Goblin Slayer – 12 (Fin) – Not Just Another Pawn

With all those adventurers fighting together and following the Slayer’s plan, the goblin army is dispatched all too easily. Just when a goblin thinks he has the upper hand with a surprise attack, he’s met by a mailed fist, arrow, or blade. Meanwhile, Goblin Slayer himself informs the Goblin “Lord” that the home he’s trying to flee to is already gone.

That being said, the Slayer is not used to one-on-one combat out in the open, and the Lord, while cowardly, is still huge, and proceeds to stomp all over the Slayer’s head. Fortunately, the Priestess arrives, casting dual protection spell planes that immobilize and crush the lord. Slayer finishes him off, and is then healed by the Priestess, who didn’t use all three of her spells for protection.

The Priestess is cross that he pushed himself too hard once more, as she learns he was only bait, and trusted her to bail him out once the lord thought he would be victorious. When the sun rises, the Slayer needs help getting back home, but the adventurers, his party members, and Cow Girl are all elated to see him in one piece.

At the guild celebration, Goblin Slayer buys everyone a drink, as he promised. The Priestess asks if she can get an extra reward: if he’ll remove his helmet for her. He does, and it causes a right commotion in the guild, many of the members of which had a placed bids on who or what would be underneath.

But more than fascinated with his face, the Priestess, the rest of his party, the other adventurers, all share one thing in common: they now consider Goblin Slayer a friend and ally, and coming to his aid isn’t a matter of luck, but obligation. They do it gladly, because if it weren’t for him they might not have a town.

Thus ends Goblin Slayer’s saga…but only for now. A post-credits announcement promises his return. He intends to start on the path of an adventurer, but I assume that doesn’t preclude him from slaying goblins; it just means he’ll be going to more far-flung places to do it. And he won’t be doing it alone.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 08 – Aligned Interests, Allowed Journeys

It’s official: the vamps have total air superiority in this show. I guess it can pay to be immortal! Mikhail is whisked to Sakhalin by Klarwein (the mad scientist) in a floatplane that wouldn’t be out of place in Porco Rosso. Yevgraf’s splendid airship has already docked atop a mountain. Where are the Jaegers’ toys?

Mikhail learns this was the birthplace of the Ark of Sirius, and an ancient sanctuary built by the Sirius sanctuary is where his father brought the Ark to be safe. Yevgraf believes because Mikhail has noble Sirius blood, he’ll be able to break through the barrier his father created at the cost of his life.

However, it’s not that simple. Mikhail also has a blood pact with Yev (formed when he turned him when Dogville fell) that not only prevents him from fully penetrating the barrier, but also prevents him from attacking his master. And now we know for sure: Mikhail wants the Ark so he can kill Yev. Instead, Yev decides he’ll try to use Yuliy.

Despite being about as gracious and simpering a thrall as a master could want, Klarwein is utterly ignored by Yev in every instance where he’s in his presence. While I don’t see the mad scientist’s loyalty wavering, it’s worth keeping an eye on what other “research” he’ll cook up in isolation.

Willard informs his team of Yuliy’s solo departure, and Fallon, Dorothea and Phillip all want to help him if they can, even if he left without them specifically to keep them out of something that could get them killed. But these are Jaegers; they’ll decide how they’ll be killed, so Willard announces they’ll make “a stop” before heading to London.

And in case you were wondering, the show isn’t done with Ryouko just because the Jaegers are no longer staying at Baron Naoe’s. She books passage to London, leaving a loving note to her pops about her duty as next head of the family to further investigate the attack on their manor. The Baron is content to allow his daughter her journey, but he’s coming too.

Finally, as soon as Yuliy arrives in Sakhalin, he picks up a tail, but it fortunately turns out to be a fellow Jaeger in Bishop, who I’m guessing is American from his attire. Yuliy and Bishop both want Yevgraf dead and the Ark out of the hands of the vamps, so they decide to work together. The first step is meeting with a recluse in the mountains who has info on the Ark.

Bishop is a bit of a walking cautionary tale for Yuliy; his entire team of Jaegers, which was more like a family to him than his own blood, was wiped out, leaving only him. Yuliy can smell the blood on him, almost as if he were a vamp himself, something Bishop explains is something that simply happens if you hunt them long enough and enough of the people you care about are lost.

By the time they arrive at the codger’s, he’s already being ambushed by vamps led by the twin sisters Larissa and Tamara, who have a flair for the theatric what with their sentence finishing and echoing laughter. But they can also handle themselves in combat. Once again Yuliy has to fight high-level vamps while keeping them from killing someone. Hopefully Bishop finds parking and lends him a hand fast!

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 07 – Time to Know Everything

The big showdown to determine if Yuliy can beat both Kershner and Mikhail and protect Phillip is suddenly cut short when tank shells explode outside. Major Iba has arrived, and he’s brought a sizable contingent of infantry and armor. It’s a great and triumphant realization of Iba’s decision to temporarily trust V Shipping and assist however he can.

Kershner’s ranks are routed, so he retreats, leaving Mikhail to finish Yuliy off, but Mikhail won’t kill him, any more than Yuliy will kill Mikhail. After all, before they parted, it was Mikhail who told him to “live”, and that directive supersedes Mikhail’s loyalty to Kershner. Maybe (brotherly) love can conquer all!

Kershner reaches the roof of the mansion to find Willard there waiting for him. Willard tries valiantly but he’s ultimately no match for the high-ranked vamp, and ends up at swordpoint when Yuliy arrives. Little does he know Kershner and Willard have a history.

Indeed, it was Willard, so obsessed with the Ark of Sirius, who helped “lift the veil” on its location, Yuliy’s hometown of Dogville. After Willard witnessed Yuliy use the power of the Sirius in the snowy forest, he saved him and set him on a life driven solely by revenge.

Willard fully expects Yuliy to want to kill him shortly after he kills Kershner (in a pretty awesome badass way, if you ask me), since he’s partly responsible for a lot of the terrible stuff that happened in his life.

But Yuliy doesn’t kill Willard. The ten years weren’t just about revenge for him. Willard may have been a cause of his despair, but he’s also the only reason he’s still alive, and lived as long as he has.

In the aftermath, V Company will reimburse the Naoes for the damage to the estate, while Willard tells Yuliy more about the Ark of Sirius: it’s a kind of font of extremely valuable information and technology; no wonder the vampires are after it.

It’s hinted when we check in on Kershner’s boss Yevgraf (who flies around in his sick airship, as you do) that while the vamps are certainly not happy about having to rely on the Ark, some kind of illness is killing them, and the Ark is their onl hope.

As for Iba, he gets a chewing out and his unit is disbanded, but he’s given a new and even more crucial task: find and retrieve the Ark of Sirius for Japan. Later, Iba pays a visit to Willard at the bar, and Willard tells him where to start looking for said Ark: Sakhalin.

Willard and the Jaegers of V Shipping, their Japanese mission complete, are ordered back to London on the double, for debriefing and to await their next mission. They all seem eager to return to HQ, particularly Phillip, who calls London home.

But Yuliy won’t be joining them. His mission to find and protect the Ark is no longer V Shipping’s, so they must part ways. He books passage on the next ship bound for Sakhalin alone, and sets off to do what only he can do.

This is no longer about avenging his family, his home, and his brother. It’s about fulfilling the duty that is his birthright, as well as his responsibility as last living Sirius…unless, of course his Dad’s still hanging in there somewhere…

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 06 – The Siege of Naoe Mansion

Having learned the Ark wasn’t even in the city the train was headed, Kershner declares the train-and-Frankenstein’s monster op a wash, and refocuses his efforts on eliminating the Jaegers who got in their way. Back at the Naoe household, V Company sits tight and awaits further orders.

Ryouko is scolded by her understandably protective father. He forbids her from ever touching another sword, but she won’t hear of it. If she’s to be a worthy successor, she needs to see more of the outside world and how it works; book studies won’t be enough.

After what he witnessed on the trian, Major Iba seeks out more intel from Willard’s bartender informant, but both of them are tailed by vamps in black coats, and when the bartender is alone, they strike. By the time Willard arrives for his regular visit and Mockingbird cocktail, he only has a few moments before his friend dies, handing him a note.

The vamps aren’t gone, but Willard demonstrates he can handle himself in a fight against a couple of grunts. Every bullet finds a vital target and no movement is wasted, save, perhaps, unloading a couple more bullets than needed into a vamp’s head. But considering what they did to his friend, it’s understandable. Willard calls Dorothea, who musters the Jaegers for a battle.

They play things stealthy at first, hiding in the shadows while the vamps run into booby traps, but there are just so many goddamn monsters out there the skirmish quickly becomes a tense siege.

As the buildings of the household start to burn, Ryouko, who led her father and servants to the storeroom, prepares to head out and buy them more time to escape, decked out in her samurai best.

However, her father stops her—not because he doesn’t think she’ll be able to put up a fight, but because he wants to go to heaven being able to face Ryouko’s mother, something he can’t do if he lets her sacrifice herself to save his sorry old ass.

Speaking of old ass, Kershner is in the building with Mikhail by his side, just as Yuliy and Phillip finish up with their monsters. Rather than let his brother choke the life out of his fellow Jaeger, Yuliy slips away from Kershner long enough to knock Mikhail away.

Protecting Phillip while fighting Kershner and Mikhail sounds like crappy odds. I figure Yuliy’ll need one more friendly variable on his side of the equation.

Steins;Gate 0 – 07 – Mr. Braun (and Wikipedia) to the Rescue

The standoff with what is apparently the “Rounders” of SERN mercifully ends without any tragic deaths, thanks to the sudden arrival of Tennouji, who makes quick work of the masked bandits, while Suzu frees their quarry Kagari from their clutches.

Their leader in black has a female figure, but Okabe almost immediately doubts it was Kiryuu Moeka again because the Akiba boss from the other world line was Braun; it would  make no sense for him to hinder the Rounders here. Something else is clearly up.

The first priority is ensuring Kagari’s safety going forward now that they know she’s particularly susceptible to capture. She continues to stay at Ruka’s place, which Daru fortifies with motion sensors while Suzuha keeps a sleepless watch.

Ruka can tell something’s up, and wants Suzuha to explain why she uses the family-based honorifics she uses…but Suzuha isn’t talking. She (rightly) believes Okabe wants to keep Ruka from learning anything about other worlds, so that he can stay in the one he’s in.

The next day Okabe visits Tennouji at the shop to explain the disturbance he had to break up (not the kind of landlord duties he likes undertaking, even if he’s more than capable). Okabe first confirms that Tennouji is indeed Ferdinand Braun, affiliated with the Rounders.

Braun concedes that Okabe is disturbingly accurate about things he has no business knowing, and in the absence of more credible explanations is willing to at least hear him out about time travel and world lines. He agrees to keep Kagari under his protection, hiring her and Suzuha as part-timers, but insists Okabe get to work discovering the identity and goals of Kagari’s would-be captors.

One clue is the alphanumeric code uttered by two of the Rounders: K6205, whom Mayushii’s friend Kaede is able to identify as possibly a Köchel number; those used to catalog the works of Mozart. Specifically, K. 620, his opera The Magic Flute, which is packed with Masonic elements.

Scene 5 of Act 2 involves a man being ordered to marry an elderly woman or he’ll be imprisoned forever. When he does, she’s transformed into a young and beautiful young woman, only for priests to hold him back, warning that he’s not yet worthy of her.

I learned all of this on Wikipedia, as Daru and the others’ primary source of research (always a good place to start, anyways). But one can’t think of the Mozart connection without also thinking about his middle name: Amadeus; ‘loved by God’.

Amadeus is still offline and when Okabe calls Hiyajou, she expresses her fear the server has been taken over. But moments after Hiyajou hangs up Okabe gets a call from Amadeus. It’s highly distorted and garbled, but Amakurisu pleads for help clearly enough.

That’s when Okabe enters Reading Steiner, the Divergence Meter’s Nixie Tube numbers flutter furiously. He ends up alone in the lab, the TV no longer shot through, and the Amadeus app gone from his phone’s home screen. It’s a World Line Change, people, and what do you know, Kurisu is alive in this one.

Just like the first Steins;Gate series, S;G 0 started off slow, but there was always the possibility, even probability that one big event after another was bound to go down soon. Now we’re there, with Okabe, in a totally different world than the one in which started, with no knowledge of how he got there, whether he’s been there before, or if he’ll ever get back.

Not to mention the fact that without even trying he’s been reunited with the only woman he’s ever loved. Depending on how things go, he may not even want to leave…but where Steins;Gate is concerned, getting something you want almost always means losing something you need.

Devils Line – 01 – Back to the Well…of BLOOD (First Impressions)

“AND I’m a vampire…what a week!”

From Blood and Shiki to Dance in the Vampire Bund, Rosario + Vampire, Seraph of the End, and Help! My Little Sister is a Vampire!, there is no shortage of vampire anime out there, old and new, good and bad.

There’s so much, you might not have realized that I simply made up that last one, though for all I know it might actually exist (and Tasukete! Watashi no Imouto wa Kyuuketsuki! can be readily pared down to Tawamokyu!). 

The point is, we know all about vampires in anime. So any time a new one comes around, I ask two pretty standard questions:

#1: Does this add anything notably new to the table?
#2: If not, what makes it worth watching?

In the case of Devils Line, the answer to Question #1 is a firm “no.” Sure, the vamps’ chompers are a bit over-sized (not a great look!) and there’s an emphasis on vamps as crazed blood-and-sex addicts, but we’ve got a standard “pure maiden gets drawn into the dark side” story, which hearkens back to Lucy Westenra.

As to Question #2, I actually found a lot to like in the first 19/20ths of the episode (more on the final 20th later). First, the setting is realistic and grounded rather than surreal or baroque, and there’s a familiar Tokyo Nighttime atmosphere that pervades the episode and draws you in. I took note of the way characters were back-lit from various light sources.

In keeping with the much-like-real-life setting, the vamps, while ostensibly the “bad guys”, are also given a good degree of nuance and humanization. It’s not an accident that the blood-soaked cold open depicts a vamp tearing people apart…but not being all that happy about it! (no doubt because his fangs are so comically huge).

Finally, while it’s ultimately a red herring, the chase scene does good and efficient double duty, introducing us to the special division and their procedures for dealing with vamps in this world (a bad-ass cop lady fights on a higher footing than the vamp, probably because she too is a vamp) while also giving us a nifty Vamp-Speed chase and moonlit brawl.

So what didn’t work so well? Pretty much what the ED portends will be the entire premise of the show going forward: a Vampire Romance. College(?) student Taira Tsukasa goes with the flow, while sometimes looking off to the side like she needs new friends (or possibly very very old ones, amirite?!) but one thing I like about her is that she’s comfortable not having a boyfriend.

It doesn’t help when one of her two close friends confessed to her at school, she had to reject him, and he’s been basically tolerating the fact they’re “just friends” ever since…for now. Turns out Mr. Unrequited Love was the vampire she needed to watch her back for, and it’s to the kid’s credit that my disgust turned to pity once the Shadowy Subway Guy came between him and Tsukasa.

Subway Guy is a special division officer named Anzai, who suspected Tsukasa’s friend would soon crack from the pressure of having to hold in his vampiric nature, but concedes the kid’s desire not to hurt her was genuine…it’s just that Vamps can’t be trusted. When they see someone’s blood, they’re off to the sexy races.

And to the list of Vamps that can’t be trusted, go ahead and add Anzai in there, because once he notices Tsukasa’s scratched face, he starts French-kissing her. This burst explosion of passion might not have come out of nowhere, but it still felt sudden and oddly staged.  It looked less like the pure Tsukasa suddenly yearning and embracing a man’s touch, and more like he just jumped her.

So yes, this show has some good things going for it, but some big questions moving forward about whether and how the whole vampire romance thing will work. That she’s ostensibly dealing with a vamp who has his shit mostly under control (and is working for the “good guys” i.e. public safety) works to Anzai’s advantage, but I want to see more agency from Tsukasa, not for her to keep going with the (blood)flow.

 

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 19

We jump from a cold open in which Cartiphilus’ smirks while one of the poached dragons is being dissected as they cry “please stop” and “I want to go home”, to a scene at the college where it’s revealed Renfred is a weepy drunk.

Methinks the composer is a bit too proud of his slide whistle “comedy” theme. The tonal shift is clunky to say the least. Things swing back from jocular to dark when Chise has a very disturbing dream involving an amnesiac Cartaphilus in London.

She awakens to find Alice, Renfred, the Selkie, as well as several members of the “College” she knows nothing about (nor do we) hanging out with Elias in the sitting rom. The College members range from tolerable (Adolf) to embarrassingly awful (Tory). They inform Chise that two dragons have been poached and they’ve come seeking help from her and Elias.

Elias refuses, properly citing Chise’s fragility, but Chise overrules him, and before you know it, we’re back at the underworld auction house where Chise gave herself up to be sold to the highest bidder; one of the dragons is on the block. The man who arranged for Chise’s sale, Seth, gives Chise a checkbook and card tied to a account containing half of the value of her sale, since she was technically her own seller.

It’s strange that she didn’t have access to this cash until now, when she may have to spend it all bidding on the dragon. At least Seth seems pleased that since last they met Chise has become someone who actually, you know, wants to live.

Buying the dragon’s freedom in the auction seems like the College and Chise’s play, and the two combined would seem to have enough to do so, but things (predictably) go pear-shaped when the dragon goes berserk, breaks free from its physical and magical binds, and starts breathing fire.

Chise can sense the dragon’s emotions—its scared and wants to go home—but it might be too late to reason with it. Who the woman is who whispered in Chise’s ear, and what Cartaphilus’ convoluted plan is this time (if he even has one) remain unclear. I just hope this doesn’t all end with Chise yet again coughing up a couple liters of blood…followed by more slide whistle.

 

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 18

The day after Christmas, Stella shows up with sweet treats to hang out with Chise, as promised. Chise is so unaccustomed to friends as we know them that not only did she not expect Stella to come, she doesn’t quite know what to do.

Stella, who we learn is just ten but very mature for her age, tells her not to sweat it; being friends is nothing more complicated than being with someone, talking and listening to them. It shows how far Chise still has to go, and how little Elias can help her.

In fact, having Stella around is apparently too much for Elias, who isolates himself in his study then storms out of the house without any warning. Worried, Chise ditches Stella to go after him, transforming into a wolf to keep up. Elias traps her in the shadows and binds her with tentacles.

Elias doesn’t say much, but he does say that Stella’s presence made him want to leave the house,. He felt better when Chise chased him, but couldn’t stop running, and now he can’t seem to let her go.

Meanwhile, back in London, Stella and her family seem to be being watched/stalked by Cartiphilus and Ashen Eye. What the heck to they have planned?

Chise manages to fire off a flare with her wand, and Ruth manages to find her when a Fae daughter of Titania reveals the shadow where he’s holding her (she helps because they gave her a proper Yule offering).

Chise puts a knife to her throat, which causes Elias to immediately release her. He’s rightfully ashamed and contrite, but Chise forgives him and suggests they go home and get some sleep.

Elias, as we know, is even more emotionally stunted than Chise, lashing out when he doesn’t get his way like a small child. Here’s hoping Elias eventually learns how to control his wilder instincts whenever faced with a perceived slight.

However, Chise accidentally puts Elias into a deep sleep when she sings him a lullaby, and she heads to London to seek the aid of Angelica, meeting her non-magical husband David in the process.

David lends Chise some perspective as someone who knows he doesn’t have all the time on Earth with his wife and daughter he might like, but that he intends to make the most of that time, and so should Chise.

Chise returns home with a recipe for a potion that will wake up Elias, and it works like a charm…but she’s so exhausted from her ordeal that she immediately passes out beside him, leaving Ruth to explain.

Meanwhile in Dragonland, some poachers apparently hired by Cartiphilus(?) try to capture two of the young dragons, but they’re thwarted by a pissed Lindel. Is there a connection to what Carty was doing with Stella in London and the attempted dragon theft here? To be continued.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 17

In a diverting case-of-the-week that involves non-magical clients, Chise meets Stella, a girl just a bit younger than her, who can’t find her little brother Ethan after he ran off after they had an argument. What makes this most likely a magical case is that Stella’s parents have no memory of their son.

Obviously, Stella’s a wreck, but she’s not so much of a wreck she isn’t totally freaked out by a huge skull-faced dude coming out of Chise (or speaking through her body, turning her eyes silver). I also snickered when she reacted to the dog talking.

Turns out the big teddy Elias gave Chise also turns her excess magic into crystal flowers, like a kind of release valve to preserve her body. She puts those flowers, which are like candy to fae, to good use asking the various beings in the forest where the kid went.

In fact, Chise, wanting desperately to do something for someone after so much has been done for her (though if we’re honest, she’s done plenty), goes so far as to let what looks like a more feral Elias suck her blood in exchange for info on Ethan’s whereabouts. This troubles Stella greatly, but as Elias tells her, mages aren’t omnipotent, and in exchange for something, they must be willing to give something in return.

When they finally locate Ethan, he’s in the clutches of the ancient trickster Ashen Eye, who has claimed the boy as his own after Stella’s harsh words to him (“I don’t need you!”) broke their familial bond and made the kid fair game.

Knowing what happened when Ashen Eye was involved before, I figured no one was actually in any real danger, even when both Ethan and Elias are sucked into a dark void (Ash isn’t omnipotent either, but he’s been around the block, and  a lot more powerful than the younger Elias).

The loss of Elias causes Chise to wig out momentarily, but Ruth consoles her. Ash simply wants them to jump through a few hoops; he’ll only keep Ethan if they can’t find him, and if he and Stella can’t reconcile. As they search, Elias must deal with Ethan, who immediately takes a liking to his bony head.

This causes Elias to transform into a kind of Winter Ops version of Chise, and with his uniquely non-human perspective on humanity, gets Ethan to define what he thinks family is. It’s more than just blood; it’s people you want to be with more than anyone else, even if you don’t always get along and say things you don’t mean.

Chise uses the pelt that Ashen Eye gave her to transform into a were-bear, and uses her heightened sense of smell to locate Elias and Ethan. As I suspected, Ash is satisfied the siblings have learned their lesson and warns them to choose their words carefully, because they aren’t sure who might be listening who will take those words seriously.

When initially speaking through Chise, Elias got Stella to agree to pay them in “sweets” for their services locating her brother (who the parents now remember, reuniting the family as it was). But Chise gets something a lot better for her kindness: she gains a friend in Stella.

And hey, even after all that exertion, Chise doesn’t pass out, cough up any blood, or go into any kind of trance or coma, so everything comes up Team Ainsworth this week. I just hope Chise doesn’t immediately revert to her “ZOMG I’m so useless” attitude next week; she’s without doubt earning her keep.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 16

The pagan holiday of Yule is upon Chise and Elias, and the Yule Twins appear to remind them to make their preparations, gathering various logs, boughs, leaves and berries. Elias wants to make certain Chise doesn’t overwork herself (she herself wonders if she’ll make it to next Fall), while they both have to convince Ruth that he’s not a failure of a familiar after Chise’s latest scare.

These scenes are imbued with the spirit and the beauty of the season, from the snow shimmering in the setting sun to the awkward exchange of kisses under the mistletoe. Elias reports that Chise’s kiss made him a little “tingly” in the neck and back, but is that because he felt something emotionally, or just feeling the effects of having to crouch down?

The next day, after receiving a message via bird in the night, Chise sneaks away to London on her own, where she meets Alice. Alice wants to hang, but also needs advice on what to get Renfred for Christmas. It occurs to Chise she hadn’t even considered getting Elias a gift, but wants to do so.

As they shop and eat and eat and shop, Alice eventually runs into a “straggler from her past”, who wants to sell her drugs. When he doesn’t take no for an answer, Alice kicks him in the balls, and Chise scares of his friends with a ferocious Ruth (eager to redeem himself).

Now that Chise has seen a glimpse of Alice’s past, she tells Alice not to hold back on talking about that past just because it might be uncomfortable; after all, Chise knows something about rough pasts!

Alice was a drug dealer and an addict until one day Renfred plucked her off the streets, invited her into his home as a ward of sorts, and stayed with her throughout the long, painful withdrawal process.

Once she was clean he put her to work organizing his library, but when she opened the wrong book a monster jumped out to attack her, and Renfred took the attack for her, having his face all ripped off.

From then on, Alice knew she could trust Renfred, which made him the first person she could trust in her life. Now that extends to at least a second person, as she clearly trusts and likes Chise enough to open up like this.

Once their shopping for their respective masters is finished, the two part ways, and Chise and Ruth (who is happy Chise has made a friend) head home, where an “angry” Elias is waiting. I use angry in quotes because he himself isn’t sure what it means to be angry, but if he was going to be angry it would be because Chise ran off alone without telling him anything.

Still, Elias is happy with Chise’s gift for him, a new string tie, while Chise learns that Elias has a knack for making teddy bears, and made a big one, his best yet, for her. He also points out other presents for her to open Christmas morning.

Chise goes to bed warm, excited, and actually looking forward to the morning, something that would have been quite foreign in her dark past. The next day Ashen Eye finds “a pitiful child” walking in the snow; likely the subject of next week’s episode. But this week was all about Yule, Christmas, and two women with dark pasts living much brighter, happier lives. I can dig it.

Fate / Zero – 08

Maiya has orders to escort Iri away from the castle, but the orders aren’t so precise that Iri can’t countermand them when she senses Kotomine Kirei approaching. She doesn’t want that guy anywhere near her Kiritsugu, and Maiya feels the same way, so the decide they’ll do what they can to keep him away.

Neither of them are any match for Kirei’s considerable mage-executing skills, so all they can do take up as much of his time as they can. The bravery, grit, and selflessness the women exhibit without Saber by their side is something to behold. There’s no doubt Kirei is a fearsome, superior foe, but it doesn’t matter: he’s not getting to Kiritsugu, period.

Meanwhile, a bullet from Kirei’s pistol gets through Kayneth’s quicksilver defense, but he chalks it up to a fluke and a moment of poor focus to the disgust of fighting such an awful mage, and redoubles his defenses…which is exactly what Kiritsugu wants.

Saber and Lancer are having no luck, as there’s no end to Caster’s minions as long as he’s holding his noble phantasm, an old grimoire. Rather than keep hacking away, Saber clears a path with an Air Strike, through which Lancer dashes and slashes the book with Gae Dearg, and just like that Caster is defenseless and must withdraw.

Saber and Lancer’s ‘knightmance’ proceeds apace when Lancer senses his Master is in danger, Saber senses it’s because of her Master, and gives Lancer leave to tend to Kayneth, in accordance with the ideals of nobility and chivalry, while she rushes to help Iri and Maiya.

The next time Kiritsugu fires his pistol into Kayneth’s heightened magical defense, it scrambles the opponent’s magical circuits, causing him to cough up a good deal of blood and pass out. Kiritsugu remembers his mentor(?) explaining the bullets which contained his own ribs in powdered form; but he was only given 66 of them, and we see him use two on Kayneth.

And even that doesn’t kill Kayneth, only gravely wound him. Lancer arrives to rescue him and withdraw, and tells Kiritsugu that he’s only alive because of his Servant Saber’s devotion to the right-and-proper precepts of nobility; because she is the King of Knights. I’m sure Kiritsugu’s glad Lancer didn’t kill him, but less pleased Saber let Lancer get away so easily.

What’s so great about this situation is that everyone has a reasonable position here and nobody is outright right-or-wrong. In a way, Saber went rogue, but again…Lancer would have Kiritsugu him if not for her.

As he beats Maiya to a pulp and chokes then stabs Iri (who he thinks is a homonculus), Kirei can’t fathom why not one but two people challenged him, of their own accord for Kiritsugu’s sake. Kirei has been operating under the assumption that Kiritsugu is, like him, friendless, alone, and understood by no one. But he’s wrong…and I kind of pity him for being so.

One could say Kiritsugu using Iri as a kind of “decoy master” smacks of cowardice, but that position doesn’t take Iri’s (and Maiya’s) feelings into consideration. They do protect him of their own accord, as we witnessed here, and they will continue to do so.

Kiritsugu seems to know this, because when Saber finally comes and touches the injured Iri, she is immediately healed by the scabbard Avalon implanted within her according to her husband’s wishes—something only he and she knew about. Kiritsugu is not alone, because there are those who don’t want him to be.

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 24 (Fin)

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Well now, Anima certainly didn’t hang around long! But it was for the best, as Mendoza rips out his own ribcage and consumes the horror, gaining a shiny new body.

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Leon can slice the body up all he wants (including, hilariously, slicing Mendoza’s face off to shut him up for at least a few moments), but he always comes back together, and always has a rejoinder such as “it is useless” at the ready.

Leon is missing something in this battle, because, in the beginning, he’s fighting alone. That ain’t gonna work against ol’ Mendoza; he of the giant light fists.

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No; he’ll need to draw from the strength Mendoza denies himself, the true immortality humans are capable of achieving, even if it isn’t in the form of a literal everlasting corporeal form. Kinship, love, family, and cooperation will always prevail over Mendoza’s selfish designs. When he blithely discarded his only remaining family, Octavia, leaving himself alone in the world, he did himself no favors.

On the other hand, Leon is able to combine Garo and Zoro into a very cool hybrid suit of armor, imbued with the love and strength of his father, and placed in his hands by the teamwork of Alfie and Ema. Now Leon is no longer alone, so he won’t lose.

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Mendoza also miscalculate’s Leon’s commitment to banishing him from the world, even he’ll be dragged down into Makai with him forever. Ema foils Leon’s suicidal plan by holding the portal open, and Mendoza tries to use this as proof that allies are worthless, since they’ll always have times when their opinions clash. Ema and Alfie would rather Leon not die.

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Their desire for Leon to live on is shared by his own mother Anna, who is revealed as the source of the flames that have always burned within him. They were never a curse or a manifestation of his revenge, but a means of protecting him until he could stand on his own two feet as a knight and a good man. Now Anna’s flames will continually burn Mendoza for eternity, which is an apropos punishment for the man who would be immortal, and took so many lives and souls to achieve it.

Clearly, Mendoza didn’t consider all the angles of this immortality thing. His shiny new body was a dead end; flawed and unnatural. But the love, protection, and duty passed from generation to generation, from mother and father to son, between siblings, friends, or lovers, is both more righteous and more durable.

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With that, mother and son part ways, and as Zoro’s horse bears Leon back home, a semi-spectral Herman rides alongside to tell him he’s a good son…aaand also to look out for that nice young lady Ximena. It’s a great cathartic moment when he emerges from the portal to the elation of Alfie and Ema.

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As the re-reconstruction of Santa Bard commences, we see that Prince Alfie is gonna be just fine. When the rebuilding is complete and he’s further along on being groomed for the throne, he’ll one day take a wife, and his son or daughter will inherit Gaia from him, along with the duty to protect.

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What about Leon and Ema, found and comforted and supported each other in the shadow of the loss of their past true loves? Well, it’s kind of a Princess Mononoke end, in which they say not “goodbye” but “see you around” as they return to their respective lives, which feels right.

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As for Ximena, she’s going to have a baby—gender to be determined, but let’s call it a girl, shall we?—and Leon’s duty now is to protect her and his incoming new sibling, who will inherit Garo and Zoro. Thanks to everything the child’s forbears have done for her sake, she won’t be born while her mother burns at the stake!

GARO was a very fun and entertaining show. A bit inconsistent at times, but it marched to the beat of its own drummer, took bold risks, and wasn’t afraid to fail. I can forgive when it did because it made such powerful impacts when it struck true. Its finale was one of those times. It looks like there will be a second season of GARO. I’ll definitely be tuning in.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 23

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The penultimate GARO is almost non-stop action, but action informed by some very nice character texturing on both sides. Mendoza vs. The World isn’t that interesting on its surface, but it’s made more interesting by the people fighting for and against him, along with those on the outside looking in.

The latter group is represented by Ximena, who loves Herman and is worried sick, but when she sees her fellow townsfolk coming together to organize an evacuation, she shifts her focus. Ximena may not be a major character, but we know her well enough to know this is exactly what she’d do in such a situation: put others before herself.

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But like I said, she’s on the outside. On the inside, some crazy shit is going down. Mendoza has bestowed Octavia with Majuu armor, which feeds off her body and soul, but as long as she can withstand that feeding, it makes her able to fight on the same level as Makai Knights and Alchemists, giving our heroes a headache.

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I’m glad Herman was wrong and Octavia still has her human body under there, beauty mark, freckles, and wits (such as they are): for her to have transformed into a mindless, faceless automaton would have been a big shame. Instead, she goes out fighting for what she believes in, which is that Mendoza is her god.

The way she cradles Mendoza’s loose forearm, isn’t so much gross as pathetic, but at the same time, you can’t deny her undying loyalty and commitment to someone who did save her more than once.

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I also like how Ema sets things up so Octavia gets tossed out of the inner chamber with her and Alfie, but not before Ema plants a big ol’ smooch on Leon, leaving Mendoza to Leon. The kiss plants Leon in the here and now and calms him, and she urges him not to lose himself…again. Then Ema uses one of Mendoza’s toys to move her and Alfie’s battle with Octavia to that modern-day city, spicing things up quite a bit.

Leon dives down to the bottom of the abyss and confronts Mendoza, who is ready for him with some fresh psychological warfare: the sight of Herman, relieved of limbs and encased in red crystal to join the other souls in the giant dagger intended for Anima.

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But after all the growing and maturing Leon’s gone through, he’s done being manipulated into blind rage by this old fart, which Mendoza can’t help but respond with a half-impressed snort. Whether Leon can keep it together or not doesn’t matter to him; he’s convinced he’s going to have his way with the world.

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Octavia proves a nasty customer by breaking out of Ema’s illusiory city, and the wild aerial battle continues, culminating with her and Alfie balanced on either end of a long wooden plank in midair. GARO doesn’t hold back on the fancypants, acrobatic, gravity-defying combat, and it’s all very slick and fun. Hannah could probably watch this stuff all day, and I’d probably watch it with her.

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The whole elaborate struggle is grounded in the two sides’ contrasting loyalties: Octavia to Mendoza, and Ema and Alfie to the public good, as per their responsibilities both as Makai warriors and in Alfie’s case, as his kingdom’s prince and protector. They’re not worried about Leon or the odds of winning, they’re only focused on getting the job done.

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But so is Octavia; only her job is to dispose of them. After Ema shoots Alfie up to the floating Watchdog center whatsit, she duels with Octavia in the matchup I’d been waiting for. It’s not long or drawn out, but it’s good stuff indeed, with Ema learning Octavia asked to be given the armor knowing full well it would kill her.

Ema can only lament what she sees as the worthlessness of Octavia’s cause. Whatever Mendoza did for her, he isn’t deserving of her fanatical devotion. But he has it all the same, even as Octavia breathes her last and is consumed by the Majuu, which Ema destroys soon after before collapsing herself, having taken a leg shotgun to the chest.

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As for Alfie, he shoves his sword into some kind of field protecting the structure he flew up to, and though his armor and sword crumble to bits in the process, he does manage to break through, and the structure disappears.

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By the episode’s end, all three of our remaining heroes are in desperate need of some Phoenix Down. Hell, a few Phoenix Pinions couldn’t hurt either. They’ve made their stands, handled themselves well, and done everything in their power to oppose Mendoza.

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But despite the fact they’re all sprawled out on the ground, bleeding and absolutely winded, their remaining foe is none other than the ultimate horror, Anima, who as terrifying to behold in all his towering, giant red dagger-impaled, D-cup glory. How in the hell are our exhausted heroes going to deal with this?

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