquieting, as is the fact that such a huge attack didn’t kill her.” Well, now she’s back, and Subaru is almost certainly primed to Return by Death. I wonder where and when he’ll end up?

Re: Zero – Frozen Bonds

There’s one more piece of business before we begin the months-long wait for Re:Zero Season 2: a second OVA that takes place before Subaru is transported into this new world from that convenience store parking lot. It’s a prequel that focuses on Emilia, prior to becoming a candidate. She lives alone in a treehouse in the forest, surrounded by ice sculptures of people she carefully tends every day. This begs the question: did she turn them to ice? Is this penance?

If it is, she doesn’t know it. We actually get a good amount of Emilia simply wordlessly going through her daily routine, and it’s clear she’s as good a good girl as she is in Re:Zero. But then there’s the issue of her appearance, and her resemblance to the Witch of Envy. Everyone dispises that witch, and Emilia has exhibited magical powers, so everyone in the nearby village is afraid of her and hates her. Everyone except Puck, of course.

When a band of thugs attacks her with the intent of capturing her and selling her into sexual slavery, Puck isn’t around, so she has to rely on her own powers, as well as the cooperation of lesser spirits Puck taught her how to summon. She begs the thugs again and again not to escalate, but they ignore her. A giant yeti joins the fray, and her powers go out of control. Puck intervenes, calming Emilia down, but only because he’s respecting her wishes not to kill anyone.

There’s an “arbiter” spirit named Melakeura who is intent on eliminating Emilia simply for resembling (and being descended from) the witch. He’s stubborn as a horse (and looks like one too!), and Puck can’t dissuade him. Not wanting Puck to take on everything himself, Emilia leaves the safety of her treehouse and sets off on her awesome ice snowboard. Melakeura confronts, condemns, and attacks Emilia, but Puck arrives in time to slow him down.

A multi-stage back-and-forth battle between the two occurs, with Emilia demanding the arbiter to judge her for who she is, not some different person, and Puck insisting she be allowed to live a happy life in peace. Melakeura isn’t having it, so after Puck is nearly KO’d, he forms an official contract with “Lia” and takes his notorious monster form for the first time to defend her.

Melakeura also grows to monstrous size, making this almost a kaiju battle ending. But when the dust settles, Lia and Mega-Puck are none the worse for wear, and commit to their bond as father and daughter before a gorgeous sunset. Frozen Bonds felt 20-30 minutes longer than it really needed to be (some of the battles and Melakerua’s halting dialogue got repetitive at times) but it was nevertheless fun to see a glimpse of Emilia That Was, and how she came to be the exceptional person she is in the present.

Re: Zero – Memory Snow

Firstly, this OVA/Movie isn’t new: it was released back in October 2018…but it’s new for me! And frankly, after one and a half seasons of watching the cast of Re:Zero in chibi form sharing the screen with the casts of 3-4 other isekai shows, it’s a rare pleasure to finally see Subaru, Rem, Ram, Emilia, Roswaal, and Beako in their normal proportions, in a more slice-of-life setting.

While these initial screenshots are disconcerting, one can be rest assured that neither Subie nor anyone else goes through anything horrible or traumatic in this Memory Snow side story; the worst thing that happens is he wakes up to an increasingly cold manor. Turns out the cold is emanating from Puck, who is undergoing Hatsumaki, a periodic semi-controlled bleeding-off of mana. It’s fun to learn that Ram shares Subie’s extreme dislike of the cold.

Subaru’s first date with Lia is postponed until the Hatsumaki is over, but he makes the best of a chilly situation by taking a page from his homeland and organizing a snow festival on the manor grounds. Everyone makes a snow sculpture while Subie, the village elder and Roswaal serve as judges. Even Beako gets in on the action, while Ram and Rem’s collaboration of a Subaru-Roswaal hybrid statue gets middling scores for being so creepy.

At the post-festival banquet, Roswaal cracks open a stash of booze hidden under the floorboards of Subaru’s bedroom. This results in what I believe is our first taste of both Tipsy Emilia and Tipsy Rem, who while unassailably adorable in their playful drunkenness, have limited energy stores and it’s not long before both are using Subie’s lap as a pillow. Ram, on the other hand, can mostly hold her liquor.

The group migrates outside, where Puck expands the Hatsumaki to give the villagers and surrounding lands a lovely late night snowfall; the spirits soon appear, thousand points of light dancing around the sky. Beako and Rem deliver their barbs to Subaru regarding his being named after a star of all things, but by night’s end everyone can jump in bed content after a very full, fun day spearheaded by Barusu.

With Puck’s Hatsumaki waning, the story closes with Subaru and Emilia finally having their date—and Lia unveiling her adorable outfit for the occasion. While this outing lacked its parent anime’s sadistic bite or any measurable stakes, it was a strong affirmation of the real reason why I kept watching Re:Zero, and will be tuning in to its second season: the characters. Subaru, Rem, Emilia & Co. are eminently fun to watch, whether they’re chibis in a high school or playing in the snow without a care in the world.