TenSura – 33 – A Different Kind of Demon Lord

After a string of absolute bangers that just screamed SHIT GOT REAL, this episode brings all that built-up the momentum to a screeching halt. It starts by repeating, verbatim, Eren’s story about Milim becoming the Demon Lord, as Rimuru is relaying it to his senior staff. It was a very pretty sequence, but I didn’t need to see it twice in as many weeks.

From there, Rimuru puts the plan he’s about to announce in context by taking a look back. While it was nice to see how far he and everyone else has come, from Veldora to Geld, it felt a little indulgent what with a literal army marching on the city. Then again, maybe this was Rimuru’s way of flexing: no need to panic or be in a rush.

After a few minutes of everyone else trying to accept the blame for what happened (ultimately there’s plenty of blame to spread around, even if Rimuru claims all of it) we get down to the planning stage. He’s going to take on the approaching force by himself, in order to assure he’s able to secure sufficient nourishment to Demon Lord-ify himself.

While he still wishes for a future in which humans and monsters can coexist peacefully across the world, the more pressing issue is getting the humans to acknowledge their existence, and the fact they’re not going away. When he becomes a Demon Lord, he plans to protect humanity from the other Demon Lords, thus hopefully earning goodwill.

While Rimuru goes after that Lordship, he has important roles for everyone else. For one thing, there are still four devices around the city maintaining the barrier as they speak, each guarded by a company of knights; the one to the west likely supplemented by the Otherworlders. Rimuru’s orders are simple: take them all out at once.

Benimaru will handle the eastern device by himself; Hakurou, Rigur, Gobta and Geld the west; Gabiru and his men the south, and Souei and Soka the north. Everyone in those groups it itching to atone for letting their guards down. Rimuru also asks Mjurran to join Shuna at the town center to keep the barrier raised after the devices are taken out, while Youm, Grucius, and Eren and her party will guard them.

So! Everyone has their assignments; all that’s left is to execute. Sadly, there isn’t any time to show any of that. We’re left with an episode that tries to keep things fresh by switching up the angle of the meeting table, with limited success. And is it just me, or shouldn’t the bodies of Shion and the others be, i dunno, kept somewhere cool and dry? Leaving corpses out in the sun doesn’t seem like the best idea.

The one upside to having this kind of episode is that with the emotional stakes established and the table thoroughly set, the next episode can go 100% all-out with the action and ownage. If that’s what transpires, I may just go back and add a half-star to episode…for taking one for the team!

TenSura – 32 – A Seed of Hope

Rimuru learns that Mjurran’s heart was stolen by Demon Lord Clayman, which ensured she’d have to obey him to live. As part of his ongoing quest to make things as “interesting” as possible, he sent her to spy on Tempest cast the anti-magic barrier within the capital to make things easier for the alliance of Falmuth and the Church.

Rimuru orders Mjurran detained until he has time to think of a punishment. He visits with and heals Hakurou and Gobta, whose spatial wounds couldn’t be closed by Shuna’s skills. Then he asks what I’ve been asking since her battle with Shougo: Where is Shion? Rather than say, Benimaru escorts Rimuru to the plaza to see for himself: Shion, along with Gobzo, are among the dead.

That’s right, Shion’s dead dead. He’s the first of his ragtag group of loyal companions to die, and she was killed protecting a child. Rimuru asks for time alone, re-creates Shizu’s mask and asks the Great Sage questions like “Why did this happen?”, “What should I have done?” “Was it a mistake to get involved with humans?”, and “Was I wrong?” The Sage has no answers.

Rimuru can’t understand why he can be so calm when such a torrent of emotions are surging and seething within him. He decides it’s because he too has become “a monster at heart.” As such, he’ll do what a monster like him can do and at least absorb Shion and the others as he did Shizu, with Gluttony.

But before he can, he’s interrupted by Eren and her party, who were the very first adventurers he encountered after being reincarnated as a slime. Eren comes bearing hope, if only the slightest sliver: it comes in the form of a fairy tale that has a basis in fact. She goes on to tell that tale, which we the audience recognize as the origin story of Demon Lord Milim Nava—lovingly rendered in a gorgeous watercolor/woodcut style.

Milim didn’t mean to become a Demon Lord, but when the king killed her only companion—a baby dragon her father created for her—she killed the king and wiped out his entire nation, killing tens of thousands. As a result, the baby dragon came back to life—but lost its soul when it died, thus becoming the became the Chaos Dragon, which Milim had to seal away.

While souls escape in all directions immediately after death, it dawns on Rimuru that the souls of Shion and the others cannot penetrate the barriers enveloping the capital. The souls are there, ready to be reunited with their  resurrected bodies, thus preventing what befell Milim’s dragon friend. The Great Sage confirms there’s a roughly 3% chance of reviving everyone.

Naturally, Rimuru takes those odds, which while small are not zero. He thanks Eren, who turns out to be a damn princess, Eryune Grimwald! All this time she’s been disguised as an ordinary human so she could adventure freely; her party-mates are her royal guard. As the princess of the Sorcerous Dynasty Sarion, she pledges to help Rimuru with anything other help he might require.

First things first: Rimuru needs to get started on becoming a Demon Lord so he can revive everyone. First, he sets up his own barrier in case the other two go down. Then, he asks the Sage for the requisites of becoming a Demon Lord. Turns out he already acquired the Demon Lord “seed’ when he predated the Orc Disaster.

The seed requires nourishment to grow and sprout, in the form of a minimum of ten thousand human lives. Double that number from Falmuth/Church alliance just happen to be descending on the capital, so it looks like Rimuru is ready to go. But first, he returns to the reception hall, insisting that Mjurran “must die”, then killing her…though she doesn’t die!

The reason is simple: Rimuru never intended to kill her permanently, only for three seconds. That was enough time to destroy the artificial heart Clayman had placed within her—which doubled as a bug—and replace that with a new artificial heart. Mjurran is no longer tied down by Clayman, and free to be tied down (via marriage) by Youm.

She in turn immediately swears fealty to Rimuru as thanks for his mercy. Rimuru asks her and Youm for help with his crazy new plan. In a short while, he’ll wipe out the entire force of Falmuth and Church soldiers and mages, including Falmuth’s king. That means Falmuth will need a new king, and Rimuru picks Youm for the task. Once Rimuru is a Demon King, Shion and the others should resurrect, badda-bing badda-bang!

I’m all for this sequence of events unfolding. Sure, keeping someone like Shion dead would cement the consequences of Rimuru’s poor leadership. It would also crest palpable stakes, since if she could die, anyone could. On the other hand, Shion staying dead would be really lame. She got on my nerves at times with the drinking and violence, but like our blue friend I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I want her back! Also, that Milim and Shion-heavy end sequence hit different this week.

Gundam SEED Destiny – Retro Review, Thru 9

A couple years ago I got into Gundam. That all the giant mecha battles and man-crying can get a little ridiculous are points that can be argued, but on the whole its always a pragmatic and mature look at why we fight wars and how a human race that ideally should be united as one is always thinking up ways of splitting itself up into factions intent on eradicating one another. A young group of Gundam pilots are always in the middle.

The first series I saw was actually brand new at the time; Gundam 00. It went on for two seasons and 50+ episodes, which was a lot of episodes to get to know the enormous cast and all their pasts, relationships, and loyalties; the latter two often in flux. The battles always contained a lot of strategy, and more often than not ended in stalemates rather than outright victory or defeat, with both parties falling back to fight another day, which struck me as a realistic strategy.

Not satisfied with waiting for the next Gundam to come around (Gundam Unicorn, a OVA series that aired one episode a few months back), I delved into an older series, Gundam SEED. While it isn’t widescreen, HD, and nearly as slick-looking as 00, SEED struck me immediately as even better-written, acted, and immersive than the newer series. There are a lot more instances of enemies becoming friends, lovers becoming enemies, then friends again, and alliances being built and crumbling.

SEED also lasted 50 episodes, but was followed by a sequel taking place two years later, which brings us to SEED Destiny, which runs yet another 50 episodes. Unlike long-running shonen series like Naruto and Bleach, there are few if any filler episodes in Gundam SEED: something important happens in every episode that drives the story forward, and there’s very little stalling or pointless exhibition or recaps that make those shonen series unwatchable on a weekly basis.

It’s been a while since I wrapped up SEED, but after nine episodes SEED Destiny feels tighter and better put-together. There are lots of new characters to keep track of, along with the surviving cast from the first season, who all have new roles two years later. I believe because roughly half the cast is already well-established and I am invested in them from all their battles and experiences, Destiny can spend less time on introductions and more time further developing those characters. Another area where Gundam SEED excels is how it treats romantic relationships and sex in a very down-to-earth ,realistic way.

Destiny begins with an uneasy peace, but naturally history repeats itself, and full-scale war is always one incident away from breaking out between the Earth-and-Moon-based Naturals and the Space-based, genetically-enhanced Coordinators. Both sides have racked up their fair share of sins against the other, and a common theme of Gundam is that even if there’s a reasonable explanation for something, and a person (singular) can understand it, reason and logic are not enough to stop the fear and hatred of people (plural) from dominating an issue and shaping history. A stampede, literal or figurative, cannot be stopped with reason or logic. It takes on the properties of a force of nature like a tidal wave, impervious to human control.

And in most cases, the leaders of those people (themselves driven by grudges and perceived injustices) are more than willing to exploit that collective (if misguided) hate for their own ambitions. Yet Gundam doesn’t forget that both sides are still human at the end of the day, and there are minorities on both sides who won’t follow their leaders so blindly over a cliff.

Some from these minorities also happen to pilot Gundams, the most powerful mechas around, affording them at least a little leverage against those tidal waves. If your willing to sit through a million episodes, with occasional bursts into song and/or tears, Gundam SEED/Destiny is, for the most part, fun and entertaining space opera. Rating: 3.5