Rokka no Yuusha – 07

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Adlet has a steep hill to climb to convince anyone—particularly Fremy, who seeks unequivocal proof—that he’s not the seventh brave, even as I remain convinced he isn’t. At this point in the show it would seem like a cheap conceit to make him that, and it makes for more interesting drama when Adlet has to prove something that’s true rather than something he merely believes to be true. That is, for him to be the seventh brave but not even know it seems silly.

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While he doesn’t quite manage to convince Fremy, he at least gets her to understand him a little better. Before, she was confused as to how someone so seemingly “average” was able to become strong enough to hold his own against the likes of her and Hans. Adlet, heartened by her apparent interest, answers that question by telling her the story of how his sister and best friend were killed protecting him, and how his master taught him that revenge alone is not enough to be strong.

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Rather, one must believe in something to gain and maintain strength. To Adlet’s shock, Fremy is jealous of his belief in something, because after the life she’s lived, including a mother who pretended to love her only to betray and abandon her, taught her not to believe in anything, which is why she distrusted Adlet in the first place.

When she asks why Adlet is so trusting of her backstory as she tells it, he tells her he sees similarities in the two of them, and wants to believe her, so he does. He clarifies that this isn’t about love per se, though he’s blushing  while doing so, so I’m sure a part of him wants to believe and protect Fremy because, well, she’s a cutey.

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Fremy gives a little more ground by not turning Adlet away, but nor does she stick with him, deciding instead to return to the temple and the other braves. However, she gives him a special bullet that when exploded will tell her and only her of his presence, which means tacit permission to call on her whenever he wishes. What she doesn’t promise is that she won’t kill him next time they meet. After all, he still hasn’t convinced her he isn’t the seventh.

And that’s what remains Adlet’s problem as the episode closes on a battle between him and Hans, whom Nashetania believes to be the seventh, rather than Adlet. Tania believes his innocence, and Fremy is willing to hear him out if he has proof, but Chamot, Goldof, and Hans are eager to kill him, confident he’s the enemy. I’m a little loath to side with Tania, for the same reason I don’t want Adlet to be the seventh: it seems too easy for it to be the shifty and never particularly trustworthy Hans.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 06

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Our boy Adlet is in a heap of trouble, with a most of the other Braves either suspecting him (Maura), ready to kill him (Hans and Chamo), or abstaining and letting the others do what they want (Fremy). Only Tania still believes in his innocence, and is both confused and outraged by the positions of the others.

When it’s Goldolf’s turn to offer his thoughts, he offers them in the form of a strike against Adlet, ignoring his princess’ doubts about his guilt. Hans joins in, and Adlet has no choice but to improvise, knocking Fremy out cold and running out of the temple. And thank God he does, too, because I was dead tired of that stuffy glowy room.

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Adlet doesn’t get far, as Hans throws a dagger in his back and he passes out. While out, he helpfully dreams about his backstory, back when he wasn’t even the strongest boy in his village, to when he presented himself before his future master, a pitiful bag of bones, begging to be trained.

We don’t see the in between, when his friend, mother, and village are presumably wiped out by fiends. The longbeard begins the lesson at once by beating young Adlet up, telling him he must smile when things go bad and laugh at despair if he wants to become strong.

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Adlet isn’t smiling much when he wakes up to find Fremy has saved him, but not only to prepare for what she calculates is just a 1% chance he isn’t the seventh brave and her enemy. Still, there’s something to the fact she didn’t make a lot of noise so the other braves could capture them. Perhaps she’s giving Adlet that 1% chance to convince her he’s not lying.

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Adlet doesn’t do so well at first, but then starts to smile again, remembering the words of his master. No matter how dark the night gets, he’ll pierce it with his defiant grin. He doesn’t know how to convince Fremy that his theory about an eighth brave helping the seventh (who then framed him), but he won’t concede defeat.

Even though Fremy flatly refuses to help him, his boundless optimism moves her to ask him why he wanted to become a brave, a question that suggests, for the first time, that she has the slightest interest in anything about Adlet (other than her suspicions he’s the enemy). It’s not much, but Adlet—and I—will take it, and similarly look forward to the morning when he must figure out a way to prove his innocence and foil the real enemy.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 05

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RnY really slammed on the brakes this week, finishing the job it started last week of bringing the story’s momentum to a screeching halt. What had been a thrilling, sprawling fantasy adventure tale is now stuck in a square room with a lame mystery, pacing around, tapping its foot; scratching its head, and yawning.

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I know; seven Braves when there should be six isn’t that bad a mystery. It’s more that the way the mystery is being investigated saps all of my interest. First we get another set of introductions, along with their stories of where they were when the barrier came up. We hear Adlet’s monologue as he sizes people and their stories up, but aside from learning Fremy is half-fiend (which is actually pretty interesting), we don’t learn much of note.

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From there, everyone starts chiming in with their ideas about what happened and who they suspect the seventh Brave to be. Now, I’m a big fan of 12 Angry Men, but they were a jury deliberating a verdict; these guys are supposed to be legendary heroes kicking ass and saving the world. The fact that they’re holed up in this room pointing fingers at each other for an entire episodes diminishes their splendor along with our patience. When Chamo yawned, I said to myself “You and me both, kid!”

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Thankfully, the seven do eventually get somewhere, though I’m not yet satisfied with where that is: Hans (whose cat-speak and constant cackling is really annoying, BTW) says once the temple doors open they cannot be closed, calling into question Adlet’s story about having to blow the door open, which immediately preceded the activation of the barrier. Even though Fremy is in chains, Hans seems on the cusp of turning everyone against Adlet.

Yet we witnessed what Adlet did, from start to finish, and at worst, he activated the barrier accidentally. He doesn’t work as the culprit, since we’ve been following him the whole time, before even Nashetania showed up. So unless the show itself was lying to us, he can’t possibly be the enemy.

Because the deliberation is far from over, it’s guaranteed that the Braves won’t be leaving this room for at least part of the next episode. Smoke if you got ’em…

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Rokka no Yuusha – 04

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Introductions between Fremy and Tania/Goldof are tense because Goldof has it on good authority that Fremy is in fact the Brave-Killer…an accusation she doesn’t even bother refuting. Yet Adlet still shields her from Tania’s blades. Why? Because whatever she did in the past, she’s one of the Six Braves now, by the will of the Goddess, and The Strongest Man in the World isn’t going to let them fight among themselves.

Tania stands down, because she trusts Adlet, not Fremy. Fremy tells her she’s a naive girl and doesn’t so much as thank Adlet for saving her, but the group of four is off to meet the remaining two.

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As soon as they’re in the dense forest, a fleet of aerial fiends begins bombing it, while land-based fiends swarm and surround them. Here, for the first time, we see what kind of badassery four Braves are capable of, especially since one of those four, Adlet, is able to continue on to the temple, since three Braves are enough to hold off the horde: Tania and Fremy from long-range; Goldof the close-range brawler.

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Adlet finds the beautiful yet foreboding temple (looking like the entrance to many an FF dungeon) and meets an injured priestess only to watch her transform into a fiend (which promptly, confusingly runs away). Rather than pursue, Adlet enters the temple, shocked to find the phantasmal barrier already active, and even when the others arrive unharmed, they’re unable to shut it down. Adlet tries using his blood, while Tania flails about in a panic, to the point I though for a moment she was hallucinating.

Then, it all becomes clear: the barrier is active because it was activated by the remaining Braves. First, they meet Chamo Rosso, a small, child-like girl in green whom Adlet acknowledges as the “claimed” strongest person in the world; a claim he obviously disputes.

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Chamo immediately wishes to kill Fremy, who must’ve gotten the same memo as Goldof, and we learn for certain why when not one but two more Braves grace their presence—Mora Chester and Hans Humpty (dumb name)—for a total of seven. Since there was never any instance in all of history of their being any less or more than six Braves, everyone concludes that there’s an impostor in their midst.

Assuming they’re right, who could it be? Have we already been privy to previously unnoticed clues? At this point Fremy seems too obvious. Hans, who seems a bit more sinister than the others, also seems too obvious. I wouldn’t have cast any suspicion whatsoever on Nashetania, were it not for a heavily Tania-centric ending sequence (complete with an awesome ending theme). As for Adlet, well, we witnessed him become a Brave. Hell, maybe there are just supposed to be seven this time around…

While the action and adventure were definitely here, there was something mechanical and underwhelming about the reveal of the other three Braves. They just kinda…show up, all at once, with little fanfare or showmanship. I suppose I’ve been hanging around the showboating Adlet and stylish Tania too long. I’m also loath to watch the group continue bickering when there’s a Demon God to defeat. Finally, the character animation looked rougher and sloppier than usual at points, possibly in order to accommodate the CGI fiends.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 03

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In the early stages of many an RPG when the party is still being assembled, one often comes across a character who doesn’t want to join, and will only reluctantly/provisionally join if convinced or coerced to do so, and even then, could turn on you or turn tail at any time.

That’s who we have in the stylishly-attired, world-weary lone she-wolf Fremy Speeddraw, and it’s what makes the kind and gregarious Adlet her perfect foil. First, Adlet shows her he’s someone to be reckoned with by chasing her down with a deftness that surprises her. The gets in close and steals her ammo, leaving her with one bullet.

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Then Adlet basically tells her to swallow her outrage and come along, turning his back on her and giving her the choice to shoot him and take back her ammo, or join him. It’s a key moment for Fremy after much argumentative banter between them, and she decides to lower her weapon, either because she doubts the dance will end when she fires her last shot, or, less likely, she just doesn’t feel like shooting a unarmed man in the back just for wanting her to tag along.

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An uneasy accord between those two thus reached, we cut to Nasheitania, who allows herself to get cornered by some tricky fiends, but fortunately has the fiercely loyal Goldof by her side. When they encounter Adlet’s horse and note, Goldof accuses Adlet of abandoning the princess, but Tania is far more understanding, and assures Goldof he’d get along famously with Adlet.

Goldof isn’t so sure about that, but he is extremely adept at combat and killing fiends. Tania and Goldof echo Adlet and Fremy in that each pair has an outgoing/happy-go-lucky and introverted/distrustful personality in it.

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No matter which pair it follows, the soaring sights and the stirring orchestral score maintains the grandeur and scale of the Braves’ journey established in the previous episodes. Though only drawn together by Adlet’s insistence, Fremy sticks by his side as they enter the fortress of a town close to their ultimate destination of the Demon God’s domain.

Though the fortress garrison has been decimated and a mere private commands, he dutifully and confidently informs the Braves of the intricate plan to cast a giant cloud of fog over the lands, blocking the fiends from taking further territory once the Braves press on. This too is a very RPG-like mission, with precise timing and contingency plans involved. Adlet, naturally, believes Plan A will go swimmingly.

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But once Adlet and Fremy strike out for the Braves’ rendezvous point, they are ambushed, not by fiends but by Tania and Goldof. The main reason Fremy gives for not wanting to join the others is her belief the other Braves will try to kill her if they see her (and the only reason Adlet didn’t is because he’s “weird”, i.e. a kind person). Fremy doesn’t believe in kindness, and doesn’t want it. She even tries to get him to agree to one day fight her, but go easy on her, while all he wants to do is fight by her side.

Now, exactly what she said would happen is happening, albeit due to Tania and Goldof’s belief Fremy is the Brave-killer. As blades and bullets fly, Adlet must play the peacemaker, and be the glue that holds the Braves together. And if he truly is the World’s Strongest Man, than surely he can get it done, right?

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Rokka no Yuusha – 02

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While their party is just two and the activities are limited to exploring and traversing the great expanse before them, Adlet and Nashetania’s journey is the perfect opportunity for both them and us to learn a little more about them. Take ‘Tania: she’s so excited and giddy at the prospect of this adventure, she challenges Adlet to a fight. In fact, she uses her powers for things like cutting vegetables. She’s restless, but Adlet and she both need to be focused with a Brave Killer at large.

At night Adlet warns Tania they’ll be sleeping on hard ground under the stars a lot, and we learn she’s no stranger to that. Despite having never seen so much, she has experienced more hardship than you’d think of a sheltered princess, mostly because of the tenuous hold her late father had on the kingdom, and the execution order put out for her before she became a saint. Adlet’s not the only one here who’s had to rough it.

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The bottom line is, outside of arena competition, Tania has zero experience fighting fiends, who Adlet knows they’ll encounter. The “game”, if you will, then shifts from “getting to know each other” to “battle 101.”  I like how Adlet gets a very nervous Tania to laugh, thus calming her. Then Adlet gets right in the (CGI) fiends’ faces and dodges and slashes, while keeping Tania back to support him with her blades.

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Their first battle goes well, and the villagers the fiends attacked are saved from obliteration, but there’s news that one village girl didn’t make it out. Adlet is ready to go after her, but Tania stops him, telling him their primary mission is to find the other Braves, and that no matter how strong they are, they can’t save everybody.

Adlet agrees with her until she lets go of his horse, and then charges off anyway, which is Classic Adlet: after all, how can he call himself the Strongest Man if he can’t defeat the Demon God and save the people? He wants to do it all, and in this case, Tania indulges him.

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And this time, it may just get him in serious trouble, as the “girl” in the smoldering ruins of the village seems to be doing just fine taking out all of the fiends. When she notices Adlet, she introduces herself as Fremy Speeddraw, so named because of her rifle and the ability to summon bullets at will. She doesn’t like other humans, suspects Adlet is there to kill him, and refuses to lower her rifle to his non-provocational stance.

Meanwhile, more fiends arrive at Tania’s location, and while she’s able to deal with them herself, she loses her horse in the process. Then the person she’s been searching for, Goldof, who once let her win in the arena, presents himself before her, a newly-made Brave, like her. Tania says this now makes them equals, but Goldof still insists on bowing before her and pledging his life to her protection.

Then Goldof tells her the name of the Brave Killer is Fremy. This should be interesting!

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Rokka no Yuusha – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: A sweeping fantasy epic about the rise and gathering of of the “Braves of the Six Flowers”, six warriors chosen by the Goddess of Fate to save the world from the reawakened Demon God and its fiends. The first we meet is self-(and oft)-proclaimed “strongest man in the world” Adlet Mayer, who crashes a sacred ceremony between two lesser warriors and embarrasses them and the entire institution.

For this, he is imprisoned, but he makes a friend of a pretty maid who visits him in his cell, and they chat about the Braves. Adlet spends many weeks in a cage, but when the signs of the Demon God awakening filling the sky, the mark of the Braves appears on his hand.

He is then sprung by jail by the maid, who is really the Nashetania, the princess of Piena, who has also been chosen as one of the Braves. She and Adlet mount horses at strike out into the world to rendezvous with the the other four.

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Why should you watch? If, like me, you’re a big fan of the whole concept of RPGs like FF, which follows a relatively set but time-tested formula from game to game, evoloving with technology of the time (I’ve played FF for NES all the way up to PS3, and looking forward to FFXV for PS4) and switching up its character types, settings, and battle systems. Up until recently there were no direct sequels, as if each FF was really the “final” of its kind.

But the first FF wasn’t the final one as it was believed to be by its creators, nor will FF ever really disappear, despite all the missteps the studio may have taken throughout the years, because fantasy is elemental and eternal. Going back to the carved stones of the Epic of Gilgamesh, they have always been both a tale of how we came to be and an escape from where and who we are.

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Rokka no Yuusha understands this simple fact intrinsically, and attaches new trappings to well-traveled roads in its execution, in the best tradition of FF. The Meso-American fusion motif, with the Tenochtitlan-style capital, makes an immediate escapist impact, and as we move on to our cocky but capable protagonist Adlet carve his way through two of the best warriors in the land, his constant protestations of being the “strongest in the world” sound less and less like idle boasting.

That’s particularly true when we see what becomes of Adlet for stepping out of line and shitting all over the city’s traditions: he’s thrown into a big pit to rot. But far from despairing, Adlet simply uses the time to train and allow his wounds to heal, knowing he could escape at any time. And as I immediately knew the “maid” was actually Princess Nashetania (great name, BTW) I’m not entirely certain a part of Adlet didn’t know it too, judging by how he tells the maid to relay the message, and his lack of surprise when she shows up to free him.

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Why should you watch? Perhaps for the same reason I will be watching: If you’re annoyed, rather than comforted and excited, about the umpteenth execution of the epic fantasy formula. Also, while the show got off to a quick start with Adlet’s battle, things bog down quite a bit in the cell scene. The dialogue is natural at first, and I liked Nashetania’s fidgeting as Adlet talked about himself, but then things descended into pretty transparent infodump territory, though that’s just another familiar mark of this genre.

The Verdict: This second effort by studio Passione (the first being Rail Wars!, which Hannah quite liked) that we’ve seen is a strong entry in the epic fantasy genre, and gets off to a convincing start, immersing us in its lush setting, familiar yet intriguing mythology, and the sense of a grand adventurous journey commencing.

Its attention to detail in matters of combat, production, and costumes impressed mightily. And while Adlet’s a cocky bastard, he has an honorable goal, and Nashetania should be good for him (and vice versa). We’ve yet to meet most of Braves of the Six Flowers to meet, but I’m already sold.

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