Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 05 – All Ore Nothing

Seemingly telegraphing the fact that Tanjirou isn’t going to face any demons more powerful than the one he beheaded last week, DS lingers on the aftermath of the Hand Demon’s life and demise. He started out as a little kid who just wanted to hold his big brother’s hand, but one day he became a demon, and that was pretty much that.

Tanjirou has shown that no matter how evil a demon might seem, he wishes for them to be at peace or be reborn as humans again. That empathy isn’t just the result of a kind heart: surely the only ones who know if Nezuko can be changed back are demons. Alas, the ones he asks aren’t even high-level enough to be capable of speech.

The sun rises on the final day of the Fina Selection, and it seems only four applicants survived, all kids. Oddly, we still aren’t introduced to any of them, though since they all appear in the OP and/or ED, that will happen at some point. The creepy twin girls in charge of the selection assign the survivors crows, new uniforms, and have them pick the ore from which they want their Nichirin blades to be forged.

The three other survivors consist of Silent Pretty Girl, Crazy-Haired Guy who is constantly afraid he’s going to die, and Short-Tempered Prick, who grabs one of the twins by the hair to protest not being given his sword immediately (it will take 10-15 days). Tanjirou, friend of the weak, comes between the two, putting the jerk in his place.

With his uniform acquired and the sword in the mail, Tanjirou makes the trek back to Mt. Sagiri, though it’s far slower going this time due to his exertion during the Final Selection. Even so, a newly-awake Nezuko literally breaks down the door to meet him when he finally arrives, runs to hold him wordlessly in her arms…I couldn’t help but get a little cloudy-eyed at their touching reunion.

Urokodaki believes that Nezuko is sleeping so much in order to conserve energy since she’s not eating humans. Haganezuka soon arrives to present Tanjirou with his very own Nichirin katana, which turns an apparently unlucky pitch-black when he unsheathes it (not red, as Haganezuka hoped).

Finally, the Kasugai crow the twins assigned to Tanjirou arrives and speaks the human tongue, announcing his first assignment in a town where young girls have gone missing. No rest for those who’ve just been given a really, really nice sword for free!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 04 – Above the Wisteria Line

We learn that Tanjirou was able to defeat Sabito, i.e. cleave the giant boulder, by sensing the “thread” of his target by smell, made possible during Total Concentration. After a celebratory dinner when Urokodaki gives him the cloud-emblazoned tunic like his and a kitsune warding mask, Tanjirou bids his master and still-sleeping sister goodbye and heads to Mount Fujikasane, which is replete with gorgeous glowing wisteria blooms.

The year-long blooms aren’t just for show, as the creepy twins who administer the Final Selection explain: demons hate wisteria, and so they are trapped above the elevation where the blooms don’t grow, making the top half of the mountain a demon prison. The applicants must survive seven days in order to pass. There are many other applicants, but we don’t meet any of them, which is was an unexpected but welcome choice.

Instead of introducing potential rivals and allies, the focus remains on Tanjirou, who decides he’ll stay as far east, where the sun rises earliest, as he can, and use the daytime when the demons aren’t active to rest. He smells his first two demon opponents before he sees them, and is initially a little uneasy, but remembers his training and defeats them both with relative ease (they had been fighting each other over terf, after all).

The third demon is a different story, as it is on a level unlike anything else he’s encountered. A giant grotesque mass of sinewy, veiny hands like something straight out of Akira, Tanjirou is again taken by fear at the mere sight of it, especially as it already has a human applicant in one of his many hands, and drops him into his maw.

Urokodaki told Tanjirou that the more humans a demon has eaten the stronger they are, and when Tanjirou confronts his Hand Demon, he helpfully tells him he’s eaten over fifty “brats” in his extremely long life (dating back to the Edo period).

Not only that, but this “morphed” demon has a particular grudge against Urokodaki, who imprisoned him on Mt. Fujikasane. He’s gotten his revenge by eating no fewer than thirteen of Urokodaki’s students—including Sabito and Momoko, who it’s now confirmed interacted with Tanjirou in some kind of spiritual form.

The demon successfully throws Tanjirou off the game on which he very critically needs to stay by describing in detail how the two others were killed, and our boy ends up smacked against a tree hard, his protective mask shattering. He avoids being killed only thanks, I believe, one of his departed little brothers shouting for him to wake up…just in time to dodge the demon’s killing blow.

