Kemono Michi: Rise Up – 03

Runaway Dragon-Girl and her attendant (vampire?) Carmilla join Rise Up!’s main cast this week. One of them gets a body slam and the other tries to eat Genzo’s dog Hiroyuki… before declaring she wants to spend the rest of her life with him. (the dog, not Genzo)

Beyond that, Genzo’s farm/petshop is coming along but he’s gonna run into money trouble sooner than later. (That dry petfood is expensive!) and there are only so many heroes that can call GenzoDemon Beast Killer” and get knocked out, so Shigure can ‘discover’ and pawn the equipment they leave behind. Yes that’s still happening and it’s still hilarious!

If you are familiar with Rabujoi, you know I run out of review-steam when I run out of new things to say about a show. Rise Up! is one of the first good shows to reach that mark this season — it exudes charm and it’s comedic timing is masterful and I love watching it. However, that masterful timing and formulaic comedy sensibility is the only thing I have to say about it?

To that end, I will probably wait until episode VI to give a mid season review, and maybe an end of season wrap up after that. It is absolutely worth watching each week, and looks on track for the top 15 of my Isekai Ranked list. No need to ramble on about it in the mean time.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 01 – The Price

When we last saw Kirito and Alice, Eugeo had just died, Administrator was defeated but not killed, and Kirito had lost his right arm and his fluctlight fried by some kind of power surge. This exemplary episode is all about the aftermath of those events, both immediately following them and some months later.

Aside from Rintarou Okabe or Natsuki Subaru, I can’t think of a protagonist in recent anime memory who has suffered as much or fallen quite as low as Kirigaya Kazuto. He was being kept alive in Underworld, devoid of memories, but after saving that world from a tyrant, he lost even more. In the present, autumn is falling on Underworld, and Kirito is a mute, emotionless husk under Alice’s care—with frequent visits from her sister Selka.

Alice is no slouch in the loss department either. She may have regained a sister and, incidentally, her freedom from the Axiom Church and Order of Integrity Knights, but she lost Eugeo, one of the best friends whom she’d forgotten, while the other of those friends in Kirito is the aforementioned husk. It’s ultimately Alice’s episode, and it’s an unyielding portrait of anguish.

Alice scratches out a meager wage felling trees with her sword skills, incomparable to anyone else in the village. The villagers need her help to make progress, but suck their teeth behind her back and even mess with the minimally-responsive Kirito and the Blue Rose Sword he inherited from Eugeo. It doesn’t matter that Alice, Kirito, and Eugeo saved them from Administrator’s evil plans; they just don’t like them.

Knowing Kirito wouldn’t be safe anywhere near the Cathedral, she tried to return to Rulid Village, but her own father shunned her, so she settled in a cabin on the town’s outskirts with Kirito and her loyal (and adorable) dragon Amayori. It would be a happy life—were it not for Kirito’s condition and the still-looming Dark Territory situation.

The tranquil, picturesque surroundings call to mind Kirito and Asuna’s cabin, once the site of so much joy. But while Alice and Selka try to make the best of things, there’s no escaping the fact this is an extremely dismal situation, with no immediate sign that things will get any better.

Quite the contrary: with Administrator off in some other dimension, the world of men has never been more vulnerable to incursions of orcs and goblins from the Dark Territory. Bercouli musters his fellow Integrity Knights and starts re-training lower-ranked forces Admin had banished, but the time of the titular War of Underworld is just over the silver mountain horizons in the background of those gorgeous vistas.

Eldrie is on a mission to confirm the various tunnels into their lands have been blasted to slow the enemy’s advance, but his dragon senses his younger sibling Amayori and thus Alice. Eldrie begs her to rejoin the knights and join the fight. Alice doesn’t tell him she won’t, but that she can’t. Even if she didn’t have to care for Kirito, she can no longer wield her sword. Eldrie reluctantly accepts this and the two part ways cordially.

As Alice turns in with Kirito, sharing his bed to keep him warm or just so she can have human contact, her remaining eye fills with tears as she asks Kirito just what the hell she should do. After all these months with no progress, I imagine she’s starting to lose hope he’ll ever recover, and in the meantime has been coping, enduring, and operating on inertia.

When Kirito suddenly moves as if reacting to something, there’s a sudden glimmer of hope that’s just as quickly snatched away—he’s only reacting reflexively, as Amayori does. You see, fires are blazing in the direction of the town and there are sounds of fighting—no doubt a Dark Territory raid. So yeah, no hope, just more awful shit to deal with.

As all this is happening in Underworld, we have no idea what is transpiring in the real world with Asuna on the Ocean Turtle. While I’m no sucker for punishment, I do appreciate the bleak depths to which our heroes have fallen, because it will make it that much more compelling if and when they manage to claw themselves out. That’s why we must watch.

Kemono Michi: Rise Up – 02 (Second Look)

Between his heroic pro-wrestler muscles, love for animals, and need for cash, Shibata Genzo clears a dizzying number of guild missions this week. Unfortunately, Shigure and… whoever that demon ant is… are the only people who know Genzo’s latter motivations and he is quickly dubbed “Demon Beast Killer” by his fellow guild members. That does not go well for them, of the walls of the guild, in hilarious fashion!

As with last week, Rise Up’s humor is elevated by how straight it’s played. Genzo’s behavior may seem random, but it sticks to a nicely defined character, and that character plays off of Shigure’s limited morality very nicely. However, the contrast truly works because no one else is strange. From bankers to adventurers, the NPCs of this world react to weirdness in a believable way: they are cautious, confused, or simply don’t understand what Genzo is even saying. This interplay makes the limp bodies hanging from the walls and NPC commentary while Shigure steals a downed adventurer’s sword even funnier.

Genzo’s character continues to develop too, this week showing how he thinks of Orcs as basically human. Maybe he gets along with them even better, since ‘speaking with his fists’ resolves his Orc quest pretty quickly. The match itself was rendered quite nicely. Naturalistically may not quite be accurate… but it has a grounded feel. It’s probably what you wresting fantasies looked like, if you had them in your youth?

As a comedic, hero-style Isekai, comparisons of Rise Up and Cautious Hero are inevitable this season. To me, Rise Up gives us more insight into what everyone is thinking and feeling, and also keeps the action more grounded. The result is a bit more plain looking, with fewer opportunities for vivid color and over the top character designs. However, I laughed more often with Genzo and crew. (though not quite as loudly)

In closing, there’s something really nice about how different the character builds are from typical anime. Genzo has a brick wall thickness and weight that further sells the ‘realism’ angle. Heck, even Shigure looks like a muscled adult.

If ratings were simply how happy a show made me, Rise Up would score a 10! Its dedication to well told jokes carries it predictably through. Sure, that predictability limits surprises but it absolutely deserves your attention.

TenSura – 17 – The More, the Merrier

As the Blumund Kingdom sends Fuse, along with the three adventurers who already met Rimuru, to meet with the Slime and get the measure of him, Vesta, Kaijin and Gabiru end up being a good team when it comes to developing a fully-restoring potion. It’s so effective, it’s overkill for anyone but elite warriors, so it’s suggested they enter a trade alliance with the Dwarves to produce lesser potions in Jura Tempest.

The peace is suddenly disturbed (again) by envoys from Demon Lord Carrion. Half of Riguld’s face is ripped off, and Milim pays the envoy back with a devastating attack, hoping for praise from Great Rimuru. The Slime is not happy, however, that she ignored her promise not to cause any commotion.

Rimuru doesn’t get much respect form the Demon Lord envoys, but sends them on their way anyway, hoping they’ll relay a message to their lord to meet with Rimuru directly. Milim let’s slip that she and the other Demon Lords have an arrangement in which they won’t interfere with one another’s affairs.

Rimuru bribes her with a new weapon in exchange for more info on the Lords, and she’s all too willing to oblige. Meanwhile, the Blumund envoys as well as a survey party from the Falmuth Kingdom cross paths just as the Blumund group is fleeing a giant spider monster. Fortunately Gobta is in that neck of the woods hunting, and not only bails out the humans, but turns the spider into dinner for the town.

