Vlad Love – 02 – The Blood Defines the Drinker

It’s been over a month since the first episode of Vlad Love,but five more episodes have arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day. I just wish the episode had a little more vlad and love and less of Mitsugu’s classmates. The opening act takes place entirely within the confines of the nurse’s office, which grows both stale and claustrophobic after a while.

She’s been able to recruit a fair number of students to donate blood, but the vast majority are horny boys. Mitsugu makes it known she doens’t want Mai to drink boys’ blood, as it could adversely affect her loveliness. Only three girls end up donating, each representing a different blood type that reflects their personalities—though Nurse Chihiro insists there’s no scientific proof of that.

Mitsugu takes the three girls’ blood to Mai, and much to her consternation, Mai can’t help but drink all three bottles, perhaps due to pent-up hunger. Sure enough, with each blood type she drinks she exhibits the same characteristics of the donor, thus proving Nurse Chihiro wrong. The only apparent side effect of mixing the blood types is that Mai jumps from one personality to the next.

Hidaka Rina clearly has a ton of fun voicing all these different Mais, culminating in her singing karaoke on the table before collapsing from overexersion. She begs her host for more blood, but as Mitsugu is thawing her last pouch, Mai finds and drinks the blood of a 2,000 year old Mesopotamian demon, which had resided in one of the archaeological artifacts in Mitsugu’s house. Mai starts “buzzing” and eventually fires eye lasers at a wall, busting out to go on an evening “stroll”.

The stroll consists of Mai using her vampire umbrella to fly across the nightscape as the morning sun begins to rise. Mitsugu grabs on for dear life and is initially terrified, but eventually calms down, as she is, after all, in the arms of a surpassingly cute girl.  Mai eventually “runs out of gas”, sending the two plummeting back to the earth, and because this is a show where physical harm has no lasting effect on anyone, Mitsug survives the fall, though she and Mai end up in the literal lion’s den of the local zoo.

Much to Mitsugu’s surprise, Mai is able to talk to the lion and other animals (likely due to the demon blood), and she releases them to join her on her stroll, resulting in a rampage that makes the newspapers. As Mitsugu celebrates the fact she can create “the ideal girl” by tailoring Mai’s blood diet, Mai sleeps one off on a pile of zoo animals in the kitchen.

While it has some pacing issues and much of its comedy is trying too hard to be zany, I can’t deny I’m glad Vlad Love is back, from the moment I saw it’s OP, which is the season’s best by far. The show doesn’t look or sound or act like any other show airing, which is enough to celebrate its existence, while the winning central queer romance is as rare and refreshing as, well, a donation-addicted chimera-blooded protagonist!

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 09 – My Uninhibited Hostage Life!

When Syalis smashes the equivalent of a phone when the “Human Shopping Channel” won’t ship a waterbed to the Demon Castle, she starts a quest to build her own. At the same time, Twilight and the Big Ten have a quest of their own: Ignore the princess so she’ll start feeling and acting like a hostage.

Naturally, this backfires. Not only does Syalis successfully collect all of the materials and tools she needs, but those items are sourced directly from the Big Ten. While they are all silent towards her, when she ties leashes to them and drags them around, they dare not resist lest they accidentally harm her.

This results in the unprecedented scene of her pulling the King, Cleric, and Siberian like she’s walking her pets. When Alraune tries to restore order, Syalis yawns and they misinterpret her tears to mean their ignoring her has harmed her emotionally, so they give up and help her build her waterbed.

The next Big Ten Demon Quest comes from a suggestion from Hades to put the princess to work. Syalis herself takes on the quest to complete all the work she is given in a single day, as she was raised to understand that she can’t sleep until her work is done!

Oddly enough, her work takes the form of summer vacation homework, with math problems, a diary in which she writes entries for every minute (instead of day), and arts and crafts. She performs all of this work in her “work clothes”, a fetching shoulderless black dress.

Once she’s done an entire month’s work in a day, the Top Ten concludes that continuing to give her that amount of work is unrealistic, and could in fact cause more harm than good. Meanwhile, Syalis plops on her bed without changing and falls asleep using her usual pink robes as a blanket, her quest complete.

0-for-2 so far, the Demons make it a trifecta with a third quest: Teach the princess how to be a proper hostage by showing her other hostages in the form of recently-captured human bandits. Syalis takes one look at the conditions of these prisoners and assumes the demons are planning to eat them.