Not about to let himself become Urokodaki’s fourteenth dead student (with that track record I can see why he was reluctant to train anyone else), Tanjirou re-centers himself, attains Total Concentration, and uses his specialized water-based attacks (which are beautifully rendered like Ukiyo-e waves) to slash the demon’s neck, defeating him.

So far Demon Slayer has been incredibly efficient, getting its protagonist from losing his family to meeting his master to training to reaching the final test that will make him a demon hunter. And yet even though I’m semi-binging, none of it has felt rushed in the least. Events pass as slowly or quickly as I’ve felt they should. Finally, this episode featured the most dazzling combat to date. As expected, ufotable knows what they’re doing.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 03 – Like a Rock

This week is a very workmanlike training episode, what amounts to a lengthy montage in between scenes of Tanjirou writing journal entries to Nezuko describing all of the things Urokodaki teaches him over a year. That includes how to stand, land, hold a sword, breathe, hold your breath and more. All the while, Nezuko sleeps, and Tanjirou worries about her.

Tanjirou soaks it all up like a sponge in order for his master to clear him for the Final Selection that will determine if he can become a member of the Demon Slayer Corps. Once Urokodaki tells him there is nothing else to teach him, he offers him a final test: slice a giant boulder in the woods clean in half.

The varying environments (forest, mountains, waterfall) break up the repetition that is both a bug and feature of most training episodes, and despite how fast time passes you can really feel how hard Tanjirou is working and struggling, and how frustrated he is when he’s suddenly left on his own to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

For another six months Tanjirou tries and fails to slice the boulder, until he’s approached by a boy in a kitsune mask named Sabito and a cute girl named Mokomo. Sabito offers tough love and clichéd motivational patter as he wails on Tanjirou. In between their sparring sessions, Mokomo teaches Tanjirou how to properly achieve Total Concentration, which allows humans to fight on par with demons.

After six months of that, Tanjirou is ready to face Sabito, who wields a metal sword for the first time after using only wood before. Tanjirou uses Total Concentration, her and Sabito rush at each other, and his strike hits Sabito first, cracking his mask in two. With that, the orphans trained by Orokodaki smile and disappear, and all of a sudden Tanjirou is standing before the boulder, which is sliced in two.

As I said, this episode has some cool moments but gets the job done in a pretty matter-of-fact manner. I’ve seen training regimens last only half an episode or less, while I’ve also seen them last entire arcs or cours. In the case of Demon Slayer, Tanjirou’s training takes an episode an change, which seems about right. On to the Final Selection…and hopefully Nezuko wakes up soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 03 – A Flower’s Fangs and the Cruelty of Kindness

This week chronicles two separate stories of Elaina’s travels, neither of which end remotely happily, indicating Wandering Witch won’t be content to ply us with bromides about the beauty of the world. It’s going to show us the good and the bad, and how the bad often wears a good cloak.

On the lighter side: This is the second straight ep that starts with Elaina asking the audience some version of “Who is that elegant stunning girl?…Why, it’s ME!!!” Later in the episode, a character praises her, and replies “You can praise me more if you like!” Our wandering witch is brimming with confidence, and I am here for it!

On to the meat of the story: Elaina first comes across a young woman in vast and gorgeous flower field. When asked if she tends the field, the woman says “no one can tend it”, which in hindsight was the first sign something was off. She asks Elaina to give a bouquet of flowers to someone in the next town—doesn’t matter who.

Elaina doesn’t get past the gate when she’s stopped, first by a hot-headed guard, then his superior, both of whom are wearing masks and demand she hand over the flowers. While they may be harmless to a witch, the blooms are poisonous and drive ordinary folk insane.

The younger guard recognizes the shawl the flowers were wrapped as belonging to his missing sister. When Elaina returns to the now dark and stormy field, she finds the brother there, covered in vines and being slowly digested beside his sister, who has already fully morphed into a plant.

Elaina wisely peaces the fuck out, but misses the worst of this story. The smoke from the burned bouquet apparently spreads to other townsfolk, who in turn become thralls to the predatory plant and spread the “gift” of lovely flower bouquets throughout the land.

There’s a harsh German children’s tale quality to this segment, warning one to beware of outward beauty, as it could one day enslave and kill you. Life-affirming this is not—but it is surprisingly powerful.

In the next segment, a young lad flags Elaina down to say hello. His name is Emil, who himself has been traveling about collecting scenes of happiness and converting them to magic he’s keeping in a bottle. He intends to give it as a gift to the girl he likes. First red flag? The girl in question is his servant.

Emil, the village chief’s son, invites Elaina to lunch, after which he’ll present the gift to the shy, gloomy Nino. But from the start it seems quite unlikely his gift will raise Nino’s spirits. During a painfully awkward few minutes with the father, Elaina learns she’s a slave he bought because she could do housework and would grow up to be a beauty.

The lunch is far larger and better than Elaina expected, but the village chief shows his true colors, and the typical dynamic of the household, when Emil surprises Nino and she drops a pitcher of water. The dad verbally abuses Nino and shoves her to the ground, and Nino adopts a desperate contriteness.

Elaina is able to deescalate the situation by magically repairing the pitcher (a very neat bit of CGI), but it’s long since time she was on her way. When Emil presents Nino with the bottle of happiness and they open it together, images of truly happy people wash over her vision, moving her to tears.

But they’re not tears of joy, and Nino certainly doesn’t cheer up afterwards. It isn’t until Elaina is back in the sky that she remembers the end of a similar story: when a man traveled the world capturing beautiful images to share with his bedridden wife, they only made her more depressed, and compelled her to eventually take her own life.

Neither we nor Elaina know if Nino will turn out that way, but she pointedly remarks that she doesn’t want to know. As with the flower siblings, she saw and heard all she needed to, and it was time to move on. This isn’t The Heroic Crusade of Elaina, it’s The Journey of Elaina.

That means accepting that the world is sometimes ugly and cruel and dark, there’s nothing you can do about it but move on and try to find something brighter over the horizon. While this episode was hardly comfort food, I applaud the show’s guts to “go there”, i.e. not make all of Elaina’s experiences whimsically wonderful…or even remotely pleasant.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Crow’s thoughts on the episode here.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 10 – The Things We’re Taking are Lives

Eto confronts Kanae and proceeds to read them like the open book they are. She seems intent on changing Kanae’s fruitless course to make Shuu love them. Eto offers them an apple, or “fruit of knowledge”, in the form of one of her “bones.”

This will likely make Kanae more powerful and thus capable of taking away that “something precious” from Shuu—namely Sasaki Haise—in order to take their place as Shuu’s “precious person.” It’s also sure to come at a heavy cost: Kanae’s remaining humanity, sanity, et cetera. Like Rize and Ken, the deal seems a bit…Faustian.

We also learn the core of Shirazu’s hesitance to use Nutcracker. The final words of the first ghoul he killed echoed what his sister said, once what had been a mole under her eye turned into a life-changing growth: “I want to be pretty.” He’s in CCG and the Quinx Squad only to make enough money for her considerable care.

Fura comes upon him, and relays to him the commonality of investigators having trouble with quinques from their first kills. He says it’s perfectly normal, and even healthy, as someone who felt nothing for taking another life is probably not a great way to start one’s CCG career.

As we’ve seen, the opinions on morality vis-a-vis ghouls within the organization run the gamut from “ghouls are people” to “ghouls are targets to be eliminated.” Shirazu would seem to be oriented more towards the former; S1 investigators Ui and Ihei the latter.

As Haise deals with his worsening identity crisis, he continues to do his job, wanting both himself and Quinx to be useful to S1 in the operation to take down Rose. To that end, Ui allows him and Quinx to don the masks Uta made them (or in Haise’s case, made for Ken) and mingle with the ghouls for intel.

They learn that all the ghouls on the street are uneasy, guarded, distrustful of newcomers, and in Haise’s case, deathly afraid of his mask, which is that of the “Eyepatch Ghoul.” He learns the name “Kotarou Amon”, then meets with Shuu, wanting to learn more about Kaneki Ken so that he can accept him.

But despite having been restored to health by Haise, Shuu has no idea what to tell him about Ken, and ends up running away. Besides, his hands are full; his servant Yuma is still being held by Kijima. In a sickeningly brutal scene that shows where on the spectrum Kijima falls, he executes an already brutally tortured Yuma.

As Ui receives permission from CCG Chairman Washu to implement the Tsukiyama Family Eradication plan (with S2 head Washu breathing down his neck), Haise searches the archives for more info on Kotarou Amon and the Eyepatch Ghoul, fearing that in reality he was the latter and murdered the former. Akira draws him into a hug, comforting him without confirming any of his (correct) assumptions.

That night, Shuu’s Papa Mirumo gives him a cup of coffee, which makes him pass out instantly. The Doves surround the mansion, and Mirumo greets them in the grand foyer, claiming he does not intend to fight or resist, but only asks that he and his family be left alone and allowed to live out their lives as people, as they have done. Ui isn’t having it.

