Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 03 – What Modern Times Entail

Lord El-Melloi II is pissed, and he doesn’t hesitate to take it out on one of his more talented but insolent students, Flat, with a head-grabbing move that another student, who looks like a magical girl, has patented it. Meanwhile, a new student, Luviagelita Edelfelt, is not amused, and asks Gray what, exactly, is the lord’s deal.

In continuing with the domestic comedy that surrounds him, the source of Waver’s foul mood is the unplanned closing of his favorite coffee shop due to an electrical fault. As a loyal and enthusiastic regular, he offers his services to track the cause. Turns out one of the exterminators the owners hired went missing into the labyrinths beneath the shop.

El-Melloi’s investigation leads to an encounter with some kind of lightning-aligned beast, and when he fails to return to the coffee shop, Gray is called, and Gray calls Flat, who along with his classmate Svin meet Gray in the tunnels to search for their professor.

They locate him, a bit beaten up but otherwise fine. Svin takes him above for medical attention, while Gray and Flat follow the illuminated tracks of the monster that attacked the lord. They eventually encounter that beast—a kind of giant demented electrical rabbit—and Flat shows he’s no slouch when it comes to magical barriers, making a good team with Gray.

They eventually reach the source of the monster: the workshop of a Clock Tower zoology mage, Gurdoa Davenant, who sees the death of the exterminator and others to be a small price to pay if he can reach the Root. He summons several more rabbit beasts that surround the students, suggesting an excellent battle is about to take place.

Unfortunately, Lord El-Melloi returns with Svin (in his own form of beast mode) and a bunch of documents tying Gurdoa to a number of crimes for which the Clock Tower has frozen his assets and declared a warrant for his arrest. It would seem the modern world cannot bear mages like Gurdoa, willing to break the rules of magecraft to pursue his own lofty designs.

He later admits to his students he was partially bluffing and probably would not have been much help if Gurdoa didn’t go peacefully (which he does), but I imagine if he’d let Gray, Flat, and Svin let their collective hair (and hoods) down, they could have put on quite a show. Instead, it’s a much more subdued (and thus boring) resolution.

This episode’s case file was okay, but nothing to knock one’s socks off, especially after the spectacle of Gray unleashing her power (and as-of-yet unspecified connection to Saber). However, the post-credits scene bodes well for some future excitement: according to Luvia, two positions for Association participants in the Holy Grail War have closed—not something El-Melloi wants to hear.

One Punch Man 2 – 12 (Fin) – A Blow from the Weak

Bang, and then Bomb, and then Bang and Bomb start whaling on an already diminished Garo, and Genos is reasonably confident the old dudes have this in the bag. But he underestimates Garo’s almost bottomless stores of resentment and disdain for the heroes of the world.

As a kid, he was always made out to be the monster while so-called “heroes” beat him up, just because he was weak and unpopular. The monster never got to won. This fuels a fourth or fifth wind for Garo, but the battle is interrupted when he is airlifted out by a big talking bird monster.

I have to say, I’m as pissed off as Garo, Bang, and Genos about this twist. This was supposed to be the Hero Hunter’s final battle; this episode should have brought some kind of closure to his story (and this season), even if it ended with him meeting Saitama’s fist. But that expected period became an ellipsis. Clearly OPM has other plans for our bloody-eyed friend.

As Garo exits the stage prematurely, Centichoro appears in all his very big, evil-looking CGI glory. As skilled as Bang and Bomb are, their gifts just aren’t that effective against an enemy so freakin’ huge, while Genos is similarly hamstrung by a firepower limit that can barely scratch Cent’s carapace. Even Bang and Bomb’s final one-time combo attack only works temporarily; the centipede simply shrugs it off molts.

Genos offers to stay behind, but the old-timers don’t think that’s right. Young’ins need to live on; Genos’ own scientist mentor said as much. But Genos ignores the advice of his elders, because he doesn’t think it’s right to let the old protect him while he sits back and watches.

So he blasts off and starts going at Centichoro, pushing him away from the civilian centers, blasting through one of his teeth, entering his digestive tract, and incinerating him from the inside out. As he’s spat out of the boss’s mouth, all his clothes burned off, it looks like his reckless abandon did the trick…but it just wasn’t enough.