The representatives of the two kingdoms meet with Rimuru, and once again the Slime initially isn’t taken seriously. But once Vesta vouches that the Dwarves have already recognized Jura Tempest as a legitimate ally, and the Falmuth envoys have spent some time in the town, their leader Youm not only recognizes Rimuru, but agrees to serve as his new leader.

As Rimuru makes two key human inroads, Demon Lord Clayman is keeping his eye on things with his harlequin spies, including the young, annoying, very pink Tear. Looks like the Lords’ deal not to interfere with each other has gone out the window.

Like Milim, Clayman is far more powerful than Rimuru; unlike Rimuru, he’s not so young and so easily manipulated. Right now, he and the other two Demon Lords look like the largest remaining threats to Rimuru and his vision for peace and prosperity.

TenSura – 16 – Besties with a Demon Lord

Gazel Dwargo marks the start of the alliance between the Jura Tempest Federation and his kingdom by giving Rimuru the gift of Vesta, who he doesn’t want working for him anymore but knows can still be of use. Gabiru and his posse also appear, looking to be useful to Rimuru.

Rimuru ends up naming all of the Lizardmen, resulting in their evolution. Some, like Gabiru’s sister, take more human form, while Gabiru turns purple and sprouts wings but retains his inimitable personality. Rimuru sets him to work in the caves harvesting healing herbs, and gives Vesta a lab in which to research healing potions.

Meanwhile, at Demon Lord HQ, the twintail loli dragonoid Milim Nava is watching TiVo footage of Rimuru defeating Geld, and wants to meet the Slime immediately. And she does mean immediately; she launches herself from the castle straight to a hill in Jura where Rimuru, sensing a massively powerful entity drawing near at incredible speed, awaits.

The Great Sage estimates that even when she’s just playing around with Rimuru’s Kijin generals, she’s over ten times more powerful than Rimuru. Rimuru approached her carefully, but the Kijin, assuming their leader’s life was in danger, started a fight they couldn’t finish. Rimuru bails them out and nicely neutralizes Milim by giving her a taste of…honey. Sweet, delicious honey.

Milim, whom Rimuru can tell is an impressive “prodigy” but as much of a child as she looks, manages to convince Milim not to cause any trouble in exchange for a jar of the sweet stuff. Gabiru almost immediately ruins things when Milim enters town, but later apologizes once he learns she’s a Demon freaking Lord.

Indeed, the entire town (which is looking much more civilized and built-up these days) welcomes the new alliance between Milim and Rimuru, when the former announces to a crowd that she’s decided to live there. Milim is notorious for being someone with whom you don’t want to be enemies, so it’s a great relief that she’s not just friends with Rimuru, but as she says it, “besties.”

As everyone enjoys the new onsen Rimuru commissioned (and Rimuru seems to have no problem going from the woman’s side to the men’s), his top subordinates all consider the politial ramifications of Demon Lord Milim essentially throwing her lot in with the Jura Tempest Federation, as it definitely changes the balance of power among the other Demon Lords.

Still, they leave it in the capable hands (when in human form) of their Great Rimuru (who feels a bit put out by the presumption, as usual). But as Rimuru was able to tame Milim, surely she and Rimuru can protect their new nation from the other lords.

TenSura – 15 – Things are Getting Very Official

With the war with the Orcs behind them, the Kijin, Lizardmen, Goblins and Dryads all come together under one roof to hear what Rimuru is going to do about them. After all, he’s now the Chancellor of the Great Jura Forest Alliance…which is actually news to Rimuru!

Improvising, Rimuru decides to not only fully pardon the Orcs, but integrate them into the alliance as a labor force in exchange for food and water from the Lizardmen and Dryads and shelter among the goblins in his town. Benimaru also forgives Geld’s son, as they’re all servants under Great Rimuru and thus no longer enemies.

