Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World – 03 – Swiss Army Mitsuha

With all of Mitsuha’s intricate preparations complete, all that’s left is to get chummy with the nobles of this world. When she’s stopped at the gates for lack of appointment or invitation, she improvises. She pretends to have been struck by the Count’s sons’ carriage, and they bring her right into the manor. This way, their first interaction is one in which they have done her wrong and owe her amends.

Once she’s “recovered”, Mitsuha formally introduces herself as “Mitsuha von Yamano” of the distant land of Japan. Her story is that she was separated from her traveling companions and her life was in danger, but she was saved by the people of this land. She offers a Swiss army knife of all things as a token of her gratitude, and her hosts are impressed by its craftsmanship.

That night she wows them with an evening gown and pearls, which while the cheaper cultured kind, are deemed so perfect by the Count’s wife Lady Iris that she goes on a tirade about how they can’t possibly exist in this world. She also meets the Count and Lady’s two sons and daughter, all younger than her, and explains the true reason she’s here was due to a succession dispute in her land.

Freed from that dispute, and from the titles and riches of her homeland, Mitsuha is determined to start over and make her own way by opening a general store in the capital. Mitsuha manages to appeal to Lady Iris by offering her “priceless” necklace because she reminds her of her own mother. She also tells them that all proper ladies in her country are trained in the “knife arts” and carry a blade on them at all times.

As the night goes on, Mitsuha continues to entertain her hosts over tea with her stories and ideas about how they can boost their flagging crops, her ambition on full display. The Count notes how it’s so fun chatting with her he’s lost track of time, and when she accidentally knocks over her cup, she’s suddenly reminded of a real interaction she had with her parents back when they were still alive. She realizes that she never truly wept for her lost family members, and finds herself unable to hold back genuine tears.

After how the interactions with her brother were happening in her head for mostly comedic and expositional purposes, it was surprisingly touching to see that this interaction with another family made her yearn for her own, and properly grieve them for the first time. And even though that wasn’t her intention, it only supported her calculated plan to gain the nobles’ trust and affection.

The next morning they send her off on a carriage to the capital with attendants with both the financial and moral support to get her empire started, with the understanding that she’ll always be welcome in their home. It’s a win-win-win situation for Mitusha “von Yamano”, and her future is looking bright!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World – 02 – Sweating the Details

Once Mitsuha determines the products from her world that would do well in the new one, and learns that the village is ruled by a local lord, she decides it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. That means saying goodbye to Colette and her bone-crushing hugs, but she promises she’ll return someday.

While aboard the horse-drawn carriage out of the village, Mitsuha realizes that not only is she not appropriately dressed to credibly pass as a merchant, she also stinks from having not bathed in while, so she returns home, washes up, slips on her business suit, and gets down to business.

Before Mitsuha even starts wheeling and dealing in another world, she’s determined to be prepared for any threat that might befall her. To be fair, that’s the right move; she’s all alone in that world, and fairly petite besides. So she uses her cash savings (which she’ll be able to replenish with gold coins) to get the best self-defense and marksmanship training money can buy.

The show really goes into intricate detail describing and animating the types of weapons she’ll be handling, which I guess speaks to the fact the original creator is a gun otaku. At no point does Mitsuha explore non-lethal forms of self-defense, and even gets into a philosophical debate with the memory of her brother, a stalwart pacifist.

After more gun training and research on feudal societies, Mitsuha procures a scooter with which to get to the village more efficiently, but is almost detected by a group of adventurers. She transports back into her room, scooter and all. I enjoyed how the episode got into the nitty gritty with details like this.

And while I wish Mitsuha weren’t so gung-ho about labeling enemies she doesn’t even have yet as less than human and vowing to eliminate them without mercy by pumping them full of lead, the fact that she’s a stranger in a strange and unpredictable land (and the last surviving member of her family) still stands.

Once she prepares a selection of goods from her world and procures a bespoke wardrobe that’s appropriate to the style of the other world, Mitsuha transports over and is finally ready to do business. So far her charm, humor, practicality, and ambition make her an appealing lead. Hopefully would-be thieves or brigands will steer clear, because they are not going to want her smoke!

Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement – 01 (First Impressions) – Making the Best of Things

Yamano Mitsuha’s parents and older brother were killed by means the show doesn’t get into, but suffice it to say, she’s alone. When she fights some aggressive flirting guys and is pushed off a cliff, she doesn’t want to die. But instead of landing on the rocky shore, she wakes up in a soft, sprawling grassland. The giant moon is a dead giveaway: this is another world.

She wanders across the vast plain until she reaches a forest, and there she encounters another human, and passes out from exhaustion and hunger. She comes to in the girl’s home, and while she learns her name is Colette, she speaks another language. For the time being, Mitsuha lives with Colette and her fam and helps forage for mushrooms and the like.

When Mitsuha and Colette are stalked by wolves, Mitsuha shows her mettle (partially inspired by her late, brave and confident otaku brother) by getting Colette to safety and getting the wolves to follow her. But while she’s willing to put others before her, she still doesn’t want to die, and she doesn’t: she transports back to her house. Turns out she can go back and forth at will!

Mitsuha arms herself with her brother’s slingshot, kitchen knives, and pepper, and returns to the other world, and is successful in fighting the wolves off, killing the biggest and intimidating the others before passing out again. Then she has a conversation with a “being of pure energy” taking the form of the lucky cat her brother gave her, and explains her situation.

Frankly, the explanation is fairly half-assed and played for laughs, and isn’t even necessary. All that matters is that Mitsuha can not only travel between worlds, but take items with her. Items like gold.

If she can create a lucrative market for Japanese goods in this other world (a good bet) she figures she can make enough money—roughly 2 billion yen—to retire early and comfortably in either world should she lose her power.

I’ve seen isekai series with enterprising protagonists, but I cannot recall one in which they are able to move back and forth at will, and without any apparent catch. Another factor in this show’s favor is that Mitsuha is a girl, which just makes this feel fresher than if it was another Taro-kun.

Also, while typically a sister would be embarrassed by her otaku big brother, Mitsuha remembers him fondly, and his inherited wisdom proves useful to her on multiple occasions. Mitsuha’s design is fine, but the general animation and art is uninspired and underwhelming. But the series has enough going for it so far to make up for its visual shortcomings.

Akiba Maid War – 09 – Raiders of the Lost Oink

Leave it to Akiba Maid War to infuse some alternate history into its alternate timeline, as it introduces Omoe, the first maid from the Meiji era, who inspired the Lady Omoe Climb, which to the present day remains the crowning event of the annual Akiba Maid Festival.

Now that Maidalien is no more, it’s a very special festival for Creatureland, the only game in town. Nagi wants everything to be perfect, which for her means the café she manages, Dazzlion, will win the climb. Her otaku errand boy assures her everything will be arranged.

Nagomi is pumped up for the festivities, but Yumechi and Shiipon tell her not to bother. For Oinky Doink, the festival is all about knowing their place, keeping their heads down, and simply getting through it.

The seriousness of working within the highly structured confines of the “ecosystem” Nagi has set out means the Pigs occupy the very bottom of the creature pecking order, even below the newbie Axolotls. The Otaku distributes the guidelines, which are in extremely small print, warning Tenchou that Oinky Doink will be disowned entirely if they deviate.

Meanwhile, Nagi’s head lion maid sits in her throne like a queen while other lion maid give her a mani-pedi. She assures the Otaku that they won’t need any help climbing to the top of Lady Omoe, where the king of beasts belongs.

None of these elites imagined that their carefully controlled narrative would be completely usurped by the end of the festival by one of the bottom-feeding pigs, namely Nagomi. She stays up all night to make their stall (which is next to the bathrooms) look nice.

As for the guidelines, since they were thrown out with the trash Tenchou never relays them to the others, and spends the entire episode apart from them, fishing and wondering if she’s even really needed (a fish tells her no). Ranko has a steamy little interaction with one of her regular (and age-appropriate) masters, while their other regulars sample pigs’ feet (the only fare they’re allowed to sell) for the first time.

But sales are slow, because everything has been done to make Oinky Doink fail and keep them at the bottom. Nagomi ain’t about that, and in keeping with her commitment to her late sister to be the best damn maid she can be, she decides to walk about the festival grounds, taking the pigs feet to the people. For this, the higher-ranked Cow, Cat, and Bear maids punish her and the others.

