Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 12 – School’s Out for Winter

As the Dawn of Fold attack continues, the Dads are on the move. Vim Jeturk decides to pilot his Sol Dilanza rather than be Shaddiq’s puppet any longer. Delling finds Miorine, but true-to-character, his first words aren’t “Thank God you’re alright” but “What are you wearing?” since she’s not in an evac suit.

Poor Suletta is still shut off from the rest of the plant by the emergency bulkheads, but Sophie spots her, and shoots around her area to try to goad her into running off to the Aerial. When Dominicus tries to subdue her with Antidote, Sophie goes up to Permet Level Four … nearly killing herself in the process.

Like the bloody epilogue that got Witch from Mercury off to such a stirring start, this season one finale really accentuates the essential frailty of human beings. Delling is seriously wounded by a piece of errant shrapnel, while using his body to shield his daughter. For all his abuse and neglect, when the chips were down, he chose her over everything else.

When Norea spots GUND-Arm’s spaceship—with Earth House still on board—she takes aim and prepares to destroy it as part of the mission to keep anyone from escaping. She only stays her hand when Nika flashes the correct code with a signal light. Nika saves everyone on that ship, including herself, but Martin sees her signaling to the enemy. The gig is up.

When Guel overhears that a Gundam from Asticassia is on Plant Quetta, he pilots a mobile suit and heads out, determined to move forward “after Suletta”. But in the heat of his first real space battle, he almost loses it. He’s able to do what is necessary to survive—i.e. kill someone—but the one he ends up killing is his own father, Vim.

Suletta manages to crawl her way through the plant and make it to Hangar 78 where Aerial is—just as Lady Prospera knew she would. Mercury gets there first, and is about to be discovered by Dawn when Prospera arrives and kills them all. Mercury is shocked, but her mother lays out the calculus. All she did was move forward and gain two by killing others to save her.

There’s a beautiful, heartbreaking shot of Prospera and Suletta on opposite sides of a doorway, splattered blood between them. It can’t be any clearer: this is where moving forward means you can’t go back. Suletta, so easily manipulated by her mother and their credo, steps onto that blood and crosses the threshold.

When Sophie arrives to play, Suletta is already in Aerial’s cockpit and deflects her attacks with her Bits, then fires up her rockets and shoves Sophie the hell out of the hangar, scolding her for behaving in such a crass manner. That said, it’s my assumption Sophie may never have had a mother to scold her.

Suletta doesn’t know it, but as she scuffles with Sophie and then Norea, she’s buying time for the authorities to arrive with reinforcements. Once an entire patrol fleet enters the area, Naji gives the signal to retreat. While she complains, even Sophie doesn’t disobey, and hopes to see her “Big Sister” again. I’m sure she will.

Shaddiq gets word that the Dawn’s operation failed, and he doesn’t really react, wearing the same serene smile as usual. While I’m sure he’s been careful in trying to keep distance between himself and Earthian terrorists, the fact he doesn’t have Aerial and Delling isn’t confirmed dead will surely come back on him in some manner.

But there’s is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing more shocking and upsetting than the final scene of the season, in which Miorine is cornered by one straggling member of Dawn while pushing her injured father on a makeshift gurney. Before he can kill Delling, Suletta blasts through the bulkhead and smashes him with Aerial’s hand, turning him into a fine paste of blood and guts just inches from where Miorine stands.

Suletta hops out of the cockpit with her usual chipper demeanor, and even jokes about being such a klutz when she slips on the blood and guts. She reaches out her hand—which again, is covered in blood and guts of a man she just killed—to her bride. Miorine is quite rightly absolutely aghast and terrified at the Suletta before her. “How can you smile right now,” she asks, before declaring her groom a “murderer”.

All season Witch from Mercury had been lulling us into a false sense of security by showing us duel after bloodless duel at space high school. Well, graduation has come early for Guel, Nika, Miorine, and Suletta, in a cruel blast of twisted metal and a spray of blood. Nothing will be the same going forward for any of them. In other words, it’s Gundam being Gundam.

To be fair to Suletta, I’m not sure what else she could have done in that moment when it was either the shooter or Miorine. But now Suletta’s innocence is gone forever, Miorine will never look at her the same way again, and she isn’t even aware. For all she gained by following her mother’s motto to the letter, we’ve yet to see what she’ll lose. That will be revealed in season two this coming Spring.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 11 – Renewal of Vows

As GUND-Arm arrives at Plant Quetta to retrieve Aerial, Suletta has never felt more isolated or useless, both from her bride and her colleagues. Her mother Prospera, meanwhile, has made inroads with Delling, possibly at the wrong time considering the multifaceted plot against him.

Dawn of Fold holds the transport Guel is on and order them to carry on like nothing’s amiss while they hitch a ride to Quetta. Guel notices they’re using Jeturk mobile suits, thus doing the one thing a capable captive shouldn’t do: draw attention to yourself. Sophie, one of Dawn’s pilots, now knows he’s someone to keep an eye on.

Suletta has withdrawn so much into her own insecurities and fear that she ends up without a lunch, and ends up sitting in the space bathroom alone. Guel’s father gets fed up with Delling to the point he’s escorted away by his guards, but that turns out to be intentional, as he plants a transmitter on one of those guards.

