Eromanga-sensei – 07

Senju Muramasa doesn’t back down on her intention to crush Masamune, and easily dispatches Elf by having the editor inform her just how many more sales she has (14+ mil vs. 2 mil), forcing a quick Elf retreat. Masamune responds with a challenge to his “senpai”: whoever loses the contest will have to do whatever the victor says.

We knew this was the challenge that was coming, it’s just a matter of what Masamune will write, and whether it will be good enough to beat a platinum powerhouse. He decides he’ll convert his little sister novel to a short story, but short stories aren’t his forte.

Enter Elf, who uses her expertise gained by her own strong sales and puts Masamune through a gauntlet of drafts, until he’s got a “passable”, if not yet good enough, manuscript.

Then the enemy pays him a visit, intentionally wearing a school uniform in order to “make a better impression.” You see, she wants Masamune to surrender, and instead agree to “be hers”, i.e. write novels just for her.

Elf and an on-screen Sagiri are suspicious of her appearance in the midst of the contest, but it would seem Muramasa isn’t trying to sabotage her kohai, just make him pivot to something she sees would benefit both sides. She also doesn’t flinch at Elf’s claim she and Masamune are living together.

She comes in, and after briefly getting distracted by a sudden jolt of inspiration forcing her to stop her conversation in the middle and start writing (and she’s left-handed!), tells Masamune what her dream is: to be able to go beyond writing stories she’s rate 100-out-of-100, and create something even she, not just a fan, could rate 1 million out of 100.

She only writes at all because of Masamune, whose battle novels were the only things that moved her to the bottom of her heart. When he shifted to rom-com with the little-sister proposal, and stopped writing her favorite novel, she became a wreck, and only by writing her own stuff could she keep going.

So Muramasa, certain her dream is more important than Masamune’s, once again pleads with him to become “hers” and write only for her, promising she’ll support him and his sister the rest of their lives if that’s what it takes. But Masamune’s dream isn’t just his own, and Sagiri leaves her room to tell Muramasa as much.

Also, Sagiri won’t accept any scenario in which she gives up Masamune for anyone else. She earlier says he’s not allowed to date other girls ever after seeing Elf’s tweet. This is highly unreasonable behavior, but younger sibling jealousy is nothing new or abnormal. Masamune shows a united front with his sister and declines Muramasa’s author, saying he’ll instead get her hooked on his rom-com.

I mean, that’s great and all, but surely Masamune realizes he can’t keep indulging Sagiri’s possessiveness, right? And that any future romantic partner has to be chosen from among girls he’s not related to by marriage? Just asking for a friend…

Masamune ends up winning the contest, because even though Muramasa got 15 more votes, her short story ran double the allowed length, and she was disqualified. Whether this was intentional on her part, or if she simply wrote the number of pages she had to write and didn’t care what happened afterwards, the story was all about her and Masamune.

Like Masamune’s story about his sister, Muramasa’s is a love letter…to him. So now Muramasa is not just in love with his novels, but with him in general. Masamune doesn’t have a satisfying answer: “there’s [already] someone I love.”

It leads me to wonder if Muramasa’s only purpose on the show was to be defeated twice in short order and retreat as Elf did upon hearing about her sales…or if the battle has just begun. Either way, he harem has become really crowded.

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Eromanga-sensei – 06

When Megumi repeatedly calls LNs “creepy”, Ishikawa Yui breaks out a more Mikasa-esque voice for Tomoe, going at Megumi as if she were trying to hurt her beloved Eren. Masamune avoids blows, but Tomoe enacts her revenge by getting Megumi totally hooked on the books she once so cavalierly looked down upon.

Megumi’s original purpose for checking out some novels was to get closer to Sagiri, and she gets closer than she bargained for, not only being allowed an audience with Muramase’s sister, but serving as a lewd model, bound and blindfolded.

Sagiri is so excited and inspired by her new model, she can’t help but impulsively relieve Megumi if her shimapan, an effective if dated way to blow up her “lewd girl” persona. That being said, Megumi gets what she wants: actual contact with Sagiri, and a promise of continued novel exchange—the foundation of a friendship.

When Masamune’s publisher tells him they won’t be publishing his little sister LN for a year (because the younger, more popular Senju Muramasa snatched his earlier publishing spot), Yamada offers to help him get published. But they’re both early for the meeting, so they have a little date that both know is a date but pretend it isn’t.

Yamada, who is surprisingly not the most irritating girl in the show, and has grown quite a bit as a character in her last few episodes, explains how book sales are like the ultimate game, so it makes sense to always keep score. Despite losing to Senju like Masamune in that department, she dismisses Senju as someone playing a “one-player game” with different rules.

