Vlad Love – 11 – Undead Bait

Here it is: the Vlad Love Beach episode. When the Blood Donation Club requests a “training camp” trip to cut loose, Chihiro brings up the club’s utter lack of a budget. No problemo; Kaoru finds a steal of a deserted tropical island vacation: just ¥10,000 (bout $90) per person.

Unfortunately, the low cost means they travel by boat, and end up in a homage to The Great Wave off Kanagawa with crippling seasickness; only Mai seems to be having fun. However, they do eventually make it, and the summer sun, white sands and blue sea deliver as advertised.

As the sun sets, everyone save Nami (who goes for a solo swim in the ocean) check out their dilapidated accommodations, which are in such a state due to the immense age of the innkeeper and sole employee, the tiniest of obaasans. When Jinko searches the beach after sundown, Nami is nowhere to be found, save her swimsuit, which means wherever she is, she’s nakked.

The obaasan innkeeper tells them the legend of a Fishman who for five hundred years has been visiting the beach on hot summer nights ever since he and his true love, a beautiful young human woman, were separated. Maki goes on a Creature of the Black Lagoon tangent, but the group decides to head out to the beach and lure the Fishman out, and rescue Nami from his clutches.

After Kaoru dancing erratically in fishgirl cosplay yields no results, everyone agrees, and Mai volunteers, to be the blonde bait sea creatures seemed to love so much in the movies. Tied up like Andromeda as an offering to Cetus, the Fishman emerges from the waves: a hilariously awkward giant beast with the head and body of an eel and muscular human legs—more Trogdor than Gill-Man.

When Katsuno cosplaying as Perseus is smashed under the Fishman’s foot, an 80% charged Franken is activated and transforms into Hulk Mode. In his somewhat lest than three minutes of operating time, he’s able to give the larger Fishman a German suplex, knocking him out cold. The battle is too brief and uneventful to be deserving of the cool poster that flashes on the screen.

Back at the inn there was a running gag of the tiny old innkeeper’s yelling literally bringing down pieces of the inn. It’s revealed she was the woman who fell for the Fishman 500 years ago, and the sight of him unconscious leads her to let out a scream that causes the entire island to explode, ripping everyone’s clothes and giving everyone fluffy perms.

The final loose end is Nami, whom Mitsugu had completely forgotten about as she’d been too busy worrying about Mai. Turns out she’s fine too, as the fisherman’s daughter emerges from the Fishman’s mouth naked but otherwise unharmed and unfazed. The group lines up on the beach to watch the Fishman swim out into the sunrise.

Otherside Picnic – 09 – Grease Monkey

While on the train to Kozakura’s Toriko notices Sorawo’s hair has gotten longer since they met, and how she thinks it’s cute. Sorawo’s obviously chuffed, but seeing “Karateka” at Kozakura’s takes the wind out of her sails somewhat, while that farm equipment just sits outside the front door.

Akari has another case for Sorawo and Toriko, and it involves Sannuki Kano, another urban legend popular online with which Sorawo is already familiar. This time Akari isn’t the one afflicted, but her good friend Ichikawa Natsumi, a mechanic at a garage. Natsumi initially mistakes Toriko for Sorawo, then acts…odd upon learning she’s the black-haired one.

It’s also clear she and Akari are super close; one could say they have eyes only for one other. But Natsumi failed to follow the instructions the monkey stipulated regarding Sannuki Kano, and many a mishap has occured since, from an old woman hanging herself in her yard to both her parents being hospitalized.

Sorawo inspects the vicinity and they find a cremation urn full of teeth buried near the tree where the lady hung herself. They also find Natsumi’s family Shinto altar buried on the grounds. While searching with Sorawo, Natsumi admits that in the brief times she saw Akari’s tutor Uruma Satsuki, she had a very creep aura, as if she was about to take Akari far away from her.

