Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 05 – The Eve of Reckoning

With a title like “The Night Before Battle”, it was clear there would be one more calm-before-the-storm episode before that battle took place, but in this case, it was not only earned, but welcome. After all, there a lot of reunions that need to happen before battle is joined. That starts with Alice’s protege Eldrie and her “uncle” Bercouli.

Eldrie is concerned about the dead weight that is Kirito, but Bercouli demonstrates that he’s still capable of defending himself through sheer willpower. That means he may yet come back to them, hopefully in their hour of greatest need. That’s coming soon, by the way—their forces are outnumbered more than 16-to-1.

Alice considers that perhaps Kirito can’t hear or react to her voice because she’s still suppressing her feelings, and that maybe a gesture of those feelings may finally wake him up. She comes close, but is interrupted by Tiese and Ronie, who heard Kirito was at the camp. I suppose kissing him wouldn’t have mattered; the conditions haven’t been met for him to come back yet.

The pages are beside themselves upon learning of Kirito and Eugeo’s fates, and Alice can’t help but notice they act as if they loved the boys. They rebut that assertion by saying they don’t deserve the right to say they love him, citing their traumatic experience that led the boys to break Axiom law to save them. Alice rejects their position, transforming to “peacetime” Alice Zuberg that would have been had she not been kidnapped.

Her lesson to the two is that bodies are unimportant compared to the hearts and their souls. If they feel they love someone, or that they can and should do something, they need not be ashamed to carry those feelings with pride. It’s something she learned from Kirito and Eugeo and is happy to pass on.

Alice is less enthused by Lady Fanatio carrying such feelings with pride, especially when she asks to see Kirito so she can “try various things” in an attempt to revive him. Alice betrays her own personal feelings for Kirito by barring Fanatio from seeing him. But such bickering has to wait; it’s time for the war council.

Administrator truly screwed the Human Empire in her management of their military forces. The remaining Integrity Knights must make do with what little they have and pursue a strategy of bottle-necking the enemy’s superior numbers in a narrow, barren ravine, hoping that location will also prove challenging to dark mages, who require material in order to cast their arts.

After saying what could be her final goodbyes to Kirito (leaving him in the pages’ care) and Eldrie, Alice mounts her dragon and the forces move into the ravine. The gate resolves, heralding the “Final Load Test.” The good guys are at a huge disadvantage against Miller’s massive forces.

I don’t doubt they’ll need to rely on a last-minute intervention from…someone; maybe Kirito answering the call in their greatest need, maybe Asuna, finally arrived in Underworld and ready to fight to save her fiancee. As for Alice…we just saw a lot of death flags… :(

Chihayafuru 3 – 03 – Up to Fate and The Times

Sorry for doing these out of order, but I wasn’t aware Chihayafuru 3 was airing two episodes at a time last week (and this week!). Nevertheless, it’s instructive to see the match that came before Chihaya’s promising quarterfinals match, because it’s when she truly gets her groove back.

Same with Taichi, who has a pre-match brush with Arata that, while cordial and even friendly, still steams his beans just because…Arata just does that. He’s in Taichi’s way on two fronts: karuta and Chihaya (whether he knows it or not), and hearing that he wants to start his own school club is yet another thorn in Taichi’s side.

Few know Chihaya’s game as well as Porky, so even when she seems to be doing well, he can tell, for instance, if she hasn’t quite come back from her injury. He’s also a great analyst of her game, and when she is up against a former Master runner-up (Takemura, who lost badly to Master Suo), he notices that there’s a reason she seems slower and less forceful, and it’s not because she’s still recovering her game.

In fact, Chihaya has absorbed a lot of pointers from Shinobu, Rion, and others that it’s not all about power. Playing left-handed also turned out to be beneficial to her, as it gave her more experience and insight into a side of the cards she was weakest against. Since she could never move as fast with her left hand as her right, she compensated with accuracy and efficiency, which she’s carried into her right-handed game.

Taichi has some trouble with his quirky opponent, Shiroyama from Hokuo, and is particularly irked by his opponent’s ability to take cards despite being, well, slow. He eventually realizes Shiroyama is playing a true team match, focusing on wearing Taichi down rather than winning quickly. Once Taichi realizes what’s going on, it’s like a weight off his shoulders, and he puts Shiroyama away.

Chihaya beats Takemura, who is admittedly out of practice after taking a whole half-year off following his brutal defeat. But he sees how big a mistake that was, as youngins like Chihaya are no longer nipping at his heels, but surpassing him with relative ease. Contrast that with mother of two and former Queen Inokuma Haruka, whose passion is such that even two kids, including a still-nursing newborn, can’t keep her out of the tournament.

While no one questions her prowess in previous years (nor the shape of her eyes, which give Chihaya’s a run for their money), there are questions about whether she can make a comeback; questions that are answered in the positive in this round. But during the match, both she and Chihaya snatch the “Impassionate” card at the exact same time, such that their cards collide. That incident is all too fateful, as they end up facing off in the quarterfinals.

Before the match, Miyauchi asks Sakurazawa if Chihaya has what it takes to be Queen. She’s worried about the future of an academically average-at-best student, but would be less worried if she knew Chihaya could ascend to the top of karuta. All Sakurazawa can tell Miyauchi is that in order to reach that height, Chihaya will have to do what she could not; defeat someone like Inokuma Haruka.

P.S. Yamashita Kousuke’s music continues to be one of the many great things about this show. Earbuds don’t really do it justice; I’d recommend watching on a system with some nice powerful speakers for full effect. I continue to be amazed by how exciting watching kneeling people swiping at cards can get, and the music is a big part of that.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 26 (Fin) – Grasping Rays of Light, Holding Them Tight

Accelerator’s technobabble solution to saving Last Order works, and she wakes up to her guardian’s warm embrace. But it doesn’t last long, as Accelerator leaves her in Worst’s care (worst babysitter ever?), literally spreads his newly-formed angel wings, and heads to the Star to eliminate another threat to his charge.

Turns out he and Touma never cross paths in this finale. The telesma overload turns out not to be as powerful as Fiamma hoped for, and all he gets for all his planning and scheming is a devastating haymaker from Touma that leaves a fist-sized crater in his cheek.

In his generosity (and unwillingness to kill, even a supervillain) Touma gives the sufficiently cowed Fiamma the last escape pod off the Star. When Misaka finally arrives to rescue him in a fighter jet (sadly without exclaiming “It’s not like I wanted to save you!”), he refuses her outstretched hand.

He’s thankful she came all the way out her to help him in his time of need, but he’s not ready to leave the Star yet; not without locating Index’s remote control, which Fiamma dropped and which Touma finds almost too easily.

A projection of the awakening Index appears before him, and he confesses to having kept her true nature a secret all this time. Of course, Index doesn’t particularly care about and perceived wrongs he may have perpetrated against her; she’s just glad to see him and wants him to come home safe.

Touma’s final heroic acts of both the arc and the season involve smashing three specific points in the Star in order to ditch it somewhere no one will be harmed: the Arctic Ocean. He even manages to collide with an out -of-control Gabriel/Sasha, driving her into the icy depths before punching her in the face. Yes, Archangel Puncher is another possible title for that right arm. I also must applaud Touma’s ability to survive in near-freezing waters as long as he does.

The new ITEM is quickly surrounded by Academy City forces, led by…Celty Sturluson’s sister? I honestly don’t know, but she’s there to take Takitsubo away to further augment her. Hamazura turns the tables thanks to the arrival of villagers he helped earlier, who kill all of not-Celty’s pals and enable him to ask the masked stranger about the “Parameter List” she mentioned.

Accelerator is also captured by Academy City, but either tricks them into turning his switch on, or he just isn’t governed by that switch anymore. He’s not going back to compromise or negotiate, but to issue demands and then make sure they’re carried out. A “triumphant return”, in his words. The time of the City forcing him to work in the underworld, and using the Sisters or Last Order for their bidding, are over. To which I say Amen, brother!

We’re then treated to a very rare cameo by Mr. Aleister Crowley himself, delivering some poetic justice to Fiamma by claiming his arm while chiding him for scratching the surface of something he didn’t adequately understand. Always neat to see Al in action; he’s more like Aiwass than a human in his speed and movements.

Misaka searches for Touma in the frigid sea, but all she can find is his Gekota strap. While “it’s not as if she’s worried or cares what happened to him!”, she’s obviously worried and cares what happened to him. I presume she’ll just have to wait for Index IV. We, meanwhile, get a sneak peek at his fate: he’s rescued up by another character I didn’t recognize, and had to consult the forum to identify: Leivinia Birdway.

I didn’t dive into who she is or what group she’s with, since that’s also a matter for Index IV, whenever it should rear its magical head. While a bit dense and meandering in its second half with the final waves of exposition, in all it was an entertaining wrap-up.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 25 – Out Of Many, One

This episode is one story after another of humans continuing to put aside their differences to unite against the existential threat of Fiamma. After Mugino’s big cathartic blow-out, Takitsubo emerges unharmed. When three Bad Dudes attack them, Hamazura provides the bait, coming at them directly, while Takitsubo holds Mugino up and helps her aim from afar. ITEM is back, baby!

Accel and Worst had already joined forces, and I have to say they make a hilarious team, what with all the scowls, aggression, and love of villainy. Worst extracts the song from the Mikasa Network, and Accel proceeds to use the parchments and all of his amassed knowledge to modify the song in order to heal Last Order, which he then sings! He may have sworn to become “the ultimate villain” to save her, but if there’s no more need for him to be villainous, he’s content with simply being…Accelerator.

Back to the Star of Bethlehem, where Fiamma and a suddenly not outmatched Touma bicker about whether the true nature of humanity is wholly evil, or a heck of a lot more complicated than that. Touma’s obviously pushing the latter theory, and it bears out in many ways around them. WWIII hasn’t drawn out the amount of evil Fiamma expected. On the contrary, the emrgence of giant right arms brings opposing human forces together on the battlefield, where the means of theirfoes’ survival is the same as their own.

Magical and Scientific humans, and even the Roman, Russian, and English churches join forces to bring down Fiamma’s fortress by cancelling the intertwined spells that keep it together. You could say the entire reason for him being able to build the Star was the same reason it was vulnerable to outside destruction: when it was built those three churches were opposed, but now that Fiamma has presented a threat equally disastrous to them all, they’ve put aside their worldly differences.

As the fortress starts to crumble around them, the product of an amassing of human goodwill on a scale he himself summoned, all Fiamma can seem to do is fume over how badly things are going for him. Touma tells him if he really cares about defeating the evil in the world he should be glad that goodwill is winning out. But Fiamma has one more ace of his Venetian pajama sleeve—though it’s not a part of his original plan.

Turns out the evil that was unleashed during the war he started and the subsequent summoning of angel and building of the Star have all resulted in an “unnatural distortion” developing between heaven and earth, which will result in a potentially civilization-ending amount of telesma is about to be released from above. Fiamma tells Touma that he and his meddling human friends are too late. But c’mon, it’s never too late when Biribiri has yet to take the stage.

TenSura – 21 – Rimuru Has Class

Rimuru has to earn the respect of the five summoned rascals before he can teach them anything (to say nothing of saving them) so he brings out Ranga to make sure they say their names when he calls them. He then gives them an opportunity to take him down, hoping they’ll expend some of the magicules that may one day kill them.

The kids go up against Rimuru one by one, but while they all have pretty good skills and may even be a problem for anyone else, against Rimuru they’re basically doomed to an embarrassing defeat. Since no one other tan Shizu has ever been able to stand against them, they’re understandably upset (though he doesn’t go so far as to burn Alice’s stuffed animals).

Rimuru then whips out Shizu’s mask, which he tells them she entrusted to him, along with the five of them. He promises he’ll save them from a cruel fate, thus earning not only their fear or respect, but trust. But to do so, he suspects he’ll have to find some serious superior spirits.

A quick trip to Treyni’s comes up empty, as she forgets the one way to reach the “Dwelling of Spirits” ever since the Queen of Spirits she served passed away. A whole month passes, during which Rimuru forms a stronger bond with to Kenya, Ryouta, Gale, Alice, and Chloe, but gets no closer to finding a solution to save them.

Then a sky dragon suddenly appears in the, well, skies, offering Rimuru a chance to show them what he can do. Slightly changing his appearance in case anyone else who knows him is watching, he flies up to the dragon, absorbs its lightning attacks, then altogether consumes it with Devour, drawing further esteem from his pupils.

Rimuru is later told by Grandmaster Yuuki that one of the people he saved was the distinguished merchant Mjolmire, who has invited him and his class to his mansion for dinner. During the sumptuous feast (with both adult and kid’s tables), Mjolmire admits he knows who Rimuru is, and he jumps at the chance to do business with the Jura Tempest Federation.

But like Treyni, Mjolmire doesn’t know anything about where the Dwelling of Spirits is…but one of his servants does, something Rimuru learns when she sees him and the kids off with a prayer. Her information leads them to the Ulg Nature Park, where Rimuru and his class set out immediately to explore and seek their very salvation. In other words…field trip!!

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 14 – Glowing Fists For All!

Carissa’s Coup Arc is brought to a suitably ostentatious and splendid end, as Index III truly BRINGS IT this week. As Itsuwa safely delivers Touma and Vilian to the gates of Buckingham Palace, Touma gives Vilian his typical spiel of helping out for “no special reason” except that he won’t abandon all of the people “running around for their lives”, trying not to lose what’s important to them.

Carissa awaits with Curtana Original, which she uses to summon a fleet of unmanned aerial fortresses. Touma has a bear of a time keeping up with her sword’s pandimensional fragmentation, but while he was thrust into the final boss battle far quicker than he’d hoped, he’s obviously far from alone. Kanzaki, Index, Amakusa, and Sherry all arrive in turn, though Carissa isn’t cowed by any of them.

Even a Saint like Kanzaki has trouble against Carissa and Curtana, while Touma has to time his right arm just right since the weapon has a brief lag between slash and effect. He manages to strike true before Carissa can kill Vilian, who uses her crossbow to rediredct the flash bombardment from Coven Compass to land a direct hit on Carissa’s position.

Unfortunately, it only gives her a couple light scratches; more will have to be done to defeat her, which means more allies must take the stage. As Carissa picks up the idea of bombardment by having bunker-buster cruise missiles launched on the palace grounds, elder Princess Rimea broadcasts a message bringing the forces of Knights back to their feet…including Knight Leader.

Carissa soon finds she can’t launch any more missiles, since Acqua has destroyed all military antennae. This is why you have a magical backup to a vital scientific device, or vice versa, but of course Carissa hasn’t thought anything through beyond “I have Curtana Original, I am invincible.” Now she has three Saint-levels fighting her in Kanzaki, Acqua, and Leader.

And then Mom shows up. Queen Elizard casts aside her own Curtana Second, knowing it’s powerless against the original, but whips out another magical treasure of the royal family: the Union Jack, which she uses to redistribute all of the power imbued within Curtana to each and every one of the millions of British people.

This essentially turns every British citizen into a hero in their own right, with the mandate to “do what they will.” It’s essentially a re-imagining of that iconic signal from Admiral Nelson’s ship during the decisive Battle of Trafalgar: England expects that every man will do his duty.” Only this time it isn’t just England, nor is it just men.

With over 90 million now aligned against her, Carissa can’t help but hesitate for a moment, which is the one thing she can’t do. In that moment, Index (yeah, her!) delivers a simple incantation to cause Curtana to swing upward and hold in place just long enough for Acqua to launch Touma at it with his right arm. He shatters the sword and delivers a devastating punch to Carissa, and suddenly the coup d’etat is all over.

Unfortunately, Touma’s troubles are not. The beaten Carissa is confronted by Fiamma of the Right, who is there only to check on those items which he desires to possess: Touma’s own right hand, yes, but more importantly, Index. A magical item he steals before heading off to Russia was a kind of safety device that allowed Index to live a normal daily life despite having memorized 103,000 grimoires.

In the Tower of London, Stiyl, Elizard, and Touma look over a bedridden, unconscious Index. If Touma is to save her, he must get that device back, which means he’s headed to Russialand. No rest for the weary.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 13 – Preparing the Countercoup

The good guys (or rather, the folks we typically follow) have had their backs against the wall since Carissa’s surprise coup, but this week they start whittling away at the upstart princess’ power. Touma and Floris survive and run into the fleeing Vilian, who is picked up by Amakusa in their plane.

William continues his fight against Knight Leader, who believes he has Acqua’s number thanks to a spell that nullifies or “zeroes out” the sharpness of his opponent’s sword, but like Imagine Breaker works on all magic.

Thankfully, William’s Ascalon has enough hidden bells and whistles to overcome the ability. William doesn’t kill his old friend, but he knocks him out of the fighting.

William and Touma meet up right by the coach in which an unconscious Index resides. Just as they’re down one less thing to worry about, Carissa arrives with some of her knights, and decides to give them a demonstration of the power of Curtana Original (none of that Diet Curtana crap!)

Even Touma’s Imagine Breaker can’t nullify the sheer force of Carissa’s attack before he’s flung way up into the air amongst the debris from the ground below; Curtana can cleave through the very dimensions of space and beyond, after all.

William, seeing that Touma is also trying to lesson the destruction and thus on the same side (at least in this scenario) saves both Touma and leaves Index with him, who naturally wakes up confused…and in need of some supper!

Amakusa picks them up in the plane, where Kanzaki and Tatemiya discuss the next stage of their mission. Touma, Index, and Princess Villian will head to the secret underground station under Buckingham Palace, where they believe Carissa has gone. In that station lies a special train car that contains magic that stabilizes the power of Curtana Original, which is unbalanced and prone to overload.

Not only does Touma need Villian’s royal blood to unlock the way to the car, he relies on advice through a quick phone call to this season’s mascot, Misaka (who is having a bad day, eating lunch in a restaurant full of women with big boobs). When a golem appears and reconstructs every time Touma cancels him, he also leans on Index’s not inconsiderable magical know-how.

Villian distracts the golem with a physical attack (she has no offensive magical skills, only potential) while Index recites an incantation that makes the golem re-expose Touma’s right arm, allowing him to cancel it once and for all.

The seal is broken, the car is released, and the Puritans’ Coven Compass aerial fortress prepares to cast a debilitating large-scale flash spell. Bottom line: Curtana Original’s power is dampened, and Carissa herself is injured.

 

Still, she’s not going to give up so easily. It’s going to take a sustained assault on Buckingham to wrest control of Curtana from Carissa, get her in custody. Her alliance with the knights is already weakened by the forceful withdrawal of their leader from the battlefield (courtesy of William).

But first, Amakusa and the Puritans sit down for a great al fresco feast, while both Kanzaki and Itsuwa consider changing into something more alluring for their mutual crush Touma. Knight Leader warns William that if he’s taking Carissa and Curtana on head-on, he’d better be prepared for an attack no one can block or nullify.

Just as news comes the Compass is in position, the feast cut short, and preparations for the counterattack begin, Queen Elizard arrives at the outskirts of London with her “calculating” elder daughter Rimea and Laura. Their destination? A museum where a flag—secretly a magical item that is likely to prove useful to their cause—is stored. The battle for the Untied Kingdom is about to begin!

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 09 – Stay Cool

When it comes to baddies, SAO isn’t exactly subtle. Lord Raios and his toadie Sir Humbert are both extremely hoity-toity noblemen, and it would seem they draw their power from their conceitedness and by comparing themselves to others. They seem acutely aware that Kirito and Eugeo are Good Guys and thus it’s basically in their nature to want to fuck with them at every turn.

After experiencing the power of Humbert’s conceit in a duel that Raios cuts short in a draw, the two noblemen warn Eugeo that “battle is more than swinging a sword,” suggesting they’ll seek other ways to mess with him. Humbert seems to find a way in Frenica, the dorm-mate of Eugeo’s page Tiese. Specifically, he’s sexually abusing her by, likely among other things, ordering her to massage him in nothing but her underwear.

Until now the duo seemed almost pathetically petty in their bullying (Stomping some flowers? Seriously?). But with his casual cruelty toward Frenica—while staying within academy regs—Humbert, and by extention Raios, have crossed the line into Despicable SAO Baddie territory. Rooting for Eugeo in putting a stop to the abuse is almost too easy.

But the fact that regs aren’t being explicitly broken (the page is merely following orders of her mentor, as is the order of things) and the extreme deference Eugeo must show to his social betters make things tricky for Eugeo. Last week he was holding Kirito back, but now it’s he who must be held back by Kirito. The baddies are counting on him making an unforced error and getting into trouble, or worse.

Of course, that’s not going to stop Eugeo from doing everything he can. He asks Raios and Humbert to knock if off the nicest way he can, though I doubt they’ll heed him, which means stronger measures will be needed that still fall within the strict rules of the academy and the world at large.

Then there’s the relationship between Eugeo and his page Tiese, which escalades very rapidly due to the Frenica incident. Tiese is of a lower-level aristocrat family, and once she becomes the head of the family a husband will be chosen from an equal or higher level. Tiese is terribly afraid of ending up with a man like Humbert.

So after making her formal report, she appeals to Eugeo, whom she knows to be kind, gentle, and honorable, to fight and win the Four Empires Tournament, which will allow him to become an aristocrat and thus an acceptable match for her*. It’s a big ask, but Eugeo will need to do a bit of social climbing anyway to have any shot at reuniting with Alice, so he agrees.

But in the meantime, Raios and Humbert won’t leave Eugeo or Frenica alone easily. I’m worried about what kind of trap they might have planned for him. It might be safer or easier for Eugeo to keep his head down and take everything they throw at him in stride. But that’s not who Eugeo is, any more than it’s who Kirito is. If there’s a wrong being done that they can stop, even the laws can’t get in the way of justice and honor.

*Since Tiese doesn’t explicitly ask for Eugeo to marry her, it could be she’s asking, and he’s agreeing, to simply be there for her when she marries someone else, which would also require him to rise to a higher station. Though marrying her makes the most sense to me. LN readers, set me straight!

Overlord III – 13 (Fin) – Another Easy Triumph

Gazef Stronoff knows there’s no way he can win, but he’ll fight Ains Ooal Gown anyway. As Head Warrior he is the sword of his kingdom; if he doesn’t face their greatest foe, who will? All other considerations are secondary.

While an argument could be made there was far more Brain, Climb, and other warriors of the kingdom could have learned from Gazef, staying alive to teach them would have meant some kind of surrender against Gown, which his code simply would not allow.

Gown defeats him easily by stopping time and casting True Death upon him. It’s pretty anticlimactic, but it’s also efficient, and Gown had no real reason to do further bodily harm to such an impressively stalwart opponent.

Emperor El-Nix is driven half-mad by the results of his new “ally’s” overwhelming victory over the royal armies. Climb surmises that Gazef may have given his life as a message to him, Brain, and others not to bother fighting the likes of Gown and instead building a future. Brain ain’t hearin’ it; after drinking with Climb, he’s jumping right back into the fight.

As for King Ramposa, with his eldest son gone too long and his second son already jockeying, he agrees to cede E-Rantel to Lord Ains. Princess Renner has a simple task for Climb: to deliver her handpicked roses to the memorial of the fallen armies, flashing her trademark evil smirk once his back is turned to her.

Ains’ dark forces march into E-Rantel without resistance, save a pebble thrown from an angry little boy whose father died in the recent battle. Albedo, who hates humans, prepares to execute the whelp for his disrespect, but she’s blocked by Momon.

Even weirder, however, is that Lord Ains appears behind Albedo to offer Momon a job as their law enforcer in the city. No harm will come to the innocent, as long as Momon makes sure to deal with the guilty. I imagine either Ains simply used a cloning spell or Demiurge disguised himself as Momon or Ains.

Whatever the deal was with two alter-egos of Momonga being in the same place at the same time, the effect is the same: the townsfolk see Momon as their protector, sacrificing his honor for their sake. I’m sure they’d much rather have an adventurer like him enforcing laws than the myriad undead beasts under Ains’ command.

With that, Sorcerer King Ains Ooal Gown takes a seat in the throne room of E-Rantel’s royal palace, all the Floor Guardians and Battle Maids assembled and offering him congratulations on his triumph. But as usual, he didn’t have to actually do much, and a lot of the plan that was just executed wasn’t even his, but Demiuge’s.

Still, as far as Demiurge, Albedo, or anyone else in that room is concerned, everything that happened happened because their lord and sorcerer king made it happen. E-Rantel is now the capital of his new “Sorcerer Kingdom”, Ains Ooal Gown.

No doubt OverLord IV will deal with the political transition and administration of the city, dealing with any resistance that crops up, and perhaps further expansion of the new kingdom. I’ll be here to watch, as always.

Overlord III – 12 – No Chance

In giving Lord Gown the task of giving the signal to start the battle against the Kingdom with one of his magic spells, Emperor El Nix plans to observe how Gown fights in hope of determining a strategy for fighting him, a fight he knows is on the horizon. But as we know, no NPCs, or humans for that matter, have a snowball’s chance in hell against the undead Gown and his minions.

To demonstrate just how hopeless it is to resist his might, Gown takes the ball El Nix gives him and runs with it. The “signal” spell, Tribute to Dark Fertility, Ia, Shub-Niggurath, is actually an offering to one of the game’s dark deities. The Empire is outnumbered 240,000 to 60,000, but the tribute ends up massacring seventy thousand of the kingdom’s forces in one fell swoop.

Both sides of the battle tremble in fear at what they witness, and anyone with a head screwed on right starts running like hell, including Marquis Raeven. But the tribute was only the beginning of the spell; a great black sphere floats over the masses of corpses and absorbs them in black goo.

Five gigantic, many-mouthed beasts Gown calls “adorable baby goats” are summoned, which he believes to be a new game record. As they’re “goats”, the beasts do what goats do: devour everything in sight. Only they’re twenty-story-high goats with more legs and mouths, so they make quick work of the remaining kingdom forces that haven’t fled.

Among those who don’t run are whom I imagine to be three of the four individuals Gown has ordered his dark forces not to kill: Climb, Brain, and Gazef. Climb and Brain are prepared to lead a decoy force in order to facilitate the king’s safe return to E-Rantel.

When King Ramposa asks Brain what he would ask in return, he wants Climb to be able to marry Renner, which the king approves, though it will mean giving Climb a worthy title. Meanwhile, Gazef tries to take on one of the “goats”, and gives one of them his best shot, but even his badass blue sword can’t make a dent, and he’s sent flying—though not fatally.

Climb and Brain end up with Gazef as the goat being ridden by Lord Gown arrives. Gown and Gazef exchange pleasantries, and Gown cuts to the chase: he wants Gazef as a subordinate. If he agrees, Gown will spare the rest of the army. But to agree would mean betraying his king, and as we know Gazed would never do that. Instead, he challenges Gown to a duel.

Gazef would rather go out in a blaze of glory than forsake his monarch, but honestly I don’t think it will go well for him…after all, he’s mortal.

Attack on Titan – 47 – How to Say Hello

When Kenny Ackerman first meets Uri Reiss, he’s at Uri’s mercy: Uri transformed into a Titan and grabbed Kenny with his big Titan hand, threatening to crush him. But he never does. When Kenny somewhat profanely begs for his life, Uri grants it. Uri understands the grudges the Ackermans hold against the Reiss, after all.

Instead of imprisoning or killing Kenny, Uri befriends and hires him. Kenny’s service ends the persecution of his family, but it’s too late for his sister Kuchel, whom he finds lying dead in a brothel…and a starving young Levi sitting in the corner.

Kenny thought he was the most powerful guy around…until he met Uri. And yet for all his power Uri was merciful; empathetic…compassionate. By throwing in with Uri, Kenny is still plenty powerful as well, and perhaps its for that reason he has the compassion not to let Levi die.

However, Kenny isn’t interested in being anyone’s father, so after teaching Levi how to properly survive in the cutthroat underground, he abandons him, leading to Levi’s present-day hatred of him. Meanwhile, Kenny is the last person Uri meets with before the ritual in which Freida eats him and gains his power.

He tells Kenny about the paradise he dreams of building within the Walls, and how even after he’s gone, Kenny’s services will still be required to realize that dream. The first time Kenny sees Freida after the ritual, he can tell Uri’s in there, looking back at him.

Kenny raises his paramilitary Anti-Personnel Squad, made up of the best of the best, and together they have many bloody adventures in the name of the Reiss. But all of that crumbled when Historia refused to keep the wheel turning and chose to break it instead.

With his squad all dead and his burns and wounds likely to take his wretched life any minute, Kenny ponders using the Titan serum he stole from Rob. But he doesn’t, and when Levi finds him, he points out how he could have injected himself at any time.

Like his friend Uri sparing his life, Kenny decides not to go the obvious path. In his last moments he thrusts the box containing the serum to Levi, his nephew, to do with whatever he pleases, and dies grateful he was able to experience the slightest glimmer of cool, pure compassion he felt emanating from Uri at all times.

Later, Historia is officially crowned before a vast audience, many of whom witnessed her slaying the Titan firsthand, and the rest of them hear the story, are impressed, and pass it on. Rather than more lies and secrets, Tori showed them something real and honest; an act that makes her worthy of the throne. Later, when she gives Levi a playful punch, Levi’s reaction is simply to laugh and thank her and everyone else for everything.

Everything looks primed to get shaken up again, as we check in on Bertholdt, Reiner, and the Beast Titan who is Eren’s father Grisha, and who desperately wants to reunite with his son. Not because he misses him,but because Eren is the Coordinate.

Ushio to Tora – 26 (Fin until April)

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When Tora arrives, he’s really bored and just wants to smash shit, despite the fact things are more complicated due to the presence of Bal-chan within the Hakumen experiment. The insufferably procedural attitude of the scientists continues, with the three preparing to seal the entire lab and detonate it in order to prevent Hakumen from escaping—without regard to whoever is still inside.

That’s when Asako and Ushio are all like STFU with the science-y emotional detatchment, because it’s getting really old. They manage to convince one scientist, Helena, to stay behind and try to stop Hakumen to allow everyone to escape safely.

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Asako works with Helena up in the control room, but when Helena is seriously wounded, Asako has to take over getting the oscillator up and running. Once they immobilize the Hakumen in its tracks, Ushio and Tora free Bal-chan and smash the Hakumen to pieces. But while everyone is in a good position to be saved, Helena seems to know between her blood loss and the encroaching poisonous gas that her own time is up.

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In her last minutes, she’s enlightened by the power Ushio and Tora draw from each other, those they wish to protect, and the powerful enemies they face. As such, this episode becomes a kind of mission statement for the show and it’s core chemistry as a whole. No one in Ushio to Tora thrives alone. Ushio needs Tora and Asako; Tora needs Ushio and Mayuko (and vice versa all ’round); and Ushio and Tora need Hakumen no Mono to realize their full potential.

Without Asako and Helena’s help, Ushio and Tora wouldn’t have been able to beat Hakumen. When the humans succumb to the gas, it’s up to Tora to get them all out of the lab before it explodes. It’s a “pain in the ass”, but Tora has to do it nonetheless, or he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. More than that, he’d have a lot less fun without these humans around.

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I was glad to see Helena, initially a thoroughly unlikable and immoral mad scientist, redeemed this week, along with her less courageous colleagues, who surrender to the JSDF, ending H.A.M.M.R.’s brief rebellion. They can take solace in knowing their faithful colleague worked tirelessly until the end to get them data on Hakumen vital to developing a weapon against it.

As for Ushio, he’s faked out by the Asako dummy Tora made from his hair, and the real Asako is right behind him to hear him cry out for her. So naturally, the two start bickering in each other’s faces about who was more reckless today, but at the end of the day, aside from Helena, whose sacrifice made it possible, everyone is safe and sound.

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Back to Fugen’in we go, where it’s another day, another threat by Tora to eat Ushio, and another instance of Ushio successfully resisting being eaten by using his Beast Spear. Asako and Mayuko arrive to calm things down, or at least join in the chaos, and Shigure celebrates how back-to-normal life has become, hoping it can stay that way at least a little longer until the final showdown with Hakumen no Mono, who is awake and biding his/her time. We can look forward to that showdown this coming Spring.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 03

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This week’s opening scene was wonderful, and perfectly demonstrates how much of a family Guren’s squad has become. Summoning the boys to a breakfast, Shinoa and Mitsu prove a bad combination in the kitchen, leaving Shiho to reveal his culinary talent. Everyone tucks into a warm, cozy meal before getting down to business: Shinoa briefing Yu on both the incident in which he went berserk and almost killed her, and whether the five of them continue to trust and follow Guren, even if the possibility exists he’s only using them to further his own goals.

I went to see The Martian last night, and part of what I liked about it so much (and also why it’s so critically lauded) was how it never took shortcuts, but let us in on the intimate and detailed process of solving all of the myriad problems that befell the stranded astronaut. Because the film “showed its work” to us, it made me us that much more invested in the eventual payoffs. These last three episodes, that’s exactly what Owari no Seraph has been doing, and it’s similarly effective.

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As the five kids ponder the paths they should take, their superiors are already traveling on theirs. Kureto meets with Guren under the guise of having him kill three vampires who failed to turn into demons. Guren refuses (Kureto has them sniped) and asks his boss to quit wasting his time. As tough a front as he presents, Guren is far more of a softy than Kureto, something Kureto uses as proof he can trust him.

He’ll keep Guren alive as long as he’s useful, and having three Black Demon users in his squad, however he came upon them, will be useful in his future plans. Those plans, which finally make mention of this season’s titular battle in Nagoya, are grand, involving a complete eradication of vampires in Japan before advancing abroad, wiping out any other human organizations, and ruling the world.

Guren will serve as Kureto’s tool and follow orders as long as it serves him, I imagine, exploiting Kureto’s confidence he’s incapable of betraying his comrades. But as we see, Guren’s sword, Shinoa’s demonized sister Mahiru, also wants a say in who Guren follows.

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While Yu is contemplating alone on the roof, Shinoa joins him, breaking the ice as usual by jokingly wondering what naked girl he’s checking out from his vantage point. Her wry levity continues, but Yu is more somber, particularly about whether he really tried to kill her, and whether it was Guren’s intent that he go berserk.

After offering his hand to Shinoa, which she gingerly takes, they join the other three back in the apartment where Yu announces his decision: Guren said they’re a family, and he’ll help him with Mika, so he’s going to trust him and stick with family for now, realizing he’s being selfish. Shiho is the first to go along, followed closely by everyone else. So mutiny averted…for now.

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Back in Vampland, Mika, unwilling to drink form humans, is dependent on Krul’s blood, which is the way she likes it. But he wants answers to wash that blood down, answers he eventually gets out of her. Krul is sending her main force to Tokyo to wipe out the Demon Army once and for all, but she has a different mission for Mika: go to the side of Yu, the Seraph of the End, and protect him from both humans and vampires. At this point Mika doesn’t care if he or Yu or both of them are being used by others, as long as Yu is safe.

Shinoa pays a visit to Guren, reporting Yu and Shiho’s successful possession, and also opens up with regards to Yu: she’s not sure if what’s happened is that she’s fallen for him, but she knows he needs her and has asked her to stay with him, so she doesn’t intend to let him down. For now, Yu, Mika and Shinoa are putting the preservation of family above all other considerations, including being exposed to manipulation, betrayal, and destruction.

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