She doesn’t believe Senju would be disappointed in the slightest if Yamada crushed her. Yamada accidentally tells Masamune she loves him, because she knows he would be disappointed, and thus a more worthwhile opponent. She quickly walks back the “I love you”, but the vulnerability and honesty of that moment, along with an earlier scene where she stops when she realizes she’s acting tsundere were nice touches.

The date over, the two mosey to the publisher, and encounter a girl who like Yamada is not dressed in normal modern attire, but traditional Japanese garb. Yamada assumes she’s a rookie when she spots her manuscript and is back to the haughty self she was when she first met Masamune. I guess this is just how she initially interacts with peers in her field? The girl doesn’t give her much in return, but accompanies them to the offices.

There, Masamune’s publisher denies his request to go with another house for his novel, but does suggest an alternative: he’ll enter a short-story competition with four other young authors, and the winner will get published not next year, but in September. Masamune emphatically expresses his intense enthusiasm and signs right up, claiming it’s the first brick of the road to realizing his dreams.

Perhaps a bit too emphatically, as the yukata girl finally speaks up, and not in a docile tone, announcing she’ll be the one to crush his sentimental, shonen-esque little dreams in favor of her own dream. She’s no rookie, after all…she’s Senju Muramasa, and she won’t have Masamune speak her name without the -senpai honorific.

So…Senju is a cutthroat, competitive maniac, eh? Well…I guess that’s probably better than what I expected (someone who is pre-in-love with Masamune / his work despite being more successful than him). In any case, the whole group of girls has now been introduced; we’ll soon see if and how Masamune interacts with the newest and most hostile.

Eromanga-sensei – 05

I wasn’t really serious when I stated last week that Sagiri saying “she’s in love with someone” meant a rejection of Masamune. This week Sagiri barely hides her brocon, and if anything is brassed off that her brother won’t return those feelings, because he doesn’t want to admit he’s a siscon. What both can agree on is that if Masamune is going to write a novel about a little sister, she’s going to illustrate it.

Masamune ends up ignoring Elf’s initial pleas to be rescued by her fastidious editors, so caught up in planning the look of the heroine with Sagiri (the more it looks like her, the better), but Elf manages to finally get his attention with a barrage of arrow fire, and he catches her in a manner she later romanticizes when she finally gets to meet Sagiri, and has fun both playing video games and posing in lewd positions until Masamune gives her up to the editors.

While working on his project proposal, which if approved will get the fast track to publication, Sagiri is eager to show him her completed work using Elf as a model. The illustration inspires Masamune to put an Elf-looking character in the novel, which I thought would really irk Sagiri (since another girl is intruding on her life with her brother and now their art) but she takes it well, and wants to continue inspiring him by drawing different kinds of girls she can only draw if she sees in the flesh.

That would create a problem for Masamune…if he wasn’t surrounded by girls. While I still loathe Megumi, at least her role as the only “otaku outsider” becomes clearer, as she so blithely looks down on the kind of books Masamune and the others create and adore.

The final member of the harem also comes a little more into focus, though she’s only mentioned by name: Senju Muramasa, sharing her name with the legendary student of the legendary swordsmith Masamune; fitting since it’s implied she’s younger. With Elf now a neighbor, friend, and collaborator, Masamune needs another distant rival…at least until that distance suddenly closes, which on this show is pretty likely.

Saekano 2 – 04

Maybe it was because I was so tired, but I was off in my assessment of Tomoya’s assessment of Utaha’s script. It’s not that he demanded perfection; his true qualm lies in his exact words: “It’s a crap game.” Meaning, the script is written like a novel, and is thus unsuitable for a dating sim. This is why, as compelling as it is, it must be re-worked.

Of course, Tomoya delivers his criticism with all the delicacy of a sledgehammer through a plate glass window, and he and a still-stunned Utaha have a little shouting match in the maid cafe of what is otherwise, mercifully, a completely in-the-background school festival.

Tomoya is a rude ass about it, but he’s not wrong, and after making Utaha cry, Tomoya is contrite and assures her she did nothing wrong; it was he who failed as game director, getting sucked into the text without considering how it would fit in a dating sim structure.

As he attempts rewrites, Utaha sleeps in his beat, deflated from the rejection of her new arc, which, by the way, was an arc in which the character most resembling her gets the guy rather than the character resembling Megumi. Megumi calls Eriri to report Utaha’s whereabouts, but Eriri is unconcerned.

Eriri’s been in the boat Utaha’s in right now, and can relate, and in any case, she’s got a mountain of her own work to do, surrounded as she is by crumpled balls of art that don’t meet her standards or vision. Eriri isn’t even interested in entering the Miss Toyogasaki Pageant, despite being the reigning champ.

From there, it’s almost a purely Utaha-and-Tomoya episode, with the two combining forces in a creative odyssey during which Utaha gets so exhausted she falls asleep wearing only an open dress shirt and panties, much to the painfully oblivious Tomoya’s shock.

They re-work the Ruri path, then Tomoya gets it in his head he needs a third arc as well: one in which everyone lives happily ever after, which also seems to match what he wants in real life with Utaha and Megumi. While initially frustrated Tomoya wasn’t responding to her feelings, by the end she comes out confident they’ve made a stronger, more fun game by working together.

On the evening the festival ends, when the bonfire is about to be sparked, Megumi asks Utaha, her writing duties now complete, if Ruri is based on Sayuka from Metronome in Love. And she is; of course she is, because both of them are actually Utaha. And Utaha makes it clear she still hasn’t given up on the ending in which her character is chosen by the protagonist.

Megumi straightens out and her eyes focus upon hearing this, before bowing and heading down to the bonfire, where she romantically approaches Tomoya. Megumi tells him she’s not Megumi right now, she’s Ruri, Sayuka, and also…then takes his hand, and dances with him, as Eriri draws them and Utaha looks on. Lovely stuff.

Eromanga-sensei – 04

Whither Yamada Elf goest, so to does Eromanga-sensei (the show, not the artist). Starting out as a caricature of a super-arrogant, condescending brat with delusions of grandeur, Elf’s become a lot more balanced in the last two episodes.

She also reveals that delusions aside she’s a highly capable, multi-talented person, as evidenced by the lovely, tasty-looking meal she lovingly prepares for Masamune. The reason she’s happy to cook is that she gains perspective on how characters in her stories feel when they’re cooking for those they have their eye on.

Sagiri has also picked up on the quickly evolving relationship between Yamada and Masamune (even if he doesn’t see Yamada as a serious love interest), and calls Masamune a liar for saying they don’t get along, when he’s clearly there all the time.

Combined with the result of bringing up the drawing of large-boobed women (Sagiri can’t do it because she doesn’t have them herself), Masamune ends up shut out of her bedroom once more, though the core of her disappointment is his refusal to come clean about the neighbor.

The day the two authors are to reveal their stories to one another, Masamune arrives at Elf’s house to…no welcome whatsoever. I fully expected him to barge in on her working (or doing something else) in the nude, but I was pleasantly surprised when he found her all covered up.

Specifically, she’s in a very practical sweatsuit, with bags under her eyes instead of ringlets beside them, and a very serious look on her face. This is all Masamune needs to realize all her talk about writing light novels being a mere “hobby” is a bunch of codswallop.

More evidence is presented when the two read one another’s manuscripts before turning them over to Eromanga-sensei. He’s reliably blown away by her story, a page-turner seemingly perfectly tuned for Eromanga’s stylus, right down to the small-boobed characters in cool outfits. But Elf is also blown away by Masamune’s…just not in the same way he is by hers.

It’s not that her story is in any way worse—on the contrary, it would likely sell many orders of magnitude more copies than his—it’s that this isn’t a competition for the most bankable LN. It’s a competition for Eromanga’s services and after reading Masamune’s manuscript, Elf is so sure she can’t compete, she tosses her manuscript straight into the shredder (much to Masa’s dismay).

Reading it also confirms to her that Eromanga-sensei is his little sister next door, and that’s why she can’t compete: it’s a 300-page love letter, for chrissake. It’s not even meant for any other reader but her, which is why Elf is both outclassed and beet-faced she read it at all.

When Masamune finally gains access to Sagiri’s room—via the window in a frankly needlessly reckless stunt that could have gotten him killed and resulted in ending up in a very lewd position with Sagiri beneath him. There, he learns why she hasn’t opened the door for him in two weeks: she doesn’t hate him, she’s been improving her drawing, both battle scenes and bigger boobs.

Her take on his dalliances next door was that the neighbor was a rival artist trying to take “Izumi-sensei” away from her, while he kept the wager secret because he was worried she’d be seduced by the more famous and successful Elf. With the misunderstanding cleared up and his victory sealed (she’d never leave him for another author), she reads the manuscript.

Like Elf, it’s embarrassing for her to read; doubly so since it’s about her. And while she considers it an interesting story, he’d never be able to release it as a book, because it’s just too personal. She also, not in so many words, rejects the implied confession the manuscript represents (at least, Masamune seems to take it as a rejection).

Masamune is fine with that rejection, but he’s committed to re-working the story into something he can show to his editor, something that will sell and garner a huge audience, and eventually, get awarded his first anime adaptation, putting him on the same level as Elf. Most importantly, his goal is to get Sagiri out of her room so they can watch the first episode of their anime together in the living room.

While I thought this was Masamune going too far and was sure it would put Sagiri off, I am surprised yet again when Sagiri take a couple steps outside her room; the first steps in many to come on their quest to create an anime-worthy book. Let the goal-striving begin.