Natsumi also worried when she heard about Sorawo and assumed it was Toriko that she wouldn’t have been able to compete with a “babe like that”, and was relieved to learn it was the…plainer? Sorawo. Just then, Sannuki Kano appears in spectral form and immediately claims one of Natsumi’s teeth, ripping it out with telekinesis.

Sorawo inspects Sannuki with her eye as Akari adopts a karate stance, and Sannuki pulls one of Akari’s teeth out, calling her “Karateka”, which is odd because that’s Sorawo’s nickname for her. Sorawo orders Toriko to put her gun away, yelling “Stay!”, lest she become the next tooth extraction target.

Sorawo holds eye contact on Akari and tells her not to hold back, as Sannuki is not human like the cat ninjas. She also says “Your karate will work on any monster you face”, which suddenly puts Akari into some kind of trance. Akari tilts her head funny and smirks maniacally, saying she is indeed a badass and rushing Sannuki.

The old lady dodges a couple of strikes, but before long the crazed Akari has her on the ground and is just raining blow after devastating blow. Toriko can sense Sorawo did…something to Akari, and tells her to call it off. When Sorawo calls her name, it’s as if a light switch goes off, and Akari is back to her normal self.

With Sannuki destroyed, Akari and Natsumi hug, both relieved they’re okay, and start to repeatedly say each other’s names like the adorable couple they are. Toriko asks Sorawo if she indeed did something to Akari, but it wasn’t intentional. Then Sorawo decides she’ll grow her hair out, leading Toriko to take her bangs lovingly into her transformed hand.

Back at Kozakura’s, Akari admits something happened to her after Sorawo said “I’ll be watching you.” Akari thanks Sorawo profusely once more, glad that she’s such an expert on urban legends, but Sorawo decides to dispel for everyone present the belief she’s “into” urban legends. What she’s actually into is what she calls real-life horror stories: not unsubstantiated popular rumors but documented incidents with witnesses and/or victims and detailed reports.

For Sorawo, scary stories, strange tales, and unexplainable events of this nature are clues that lead “somewhere beyond our world”, i.e. the Otherside, which is where those stories led her, and where she met Toriko, for whom she cares so dearly.

That’s when Akari makes a parting observation: that with her silky black hair and glasses, she somewhat resembles Uruma Satsuki. It’s something Sorawo never considered, but thinking about it transports her right back to that pond in the Otherside she was lying in when she first met Toriko. Is the reason Toriko and Sorawo haven’t been able to find Satsuki because…Sorawo IS Satsuki??

It’s now been established she can cause ordinary bullets to kill monsters and put someone like Akari into a monster-beating trance. She also can sometimes drink too much and forget what she did the previous night. And Toriko thinks would look cuter with longer hair. Heck, the mystery surrounding how Sorawo first reached the Otherside demands we at least consider the possibility she’s the woman she’s considered a rival—and for whom Toriko has searching—all along. 

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 14 – Aurora Boarialis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 01 (First Impressions) – Misfortune and More Misfortune

Here we are, back in Academy City. I remember most of the faces, as well as most of their connections. There’s yet another threat looming as a large and ominous protest by a religious group takes place all the way in Toulouse, France, and the worlds of magic and science seem to be teetering on the precipice of another nasty conflict.

Seemingly in the middle of it all is Kamijou Touma, he of Imagine Breaker—and eternal misfortune—fame. In less than two days he loses his wallet, gets bitten by Index, gets detention for a debate over bunny girls, gets beaned by a Fukiyose fastball, and then yelled at and attacked with lightning by Biribiri.

And all that turns out to be the least of his problems. An old lady who encounters Index later nabs Touma and takes him somewhere secluded at gunpoint. She’s part of Academy City’s governing board, and seems interested in Touma’s ability should the Orthodox Church be using the protests as a booster to “attack the world”, something to which the city would have to respond.

This old lady is then promptly shot by Tsuchimikado, who then whisks Touma off to France via supersonic jet and skydive, where he and Touma will recover a Roman Orthodox magical item called the Document of Constantine. It’s a good thing Tsuchimikado’s stepsister Maika is cooking for Index, because it doesn’t look like Touma will be home for a while…

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 23

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While it felt like momentum-killing padding at the time, in hindsight it was a good idea to expose Shinichi to Mitsuyo’s worldview and advice before seeking out Gotou for a rematch. She instilled in him the idea of not simply rushing to his death half-cocked, but rather constantly using the noggin in his skull to think of ways, no matter how unlikely or ridiculous, to keep living. In other words, to trust his instincts; the same instincts that drive all other living things on Earth to survive.

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It isn’t all that unfair a fight. Sure, Gotou is nigh invincible and far stronger and faster than Shinichi, (I even felt that mega-punch) but he can’t kill him if he can’t find him. This was one somewhat glaring flaw, however; it seems odd that Gotou has virtually no idea where Shinichi is. For one thing, he’s human, which is Gotou’s food…why wouldn’t he be able to smell out a meal? For another thing, there are still Migi cells in Shinichi’s body, which you’d think Gotou would be able to at least detect a little.

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Another glaring flaw is that Shinichi survives the fight early on mostly because Gotou takes his sweet old time killing him, because he doesn’t consider a human to be any threat. Shinichi could have possibly even talked him into letting him live, or at least run far enough away that Gotou wouldn’t bother fighting him. Of course, that means putting more innocent people at risk.

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And that’s primarily why Shinichi confronted Gotou; not out of anger, or for revenge, or because he wants to be the hero, but to prevent others from dying because of him. With poise that would make Mitsuyo proud, just moments before Gotou skewers him, Shinichi remembers Gotou bleeding in a specific location. Lying in a pile of garbage, he picks up a rusty pipe and stabs the lunging Gotou with it. It turns out to be a vulnerable area, and it pisses Gotou off even more.

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But stabbing him there also broke the link between the “head” and the “rest”, and as I had suspected after the uncertain fate of Migi last week, Migi himself became part of that “rest” and is freed when the rusty pipe introduces life-threatening toxins that make the other “rest” parasytes wake up and resist the “head’s” orders.

For the second time in just a couple of minutes, Shinichi is about to face his death, but this time all he can do is sit there and wait for the blow to come. That’s when the Migi in Gotou’s swinging killing arm meets with the Migi in Shinichi’s stump and BOOM, Migi transfers back to Shinichi right then and there, nullifying the attack. Shinichi’s so damn happy he’s back his eyes glint!

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From there, the duo of Shinichi and Migi is more than enough against the severely weakened and uncoordinated Gotou. It’s very satisfying when Migi goes through him like a wire through clay and he explodes, bringing about the dawn.

Upon inspecting the garbage pile, Migi deduces that the toxins on the pipe that proved fatal to Gotou were proof that “there’s no beating humans,” especially if you corner them atop a garbage pile they made that they can use the contents of to kill you!

It raises questions in Shinichi’s head about whether parasytes came to be to reduce the population of humans, who have spread across the earth and ravaged the environment. Those toxins are representative of human’s status as Earth’s wasting disease…and parasytes could be deemed the cure.

That’s one way to look at things, anyway. So when Migi declines to finish off a member of his kind (to do so would be murder in his eye/s) and leaves Shinichi to decide, Shinichi initially hesitates to finish killing the slowly reconstructing Gotou. When taking enough steps back, Gotou, or what’s left of him, has as much right to exist and survive as Shinichi does.

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Shinichi changes his mind again when he realizes that he can’t live his life all those steps back; not as long as there are people at risk, or people he wants to protect. If Gotounator re-coalesces, he’s not going to stop killing humans; it’s what he exists for. That makes him, in the arena of protecting one’s own small band of humans, not all of humanity, an enemy whose existence is intolerable.

Shinichi sheds a tear before finishin Gotou, and in the brief cuts to the writhing, reconstructing corpse, it does indeed engender a kind of primal human sympathy for the weak and struggling, even if we know full well the monster it will become if allowed to reconstruct.

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Shinichi goes home, having done what was necessary to protect Mitsuyo’s village, along with ensuring he himself will be safe for the time being, along with his father and his beloved Satomi. Gotou is by no means the last parasyte, but he was certainly the toughest. I doubt anything tougher will show up in the finale, which I hope will focus on where Shinichi and Migi go from here, and in particular whether he plans to finally inform Satomi about his deep, battle-tested friendship with the little monster in his right arm.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 22

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Shinichi’s blissful honeymoon with Satomi doesn’t last long; in fact, there’s absolutely no mention of it, or even Satomi’s name, this entire episode, lending it a somewhat disjointed episodic feel. Mind you, more big things go down this week, but once those things are over and done with, the episode kinda grinds to a halt.

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Migi alerts Shinichi that Gotou is on his way, and then Migi steals and drives a car, then ditches it off a cliff, hitting the one Gotou is driving. Naturally, this isn’t enough to kill him, so Migi decides to separate completely from Shinichi to act as a decoy, so the two can execute a pincer attack. However, in his weakened, separate state, Migi isn’t strong enough to fully behead Gotou, and begins to shrivel up.

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Migi decides to stand his ground and cover Shinichi’s escape, saying a quick goodbye. But what’s interesting is that it isn’t just Shinichi who feels bad about this. Migi is no longer the cold, logical bastard he once was. Shinichi has humanized him as much as he’s parasytized Shinichi. Migi even considers Shinichi a friend. What he doesn’t do is wilt away into nothing, at least on camera. We don’t witness his death, so there’s a chance he’s not dead.

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Shinichi runs, feeling like a coward for abandoning Migi, and when trying to steal a drink from an old woman’s backyard, that old woman takes pity on him and takes him into her house.

This woman, named Mitsuyo, used to work in retail, so she can read Shinichi to a degree: he’s not a burglar (he’s too polite), he hasn’t had his right arm for a while (since it’s been Migi), and his injury is the result of being bullied in an unfair fight. She gets the gist right, but never in a million years would she ever believe the details…perhaps even if they were staring right at her.

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Shinichi ends up staying for days, making me wonder whether Satomi or his Dad are worried about him, or if by now they’re used to him pissing off for days at a time. In any case, while under Mitsuyo’s roof, he has another creepy dream in which he communicates with what’s left of Migi within him.

When he awakes, it’s even able to form an eye on his stump…but no more. If anything, Shinichi feels worse than if there was nothing left; those cells being a constant reminder of the fact he’s still alive thanks to Migi’s sacrifice.

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Mitsuyo, ignorant as she is to his specific situation, nevertheless imparts some wise council wizened old ladies tend to impart in these situations. When Shinichi blathers on about “making use of his life” to stop the monster that’s terrorizing the town, Mitsuyo scolds him on his youthful recklessness.

Having lived life far longer than him, she knows full well how precious it is. She won’t stop him from doing what he thinks he has to do (face the monster), but she does insist he exercise caution and flexibility, and not squander his life so readily.

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Deep in the forest, we see Gotou lying as if in wait for a rematch with Shinichi. But the emphasis on his single gleaming eye makes me wonder if Migi didn’t get absorbed into the weakened Gotou, either by his own will or not. That will mean one of two things: Shinichi will have to finish off his friend, or Migi has taken control of the parasytes within Gotou.

The fact that it’s not certain at all whether Migi is really dead and gone, and probably isn’t, detracts from the drama, and makes Shinichi’s crisis of confidence and extended stay with Mitsuyo feel like leisurely padding for a show with just two episodes left. Still, with Shinichi only armed with a rusty old gardening ax thingy, it should be an interesting fight. Here’s hoping this was the final “rest” in the narrative.

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