That’s when Bang, Bomb, and Genos finally run into a little luck, as “S-Class” King starts egging on Centichoro with a megaphone, telling him he’s brought his rival, “Blast”. Of course, he’s only serving as bait for Saitama, who arrives just in time to save King from being squashed like a bug.

Saitama steps between King and Centichoro, rushing at him at full speed, and delivers his One Punch special, totally eradicating the monster, just as we all knew he would. It doesn’t matter how much other heroes struggle in vain to defeat a boss; Saitama will always make it happen.

That’s why it seems like a bit of a letdown he wasn’t able to deliver a punch to Orochi, chopping off the head of Monsters, Inc. so the body will die (or alternatively, punching all of the monsters into oblivion, Orochi included). Instead, Genos is yet again inspired by his master’s excellence, and Garo is probably off to be transformed into an actual monster. Those twelve episodes just flew by!

One Punch Man 2 – 11 – When It Rains Heroes, It Pours

Unlike the other kids (and the kid hiding in the shack), Garo didn’t really care that much about the heroes. He liked the monsters, who were perpetual underdogs and were almost always outnumbered, outmatched, or both.

Death Gatling would seem to have assembled a crack team of Garo-hunters, what with their diverse array of ranges and styles of attack, as well as the motivation to prove to the world that Class S heroes aren’t the only ones who can get the job done.

The thing is, Garo is just too strong and fast for any of their best-laid plans to matter. He isolates and throttles them one by one (often using others as shields against the marksmen), drawing from a second wind.

Even Mr. Stamina, Megane, who was encouraged to keep getting stronger by Saitama himself when all seemed lost, doesn’t last long once he’s one-on-one with even a gravely injured and poisoned Garo. Soon only Death Gatling remains, and once he fires off his special move that expends all his bullets, Garo is relatively unscathed.

Notably, he warned Gatling about the kid in the shack, but Gatling didn’t believe him, so Garo had to shield the shack. Once Gatling is taken out, the kid is so frightened of Garo he runs off screaming. Garo thinks he’s finally earned a rest and a drink of water, but he’s only completed Round One. His next challenger is the new-and-improved Genos.

The difference between Class B, A, and S is pretty clear in the sheer level of fighting Genos is able to maintain with Garo, just as the gap between Genos and Saitama is evident in the fact that dozens of blows and blasts from Genos aren’t enough to knock Garo out, but one even half-hearted punch from Saitama is more than enough.

Garo first learns of “Master Saitama” from Genos, but when we cut to Saitama, he doesn’t sneeze from being talked about, because he’s too busy losing eighty-one matches in a row to King, who then gets a Class S alert. Saitama hasn’t seen Genos for a day or so, and is a bit worried about him, so he prepares to head out and look for him.

While it’s a stretch to say he’s in any danger against such a heavily-wounded and fatigued opponent, Genos is certainly having a rough time knocking Garo out, or even tying him down. Then Garo gets unwanted help from a band of monsters who come out of the ground following orders to escort Garo to the Monster Association.

Of course, Garo isn’t going anywhere, and Genos liquifies half of the monsters in the blink of an eye, then prepares to incinerate Garo once and for all. Round Two is then ended in a draw when Silverfang swoops in and delivers a devastating kick to Garo, who had just died his hair with his own blood.

Bang’s “big bro” ices the remaining monsters while he focuses on Garo, remembering the day he arrived at the dojo exhausted and starving. It would seem Round Three will be a cakewalk for the geezer, but as we saw throughout this episode, Garo is not one to be underestimated or counted out.

If Bang and Genos can’t put him down, the “Ultimate Hero” Saitama may have to intervene after all. I just hope if and when he does, it’s with his usual nonchalance.

One Punch Man 2 – 10 – Stating the Obvious

Saitama may be bored with a life of beating everyone with one punch and never losing, but thanks to King he’s able to forget about that for a little while, as he is beaten over and over again in a Street Fighter-esque combat game, to his unending frustration. “THIS GAME IS SHIT!” is his only defense. Reminds me of me when I play video games!

As for the Monster Association infiltrating the executive board room, the eyeball that serves as a conduit through which King Orochi’s adjutant, Gyoro-Gyoro, can mess with the humans by offering an olive branch than shooting the first taker. Thankfully for the other suits, resident Class-S hero Superalloy Blackluster—basically Luke Cage—has no trouble dispatching the baddies.

