Cardcaptor Sakura – 68 – A New Spring Dawns

Eriol writes a letter in his dark office then observes the intensifying winter snow through the French doors with Spinel and Nakuru. He assures them that it’s “almost time”…for something. Meanwhile, we join poor Sakura rollerblading through that snow in her jammies while being chased by a swarm of mini snowmen pelting her with snow. She’s eventually buried, but quickly emerges and fights snow with Snow.

Kero is impressed with how powerful Sakura is becoming, noting that she could one day surpass Clow Reed, but Yue disagrees, saying she isn’t close. That ends up keeping Sakura up at night, wondering if and how she’ll ever be able to live up to Clow’s legacy. Then it dawns on her: she can use the Return card to go back in time and ask him herself—and while she’s at it, ask him why she keeps feeling his presence before strange things happen.

After another pinky promise to Syaoran that she’ll safely return, Sakura uses the Tsukihime cherry tree as a conduit to the past, where she finds Kerberos, Yue, and clow. They’re just having an afternoon nap in the shade of a sakura tree, ironically enough. Sakura sees how happy Kero and Yue are and can’t help but feel a little jealous, simply because she isn’t Clow.

The seasons pass, and the tree transforms with it, which Clow uses to make a point about everyone and everything: that it all changes, and that it’s all supposed to. That means even he, the most powerful sorcerer alive, must one day shuffle off his mortal coil. That doesn’t mean Yue is happy about it, or about the prospect of having a new master, so Clow tasks Kero with the duty of finding one.

While at first seeing Clow interact with his creations and vice versa only heightened her feelings of inadequacy, the fact is she is her own worst critic, and not even Clow, whom she replaced, would see value in comparing her with himself. Clow is Clow and Sakura is Sakura. He had his time, and now it’s hers. This point is aptly illustrated by the transition from the winter when Clow passes on to a spring when all the lovely flowers—including sakura—bloom anew.

Her confidence and enthusiasm in her task thus restored, Sakura returns to the present, where Tomoyo and Syaoran had been waiting with baited breath (though they don’t mention how long they were waiting). Sakura reports that while she did meet Clow, she didn’t learn any thing about why they keep feeling his presence. That’s when Eriol jumps into the conversation and offers an explanation.

You see, he is Hiiragizawa Eriol now, but in his previous life, he was…Clow Reed. While this isn’t exactly a shocker, now that it’s out in the open means we’re finally poised for the final showdown between Sakura and Eriol. That said, despite all the shadows and dark musical stabs, Eriol may prove not to be an enemy, but simply a reincarnated Clow ensuring that Sakura becomes powerful enough to convert all of his cards and complete her succession.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 02 – Anything You Can Do He Can Do Better

This week begins back in the Mythical Age, where Demon King Voldigoad expresses his weariness with endless war between humans and demons. He makes a deal with the human hero Kanon: he’ll sacrifice most of his magical power in order to isolate the four realms and “snuff out the spark of war.” Kanon takes him up on this, and two thousand years of peace follow.

Fast-forward to about a month before the present, baby Anos opens his eyes for the first time, and just as his parents are about to begin considering a name, he says his name—in his stern adult Anos Voldigoad voice. I swear, if I had taken a drink of anything prior to hearing that voice, I’d have surely done a spit take all over my screen! It was exactly the comic sting needed after such a serious and sincere prologue.

Back to the present, leaders and teams are chosen for the team competition in a week’s time. The homeroom teacher declares that no students in white suits can be team leaders, so he proceeds to not only pass her test, but point out that it is flawed to such an extent, a simple adjustment by him doubles its power. He also meets Misha’s big sister Sasha, who does not care for Misha.

In fact, she considers her little more than a “soulless, lifeless doll animated by magic.” Pretty harsh! This spurs Anos to defend his new silver-haired friend, telling Sasha she should be peering deeper into the abyss. When Sasha lashes out with Demonic Eyes of Destruction, Anos easily deflects them with his own.

Anos offers to let Sasha join his team, even though she’s the leader of the other team. Instead, Sasha makes a bet with Anos: if he wins the team competition with just Misha on his team, Sasha will join them. If he loses, he’ll become Sasha’s property. Obviously, Anos agrees.

Just as Sasha and her team are setting up their Castle, Anos has Misha stay back at theirs and then walks right up to Sasha’s. He breaks through their communications and all of the castle’s defense magic, then lifts it out of the ground and launches it into the air.

He catches it with one hand before it falls, than spins it around like a carnival ride before launching it into the forest. That he does all of this without breaking a sweat makes for an utterly awesome bit of ownage. Like baby Anos talking in an adult voice, I simply did not see him treating the castle like a stony volleyball!