When she’s told to react to the demons as the other hostages do—with intense fear and loathing—she does just that, with Minase Inori completely changing the usual way Syalis speaks to sound more like the classic damsel-in-distress. The demons hate this, and all of the verbal barbs she tosses their way hit their marks and leave them a defeated pile in the dungeon.

The other humans, having witnessed what the princess did to the demons, are now more afraid of her than the demons. Syalis takes the demons’ reactions to mean she should go back to acting the way she has all along, with no regard whatsoever to her hostage status. That said, she still puts on the hostage act…but only when it’s convenient to her.

Finally, while lying in bed before falling asleep, she wonders to a teddy demon that if everyone in the castle has been so kind to her thus far, why can’t humans and demons get along? Could her stay there be the impetus for her taking steps towards a peace treaty once released? Will her first order to the Hero be to stand down?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 08 – The Nightmare Continues!

Hero Akatsuki’s comrade Kisho is able to open a mini-wormhole using the gem in the princess’ tiara, but it’s only big enough for Akatsuki to pass his hand through and tap Syalis’ head. This apparently causes her to have “nightmares”, so she crashes a Big Ten meeting to tell everyone about it so she’ll feel better. At no point is anyone able to stop her from doing this, once again demonstrating the true Master of the Demon Castle.

I put “nightmare” in quotes, because what she really has is a dream about Akatsuki when they were kids. Of course, he’s so forgettable she refers to him as “A-whatsisname”. Though he’s just presenting her with a bouquet, when he trips on a rock it ends up in her face, complete with thorns and a bee. She also details a “race” they had that ended in his apparent death, only for her to forget him when he returned alive.

The kicker is that she describes this forgettable person as her fiancee, which leads the Demon Cleric (and no one else) to assume she’s talking about Akatsuki. Due to talking about her “nightmare” Syalis is able to go back to sleep, while the Fire Venom Dragon must head into battle with the heroes without a sendoff party, the poor guy!

In the next segment, Syalis writes a death letter to her mother, even though she’s merely suffering from a bad cavity. We quickly learn that she’s overdramatic when it comes to any malady that befalls her, as well as perhaps the worst patient a doctor (or in this case dentist) could have.

Her big hang-up is an absolute refusal to show anyone (aside from her loyal Teddy Demons)  the inside of her mouth, for a reason she keeps secret until the very end: her tongue is apparently a little shorter than average. Due to her histrionics the entire Demon Castle gathers in the operating theater, and we get a cameo from Cubey, another member of the female demons.

In the final segment (there are notably no sleeping quests this week, even though she’s asleep at the end of each segment), Fire Venom Dragon returns to the castle, utterly defeated after a three-day, three-night battle against Akatsuki. When he tells them his bag of items meant to help him in his battle had been replaced by…other things, they all assume it’s more Princess mischief.

However, as he further details the items he found in the bag, one by one his allies remember having placed those items there for various reasons and forgot to replace them with the proper weapons. Of course, each person, including Twilight, is so embarrassed, they take the easy out and falsely accuse the Princess of doing what they did.

This whips the dragon into a rage, but they all hold him back, knowing full well Syalis doesn’t deserve to be chewed out, at least this time. As for Syalis, she’s reading a difficult grimoire, eating avocado, and drinking a potion like a sports drink. Looks like a pretty good night!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 63 – Waves, Listen to Her!

It’s still winter, but that doesn’t stop Sakura & Co. from donning their swimsuits and hitting up the new state-of-the-art indoor water park. It’s an episode heavy on character count and slice-of-life and light on…well, everything else! But that’s okay; sometimes it’s nice to just kick back and relax at the pool (though I’ll admit to being envious; pools in my city were closed all summer due to you-know-what!).

Like Tomoyo, Syaoran is smitten with Sakura’s swimsuit, but things have gotten to the point where all he can do is stare at her. Naturally, Touya and Yukito have part-time jobs at the park’s restaurant, but this time Nakuru joins them, lending her another opportunity to glom onto Touya, who is otherwise still concerned about Yukito’s tendency to, uh, fade out of existence now and then.

Even Kero-chan manages to smuggle himself into the park in Sakura’s bag and steals her cream soda when she’s not looking, only to get harshly scolded (Sakura even bears a fang, a rare occurrence unless she’s protesting her brother’s teasing). Otherwise everything’s peachy until Eriol summons a  massive wave that threatens to drown Rika (who is still learning to swim from Sakura), among others.

Sakura can’t very well summon her wand and cards out in the open, so she has a clever solution: do it while she’s in a water slide! She conjures and converts Watery to a Sakura Card, who proceeds to make it rain inside the park, which has the effect of lowering the water level, thus rescuing Rika.

In another private corner of the park Nakuru straight up asks Eriol why he insists on “doing cumbersome things” like this; he tells her she’ll find out soon enough. I certainly hope so!

Dororo – 19 – When Words Fail

After a very thematically and emotionally heavy multi-part episode, it felt right to get into some lighter fare. After his battle with Tahoumaru, Hyougou and Mutsu, Hyakkimaru’s arm-swords are ruined, and so with Dororo’s new cash, they set out to find the venerable swordmaker Munetsuna.

A passing peddler told them Munetsuna was the best, but when they arrive in his village, the first villager they meet tells them the hatchet he made for him is crap. Dororo tests it, it cuts perfectly. The guy also says Munetsuna’s daughter Okowa is ugly and has a bad personality, but when they finally meet her, she’s drop-dead gorgeous, warm, and sociable.

Okowa also takes an immediate liking to Hyakkimaru, calling him “Hyaku-sama” and “joking” that he’s come to marry her. Her dad can tell Hyakki’s swords have been used to kill demons, and so they head to a shrine to purify them. That’s where we meet the demon-of-the-week who seems able to manipulate people into saying the opposite of what they mean.

It’s a novel skill for a demon that makes for a delightful rom-com conceit, consisting of the triangle of Dororo, Hyakkimaru and Okowa. Before Dororo knows it, Okowa is proposing to Hyakki, who says he will abandon Dororo their adventures and stay with Okowa. Dororo can’t believe what he’s hearing.

But the next day, he can’t believe what he’s saying: everything that comes out of his mouth is in support of Hyakki and Okowa’s marriage, for which Okowa couldn’t be happier. I can’t place Okowa’s seiyu (I’ll post it when I learn it) but she does a wonderful job bringing the adorable and eminently likable guest star to life.

Even as I sympathized with Dororo after Hyakki’s apparent turn against him, their traveling and/or living with this woman wouldn’t be the end of the world. Still, before Dororo figures out all this opposite-talking is the work of a mischievous demon, he finds an outlet for his frustration and loneliness in Munetsuna.

Ultimately, Dororo figures out something is amiss, and decides he has to stay by Hyakki’s side like he promised, no matter what bro said to make him not want to.

The day of the wedding arrives, and despite saying he was all for it, “Hyaku-sama” has no intention of actually going through with marriage, as he’s not even sure what marriage is. This is all pretty humorous, and the episode makes sure we know it’s okay to find it humorous, as the Amanojaku is far from the killer sharks or lake creatures our duo has fought before. He’s more of a trickster; a nuisance.

Mind you, that nuisance nearly becomes deadly when he makes Hyakki choke Dororo, but Munetsuna bonks him in the head with a log while wearing the mask of Hyottoko, one of their protective deities, and the “spell” he put on both Hyakki and Dororo is lifted. Hyakki embraces Dororo apologetically, and Dororo is happy his bro is back to normal.

As for Okowa, she figures out that Hyakki was saying the opposite of what he meant all that time, which means he never wanted to marry her. Fortunately, with the capture of the Amanojaku, one of the villagers who previously had nothing but unkind words for her is finally able to properly tell her how he really feels, and proposes to her.

As Hyakkimaru tries out his sweet new swords, he demonstrates to Munetsuna and Okowa that it never would have worked out; Hyakkimaru is someone who has dedicated himself to a journey to make himself whole again. So, with a warning to him not to rub his head against anyone unbidden (like he did when he met her), Okowa sees Hyakkimaru off, wishing him and Dororo well on their continuing adventures.

While perhaps not an essential addition to that main journey, this was nonetheless an enjoyable, warm, and above all funny episode that had its “other girl steals Hyakkimaru” cake and ate it too. It reaffirmed both that Dororo need not always be all dark and dire, and that no matter what supernatural foe they face, there’s no breaking up Hyakki and Dororo.

Sora no Method – 02

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“We’re continuing this?”Nonoka to Yuzuki

The town seems to have gotten used to the fact there’s a giant shimmering saucer floating above it, as have most of the girls who presumably put it up there in the first place seven years ago. At least, outwardly they seem to have moved beyond it as something outside of their control. Even Nonoka, who only remembers bits and pieces of her past there, doesn’t seem that unnerved by its presence. There’s one girl who thinks differently: Mizusaka Yuzuki.

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—”Why are we running?”
—”Because we didn’t do anything wrong!”
– Nonoka and Yuzuki

Yuzuki, voiced with equal measures fiery, impulsive gusto and delicate vulnerability by the lovely Toyosaki Aki, wants the Saucer gone, period. As Nonoka is a new student at school (which starts far sooner than she thought), Yuzuki immediately tries to recruit her to her cause, and comes on a bit strong. She’s passionate in her distrust of it. While it’s played up as something akin to a UFO nut, and Nonoka reacts appropriately, with polite bemusement and a whiff of “Why me?”

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“You can’t call for the leaders at  a reception desk.” – Nonoka

After Yuzuki tells off her brother Souta, she rushes off with a backpack full of fireworks to take a boat to the island over which the Saucer floats (and is now off-limits to the public). This is dangerous and illegal, and the former underlined when Yuzuki loses her balance and falls into the drink, taking Nonoka with her. As they dry off Nonoka learns why getting rid of the saucer is so important.

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That reason has less to do with Yuzuki’s assertion that there are still many things in the town that won’t truly go back to the way they were until the Saucer is gone, like being able to go to the island to launch fireworks. It has more to do with the fact that after being led around and participating in anti-saucer activities, Nonoka has had a lot of fun with a new friend, and she wants to support that friend so she won’t feel sad and alone, something she can relate to.

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She says as much to Noel, and that she has nothing in particular against the Saucer herself. Despite the fact Noel’s presence is directly related to the Saucer’s, Noel seems receptive to helping Nonoka, as Nonoka wants to help Yuzuki. Ultimately, getting rid of the saucer may be a matter of all the former friends from seven years ago coming back together…though the cynical Souta and cold, perpetually headphoned Togawa Shione will pose a challenge.

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A shout-out to Franklin for passing this on to me: not only is this a pleasant, charming show, but it’s also getting more intriguing as long-separated friends re-forge their bonds. It looks great, too…even if the character designs border on the over-cutesy. And the dialogue is peppered fun, witty little lines like the ones that dot this review.

8_mag

Noragami – OVA 01

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We’re big proponents of the body-swapping episode when done well. In addition to being a refreshing change of pace, it is also an opportunity for the seiyus to show off their talent. Listening to Uchida Maaya successfully imitate the way Kamiya Hiroshi voices Yato is enough to justify watching this OVA (or OAD…whatevs). That’s not the only reason to do so, however. With the immediate crises of the main storyline set aside and the show placed in a sandbox, it decides to have a little fun, which turns out to be infectious.

With the aim of increasing his exposure to humans, creating new delivery god business, and simply staving off boredom and loneliness, Yato decides to impliment a “divine possession” of Hiyori. That would be stressful enough for her on an ordinary day, but he decides to do this on her first day of high school. Even if she’s in class with many familiar faces, she’s brand new to the other three-fourths of the school, so impressions matter.

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Yato’s field day consists of solving a hard math problem (making Hiyori look smart), acting very forthright and brash (confusing those who know her) handing out his number (making Hiyori look a bit loose), singing, dancing, kicking ass in soccer, etc. Kofuku also joins in the mischief, involuntarily causing dozens of accidents and mishaps. Eventually a (weak) phantom shows up causing a voyeuristic student to jump out a window, but Hiyori-Yato catches him heroically.

There’s a great impish energy emanating from Hiyori-Yato, and a gnawing frustration in Hiyori (and Yukine). Calling upon Lord Tenjin and Mayu backfires when the two appear on campus dressed to the nines and become engulfed in bewitched students (though they do eventually put an end to Yato’s fun). When Hiyori returns to school the next day, we appreciate that everyone remembers everything she said and did yesterday. All eyes are upon her, most of them full of admiration and respect. So at the end of the day, Yato did get her high school life off to an auspicious start. All it cost her was a dislocated shoulder!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)