Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 06

With its sixth episode, Akashic Records has unfolded in a steady pattern: a first episode of setup (in this case the magical competition) a second episode that raises the stakes (the attempted plot to kill Rumia) and a satisfying third episode that brings everything together with style and panache.

Last week ended with Re=L trying to kill Glenn, but that’s just her nature: rush in headfirst without thinking. Fortunately for Glenn and Rumia, Albert is there to hold Re=L back, and the two court mages decide to help their old buddy out with protecting Rumia and foiling the Imperial Guard’s plot.

Many times, we cut away from the end of the competition to Glenn simply running from the Guard with Rumia in his arms. Albert and Re=L take over for Glenn, with Albert saying everything Glenn would say if he was there, keeping Class 2’s heads in the game. Everyone performs like he hoped when he selected them, including Sisti, who makes use of his altered spell advice to defeat her opponent in a duel and grasp victory.

From there, a nifty little twist takes place: the representatives of the winning class get to be presented their award by Queen Alicia herself. In this case, that’s Albert and Re=L…only it ISN’T. Albert and Re=L switched places with Glenn and Rumia back when they met, using self-illusion magic to assume each other’s forms.

That puts Glenn, The Fool, right where he needs to be to (quietly) unleash his Fool’s World spell, nullifying the conditional cursed necklace around Alicia’s neck. Before that, Alicia has to say some very harsh lies about ordering Rumia’s execution and that she never loved her.

That really puts poor Rumia through the emotional ringer, but Rumia’s a tough gal, and once it’s no longer deadly to do so, Queen Alicia lets her true feelings be known, and that in turn leads Rumia to accept and return her mother’s love in a tearful, cathartic embrace.

As for the ringleader in the Guard’s treachery, Eleanor Chalet, a heretic mage of the Researchers of Divine Wisdom, is surrounded by the real Albert and Re=L in a dark alley, but uses a spell to escape before they can place her in custody, offering only one vague, if titular clue, about why she was so keen on killing Rumia AKA Ermiana: “Akashic Records.”

If a RDW traitor could pose as queen’s chief handmaiden, it means the good guys will have to exercise constant vigilance. Albert and Re=L bid goodbye to Glenn, though considering she’s featured heavily in the OP and ED in an academy uniform, I wouldn’t be surprised if Re=L returns, posing as a student in Glenn’s class to assist him in keeping Rumia safe.

After thanking Glenn for helping to save her, along with her mom, and for keeping his three-year-old promise to have her back, Rumia and Glenn head to the tavern where the rest of Class 2 has already gotten the victory celebration started. In fact, I was totally caught off guard yet delighted by the fact Sisti managed to get wasted (on brandy cake of all things!) and is in full-on Lovey-Dovey Shironeko Glom mode with Glenn.

That would be enough discomfort on his plate, but as a final insult, the class ended up spending his entire reward, as well as the three-month salary he won in the bet with his fellow teacher, on the night’s food and drink bill. Not to worry, however: he’s sure to get more homemade meals from Sisti.

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Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 05

What seemed most likely to be the conclusion of the magical competition turned out to be something else entirely: something far more significant than Glenn’s wager with Halley; something far more interesting, too.

It starts simply enough, with a lunch break in which Glenn reminds us what a bastard he can be by taking advantage of the fact that Sisti thinks he’s Rumia so he can nab a bite to eat. That being said, he transformed to give Lynn a pointer about illusion magic, so he’s really only a half-bastard.

Quite surprisingly, Glenn and Rumia are approached by Queen Alicia VII, who can’t help but take advantage of the fact her biological daughter is right there before her. Unfortunately, Rumia isn’t in the mood to talk or be conciliatory; she politely tells the queen she’s mistaking her for someone else and bolts.

I can’t say I blame her! Rumia may have just won the Mental Defense round, but that was nothing compared to her dilemma this week as her “former” mother all of a sudden gets in her face. Glenn tracks her down when Sisti is worried about her, and helps Rumia work through the conflicting feelings. For his part, Glenn tells her there’s no way to avoid regrets 100% in life, so one might as well make choices that are true to who they are.

