Eromanga-sensei – 03

When Masamune investigates the abandoned, possibly haunted house next door, he’s surprised to find Yamada Elf has just moved in: and likes to play the piano naked after a shower to get inspired to write.

After the standard accusations of peeping tommery, she invites him in, and most of the episode is given over to making Elf a little more dimensional, if still grating in her intense, obnoxious arrogance.

As Sagiri’s bedroom window faces Elf’s office, you’d think it wouldn’t be long before she found out who Eromanga-sensei is, but Elf sees Masamune’s sister and thinks she’s just that: a little sister who has fun drawing, not the person whose services they’re fighting over.

It’s also a bit shitty of Masamune not to even mention to Sagiri his little wager with Elf, considering Sagiri is the ‘prize’. Then again, it’s a good thing that Masamune isn’t the perfect MC while everyone around him is flawed in some way.

Indeed, Masamune’s flaw seems to be that in spite of Elf’s toxic personality, incessant pretentiousness, and pronunciation of ahhh-neee-may, he can’t help spending time with his new neighbor, nor indeed being a fan himself, even if meeting Yamada-sensei wasn’t what he expected.

For a time, it doesn’t seem like Elf invited Masamune in just to rub his nose in her superior success, but to spend time with a fellow author. She earnestly asks why he’s a fan, and he earnestly answers: after a death in the family, her books cheered him up. They taught him that novels can “save lives” of some readers, and for that she has his heartfelt thanks, competition or no.

Elf’s reaction betrays a softer, more genuine side to her, even if it’s short-lived and she’s back to being awful the next day. But it’s also clear that she’d rather have Masamune around than not, and also strongly disagrees with his workaholic approach to authoring, as she considers her job a “hobby” and only writes if her motivation is maxed out.

Despite knowing nothing of their competition involving her, Sagiri is uneasy anyway because her big brother, who has been All Hers up to this point, is suddenly ‘in the web’ of a cute, rich next-door neighbor.

While her music and online fans keep Eromanga merry, I feel one of the factors that drives her motivation to draw is knowing Masamune will always be there in the house, serving her meals and protecting her.

Yamada throws a thorn in that arrangement, and it will be interesting to see whether that motivates Sagiri to explore beyond her room. But yeah…Masamune really should tell her about his wager with Elf.

Advertisements

Eromanga-sensei – 02

The beautiful girl at the door turns out to be Sagiri’s classmate and class rep at school, Jinno Megumi. After a joke about how much she loves dicks, the very flirtatious “Megumin” states her purpose for being there: she wants Sagiri to come to school so she can be friends with her, like she’s friends with everyone.

Well! That’s a strong personality to contend with, but she doesn’t get her way, at least today. Sagiri never meets her in person, but only overhears her conversation with Masamune through his phone—and later, without his knowledge, through Megumi’s, leading him to say some very nice things about his “pride and joy”, Sagiri.

After that new girl encounter, Masamune jumps into an old one, Takasago Tomoe, who seems to be a classmate and/or childhood friend whose family runs the bookstore where his manga are sold.

Well, they’re offered for sale, but to Masamune’s horror, it doesn’t look like any have actually been sold. He wants Tomoe to help him out by putting them in a more prominent spot, but she doesn’t bend: if he wants better placement and sales, he has to write better stories that touch people’s hearts.

The third girl Masamune encounters is perhaps the worst, Yamada Elf, a thoroughly unpleasant, petulant, arrogant young author who couldn’t be more different from Masamune (or Sagiri for that matter). She lets her “#1 on Oricon” standing go straight to her head, believing she isn’t just the Savior of LNs, she IS light novel. Yikes!

Masamune encounters Elf trying to poach Eromanga-sensei away, something even Masamune feels would benefit his little sister, so when he goes home he’s extremely contrite and gives an offering of not-so-tasty (according to Sagiri) snacks. I don’t see Sagiri abandoning her brother anytime soon…at least until the fourth girl arrives, whom I am predicting is another artist who tries to poach Masamune, the way Elf wants to poach Sagiri.

Until then, a tiny bit of progress seems to have been made in Sagiri; she asks if her brother’s heard back from Megumi, and also tells him she’ll wash her own underwear from now on, which means she’ll have to leave her room, however briefly.

Eromanga-sensei – 01 (First Impressions)

Izumi Masamune is a popular light novel writer despite still being in high school. He lives with his stepsister Sagiri, whose face he hasn’t seen in over a year. One day while he’s watching a livestream of Eromanga-sensei, the mysterious illustrator of his works whom he’s never met, he notices the note he left with Sagiri’s meal, proving that she is Eromanga-sensei.

She finally lets him see her face, and even invites him in her room to talk, but despite having collaborated with each other on light novels for three years, the road to re-connection won’t be a smooth one.

Eromanga-sensei’s value isn’t in the twist that the siblings are artistic collaborators. I figured that out the moment Masamune said he’d never met his illustrator. Rather, it lies in excitement bred from the sudden disruption of a long-standing status quo; a stalemate between Masamune and Sagiri that had no end in sight.

Now that they ‘know who each other are’, so to speak, they have an opening that I imagine they’ll be ever-so-slowly exploring throughout the show. A show with a crisp, clean, airy look and theme of emotionally distant siblings that viewers of he Oreimo series will find familiar, due to the two shows sharing the same character designer, Kanzaki Hiro, and writer, Fushimi Tsukasa (the two collaborated on the source novels of both shows).

The moment Sagiri finally opens her door is a momentous moment, but the Schrodinger’s Cat-style tension it releases is replaced by the long, difficult, and outright awkward road ahead.

As Sagiri says, this is all very sudden, and it’s hard for adults to wrap their heads around and process such sudden changes in life, let alone a kid who hasn’t left her room in three years.

It’s far easier for, say, Masamune to wrap his mind around this, because the mystery of who Eromanga-sensei was always irked him, and he never suspected for a minute it was his sister (Sagiri, on the other hand, seemed to harbor some vague suspicions, as his pen name is the same as his regular one, albeit in katakana).

Masamune also has the benefit of being able to leave the house at will and interact with other people face-to-face rather than exclusively through technology. Sagiri’s voice-amplifying headset is a nice touch for illustrating how ill-prepared for social interaction she really is. Even having Masamune in there is so strange, on more than one occasion she cuts off their encounters so she can return to the normalcy of solitude.

This is all to say that I really admired the way Sagiri’s condition is portrayed. She’s not slob; her room is neat and tidy, and there’s no denying she’s an immensely gifted artist, especially considering her age. She just…can’t leave her room, nor has she been able to since her mother (who encouraged her to draw) passed away. We all process grief in different ways, she did so by shutting herself off from the world that took her mom away.

Learning her brother is Izumi Masamune doesn’t change any of that. She still feels trapped in that room because of her mother’s death. And unlike Masamune, she doesn’t think they’re family just because they live in the same house and he serves her meals. It’s a combination of frustration over her self-confinement and shame that she’s been such a ‘troublesome sister’. Masamune’s unconditional love is confusing and frightening, and Masamune does come on a bit too strong with his enthusiasm over learning the truth at times.

But one thing’s for sure: Sagiri loves drawing for the enjoyment of fans and readers, just as Masamune loves writing for the same reasons. She likes the interaction her livestreams and blogging allow. She is every inch a child of the 21st Century, in which even self-imposed prisons still contain windows to the world. It will be interesting to see if, when, and how Sagiri is able to emerge from her room, and from the house to see the world again with her own senses.

…It will also be interesting to see if Masamune ever asks Sagiri where she’s been stashing the cash she’s made illustrating, and why she hasn’t contributed to living expenses!

KonoSuba – 05

ks51

I’m compelled to borrow my illustrious colleague Oigakkosan’s “My Goodness!”, as there’s so much good stuff to unpack in this latest  KonoSuba (the first episode I’m actually watching on time!).

First, as Kazuma is lamenting how differently the reality of his dream of cutting it up in an awesome fantasy world has turned out to be, Aqua seems to pick up on that frustration by requesting the party strike out on a new quest. The thing is, she also proves his point, because the main reason she wants a quest is money: she’s tired of working part time in the market and being in debt, not of the fact she’s not on a heroic odyssey.

Fortune would seem to smile on Aqua as she discovers a quest that is right up her water goddess’ alley: lake purification, with a chance of scattered alligators. For that latter bit, she intends to depend on Kazuma and the others, which is when Kazuma borrows from his past world by suggesting Aqua perform the purification from within a sturdy cage (a la shark researchers).

Two problems: transporting her in said cage really makes it look, as she puts it, like some rare beast taken away to be sold. And once she’s been dunked in the lake, where nothing of note happens for hours she likens the sensation to being a tea bag steeping. These are wonderful metaphors borne of a very bizarre and specific situation.

ks52

Of course, those alligators do eventually arrive, but Kazuma, Megumin, and Darkness do nothing in response, part bored into a state of apathy, part confident the cage will hold, requiring no action from them. The cage does hold, the lake is purified, the alligators withdraw, and Aqua completes the quest all but single-handedly…

…but there’s a cost: her nerve. She’s profoundly traumatized by two-plus-hours of being harassed by the beasts as she frantically accelerated her purification. So traumatized, in fact, that she won’t leave the cage even when it’s time to do so, deeming the world “too scary” to return to just yet.

I tellya, if I’d experienced what she had for as long as she had, I’d probably be in a similar state!

ks53

Thankfully, that state doesn’t magically disappear in the second half of the episode, 4-koma anime-style. The episode not only remembers it, but adds a fantastic new variable to the equation: the gallant Mitsurugi Kyouya, who is a veritable wellspring of fantasy tropes KonoSuba puts thoroughly through the wringer, to my surprise and delight.

Kyouya, like Kazuma, died (likely in a less hilarious fashion, though we don’t learn that), and was sent to this world by Aqua with her blessing and the mission to defeat the Devil King. Rather than bring Aqua along with him, Kyouya requested Gram, the Cursed Blade that has made him a very rich and powerful adventurer, complete with fancy armor, jewelry, and a couple of loyal groupies constantly bickering over him.

You don’t get any more cliche’d than Kyouya’s kind, but the show squeezes a lot more out of Kyouya than I expected, turning lemons into delicious lemonade. That’s because Kyouya happens to spot his goddess and muse Aqua-sama being paraded in the streets in a horse-drawn cage, which is decidedly not where he thought he’d see her, ever.

ks54

What follows then, is a glorious clash of Kyouya and Kazuma, or rather Kazuma’s party. While Aqua snaps out of her funk when Kyouya reminds her that she is, in fact, a goddess, she wants nothing else to do with the cat. None of Kazuma’s girls do! It’s as if they’re inoculated against the fantasy hero archetype. More than that; they’re allergic to him!

When faced with his arrogance and presumptuousness for just a couple minutes, Aqua just thinks something’s off about the guy; Megumin thinks he’s rude and wants to explode him, and he evokes a rare and undesirable urge in Darkness that flies in the face of her usual instincts: she wants to hit him. She must realize that if she were in Kyouya’s party she’d never have her masochistic desires properly addressed.

Pissing them all off even more is that Kyouya won’t drop the matter and let Kazuma pass. Instead, he challenges Kazuma to a duel, one Kazuma accepts, starts, and ends in the space of a few seconds, with a few lightning-quick yet fluid moments, Kyouya is on his back.

Kazuma’s inner monologue predicted a duel would eventually take place, but I’m so used to that being a bad thing, that fact that Kazuma wasn’t the underdog here didn’t occur to me until he Stole Gram right out of Kyouya’s hands and bonked him on the head with it (great sound effect on that).

ks55

Then, when his two groupies show up to avenge him, Kazuma continues to fly in the fact of convention by threatening to steal their panties if they press him further, really turning the sleeze up to 11 until the girls are running away crying. It’s harsh, but Kazuma didn’t approach them or their honey; they approached him. Mess with the perverted bull, you get the perverted horns.

One would think Kyouya Team would have learned its lesson, but Kyouya can’t help but be the valiant knight standing up against “Kazuma the Brute”, as he’s known in some circles for his inappropriate conduct with girls. He also seeks to “rescue” his goddess from Kazuma’s clutches, but Aqua responds to his second offer by cold-cocking him, delivering on her earlier vow to sock him if she saw him again.

But even if Kyouya is eminently punchable, Aqua’s violence isn’t senseless, it’s justified. She was looking forward to a 300,000-Eris reward for purifying the lake, but the guild deducted 200,000 for “cage repair” – a cage rendered useless when Kyouya prized the bars. Aqua also shows off her sneaky-playful shrewdness by demanding not 200K, but 300K from Kyouya, which he pays her on the spot.

ks56

Now that she’s rolling in cash, Aqua treats herself to a feast. And as if Kyouya hadn’t been stomped on enough, when he asks for his cursed sword Gram back, Kazuma informs him that he doesn’t have it; he sold it! That’s right; “our” hero didn’t ever even want the damn thing, even though it was part of his original dreams.

I’d like to think getting a good look at the “pathetic cheat” Kyouya has changed his thinking a bit on whether or not things have turned out bad. I mean, sure, he still wants to take on the Devil King, but there are worse things than having three not unattractive women by your side, not fighting over you at all! Plus, think of what all that Gram cash could buy. He could snatch up the stables and convert them into luxury lofts, with bidets and a pot-filler…and a trash compactor!

As for Aqua’s true identity being revealed…well, it isn’t, because Megumin and Darkness simply don’t believe her (having food on her face couldn’t have helped her credibility any). The matter is interrupted by another “emergency”, but at this point I know better; there’s no real emergency. Just the Dullahan, who’s really miffed they haven’t come by his place yet. This guy’s reminding me more of the Black Knight all the time…

9_sest

KonoSuba – 04

ks41

This week’s KonoSuba felt like three separate and distinct KonoSubas in one, all coalescing at the end around a single theme: whether Aqua is any good. We begin with Darkness showing off her repaired armor (and somewhat sadly asking Kazuma to praise her sometimes) and Megumin getting really excited about her new Manatite staff.

Kazuma also isn’t wanting for anything, as he later buys clothes and equipment better suited for his environment (albeit the same green shade as his tracksuit). All three spent their cabbage spoils wisely, but Aqua didn’t. In fact, she spent all the money she had and built up a 100,000-eris bar tab, thinking she’d be good for it, only for most of her cabbages to turn out to be lettuce, which isn’t worth nearly as much.

This is ridiculous and hilarious and makes perfect sense, since Aqua has so little luck. Kazuma, meanwhile, is roling in luck and cash, and wants to move out of the stables, but instead pays Aqua’s tab, after she tries pretty much everything: flattery, begging, and finally shaking her bum.

ks42

Part Two of the three parter is the marvelous story of how Kazuma is forced to tag along on Megumin’s practice sessions far from town (where she won’t get scolded by guards) so she has someone to carry her home (just thinking about the silliness of such arrangement would send any milk I’m drinking out my nose).

She finds an abandoned castle perched atop a cliff, and day after day, once a day, blasts it with explosion magic, and every day, Kazuma carries her home. At first, it’s a chore, but he starts to get into it in spite of himself, gradually becoming a kind of aficianado; the equivalent of an “explosion foodie.”

Every explosion has its own intensity and personality, and Megumin has good and bad days. They bond through the experience, and Kazuma’s previously dismissive attitude toward her gives way to a kind of respect and understanding.

ks43

His attitude towards Aqua, on the other hand, remains extremely dismissive. Aqua seems happy to be bringing home free dinner (and I’d be happy too!) but Kazuma is restless. He doesn’t think they can beat the Devil King, and he thinks a lot of that has to do with Aqua not being the all-powerful goddess he thought he had.

A Megumin aptly puts it, his “verbal lashings are pretty nasty;” subjecting Darkness would bring her tears of joy, but they only bring Aqua tears of sorrow (though Aqua reacts interestingly to Darkness’ interest in being reamed by Kazuma).

Kazuma’s war with Aqua is put on hold when a Dullahan arrives in town – one of the Devil King’s top generals. Looking kinda like Ains Ooal Gown’s cousin, his main grievance is with the constant explosion spells being cast on the castle where he’s taken up residence. Heh, I knew that castle wasn’t abandoned!

ks44

After failing to pass of blame to another town wizard, Megumin steps forward and actually takes responsibility, though she refuses to apologize for or cease doing what is, for her, as natural and necessary as breathing. If she has to fight the Dullahan into submission for him to understand, so be it. Aqua arms herself and stands beside Megumin in solidarity.

Then the Dullahan, out of patience, prepares to his Megumin with a Death curse that will kill her in one week, but Darkness races in front of her and takes the curse instead. Now, I know enough about Death spells to know they’re typically not reversible; once you get one, it’s only a matter of time. This incident actually heightened the peril dynamic of the entire show for me; it looked like it was actually going to get serious.

ks45

Of course, this being KonoSuba, feelings like that don’t last long, but that’s just fine, because the route it takes instead is true to its mission statement to send up every fantasy trope it can find in the most creative way possible. Because the Dullahan death-cursed a masochist, he only made things weirder and more of a hassle for himself, so he retreats before Darkness jumps on his horse.

Before he does, he challenges the party to come after him, and if they can fight their way through his castle fortress and get to him, he just might lift the curse. After he leaves, Megumin again shows she has heart and guts by resolving to take that challenge. Kazuma, who as we saw bonded with her somewhat in training, declares his intent to accompany her. It looks like the party is about to embark on a grand adventure to save their selfless comrade.

But NOPE, Aqua just uses her magic to instantly lift the death curse from Darkness as easily one balls up a tissue and tosses it in a dustbin. JOB DONE. I have so say…I wasn’t expecting that at all, but again, it made perfect sense.

Aqua had been beaten down the entire episode as an underachieving, whiny, pathetic excuse for an arch priest, but ends up the heroine, gaining the adoration of the entire town while utterly sapping Kazuma and Megumin of their motivation. So going back to the question of whether Aqua is any good…well, she is, but only at very specific things at very specific times. If this bizarre party is going to thrive, it will do so mostly by threading needles.

8_ses

KonoSuba – 03

ks31

And then there were four. Two of whom, Megumin and Darkness, are extremely eccentric individuals with no concept of personal space whom Kazuma wants nowhere near his party, even though he’s well aware he and Aqua aren’t enough to make it in this world. (It was also a little mean of him to call Megumin a “little girl”…she may just be small for her age!)

Ultimately, Darkness doesn’t endear herself to Kazuma so much as she simply doesn’t go away and refuses to take no for an answer, because for her, “no” is a pleasurable experience. The sterner and harsher the rejection, the happier she seems to get. Kazuma’s usual arsenal of repelling barbs only embolden the bombshell.

ks32

KonoSuba enters ecchi territory when Darkness’ thief friend Chris teaches Kazuma the “Steal” ability, then challenges him to steal back his coin purse from her. Instead, he scores her panties, which distresses Chris to no end and makes Darkness jealous that she isn’t the one being humiliated in the streets.

That being said, Chris is otherwise a pretty normal and capable kinda person, one of the first to enter Kazuma’s circle. So of course he ends up doing something terrible to her, due in part because he’s an adolescent virgin shut-in. He ends up with her panties because it’s where a part of his dirty mind happens to be during the Steal process.

ks33

Just as Megumin shamed Kazuma into surrender last week, Chris shames him in front of the entire adventurer’s guild (though it’s at least partially an act). I gotta say, while Kazuma sports the lion’s share of annoyed, exhausted, and flabbergasted expressions, he gets plenty directed at him here, even from Aqua and Megumin.

When he demonstrates his new Steal ability on Megumin, he claims her panties as well, which astounds him because he thought the loot he’d receive would be more random (not that he’s complaining). Darkness continues to make her case for joining the party, feeding off of Megumin’s energy.

Kazuma, a little thrown off what game he usually has by the craziness, ends up motivating both Darkness and Megumin by pointing out how tough his and Aqua’s quest to defeat the Devil King will be. In fact, all the talk about how tough it will be make Aqua nervous and reluctant to proceed.

ks34

Circumstance brings this Dream Team of Ineptitude together in the form of a town-wide emergency quest alert. A swarm of…something is quickly approaching the city, and all adventurers gather at the gates to meet it.

When that something turned out to be flying cabbages, well…I nearly fell out of my chair. Yes, in this alternate world, harvesting cabbages is more of a hunting frenzy, as they don’t go gentle into that good…salad.

ks35

After mutiple swings from her sword fail to claim any heads (of cabbage) Darkness decides to prove her worth by serving as a shield for some overwhelmed fighters, getting more and more excited as the cabbages pummel her and her armor is shed and her clothes torn, she feels the uncultured men gawking at her and feels tremendous, wonderful shame.

Megumin inadvertently causes a near-“crisis” in Darkness by launching another one of her patented one-off explosion attacks, being as unable to hold back as Darkness. But while there’s quite a bit of collateral damage, she’s able to harvest enough cabbages to give the party a very nice payday (Correction: her explosion doesn’t really help much; it’s Kazuma who collects most of their cabbages with his Lurk skill.) Aqua is able to do little things like hydrate the other adventurers and keep the cabbages cool.

ks36

After tasting this world’s cabbage for the first time and being pleasantly surprised by its superior flavor, Kazuma looks around to see what fortune hath wrought: he is now “cursed” by not just a variably competent arch priest and unreasonably specialized arch knight, but a gorgeous but clumsy, masochistic crusader.

I placed cursed in quotes, because that’s only one limited way of looking at his situation. Sure, he may foresee hardships in the future with a party that looks a lot better on paper than in the field, but time should yield better teamwork, and even when everyone screws up it tends to turn out okay.

Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness may be as much blessings as curses in this wonderful world. And together they’re a swirling vortex of comedy gold. Which is a blessing for us.

8_ses

P.S. Tilt-shift is often over-used in live-action TV, but I love its usage in KonoSuba’s beautiful ED.

KonoSuba – 02

ks21

That forthright pledge to strike out into the wilderness on a daring kill quest turned into an excuse to sleep in for Aqua, much to Kazuma’s chagrin. I like how the ending of the last episode was played straight, only to be flipped into another failure by the Worst Party in the World.

When they do get out into the field, Kazuma’s shortsword is no match for the giant toads they’re trying to kill. Worse, Aqua spends their first battle either laughing uncontrollably at Kazuma’s expense (she still has a mean streak!) or praising her master goddess powers, right up until she’s swallowed. That leads to the line of the episode: “Don’t get eaten!” (Akin to “Esteban was eaten!”)

ks22

Aqua doesn’t take disappointment or defeat well, as we saw from how she reacted to Kazuma forcing her to accompany him to the alternate world in the first place, and how she cries a lot when things don’t go her way.

Still, she tries her best to do a good job; it’s just that her offensive capabilities are, shall we say, limited, even against the relatively docile giant toads. She almost gets eaten again, giving the quest a nice comic rhythm (and those legs sticking out of the toad’s mouth is a nice sight gag).

So Kazuma has to save her again, and in the process manages to kill two of the five toads necessary to complete the quest on the first of three allotted days. What’s somewhat amusing is we never see how he beats them.

ks23

Overlooking entirely that seemingly impossible feat, Kazuma nevertheless knows if they’re ever going to make enough money to make adventuring even worth it, they need a new party member. When Aqua posts a hastily-scrawled recruitment poster, there are predictably no elite takers (despite the clout she believes she has with everyone).

Instead, a pint-sized arch priest answers the call, introducing herself as Megumin with a long-winded and elaborate chuunibyou introduction that leaves both Kazuma and Aqua a little incredulous. I’ll point out that Megumin is voiced by Takahashi Rie, one of may favorite new seiyus (who did fine work in Sore ga Seiyuu and Gakkou Gurashi).

ks24

However, her credentials check out, so they take her out to the field, where Aqua rushes headlong towards the nearest toad without any kind of backup and promptly gets glomped up again. Megumin’s explosive magic is indeed very, very…explosive, and she takes out one toad with one blast.

The only problem is, that’s about it for her as far as battlefield presence. Her sole attack causes instant KO…which is quite the liability! After using the spell, she can’t move, and the explosion rustled a third toad from its sleep. That toad glomps the helpless Megumin up, leaving Kazuma to defeat the remaining two frogs to save his party members, again, amusingly, totally off-camera.

ks25

It’s clear that if they face anything with claws, teeth, speed, or pretty much anything more threatening than smelly slime, this party is going to be killed very, very quickly. Adding insult to injury, Megumin proclaims she can only cast the most powerful explosion spell and nothing else, not because she’s unable to cast other magic (which might be of better help in a party), but because she doesn’t wanna.

That unreasonable attitude is enough reason for Kazuma to dump her (something all the other parties in town must have done by now), but he realizes he has a lemon too late: some townsfolk see him struggling to pry her off of him, and see all the slime, and suspect the worst. And Megumin takes immediate advantage, showing off a bit of that crimson demon intelligence.

So as useless as Megumin (and possibly Aqua) might be, Kazuma is stuck with both. He’s so down in the dumps about the prospect of making enough money to make the whole enterprise worth it, his guard is down when he encounters a stunning onna-kishi named “Darkness” who looks like a serious operator…that is until she tries to talk and things are…a little off.

No doubt her tryout period will go about as well as Megumin’s, and she’ll find some way to coerce Kazuma into letting her into the party. Or maybe Kazuma will have no choice either way. Can’t sleep in stables forever!

8_ses

KonoSuba – 01 (First Impressions)

ks11

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (KonoSuba for short) is refreshing. I passed it by believing it no more than a lame SAO-or-the-like clone, but as Preston was with Grimgar, I was glad to be wrong about that. But it takes a totally different approach to its sudden fantasy RPG milieu.

For one thing, it hums along at a breakneck pace, and also provides clear (and kinda harsh!) background: protagonist Satou Kazuma finds himself in the afterlife after dying not by heroically pushing a classmate out of the way of a runaway tractor, but simply dying of shock, complete with doctors and family laughing at his passing.

ks12

It’s also a very comedic show, unlike the shows I thought it’d be aping, it charts its own course, and that course leads to frequent laughs. The goddess assigned to guide him in the afterlife and choose what to do with himself (go to heaven or be reborn in a new, alternate world) is Aqua, and while initially serene, quickly shows her endearingly smug, haughty side (and seiyu Amamiya Sora’s great range).

Aqua reminds me a little of Hotaru in Dagashi Kashi, in that she’s a character who totally owns herself. The difference is Aqua is a little more self-aware; she knows she’s hot stuff, and she’s appropriately cocky and brusque with young Kazuma, getting digs about his “shut-in NEET” life and super-undignified end every chance she gets.

ks13

To its credit, KonoSuba also knows the advantage of balance and restraint in a comedic presenation, which means it doesn’t simply pile harships onto Kazuma. In fact, the tables turn devastatingly quickly for Aqua when Kazuma decides the “thing” he will take with him to the next world will be her, a request another goddess accepts without complaint and sends both Kazuma and a very shocked and scared Aqua off to their new life together, in order to defeat the “Devil King”.

ks14

The fantasy world they end up in is familiar, but I like how the two react very differently to suddenly being there. Kazuma simply goes with the flow, making use of his extensive knowledge of RPGs. Aqua…starts off by having something like a panic attack. She’s very disoriented and nervous, and assumes Kazuma is useless, but when he turns out not to be, her manner with him softens appropriately. (He then later turns out to be not very capable after all.)

Of course, when Kazuma learns they need money to register as adventurers, it falls to Aqua to try to procure some funds, which she does by essentially begging a kindly religious man; something she’s not proud of. However, they get the registration fees, and get an assessment of their stats before choosing their jobs.

Despite being average at everything (save slightly higher intelligence and extremely high luck), Kazuma insists on being an adventurer, while Aqua is amazing in everything but intelligence and luck. In other words, these two complement each other perfectly.

ks15

With the “character creation” taken care of (both for Kazuma and Aqua and the show itself), they go on to “begin their adventures.” What follows is a wordless but wonderful montage of the two settling into a life of strenuous manual labor, digging holes, carrying loads, and building and plastering walls.

The montage progresses from the two just getting by and sleeping in hay with manure, to getting slightly better at their jobs, earning enough dough for food, baths, bedding, and eventually booze and carousing (followed by Aqua vomiting rainbows…more than once).

This sequence reminded me of the classic Shinji and Asuka training montage—not a bad thing to be reminded of, and probably not an accident. Kazuma and Aqua start out with very low opinions of each other, but the more they work together, the better they manage in this new world.

ks16

Another choice Aqua gave Kazuma when they first met was to spend eternity in “heaven”, but only as an old man sitting around for eternity. It wouldn’t be what it’s cracked up to be in the living world, she warned. But Kazuma chose reincarnation, and now we see him reaping the benefits of that decision.

Sure, there are conflicts and hardships, but also mirth and vitality. They’re just scraping by, but they’re alive, damnit. And we’re talking about a goddess who never knew what it was like to be alive before she met Kazuma, and an otaku who had a very narrow scope and short duration to his previous life.

Then, suddenly, Kazuma jumps up out of bed, startling Aqua (who sleeps beside him, no big dealio), and realizes: this isn’t right. They fell into a comfortable rut of being day  laborers, but they came to this world to defeat the Devil King. Only then can Aqua go back to being a goddess, and can Kazuma receive a gift from the grateful gods.

So they agree to return to the original plan, starting by striking out in the wilderness on a “kill quest” to test their abilities and hopefully bag a monster or two. I can’t wait to see how they manage to muck it up!

8_ses

Charlotte – 07

char71

Charlotte doesn’t hold any doors open, nor does it waste any time or pull any punches: Yuu survives the injuries incurred by the debris, but Ayumi is gone. And it’s only in that moment and in the days to come that Yuu realizes how much he took her presence, and her cooking, for granted. He thought he was taking care of her, but it wasn’t a one-way street, and Ayumi’s death leaves a yawning chasm in Yuu’s heart, a stinging sense of loss and helplessness that pervades this powerful but heartbreaking episode.

char72

Having failed to protect or “repay” his sister, Yuu surenders and shuts down. He tries to fill the hole with cup ramen and television, and either ignores or lashes out at anyone who tries to wrest him from his self-imposed punishment, from Misa and Jou to even Yumi, whom he once worshiped. Liking and pursuing her must feel like a sad joke compared to the situation he’s in now.

char73

Then sketchy men in black show up, and Yuu starts to think (perhaps not wrongly) the government is about to capture him. So he gets away, where he thinks the soaked kid can’t find him, and his “home” grows even smaller as he squats in an anime cafe eating pizza and mochi balls while continuing to escape from life by playing violent video games that he probably used to not care about in the least.

char74

When some roughs are using that video game too long Yuu takes the bait and starts playing games with them. One gang after another, no matter how strong or numerous or feared, falls before his body-swapping ability. He creates chaos among the group, and it’s in that chaos in which he’s able to work most effectively to defeat them. He’s using his skills not to help people, but to entertain himself.

char75

He learns “real life”, with real bodies and real blood, is more fun than the games. The hole he’s filled becomes infected and festers. He’s becoming a villain before our eyes, and the path he’s walking looks more and more like a one-way street. When he finds some drugs on one of his victims, he’s about to take things to the next level when Nao kicks them out of his hand, appearing out of nowhere. Where is Nao in all of this, I asked myself throughout Yuu’s self-destruction kick. Was she so guilty about how she handled the Ayumi case, or so upset about what became of Yuu, that she couldn’t face him?

char76

No, she was right there, by his side…the whole time. Last week’s cliffhanger kept open the possibility that supernatural powers would have some role to play in the story’s resolution, but magic couldn’t save Ayumi from her own power, nor could it save Yuu from drowning in grief and despair. But with her power, Nao could stay by his side, invisible only to him, with no time limit, and wait for him to get better. When it’s clear he won’t, she makes herself visible to him, in order to make him get better.

char77

And why? Not just because she feels partially responsible for Ayumi’s death, but because Yuu is, at the end of the day, someone she cares about, and if she can help it, she’s not going to let him destroy himself. So she makes a deal with him: if he has one bite of the food she makes for him, he’ll never see or hear form her again. At Joujirou’s house, she painstakingly recreates the same super-sweet omelette rice Ayumi always made for him. And he can’t have just one bite. He eats every bite, and agrees to come home.

It’s not words or actions that pull him out of deep waters of despair that are all to easy to slide into following the shock of a loss. It’s food; it’s a smell and a taste, and all of the better times and happy memories tied to them. It’s a reminder that he is still alive, and there are better ways to live, and better ways to fill the holes in your heart.

Brilliant portrait of a broken Yuu, and a equally brilliant scheme to save him by Nao. I’m still drying my eyes from the heavy emotions this episode so eloquently expressed.

10_magRABUJOI World Heritage List

Working!!! 3 – 02

work321

Family, vision, and dating are the three main themes of this week’s Working!!!, starting with the Takanashis who are neither royalty nor do they possess superpowers. They’re a pretty fun and eclectic bunch, however, so the occasional episode where Souta deals with his four sisters (and in his case, his masochistic former brother-in-law).

Souta’s talks with Minegishi as the authorized representative of the family, along with the sight of the somehow-still-twelve Nazuna pushing her shut-in sister Izumi along on a cart, were both highlights of this segment.

work322

When back at work at Wagnaria, Popura and Takanashi collide, and Popura and Yamada remark on how strong and durable Takanashi’s glasses are to have survived not only the occasional collision, but countless punches to the fact from Inami. Unfortunately, when Yamada play-taps the glasses with her stuffed animal, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s glasses.

Takanashi’s attempts to work despite not being able to see, resulting in a very hazardous situation in which he gets far too close to Inami without warning her first; fortunately for him, she faints on her feet rather than clobbers him into the stratosphere, a nice subversion of the usual bit.

work323

Finally, Satou continues his meandering, half-hearted courtship with Todoroki, who mentions she’s never had alcohol but would like to try it, if only she had someone to drink with. Souma can’t believe it when Satou adds “sometime” to his offer to take her out for a drink, rather than setting a place and a time.

Unlike Minegishi, Souma isn’t the kind of masochist who likes watching this kind of persistent futility, nor am I: we need an episode/segment in which Satou and Todoroki go on a legit date. For that matter, I hope this season allows Takanashi and Inami a date, as well, building off the first two seasons of character work rather than leaving it to gather dust on the shelf.

7_ses

Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 10

y7101

Thanks to Miyamura’s heretofore unmentioned sister (and scissor enthusiast) Leona, Yamada learns the identity of the seventh witch. Leona tells him because she’s amused he’s doing it for love—specifically to undo the future where Urara is all alone again. But there’s a cost to learning the seventh witch’s identity.

y7102

That cost is that Yamada’s memory of the witches—all of them, including Urara—must be wiped, as only President Yamazaki is allowed to know the names of all seven witches. Yamada doesn’t treat it as that big of a deal, especially since his friends and Urara in particular promise to bring him back after his memory wipe. Urara in particular is looking forward to being the first person he kisses, just as she was when they first fell down the steps together.

y7103

Yamada takes his leave from Urara, and even though things still don’t seem that serious, there’s an air of wistfulness and even foreboding to their farewell. That’s amplified significantly when the seventh witch, Saionji Rika, appears, boasting about going commando (like Urara made Yamada go when she was in his body) before placing her hands on his face, then walking off, apparently having done the job.

y7104

Yamada is confused, then, that even though her instructions indicate it will take 24 hours for his memories to fade…they don’t fade. He enters the supernatural club to announce it didn’t work, but none of them know who he is, or rather, they know he’s Yamada, but have no connection to him.

Turns out Rika couldn’t wipe his memories, due to his immunity to witch powers. Instead, she wiped the memory of all his friends, along with all the witches. In other words, Yamada kept Urara out of that lonely future, only to find himself alone.

Initially, he doesn’t seem all that troubled by this; after all, Yamazaki is honoring his side of the bargain by backing Miyamura, so Urara won’t be alone and sad. But when fellow powers-immune Tamaki keeps asking him to team up with him so they can undo the situation, Yamada kinda snaps and destroys a lectern with his bare hands.

y7105

Just as he does so, the person he both saved and exiled himself from, Urara, comes in, wondering if Yamada wanted to join the supernatural club. Yamada refuses, not wanting to cause her trouble, but as she turns away to leave he springs a confession on her, and she rejects him, because she likes someone else.

But even though Yamada gets angry about the prospect of her liking another guy (and the others seem to think she likes Miyamura rather than him), I knew from the get-go that the “other person” she likes is him, but due to Rika’s powers, can’t presently make the connection between the person she likes and Yamada.

It’s a tricky situation to be sure, especially since now that the witches have forgotten Yamada and everything he did to help them, they’re back to stirring up mischief all over school. He agrees with Tamaki that at least playing along Nene’s revitalized plan to gather supporters, her charm power can be put to good use.

y7106

The only problem is, Yamada and Nene pick a public place to kiss; a place Urara happens to be walking past and spots them. Now, Urara may not be consciously aware she loves Yamada, and that they both promised she’d be the first one he kissed after Rika did her thing, she’s clearly aware of it on another level, because she gets extremely upset when she sees him kiss Nene.

Yamada is in a deep hole with two episodes remaining. He has a lot of explaining to do, misunderstandings to clear up, relationships to rebuild from scratch, and, if  possible, witch powers to somehow undo, and he won’t have the supernatural club or Urara on his side to help him, because she’s/they’re the ones he’s trying to get back.

But he does seem to have the witch killer Tamaki on his side (who doesn’t want to be alone either), and could yet benefit from the powers of Nene and the other witches besides Urara and Rika. He’s down, but he’s not out.

8_mag

Mekakucity Actors – 01

mek11

Kisaragi Shintaro is a hikikomori haunted by two girls. One is a mysterious dark-haired girl in a sailor fuku who talks to him in strange, melancholy dreamscapes. The other is the puckish Ene, a boisterous computer program he downloaded out of curiosity, but has since become a constant (and often quite irritating) presence in his life. When Ene causes him to spill Coke all over his keyboard, he must brave the outside world and a crowded department store to procure a new one.

mek12

That store is taken over by terrorists who hacked the computer-controlled security, and he suddenly finds himself a hostage the first time he’s left his apartment in a year, which seems to confirm many hikikomoris’ worst fears. Despite their apparent proficiency with technology, the crims don’t bother taking away Shintaro’s smartphone, which also contains Ene. When two game fellow hostages arrange a diversion, Shintaro springs into action, hooking Ene into the store’s computers and canceling the lockdown.

mek13

Leaving aside the fact those looked like display units in an electronic store (and hence normally wouldn’t be connected in any way to the store’s security system), this was a low-key yet engrossing introduction to this world, which looks like a city just a few towns over from Naoetsu, the setting for most of the Monogatari Series. Like that and other SHAFT shows, we’re shown a plethora of bumper cards, wide shots, detailed expressive close-ups. I’m a fan of this precise, schematic aesthetic.

mek14

Unlike other first episodes this season that lay out fairly clearly what they’re about through various kinds of exposition, Mekakucity prefers to present most of its first episode without excessive comment or explanation. I know how Shintaro and Ene “met”, that there’s something to that girl in Shintaro’s mind, and that he’ll surely cross paths with the hooded people he meets in the store; but why he’s a hikikomori, who he was before, and where all of this is going are things the show decided not to reveal from the get-go.

mek15

As if to underline its deliberateness, we get what will likely be the show’s OP presented as the ED (a fairly common first episode thing to do), and a rainbow cornucopia of cool-looking characters flash across the screen, most of whom only appeared in this episode for a moment, if that. It’s a little overwhelming, but also enticing and invigorating, like getting used to the interface of a new video game you just cracked open. My questions are many, but answers are sure to come…along with more questions.

8_ses

Valvrave the Liberator – 13

val133

Two months after Module 77 narrowly escapes destruction, they dock at the neutral Moon, where they receive sympathy and supplies but run into bureaucratic hurdles with ARUS. Module 77 plans to send a delegation to Earth, but the Valvraves shut down, their energy exhausted. Kibukawa and L-elf determine that the “runes” that fuel the Valvrave can only be gathered by attacking humans. Haruto grudingly attacks L-elf, refueling the Valvraves, and they cross the neutral zone and battle the Dorssian fleet that was waiting for them.

After a season-long hiatus, Valvrave is back to baffle, shock, and entertain us in relatively equal measure. We can’t say we missed all the mythological mumbo-jumbo about councils of the hundred, magiuses, and holy spirits, but we’re glad to be once again following the trials and tribulations of one of the high school that declared itself an independant nation, protected by five mechas piloted by students who tosses aside their humanity and essentially became vampires. We especially liked how Shouko and L-Elf had settled nicely into their new official roles, though they both faced plenty of challenges.

Reinforcing their status as horrifying burdens in addition to the only force that is currently staving off enslavement by Dorssia, Haruto gets the bad news that he’s been going into fits and viciously attacking people because he’s jonesin’ for their “runes”, which we guess is a fancy way of saying “life force”. Haruto-y Haruto that he is, he’s hell-bent on carrying as much as this burden as he can, and he’s to find the people who developed the damnable things on Earth. He wants to be human again, and if that can’t happen, he wants to destroy the Valvraves once they’ve fulfiled their use. Just one problem: when exactly will New JIOR ever not need them?


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Saki records a bestselling album, then offers her body to Haruto, who resists. Then he feeds from L-Elf. Saki probably won’t be happy if she learns about that.
  • We get to see the Dorssians in their training sweats sipping from 80’s-style water bottles. Pretty sweet.
  • Apparently the OS avatar in Haruto’s unit is called “Pino”, while the one in Cain’s is called “Prue.”
  • Cain and his superior Mirko watch with smug satisfaction as the “children” of Valvrave are constructed. That isn’t going to be good for JIOR.