After prostrating themselves in deference to their bullying “betters”, Ranko asks why things are this way, when in her experience they’re all top-notch maids. Nagomi wonders the same thing, and believes that this is their chance to leave the truffles alone and climb higher.

The last straw comes when the starting gun fires for the Lady Omoe Climb, and because the Pigs are at the very end of the line they’re not even able to move. Zoya picks up Nagomi’s baton of rebellion and dashes into the street where she and her fellow pigs have a clear path to the front of the race. Are they butting in line? Yes. Do they not care? Also yes.

The Pigs employ teamwork, with Zoya clearing the way at the bottom while Yumechi, Shiipon, and Nagomi start their ascents. the latter two get all tangled up in fights of their own. Nagomi manages to evade the pouncing lions and ends up near the top with their boss, and everything we need to know about her we learned when she slapped the shit out of one of her own maids for no reason.

Nagomi tries to hold her own but is no match for her, but Ranko gives her a clutch assist, grabbing the lioness and leaping off the megamaid to enable Nagomi to grasp the victory she worked so hard to attain. She plants the pig “flag” in Lady Omoe’s head, and just like that Oinky Doink has prevailed.

At the victory ceremony, Nagi plays it cool rather than disemboweling Nagomi right on stage in front of thousands of citizens. She tells New Lady Omoe Nagomi that she has “plenty of promise”, but says only time will tell if she’s truly worthy of the honor. Interestingly, Ranko is way off to the side, and she and her former colleague don’t interact at all.

Nagi takes out her frustration over Dazzlion’s defeat in the shadows, by having Otaku guy killed. I’d say RIP, but this lackey has been nothing but a menace to our Oinky Doink girls, so to him I say good riddance to him and his stupid backpack. Unfortunately, I highly doubt Nagi will stop there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fabiniku – 05 – Ch(armor)ed

Lucius, perhaps sensing that Jinguugi and Tachibana might be useful, has them accompany her and the captive Schwartz to defeat a “Living Armor”. On the way, Lucius admits even he is not immune to “Audrey’s” charms, and feels compelled to give her a candy.

The peculiar thing about the Living Armor, which introduces itself as “Vizzd The Incomparably Skilled”, doesn’t so much kill its victims as…steal their clothes. Schwartz runs in headfirst and is the first to be disrobed, followed by Lucius, who is revealed to be a woman—which wasn’t really a surprise.

When Tachibana gives Lucius her pink dress to cover up, she reveals her slip, setting Jinguugi off. When he puts his jacket on her, the Charmed status only increases—such is the power of the “boyfriend shirt” effect. This leads to the two bickering about their “preferences” while Vizzd can get neither a word nor a blow in edgewise.

Jinguugi’s Charmed status and increasing irritability results in him making quick work of the Living Armor, revealing that Vizzd is really a small girl aligned with the Demon Lord was piloting from within. Lucius takes her to the station an interrogates her, but Vizzd is rescued in the middle of the night by a fellow Demon Lord underling, Kalm.

The next morning, Schwartz is hoping to get a peak at Tachibana in her bedclothes (which, dude), only to discover Jinguugi’s “Door to Tachibana’s old apartment” skill. Schwartz notes how much it seems to be a place where a guy lives, which is the perfect opportunity for Tachibana to reveal that she was once a 32-year-old male salaryman.

Schwartz is crestfallen, but Tachibana shows off her effortless ability to make friends—an ability Jinguugi has always been both envious of and perplexed by. Turns out Schwartz didn’t even know he could bring up a menu with his stats and skills. He seemingly activates one when a massive purple mouth-like opening forms in the sky above them…or could the color be a hint that this is that Kalm lady?

Fabiniku – 04 – The Black Swordsman

After much walking and much complaining by Tachibana, she and Jinguuji arrive in the first decent-sized town in this new world. Jinguuji doesn’t want to cause another incident like the one in the village where every man basically went nuts over Tachibana’s Unparalleled Beauty, so he hides it in the most inelegant way: a brown paper bag.

The Browns Fan look does keep men from becoming enthralled, but Tachibana does not like it. She wants Jinguuji to buy her a sword, so she takes off the bag to persuade him, and very nearly does. When the weapons store owner presents a golden hair ornament that will divert everyone’s gaze from its wearer, Tachibana tries to haggle the price with her beauty. This leads to more chaos, and to Jinguuji having to toss Tachibana into the apartment for her own safety and that of the people she instantly bewitches.

Back in the wilderness, she proposes staying in the apartment while Jinguuji does all the long-distance walking, but reconsiders this arrangement when heasks her what would happen if she was in the apartment when he died. The solution is that Jinguuji simply spent most of their gold on the dang crown, which Tachibana loves. As she walks through town, no bag on her head and enthralling no one, she notices how everyone is instead focused on her handsome companion.

The fact that Jinguuji is also wearing a Japanese business suit attracts one person in particular…Kirito! Well, he claims his name is Schwartz von Lichtenstein Lohengramm, but he’s actually a fellow Japanese guy who was summoned there by a goddess (not the same goddess who summoned Jinguuji and Tachibana, mind you). He assumes to have met a fellow “hero” in Jinguuji, but Jinguuji isn’t interested in the guy, who is clearly an otaku.

Schwartz also picks up a weird vibe from Jinguuji and Tachibana as they bicker, first thinking of them as a couple, then wondering if they’re a father-daughter pair, but the daughter has developed feelings for her dad which…the kid clearly reads a lot of light novels, okay?

Schwartz gets it into his head that he need s to prove that he’s a hero to these two, so he whips out his holy sword Gram and launches an attack at Jinguuji. We learn from his inner dialogue that the attack was much stronger than he expected, and that he hasn’t quite mastered his sword. This affords Jinguuji another chance to demonstrate his catlike reflexes when it comes to getting Tachibana out of harms way.

It also results in Schwartz being arrested by Lucius, an officer of the town watch, for destruction of property, with Jinguuji and Tachibana also brought in for questioning. Lucius’ boss gives Schwartz a chance to prove he’s a genuine hero summoned by a goddess by giving him a mission-based quest like one gets in RPGs. It looks like Jinguuji and Tachibana will also get roped into the mission to subjugate a “living armor” that collects magic items. Should be fun!

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 20 – Odd Man Out

Back when the explosion that shatters the Greyrat family occurred, Lilia has the foresight to grab Aisha and hold her tight for the expanding blast. She ends up teleported into the water, but manages to swim to the surface before she and her daughter drown. She makes her way on foot to Shirone, only for Prince Pax to capture and imprison them once he learns Lilia knows Roxy.

While Rudeus intends for the Ruijerd figurines he’s crafted to improve the Superd’s reputation, this week they actually come in handy rescuing him from Pax’s clutches. Pax’s older brother Prince Zanoba, you see, happens to be a figurine otaku the likes of which Rudy knows well from his old life. Wisely Rudy only owns up to being the artist once he realizes Zanoba wants to praise him and become his apprentice.

Zanoba doesn’t care about Roxy like his perverted brother does, just the figurine of her, which we learn has a detachable clothes. As such, he cares nothing for Pax’s plots, and so is immediately an ally to Rudy by default. Meanwhile, we see Ruijerd, Eris, and Aisha’s side of things as they work with Shirone royal guards to free their families, whom Pax has hostage to secure their loyalty.

That shortsighted strategy backfires as expected, first when Rudy tells Zanoba to lower the barrier and Zanoba grabs Pax out of bed by the head and presents him to Rudy, revealing Zanoba is a “Blessed Child” with superhuman strength. Ginger is Pax’s last line of defense, but when she learns her family is safe, she turns on Pax, informing him she first swore loyalty to Zanoba to begin with.

Shortly after Zanoba and Ginger free Rudy, Ruijerd returns from freeing Ginger and the soldiers’ loved ones, along with Lilia, who is immensely happy to be reunited with both Rudy and Aisha. Basically, Rudy didn’t actually have to do anything to get out of his latest predicament, other than make that figuring of Roxy years ago. Everything else kind of fell into place.

Later, Lilia gives Rudy a big hug, along with the box containing Roxy’s underwear and a pendant Sylphiette made for him. Also, Aisha wants to join the “Kennel Master” on his continuing adventures, thus saving her from the “perverted clutches” of her half-brother.

After Rudy gives her his Dead End head protector, she either connects the dots about him actually being her half-brother, or decides to drop the charade. Either way, with Zenith and Sylphiette still missing, Rudy can go forward knowing at least one of his little sisters likes him!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 02 – Facing the Outside

Most isekai anime never return to the protagonist’s original world after the first episode, but as Rudy grows older and more accustomed to his new life as a little kid, his trauma begins manifesting as flashes of that previous life. First, we’re presented with a Rudy who skips his parents’ funeral so he can jerk off in his bedroom.

When three goons break in, he runs away, sees a truck about to hit some high school students, and runs into its path, resulting in the death we saw last week. Back in the new world, Rudy considers walking in on his parents loudly screwing when he sees Roxy masturbating outside their door. Symmetry.

As pervy as Rudy is, even he knows better than to disturb Roxy in such a vulnerable state, like the goons did to him the night he died. The empathy he displays here underscores the promise of this new life: the chance to properly develop mentally, something that wasn’t possible in his old life. It’s also an early hint of the respect he gains for Roxy, who isn’t just his master, but his first friend…in either life.

Six months, then a year pass since Roxy arrived, and Rudy is making fast progress with his magic, and no longer passing out after expending it. Roxy looks upon this progress with pride, but also a sense of sad inevitability: soon he’ll easily surpass her as a mage and she’ll have nothing left to teach him. As for the green-haired demonic “Superd” she warns him about, Rudy already knows about monsters from his past life.

In his previous life, Rudy was brutally bullied at school, regularly stripped down, tied up, and photographed by leering, laughing gawkers. Though we’re seeing things purely from his POV there’s no reason to think he’s embellishing things, and we see that this treatment led him to cease moving forward. He retreated into the safety of his room, where he remained in stasis.

Even though his two worlds couldn’t look any more different (a contrast that’s well-executed by the visuals), he feels the same fear of the outside beyond his family’s land as he did leaving his room, or even looking out his window. When Roxy recommends he attend Ranoa Magic University in the Red Dragon Mountains to further his training, he brushes it off as unnecessary; he’ll be just fine where he is, with Roxy.

Of course, Rudy is deluding himself. Roxy is a great teacher, but as he reaches five years old (the first of three 5-year intervals birthdays are celebrated in this world) they’re quickly approaching the point when Roxy has nothing left to teach him. To remain home would stunt his development, both as a mage and as a person.

For his fifth birthday Rudy receives a tome from his mom, a sword from his dad, and a wand from Roxy, along with the announcement that he’ll use the wand for his imminent graduation exam. The magic they’ll be learning is dangerous, so they must travel away from home. The prospect of going outside causes Rudy to freeze up; as Roxy aptly puts it, he’s finally “acting his age.”

Roxy assures him there’s nothing to fear, and helps him exorcise his past life’s demons simply by being her wonderful self. As they ride past other villagers, Rudy wants them to stop staring at him, but then realizes they’re staring at Roxy, who in just a year was able to win the entire village over despite the prejudice surrounding people with hair her color.

With nothing left to fear of the new land in which he finds himself, Rudy watches Roxy pull of the biggest magical spell yet, summoning a huge storm that accidentally injures the family horse, Caravaggio. Thankfully he’s easily healed up and then placed in a protective shell when it’s Rudy’s turn to cast the spell.

As with the magical trials Fran puts Elaina through in Wondering Witch, the full terrible potential of elite-level magic is fully realized by the surpassing visuals, as the idyllic landscape is entirely greyed out by blinding sheets of rain, only to emerge more beautiful than before, with tinges of pink and violet in the blue skies.

Rudy passed his first two big tests of life in his new world: stepping outside, and passing his final exam with Roxy. With that passage, there truly is nothing else Roxy can teach him. While I half-expected him to press further for her to stay—either by becoming the village’s resident mage or, say, becoming his dad’s third wife—Rudy isn’t the only one who needs to move forward, and Roxy intends to travel the world, re-hone her skills, and see what else she can learn.

So while Rudy is understandably sad to see her go (as are his folks, who fail to hold back tears for her goodbye), he lets her go, thanking her for imbuing him with knowledge, experience, and technique in magic as well as life. He will also never forget that it was Roxy who brought him outside and showed him it was nothing to fear.

While Roxy was little more than a pretty game character made flesh to Rudy when they met, she’s become someone with whom he formed a genuine human connection, learned more than he’d ever imagined, and healed him in a way he’d long thought impossible. For all of that she’ll have his everlasting gratitude and respect.

Of course, Rudy is still Rudy, as we’re reminded when Lilia discovers a pair of Roxy’s underwear he’d stashed away a few months prior to her departure…the little shit! But maybe, just maybe, he’s taken the first steps to becoming a little less of a shit. Baby steps.

Stray Observations:

  • Rudy died the same night as his parents’ funeral. Looks like they were last line of defense that kept the tormentors out of his house. We later catch them outside his door telling him not to give up.
  • While the extent of the public torture Rudy endured stretches credulity, I’m not putting anything past human beings after 2020.
  • Roxy is indeed the age where, ahem, “that kind of thing” is pretty normal, and this being a world that lacks the modern means of taking care of that, listening to two people having sex would have to suffice.
  • That said, the session she and Rudy overheard did not result in a baby sibling for Rudy. I presume he’ll get one at some point.
  • Rudy is not yet much of a swordsman despite Paul’s efforts, but in Rudy’s defense, he’s five. you gotta give the kid a sword his size!
  • Roxy brings up the Superd, who have green hair and red stones in their foreheads. They started the horrific Laplace War between humans and demons. Rudy visualizes them as similar to Sadako from The Ring.
  • Seeing the village kids leering with flip phones was hella creepy.
  • Social status, pride, and even race apparently don’t matter at Ranoa University. I imagine Rudy will be heading there as soon as he’s old enough…say seven.
  • The little aside of Zenith affectionately feeding Roxy and Lilia grapes was extremely cute.
  • Really glad Caravaggio pulled through! Poor horse looked like he was toast—literally.
  • Read Crow’s write-up here!

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 01 (First Impressions) – Getting Serious About Living

Fast on the heels of Zane’s Horimiya comes another contender for Anime of the Season: Jobless Reincarnation, the latest in a rare collection of common stories told uncommonly well. Our protagonist is a 34-year-old NEET hit by a car and killed, but he’s reincarnated as a baby in a fantasy world with all his adult mental faculties and memories intact.

That all-too-familiar premise (for the record, the source LN dates back to 2012) hardly does Jobless justice: from the moment our boy realizes he is the child of the well-endowed young woman who just gave birth to him, his droll adult voiceover (Sugita Tomokazu, I believe) provides a hilariously dry running commentary on his new world.

Rudeus or Rudy, as his parents Zenith and Paul name him, grows up fast, going from a highly mobile infant to a precocious toddler. When he falls down go boom and his mom uses a real healing spell on him, he seeks out the five tomes in his family’s house, learns to read, and gradually learns how to wield water magic.

There’s a wonderful procedural structure to Rudy’s early journey of just figuring things out, but not so rigid a structure that it detracts from the human and emotional sides of his experience. His precociousness also goes noticed by Lilia the live-in maid, as Rudy’s facial expressions betray an older man’s inner wisdom of the world.

While his first attempt to conjure water results in him looking like he fell asleep and wet himself, Rudy hangs in there, gathering any and all basins in which to deposit the water he conjures. Notably, he is able to use magic without the incantations or magic circles the books describe as vital to the process.

Without really trying to, his magical growth remains largely hidden from Zenith and Paul, who are portrayed as dimensional characters with their own needs and wants (they get it on often, as one would expect of a healthy young couple). His family’s home is his entire world, and he’s usually shut up in his room, much as he was as a 34-year-old NEET. This explains a bit why we don’t get to see as much of his family as I’d have liked.

With that hikikomori mentality in mind, it’s as symbolic as it is momentous when Rudy accidentally obliterates the wall of his bedroom with his most powerful water conjuring yet—a giant orb that streaks through the bright blue sky, creating rain for the crops and a rainbow as well. The top-notch animation really sells how powerful—and frightful—magic can be in untrained hands, and how exciting it is to “figure things out.”

When Zenith sees him unharmed and with the magic book nearby, she puts two and two together, and cannot contain her pure joy and delight to have reared a magical prodigy. She and Paul bicker over the promise that he would be raised as a swordsman, but Lilia (showing she’s more than a mere maid—more of a second wife) suggests “Why not both?”

Rudy’s parents—his dad’s a Knight who basically runs the village, and so is not without means—hire a magical tutor to train him, but both they and Rudy are shocked to find she’s no bearded retiree but an adorable young woman with bluish-violet air, ably voiced with by with vulnerability and defiance by Kohara Konomi.

We have the fascinating situation in which Rudy is mentally older than his parents, let alone this mage Roxy Migurdia, and his otaku side comes out when he first sees her and sizes her up (or down, as it were). Roxy isn’t aware of this, has dealt with other parents who thought their kid was The Chosen One, and is dubious of Rudy’s abilities.

Still, she does her job, showing him how a focused magical attack can cleave a tree down in one swipe, then how said tree (treasured by Rudy’s mom) can be repaired with healing magic, which Roxy also knows. Then Rudy demonstrates he can use magic without incantations (again, accidentally, as he’s thrown off when Roxy’s skirt flips up), and re-fells the restored tree, and Roxy knows she’s dealing with someone worth training.

Roxy takes the blame for the tree, but Rudy uses a dating sim-esque line to comfort her, and it works. Then the family welcomes Roxy like one of their own to a sumptuous welcome banquet, and during these lovely warm images Rudy beautifully recites the mission statement of the show:

“It’s like a dream…a dream I’m having as I die from that crash. No, even if it is, I don’t care. In this world, I bet even I can make it. If I live and try as hard as everyone else, get back up when I fall, and keep facing forward, then maybe I can do it. Maybe even I, a jobless, reclusive bum like me can get a do-over at life…and get serious about living.”

I would never have thought I’d be so quickly and easily drawn into yet another Isekai series, but the characterizations and technical execution are so well done, the world it’s crafted so gorgeous and inviting, and the comedy so effortless, it renders Jobless Reincarnation all but irresistible. Yes, we’ve seen this story before, and yes, Rudy is a bit of a creep, but for once it doesn’t matter, at least for me. It goes without saying I can’t wait to see more.

P.S. Looks like Anime News Network’s early reviewers of JR weren’t as enamored as I was, focusing on Rudy’s abhorrent skeeviness and the fact this premise has been done to death.

While I respect their takes, which are just as valid as my own, I prefer to take a more clean-slate approach to the show, and execution can—and in this case, does—outweigh familiarity.

Also, and this is key, Rudy isn’t supposed to be immediately likable or virtuous. He’s just started on a long road of redemption, and his closing monologue suggests he wants to become a better person than he was in his past life.

P.P.S. Crow has written on this episode as well. Check it out here.

Hamefura – 03 – Catarina Claes and the Cursed Child

Lil’ Catarina has just discovered the romance novels of her world and has become hooked, just as she was hooked on manga and otome in her world. All she hopes for is someone she can converse with on these books, and she finds that someone quite by chance at the Stuarts’ tea party. Her name is Sophia Ascart, and due to her white hair and red eyes she’s a pariah among most of their peers. Obviously, Catarina sees things differently.

After rescuing her from verbal barbs of other nobles, Catarina becomes fast friends with Sophia, and they geek out on romance novels. Catarina could see her and Sophia being friends in the other world too. She also learns that befriending Sophia won’t throw up any additional doom flags, though Sophia’s taciturn older brother Nicol is quite the looker, attracting women and men alike.

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop with her friendship to Sophia, but…it never happens. In this manner, Hamefura subverts expectations by playing things straight. They become good friends without any problems, and all of a sudden seven years have passed and Catarina is now fifteen years old. Now all the characters look like they do in the otome.

That means the prologue is officially over. The time jump was abrupt but well-timed: watching lil’ Catarina dart from party to party was growing stale. She’s done her best to avoid the things that kill or exile her in the game, from remaining close and kind to Keith to honing her combat skills.

She also remains good friends with Sophia and Mary, with no messy love triangles with the guys (so far). Gerald is still committed to marrying her (and plants a hickey on her neck, demonstrating his covert sadism). We’ll see how things unfold as she pursues the route of survival in earnest!

Hamefura – 01 (First Impressions) – Avoiding the Inevitable

I don’t mind isekai anime, as long as it’s not always the exact same thing. You don’t have to re-invent the genre to hook me, just give it a fresh twist or two. Hamefura easily meets and exceeds that modest bar, as Catarina Claes isn’t the heroine of a fantasy RPG, but the villainess of an dating sim! At least, she’s the villain in the game she played in her previous life, before dying at seventeen.

Catarina is oblivious of her real-world Japan past until she stumbles and hits her head and it all rushes back. That’s when it dawns on her that if her path follows that of the game Catarina, she’ll either be killed or exiled in every route. It’s not a matter of playing and winning the game as normal; she has to break the game to avoid certain doom. One thing in her favor: she’s only eight, the proverbial Phantom Menace Anakin: Far from too far gone, plenty of time to devise a plan.

The question, of course, is how to things from going downhill. Having been an otome otaku in her previous life, Catarina has some ideas, and her inner deliberations are given the form of a “Council of Catarinas”, consisting of four different emotional states and an administrator to gather their votes. It’s another novel idea that adds variety to the story, and lets Uchida Maaya play off five different versions of herself—six, including her standard, “unified” inner voice.

The council’s solution to avoid another early death is to develop her sword and magical skills, so that if anyone comes at her, she’ll be ready to defend herself and survive. The magic will also mean she has something to fall back on for money should she end up exiled. Both her parents, her betrothed Gerald Stuart, and her various servants don’t know quite what to make of Catarina’s suddenly odd behavior.

Before long she’s hacking at dummies with a sword and building a garden to commune with nature (and build up her earth magic). But at the end of the day, Gerald still asks for her hand in marriage and she accepts, which means she could still be on the path to doom!

To make matters worse, her parents introduce her to her new adopted brother Keith, who in the game is bullied mercilessly by Catarina, becomes a playboy to sooth his trauma, and eventually he and the heroine Maria fall in love. When Catarina interferes, she’s either exiled or killed off.

She consults her inner head council, who decides that the best way to keep Keith from falling for Maria is to not bully him or make him feel lonely. Catarina does just that, but ends up persuading Keith to use his advanced earth magic, something he promised their parents he wouldn’t.

Catarina is injured by the giant dirt doll, Keith and their parents blame him, and he ends up isolated and alone. Different cause, same effect. Desperate to take the nearest ramp off this doom-filled route, Catarina literally chops Keith’s door down and apologizes for making him break his promise.

Keith comes into the picture pre-messed up thanks to his immense magical talent but lack of control that has led to accidents. But rather than let him stay isolated (or bully him), Catarina shows him she’s not afraid, and promises him they’ll never be apart. She gets in trouble for the door, but things are looking good on at least one not-getting-killed front! Also, it’s a genuinely sweet and moving scene.

I’m well-sold on Hamefura. It places its protagonist in the rigid structure of an otome and challenges her to forge her own path, even if she has to take an ax to the occasional door! She’s fighting against fate with charisma, panache, knowing this world will offer nothing but ruin unless she works her butt off.

Those around her are straight men witnessing her comic transformation from well-bred noble to tree-climbing gardener. Uchida Maaya lays on the industrious charm the whole way through. Her inner council is wonderful. Just as Cat is finding a way not to end up dead or exiled, this is a show managing to innovate and surprise in an over-saturated genre.

Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy – 09 – Saved by Setsuna

When Mizuki gets a break from serving at her class cafe, Rei asks if she wants to wander around with him, but Futaba hijacks the opportunity by tagging along so the three can scout the competition. That includes Kazuhiro’s class’ haunted house, which wigs Rei out to no end. They then help the drama club hand out flyers advertising the impending play.

When the play is about to start, Sekiya takes the outdoor stage and poaches their audience, breaking the rules in the process. Futaba turns the tables by appearing on the screen behind them as the web-famous Setsuna Kirito, who urges everyone to head to the gym for the performance, which they all dutifully do.

The crowds are charmed by the cross-dressing princesses, as expected, but when there’s a sudden blackout, instigated by Futaba, they must call upon the audience to light the stage with their phones and help defeat the witch. A fun time is had by all (except Sekiya, who is punished with wood-chopping duty) and the drama club wins the competition, meaning they won’t be shut down buy StuCo.

That night at the bonfire, Futaba confesses he’s a full-fledged otaku, and vows not to hide it anymore, though that costs him a dance with two girls who like him.

Rei asks Mizuki to join him in the folk dance, but again she’s distracted by another friend. Perhaps she’s hung out with these attractive weirdo boys so long, she’s oblivious to the fact that one of them wants to spend more time with her and only her. With only two episodes left and the hero club’s future still in doubt, it’s unlikely that will change.

One Punch Man 2 – 06 – Whittling Down the Herd

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

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

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

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

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

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