The Rising of the Shield Hero – 14 – Unfinished Business

Despite being aware of her elder daughter’s movements and actions through her Shadows network, the queen still sees fit to let Malty run wild—and run she does, setting a massive goddamn wildfire and informing all the local lords that the “Devil of the Shield” is responsible. I’m not sure what the queen’s game is, but she seems content to wait for Naofumi to come to her. The fire blocks him from Siltvelt, so they head the other direction.

That takes them to the domain of Seyaette once ruled by a lord who was sympathetic to the plight of the demi-humans (as well as Raphtalia’s homeland). That lord was killed in the First Wave, and his efforts went to waste. Indeed, Raphtalia and her family and friends were all victims of the resulting oppression and enslavement of demis under the orders of…Melty’s dad, the king. Again, presumably the Queen was fine with all of this…I guess?

The new lord of the domain, Van Reichnott, is thankfully a friend of Melty’s, and invites them to his mansion where he agrees to harbor them. Naofumi warns that they can’t stay more than a night lest they get sniffed out by those loyal to Malty and the king.

So they have one night of tasty meals and soft beds, taking turns keeping watch. Melty thinks she should be doing something, anything other than continuing to run and hide, but Naofumi tells her her life and safety must come before any of that, and in time she’ll do what must be done; what only she can do.

Naofumi also tries to comfort Raphtalia, who is suddenly having the nightmares she suffered when she was small. Being so close to her home where she witnessed and endured so much is affecting her on both a psychological and a visceral level.

As Naofumi feared, they are found out the next morning, as a neighboring lord, Idol Rabier, accuses and arrests Reichnott for harboring the “Devil.” Naofumi hides with Raphtalia (who has an itchy sword hand at the sight of Idol) as Melty says what needs to be said to get rid of Idol and enable Naofumi, Raph and Filo to escape.

They do so, but while Melty believes her name and title will protect her from Idol and that he’ll safely deliver her to father for a proper dialogue, her determination to clear the Shield Hero’s good name probably strikes the wrong tone with a lord who is a member of the church that considers Naofumi the Devil himself.

Naofumi wavers at the opportunity to get away thanks to Melty’s gambit, abandoning her in the process…but only for a brief moment. At the end of the day, bad rep or not he can’t call himself a hero (not to mention look Raph or Filo in the eye) if he left Melty to mercy of that lord. So the trio infiltrates his castle start methodically taking out his guards.

They arrive in the nick of time, as Idol has tired of Melty’s refusal to disclose where Naofumi is and declares her to be in league with the Devil, which makes her fair game to torture and worse, even taking a nasty pleasure in threatening her and “making her face warp.” This dude and Malty truly deserve one another.

But Melty is rescued, and despite her “plans” being “ruined”, she still thanks Naofumi for coming for her. Naofumi then leaves Lord Idol to Raphtalia to do with as she pleases. He has a lot of demi-human blood on his hands.

We’ll see if she gives in to her rage and takes revenge (for which she’d be entirely justified), or if she stays her hand out of a desire not to go down that road. Like Naofumi with his Rage Shield, there are places you can’t come back from.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 13 – Malty Escalation

When one of Melty’s escorts suddenly rushes her, Naofumi acts instinctively and blocks his strike, but then the knights all suddenly adopt the notion that the Shield Hero has kidnapped the Second Princess, and they attack him in order to “rescue” her. Naofumi shields Melty while Raphtalia and Filo deal (non-lethal) blows to the other knights, but two of them aren’t fighting; they’re recording.

They magically alter that recording to make it look like the “Devil of the Shield’s” vicious slaves are massacring the knights, then present that fake footage all across the lands, making it much harder for Naofumi’s party to move about freely, keeping his reputation in the shitter (even after all the people he’s saved), and preventing him from acquiring the means to level up past 40.

It’s a dastardly plot that has Malty written all over it. While Naofumi considers the king to be involved as well, Melty vouches for her father, in whom she doesn’t want to lose hope of reconciling with the Shield Hero. When Naofumi decides his party will leave the country and head to Siltvelt, Melty offers to return home, but Naofumi, knowing Malty, warns her that will only get her killed.

So Melty joins the party, not as a hostage, but a willing companion. She learns what her father had done to Naofumi to make him hate him so, while Naofumi learns that Melromarc is a matrilineal monarchy, which means her mother the Queen is higher in rank than the King.

Those small moments of exposition aside, a good chunk of the episode is comprised of lovely sprawling vistas that dwarf the party as they trudge onward, all while Kevin Penkin’s lush, sublime score washes over it all. But they’re not alone out there in the wilderness: they’re being followed…and pursued.

Eventually Naofumi, Raphtalia, Filo and Melty are cornered at the edge of a sheer cliff, and the three heroes, all of them either willing or unwitting puppets of Malty’s treachery, descend upon Naofumi, ordering her to release Melty. Naofumi tries to talk sense to them, and even Melty makes a little headroom in calling for an end to “needless conflicts.”

But all of that progress is lost when Malty makes the supremely insidious suggestion that Naofumi has in his possession a shield that brainwashes anyone he talks to. That means not only Melty can’t be taken at her word, but Raphtalia (and more importantly for Motoyasu, Filo) are brainwashed too. Ren still has his doubts, but gives in to the inertia or Malty’s incessant scheming.

Naofumi decides retreat to be the best option, and he, Raphtalia and Melty jump onto Filo and start to fly away, but Filo is brought down and her strength sealed by a magical bangle prepared by the alchemists for Motoyasu to capture her. Melty finally whips out her own (water-based) magic in an attempt to get Filo freed, but Malty fires back with fire, ignoring Ren’s suggestion she maybe stop attacking the Crown Princess?

Malty dispenses with any pretense and unilaterally states that if Melty is brainwashed, she must die. Alright, then! I have to say, if Melty was chosen over her to be Crown Princess, you’d think the King and Queen would have done more to limit her powers and freedom of movement, because she has single-handedly really gummed up the works. Raphtalia manages to deliver some revenge when she slips in from behind stabs her with the magic sword she was gifted.

Filo regains her strength (and then some) with the gloves she got as a gift as well, while Naofumi splits the rock  formations with his Rage Shield, leaving Ren, Malty, Motoyasu and Itsuki on one side, unable to pursue for now.

They flee into the woods, where they’re approached by one of the Queen’s Shadows. The Queen summons Naofumi to her location at once, which just happens to be in the opposite direction of their original destination of Siltvelt. It also means backtracking to where they left Malty and the heroes.

With Malty burning through the forest, it’s clear that she’s not going to give up hunting for Naofumi or her sister that easily. Who knows if anyone will be able to rein her in now, as she’s really turned the villainy up to 11. As for Melty, she considers herself an official member of the party, and demands that Naofumi call her by her first name from now on, irking Raphtalia.

There was some great action, adventure, and above all music this week, but man alive does that First Princess steam my beans! My frustration might have knocked this down to an 8 if there wasn’t still hope she’ll get her just righteous comeuppance at some point.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 10 – Growing The Party

Naofumi has been scarred by the injustices he has suffered throughout his time in this world. And since a large quantity of those injustices were perpetrated by the Melromarc royal family, he’s instinctively distrustful of any Melromarcs, even Melty, who has shown him nothing but kindness.

As a result, he turns Melty away, despite the fact the Queen sent her to him explicitly to reconcile and undo the harm the King and Malty have done to him. It’s in Naofumi’s best interests to actually trust Melty and allow her to help him, but he just can’t, due to his history and stewing resentment.

But as the next Wave approaches, Naofumi still manages to run into a bit of good karma, as three warriors and two mages whose families he saved in Lute Village offer to join his party and fight beside him. He’ll only trust them if they cough up 150 silver pieces; hardly chump change.

He’s not the only one stiffing people: the cathedral charges fifteen gold pieces per person for the “class upgrades” he, Raphtalia and Filo will require in order to continue efficiently leveling up. When he produces enough for just Raph to be upgraded, an elder sister steps in presenting a decree from the king prohibiting them from providing any upgrades at any price.

If only Naofumi had heard Melty out rather than turn her away, he might’ve found an easier way around the king’s decree. Instead, he has to seek an upgrade through the slave dealer, who doesn’t provide that service but does offer to relieve Naofumi of five gold pieces in exchange for wyvern talons for Filo’s feet.

Filo’s new talons, combined with Raphtalia’s sharp new sword, make quick work of a job request to defeat a monster in the capital’s sewers. That night, as Naofumi dresses Raph’s wounds with holy water, Raphtalia worries about Naofumi’s vow that once all of the Waves are dealt with, he’ll return to his world, leaving her and Filo alone. The discussion is sidetracked when Filo wakes up and accuses Raph of getting “lovey-dovey.”

The next day they head out, encountering a village whose scant inhabitants are starving to death thanks in no small part to the actions of the Bow Hero Kawasumi Itsuki. Once again, the supposed heroic actions of a hero who isn’t Naofumi has appalling side effects.

Naofumi gets to finally confront both Kawasumi for what he did to the starving village, and Amaki Ren for the plague he caused by slaying the dragon. For their part, neither of them stuck around those places long enough to witness the consequences of their actions, and while Ren believes Naofumi, Itsuki doesn’t.

Naofumi’s distrust for everybody that isn’t Raph or Filo is matched only by the other heros’ continued animosity towards him. It’s a vicious cycle, and so far only Ren has taken a logical approach resembling reconciliation. The other two seem like lost causes in terms of ever seeing Naofumi as anything other than bad news.

We’ll see if despite that there will be any improved collaboration between the four heroes when the second Wave appears, which it does by episode’s end. By this time, the five Lute villagers scounge together the silver for Naofumi, who gives them the accessory they thought they were buying without taking their silver.

He tells them instead to use the cash to buy better equipment. They’ll need it in the battles to come. Naofumi doesn’t even trust these people, who owe their lives and those of their families to his heroics. But maybe, in time, he can, and that will lead to him trusting others who mean him no harm, like Melty and her mother the Queen.

Domestic na Kanojo – 06 – Exalting In Life’s Freedoms

With all the women he’s juggling, Natsuo has barely had any time to work on the novel he’s writing. During a study period, he reads on the roof, and discovers Kiriya-sensei up there smoking. Kiriya is happy to see a student reading literature, and when Natsuo tells him who he’s reading, he tells him he has good taste, then proceeds to…flirt with him? Whatever the case, Natsuo has piqued Kiriya’s interest.

Natsuo also seems to have inadvertently drawn the mild ire of one Tachibana Rui, who reports that Momo loved the yukiudon he made her while pointing out that he never made it for her at home. Natsuo assumes Rui doesn’t know what a jealous face she’s making, but wishes she wouldn’t make it. Rui is also there to ask him a favor—and not a sex favor, this time! She just wants him to accompany her as she checks out clubs. Natsuo’s guy friends tag along, but only to watch the girls playing sports.

Both Rui and Natsuo seem to find a cultural club with promise in the Literature Club, but no one is there to greet them. Natsuo sees a book on the shelf both he and Rui are interested, and so “borrows” it. When he returns to return the book, he hears a tiny voice within the stacks, and spots Kiriya-sensei seemingly kissing a female student.

He tries to flee but his shoe squeeks, and Kiriya introduces the girl, Ashihara Miu (voiced by the very talented Kohara Konomi of Tsuki ga Kirei fame), who explains that she was helping sensei with an eyelash. Considering how earnest Miu turns out to be, I’m mostly able to go along with her explanation. Natsuo is thus caught having “borrowed” a book, and Kiriya blackmails him into joining Miu as the second and only other member of the Literature Club, of which he is the faculty adviser.

Natsuo’s first duty as club member is to help Miu hand out flyers to recruit other members. It takes him until sunset but he manages to distribute all of his share, only to find Miu in the back entrance, having failed to hand out a single flyer. Natsuo reassures that her there are some things some people just can’t do, and it falls upon those who can to do them. Miu is definitely grateful for his kindness.

The next day in club things get a little weird, when Kiriya-sensei, basically reading from his two students’ face that they are romance novel writers with very little if any romantic experience, and suggests that the two gain some by…kissing each other. Yeah, you read that right.

[Slowly raises hand] Um, I’m sorry, but that’s kinda fucked up? Even a suggestion coming from an adult in authority can sound like an order a kid can’t refuse, and indeed, Miu goes along with it, closing her eyes and dutifully awaiting Natsuo’s kiss. He leans in, but ultimately can’t do it when he sees a tear welling in Miu’s eye. It just feels wrong…because it is. Kiriya doesn’t force the issue and moves on, but still…this guy has serious boundary issues, and might need a good arresting.

That night, as Natsuo works on more flyers, Hana gives her two cents about Kiriya (he’s “a bit odd”—no shit, Sherlock!—but performs his faculty duties “flawlessly” and so is given a wide berth). As for Rui, watching Natsuo become so invested in something leads to her deciding to join his little club right there on the spot. (BTW I did enjoy Hana playfully feeding both Natsuo and Rui chocolates to cheer them up).

The next day Natsuo and Miu exchange apologies and move beyond the previous day’s strangeness, not by talking but by exchanging notes in the library, thereby upholding the silence rule. Natsuo does, however, manage to make Miu laugh with his artist’s impression of Kiriya (whom Miu assures him never made her do anything like yesterday before, which again, I hope she’s right).

Miu is glad to hear Natsuo has an “acquaintance” interested in joining, and even more delighted when he shows up with two new members: Rui and Momo (who tagged along because…she felt like it?) Far from threatened by the presence of two cute girls flanking Natsuo, Miu transitions seamlessly into a pleasant chat with Natsuo, which has an particular affect on Rui she can’t yet identify.

One Sunday, Rui just needs to get out of the house, and ends up at the cafe, the teenage equivalent of going day-drinking, asks her barista why she’s felt so “off” lately, before proceeding to recite the textbook definition of falling in love. Since Rui’s never done so, she worries there’s something wrong with her, but the owner (a former yakuza who fell for a rival lieutenant at first sight) assures her it’s perfectly normal.

He doesn’t go so far as to tell her she’s feeling what he felt, but encourages her to listen to her heart and follow where it leads. So yup, despite being the person to sleep with Natsuo and then drop him like a hot potato, there’s a lot to indicate Rui has real feelings for him.

That’s probably bad news for Rui, as she was so clear so often that the sex they had was without feeling and only to gain experience, Natsuo may be infatuated with Rui the least of the now four women in his circle.

Before and after sleeping with Rui, he loved Hana, after all, and he’s probably not 100% over her. With Shuu out of the picture, now Hana seems interested in spending time with Natsuo (and only Natsuo) but whether she has any romantic intentions or simply wants a good relationship with her stepbrother, we shall see.

I assume Natsuo sees Momo more as someone he needs to look after (and out for) lest she descend into her worst impulses—which we learn cause her to drop in class rankings, as she’s as voracious a studier when she doesn’t have a man as a slacker when she does.

Finally, there’s the newcomer Miu, who actually looks like the healthiest, best fit for Natsuo (it doesn’t hurt that she’s adorable as all get-out).  They share a passion for reading and writing, have great chemistry right out of the gate, and most importantly, she’s not family! Natsuo certainly has no shortage of choice when it comes to women. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to being pushed and pulled by all their opposing interests.

Domestic na Kanojo – 05 – There Was No Going Out

With Hina breaking up with Shuu and the family back together and humming along nicely at home, Rui is enthusiastically approached by a classmate named Kashiwabara Momo. She asks if Rui will be her friend,  insists on first-name-basis, and gives her one of the dozens of plushie dolls she has tied to her bag, which…Yikes!

When Rui’s lunch group sees the doll, one of them promptly tosses it in the bin, warning Rui not to catch Momo’s “flirt bug.” There are all kinds of rumors about her sleeping with one guy after the other; even multiple guys at a time. Rui calmly gets up and retrieves the doll from the trash; rumors or no, it’s up to her whether she hangs out with Momo.

Rui’s decision is to hang out with Momo (who’s already made a doll in Rui’s likeness) after school and try to get the proper measure of her. By Momo’s admission she’s been with a lot of guys (thirty by her count), but never more than one at a time, and always in proper relationships that almost always seem to end badly (including one case where the guy locked her up) Yikes!

While at the bookstore, Rui and Momo happen to bump into Natsuo, whom he’s introduced to Momo as “something like” a friend of Rui’s. Then we see first hand how Momo goes about pursuing a guy: she expresses interest in the books he likes, accepts his offer to lend her one, and is then fully smitten when he draws her close to protect her from an errant biker. And that’s pretty much it: she’s totally into him, and asks Rui if it’s okay to ask him out.

Momo is being courteous to her friend by giving her the opportunity to decline the pairing, in the instance she likes Natsuo that way (Momo doesn’t know their domestic situation). In the moment, Rui simply tells her there’s no problem, but it leaves her uneasy later, no doubt due to feelings related to Natsuo she can’t quite process.

But she said no problem, so Momo goes ahead with her pursuit … and rather aggressively, I might add, presenting him with her LINE ID and a note asking if he’ll go on a date with her later, then incidentally presenting her side-tie panties in a quick spin move. But something comes up, and even if Natsuo used LINE (he doesn’t), that something is more important: Rui suddenly develops a severe fever.

No one else is home, so it’s up to Natsuo to nurse her, which means wiping down her sweaty body (“Younger sister, sick person” is his mantra) and even administering a suppository. (Yikes!) Without trying, the two achieved a much deeper level of intimacy, and there’s no hiding anything…which is likely why Rui (normally very direct) feels comfortable brings up Momo’s crush on him, and her uneasiness about that.

The next day Momo isn’t mad (she’s relieved his lack of LINE, not the fact he didn’t like her, was the reason) and has prepared an extremely elaborate homemade lunch with him. They don’t get through that much of it when Momo invites him to her place, and before Natsuo knows it, he’s in her bedroom making out.

They’re interrupted by a text from Rui saying the rest of the fam will be home late again and asking what he wants for dinner. It would be sweet and comforting, if it didn’t so amplify Natsuo’s self-consciousness about his present situation.

The plot further thickens when Momo tells him she never has dinner with her parents, who are virtually never home, before asking him to unbutton her top. Natsuo steels his resolve: sleeping and going out with Momo will help him get over Sensei.

Then Natsuo notices the scars on Momo’s wrists, essentially ending Natsuo’s advance despite her saying they’re “not recent.” Those scars are the final piece of the Kashiwabara Momo puzzle. The compulsive doll-making,  lunch-making, sex, and her scars: they all point towards an emotionally vulnerable and above all desperately lonely young woman.

She’s trying the best she can to exist in this world, perhaps the only way she knows how, by offering all of herself to anyone who will acknowledge her existence. But the world has not been kind to her in return. She assumes Natsuo will be the latest guy to freak out about her scars and leave her alone again, but instead he asks for the location of the nearest grocery store.

He whips her up the one dish in which he has reasonable confidence in making, and while it’s hardly haute cuisine, it’s all in the feelings and intent with which he made it. Natsuo didn’t make her dinner something out of it in return, like many if not all the other people Momo’s ever known. He just wanted her to experience what it was like to eat with someone else, something he realizes he’s taken for granted with his new bigger family.

The meal and sentiment bring Momo to joyful tears, as no one has ever made such a gesture to her. But Natsuo insists he won’t go out with her, because he doesn’t want either of them going out with “people we need to depend on.” He sees in Momo a little of the part of himself that feels desperately lonely and incomplete without Sensei, after all.

Casual sex with Momo wasn’t going solve his problem, any more than it ever solved Momo’s problems—it was only going to be a temporary salve. But a lasting friendship? That just might do the trick.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 05 – Lute Grand Prix

We haven’t yet seen Queen Melromarc, as she’s currently in another castle, but it’s clear she’s staying on top of things, as evidenced by the detailed report given by one of her ninja (for lack of a better word).  That report also confirms that Malty has been putting her father up to some actions of which the Queen is not a fan. Say, continuing to treat the Shield Hero like garbage based on Malty’s false accusations of rape.

The King tries to cheat Naofumi out of his 500 silver-piece Wave reward (only an eighth of the Spear Hero’s take) by charging him for removing Raphtalia’s slave crest. Once again Amaki and Kawasumi come to Naofumi’s defense—or at least the side of justice and fairness. Thanks to their protests, Naofumi gets his 500 pieces and, at Raph’s urging, peaces out.

Their first errand upon leaving the palace is for Raphtalia to get a tattoo have her slave crest re-activated, at her request, as a symbol of his faith in her. One would think if he had faith he wouldn’t need a real crest, but Raphtalia is insistent. Naofumi also buys a gatcha-style lottery egg, from which either a filolial (chocobo) chick hatches.

Naofumi also learns that some of the merchants in the capital had connections to Lute Village, and even if they’re still on the fence with him as a person, they can’t deny he saved their loved ones. Their personal honor demands they reward him, whether it’s with a book on advanced medicines (which he can’t yet read) or a magical grimoire (which the mage warns will be tough to learn).

The filolial chick, whom Naofumi somewhat unimaginatively names “Filo”, eats ravenously and quickly grows to full size within two days, enabling him to ride her. They travel to Lute Village, and not soon thereafter Malty and Motoyasu also arrive.

Malty is clearly in control here as she reads a royal decree that anyone who enters or exits the village will have to pay an exorbitant amount (equal to 100 nights at the inn, food included). Naofumi is there to make a stink about it, but Malty wants her tax, and Motoyasu isn’t about to deny her.

Who does swoop in to deny her, however, are her mother’s ninja. They deliver a scroll to Malty that pisses her off when she reads it, and takes it out on Naofumi by challenging him to a race: her Motoyasu’s dragon vs. Naofumi’s filolial.

Motoyasu mocks Filo right up until Filo kicks his balls halfway to the next kingdom. Filo looks supremely confident she can beat the dragon, so all that remains is to what extent Malty will try to hamper that victory by cheating.

And once the race starts, boy does she ever cheat. Her soldiers cast magical spells that benefit Motoyasu and his slow-ass dragon three times, and Flio still manages to win by a beak. I gotta say, I’m quickly growing weary of Malty’s shtick: all she needs is a mustache to twirl.

Thankfully, Malty is taken down a peg or two this week, both when the other two heroes help Naofumi, and when the Queen’s ninja confirm that she and her men cheated. Her comeback is that “We’ll leave for now, but this isn’t over!” Groan. Naofumi needs better antagonists, or for the existing ones to find a new tune.

As for Filo, she balloons in size right after the race. Rather than have rumors spread of taking Lute’s rebuilding funds, Naofumi accepts an old wagon as a reward—a wagon that Raphtalia has trouble riding in without getting motion sickness. They rest beside a tree for the night, but when morning comes it brings with it a surprise: Filo has transformed into a human—a loli, no less—who is, predictably, hungry. And then there were three.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 04 – Cigs & Papers

An harmless question about what you want to do before you die turns into trip down Bad Girl Lane, as Chio makes half-good on her dream of grabbing a cigarette that’s been tossed from a car.

Half, because there’s no time to toss it back and wryly say “you dropped something!”—which would have been awesome—and hurts her shoulder. BUT…she holds on to the barely-smoked cigarette, and immediately becomes fascinated by its seductive allure.

Manana, always thinking ahead of ways to advance her social position, snaps some photos of Chio holding the cigarette oh-so-close to her mouth (the creator’s more adult roots are evident here).

But then Chio suggests Manana pose for some shots, and the two get super into it, with Manana snapping an EPIC shot of Chio with some crows taking flight, while Manana does a pretty badass pose herself—were it not for the cat in the background throwing up!

Chio wants to take more pics, but they have to get to school (the interior of which we still have yet to see…and hopefully never will!). That means smuggling the cigarette onto school grounds, and getting past the teacher in pink Crocs who guards the entrance.

She fails—the teach smells the tobacco immediately—but with nothing to lose Chio simply tells the truth, and he pats her on the head for a job well-done. This doesn’t sit well with Chio, who doesn’t like the fact it never occured to him she would actually smoke (particularly that brand), and when she says she’s a bad girl and strikes a pose, the students around her only laugh. Poor Chio!

One person who has always taken Chio seriously is Andou, who still calls her Bloody Butterfly by habit when they encounter each other quite by chance. Manana hates the prospect of ever having to work for a living, and bets Chio the first adult they see will tell them they hate their job.

Unfortunately for Manana, that first adult is Andou, who won’t go so far as to say what Manana wants him to say. Having seen him fall so far, Chio decides to help him out with his newspaper delivery, and she and Manana learn how grouchy Showa-era people get when their paper is late (this is an excellent Japan-o-centric joke an outsider can still appreciate).

It’s looking like, former bike gang leader or no, Andou’s job just plain blows any way you look at it, but Chio remains optimistic throughout, not letting Andou resort to despair. She uses her surprising athleticism to sneakily drop a paper in a particularly prickly customer’s mail slot, relying on Andou to catch her when she has to leap over a second-floor balcony.

Before long, all the papers are delivered, and far from still wanting to hang it up, Andou is inspired enough by Chio’s support to keep the job for a little while longer. The end result of all this is, of course, that Chio wins the bet and vociferously demands her 100 yen from an exasperated Manana who had no idea Chio would take it this far.

But that’s Chio: at the end of the day she’s a very passionate, intense person who will do whatever it takes, whether it’s getting to school on time or convincing a former bike gangster not to quit a delivery gig. She’s not the ordinary, quite, below average girl she always says she wants to be.

Manana proves just as adept at greeting a classmate in the most ambiguous way possible…at least until that classmate worries that Manana is sick, Manana takes the play-acting further, and draws more classmates to her. At least in this, Chio decides to be passive, running away from the increasingly unpleasant spectacle.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 03 – This Suddenly Turned Troublesome

On one of the instances when Chio is early for school, she likes to walk through the park, but this particular morning she comes afoul of Andou, the biker gang member she managed to defeat through bluffing and luck, and his gang, who is incredulous about their leader’s claims of the “Bloody Butterfly’s” prowess.

After making a suitably ominous entrance, Chio takes Andou aside and tells him it was all a misunderstanding. However, Andou is so tickled pink at the fact he was so completely hoodwinked by a normal high school girl, he actually keeps the game going with his subordinates, making it seem like she beat him up again and forcing them to flee without their bikes.

Chio didn’t ask for any of this…but she also didn’t simply walk away from the situation, because she was worried it would adversely affect her reputation in violation of her “below average philosophy.” That, and using her online handle IRL also backfired.

 

Despite her desire to live a “peaceful life”, word of the “Bloody Butterfly” even comes to her friend Manana (who I just realized this episode was voiced by Soul Eater’s Maka Albarn’s seiyu. The two end up play-fighting but Chio easily wins because she’s actualy very athletically gifted; she just chooses not to exhibit those skills when she can help it.

Of course, the desire for attention and validation leads Chio to exhibiting her athletic skills, darting left and right while chanting “Kabbadi”…but ends up attracting the attention of her school’s Kabbadi club, third-year Kushitori Madoka. Also, her school has a friggin’ Kabbadi club…and no, Kabbadi is not a sport the show made up!

Kushitori explains it to her polite kohai who actually don’t care, but also can’t get out of the hole they’ve dug lest they admit they were just making fun of the sport their senpai loves. This results in a quick lesson and a quick game for good measure.

Because Manana is not particularly athletically gifted, she’s tagged out immediately, but Chio not only hangs in there against two jocks in Madoka and Yuki, but uses the knowledge she attained by carefully observing Madoka’s play to come up with a strategy to defeat her.

Once Madoka grabbed her in a defensive move, Chio used her knowledge that Madoka likes girls to tangle her up with Yuki, making Madoka choose between holding on to Chio or releasing her so she can grope Yuki. It’s a brilliant plan that relies on the perversity of her opponent while at the same time requiring a certain measure of perversity to devise.

One thing is crystal clear three episodes in: Chio is not as below average as she claims or labors to be. She has both the skills and the luck to rise to the top of her school, only she just…doesn’t wanna. And that’s fine!

One Punch Man – 12 (Fin)

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With just one episode left, One Punch Man doesn’t waste any time with an OP or recap; we’re plunged right into the hugely-anticipated Saitama-Boros bout. It’s everything I could have hoped for. As Saitama claims an early arm from Boros, below the ship the S’s finish off their opponent, led by Silverfang/Bang, who grabs the foe’s core before he can regenerate his body around it, showing sprightliness beyond his years. Drive Knight also warns Genos not to trust Metal Knight, potentially presaging interhero treachery.

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Meantime, it’s back to the Main Event. Yep, all my shows are ending the same way, but that’s okay, as they’ve all used slightly different approaches to the Final Epic Duel. OPM gets into abstract territory by unleashing a lush and dazzling rainbow of colors, textures, movements, and styles of line, with ironically very little damage being done to either combatant. Hell, Saitama is punched literally To The Moon—what I assume is an equally iconic image in the manga.

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But it’s no big; Saitama takes advantage of the Moon’s weaker gravity to blast himself right back to ex-City A (causing the alien ship to list in the process) and the battle continues. It’s clear both combatants are having a lot of fun, now that they’re fighting opponents who won’t go down instantly. And many a frame in the fight would make a great piece of art to hang on your wall.

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After hearing about so many special moves from so many foes, Saitama decides to break out his ulitmate move: Killer Move: Serious Series…Serious Punch. And No, he doesn’t need to work on that awful name; the fact that it’s awful matches his persona perfectly…not to mention reminds me of “The Paddling of the Swollen Ass…With Paddles.”

Whatever it’s called, it’s the punch that defeats Boros, who remains alive long enough to thank Saitama for a good fight, happy that the prophecy proved true, but also very cognizant of the fact Saitama had plenty of strength to spare and held back; Boros never had a chance of beating him. It’s nice to hear an enemy admit defeat so graciously at the end, rather than cursing and fuming his way to the grave, as many a final boss are wont to do.

As for his surviving crew? The Class S’s round them up and take them into custody, but before that, Amai Mask confronts them and tells them what a terrible job they did due to the destruction of City A and resultant damage to the Hero Association’s reputation. He doubts the media and public will buy that they “did their best”, even though they did.

Amai Mask thus reveals himself as the ultimate villain in OPM; the guy who’s never satisfied with a victory he did not himself create. Metal Knight swoops in like a vulture to pick the bones of the alien ship and develop new weapons…for, uh, for peace. Right.

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Due to coincidence, Tornado happens to be floating right by the exact spot where Saitama bursts out of the wreckage of the ship, where he’s met by an elated Genos. Both of them ignore the little green esper until she protests, and Genos shows some rare saltiness by calling her a spoiled brat and ordering her silence (Bang breaks up an extended fight).

While Amai Mask is initially right and the destruction of City A remains in the headlines for months, news about it, and any public disgust that went with it, eventually fades. The Hero Association builds an even bigger, stronger headquarters, and builds highways sprawling out like spokes from a wheel to every city for quick dispatch of heroes. Humanity comes out of its clash with Boros’ ship stronger than ever.

And, in a comforting epilogue, Saitama and Genos remain Master and Apprentice in mopping up baddies who’d threaten humanity. Sure, there’s still a lot of collateral damage in such battles, but buildings and infrastructure can always be rebuilt. Evil must be punched, and Saitama and Genos will keep punching, for fun and profit. Here’s hoping someday we get to watch them punch more.

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One Punch Man – 11

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I’d call this episode a non-stop action thrill ride, but to its credit, it’s not exactly non-stop. Sure, millions of lives hang in the balance as the Class S heroes fight the alien invaders, but there’s a lovely nonchalance about how they’re fighting, almost like another day at the office, while the ship up above also offers moments of workplace comedy and the inefficiencies of bureaucracy, even on a space pirate ship.

Saitama is laying absolute waste to the ship, but the alien leader’s lieutenants are either off doing their own stuff, hiding out on the bridge, or already dead. That leader, the one-eyed Lord Boros, seems unconcerned with the damage to his ship; instead, he seems to want to meet with the one doing the damage.

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But he doesn’t make it easy. Saitama loses his way, then ends up on the bridge by not falling for the oldest trick in the book (being told to go right when he should go left). Then the blue octopus-like lieutenant shows off his elaborate destructive powers, but is really just tossing lots of rocks at Saitama, who dodges everything, then splits the guy’s head in two with just one well-struck stone.

Down on the surface, the heroes eventually figure out they need to destroy the cores of their foe to prevent him from regenerating. Before they do, a lower-class hero laments that as Class S heroes they’re very stuck in their ways and not prone to listening to their inferiors, even if their ways are futile and listening could get them somewhere.

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When the progress bar on the artillery department tech’s computer finally fills up, the ship prepares to unleash another barrage of shells on the surface, killing all the heroes below, but Tornado arrives just in time and shows just how useful she is to have around by stopping the falling shells, then turning them around and launching them at the ship.

Saitama doesn’t see the effects of that damage, as he’s deep in the core of the ship, having finally found the Guy In Charge, Boros, who tells Saitama here there to fulfill the prophecy of a warrior who is his match in a fight, thus curing him of his existential ennui.

We’ve seen how similar Saitama and Mumen Rider are, but Boros could be an example of what happens when someone with Saitama’s level of ability (or something close to it)  uses his power for so long he runs out of enemies to fight.

Saitama destroys his armor easily enough, but Boros gets right back up, unharmed by one punch and unleashing his full power. Only one episode left to see how many more punches Saitama will need to send this jerk packing.

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One Punch Man – 10

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After taking out the “Lizard King”, who she dispatches far easier than one would deal with a hangnail, the tiny, green-haired Terrible Tornado is immediately picked back up by the Hero Association. We get a little whiff of her power, which seems to involve summoning whatever means are necessary to destroy her target: in this case a meteor (ironic considering her dinosauric opponent). Another superpower? Keeping her panties (if she even wears any) from being seen despite the extremely high cut of her dress!

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This week Saitama finally meets Tornado, who doesn’t think much of him, and probably wouldn’t even if she saw him in action. Saitama, despite being a B among S’s, was able to tag along and get involved in this high-level meeting because, well, Genos and Bang let him come, and he had nothing else to do (I guess he watered his cactus well).

The Class-S elites gathered in the war room are quite the collection of characters, including a man in a dog suit and a fat guy who keeps eating throughout the meeting (the background eating sounds were pretty funny throughout all the dramatic dialogue). Apparently, a venerable and 100% accurate fortune teller has recently died, but not before giving one final prophecy, portending “big trouble” in the next six months.

Sure enough, a swarm of tengu descend on Hero Association HQ in City A, but they’re quickly sliced in half…but not by heroes.

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No, they’re killed by even more powerful enemies: aliens from outer space! In a huge, mean-looking mothership that wouldn’t look out of place in Nausicaa. The ship lays waste to City A—a more than 98% loss—but the Class S heroes work together to make sure that’s where the destruction ends. That won’t be easy, as the wounds by the swords of Atomic Samurai and his student on the ugly-looking aliens heal as quickly as they can be made.

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But as the heroes decide how they’re going to deal with the big alien mothership, Saitama, acting alone, burrows out of HQ, leaps up into the ship, and just starts pounding people. It’s his style: getting things done when nobody is looking, despite the close proximity of all those pairs of important, influential eyes.

Then again, the likes of Bang, #3 overall, believes he’ll soon reach the upper crust of Class S. Doing stuff like bringing down an alien mothership and defeating the cyclopic alien boss will certainly help his case. The question is, whether he’ll be able to take any credit, or once again be derided by the public as a hanger-on/fifth wheel/glory hog.

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One Punch Man – 09

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ENTER GENOS. Genos doesn’t mess around this week. He gets right down to the Sea King Clobberin’. And it looks, for a hot moment, like he was sufficient, until the Sea King swoops back into view and clobbers him right back. Genos holds out, buying valuable time for the surely en route-by-now Saitama, but when a little girl cheering him on gets targeted by the King’s acid loogie, he blocks it, at great physical cost.

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All I can say is goddamn, it’s a good thing Genos is a cyborg primarily composed of replaceable artificial parts, becaue he looks near-as-makes-no-difference GONE after that acid’s done eating away at him. For a usually funny show, this is a horrific, visceral image that instills despair in that little girl.

And then, Mumen Rider tosses his bike at the Sea King. That gentle rattle of the King’s body brings the laughter right back. Mumen, unlike Saitama, belongs in Class C, at least as far as strength and ability is concerned. But he has a Class S heart, and that’s what matters as he refuses to back down and even tries to feed (in vain) off of the support of the crowd. Again, while he has no hope of victory, he’s buying time for Saitama.

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ENTER SAITAMA. The man we’ve all been waiting to see saunter up to the Sea King. The King sends Saitama’s head gently, hilariously bobbling with his initial punch, but that’s all he does. Saitama doesn’t want to stand in the rain much longer, so he wants to get this over with his usual way, so he does, blasting a hole through the Sea King so hard, the force of his punch actually blows the rainclouds away, an awesome effect. It’s all over; Perfect Victory to Saitama. The crowd of evacuees vociferously voice their gratitude.

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The next day Saitama and (a fully repaired!) Genos receive fan mail via HA delivery drone (they’re going to be a thing, people!), but the first letter Saitama opens is a violently scrawled accusation that’s he’s a cheat who should burn in hell. So hate mail.  We’re helpfully sent back to the immediate aftermath of his defeat of Sea King. There, we see just how much one or two bad apples spoil the bunch when it comes to skewing the opinion of the whole.

One of the evacuees, whose character design seems to have been painstakingly developed to be as loathsome, adversarial, and (one!-)punchable as possible, brings up the fact that this bald guy isn’t necessarily strong, but the other heroes who fell before him were weak. He goes on to call the entire hero class system into question.

This angers Saitama, but he reacts quite differently than I expected: he embraces his role as the guy who “just” delivered the finishing blow. His self-depricating words are a means of preserving the sacrifice of the heroes before him, and he doubles down on racing in at the last second to steal wins off of them. He’s not about to let other heroes who fought with everything they had be thrown under the bus because of his mis-classification. What was left of Genos at the time manages a grin of appreciation; his master truly is amazing.

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And while Saitama’s public image may not be what he might have wanted going into this whole pro hero thing, the fact is paddling against the flow of public opinion is never really going to be worthwhile as long as he’s Class C. That changes after this fight, as he becomes ranked first in C, with the option to be promoted to B after an exhaustive interview; an option he accepts, and which puts him on Amai Mask’s radar as a potential threat closing fast.

Saitama did get one hastily-scrawled letter expressing genuine thanks for his heroism. Turns out it was from Mumen Rider, who treats him to dinner at a food stand. Unlike Saitama, Mumen may be exactly where he should be—atop Class C—but that doesn’t matter to Saitama.

Mumen gave him a ride when he needed one, stood up to the Demon-class Sea King, and took an epic beating that in hindsight couldn’t have been that bad as he’s out of the hospital and ambulatory not long thereafter. We see mutual respect at that stand. And Mumen’s thanks means more to Saitama than the impersonal acceptance and love of the masses. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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Nisekoi 2 – 07

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With the show lagging of late, it decides to finally introduce Kosaki’s little sister Haru. However she’s revealed in the source material, she’s possibly the Spring’s worst-kept secret owing to her prominent presence in the OP, and brought with her the potential to shake things up. Too bad she’s a dull, ill-informed, unfair, irritating conclusion-jumping, faint shadow of Kosaki; herself a shadow of Chitoge and even Tsugumi of late.

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Things start off okay, with Haru heading to her first day of co-ed high school after attending a girls-only middle school. She’s so un-used to guys, being confronted by a posse of goons causes her to pass out, but not before she realizes she’s being saved from said goons by an anonymous but possibly dreamy classmate, whom she dubs her “Prince” upon waking up in the nurse’s office.

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When Haru bumps into someone, scattering all her printouts, Raku, the guy who saved her, comes over to help, and she’s heartened to see there are kind and gentle guys at her school. Only when she hears he’s the Notorious Yakuza-Backed Demon School Casanova King Ichijou Raku, she backs way off, warning she won’t let him lay a hand on her sister ever again before an inexplicable wind blows her (extremely short) skirt up, giving Raku a peek at her bear-themed pantsu. Har har.

Granted, Raku makes two mistakes here: First, he doesn’t’ just come out and tell her he’s the one who saved her and carried her to the nurse’s office, which in addition to picking up the papers, means she actually witnessed three kind acts that disprove his seedy reputation. But his second error was not only to not turn around immediately at the sight of Haru’s skirt coming up, but even muttering about the bears like an idiot, killing any goodwill he may have had with her.

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This hallway scene draws attention to itself with its interminable length, but maybe that’s the point: it is used to demonstrate, simply by having all of the other girls in Raku walk through that hall one by one, that Raku is a player, and we can’t fault a relatively sheltered Haru for thinking that, especially with Marika clinging to him as his gorgeous  “girlfriend” stands by (Chitoge actualy finds Haru cute—and she is—but she doesn’t know her yet). But the fact neither Raku nor Kosaki can set the record straight is more frustrating than funny.

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Things take a turn for the absurd when Haru, apparently an animal lover, decides to check out the same club Raku’s in. She overhears him wishing Kosaki was around and uses that as an excuse to yell at him some more about infidelity, before the goose inexplicably flips her skirt a second time. C’mon now, that was lame the first time!

This episode is redeemed by Kosaki’s simple but heartfelt explanation for why she thinks Raku is so sweet, which Haru points out is really an explanation for why Kosaki loves him. Haru is still skeptical, and I imagine she’ll remain so for at least another episode or two, but I’m weary of the fact that every time he demonstrates he’s a good guy, that fucking skirt flies up in his face.

I’m hoping Haru isn’t a lost cause, but her long-awaited intro—Adventures in Angry Little Sisterland—bombed. I came away frustrated so much time was spent on her as opposed to, say, any other character…even Paula, who has apparently decided to transfer to Raku’s school.

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