Overlord IV – 13 (Fin) – Princess Front-Renner

We open on Mare, perched on a rooftop, surveying the Royal Capital, and suddenly he starts to weep. Is the meekest, gentlest Floor Guardian lamenting having to kill every last man, woman and child in the city? Of course not….he’s anxious about his destructive magic not being up to snuff and a few of those men, women and children surviving and escaping. Lest we forget: our pals from Nazarick are supervillains. Granted, some of them are adorable.

Princess Renner sure didn’t seem concerned about the impending invasion of the Sorcerer Kingdom, did she? Clued in as we the audience are not only to the twisted personality she conceals, as well as her dealings with Albedo, explain her attitude, but not the actual means by which she manages to slither out of this crisis and turn it to her advantage. Climb proves his loyalty by declining an offer from the King both he and Renner wouldn’t mind: approving a marriage of the two.

While Aura dispenses with Old Samurai Dude before he can even introduce himself, then leaves the others to her beasts before strolling into the capital’s repository of magic items, Climb takes a rucksack filled with the Royal Crown, heirloom tomes, and other items that are a part of the royal legacy, and hides them away in the warehouse district.

On his way back, he encounters Mare, who is kind enough to tell him to run away if he wants to live. Remembering Renner’s order for him not to fight, but run—the better to return to her side safely—Climb does just that. But as he turns toward the palace, he finds it’s already been encased in Cocytus’ ice.

The Snow Maidens grant him access to the throne room, where he finds Ainz, Albedo, Demiurge, and Cocytus, along with a frightful sight: Renner kneeling beside her father, who is lying dead in a pool of his own blood, some of which is on Renner’s hands. Demiurge commands Climb to prostrate himself, and Climb figures they used mind control on Renner to make her kill the king.

Ainz tells Demiurge to release Climb, and even allows him the privilege of fighting him one-on-one. Climb’s a tough customer, but it’s safe to say he’s no Gazef, nor is he Brain, and we know how things went for those warriors. So Ainz is just toying with him. That said, Climb manages to pull off a move that impresses Ainz before using “Grasp Heart” to kill him.

…But this is not the end of Climb. He wakes up, to find a relieved Renner leaning over him, but something’s different. The dialated pupils, the sharp black nails, the fangs and little wings. Renner explains that she pledged her allegiance to The Sorcerer King, and was transformed into an immortal demon. She asks Climb if he’ll become a demon and pledge allegiance to Ainz as well, so that they can be together for eternity.

This may be a lot all of a sudden for Climb, who had only just been resurrected from death, but I wasn’t surprised when he assented to Renner’s offer without hesitation. After all, he’s sworn to be her shield, whether she’s a princess or a demoness.

After meeting with and thanking her new superior Albedo, Renner celebrates having gotten everything she wanted for the low low price of betraying and sacrificing her kingdom.

She does so by singing a hauntingly beautiful song while dancing with herself and laughing maniacally in a gorgeous and stunningly animated sequence, which was both a complete surprise and a season highlight. Renner—the real Renner—has never looked more radiant, and will fit right in at Nazarick. I’d be ride-or-die for her too if I was Climb.

Whither Lord Philip Montserrat? Well, his last pleasure in life is getting to gaze upon the loveliness of the Lady Albedo when she deigns to visit his family manse. She then presents him with the heads of his family members before killing him. An inauspicious demise for a character who was never anything but an arrogant but disposable pawn.

In the center of the ruined capital of the fallen Re-Estize Kingdom, Ainz Ooal Gown sits upon a impromptu throne of rubble, flanked by Albedo, as Marquis Raeven and the other great nobles kneeling before him, pledging their allegiance. Raeven assures his new king and overlord that the destruction of Re-Estize will serve as an abject lesson to other nations not to mess with the Sorcerer Kingdom; a lesson that likely won’t be forgotten for millennia.

Citing this as a very good justification for what has been done, Ainz lets himself be satisfied and content. To make the land as sweet as honey, he had to burn part of it down. But there’s much more to be done, which will no doubt be chronicled in the forthcoming third Overlord film, along with a presumed fifth and possibly final season.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Overlord IV – 12 – Song of Ice and…More Ice

As he debriefs Albedo and Pandora’s Actor on their clash with Azuth and Riku, one thing is clear to Ainz: he doesn’t know enough about his adversaries. He praised Pandora improvising by getting on his knees and groveling, even if the real Ainz wouldn’t do that, because it caught Riku off guard.

He’ll still have to “take a loss” to learn more about the strength of his foes, but not so large a loss it might cost him his life…he’s not sure he’d resurrect! It’s not often the overlord ponders his demise. Meanwhile, as Aura and Cocytus’ forces advance on the capital, Blue Roses’ Lakyus enjoys some tea and an audience with Princess Renner.

Lakyus’ comrades start acting very odd and deliberate about how does and doesn’t leave the room, and about making more tea so everyone can have some. This culminates in Tia serving her poison tea, then stabbing her with poison needles, followed by Gagarin raining blows upon her.

But…why? Isn’t Lakyus the Blue Roses’ leader? Well, yes, but Evileye and the others knew she wouldn’t leave the capital with them. Because they value their friend more than the kingdom, they resorted to these extreme measures, including mind control, to get her out of there by force. She’ll surely be cross at them by the time she’s herself again…but by then there probably won’t be a kingdom anymore.

It’s with that fierce devotion to keeping their friend and leader alive that Blue Roses prepares to teleport out, but not of course before asking if Renner, Climb, or Brain wish to join them in retreat. While Climb would obviously follow her anywhere, she politely declines (probably because she knows she won’t necessarily be killed in the imminent invasion).

Brain also declines, preferring to either win glory or meet his end gloriously fighting the invading forces. Heck, maybe punching the bully in the nose will make him think twice about annihilating the capital? He leaves Renner and Climb, giving them Gazef’s magic sword to return to the king. Renner actually briefly wields it—and shows no small amount of skill doing so—but just as quickly sheaths it, lamenting that it doesn’t suit her (though Climb disagrees).

Aura arrives at the walls with a colorful collection of vicious monsters, including Iri, an adorably self-conscious Tyrannosaurus. Aura gives Iri the task of walking around the palace and “squishing all the people”, while she and the other monsters spread out to unleash some mayhem. The guards atop the walls can only stand in awe and terror, and Aura brightly warns them to stay out of her way. They’d be wise to do so!

Far more solemn is Cocytus’ brooding advance into the city with his procession of yuki-onnas, destroying the gates with ice and freezing streets and buildings within their radius. Brain is looking for an enemy to fight when he encounters Cocytus, and…well folks, we knew it wouldn’t be a long fight, didn’t we!

Even with Brain taking three potions and enhancing his abilities to the absolute hilt, the introductions last longer than the duel, in which Cocytus simply breaks out a bigger katana and slashes him. Despite the ease of his win, Cocytus is impressed someone of Brain’s level was in the capital, and orders him frozen, perhaps for later revival.

With the Blue Roses gone, Brain was probably the strongest human left in the capital. When Ainz returns to the capital to finish things, how far will he take things? Will those orphans Renner visited be slaughtered? What about Renner herself, who seemed at least partially allied with Albedo?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E04 – The Traveler King

With Gabriel promising to return tomorrow, Maou and his generals and frenemies adopt a fortress mentality, sending the normal human Chiho off while Ashiya and Urushihara stay on stanby at Suzuno’s. That leaves Maou and Emi together with Alas Ramus at his place.

While Emi is weary of this arrangement, and can’t commit to allying herself with the devil, she will do what it takes to keep Alas out of harm’s way, so in that regard her and Maou’s interests are aligned. When they turn in for the night, Alas makes sure to grab both of them close.

While initially uncomfortable with the proximity, Maou and Emi bask in their “daughter’s” unbridled love and exuberance, while Emi is genuinely moved by Maou’s bittersweet improvised tale of a traveler who became a king.

Emi gets a literal rude awakening around 5:00 in the morning from Gabriel, who was simply lying in the room waiting for them to wake up (ambushing a sleeping couple is beneath him). Gabriel continues to be a paragon of reasonableness, but makes it quite clear: he’s leaving with either Emi’s sword or Alas Ramus.

We learned from further explanation form Suzuno earlier that as the Guardian Angel of the sephira Yesod of the Tree of Life, Gabriel has a claim to both sword and Alas, as they are shards of Yesod. But that doesn’t matter to Maou, who planted and nurtured the seed that became the apple that became his near-as-makes-no-difference daughter.

When saved from death and reborn (you can see himself in his bedtime story), Alas was a symbol of hope he gained, so Maou offers his head in exchange for letting Alas at least stay with Emi.  Gabriel laughs at Maou and Emi in marital synch one minute, and is choking out Maou the next. He’s out of patience.

But while Emi’s sword can’t do much against Gabriel, and Maou is far to weak to stand against him, Alas is more than up to the task. All it takes is hurting her Papa to send her glowing with rage and blasting out the side of the wall, taking ol’ Gabe for a violent aerial tour of the city at near-dawn.

Emi gives chase, and when she gets her sword shattered by Gabriel, Alas backs her up—as long as Emi tells her she and Papa will be together with her forever. After Urushihara cows Gabe’s Angel guards with the sheer power of his former archangel status, Suzuno takes Maou on a ride to where Emi and Alas are an unceremoniously lobs him at Gabriel.

While grabbing and restraining Gabe, Maou tells Emi to hurry up and kill the two of them, something Emi isn’t going to do even without Alas being right there watching. So Gabe shakes free, leaving Maou to fall. No one can get to him to stop his fall…except for Alas.

Emi then whips out a fresh sword and her armor (complete with a partial maho onna-kishi transformation sequence) to warn Gabriel to get lost, even managing to slice his cheek and make him bleed. But before he goes, he makes it a point to admonish Emi and tell her to reflect on “what sort of being she is”.

Emi returns to earth exhausted but none the worse for wear, but the damage is done: Alas is gone. After saving Maou, she said she wanted to be with them forever she’d have to say goodbye “for now”. Maou is devastated, but as Chiho learns while having coffee with Emi, by “for now” Alas meant only for a short while, as she has now fused with Emi’s sacred sword (now a dagger).

Emi presents Chiho with her very unique predicament of wanting to defeat the Devil King someday, but not being able to do it with a weapon that’s also his child! Emi’s fine with that; she’d rather Maou and Emi simply continue to get along, even if watching them grow kinda-sorta closer thanks to Alas leaves her out in the cold romance-wise.

Alas also insists Emi not let Papa suffer longer than he needs to, and has them reunited that evening. To Emi’s surprise, seeing Alas again actually brings tears to Maou’s eyes; Chi-sis explains to Alas that people also cry when they’re happy.

We find out that Gabe told Emi he hoped she’d prioritize the world’s safety, and then learn that Lailah, Emi’s mother, was the one stole Yesod in the first place. Could Emi’s mom be the woman who saved Maou’s life? There’s a lot of intrigue (and potential dread) on the horizon, but Alas wielding her innate power has at least bought this little pop-up family a little more time to be happy.

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 12 (Fin) – Something That Ended Ages Ago

The end of what I hope to be only the first of a split-cour series starts with the final boss battle between the unlikely but awesome duo of Menou and Ashuna and Centipede Pandemonium, whom I’ll henceforth call Centipan. The cent- is key, since around 100 people were sacrificed to create Centipan, which means she’ll have to be killed at least that many times to be defeated.

Unfortunately, every segment of Centipan that is broken off goes running off into the city to wreak havoc—this is Chaos Pure Concept, after all—forcing Ashuna to break off in order to save the people. Menou’s piss-poor ether capacity once again rears its ugly head, as Centipan relieves her of her Scripture and trusty dagger. That’s when Ashuna tosses her giant sword Menou’s way, since she can destroy the segments with her bare fists.

Menou swinging Ashuna’s sword around is #Goals, but the weapon quickly drains what little ether she has left. Fortunately, soon after telling Akari that there’s a way to go back to Japan, the other ‘Moni leaves Akari alone and flies off on wings made of shadow. This leaves Akari free to join the battle with Menou exactly when Menou needs her (and her ether) the most.

While the train episode was the only other time I can think of that Akari and Menou joined forces, it’s not “ticklish” to Akari this time, as the two simply combine forces to create a massive blade of flame that obliterates Centipan with a single satisfying swing.

All that’s left of Moni is her quickly dissolving head, but that’s enough of her to give Menou one last piece of advice: the Sword of Salt she once visited wth Flare? That’s powerful enough to kill any Pure Concept, even Akari. But true to her chaotic nature, Moni tells Menou this knowing that Menou isn’t totally 100% sure she wants to kill Akari, even if it’s her duty and probably the best thing for both Akari and the world writ large.

Ashuna congratulates Menou on her victory and decides to “let it slide”, “it” being the fact that Akari is an otherworlder. As for Moni, another version of her in a spooky graveyard resurrects Manon. At first Manon is confused why Moni would do this, she then remembers her mother telling her how she had a sister who was full of energy and loved movies. Moni was once just an ordinary movie buff from Japan, and she may now not remember who she was or that she had a sister. And yet she saved her sister all the same.

With the big battle taken care of not long after the halfway point of the episode, there’s adequate breathing room for some epilogues. A rapidly recovering Momo gets some quality time with Menou, who tells her about the Salt Sword. Menou thanks Pastor Sicilia, and as she walks back to her inn contemplates two different roads: one where she executes Akari with the Salt Sword, and the other where she discovers a way to “fix” Akari so she won’t destroy the world and herself if left unchecked.

And then, of course, there are the sweet, sisterly scenes between Menou and Akari, who greets her with a big hug and probably only grudgingly agrees to sleep in a separate bed from her. When Menou starts to say something like Akari is her…something, Akari is very vexed by her simply trailing off, gets out of bed and tussles her until Menou says she’s her “source of stress.”

The next morning, Menou and Akari take the first step out of Libelle and head back on the road to the “Sanctuary” hand-in-hand. The previous night, Momo resolved to execute Akari in Menou’s place, knowing that the more time she spends wth “Boobalicious”, the less inclined she’ll be to murder her.

The parting mic drop belongs to Flare, sitting on a throne and planning to kill her apprentice “for the zillilonth time”, crystalizing the reality that she’s been interfering in Akari’s attempts to get Menou to execute her by murdering Menou herself. It’s an enticing place to pause and hopefully not end, as there’s tons of material for this story to continue.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 03 – Turtle Soup

The time for talk has passed—this episode is all action. The Spirit Tortoise—that is, the somewhat janky CGI Spirit Tortoise—must be stopped, and with an alliance of nations at his back, Naofumi is never going to have a better chance to do it. I have to respect an episode that is devoted to one thing and one thing only: covering the battle from start to (apparent) finish.

That said…deary me…Shield Hero is to be commended for its ambition. The execution, however, is very much a mixed bag. Often times animation is dispensed with in favor of panning stills or, in the case of the masses of soldiers and the tortoise, the aforementioned janky CGI. There’s quite a bit of suspension of disbelief in viewing this grab bag of battle visuals.

But if the animation can’t cash all the checks the composition writes, Kevin Penkin sells the hell out of what we get. I can’t stress enough just how important the quality of the soundtrack contributes to a sense of gravitas and awe. That, and seeing Naofumi not only recognized but celebrated by the marching troops is something of a revelation. He’s come a long way, baby.

While things get a little hairy due to the Spirit Tortoise firing a flurry of deadly purple thorns that decimate the allied forces, those forces are still able to stop its advance by taking out one of its legs. The mage corps then pierce the skin of the tortoise’s neck, allowing Raphtalia and Filo to go in there and deliver a devastating combined strike that beheads the beast, which was the whole objective of the operation.

Throughout the battle, Ost selflessly (and awesomely) offers her not inconsiderable magical powers to assist in both offense and defense. But she’s also something of a canary in a coal mine; everyone expected her to disappear when they beheaded the Spirit Tortoise, since she’s it’s familiar and all. But even after the head has been detached, Ost lingers on. While I’m glad she’s not dead, the fact she isn’t means the Tortoise isn’t either. Thus the threat endures.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 02 – Do It, Then Think Later

Remember when the latest season of TenSura started with a bunch of long, boring meetings? Well, in the first half or so of this episode Shield Hero takes the same tack, putting Naofumi and Queen Mirellia in a room full of crotchety generals bickering over who should take command or lead the forces against the rampaging Spirit Tortoise. It’s all…a bit dry?

It seems more fun outside as Filo and Rishia are joined by Elrasla, noted tough old broad, and Eclair, whose dignity and decency I admire even as I rack my brain trying to figure out who voices her (I’m sure ANN will list it eventually). They’re basically at the kids table on standby while the brass talks things out.

That brass is soon joined by the same woman voiced by Hanazawa Kana who asked Naofumi to please kill her last week before suddenly disappearing. We learn her name is Ost Hourai, and while everyone knows her as the concubine of the now-deceased king of the Tortoise Kingdom, reveals that she’s actually one of the Tortoise’s familiars in human form.

She was created to seduce her way to the highest levels of human political power, and then use that power to get them to start wars. The Spirit Tortoise, ya see, uses human souls to stop the Waves. But someone has gone and unsealed the Tortoise itself, and its resulting rampage is not by choice.

Ost is there to help in any way she can, but rather hilariously, none of the advice she offers is anything anyone in the room doesn’t already know. I love how offbeat and quirky she is, it really spices up the otherwise dull meeting scenes (as does the Kevin Penkin score, as always). Also nice is Raphtalia meeting Naofumi on a moonlit bridge that night, telling him if the other generals will follow a good plan, they just need to come up with one.

Naofumi thinks he has one, and will utilize the unique qualities of the various allied kingdoms to pull it off. Manpower, siege machines, mages, and explosives, there’s a wealth of resources with which he will stop, pin down, and eventually behead the Spirit Tortoise. Everyone pitches in, even Rishia and Ost pulling Tortoise research duty at the library.

One night while Naofumi’s suddenly much bigger party is gathereda round a fire, Ecliar mentions that she brought some new weapons and gear from Elhart in Melromarc, including a new sword for Raph, a new gauntlet for Filo…and a stat-boosting Filo mascot suit for Rishia, which is pretty adorable.

It’s while she’s in that bird suit that Ost picks up on Rishia being in love with the Bow Hero, and encourages her to “get intimate as soon as possible” and not overthink things. Honestly I can’t imagine what Rishia sees in that stuck-up prick, but hey, you can’t choose who ya love!

While a bit stronger than last week owing to Ost’s weirdness (and Eclair’s profound uprightness), this was still a table-setting episode packed with exposition and information leading up to the trip to the Tortoise-beheading fireworks factory…and is thus scored accordingly.

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 01 – The Tortoise and the Hero

lot has happened in the real world since the last Shield Hero aired in late July 2019. It actually feels like much more than three years ago…more like thirty! And that’s even taking into account we saw Naofumi, Raphtalia and Filo in Isekai Quartet, the last episode of which aired just when shit was starting to go down in 2020.

Anywho, this episode marks a relatively understated, workmanlike return to the world of Shield Hero, with Naofumi settling in as lord of Lurolona Village, where the old and young, strong and weak alike train for the next Wave of Catastrophe, including his newest party member, Rishia, who rather comically must wear a penguin mascot suit to up her stats.

The relative peace of the status quo is rocked by the sudden arrival of a flock of monstrous bats. Raphtalia and Filo make quick work of them, but Naofumi’s HUD identifies them as “Spirit Tortoise Familiars.” Also, the next Wave countdown has cirously…stopped.

Naofumi and the other Cardinal Heroes are summoned to Melromarc where Queen Mirelia explains what’s happening: the Spirit Tortoise has revived and is starting to wreak havoc on the kingdom that bears its name. However, the other three heroes aren’t interested in assisting. After the meeting Rishia beseeches her former boss Itsuki, who tells her she’s not strong enough to fight for him.

After Naofumi gets Rishia a new sword at the weaponsmith’s, Raphtalia suggests they head to the slave merchant to make Rishia one of Naofumi’s slaves so that she can be stronger than Itsuki’s party members. Naofumi bristles at the idea, as he believes only Raph would volunteer to be a slave.

However, Rishia wants to become stronger, and she’s willing to be tattooed on her decolletage and endure the pain of forming a contract in order to do it. Rishia may be convinced she’s a failure, but if Naofumi and his party can offer her a chance at redemption and to prove herself to Itsuki and her former colleagues, she’s game.

With that, Naofumi’s party loads up the Filo-drawn wagon and journey to the Spirit Tortoise Kingdom to meet this latest non-Wave-related threat. While stopping to camp for the night, Filo reveals her ahoge serves as an antenna for direct communication with her queen, Fitoria.

She tells Fitoria they’re headed for the kingdom, and Fitoria responds that Naofumi will now face the choice she spoke of before: do something about the Spirit Tortoise, but also learn to get along with the other three heroes, or she’ll personally kill them all. Yes Rishia…even Itsuki!

They arrive at the capital of the kingdom as it is already under siege by massive swarms of bat monsters in the air, primate-like beasts on the ground, and scores of refugees running for their lives. They hear rumors that three of the four heroes were already killed going up against the Tortoise.

Filo’s two-way connection with Fitoria pays off again when the queen confirms that none of the three are actually dead; they were just rumors, thus calming Rishia down. Filo and Raphtalia then get to work eliminating the baddies while Rishia leads the people back to the safety of the capital’s walls.

Naofumi ends up using one of his many abilities to lure a huge host of enemies in his direction, then uses Dark Curse Burning to eliminate them all in one fell swoop, though not without bearing a physical cost he can’t hide from the trusty Raphtalia. In the aftermath of the battle, a mysterious, slightly pious-looking woman flat-out asks him to “please kill” her. To quote Rishia … Kweeeeh?

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 07 – Taking the Plunge

Nezuko emerges from her box to viciously attack the tripartite demons, but when Tanjirou tells her to cease her attack, she dutifully returns to his side. He has her protect Kazumi and the young woman he rescued while he dives into the soupy bog where the demons dwell and devour.

While the demons are confident of their aquatic home-field advantage, the because Tanjirou trained in the thin air of the mountains and his attacks are water-based, he has no trouble executing a devastating whirlpool attack that chops the two demons into rustic chunks.

He returns to the surface just in time to stop the third and final demon from further harming Nezuko, who’d already received a nasty slash to the forehead. Before dispatching him, Tanjirou asks about Kibutsuji Muzan, but the demon start to smell strongly of fear—a fear so intense he literally can’t say anything about Kibutsuji.

While Tanjirou was able to defeat the demon and save one of the women, that woman wasn’t Kazumi’s fiancée. Tanjirou tries to comfort him by saying he must keep living despite life’s devastating blows. Kazumi lashes out in anger—how could a boy know what he’s feeling? But Tanjirou gently takes Kazumi’s hands in his and smiles a gentle smile, and Kazumi realizes Tanjirou knows all too well, and his hands aren’t those of a boy.

A Demon Slayer is always in high demand, so within moments of completing his first official assignment, his crow arrives with his second. He and Nezuko travel to Asakusa, Tokyo, and he is immediately overwhelmed by the densely packed humanity and the lights that make it as bright as midday.

Since this is the Taisho period, electricity is commonplace in the capital and there’s a vibrant streetcar network; we don’t see any cars buzzing around, but only because they’re still pretty rare. The huge city looks and sounds fantastic, and seems to pulsate with a modern energy Tanjirou has never before encountered.

Tanjirou is only one slurp into some therapeutic udon when he detects a scent that quickens his pulse and has him leaving the sleeping Nezuko at the stand. He dives into the crush of Tokyoites, following the very same evil scent that was present when his family was murdered, and it leads him to a fair-skinned man in a western black suit, a white hat, and reddish eyes.

This is it: this is Kibutsuji Muzan, the progenitor of all demons whom Tanjirou has been seeking. It’s almost too tidy that he’d locate someone so reluctant to be found he threatened other demons not to talk about him, but then again maybe he simply doesn’t consider Tanjirou a threat and would just as soon dispatch him.

As for Tanjirou, before he can unsheathe his sword, Kibutsuji makes a quarter-turn to reveal he’s holding a young human girl, his daughter. Soon, his wife appears, wondering who the boy in the checked coat is. To the mother and daughter, Kibutsuji is their husband and daddy. To Tanjirou, they’re his hostages. But that’s only the beginning: Kibutsuji quickly slashes a passing man without his wife or daughter noticing.

That man instantly transforms into a demon and bites his wife, starting a panic in the chaos of which Kibutsuji will no doubt slip away while Tanjirou tries to clean up the mess. Perhaps this was just a matter of Kibutsuji’s guard being down, in which case he won’t be so careless next time.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 06 – Live and Direct

Tanjirou’s got his special Demon Slayer Corps uniform (most of which he covers with his signature aqua checkered coat), his black sword (the properties of which are mysterious), and a new lightweight cedar box in which to carry Nezuko.

In other words, he’s ready to set off on his first official assignment: rid a town of a demon that is abducting young women. While making his way to the town, the vistas along Tanjirou’s travels are beautifully rendered with parallax scrolling, in which the foreground moves faster than the background, just like real life.

Once in the town, one of the larger settlements we’ve seen in the show thus far, it doesn’t take long for Tanjirou to locate Kazumi, whose fiancée Satoko is among the vanished women. Tanjirou puts his nose to work, eventually detecting a demon who can hide in floors and walls.

When the sun goes down, Tanjirou manages to pluck a recently-abducted girl from the demon’s clutches, but he soon learns there isn’t just one or two but three such demons, all with different personalities. The more gluttonous of the three shows off his collection of hairpins from those women he’s devoured…among them Satoko.

Tanjirou becomes enraged by the idea these demons are destroying families just like they destroyed his, but because he has to protect Kauzmi and the girl, he can’t stray far from them and thus can’t swing his sword freely enough to cut very deeply. It’s a valuable lesson: depending on the circumstances, he can’t always go all-out.

When the three demons surround Tanjirou and one attacks from behind, they get a little surprise: Nezuko pops out of her box, wide awake and ready for battle. We also learn that Urokodaki performed hypnosis on her while she was asleep, so that she’d regard all humans as her family and only demons as the enemy.

Needless to say this is incredibly useful, but Tanjirou’s true goal is to change her back into a human, not simply make her harmless to them. According to Urokodaki, the only one who might be able to help him with that is the progenitor of all demons, Kibutsuji Muzan. Something tells me no other demon will be in a hurry to volunteer Muzan-san’s whereabouts.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 05 – All Ore Nothing

Seemingly telegraphing the fact that Tanjirou isn’t going to face any demons more powerful than the one he beheaded last week, DS lingers on the aftermath of the Hand Demon’s life and demise. He started out as a little kid who just wanted to hold his big brother’s hand, but one day he became a demon, and that was pretty much that.

Tanjirou has shown that no matter how evil a demon might seem, he wishes for them to be at peace or be reborn as humans again. That empathy isn’t just the result of a kind heart: surely the only ones who know if Nezuko can be changed back are demons. Alas, the ones he asks aren’t even high-level enough to be capable of speech.

The sun rises on the final day of the Fina Selection, and it seems only four applicants survived, all kids. Oddly, we still aren’t introduced to any of them, though since they all appear in the OP and/or ED, that will happen at some point. The creepy twin girls in charge of the selection assign the survivors crows, new uniforms, and have them pick the ore from which they want their Nichirin blades to be forged.

The three other survivors consist of Silent Pretty Girl, Crazy-Haired Guy who is constantly afraid he’s going to die, and Short-Tempered Prick, who grabs one of the twins by the hair to protest not being given his sword immediately (it will take 10-15 days). Tanjirou, friend of the weak, comes between the two, putting the jerk in his place.

With his uniform acquired and the sword in the mail, Tanjirou makes the trek back to Mt. Sagiri, though it’s far slower going this time due to his exertion during the Final Selection. Even so, a newly-awake Nezuko literally breaks down the door to meet him when he finally arrives, runs to hold him wordlessly in her arms…I couldn’t help but get a little cloudy-eyed at their touching reunion.

Urokodaki believes that Nezuko is sleeping so much in order to conserve energy since she’s not eating humans. Haganezuka soon arrives to present Tanjirou with his very own Nichirin katana, which turns an apparently unlucky pitch-black when he unsheathes it (not red, as Haganezuka hoped).

Finally, the Kasugai crow the twins assigned to Tanjirou arrives and speaks the human tongue, announcing his first assignment in a town where young girls have gone missing. No rest for those who’ve just been given a really, really nice sword for free!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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