As for Gabiru, his newly-named and evolved father decides not to execute him, but merely excommunicates and exiles him from Jura. I was kinda hoping Gabiru would move to Rimuru’s village, but he and his groupies seem bound elsewhere. Once insufferably arrogant, he’ll be missed now that he’s learned some humility.

Rimuru proceeds to name every one of the 150k Orcs, evolving them into High Orcs, and progress on his capital accelerates into fill SimCity Mode. But not all of Rimuru’s troubles are gone. The Demon Lord Clayman has fixed his gaze on “the Slime” and intends to challenge him soon, while the Dwarf King Gazel Dwargo arrives in town at the head of a squadron of Pegasus Knights to take the measure of Rimuru via a duel.

Rimuru, sporting some snazzy new threads, accepts the challenge, and Treyni serves as witness. Dwargo proves a formidable opponent, but Rimuru just manages to block his combo strike thanks to the fact they received instruction in swordsmanship from the same master, Hakurou…small world! Convinced Rimuru is not evil, Dwargo and his men feast at Rimuru’s new facilities, and proposes an alliance between Rimuru’s new nation and his Dwarven kingdom.

Rimuru accepts, but he has to name the nation: Jura Tempest Federation. Has a nice ring to it. As for the capital, his admiring underlings name it Rimuru in his honor. Here’s hoping Clayman and whatever other Demon Lords are lurking out there don’t mess it up too bad in the near future.

TenSura – 14 – Rimuru’s Cheat Day

Gelmud arrives to put the invasion back on track, but he wasn’t counting on encountering anyone more powerful than he, a superior majin. While he tries to kill Gabiru, who he himself named just to be another pawn to make his Demon Lord stronger, Rimuru steps in to deflect the relatively weak attack, then tosses some potions to Gabiru to heal his fallen loyal subordinates.

Gelmud is little more than an annoyance; the one thing Rimuru wants from him is the name of the one pulling the strings, but Gelmud won’t give him up, confident Orc Lord Geld will attack on command (he named him out there in the desert, after all). Instead, the Orc Lord beheads Gelmud and eats him, after which he evolves into the Demon Lord Orc Disaster Gelmud was trying to create all along!

The Kijin and Ranga throw everything they’ve got at the Demon Lord, all but exhausting their magicules in the process, but nothing can cause anything other than light scratches and burns, and he heals almost instantly. This is certainly the toughest boss Rimuru & Co. have faced to date.

So tough, in fact, Rimuru decides to cheat a bit, by activating “Auto Mode” and leaving the Demon Lord up to the Great Sage and all her amassed wisdom. Rimuru’s eyes glow red and reflect the Great Sage’s geometric form, and starts to go to town on the Orc, culminating in enveloping it in a massive column of flame.

Unfortunately, probably since he ate Gelmud, Geld has a resistance to fire, so the big attack has no effect. Rimuru takes back control and proceeds to Plan C…pivoting from Cheat Mode to Cheat Day, as in eating way more than he should.

It becomes a struggle to see whether Geld’s Starved or Rimuru’s Predator can devour the other first. As Rimuru’s expandable slimy body envelops Geld, he can see a bit of the former Orc King’s past, when he had to pull off his arm to feed starving children under his protection during a horrible famine. He soon set out to find help, which is when he encountered Gelmud.

Geld insists he can’t lose, because he must live to bear his sins and those of those who sinned on his behalf…but Rimuru ain’t havin’ it: this is an eat-or-be-eaten world, and Geld can’t win against him. At least Geld has a momentary rebirth when his barren home is transformed into a lush, green paradise before evaporating.

The Demon Lord Geld is gone, and Rimuru and his allies are victorious. He relieves the Kijin, keeping his promise to release them from his service once they took care of business…but unsurprisingly they all want to stay by his side. I’d say it was time for a celebratory feast, but I’d also say Rimuru’s eaten enough for one day!

TenSura – 13 – A Brand New Beginning

When Souei locates the Chieftain’s daughter in a tough spot and reports to Rimuru, the Slime orders him to help. By the time Rimuru and his forces arrive, Souei has already defeated all of the orcs. After healing the Daughter Rimuru forms an alliance with the Lizardmen on the spot.

Rimuru sends forces to help both her overconfident brother and the father he imprisoned. Meanwhile, a pissed Treyni the Dryad slices Laplace’s arm off with an Aerial Blade in attempt to shoo him and Gelmud out of the forest.

Lord Gabiru, once more egged on by his loyal underlings, puts on a flashy display as he fights an orc general one-on-one—the combat animation and sound effects here are excellent as always and pack a great punch—but he can’t do much actual damage against the great orc, and ends up having to be rescued by none other than Gobta.

Gobta is joined by Ranga, while Benimaru, Shion and Hakurou start obliterating the orc army in large chunks. Benimaru creates massive domes containing a kind of orc-killing dark-elemental magic, Shion’s straight slices with her greatsword cleave both enemy columns and the ground they stand on, and Hakurou’s lightning-quick blade fells scores of orcs before they know what hit them.

Ranga even gets to evolve again, decimating the army with a Death Storm wide-range attack before leveling up to at “Tempest Star Wolf.” It’s basically a rout, as the orcs can’t mount any kind of resistance against the overwhelming force of Kijin and wolf.

Gelmud flees the forest to report matters to the Demon Lord. Rimuru, who only had to observe the battle from the sky this week, dons Shizu’s mask, perhaps preparing to draw from her and Ifrit’s power to defeat the Orc Lord. As with OverLord, sometimes it’s just fun to watch the good guys unleash hell on the bad.

TenSura – 12 – That’s a Lot of Bacon

Treyni the Dryad has come to confirm that an Orc Lord has risen. Not only that, his army of orcs are afflicted with “Starved”, a skill that allows them to gain the power and abilities of whoever they eat…including each other. This is an enemy that must be defeated with as few casualties as possible, lest they unwittingly refuel the army.

The Dryads know that no one of the groups of beings who dwell in the forest could take on the army, so they’ve reached out (through the potato chip-stealing Treyni) to the most powerful among them: Rimuru Tempest. Shion volunteers on her master’s behalf, but privately Rimuru is worried about losing. He’s never faced someone with an ability like his “Predator”, after all.

Souei volunteers to be Rimuru’s envoy with the Lizardmen, whose numbers Rimuru will need to achieve victory. Impressed by Souei’s intense Kajin aura, and the fact he’s only a mere messenger for an even more powerful master, the Lizardman Chieftain agrees to an audience with Rimuru in seven days’ time.

Before those seven days are up, however, everything gets messed up, all thanks to our overly-preening Chieftain’s son, Gabiru. Gelmud plants an underling named Laplace to easily manipulate Gabiru into staging a coup against his father, who has agreed to maintain a defensive stance but has alienated his younger comrades by doing so.

Gabiru gives those youngsters what they want: the opportunity to fight their enemies head-on rather than continue hiding in the caves. But since Gabiru imprisons his father and sister before hearing them out, he doesn’t learn about the orc army’s Starved ability until the orcs begin to eat their own dead. Rimuru was surely right to worry!

TenSura – 11 – Avoiding Incompetent Allies

With his new coterie of ogres (sorry, kijin) Rimuru encounters three anime tropes in a row this week: a brewing rivalry between Shion and Princess Shura, the very lazy revelation that Shion sucks at cooking, and Gabiru, the overconfident puffed-up adversary who isn’t smarter than he looks, and he looks pretty dang stupid!

Gabiru actually has moments of self-doubt, but he’s a helpless sucker when it comes to positive reinforcement: his men tell him he’s The Best and Nobody Beats Him, and therefore he believes he is. He may be insufferable, but for some reason I still like the guy. Ya can’t teach charisma!

Rimuru and his crew are extremely #NotImpressed, and Gabiru has no idea how many of his gaffes almost get him killed during his short encounter with the Slime’s subordinates.