Saekano 2 – 03

Tomoya and Eriri find themselves suddenly confronted by the Hashima siblings, whose Rouge en Rouge game company put out a demo of a game very similar to their own.

While Megumi does her best to keep things diplomatic, it isn’t long until Eriri and Izumi are coming to blows.

Sure, they’re low-impact blows, and each seems to want to empower the other to do their utmost to beat each other (at art, not physically), but then there’s the fact that, at the moment, I don’t much care particularly how well Blessing’s game does relative to Rouge’s.

Isn’t it enough that the team works hard and puts out a game they can be proud of, into which they put their blood, sweat, tears, and passion?

In between acting like she and Tomoya have been married for years, irking certain male classmates, Megumi is preoccupied and fired up by Utaha’s surprise story revision.

But the only way they’ll know whether it works or not, and which script to choose for the game, is by implementing it. That means a lot of work just to catch up to the Rouge demo, with no guarantee their output will surpass their rival’s.

When one all-nighter involving Tomoya and Megumi only nets 20% of the work, other measures need to be taken. When Michiru suddenly arrives, appalled that Megumi spent the night, Tomoya sees an opening, and asks his cousin to recruit her Icy Tail bandmates into doing the gruntwork necessary to plug Utaha’s new story into the game.

They pull a second all-nighter, and considering how late I’m writing this on a Thursday night, I can’t say I don’t relate to their exhausted state when they’ve completed their task.

All that work makes it that much more harsh a slap in the face when Tomoya meets with Utaha and utters the line above. Apparently, after story, art, music, and programming have been combined, neither of Utaha’s stories cut the mustard; at least not now that Tomoya is convinced Iori has a better story up his sleeve.

He requests a complete rewrite—certainly his prerogative as game director—but I assume Utaha is dismayed by his blunt assessment, as I was. In an attempt to outdo Rouge, could Tomoya be overplaying his hand? By demanding perfection when perfection may be unattainable, will he only end up driving his partners away one by one?

Eromanga-sensei – 03

When Masamune investigates the abandoned, possibly haunted house next door, he’s surprised to find Yamada Elf has just moved in: and likes to play the piano naked after a shower to get inspired to write.

After the standard accusations of peeping tommery, she invites him in, and most of the episode is given over to making Elf a little more dimensional, if still grating in her intense, obnoxious arrogance.

As Sagiri’s bedroom window faces Elf’s office, you’d think it wouldn’t be long before she found out who Eromanga-sensei is, but Elf sees Masamune’s sister and thinks she’s just that: a little sister who has fun drawing, not the person whose services they’re fighting over.

It’s also a bit shitty of Masamune not to even mention to Sagiri his little wager with Elf, considering Sagiri is the ‘prize’. Then again, it’s a good thing that Masamune isn’t the perfect MC while everyone around him is flawed in some way.

Indeed, Masamune’s flaw seems to be that in spite of Elf’s toxic personality, incessant pretentiousness, and pronunciation of ahhh-neee-may, he can’t help spending time with his new neighbor, nor indeed being a fan himself, even if meeting Yamada-sensei wasn’t what he expected.

For a time, it doesn’t seem like Elf invited Masamune in just to rub his nose in her superior success, but to spend time with a fellow author. She earnestly asks why he’s a fan, and he earnestly answers: after a death in the family, her books cheered him up. They taught him that novels can “save lives” of some readers, and for that she has his heartfelt thanks, competition or no.

Elf’s reaction betrays a softer, more genuine side to her, even if it’s short-lived and she’s back to being awful the next day. But it’s also clear that she’d rather have Masamune around than not, and also strongly disagrees with his workaholic approach to authoring, as she considers her job a “hobby” and only writes if her motivation is maxed out.

Despite knowing nothing of their competition involving her, Sagiri is uneasy anyway because her big brother, who has been All Hers up to this point, is suddenly ‘in the web’ of a cute, rich next-door neighbor.

While her music and online fans keep Eromanga merry, I feel one of the factors that drives her motivation to draw is knowing Masamune will always be there in the house, serving her meals and protecting her.

Yamada throws a thorn in that arrangement, and it will be interesting to see whether that motivates Sagiri to explore beyond her room. But yeah…Masamune really should tell her about his wager with Elf.

Saekano 2 – 02

Utaha has finished her script, and to celebrate has Tomoya take her out for a day of shopping, dining, and watching films that aren’t poorly-received (i.e. ghosty, shelly) live-action anime adaptations.

It’s a date, no doubt about it, at least as far as Eriri is concerned, observing the couple’s interactions from afar like, well, a stalker, with Megumi forced to tag along for plausible deniability.

But Utaha doesn’t merely toy with Mr. Ethical: she makes it a point to bring up the fact that now that the script is complete, her job with Blessing Software is also done, and she’s looking to the future.

She asks Tomoya his opinion not only on where she should attend university (out in Kansai or fifteen minutes away) as well as to pick which script should be used: she wrote two. She’s basically telling the director to choose a direction; not unreasonable.

When Eriri and Megumi meet with Tomoya (thanks to Megumi having a key to his place!) they see the ending and see Tomoya’s dilemma. Eriri both acknowledges Utaha’s artistry, comparing it to the Metronome of Love series she claims to have never read, while complaining that it’s a lot more work.

Still, she doesn’t automatically reject this new ending, nor does Megumi: they, like Utaha, leave it up to Tomoya. Sorry dude, gotta make some hard choices, and not everyone is going to be happy. Especially with Izumi’s doujin game already out there in demo form, living in the same genre as their game.

Saekano excels when Tomoya is one-on-one, as he is with the lovely Utaha most of this episode. But I also liked how their interactions were shadowed by Eriri and Megumi (especially the difference in Utaha and Eriri’s reactions to the movie, which chose a “childhood friend-friendly”, and thus Eriri-friendly, ending).

I can’t say whether the script of Saekano is cliched per se; all I can say is that it is unafraid of commenting on the very genre and medium it exists in, or of being almost self-back-pattingly self-referential and irreverent of those institutions.

But the dialogue is expertly delivered by the actors, and the character design is strong, so even if this show’s ‘weakness’ is its script (which I’m not saying is the case), it’s more than capable of making up for it in other areas, which makes this show enjoyable to watch on any given week.

But I don’t think it needs a live-action adaptation.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 03

Episode 3 puts it all together in a rousing, magic- and action-packed jaunt, completing the “opening trilogy” that sets the stage for the rest of the series. In the beginning, Glenn may have been a useless shite and Sistine may have hated his guts, but at the end of this episode neither is the case.

While Glenn saved Sistine from the first baddie, they’re far from out of the woods: neither Celica nor anyone else can get to the Academy due to the teleportation circle being out of service. Baddie #2, Reik, sends a squad of bone golems, and when they kill Baddie #1, Sistine witnesses mortal bloodshed for the first time.

Glenn keeps “Shironeko” calm and focused, which is just as well, since he absolutely needs her vaunted magical ability to support him as he takes out the golems, then faces off against the mage who summoned them.

Glenn also makes it clear to Sistine, understandably frustrated she can’t save Rumia on her own, that magic isn’t useless, and tells her what Rumia told her about using it to help people. He’s not going to let either of them die. Not on his watch.

That seems to be the reason he shoves Sistine out of the destroyed hallway, but Sistine remembers his question about Dispel Force spell earlier, and takes it to mean he’ll try to pull the spell off to stop Reik, and she’s there in time to bolster his piddling mana reserves with her own.

It’s a surprisingly brutal battle with Reik, resulting in Glenn getting impaled by several swords, but in the end, he only needs one to kill Glenn. After that, he and Sistine pass out. He’s the first to awaken, and there’s no time to lose, for he’s realized that Baddie #3’s plan is not to destroy the teleportation circle, but to redirect it.

That Baddie #3 turns out to be the traitor, Huey-sensei, as well as the teacher he’s been subbing for. Because of the spell he’s activated, Huey…can’t actually move, nor is he all that mocking or mustache-twirling. He considers this all a big game, albeit with big stakes, and with Rumia as the prize.

As such, like Reik, Huey can’t help but be impressed when Glenn, even in his severely-injured and depleted state, deactivates four of the five barriers binding Rumia to her spot, before passing out again. She’s able to reach through the fifth, and because she’s one of those super-rare “amplifiers”, she can transfer stores of power and energy to him.

Glenn wakes up, deactivates the final barrier, the spell shuts down, and Huey concedes defeat before taking a good ol’ fashioned punch to the jaw. Crisis averted.

For a group of evil mages who have supposedly been planning this for years, was it silly for them not to have done their homework on Glenn, once a “skilled mage killer” in the Imperial Court Mages? Was it also stupid for the headmaster and Celica to leave Rumia in such a vulnerable state, knowing who and what she was? Sure.

But it’s just as likely Celica was confident enough in Glenn that whoever came after Rumia would regret it, and so it came to pass, with many a crucial assist from Sistine, as well as Rumia herself. The ordeal also leads to Glenn deciding to stay on as a full-fledged teacher, which no doubt pleases both Rumia and Sistine, despite the latter’s disapproving frowns.

With this impressive opening tirlogy completed, the new OP runs at the end, indicating a third main student will be introduced soon, this one blue-haired and a food fan. I eagerly await the classes, battles, and adventures to come, and at some point hope to learn what, exactly, the titular Akashic Records are.

Saekano 2 – 01

“Why are things so bad between them?” asks Mr. Awful Thick-Headed Deaf Protagonist, AKA Aki Tomoya, referring to the near constant bickering and fierce competition between Eriri and Utaha. Cue a flashback to a year ago when the two rivals first meet, and Eriri learns Utaha is not only the author of the “Metronome In Love” novels she enjoys with Tomoya, but that she’s trying to snatch her Tomoya away.

Eriri tries in vain to steer Utaha away from Tomoya, while Utaha is irritated to learn how well Tomoya knows his childhood friend Eriri. Utaha brings Eriri up to Tomoya because she’s “interested in knowing more about her”, meaning she’s eager to gather info on a foe.

For all the contempt Eriri and Utaha have spewed at one another throughout last season, they are nonetheless connected by a strong underlying mutual respect. They’re not just foes, but worthy foes. And however much they may differ in creative philosophy, neither can deny the other’s obvious talent, or even be a bit envious of it, considering they excel in different areas (Eriri art, Utaha words).

Utaha learns that Eriri’s motivated by revenge for all the frustration she’s suffered having to hide her talent away beneath a pristine social facade; while Eriri believes she has the haughty Utaha figured out as a cold, calculating ice queen who looks down upon and manipulates her fans with her technique. Neither is wrong!

So back in the present, while they’re still bickering as fiercely as when they first met (with Tomoya as the totem of their rivalry), they can still acknowledge one another’s skill and passion for their craft, and can agree with Tomoya when he says theirs could be a collaboration for the ages.

The praise and enthusiasm of the guy they both like makes it easier for them to look past their surface hate for one another, and the value in working together, even if it’s not always, or ever, smooth sailing.

When Tomoya requests an illustration by Eriri autographed by both her and Utaha as Kashiwagi Kazumi, Eriri, Utaha, and Megumi also requests autographed illustrations. The apparent mortal enemies proudly hang them in their homes, proving their respect and admiration for one another beyond any doubt, even if they’d never ever say it to each other’s faces.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 02

Now that’s more bloody like it. Thanks, Akashic Records, for validating my optimism! After an episode that makes Mr. Radars look like a total loooser, this week starts much the same way, with Glenn picking a fight with Sisti over the value and utility of magic, then going so far he makes her cry and slap him before storming out of class.

At the end of the day, Glenn spots Rumia working on a magical circle, and decides to help her out. She (and by extension we) learn a little more about Glenn, and we learn a lot about Rumia. She’s super-gung-ho about becoming a mage because she’s both indebted to and inspired by a ‘mage of justice’ who once saved her life.

Chances of this dude being Glenn are around, oh…99.99%. Still, I like the dynamic between Sisti’s fire and Rumia’s water regarding Glenn. It’s as if she knows he’s a better man than he’s letting on.

Glenn also takes Rumia’s advice and properly apologizes to Sisti, which flabberghasts her, but also eases their conflict considerably. From there, Glenn, outraged by the “For Dummies” approach his class had taken towards magic thus far, decides to actually give a shit and teaches them what he knows.

Mind you, he still manages to tease “Shironeko” Sisti in the process, but turns out to be a really good magical instructor. The class starts filling with rapt students. Shit is getting done. Just as Rumia saw a good man somewhere in Glenn’s initial bastardry, his mentor Celica predicted he’d be a great teacher.

This episode has a very talky middle, but I didn’t mind because it’s all fascinating stuff that delves deep into the magical lore of the show’s world. I also liked how Glenn actually had the know-how to back up his constant posturing.

But when the other teachers peace out for some kind of magical conference, a group of magical terrorists take advantage. One confronts Glenn in the streets, while others invade the school, looking for Rumia, who they call “Princess Ermiana.”

Sisti stands up for her friend, but when it’s clear the terrorists ain’t messin’ around, she comes forward, with a distinctly defiant look about her. Her faith in Glenn hasn’t been extinguished; she believes he’ll come and rescue them.

Sistine’s attitude gets her in real trouble when one of the terrorists takes her into an isolated room with designs on raping her, calling her out for her facade of strength masking a scared and fragile girl, and stating her type is his favorite. Yikes…shit got dark in a hurry.

Fortunately, this asshole’s associate’s magic didn’t actually do squat against Glenn, who arrives just in time to put a stop to his assault. He uses his ‘original spell’ The Fool’s World to nullify all magic within a certain radius around him, then uses some fly physical martial arts to incapacitate the jerkwad.

As Rumia—or Her Royal Highness Princess Ermiana, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing—thought, this Bastard Magic Instructor isn’t going to stand by and let even bigger bastards hurt his dear students. The straightforward comedy of the first episode wasn’t bad, but I enjoyed that same cheeky comedy interspersed with danger even more. The fact the “Magical Punch” is a kick, for instance; call me easily amused if you must.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 11

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What started out as a simple errand (retrieve Sukeroku and bring him back to Tokyo) becomes much, much more for Kikuhiko, due in no small part to Sukeroku’s daughter, Konatsu. The girl is pretty hostile to Kiku right up until she learns who he is, and then her demeanor rapidly shifts to tearful veneration, and she insists Kiku come with him to see her Dad.

I’ve always loved Konatsu, and lamented how little of her we’ve seen (albeit out of necessity) since Yakumo’s story began. Kobayashi Yuu isn’t quite as convincing as a five-year-old as say, Kuno Misaki, but it doesn’t matter: by the end of the episode, I was in love.

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On the way to her Pops, we learn from her that her mom has run off, abandoned them, and I take her at her word (we later learn Miyokichi does this often, but always comes back eventually). She also says her mom forbade her dad to perform rakugo, and when we arrive at Konatu’s domicile, we see just how well Sukeroku functions without it.

I mean, a frikkin’ five-year-old is the breadwinner here! Things are bleak. The only thing that rouses Sukeroku from his mid-day nap is Kikuhiko’s voice, which sends him flying out of the filthy house. In a perfect reunion moment, Kiku smacks him in the face with his bag, but Sukeroku pounces on him anyway.

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Kiku gets down to brass tacks, but Sukeroku is initially unwilling to hear him out: he’s done with that part of his life; rakugo has gotten “boring”; he’s out of practice; the raft of excuses is almost unending. But Kiku cuts through all that with one simple fact: ”

If people want you, you have to do it.” And Kiku is one of those people. After hearing and being envious of Sukeroku’s rakugo—and being unable to replicate it—Kiku needs it back. He’s starved for it, and wants to hear it again, and continue striving to match it, even if he never will.

Kiku doesn’t come out and say he’s been gliding along without Sukeroku around, because he hasn’t—he’s been working his ass off—but when his brother compares how he looks to a shinigami (which sends a shiver up a listening Kona’s spine), it’s clear he’s missed him.

Until Sukeroku reconsiders, Kiku is staying. He fronts cash for Sukeroku to pay off all his debts, but fully expects him to repay him by acquiring jobs in town. He’ll live with them, but insists they clean the house thoroughly. In this manner, Kiku is like a stiff, purifying breeze that blows out the cobwebs.

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But Sukeroku and Kona aren’t the only two benefitting from Kiku’s stay. Kiku decides to do small performances at dinner parties and the like to pay for food and his fare home, and gets really into it. The master of the inn even presents him with a more formal performance space (ironically formerly a geisha prep room).

In a bath scene that hearkens back to one of the first between the two brothers (something Sukeroku points out but Kiku claims not to remember), Kiku does confess that he’s never felt this way abotu rakugo before; this good.Sukeroku knows why: Kiku can see his audience; there’s less physical and emotional distance between them, motivating him to strive do his best.

At times it seems like Kiku himself could settle down here as Sukeroku did, and if not thrive in the upper echelon of his craft, at least lead a happy life.

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But that’s not really the case. Kiku still wants to return to Tokyo, with Sukeroku taking his rightful place as Yakumo. As always, Kiku is looking out for Sukeroku, striving to put him on the path he thinks is best. That means getting him out of debt, cleaning his house, and cutting his little girl’s hair so it’s out of her face.

In one of my favorite scenes of the whole show, Kiku scolds Kona for badmouthing her mother, then discourages her from taking up rakugo, since he earnestly believes it’s a man’s job to be on the stage performing. He then goes into a pretty woman’s crucial role as the rakugo performer’s muse, drawing out their best performance.

Konatsu then puts Kiku in checkmate by getting him to admit she looks pretty with her new haircut, so now he has to do rakugo for her!

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If Kiku was enjoying himself at all the small informal gigs in town, he seems even more at ease and in the zone with an audience of just one. The story Kona makes him do—an at times creepy, at times hilarious story involving sexy ghosts or some such—is one of the best I’ve heard, and it’s made even better when Sukeroku, who can’t help himself, joins in and turns the solo performance into a duet; their first.

These are two brothers who haven’t seen each other in five years, and yet here they are, a perfect comedy duo. Perhaps the performance is technically a little rougher and unpolished than it sounded like, but who cares? Konatsu is over the moon, and Kiku is hopeful he’s shown Sukeroku why he can’t give up on rakugo. It’s not just Kiku who needs it, it’s his daughter too.

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We don’t hear Sukeroku’s answer, but their performance, and Konatsu’s elation, clearly has a powerful effect on him. Then Miyokichi enters the picture, at the very end of the episode, having been handed a sign announcing a public dual rakugo performance starring Sukeroku…and Kiku-san.

Miyokichi’s reaction suggests she’s still carrying a torch for her old boyfriend after all this time, which goes a fair way in explaining why she’s not home with Sukeroku or Konatsu; perhaps the former reminds her too much of the man she really loved. The question is, will she attend the performance?

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KonoSuba – 04

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This week’s KonoSuba felt like three separate and distinct KonoSubas in one, all coalescing at the end around a single theme: whether Aqua is any good. We begin with Darkness showing off her repaired armor (and somewhat sadly asking Kazuma to praise her sometimes) and Megumin getting really excited about her new Manatite staff.

Kazuma also isn’t wanting for anything, as he later buys clothes and equipment better suited for his environment (albeit the same green shade as his tracksuit). All three spent their cabbage spoils wisely, but Aqua didn’t. In fact, she spent all the money she had and built up a 100,000-eris bar tab, thinking she’d be good for it, only for most of her cabbages to turn out to be lettuce, which isn’t worth nearly as much.

This is ridiculous and hilarious and makes perfect sense, since Aqua has so little luck. Kazuma, meanwhile, is roling in luck and cash, and wants to move out of the stables, but instead pays Aqua’s tab, after she tries pretty much everything: flattery, begging, and finally shaking her bum.

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Part Two of the three parter is the marvelous story of how Kazuma is forced to tag along on Megumin’s practice sessions far from town (where she won’t get scolded by guards) so she has someone to carry her home (just thinking about the silliness of such arrangement would send any milk I’m drinking out my nose).

She finds an abandoned castle perched atop a cliff, and day after day, once a day, blasts it with explosion magic, and every day, Kazuma carries her home. At first, it’s a chore, but he starts to get into it in spite of himself, gradually becoming a kind of aficianado; the equivalent of an “explosion foodie.”

Every explosion has its own intensity and personality, and Megumin has good and bad days. They bond through the experience, and Kazuma’s previously dismissive attitude toward her gives way to a kind of respect and understanding.

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His attitude towards Aqua, on the other hand, remains extremely dismissive. Aqua seems happy to be bringing home free dinner (and I’d be happy too!) but Kazuma is restless. He doesn’t think they can beat the Devil King, and he thinks a lot of that has to do with Aqua not being the all-powerful goddess he thought he had.

A Megumin aptly puts it, his “verbal lashings are pretty nasty;” subjecting Darkness would bring her tears of joy, but they only bring Aqua tears of sorrow (though Aqua reacts interestingly to Darkness’ interest in being reamed by Kazuma).

Kazuma’s war with Aqua is put on hold when a Dullahan arrives in town – one of the Devil King’s top generals. Looking kinda like Ains Ooal Gown’s cousin, his main grievance is with the constant explosion spells being cast on the castle where he’s taken up residence. Heh, I knew that castle wasn’t abandoned!

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After failing to pass of blame to another town wizard, Megumin steps forward and actually takes responsibility, though she refuses to apologize for or cease doing what is, for her, as natural and necessary as breathing. If she has to fight the Dullahan into submission for him to understand, so be it. Aqua arms herself and stands beside Megumin in solidarity.

Then the Dullahan, out of patience, prepares to his Megumin with a Death curse that will kill her in one week, but Darkness races in front of her and takes the curse instead. Now, I know enough about Death spells to know they’re typically not reversible; once you get one, it’s only a matter of time. This incident actually heightened the peril dynamic of the entire show for me; it looked like it was actually going to get serious.

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Of course, this being KonoSuba, feelings like that don’t last long, but that’s just fine, because the route it takes instead is true to its mission statement to send up every fantasy trope it can find in the most creative way possible. Because the Dullahan death-cursed a masochist, he only made things weirder and more of a hassle for himself, so he retreats before Darkness jumps on his horse.

Before he does, he challenges the party to come after him, and if they can fight their way through his castle fortress and get to him, he just might lift the curse. After he leaves, Megumin again shows she has heart and guts by resolving to take that challenge. Kazuma, who as we saw bonded with her somewhat in training, declares his intent to accompany her. It looks like the party is about to embark on a grand adventure to save their selfless comrade.

But NOPE, Aqua just uses her magic to instantly lift the death curse from Darkness as easily one balls up a tissue and tosses it in a dustbin. JOB DONE. I have so say…I wasn’t expecting that at all, but again, it made perfect sense.

Aqua had been beaten down the entire episode as an underachieving, whiny, pathetic excuse for an arch priest, but ends up the heroine, gaining the adoration of the entire town while utterly sapping Kazuma and Megumin of their motivation. So going back to the question of whether Aqua is any good…well, she is, but only at very specific things at very specific times. If this bizarre party is going to thrive, it will do so mostly by threading needles.

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