Still, shots have been fired, and the Monster Association officially declares war on the Hero Association. It’s in all the papers and on all the news channels. Over at MA HQ, the amassed monsters aren’t impressed with Gyoro-Gyoro’s motivational speech, but actions speak louder than words, as Orochi demonstrates when he eats Cockroach for losing.

Speaking of losing, a badly-wounded Garo wakes up, assuming it was King who knocked him out, while Genos gets a shiny new upgraded metal body from Dr. Kuseno, who only asks that win or lose, Genos is careful enough to live on and fight another day.

As the top heroes debate the merits of the HA’s plan to storm MA HQ , the news spreads to independent monsters, who pour out of City Z full of piss and vinegar, eager to join up with the MA. Unfortunately, they’re all obliterated by Saitama while he’s taking out the trash.

Garo ends up healing up in a shack that happens to be used by the brat with the hero guide he’s encountered in the park. That brat is the runt of his circle of friends, so he has to go in to see who’s in their secret hideout. Garo offers some obvious advice—the kid should become stronger, duh—but before sending him on his way, the shack is surrounded by eight Class A and B heroes led by Death Gatling, who tracked him there.

Even having unknowingly been recently pummeled by Saitama, Garo could probably take on, say, four of these heroes, but not eight, and certainly not all at once. Thanks to the brat’s guide, he at least gets some intel on all of them, and learns that they possess quite the diverse and complementary skill set.

The heroes marvel at his ability to dodge their attacks, but as he gets tired cracks in his defense start to form. Worse, the guy he worried about the least, Megane, is actually a hand-to-hand specialist with a lot more stamina and endurance than he currently has. Gatling demands he surrender and let them take him alive. How’s he going to get out of this one? Does the brat have a role to play in rescuing him from a bad end?

One Punch Man 2 – 09 – Not Strong Enough to Defeat Boredom

Watching Saitama obliterate foes with one punch is only half the fun of his fights. The other half is how he reacts to blows against him, or otherwise absorbs them. In this case, taking Monster Bakuzan’s first and second kicks do nothing but send him sliding off to the side; he’s otherwise unharmed.

Bakuzan assumes he’s lost his mind from the fear of facing him, but Saitama is only still and lost in thought because he’s trying to remember who this guy is. He can’t, so he ends it…by halving Bakuzan.

After learning this guy’s real name is Saitama, and he mostly joined the martial arts competition because he was bored and wanted a taste of what he might be up against with the hero hunter, Suiryu still tries to stop him from going after Goketsu, convinced he’s walking towards certain death.

Always good to see Saitama’s doubters thoroughly rebuked. Goketsu is so easy, we don’t even have to watch it—and the sappy piano just keeps playing through the “fight”—but we do hear it. I also enjoyed Saitama laughing off Suiryu’s request to be his disciple. Dude’s got standards, man! Beat Genos and we’ll talk.

After a brief check-in with Puri-Puri Prisoner fighting buck naked and hugging his spiky opponent to death then pulling a flip phone out of his ass, we find Saitama wandering the streets until he encounters King, and the two have a long conversation about Saitama’s long-standing ennui caused by his power plateau (King rather hilariously assumes at first that Saitama is depressed because of his baldness).

King promises him he’s only being arrogant about having no challenges left. He’s a hero who cares more about having fun fighting than the heroic ideals he should be living by; that’s room for improvement, for a start.

King supplements their lovely talk by lifting cool manga monologues, impressing Saitama with his eloquence, when suddenly Garo shows up, pissed off from his defeat to Watchdog Man and looking for another hero to hunt. His eyes focus on King, assuming his casual appearance is merely a facade and calculating all of his possible first moves.

But King doesn’t move; he just stands there like a big dumb idiot. It’s Saitama who saves him by kicking Garo through a wall, just as he’s talking about his hope the hero hunter will be something resembling a challenge. Sorry, Saitama…no such luck. There’s another hallmark of good OPM: Saitama is either completely out of the loop or at least four or five steps behind what’s going on in the world of heroes and monsters. In this case, that obliviousness is sparing him more bitter disappointment.

Speaking of wannabe Saitama rivals, Speed-o’-Sound Sonic is accosted by two equally quick and powerful members of the “Golden 37” who have converted to Monsters and offer Sonic a cell, demanding he join them. Sonic mulls over the consequences of losing his humanity, but he considers himself as good as dead anyway after his first (of many) losses to Saitama.

Thankfully, Sonic’s general disgust with the cell leads him to cooking it up before eating it, which not only gives him a bad case of the runs, but likely nullified the cell’s ability to transform him into a monster. Not like becoming a monster makes it any less likely you’ll be able to defeat Saitama…or even lay a scratch on him.

In other news, Genos is on his way to be repaired after being ambushed, the Gorilla monster meets an actual, sentient Gorilla who is just going about his business, very Saitama-like; and the Hero Association board prepares to exercise caution lest their main patron’s son get killed and led to their funding getting cut, followed by the infiltration of the room by a functionary-turned-monster.

One Punch Man 2 – 08 – Call of the Heroes

Even if Suiryu thought he deserved the tournament win (he doesn’t), he wouldn’t have had more than a few moments to savor it, as Goketsu, escorted by three monstrous crows, crashes the award ceremony. Once a martial arts champion and believed killed by monsters, he was actually given the choice to join them, which he did.

He extends that same choice to the assembled fighters: eat the monster cells and become like him, or die. Some, like Choze, are eager to see how much stronger they can get. Others, like Suiryu himself, aren’t interested in becoming ugly brutes. Instead, he asks a pretty girl if she’ll go on a date with him if he takes care of the monsters.

While Suiryu holds his own and dispatches Monster-Choze, he’s absolutely no match against Goketsu. As Garou picks a fight with Watchdog Man in City Q, Goketsu treats Suiryu like a ragdoll, easily absorbing his strongest attacks and breaking his arm.

To Suiryu’s surprise, Snek and Lightning Max, who had been flicked away by Goketsu earlier, are back for round two, standing their ground like the professional Heroes they are. They made sure to grab effects crucial to their success: Snek’s suit and Max’s shoes.

Ultimately, they’re no more a match for Goketsu as Suiryu. Meanwhile, Bakuzan, who ate a bunch of cells, transforms into a Threat Level-Dragon monster, although still not one that can push Goketsu around. For his part, Goketsu is ordered back to the Monster Association base on the outskirts of City Z, an urges Bakuzan to follow.

But before he does, Bakuzan takes his time wailing on the already battered Suiryu, taking great pleasure in beating down someone much weaker. It’s then when Suiryu, so independent and fun-loving thanks to his good looks and tremendous strength and fighting ability, is brought so low he has no choice but to call out to someone, anyone to help.

And who should answer that call but Saitama, whose absence this entire episode can be chalked up to him either running home or to the locker room to put on his superhero costume. The same man whose punch Suiryu estimated would have ended him had it not been held back; the same opponent who only lost because he was wearing a wig—he’s Suiryu’s only hope. Thankfully, it’s a good bet Saitama’s got this.

One Punch Man 2 – 07 – It’s Fun Being Strong

After meeting Monster King Orochi, who leads the Monster Association, we see Class S Heroes spring into action and dispatch the latest batch of monsters with relative ease. Meanwhile, Saitama takes care of the sadistic eugenics enthusiast Choze with one punch in the semifinals, making Suiryu his final opponent.

Of course, a 13th-ranked S is still quite a bit weaker than Tornado, as we see when Flashy Flash can’t quite finish a boss monster with maximum efficiency. We check in on Atomic Samurai asking for the help of the other members of the Holy Order of the Sword to defeat Garo in case Silverfang goes soft on his former student and fails.

One of the members, Haragiri, has already been corrupted and transformed into a monster, courtesy of the Monster Association, which he helpfully describes as “a group made up of monsters.” But however much stronger becoming a monster made him, Haragiri falls to Atomic in the blink of an eye.

The balance of the episode deals with the tournament final between Suiryu of the Dark Corporeal Fist and Charanko of the Fist of Water Polo. Saitama’s main worry is whether Suiryu figures out he’s wearing a wig or, worse still, knocks it off. As a result, Saitama has to take a defensive posture.

Suiryu can tell Saitama is far stronger than he looks, and as a fellow strong person expresses his desire to have fun with that strength. If Saitama entertains him with a good fight, Suiryu will show him what martial arts truly are, which is the main reason Saitama entered in the first place.

None of Suiryu’s attacks have any effect on Saitama, but his words spitting on the Hero Association and its lofty ideals are mere “boring containments” that threaten his life of fun. Suiryu then knocks Saitama’s wig off. It’s enough to make Saitama mad enough to almost punch him, but he holds back at the last second.

The officials disqualify Saitama, making Suiryu the tournament champion, but he’s not satisfied and the fight continues, multiplying in intensity exponentially as he reduces the stone fighting platform into rubble. This leads Saitama to glean that the primary purpose of Martial Arts is to learn how to look cool while you’re fighting.

Trying to take a page from the Suiryu school, Saitama backs into him with his butt, sending him flying into the side of the arena. Rules or no, Suiryu suffers his first defeat ever—that’s sure to mess with a guy. Finally, out in the city, Genos is dealt an unprecedented defeat at the hands of a dragon-level monster named Goketsu.

One Punch Man 2 – 06 – Whittling Down the Herd

Don’t get me wrong: stuff happens this week; lots of stuff, and lots of it decent. The competition moves briskly as most matches are over in one move, as befits fighters at the top of their game. And while the monsters had free rein last week, the likes of Genos and Tornado—seriously strong heroes—evens the odds in a hurry.

So why did this feel so meh, so rote? A couple things. It felt like there was no rhyme or reason to cutting from an arena fight to a monster fight, making the episode feel unfocused. Second, there wasn’t a whole lot of comedy to be had. Aside from Saitama’s early KO of Bakuzan because he touched his wig, the episode plays like a straightforward shounen ensemble series.

And that’s fine, normally, but One Punch Man should be a cut above. A grab bag of minor skirmishes and minimal gags, along with what felt like a step down in production values, kept this episode feeling merely okay and nothing close to the excellence the OPM is known for. Halfway through the season, and the first episode is still the best, which is disappointing.

Looking beyond this episode, it seems clear Saitama is in line for a win, but if his identity is found out he will no doubt be disqualified due to breaking the rules. Other than that, I’m not sure yet what the monsters’ play is, or how they can roll in so confidently only to be slapped back by the cream of the Hero Association crop. What’s with taking that rich kid hostage? It seems like a small-fries move.

Hopefully we can cut through the chaff in the next week or two and get to the heart of what big threat, if any, Saitama & Co. will face. He may be content to spend most of the tournament on the toilet, but I guess I’m looking for the next guy who can take his punch!

One Punch Man 2 – 05 – Reverse Seeded

How long do we have to wait to get the martial arts tournament started so Saitama can start plowing through the brackets? Apparently another half-episode, as we focus on a growing preponderance of monsters and demons throughout the lettered cities.

As for Metal Bat, he seems to get more “pumped up”, and his attacks faster and stronger, the more Garo beats him up, but ultimately the fight is called on account of Bat’s brave, protective little sister Zenko. Garo may claim to be a monster, but he’s not about to hit a kid.

Shortly after taking his leave, Garo is approached by three monsters hoping to recruit him into the “Monster Association,” but he’s having none of it. Class S Rank 6 Metal Knight comes in to take care of the giant centipede, but even he just can’t summon enough firepower to dent the thing, making the battle a draw.

The jellyfish, phoenix and rhino-themed baddies make off with the rich kid, while other monsters start fighting—and beating—heroes they’ve chosen specifically because their heroic attributes favor them, the monsters. The Hero Association (still pitting their hopes that King will be a factor) are starting to panic.

Meanwhile, yes, Super Fight 22 finally commences, with the eighteen challengers being introduced; and they’re all quite the colorful characters, with equally colorful-sounding martial arts schools.

Zakkos is Saitama’s first opponent, but there’s a match before theirs. Sourface reveals he’s twenty—younger than Saitama—which explains both his pre-match nerves and his thin skin when Zakkos rips into Bang’s dojo.

Saitama, older and wiser, simply lets Zakkos say what he wants; he’s here to fight, not argue. Oh, and Saitama apparently doesn’t have to hide his face, as Sourface seems content that he is indeed Charanko and not some impostor.

When a particularly sexy monster, Super S, starts whipping heroes and making them her love slaves, it’s up to Hellish Blizzard and her crew to sort things out. As for Saitama’s first “match”, it’s a laugher; Zakkos was all talk and is in fact incredibly weak; so weak that the person he was to propose to didn’t even bother showing up to watch him. Bummer!

As for one of the higher-seeded martial artists in the fresh-faced Suiryu, he recognizes that Zakkos had some okay moves, but his opponent “Charanko” was just too strong. He looks forward to seeing him in the final.

