Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 21 – Loose Ends

With all the battles in Underworld ended, all of this week’s SAO prior to the end credits takes place on Ocean Turtle, as Kikuoka, Rinko, Higa, and Nakanishi attempt to eject Alice (which is successful), log out Kirito and Asuna (who tells Rinko she’s staying with Kirito) and secure the facility.

Instead of the fantastical battles in the Underworld, it’s all metal, shadows, bullets, blood, and keyboard clacking. There’s more than a little Die Hard to the proceedings.

Gabriel Miller “wakes up” only to see his own body still lying dead on the STL, his face contorted in pure terror. He’s just a ghost, and Alicia appears and drags him under the water. When Critter reaches his and Vassagos STLs and finds them dead, he loses the will to fight any longer.

Still, his comrade Hans insists they continue their mission to the end. If they can’t steal Alice, they’ll destroy her by overloading Ocean Turtle’s reactor and rigging an explosive to cripple the control rods that prevent cataclysmic fission.

With Ocean Turtle suddenly converted into a ticking nuclear bomb, Nakanishi rushes to the reactor only to be pinned down by Hans, who is willing to die for Miller and the mission. He’s bailed out first by the robot Niemon, who somehow contains the consciousness of Kayaba Akihito, and also the wounded Kikuoka.

The deus ex machina Niemon is heavily damaged, but Akihito manages to restore control to the reactor and destroy the explosive detonator before collapsing, thus saving the Underworld, Alice, and his lover Rinko.

As Critter and the remainder of Miller’s team escapes on their sub, the timer zeros without any accompanying explosion, and Critter assumes they’ve failed. However, when he checks the bodies they brought with them, there are only two: Miller’s and Brigg’s.

What happened to Vassago’s? And what happened to Niemon, who also vanishes without a trace? We don’t know, and between those unknown elements, the looming JSDF, and Kikuoka’s health, the Ocean Turtle team can’t breathe easy despite no longer being in imminent peril.

Higa seems hopeful he can log Kirito and Asuna out before their fluctlights run out of memory capacity, but after the credits roll the two meet, embrace, and resign themselves to two hundred years in the Underworld.

No number of centuries matters to them as long as they’re together. And since they’re probably the two most powerful people in this “just born” new world, they feel obligated to do their part ensuring it will be a world of peace and happiness for all its inhabitants.

Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! – 08 – Forward March!

There’s a palpable sense of anticipation in the sight the Eizouken putting the finishing audio touches on the cultural festival preview of SHIBA8 vs The Pistol Crabtle, lit only by a single office lamp and the editing monitor. As director Midori displays a uncanny knack for knowing when to time music and sound effects to the visuals.

Unfortunately they didn’t have time to record the voice actors so they’ll be doing it live in the auditorium, adding another set of things that could go wrong, from both technical and personnel-wise. But the show must go on, and it will. The main challenge is to create sufficient buzz at the festival to lure a sufficiently large audience.

Throughout this episode from start to finish, Tsubame’s rich actor parents loom large, but not as villains ready to undermine the Eizouken, but rather as parents who find they’ll have time to visit their daughter’s school festival. They almost seem eager to do so, well aware of how their careers have made it tough for her to get a fair share of time with them throughout her childhood.

Like just about every shot in this episode before the festival starts, the scene of Tsubame’s mom discovering she never came home is lit so beautifully, with the light of dawn just behind the horizon but already lending a hazy blue color to the sky.

Even more magical is the scene of the Eizouken trio tucking into campfire ramen outside their ramshackle studio. The warm firelight dancing off their relaxed figures as the ethereal purple dawn rises in the background. There’s an intoxicating combination of comfort, coziness, and a sense of impending drama.

The three don’t seem to notice how gorgeous and almost iconic their surroundings are, but that goes without saying: they’ve been working without sleep for who-knows-how-long and are in strict ramen-scarfing mode. Will they remember this meager fireside feast before the premiere of their first large scale effort, or will the day’s excitement cloud these quiet, delicate, hauntingly gorgeous earlier moments? I hope not.

Just as the Eizouken’s robot project dwarfs their gas mask short in size and complexity, Shibahama’s Cultural Festival’s unrestrained chaos makes the earlier budgetary committee look quaint by comparison. Competition ferocity is on par with the Serengeti, and one could see Midori and/or Tsubame getting absolutely lost in the stampede.

Fortunately, both Sayaka and the Robot Club have taken care of everything and are prepared for virtually every eventuality. The Robot Club also breaks a few school rules, using water rockets and megaphones to amplify their cause. This draws the ire of the StuCo and Security Clubs, who initially target Tsubame as the amateur-model-ringleader for arrest.

Thanks to the expert distribution of similar-looking cardboard robot costumes and Sayaka’s birds-eye-view of the premises, Tsubame is able to take direction from Sayaka via walkie-talkie and gradually navigate her way to the designated auditorium where the screening will take place—and where her notoriety is key to drawing a big chunk of the crowd.

Sayaka also successfully blackmails the normally untouchable HVAC club (all of whom are caught wasting A/C on a hot day) into ensuring the auditorium will be enticingly cool for audience members coming in from the outside. Sure, Tsubame enough could be a good draw, but the A/C draws in even those few who don’t know her or about robots or anime.

In another impressive demonstration of intricate planning, logistics, timing, and luck, Robot Club’s Ono takes a zipline across the breadth of the campus, with a huge banner trailing behind him notifying the gawking masses of the impending screening.

Like Tsubame, the cat-and-mouse chase between him and those who would shut them down takes on the feel of a madcap video game, complete with platforms, mazes, obstacles, and end-goals. It’s just a tremendous amount of fun and imagination—and all before we see a single frame of the movie!

Everything goes off without a hitch. The auditorium is nice and cool and the crowd is huge. Even Tsubame’s parents attend, eager to see what their daughter has been up to (turns out using MIBs to discourage her from anime pursuits was her dad’s idea). There are no technical difficulties with the video or audio or the live-voicing setup.

The crowd watches the robot-crabtle battle with stunned looks, the screen glowing in their eyes. Tsubame’s parents admire the animation with prime, and are able to see Tsubame’s love of capturing motion through art in this manner. Pride washes over their faces. They realize this, not live-action acting, is what their daughter loves and excels at.

After the screening, and a brief autograph/handshake session, Tsubame is dispatched to get lunch for Midori and Sayaka, and runs into her parents. The three have a cordial mini-lunch together, and Tsubame draws upon her parents’ careers as artists for perhaps the first time, asking if they’re ever satisfied after a performance.

She’s relieved to hear neither of them are, because neither is she…and we no neither is Midori. They’re relieved Tsubame has been off doing her own thing, and it’s something they’re not going to try to hold her back from anymore. To do so would be to prevent her from “performing” the way she knows best: with pencil and paper.

Finally, her parents poke their heads in a shed where the Eizouken 3 are taking a break from all the hubbub, and about to scarf down the lunch Tsubame brought. Her parents ask if these are her friends; Midori responds that they’re comrades. The bonds of comrades, joined not by blood but by common cause and common fate, surpass mere friendship, for even the best of friends can have vastly different goals.

It’s no surprise Midori is donned in full camo combat fatigues. The cultural festival was the Eizouken’s greatest battle yet, and victory was achieved. Not flawlessly, mind you—Midori estimates she’s only 20% satisfied with the product they presented—but enough to get the job done.

The fact Tsubame’s parents can no longer be counted among their enemies is both strategically advantageous and a timely boost to unit morale. On to the next battle!

Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! – 07 – Spilling Tea for Art’s Sake

Tsubame’s unyielding passion to capture the motion of the world around her through drawing started when she was in grade school, watching her grandma toss tea into the yard with a precise, practiced motion. The action fascinated her, and she yearned to master it herself so she could capture it in all its glory.

When she ended up in classes on how to stand, sit, and walk in preparation for her modeling career, Tsubame voraciously jotted down all the various motions, even discerning a better way for her infirm grandma to move and walk more comfortably. She carries that passion on in every frame of animation she’s drawing for this robot anime.

She does this in defiance of her mother’s insistence she not get involved in animation, but also in lieu of getting the proper amount of sleep or paying sufficient attention in class. Yet even if she’s sleep-deprived and her grades start to slip, there’s no alternative. Tsubame is gradually learning not to be a total perfectionist, but she’s never going to give anything less than 110% effort.

With Doumeki on board, the trio now have someone with far more audio know-how than the rest of them combined, but that just means she’s able to describe in precise demoralizing detail all of the challenges they face and the consequences of not properly harmonizing visuals and sound.

Meanwhile, Midori is presented artwork that the artists believe was following her instructions, but which she worries will fundamentally change the film they’re making. The artists need to be more flexible, but she needs to be more precise in her direction.

While I’m sure Sayaka considers it another strictly-business opportunity to give her talent a much-needed break, and it is their bathhouse visit after school is closed due to rain turns out to be a nice bonding experience. There’s a familial intimacy to bathing together that the team previously lacked.

It’s also fun to watch Midori dutifully call her very nice parents to let her know where she is and what she’s doing with whom, as well as the very rich Tsubame marveling at every aspect of the bathhouse experience, as well as insisting Sayaka douses Midori over and over so she can watch the motion of the water —much like she asked her granny to keep tossing tea.

The three then dine on crawfish after catching their fair share themselves (though they can’t eat the same fish they caught, as they must be purged of mud first, Midori points out), and Midori and Tsubame whip out their sketchbooks to capture their dinner in all its crustacean glory. Few moments of these young women’s lives seem to ever pass without them capturing it with pen or pencil on paper.

When the rain subsides, they return to their studio, and Tsubame gradually becomes frustrated with her animation of a chainsaw. After discussing possible remedies with Midori, the two bring in Sayaka, who thinks its fine and that they should watch it with sound. Sure enough, it makes more than enough impact for the quick cut…but Tsubame isn’t quite satisfied.

Both Midori and Tsubame consider anime to be the best way to appreciate movement, more so than even live action film, and that comes down to intent. The imagination, passion and effort of a great animator comes out in every frame of their work, lending it greater impact than a mere directed and photographed live-action actor.

Tsubame isn’t looking to “make people smile” with her anime. She wants to be able to wow people like her, who can’t help but spot every potential flaw or revelation; notice every triumph or defeat. By being her own harshest, uncompromising critic, an artiste like Tsubame could potentially problems for a production on a shoestring budget and tight deadline.

But doggone it, the eventual visual rewards of letting her go wild are well worth the pain. It’s why Sayaka is almost always irritated and annoyed, but she’ll gladly bear those emotions if it results in an exceptional—and profitable—final product. When you successfully harness the chaotic energy of special talents and personalities, great things can happen. And like a rocket taking off, the sky’s the limit.

Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na! – 06 – No Groaning, Moaning, or Excuses

The Eizoken has 96 days to produce a 15-20 minute anime about a robot fighting a crabtle, and its members must contend with a nearly infinitely more complex production. More action scenes, more sound effects, more backgrounds, more of everything they already did with Machete Girl, only they’ll also need more classically epic music and voice actors for dialogue.

Kanamori Sayaka, the ever-steady executive producer, keeps the ship on course in these early stages, knowing when to crack the whip and when to show kindness and generosity…or at least that last bit would have been the case if she’d actually treated the artists to ramen. That said, never carrying more than 1,000 yen at all times is an elegant, effective means of budgeting!

She can forsee that this production could easily drain their finances, and the student council is keeping a watchful eye, so Sayaka decides to play ball, acting both as council enforcer and interested party with the delinquent Sound Club.

She gives its only member Doumeki an offer she can’t refuse, offering protection in exchange for access to her ridiculously vast collection of sounds, plus her own expertise as audio advisor. Doumeki is also compelled to sell much of the collection for club funds, and Sayaka and the Eizouken will get a cut of that.

Sayaka can’t do it all, however. She can only create a stable enough environment in which Midori and Tsubame can work. But there’s more work than the two of them will ever be able to complete in time, so they need to delegate some of the work to a willing art club (who like the robot club were impressed by Machete Girl).

In their first meeting with the art club, Midori constantly needs help from both Sayaka and one of the club’s members to get out what she’s trying to say. She’s simply not good at telling people what to do, but if she doesn’t, there’s no giant robot anime.

While recharging her depleted brain with some late afternoon sketching, Midori falls down a well of self-doubt, worried there’s no way she can make a robot anime that will satisfy everyone. Sayaka delivers the tough love speech she Midori in her moment of vulnerability. It’s not about satisfying everyone, but making a final product on time that she can be satisfied with and proud of.

As evidenced from their reaction to Machete Girl, Midori and Tsubame are their own most exacting critics, so it sounds counterproductive to tell her to trust in her own sensibilities. But Midori is eventually able to reconcile some of the inconsistencies (or as Tsubame calls them, “crimes” committed in order to field a giant robot anime), and regains her motivation.

Hands Off the Eizouken! has beautiful, terrifically imaginative art and a wonderfully novel way of visualizing its artists’ creations, but besides all that one shouldn’t overlook its devotion to what makes a good anime: characters you care about overcoming obstacles internal and external to achieve something great.

Null Peta – 02 (Second Impressions)

Null is not a morning person. Her alarm clock is a brick of C4, followed by being mechanically dumped out of bed into a shoot, and dropped onto the floor by the breakfast table.

Peta is not a breakfast person. She is in fact a robot. After projecting a fake-out holographic breakfast, complete with color control sliders, Peta offers Null deep-dark-fried-rice. Also a bamboo shoot.

For the next 3 minutes, Peta tries to feed this clearly evil slop to Null and Null tries to DESTROY HER ROBOT SISTER. There are explosions, mecha, more bamboo shoots, and another missed day of school.

Null Peta may only be 5 minutes long, and more than a minute of that is taken up by opening credits! However, the script is packed with verbal timing humor, silly ideas, and good enough visuals to make those 5 minutes enjoyable.

Null Peta – 01 (First Impressions)

A little girl builds a robot to replace her missing older sister. For some reason, she also installs weapons and a bamboo shoot. While ‘Peta’ does not boot up right away, she does eventually, before engaging rockets and blasting off to take Null to school.

Cute, charming, a little weird and well timed humor carries this short-format show across the finish line. If it were a full length episode, it could even be worth following. Who are Null and Peta? Did something tragic happen to the older sister? Will something tragic happen next because weapons?? (I probably won’t be watching)

Carole & Tuesday – 04 – Caveat Emptor Robotus

Unsuccessful in collabing with DJ Ertegun, Gus presents his second idea for Carole & Tuesday making it big: a music video. Despite my initial suspicion that they’d try to make it big without AI, they end up buying a 19-Woolong robot who will direct, film, and edit.

The low, low price immediately threw up a red flag for me, but the crew presses forward, throwing out a king’s ransom in pop culture references from Thriller to The Avengers, which the robot somehow manages to make sense of, and then provides a list of required things.

Gus meets with his stylish ex-wife Marie for her know-how with hair, makeup, and wardrobe. Perhaps impressed he’s off the bottle and serious about helping some new talent soar, Marie agrees, despite no upfront payment.

The SpielbergBot, AKA IDEA, turns out to be a beer fanatic in the vein of Futurama’s Bender, and mostly lazes around watching TV as C&T write a new song for the video (incidently, the one that plays over the end credits).

Meanwhile, Roddy manages to score an expensive car courtesy of DJ Ertegun. When Roddy is initially dishonest about knowing the girls, Ertegun flashes a number of looks at him—accompanied by hilarious EDM sounds—but ultimately helps his young friend out.

C&T meet Marie’s wardrobe friend and lover, then try on a number of outfits in another montage as Roddy practices his dance moves. When he shows up in the car all debonair an’ shit, the girls aren’t interested in him at all, only the car itself. Roddy also provides the “giant robot” in his ultra-rare limited-edition resin models, which IDEA will scale up in post.

The day of filming begins, and it’s a bit chaotic; befitting all the myriad ideas everyone threw out at the beginning. C&T jump from setting to setting and costume to costume with no real consistent narrative or theme, and from the look of Roddy by the end, something terrible happened to Ertegun’s car.

We then learn while IDEA is having a bath back at Carole’s place that he’s running some kind of scam on the humans, insulting their intelligence and threatening Carole’s owl alarm clock not to snitch.

Gus and Marie have a drink to celebrate the wrap of the video, and both admit to how much goshdarn fun they had getting back in the game like that. Marie even wonders what went wrong with their marriage, insinuating it wasn’t all Gus’ fault, then tells him she’s getting remarried to an amazing woman.

When IDEA is done editing, Carole, Tuesday and Gus prepare to watch with baited breath, while Roddy stays home and finds out on the news that IDEA is an AI scammer. It’s news delivered far too late, as after they watch his train wreck of a video (most of which isn’t even in focus), C, T, and G all glare menacingly at IDEA before boxing him up and sending him back to the fulfillment center.

After two episodes of relative realism (aided by coincidence and fate, but still realistic), C&T gets a little more madcap and cartoonish, and everyone is a little dumber for one episode as they put their complete trust, time, and effort in a totally dubious mechanism. Their “guerrilla” performances at the music hall and laundromat feel at once more effective and more sincere than any cut-rate video production anyway. When you’re broke, elegant minimalism is key. This was all too baroque.

One Punch Man 2 – 04 – Dammit, I’m Busy!

As Saitama registers for the tournament posing as Charanko, Garo’s assault of an HA director leads to the HA orders all other executives to have a Class S hero escort. This means Metal Bat is forced to guard on such super-rich exec and his piss-ant son (who won’t stop putting dishes back on the conveyor) instead of going shopping with his sister. When danger strikes, it’s not Garo at all, but a pair of unrelated monsters.

As Mumen Rider assures Charanko that since he’s a hero, Saitama would never enter a tournament under a false name, Saitama meets Sourface, Charanko’s senpai who warns him about…entering the tournament under a false name and wearing a disguise, for which he could get arrested. Saitama snaps back, telling Sourface he has no right to pretend he’s better than Charanko, who went one-on-one against Garo.

Speaking of senpais, once Metal Bat easily deals with the two monsters, their much bigger, much tougher senpais show up, and give Metal Bat a beatdown. He manages to pump himself up by hitting himself in the head with his own bat, and then dispatches them both with one devastating swing each…though probably due to his head injury he forgot to ask the monsters what their motivation was.

The fight escalates in intensity once more when the senpai of the senpais appears, a dragon-class centipede monster that triggers an evacuation of City S. Metal Bat is already fired up, but this time his foe is so big and his skin so tough it’s hard to make a dent. Things get worse for Metal Bat when Garo shows up and challenges him to a fight. Talk about rude; wait your turn dude!

While I was disappointed we didn’t jump straight to Saitama kicking ass and taking names in the tournament (assuming they let him fight), it’s fairly par for the course for him to basically sit out an entire episode so it can showcase a different hero or heroes-ones far weaker than he.

I have no doubt Saitama could dispatch that giant purple centipede with…one punch. The only problem is he’s stuck in a green room, hoping to get some martial arts experience and experience a “real fight.” I don’t think he’ll find one there.

One Punch Man 2 – 03 – Icarus

The buildup to the inevitable clash with Saitama continues as Garo bags his first S-Class Hero, Tank Top Master. Tank gets a few choice shots in, but is stopped from finishing Garo when Mumen Rider intervenes on the grounds Garo is “merely” a human. Neither he nor Tank are apparently aware that this is the guy officially classified as a Monster by the HA.

Tank gets some licks in, but can’t deal with Garo’s martial arts tecnique. We also learn Garo is a former student of Bang, AKA Silverfang, through another student, Charanko.

Bang, who is going to deal with Garo himself (with help from his big bro) beat Charanko up in order to get him out of the line of fire, but Charanko ends up another one of Garo’s victims.

Who should visit all three in the hospital (with complementary bananas!) but Saitama, who is primarily there for Mumen, but ends up meeting Tank and Charanko as well. He wants to learn more about martial arts in order to take Garo on, and Charanko gives him a ticket to an upcoming tournament in which he can no longer participate due to injury.

Garo’s reign of terror continues as he borrows a unibrowed kid’s Hero Guide to learn not only who the local heroes are, but their styles and trump cards. When he challenges the slingshot-wielding Golden Ball to an alley brawl, Ball is initially confident, like Tank was, but he has to be bailed out by another Hero, the saber-wielding Spring Mustache, who gets a knuckle sandwich for his trouble.

When Ball tells Garo he “can’t keep this up forever,” as he’ll eventually encounter a hero he can’t beat, Garo scoffs. He’ll believe it when he sees it; meanwhile, he’ll continue doing what he wants—wasting heroes—until the day comes when someone can stop him.

That day comes far sooner than he expected, as after beating up a horny HA official, Garo has a chance encounter with our One Punch Man. Saitama says “I’ve been looking all over for you,” and Garo assumes he’s addressing him, and takes the first shot, a devastating chop to the shoulder that…does nothing at all to Saitama.

Saitama merely delivers the same blow to Garo, dropping him to the pavement, before continuing with what he was doing: seeking out a wig to buy so he can impersonate Charanko in the martial arts tournament.  And so, Garo ends up flying too close to the sun and gets burnt, big time. Thankfully for him, Saitama doesn’t know who he is, and lets him go free.

One Punch Man 2 – 02 – This Isn’t Normal

When the ruffians get predictably rowdy, Sitch sics his heroes on a couple of them, leading the werewolf-like Garo to step to and waste everyone; only Sitch is spared as a witness; Garo promises to be back “in six months.” Hey, even human monsters have to manage expectations!

Meanwhile, both Hellish Blizzard and Sound-o’-Speed Sonic are headed to Saitama’s house. The former is flanked by two goons, while the latter is first detected by Geno’s cybor-sense. Saitama, meanwhile, is just having fun playing with King’s PSP, which he stole and accidentally erased King’s data.

Saitama would much rather spend his afternoon playing games than dealing with anyone, but as usual he doesn’t get his way. Blizzard arrives first, asking Saitama to join her faction, and threatening reprisal if he declines. Naturally, Saitama refuses, and flings her so-called goons off the damn balcony.

Even though he’s just met her, Saitama can tell that Blizzard isn’t hero material as long as she uses weaker people to prop herself up while bullying others into joining her. Saitama doesn’t care about rankings (nor should he, considering how under-ranked he is), and proves Blizzard can’t make him do anything by easily weathering her esper attacks.

In the middle of their spat, Genos and Sonic show up, and Saitama and Blizzard are witnesses to their street brawl. Blizzard is astonished that someone like Genos is calling Saitama his “master”, while she considers Sonic to be another S-Class monster far beyond her abilities.

Genos and Sonic proceed to show her just how powerful they are, with increasingly fast and devastating attacks, but it leads to nothing but a big ol’ stalemate. When Genos loses his temper and prepares to blast the whole damn area to smite Sonic, Saitama intervenes…because he doesn’t want his area blasted.

Sonic thus gets what he wants: another one-on-one round with his “rival.” But again, Sonic is put in his place all too quickly and easily, thanks to a “side-stepping” attack by Saitama that multiplies Sonic’s ten afterimages exponentially. Defeated, Sonic retreats, but promises this isn’t over, because of course he does.

Back at Saitama’s place, Blizzard explains why she’s so obsessed with keeping the top B spot and gathering followers: she’s never been anything but second-best in a family that also contains Terrible Tornado, her older sister. She’s then overwhelmed again when King arrives…only to ask Saitama for his game back.

It’s clear to Blizzard that not only is Saitama no normal Class B hero, but has a preternatural ability to draw the strongest monsters into his orbit, where he can then demonstrate how much stronger he is than those comers. And that’s his appeal: overwhelming power, minimal ego and ambition. He’s a hero for fun. Why do people have to keep making it not fun?

Speaking of which, Garo comes across a Class A hero by chance and ends him without breaking a sweat. No doubt Garo will soon find himself another one of Saitama’s satellites…perhaps they can make each other break a sweat for once.

One Punch Man 2 – 01 – How Did it Come to This?

“The first sequel in three and a half years…I’M FEELING THE HYPE!”

—King, breaking the fourth wall

I too am feeling the hype for the first OPM sequel in three and a half years…it’s a lot of years! That seems like several RABUJOI rating tag designs (not to mention presidential administrations) ago. But here we are, and perhaps wisely, OPM takes things nice and easy, offering a mostly quiet and laid back return in which Saitama’s only action in the episode happens so fast we miss it.

He and Genos are crossing off items on the errand list on a beautiful day, inspecting figurines for heroes like “King” (while Saitama goes unhonored) when a reptilian pervert appears. At the same time, the real Class S, Rank 7 Hero King shows up in the flesh. The crowd immediately recognizes their imminent savior, while the low-level baddie is so scared of his mere reputation, he surrenders without a fight.

That’s just as well, because King privately would rather be anywhere else…specifically, playing the newest sequel to Heartthrob Sister. So King’s a reluctant hero who’d rather laze around, right?

Well, there’s more to it than boredom or will to fight. When a giant, advanced robot called G4 appears and challenges King to mortal combat, King asks if he can use the bathroom (so he can go full strength and make sure the robot gets the best data from the fight). That leaves Genos to deal with G4 while King…cowers in the bathroom.

Turns out King isn’t a real hero at all; he simply keeps ending up near giant monsters who are dealt with by someone else, leaving him to suck up all the credit. And that someone else turns out to be Saitama. Genos assures his master he’ll be fine on his own, so Saitama leaps up to King’s 22nd-floor apartment to play some games.

Of course, Saitama is there for more than games—he wants answers, like why King ran away from a fight. When a giant bird monster appears and Saitama stops it with one hand, King wets himself and confirms that his entire reputation is a lie. And King can’t very well claim to be the victim of mass public misunderstanding, since he’s always had the agency to correct the record.

He’s just lacked the courage to do so, and at this point, when he’s been credited with so many victories he’s regarded as The Strongest Man Alive, who can blame him? To come clean is to face unimaginable backlash from the public, who may in turn come to distrust all heroes, worried there may be other frauds.

Genos incinerates G4’s outer body, leaving the feistier, laser-ridden inner body to contend with, which he does thanks to the cloud of an exploded fire extinguisher and the fact Genos is simply the stronger party. Meanwhile, King realizes it’s this Saitama guy who keeps saving him again and again then rushing off, leaving people to credit King with the wins.

Saitama is very magnanimous about this whole ordeal, though part of that is simple realism: no matter what the truth is, the public thinks he’s the Ultimate Hero. So rather than let them down, Saitama suggests King start to live up to the title he never wanted, by becoming stronger.

He also invites himself to future video game sessions, no doubt to check and see if King can follow through or will continue to cower in the corner. After all, just because he was found out by Saitama doesn’t mean the “coincidences” that caused all this will end.

Genos presents Dr. Kuseno with the remains of G4, asking him if any of them can be integrated into his systems to become stronger. The cyborg that destroyed his home is still out there, and while Genos is more focused on his hero duties and living up to his Class, his hatred of his nemesis has not dissipated, but continues to fuel his drive.

From there we’re invited to an “Explanation Meeting” by the “The Earth is in Danger Prophecy Emergency Countermeasures Team”, led by Sitch. He has gathered dozens of criminals and n’er-do-wells (and protected himself with Class A heroes) because the disaster the prophecy fortells will surely require everyone’s fighting abilities, not just good folk. Among the “ruffians” is our old friend Sound-o’-Speed Sonic, who still thinks he can take Saitama on.

Also suspicious of Saitama’s quick C-to-B rise is Class B’s Rank 1, Hellish Blizzard. Both of them have Saitama in their crosshairs, but Saitama is content to wait for all comers while gaming with his new buddy King. There’s also one more lad at the very end who I’m probably supposed to remember, who seems excited about the prophecy of the End of the World.

It’s a strong return from one of my favorite action/comedy shows of recent years. There was a lot of exposition and people talking about fighting Saitama without actually doing so, but proper table-setting must precede a good feast. I’ve also heard this doesn’t look as good as the first season (the studio shifted from Madhouse to J.C. Staff), and perhaps that’s true, though it’s been so long I didn’t notice. I’m just a man of simple tastes, and I’m glad it’s back.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 11 – You Can’t Have Alicization Without Alice

Any hope of Saber Alice looking upon Eugeo and Kirito and remembering her past is thrown out the window when she clobbers Eugeo for getting too close, and threatens to have his hand off if he does it again. It may look and sound like Alice, but the personality has changed, whether it was overwritten or wiped and rewritten.

She merely fulfills her duty of sending them to the Central Cathedral dungeons via dragon—a pretty short trip, but I guess traditions are important in the Axiom Church. Tiese and Ronie tearfully send their mentors off with their swords, apologizing for their role in getting them in trouble. Eugeo, for his part, tells them they did nothing wrong: it was right to try to help their friend, despite the risks.

Back in the real world, Asuna watches the unconscious Kirito, wishing she could dive in to the Underworld to rescue him—and has me wondering why that hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps it’s still too soon to pull him out without killing him?

In any case, Asuna at least has Rinko to keep her company. She also meets one of Higa’s latest inventions: a robot that is the prototype for the kinds of artificial bodies into which they’ll eventually be downloading fluctlights, which is ethically all kinds of iffy, no matter how lighthearted Higa seems.

In the dungeon, Kirito and Eugeo learn that their chains are the same level, which means when they smack them together hard enough, they shatter. And since the chains are stronger than the bars of their cell, they’re able to knock that down too. It’s a good thing the guard is a very heavy sleeper.

From this point on, the two know they’re openly defying the church: no more hesitation. The plan is to find out why Alice has lost her memories, then find a way to undo whatever was done with her so the three can go home to the village together, just like old times.

They make it into the cathedral’s hedge labyrinth, which is bursting with gorgeous rose bushes, but are stopped by Alice’s student, Integrity Knight Eldrie Synthesis Thirty-One.

Alice expected Kirito and Eugeo to escape, and thus stationed Eldrie where she did. He’ll send them back to the dungeon, but not without doling out some kind of harsh punishment—something neither of them are about to take lying down.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 12 (Fin)

Aboard the derelict sub, the girls find a clean boat, chocolate…and a kind of patchwork history of everybody and everything that came before them, thanks to the camera auto-syncing with the monitors on the bridge. In addition to all the pictures they took, and those Hanakawa took before them, the camera is a veritable cornucopia of visual (and audiovisual) information.

The content ranges from simple images of life and death, to the reports of a school robotic research club, to news reports of a worsening geopolitical situation that leads to large-scale war and genocide. On the whole, though, Chito and Yuuri feel less lonely, now that they were able to watch how others lived.

Suddenly processing more information than they ever had before proves exhausting for the girls, who fall asleep under the consoles and dream of their escape from their town.

When Chito wakes, she’s too late to do anything about Yuuri getting swallowed up by a giant version of Cut. Chito suspects Cut might’ve been some kind of lure used by the bigger ones, but Cut’s body language suggests that’s not the case.

Chito runs through the submarine, desperate to find her one and only companion, and eventually emerges from the conning tower to find the Big Cut isn’t interested in eating living humans, and spits Yuuri out. It then transforms to reveal it’s a kind of semi-sentient mushroom.

The mushroom has a mix of good and bad news…though I guess it’s mostly bad for humanity. They are systematically ridding the earth of toxins leftover from the human population after it destroyed itself with war. Yuuri and Chito are the last two humans left, by the mushrooms’ reckoning.

All machinery will shut down around them, and after they’ve passed away, the world will enter a period of rest and inactivity, as the mushrooms hibernate. With that all said, mushrooms emerge from the nuclear missile tubes of the sub and they all ascend into the sky, likely to start “cleaning” the higher levels.

There’s not much for Chito and Yuuri to do but continue on their tour, with the goal of reaching the highest level. Even with their companion/pet Cut gone off with its brethren, Chito and Yuuri aren’t lonely, nor do they care if the world ends, because they have one another.

As with so much relating to this show, it’s simultaneously a deeply bittersweet ending, conveying the lesson to not be troubled by things life you can’t control (like the ending of the world) and take comfort in those you can—like who you choose to spend your days with.