DanMachi II – 03 – Finding an Opening

Soma’s commander, Zanis, claims that the whole point of helping Apollo attack Hestia Familia was to bring Liliruca back into the family, but all he really cares about is her transformation magic, with which he intends to make a fortune. Lili’s prison guard, Chandra, snorts at Zanis’ arrogance; portending his giving a helping hand to Lili later.

Hestia meets with Welf, Takemikazuchi, Ouka, Mikoto, Chigusa, Miach, and Naza to arrange a rescue mission. When they ask whether the upcoming War Game with Apollo Familia should be her priority, Hestia retorts that all she has against Apollo is Bell, but he can’t fight 100% as long as he’s worried about his supporter, so Lili must come first.

As for the meeting of the gods in which the terms of the War Game are set out, Hestia by way of Hermes draws the worst possible lot: a siege. When Hermes says that the situation is just too unfair unless Hestia is allowed helpers, and Freya mocks Apollo for being afraid of allowing them, Apollo caves to the crowd and declares that Hestia Familia shall be allowed *one* helper, but they can’t be from Orario.

Meanwhile, Zanis reveals his true nature by dropping the whole “family” bit with Lili: she’s a resource he’ll use up and discard for his own gain. Once Zanis leaves, Chandra tosses the keys to Lili to do as she will; he can’t stand that guy! Once free, Lili finds a rescue raid in progress that she doesn’t even want. When she tells Hestia and the others to leave her, Hestia tells her how important she is to Bell—to all of them—and that they’re not leaving without her.

Lili tries one more time to get Soma to take a break from his winemaking and do something, but typically he’s left everything to the corrupt Zanis. This time, he offers some wine to Lili, and if she is still able to ask him for help, he’ll do as she asks.

To Soma’s surprise, Lili does not become a drunk slave, and still has the lucidity to beg him to stop the battle, which he does, even allowing Welf to zipline in and sword-slap Zanis in his shitty face.

With Lili safely rescued, she promptly officially transfers from Soma to Hestia Familia, and she’s not the only one. Mikoto asks Takemikazuchi for a transfer to Hestia, and wanting to help Hestia, he agrees. Welf also gets Hephaistios to let him transfer, while Hermes and Syl convince Ryu Lion to be the one helper that Hestia is allowed to recruit.

With Hestia Familia appointed the attacker in the War Game siege, and Bell training hard with Ais and Tiona, the odds of a Hestia victory are starting to look a lot less hopeless!

One Punch Man 2 – 09 – Not Strong Enough to Defeat Boredom

Watching Saitama obliterate foes with one punch is only half the fun of his fights. The other half is how he reacts to blows against him, or otherwise absorbs them. In this case, taking Monster Bakuzan’s first and second kicks do nothing but send him sliding off to the side; he’s otherwise unharmed.

Bakuzan assumes he’s lost his mind from the fear of facing him, but Saitama is only still and lost in thought because he’s trying to remember who this guy is. He can’t, so he ends it…by halving Bakuzan.

After learning this guy’s real name is Saitama, and he mostly joined the martial arts competition because he was bored and wanted a taste of what he might be up against with the hero hunter, Suiryu still tries to stop him from going after Goketsu, convinced he’s walking towards certain death.

Always good to see Saitama’s doubters thoroughly rebuked. Goketsu is so easy, we don’t even have to watch it—and the sappy piano just keeps playing through the “fight”—but we do hear it. I also enjoyed Saitama laughing off Suiryu’s request to be his disciple. Dude’s got standards, man! Beat Genos and we’ll talk.

After a brief check-in with Puri-Puri Prisoner fighting buck naked and hugging his spiky opponent to death then pulling a flip phone out of his ass, we find Saitama wandering the streets until he encounters King, and the two have a long conversation about Saitama’s long-standing ennui caused by his power plateau (King rather hilariously assumes at first that Saitama is depressed because of his baldness).

King promises him he’s only being arrogant about having no challenges left. He’s a hero who cares more about having fun fighting than the heroic ideals he should be living by; that’s room for improvement, for a start.

King supplements their lovely talk by lifting cool manga monologues, impressing Saitama with his eloquence, when suddenly Garo shows up, pissed off from his defeat to Watchdog Man and looking for another hero to hunt. His eyes focus on King, assuming his casual appearance is merely a facade and calculating all of his possible first moves.