While it’s always fun when someone comes around who can either absorb Saitama’s punch or deliver a blow that actually bothers him—wait…has that ever even happened?—I doubt he’ll meet his match here, especially considering how easily he dispatched Garo. Still, watching him effortlessly wail on guys is never not fun.

Dororo – 14 – Kids (With or Without Wings) to Feed

The markings on Dororo’s back, which are only visible when his skin is warm (and he’s never had a warm bath before) form half of the map to his father’s “ambition”—a hoard of stolen samurai gold meant to finance a peasant uprising.

In the event of his death, his wife insisted he engrave half of the map upon her so that she’d never be tempted to draw from it, not even to feed herself or Dororo (these guys were zealots to the last). The other half is on Dororo’s back, though his memory of what was on his mom’s can’t be that clear.

And so while Hyakkimaru is cursed with missing limbs he must fight to get back from demons, Dororo is cursed with the legacy of two parents who could have given him a much better life had they had swallowed their honor pride for his sake.

He also now has a choice of what to do next: find the gold and use it as his folks intended, or use it to life a comfortable life. Biwamaru lays out the choices Dororo has, but he’s not leaving Hyakkimaru’s side, and Hyakkimaru is focused on the here and now and the remaining demons.

Hyakkimaru ignores Dororo’s questions about “what comes next”, and is “saved by the bell” in the form of the approach of two bizarre monsters: an emaciated woman and a giant, demanding baby who grabs Dororo. Hyakki takes no action since they’re “not demons,” and they eventually come upon the ruins of a temple that was apparently burned down intentionally (judging from all the oil).

The big baby vanishes before a well-dressed man with a very odd stare appears: he introduces himself as Sabame, lord of a village and its surrounding lands. Dororo doesn’t exactly trust those weird eyes, but he’s not turning down the offer of a meal and a roof over his head, now is he?

And what a meal and roof! The pair probably enjoy the most sumptuous meal they’ve ever been served, and they eat in front of a traditional band and synchronized dancers. Lord Sabame, who claims to have never left his own domain, is always eager to hear the stories of travelers, and so is more than happy to give them food and room to stay in exchange.

Sabame begins with the tale of an evil nun who abused, enslaved, and sold off orphans. She was killed when the heavens apparently “saw enough” and burned the temple down with lightning. Neither Dororo nor Hyakki quite believe this story, since they saw evidence of arson.

That night, with a huge room all to themselves, Dororo blames the “draftiness” of the house, and not fear, for his adjusting his futon so he sleeps closer to Hyakkimaru (who sleeps with his eyes open). Then a giant caterpillar with four human arms drops from the rafters, and Hyakki wakes up in a flash, blades drawn.

The caterpillar has silk that momentarily immobilizes Hyakkimaru, but he’s able to do enough damage to force the monster to flee, which it does with the help of a giant, poison mist-spewing moth. Dororo and Hyakki prepare wash themselves off in a nearby bath.

Then we check in with Lord Sabame, who has not only not turned in for the night, but is actually facilitating the moth demon, who takes the form of a woman. The “travelers” Sabame hosts apparently become food for the moth’s children, the survival of whom Sabame places the utmost importance.

While Sabame’s methods are fundamentally immoral, he has made the choice to value the moth and its offspring above the lives of innocent guests, just as Dororo’s parents chose to keep the grand cause alive over their only child’s well-being. Just as Hyakkimaru’s victories will continue to threaten Daigo’s lands and his people, how they chose to deal with Sabame could also have larger-scale consequences. For an imperfect world is full of fragile, imperfect solutions.

The Promised Neverland – 05 – The Sheepdog

When Norman confronts Ray about being Mama’s spy, Norman stays calm. In fact, he’s even a bit amused he was found out, like he knew this time would come one day. Norman’s just too smart for his own good. For his part, Ray doesn’t deny anything, but he does explain that he did it because it had to be done.

If we’re to believe his explanations (and for now, at least, I do) Ray has been playing a very long game with Isabella, which has netted him information that would be vital to any possible escape plan. He knew someone would have to be in Mama’s pocket in order to learn what needed to be learned and gain her trust (as much as anyone can gain her trust).

Taking a page from Emma’s Book of Compassion, Norman agrees to forgive Ray as long as he agrees to be his spy as well. Ray agrees, but only if Norman tricks Emma into thinking they’re taking everyone. Other than Gilda and Don, the little ones will be a burden, both during and after the escape, and Ray didn’t spend years being Mama’s informant for everyone to get killed in a futile attempt to get everyone out.

Immediately his meeting with Norman, Ray meets with Isabella, telling her the others continue to use tag as practice, but focuses Mama on Sister Krone as the primary threat. Ray is well aware Krone was brought in as an insurance policy on Ray, but if she’s not watched closely and her ambitions stamped out, Isabella may be in big trouble. For her part, she doesn’t seem to consider Krone that much of a threat. Ray might be able to use that.

As for Norman, Ray’s insistence not everyone can be saved triggers a nightmare for Norman, in which everyone, including Ray and Emma, are killed and have flowers sprout when they attempt the escape. Not the most confidence-building dream!

Still, Norman plays ball, even as Ray just comes right out and admits to Emma that he’s Mama’s informant. Rather than get mad at Ray, Emma is sympathetic to the burden he’s had to bear, allowing child after child to be shipped off as he played his role.

It’s notable that while Ray has “endured” six years of shipments, Conny alone was enough for Emma and Norman. She doesn’t ask Ray for details of exactly how many he allowed to be sacrificed to learn how to disable the tracking devices, but takes firm hold of his hand and tells (warns?) him not to do it again.

Gilda and Don feel left out of most of the private convos between the other three, but Gilda and Emma start observing Mama more closely, and Emma discovers there’s a secret room where she does…something (Ray suggests it’s where she contacts HQ). Don is itching to get in there, but Ray urges caution, and Norman agrees.

But Don doesn’t feel like caution. He doesn’t know Conny is actually demon food, and so he wants to escape and save her ASAP. To that end, he and Gilda enters Mama’s room, and Gilda slides a bookshelf aside to reveal a locked door…just as someone else is about to enter the room and catch them red-handed. Too rash by half, Donny!

The Promised Neverland – 04 – The Merit in Betrayal

If there was any doubt that Isabella also considers this a game of chess against the smartest of her stock, she makes sure Sister Krone understands that her role doesn’t extend beyond that of her pawn. Informing her that she’s well aware of her behind-the-back plotting, Isabella  promises Krone that if she cooperates, she’ll be a Mama of her own. Predictably, Krone privately fumes and resolves to unseat Isabella rather than wait to be promoted. No doubt Isabella knows she could still be betrayed.

Meanwhile, Emma, Norman and Ray continue escape practice thinly disguised as tag, only this time in teams led by older kids rather than everyone on their own. There’s a lot of attention paid to the hierarchy of the teams and the patterns of their movement; Ray insists Emma memorize all 100 formations he’s devised, and while Emma seems initially reluctant, she responds with “Easy Peasy,” because it most certainly will be easy peasy compared to escaping the farm for real.

It’s not lost on the trio that there’s a traitor in their midst, and they’ve already cast most of their suspicions on Gilda and Don. When Ray tells Emma to go against her kinder nature and suspect them, it isn’t long before everything they do looks suspicious to her. How will the escape ever succeed if they can’t trust everyone escaping?

It’s for this reason that Norman uses one card only they can play: the element of surprise, not in that they’re escaping, but when. With the pattern of the schedule, Mama has basically dared them to use all of the month-plus they have left until the next shipment. But Norman knows they can’t go by the schedule they’ve been handed; they have to escape sooner…much sooner, in just ten days.

To achieve that, they need to start filling in the other older kids, starting with Gilda and Don. The POV animation of the three slowly climbing the stairs to the library really transported me into their shoes and added to the tension and stress with each creaky footstep.

At first Don thinks it’s a big joke, but Gilda knows Emma well enough to know she’d never joke or lie about such things. Norman lies that the kids who left were victims of human trafficking, since the cold reality might just be too much. Gilda and Don ultimately both agree that an escape attempt is the only choice.

Ray doesn’t like how Norman left out the truth to Gilda and Don about all the kids dying and being eaten, but for Norman the escape must come first; he’ll deal with the backlash from bending the truth once that objective has been completed. He’s also set traps for Gilda and Don by giving them different locations for their escape rope.

That night, Emma pretends to sleep and watches Gilda sneak out of the bedroom. What Emma can’t see through the door is that someone I initially believed to be Gilda slips a piece of paper under Isabella’s door with the location of the rope: under Norman’s bed. It must be noted that Norman told Ray that he’d tell Don it was under the bed, not Gilda.

After the paper is delivered, Gilda visits Krone’s room, and Emma listens in from behind that door. Things get a little tense in there, with evidence wavering between Gilda being Krone’s informant and not, but in the end, Gilda does what Emma hoped for and refuses to give up any information.

The next day, Norman wonders out loud why someone would betray their family; Ray tell him there must be some kind of incentive, like being promised they’ll be allowed to live and grow up to become an adult.

Later, Norman asks Emma if she’d let the traitor escape with them even if they betrayed them; Emma predictably and quickly answers that of course she would. She wouldn’t consider the traitor a bad person, because none of them are bad people. Again Emma proves she’s the emotional and moral heart of this show.

But when Norman and Ray search the two spots where the rope was hidden, Norman says there’s nothing under the bed, and Ray says that must mean Don is the traitor. Only now Norman is convinced that Ray has been the real traitor all along. There’s certainly already a wealth of evidence to support that, but we’ll see if Norman’s right, and if so, how Ray will explain himself. Until then, things just got a lot more complicated.

The Promised Neverland – 03 – More Chess than Tag

Isabella is already well-known by her new assistant, Sister Krone, not only for being the youngest “Mama” of a “plant” for consistently producing the finest “product” available. But she’s no doe-eyed acolyte eager to learn Isabella’s ways. Her very first night there, Krone is already planning to usurp her boss, who gave her all the ammo she’ll need: Isabella isn’t reporting the two children who witnessed a “harvest.” That could get her fired or worse if the bigwigs find out.

Meanwhile, Emma, Norman and Ray have just one more difficult variable to consider during their preparations for what’s already looking like a hopeless escape plan. When told to “think like the enemy” in finding a place where a tracking device could be implanted, she inspects Carol, the newest addition to the farm, and finds a red bump behind her ear.

I probably could have done without the demon business meeting (complete with some kind of steaming brew but no donuts), as it kinda detracts from their mystique, but at the same time, despite their frightful appearance these monsters carry on pretty banal lives; with the lower classes of demons serving the upper classes.

Perhaps the kids could exploit the inherent discord within such a strict caste system, but first things first: all the logistics required to get everyone off the farm safely. They agree that it’s too risky to attempt to destroy their ear trackers lest they trip an alarm, so they focus on getting everyone out first.

They know many of the kids will either be too young to understand or old enough not to believe a word of what they’re saying (everybody loves Mama after all), the trio decide to disguise the escape as a harmless game of tag. Emma sets to work improving the kids’ physical condition, while Norman and Ray coach them up on the proper way to survive…”tag.”

Unfortunately, their subterfuge doesn’t fool Sister Krone for one second. She’s suspicious of the three to start, and unlike Isabella intends to ship them out sooner than their official ship date so she can snitch on Isabella for breaking protocol and grab power.

Krone is also physically superior to all of the kids, being an adult in pretty good shape. She challenges the kids to a game of tag, betting she can capture them all in twenty minutes. She lures most of the younger kids out of their hiding spots by making cute cutout shapes in leaves.

Once she’s spotted Emma, it’s only a matter of exhausting her and forcing her to find a hiding spot. It’s a place where there are only so many such spots, and Emma has the disadvantage of having tried to run with two young ones in her arms. The moment when Krone’s voice suddenly grows louder and clearer as she suddenly looms over Emma was…well, pretty frightening!

Norman manages to give Krone the slip, and Ray is the one to announce that her time is up. She’s impressed by the trio of troublemakers, but only insofar as she’s impressed by prime livestock. Now that she knows the actors, their strengths and weaknesses, and that there’s more to their tag than mere play she’ll be keeping that much closer an eye on them.

Not to mention she’ll have an extra set of eyes in the form of a “traitor” in Gilda. When Norman and Ray put the pieces together to determine there’s such a traitor among them, you can see Emma’s spirits plummet. All this time she’s thinking of getting everyone out of the farm to spare them the stuff of nightmares, but the adults already have at least one kid—and it could be anyone—working against her efforts, as well as that kid’s own interests.

In any case, it’s clear this won’t be as easy as a game of tag. Emma, Norman and Ray will have to think two, three, four or more moves ahead of Krone and Isabella, and even make sure the mole doesn’t see or hear what moves they’ll make. What they’re playing, then, is a game of chess, in which checkmate spells death.