Overlord IV – 02 – If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

Ainz wants to create a kingdom he can be proud to show his colleagues, regardless of whether they’ll ever return to this world (or if they are here, come out of hiding). It’s a noble desire, and one that will possibly require more than Albedo’s iron fist or Demiurge’s diamond-sharp mind. He seems to know that even if he personally isn’t up to snuff, it might just ultimately take other humans—i.e. lower life forms his subordinates despise.

Re-Estize took a lickin’ when it lost E-Rantel, but it keeps on tickin’, with Renner even opening a huge and elaborate orphanage for the children of those lost in the war. Tina and known Momon Fangrl Evil Eye accompany Renner and her beloved dog-knight Climb as she returns to the palace, where Prince Zanac is about to meet the Sorcerer Kingdom’s envoy.

Brain, on the other hand, simply trains, resigned to the long game of training some of the orphans into becoming the next Gazef; when his teacher asks why he doesn’t take on the mantle of Top Warrior, Brain intimates that he’s just not up to it. Having watched what Ainz did to Gazef, that’s no surprise.

When the envoy—our girl Lady Albedo—does arrive at Re-Estize, she carries herself with all the weight and stature such a position entails (her carriage is also pulled by a shimmering golden demon horse, which can’t hurt). Zanac doesn’t need Renner to tell him he needs to be on his best behavior.

On slightly less than his best behavior is one Philip Dayton L’Eyre Monterrat, the surviving son of a poor barony with only one village that also happens to be positioned neatly between the two kingdoms. Philip breaks etiquette and protocol by being the first of the nobles at the ball to welcome Albedo and introduce himself.

Phil later tells his dad that this is what their domain needs: to build ties with the Sorcerer Kingdom for favorable treatment when an invasion inevitably comes. To this end, he’s invited Albedo to another ball at the stately home of the rich commoner Hilma Cygnaeus.

Hilma, who has a very distinctive face, sees “potential” in Philip, and looks forward to benefiting from the power he gains in the future as a result of her financial and logistical support in the present. She even lets the brat co-host an event being held in her home. As he escorts and even puts his arm around Albedo, it’s clear how out of his league Phil is, but you can’t help but admire his ambition. At least he’s trying to do something to stem the tide of ruin for his domain!

As we learn when Albedo retires to her chambers, Hilma is in league with Albedo to secure a “puppet”, and Albedo is happy with one as stupid as Philip, despite his impropriety and stupid smirk. Perhaps a little more juicy is the fact that either behind Zanac’s back or with his tacit support, Princess Renner herself is bending the knee to Albedo, helping to smuggle goods into E-Rantel in exchange for a blue magical box Renner is confident she’ll be able to open.

While stubborn mules like Brain simply slow down what they see as an eventual turnaround in fortune somewhere far down a road he won’t be alive to see, operators like Renner and Philip are getting in early while the getting’s good. If Ainz and his ilk can’t be defeated by other individual or force in this world, they might as well make nice.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 11 – All Done But the Fighting

Saying she’ll protect Karyl is one thing, but Pecorine can’t get within fifty feet of her, as every time she brushes back a bunch of Shadows, another takes its place. Finally Kaiser deploys a “doll-ified” Jun as yet another shield, and Peco, who is already tiring, is gravely wounded when Jun drives armored fingers into her ribs.

Meanwhile, under the palace, Twilight Caravan have been hired by Neneka to get her true body back. When they find Christina there guarding it and spoiling for a good fight as usual, Eriko is more than happy to oblige, as she’s just as up for a tussle and a half. But as berserky as Eriko is, Christina’s Absolute Defense holds up.

While on the run with Yuuki, Little Lyrical and the civvies, Kokkoro is suddenly transported into Ameth’s realm, where they meet for the firs ttime even though Ameth sees her as a friend. She also sees Kokkoro as the only one who can be trusted with a special charm that will keep Yuuki’s power in check, as he’s currently unstable and liable to sacrifice himself to save any other member of the Gourmet Guild.

Back in the bowels of the palace Christina eventually wears three members of Twilight Caravan down, but before she can stab Eriko through the eyes, the two other members of Caravan show up: Anna and Ruka. The latter even manages to land a strike on Christina, who then breaks out Absolute Offense on top of Absolute Defense. Still, Caravan’s goal is to set their client’s body free, not defeat her. But before Eriko can smash Neneka’s holding pod, someone awakens who shouldn’t have.

Pecorine, who simply won’t give up on Karyl no matter how many times Karyl tells her to run, charges up her Princess Strike and defeats (but doesn’t kill) Jun. Jun, free of the “doll-ification”, then serves as Peco’s shield when Kaiser lashes out with her own offensive magic.