In a last-ditch effort to defeat Anos, Sasha decides to unleash Jio Graze, the most powerful fire spell that requires the unique skills and magical power of the entire team in unison. In response, Anos unleashes the weakest fire spell, Grega, though with his superior power it’s more than enough to dissipate Jio Graze and blast the remains of the castle to smithereens.

Sasha, initially ungracious in defeat, promises to one day kill Anos, a threat that amuses him, because killing him isn’t enough to make him die. Since they entered into a Zacht (a magical contract) she can’t go back on her word, so she joins Anos’ team. When he tells Sasha that Misha wanted her on their team, her stance on her little sister softens. When Anos tells Sasha that her demonic eyes are beautiful, she swoons.

That night, Anos brings both Misha and Sasha to his parents’ for another celebratory feast. The super-hyper folks are elated that he’s already brought home “Bride #2”, and Sasha is just as charmed by their extraness as Misha was.

Anos ends up walking the sisters home, and Misha and Sasha notably hold hands the whole time. I’m actually a bit surprised their rift was repaired so easily, considering Sasha didn’t even see Misha as a human or a sister at the start of the episode. Maybe beholding Anos’ power made Sasha reconsider a lot of preconceptions she’s had.

Sasha also makes it a point to ask if Misha likes Anos—and Misha answers plainly and clearly “yes”. Sasha then waits until Misha goes into their house to thank Anos for helping her make up with her, and give him a “kiss from a friend”. Those aren’t usually on the mouth in most cultures, but hey, what’s the harm of a little Demon King Love Triangle?

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 01 (First Impressions) – Three-Second Rule

Now that’s more like it! While Lapis Re:LiGHTS felt sterile and lacked oomphThe Misfit has style, passion, and confidence in the story being told, and manage to mix some appealing character moments in with the obligatory introductions. It also teaches an essential lesson about being kind to others, especially family, and not judging books by their covers.

Within two minutes of arriving at the titular academy, our initially nameless MC makes a new friend and gains an enemy. During the entrance trials, that enemy learns that despite looking like a normal new student without a drop of royal blood, the MC makes sport of their duel, killing and resurrecting him at will until he loses the will to go on.

Contrast that with his attitude toward his new friend Misha, whose letter he picks off the ground before they met, can sense his immense power, and whom he invites for dinner at his loving, doting, conclusion-jumping folks. Those folks, by the way, reveal that their son is only a month old.

It’s abundantly clear before he says his name or reveals his true self that the MC is the reincarnation of the Demon King of Tyranny, Anos Voldigoad, and to its credit the show doesn’t over-explain anything. Instead it lets the cozy chemistry and quiet friendship between Anos and Misha play out organically, with her patting his head unbidden when he lists all the horrible names he’s been called.

Their instant easy rapport contrasts nicely with Anos’ absolute ruthlessness in the arena, be it a school-sanctioned trial or in the case of his would-be rival’s brother’s case, a sudden ambush. Where Zepes Indu was a cocky little shit, his brother Leorg throws racism into the mix, deeming only those of pure blood to be worthy of the Demon King’s power.

Before telling Leorg who he is, Anos simply shows him, by letting the older brother’s origin magic bounce right off (since Anos is the origin) then zombifying Zepes and forcing Leorg to reconcile with his brother in order to face him together. It’s interesting that this reincarnated Demon King isn’t so much concerned with toying with far less powerful opponents (though he does) as much as he wants to make them stronger so they can give him a fight!

Anos sensed from the start that as his descendants, the apples have fallen very far from the tree, but perhaps the first step to making them stronger is by strengthening the bonds of family. After all, he’s got himself some very fine parents, while Misha’s guardian also adores her (though her folks are apparently busy, she also has an older sister whom we’re sure to meet soon).

As Anos strikes down all comers, Misha stays by his side, heartened by his kindness and his offer to be comrades and friends, and there to tell him when his two-millennia-old jokes won’t cut it—an amusing quirk of Anos’ that isn’t overused.

Misfit of Demon King Academy is fun to watch but also gratifying because it feels infused with the enthusiasm of its creators, rather than feeling like an exercise of efficiently going through the motions. Most importantly, Anos is one cool, sassy dude; a nice complement to Misha’s understated charm. I’m definitely down to watch more of this!

Wave, Listen to Me! – 11 – Cough Up the Karma

Minare’s latest weird late-night occult/philosophy radio show continues as Mitsuo climbs out of the ground with his broken neck bent 90 degrees to the side. He invites Minare and “Matt” deep below the Sea of Trees where there’s a reincarnation of Asama-no-Okami (the deity personifying Mt. Fuji), who in turn will offer to take their karma and decided where they’ll be reincarnated, and as whom.

I have to admit, it’s all a bit trippy and bizarre, but aside from a few snickers (the deity decides to send all three to Sweden for their next lives because of it’s “established welfare”), it wasn’t really the funniest bit? More than a comedy, it’s meant to take hold of listeners as they determine which of the three people they’re most like: Matt, who murdered dozens for his work; Mitsuo, who wants to come back as someone who’s more aware of when he’s hurting others…or Minare, who doesn’t want to go to Sweden at all.

At the end of the show, Kureko again leaves a big empty space in the script for Minare to ad-lib, which is what she does best. She provides a litany of things she did in real life to real people (most of whom are listening; and Mitsuo is wearing a neck brace after her suplex), but having all that swept under the rug and being shipped to a new life Sweden isn’t for her. She’s a “wandering Japanese”, with no interest in any other country, and simply wants to return to the Sea of Trees. The deity obliges.

At the post-show meeting, Minare learns the voice of the deity was Chisato and the voice of Mitsuo was Koumoto, while Kureko thinks he got Mitsuo’s character down accurately. When Minare accuses Kureko of hating her for having such huge holes in the script, Matou admits he had Kureko leave lots of opportunities for ad-libbing on purpose, in order to assess and exploit Minare’s inherent adaptability. And adaptability, more than any other quality, is what makes a great radio personality.

Matou informs Minare that her next show will be from an idea she creates, or otherwise acquires from, say, listeners via email or social media. He also encourages her to listen to her favorite personalities on radio to get a feel for the increased freedom the medium provides over TV. That night, Mizuho is worried about Mizuho and her cheerful brave front in the midst of Kureko quitting radio, considering she wanted Kureko on her radio “dream team” once she’s promoted.

That night, Mizuho seems to lean in for a kiss, in what is surely one of the sexiest pieces of animation Wave has turned out—only for her to be rousing Minare to listen to a comic midnight broadcast. Mizuho also tells Minare that Matou is looking for her to create something “wild, living in the moment, and anarchistic”.

Whatever Minare comes up with, she only has one more episode to pull it off. After her momentous victory over Mitsuo, the last two weeks have taken a step back, and overall the show feels like it’s stalled. Still, better to peak in week 9 than not at all!

Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken – 01 (First Impressions) – Slime Meets Storm Dragon

To be more precise: 37-year-old virgin is stabbed to death in random act of Tokyo street violence, is unexpectedly reincarnated as a slime in some random cave, and then meets the storm dragon. Thus begins the Fall 2018 season: with a very odd and unique premise that could prove to be an interesting variation on the “Awakening in a New Fantasy World” genre.

The bluish slime is the former Mikami Satou, who was meeting a kohai’s girlfriend for the first time when said stabbing occured. Up until that point he’d lived the most normal life a 37-year-old who’d never had a girlfriend could live.

So it stands to reason suddenly waking up as a ball of plant-and-crystal-dissolving slime would represent a serious game change.

And it’s definitely a game change, as in normal life changing into a game-like fantasy world in which an echo-y female voice is constantly keeping the former Satoru informed on what skills he’s amassing as he performs certain actions or becomes aware of certain things.

He eventually encounters the storm dragon Verudora, who was sealed and imprisoned in the cave by some kind of elite mage called a “summon” over three centuries ago. Verudora is a bit bemused by the fact a slime is self-aware and can talk, but he’s not picky about company.

Indeed, he’s desperately bored and in need of a friend. The funny thing is, he ends up being quite amusingly tsundere-y about it, before acknowledging Satoru the Slime as his first friend and conversation partner in a long, long time.

We’ll see where things go from here, but it’s a good start, keeping things basic and giving us time to get used to the surroundings and rules of the world. And if I hold onto this show, it will be the only non-sequel / spinoff / carryover I’ll be watching.

Fate/Extra Last Encore – 06

The third level, the “Nameless Forest” is a totally different animal than the ones that came before, both in design and purpose. First of all, it’s way trippier, as Shinbo creates a lush and textured wonderland inspired by the aesthetic of the illusory worlds witches created in Madoka.

These bizarre, whimsical surroundings make for a great backdrop as Hakuno, Saber and Rin attempt to find the Floor Master. According to Rin, the third level is the land of dreams where “ghosts” gather, ghosts being souls transferred into information by Moon Cell.

Rin also kinda answers my question from last week, in that Death Face is “something different” from the other ghosts,embodying a “different concept of death.” She also calls it a thousand-year-old legend, apparently unaware that Hakuno is that legend (or feigning ignorance for some reason).

Things get increasingly weird in terms of time and space, with Saber almost instinctively taking Hakuno’s hand to ensure they won’t become separated. Even so, with all off the multi-colored drawers, tanks containing thousands of playing cards, and most concerning, a preponderance of mushrooms, Hakuno eventually finds himself somewhere other than Saber’s side.

That place is in the presence of the Floor Master whom Hakuno says goodbye to in the episode’s cold open; we see his victory and ascent to the fourth level so we know it happens (or happened in the past); it’s a question of how.

This Master is a ghost named Alice, and this wonderland is where she’s been ever since a war that killed everyone else, and after her life of illness was ended by excruciating pain caused by adults in a hospital.

Alice wants nothing more than to have someone like Hakuno to play with forever and ever. Quite suddenly, Hakuno “snaps out of it” and is once again in Saber and Rin’s presence. A vision.

Rin and Hakuno each have one more vision while in the midst of the mushrooms – both involving Amari Misao, their “classmate” in “high school.”

If ghosts are reproductions of people’s states at the moment of death, Amari’s regrets come through strong and clear; both her insufficient strength (which Rin can sense) and when she tried to seek the week to defeat her enemies, only to find there was no one weaker than her.

Having returned from their visions, Hakuno and Rin find signs of a battle, and Saber goes after a shambling, scissors-shooting construction of various objects as if it were like any other opponent. She manages to slash it in two, but the moment she does she and the other two are instantly transported all the way back to where they started, next to the ladder that brought them there. Even time has seemingly reverted.

Rin surmises this is the work of the Noble Phantasm known as “Nursery Rhyme”, which is being used to ensure they keep repeating the same day forever. With such a power, in such a place, being wielded with such a character as the Alice we met, it’s pretty obvious we’re dealing with Caster. Swords and bullets aren’t going to do the trick this time.

Fate/Extra Last Encore – 05

Last week Rani painted a morose picture: there are only a few thousand humans still alive on Earth, a dire scenario the species hasn’t seen since the last ice age. Combined with the dreadful state of SE.RA.PH, mankind is staring at the edge of oblivion.

It’s a much bigger crisis than I had comprehended at the time (due partially to spotty translation); almost too big a crisis for our MC, who still isn’t sure how many times he’s died and been brought back (though it’s been a lot). All I know is, he may be humanity’s last hope.

It certainly isn’t Dan Blackmore, a knight who fought and was defeated by Hakuno 999 years ago. He lost not due to lack of willpower or clarity of duty, but simply because he had more regrets and thus less resolve, than his opponent.

But now that Dan’s back, he’s not going to let anything get in the way of his winning—in lieu of the Holy Grail or ascending, continued victories are their own reward, and has been for nearly a millennium.

Once Hakuno is over the initial shock of learning what year it really is and how long things have been left to rot, he, Saber and Rani talk Dan, Archer, and strategy.

First, since he was already defeated and died, Dan is no longer a true Master (why Hakuno, who has also died a lot, is a true Master is a head-scratcher for your humble author). As for his servant, Archer’s true name is Robin Hood, an expert in guerrilla warfare, who has two noble phantasms but cannot use both simultaneously.

One allows him to attack undetected; the other, Yew Bow, is more of a coup-de-grace, and is only effective after the first phantasm has been used to shoot the target with a poison arrow. The Yew Bow detonates the poison in the target’s blood, killing them from the inside out.

For the battle, Saber takes on Robin by herself, dodging a number of invisible arrows until one finally gets her, thus exposing her to the poison Robin will use to blow her up. But her part of the plan is simply to keep Robin busy, partly by asking why he still serves a man who is no longer a Master, to which his reply is both concise and logical: Would you tell a knight who’s been brought back to life and fought 999 years to simply give it up?

Meanwhile Hakuno learns more from Rani (in her awesome futuristic motorcycle and sidecar) about Moon Cell’s quandary: while it can manage the “exterior” of humans, it could not understand their “core”—their reactions and emotions—even when it invited them to SE.RA.PH. for observation. So it simply discards those emotions to the bottom floor.

By that same token, there is no physical or observable “world of the dead” on Earth, but SE.RA.PH. made it quantifiable, such that the hatred (and presumably other emotions) of the dead still roam around as “ghosts,” which is exactly what happened to Dan Blackmore. One could also say he respawned.

Hakuno and Rani’s chat is cut short by their arrival at the clock tower, but as soon as they emerge from the forest, Rani is shot and she and Hakuno knocked off the bike. Hakuno finds cover, but Rani is out in the open, obviously bate to take.

Many “ghosts” start to surround Rani, urging Hakuno to forget about her and continue up the tower to defeat Blackmore, but he rejects their certainty and chooses to save her instead, donning the Death Face to gain exceptional speed that avoids the gunshots. Rani is unable to move, but still able to fight.

Deeper in the forest, Robin deems the time is right to use Yew Bow on Saber, only to have it fail spectacularly. Saber, you see, picked up on the fact the detonator targets the impurities—the poison—in the target’s blood. Her answer to that is to simply bleed out, and once Robin detonates it, divert the blood-blast with her sword.

It works like a charm, and Robin isn’t ready when she charges him and runs him through. How can she survive bleeding out? Well, aside from being Saber and thus very tough, she apparently has up to three extra lives provided her body remains intact. Losing her blood now and again isn’t that big a deal…especially if it helps secure a path to victory for her Master.

That leaves Dan on his own against Hakuno, who does not fall for the trap of Dan being at the top of the clock tower just because the bells ring every time he takes a shot. Dan is in fact in the tower of the citadel, firing at the bells, while the clock tower is lined with explosives.

No matter; once atop the clock tower, Hakuno, in Death Face mode, shoots Dan before he can shoot him, and Dan dies with a distinct sense of relief he can finally be with his wife again. Upon his death, the elevator appears immediately, leaving Hakuno no time to get Rani.

But as Saber says, Rani never intended to ascend at all. She was always content to tend to the dead and watch one last “star” ascend, which Hakuno and Saber do thanks to her assistance. 50 years of “rebellion” against Blackmore were enough.

Oh, and Rin’s still hanging out on the elevator as they start their ascent to the third stratum—though Hakuno and Saber aren’t sure why.

Made in Abyss – 09

Riko and Reg descend the four thousand meters of the Great Fault (over ten Empire State Buildings, for those keeping count) using the “weakling’s way”, as Ozen suggested: the network of tunnels within the fault’s walls.

They quickly learn why when they inadvertently scare some flat, fluffy Neritantans out onto the edge, where a few quickly become lunch for the flying Madokajacks.

The Neritantans are ridiculously adorable, but this isn’t a place where you can be sentimental about such things if those animals are the only thing you can use to distract the predators that make no distinction between them and you.

Riko and Reg find the ancient ruins of a ship embedded in the fault wall, which raises so many questions, chief among them how it got there. In any case, it’s super cool. But just as the Madokajacks were distracted by the Neritantans, Riko is distracted by the prospect of finding cool relics.

She doesn’t realize until it’s too late that she’s strayed right into a Madokajack nest. Ozen warned Reg not to use Incinerator recklessly, but he’s confident Riko will be safe for the two hours he’s out if he uses it, so he does…and it continues to be a fantastic, if terrifying, sight to see.

What Reg didn’t know is that the strange distant sound he’d been hearing was a Crimson Splitjaw, who he grazed with the beam from Incinerator. He and Riko have to book it fast before he passes out, and they seem to receive som karmic justic when their only avenue of escape is blocked by tightly-packed, Neritantans.

If I didn’t know better, I thought I saw the thirst for vengeance in their beady little eyes. But the roar of the Splitjaw spooks them and they disperse. In a place of relative safety, Reg warns Riko to stay where she is and then passes out. Now who seriously thought Riko was just going to sit around?

No, She’s Got This, and wraps Reg’s extendo-arms around her and drags him behind her…straight into the digestive chamber of a Amakagame, yet another wonderfully bizarre beast of the Abyss. But this is Riko we’re talking about. Does she panic? No, she breaks out her knife and stabs the shit out of the Amakagame until she’s pierced its skin and escaped.

At first, I thought the legions of Neritantans that amassed around her were there to celebrate her vanquishing of the monster that claimed so many of their own—an “okay, we’re even now, you’re not so bad” kinda moment.

Then I remembered she smells like the fruit they love, and they swarm ravenously at her, the cute fluffy-looking animals suddenly a little more threatening. They cause Riko to fall down another steep tunnel, but far from a shortcut, it dumps her at the bottom of hexagonal basalt cave, and the only way out requires an ascent of several hundred feet.

It’s rough going, as Riko experiences headaches, dizziness, nausea, and the kicker: extremely realistic visual and auditory hallucinations. I mean, she might as well be on the holodeck, because she’s in a full-fledged dreamworld.

She knows what (and who) she’s looking at isn’t real…until her mother appears and they ascend all the way back up to Orth in the same gondola at the Seeker Camp. There, the entire city has come out to celebrate their return to the surface. What snaps her out of it? The fact that Reg isn’t there. He’s her totem, and he saves her butt again, without even being awake.

However, at nearly two hours, it’s really time he does wake up, and none too soon, either, as the Splitjaw that was after them before has found them again. Riko decides it’s time for Blaze Reap, but even as she wielded it and faced down the Splitjaw’s charge, it just didn’t look like she’d be able to do much damage.

Fortunately, Reg does, and uses his superior strength and speed to land a critical blow on the Splitjaw’s jaw, with the axe’s power causing multiple explosions that disable the beast once and for all.

With both kids awake and safe, Reg apologizes for going out so long, but Riko is actually appreciative: she learned by doing that taking this journey all by her self really would have been impossible, while Reg is certain it’d be impossible for him too if he didn’t have Riko with him.

Next up, the Fourth Layer: The Goblet of Giants.

Made in Abyss – 08

“If they die now, it just means they didn’t have what it takes to go any further.” Harsh they may be, truer words were never spoken. Despite her ice-cold demeanor and gloomy, threatening affectation, I have no doubt Ozen would be immensely disappointed if Riko and Reg died during their ten-day survival test.

Now obviously they’re not going to die—and she probably knows that. There may be a lot of bugs when they use fire and a grumpy hippo-like beast who doesn’t want them near his water, but Riko and Reg make a great team, and they have, after all, lived and survived off the land up until now.

Thus Ozen would be worried, even if she was capable of being worried about the two kids passing the test. Ozen takes us back to when Lyza introduced her to a frail-looking young man named Torka whom she married. In a classic Ozen move, she fast-forwards to after Torka has passed away from the effects of the Abyss, and Ozen has to deliver a stillborn Riko.

But as much of a ‘hassle’ as it was, Ozen remained faithful to her dear apprentice, who had progressed so far only to go through so much pain and anguish, and assures the suddenly-alive baby Riko of her “strong sense of duty” which continues to the present now that Lyza’s daughter has descended to her lair.

The product of her duty returns, dirty and exhausted but very much alive after ten days. Reg points out it feels like more, and when Ozen invites them to sup with her, she tells them of how being in the Abyss warps one’s sense of time (among other parts of the brain), such that while Riko has lived ten years since coming up to the surface, to Lyza down in the netherworld it may have felt like a scant ten months; possibly even less.

Needless to say, this is very heartening to Riko, but Ozen warns her and Reg to avoid the three White Whistles besides Lyza who are lurking in the lower layers as they speak, and when she says one of them isn’t “kind like I am”, you know she’s not joking: she, and everything we’ve seen of her, is still kinder than The Sovereign of Dawn, Bondrewd the Novel. 

I love the idea of White Whistles being their own tiny, elite tribe of eccentrics, and to think they get more eccentric (and less human) than Ozen is…a little unsettling. She’s also still not sure what to make of the note Riko thought was written by Lyza.

After giving Riko her mother’s pickaxe, Blaze Reap, she sits her and Reg down and begins to tell them all of the things they’ll need to know as they continue their descent. These are secrets usually kept between White Whistles exclusively, but as Riko is the spawn of one and is headed to their realm, it only makes sense. It’s a sobering experience for Reg to hear of all the strange things on the lower layers, and Ozen doesn’t mince words.

But Ozen isn’t trying to discourage them; only to prepare them as much as one can be prepared. When it comes time to say goodbye, Ozen isn’t present, so Marulk and the raiders see off Riko and Reg. Marulk is particularly sad to see them go, and her tears not only cause Riko and Reg to tear up, but me as well!

Ozen recalls one final pivotal exchange she had with Lyza after they returned to the surface. Lyza, whose face is finally fully revealed, has not only taken on an apprentice (Jiruo, AKA Leader), but has made the decision to make another descent in order to allow Riko to decide for herself what kind of life she’ll lead. She asks Ozen to tell Riko about all of the miracles that had to occur so she could live; Ozen agrees.

Back in the present, with her duty now done, Riko and Reg set out for deeper depths approaching the terrifying sheer pale walls of the Great Fault and the Third Layer. While it seemed strange and alien at first, the longer we spent in the Inverted Forest, the more comfortable, even cozy it felt.

The edge of the Fault couldn’t be any less hospitable. It will be exciting to see what other wondrous sights they’ll see in this newest setting—and what fresh devilry with which they’ll have to contend.

Made in Abyss – 07

Just as Habo is telling Nat and Siggy about the badass White Whistles (who kinda remind me of the Espada) and wondering if he should have gone against Riko’s wishes and accompanied her and Reg after all, Riko and Reg face their toughest challenge yet: An Ozen the Immovable as their enemy.

