Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 06 – Grace Under Fire

Vivy once again saves Kakitani along with a handful of Toak operatives, but Kakitani is once again ungrateful and Matsumoto determines it will be hard to conceal the fact that the AIs of Metal Float killed a fair number of humans, all thanks to Dr. Saeki’s apparent “shutdown” program caused all of the AIs to rampage, like antibodies fighting off an infection.

Saeki’s personal stake is put into context as we learn he was once a patient at the facility where he’d eventually work. As a child, it fell to the nursing AI Grace, descendant and Sister of Diva, to tell him his parents abandoned him, and to comfort him.

When he returned as a researcher, he fell in love and proposed to Grace, and they became the first official human-AI couple, with Grace considering marriage to be a logical step in her attempt to better understand humans as part of her mission to save and protect human lives.

When Vivy confronts him, he reveals his true plan, which at first he believed aligned with her and Matsumoto’s goals: like them he intended to shut down Metal Float, but he also intended to retrieve the data comprising the “soul” of the real Grace, who had been forcefully appointed the island’s control AI, and her mission rewritten.

Saeki tries to prove to Vivy that the Grace he knew and loved is still imprisoned in the core, singing Diva’s song (and incidentally, the opening theme) on a loop as a kind of distress call. But both she and Matsumoto hear the “singing” for what it is, nothing more than “tone data”. The Grace Saeki had hoped to download into his replica Grace no longer exists.

After Vivy makes clear to Saeki that in her current form she is not Diva, but Vivy, “an AI who will destroy AIs to change the destructive future”, he siccs his Grace replacement on her, but she’s able to easily defeat her thanks to her combat program. Matsumoto then determines the best place to look for the Grace core is the island’s main tower.

He proceeds to hack the production facility to quickly manufacture dozens of Matsumoto cubes, which coalesce into a kind of flying mecha Vivy uses to fight her way through the waves of defense AIs to reach the tower. Trippy Tron-y baroque neon spectacle set to the theme song ensues, to the point it’s hard to tell what’s going on at times, but it’s definitely cool-looking.

Vivy’s final obstacle is M205, who attempts one last surprise to detonate in her proximity in order to neutralize her, but Matsumoto mecha shields her from the explosion. While her face is damaged, Vivy enters Combat Mode and puts her arm through Grace’s chest. The island shuts down, making the operation a success. But it’s also framed as a death of honor and mercy, freeing Grace from a mission she never wanted.

But this success has immediate consequences. Despite Vivy’s hope and desire that Saeki be able to find happiness elsewhere in the wake of the loss of his love, Saeki instead chooses suicide by putting a bullet in his head, thus joining his lost love. As a result, in this instance, Diva failed in her mission to make people happy with her singing.

With one hand drenched in Saeki’s red human blood and the other in Grace’s blue AI blood, Vivy has a bit of an existential crisis. While Grace accepted the mission rewrite and assumed her new role as control AI of Metal Float, Diva/Vivy has maintained all along that her mission has not changed.

But one cannot deny that she’s suffered quite a bit of mission creep, and the resulting complications in her new dual role as savior of humanity is having a deleterious effect on her sense of being, and possibly her very sanity. We’ll see how this carries over into her next operation, whenever in the future that might be. But I imagine her condition will continue to worsen before it improves.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 05 – The Machine City

As last week marked the end of the Space Hotel Sunrise operation, it was anyone’s guess where and when Vivy would end up next time. This week begins with one hell of a hook: an apparently human man and an AI woman getting hitch in a gorgeous derelict cathedral on a lush green island. We pull out from that timeline and are presented with what must be that same island, only it has been developed into a futuristic floating city.

Five years, one month, and nine days have passed since the Sunrise incident. Estella was lauded for her heroics as the quintessential benevolent AI. Vivy is more popular than ever, headed ever closer to that main stage. Suddenly Matsumoto arrives in his floating cube form. The first step of Vivy’s newest op is to save the life of AI researcher Dr. Saeki Tatsuya from pursuing Toak agents. Due to his position, Saeki recognizes Vivy as the Diva AI.

Once Toak is dealt with and Saeki is safe, they pull over by the water where an island looms on the horizon. That island is the Metal Float, the world’s first unmanned offshore plant built and run by AIs and only AIs. Immediately I thought of the Machine City Zero One from The Matrix, as well as the reclusive advanced nation of Esthar from FFVIII.

Dr. Saeki puts it simply: That island’s overkill for this era. Matsumoto confirms its present advanced state has come about twenty years earlier than the “official history”. Vivy, Matsumoto, and Saeki are in agreement that the island must be shut down if the future annihilation of humans by AI is to be avoided. He takes them to his home where his AI wife Grace is waiting, and shows them a storage device that contains a program that will shut Metal Float down.

Matsumoto informs Vivy that Dr. Saeki’s wife Grace is one of the Sisters (though insists it’s a coincidence they keep running into them on their ops) and that they are the first human-AI couple to marry, and as such are celebrities. It’s a certainty that if they are to succeed in this operation and shut the island down, it will likely doom their marriage.

Nevertheless, they press on, taking a boat to the island where they are met by a WALL-E-like robot whose designation is soon shortened to “M”, and welcomes Vivy, who is registered as an “Inspection Team Researcher”, and Matsumoto her assistant.

Vivy can’t contain how awed she is by what AIs have been able to create on this island without any human involvement. Even Matsumoto admits it would be hard for any AI to deny that seeing such a place makes them feel something. Indeed, that very something may be what pushes future AI to turn on humanity. The Metal Float is truly a world all their own; a Utopia and crowning achievement of AI. And she’s there to shut it all down.

Even so, there are already facilities pre-built for the express purpose of accommodating future human visitors—Vivy and Matsumoto being the first visitors of any kind—and M and his compatriots throw a surprise party to welcome them, singing a song sung by Vivy (i.e. Diva) herself.

The affable visit is suddenly interrupted when M’s eyes start flashing red as he reports armed targets approaching the island. Toak has sent craft by both air and sea to capture the secrets Metal Float possesses.

Matsumoto tells Vivy to attach Saeki’s storage device to M so he can force-connect to the CPU. Meanwhile M and his compatriots spring into action, repurposing themselves as kamikaze missiles to destroy the approaching Toak craft.

Vivy dives into the ocean to rescue one of the Toak agents, who turns out to be Kakitani…again. She saved him when they first met, and Elizabeth saved him from dying on the Sunrise. At some point you’d expect this guy to come around and rethink his stance on AI. Meanwhile, in the heart of the island, another Sister seems primed to wake up. As expected, this operation is about to take some unexpected turns.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 04 – Be Our Guest

In a cryptic and haunting Blade Runner-esque cold open, Estella holds a bird in her hand beside a second caged bird, and when she smiles, another AI lying on a medical bed smiles as well. Researchers’ voices report they’ve “failed”.

The second AI ends up in a junkyard, surrounded by other discarded AIs in various states of disrepair. A light shines on her once-beautiful, now-ruined face: four armed men have come for her, to give her a new mission.

Vivy decides to lie to Yuzuka about knowing her sister, insisting she’s mistaken. Before Yuzuka can argue, the entire ship shakes. Estella informs all hands that a malfunction of unknown origin has occurred, and all guests are to head to the main hall as a staging area for evacuation.

The crash of the Sunrise is beginning, but Matsumoto is confused; it’s far too early. Events have diverged too far from history. Then Vivy and Yuzuka meet Estella in a corridor, and immediately after Vivy notices she’s not wearing a staff bracelet, Estella attacks her.

After doing some digging, Matsumoto discovers the culprits behind “Estella’s” manipulation and the impending crash of the Sunrise: the anti-AI terrorist group Toak, led by an operative from fifteen years ago.

Vivy and Yuzuka escape the evil “Estella” double and soon find the beheaded LeClerc. Vivy removes her ruined arm and attaches LeClerc’s functioning one, then asks Matsumoto to prepare the anti-personnel combat program he tried to forcefully upload before. Yuzuka on the verge of wigging out, so Vivy gently presses their foreheads together and calmly promises her she’ll get her safely back to Earth without fail.

Upon receiving the combat program, Vivy’s entire aura shifts. She’s still Vivy, just considerably more badass. Ditching her glasses and putting her jacket back on, she heads out into a corridor and the Toak agents are absolutely no match for her superior speed and strength as she dodges bullets and delivers vicious blows.

Vivy revives the real Estella in her office, and when Vivy says the terrorists have control of the Sunrise and are bringing her down, Estella realizes only one person besides herself could make that possible: her younger twin sister, Elizabeth. They were created to determine if copying over one AI’s accumulated experience data to another AI would produce a perfect clone of the original. This puts the cold open into context.

Meanwhile in the control room, Elizabeth sets the drop trajectory to crash the Sunrise, just as her Toak “master” recognizes Vivy on a security monitor; turns out he’s Kakitani, the operative whose life she saved fifteen years ago. As Matsumoto would probably put it, her “unnecessary calculation” resulted in Kakitani coming up with this new scheme.

But Beth has some unnecessary calculations of her own, sedating Kakitani and warning the other Toak agents to take him and hurry to the evacuation ship. She wasn’t prepared to let her master sacrifice himself.

She leaves them, ditches her blonde wig, and changes into more comfortable threads for her confrontation with Estella and Vivy. Beth cops to convincing LeClerc that Estella killed the previous owner, giving her all the systems access she needed. Vivy uses her combat skills to protect Estella, and Matsumoto infects Beth with a reformatting virus that affects her motor skills.

Unlike Estella, the free bird who had a mission, Beth had nothing until Kakitani brought her in. She considers herself Master’s “lifekeeper”, defining him as the only member of “humankind” it became her mission to protect. There’s no doubt she got the short shrift, but Vivy and Matsumoto simply don’t have time for the sisters to hash it out, so Vivy headbutts Beth, knocking her out.

In the control room, Estella discovers that the die is cast: Sunrise’s mass won’t allow it to pull out of its descent. Even worse, it’s headed not for the ocean, but a coastal city. To fulfill her lifekeeper mission, Estella decides to systematically separate the Sunrise into its constituent modules, so the smaller pieces will burn up in the atmosphere.

It’s an operation that can only be performed by her, in the control room, so she’ll be going down with the ship. When Vivy tells her they’re sisters too, Estella reminds her, they’re AIs. They live for their missions, not one another.

With another gentle meeting of foreheads—possibly exchanging data—Estella urges Vivy to board one of the departing evac ships. Shortly after, Beth joins her in the control room, her Toak conditioning purged, and the sisters meet in person for the first time.

Vivy reunites with Yuzuka aboard an evac ship, and Estella’s warm and calming voice comes over the PA, apologizing to the guests for all of the inconvenience they’ve suffered, but assuring them that they’ll be alright. She then opens the ships’ observation windows and directs their attention to the sun rising over the Earth.

As Beth begins to sing a sad and beautiful song about the stars with her sister by her side, the evac ships are on course for the airports on the surface, and the human guests aren’t just remaining calm, they’re smiling as they behold Earth’s majesty—and smiling guests was always Estella’s greatest wish.

As the several dozen decoupled components Space Hotel Sunrise burn up in the atmosphere shortly after the song concludes, Matsumoto declares their Singularity Project mission accomplished, and shuts down until their next mission in the future.

Vivy confesses to Yuzuka, that she was lying before about not being Diva; not she did know Momoka, she was her only human friend, who gave her her name and the bear. Vivy gives Yuzuka the bear for safekeeping, and the two await their return to humankind’s proper place: Dear Old Earth. So ends another fine chapter in Vivy’s epic time-traversing odyssey to save humankind.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 22 – One Thing They Agree On

Takeda Yusuke, the glittery prettyboy teased last week finally reveals what his deal is: he’s the son of the school’s president, and has been nipping at Fuutarou’s heels in grades for two years. Fuutarou has never heard of him, nor does he care about school rankings.

Still, Takeda challenges him to prove the quints aren’t holding him back, by placing in the top one hundred of the upcoming national mock exams. Fuu sees that challenge and raises the stakes to top ten, all while helping the quints study for theirs. It won’t be easy, but his pride and their honor is on the line.

The quints are also aware that Fuutarou’s birthday is coming up. Ichika puts out the suggestion that they all hold off from giving him their gifts until after the exams. In truth, she intends to betray them all by being the only sister to give him a gift. She even stops Miku from talking to Fuu, knowing as far as Fuu knows, Miku told him Ichika likes him.

Ichika soon pays for her continued underhanded measures when she sees Nino already has a gift for Fuu and is planning to give it to him when she damn well feels like it. The group text put the brakes on the others, but Nino Train’s brakes don’t work!

When Nino brings up how Ichika failed to keep their dad occupied at the spa, frustration and desperation conspire to lend Ichika the courage to finally say what needs to be said: Despite the two having different tastes in everything else, they both like Fuutarou, and Ichika doesn’t intend to let Nino have him without a fight.

As both girls are planning to break the pact and give Fuu their gifts early, they walk in on Yotsuba making paper cranes for Fuu’s health and good luck, and then raking herself over the coals for not realizing the cranes would technically comprise a gift, thus making her a “horrible human being.” Naturally, Miku is also ready with her gift of couples tickets to the gym.

Seeing that she’s getting nowhere with this strategy, Ichika again suggests all of them give him his gift at once, after the exams. When Nino asks if she’s really okay with this, Ichika says none of them “get” Fuutarou. She’s confident he’ll like her gift—presumably a gift card—the best.

We get a rare Itsuki sighting, as she visits a fatigued Fuu and gives him an energy drink, which I guess technically makes her the first to actually give him a gift of any kind! She also tells him she’s going to aim to improve her academic capabilities while assisting Shimoda-san with tutoring, in hopes of getting a look at education in action. Education sans Fuutarou, it seems…

The mocks come and go, and Fuutarou buries Takeda, ranking third to his eighth, as Takeda reports to the quints’ dad. He also reports that all five of the quints have made considerable progress. Everyone then gives Fuu his gifts at once, though oddly enough we don’t get to watch his reactions.

Yotsuba checks in on Miku at her bakery, where she first serves a croissant that resembles a rock, then one that looks dead. The third time’s the charm, and while it’s not quite up to spec with something the bakery would charge money for, her manager is happy with her progress.

Miku seems to be putting all her efforts into lunch on the first day of the school trip, which is their class’s responsibility. Unfazed by the drubbing Nino gave her, she intends to impress Fuutarou with her best cooking yet in Kyoto. The only problem is, she doesn’t know for sure if they’re in the same touring group.

In fact, no one knows what group Fuutarou will choose, only that the groups can only be a maximum of five people. Again Ichika attempts to gain advantage by pulling Yotsuba aside and pretty much dictating that the two of them and Fuutarou will form their own group.

Presumably, Ichika isn’t aware of Yotsuba’s feelings for Fuu any more than Nino was aware of Ichika’s. And fate just so happens to smile on Yotsuba this week, perhaps because she’s not acting like a backstabbing hussy! Raiha reminds her brother that he needs to thank Yotsuba for helping him at school camp.

Fuutarou isn’t about to disobey his sister, so he stops by to ask Yotsuba what she wants as a thank you gift, not to exceed ¥1500. They end up spending the entire day and evening together, and while Yotsuba doesn’t come out and say it, that’s what she wanted. Not lunch, or a movie, or clothes—though they do all those things.

While wondering where Yotsuba ran off to, Ichika notices a strange box in the middle of the living room of their apartment that Itsuki says is hers. A quick peek inside reveals the Rena disguise, and as she carries it away, that famous photo of Young Fuu and one of the sisters falls out. She notes it’s from Kyoto, then says “I see.” You see what?!

When Fuutarou finally presses Yotsuba to tell him what she wants, she takes him to a playground after dark, a special place she goes to swing when she’s feeling bummed. She effortlessly manages to get the ever-serious, practical, and logical Fuutaoru to stand on the swing and see how high he can go, which is precisely what she does in order to get a better view of the city at night, seeing a family in each one of the countless glowing lights and feeling warm inside.

After Yotsuba executes a perfect dismount with record distance, Fuutarou tries the same, but ends up completely inverted, freaking both him and Yotsuba out. When he returns to right-side-up, he smiles and bursts into raucous laughter, and while he still thinks he wasn’t able to give Yotsuba anything, she got everything she wanted.

The next day, the class trip group composition comes up, and Ichika is ready to go with her suggestion that she and Yotsuba form a group with Fuutarou, attempting to pressure Yotsuba to go along with her. Instead, Yotsuba sacrifices herself (of course), suggesting the other five form a group; she’ll have no trouble finding another group, gregarious as she is.

Nino pipes up, saying no one wants that arrangement, then declares not only what she wants, but what is going to happen: she’ll form a group with Fuutarou, and warns him to be grateful about it. But while her honesty and straightforwardness should be commended, the fact of the matter is Fuutarou is already in a group with some guys, including Takeda.

So for the class trip, the five sisters will form a group together. Their classmates assume it’s because they’re so tight-knit, but in truth it’s something none of them are looking forward to, since most of them are now at war with each other. Should be a fun trip!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Ten Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Yotsuba: Explanation isn’t really necessary here; while everyone else was plotting and scheming, Yotsuba got an actual date and some truly magial moments with Fuu, and not out of the blue, but because she helped him out in the past. Still, it was disconcerting how quickly she volunteered to be the odd girl out for the class trip. Total Points: 30 (2nd)
  2. Nino: It was pretty close, but I’m calling Nino the winner from among the schemers, due to her continued dedication to saying exactly what’s on her mind without any possibility of misunderstandings. Total Points: 38 (1st)
  3. Miku: Is legitimately improving her cooking skills and has a plan of action, but is still unwittingly suffering the effect of Ichika’s conniving. She’ll need to remain extra vigilant against… Total Points: 28 (Tied for 4th)
  4. Ichika: Her underhanded tactics plumb new depths this week. She’s convinced the only way she can fight is dirty, but get very little to show for it. Try to stop the Nino train and see what happens, Ich. Total Points: 26 (5th)
  5. Itsuki: Remains very elusive and squirrelly this week, but that disguise was super sketch…she’s up to something, and very much still in the game.  Total Points: 28 (Tied for 4th)

Talentless Nana – 13 (Fin) – Friendship Is Tragic

Poor, poor Nana. She’s been so traumatized by her parents’ murder and by the idea drilled into her hear that it was All Her Fault, she’s never been able to trust anyone long enough to become friends. It never occurred to her that anyone would want to be her friend unless something was in it for them, and in any case she never felt she deserved one.

But Inukai Michiru is different. She may be in the dark about Nana’s murders, but one thing she’s sure of is that Nana didn’t kill her parents. The reason for her odd behavior of late wasn’t because she suspected Nana, but because she was wracking her brain for a way to convince Nana her parents deaths weren’t her fault.

When Nana realizes this, she’s overcome by a feeling she’s never experienced before: pure, real friendship. The next day there’s an outdoor market from the supply ship, and Nana is compelled to buy Michiru a gift. Kyouya notices Nana is acting like she has a crush, and she absolutely does have an incurable girl-crush on sweet, kind Michiru.

Nana ends up giving Michiru a cute dog pen, while Michiru gives her a frilly pillow so she’ll sleep better. The two haven’t been closer, and at no point during the day does Inner Nana come out to reveal she’s still just messing around with Michiru to keep her guard down. No, she’s straight up fallen for Michiru!

Like Kyouya, Jin notices Nana’s lack of usual focus and sharpness, but considers it a repaid debt for rescuing his kitty friend to warn Nana about Michiru being lured out to a secret meeting. Sure enough, Nana is confronted and slashed across the face by the real murder both Nana and Kyouya have been looking for.

While running to Michiru’s rescue, Nana gets an almost too-perfectly-timed call from her mentor and handler, Tsuruoka, whose very voice seems to flip a switch in Nana’s head and return her to Unfeeling Cynical Killer Mode. She’ll let the students keep killing and weakening each other…including Michiru.

However, despite Tsuruoka’s call that seems designed to get her back on track, Nana still all but abandons her mission by sacrificing herself to save Michiru from the killer, who we learn is the Astral Projector, Tsurumigawa Rentarou. She rescues Michiru just as Michiru is saying Nana will come save her!

Still, Tsurumigawa can’t ignore his instinct about Nana hiding a dark and tortured soul beneath her cute and bubbly exterior. And while he’s right about that, the bottom line is that Nana isn’t going to let him kill Michiru. She says some heartbreakingly awful things to Michiru about them not being friends to get her to flee.

Then we learn what Nana said to Kyouya before racing to save Michiru. She tells him Tsurumigawa is the killer, and tells him to look for his real body and stop him while she saves Michiru. In a cute moment, Kyouya tries to protest Nana taking the dangerous job, but both sides of the job are dangerous in this case!

Kyouya finds Tsurumigawa in the bathroom and chokes him until his projection dissipates…but the damage is done: Nana has been “butchered”, and more to the point, doesn’t really mind dying here and now in this manner, considering the things she’s done. So of course Michiru returns to her side and starts working her healing magic.

While being healed, Nana is too weak to speak and protest that Michiru is using up what’s left of her life to save someone who doesn’t deserve salvation or mercy. She’s right back to hating and devaluing herself. It’s a state Tsuruoka cultivated in order to facilitate her development into a tiny pink murder machine, and Michiru almost broke her out of it.

Wait, what is this “almost”? The death of Michiru hits Nana hard. Perhaps her sacrifice wasn’t in vain if Nana changes her ways and stops blindly following Tsuruoka and the Committee, who, if we’re honest, sure look like they were the ones who orchestrated the death of her parents, then blamed it on her as part of her hitgirl conditioning.

Michiru wasn’t just Nana’s first friend, she was her only friend, someone who loved her unconditionally and would probably go on loving her even if she knew of the horrors Nana committed. Assuming there’s a second season of Talentless Nana, Michiru will be sorely missed, but maybe her loss will help Nana escape the box in which others placed her and forge her own path.

Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 12 (Fin) – Sending Odin to Bed Without Supper

Looking our live Big Board, Assault Lily narrowly beats Sigrdrifa as the higher-rated of the two Top Cute Girls Doing Military Stuff shows I watched this Winter. Both shows had their flaws, and while combining the best bits of both into one show would result in a superior product, I won’t pretend either was groundbreaking or life-changing.

That said, Siggy has always been more interesting and consistent than Lily with its character work, and it also happens to deliver a more satisfying and beautifully animated finale. Our four Valkyries have never been closer or more comfortable in their own skins and cockpits, and once their sights were set on victory, their dad Odin never had a chance.

Odin’s heel turn was sudden, but actually made sense when you consider he was declaring war on a world that had forgotten him and everyone he ever loved. Odin gets the second Ragnarök he wanted, but he ends up on the losing side. Claudia may remember the words to the song of Valhalla, but she doesn’t sing it for him, or for the past.

She sings it for her friends and for herself, and this week we hear a new arrangement of the song with full orchestration that makes for some absolutely kick-ass final boss music, in addition to Claudy’s singing ending the interference and revealing the location of the Pillar’s core. She destroys Odin’s illusory ideal of the attentive daughter who will stay by his side forever.

Odin is lonely and miserable in this post-mythology era, and it’s no coincidence he’s taken the form of a small child. Letting his grief pour into the human world and wreak destruction is pure petulance; a divine temper tantrum from a petulant kid in desperate need of a time-out.

In one of the best-animated scenes of the series, Azuzu is the first to crash into his god cave. He’s able to overpower her and knock her gun out of her hand, but it was never the plan for him to shoot him, only to distract him until “her hero” Miyako arrived to cleave the Pillar’s core in two with her katana. This is after Miko had already splashed Thor with her Ultra Hero Cannon. She was busy this week!

With the core—sorry, the Vandrande destroyed, the Pillar disappears, giving the Takayama command crew an unmarred view of Fujiyama for the first time in a long while. Moe and Kurumi tow Sono (who awesomely jettisoned her floats to destroy a Dark Valkyrie), Azuzu gives Miko a lift in her Wing, and Claudia joins them in a loose formation as they head home victorious.

The battle wasn’t without cost, as the Shield Squadron sacrificed themselves to ensure Miko could take out Thor. The four Valks pay their respects after the eager younger Shield Squadron successors vow to carry on their legacy for being loud, somewhat inappropriate bros. Moe and Kurumi are subjected to Satomi’s toenail clipping (it’s been a while!) and then get an official tour from their four Valkyrie senpais.

The six young women then take flight once more, dedicated to taking out the last secondary and tertiary Pillars that still threaten humanity, but armed with the knowledge that they’ve prevailed over the worst of it. All’s well that ends well in a well-executed, action-packed, and thoroughly satisfying finale.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 09 – Nobody Is Perfect

Matters isolate quickly this week, as Chairman Takamatsu concedes that according to GEHENA and Grand Guignol, Yuri is a Huge, not a human or a Lily, and thus not under the academy’s protection. The StuCo brass goes to Riri just as she’s about to trim Yuri’s bangs, but thankfully Yuyu backs them up, giving them cover to escape.

Whatever she was to GEHENA and Grand Guignol, Yuri is clearly something else entirely now, thanks to Riri and the Legion. Yuri has also demonstrated free will, and it’s her wish to stay with everyone. Still, the government doesn’t see it that way, and orders all available Lilies to capture Yuri and arrest Riri.

Yuyu insists to Takamatsu that Yuri couldn’t possibly by a dangerous entity. The Legion sans Yuyu and Kaede makes a collective effort to support Riri and Yuri, and Yuyu soon joins them to declare that as vice commander she is going against the government’s orders. They’ll pursue Riri and Yuri and be the first to find them, and when they do, they’ll protect them from anyone who tries to take Yuri.

Kaede, whom it was hinted at could be a Guignol mole, ends up not betraying Riri and the Legion. Quite the contrary, her call to her father is to tell him she won’t soon (if ever) forgive him for getting in bed with GEHENA and causing this mess, before joining Yuyu and the others. Meanwhile Riri and Yuri find refuge in an abandoned, Huge-ravaged town.

It isn’t just Riri’s Legion who question the justifications of the government’s pursuit of Yuri. All over the search radius, groups of Lilies from Yurigaoka and other academies are all wondering the same thing: “Is Yuri a person or a Huge?” Their answer determines how they should proceed, and whether they should disobey orders. In the case of three Yurigaoka rank-in-files, the answer is obvious and unanimous: Yuri is a person.

But the government won’t take their word, nor Riri’s, nor even Chairman Takamatsu’s at face value. Their belief must be proven, and that’s what brings us to a surprisingly excellent mini-“courtroom drama” as Takamatsu is grilled before arrogant government representatives. As always, Takamatsu’s position is that the young girls who must bear the burden of combat should be afforded as much free will as possible, and Yuri is no different.

That assertion is proven beyond doubt by the absolutely clutch and badass Moshima “Weekly” Moyu, who just finished science-ing the FUCK out of this issue, and has come to the conclusion that Yuri is not a Huge; she’s Human. 99.9% human. Why not 100? Because no one is 100% human, or we’d all be exactly the same and evolution would never occur.

With the matter of what Yuri is settled, the question becomes a matter of jurisdiction and precedent. Moyu demonstrates how prepared she was for this presentation by citing a treaty their nation’s government ratified last year affording “genetically human” individuals like Yuri the same human rights as naturally born ones.

Takamatsu completes the absolute ruination of the pencil pushers by concluding that the order to arrest Riri and capture Yuri were baseless and illegitimate, and thus should be rescinded. As for Riri and Yuri, as Lilies, their punishment is his responsibility.

Riri and Yuri have some tough conversations about where Yuri belongs and what will happen if things don’t go their way, but thankfully all of that is moot when Yuyu and the rest of the Legion arrives in force, and Yuyu declares the crisis resolved. Yuri has been proven to be human, and thus is now safe. The episode could have ended here…All’s well that ends well…Let’s all celebrate over ice cream!

Well, hold on…not so fast.

Their reunion is interrupted by the emergence of the biggest, baddest, most destructive mega-Huge yet encountered, an Evangelion Angel by any other name that is not only able to control Magie, but draws a continuously replenishing supply from its nest. It demonstrates its power by focusing nine energy fields into one and condensing it into a particle beam that utterly destroys everything in its path.

The Lilies amass on the beach, and the moment Yuri understands the situation, she’s off, on her own, at blinding speed over the water, while effortlessly using a combination of Thi Mai and Gropi’s Rare Skills.

One by one she takes out the nine fields while dodging the Huge’s counterattacks, in another sequence lush with awesome sakuga. When Yuri delivers the coup-de-grace, the resulting explosion is massive and, she smiles a sad but determined smile…as it seems to consume her.

As the remains of the Huge burn offshore, Yuri’s ruined CHARM washes ashore, and Riri takes hold of it as she grieves for her sister who sacrificed herself to save everyone who fought to save her. She bitterly remarks how the day started so innocently—with her giving Yuri he first haircut. How that same day end like this?

This is without doubt the finest bloom yet in Assault Lily’s bouquet. It upended the status quo, raised the stakes to the rafters, and put all the pieces together. It employed its reliably-strong eye candy not as a crutch but to back up some truly superb character work, badass scientific research, and some smart, electric conference room sparring.

As for whether Yuri is really dead, that’s something I’m not yet ready to concede with a certainty. It depends on several factors. Will Assault Lily get a second season? After all those lengthy introductions and lighter, quieter early episodes, I truly hope so…I’ve finally memorized everyone in Riri’s Legion!

Second cour or no, it isn’t even about Assault Lily’s “courage” or “guts” to keep an apparently killed key character dead. If it can come up with a good reason to bring her back, I’m all for it. Like she was for Riri and everyone else, Yuri was taken away far too soon.

Akudama Drive – 07 – The Offering

As the elevator to Brother and Sister’s destination rises out of the debris, Hoodlum reunites with the others, proudly reporting to have stabbed the Apprentice to avenge his brother, Brawler, who didn’t make it. When Brother is flippant about there being casualties on the job, Hoodlum almost loses it, but Swindler once again plays the peacemaker, and his temper subsides.

At the end of the elevator’s descent they reach Expo Park, a sprawling abandoned underground amusement park. Bunny and Shark cut in to tell us it was built before the war to preserve the culture of Old Kansai, but ominously notes that “there are some things better left not known”. The siblings’ ultimate destination is a rocket that Brother says will convey him and his Sister to a base on the Moon, where they’ll be safe.

That’s when we learn from Brother that he and his sister are the result of human experiments at Kyushu Plant to create immortal humans. Between them they are the product of 5,555 other siblings who were sacrificed in one horrific way or another to make the two of them possible.

I’m reminded of any number of anime in which humans and innocent kids in particular are treated brutally by an unseen, unfeeling scientific villain. Brother wakes up in a lab in a puddle of blood that grows bigger and bigger until one day the gym once full of siblings is empty.

That’s when the “Headmaster” reports that he was a successful experiment. They go on to make one more, Sister, and the two of them will be sent to Kanto as an “offering”, with mass production to follow. But their “Professor”, an AI in an artificial cat body, took pity on them and allowed them to escape on the Shinkansen. The rest of their story we know.

With that, Brother deposits a billion yen in each of the surviving Akudama’s accounts and deactivates their bomb collars, and prepare to board the rocket. Swindler gives them a farewell hug with the wish that maybe someday they’ll see each other again and eat more yummy takoyaki together.

Then, as the siblings ascend to the rocket’s hatch, Sister is stabbed in the throat…with one of Doctor’s scalpels. She’s fine, but she grabs Brother, making her meaning plain: she’s sold them and everyone else out to the Executioners.

A huge contingent of them suddenly swarm the launch pad and surround the Akudama. When Swindler asks Doctor why, the Doctor coldly declares she doesn’t owe her or anyone a goddamn thing. In exchange for her delivering the “offerings”, Boss removes Doctor’s Akudama status; she’ll no longer be on the run. Boss also tells Brother that the “Moon” they see in the sky is a mere holo-illusion; the real moon was destroyed in the war.

Brother bites Doctors hand and breaks free, while Courier and Cutthroat fight off the swarming Executioners—the latter particularly concerned with Swindler’s safety. He gets cut up pretty bad (which spells trouble considering their medic has defected) but ultimately ends up buying time for Swindler and the siblings.

Brother takes hold of Swindler and leads her and Sister into the rocket just as the countdown reaches zero. The rocket successfully launches with Swindler and Sister inside. Brother probably feels better to have at least protected half of the 5,555 siblings who died for them than none at all.

As for where the rocket is headed, who can say? The episode ends with it trailing away from what’s left of the moon—though perhaps its course takes the earth’s rotation into account. Even if they reach the moon, there surely isn’t anything there but death…but that wouldn’t be any different from the Executioner-infested launch pad.

First Hacker split off, then Brawler died, and now Doctor has stabbed everyone in the back. It remains to be seen if the Executioners either claim or scatter the remaining team of Courier, Cutthroat, and Hoodlum. Much like the war shattered the moon, the show has blown its group dynamic to smithereens. We’ll have to wait and see where the pieces land.

Akudama Drive – 06 – Akudama Brawlliant Park

Even though the Boss has mobilized every Executioner to seek and destroy the Akudama, Master gets there first, driven by his need to redeem himself for past failure. An Executioner doesn’t execute, then what is his purpose, right?

He goes all out from the start, sending both Brawler and Cutthroat flying and tossing the police drone at Courier, knocking him and the kids off his bike. Then he slashes Doc across the belly…though I somehow knew she’d be fine.

When Hoodlum finds Brawler in a pile of rubble, he suggests they fall back and give the latter time to recover, but Brawler won’t hear of it. He’s never been in a brawl like this, and isn’t going to back down. His words and wholesome smile make Hoodlum blush…his brother is so cool!

Cutthroat ends up under rubble as well…but cuts his own legs off to continue protecting Swindler…and Swindler alone. Without any regard for the kid brother, he uses him as an (artificial?) human shield, then stabs right through him to wound Master.

Swindler laments Brother’s death, but the Sister tuges at her sleever and tells her to watch: Brother is fine; he has fully regenerative healing. He’s more miffed Cutthroat broke his backpack. Doctor, who stitched herself up, then stiches Cutthroat’s legs back on so he can fight at 100%.

It’s clear from the injuries both the Executioners and Akudama sustain that they’re something more than plain ‘ol human. Only Swindler and Hoodlum, whom we know to be “normal”, escape horrific injuries this week, likely because they wouldn’t recover from them so quickly. Everyone piles onto Couriers bike, then Brawler bursts back onto the scene like an uncaged beast.

The balance of the episode is taken up by their one-on-one decisive battle, which moves from a glitzy arcade to an old amusement park, their fighting and the lightning seemingly giving these abandoned places new life, if only for a short moment.

Here Akudama Drive really shows off its visual flair, taking the ridiculousness of the brawl the extra mile, and all the while both Master and Brawler feeding off their mutual joy over how much goddamn fun they’re both having. Before Master hid his scar with a mask; now he’s grinning like a schoolboy, just like Brawler.

The two continue to wear each other down until it comes down to one last punch that does them both in at the same time. Meanwhile, Apprentice, who had just received a somewhat momemtum-sapping infodump from Boss about why she started pairing up Executioners, arrives on the scene. Boss told her survival rates of Executioners increased dramatically when they had a “reason to live”, i.e. their partner.

But Boss is incorrect that this is what separates the Executioners from the Akudama, because this particular group, despite having been a collection of selfish loners, has also developed a sense of camaraderie, even family. Had they not, they would have surely fallen to Master one by one. Instead, he falls, while the Akudama just lose Brawler—a huge loss, to be sure, but a survivable one.

As Apprentice mourns her Master’s death, Hoodlum mourns his big bro’s…then picks up Master’s lightsaber and rushes an unready Apprentice. When next we see her she’s alive and back in the hospital; both lightsabers by her bed. Hoodlum is also alive in the preview, which means he only took her eye, not her life. But it’s a given Apprentice will seek revenge.

Meanwhile, Swindler drops the nice-girl act (as Doctor had been pleading) to slap Cutthroat across the face and call him “despicable” for valuing her “beautiful” life over that of the kid Brother. The message is clear: she won’t tolerate any more of that. No more cutting through others to protect her! Brother and Sister locate their next destination, which turns out to be the underground network where survivors of the bombing of Old Kansai still reside.

Star Trek: Lower Decks – 10 (S1 Fin) – Nor Yet Favor to Women of Skill…

If you watched TOS you know about Beta III and how its pre-warp civilization was ruled by computer Landru until Captain Kirk shut it down. Apparently problem solved, but flash forward to the time of Lower Decks and the people of Beta III are once again under Landru’s heel.

While distributing art supplies, Brad tells Beckett he now knows she is the captain’s daughter, and since their comms are on an open channel, it isn’t long until the whole crew finds out. Beckett must contend with an uptick in nepotistic ass-kissing by her crewmates.

Elsewhere on the Cerritos, Rutherford tests out a new personality modifier that can make him optimistic, sexy, angry, and everything in between. This is as Tendi serves as liason for a new Exocomp crew member, Ensign…Peanut Hamper. Since the little guys were deemed sentient back in TNG’s “The Quality of Life”, it was only a matter of time!

Finally, Captain Bowman and the crew of the destroyed Rubidoux are breaking in their new ship, the Solvang, when they are captured (and blown up attempting to escape) by a powerful and gigantic ship made of a motley of cannibalized ship components…but the sharper-eyed nerds notice the ship at its core: Pakleds, last featured in TNG’s “Samaritan Snare.”

Needless to say, this episode is packed with stories big and small. And since this is the season finale, there are a number of big character changes to the status quo enjoyed in the previous nine episodes that will reverberate into the already-approved second season.

First is the cementing of Beckett and Boimler’s friendship in spite of their very different personalities. As predicted, Beckett is finally rolling down her sleeves, putting her hair up, and taking being a Starfleet officer seriously. Of course, this is for a very Beckett reason: she wants to run away from the hassle of being the Captain’s kid, and for that she’ll need to get promoted and transferred.

Tendi and Peanut Hamper turn get along like two space peas in a space pod, though the latter’s lack of hands makes it hard to manipulate objects meant for humans. Still, just when Tendi is about to warn the doctor that Peanut may not have the steadiest hands, Peanut executes perfect microsutures and even develops a new skin-grafting technique. The CMO is impressed, but is Tendi jealous? Of course not! She’s proud of Peanut Hamper!

Things take a sudden turn for the action-packed when the Cerritos receives a distress signal from the Solvang. When they arrive, the Pakled ship is already scavenging parts from the wreck of the Solvang. The ship gets its hooks in the Cerritos, but Freeman wisely notes that going to warp is probably what Bowman did, which doomed her ship, so instead she cuts power.

When they get their captors on screen and learn they’re Pakleds, everyone on the crew carries the same assumptions as the crew of the Enterprise: the Pakleds are slow and dumb, not a threat! And yet, here they are, carving the Cerritos up like a space turkey.

In such a strange and hazardous situation, Freeman leans on her daughter’s unorthodox methods for arriving at a plan to defeat the enemy. Beckett notes that the Pakleds are taking their time, meaning there’s time for Rutherford to create a virus that will hack into the Pakled’s “inviting” networks (due to the need to integrate so many different kinds of tech).

Ruthy turns to Badgey for help with the virus, but has to make a Faustian bargain: Badgey won’t cough up the virus without the safeties being taken off-line. Meanwhile, Beckett opens all the compartments where she’s hidden contraband (including her bat’leth) in order to arm the crew to repel Pakled boarders.

Just when it seems Peanut Hamper is the perfect crew member to deliver the virus to the Pakled ship…she declines, and beams herself into space to escape danger. Turns out she only joined Starfleet to piss off her mom. Hey, at least she didn’t go insane and try to kill everyone with her multi-tool nose!

Rutherford, who finally restores his “normal” personality, volunteers to deliver the virus. Tendi thinks he’s stuck on “heroic” mode, but he’s just being himself. Shaxs helps get him to a shuttlecraft and flies him to the Pakled ship, ramming through its hull in a nifty bit of tactical officering.

When Badgey, who Rutherford placed in his implants for the trip, refuses to finish downloading the virus unless his “dad” is killed by the Pakled. When Shaxs takes care of all the guards, Badgey sets the self-destruct, so Shaxs rips Rutherford’s implants out, tosses him on the shuttle, and shoves it back into space, before dying heroically in the explosion.

Rutherford and Shaxs have saved the day, but then three more Pakled ships just as huge and janky as the first converge on the Cerritos. Things are dire…until yet another ship dazzles the space-stage: The USS Titan, commanded by Captain William T. Riker (with his wife Commander Troi by his side).

It’s the second time he’s showed up in the nick of time (as he will decades later in Star Trek: Picard, though I’d prefer it if Picard took place in the future of an alternate universe. Do I buy that Riker knows Beckett? Sure, why not. They’re both the gregarious sort. The Titan scares off the Pakleds with its superior firepower and maneuverability, and the crew of the Cerritos can breathe easy.

In the final act, Freeman and Beckett agree to help each other out more rather than stay unproductively at each others’ throats. Rutherford loses his long-term memories, including his friendship with Tendi! She’s committed to becoming friends with him all over again, but it’s still a major bummer…the show just pressed a reset button on his character, and he wasn’t that developed to begin with!

Finally, Beckett and Boimler come to an understanding. He’s come to think of her as a valued mentor, but she insists it doesn’t have to be that way, they can just hang out as buds like they have been. However, when Riker offers Boimler a promotion to helmsman of the Titan, he takes that pip and runs, leaving Beckett in the dust. A captain mom, an admiral dad and years of experience, and a guy still gets promoted before her. Not that she wanted to leave, mind you, but she thought Boimler was happy where he was.

Will we follow his adventures on the Titan next season, or will he screw up and end up kicked back to the Cerritos? Only time will tell! Until then, this was a surprisingly strong first season of Lower Decks. I enjoyed it on a Star Trek level, a comedy level, and even an animation level; it looked consistently awesome and the classic orchestral soundtrack really sold the grandeur of space exploration and battle.

Trek-wise, it was able to pay homage and/or satirize without ever coming across as either too sappy or too mean; a delicate, difficult balance to be sure. The tone was always just-right, and even its bombastic finale managed to find time for the slice-of-life-on-a-starship moments that really immerse you in its world. I never thought I’d say this, but the extant live-action Trek series could learn a lot from Lower Decks. They probably won’t, but that’s okay…there’s more Lower Decks to come.

Re: Zero – 38 – The Starting Line of Resolve

Just as Subaru is dealing with Echidna’s apparent heel turn, along with the antics of all the other whimsical witches, Satella shuffles back into his presence, forever enrobed in black miasma, loving him and wanting him to love her. But for the first time, Satty has more to say about love, specifically begging him to love himself more.

Subie isn’t about to be lectured by a bunch of witches. The way he does things and saves those he loves is his business, and if he has to keep suffering and dying, so be it, as long as he doesn’t lose anyone else like he lost Ram. He’s had so much of his fill of these witches he decides to peace out by biting his tongue and bleeding out.

But when it comes down to it, he doesn’t want to die, or even be hurt. Minerva can sense this, and so heals him with a headbutt. The witches share the sentiment that Subaru is someone worth keeping alive and watching, and so he acknowledges that each one of them has helped him in some form or another.

Heck, if not for Satella, he wouldn’t have Return by Death, his only means thus far of doing anything in this world. Yet when Echidna holds out her hand for Subaru to take, promising him she’ll take him to whatever future he desires, he rejects it. If he’s going to find his value to others beyond his continued death, he feels he must look for it himself.

Before parting, he does take the hand of the most unexpected witch: Satella’s, promising he’ll endeavor to love himself a little more, and also that one day he’ll honor her wish to return and “kill” her.


Of c0urse, even if Subie is proceeding without direct witch assistance, he’s still going to need allies. He awakens outside for once; Otto tells him Patrasche entered the graveyard to retrieve him. When Subaru asks why, Otto mocks his denseness; clearly, it’s because Patrache loves him and cares about him. And despite his tsundere reaction, Otto clearly feels the same way.

But while Subaru has loving friends in Otto and Patrache, he’ll find no such affection from Roswaal, beyond his role as the margrave’s avatar of hope. He insists on Subaru following his recommendations to put Emilia first and everyone else second; Roswall sees Subie as a tool to save only one and no one else. Doing everything for Emilia’s sake, to him, means ignoring everything she wants.

That said, Roswaal believes Subie has yet to find his resolve, and indeed is only barely on the starting line on the road to that resolve. So he forces the issue, copping to having ordered the assassins at the mansion. By creating a situation where even someone with Return by Death can only be in one place at one time, he’s forcing Subie to make a choice: Emilia, or the others.

And I thought Echidna was bad! She’s only true to her nature as a witch of greed; Roswaal is, and fully admits to being, completely insane, and has been so ever since he first saw the witch’s eyes. But to him, insanity is a requisite, not a liability, to achieving his goals, and he wants Subie to be just like him.

Subaru runs out, determined not to be anything like him, but the shock of learning he’s been set up in this way by Roswaal for just that purpose sends him into another uncontrollable fit of despair, running through the forest until he trips and takes a tumble, then repeating over and over what he should do, and coming up blank.

When in such a state, there’s nothing for it but for someone to pull him out, and Otto happily takes up that mantle by punching Subaru in the face. Subtle it ain’t, but it was what Subie needed, when it was needed. Otto scolds him for continuing to put up a brave face right up until he’s on the edge of madness-by-despair.

Hopefully Subaru has gotten the hint that yes, doggone it, people like him, and with our without the witches’ help or Roswaal’s hindrance, they’ll find out what to do together. Unfortunately, we won’t find out what until part two in January 2021, when hopefully things will be looking up a bit in our own world!

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 13 (Fin) – A Hero’s Hero

When Hero Kanon was murdered, he used Evansmana’s power of breaking destiny to prevent Anos from becoming the Demon King of Tyranny, and taking his place as Avos. Now he wants Anos to kill him, believing his sacrifice will break the chain of hatred that is the Asc spell. Now that Ray/Kanon’s affection for humans has taken a more specific form in Misa, he can no longer wait for “someday” to arrive and bring peace; it has to happen here and now.

Anos initially seems willing to play along, pulling out all his OP magic tricks to destroy all but one of Kanon’s sources. But then, at the last minute, Anos lets Kanon stab him through his own source. As the boundaries of their battlefield drop, he slips Avos’ helmet on his head, making it appear to everyone assembled that Ray has defeated the Demon King.

Anos hoped this would extinguish the humans’ hatred, but the Asc is still going strong within Diego, who musters his ten thousand Zeshia troops and orders them to extinguish all demons. Eleanor enters the fray to try to halt their advance, while Commander Jerga himself appears in monumental scale to finish the job.

Ray/Kanon tries to attack the giant Jerga with Evansmana, but his holy sword has no effect on the “true sacred magic”. Enter Misha and Sasha, who know their King will resurrect, and in the meantime will do what they can to protect their demon brethren.

To that end, they use their Necron family magic Dino Jixes to merge into a single entity that fights alongside Ray/Kanon while Eleonore and Misa attempt to hold back the Zeshia army. It’s ultimately all about buying time and hoping the Demon King returns.

Just when Jerga seems ready to unleash a holy magic spell to exterminate all demons, it is negated by a giant black and red magical circle, and all the hundreds of Zeshias fall to the ground, stunned. Anos makes his re-appearance, having used Ray/Kanon’s killing blow to repair his source via source magic.

In this final stage of the battle, Anos and Ray/Kanon fight side-by-side, while the Demon army commander helps Eleonore and the Human forces. When Jerga tries to use Asc, Anos counters with an Asc of his own, fueled by the Fan Union’s latest song. He even summons Delsgade!

Soon, even Jerga’s hatred is transformed into love as he sees the shell necklace he gave his beloved wife. The present era of peace asserts itself and the united forces of Humans and Demons fight together to eliminate a solitary man’s two thousand-year-old grudge.

At this point we’re running out of episode, so Misha and Sasha split back into two girls in order to welcome Anos back to the world of the living, while Ray returns to Misa and embraces her with love. As the credits roll, the whole, the Anos & Co. return home, where his parents meet his “third wife” Eleanore (whom he converted into his magic so she’d no longer be misused) and learn of her ten thousand “children”.

That final scene really brings is back to one of the more unique aspects of the series, which was that the main antihero always had a loving home and family to go home to and enjoy some piping hot mushroom gratin. It’s welcome and necessary follow-up to an disorienting kitchen-sink final battle that in the end was only slightly more over the top than previous climactic battles.

While I maintain that things got overstuffed towards the end and that 5-6 additional episodes would have been ideal, Demon King Academy was nonetheless a fun new take on the OP Asshole MC, tempering extremely arcane magical jargon with a surprising amount of heart.

Re: Zero – 33 – The Witch of Greed

Otto and Ram are ready to get Subaru the out of the Sanctuary, but he’s not ready to run quite yet. He meets with Roswaal for some straight answers, and actually gets them, though who knows he can trust the guy. Roswall assures Subie that Beatrice is not a witch cultist, and that the “gospel” she spoke of is the Gospel: one of only two Tomes of Wisdom in existence, not a Witch’s Gospel.

When asked how he can get Beako to help him, Ros says the same thing Ram told him earlier: “Roswaal said to ask the question”, and once that question is asked, answer in the affirmative. Bound by a contract, she will then ally with him. Subie’s last question is whether Roswall is really an ally, to which he says he’s an ally to “all of you”. Hmm…we’ll see!

While Subaru no doubt gained crucial information with which to move forward, he also tanked any chances of this loop being salvaged. That’s because he took so much time with Roswaal that Garfiel tracks them down and orders Subie back into confinement.

When he refuses, Otto and Ram cover his escape on Patrasche, and the townsfolk of Arlam light the path out with lanterns. Alas, Garfiel makes a full beast transformation into a half-Tiger, half-Behemoth, and kills Otto and several villagers. Patrasche finally grabs Subie and throws him at the barrier and the blue crystal glows…

Subaru wakes up in the dungeon, but the door is unlocked. He finds that snow has fallen, so my first through was something happened with Puck. But no one is around, and I mean no one: no Garfiel, Ram, Roswaal, Emilia, or villagers to be found. It’s like everyone suddenly up and left.

So Subaru leaves too, out into the snow without a coat or anything to defend himself. The landscape is so serene, you just knew something horrible was about to befall our young protagonist…I just didn’t know just how horrible it would be. Getting slowly torn apart and devoured by thousands of white demon rabbits? Pretty bad!

Cue that iconic choral stab that indicates Return by Death, and Subaru is right back in the ruin beside Emilia, who notably doesn’t seem to be having as fitful a sleep as we’ve seen in other returns. Frustrated, Subaru smacks his forehead against the stone floor until it bleeds, and Echidna’s voice declares he’s once again “earned the qualification” to join her tea party in Bliss.

Thanks to the Sloth Witch Factor-affecting tea he drank last time, Subaru is once again able to keep his shit together in Echidna’s presence. Subaru makes an appeal to Echidna: next time he leaves this place, he doesn’t want to forget her. He draws so close and is so emphatic, Echidna can’t help but betray her bashful side, and is inclined to acquiesce to his request.

That’s when it dawns on Subaru: this tea party must be happening right after her last one. That she doesn’t consider this strange in the slightest means she knows why and how he’s back a second time. When she asks him to clearly state what that “how” is, he’s understandably weary, considering what’s happened to him every time he’s tried to explain it to others.

But this time, in this place, and to Echidna, Witch of Greed, he’s able to literally shout it from the hilltops: he’s been returning by death. Shocked beyond reason that he was able to finally say it out loud, he repeats it again and again, still waiting for the claw-like hand to clutch his heart and squeeze—but it doesn’t happen. At long last, Subaru is able to tell someone what’s really happening to him.

This is because the Witch of Greed wants to know everything in this world. But while she’s known about Return by Death and has been watching him this whole time, there’s yet more she wants to learn from him, like how he felt while going through all the trials he’s endured and burdens he’s carried. Well, she may want to get comfortable and brew more tea—with or without “fluids”—this could take a while!