With Jun as her shield, Peco loads up another Princess Strike, then another, then another, and what do ya know, it does the trick! Kaiser is finally taken down?! Of course, with several minutes left in the episode plus one more episode to follow, I had my doubts this was a real victory…

At least it allowed Karyl to finally come down from where she was suspended the entire episode, the poor thing, and land right in Peco’s arms. And after all the loud and intense battles, it was nice to have the world return to some kind of quiet, calm normal…even if only for a minute or so.

After that, the “Kaiser” Peco cut down turns out only to be a Shadow clone; the real, and far more scantily clad Kaiser, is the “someone” who woke up down in the palace basement. She’s awake now, and with one little flick of her wrist, Jun is suddenly out of commission. Peco and Karyl are pressed into the ground by intense gravity, and Kaiser prepares to make two more sacrifices to the cause…

…Which is of course when Yuuki shows up in full Hero Mode. Assuming next week is the finale, I’d be perfectly happy with a third to a half of it being taken up by the final battle ending in victory for the good guys, followed by the remaining portion given over to said good guys having a much-deserved rest and feast in Eustiana’s newly-liberated castle. Whatever happens, it is sure to be gorgeously animated.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 10 – Will the Real Eustiana Please Stand Up?

Well, the overarching arc of Pecorine/Eustiana stepping into the light and reclaiming her throne all comes down to this, with a newly-masked Karyl joining Kaiser as her right hand and primary weapon. It’s not clear how much of Karyl’s cooperation is forced, either by magic or deference to Kaiser, but there’s no disputing she’s in a bad way.

When Karyl attacks Diabolos and captures three of their members, Shinobu and Miyako manage to escape and head to the Gourmet Guild to give them the bad news: Karyl has turned her coat. Soon all of Landosol learns this, when Kaiser uses Labyrista’s ability to encircle the city in a shell, then project a giant Karyl who will be the instrument through which Kaiser will sacrifice its citizens.

It’s not just the Gourmet Guild that springs into action to stop Karyl and Kaiser. Doctor Yuni and the Friendship Club collaborate with Kasumi and Tamaki, and the good doctor discovers that the truth that was “out of joint” all this time was the person sitting on the throne: a false princess who has manipulated the minds of everyone in the kingdom.

By the time Yuki, Kokkoro, and Pecorine arrive in town, the place is crawling with Shadows, but adventurers, warriors, mages, and ordinary folk alike manage to hold their own, with the latter even saving Yuuki and Kokkoro when things are looking their most grim. Peco goes on ahead, and from that point on it’s really all about her and Karyl, whose attacks she either dodges or absorbs as she manages to tackle her.

When Yuni uses her “Rosetta Network” of pet rocks to broadcast the truth about the princess currently on the throne, Kaiser orders Karyl to kill everyone—and Karyl is powerful enough to make it happen. But her rain of purple magic bolts ends up hitting no one. As much as she wants to obey her majesty, she just can’t hurt anyone anymore. Kaiser doesn’t take no for an answer, and uses magic threads to manipulate Karyl like a puppet.

Karyls mask falls, she starts to cry and beg someone, anyone to destroy her so she can’t harm anyone else. Instead, her attacks, and Kaiser’s hold on her, are neutralized by a stalwart Pecorine, who finally, finally finds the proper time to tell her dear friend the truth about her true identity. While the duel this week isn’t nearly as badass as the Kaiser-Labyrista bout, it’s a hell of a lot more emotionally charged.

Pecorine does this in front of most of the town, revealing herself to be the real Eustiana von Astrea and vowing to not only save Karyl, but protect her people as well. Considering the power we saw on display from Kaiser last week and all the tricks she has up her sleeve (from Metamorregnant to Labyrista’s power), I’d say the gloves will be coming off next week, which means Pecorine…which means Eustiana will most likely need a little help from her many, many friends.

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 10 –Magical Girl Envy

Kokoro is running to the park hoping to help look for mana crystals with Jahy-sama when she runs into a street without looking both ways, a big anime kid move. Fortunately for Kokoro, the magical girl Jinguu Kyouko is on the job, and stops the truck dead in its tracks with one hand. Kokoro is, quite understandably, immediately impressed by the big strong magical girl.

When Kokoro tells Jahy about this, the notion of Kyouko stealing Kokoro’s heart along with her crystal simply will not do. So Jahy reveals her true adult form to Kokoro, who is thoroughly impressed. Kokoro also asks Jahy to lift a huge rock and demonstrate some magic, and Jahy has no choice but to oblige her, lest Kokoro think less of her than Kyouko. The cost of using so much of her mana? She’s unable to work her shift at the pub, since she can’t maintain her adult form.

The next evening when she’s back on duty, the manager’s constant (and earned) praise rubs Jahy the wrong way. Hiring more employees aside, Jahy is frustrated that by adapting to living with and working with (and for) humans, she’s losing what makes Jahy…Jahy. Despite these feelings, her mouth keeps smiling, her feet keep moving, and she keeps completing orders.

Suddenly feeling like nothing more than the manager’s puppet, Jahy runs out into the alley to cry between two bags of trash. Manager comes out to try to comfort her, saying the reason she’s smiling so much is because she’s having fun working. And because she has fun working, she should get back to work. Jahy almost “falls” for the manager’s genuine sentiments, but suspects her boss is trying to pull the strings again.

In the final segment, Jahy follows Kyouko as misfortune after misfortune befalls her, in an effort to “beat her to a pulp” and steal her crystal back once Kyouko is sufficiently physically and mentally exhausted. The problem is, no matter what happens to Kyouko, she bears it like an absolute champ, because she’s a ridiculously strong magical girl. Kyouko is happy to bear the burdens that might otherwise hurt others or make them cry.

For a brief moment, Jahy actually feels a measure of sympathy and even respect for her nemesis, but then remembers that she’s never going to get her crystals or her realm back if she feels bad for the enemy. And so we arrive at the halfway point in Jahy-sama’s 20-episode run with the central plot brought back into the foreground. Will the second half spend less time on slice-of-life and more on Jahy achieving her seemingly impossible goals? Either way, I’ll be tuning in.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TenSura – 42 – The Gods Stir

Rimuru starts to head to Walpurgis (though with his teleportation magic one would think there’d be no further need to “head out” anywhere; he can go wherever he wants instantly and can take whoever he wants with him. But this episode isn’t about Rimuru; it’s about Clayman, his plans, and the elite Demon Lords know and think about all these goings-on leading to the Walpurgis.

Clayman is being set up for an epic downfall. For one thing, he wrongly assumes it was Veldora and not Rimuru who destroyed Falmuth’s army. Second, he still believes his former tool Mjurran to be dead. Thirdly, he took the frankly suicidal step of turning Milim into his doll and puppet by having Sky Queen Frey place an enchanting pendant around her neck. Just to up his evil cred, he beats the everloving shit out of the defenseless Milim. There’s no way he doesn’t pay for all of this somewhere down the line!

Meanwhile, Demon Lords who consider the likes of Clayman naught but a whelp confer before the Walpurgis. Demon Lord Guy Crimson, one of the oldest and strongest lords along with Milim, summons the less powerful but still really really powerful Demon Lord Leon Cromwell to his ice palace to discuss things. While Guy seems content to lounge around his ice palace, a merchant spy (I think we all know who) has been steadily feeding Leon intelligence about Clayman, Rimuru, and Velora.

It isn’t long before Guy’s paramour, White Ice Dragon Velzard, who just happens to be Veldora’s big sister, joins the discussion. These three just emanate power, dignity, and above all shrewdness. They don’t come off as villains, either, but well-rounded people, albeit people who can rend the earth asunder with a snap. By comparison, Clayman and his pack of clowns seem like…well, a bunch of pathetic clowns.

While he could probably only defeat Guy one out of a million or so times, Leon may be the smartest demon lord of them all (most certainly brighter than our dumb blue protagonist), able to see through both Clayman’s lies and the cover story Rimuru put out there. He suspects that rather than being the recipient of tremendous luck, Rimuru could’ve been the one who broke Veldora’s seal, which would put him on their level.

Leon’s even learned that it was Rimuru who cured the summoned children before he could take them in. This makes Leon very excited for the upcoming Walpurgis, though Velzard pointedly declines to accompany him there. No doubt she’s going to go look up her brother in Tempest.

All this lends credence to the fact that Clayman isn’t really someone Rimuru needs to worry about. I mean for gosh sakes, Clayman isn’t even a real Demon Lord yet, while Rimuru is! ‘Nuff said! But it’s not, because as long as people like Guy and Leon are around, Rimuru can’t really take it easy. Aw, who am I kidding, he’s going to keep taking it easy!

Meikyuu Black Company – 04 – Shiacalypse Now

Shia leads Ninomiya and Wanibe on a training expedition on the second floor, armed not just with a sword, those lovely star-filled eyes, and those diamond highlights, but a filled-to-brimming tank of enthusiasm for Being a Good Corporate Drone and Doing One’s Duty The Right Way.

Ninomiya has even less energy for this nonsense than usual because he has to produce five million gold in a month or his loan shark will take his life. He doesn’t have time to do things by the book. With his literal life at stake, one can’t begrudge him embracing methods some might call…unsound.

The team encounters a Majin, the monster of legend that causes a “Death March”—treated by Raiza’ha as an unavoidable but potentially profitable natural disaster. Turns out Shia’s employers set her up to be the latest in a long line of powerful human sacrifices to appease the Majin.

What they didn’t count on is that one of the grunts with her is Ninomiya Kinji, who has an ant army at his disposal and soon starts farming monster parts for gold.

As for the Majin, it’s too tough even for the great Shia (its laser beams really pack a punch), so Ninomiya suggests they retreat. Unfortunately the emergency magic crystal dagger used to transport back to the surface only works on one person.

Naturally, Shia gives it to Ninomiya, but her ensuing melancholy goodbye melts his cold cold heart and he not only stays behind with her, but throws the dagger at the Majin, transporting it to the surface where it becomes the company’s problem, as it should be.

The Majin, drawn to Shia’s considerable mana, eventually makes his way back down into the dungeon, where Ninomiya is ready for him in the form of a giant pit trap into which the Majin falls. Ninomiya then has his ant minions fill the pit with cement, and has Shia dry it with her wind magic. When that isn’t enough, he sets the whole thing on fire. Shia can’t argue with Ninomiya’s ends, but the means disturb her.

When the Majin still won’t die, Shia resolves to defeat it, as is her “duty and destiny”, even at the cost of her life. It’s here where Ninomiya unfortunately decides grope her, losing a lot of goodwill he’d built up recently. He admits he looked up her family history, and how her father was of the absentee adventurer variety.

He deduces that Shia has been “brainwashed by thoughts that benefit Raiza’ha”, in part because she was happiest once she joined the company. But just because it improved her life doesn’t mean that life is theirs to throw away and call it “duty”. Raiza’ha isn’t a nation, and Shia isn’t a soldier. She’s just a damn at-will employee.

After being rescued in the nick of time by Rimu, who then quickly dispatches the Majin she reports was “incomplete”, Ninomiya claims victory…for himself, continuing to cement his role as an incorrigible sonofabitch. But he made some good points to Shia about casting aside the corporate conditioning and determining what she wants to do with her life.

If that’s continuing to work hard, fine. If it’s working hard for a company that just tried to sacrifice her to an eldritch abomination, that’s not fine. We’ll see if Ninomiya’s core message gets through to Shia, despite the messenger being a cad.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 11 – Let the Hate Flow

Nanami has no intention of working further “overtime” than he needs to, so he executes the attack that has the best chance of disabling Mahito and then retreats when he has the upper hand. He does this by basically removing the limiter to his cursed energy and then depositing it into a wall, which crumbles atop Mahito after his right foot is sliced off.

Nanami recognizes that Mahito is a threat that requires more than just his abilities to contend with; Gojou, who doesn’t appear this week, would seem to have been proven right that the old fogeys in charge of sorcery have been caught flat-footed. For now, a lightly wounded Nanami calls for Ijichi to come pick him up.

It’s then that he learns Yuuji isn’t with Ijichi, but went off to talk to Yoshino Junpei. Unable to reach Ijichi for further instructions, Yuuji simply swings from the hip, asking Yoshino if he has any other info about the theater incident. The two start immediately bond over their love of movies, then Yoshino’s mom passes by and invites Yuuji to dinner.

For one lovely evening, Yuuji and Yoshino are friends, joking around about movies while Yoshino’s mom joins in the fun but drinks too much beer and falls asleep at the table. Yoshino asks if Yuuji is a Jujutsu sorcerer, and if he’s ever killed anyone.

Yuuji has a very eloquent reason for not wanting to ever kill: if it ever becomes an option for him, it will be too easy for it to turn into the only option, clouding the value of life and tainting his soul in the process. Alas, Yoshino’s mom wakes up to find one of Sukuna’s fingers on the table, and is then visited and then killed by a cursed spirit.

That spirit may well have been human once, and the creation of Mahito. Later he and Getou admit they placed the finger there to lure the curse, as they never intended for Yoshino to be anything other than a lure with which to bait Yuuji. Yoshino suspects one of his bullies to be responsible for killing his mom, and so lets Mahito drops a cursed veil over the school.

Dressed in black that mourns both his mom and his old life, Yoshino steps around all the other students who are passed out to get to his long-time tormentor, then lifts him into the air with cursed energy and starts beating and torturing him right back. Yuuji arrives in time to witness Yoshino’s apparent heel-turn. Everything is going according to Getou’s plan: forcing Yuuji to draw on his pact with Sukuna in order to stop Yoshino.

Just like that, I’ve only got one more episode of JK’s Fall cour. This week’s omake reinforces that there are currently two shows running in parallel, but we’re only privy to Yuuji’s show while Nobara and Megumi’s training proceeds off-camera. I imagine this Yoshino situation will reach some kind of conclusion in the Fall cour’s twelfth and final episode, and only after that will Yuuji reunite with the others.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 50 – Thread and Thrum

Sakura wakes up early, but seeming a little down. Kero-chan tells her whatever the deal is with the Sakura Cards, she needs to keep her spirits up and stay positive. To that end, she goes to school early to watch Touya and Yukito play soccer. Naturally, they’re a dynamic duo on the pitch—and Akizuki is quick to pounce on Touya and glare at Yukito.

Sak’s friends have noticed she’s seemed not quite her usual cheerful self, so Rika makes her some delicious homemade cookies, and also shows everyone the teddy bear she’s making for Terada-sensei. Syaoran lounges in a tree high above Sakura, about whom he’s worried, when Eriol confronts him about all the nasty looks he’s shot his way. Eriol seems to have plans for Syaoran, deeming him “useful”.

While she seems to have the blessing of her friends, I do wish Terada-sensei would give Rika a tactful yet firm word about not falling in love with an adult when she’s still in fifth damned grade. As for Tomoyo, she holds firm in her position that she’s happy if Sakura’s happy—even if Sakura doesn’t requite her feelings. It’s an incredibly sweet sentiment…but also deeply sad considering how clueless Sakura seems to be!

Sakura’s attempt to make a bear for Yukito hits some snags when she suddenly senses Clow Reed’s presence once more. She meets with Tomoyo where the feeling is most powerful, and calls Syaoran to be by her side as she promised. However, this works against Sakura in this case as Syaoran’s body is being controlled by someone, and it’s making him attack her! A heroic Tomoyo tackle stops Syaoran from slicing Sakura.

This costs Tomoyo her camcorder, but she can buy more cameras. She only has one Sakura! Syaoran manages to regain control long enough to summon the water spirit, which makes visible the puppet threads in which he’s tangled. Sakura quickly releases her wand, converts Sword to a Sakura Card, and slashes the threads with authority, freeing Syaoran.

Having expended considerable magical power, Sakura passes out once more, this time in Syaoran’s arms. This side-effect of using Sakura Cards could prove a decisive liability if shit really hits the fan—say if a second threat appears after she falls asleep battling the first. It seems inevitable Eriol is going to make that scenario happen in the near future, because he seems determined to, in the parlance of our times, fuck Sakura’s shit UP.

And why, do you ask, would he want to do that? Well, the same reason Sakura and Kero-chan sense Clow Reed before something bad goes down: Hiiragizawa Eriol is the reincarnation of Clow Reed. Further, he’s created two guardian equivalents to Kero and Yue in Spinel Sun and Ruby Moon, AKA Akizuki Nakuru. Not only is Nakuru not human, she’s not a “she”, and doesn’t want to date Touya, but eat him!

Clearly, Eriol is testing Sakura’s powers, and while they’re impressive, I’m sure he’s just itching to regain control of the Clow Cards. Hopefully Sakura and her friends can keep that from happening and send Eriol and his minions back to merry old England. But since twenty episodes remain, that’s probably going to take a while!

Stray Observations:

  • Sakura’s all-white and gray battle costume was gorgeous, making it a dreadful shame when Puppet!Syaoran slashes it with his sword.
  • I also want to note this third season’s OP is probably my favorite so far, which isn’t too surprising since it’s anchored by the lovely vocals of one Sakamoto Maaya.
  • It also features my favorite OP Battle Costume, though Sakura seems awfully sleepy throughout the OP…no doubt since using her cards is so tiresome!
  • GROOVY! was the most toe-tapping end theme but the New ED has the best visuals, with a glowed-up Sakura and Tomoyo having an absolute blast baking a cake.

Gleipnir – 04 – A Place Where She Belongs

Immediately after Elena’s Bad Side rips Shuuichi’s head off, Elena’s Meek Side comes out and apologizes for doing something so rash. Claire, her head now exposed, rushes Elena in a rage but is quickly overpowered and upended. That’s when Elena realizes it’s her sister inside Shuuichi. Elena disputes Claire’s assertion it was wrong for their parents to die since they were both immoral people. After receiving a phone call, she gives Claire a coin and withdraws.

Fearing Shuuichi did not survive his beheading, a tearful Claire prepares to shoot herself, thus honoring their promise to each other. She’s stopped when Shuuichi’s head wakes up. He may not currently be what one would consider “alive”, but he’s not about to let Claire kill herself before he’s dead for sure. It’s a damned close call, but a sign that Claire still takes their promise seriously.

They meet the alien at the abandoned motel, and he gives them a bit of an infodump, though to be fair, the two could use one, as much in the dark as they are. Meeting Elena raised more questions than it answered. He uses the coin Elena gave Claire to produce a healing drink from the vending machine that fuses Shuuichi’s head back to his body.

As he heals, Claire climbs out of him, and the Alien is impressed with her bod. Heck, because he copied the ideal male body so accurately, he even gets a little horny, asking if he can cop a feel before Claire kicks him. Then he uses one of her hairs to copy his body, to show Claire how the coins make you transform into your “ideal self”.

Of course, in Shuuichi’s case, he transformed into Elena’s apparent ideal version of him: the manic cartoon dog strap on her bag. But if they “gather” 100 of the Alien’s coins, which are the embodiment of his fellow aliens in data form, they’ll be able to transform into an invincible superhero, able to bend the world to one’s will.

When Shuuichi’s neck is repaired and he transforms back into a human (with a nasty neck scar) Claire pulls him into a dramatic hug, so glad she is that he’s okay. She tells the Alien they’ll give the offer some thought, and they take their leave. When Shuuichi laments that they’re in such a big mess, Claire retorts that her life has never been better since she met him, and found a place by his side (and yes, inside his mascot form).

As his bond with Claire continues to evolve and deepen—one could say they’re becoming even more of a single unit—Shuuichi finds his personality evolving along with it. At school, he doesn’t suffer bullies and easily overpowers one.

He can smell Mifune coming and makes her attempt to find out what’s up with him as awkward as possible by asking her a not-so-hypothetical question about what she’d do if the world were ending because someone she knew gained the power to end it. Mifune can only nervously laugh it off, but he’s pleased by her very normal answer: she’d do everything she could to protect her family and friends and to get the bad guy to stop.

Shuuichi greatly values normalcy, as much as Claire doesn’t value it. But it’s clear he’s already left the world of the normal, swept into the orbit of the very abnormal Aoki sisters, perhaps never to return. He doesn’t want Claire to die, and yet he doesn’t exactly seem happy about the turn of events that has to tightly tied their fates together.

This results in him musing in meta fashion that he’s not the main character here, and there are things at work of which he and Claire have yet to scratch the surface. But a good start is the mountains where the Alien spaceship crashed. Not only will they find more coins, but more Gatherers like them, and more answers.

It will be dangerous, but Claire assures Shuuichi that he shouldn’t worry, because he has her, ready willing and able to make up for his weaknesses, act when he can’t, and if it all goes horribly wrong, die beside him so they’ll never have to feel alone again.

Gleipnir – 03 – Total Sunday

Claire is eager to learn more about Shuuichi’s beast mode, but since it’s a hot summer day, she strips down to nothing before entering him again. This is a bit too scandalous for Shuuichi (more than a girl climbing inside him, apparently), so they compromise: she’ll wear her school swimsuit.

It’s clear Claire has fun teasing him with her killer body, but I’d hardly call this behavior sadistic—”teasing” is an adequate description of it, especially when she tickles him with his own hands. Also, she probably wouldn’t do it as much if Shuuichi didn’t have such reliably amusing reactions.

Their relationship has softened considerably since their first fateful encounter, and it’s likely due to the fact they’ve become one more than once now. It’s no longer antagonistic, nor does it smack as “we have no choice” reluctant cooperation. It’s starting to feel more like a partnership.

It’s a lot more like…two high school kids who never really fit in, hanging out and figuring this stuff out together. Neither is prepared for when Claire unzips the sleeve containing her sister’s uniform. It’s soaked with the stench of blood and the death of untold number of people.

Still, Shuuichi is desperate to learn why he came to be in this predicament and if it’s possible to reverse it, and when he’s one with Claire he feels a measure of her fear along with his own. That empathy-through-communion steels his normally timid nerves, and he resolves to help her find Elena, no matter what dangers or horrors come their way.

Claire admits she didn’t expect him to grow a pair, even calling his attitude “cool.” She clearly sees him as more than a tool to be used, just as he still notices the high school girl in her when she inspects her face in the fridge door. Heck, during their stakeout, she even admits unbidden that she’s still a virgin, erasing an potential rich avenue of Shuuichi-teasing.

Remaining out of sight and utilizing Shuuichi’s strong sense of smell, they eventually encounter Elena coming off a train. While Claire’s original plan was to talk to her sister, to try to understand why she killed their parents, but that goes out the window when she’s in their sights. Claire pulls Shuuichi’s big gun and prepares to shoot her, but Shuuichi stops her at the least minute, exerting control in a moment Claire is acting on instinct.

Then things get weird. Elena appears to be a beast like Shuuichi, but she can take numerous forms, and her human form evaporates into her smoke demon form as she gloms onto the back of Shuuichi like a predator about to make a kill. Only…she stops, and suddenly adopts a much meeker personality. Hanazawa Kana handles both the good and evil Elena quite ably, mirroring her dual performance of Nadeko in the Monogatari Series.

This suddenly human-again, polite, contrite Elena tells them that she understands how they feel and doesn’t mind if they want to kill her, but that they should go somewhere out of the way so as not to bother bystanders. Once in an isolated field, she bows her head and apologizes. To Claire and Shuuichi’s surprise, she believes she’s talking only to Shuuichi, and is apologizing for making him take that form.

When Claire lets out a yelp of surprise, however, It’s no more Miss Nice Elena. She transforms back into a smoke monster, sensing Claire inside Shuuichi and furious about it. She declares that Shuuichi’s insides “belong to her” and rips off Shuuichi’s head, exposing Claire to mortal danger.

This was all but unavoidable. Neither Shuuichi or Elena could avoid searching for answers, even if it meant getting into this latest life-threatening situation. Whether or however they manage to get out of it, the handsome “alien” with the coins only living things can see got it wrong: the inhabitants of Earth are hardly “all good people.”

Gleipnir – 02 – Entering the Emptiness

When fellow “monster” Hikawa threatens Clair, Shuuichi freezes up, and Claire hits Hikawa’s eyes with pepper spray. Rather than fight, Shuuichi gathers Claire up and escapes out the window. We learn that Hikawa was her school’s ace runner, and became a “monster” by depositing the star coin in the vending machine and wishing to run faster.

Hikawa wasn’t prepared for the monkey’s paw-like downside of her wish, but now she seems accustomed enough to it that killing Shuuichi and Claire is no big deal. Did gaining monstrous physical traits make her into a monster, or was she one before those traits manifested?

Whatever the case, Shuuihi absolutely sucks at fighting, so when Claire finds a zipper on his back, she unzips him and finds nothing but a fleshy pocket inside. And while Shuuichi stopped himself from going to far with Claire after rescuing her from the fire, Claire dives right into that pocket and finds that it fits as snugly and comfortably as a glove.

As a result of “becoming one” with Shuuichi, Claire can now control his body, and her moves are a lot sharper than his was. Shuuichi finds he has no control over his body, but his thoughts and sensations are merged with Claire’s, forming a symbiotic pilot-vehicle pair. While this isn’t conventional sex, it’s definitely a weird supernatural analog.

A brutal fight with the berserk Hikawa ensues, and Claire gets better and better at controlling Shuuichi’s mascot body. Before long, Hikawa takes a couple of hard licks and wears down. Claire puts her leg in a hold and threatens to snap it if Hikawa doesn’t tell her everything she knows about the star coins.

Hikawa ain’t talking, so the leg goes snap, and then Claire draws the mascot’s gun—which is real, it turns out—and blows Hikawa away. Shuuichi’s desperate pleas for her to stop go ignored, and when the threat has passed, Claire emerges from the mascot’s interior a sticky but satisfied mess.

A week passes, and both Claire and Shuuichi go back to their ordinary lives without any developments. Whatever went down, it seems they weren’t seen and aren’t suspected by anyone. The two meet in private, and Claire tells him other “monsters” are out there and both of them individual lack the strength to fight them; they have to act as one.

Claire also has a personal interest in this whole mascot monster business—her sister Elena is one, and she’s eager to find her. She also promises Shuuichi that whatever happens, she’ll die with him so he won’t be alone. When he asks what she’d do if he wanted to die now? She leaps off a warehouse balcony, hoping to “see him soon”. Shuuichi is able to catch her, but if he hadn’t, she’d have died right there.

Half a year ago, Elena visited the vending machine, but asked the boy inside to give her wish to someone else…someone she “wants to be with.” The strap on her bag is a tiny version of Shuuichi’s mascot form. What’s the connection? Why him? And will Claire gradually wear down his basic decency and make him a monster, or will he continue to let himself be her puppet?

No Guns Life – 03 – Pulling the Strings

Juuzou politely declines a job offer from the imposing Brother Huang of the Kyusei group to find and eliminate someone stealing extended limbs from kids, because he thinks people should “wipe their own asses.” But what if someone can’t, either because they don’t have arms, or can’t move the ones they have?

Juuzou trusts actions over words, even what he deems are sincere words from Tetsuro about saving the other children imprisoned and tortured by Berühren as they speak…only Tetsuro isn’t really speaking with his own voice; he’s using a spare Extended head’s voice.

Similarly, in order to actually carry out the saving of those kids, he’ll need to rely on bodies other than his own, which was made all but useless by the company. Juuzou tells him any attempt would be futile; the world is an unfair place, and Tetsuro needs to count what blessings he has and move forward thinking about himself.

Tetsuro can’t accept that, and won’t sit back and do nothing. Instead, he uses Harmony to hack into Juuzou’s body, which he uses to carry his own body (lest Mary try to disconnect the two) as he heads out in search of the people hurting kids. When he almost falls victim to parts scavengers, he covers Juuzou’s head with a sack.

Then he seemingly lucks out when he spots two distressed-looking girls in gray frocks running from a man with swords for arms—just the kind of people he wants to save. Only Ende and Anne are not really on the run; they’re the very people stealing parts from kids, on orders from Berühren. They were also ordered not to let any witnesses survive, making Tetsuro/Juuzou their next target.

Of the two, Ende is capable of transforming into a monstrous mecha-spider woman, but even with Anne by her side for emotional support, she easily goes berserk, and in any case is in constant pain. Anne just hopes they can return home to Berühren for maintenance, and believes that Ende’s body will be put “back to normal” as a reward if they complete their mission.

Berühren’s stooge, however, considers the two to have failed their mission when he meets up with them, and orders the two test subjects immediately “retired” (in another nice nod to Blade Runner). Both he and the company never saw Ende and Anne as human beings, but mere puppets; tools to be used and discarded when the desired results aren’t achieved.

And yet, even though Anne and Ende tried to kill Tetsuro/Juuzou, he still comes to their rescue here, since he already knows what they’ve only just figured out: Berühren can’t be trusted, and can only be opposed. The girls don’t trust adults, but hopefully someone who can transform into a mecha-spider woman can come to believe Tetsuro when he insists he’s one of them, and is merely controlling the big burly adult body they see. It’s a tough sell, I know.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 23 – No Puppet, You’re The Puppet

This is a thrilling powerhouse of an episode, but it starts out a little slow, with over seven minutes of this:

Admin: [Describes in detail horrible things she’s done]
Cardinal: How dare you!
Admin: [Chortles]

Mind you, there are far worse things than listening to Sakamoto Maaya describe her evil plan and chortle. She gives Admin an extra dimension of imperious ethereal swagger.

Once the two pontifexes are done talking, Cardinal decides the only thing she can do is surrender: offer her life—and the guarantee she won’t resist and take potentially half of Admin’s life—in exchange for the three “youngsters.”

Admin agrees, though doesn’t exactly hide the fact that she still plans to sacrifice fully half of Underworld’s humans (40,000 of them) to complete the final version of her sword golem with which she’ll defeat the enemies of the Dark Territory, as well as the real world.

Then she has fun taking several hundred dark lightning potshots at Cardinal. She’s been waiting 200 years to get rid of her, and is clearly savoring the moment. Cardinal warns the others not to interfere—they’re not powerful enough to make a difference anyway—and instead puts all her hope in Admin’s assurances they won’t be harmed.

Something awakens in Eugeo, and suddenly he realizes what he was always meant to do, now that he’s in the time and place to do it. He asks Cardinal to use her remaining power to transform him into a sword, just as Admin turned hundreds of humans into parts of the golem.

The process isn’t exactly quick, and Admin attempts to disrupt it, but Alice is able to block her attacks just long enough for the transformation to complete, and Eugeo becomes a self-moving sword.

The sword wastes no time destroying the sword golem by hitting its weak spot, blowing it to pieces in a tremendous explosion. But Admin is #NotImpressed, and relishes the opportunity to put this “brat” in his place with her superior weapon authority.

Ultimately, Eugeo simply doesn’t have enough to take a suddenly very serious Admin down, and while he does relieve her of her left arm, it comes at the cost of being split in two. The split sword revert back into human form, and Eugeo lies lifeless in a pool of blood.

Admin then describes Eugeo’s mistakes that led to his defeat, then turns to Kirito, expressing her hope they’ll meet again in the real world after she kills him here (she’s apparently unaware he’s only alive here; he’s still in a coma out there).

Having lost Cardinal and Eugeo in quick succession, Kirito is feeling defeated and unable to do anything, but like Yuuki and others in Kirito’s past, Alice steps between him and his death, willing to sacrifice herself so he can live on and complete the mission.

This time, Kirito steps back in front of his protector, parries Admin’s strike, and pushes her back. Alice, totally out of gas, passes out, leaving it a duel between the one-armed Admin and Kirito, for the very soul of the Underworld.

Admin would say he and Eugeo were only puppets for Cardinal, and Kirito continues to serve as a puppet for the good of the masses she sees only as resources, in reality Admin has herself long been a puppet of her own greed and lust for power.

Those traits define her and drive her totally, and they will destroy her, once they butt up against the amassed love and resolve of her foes. The hours of her reign appear to be numbered, but she’s not going down without (another) hell of a fight.

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