But while both kids get beaten within an inch of their lives, it isn’t physical punishment that cuts the deepest—it’s Ozen’s utterly curel and tactless presentation of the giant white cube, which turns out not to be merely a vessel that repels curses. Ozen reveals to Riko that she was stillborn, and upon being placed in the vessel, she was brought back to life.

Ozen further explains that she put some of the meat she uses for dinner in the vessel, and it came back to life as well: that weird, threatening-looking but also bumbling and pitiable thing that made Riko wet the bed. The final twist of the knife? Before long, the thing turned back into lifeless meat, and Ozen wonders when Riko’s time will come to turn back into a corpse.

This is harsh, merciless stuff, but Ozen is just getting started. When she threatens to hurt Riko, Reg intervenes with his arms and ties her up, but she frees herself effortlessly, noting how the arm cables are made of extremely tough stuff. She then proceeds to try to pound Reg into dust, and when Riko tries to stop the madness, a light flick of Ozen’s finger sends her flying across the room, knocked out and bloodied.

Goddamn was this shit hard to watch. Reg tries to break out his Incinerator, but while trying to narrow the focus his beam so he doesn’t blow up the whole camp, the bitch grabs his still-charging cannon and points it at the out-cold Riko.

Where it not for a last-second kick of his own arm out of harm’s way, Riko would be gone. Fortunately, she’s not, and the hole his arm blasts in the ceiling doesn’t cause any serious structural damage. But using his cannon makes him pass out, and when Riko comes to, she sees Reg bruised and bloodied, the result of Ozen continuing to beat his unconscious body.

And yet, after three-quarters of an episode of the most heinous, villainous, evil-ass conduct one could imagine, the other shoe drops: Ozen was TESTING Reg’s strength, as well as Riko’s resolve. And let me tell you, she got me, just as she got them.

I never thought for a moment that she wasn’t simply being the evil monster the build-up to her appearance portended. Marulk ‘saved’ Reg and Riko by calling Ozen’s band of cave-raiders to her in…something Ozen both thanks her apprentice for and promises to string her(?) up for.

Frankly, I didn’t know what she was thinking. It’s another way she’s “immovable”…as in unable to be “moved” by anything … except, perhaps, by the prospect of learning more about the Abyss. Riko on her own would never, ever have gotten this far, let alone any further, without becoming, as Ozen says, “poor meals, little seedbeds, or a stain on the ground or some wall.”

And yet while her approach underscores how far from her humanity Ozen has strayed, it also makes perfect practical sense: the Abyss is fundamentally not a place for little kids. Beasts far tougher, crueler, and more cunning await them in the lower layers.

And as flashbacks prove, Ozen isn’t as emotionally “unmovable” as she appears, as she recalls the first day a Red-Whistled Lyza asked to become her apprentice. In virtually no time, Lyza had earned her Black Whistle, and credits her quick success to Ozen, who may have an “irredeemable” personality, but is still the “best mentor ever.”

Does Ozen truly “despise” Riko? Could it be because she sees Riko as Riko saw that meat? Is she, dare I say…scared of what Riko is and might become as she draws nearer to the bottom? With Ozen, deep questions abound.

One thing’s for certain: as much as she has changed (her armor and the 120 or so implants in her body make her cut quite the menacing figure), there’s still some humanity in there; the humanity that lets Riko know the grave she found was empty; Lyza could well still alive and waiting for her daughter.

In the meantime Reg might might might just be tough enough to protect Riko as she continues her descent, but Ozen isn’t willing to send them on their way yet, she needs to gather more ‘data’. She takes the kids out to the far edge of the layer, far from camp or anyone else, and tells them to survive with the supplies they have for ten days.

Furthermore, Reg is forbidden from using his cannon, as the hours she’s determined he shuts down for would likely be fatal to Riko…unless, of course, he manages to bring down whatever threatens them. It’s the toughest of tough love, but in a world where kids are regularly punished by being strung up naked, I guess it’s par for the course.

Knight’s & Magic – 05

As Dietrich, and Edgar head to Fort Casadesus in their suits (along with Ady, Kid, Baston and David), the Order of the Bronze Fang steals a mech and uses it to Trojan Horse their way into the fort, stealing several other mechs in one of the most action-packed and satisfying K&M’s yet.

Eru is eager to get in on the action, but Dixgard warns him to take it easy, as he’s no mere student anymore, nor a foot soldier: the information in his head is indispensable, and he must act accordingly. Meanwhile, when his friends just happen to block the Bronze Fang gang’s escape, Addy and Kid use the gear and training Eru gave them to support Dietrich and Edgar against the far more grizzled and experienced Bronze Fang forces.

Eru casually eliminates the remaining threats in the fortress before heading off to assist his friends, for whom the Bronze Fang and their leader, Lady Kerhilt, prove to be more than able opponents. Kerkilt takes down Edgar before fleeing, and then lures a hige force of duel-class demon beasts to cover her tracks and distract Dietrich.

But this isn’t the old Dietrich: he’s done running, and with the help of Addy, Kid, and eventually Eru and the Fort’s brash Knight Commander, they eliminate the beasts by dawn.

Now that they know a formidable enemy or rival is eager to possess the Silhouette Knight development secrets Eru & Co. are working on, the King decides it’s time to heighten security and secrecy. To that end, he appoints the entire team the new knightly Order of the Silver Phoenix. Very cool. And Edgar, while injured, will be fine.

But while Eru’s research and development should continue, I’d also make it a high priority to track down Kerhilt’s hideout and retrieve or destroy the tech she stole, lest she and her order continue to be a thorn in their side. It would also be useful to learn exactly why Bronze Fang has it out for the Kingdom.

Knight’s & Magic – 04

With Telestale development hampered by a mana-leakage problem, Eru stays sharp by pivoting to other projects, like his Silhouette Gear. In a backyard presumably owned by someone they know, Eru demonstrates the mobility potential of a Gear armed with a grappling hook, as well as the destructive power of the siege weapon attachment, which blows holes in a perfectly good wall for no good reason! Eru even all but admits to Addy that he just came up with these improvements for fun, not for a specific purpose.

Addy and Kid decide to inform their father of Eru’s rapid progress, and word gets to Marquis Dixgard, who sends his knights of the Order of the Scarlet Rabbit to escort Eru and the new units to Fort Casadesus for evaluation. On the way, they’re attacked by Giant wormlike Demon Beasts, but Eru makes quick work of them between all the gadgets he has on his person and the Telestale Knight Runners.

Eru ends up staying behind with the Marquis, who seems like an imperious, possibly dangerous figure. And while he’s suspicious about whether Eru is really a little kid (and he’s right, he’s not, at least not mentally), Marquis is eventually convinced beyond all doubt that Eru is merely an extremely talented and driven young man with a thirst for constant improvement in technology. Dixgard can relate: he used to be like Eru…he just never soared as high.

Not only that, but Eru doesn’t seem angry in the least that the Marquis is taking over the project; after all, Telestale is only one of many ambitious projects Eru has lined up in the future. Whether he completes those projects unfettered by outside forces remains to be seen, as we see the Order of the Bronze Fang on the margins of this episode, and their purple-cloaked female leader is itching to start a war, armed with special Silhouette Knights of her own.

Knight’s & Magic – 03

After defeating a Behemoth almost entirely on his own, the King can’t just not acknowledge Ernesti, so he grants him and his gramps an audience to thank him and ask if there’s any reward he would like. Since Ernesti has the mind of an adult (and a mecha otaku to boot) he asks for the one thing only the King can grant: the secret to creating the Ether Reactor, the heart of a Silhouette Knight.

To everyone’s surprise, the king grants Eru’s wish, but first he must prove himself worthy of such knowledge by building everything around that Ether Reactor before learning how to build it. Eru accepts the challenge with relish, calling such work his “hobby” to the bemusement of all.

From there, Eru works with the Dwarf mechanics and engineers, knight Runners, and his friends and comrades to develop improvements to the Silhouette Knights, including a second set of arms to wield energy staves and a new kind of muscle construction that will make the knights stronger.

Things accelerate fast when he comes up with the design for a smaller “personal” mech he dubs Silhouette Gear, which Addy and Kid get the hang of almost too fast, eager to shoulder some of the burdens their friend is taking on.

Another who gets into the spirit of this inventive binge is Dietrich, who is determined to make amends for his cowardice, which Eru and others have kept largely a secret; now he’s working hard to be strong enough notto run away from a threat next time.

Helvi pilots the newly-redesigned SilKnight that Eru was instrumental in developing, in a suite of tests including a mock battle with the school’s Runner ace Edgar in an unmodified Knight. Helvi only loses because she runs out of mana, but it’s a great first step towards Eru’s goal of learning the secrets of the Ether Reactor.

Notably, there aren’t really any “threats” this week, nor even any technological setbacks that frustrate Eru or slow him down in any way. But trouble looms as there’s a mole within the development team feeding info to a seedier group of people. Eru didn’t really run into any significant problems this week, but it looks like that may change in the near future.