When Shuu wakes up, his world has been inverted. He’s in a car, being driven by Matsumae at top speed away from the mansion, where Papa and all the other servants are making a stand for Shuu’s sake. Shuu wants to go back; Matsumae won’t comply. It’s imperative Shuu survive.

They arrive at the headquarters of one of the Tsukiyama Group’s many subsidiaries, where an army of Ghouls loyal to Shuu’s Papa stand ready to fight to the last man to keep him safe. All Shuu can do is admire the greatness that inspired such loyalty, greatness he likely doubts he himself possesses.

The three Tsukiyama veterans in charge of the defense get prepare for what may be their final night alive, as a smug-as-hell Ihei orders the commencement of the extermination operation.

As the aggressors in this latest conflict, led by those who made the decision long ago that Ghouls are not to be empathized with or shown mercy, the Doves definitely felt like the Bad Guys this week—which means Haise and our Quinx Squad are fighting on the wrong side.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 09 – Awful Superheroes

Tsukiyama Shuu……is BACK, YA’LL! He knows Kaneki Ken when he sees him…and “Sasaki Haise” IS Kaneki Ken and Shuu will have him. He’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before he gives him up!

Even if he doesn’t know who he is. That means striding right up to the pack of young Doves that surrounds him…and having to be scooped up and whisked away by Kanae. No matter; it’s great to see the Gourmet has his appetite and vigor back…all thanks to Hori Chie (Kanae seemed particularly clueless about how to quell their master’s slump).

The Quinx are in that ward because Kan…er, Sasaki wants to have them all fitted for masks at Uta’s shop, so they can infiltrate ghouls. Uta is glad to be of service, and has a high opinion of every Quinx member. Kori officially denies Sasaki’s request to go forward on such a plan, but cannot deny it’s a good idea considering how similar the Quinx are to Ghouls.

Meanwhile, creepy-looking Kijima has released a gruesome video of him torturing a member of Shuu’s household staff, presumably out securing food for him. Kijima is dangling his captive as bait, no doubt hoping to snag more important Ghouls. Not the most pleasant methods!

Within a day or so, Shuu’s Kaneki-fueled recovery is complete. The kid’s alive, and so he can keep on living. The hard part will be to get someone who’s forgotten who they are to remember who he is.

Shuu arranges for a number of “chance encounters”, but if we’re generous, he’s basically just stalking Sasaki, and coming to the same roadblock every time: the pesky Quinx kids that keep him from being alone with Kaneki.

Kanae hires a team from Aogiri Tree, including Torso, to eliminate the Quinx Squad so her master can have what he wants (Kanae also gives Shuu a second photo, at which point a much more lucid Shuu realizes his little friend Hori is supplying the pics for his benefit).

Quinx ends up scattered, with Sasaki taking on the bulk of the Ghouls in a parking lot; Tooru and Saiko go one way, while Urie and Shirazu go another. Among the mercs is the “Grave Robber”, who is a fan of burgundy nail polish and, presumably, stealing quinques from the Doves she’s killed.

When up against Kanae, Shirazu’s kagune is damaged and he has to use Nutcracker…but he just can’t. He’s still not okay with how things went down, and especially not okay with using what amounts to her corpse as a weapon. Luckily, a stronger Urie is up to the task of forcing Kanae to retreat, and then intervenes in the battle between Tooru and Grave Robber.

Saiko, who was told to hide, is found by…someone, who proceeds to try to choke her out until she’s saved by…someone else. So many new (or old?) faces to keep up with! Her vague description of her savior causes Sasaki stare into space thoughtfully, as Eto, who we know wants Kaneki to get his memories back, perches atop a building not far away.

Steins;Gate 0 – 06 – New Year, Same Old Problems

“Kana” is definitely Shiina Kagari—even if the Oopa were a copy, there are certain things (the sound of her name, words from her future adoptvie mother) that give her an odd sense of nostalgia. And Suzu would recognize the girl who pulled a gun on her a mile away.

Okabe contacts Kiryuu to tell her Kagari has been found, but to request she continue investigating the group that was after her. After Kiryuu hangs up, we get our first sense that something is going to come to a head this week.

Little did I know when watching her teasing Maho that Judy Reyes of all people could also be involved.

It’s New Years, so the whole gang goes to the shrine, both to pray and give offerings and see Mayushii, Rukako, and Feyris in shrine maiden garb.

Everyone has lots of fun, but Judy shows up with Leskinen to say a quick ‘Hi’, while turning to leave she spots Kagari and gives her one hell of a sidelong glance.

There are more foreboding doings as Tennouji acts particularly shifty and a man in black lurks behind a wall, all while Mayushii & Co. bring the party to the lab and continue enjoying themselves.

Maho is among those having a good time, but gets a sudden video call from Amadeus, and answers the phone without leaving the room. Before long she’s surrounded by everyone curious about who her caller is, and Maho has no choice but to reveal the AI with Kurisu’s memories to them.

She apologizes to Okabe as the others talk with Amakurisu, but Okabe isn’t mad; he knows he has to start thinking of Kurisu, Amadeus, and Kagari as three distinct individual entities. He also needs to keep protecting the world Kurisu sacrificed herself to protect, no matter how much it might hurt or how easy it is to look back.

Unfortunately, Okabe is caught quite off guard when an armed gang once again infiltrates the lab and points their guns at Mayushii, Kagari, and the other guests. Suzuha is also caught off-guard, so it’s not like Okabe was alone in being lulled into a false sense of security. They weren’t direct witnesses to all of the strange things going on on the periphery of this episode like we did, after all.

When Kiryuu’s SERN assault team raided the lab back in the first season’s twelfth episode, it marked the official end of “fun and games.” That moment arrives six episodes earlier in S;G 0, and it also has the burden of trying to top that devastating, show-defining moment. Suffice it to say the ending of this episode wasn’t nearly as shocking, for the simple reason that we’ve seen it before.

History would seem to be repeating itself, and his loved ones apparently aren’t safe even here, in this Kurisu-less World Line. Then again, Mayushii wasn’t shot…yet. Perhaps, like Kagari and Kurisu, events only resemble what happened before, but may in reality be something completely different. But whatever that ends up being, it probably won’t be pleasant.

Shuumatsu no Izetta – 08

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Pretty much the entire time I was watching this episode of Izetta, much of which centers on Berkman’s adjutant, Ricelt, as he parachutes into Eylstadt to gain access to the castle where the ley lines map is located, I thought to myself, “why do I care about this guy?”

While I’m cognizant of the fact that war usually isn’t as simple as black-and-white, or good-vs.-evil, I still couldn’t muster any sympathy for Ricelt and the fate he succumbs to. And that made it hard to get emotionally invested in this episode at all.

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Forgetting the fact that he just happens to fall in a river just as Fine’s maid Lotte and Bianca are driving past…you know what, I can’t forget (or forgive) a coincidence of that magnitude, and I won’t.

Even in tiny Eylstadt, it’s ridiculous and extremely incredible that Ricelt would end up so close to these two, let alone that they’d so easily buy his half-assed cover story. Ricelt is only able to get as far as he does thanks (in part) to Bianca’s stupidity. This is war; any and all strangers who suddenly show up must be suspected, not flirted with.

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Speaking of flirting, the show’s fascination with Fine and Izetta as some kind of quasi-yuri couple continues, with Fine dressing up as a dashing prince and Izetta serving as her girly date at Lord Redford’s lavish birthday party.

There, Berkman manages to not only meet up close with Fine and Izetta, but his “date”, who looks drugged and/or genetically manipulated in some way, even manages to draw near enough to Izetta to kiss her, drawing blood in the process (blood Berkman will surely use for research on how to neutralize Izetta).

That intel and security is so inadequate and lax that one of the German empire’s most dangerous men can get so close to Izetta, and vanish just as quickly, doesn’t bode well for the future of Eylstadt.

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As for Ricelt, he and an inside man manage to make it to the basement of Eylstadt castle, snap pictures of the ley line map, and retrieve some kind of magical stone…but Bianca finally gets wise and Ricelt is caught red-handed. He stalls for time to let his colleague get away; Bianca shoots him, and another royal guard shoots the colleague.

And so, like Jonas, another young character I thought would have a greater role to play ends up dead, though the trouble he whipped up remains. Bianca, for her part, seems shaken up about the betrayal, but it’s not like they were lovers or anything; she’ll surely get over it.

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As for that trouble, it would seem some random old man ends up with the camera containing photos of the ley line map, as well as the purple-pink stone. Yet again, someone is in just the right position at the right time to propel the plot forward…and I care even less about this old guy than I cared about Ricelt.

Keeping the pressure high is the fact the Atlantan (i.e. American) ambassador promises Fine and Izetta that he’ll recommend his government send troops, but doesn’t tell them that he considers Izetta to be nearly as great a threat to Atlanta as the Germanians, if not a greater threat. As such, those troops will be sent to take down both Germania and Eylstadt; not exactly what Fine wanted.

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