Juuni Taisen – 03

Is it just me, or have the POV warriors gotten progressively more interesting with each episode? After Boar and Dog, we now learn more about Chicken (Niwatori), who had spent last week showing Dog one side only to turn on him and show her true one.

Niwatori’s childhood was…rough, to put it comically mildly. We find her where the cops do: malnourished and filthy in an apartment filled with garbage and blood. It’s not her blood; it’s that of her parent(s), which, considering her “pecking” specialty, she killed by repeatedly pecking bits out of hem with an egg topper.

Her own memories of this time are quite foggy; she spent some time at a facility after a hospital visit, and after regaining her physical health, she was adopted by the Niwa family, whose matriarch was interested in utilizing her special ability to speak to birds.

They trained her into a soldier and assassin who can hide in plain sight and deceived and betrayed so many people, she had no idea who was a friend or enemy.

Back in the present, Niwatori has successfully fooled Dog unto his death, and makes quick work of Zombie Boar with a swarm of birds under her control, who peco their prey to pieces and pick flesh from bone.

Feeling peckish herself, Niwatori enters a convenience store and encounters Rat, who has no quarrel with her, and leads her to the sewers to meet Monkey.

Niwatori finds herself unusually affected, even moved by Shuryuu’s seemingly catch-less kindness and earnestness, and believes Dog’s One Man Army poison has heightened her emotions as well as her body.

Even though she finds herself perfectly capable of killing Monkey and Rat right there and then, and knows that is the best course of action to ensure victory in the Zodiac War, she just…can’t do it. She withdraws…and when she does, she’s so busy cursing herself for making such a dumb move, she doesn’t realize Ox is right there, ready to kill her.

Naturally, because Niwatori is the POV character this week, she has to die, and she’s not even the first warrior Ox kills this week (that honor goes to Horse, whom we don’t learn much about before his demise).

Still, she faces her imminent death standing tall, with a defiant look in her eye, and after sacrificing so many of her beloved birds to defeat Zombie Boar, there’s a poetry to her giving up her body to feed still more of those birds.

I won’t say that she came out of the hell of her childhood—in which she was no doubt pecked away at to the brink of death—to live a life of honor or morality. Indeed, she saw herself as an instrument—another weapon in the Niwa family’s arsenal—and little else.

We don’t know what wish she’d have asked for had she won the Zodiac War. But I will say that for the brief time I got to know her, I emphasized and liked Niwatori, and the show feels a little smaller without her, as I’m sure it will continue to feel as more POV characters meet their maker.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 12

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Another solid episode follows last week’s, as Ikta’s thankless task to clean up the horrific mess General Safida created continues. During a brief respite in the action, Nana engages with Suya, offering her both her arms if it will set things right.

It doesn’t, because Suya doesn’t want Nana’s legs chopped off. In an episode where several characters work to relieve burdens from their comrades and/or friends, Sazaluf clarifies that Suya didn’t kill anyone; he did, with his orders to them.

He, in turn, doesn’t share the entire burden of responsibility, since he too has superiors. But when the guy at the top—Safida—doesn’t know what he’s doing and does everything wrong (and for the wrong reasons), it undermines the entire system.

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Torway has grown these last twelve episodes, and he believes he can help relieve some of the burden Ikta carries once Sazaluf all but hands over command of the operation to him.

Ikta is up to it—indeed, it’s where he should have been all along—but even for Ikta, up against someone he hasn’t ruled out being the real genius of his generation, this is a desperate situation, and the margin of error on the Imperial side continues to narrow.

It’s nice to see even the Kiokans know and respect what it means to be of the Igsem family. But this week we see the beginning of the end of their hegemony on the battlefield.

The mission Torway undertakes is air rifle-on-air rifle, from a great distance. Many died repelling the would-be ambush, but not a single blade touched blood. It’s interesting, though that the leader of the “Ghosts” laments it has to be this way; that things can’t be settled in a duel with Yatori.

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It’s telling that Yatori and her unit didn’t have much to do today, another day when the primacy of The Sword dwindled a little bit more. It’s all but snuffed out along with Ikta’s entire strategy when Jean deploys explosive cannons for long-range bombardment, jeopardizing the entire enterprise with two days remaining.

Ikta doesn’t care all that much about the Igsem star falling as the Remion light rises. To him, the greatest burden out of any of their circle is borne by Yatori, even if she won’t admit it. And he makes it clear everything he’s done since joining the military (against his mom’s wishes) was to lessen her burdens, and make that broken promise more forgivable.

In other words, Yatori is not just Ikta’s other hand, but his muse as well, driving him to find an ideal future. But in the present, Jean is advancing, once again changing the rules. If they’re going to survive the next two days, they’ll have to adapt even more, while never losing sight of a future where, at least, they get the hell out of there in one piece.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 11

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Jean Arquinex appears far more frequently this week, but the episode remains at heart The Ikta Show, as even Jean concedes, though he doesn’t know the “brilliant general” he’s up against is only a first lieutenant. Presented with a mind equal to his own and with far inferior numbers, Ikta himself begins to doubt if he’s really his generation’s greatest hero, or if the “bloom is about to come off the rose.”

His inner thoughts, and his own doubting voice whispering inside is his head, are the latest in this show’s consistently successful efforts to humanize and deepen Ikta’s character. When he unwittingly tells the voice to shut up out loud (in earshot of Suya), Ikta snaps back into serious Strategy Mode. That voice inside may wonder if his plans will succeed this time, but it’s not going to stop him from carrying it out.

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When the Aldera army sends units down a narrow path, Ikta & Co. are ready, but they’re only 600 Imperials and 120 Sinack against 10,000; even slowing down such a force is a tall order, and one not without costs. When the Aldera put up barricades, Yatori and Nana agree that they have to go out and take them down.

Ikta lets Yatori’s unit and Nana’s Sinack detachment across the wall, but they suffer numerous casualties when Jean’s air rifle units open fire. Instead of letting the units get mopped up, Ikta decides to go out himself with everything they’ve got in order to protect the wounded before retreating.

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It’s a bold move, with Ikta and Yatori fighting back to back and working as one unit, and in the end, the Sinack and Yatori’s wounded are evacuated successfully. Ikta has a huge fire hit behind their retreat to seal the path, buying a little more time.

Jean is impressed by the enemy commander desperately making shrewd, effective moves to forestall Aldera’s advance. Suya, who loses two valued comrades, isn’t as enamored. She doesn’t see why they had to give their lives so the Sinack they were killing just days ago could live.

What kicks this episode from an 8 to a 9 was the ensuing exchange, which played out like, well, a play, with the stage populated by Ikta, Nana, Suya, Haro, and eventually, Yatori, who claims it is she, not Ikta, who should bear responsibility for the casualties incurred.

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Yatori asserts that Ikta ordered the charge because he knew she’d charge anyway to save her allies (a term she doesn’t take lightly). She also points out that feelings cannot interfere with a soldier’s duty. When Suya asks if Yatori would kill Ikta, I already knew the answer was yes before she opened her mouth, but she still said it in a very cool way (“That question is 300 years too late.”)

That cold assertion hangs in the air after Suya runs off, leaving Ikta to ask what would have to happen for her to actually be able to kill him if ordered to do so (though the word Ikta uses, is when). Yatori replies that she’d have to utterly destroy…Yatori first; leaving only the Igsem steel behind. It would be Igsem, not Yatori, killing him.

Ikta then tells her until the moment he died he’d think of nothing but how he’d lost her, bringing a tear to Haro’s eye (and almost one to mine as well). So if Ikta was to die, she’d die too, and she’d die first. That’s some heavy shit right there, and yet another layer to the already wonderfully rich, dense relationship that has been carefully built between Ikta and Yatori.

Things are desperate right now; the victories available are small and costly. But I know who I want eventually coming out on top, and it ain’t Jean Arquinex. So I have to believe Ikta, with Yatori, Nana, and everyone else’s help, will find a way.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 10

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This tenth Alderamin begins with a flashback from nine years ago, and the show is hardly timely in revealing that the fiery Sinack chieftain Nanaku Daru was childhood friends with Ikta.

It’s also hardly subtle in juxtaposing her paying a visit to Ikta’s bedroom of her own free will—but too young to know the true reason woman would do such a thing—with the present, where she suddenly finds herself in a huge heap of trouble, surrounded by three enemy soldiers who plan to rape her.

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Who comes to her rescue in the nick of time but her old friend Ikta, whom she doesn’t yet recognize? Ikta is pissed, not being one to suffer “beasts.” Nanaku is taken into safe custody. It’s a sobering glimpse of what war often boils down to, and what depths the battle-weary and under-supervised can stoop to when their enemy is demonized and dehumanized by their superiors.

The war is over between the Empire and the Sinack, but before they can even catch their breath, a new, mutual, and well-rested enemy arrives at their doorstep in the form of “La Saia Alderamin”, a once-neutral, highly religious country Ikta suspects is being used as a Kioka pawn as part of the wider conflict.

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What made this episode so strong, and, for me, eliminated any concerns about plot convenience or retconning, was how Ikta handled things with “Nana,” knowing they’ll need her help to cover their retreat from Aldera, and he’s the only one who can negotiate with her.

He gets her attention and reveals who he is by carrying out the Sinack tradition of cutting digits off one’s hand; a legend she told him about nine years ago. He cuts his entire left pinky off in a visceral, powerful scene, and you can tell he’s not putting on a performance, but dead serious about his role as agent of apology and olive branch.

That last part is important, since Nana agrees to help because she knows the religious Alderamin will never tolerate their “heretical” religion, but the Empire will. Obviously it’s not what she wanted (to be rid of both), but she has to compromise, because Aldera won’t.

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Our Knights all get promotions this week – Yatori and Ikta to First Lieutenant, the others to Second, and after Matthew and Haro protest, they agree to stick together in the force that will delay the Alderamin advance. That is achieved by creating a fire line at a crucial forest crossing.

But it would seem Ikta has finally met his match in the form of newly-introduced Kioka Army Major Jean Alkiniks, he of tirelessness to Ikta’s sloth; white hair to Ikta’s black. Both seem excited to have met strategists who will really challenge them for once.

One of the weaknesses of the show has been the appalling ineptitude of the brass, but Jean here is high-ranking enough to do what needs to be done at a larger scale. He’s come further than Ikta so far, but will no doubt be the catalyst by which Ikta continues to advance and progress to become the hero Princess Chamille believes him to be.

I also hope we get to see a little more Nana.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 09

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For a show in which some people are aided by pocket-size elemental spirits, Alderamin is fairly down to earth. And if it was glorifying, say, the daring rescue and return of Princess Chamillie in its early episodes, it is just as careful to downplay whatever glory and honor is to be had in the Sinack campaign, which is precious little.

Indeed, Ikta and his pals are lucky to have a commander unwilling to order them to participate in the wholesale slaughter of the enemy, instead making them burn their villages and march them to new homes. It’s also a show whose heroes may not agree with the horrible strategy they’re a part of, but are either unwilling or currently unable to do anything about it.

When a little kid starts attacking Ikta, he flicks him in the nose. I doubt he intended to draw blood, but the noble knight Deinkun immediaely punishes him for striking the child, doling out a degree of justice so the other villagers don’t riot.

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Suya, who has clearly gained not only respect but affection for Ikta, is angry that Ikta let himself be punched like that, but Ikta takes responsibility for his error. Sometimes one can separate oneself from undesirable actions to such an extent, one can forget that there are things that can be done to lesson suffering, whether it’s taking a punch, or burning a village after it’s been evacuated. Not big things, but things.

When Matthew asks Ikta and Torway how they’ve been dealing with their sexual “needs” on the front, Ikta puts men into two columns: “heroes” who need bonds, and solitary “warriors”, avoiding any details about his own persuasion. But it’s just as true of the two ways knights go through life. Deinkun, a warrior, prefers to put as much on his broad shoulders as possible.

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Ikta may be a rare bird when it comes to strategic or tactical thought, but he’s no hermit. He needs bonds, not just to survive and keep himself in check (See Yatori) but to acknowledge and define his existence. He dosn’t care if his personal honor is besmirched by a punch to the face; he does care when he’s too late to say what he wanted to say to Kanna or protect her when she needed him.

Yatori may want to be a solitary knight like Deinkun, but the fact she goes into a berserk-like state only Ikta can bring her out of denies her that status. She too is a hero, whose brawn, along with Ikta’s brains, and the various talents of the others in their circle, comprise perhaps their empire’s best hope at avoiding self-destruction, which people like General Safida are inadvertently hastening.

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But still, neither Ikta nor Yatori have any designs of overthrowing Safida’s leadership. Indeed, Yatori’s Igsem heritage and conditioning make such a choice unthinkable, even if Ikta was pondering such a rebellion. No, these heroes, must work within the system into which they were recruited; play with the hands they were dealt. It’s yet not their turn to decided how the game is played.

So Yatori saves Safida from an ambushing Nanaku Daru, who learned how to fight from Mugen in Samurai Champloo. Yatori bests her, only to let her go when a group of shady assassins takes advantage of the chaos. They fail to kill the general, but slay Deinkun in the attempt.

He joins Kanna and the scores of other Imperial soldiers who gave it their all despite having to serve under a terrible general in a ridiculous war that isn’t quite over yet.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 05

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I’m on the older side, so as I watched the magnificent origin of the relationship of young Yatori and Ikta unfold, I couldn’t help but think of Captain Picard and Guinan (I also thought of Muppet Babies, for what it’s worth). In addition to the fact that TNG had an Oscar-winning actress on TV before it was cool, one of the great big unanswered questions of the show was the history of those two.

All Guinan said to Riker when Picard was captured by the Borg was that what they had was “beyond friendship, beyond family.” That sums up Yatori and Ikta perfectly. One was raised from birth to be a knight, which is no different from a blade. The other was raised into a world of science and deep, distant thought about mysteries once left to the comfort of theology.

Yatori decides to study abroad with Ikta as his father Sankrei was a celebrated military mind whom she sought for enrichment. What she got was a lifetime companion who not only made her more whole, but whom she made more whole as well.

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Japanese can be at times wonderfully onomatopoeiaic, as I was reminded when Ikta conveys how “stiff” Yatori speaks, even to a fellow kid like him. But throughout their early interactions, Ikta never tries to impose his will or philosophy upon Yatori; instead, he shows her parts of her world and levies suggestions on how she might become something more than the Igsem blade she was forged to be.

A sword, after all, is only an inanimate object; no mater how much intense training Yatori undergoes, she cannot deny her flesh, her blood, and the emotions all humans possess. Indeed, Yatori is as much a sponge as a blade, benefiting greatly from her exposure to Ikta, his father, and the scientists associated with them. She also learns to play, which for Ikta means outsmarting adults.

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It’s really quite invigorating to see these two at an early age right after seeing Ikta bring Yatori down from her killing fever last week. This episode painstakingly explains the bond these two share not with idle exposition, but by telling a story in its own right; a story of two very bright and talented kids bouncing off one another.

Just as Yatori had never met a kid quite like Ikta (nor met any kid period, for that matter), Ikta had never come across such a stern, stiff, duty-obsessed girl. It’s refreshing how quickly they hit it off despite their profound differences in upbringing.

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Their bond is formalized quite by chance, when the adults they followed to a remote locale for a geological survey forgot their gear and turned back to retrieve it. Yatori and Ikta end up on their own, up against a pack of starving wolves, who are treated by the show with the same respect one would show a group of starving people.

Yatori and Ikta have no quarrel with the wolves, but they cannot allow themselves to be killed and eaten for the sake of the wolves. They are meant for greater things. I love how Ikta calls out for Yatori when the first wolf corners him, and Yatori comes through like the knight she is.

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But this is not simply a tale of Ikta coming up with a game plan and Yatori carrying it out. It isn’t simply the knight saving the damsel in distress (who is Ikta in this case). Rather, when the desperate wolves infiltrate the house, and Ikta and Yatori must retreat to a smaller space ton ponder their next move, Ikta rejects Yatori’s pre-programmed intent to protect him at the cost of her own life.

That won’t do at all! For Ikta, any outcome where one of them dies is no good. Chivalric training aside, he rejects the notion that Yatori must lay down her life so that he might live. Having met and gotten to know Yatori, Ikta knows she can be more than a blade.

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So he proposes they look at it another way: she is not the hero and he the recipient of heroism: they are together the right and left hand of a single entity, one far smarter and stronger than either of them alone.

Yatori, still young and relatively impressionable (as well as quite a smart cookie in her own right) can pick up what Ikta is putting down. They work together to outsmart and defeat the remaining wolves, forcing the survivors to retreat.

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In the process, they burn down the whole damn house, and eat what’s left of the dried meat they have on hand. Yatori says it feels like they’re eating the wolves’ meat, which for Ikta is definitive proof that she can, indeed, be more than just a blade.

Not long after that unforgettable, life-changing experience, Ikta and Sankrei go missing…but one day Ikta returns, and Yatori is happy, for it is neither her brother nor her lover nor her dear friend who has returned to her: it is her other hand.

The best part of Alderamin is Yatori and Ikta’s relationship. I’ve said it before, and this episode went and capitalized on that strength, with exceptional results.

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My Hero Academia – 13 (Fin)

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Sorry My Hero Academia, but I’m breaking up with you. But take solace in the fact it’s not you, it’s me. Okay, maybe it’s a little bit you.

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There is definitely an audience for this kind of shounen hero anime, and I’m not here to look down on anyone who has had an absolute gas watching MHA and can’t wait for the second season.

I myself enjoyed it quite a bit, and there were some truly inspired moments I don’t regret not missing.

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But my enthusiasm for MHA, and for following the show for a second season, has steadily plummeted throughout the season-closing USJ arc.

Once the pace slowed to a crawl and every last movement started to be pored over monologue, the jumbled, clunky aesthetic that had charmed me earlier in the show’s run started to become a liability.

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I totally get the notion that the villains were dumb to give the students so much battle experience, thus making them realize how much more they have to learn, and getting that much more motivated to become great heroes.

While it was a real battle and not training, it still feltlike training, because no matter how many threats Generic Villain #5 or Poorly-drawn Baddie #6 dished out, in the end they never felt like more than half-baked stepping stones in Deku & Co.’s academia.

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The show also failed to show any guts by killing off or even exposing an All Might who, let’s face it, shouldn’t have even stayed in his chunky form as long as he did at the end of the battle.

It would have been tragic for Deku to have lost his idol and mentor so soon, but it would also have meant a definite passing of the torch to Deku, who with the help of his friends (and frenemy) would have to learn to move forward with the gifts Might gave him.

It could have been the most devastating yet motivating lessons for Deku to learn in this season. Instead, All Might’s still around, and thanks to more magic healing by Recovery Girl Deku is quickly on the mend again.

Both visually and thematically, the show’s still got kids gloves on, and is too in love with keeping bigger things looming mysteriously on the horizon, at the cost of stakes in the present. So yeah, MHA. It’s been real. There were some good times. Take care of yourself!

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My Hero Academia – 11

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I’m not going to complain this week: this episode kept bringing the action, more awesome hero combinations, clever applications of their powers, some genuine dread of defeat, and a moment of righteous victory. Plus, a briefly-topless Momo!

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After their big combo play last week, Midoriya, Asui and Mineta mostly hang back and watch with horror as Aizawa is smashed by the “anti-All Might”, Nomu, whose exposed brain you’d think would be a pretty serious weak spot.

It’s pretty intense what the touch of hand-man Shigaraki Tomura does to Aizawa’s arm, and Kurogiri exposes Thirteen’s lack of fighting experience by opening another warp gate behind him, making him susceptible to his own shop-vac quirk.

He and Aizawa have bought the students time, but it’s all for naught if no one can get word to reinforcement heroes. So Iida has to get the hell out of USJ, and without his teachers’ help.

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One by one, students in Iida’s path help him out with their quirks, including Ochako lifting Kurogiri off the ground by touching the only physical part of him. It’s quite satisfying when Iida bursts through those doors. He’s not running away: he’s running to save everyone.

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Midoriya & Co. stick around Tomura and Nomu too long, as it’s not long before he realizes they’re there and attacks them. Before that, Mineta executes a shameless Asui boob-grab, which actually turns her dead eyes white, but doesn’t awaken any other powers.

No, in this pinch, Midoriya has to put his body on the line to save Asui and Mineta, which means using (instert American place name here) Smash on Tomura. But not only does his arm not break, the punch does nothing, as Nomu came in to block at the last moment.

It’s bad news if Nomu can’t be beaten by Midoriya, because that probably means even when All Might arrives (to the elation of all the students), he won’t be able to beat Nomu either. Not alone, and not in the short amount of time before he turns back into Heroin Might.

The answer, it would seem, is to fight one anti-All Might with two All Mights. AM and Midoriya’s first joint battle? Maybe more heroes joining the fray? We shall see.

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My Hero Academia – 10

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Aizawa shows his students what he can do when pitted against far superior numbers of villains, shutting down the quirks of those form long range and beating up those up close. But he lets the most concerning villain, who has an amorphous body of black mist, outflank him, surround the kids, and warp them in groups to various areas of USJ…which is just the thing if you want to show how those various groups of kids combine their quirks to defeat the baddies.

Midoriya ends up saved from being eaten by various water-strong villains by Tsuyu, who, as we know, is basically a human-frog hybrid. His trio is rounded out by Mineta. Both Tsuyu and Mineta in particular have very goofy and unattractive (IMO) character designs, and Mineta’s constant whining doesn’t help matters.

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That being said, the three manage to overpower the water villains surrounding their rapidly sinking ship when Midoriya uses One for All from just two fingers to create a giant whirlpool, while Mineta’s sticky balls gather all the villains up together in a bigger, helpless ball. Tsuyu performs the role of keeping Mineta and Midoriya out of the vortex with her long tongue and leaping ability.

All in all it’s a neat little vignette that shows the teamwork that’s possible if one forgets about how scared one is and stops and thinks about how to use the quirks at hand. But like I said, I’m just not the biggest fan of Midoriya’s two teammates, who look like crudely-drawn caricatures next to Midoriya.

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As for All Might, whom all the villains want to kill and are trying to use the kids to get to, he ends up chilling in the teacher’s lounge with UA High’s principal, who is some kind of inconclusive anthropomorphic mammal named Nezu, to which I can’t help asking…why?

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 13

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Asterisk doesn’t waste too much time getting back into the swing of things: Ayato and Julis’ next win puts them in the quarterfinals. Of course, now Ayato’s secret isn’t a secret anymore; both the physical strain of his trump card and its time limit are common knowledge among the rival schools, including Jie Long, the one that fields their latest pair of opponents, Luo and Song.

Jie Long’s pint-sized prez is excited about Ayato despite learning his potential weaknesses, to the point she warns her two students, the arrogant, smirking Li twins, that Luo and Song may not make it to the next round.

For what it’s worth, Luo and Song are neither arrogant nor smirking, but honorable fighters who lament before the match begins that they can’t fight Ayato at 100%.

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The primary draw of this show (unlike RKC, which had a far better central romance) is the matches, and this latest one doesn’t disappoint, with Julis cleveing the stage in half to split Luo and Song apart so they can’t collaborate on attacks or gang up on Ayato.

It’s still a tough fight, however, so Julis executes stage two of her strategy (the firewall was stage one): suddenly switching places with Ayato without warning, throwing the opponents timing off.

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Ayato and Julis strike fast and defeat Song and Luo, who are gracious in defeat but are still compelled to warn them later that the same tricks won’t work on the Li twins, Shenyun and Shenhua.

Song and Luo respect that Ayato and Julis treat their opponents as equals, but the Li twinslook down on everyone and pull out all the dirty tricks they can to stay a step ahead. It’s no surprise that Luo and Song are from the school of wood—rigid and unbending—while the Li twins are from the school of water—flexible and slippery.

Ayato and Julis’ next match will be one of only three matches left to decide the winner. With so many episodes, I, like Julis, wonder what Ayato wants to get out of this, though she appreciates him fighting for her. His sister, for instance, is someone who’s been on the sidelines/in the shadows all this time, and is likely not really dead, so I would think she’ll come into play at some point this season.

As for the introduction of Flora…I wasn’t aware the show was starved for another cute moe character, but…sigh…here we are. That being said, like the battle and Ayato and Julis’ increasingly mature relationship, the Rasmus Faber soundtrack—including the pumping new OP and ED—continues to impress.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 09

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Okay, no more messing around: the long-awaited Phoenix Festa is finally upon us; that is, after the introduction of Irene Urzaiz, a student so badass she’s in school prison. The head of the “Steering Committee” also announces the controversial decision to allow contestants to field alternates (AKA puppets), bringing a grin to Ernesta’s face.

Before Ayato and Julis’ first match, a light lunch is indicated, which is provided in the form of various over-sized rice balls made by Kirin with Saya’s help. Saya is able to glom onto Ayato briefly, and even get her head patted by Ayato like Kirin. Julis, however, does not request to have her head patted, and lets the silver and blue have their fun.

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When lunch is over, it’s Showtime, and Julis has Ayato all to herself. I liked how confidently Julis, used to distant adoration, strutted out to the arena, while Ayato was a lot more nervous, and how she actually flaunted that confidence by acknowledging the cheering masses. She is a famous princess, after all.

Going in, Ayato is hyped as the only Rank #1 fighter in the Festa, and he decides to waste no time demonstrating that, breaking out Ser Veresta and putting on a little show of powering up before dispatching the two opponents (who weren’t even introduced) all by himself, with one swipe.

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But it’s not just a convincing win; everything went according to plan. Ayato’s chains were presented as showmanship rather than a hindrance to his abilities, and his battle time limit was kept secret by keeping the battle short, with the assumption that Julis would step in once he can no longer fight.

Julis also makes sure Ayato knows to be evasive to the press lest they give anything away. This isn’t Julis’ first rodeo; she knows ignorance is their best weapon, while any info their opponents glean is ammunition against them.

That brings us to the next battle, one between two Le Wolfe brothers who each look at least 35 years of age (Why?) and the two combat puppets built by Allekant’s Ernesta and Camilla, a male-female pair named “Aldy” and “Rimsy”, whose dynamic and banter resembles that of their human creators.

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Le Wolfe dudes flash their skills with wind magic and marksmanship, but even with one minute period in which the puppets don’t attack, they can’t put a dent in ’em. The minute is up, and it’s Game Over for the over-aged brothers, as expected.

Those puppets will definitely potentially pose a challenge to our Seidokan pals; I’m thinking Kirin and Saya will face them at some point, while Irene Urzaiz is gunning for Ayato, with orders not to necessarily win her match, but simply to destroy him.

In any case, we’ll see if the show takes us to those faced, named challengers or if Ayato & Co. will have to carve their way through more nobodies before they reach the “bosses.”

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OverLord – 13 (Fin)

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In a battle so epic it needed two parts, Momonga—sorry, Ains Ooal Gown—turns the tables for good. Having told Shalltear that everything has gone according to plan, he transforms into “Perfect Warrior”, the armor of Lord Touch Me, a former playmate. He then proceeds to summon superweapon after superweapon, so fast and unpredictably is the onslaught that Shalltear must abandon defense altogether and focus on offense, losing an arm in the process.

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But Shalltear wasted all her skills and most of her MP in the first half of the battle, when she thought the two participants were a lot more evenly matched. Turns out, Ains was simply lying to her, as well as failing to correct her incorrect assumptions about his weaknesses. The only weaknesses Ains had against Shalltear were dealt with in that first half, which is why he thanks her so profusely before Part Two begins.

Once a timer goes off, Ains dispenses altogether with the fiction that Shalltear had the slightest chance against him and casts “Fallen Down.” As she utterly disintegrates in the light of her overlord’s power, a smile marks Shalltear’s face. He was every bit as great as she thought, and then some. Of course she couldn’t win against him.

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The same reason Ains had all those cool weapons is the same reason he’s able to ultimately resurrect Shalltear, albeit, unexpectedly, without her ample bosom (something she laments once she notices). That reason is cold hard cash. I’ve played my fair share of RPGs long after the main quest is complete and amassed fortunes so large I could buy everything there was to buy, which is what Ains does. And while it costs a cool 500 million to resurrect Shalltear, it isn’t as if there was anything else for him to buy.

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It’s all too common for villains to simply disappear into oblivion, cursing the name of the hero who defeated them. OverLord is different. Not only is Ains not a hero but an antihero, but Shalltear isn’t a villain either; she was under mind control, which we learn was only partial, but it still did the trick in terms of having her rebel against Ains. And she comes right back, mostly the same as she was, and certainly just as in love with the adorable Ainsy-Winesy.

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With Shalltear returned to the fold and Nazarick back at full strength, Ains gets back to work, learning all there is to be learned about this new world he finds himself in. He’s awarded Orichalcum Plate, and plots to fortify Nazarick and discover the entities who tried to steal Shalltear’s Mind—we learn they’re from the Slane Theocracy, and they’re not done yet. We also learn that Brain Unglaus is still alive, as Stronoff finds him in an alley.

There’s no official indication at the end of this extended epilogue that there will be a second season OverLord, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was, whether it’s in Winter or next Spring or Summer. There’s certainly plenty of material left to explore, lots of awesome one-sided battles to be fought (and perhaps some not so one-sided), and, of course, the central mystery of What Exactly Happened to the human MMORPG player inside Lord Ains. Though, at the same time, I’m kind of glad weren’t spoon-fed all the answers.

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OverLord – 12

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As it did so marvelously with the Clementine fight (which was nowhere near as technically challenging as this one), OverLord once again delivers with an extremely fun and satisfying payoff to all of the buildup surrounding Ains’ duel with Shalltear. The battle that took up most of this episode’s running time got my adrenaline pumping and didn’t let up, right up to the delicious ending.

And yet it still gave us some time to check in on Ains’ guardians back at Nazarick. Albedo admits she let Ains go based on emotion rather than logic—a decision she likely wouldn’t have made had Ains not altered her personality to love him deeply. Demiurge, who he didn’t alter, thinks they’re being derelict in their duty to protect the one remaining supreme being by fighting in his place, but Cocytus considers it blasphemy that Demiurge would question Lord Ains’ orders or question his ability to win.

The bottom line: No one is going to interfere in this fight. So, like us, they sit back and watch. And let me tell you: they’re treated to quite a show.

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When Ains confronts Shalltear once more, she’s still inert and unresponsive, allowing him to cast a variety of high-level buffs that will prove crucial in surviving her attacks as well as doling out his own. Here’s the full list of pre-battle spells:

  • Body of Effulgent Beryl
  • Fly
  • Bless of Magic Caster
  • Infinity Wall
  • Magic Ward, Holy
  • Life Essence
  • Greater Full Potential
  • Freedom
  • False Data, Life
  • See Through
  • Paranormal Intuition
  • Greater Resistance
  • Mantle of Chaos
  • Indomitability
  • Sensor Boost
  • Greater Luck
  • Magic Boost
  • Draconic Power
  • Greater Hardening
  • Heavenly Aura
  • Absorption
  • Penetrate Up
  • Greater Magic Shield
  • Mana Essence
  • Triplet Maximize Magic, Explode Mine
  • Triplet Magic, Greater Magic Seal
  • Triplet Maximize Boosted Magic, Magic Arrow

That’s a lot of buffs, but it’s exactly what one expects of such a high-level fight. And while there’s some fun to be had in having your way with lesser enemies, squaring off against an opponent that will actually put up a fight—an optional super-boss, for instance— is one of the unique joys of RPG play. Watching Ain buff himself took me back to my own preparation for Yiazmat, the strongest foe in FFXII who has 50,112,254 HP in fifty separate million-HP bars.

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That level of preparation amplifies the sense of occasion, and Ains’ internal monologue establishes that even he doesn’t know exactly how this is going to go down. Then the fight begins, and a red battle armor-donning Shalltear cuts loose, matching Ains blow for blow. He surprises her with a few traps and attacks (and bluffs about more, knowing he must preserve his MP), but she has a few skills he’s not aware of, which he’s never witnessed her using but which she assures him her creator Peroroncino built into her.

Most intriguing of all, there are moments when Shalltear realizes she has no idea why she’s even fighting her former master, but then whatever parameters were overwritten to make her rebel (or which activated after a timer went off) kick in, and she presses her attack.

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Reality, Lightning, Fire, Dark, Holy; elemental and non-elemental magic flies in both directions, with moves and counter-moves coming as quickly as the two combatants can call out the enchantments. Indeed, the one thing I think the battle could have benefitted from was more of an enchantment “shorthand”. Sure, it’s impressive that all Ains and Shally have to do to cast ridiculously powerful spells is say the name of that spell, but the lengthy English spell names are a double-edged sword, giving the spells weight but also slowing the casting pace.

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But who cares about long spell names, when we’re treated to Lord Ains conjures an effing Sharknado. (He calls it a “Shark Cyclone”, but still, pretty sweet). I also enjoyed the seemingly mono-directional stream of light-spears that suddenly change direction and hit Shalltear, surprising both her and us. The two just keep pulling out of their bags of tricks.

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But Ains is slowly draining his MP, and Shalltear knows it. Hoping to break the stalemate, she summons her trump card (but probably not her only one), an ethereal doppelganger, Einherjar, as well as her “household” of lesser beasts. Ein lunges at Ains while Shalltear kills her own beasts in order to heal herself. But Ains is ready, activating the skill “The Goal of All Life is Death”; a giant clock counts down, and when the hands reach twelve, both Einherjar and the household disappear, leaving Ains and Shalltear alone again in the midst of a sandy desert where the forest glade once stood.

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Their surroundings thus drastically transformed, the two combatants assess their present state. Both are nearly out of MP, and Shalltear is almost out of skills, but she has all of her HP, and she believes the battle is all but wrapped up. But it would seem Ains was coy even in his internal thoughts, as he expresses to Shally how grateful he is she went all out and fought him with everything she had to this point, believing draining his MP would be the key to defeating him.

But that’s not the case: by not fighting him cautiously, she allowed him to arrange an even larger plan beyond the battle plan executed thus far. And next week, it will be time to show her just how badly she miscalculated. I can’t wait.

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