Meanwhile, our two mysterious bluish-haired folks are on the alert after hearing about suspicious activity with the Imperial Guard: Albert and Re=L. Not long after Alicia talks with Glenn and Rumia, she is taken into custody by said guard.

The two are clearly court mages and former colleagues of Glenn’s, have have both a casual rapport with one another (considering how often she lets him pull her hair) and confidence in their abilities (Re=L is all for a fully frontal assault).

It isn’t long before Rumia is tracked down by the guards, accused, tried, and convicted of attempting to assassinate the queen right then and there. Glenn is knocked out and she’s tied to a tree to be executed, and as is typical of Rumia, she’s ready to die…

…But Glenn wasn’t knocked out that badly, and uses flash spells to get the jump on the guards and rescue Rumia…even though Rumia isn’t sure she should be rescued, poor girl.

Once a safe distance away, Glenn contacts Celica, but like the queen, she’s being held hostage by the Guards, which means Glenn is on his own. Only, not really, because Re=L and Albert show up just when they’ll be the most useful; an ace in the hole, if you will.

We’ll see if they consider Glenn a hostile, or if Re=L will stand down shortly after her aerial attack. Whatever the case, between Glenn, his old buddies, and his capable students, I like their odds of saving Alicia and Celica from the Imperial Guard…Unless there’s a good reason Zelos is restraining the queen and Celica, of course.

In any case, it’s another nice setup for both another high-stakes hostage situation and a proper introduction of Albert and Re=L.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 04

After its best episode yet, I wasn’t under any assumptions that the show would keep getting better and better, but last week is followed up by a solid, satisfying outing that explores the new status quo among the class now that Glenn is actually giving a shit; this is something that couldn’t be explored last week because of the far more pressing terrorism.

It’s Magical Competition time, and the games will be performed before the queen herself (and Rumia’s biological mother) Alicia VII, but Class 2 is unenthusiastic. Glenn assures them he’s after nothing less than Victory, and appoints those he believes are the best in the individual fields the various events focus upon.

Because the whole class is involved, and Glenn is so confident, everyone becomes engaged and motivated, and Sistine becomes his very active advocate of his strategy. Only Rumia and we know the truth: Glenn actually would have preferred to use only his best students for all the events.

But he can’t go back now; he’s in too deep. I appreciate that he’s bearing the discomfort that comes with knowing he’s dug himself in a big hole, but is willing to stick it out for the good of his students. In fact, he doubles down by entering a bet with Class 1’s instructor Halley involving three whole months of salary…and the bastard is already hungry!

The competition prep is punctuated nicely by a B-plot involving Queen Alicia’s guilt over abandoning Rumia (even if it was for her own good), as well as a glimpse of family life with the Fibels. For her part, Fibel considers Sisti’s parents her mom and dad, and Sisti her sister, so that’s all there is to it.

We later learn on the day of the competition that Celica is an old friend of Alicia’s, meaning not only does the queen tolerate her familiar manner, but she also trusts Celica’s faith in Glenn. That trust is validated when Class 2 goes on to place in all the events thus far, surprising everyone, including themselves and Glenn.

I believe a non-trivial amount of their success is thanks to the confidence Glenn instilled in them all, backed up by Sistine and Rumia, which allows them to focus and maximize the skills they need to harness. It’s also great to see Glenn put Rumia in the Mental Defense event, knowing full well from the past couple episodes how tough she is (more than Sisti, to be sure).

When Glenn sees Rumia’s badass Class 5 competition, Jaill, he starts to sweat a little, especially when the instructor in the even turns out to be a real perv. But to Jaill’s credit, he’s not an overly aggressive or disrespectful opponent; he simply believes he’s the best and Rumia is as frail as she looks.

He’s mistaken, and the revelation that he ends up unconscious while standing while Rumia is still awake to take the win was another great surprise. Competition episodes can be a bore, but this one excelled by leaning on its characters and their relationships. It was a lot of fun.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 02

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tales of Zestiria the X – 20

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Both Alisha’s enemy Bartlow and her “supporter” Lunarre wrongly believe she’ll take the bait of her suffering Maltran, but they’re both wrong. Maltron knows if Alisha does as she taught, she won’t come for her.

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Instead Alisha and her people infiltrate the palace. It’s not at all certain that Alisha’s order that no one is to die is carried out in the process, as both her men and many of the palace guards are injured and shot with arrows, and it’s asking a lot to think none of them will succumb to their injuries.

In any case, Alisha gets an audience with her father at last, but he’s consumed by malevolence. Baltrow enters the room alone and attempts to take out Alisha by himself…which makes no sense. Why did he go in alone, without any backup?

What would be his killing blow to Alisha is blocked by the king in what I gather is one last act of sacrifice to make up for, charitably, over a season and a half of complete inaction.

Then, before the young, athletic Alisha or her knights can stop him, the slow old Baltrow runs outside and jumps off the balcony, spiting Alisha by not being taken alive. Um, why did everyone just stand around and let him do that?

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With the internal power struggle thus hastily ended and Alisha now the de facto ruler of Hyland, she turns to the next existential crisis: that giant tornado. There’s a dragon inside, and Sorey believes he’ll be the first shepherd to purify it, erasing the myth that such a feat is impossible.

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He manages to get the job done, thanks not only to Mikleo and Rose, but his other squire Alisha joining in to help share the burden of the dragon’s malevolence, as Lailah, Edna, and Dezel handle the small fry.

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And once the dragon is purified and the sun shines over Ladylake once more, our heroes get to enjoy the victory for all of ten seconds before Symmone appears, telling them her master will cover the entire earth in malevolence and end the world, and they don’t have what it takes to stop them.

Well, I asked for more action to masked the seemingly increasing blandness characters, and I got it. But with so much significance placed on Baltrow over the last few months, and the immediate introduction of an even bigger threat, then an even bigger one after that, it all felt rather anti-climatic.

And once more, a preview in which 2D Rose and Alisha bicker over whose late master was strongest was more far more engaging than anything either of them said in the actual episode.

I’m quickly doubting whether my master adequately trained me or if I have enough squires to help bear the burden of Zestiria. Because the eye candy isn’t nearly enough to keep me interested.

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KonoSuba 2 – 07

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For the first act of this particularly energetic, at times hyper KonoSuba, Megumin is the straight man, watching aghast as Kazuma and Aqua act disgustingly pleasant to each other; even as Aqua purifies Kazuma’s finest tea into plain hot water, he just keeps politely drinking it.

They’re acting this way because they think they’re rich, after a visit from Vanir results in an IP transfer deal that could net them 300 million Eris (or 1 mil a month). After, well, dying last week, I can understand why Kazuma wouldn’t mind hanging up his adventurers’ boots and living comfortably ever after.

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Of course, I neither expect the windfall to come (unless its made of wind, not cash) as Vanir is a sneaky slippery demon, nor for Kazuma to give up his overarching mission to defeat the Devil King; as annoying and useless as Aqua is, he still made a promise to her, and Kazuma is (usually) a man of his word (I can’t speak to Vanir).

Anyway, Kaz holds off on making a decision (lol he’s never getting that cash) and accepts Megumin’s suggestion the party head to Arcanretia, the city of water and (hopefully for Kazuma, mixed) hot springs so he can convalesce after cheating death. They bring Wiz along as well…Wiz being kind of a waste of Horie Yui.

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After winning every game of rock-paper-scissors against an increasingly flustered and desperate Aqua, and using Darkness’ vitality to heal Wiz (who was blown up by Vanir, long story) the party heads off aboard hired wagons in a beautifully-shot scene that is played straight.

Naturally, I was expecting something ridiculous to kill all the good normal vibes before the convoy left the city walls, but surprisingly, nothing happens!

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Instead, the ridiculousness happens en route, as a flock of ground-based birds known for stampeding toward the hardest objects they can find in a chicken-like mating ritual target Darkness.

I liked the fact the convoy had its own party of adventurers to take care of any problems, but once Kazuma learns it’s their—or rather Dark’s—fault the birds are there at all, his party mobilizes.

Or, I should say, Darkness runs out to meet the herd, a hired adventurer accidentally binds her, and…well, not sure what happened next, but afterwards Kazuma is apologizing profusely. Presumably, at some point, they’ll arrive at Arcanretia.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 19

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Zestiria can still effortlessly deliver vista after gorgeous vista, but the excitement and urgency came up a bit short this week, and reminded me that it’s rarely been able to satisfying depth beneath its shiny surface. It also has a tendency to be clunky in its pacing, as demonstrated in this Alisha-focused episode filled with perfunctory talking scenes.

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Giant tornadoes are threatening Ladylake…until they aren’t, as they’ve all dissipated so far. Alisha is waiting for the Big One, all while being branded a criminal by the sniveling Lord Baltrow, who is the worst kind of dull wallpaper paste villain. Unable to catch Alisha, he tries to bait her by putting her mentor Maltran on display to starve to death or be picked at by birds. Swell.

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After Zaveid decides to randomly show up to save Alisha and her knights from a giant mud hellion, then leaves to go find and shoot a dragon (see ya Zaveid) Alisha sits by a pond, seemingly for hours, wondering what to do. Lunarre is another random visitor, basically asking her to change up her methods, since, like Ned Stark, her unswerving dedication to high-minded nobility and honor may well get her killed.

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That is, if she didn’t have a Shepherd for a friend. She managed to contact Sorey last week, but he and the others take their sweet time starting off for Ladylake. I know their contact was cut off, but surely her saying “Ladylake is in dire straits” tipped him off that maybe he should hurry to Ladylake, which he, Rose, and the seraphim finally do at the end of the episode.

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I can’t help but think some of the overarching stiffness and vanilla-ness of the show could be pepped up a bit with the kind of light humor in the previews. But those are fourth wall-breaking affairs, and Zestiria isn’t meant to be a comedy.

Still, it’s troubling that the biggest rise I got was from the preview, not from anything in the episode that preceded it. Alisha’s daring stealth raid on Ladylake looks like it might be interesting, but this week was a bit too leisurely getting her there.

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KonoSuba 2 – 06

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KonoSuba 2 is again in top-form this week, starting with a wonderful domestic scene of Darkness and Megumin trying to force Aqua to go outside with them, but she doesn’t wanna. She tries to deflect by calling them kids (even though she’s acting more like one herself) then wonders why they won’t ask Kazuma instead. Kazuma is relaxing under his kotatsu…wait, kotatsu? In this wonderful, alternate world? What gives?

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Vanir, as it happens, isn’t dead. He merely lost an extra life, and now he’s Vanir II. I got a big laugh out of that, and Vanir’s constant posing and amusingly over-the-top monologues. It wouldn’t be the first or the last of this episode, though the fact he and Kazuma are in business making items from his “homeland” (like said kotatsu) is an interesting angle, it’s not lingered on long.

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Once he finally deigns to emerge from his cave, Kazuma heads to the weaponsmith to collect the weapon he comissioned: a katana. He also tries on some impressive full plate armor, but can’t move in it, and any attempts to look cool result in knocking other swords down, or whacking the side of the door.

He then has to give his sword a name, and of course all the usual famous sword names enter Kazuma’s head – Masamune, Muramasa, Kotetsu, etc. He lets his guard down, and Megumin unilateraly brands the sword Chunchunmaru, in keeping with her usual moe naming style.

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His sword thus named, the quartet strikes out on a quest—I believe the first non-dungeon quest they’ve undertaken at full strength. There’s a certain triumphant quality to seeing the four out their, under the big blue sky, running their checklists and making sure they’re prepared to take on the vast group of Lizard Runners they’re tasked with taking out.

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Naturally, any enemy in KonoSuba that is described as being “trampling” in nature will, ultimately, end up trampling upon one or more of Kazuma’s party, or indeed himself. I got a kick out of Aqua’s too-late advice and too-soon rash magic that brings the herd straight to their location. The lizards themselves were also hilariously twitchy and neat.

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Kazuma manages to snipe the “Princess Runner” all the others follow, but when she lands she knocks him off the tree and he hits the ground hard. The injury is bad enough to land him in the hereafter with Eris, who he confirms is the true heroine of his story, if only he could spend more time with her.

He tries to do just that, but before long the voice of Aqua permeates the realm, getting increasingly worried and upset Kazuma won’t wake up. Darkness and Megumin also chime in, with the latter doing something to his body that leaves him no choice but to return to them. Maybe he’ll see Eris when she “sneaks out” one day? Probably not.

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Everyone is clearly very glad Kazuma is back, underscoring the familial bond the four share, despite (or because of) all their bickering and sniping.

And that ‘something’ turns out to be labelling his dick “The Holy Sword Excalibur”, which he doesn’t realize until he takes a bath back home. In his shock he runs out to find Megumin, and loses his towel, leading to the priceless reaction shot of Aqua you see above.

This week delivered laughs both clever and dumb from start to finish. I daresay KonoSuba has fully re-attained my interest, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come next week.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 04

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Word of Germanian defeat and rumors of a reborn White Witch travel all the way to Neu Berlin (where it seems they successfully built the Volkshalle) and the Germanian leader, who is excited by the news of a witch in modern times.

For the record, these guys don’t seem as bad as Nazis, but they are most certainly bad guys: arrogant bullies who pick on their weaker neighbors as part of a larger plan to dominate the continent and likely the world. Their power must have a check to avoid wholesale death and suffering.

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So far, the show seems intent on keeping that potential check, Izetta, as modest and grounded as possible, befitting both her past status and her debt to Princess Fine for saving her from a mob. Izetta takes nothing for granted: not the bed she wakes up in, or the cheerful maid Lotte who is assigned to her.

Little does Izetta know that just by being there, she’s basically threatening to usurp the right-hand-woman position currently occupied by Bianca, who is still suspicious of Izetta’s abilities and motives. However, when Lotte slips off her stool and Izetta gets konked on the head by a stone jug, Bianca feels responsible for the injury.

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This episode lacks any big battles, but sets the stage for an entirely new battle Eylstadt must fight—and win—to have any chance at peace: the PR battle.

To that end, Fine appoints her Grand Couturier, Lady Elvira (Hanazawa Kana in an adult role)—a kind of alternate-WWII version of Effie Trinket—to help polish Izetta’s image as the famed White Witch and saviour of the country. Elvira is also very handsy; quite inappropriately so.

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Izetta reveals to Fine and her war council that her powers don’t come from within, but are dependent on a network of ley lines distributed through the lands. In some places, like the old capital, she cannot use her magic at all; in the old capital, the lines are dense, and the depths of the old castle they find a helpful map so they’ll know where she’ll be most effective.

That being said, Fine is keeping it the highest of state secrets that Izetta has any weaknesses at all: winning hearts and minds of both her own people and potential allies abroad is dependent on the lie that Izetta is invincible, and that is part of the burden both women must bear on top of  actually fighting and winning more battles.

With the enemy not only well aware of Izetta’s existence but having previously had her in captivity, we’ll see what countermeasures they’ll come up with. In the meantime, Fine succeeds her recently deceased father as Archduchess, with Izetta the White Witch by her side. There’s no turning back.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 03

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R to L: Snow White, Eren Yeager, Shion

The Japanese government mandates that at least one episode of romantic comedies must be a cultural festival episode, but Kiss Him Not Me didn’t treat it like legal compliance; it put quite a bit of effort and its own wonderful brand of energy into it, making for twenty minutes of television that felt much longer, but had me wishing by the end it was longer still. All the positive aspects I mentioned in the first two eps apply here, and then some.

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This KHNM took its real life otome game theme to its natural next step: growing mutual resentment among the boys. The four of them are only together because they like Kae. Kae, a fujoshi, its perfectly content to keep things this way, but they aren’t. They want to court Kae properly, which means they need alone time with her (the last thing she wants).

It’s a great dynamic, and I’m glad it comes to a head so quickly in the series, and so organically, as a result of the give-and-take of the otome scenario. Kae formed a coalition so her class would vote for a cosplay cafe, and she gets to dress up all her boys the way she sees fit. But in exchange, she has to tacitly accept it when they set up time slots for alone time with her during the festival.

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To the show’s credit, despite her amazing physical transformation, Kae remains steadfastly Kae, even if she often manages to hide her baser instincts from the lads. She worries she won’t do well alone with guys, and then she goes and doesn’t do well alone with the guys. It’s the English title in a nutshell: She wants them to Kiss (or do other romantic things with) Him, not her.

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It doesn’t help that the guys are a little overeager. Nana backs her into a wall and they come close to a kiss, Mu achieves an indirect kiss through chopsticks; Iga takes her hand in his, then puts it on his knee; and Shi leaps into her arms in the haunted house, resulting in a fall and his face in her bosom.

It’s all just too much for Kae, who is completely un-inoculated against such romantic gestures. She rushes into the arms of her friend Akane, lamenting how impossible it all is. A-chan was initially amused that Kae had four dates with four hotties, but she’s quick to drop the ribbing and offer support when it turns out badly.

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But while A-chan is grabbing Kae a drink, Kae is accosted by three less-than-savory classmates, who make her guys’ aggressiveness seem coy by comparison. These guys aren’t even trying to be subtle: this girl’s hot and they’re going to get as much out of her as they can.

Then she gives one of them an uppercut, which both he and she thought was overreacting…but how the hell else is a girl supposed to act when there are hands all over her and a crotch in her face?

They chase her down the hall, but she’s rescued by Iga and Nana in the nick of time. Soon Mu and Shi are also there and the four locked in combat with the punks. Kae stops gawking and spluttering and yells, at the top of her lungs, “KNOCK IT OFF!” 

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Kae’s four guys hear her, and realize that and how they erred, and apologize, and all agree to take things slower so as not to overwhelm her again. Thus we return to the status quo, as expected, but it was a fun ride. The show didn’t want us to forget not just that these four guys really like Kae, and not just in a buddy-buddy way, but that when it comes down to it, they also don’t hate each other’s company.

When the time comes for the bonfire dance, the four agree to drop the romantic pursuits for the day and give Kae a little something for tolerating their forwardness (and the brawl, for which there was somehow no punishment). That something turns out to be another dream come true not just for fujoshi Kae, but her fujoshi BFF Akane: the four pair off and dance with each other.

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Kuromukuro – 20

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Now this is the kind of episode that fully delivers on the promise of Kuromukuro from the start. No more teasing: Yukina is finally stuck aboard an alien mothership, and while before we were only given bits of dialogue from the bigwigs sitting on their thrones on the bridge, here we get a grand tour of the massive vessel, with Yukina as our guide.

Lighting, sound, and visual design get top marks here, creating a suitably alien and oppressive but still wondrous atmosphere. Yukina also benefits, at least initially, from the ship (and its various automated crewmen) believing she’s Muetta. I say initially because it isn’t long before Mirasa finds Yukina and tries to kill her, laughing maniacally the whole time.

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A little less exciting, but still important, is Sophie’s continued chat with Zell, who reveals he’s third world that was conquered and dominated by the Efidolg. He doesn’t want what happened to his world (nothing good) to happen to Earth, and he’d also like some retribution along the way.

At the same time, Major Graham discovers the director’s “mutiny” and acts to restrain her, but as she says, she’s “already won”, because Ken is up in orbit, trying to save her daughter. All anyone down there can do, from Graham and Hiromi to Yukina’s sister, uncle, and friends…is wait.

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Yukina manages to find a hiding place where Mirasa can’t see her, then digs into the ship’s records to try to figure out a way off, to no avail. She also finds what looks either like a clone or artificial “Yukihime head,” disturbingly enough. I appreciate her determination to help herself out, sticking true to what she said to herself in the beginning of the episode: “I can’t have him protect me all the time.”

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When she finally finds some clothes and a weapon, she remembers the gruelling training she went through, and it serves her well, at least in terms of the stamina she no doubt developed, as well as her sword skills, which keep her alive against a Mirasa who may well be compromised from the stress of “Muetta” returning to announce her treachery.

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Little does Mirasa know, until the last possible moment, that Muetta arrived on the ship separately. She reports to her superiors, but can’t keep up the fiction that nothing’s amiss when the ship’s sensors detect Ken roaming the corridors looking for Yukina.

Muetta is immediately treated and attacked as a traitor, which is probably what she expected all along. I for one am glad she doesn’t try to turn Ken and/or Yukina over in exchange for essentially keeping her job and having her past mistakes forgiven. Then again, she’s never actually given the choice to betray Ken, because bringing him here in the first place is all the bigwigs need to condemn her.

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Eventually, Ken finds Yukina, steps in on her fight with Mirasa, and along with Muetta they hurry back to the hangar to make their getaway. Yukina allows herself to cry and embrace Kennosuke with relief and heartfelt gratitude, and her continued thanks makes Ken blush. Sure you were only “fulfilling a promise.” Right.

The Efidolg try to snatch both the Kuromukuro and Muetta’s glongur, but fail when the Ogre flies up into orbit to snatch them out of the enemy tractor beam, allowing them to return to earth. All’s well that ends well…except for the little matter of the Efidolg ship preparing to descend to the Earth’s surface. No rest for the weary…or recently-half-naked.

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Kuromukuro – 19

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Now that’s more like it. The last episode kinda dragged on, building to the surprise abduction of Yukina. But this episode takes full advantage of the severity of that cliffhanger: the Kuromukuro is grounded, Earth is more vulnerable than ever, and everyone is on edge, but powerless to do anything in the immediate present. After all, Yukina is in space.

Their only consolation, and hope, as it happens, is the fact they retrieved the wounded Muetta, whom Dr. Hausen determines has identical DNA to Yukina and Hiromi. They’re definitely related, though Muetta is very old.

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Hiromi is in full-on Mom Panic Mode, Sophie is given mandatory leave by the commander, and Ken is disgraced by how useless he feels. Sophie doesn’t have any sympathy for him moping in the canteen, but that’s for the best, as shortly after she’s alone, she’s contacted by the Ogre, who promises an encounter soon.

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Dr. Hausen is the only one truly happy this week, as he gets to study an Efidolg—or, at least, a human who’s had their memories altered and their body populated by advanced nanomachines. He determines that Ken’s blood is the best way to counteract the effect of Mirasa’s weapon, and after a quick transfusion, Muetta is awake and as feisty and combative as ever.

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The Ogre rudely invades Sophie’s apartment, but properly apologizes, and explains that she was the only person he felt safe contacting. His comment about cosplay culture making it easier to move around modern Japan was pretty amusing, but the fact he’s finally here, with Sophie, ready and willing to explain all (or at least some) is very exciting.

He, or I should say, Zell, is absolutely an enemy of the Efidolg, but not yet an ally of the earthlings. Here’s hoping that will change, becaue the earthlings need all the help they can get.

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Ken knows he can’t do squat about Yukina without the Kuromukuro, and so breaks into Muetta’s cell to try to bargain with her. She agrees to co-pilot it with him, with the story that she stole it and captured him. It’s really the only play they have, and it gets them both what they want: Muetta, freedom from this place, and Ken, a chance to save Yukina.

What I’m glad about is that Ken needs help, and lots of it. He may be a samurai, but he can’t whisk Yukihime out of a high-security international installation on his own. The other civilian lab employees clear a path for them, ending with Hiromi herself giving Ken her blessing (and making him swear he’ll bring her Yukina back).

This is because Hiromi’s superiors told her to give up on Yukina. They proposed using Muetta to pilot Kuromukuro, with Dr. Hausen minutes from administering some dread medication that would likely not give her a choice in the matter.

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Don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to place Yukihime in the “Good Guys” column just yet, but I’ll pencil her in for now. The bottom line is she had few choices to get back to where she belonged other than going along with Ken’s plan, and once they’re up in orbit, Ken is at the mercy of her “people.”

But what makes be believe Yukihime might not bretray him immediately is the recording of…herself she sees once they fire up the Kuromukuro, which she’s amazed powers up so quickly even though it’s her first time. Only it isn’t: she recognizes herself in the recording. There’s an opening here, however small, for her to start entertaining the idea that Ken is right about her.

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That brings us to poor, poor Yukina. The only moment sadder than seeing her sister and mother despair at her abduction is seeing her look down on earth and call for Kennosuke…after asking for some clothes, of course. The Efidolg brought her there not as a hostage, but because they thought she was Muetta.

Mirasa quickly took it upon herself to try to finish what she started, but it seems Yukina was able to escape her stasis chamber in time. Despite her call for her samurai buddy, something tells me she ‘s not simply going to wander the ship, catching her death of cold, waiting for Ken to rescue her. She’s going to have to help herself out, and stay alive and free until help arrives.

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