It’s all part of the scheme he’s carrying out with Shaddiq. But while Jeturk wants the Earthians they arranged to commence the attack in two hours, Shaddiq has other plans. Ultimately Jeturk is just a pawn in his game. He gives the go order immediately, and Dawn of Fold springs into action.

While this is going on, Suletta is withdrawn into her depression spiral, and calls her mom to say she’s become scared of everyone and everything. Prospera tells her to come to the hangar where she and Aerial, her family, are waiting. But when Miorine learns of Suletta’s location and that’s she’s been avoiding her, she forces open the bathroom door and blocks the way. Suletta flees and a zero-gravity chase ensues.

Miorine ends up tricking Suletta by pretending to be out of breath, knowing she’ll come to her aid. When she does, Miorine grabs her tight and doesn’t let go, and the two have a much-needed reconciliation. While Miorine doesn’t own up to how distant she’s been due to GUND-Arm business, she tells Suletta that she needs to reach out and say something when something’s troubling her.

The only reason Miorine is there and GUND-Arm even exists is because of Suletta’s motto to move forward and gain two. Because of that, she will continue to rely on Suletta to help her with this new life. Moreover, she needs her groom to tell her she can rely on her, and that she won’t lose any duels, and she won’t leave her side.

It’s a beautiful cathartic scene that reaffirms their relationship. I’m immensely glad these two made up before shit hit the fan, which happens almost immediately after. Unidentified mobile suits disperse jamming pods to isolate Quetta, and a plant-wide emergency is sounded.

Jeturk’s dad knows Shaddiq backstabbed him, while Shaddiq tell his Grassley housemates that even though Miorine is on Quetta, if luck is with her (as it was with him, an orphan), she’ll survive the strike.

There’s also a knowing cut to Nana, who has betrayed Suletta, Miorine, and her Earth House/GUND-Arm family and friends. She was the key to Shaddiq getting in touch with Dawn of Fold, and will carry a fair share of the responsibility for the impending consequences.

There’s also the little matter of one of Dawn of Fold’s two Earthain witch pilots, Sophie, being a complete loose cannon. She starts her cutting laser before her fellow witch Norea despite that not being the plan, and then refuses to be a mere distraction in the operation. It’s clear she’s going to do what she wants, adding a chaotic element to Shaddiq’s careful planning.

As for that luck Shaddiq mentioned, Miorine and Suletta end up separated on opposite sides of an emergency bulkhead. While no longer emotionally isolated at episode’s end, now she’s physically isolated, both from her bride and from her Gundam.

Luck ends up on Sophie’s side, as she gets to meet the Witch from Mercury earlier than she expected. And while she acts like a swooning fangirl for Mercury’s abilities, it’s clear what she really wants is to fight against her in a Gundam duel. Whatever socio-political considerations are in play, Sophie just wants to play.

Here’s hoping Suletta can get to Aerial to oblige and humble this wild child from Earth. Maybe Guel can help out in some way from his position on Dawn of Fold’s ostensible command ship, or Miorine and the GUND-Arm team can pitch in, and Nana can redeem herself in some way.

Engage Kiss – 08 – The [REDACTED] is Already Dead

Engage Kiss does not care one single whit about your tonal or genre whiplash. After last week’s poisonous members and tentacle mech suits, we get what amounts to a hard-boiled detective procedural, and the results are…mixed.

While I appreciated the episode’s dedication to showing its work, that work is rarely glamorous. The monotony of what amounts to scene after scene of exposition as Detective Mikami, Miles, and Shuu try to piece things together is at least punctuated by the usual Kisara-Ayano sniping.

Last week’s MVP Sharon is tied to a chair behind bars this week, unable to unleash her full horny/trashy/sacred/profane shtick, but still wields power as someone who remembers crucial information Shuu forgot thanks to Kisara.

It’s pretty significant that Shuu thought Kisara would let him keep certain important memories, but Sharon says that it doesn’t work that way and he’s actually lost a lot more than he knows, and she’s not lying just for spite. All she offers “for free” about the identity of the big bad is an arsonist analogy.

Before Shuu can interpret the scant info Sharon gave him, Mikami has a eureka moment that seems primed to blow this case wide open…just as the trench-coated “Informant X” who’s been feeding Shuu shows up.

Mikami leaves a voicemail for Shuu, and during the recording he is confronted by someone and a gunshot rings out. By the time Shuu and Kisara arrive in the station lot, Mikami is dead, and Informant X tries to slink away. Shuu and Kisara show what a good pair they make by cornering and unmasking the guy…who turns out to be Mikhail.

I gotta say, that’s a pretty cheeky revelation—to dangle this oji-san like high school character who feels like he’s from another anime as the delusional third child in the family pecking order, only to reveal that he’s the mysterious General Director of Bayron City Police, from whom everyone gets their orders.

With his cover blown, Mikhail takes Shuu and Kisara down to his secret surveillance information center deep under the city hall, where he has over three million cameras going 24/7/365, (even on his sisters while they shower and sleep, an observation Shuu is quick to make and condemn).

The other fake-out in play is that Mikhail didn’t murder Mikami, and the camera footage proves it. The person who did is the one for whom Mikhail is merely a puppet, the second human agent who is coordinating the creation and destruction of demonically possessed.

Mikhail’s sudden major player turn takes a backseat to the emotional fallout from Mikami’s sudden murder, and it’s a good reminder of how good the show can be at occasionally taking the goofy/horny elements down a notch and letting these people be humans.

This culminates in Mikami’s funeral, always a solemn affair, followed by Shuu being picked up by his foster father and old pal Miles, who can’t believe Mikami is gone. When Miles talks about Mikami as the rare natural police who was also softhearted and guillible, Shuu drops the hammer: he knows Miles murdered Mikami.

Sure enough, a tattoo on Miles’ arm glows. While I’m hardly enthused by the only brother in the cast being the big bad, his villainous turn isn’t altogether unearned. Like us, Shuu’s had a huge blind spot for the guy, in his case due to the events and conversations he’s forgotten because his contract with Kisara takes away much more than he thought.

Shuu’s been trying to piece together a mystery when his own memory has been crumbling behind him in real time. Now he’s lost a true ally in Mikami and another main ally has turned out to be false. It’s safe to say things are going to get worse before they get better for Shuu.

Engage Kiss – 07 – Fullmetal Exorcist

While Shuu and Ayano were small fry to Sharon, being cornered by both Kisara, Ayano, and armored AAA units proves enough to force her to retreat, but only for the time being. Kisara and Ayano’s next priority is Shuu.

Kisara’s first instinct is to kiss him, but before their lips meet Ayano yanks her away by her hair. It’s the first indication this will be one of the hornier episodes of Engage Kiss, and I don’t mean demon horns.

While watching over a still-unconscious Shuu at the hospital, Kisara fills Ayano in on her and Shuu’s history with Sharon—using a great number of double entendres. Shuu seduced and teamed up with Sharon in order to find Kisara, but while Sharon wanted her dead, Shuu wanted her alive so he could use her power. When Shuu decided to run away with Kisara, he poisoned Sharon with a neurotoxin—through intercourse.

Sharon may say this is strictly Abbey business, but the fact we know the means by which Shuu scorned her means I’m not surprised there’s a personal element mixed in there. Of course, were their roles reversed, Sharon would have certainly done the same thing; she was just momentarily distracted by, well, sex.

The horniness continues as the detectives investigate a cargo ship that was robbed of “mechanical parts”, which we know to be a mech suit that contains demon flesh. In order to put it on, Sharon naturally has to strip in the moonlight, then allow the demon flesh tentacles to envelop her and pull her in, which results in a combination of pain and pleasure. This is pretty high-level shameless ecchi raunchiness, but it totally works.

It’s with this demon tentacle mech suit that our sexy scorned blonde battle nun intends to fight Kisara on equal terms. Kisara happily responds to Kisara’s text invitation to an abandoned warehouse for the duel. Kisara comes in her normal schoolgirl form with her sword, which is just what Sharon was hoping for.

She continues to exploit Kisara’s confidence by only showing off the suit’s conventional lead-bullet gun and tough demon sword-blocking armor, then whips out the demon flesh, which creates lasting wounds on Kisara’s body that slow her down and sap her energy.

When Kisara is impaled in the midsection by a demon tentacle, it’s looking like an upset victory for Sharon (who maintains her only objective is eliminating demons), but then Shuu manages to get Kisara away to a secluded hallway of the warehouse.

When Kisara comes to, she maintains her pouty face over what down with Shuu and Ayano—which, as we know, Shuu knows nothing about. We also know he doesn’t remember being lovers with Sharon. Kisara doesn’t want his apologies, he wants to know what she is to him.

After she rejects his request to table the issue for now, he assures her that if it wasn’t her, he’d never even think about kissing another demon. Yes, he’s deceiving and using her, but it doesn’t matter; his simple sentiment is enough to motivate her to keep fighting beside him.

After they make out, Kisara engages her Hot Topic form, which proves too much for a mere human in a suit, demon tentacles or no. As with all battles in Engage Kiss this one is thoroughly fun and, well, engaging, and you can really feel the momentum shift when Kisara ups the speed and power of her attacks.

Sharon ends up beaten unconscious at the bottom of several stories worth of warehouse rubble. She’s found by the police with her mech suit half-melted off, revealing half her naked body, because of course it does.

Shuu and Kisara end up making up, with the latter suggesting they hit up the diner without even changing her blood-soaked uniform. Ayano shows up half a beat too late with coffees, irritated that the rift between Kisara and Shuu didn’t last.

Finally, a captive (and fully clothed) Sharon tells Mikami that Celestial Abbey isn’t done in Bayron City. There’s an even larger Demon Hazard than Kisara that’s coming, and if eliminating it means destroying the city, so be it.

On paper, Bayron lacks the strength to oppose an ancient international organization of exorcists—including eleven other “Living Relics” like Sharon. They still have Kisara on their side, but will she, and what’s left of Shuu’s memories, really be enough? Also, how many other women was Shuu involved with, about whom Kisara wiped all memory?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 06 – Sixpence Nun the Richer

It was only a matter of time before an Index-style battle nun showed up on Engage Kiss, which is fortuitous because it comes at a time when there’s been a significant power shift in the Ogata Shuu love/possession triangle. Ayano is back in his home cooking and cleaning (memory loss or not you’d think dude should be able to help out with chores).

If Kisara insists on sapping Shuu of his memories of her, this is just her making more, while enjoying the time she still has with Shuu. Kisara, understandably shaken by Ayano’s manipulation of her dynamic with Shuu, is skulking in the streets, but knows she’s unable to stay mad at Shuu, who after all has no recollection of cheating on her with his ex.

Kisara remembers back to when she first met Shuu, when he had apparently traveled to an arctic wasteland to find her frozen in stone. When he pulled the demon slayer from her and she attacked him, he told her he wasn’t there to fight, but because he needed her. But does he still need her now?

Ayano twists the knife and keeps Kisara away (and into Gasai Yuno yandere mode, if only visually) with a mocking Insta post flaunting her return to domestic bliss with Shuu. I must say considering what Kisara has done to Shuu (even if he let her do it), Ayano deserves to hot-dog a little on her victory lap.

The need to enjoy oneself while one can is underscored by the arrival of Nun Lady, who immediately demonstrates her power when she gets the jump on The Justice of GUTS while they’re responding to a D-Rank Hazard. Not only did she dispatch the demon before they could with her bare hands, she’s able to toy with one of the toughest exterminators in the city with ease.

At Inspector Mikami’s urging, Shuu finally sets up a clandestine meet with his informant who must have government connects. Indeed, this unidentified person presents him with GUTS getting beaten up by the new nun in town. As Mikami and Miles listen in on Shuu’s bug, the informant nails the fact Shuu was egged on into this meet, and would rather Shuu simply continue wasting demons and not looking a gift horse in the mouth. But Shuu is warned to “be careful of the Celestial Abbey”.

After the next exterminators’ meeting, Shuu tells Akino that the a nun attacking GUTS, and she momentarily forgets that Shuu doesn’t remember the Abbey due to his contract with Kisara. So she fills him (and us) in on the fact the Celestial Abbey has been doing what their little companies in Bayron have been doing, only worldwide and for over a thousand years. They also have zero tolerance when it comes to demons—including demons that are helping humans exterminate other demons like Kisara.

That night, Akino is confronted at her office by the nun, but isn’t afraid. Instead, as she’s on the phone with Ayano when the nun appears, she keeps the line open in her pocket and stalls. The nun is clear about what she wants—info on the whereabouts of the pink demon—but Akino ain’t talking.

Before the nun resorts to the hard way, Ayano crashes through the window in full Action Daughter mode. Akino doesn’t even flinch as Ayano’s bullets search for the nun while avoiding her mom entirely. Alas, the nun soon kicks her gun out of her hand, and her hand-to-hand skills are superior to Ayano’s.

The nun also exacts psychological warfare by observing that Ayano fights like Shuu, whom she apparently knows. This gets Ayano all flustered due to her recent tumble with her ex, and once the nun accepts that neither Yuugiri will say anything, she just snatches Ayano’s phone and peaces out.

The nun uses it to spam Kisara’s phone with messages and a selfie asking if she remembers three years ago. Kisara does, and remembers her name too: Sharon.

Ayano uses her mom’s phone to warn Shuu, but he doesn’t listen when told not to go in his office. Sharon blasts through the door, shoves him out the window, and the two fight in the alley. Since Shuu indeed fights the exact same way as Ayano, Sharon makes quick work of him and is soon straddling and choking him with her garterbelt-festooned thighs.

Sharon tells them they last met three years ago and insinuates that they were lovers at some point. Naturally, Shuu doesn’t remember due to Kisara, but Sharon considers it a personal affront and starts pummeling him. That’s when Kisara swoops in to get Sharon off Shuu, thereby accomplishing what Sharon was after all along: Kisara’s location.

That’s when the arrival of Sharon has Kisara looking back to that time in the arctic cave when Shuu released her from her stone prison and asked for a contract. Turns out that wasn’t all that happened, as not long after Shuu frees her, Sharon stabs her in the back with the slayer. When Kisara fights with Sharon, Shuu shoots her, all but proving that at this point in time the two were at least partly on the same side.

From contracting with ancient demons to allying himself with international exorcists, there’s nothing old Shuu wouldn’t do to clear his family’s name and find his sister. Now that Sharon is back, I imagine it will take Shuu, Kisara, and Ayano working on the same side to neutralize the threat she presents. Considering what’s gone down between Kisara and Ayano, that’ll be no mean feat.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 10 – The Rising of the Katana Hero

As Raph-chan is led to her cell in a giant snowy prison, she is worried that Naofumi-sama will be angry at her for staying behind, even though it wasn’t her fault. But she still vows not to die until she sees him again.

Fortunately, dying isn’t in the cards this week, as no sooner does she find herself in the very same cell as L’Arc, Therese, and Glass do the four escape the “Prison of Exhaustion”, thanks to Raph’s low-level but still effective illusion magic.

Once out, they head to Sikul, dress like locals (which is to say, like Japanese), and grind. Raph-chan fights, levels up, and eats, and starts to rapidly grow, as demi-humans tend to do.

We’re introduced to Glass’ softer side, not only when she thanks Raph for helping free her beloved Kizuna from the Infinite Labyrinth, but also helps tailor Raph’s clothes when she starts to grow out of them. These three may have fought her, Filo, and Naofumi in the past, but they’re not bad people.

Kazuki, on the other hand, most certainly is bad, and in a second-string, B-teamy kind of way, as he’s basically a Kyou wannabe. To that end, he intends to draw the Katana Vassal Weapon and become a legit Hero. Unfortunately for him, the sword has other ideas.

The weapon instead wills itself into the hands of Raphtalia, and proceeds to burn away her Slav-erServant Crest that has bonded her to Naofumi all this time. She separates from the others as she breaks into a run, pursued by police and other officials for “stealing” Kazuki’s katana.

Either fate or the sword itself lead Raphtalia to the Temple of the Katana Hero, where a kindly shrine maiden risrobes her and dresses her in a Hero’s Regalia. Then Kazuki and his aides show up, insisting that she return what is rightfully his and he’ll give her a painless death.

Raphtalia, who is now back to her full size and can feel the power of the Katana coursing through her, warns Kazuki many times to simply leave, but he doesn’t listen. He siccs two replicas of a holy white tiger at her, but she dispatches them with ease.

When Kazuki still insists on going toe-to-toe with her, she delivers a strike that will only kill him if he moves. This is it: it’s happening; Raphtalia is no longer Naofumi’s servant or his sword. As she revealed when she first attained the Katana and was on the run, she wants to stand by his side as more of an equal, and has gotten her wish.

That said, even after defeating Kazuki, one more giant white tiger prepares to pounce on her, and she’s used up a lot of her strength on the previous attacks, all of which she used for the first time. Her expression is one of wisful regret and resignation as she wishes she could see Naofumi one last time before she dies.

But she gets her wish again: Naofumi shields her from the tiger, Filo kicks it, and Kizuna finishes it off with her hunting blade. Just like that, the band is back together, complete with newcomer Kizuna. Like the escape from the Labyrinth and Filo’s rescue, it feels a little rushed and easy, but it’s also a credit to this more episodic arc that keep things moving at a good clip and outings have satisfying beginnings, middles and ends.

With the party reunited and the number of Heroes tripled, I’m hoping they can avoid Kyou’s traps and put the jerk in his place soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 09 – A Whole Different Animal

The moment Naofumi materializes in Sikul, he wants to go right back to Mikakage. Where Raphtalia is concerned, all self-preservation goes out the window. Fortunately, Kizuna can’t send them back, as the hourglass on the other side was shut off. But she can introduce Naofumi to a very useful friend.

Kizuna was trapped in the labyrinth for years, right? Because the reactions to her return make it seem like she was only gone for a few weeks or months, tops. Her peers are also weary of a hero from another world, fearing he’s come to destroy their world.

Oh and Kizuna has a blue penguin shikigami named Chris because…why not, I guess??

Back to Kizuna’s useful friend, Ethnobalt…which is a naaaaame. With a drop of Naofumi’s blood and a catalyst (some of Raphtalia’s hair), he can help him create his own shikigami—one that like Raphtalia is a raccoon, but frankly isn’t as cute as the genuine article to these eyes.

Have I mentioned that Ethnobalt (sigh) is the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland? And that instead of the wielder of a pocket watch, he has a “boat” that can grow to the size of a Final Fantasy-style airship (indeed, it looks inspired by the Fahrenheit).

Ethnobalt helps Naofumi out and asks nothing in return; he’s just happy to be useful to his friend Kizuna and her friends. That makes him more of a device than a character, but no matter; he’s able to warp them to Raybul, where both Filo and Glass are currently located.

They soon find Filo, who is being held captive by a disreputable showman along with scores of other magical animals. Filo is notably also not a filolial in this world, because that creature doesn’t exist here. Naofumi initially wants to kill her captor on the spot, but Rishia’s cooler head prevails, and they free Filo without incident that night.

Filo is clearly traumatized by the situation, though when her captor first said she was going to “make a lot of money” for him I immediately assumed he was going to prostitute her out to customers. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, but there was a distinct lack of peril and suspense to her rescue.

Despite camping in the forest for the night, Naofumi, Filo, Rishia and Kizuna return to town and immediately find wanted posters of themselves. Fortunately, the likenesses are vague at best. Then Naofumi feels what I’ll describe as a “disturbance in the force”, and suddenly Raphtalia’s stats disappear from his HUD.

The raccoon shikigami Filo names “Raph-chan” is still kicking, however, so the real Raph should be fine. That doesn’t mean she’s comfortable, however, as after the credits we see she’s in chains and has been taken to what I’m assuming to be the arctic stronghold of the Katana Hero, since that’s the name of the next episode.

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 07 – Kamiya-san Is Curious

The studio had an Izumi-style run of luck, enduring a Covid outbreak that delayed the episode, but Shikimori picks up without missing a beat, as the school culture fest commences. Last year Izumi and Shikimori had the same duties, but this time they’re separated as their class runs an animal-themed café.

Still, it doesn’t take long for them to come together as Izumi inevitably slips on a napkin and the Shikimori the bunny has to save Izumi the lion. While walking home after a busy first day, the two commit to spending the afternoon of the second day together.

It has to be the afternoon because both of them are busy in the morning: Shikimori with the café, and Izumi on library duty. He’s relieved to learn that his partner isn’t a stranger, but Kamiya, who has always been friendly and kind to him in their past library duty interactions.

As we enter the cultural festival stage of many anime series this season, Kamiya seems aware of the “magic” that leads to a surge of new couples. She’s uncharacteristically restless, and even delivers a wall slam to Izumi as she brings up his girlfriend Shikimori and wants to know how they met.

Izumi, who quite incorrectly assumes Kamiya likes Shikimori, obliges, telling her they got together thanks to that same culture fest magic. Last year, the numbers they got at the entrance matched, which was a rare fortunate moment for Izumi, as he had planned to ask her out during the festival.

After walking around and enjoying the festival in the clouds, when the time comes to take their photo (which legend has it bonds the matched couples together forever) Izumi loses his number. But Shikimori won’t let him give up, so they look for it. They come up empty, but put up a passionate united front in insisting the president let them have their picture taken anyway. The Prez can tell these two are keepers, and gives an exception.

The rest is history: Izumi asks Shikimori out behind the gym, and Shikimori’s response is a gorgeous, passionate embrace. Back in the library, Izumi apologizes for rambling on, but Kamiya is well and truly moved, striking an elegant pose that conceals what must be pained eyes.

While we’ve seen very little Kamiya so far, it’s been clear through her subtle glances at Izumi that she likes the guy, always has, and rues the fact she missed her chance. As amazing as Kamiya acknowledges Shikimori to be, she’s clearly frustrated Shikimori beat her to the punch.

It helps that Kamiya is an instantly likeable character, statuesque and noble and popular with both guys and girls, but not afraid to show another side to Izumi. Fukuhara Ayaka also lends her a wonderfully husky voice that’s lower than Izumi’s. We’ll see where this triangle goes as the festival continues.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 08 – Your Sword Till the End

I have to say, I’m really enjoying this more semi-episodic Shield Hero. Last week’s escape from the Infinite Labyrinth was a true bottle episode, while this one expands on Kizuna’s world as well as her own abilities, that haven’t dulled a bit in the years she’s been imprisoned. This week there’s another definite goal: reach the Dragon Hourglass, which in this world serves as a warping point for Heroes.

But wisely this episode starts out with the basics: they need money for food, a roof over their heads, and supplies. Kizuna describes the various races of her world, one of which is Glass’s Spirit People. Naofumi just happens to have a supply of soul-soothing potion that doesn’t exist in this world, so he puts his merchant skills to good us and sells them off to the highest bidder.

It’s a team effort, with Naofumi, Raphtalia, Rishia and Kizuna all doing their parts to ensure they sell all the potion for as much money as possible, which they then spend on new, more location-appropriate threads and gear. I like the new classical Japanese looks. Their day is darkened by the appearance of a “genuis mage” who has figured out how to use the Dragon Hourglasses to warp even though he’s not a Hero.

This guy, Kazuki, reminds Naofumi of Kyou, and doesn’t like him one bit right off the bat. Fortune smiles on his party, however, as a blizzard gives them cover for an easy infiltration of the capital’s central fortress, which contains the Hourglass they need to warp to Sikul.

But while getting in is easy, finding the Hourglass proves difficult, and the fortress is full of dead ends, traps, and a huge number of guards. While Kizuna can’t harm anyone with her hunting sword, she can damage their surroundings that indirectly neutralize the guards.

But there are a lot of guards, which means eventually the party has to split in two groups to lessen their numbers. Turns out this is just another trap, as Naofumi and Raph walk right into the Hourglass chamber only to be quickly surrounded by guards, led by Kazuki and his two personal bodyguards. Taking after Kizuna, Naofumi uses his non-offensive shield’s ability to throw the guards aside.

Kizuna and Rishia then rendezvous with Naofumi and Raph, and Kizuna uses her Hero status to activate the warp. Everyone starts to glow yellow, and it looks like everyone is on their way to safety and the next adventure…but then Raphtalia stops glowing. Kyou, the architect of this latest trap, remotely cackles and taunts Naofumi, saying he’ll be taking Raph to his lab for experiments.

Kizuna can’t stop the warping, which means all Naofumi can do is watch and wait helplessly until he’s taken away from Raphtalia. For her part, Raph puts on a brave face, grateful that she was small so Naofumi could pat her on the head and carry her. She vows to be his sword to the end, and charges at the guards as he and the others warp out.

Filo having been separated from the party last week was one thing, but she’s always felt more like a mascot and strategic weapon than an actual character. There’s a lot more meat to Naofumi and Raphtalia’s history together, and seeing them suddenly separated like this was a true gut-punch, not to mention cementing Kyou as an uber-evil big bad.

But while losing Raph must be crushing blow to Naofumi—he may even summon that hate and anger Ost helped him let go of because of this—at the end of the day we have a satisfying, at times heartwarming and thrilling episode with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. I have no idea what comes next, but I can’t wait!

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 08 – Esteem in the Bloodstream

Toubaru-sensei has taken note of the supreme squeeness of AhaRaidou and its deleterious effects on her health, which is why she’s made a habit of imagining the pair in all manner of adorable romantic situations while safe in her bed at night. Unfortunately, the real thing proves far more esteemed than she could imagine, as she watches the “nuclear esteemed family” dynamic of the two plus Ooshiro play out on the rooftop.

It is fortunate that Toubaru’s, or should I say Momo’s friend and fellow teacher Miyahara-sensei is well-equipped to deal with her reactions to the pure innocent romance she watches unfold. That night, she tries to imagine ever more ludicrous scenarios (with Aharen and Raidou’s characters changing completely) and almost bleeds to death in her sleep. Thankfully Miyahara had a spare key!

Ishikawa and Satou may not be the most dynamic side characters (honestly they’re bland as wallpaper paste, and probably intentionally so to serve as amiable straight men. But one thing they do do is give Aharen and Raidou an opportunity to go to a festival together, so they’re not all bad! Aharen looks appropriately angelic in her yukata.

She’s also appropriately ravenous, visiting every food stall and spending all her money before Raidou can finish explaining his grand strategic plan for “winning the festival”. Meanwhile, Toubaru and Miyahara-sensei also attend the festival, and Toubarou proceeds to lose a lot of blood for the second day in a row.

Otherwise it’s a perfect evening for our main couple, until it’s not; Raidou not only loses his phone, but Aharen, as Futaba ended up holding his hand believing him to be her dad. After taking Futaba to the lost child desk and reuniting her with said dad (after which she properly expresses her gratitude for once) the gods smile on our couple, as Aharen appears right beside him at that very lost child desk (naturally, the guy assigned to the desk assumes Raidou is her guardian.

Aharen is so happy and relieved to see Raidou, she sheds a tear. After all this dilly-dallying though, the two have to book it to get a good fireworks viewing spot. Ultimately, any spot is good for the nearly 2-meter-tall Raidou. When Aharen can’t see due to being small, he hoists her onto his shoulders, and she experiences a whole new world.

Later, after he daintily repairs her broken sandal strap, he offers his hand so they can go find the others. She hesitates, but ultimately takes it and proceeds to blush profusely. She’s grabbed him so many times, but in this time and place, it feels different. If the show is serious about progressing these feelings further, I’m looking forward to watching it happen…while making sure I’m more prepared than Toubaru-sensei was this week!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 10 – Will the Real Eustiana Please Stand Up?

Well, the overarching arc of Pecorine/Eustiana stepping into the light and reclaiming her throne all comes down to this, with a newly-masked Karyl joining Kaiser as her right hand and primary weapon. It’s not clear how much of Karyl’s cooperation is forced, either by magic or deference to Kaiser, but there’s no disputing she’s in a bad way.

When Karyl attacks Diabolos and captures three of their members, Shinobu and Miyako manage to escape and head to the Gourmet Guild to give them the bad news: Karyl has turned her coat. Soon all of Landosol learns this, when Kaiser uses Labyrista’s ability to encircle the city in a shell, then project a giant Karyl who will be the instrument through which Kaiser will sacrifice its citizens.

It’s not just the Gourmet Guild that springs into action to stop Karyl and Kaiser. Doctor Yuni and the Friendship Club collaborate with Kasumi and Tamaki, and the good doctor discovers that the truth that was “out of joint” all this time was the person sitting on the throne: a false princess who has manipulated the minds of everyone in the kingdom.

By the time Yuki, Kokkoro, and Pecorine arrive in town, the place is crawling with Shadows, but adventurers, warriors, mages, and ordinary folk alike manage to hold their own, with the latter even saving Yuuki and Kokkoro when things are looking their most grim. Peco goes on ahead, and from that point on it’s really all about her and Karyl, whose attacks she either dodges or absorbs as she manages to tackle her.

When Yuni uses her “Rosetta Network” of pet rocks to broadcast the truth about the princess currently on the throne, Kaiser orders Karyl to kill everyone—and Karyl is powerful enough to make it happen. But her rain of purple magic bolts ends up hitting no one. As much as she wants to obey her majesty, she just can’t hurt anyone anymore. Kaiser doesn’t take no for an answer, and uses magic threads to manipulate Karyl like a puppet.

Karyls mask falls, she starts to cry and beg someone, anyone to destroy her so she can’t harm anyone else. Instead, her attacks, and Kaiser’s hold on her, are neutralized by a stalwart Pecorine, who finally, finally finds the proper time to tell her dear friend the truth about her true identity. While the duel this week isn’t nearly as badass as the Kaiser-Labyrista bout, it’s a hell of a lot more emotionally charged.

Pecorine does this in front of most of the town, revealing herself to be the real Eustiana von Astrea and vowing to not only save Karyl, but protect her people as well. Considering the power we saw on display from Kaiser last week and all the tricks she has up her sleeve (from Metamorregnant to Labyrista’s power), I’d say the gloves will be coming off next week, which means Pecorine…which means Eustiana will most likely need a little help from her many, many friends.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 09 – Hasta la Vista

Pecorine is ready to tell Karyl that she’s Eustiana von Astrea, and wants to do so, but in trying to find the perfect time, she ends up missing her chance more than once. This is something for which Pecorine should really take Karyl by the shoulders and say “this can’t wait!” But Karyl is off … somewhere, and so it must wait.

That somewhere is the castle that by rights should be Pecorine’s, where Karyl finds Kaiser sleeping fitfully in her bed. When Karyl mentions she brought homemade onigiri from the princess rice harvest, Kaiser remembers Peco’s words about having a meal together, and decides to indulge Karyl by eating with her.

On her way home, Karyl is intercepted by Yuuki, Kokkoro, and Pecorine, who are on their way to a festival in the shopping district. They sample the many delicacies for sale as well as avail themselves of the festival games, like cork rifle shooting. Everyone has a wonderful time.

Kokkoro even takes Yuuki with her to give Pecorine another shot at telling Karyl, but decides instead to follow Karyl’s lead and just savor the lovely, moment they’re in … a moment Karyl wishes would last forever, but of course won’t thanks to all the other very distressing stuff going on in another dimension.

That big blue in-between space becomes the venue for the mother of all PriConne battles, as Labyrista decides the time is right to take care of Kaiser once and for all. I believe it’s the first time we’ve actually heard Kaiser Insight’s name.

A ridiculously epic battle between Seven Crown members ensues, with the two going so far as to hurl entire conjured goddamn moons at one another. I’ll be honest: this more epic, plot-heavy stuff isn’t why I watch PriConne, but I can’t deny it’s badass as all get-out.

Labyrista has a good plan, and Shizuru and Rino running Shadow interferance on her behalf, but Labyrista has the captive (and clearly immensely powerful) Metamorregnant at her disposal. She snatches victory from the jaws of defeat by teleporting Karyl to use her as a meat shield, and then stabbing Labyrista through the heart after taking advantage of her momentary hesitation.

The timing really couldn’t be worse for poor Pecorine, who was just entering Karyl’s room to talk to her when Karyl was poofed awa, leaving only her beloved stuffed animals. Will Karyl ever return to that room? Will she ever see the others again? PriConne doesn’t get much darker than this, but like Labyrista, I’m willing to trust that Yuuki saying he’ll protect everyone this time isn’t just idle talk. Maybe Kaiser shouldn’t rest on her laurels just yet…

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 08 – The Rice Harvest

The Gourmet Guild starts this episode out split up, each member on a different errand or with a different plan for the day. Kokkoro heads into town to mail a large stack of letters when she encounters Suzuna and Misaki, two students at Lucent Academy with exceedingly bad grades. When bandits steal the guild’s treasure—and the letters—Kokkoro teams up with the busily-costumed kids to tack them down.

With help from Kokkoro’s faerie friends, locating the bandits’ hideout is no problem; the issue is getting their letters back without being detected. Misaki decides that detection is the whole point, and proceeds to attempt to use her “mature feminine pheromones” to distract the bandits. But once she starts pole-dancing on her staff, they lock her up as a little kid who is “messed up in the head.”

Meanwhile, Yuuki is wandering the capital, wondering why he forgot his old companions and couldn’t protect them. Labyrista bumps into him and provides an ear to listen, as well as some advice: he has a group of friends and companions now; he should just focus on them. Yuuki vows he won’t let Pecorine, Kokkoro, or Karyl come to harm this time. Across the city, in the palace, Karyl inadvertently snoops on Kaiser bathing.

As for Pecorine, she’s been harvesting rice all day in between catnaps, but spots “Princess Eustiana” in the field, worried that if the others know her true identity, they’ll forget her and everything about her, and she’ll lose everything all over again. She wakes up in tears.

Kokkoro and Suzuna manage to free Misaki, but not before getting spotted y the bandits, who chase them through the forest. Thankfully, the kids’ teacher Io-sensei saw the large cloud of smoke Kokkoro used and brings the city guard, led by Tomo, to arrest the bandits and recover both the treasure and the letters. But when it comes time to mail their letters of recommendation to another school, Suzuna and Misaki rip them up instead, choosing to stick with Io-sensei.

While surely unsettled by her dream, Pecorine is soon joined by Yuuki and then Karyl, who are back home and ready to pitch in. Their arrival means more to Peco than they know, considering how troubled she was, and the work goes that much faster…although there’s still a lot of rice to harvest. That’s where the purpose of Kokkoro’s many letters comes into focus.

Kokkoro arrives with dozens of friends in tow—a veritable who’s-who of PriConne characters, answering Kokkoro’s call to lend a hand (or hoof). The harvest is thus finished in no time, and a grand feast is prepared that everyone shares in, celebrating both a job well done and their friendship.

Pecorinehas a seat under a tree with Kokkoro, and sees the “ghost” of Princess Eustiana again, only she simply smiles at Peco, and Peco smiles back. She tells Kokkoro (who couldn’t see the ghost) that after losing everything she never thought she’d have a meal like this with everyone again, but is so happy she can, she starts to shed tears of joy in between bites of her onigiri.

Kokkoro can’t help but follow suit, and Peco tells her that she’s finally ready to tell Karyl and Yuuki who she really is—the true crown princess of Landosol. From seemingly innocuous errands, we arrive at the cusp of a major declaration.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

%d bloggers like this: