DanMachi IV – 21 – So Warm, So Sweet

While it was surely nice to get a bath in the healing waters, those waters weren’t what you’d call warm, so Ryuu and Bell have to strip off their wet clothes and sit in front of a fire to keep their body temperatures up. DanMachi wisely keeps the comedy to a minimum here, while it ratchets up the romantic tension that’s been brewing between these two.

One she’s literally in his arms, Bell ceases to see Ryuu simply as some invincible idol and hero who has been protecting him, and sees her for the first time as someone he has to protect.

Ryuu is comfortable enough with Bell now that she wants to tell him the entire story of how she lost her familia, so while they have the time, she does so. Bell’s takeaway is our takeaway: they gave their lives to save her, so she’d better not die or they’ll be mad. Then Ryuu suggests they huddle even closer so they’ll warm up properly.

Ryuu may not think much of her body, but the fact is both she and Bell are very attractive. They distract themselves from that by talking about what they’ll do when they’re home. Ryuu wants a meal at the tavern (where she’s sure to get a tongue lashing from Syr and the others) while Bell wants to travel to Hestia’s mansion with the rest of his Familia so he can say “I’m home.”

I’m so glad the show slowed down a bit and let Ryuu and Bell simply exist with one another and think about nicer things than where they are and the challenges that lie ahead. But with no food supplies to speak of, they have to get moving once they’re warmed up enough.

As they continue on, they’re both relieved and a little weary of the complete absence of monsters. When they hit a dead end, Bell cuts through some brittle crystal deposits so they can climb to a higher level, where they find the fourth ring. That means they’re on the main route, and just one more ring from the connecting tunnel from the 37th to the 36th floor.

So of course when they’re so close to getting closer to getting the fuck out of this miserable hellhole, that ugly bastard the Juggernaut gets the drop on them. It’s seemed to augment itself by eating various other monsters, and while it’s much slower than the last time Bell fought it, those collected abilities make it arguably more deadly. Bell ends up getting stabbed in the kidney area by a giant spike, and has the sense of mind (and toughness) to close and cauterize the wound with a Fire Bolt.

Ryuu manages to drag the two of them into a narrow passage in the rock where the Juggernaut and his various appendages and projectiles can’t reach, and it wanders off, though I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of it. But Bell and Ryuu are once again in bad shape, having lost a lot of blood and mana.

Ryuu reverts to her fatalistic mode, but when she asks Bell to hold her again and he does without hesitation, she takes solace in the fact her final moments will be sweet. To borrow a Riri lyric, is Ryuu falling in love in a hopeless place? Perhaps! Hestia would never approve, but who cares? I’m loving this ship!

Of course, Bell has no intention of dying, nor will he let Ryuu die. When she nods off from exhaustion, he gently strokes her hair, then stands up and considers all the pain he’s in to be a blessing, because it’s a sign he can still feel pain and thus isn’t too far gone. I just hope those Xenos can find them soon. Maybe they can use their myriad abilities to finally take the Juggernaut down…

DanMachi IV – 20 – Her Justice

A week of absolutely sterling anime continues with this, the long-awaited (and feared) definitive depiction of the demise of Astrea Familia and Ryuu’s subsequent fall from grace. Jura and Rudra Familia, working under Evilus, did indeed set a trap for Astrea, but it didn’t work. However, detonating all of those bombs awakened the Juggernaut, which turned even a dream team like Astrea into mincemeat with sickening speed and efficiency.

It’s a tough, horrific watch, as it should be. And even if we haven’t spent nearly as much time with the various members of Astrea, all I needed to do was imagine if it were members of Hestia instead dropping one by one to understand the weight being placed on Ryuu by Alise to “live enough for everyone”. Alise trusts Ryuu to always “do the right thing”. Alise, Kaguya, and Lyra die, but they go out fighting in a literal blaze of glory.

The weight proves too much for Ryuu, and she is soon consumed with anger and hatred. She leaves the goddess Astrea (though is able to keep her blessing) and transforms into an angel of death, tearing through every Rudra Familia and Evilus stronghold, hideout and hovel and leaving no one alive in her path, like a merciless calamitous gale wind.

Once her twisted form of justice is finally complete when she finds, corners, and stabs the shit out of Jura (whom she only learns much later survived), Ryuu feels like an empty husk, hollowed out by all the hatred and murder. But when she collapses, it happens to be near the tavern where one Syr Flover works, and that’s all that’s needed to know that the gods aren’t done with Ryuu quite yet.

She’d go on to not only work with Syr and the other ladies at the tavern, but to swoop in and save the lives of Bell, Hestia, Welf, Lili, and everyone else, more times than Bell can count. She may have thought she was simply continuing her quest of vengeance, but to Bell, it meant she was his hero, plain and simple. He came back for her at the Coliseum because it’s what she’d do for him, and he won’t leave her behind because his justice is making it home alive with her.

Bell admits he didn’t know the “old Ryuu”, and that she may have made many a mistake in her past. All that matters to him is how many times he and his Familia would be dust without her. Without Ryuu even realizing it, the justice of her Familia lived on, and continues to live on.

When a Barbarian busts through the wall and Bell looks like he’s knocked out and about to be eaten, Ryuu desperately cries out his name, only for him to kill the monster and reveal he was playing possum, causing her to blush profusely.

The two eventually make it to a spring beneath the Coliseum, and they might just be the first two adventurers to make it there. When Bell collapses from exhaustion into the water, Ryuu gets in with him, cradles him, and heals him. Let those waters cleanse Ryuu of the hate, grief, regret and anguish she allowed to define her for so long, as well as the notion that she doesn’t deserve to live, or to love.

What happened to Astrea Familia was a abject tragedy. But it wasn’t her fault, and it was a blessing that she survived, because it meant she was alive to rescue Bell & Co. all those times. Now that they finally have a place to rest and heal, and the Xenos contingent aren’t far above them, it’s looking like both Bell and Ryuu are going to make it out of this. They won’t be the same  people they were when they first fell down there…but that’s not a bad thing.

DanMachi IV – 19 – No Time to Die

This week starts with a flashback chat between Ryuu and her diminutive colleague Lyra (a prum like Lili). Lyra warns Ryuu not to try to create the answer to “what is right” by gathering everyone else’s opinions, but to determine what that means for herself. Knowledge is a weapon, info is a friend, and wisdom is what is needed to use both to save others, and oneself.

At this point on the 37th floor, Ryuu’s only remaining purpose in life is to make sure Bell is armed with as much knowledge and information as possible so he can turn them into his own wisdom, just as she did. She is now the teacher Lyra was to her, and she’s able to come up with a plan Bell would never have thought of.

They can’t go around the coliseum—they have to go straight through it to reach the normal route and the stair to the higher floor. But with the monsters in the coliseum infinitely battling each other and re-spawning the instant they’re killed they won’t be able to fight their way through. So they wear a skull sheep pelt, cover themselves in barbarian heart blood, and try to sneak their way through the closest thing to hell we’ve yet seen in the Dungeon.

I was a ball of anxiety throughout the sneaking session, just waiting for one of the monsters to notice them (or for Bell to step on the pelt and expose them). Turns out the former happens when a skeleton grabs him, and from there it becomes a race to the other end of the coliseum before they’re completely overrun by the beasts zeroing in on them en masse.

When they reach a certain point, Ryuu asks Bell to go to the other end of the bridge and clear the way while she holds off the monsters on her side. Bell says “I’ll be right back” but after he kills the monsters on his end, Ryuu uses her wind magic to fly him to the other side of the bridge…and then collapses the bridge. She’s ensuring none of the coliseum monsters can get to Bell…and also sealing her fate.

When Ryuu contemplates her imminent demise and reunion with her long-lose Astrea companions, saying it was worth it if Bell survives, Hayami Saori does some of her absolute finest work. But unlike Ryuu, I had a distinct feeling Bell wasn’t sprinting as hard as he could towards safety. Instead, he ran all the hell the way around the coliseum to meet back up with Ryuu, and is ready with his signature Bell-Tollin’ Firebolt to deal with the monsters surrounding her.

When Bell unleashes that Firebolt and sets the entire coliseum and everything in it ablaze, he is making his ideals a reality, exactly what Arise told Ryuu is what true heroes are capable of doing. Ryuu misunderstood something crucial about Bell. No matter how scared he was or helpless he seemed, there was never any chance he’d let her sacrifice herself to save him.

I know Ryuu has a low opinion of herself for being the sole survivor of the extinction of Astrea, and many of the awful things she’s done since then. But for all her amassed knowledge, she didn’t have the wisdom to realize she wasn’t going to get one over on a hero, or that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you think of yourself, but what others think of you.

Bell considers her a dear friend and mentor, not an irredeemable wretch, and used the power he had to stop her from sacrificing herself. She can call him an idiot, but until she can start turning ideals into reality, she’d sure as hell better accept his idiocy, ’cause he ain’t changing!

DanMachi IV – 18 – The More, the Merrier

The Xenos, Tsubaki, and Ryuu’s tavern co-workers all arrive at just the right time to save the exhausted and overrun Hestia Familia. That said, only a few of those there understand what’s actually happening. All the others know is that the monsters with weapons are helping them. Tsubaki can’t deny she’s impressed Welf managed to forge a magic sword in the Dungeon, and wryly welcomes him to “hell.”

Wiene and Haruhime have a heartfelt reunion while the catgirls throw cat puns left and right. When Marie tells the other Xenos that Bell and Ryuu have likely fallen to the Deep Levels, the Xenos heed there with all due speed, and Liliruca declares her new party, newly infused with Level 4 badessee, will be following them.

Down in the Deep Floors, Bell oddly isn’t struggling as he was. In fact, as Ryuu observes, he’s only getting better. Nothing like a high-difficulty level to force you to become stronger. But Bell is only able to fight the way he is thanks to Ryuu’s pointers, combined with Ais’ pointers.

Even when a bunch of giant Barbarians bust through the stone wall and shoot their lethal tongues out, Bell is there just in time to slice and dice them into oblivion before any of them can get to Ryuu. They’re then able to take a breather—but not one long enough for Bell to get Ryuu to tell him what happened with Juggernaut and the Astrea Familia.

Life, or rather death comes at you fast in the Deep Floors, such that the time between brutal battles is so small, there’s no time to revel in any victories, and barely enough time to catch your breath. Bell and Ryuu are making good time following the dead adventurers’ map, but then they hear the Juggernaut, which goes to town on a herd of Skull Sheep.

Bell and Ryuu tread carefully, but end up surrounded by regiments of undead skeletons. Behind them are the Peludas, the porcupine-like monsters with deadly poisonous quills. They actually end up helping Bell and Ryuu out by taking out the skeletons.

When one poison quill gets through their defenses and impales Bell through the shoulder, the poison starts to act fast, and with no antidotes to their name, he looks doomed to die like those other adventurers, far from home and out of time and options.

But leave it to Welf to give Bell a unicorn horn dagger, which when lodged into his wound, draws out and absorbs all of the poison. That said, it looks exceedingly painful. After that, the path starts getting steeper and more uphill, until Ryuu finally recognizes their surroundings.

The have arrived at the Colosseumwhich let’s just say is does not look like the coziest of most inviting venue! Regardless, the battered and bloodied party of two will have to pass through it if they’re going to get to the higher floors. Will the Xenos get to them before Ryuu manages to finally succeed in sacrificing herself for Bell’s sake? I sure hope so.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 17 – An Convenient Ideal

Ryuu not only once believed she could save everyone without sacrificing anyone, but that doing so was the will of their familia’s goddess, Lady Astrea. She believed this so forcefully, she almost came to blows with her more pragmatic (and possibly jaded) colleague Kaguya. She told Ryuu that Astrea’s ideals cannot be 100% applied in the real world. The time will come when all of them will have to make a hard choice.

No doubt Bell’s attitude reminds Ryuu of her former, more idealistic self. While there may be doubt, he has no intention of surviving the Deep Floors without Ryuu surviving with him. But the upped difficulty level of the floors has sapped his confidence.

Ryuu tenderly takes his finger in hers and delivers a fine motivational speech, telling him to stop being so hard on himself—it’s hard down here!—and giving him a number of tips to help him have an easier time.

Ten floors up, Welf’s new adamantine magic sword shows no signs of wear—in fact, it only seems to be getting more powerful with each use, as if it’s absorbing the energy from the foes it extinguishes. Its wielder is a different story, as using the sword is taking a physical toll on Welf. Tsubaki’s party isn’t far away, but in the meantime Welf & Co. face a nearly constant onslaught of tough customers.

On not one but two occasions, Ryuu forces Bell to drink something gross: first a really old moldy potion (which still heals him) and then the boiled remains of a potable ooze, lending levity to the bleak proceedings. Ryuu also shows her bashful tavern maiden side, as she stops herself from drinking from the same thermos as Bell when he mentions he had his mouth on it. Lest we forget: Ryuu has had a bit of a thing for Bell for a while now.

It’s very encouraging to see how far Bell and Ryuu have gotten since emerging from a Lambton’s belly with their clothes and bodies in tatters. They’re both healed enough to walk and fight; they have five blazebombs left for emergencies, and they reach the third ring of the floor, which Ryuu recognizes from its chalk-white color, so they now know the proper way back up.

Bors leads Lili, Welf & Co. to the chamber where he last saw Bell, and the giant hole made by the Lambton indicates Bell could be much deeper down then anyone thought. But they have bigger problems, like being cornered by extremely tough beasts, and a Welf who is out of gas.

Fortunately reinforcements finally arrive in the nick of time. Tsubaki’s team being close was a misdirect—it’s the Xenos sent by Fels who get to them first, ready, willing and eager to pay Bell back with their support. Now continuing their descent feels a lot more realistic.

As for the party of two that is Bell and Ryuu, they’ve made progress but are still along way from from the stairs, and thus still far from out of danger, and at the moment Ryuu is determined to sacrifice herself if it means saving Bell. She bitterly remarks to Kaguya that she’s finally on her side. All I know is, if the show ends up killing Ryuu off just because she deems Bell more worthy of living, I’ll be as devastated as Bell for sure!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 16 – What Must Be Done

After another Astrea Familia flashback where Alise sparks a spirited discussion of what justice is, we’re back in the White Palace with Bell and Ryuu, who has recovered enough magic to heal her leg. In a similar argument she had with her late colleague Kaguya, she agrees to disagree with Bell on whether it would have been better to heal him.

I’m with Bell: Ryuu needed to be able to at least walk on her own for them to survive. As for Welf, he gets started, but after taking the adamantine out of his portable forge, he finds he can’t shape it. He wonders if he’s simply overestimated his ability to forge a sword in the Dungeon while his comrades battle desperately to keep the hordes of monsters at bay.

If Ryuu and Bell are to get to the 36th floor, they’ll need supplies and some kind of direction. They get both, by doing something neither of them want to do: looting the dead adventurers around them. Ryuu ensures she has top coverage, and they find potions, weapons, and a partial map scrawled on the dead’s familia banner. Bell vows to survive in order to honor the memory of those who died to save him and Ryuu.

Welf finally snaps out of his funk and the sound of his hammer makes a much louder, brighter sound—all because he remembered that he was making this sword for his friends. I’m a little surprised he didn’t know that all along…but whatever! He completes the sword, and with an extra magic assist from Cassandra, they manage to blast away all the monsters bothering them—with the very “light of daybreak” from Cassie’s vision.

With his new shatterproof magic sword, forged to last a lifetime, Welf has given the party a new lease on life as they continue their descent to find Bell and Ryuu. He gives the lives that were given to him right back to their owners. They still have a long way to go, but like Bell and Ryuu, they at least have the tools to do so—acquired by doing what had to be done, not matter what.

Made in Abyss – S2 03 – The Ruthlessness of Value

Nestled deep within the Golden City lies an entire village full of hollows like Nanachi, only those who chose to become so in order to endure in the Sixth Layer. Majikaja takes Riko, Reg, and Nanachi on a tour, and show them where Prushka ended up. While initially it looks like a hollow is chipping away harmfully at the whistle, Riko can sense that Prushka “doesn’t mind” and Majikaja confirms that shaving the whistle down to a purer form increases its “value.” And in the hollow village of IRUburu, value is everything.

Majikaja, whose automaton body we learn is actually only a vessel (their real form is sloshing around in the body’s central tank), takes our delvers to the hollow market, where everything is assessed, bought, and sold. Majikaja makes it clear that human children are among the most valuble, but Riko puts her foot down: she’s not here to sell pieces of herself.

That said, when one of the hollows squeezes Meinya too hard and almost kills her, it is punished by a “balancing”, which is the power of the village taking the hollows possessions and finally tearing off bits of it until the damage it did is paid in full. All hollows here, who have taken the form of their desires, know that this is how things go down.

Thankfully, Meinya is tougher than she looks and survives the accidental squishing, and Riko is able to spend the money given to her in reparations to buy lodging and food. Riko is eager and excited to taste food one would never be able to taste anywhere else in the world…but since this is Abyss and there’s no bodily function it won’t explore, she ends up in intestinal distress.

Nanachi and Reg prepare to further explore the village, but there’s a big boom, and suddenly a huge procession of hollows start racing towards it. Majikaja tells them it’s Faputa, “embodiment of value”, who “can go anywhere and will never perish.” Majikaja calls Faputa a lady of high status, which Nanachi translates to “princess”. While doing recon, Reg encounters this princess.

Faputa bears a striking and completely non-coincidental resemblance to Irumyuui, the little native girl Vueko took under her wing during Ganja’s descent into the Abyss in the distant past. Here the present and past once again collide, as we watch Ganja encounter the bizarre, whimsical, and terrifying power of the Golden City and its hollow denizens for the first time.

Unsurprisingly, Kevin Penkin’s score is up to the task of capturing the combination of wonder and danger; the guy is a master of orchestral crescendos that perfectly express the emotional and physical scope and scale of the city as first viewed by Vueko & Co. I must admit I replayed the final few minutes of the episode just to get swept up in the awe.

But as Vueko remarks, as awesome and beautiful as this place is, what is most assuredly is not is safe...at least for humans. It’s both heartening and heartrending to consider that just as Irumyuui evolved into Faputa, all of the members of Ganja are probably still around in hollow form. They may even have already met Riko, Reg, and Nanachi. They may have had to cast off their human form, but the intelligence remains, and at least they are finally at peace after what they endured as people.

86 – 12 (S2 E01) – New Home, New Hope

86 is back…and there are some changes. San Magnolia’s awful system hasn’t changed, and Lena is still stuck in it (for now), but she’s adjusted the way she operates within it. Demoted to captain, she wears a streak of blood red in her hair and wears a black uniform to set herself apart from her drunken peers. She has a new squadron of Eighty-Six led by Iida Shiden, AKA Cyclops.

She handles them as she handled Shin’s squad; with as much compassion and care as she can. She learned their names from the start and has built a good rapport with Cyclops, who calls her “My Queen”. Most importantly, Lena is doing what she promised Shin and the others she would do: live on; survive. For her, that means preparing for the massive Legion offensive she senses is coming, even if her superiors are doing nothing.

Lena is maintaining and biding her time. As for her old friends Shin, Raiden, Anju, Kurena, and Theo? Amazingly, they’re all still alive, which is tremendous news. 86 really ripped my heart out, but it went a long way towards repairing that emotional damage by bringing them back without it feeling contrived or out of left field. Shin and the others are now honored guests of Giad, which is no longer the empire that created the Legion, but a diverse inclusive federacy.

That said, they should consider themselves lucky Giad’s President Ernst Zimmerman is, at least on the surface, a man of conscience and compassion, who wants only to give these found children, cast out of their homeland after fighting so long and hard, a measure of peace. Of course, Zimmerman is also a politician, and while I don’t know what his ultimate plan for the five is, I’m certain there is a plan, and his smiles and politeness are probably hiding darker intentions.

That said, it’s hard to argue that Giad is far better adjusted nation than San Magnolia, what with there not being apartheid and battlefield slavery of non-Alba citizens. Alba and non-Alba share the same streets and have families together. Zimmerman also wants his five new guests to be as comfortable as possible, and so arranges for them to live in his presidential mansion. That mansion also happens to be occupied by a haughty little spitfire of a girl named Frederica Rosenfort (Kuno Misaki).

Her hair and eye color suggest some kind of connection to Shin, while it’s clear Zimmerman is hiding the fact she is the last surviving Giadian Empress from the general public; officially, she’s his adopted daughter, as are Shin and the others. You can tell after their ordeal the five are simply tired, but they also look uncomfortable and awkward in such plush surroundings.

Between their new situation and Lena’s maintaining, there’s going to be a lot of adjusting and adapting in store for them. The new OP also indicates it’s only a matter of time before the five are back in the cockpits of war machines, but the president is right about one thing: that’s probably where they want to be because it’s all they know.

Giad is battling the Legion the same as San Magnolia. It’s obvious that if the two nations worked together, and San Magnolia, say, was run by Lena and not opportunists and drunks, that nation would be far better off. Shin & Co. certainly seem better off, while Lena has at developed a thicker armor.  We’ll see if it all pays off.

The Promised Neverland – 20 – Emma

Instead of being slaughtered for meat, Norman was introduced to Peter Ratri, his “new father”, and asked to assist with his research. No matter how much they up the difficulty of the tests, Norman always scores perfectly.

Peter is trying to wrest control of the farms from James, presumably his brother or father. Norman also observes how gently he’s treated compared to the other children at the Lambda facility, who undergo all manner of horrific surgery and used as fodder for experiments.

Norman eventually meets Vincent, and together they clandestinely plan a prison break, which is initiated when Norman grasps the king while playing chess. He gives the surveillance camera a blank look, immediately followed by the blast of an improvised bomb.

Norman and Vincent rush through the facility, now in total chaos, and save what humans are still able to be saved, like Cislo and Barbara, the latter of whom asks Norman if he’s a “god” when he frees them. Standing over his great victory, Norman tells the captured demons he won’t stop until their kind has “died out from this world”.

I’m glad we were shown these events, as in this case where it’s important to see the horrors he saw, showing is better than telling. I only wish Norman and his comrades hadn’t spent so much of the last couple episodes spouting so much exposition, which in hindsight feels redundant.

Still, we get a very foreboding shot of a robed Norman at sunset, looking quite a bit like Anakin Skywalker after being seduced by the dark side. He doesn’t care if he has to be a god or a devil if it means Emma and the other children will be able to live in safety and peace.

This episode suffers from a considerably less interesting middle act involving the four days and change Emma, Ray, Gilda and Don are searching for Mujika and Sonju. They basically trudge from one point of the forest to the other in their demon disguises, coming up empty until they reach final search area.

Naturally, this area is crawling with those giant creepy wild demons, and naturally Emma almost gets her head bitten off not once, but twice. The first time, Ray shoots the demon in just the right eye to bring it down. The second time, Sonju and Mujika arrive In the Nick of Time.

But before Emma can even get out how they need the two demons’ help, there’s a blast from afar: Norman has started the operation a day early. Bombs detonate all over the town, releasing the degenerative drug in a sickly purple cloud. It spreads and affects the demons precisely as Norman calculated, turning them into wild vicious beasts that rip each other apart.

This creates a horrifying situation in which demons watch their loved ones degenerate, but beg other demons of sound mind not to hurt or kill them, only to themselves be killed by those transformed loved ones. Soon the streets are full of the cries of terrified children, their mothers and fathers either dead or transformed and about to kill them. It is the scene of hell.

As his comrades stand atop brick columns watching their vengeance unfold with glee, Norman enters the town square and finds one of the young demon girls alone, scared, and crying. Norman, determined not to waver, prepares to kill her with a sword, but he’s stopped in his tracks when her grandfather—the same elderly demon who visited the kids’ hideout—calls out the girl’s name: Emma.

A fresh cloud of the drug falls over the square, infecting the little one but not the old man, who Norman suspects to have devil’s blood like Mujika, and is thus immune. He stabs the old man, but he has Emma drink his blood, reversing her degeneration, and begs her to run.

Before Norman can re-commit to killing the old man or the demon Emma, someone calls to himhis Emma, with Ray by her side. Thanks to Sonju’s horse they managed to make it back to town just in time. When Norman sees Emma he starts to tear up, and when Emma sees him she sees him as the little boy at Grace Field House, in whose hands a bloody sword just doesn’t look right.

While Norman has the intellect to know what exactly to do, and that it may be the only way to save Emma and the others, and he even possessed the will to do the horrible things that needed doing, he still doesn’t have the heart to follow through, at least not without the wavering we saw.

I’ve heard many rumblings about how dissimilar and inferior this second season is to the first due to the fact it’s passed over large swaths of the original manga’s story and basically doing its own thing. I’ve also learned that this was apparently the author’s choice to do this, so it isn’t as if his work was getting short shrift against his wishes.

Whatever the case may be, a second season that takes place after escaping the farm was always going to be a thoroughly different kind of show, despite the same title, and that’s certainly proven the case. But now that Norman, Emma, and Ray are reunited once more in the epicenter of his grand plan, I remain thoroughly engaged and excited to find out where in the world things go from here!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Irina and Crow’s discussion of episode 20 here. They know their stuff!

The Promised Neverland – 19 – A Future Without Regret

By bringing up Mujika and Sonju, Emma clues Norman in on a major threat to his plan. He’s never met either, but heard stories about a mutation of demons who could maintain their human-esque form and intellect without eating meat. He thought they’d all been hunted down and killed by the Demon King and royalty committed to maintaining the status quo that lines their pockets.

With the “Evil-Blooded Girl” still out there, the demons presumably have a defense against his degenerative drug. Emma sees it the other way: instead of eradicating the demons, they can treat them all to be like Mujika and Sonju, so they won’t need to eat human meat anymore. But that misses the whole point: the Demons in charge would keep eating humans even if they didn’t have to, simply because they want to.

If that’s the case, then Emma thinks they should escape to the human world rather than committing demon genocide. Again, Norman has researched this, and the only gate he knows of is deep beneath…Grace Field House. It’s too dangerous and there are too many unknown factors, including whether the humans would even accept them.

Emma can’t accept a future she has to kill her friends and countless other innocents to achieve, in which she’d never be able to smile again. Norman knows the kind soul Emma is and always was, but here again they disagree: he says it isn’t “tough” to do what he’s doing, because he’s working towards the future he desires.

The debate would seem to be over, with the two sides at an impasse and Norman politely shuffling Emma and Ray out of there, but Emma proposes a deal: give her ten days to find Mujika and Sonju before proceeding with his plan. Norman gives her five…because he doesn’t expect her to succeed.

When Emma and Ray leave, Norman joins Cislo, Barbara, and Vincent in the bowels of their headquarters, and tells them that his siblings from the farm don’t want to annihilate the demons, and have also met with and are friends with the Evil-Blooded Girl. Just the thought of not eradicating the demons sends Barbara into a jar-shattering rage, leading to a “Lambda seizure”, which seem to be happening to her and the other two with increasing regularity.

They’re running out of time fast—just when Emma asked for more of it. Cislo is disgusted by Norman’s siblings’ “naive nonsense” but understands they’re good kids. So he asks Norman on behalf of the other Lambda survivors: Is Norman still on their side? Norman tells them he agreed to wait five days, but nothing else has changed. If Emma returns successful, Norman will kill the Evil-Blooded, but his plan will go forward without further alterations.

To show how far he’s come and why he can’t back down now, he shines his lantern on a massive Lilith-like demon, which he’s no doubt used for research and development of his anti-demon drug.

So now we know—if it wasn’t clear from the end of their conversation—that Norman has no intention of cancelling or changing his plan to commit genocide. Even if he wanted to, he has more than just Emma to think of. If the Lambda kids feel he’s betrayed them, he’s just as sure to die by their hands than demons’. And then there’s the matter of him doing what he did when he got shipped away: putting all of the burden on his own shoulders.

Of course, Emma thinks deep down the same Norman she knew and loved is still in there somewhere, and will honor his part of the bargain. Ray seems to want to trust Norman too; clearly being around Emma so much has blunted his cynicism. So they return to their mountain hideout, and there Emma presents her view and gets everyone onboard, even the terrified Gilda.

She uses the kids own grumbling bellies to drive home the point that killing all the demons would only spread more fear and hate, making the world a worse place. Emma can’t accept any other path but a peaceful one, but what she doesn’t yet grasp is that she’s already on the path Norman has paved for everyone—he just gave her five more days to pretend otherwise.

Back at Norman’s HQ, he suddenly coughs up blood into the same hand Emma took into hers when forging their doomed bargain. It would seem that whatever happened after he said goodbye to Emma to be shipped off, he didn’t fare any better than the other Lambda victims. His time grows short too, to the point even if Emma’s plan was most certain and logical, there wouldn’t be enough time to realize it.

Irina and Crow had a discussion on this episode. Check it out here!



The Promised Neverland – 18 – The Norman Invasion

After a recap week, Neverland is back, and as good as its been all season, although not for the reason you’d think. Norman’s back, and that’s great! Emma can’t believe it’s not a dream, and I don’t mean that metaphorically. This literally doesn’t seem real that their old friend is alive, well, and not just deep in the anti-demon resistance, but its leader. It changes everything.

Norman comes to the Temple where he receives a hero’s welcome from the other kids. Like Emma, they initially can’t believe it’s really him, but unlike her they weren’t in charge of ensuring everyone’s survival all this time. They see how they’ve fared, and how things aren’t going so well, and how now that Norman’s here everything will be fine.

Of course, they don’t consciously put it in a way that diminishes Emma’s leadership to this point. Instead, they see it as a great lifting of a weight from her shoulders she never should have had to bear alone. But with the lifting of that weight naturally means there will be a shift in power and authority.

That’s especially apparent when Norman regales the group with what he’s been up to since he left Grace Field House. Rather than processed for food, he was sent to Lambda, a facility for testing and experimentation. There, he made use of his superior intellect to wreck the place, freeing himself and many other captives who had suffered horribly.

Ever since then, he’s been developing a means of utterly defeating the demons: a drug that will cause them to degenerate into wild beasts who will turn against each other. In effect, it’s a biological weapon, and Norman intends for its widespread use in order to decimate their tormentors.

There’s no doubt that if the drug works as Norman claims, it will usher in a new era of freedom and peace for humanity. This is a big deal. And when you consider all he’s accomplished in the same amount of time Emma and her group have only barely managed to feed themselves, it really puts Emma’s relative lack of progress in relief.

Of course, Emma’s overwhelming concern with Norman’s plan is that it’s so barbaric, and renders humans as no better than the worst demons. Demons have names, thoughts, family. She wants a future where they don’t have to hate, fight, or kill. Ray can sense this, and he gets it out of her fairly easily, which means those so-called “secret” thoughts could have come out at a far worse time, in front of a far less receptive audience.

Ray doesn’t agree with Emma. He’s fine with annihilating the demons, but he also wants to make sure Emma makes her feelings known to Norman. They don’t know, for instance, if Norman knows about demons like Mujika who can maintain their intellects without human meat, so it could be an exchange of information that could help Emma better determine and articulate a more peaceful counterproposal.

As soon as they reach Norman’s holdfast and meet his fellow Lambda escapees, the immense scale of Emma’s task becomes clear. After what they and their friends both dead and alive endured at Lambda, Cislo, Vincent, and Barbara harbor a pure and intense hatred of demons. Cislo can’t wait for the high that comes from massacring demons, while the suspicious-looking haunch of meat Barbara is chomping on turns out to be demon meat.

That’s right: Barbara says her anger melts away when she eats their meat. She believes every single demon should suffer what they endured, and worse. The atmosphere wasn’t altogether welcoming at the beginning of the scene, but as the Lambda kids start talking about how much they hate demons, the mood of the scene turns that much more sinister, to the point I feared for Emma’s safety!

Indeed, when Barbara can see what she’s saying is disturbing Emma, she makes it clear that Emma better not have any disgusting ideas about changing Norman’s plan. Cislo and Vincent tell Barbara to take off and cool down, but they feel the same way: the demons must go. When they leave Emma and Ray to wait for Norman, Ray tells her there’s no stopping hatred like that once it’s begun.

I honestly couldn’t help but think of the current situation in Attack on Titan’s final season, in which the “good” and “bad” sides have long since melted away, and everyone arms themselves with enough hatred to commit any atrocity against anyone who stands in their way. I’m with Emma that this isn’t the right way to forge a future, but I’m also with Ray: in this climate she’ll be steamrolled by the hate long before she can come up with, let alone implement, an alternative plan.

When Norman is free, he sits down with his brother and sister, and shows them a bottle of the drug that will be used in the plan. Emma doesn’t even get to the part where she objects to that plan when Ray mentions the demons who didn’t eat humans. Norman reacts in a way neither Ray nor Emma expected: like someone who had staunchly believed their nemesis was dead and buried suddenly having to call that into doubt.

Referring to Mujika as the “Evil-Blooded Girl” while glaring and grasping his face dramatically, Norman shows a side of himself Emma has never seen, and part of the New Norman with whom the other Lambda kids are familiar and comfortable. No doubt Norman cast away those parts himself that weren’t relevant to The Cause. And now she and Ray may be the bearer of news that could ruin his intricate plan for demon eradication. Not the reunion anyone wanted!

Read Crow and Irina’s discussion of the episode here.

The Promised Neverland – 17 – Living On Grace

It’s been almost a year since the children escaped from Grace Field House. Rumors of how they have yet to be hunted down spread in a demon city, but more often than not they’re dismissed as having died long ago. All the while, those same children who escaped a year ago are walking among the demons who’d do almost anything for their high quality meat.

Neverland does a lot of efficient world building this week, and this opening scene lays bare the general social strata of the demons. Ordinary demonfolk who shop in the street markets will never see, let alone taste Grace Field meat. As for the kids, they’re older and wiser and more capable and resourceful than ever, but food is still scarce. The struggle for survival is constant.

While each and every one of the younger kids are absolute troopers, not even complaining about eating only thin soup day after day, the decision to leave the farm weighs heavily on Emma each night. When she can’t sleep in the night, she faces a wall, cursing her shortsightedness and arrogance.

Ray reminds her they all made the right choice—the only choice—to leave. If they hadn’t, Ray would be dead, and the others would soon find themselves on the wealthier dinner tables of the demon world. Better underfed than dead.

Their hilltop temple hideout is periodically visited by a solitary demon, who is blind and walks with a cane. He knows there are children there, but it’s left up in the air whether he knows whether they’re human. Perhaps he can’t smell so well anymore, or perhaps he’s just a very nice demon.

For the first time, Emma helps him when he drops his offering, and he thanks her before leaving. Gilda scolds her recklessness, but even if the old man is a human-eating demon, she couldn’t let him continue to fumble in the dark.

Returning to the pair of demons from the market, we see that they are trying to keep two starving demon children from degenerating to wild (and presumably vicious) state. But the low-grade, vat-raised human hand is hardly enough. When one of them reminds them of the Grace Field stock is still at large, they start to seriously consider searching for them.

These aren’t the plans of evil monsters who kill for sport, they’re desperate adults trying to save children with no other options in sight. This is the state of the demon side of the world a thousand years on. While there are certainly bad actors, demons are no longer homogenously “evil”, any more than the humans on the other side. There have no doubt been generations living under this system, and know of no other system.

It’s in this newly expanded picture of this world that we find Emma and the Kids fighting against the long-established norm, daring to sneak into towns to collect enough food to keep everyone alive. This week Thoma and Lannion convince Emma to accompany her, Ray, Gilda and Don, but they end up bumping into that desperate demon pair, and a stiff wind fills the demons’ noses with the scent of humans.

An tense and intricate chase ensues, one that demonstrates just how extensively the kids have trained and practiced evading pursuers. Emma and Ray end up luring the pair away while the others melt into the crowd, only to end up cornered by the pair and a group of other demons who have taken interest.

Then one of the other demons kills the pair who were chasing Emma and Ray, and a blue-cloaked demon lifts his mask to reveal none other than Norman. HI NORMAN! Not only is he still alive, he’s got some friends. Looking back at the beginning of the episode, he’d already  spotted Emma & Co. Months after losing their blessed shelter and on the cusp of losing hope for survival, the universe has graced Emma and the kids with a blessed break.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

See Also: Irina’s review of episode 17, via Crow

The Promised Neverland – 16 – Too Good To Be True

Last week’s cliffhanger wasn’t all that dire for the kids: Minerva’s phone call is merely a recording apologizing for not being able to meet them in person, revealing he once worked for the farms before revolting, and providing the password for the pen to display map to the human side of the world. The creepy messages and journal were from a previous batch of escapees, only one of whom remained before they chose to make a run for the border.

What our kids don’t know is what ever happened to that lonely last escapee. All they know is they can use the shelter as the headquarters for their plan, which still involves returning to the farm, freeing Phil and the others, then freeing all of the other children in the other farms. Far from not pragmatic, this plan seems far too difficult and doomed to failure, considering how few grown kids there are to pull it off.

Still, it’s clear Emma isn’t going to the human side without fulfilling her promise to Norman to free everyone, so they set to work making the shelter a sustainable place, including growing crops, hunting birds (and later gathering slimy fish) for food, and teaching the younger kids marksmanship.

As they settle into a happy and all-too obvious false sense of security, we check in on their former “Mother”, Isabella, who is in jail for allowing the escape. When the demons come, she’s pretty certain they’re there to execute her. Back at the shelter, a peaceful evening is shattered by an explosion blowing one of the hatches clean off, knocking out the power.

A human strike team then infiltrates the facility, where all the kids escape using the hidden passage behind the piano. Don’s one of the last into that passage, and Gilda gives him a huge hug of relief when he arrives. Ray changes their plan on the fly: with the shelter no longer safe, they have to get out of there and seek refuge in the forest…again.

Unfortunately, the enemy forces seem to have a good grasp of the shelter’s layout, since they trap them at every turn. The kids are saved by the fact that these guys are supposed to deliver the merch back to the farm, not harm it in any way. It makes me wonder why they’re not using tranq darts, honestly.

Emma and Ray cover the others as they head to the forest, but again the soldiers are waiting for them. It looks like Game Over, but for the giant wild forest demon bursting out of the trees to kill the soldiers one by one; the muzzle flashes from their guns makes them easy decoys while the kids scatter. But even if they’re all safe for now, they won’t be for long. In the end, shelter might as well have been a mirage!

We learn the farm demons were prepared for this operation to fail, and rather than execute Isabella at once, they’ll leave the matter in her hands as a means of redeeming herself for her failure. If she can successfully retrieve every escaped child, she’ll be granted her freedom and more.

Isabella seems eager to take on the job, claiming that her children “betrayed” her…but that’s just a bit disingenuous considering she was secretly raising them for slaughter. In any case, Mama’s back…and this time, it’s personal.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Crow’s review here.

%d bloggers like this: