Super Cub – 09 – Winter Is Coming

An autumnal cold snap suddenly makes real what had merely been abstract: Koguma and Reiko aren’t quite ready for the full-on chill of Winter. Little things like Reiko warming her feet on her Hunter Cub’s motor offer temporary relief, but more stringent measures will soon be needed.

Despite the cold, Shii braves the outside to ask if she can eat lunch with Koguma and Reiko. These two are so tight-knit now it won’t be easy to penetrate their circle of two, especially without a Cub of her own, but Shii does have one thing at her command: copious amounts of delicious hot drinks.

Her hot Italian milk tea with a touch of grappa is so good, Reiko jokingly contemplates stuffing the tiny Shii in her cargo box so she can always have a hot drink when she needs one. And speaking of knit, when she hears of Koguma’s money problems, she offers her an oversized cardigan made of durable, minimally processed abrasive wool.

While it is indeed warm, it’s also big enough to sleep in, but Koguma hatches a new plan, Reiko removes her cargo box, and Shii rides double with her way too fast for her comfort as they race back to school before the gate closes. There, the home ec teacher regards the rare material with awe, and is more than happy to convert the huge cardigan into a jacket liner and stockings for Reiko. There’s even enough for a Thermos cozy for Shii!

The first time Koguma rides with the new woolly lining, she beams with joy and the episode’s color bumps up. Reiko is also happy that she can be warm and fashionable with her stockings. With the more saturated color comes another patented Super Cub wordless sequence, accompanied by an austere, minimalist piano and trumpet piece.

Unfortunately, the woolly upgrades only last so long, as soon both Koguma and Reiko are uncomfortably cold on their steeds. Even so, Reiko is adamant about not procuring a windshield, which she dismisses as deeply uncool.

In another example of how Shii hasn’t quite clawed her way into their circle of two, they leave her in the dust with nary a word to her when they ride off to the store. Poor Shii! Still, I’m sure in time she’ll be as close to the other two as they are to each other; this stuff doesn’t happen overnight.

Koguma is staring at the 4000-yen price tag of a Super Cub windshield when a clerk removes it from the display and sells it; turns out it’s the last one. An affiliate has both Super and Hunter shields in stock, but the girls shake their heads: Koguma can’t bear the cost, while Reiko can’t bear the lameness.

Even so, they visit the resident Cub collector from whom Koguma procured her cargo box, and each of them tries out an old battered Cub with a windshield…and they’re both sold!

They order their shields, and then work together mounting them to their bikes without anyone else’s help. Once they’re done, they hop on, the color bumps up again, and they just keep riding, thanks both to the protection of their windshields and their high spirits.

As Reiko admits while drinking more of Shii’s coffee (honestly I worry about the girls’ caffeine intake now that they’ve met Shii): “If it works better, it’s not ugly.” She initially pooh-poohed windshields, but that was before she experienced just how much of a difference they make. They don’t just make winter riding bearable, they make it fun.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

To Your Eternity – 03 – Bear Necessities

In last week’s episode, all March wanted was to grow up and become a mother. Hayase and her ilk tried to rob her of that future, but by the end of the episode March has grown in all ways but age and size. Now she has a child under her wing in the boy-shaped baby bird still known as It.

She’s also grown to realize that if she runs, others will die, and she can’t allow that. Being a grownup means nothing is simple anymore. But since she’s It’s surrogate mom, she tries to teach him how to say “thank you” and even gives him a name: Fushi or Fu-chan.

While March is headed back into Hayase’s clutches on purpose, Parona is captured but far from giving up on saving her little sister/wife. Stretching out her leg to produce a bone knife from her shoe which she uses to cut the ropes that bind her. Then Oniguma-sama appears, and it’s a harrowing race against time.

Parona, who is in effect the heroine this week (and that’s not a bad thing!), just manages to escape the lethal paw swipe of the giant spiked bear with bloodied eyes, and while she ends up running off a cliff, her fall is sufficiently cushioned that when she does finally hit the ground, she sustains no serious injuries.

Unfortunately, Parona is just too late to save March from being re-captured by Hayase. Fortunately, March inadvertently left a very clear trail of fruit and fruit remnants, at the end of which is Fushi, whom Parona can’t communicate with but can follow to March’s location.

March has had some great Asirpafaces in these past two episodes, but none better when she’s eating the weird black gelatin thingy Hayase orders her to eat, which eventually knocks her out cold. Hayase then re-applys the ink to her face—Oniguma-sama will only accept an unblemished youth—and carries her to the mountaintop altar.

I was surprised by the log fort that surrounds the altar, as I was expecting something much less grand. It’s instructive that before they reach said altar, Hayase’s underlings who saw the giant bear report that it could only have been Oniguma-sama, and she and the other guards react with disbelief.

That’s right: despite their utter devotion to carrying out this ancient custom, they believe Oniguma-sama is only a legend, and have never seen him actually claim any of the girls they’ve left on that bone-strewn altar. It’s not so much about belief in the actual entity as carrying out the job they were assigned to do.

That changes when Oniguma-sama arrives and busts his way into the log fort. Parona also arrives, and once again has to cut through ropes before the bear kills her and the still-unconscious March. Hayase is more intrigued than terrified by Oniguma-sama, and even tells her guards to stand down: If Parona wants to give the god a second meal, Hayase is going to let her.

When it’s clear that Parona isn’t going to finish cutting March’s ropes in time, it looks like it’s all over…and because this is To Your Eternity, I was fully prepared for both Parona and March to die. But someone…something was still missing from this scene, and that something finally arrives, I couldn’t help but cheer.

Parona is thrown clear of the altar by Fushi, who has come to protect the Giver of Fruits, AKA Mama, AKA March. He initially tries to take Oniguma on in his human form, but is torn to shreds and devolves into his wolf form, which is not only faster and more vicious but quicker to regenerate.

Despite being several dozen times smaller than Oniguma, Wolf!Fushi uses his speed, agility, and fast-healing, and with each attack learns something new about its adversary. Eventually it starts focusing on its soft spot—it’s nose—and eventually brings the great beast down.

Witnessing it all from a safe distance, Hayase wonders if this is just another act of the gods. And I guess there isn’t that much difference between what we’d call a god and a sufficiently advanced alien species.

With Oniguma-sama soundly defeated and nothing to which to offer a sacrifice, Hayase exhibits a slim modicum of humanity and makes a deal with Parona and March: she’ll report that the sacrifice was a success and March is dead, but in return, the two of them will accompany her and her guards back to Yanome. Either that, or they can die right there.

They choose to live (obviously), while Hayase also intends to bring along the very bizarre wolf who first appeared as a boy and was able to kill a deity. Parona is weary of the beast at first, but March offers it a fruit and it eats it in the exact same way as Fu-chan. Even more pointedly, it says “thank you”…as a wolf. It still has a lot to learn about the ways of this world, but it’s in just the right place to learn them.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 07 – Starting Over from Zzzzero

While there was no danger of Syalis’ antics growing stale at the Demon Castle, there’s nothing like a change of venue to freshen things up. That change occurs when Twilight’s rival Hades kidnaps Syalis in her sleep and deposits her in the far more rundown (but quieter!) Former Demon Castle.

The overarching joke this week is that Hades acts precisely like Twilight and his underlings when they first captured Syalis. Now they know better and harbor a healthy fear and respect for the pint-sized princess, while almost pitying Hades for not knowing what’s coming down the pike.

Predictably, Syalis doesn’t panic or cower before Hades or his adorable henchmen triplets Ker, Ber, and Os. Her first instinct is to simply sleep, in lieu of anything better to do. Then she puts her head on the appallingly cheap pillow and gets a nasty case of deja vu from her first night in Twilight’s castle.

Armed with a new quest to improve her pillow as the first step in a process, Syalis immediately returns to her usual relentlessly resourceful and determined self. When Ker, Ber, and Os try to intimidate them, she casually tosses an explosive pompom at the cell gate and sends them fleeing in terror.

Syalis’ search for fluffy bedding materials takes her into direct contact with Hades, but since he’s busy on the videophone gloating to Twilight (and laughing an exaggerated laugh like Rintarou Okabe) he doesn’t notice her literally ripping his clothes off for repurposing.

She gets an assist from her “friends” at the Demon Castle when they make such a ruckus on the phone, Hades is distracted. They even get him to look and levitate upwards so she can snag his fur boa, and when she does they cheer like Houston celebrating a successful rocket launch!

The pillow, however, is merely the first step. Syalis’ second quest involves improvement of her bedding in general. She soon finds that this Former Demon Castle has a lot more traps, but thankfully none of the needles, flying axes or fireballs end up killing her, and she meets a kindred spirit in Hypnos, the “personification of drowsiness”.

Syalis is immediately impressed by Hypnos’ dedication to sleep and begins calling him “Master” and asking him to teach her. When he shows her that the undersides of the tiles of an electrified walkway are fluffy fur, she jumps several steps ahead, killing the power source and gathering all of the furry tiles.

This sets off a number of traps, but Syalis must have been trained in martial arts and self-defense, because she’s able to dodge all of them, impressing Hypnos enormously. Her final bed contraption consists of a large mobile fur mattress that moves along a track, avoiding fireballs as she sleeps.

But as she’s starting a third quest for another comfortable night’s sleep, Twilight and some members of his Big Ten Council prepare a rescue mission to retrieve their captive. Lower-ranking people in the castle note how quiet and boring it is without the princess. They all want her back!

Hades remains in blissful ignorance, believing it laughable that the princess could leave her cell, let alone do all of the stuff she’s done. Yet she’s in his personal fur stash gathering materials, and just as he’s discussing all of the status-boosting weapons Ker/Ber/Os can use to repel Twilight and his compatriots, Syalis is destroying those very weapons in order to make a comfy neck pillow.

When Twilight & Co. finally confront Hades, the two Demon Lords seem poised for an epic one-on-one battle, which is interrupted by the sight of Syalis flying off in a flying contraption also meant for Ker/Ber/Os. Twilight & Co. peace out, taking a rain check on that duel, and chase after Syalis, who reunites with a Demon Teddy and sleeps soundly on the bag of stolen furs as the contraption flies her back to the Demon Castle—a place she’s come to think of as home.

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 06 – OK Bloomers

Hero Dawner and his party take three trap-ridden paths that end up leading them all the way back to Goodreste, which undermines the whole point of capturing Princess Syalis. The Demon King wants to fight the Hero, be he also wants the Hero to have a sporting chance.

As the Big Ten Demons discuss all the means by which they’ll lure the Hero to them and level him up (if he ever makes it there), Sya ends up using those to wash a blue stain out of her comforter. She sullies the Fountain of Purity, uses a mini tornado bomb to agitate the washwater, uses the Magnespear as a drying rack, and uses Professor Gearbolt’s new mecha as a spin dryer.

When the seasons start to change and a chilly wind enters her chamber, Syalis realizes she left her prized woolen underwear at home, and so must make new ones. Again, given adequate motivation, she’ll stop at nothing and spare no demon’s welfare to achieve her quests goals.

That said, she remembers her mother telling her as a kid not to lift up her skirt to reveal her undies, nor mention them to anyone, in order to preserve her dignity and that of the crown. As a result, she uses various non-verbal forms of code to try to express to the demons what she’s making. They misinterpret her code and go on high alert, believing she’s creating some kind of weapon to destroy the castle. But nope…she just wants a warm stomach at night!

All this chaos, and Hero’s inability to arrive and get this confrontation over with, has the Demon King in a constant state of anxiety and insomnia, collapsing in front of Syalis’ cell door. While she momentarily considers “finishing him off” with her giant scissors, she instead tries several methods to put him to sleep, none of which remotely work.

That is, until he asks her what she does to fall asleep, and again she remembers what her mom did for her. She pats the Demon King gently on the head until he nods off, then falls asleep beside him until her plush bears carry her off to her bead.

And so without any meaningful action from the Hero, Syalis has successfully neutralized the Demon King and his court. There’s really no coming back from his present drop in credibility as a villain. For cryin’ out loud, he was head-patted to sleep by his supposed hostage!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 05 – The Comfort(er) of a Friend

This week made it suddenly occur to me that there are no women among the Demon Castle court and staff (at least not in humanoid form), but that changes when the “female unit” of the Demon King’s army returns to the castle for the first time since the capture of the princess.

The first girl we meet is Harpy, who is a harpy, but an extremely friendly one. Specifically, she wants to make her first human friend and engage in girl talk during a pajama party. She quickly learns that Syalis is primarily concerned with none of those things, and finds her mostly annoying and—worse—detrimental to her sleep!

Indeed, Syalis rejects all of Harpy’s attempts to befriend her until the harpy spreads her wings and the princess gets a good long look and feel at those silky feathers. Without the slightest regard for Harpy’s welfare, she deems the wings too “impractical” to remove (i.e. tear off) and simply uses the soft wings as her new comforter. Harpy is forced to sleep in an awkward position beside her.

The dimensional limits of Syalis’ modest bed soon rear their head when Syalis’ sleep posture results in them sliding off the bed, so the princess begins a quest for a bigger bed. Despite her shabby treatment thus far Harpy is so intent on being friends with the princess she lets slip a castle secret: those gigantic horns that top the tallest tower are really as light and fluffy as a cloud!

With no regard for Harpy’s quads, Syalis attaches a cloth harness to her legs and has her fly her up to the horns. At first it seems Syalis is content to nap on them, but before Harpy knows it she’s carving her new bigger bed directly out of the horns, like memory foam! Due to a big chunk being taken out, one of the two horns flops over impotently—it’s truly a matter of the princess “making her mark” on the castle!

Harpy’s quads are tortured further by the additional mass of the bed, but the result is a much more comfortable sleeping situation for both of them. I’ve heard of royalty using people as welcome mats, but not a combination flying apparatus and comforter! We can only quietly lament poor Harpy’s entirely unbalanced “friendship” with the princess.

The return of the women means the return of the only female member of the Big 10 Council: the beautiful Neo Alraune. When Red Siberian shouts at Syalis to get out when she constantly interrupts their meeting with her vuvuzela (where the heck’d she get that?!), Alraune feels bad for the captive princess, who after all must be terribly lonely.

The Demon King, Siberian, and other council members scoff heartily, then switch on the reconnaissance drone presently following Syalis, to demonstrate what a goddamn terror she’s been. Sure enough, in her quest to build a log bed she is furiously hacking away at Alraune’s big brother (who happens to be a greaser tree—a term I never thought I’d type!).

In the midst of witnessing the systematic destruction and hollowing-out of her kin, Alraune seems ever torn between continuing to sympathize with the princess and acknowledging that her fellow council members might have a point. Even when she makes the excuse that her brother feels no pain, and that the princess is being eco-friendly by using all of the wood, right on cue Syalis discards most of the wood she cut as too rough.

The ordeal compels Alraune to visit Syalis in her cell, to ask if she really is human. After all, who among the human race could cause so much chaos in the domain of demons? Why, Her Royal Highness Aurora Suya Rhys Kaymin, that’s who!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 04 – Do You Want to Build a Bathtub?

Despite being a hostage and captive, Princess Syalis is still entitled to the occasional bath, same as all the other inhabitants of the Demon Castle. However, the Red Siberian ordered far too small a tub based on inaccurate information about her size, so it isn’t long until her frustrated fists have pummeled the tiny tub into rubble.

So she sets off in search of water and materials for a new tub. She uses the communication piping to pipe hot water directly from the public demon baths into her cell, then happens upon Rocket Turtle, which features a fuse for a tail. Upon blowing the turtle up, its shell is left behind, making for the perfect basin in which to luxuriantly bathe and eventually sleep.

There are no consequences of Syalis setting off the largest explosion to date in the next segment, in which the Summer heat has afflicted everyone in the castle. Searching for releif, Syalis hears about the “cold area” of the castle, and “borrows” the outer body of the Tire Genie in order to brave the area without freezing.

The ice demon subjects of the area, who have long harbored resentment for the perceived better treatment of fire demons, mistake the princess for their leader, Ice Golem, and she uses that mistaken identity to issue them orders to equip her cell with an igloo, three seals, and some shaved ice, even claiming that Syalis will be the next Demon King!

With Syalis having acquired both leisurely sleep in a hot bath and a wonderfully cooling setup in the summer heat, the third segment offers something completely different: While on another excursion to steal supplies, she shakes an hourglass and ends up shrinking herself to half her normal, already-petite size.

Her clothes don’t shrink, so it’s hard to move, and she can neither lift her stolen goods nor climb out of her present location without help. When she uses the Procupine and Minotaur as a ladder, Quilly won’t let her go, as there is apparently something uniquely pleasant about holding a small human child—especially knowing what a menace she is when full-sized!

As a result, other demons flock to the suddenly-tiny princess, leading to the fiasco she had hoped to avoid (and her strategy of repelling the others by shooting Quilly’s quills only goes so far). But, to her surprise, she doesn’t have to return to her cell to get a good night’s sleep; simply being in Quilly’s warm embrace eventually bestows upon her a child’s sleep that comes after a full day of play. All’s well that ends well!

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 03 – Waking in the Light

Grimoires sap the MP of humans but in exchange allows them to use powerful magic; the demons assume Syalis would try to steal one in order to gain said magic, but really she just wants to read something boring so she’ll fall asleep!

The first grimoire doesn’t make her sleepy, but unbeknownst to her it lowers her MP to critical levels. As a result she’s unable to stand or walk and must roll around like a log. That said, she doesn’t die and require resurrection by the Cleric!

As she bounces down steps and pinballs off statuses, she inadvertently unlockes the most powerful Forbidden Grimoire’s seal. Once again, the princess manages to foil the castle’s defenses quite on accident!

When Azalif, Spirit of the Grimoire is awakened, he assumes the princess wants to use him to break out of the prison and lend power to the Hero. Instead, she smushes him back into the grimoire.

Syalis rejects all of Azalif’s offers to help her defeat the Demon Lord, but when he mentions she can “incapacitate” everyone in the castle, she performs the spell, which again uses almost all of her MP.

Everyone in the castle falls into a deep sleep for three days…except for Syalis, the caster. Not about to be defeated, she finally completes the quest by using a grimoire…as a pillow.

One day, Syalis becomes obsessed with the pressure points that aid sleep, but her teddy slave is too soft and plushy to apply the necessary pressure, so she breaks out of her cell to find someone who will.

Preferring to keep her intentions vague, she only makes things awkward for everyone, including the Demon Lord himself, with her misleading phrasing:

I need someone to touch my body.

I’ll fall asleep in an instant, so please touch me in my room.

You…Don’t say a word and push here.

The Demon Lord relents, presses the right spot, and Syalis goes out like a light. But she soon realizes that without sunlight (the castle resides in eternal night) her internal clock will become more and more messed up and she’ll never feel rested.

Making use of various items she’s stolen in past episodes, she escapes to the Forest of Sacred Treasure to investigate a bright light that turns out to be the Demon Lord’s ultimate weapon: the Sword of Valor.

The demons assume the princess is escaping to meet up with the Hero and prepare to chase her down, only for her to quietly walk past them and back towards the castle, the sword on her back gleaming and humming along. Of course, she has no intention to use it as a sword, but as a makeshift sun to greet her in the morning.

As with all of the things she’s done, the Demon Lord is terribly bemused and befuddled, but that’s Princess Syalis for you—always in her own world, seeking nothing more or less than the best possible night’s sleep.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 07 – Battle of the Two Queens

After a brief repsite, we’re on to the fourth and deciding bout, with Elite Ten’s top three (and only three still standing) facing off against three of the four remaining rebels. Souma sits this bout out. He’s earned it! First up: Momo vs…Erina! It’s not often we get to watch the God Tongue in action, and even the Central-loyal crowds acknowledge her general amazingness.

That, and the nature with which Megumi went after her, all conspires to put Momo in a foul mood, a mood she intends to improve by baking and confectioning her tiny butt off. I have to say, she’s awfully “lucky” she keeps getting theme ingredients that are perfect for deserts! She goes into overdrive, erecting a massive and ostentatious castle of roll cakes decorated with animal designs and exquisite ribbon candy.

It’s not all about showmanship and “cuteness”, however. Like her basket of roses, “big ass cake castle” is a simple concept, but excels in he little details, as a perfectionist patissier like Momo is wont to do. She even employed soy sauce as a rich and salty element in the whipped cream to accentuate the sweetness, similar to the similar tactic used with salted caramel.

Because the castle is so big, Momo is able to enchant not just the judges and Urara, but the entire audience as well, turning the Shokugeki into another opportunity to promote her celebrity. The judges are certainly impressed, and Momo uses everyone’s approval to stare down menacingly at Erina from the battlements of her fortress.

But Momo is sadly mistaken to underestimate her opponent. I mean, we’re talking about the God Tongue here, daughter of the current and granddaughter of the former headmasters of Totsuki. Whether the dish is savory or sweet, Erina knows what she’s doing, and not even Momo’s preternatural ability to assess the cuteness of flavors is any match for Erina’s culinary instincts.

Erina’s dish is, as you’d expect, much smaller than Momo’s, but packed with refinement. It is, at the end of the day, two pancakes with red bean paste in the middle—a dorayaki, like Megumi’s. But where Megumi didn’t quite transform the elements enough to beat Momo’s rose basket, Erina infused her knowledge of cuisine with the resourcefulness and willingness to stray outside the bounds of “what is normal” she’s gained from Souma.

The result of that fusion is an easy victory over Momo, who in an arrogance that has been rewarded all her life, presumed that she ruled over all things dessert. In fact, there were entire nations, regions, and worlds she not only didn’t have dominion over, but didn’t even know existed.

Megumi gave Momo a taste of those worlds and irritated her, but Erina beat her with them. Erina even acknowledges Megumi’s inventiveness by using the French version of her name, “Grace”, in the name of her dish. As for Erina admitting Souma inspired her, well, she goes right back to her tsundere safe place. But it’s a good solid victory.

Next up: Takumi vs. Rindou in a spear squid battle. In a final twist to make it harder on the rebels, this and the battle between Satoshi and Eishi will be judged by Azami himself, meaning Takumi and Satoshi will have to prove to him that his philosophy is wrong.

Oigakkosan’s Summer 2019 Anime Season Wrap-up

Arifureta began as a grim, visually unremarkable dungeon crawler, hinting at global conflicts and structures of political and social control… before devolving into guy-shoots-monsters-gets-harem-rinse-repeat. Pitting guns, missiles and motorcycles against orcs and wolves is tricky to make compelling, and Arifureta’s mediocre animation, slow plot, and constant battles doesn’t help.

Worse shows aired this season but few featured dragons being anally raped by the protagonist with a giant metal spike, nor said dragon joining said protagonist’s harem afterwards. However, and I’m going out on a limb here, even if this is up your personal kink, Arifureta’s PG-13 sensibilities probably wont go far enough for you. Niche at best, Barely Watchable for the rest of us.

Dr Stone is delightfully consistent with it’s focus on science process, over the top characters, and methodical plot to rebuild society from the stone age up. While its medium term objective (defeat super-strong/ super evil antagonist with science) has taken a back seat to gaining support of the villagers Senko discovered mid-season, its not forgotten.

We’ve learned about electricity, food chemistry, and glass as much as human nature, motivation and weakness. Hand in hand with lovable characters and charming visual style, Dr Stone is probably my most recommended show of the season.

Given’s relationship story is lovely, thoughtful, and matured with deeper issues of loss. The wow is in the details. From taking a dozen buses just to stand by the ocean, just to stand where you once stood with a close friend, to walking off stage after only one song, Given doesn’t over explain itself with dialog.  It’s solid but, like real romance, the best parts come from getting to know the characters. So I called it quits after episode six. Still, highly recommended

Granbelm finally developed an emotional core: Mangetsu is a magic puppet created by Ernesta’s subconscious desire to have a friend who isn’t an effed up mess. Also, despite earlier signs that losing wasn’t that big a deal, it has been revealed that girls die all the time in magic fights but no one remembers because… magic amnesia.

These are solid reveals and Mangetsu’s heart filled good bye to the cast (almost all of which immediately forget she ever existed) was strongly delivered. It just took way too long to develop. Combined with a dull pure evil villain, power levels that swing at the whim of the story, and Granbelm’s misunderstanding of what a mystery is (as opposed to just being confusing) and the show is only watchable.

Maou-sama, Retry! started off so absurdly bad, so generically Demon Lord/Isekai, that it had a certain charm. As it strolled forward, it took no greater objective than to introduce new characters to Maou’s harem, and forget about previous characters and potential destinations for the story. Aku hasn’t even been in the previous two episodes. The result is powerfully without purpose. It doesn’t care. You shouldn’t either. Barely watchable.

UchiMusume also suffers from a lack of purpose and follow through. For a show that features a central character who’s past is a mystery, and a hero who occasionally kills people for political gain, there’s an awful lot of wandering around aimlessly and eating food!

The result is harmlessly cute but smidgens of world building do not make up for a four episode long trip to and from a village to buy a new trench coat. It’s Barely watchable.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest – 01 (First Impressions) – The Pit of Misery, Dilly Dilly!

Arifureta doesn’t bother with any light-hearted introductions or explanations into how Nagumo Hajime and his class ended up transported to a new, fantastical world, it simply plops us right beside him as he wallows in an abyss of despair. He’s weak, ineffectual, and his only magical skill is transmuting the rock in his immediate vicinity.

He was underleveled way further up in this labyrinth; now he’s prey for prey. When a giant polar bear-like monster with a tanuki face slices his left arm off and eats it, he retreats into a cavern of his own making and passes out under a healing holy crystal, bleeding and waiting for death.

Then and only then do we get some insight into how he ended up in this situation: he was on a quest in the labyrinth when a careless classmate touched something that transported them to a far more dangerous level.

He manages to save his classmate Kaori from a rampaging behemoth, but while the others cover his escape, one of them targets him directly, sending him plummeting into the abyss where we first meet him.

Kaori, who may not see Hajime as a love interest but still looks out for him, warns him not to come on the quest after she has an awful dream about him meeting his doom, but he convinces her to help protect him, and he’ll be alright.

Turns out her dream was prescient, but when Hajime wakes up in the abyss, in pain but still not dead, he decides to change his tune and pump himself up into Survival At All Costs Mode. First, he drinks holy water, then he captures a smaller monster and eats its raw meat, which ends up poisoning him and turning his hair white.

But that’s not all: in addition to his badass hair, Hajime’s muscle mass and stats have all increased, and he’s gained the skill of the monster he ate. Much like Rimuru Tempest when he first arrived in a new world as a Slime, Hajime uses the ample resources around him to continue leveling up and build weapons that will let him defeat ever more powerful foes.

It’s a very A-leads-to-B-leads-to-C procedural process, but one thing’s for sure, Hajime’s seiyu Fukamachi Toshinari stops sounding so annoyingly whiny and adopts a cooler voice to go with his cooler appearance and upgraded skill-set. It’s as if he had to fall into the deepest abyss (and get betrayed by a classmate) in order to awaken the will to become a stronger person in this world.

Armed with a pistol and grenade, Hajime locates the bearlike monster who ate his arm, and utilizes all of his new skills to tear its arm off and eat it, then puts a bullet between its eyes. Hajime is no longer messing around; he’s going to survive and get home, and he’ll kill anyone “in his way.”

Isekai shows are like American crossover vehicles: there are a lot of them, and most of them are exactly the same, but still others are actually good. I’m not quite sure what Arifureta is quite yet, but it at least distinguished itself nicely by putting us right beside a protagonist who had already literally hit rock bottom.

Aside from some glimpses of his elaborately kitted-out classmates and the awakening of a starving, red-eyed Loli, this was a stripped-down and minimalist outing that focused on one young man shrugging off death and despair and improving himself to the point he can climb out of the darkness.

I’ll see where he leads…especially since Youjo Senki taught me the dangers of passing judgment on a show after its first episode.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 03

aka31

As Shirayuki pays a visit to an overworked Zen and studies by his side as he catches up on some sleep, I’m reminded of a lovely scene from Whisper of the Heart in which the lead couple is simply quietly enjoying each other’s company in the library, exchanging looks of happiness and contentment. The connection is made stronger with orchestral music that calls to mind Nomi Yuji’s score from that film, one of my favorites.

aka32

Things are peachy for Zen and Shirayuki…until, of course, they aren’t. Shirayuki isn’t kidnapped this week, but she is looked down upon by one of Zen’s liege lords, Haruka. A stern, authority and class-obsessed man, he will not tolerate Zen bringing in towngirls of low birth, and considers her hair color “vulgar”.

This guy has clearly painted a picture of a girl who wants to get something from the prince, and honestly believes he’s protecting the prince and his reputation, from her selfish feminine wiles. In other words…he’s a conclusion-jumping asshole.

aka35

This asshole, and a lithe, ninja-like fellow named Obi he’s loosely allied with, conspire to keep Shirayuki out of the castle, but she manages to get back in before they warn the guards, to grab a book she forgot in the prince’s chambers. Once she realizes people who don’t speak for Zen and aren’t acting according to his will are messing with her, and her answer to that is to simply blow past them.

When Lord Haruka bars her way and tells her to leave, she invites him to join her to meet with Zen. He then draws his sword and names her an intruder…but asshole he may be, he doesn’t follow through on his threat to cut her. In fact, he seems downright flummoxed by Shirayuki’s utterly badass defiance. Despite having a sword in her face, she keeps advancing, until Haruka can only sheathe it, defeated.

aka34

It is as Prince Zen told him: this girl is not the kind of girl to continually rely on the strength of others. She has her own strength, too, and she means to use it to become Court Herbalist so she can enter the gates of her own accord. She may be low-born (at least as far as we know), but Haruka saw a nobility in her resolve.

One could say her birth and her hair make Shirayuki someone who “makes enemies easily”, like Zen. But she couldn’t call Haruka an enemy, nor he her, because he didn’t know her, or what she was really doing in the castle. Now he knows: Shirayuki is a resolute badass.

8_mag

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 02

aki21

The OP presages Shirayuki as a Court Herbalist of Clarines, but we’re not quite there yet; this episode opens on her job hunt as a new resident of Wistal, capital of Clarines. She learns there’s an annual exam to become a Court Herbalist, but she wants to educate herself about the herbs of Clarines, knowing that good medicines need good herbs need good land.

Prince Zen is delighted to get out of stodgy paperwork when she visits the palace, and he escorts her to the dock where she’ll travel to the mountain isle Koto to explore, but not before Zen remarks how their desire to learn more about their world and become better at what they do is very similar.

aki22

But when two townsfolk talk about how unusual Shirayuki’s hair is (and what it could make them if sold), along with Shirayuki saying “she’ll be back by nightfall”, it’s pretty much a given that things aren’t going to turn out peachy for her on this trip. Sure enough, she’s captured by a young rogue named Mihaya, who—you guessed it—wants to make money off that hair.

Just when I was hoping Shirayuki would attempt escape as soon as she could, she does just that, sawing at the ropes, locking Mihaya in the cell, then using her knowledge of herbs to make a smoke that temporarily paralyzes him. This captivity represents a roadblock on Shirayuki’s self-decided road, with a detour to a road not of her choosing. And she simply isn’t gonna have it.

aki23

She makes it out of the seemingly abandoned, labyrinthine castle, only to get cornered once more by Mihaya, who is now pissed off. He then gives her patter about how he’ll sell her to someone rich so she can live a comfy life of luxury. Unlike the last time she was kidnapped (by Prince Raj), she doesn’t give in, replying with a “Fuck That Noise” expression.

For this defiance, she’s about to take whatever punishment Mihaya is about to dish out, when Zen appears in the nick of time, which is just when we thought he’d arrive. Yes, the guy is rescuing the girl again, but Shirayuki is hardly a damsel in distress, demonstrating she did everything an unarmed person could have done in her situation. Also, she made things a lot easier for Zen by escaping from the castle.

I’d like to think if Zen hadn’t been able to make it, Shirayuki would have kept fighting Mihaya until she either escaped his clutches or he let her go out of exasperation. That’s how much faith I place in Shirayuki’s strength and resolve to travel her own path. She’s a fighter. I really like her!

aki24

Zen also makes it clear, he’s saving Shirayuki not so he can use her as a tool, or a means to recoup a lost family fortune like Mihaya (I don’t particularly care about his story, he abducted someone, he deserves prison), but because he considers himself Shirayuki’s friend. And friends help their friends out when they’re in trouble.

Sure, I can see things being taken further than friendship, but like Shirayuki’s appointment to the Court, that’s yet to come. For now, Shirayuki resolves to watch her back, as her hair really does cause trouble; yet I like how there’s no discussion of dyeing it. Shirayuki isn’t trying to hide, she’s trying to better herself and live a free and fulfilling life doing what she loves.

Even before her trusty friends show up, those who threaten he freedom will find her a wily, resourceful handful. Bottom line: don’t mess with someone who doesn’t want to be messed with…and knows fifty ways to poison you!

8_mag

%d bloggers like this: