Vanitas no Carte – 14 – Nu au Coin du Feu

Jeanne’s complex relationship with Vanitas gains a new layer as she rescues him from dying of exposure, finds a cabin, and orders him to disrobe. The two sit by the fire together, naked under a blanket. While she’s most often disgusted by his usual arrogance and terseness, she can’t help but find this vulnerable side of him refreshing…even cute.

On the surface, nothing she does for Vanitas is with romantic or amorous intent—even feeding him water with her mouth—she’s just helping to save someone who helped her. But it’s impossible to ignore their history together thus far—all their scenes here are sexy as hell. Vanitas even tells her that they want different things: he wants to save the Beast and she’s been ordered to execute it.

That makes them foes in this enterprise, and she’d be better off letting him die. Of course, Jeanne isn’t going to do that. Instead, she tells Vanitas why she feels responsible not just for getting Vanita’s wounded by a poisoned blade, but for the whole Beast of Gevaudan affair. When she was a little girl, she met the vampire Chloé d’Apchier while left in the care of the Marquis d’Aphcier. Chloé was like a big sister and Jeanne loved her, but that no longer matters: she’s killed scores of people, and must now answer for it.

The reason Jeanne is here is that she failed the first time, but Ruthven gave her a second (and probably last) chance to do it. The next morning, when Jeanne is far more flustered than the fully-recovered Vanitas by the previous evening’s activities, she finds him speaking with Johan, and eventually Dante shows up as well. After threatening both Dhams to tell him everything about this Beast situation, he bids the four of them make haste to the castle to retrieve Noé.

Vanitas is right to worry—Noé wakes up in an unfamiliar bed with the tiny vampire lying on top of him sucking his blood. Despite Chloé being tiny, Noé is so weakened from the battle that he can barely move, leaving him completely at her mercy. If she wants another taste of his blood (and the memories it reveals—though that’s not touched upon here), there’s nothing stopping her…

Except for her attendant, Jean-Jacques, who scolds her for sucking someone’s blood without their consent while also expressing deep loathing for the owner of the other neck she bit. That said, JJ presents Noé with a safe-and-sound Murr and his freshly cleaned and mended clothes. When Noé meets Chloé and JJ in the banquet hall, they’re accompanied by a troupe of musical automatons…along with Naenia.

It addition to being its usual sexy self, this episode of Vanitas added texture to what had initially been labeled a simple mission of kill-or-save the Beast. Chloé is an intriguing potential antagonist, but despite her apparent alliance to Naenia doesn’t come off as pure evil; she was kind to Jeanne, after all.

Instead, as is typical of ancient vampires, she seems to float over everything and everyone, seeking nothing but entertainment and satisfaction out of this scenario…a balm for the ennui of the centuries.

SAKUGAN – 12 (FIN) – THICKER THAN BLOOD

The Big Twist that starts the SAKUGAN finale is that Memenpu actually is a “Rainbow Child”, a child with an exceptionally advanced brain. This not only explains why she’s a genius, but what the “place in her dream” is all about: it was never a dream, it was a memory. Rainbow Children retain vivid memories even from their infancy. As Rainbow Children were bred to be the guardians of the Labyrinth, they are anathema to Shibito, who want them all dead.

Fortunately, Muro’s boss doesn’t let her kill Memenpu right away, even though it’s debatable what if anything he intends to do with her before killing her. This gives the remaining members of Team Memenpu the time they need to zero in on her location and rescue her. It’s definitely a team effort, with Yuri using a second-hand computer in a store to guide Gagumber and Zackletu, then Zack distracting both Shibito and the Bureau with sheer ballistic chaos.

Gagumber locates Memenpu, but by then she’s been placed in a bell jar, which soon shatters due to the Animus dripping on top of it. Memenpu seems to be immune to its deleterious effects due to her Rainbow-ness. But by the time her pops arrives, Muro’s boss (I don’t believe we got his name) has convinced Memenpu that she has no father. Whether their surroundings were meant to evoke that same father-y scene from Empire, I don’t know.

All’s I know is, this Shibito guy is a huge prick for messing with Memenpu’s head, and for all her advanced intellect, Memenpu betrays just how sensitive and naïve she his, simply accepting the guy’s words about Gagumber not being her father. She even puts herself between the guy and Gagumber, offering up herself in exchange for her not-dad’s safety.

Gagumber, rightfully so, says fuck that, treading through the shallow pool of Animus to reach Memenpu, melting away his boots and burning his feet. He tells her he is, always was, and always will be her father, and she is, always was, and always will be his daughter. Whatever she wants to do and wherever it leads them, he’ll be by her side on her journey. Memenpu, realizing she does have a dad in Gagumber after all, has herself a good cry in his arms.

Seemingly moved by this dramatic and cathartic exchange, the Shibito boss decides to let Memenpu and Gagumber go…for now. Gagumber recharges Big Tony and they take the shortest route back to Dream Colony proper—by drilling through the colony’s retaining wall. There, Gagumber zeroes in on Muro and blasts her through a hole in the floor for making his daughter cry.

There’s a ceremony honoring Team Memenpu hosted by Merooro, but when he produces arrest warrants and the team is surrounded by Bureau cops and bots, Memenpu unleashes a cloud of purple smoke from Tony and the quartet escapes with the Bureau in hot pursuit. Not sure why Merooro held a ceremony just to arrest them, but whatevs.

Back on the Labyrinth “road”, Memenpu leads her team on their original mission: to find the place in her dreams, come what may. It’s what she truly wants to do, and that’s more than enough for Gagumber to accompany her, and by extension Zack and Yuri. It’s been fun watching this found family iron out their warts and beat the bad guys…fun enough that I’ll likely give the expected second season a watch.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The World’s Finest Assassin – 12 (Fin) – Gungnir Big or Gae Bolg Home

We know it’s going to be a different kind of episode when we begin with the Robo-Goddess in her realm, which has taken on the stark monochromatic aesthetic of the OP (which remains my favorite of the Fall). It seems the World’s Finest Assassin is her latest and possibly last best hope against the Hero ending the world.

Back on that world, her champion Lugh is ready to burn Dia’s house down and whisk her away with the story that she committed suicide so that none of the sides in the war could have her. There’s just one problem: Setanta MacNess has arrived with Gae Bolg, and partially demolishes the castle before Lugh can implement his plan.

Lugh deflects Gae Bolg’s attack with one of his “grenades”, then launches the biggest cannon attack he has. Setanta survives the blast with some superficial wounds that soon heal, but the knight is amazed at having finally seen and tasted his own blood, goes into Berserk mode while maintaining his sense, and challenges Lugh to a duel.

Suspecting Setanta is indeed the Hero as Maha’s intelligence suggested, Lugh makes it clear to Dia that he can’t run from Setanta’s challenge, nor can he have a hope of winning a duel against him. That said, Lugh also reminds Dia he’s neither knight nor hero, but an assassin. Assassinating’s all he can do, and it’s all he will do against Setanta.

After a little trash talking and negotiating of the terms of the duel, Lugh gets Setanta to agree that the duel will begin when a coin he flips into the air hits the ground. This essentially locks Setanta’s gaze on the coin, so he doesn’t look up when a solid tungsten missile comes crashing down on top of him, causing an enormous explosion and shock wave.

That solid tungsten missle was initially casually launched into orbit while Lugh was still in Dia’s castle, but is the culmination of months of careful preparation and collaboration. He and Dia designed the spells to launch it, and he and Tarte scouted the island Maha found to test it. It even employes the same shielding Tarte used to help Lugh conserve his energy on the way to Dia. The name of the spell is Gungnir, which is fitting as Odin’s spear is believed to be the prototype of Cúchulainn’s Gae Bolg.

Lugh’s extremely aerospace-y and not necessarily assassin-y or knightly gambit pays off. He takes a considerable lick himself, but soon awakens to a concerned Dia, whom he’s so relieved is okay he kisses her just as the sun rises over the mountains. When Dia asks why he agreed to take on a non-Tuatha Dé matter, Lugh tells her he never forgot his promise to always come running.

As he promised Tarte, Lugh arrives home having failed his first assassination job ever yet still triumphant, because he brought Dia with him. Cian decides its best for now for Dia’s identity to be concealed; she’s to live with them in Tuatha Dé as Lugh’s younger sister, with her shared bloodlines with Esri making it a believable lie.

With that settled, Cian brings up another order of business: the Hero has apparently arrived in the Alvan Kingdom. Lugh’s confused by that, since he assumed Setanta was the Hero. Alas, he apparently wasn’t; the actual Hero, whose presence closely precedes the certain arrival of the Demon Lord, is one Lord Epona Rhiannon, and the close-up on his alternate-Lugh like visage is the last image we see in The World’s Finest Assassin.

Despite the fact there’s no immediate news of a second season, I can’t believe we won’t be getting one sometime down the road. There’s a lot of story left to tell and a lot of cute moments between Lugh/Dia, Lugh/Tarte, Lugh/Maha, or any other combinations therein. Not to mention…what if this Epona lad is just like Lugh: originally from another world?

That’s one of dozens of questions I’m hoping a sequel would explore. Until then, this was a bold ending to a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing isekai series.

Mieruko-chan – 12 (Fin) – Best Butt Bun Buds Forever

The fox spirits’ initial attack doesn’t completely destroy Zen’s mother-ghoul, but their second attack does, and they mutter something in their bizarre language before skedaddling. Naturally Zen can’t see any of it. Hana and Yulia stop by just as the tormented cat demons all turn white and pass on. Whether this was due to his mom-ghoul being gone or Hana’s aura, Zen is no longer burdened by any spirits.

Once he recovers, Zen-sensei stops by Miko’s to pick up Mocha, the kitten he found that they were fostering. He dwells on the words Miko said about setting him free, and he takes it to mean he should be more honest with people. This leads to him flatly telling his neighbor he doesn’t want any leftover stew. Turns out she was putting something in it. That’s not cool…and it’s a good thing he didn’t eat any of it! He’s moving anyway, to a place that allows pets.

After the big Zen-sensei mom-ghoul dust-up, things pretty much return to normal. Hana is still constantly eating, but isn’t desperately hungry like she was before. She and Miko go out to watch the sequel to the Totoro analog while urging Yulia to watch the first; the fortune teller receives a picture of Miko and Hana at the shrine in the mail; Zen-sensei captures the animal abuser, and Arai-sensei has her baby.

Miko decides she should offer her gratitude to the fox spirits, so she visits their creepy shrine, this time going alone (and thus without Hana’s apparently built-in divine protection). She offers one stick of sweet dango and then several and then a mess of coins, but the fox spirits and their big, big brother only seem to get more and more angry with her. Things look very bad indeed until Miko wakes up in her bed. It was only a nightmare…and perhaps a message to her: just don’t go back there!

Miko continues to see ghosts, ghouls and monsters pretty much everywhere, every day, but it has become easier to ignore them…practice makes perfect! But one thing she’s learned is that when it seems like it’s in her power to help her friends or others, she should face those monsters head-on. Maybe she’s out of fox spirit bailouts, but as long as she has Hana and now Yulia by her side and a scrumptious butt bun in her hands, life is good.

Mieruko-chan – 11 – Meowruko-chan

While last week seemingly confirmed that Toono Zen was a Bad Dude who was behind the local cat abuse, all the episode really did was confirm that he’s an odd, lonely young man; it didn’t explicitly show him actually doing anything. Now we learn that both we and Miko judged him too quickly.

First we flash back to Zen’s childhood, which was strictly controlled by his mother, who wouldn’t let him for relationships with anyone or anything other than her without accusing him of “betraying her like his father,” and punished him by squeezing his head if he kept secrets from her.

Fast-forward to the present, when Miko has decided she can no longer stand by and do nothing while Hana is basically starved by the spirits surrounding Zen-sensei. She carefully follows Zen down mostly empty and isolated streets, until he comes across a mangy stray kitten in a tunnel.

Miko had planned to call the police and catch Zen red-handed abusing a cat, but couldn’t let the act actually happen, and cries out when it looks like he’s about to crush the little kitty’s head…which we already saw was a similar gesture her mother performed on him many times.

Zen asks Miko if she followed him and what she’s doing, and the huge ghoul seemingly protecting him pops out and threatens her. Miko runs with the kitten in hand, but trips and falls, though the kitten is unharmed. Startled, it jumps out of her hands and runs right into the street.

Right on cue, Car-kun races down that street at breakneck speed, threatening to flatten the poor kitty. But then Zen leaps out in front of the car to save the kitten, and suddenly Miko has no idea what is going on. Why would he want to save a cat…then kill it?

Turns out Zen wanted to do nothing of the sort. At the hospital, he tells Miko not to blame herself for what happened; he chose to leap in front of the car. He further explains that someone in his area—not him—has been abusing animals, and he was patrolling the area like usual.

Because of the odd way Miko had interacted with him when he answered the message about adopting another stray cat, as well as her odd demeanor at school, Zen assumed she might be the animal-abusing culprit, proving that both of these people simply needed more information before forming assumptions.

Miko gets more context on the hospital’s roof from Satoru, Zen’s friend since grade school, learning about his strict—nay, fucking psycho mother, who killed his pet cat when she found out about it, which…goddamn. Satoru, a vet, is the one Zen brings all the cats he finds so that he can secure new homes for them.

Lately, with the animal abuser, Zen has only found cats who are either already dead or close to it, which explains last week’s suspicious scene. As for why Satoru helps Zen, well…for the same reason Miko wants to help Hana: if your friend is in trouble, you do what you can to help them!

Now that Miko knows that the cat spirits are the result of Zen encountering the victims of the animal abuser, and the ghoul was once his horrible mother, she decides to help Zen out, for his sake, for Hana’s sake, and hell, for her own sake. She addresses Zen’s mother-ghoul directly, asking her to set him free, and she charges after her into the corridor.

I’m not sure if Miko intended for the fox spirits to arrive and destroy the mother-ghoul, but I’m not sure what else she expected, considering she put herself in harm’s way. It’s supposedly the third and final time they’ll help her, but at least it was for a good cause, and will end up helping both Hana and Zen. But who knows; maybe this is only the beginning of Miko taking a more active role in helping people with her ability.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 09 – A Softening of Thorns

Not-Russia’s head honcho doesn’t like how the not-Americans are progressing with their space program, and the Chief promises they’ll have a human in space by Spring. That human will be one of three people: Mikhail, Roza…and Lev. As you’d expect, Lev is over the moon about getting one step closer to it, while Mikhail is more reserved and Roza downright cold, telling him his “tongue is honey” and his “heart is ice.”

While wishing Mikhail and Roza would be more friendly, Lev mostly just wants to give Irina the good news, driving home the fact he cares for her a great deal. She, in turn, can’t hide how much Irina cares for Lev, as Anya mentions to him that she even threw a pine cone on the ice to make a wish. Irina, not to mention Lev and Anya, have a lot of fun faces this week as the highly procedural show lets its hair down a bit.

We also see how much Irina and Anya have grown as friends, with the latter giving the former a full progress report on the three final candidates. Mikhail and the “White Rose” Roza are still running first and second, and Irina can’t help but tip her hat at the nickname, as Roza is certainly full of thorns. Later, after running out of her dungeon due to embarrassment over Lev, Irina asks Anya if she’s been useful and still has value. The sweet and empathetic Anya naturally reassures her with both words and a hug.

Roza’s position as Number Two among the candidates suddenly goes up in flames when she loses control during a high-speed skydive. She spins out of control, unable to move, but Lev catches up to her, steadies her, and pulls her cord. It means Lev has to pull his cord a few seconds late and ends up landing in a forest, but he saved Roza’s life, and later Roza makes no bones about knowing that.

When Roza asks Lev why he saved her, Lev simply said he moved on his own to save a pal. There was no why, only that bond he feels, which has been one-sided up to this point. Roza thanks him by smiling, buying him a soda water, and apologizing for all the nasty things she’s said both to him and Irina, who she calls by name for the first time. The face turn seems sudden but only until you remember she really thought she was going to die. I for one am delighted they found another note for Roza besides prickly bitter xenophobe!

As for Miss Luminesk, who has always been a kaleidoscopic symphony of notes, she and Anya happen to walk by while Lev and Roza seem to be enjoying each other’s company, sparking a degree of jealousy. She’s almost assassinated in the street by a car, whose driver is swiftly executed by Nataliya, who proves she’s as much Irina’s bodyguard as her dorm mother.

Laika was never going to “dispose” of its titular protagonist, but there was always the possibility she and Lev would be separated by powers outside their control. Irina puts on a brave face regarding her choice to relocate to he capital to aid in space research, because it means not being close enough to Lev to hang out whenever they want.

Still, Lev is happy the government he could take or leave is finally seeing the value in Irina, and wishes her well. Anya also arranges for the two to have one last, first date together on Armed Forces Day. Irina’s face upon seeing Lev arrive bang on time is worth a thousand bittersweet words.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 20 – Odd Man Out

Back when the explosion that shatters the Greyrat family occurred, Lilia has the foresight to grab Aisha and hold her tight for the expanding blast. She ends up teleported into the water, but manages to swim to the surface before she and her daughter drown. She makes her way on foot to Shirone, only for Prince Pax to capture and imprison them once he learns Lilia knows Roxy.

While Rudeus intends for the Ruijerd figurines he’s crafted to improve the Superd’s reputation, this week they actually come in handy rescuing him from Pax’s clutches. Pax’s older brother Prince Zanoba, you see, happens to be a figurine otaku the likes of which Rudy knows well from his old life. Wisely Rudy only owns up to being the artist once he realizes Zanoba wants to praise him and become his apprentice.

Zanoba doesn’t care about Roxy like his perverted brother does, just the figurine of her, which we learn has a detachable clothes. As such, he cares nothing for Pax’s plots, and so is immediately an ally to Rudy by default. Meanwhile, we see Ruijerd, Eris, and Aisha’s side of things as they work with Shirone royal guards to free their families, whom Pax has hostage to secure their loyalty.

That shortsighted strategy backfires as expected, first when Rudy tells Zanoba to lower the barrier and Zanoba grabs Pax out of bed by the head and presents him to Rudy, revealing Zanoba is a “Blessed Child” with superhuman strength. Ginger is Pax’s last line of defense, but when she learns her family is safe, she turns on Pax, informing him she first swore loyalty to Zanoba to begin with.

Shortly after Zanoba and Ginger free Rudy, Ruijerd returns from freeing Ginger and the soldiers’ loved ones, along with Lilia, who is immensely happy to be reunited with both Rudy and Aisha. Basically, Rudy didn’t actually have to do anything to get out of his latest predicament, other than make that figuring of Roxy years ago. Everything else kind of fell into place.

Later, Lilia gives Rudy a big hug, along with the box containing Roxy’s underwear and a pendant Sylphiette made for him. Also, Aisha wants to join the “Kennel Master” on his continuing adventures, thus saving her from the “perverted clutches” of her half-brother.

After Rudy gives her his Dead End head protector, she either connects the dots about him actually being her half-brother, or decides to drop the charade. Either way, with Zenith and Sylphiette still missing, Rudy can go forward knowing at least one of his little sisters likes him!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 19 – The Man-God’s Fast One

Rudeus appears once again in his original form from his own world before the Man-God  Hitogami, a year after their last meeting. Rudy decides once again to let the Man-God guide him to his next objective, agreeing to trust him in exchange for helping find Zenith, Lilia, and Aisha. While we can’t yet say Hitogami has steered Rudy wrong, his true motivations remain unknown. Is he earnestly trying to help Rudy, or just seeking entertainment?

After much vomiting over the side of a ship, Rudy, along with Eris and Ruijerd, arrive at last at the Central Continent, and the capital of the kingdom of Shirone. As has now become commonplace, the “OP” consists of a sequence of vistas of the new land, along with a new song to accompany it. It’s big, it’s grand, and it’s awesome. It’s a city I’d love to spend weeks exploring.

Of course, Rudy doesn’t have time for that; he has a family to locate and rescue. Going off the vision Hitogami gave him, he searches the city for Lilia and Aisha, and finds the latter, now six years old, being bothered by city guards. Rudy uses his incantation-less magic to bear both him and Aisha away from the guards, and just like that, he’s reunited with a sibling who was only a baby when last he saw her.

Unlike Norn, Aisha is friendly with Rudy…but only because she’s not aware that he’s actually her older brother, whom she’s certain is an awful pervert due to Roxy’s underwear he’d been keeping that she found one day. It’s a little sad that Lilia taught her daughter not to rely on his brother, but Rudy follows the Man-God’s advice to use an alias rather than reveal his true connection to Aisha.

With Aisha safely under Eris and Ruijerd’s careful watch, Rudy accepts the invitation of Ginger York, a member of the seventh prince of Shirone’s royal guard, who escorts him to the castle of Shirone. He’s under the impression Ginger is taking him to see Roxy, who has been serving the prince, and is excited to see his master for the first time in seven years.

Alas, it’s only a trap. Lilia is indeed in the Shirone castle, the captive of Pax, the seventh prince.  But Rudy ends up falling down a hole into a king-class barrier meant for Roxy. Pax is determined to lure Roxy back so he can capture and have his way with her. Since Lilia wasn’t sufficient bait, he’ll use Rudy instead.

It’s understandable that, now that he finds himself in this predicament after following Hitogami’s instructions pretty much to the letter, Rudy considers the possibility the Man-God played a trick on him. But to what end? Is Rudy really trapped? I doubt it; a trap intended for Roxy means Rudy, who has far surpassed Roxy in magical ability, should have no trouble escaping it.

The problem is, Lilia is currently Prince Pax’s hostage. Rudy can’t act carelessly lest any harm come to Aisha’s mother. I don’t foresee Pax being a credible threat for long—I mean look at him—but at the moment Rudy does seem to be in a rather sticky situation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The World’s Finest Assassin – 06 – The Merchant’s Daughter

Warning: This episode deals with some upsetting and potentially triggering themes, including rape and sexual assault, physical, mental, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse, child abuse/pedophilia, and self-injurious behavior. 

Our cold open features Lugh and Tarte donning their new threads as they prepare to live their new lives as Illig Balor and his servant. But after the credits, we pivot to the much-anticipated story of third member of Lugh’s assassination team from the first episode: Maha. Herself the daughter of merchants but now an orphan on the streets, she and five other girls survive by giving sightseeing tours to travelers.

They’re close to making enough money for better clothes, and one day Maha dreams of them making enough to buy a house in which to live together. But one stormy day that dream is stamped out when all six girls are captured by men hired to round up kids for his lord’s “orphanage.” I knew shit was going to get bad, but had no idea how bad.

Ironically, Maha and the others get what they were dreaming of: a roof under their heads, food to cook and eat together at a table. But it happens to come at the price of their own freedom. They are essentially slaves, doing whatever is asked of them and being beaten when their captors feel like it. It gradually wears their once enterprising spirits down into the dirt.

Then the captors start getting rapey, pimping the girls out one by one to those with the coin to purchase them for the night. The oldest of them, Ifa, is the first to go through this, and Maha is forced to bathe, dress, and apply makeup to her, essentially making her the involuntary preparer of the lamb to the slaughter.

The sequence of this preparation is plenty disheartening, but then the episode’s absolutely brutal transitions have Ifa being doused three times in a row, succinctly indicating how many times she’s endured hell; the light in her eyes fading more each time.

For anyone still thinking it wouldn’t simply get worse from there, the episode is ready to change your minds in a hurry. At first Ifa is the only one sent away, until one day one of the other girls asks why they never get to go.

Then they go, one by one, each being subjected to the same pre-hell ritual of washing and dressing up as Ifa was. One of Maha’s friends decides the only way to protect herself from further torment is to cut up her face with a sickle; Maha is too late to stop her. It doesn’t matter; her torment doesn’t end.

One day, Maha overhears her captors talking about her being next, despite her having only just turned twelve. Having witnessed the aftermath of what all the other girls went thorough, Maha rushes to the barn, and is ready to cut her face when she’s stopped by a familiar figure, at least to us: “Illig Balor”.

Illig has come to purchase one of the girls—not for a night, but for good. He chooses Maha, and gives her captor more than enough gold. Even so, the captor asks for and is granted three days, during which he intends to pimp Maha out to make some extra money on top of what Illig paid, then rape her himself.

At first, on her way to one of those clients, Maha is trying to put on a brave face; she’ll only have to endure three days of hell, and then she’ll be in heaven with her “prince”. Then her captor has his hands all over her, and she can’t do it. She uses her mana to escape the wagon, but is quickly caught by the captor’s henchman, who also uses mana.

The henchman seems intent on being the first to rape her, but he is incapacitated by Illig, who tells the captor he saw Maha calling for help with her eyes when he bought her. When the captor and his ilk try to take Illig out, Illig has no trouble at all taking them out.

Meanwhile, Tarte sets up a honey trap to get the pervert Viscount arrested, and the hellish orphanage is shut down. The girl who scarred her face even gets it healed by Illig. Maha then joins Illig, her “Prince’s” party, and all’s well that ends well, tempered of course by all of the other mental and physical scars the girls still carry.

Maha had by far the most intense and fucked-up backstory of the trio. Lugh came from another world where he was the finest assassin; Tarte suffered and endured, but for a briefer time. Maha saw and went through some shit.

I left the episode exhausted by the horrors Maha and her friends endured, but also happy relieved they’re now free and safe. The two-plus years that passed in this episode were the crucible in which a future Maha—an assassin Maha—was first forged.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The World’s Finest Assassin – 04 – Nice to Be Needed

Ansatsu Kizoku is by no means the best-looking or most original anime of the Fall, but it just might have the best structure, or rather most interesting structure to its narrative. I love the way it darts and weaves back and forth through time. Macro-wise, we’ve already seen Tarte in action, but this is the episode that truly introduces her as a character, not merely an ass-kicking machine.

We begin with Tarte in pretty much the most dire situation someone can be in. Winter is coming, so the family decided to cast her out so there’d be enough food (it’s implied their lord overtaxes, which caused families to make impossible choices). Starving and running out of strength, she’s set upon by a pack of wolves.

Here’s what immediately made Tarte interesting: she smiles moments before her death. She neither fears nor blames the hungry wolves; hell, she respects them. If this is how she goes, at least she’ll be put to good use keeping other living things alive. When her family abandoned her, she felt she had lost all reason to exist. Then our friend Lugh arrives, and uses the wolves to practice his killing skills while Tarte watches.

Mind you, Lugh doesn’t arrive to save her until after we get an extended scene of him at the harvest market, watching the townsfolk prepare for the winter by preserving and rationing. There’s even a brief little aside of comic relief when the Goddess checks in on another person like Lugh who isn’t faring so well. It’s when Lugh goes hunting so his family will have meat in the winter that he comes across Tarte.

Tarte happens to be backing a huge amount of mana—more than he’s seen in anyone in town—and the grizzled assassin in him knows it can’t be a coincidence; the Goddess must have sent her to him. The thing is, that seemingly throwaway gag of her watching The World’s Finest Special Ops Guy become a NEET over four decades proves she’s not always watching Lugh and making things happen. Sometimes…things just happen, like meeting Tarte.

Lugh’s initial interactions with Tarte are seemingly kind, if somewhat emotionally distant and logical. It’s only after he’s struck a deal for her to bind herself to him mind body and soul that he reveals he manipulated this font of mana into someone who would never betray him; someone who owes their existence to him and so exists only for him.

Two years pass, and Lugh has been training Tarte into the fellow assassin he’ll need to take on the Hero. He hasn’t told her why he’s training her, nor is she curious. When he performs the same examination of Tarte that his father performed on him, it’s super clinical, medical…professional. Lugh may have the body of a twelve-year-old, but he’s no Lewd Rudy.

When I think about how Lugh interacted with Tarte with such precision calculation, I remember what his father said: they are people, not tools. A tool would not have been able to get Tarte to trust him or devote herself to him so easily, but Lugh has been raised to be empathetic and curious, and so is a much better judge of character than your stock killing machine.

The same can be said of Tarte. Takada Yuki does such a fine job initially voicing the starving Tarte and then imbuing her voice with more strength and confidence once two years pass. Tarte may be really really good with a spear (collapsible or otherwise), but she’s also a good person…or as she once said of Lugh, a good person “as far as I’m concerned”.

How we treat others matters. Tarte witnessed Lugh slaughter the wolves with the deftness of a surgeon, and hears how he’s killed people and will go on killing people as part of his duties. But he’s still a good person to her, because he and he alone saved her when he didn’t have to.

Now that both Dia and Tarte have been properly introduced (and are both exceedingly charming, rootable characters to complement Lugh’s aloofness) I imagine the cool beauty Maha’s story is next up. I’m looking forward to more taut, confidently structured storytelling.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 02 – Everyone’s Old Friend

Komi is the kind of popular in her class where everyone will put her on a pedestal and admire her from afar (and snap photos), but are too much in awe of her to approach her. If she wants to make friends with any of them, she’ll either have to approach them, or Tadano will have to introduce her to some.

We soon learn this isn’t so easy, since Tadano himself is not exactly popular. In this school full of strong personalities, Tadano is an eyesore to some. Take the normally sweet and cheerful Yamai, who clutches Tadano’s shoulders when he approaches her and utters curses through his ears for daring to speak Komi’s name with his scummy mouth.

Tadano had hoped he didn’t have to resort to her, but he approaches his friend from middle school, Osana Najimi (a play on words, as osananajimi means “childhood friend”). Not only is Najimi of indeterminate gender (she typically goes by “she” but occasionally says she’s male), she’s also childhood friends with everyone. She’s voiced by Murakawa Rie, perhaps best known to me as the voice of Re:Zero’s Ram.

Everyone, that is, but Komi, whom she also knew from second grade. Najimi was always a gregarious sort, but when she first approached Komi, she took her lack of communication as ignoring what she was saying, or acting cold and aloof. Not being able to make friends with Komi actually traumatized Najimi, to the point she’s not sure she can be friends with her now.

Even so, Tadano’s Serious Look at Najimi convinces her to at least give it another shot for her old friend’s sake. So she and Komi walk home together. Komi’s usual nervousness and Najimi’s unusual nervousness make things awkward from the start.

We then get two different perspectives of the same interaction: first Najimi’s, then Tadano’s. To Najimi, Komi is doing all the same things that put her off trying to be friends with her years ago, while Tadano is able to interpret Komi’s reactions properly from his stalkery hiding spot.

Najimi is ready to throw in the towel when two more old friends of hers interrupt the experiment. The much larger, burlier of the two has come to ask her out, and even her saying she’s a guy doesn’t dissuade him. When he removes his jacket in a dramatic flourish, his house key flies out of a pocket. He grabs Najimi, not taking no for an answer, but Komi basically rescues her by approaching the brute with the key he dropped.

She actually talks to him, but so softly and in such broken rhythm, he thinks she’s saying she’s going to kill him with the key, which combined with her focused stare causes him to beat a hasty retreat with his toady. Najimi decides to befriend Komi on the spot, and Komi, adorable lass that she is, expresses her elation with a giddy bunny hop.

Najimi wants to help Komi communicate better, so sends her off on an errand, which is more of an ultimatum: Go to Starbucks Standbakes and order a Non-fat milk Pistachio Deep Mocha Dipped Cream Frappaccino with chocolate drizzle and lots of whipped cream…or they won’t be friends anymore. Terrified of losing her second-ever friend so soon, Komi gives it a college try, but is ultimately unable to speak to the barista.

The barista, an elite “Black Apron”, tries to divine from her silence exactly what she wants, but ends up making a Noir Fantastique Valencia Orange Bitter Chocolate Brownie with Nutty Flavor Pistachio Sauce on Walnut Chip Chocolate Chip Cookie Chip Soy Milk Creamy Frappaccino with lots of sauce and lots of whipped Cream and lots of chips…which is not right.

When she delivers the accursed drink, Najimi says it’s not right, and Komi starts to cry. Najimi realizes the difficulty level of her test was way too high (just ordering a coffee would have ben tough enough!), and she and Tadano prostrate themselves before her, then marvel at how cute Komi is when she’s mad.

While overly complex Starbucks drink jokes are a tad old-hat, I found Najimi immediately charming and likable, just like Komi and Tadano, only a completely different personality in terms of her immense popularity and tremendous knack for befriending. No doubt her skills and experience (combined with Tadano’s Komitranslation skills) should help Komi make 98 more friends.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 15 – Sisters Big and Small

As the seasonal rains soak Dedoldia Village, Rudy and Mushoku Tensei get his pervy antics out of the way quickly, with Gyes warning Rudy he’ll kill him if he messes with his daughter Tona. Rudy is either off to the side or in the background of this whole episode. Instead, it’s an almost wholly Eris episode, one I’ve been looking forward to and one that does not disappoint.

Eris, now and forever the true MVP of Mushoku, really gets to shine as she takes a shine to Tona and her friend Tersena. While a noble only child, you can tell Eris just fits better in this kind of environment. She quickly adopts the adorable local dress (the wardrobe design is strong as usual on this show), and looks after the beastgirls as her younger sisters.

But when the subject of Ghislaine comes up, Gyes’ mood suddenly darkens, and he dismisses her as a “disgrace” who betrayed the village by shirking her duty, and expected her to be dead in a ditch. Eris doesn’t care how big and strong Gyes is, she will not let that slander of her master, friend, and surrogate big sister stand, and lets Gyes have it. Rudy confirms to Gyes that Ghislaine indeed became a far more admirable person than the sis he knew.

As you’d expect, Tona and Tersena are eager to learn more about the kind, strong Ghislaine who taught Eris everything she knows and was always there to save her…not to mention helped her develop her rock-hard abs. Tona, who has always hated her father’s insistence on her sword training, changes her tune when Eris offers to teach her the way Ghislaine taught her.

There’s a beautiful poetry to an outsider and the student of Ghislaine, all but disowned by his big brother, finally getting his daughter excited about swordsmanship. Eris is no easier on Tona than Ghislaine was on her, but there’s still that underlying care, affection, and kindness in the way Eris always helps Tona up after besting her. Two weeks pass and the tough training pays off, with Tona showing marked improvement and ferocity.

The three girls also continue to grow closer as friends and surrogate sisters, until word comes that the rains will soon subside and Eris and her party will be on their way. Tona doesn’t want Eris to go, but Eris says she has a home to go to. Tona reacts by lashing out at Eris, who understandably holds back. That night, Gyes tells a sulking Tona how he doesn’t feel great about how he and Ghislaine parted ways, and doesn’t want her and Eris to go through the same.

Rudy wisely takes the Sacred Beast for a walk to get out of the way so Tona, with Tersena as moral support, approaches Eris and apologizes. The girls make up, and spend their last night together having fun and laughing. There’s so much love and strength in these scenes, especially when you remember what they’ve all been through, with Eris so far from the only home she ever knew and the beastgirls narrowly escaping slavery and death.

After a tearful goodbye to her new sisters, Eris indulges Gyes’ request to spar, so he can get a taste of how Ghislaine now fights through her student. It’s an unexpected but welcome and very awesome demonstration of how far Eris has come, even though she narrowly loses.

Of course we, like Rudy, didn’t get a great look at what actually happened, just Eris cursing when it did. Still, losing to Ghislain’s big brother is nothing to be ashamed of, and she isn’t—instead, she’s motivated to beat him when she inevitably returns to the village.

As they’re departing the village, Geese hops aboard the wagon and joins the party, at least as far as the Holy Country of Millis. On the way, the party passes a memorial to the Seven Great Powers, the legendary strongest fighters in the world, with whom even Ruijerd says he might have trouble.

The fact Rudy is committed to avoiding such dangerous people by “living quietly” almost assures that they’ll run into at least one of these Powers, and possibly more. Whether they’re friend and/or foe will be fun to discover, hard as it will be to top this week’s wonderful Eris-centric story.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 14 – The Dedoldia Redemption

Rudeus begins this episode by giving us a wonderfully sarcastic tour of his not-so-luxurious, insect-infested accommodations in the Ewok demihuman village in the trees. It’s yet another gorgeous, awe-inspiring environment where he is content to sit tight and wait for rescue, but then one, two, three days pass , and he soon grows bored…and a little worried (mostly for Eris).

Did I mention he’s totally naked for the extent of his incarceration? Well, he is. But despite this, he manages to bring his new cellmate Geese to heel with the force of his confidence. Geese’s crime is a lot less severe than “attacking the Sacred Beast”. The two quickly bond, but the days still pass, and there’s no Ruijerd, no Eris, and no rescue.

Just when Rudeus is ready to burn the whole forest down, a band of smugglers end up doing it for him. He drops the helpless act, uses magic to fashion a key to escape. The smugglers are there to capture beast children to sell to the rich; Geese is not okay with this, but unlike Ruijerd, Rudy isn’t automatically inclined to help them.

For one thing, part of him is glad to see those who wrongly accused and imprisoned him getting their comeuppance. For another, getting back to Eris is paramount. But when one of the beast children captured by the leader of the smugglers—Gallus, “The Cleaner”, who also happens to be a “North Saint”—cries out for help, Rudy can’t just ignore it. With crucial assists from Geese and the Sacred Beast, he’s able to best Gallus and save the beast children…though he passes out in the process.

He comes to Dorothy-style, surrounded by friends both old and new. Eris and Ruijerd were delayed (in much the same way Gandalf was, as it wasn’t that bit of a deal for them), but now she’s heard of his heroics, Eris is as enamored of the little brat as ever. Those who captured him, now known to be members of Dedoldia Village, apologize for how he was treated.

Eris looks forward to telling her gramps of their exploits, but we cut back to her home continent, where Sauros Boreas Greyrat is relieved of command of Fittoa and summarily executed for allowing the mana disaster. Looks like returning home will only open a new can of geopolitical worms…

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