Rimuru appoints Ranga (in his true, intimidating size) to deal with Gabiru, who expresses his disappointment a great direwolf is serving a lowly slime. Ranga clearly isn’t sure he can fight Gabiru without killing him, so he delegates the task of dueling with him to Gobta, who manages to survive Shion’s cuisine with new poison resistance.

Much to Rimuru’s surprise, however, Gobta is a stout warrior, throwing his spear as a diversion then using Shadow Movement to sneak up behind Gabiru and deliver a knockout kick. Gabiru’s shocked retainers don’t give up on their leader, but cart him off as they scurry off in retreat, promising “this isn’t over!”

Despite the stupidity of one of their leaders, Rimuru still contemplates at least aligning his forces with those of the Lizardmen, considering the threat two hundred thousand orcs presents to the whole of Jura Forest. A dryad named Treyni appears and formally requests Rimuru’s assistance in defending the forest from the orcs, adding further urgency towards action.

TenSura – 10 – Maybe I’m Actually Pretty Great?

During the village feast, Rimuru offers to help the Ogres get revenge on the orc army that destroyed their village and killed all but the six of them. After sleeping on it, the Ogre leader agrees that they’ll serve as his subordinates until the orcs are dealt with.

Rimuru then names the six Ogres, but comes to learn that while there are only six of them, they were far more powerful to start then the goblins he named, and he passes out from magicule depletion much faster than expected.

But with their new names the six Ogres evolve into “Kijin”, more human and less wild-looking. Now the posse we see during the end credits is complete, and Rimuru now has some very capable subordinates. Looks like he’ll need them!

Scouts of the Lizardmen who dwell in the marshlands in the center of Jura Forest report back to their chieftain that a massive, 200,000-strong army of orcs is making its way through the forest, no doubt to conquer the territory. The chieftain muses that an Orc Lord must have been born to be able to control an orc army so large.

And now we know what that business with the big-man was all about a couple episodes back: A Demon Lord Army officer named Gelmud named an Orc, resulting in its evolution to Orc Lord. That same Gelmud named Riguru’s big brother, as well as the son of the Lizardmen Chieftain, Sir Gabiru.

Gabiru is sent by his father to seek aid in their defense of Jura from the Orc horde. His loyal retainers convince him that this is the perfect opportunity to prove to his father that he can retire and let him take on the mantle of chieftaindom. Souei, Rimuru’s new Kijin ninja, reports the presence of Lizardmen nearby. These two groups will likely have to come together to overcome the threat of the orc army.

TenSura – 09 – Adult in the Room

With Shizu absorbed, the adventurers gone, and the village on autopilot, Rimuru explores his new human-mimicking ability, and learns that his default form has no gender.

He can make it any age and as masculine or feminine as he likes, but steers clear of the latter (looks too much like Shizu) and maintains the default form, continuing his practice of looking deceptively twee.

While practicing some of the new abilities he got from Shizu, Ranga reports in: the hunting party is under attack by a group of six ogres. These ogres (or oni) don’t match Mikami’s idea of the hulking, ugly brutes, but one thing’s for sure, they’re confident in their abilities.

Their red leader believes Rimuru is responsible for the destruction of their village and intends to get revenge. Rimuru leaves only the pink mage to Ranga and quickly dispatches three of the remaining five.

But the white ogre knows the skills he’s using and where he got them, and can even slip past magical sense. The red one also has a fire attack, which is obviously useless against the immune slime.

Rimuru decides to remove the aura-concealing mask and show them his true power by breaking out one his newest abilities, Black Flame. Red is impressed and scared, but as the leader of his people he’s not going to back down just because the cause is hopeless. It takes Pinky, who also happens to be his sister, to be the voice of reason among the ogres.

Everyone stands down and they work through the misunderstanding. Both sides’ people are healed up and Rimuru invites his new horned friends back to the village for a feast (which he’ll now be able to taste in human form). And now I know who all those horned folks in the OP and ED are!

As for what their story is, that will have to wait for next week. Until then, I welcome the introduction of six more very cool-looking characters.