But King doesn’t move; he just stands there like a big dumb idiot. It’s Saitama who saves him by kicking Garo through a wall, just as he’s talking about his hope the hero hunter will be something resembling a challenge. Sorry, Saitama…no such luck. There’s another hallmark of good OPM: Saitama is either completely out of the loop or at least four or five steps behind what’s going on in the world of heroes and monsters. In this case, that obliviousness is sparing him more bitter disappointment.

Speaking of wannabe Saitama rivals, Speed-o’-Sound Sonic is accosted by two equally quick and powerful members of the “Golden 37” who have converted to Monsters and offer Sonic a cell, demanding he join them. Sonic mulls over the consequences of losing his humanity, but he considers himself as good as dead anyway after his first (of many) losses to Saitama.

Thankfully, Sonic’s general disgust with the cell leads him to cooking it up before eating it, which not only gives him a bad case of the runs, but likely nullified the cell’s ability to transform him into a monster. Not like becoming a monster makes it any less likely you’ll be able to defeat Saitama…or even lay a scratch on him.

In other news, Genos is on his way to be repaired after being ambushed, the Gorilla monster meets an actual, sentient Gorilla who is just going about his business, very Saitama-like; and the Hero Association board prepares to exercise caution lest their main patron’s son get killed and led to their funding getting cut, followed by the infiltration of the room by a functionary-turned-monster.

Attack on Titan – 41 – Nobody Knows a Damn Thing

This week begins with Marlo and Hitch, a pair of military police on patrol in the woods, just shooting the shit with a little mild flirting mixed in. They’re not evil or anything, just ordinary people…just two more bricks in the wall. They find Armin by a stream, and when they try to arrest him, they’re ambushed by Levi and Mikasa.

They don’t expect any valuable intel from these two grunts…they’re merely one step in a whole sequence of steps that might lead them to Eren and Tori’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Hange rescues the Reeves scion, Flegel, and challenges him to do more than spend the rest of his days scampering around like a rat.

Levi first chooses Sasha to tie up and guard the prisoners, but Jean volunteers to do it, and takes Marlo and Hitch to a secluded spot where he threatens to kill them. He then stumbles—on purpose?—and gives the captives an opportunity to kill him.

When they don’t—both lost people in Schoess District, but Marlo seems sincere about wanting to side with the Scouts—it would seem they both passed Jean’s “test.” Two more soldiers for the revolution, perhaps.

Flegel is cornered by military police once again, but all by design. As gratitude for letting them find him, they agree to tell Flegel why his father was killed: he betrayed the police, who threatened him with death if he didn’t agree to kidnap the scouts.

It’s a very inflammatory monologue—perhaps too conveniently so, considering Flegel is not the only one listening. The supposedly “deserted” area where he let himself get cornered happened to be the perfect spot for Hange and her men to turn the tables.

Even better, dozens of the public overheard the police’s schemes, including two journalists. After seeing Flegel face up to his enemies even at the risk of his life, will they or other citizens feel motivated to question the “truth” the military police dispenses? We shall see; that’s certainly what the Scouts want and need: public support to sway back in their favor.

After ambushing a checkpoint, Levi tries to beat intel out of its commander, but when he finally pretty much breaks him, the guy has little of value to say because he wasn’t trusted with the location of Eren and Tori. Kenny—whose last name is Ackerman, we learn—is too cautious for that.

Finally, in the royal capital, a beaten, tortured, starved, one-legged Erwin Smith still manages to maintain both his sanity and dignity, casually asking one of his tormentors about his family. Erwin is brought before the king for sentencing.

Erwin is to be the first of the Scouts to be officially tried, found guilty, and executed, and the Military Police won’t stop until they’re all gone…all to maintain the kingdom’s secrets.

Golden Kamuy – 02 – Something They Carve Together

As Asirpa prepares traps to ensnare delicious nut-fed squirrels for dinner, Sugimoto determines the prisoners will avoid small villages where they’d stand out. The pair head into the booming port and commercial city of Otaru to canvass the places where they’d expose their tattooed skin: the baths and the brothels.

While questioning sex workers, the tiny Asirpa gets nabbed by the brothel owner, but quickly demonstrates she’s not worth his trouble, considering her skill with a knife handle and the “immortal” company she keeps.

Ultimately, they manage to snag their first prisoner the same way they catch squirrels: with a snare that traps him by the neck. Asirpa is adamant that they’ll kill nobody needlessly, and instead uses the pencil and paper acquired in Otaru to draw their captive’s tattoos. Fun little human moments like Asirpa drooling over squirrel meat or her shock at Sugimoto’s “rubber pencil” trick are effective at keeping the mood from getting too heavy.

This prisoner escaped from the others when they suddenly started killing each other, not realizing that absent drafting skills (or pencils), completing the map meant quite a bit of skinning. However, before this prisoner can give them any more information, he’s shot right through the brain, darkening the mood anew.

Sugimoto tracks down the gunman and identifies him not just as a fellow soldier, but one of the much-feared and respected Hokkaido 7th Division, known as the Guardians of the North for their tenacity in even the toughest battles. In other words, a division Sugimoto would be right at home in, had he not been dishonorably separated from the army.

The two share a couple moments as fellow soldiers to prepare for battle, and when the soldier asks if Sugimoto is tracking down the prisoners for money, he corrects him by saying it’s for love…which isn’t far off. After all, the money is for the family of the friend he loved, not for himself.

This time, Sugimoto’s foe is too tough to go easy on, and when the choice becomes letting him go to inform his superiors and stopping him, Sugimoto tosses the butt of his rifle at the guy, hitting him in the head and sending him tumbling off a cliff and into the freezing river, where he and Asirpa presume he’s dead but rather sloppily refrain from confirming it.

That error could be a result of hunger, but “We’re alive, so of course we get hungry” Asirpa has the solution for that when they return to her hunting tent, which is also her kitchen, There, she skins the squirrels they caught and lets Sugimoto eat the brain of one raw, which is supposedly the best part.

She finely minces the remaining meat and bones into chitatap, a kind of dish that sounds like the way you make it (incidentally, one should say “chitatap” while chopping the meat). In a concession to Sugimoto’s Sisam tastes, she forms balls with the meat and cooks them in broth for a sumptuous meal, and uses the Ainu saying “Hinna, hinna!” instead of “Itadakimasu!” to give thanks.

There’s no such thing as eating too much out here in The Grey, so after nabbing and sketching their second prisoner in as many days, Asirpa gets a bead on a rabbit and pounces on it. Unfortunately, this prisoner is an escape artists who coughs up a razor with which to cut himself free.

While chasing him down, he and Sugimoto end up tumbling down a cliff and falling into the drink, which is a death sentence for those who don’t get their freezing clothes off and warm up in front of a fire within ten minutes.

There’s a black comedy of errors as the prisoner succumbs to the various symptoms of hypothermia, but once he gets Sugimoto’s assurances he’ll spare his life, he coughs up a bullet they can use to spark a life-saving fire.

Having survived their dance with death, the two bond, casting aside their conflict, and the prisoner, Shiraishi, shares more intel with Sugimoto, including the fact that the leader of the prisoners is a grizzled and immensely-skilled samurai veteran from a war fought thirty years prior.

Meanwhile, the 7th division private also survived his hypothermia (perhaps Sugimoto’s immortaliy rubs off on people) and soon wakes up, meaning his commanding officer, who himself  seems to have survived having a large part of his face peeled off. As tough and resourceful as Sugimoto and Asirpa are, the characters they’ll have to deal with to achieve their goal are no slouches!

Golden Kamuy has established itself as one of the best best of the Spring, despite taking place in a bitterer Winter than the one we’re still struggling to escape in real life. So far it’s sported some great characters of almost mythical ability, offered some creative combat and survival skills, integrating elements of Ainu culture wherever possible. The OP and ED are also tight as hell. More than anything, Golden Kamuy has attitude, but isn’t so serious it won’t crack jokes where appropriate.

Golden Kamuy – 01 – The Weak Get Eaten, But These Peeps Ain’t Weak (First Impressions)

It’s 1904: The Russo-Japanese War, three years before my older grandfather was even born. Sugimoto Saichi is in the trenches, and earns the nickname “The Immortal Sugimoto” for…well, refusing to die. Bullets always miss or glance off him. He’s never in the path of a cannon or mortar.

His vitals always manage to avoid enemy blades. Even when he rushes the Russians head-on yelling “JUST TRY AND KILL ME!”, they fail to kill him. One might say this particular quality of his is a blessing, but all it means is he gets to live on as everyone around him dies.

Among the dead who leave him behind is his old friend and war buddy, who is survived by a wife with failing vision and a child. Sugimoto nearly killed a superior, so he’s cashiered out of the service, and must try to scrape together a living in a place where the gold rush has long since run dry.

While panning in a river for the dregs of that rush, an old drunk keeps Sugimoto company, telling him what initially sounds like a tall tale about a man who stole a mass treasure of gold from the native Ainu and killed a bunch of them. He was imprisoned, but tattooed pieces of a map to the treasure on other prisoners who then escaped, promising them a half share.

When the drunk realizes he’s said too much and tries to kill Sugimoto, Sugimoto clobbers him and forces him to flee…but now Sugimoto is more certain the man wasn’t just telling tall tales. That’s confirmed when he later finds the man’s corpse. He was killed and buried by a bear, but his body bears the map tattoos.

Of course, it’s not that simple: a bear returns, apparently to reclaim its meal, and Sugimoto isn’t ready…but thankfully someone is. Up until now things like timing, physics, and coincidence had served The Immortal Sugimoto, but here and now he finds himself face-to-face with the personification of his luck and salvation: a petite Ainu woman who introduces herself as Asirpa.

Out there in the wilderness, I’d much rather have Asirpa by my side than Sugimoto, especially considering its him, not me, who’d more likely escape death once again. She not only determines that the bear they just killed wasn’t the one who killed the prisoner, but that the man who tattooed him never intended to share the treasure. That man also killed Asirpa’s father to get the gold in the first place.

Because this is just barely the 20th century, and Sugimoto isn’t wealthy enough to own a camera (and the cameraphone is a century away), the only way to preserve the parts of the map they now have is to skin the man. (I suppose he could make a drawing, but lacks the materials) But that will take time, and night waits for no one, not even the Immortal Sugimoto.

Instead, he and Asirpa keep a fire going and use the corspe to lure the megabear to them. He gets the jump on Sugimoto and extinguishes the flame, accelerating their plans somewhat. Then Asirpa’s guardian angel, a white wolf that may well contain the soul of her late father, joins the fray, protecting her and giving Sugimoto an opportunity to shoot the bear.

The bear doesn’t go down that easily, and requires a well-placed blade to its heart to kill, but Sugimoto survives, and impresses Asirpa with his warrior instincts. That being said, she can have no part of the bear she helped kill, as it ate human flesh and was sent to a special form of hell. She, by the way, doesn’t want to shed human blood either.

After Sugimoto skins the map from the map (gross), he vows to be the one to do the “dirty work” while she’ll continue to provide the wisdom and support she has so far, and without which he’d have already been killed by now. Together they’ll find the other pieces of the map (even the skin he has is a patchwork of disconnected map fragments), she can get revenge for her father, and he can get gold for his friends’ family.

Sounds like a good win-win deal, and a strong finish to a hell of a strong and intriguing story set deep in a place utterly inhospitable to humans who have lost touch with nature, and starring two people who are immensely badass in very different yet equally fascinating ways. Hat tip to tombeet for the recommendation!

No. 6 1 – First Impressions

As the first scene involves the chase of an escaped prisoner, I automatically assumed that No. 6 was the name of the grey-haired kid the guys with guns were chasing. Turns out No.6 is a place; specifically, a city-state in which our protagonist Shion lives. This futuristic, semi-utopian society has a few quirks to it, including the mysterious “Moondrop”, something that sounds like a whale when it cries, and which Shion seems to feels a special connection with.

A few things about Shion: he’s a very girly-looking guy, but then again he’s supposed to be twelve, so that’s okay. He’s a genius, about to enter a ‘special course’, with a high IQ and a kind heart. He also tends to remain calm and measured in his reactions to sudden events. When his friend Safu kissses him, he doesn’t wig out; when the escaped convict – who calls himself Nezumi (“rat”) – invades his house and chokes him, he barely flinches. The only time he loses his composure is when Nezumi tells him he saw him screaming at the Moondrop. For some reason, that turns him beet-red.

So this is a bit of a ‘prince meets the pauper’ kinda deal so far. Nezumi is wanted by the “safety bureau” for some reason, and it looks like he’s led a rough life so far, and he ain’t that old. Meanwhile, Shion isn’t used to expressing fear or doubt; his wealth and status preclude him from despair, if not boredom. But for all his intelligence and kindness, the reality is he’s harboring a fugitive, and that could get him, and his mom, in deep doo-doo if he’s not careful.

I liked this first episode, because it set up a lot of things while leaving a lot left to be answered in the forthcoming episodes. Despite a core cast of kids, it seems pretty mature and temperant so far. I haven’t really be interested in watching anything from Studio Bones for a while, but this definitely shows promise. Production values are decent, if not extraordinary. Rating: 3.5