DanMachi IV – 12 – In Too Deep

It doesn’t matter why it spawned two weeks early; the Floor Boss Amphisbaena is here, and once it blocks their only exit, a Hestia Familia without Bell has no choice but to fight or die. Unsurprisingly, the least fazed member of the party is Aisha, but she can tell that the rest of the group has lost the will to fight, while Cassandra is certain the “cage of despair” will soon become the “coffin” in her dream.

Welf shakes off the fear and backs Aisha with a pep talk stirring enough to get everyone fighting again. He then freezes the lake, enabling Aisha to run out and do her thing. Unfortunately, her Hell Kaios are absorbed by one of Amphisbaena’s head’s Crimson Mist, but with each strike against the boss, the group learns a bit more and gains a bit more confidence.

The scenes outside the Amphisbaena battle involve a battered Bell moving as fast as he can while holding an even more battered Ryuu, only for the Juggernaut to catch up to them. I honestly don’t see how they won’t be instantly killed, but who knows …maybe there’s someone else down there who will save them?

Hestia also receives a communiqué from Lili and asks Ryuu’s cafe co-workers to toss off their aprons and grab their weapons. Ouranos and Fels also seem primed to send reinforcements in light of all the Dungeon’s irregular activity.

Lili is standing in the rearguard, upset that’s all she can do while her friends fight and possibly die protecting her. But Daphne snaps her out of it, reminding her that she’s the most important member of the party: the coordinator who tells everyone where to go and what to do.

Lili uses what she’s learned from the battle so far and what she knows of her comrades to organize them into a force that can, if not defeat, at least neutralize the boss enough to buy them time. She pulls Mikoto back and replaces her on the front line with Daphne, enabling Mikoto to chant and cast a mega gravity spell that shoves the boss under the water and buries it with tree branches.

Welf re-freezes the surface of the water, and the short-range melee fighters charge in to do as much damage as they can before the boss breaks free. Like Lili, Cassandra is paralyzed for most of the battle, but like Lili is finally woken up by Daphne (the secret MVP of the battle), who tells her everyone’s scared, but they can’t give in to despair.

Once Cassandra unleashes a spell that heals everyone’s wounds, it’s starting to look like the party can actually come out of this in one piece. Her dreams remain a troubling possible future, but by no means a certain one, thanks to the combined talents and grit of her comrades.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Yuru Camp△ Movie – Adulting Outdoors

Rather than chronicle another fun camping trip in a new place with the Outclub while they’re still in school, Yuru Camp’s first movie takes place in the not-to-distant future, when Rin, Nadeshiko, Aoi, Aki, and Ena are now full-fledged young adults with jobs (though notably no romantic partners).

They stay in touch through chat, but compared with their time at school they’re very far flung and their daily routines have changed. Rin’s at a publishing office in Nagoya, Nadeshiko works at a camping store in Tokyo, Aoi is a grade school teacher, Ena is a pet groomer, and Aki works with the local tourism department after her life in Tokyo didn’t pan out.

It’s Aki who is the catalyst that brings the five Outclub members back together with a bold proposal: take a derelict outdoors youth center with a great view of Fuji-sama and turn it into a campground. After Aki has (lots) of drinks with Rin (all drunk by her; she’s predictably now the lush of the group), she takes them to the spot, and at sunrise, Rin gets it; it’s a good spot.

The challenge, then, is how the five of them are going to navigate their day job obligations and distances and make this thing happen. Aki assigns everyone a role and wisely picks Rin as the team lead, as she’s the most experienced camper and thus perhaps the best organizer of the group.

They start small and realistically; trimming the overgrown grass and removing errant shrubs while discussing ideas for what they want on the grounds. Once a farmer friend of Aki’s shows them the proper way to to these things, and they get their hands on some machinery, the cleanup work accelerates.

It’s exciting watching the adult versions of these characters, already having eased into their new adult lives, banding together once more over something they always loved sharing with each other—camping—with the goal of now sharing that love with others so those people will share it, and so on and so forth.

It’s also comforting to know that both the chemistry and the comedic banter among the young women is still alive and well. A different movie could have had its individual members much more isolated and/or estranged (or even having families of their own) but this is rather the evolution of Cute Girls Doing Cute Things—Cute Women Doing Cool Things.

Once all the major cleanup and grading is complete, they decide to give the grounds a whirl by being the first to camp there. They find areas for improvements, and also ease back into their old dynamic of preparing a perfect campsite and cooking the perfect camp feasts.

The fact that these five young women are now old hands at camp cooking—not to mention they have a lot more cash than they did as kids—means Nadeshiko and Aki really go all out with the (still on sale!) salmon, with a light yet hearty cream soup and a full-on hot pot. The fact that these five young women are now old hands at camp cooking.

But like Yuru Camp’s first two seasons, the movie is not entirely without conflict, which comes in the form of a setback. Ena’s now-old pup Chikuwa brings her an odd piece of broken pottery, which eventually leads to a full archeological survey and excavation, which first delays and then completely nixes the campground plan. Aki, who brought everyone into this plan, has to make the call to everyone saying all their hard work may have been for naught!

And yet, because they’re adults, this isn’t the end of the world for any of them. It’s definitely disappointing, even deflating, but everyone aside rom Aki finds solace and stability in their day jobs. Rin finds out her senpai at work has been supporting her a lot behind the scenes so she could work on the campground project (both as team lead and covering it as a print and online serial for the magazine) and vows to work harder.

Aoi’s work story might be the most bittersweet, as the school where she’d started teaching just a couple years ago is closing down (possibly due to there simply not being enough kids to fill it), but gives the kids who are there all the love and attention she’s got. And I love how three high schoolers from Bizarro Yuru Camp come into Nadeshiko’s store again, looking to dip their tows into camping. Nadeshiko truly was born to get people into camping!

Those three kids’ simple but very doable plan to have a day trip with cup noodles inspires her to invite Rin to a special new spot: Rin has to endure a lot of climbing in the snow and ice, but the reward is the highest hot spring in Japan, which is tiny, but also breathtakingly beautiful, not to mention the absolute best thing after all the exertion.

There, the two old friends discuss how they really have become proper adults, who can do a lot more than they used to, not just regarding camping, but life in general. Nadeshiko also notes that even adults can’t do anything, but they can do what they can. She doesn’t regret the time they spent trying to get the campground off the ground, even if it didn’t work out. Neither does Rin.

It’s fortunate, then, that the campground plan isn’t entirely dead. With help from Ena, Aki prepares a new proposal that integrates the archeological site with the campground. The video presentation shows footage of the five women working hard and also relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, and is extremely persuasive.

The council votes to approve the plan, which means the Outclub is back in business, having only lost a couple of months. They cut the grass back down, the dog run is completed, they put a coat of paint on the distinctive aviary frame, and Aoi procures all the stuff they’ll need for the kid’s area.

When Aoi brings the fancy and very professional sign made by Akari (who is now in art school) and the five mount it to the entrance, it lends an immensely satisfying feeling of completion. They adulted the hell out of shit, and weathered the challenges that came their way. They did it!

Mind you, while getting caught up in all the excitement, they forgot to post the signs leading to the campground, so their first group of campers (many of them family and friends and thus more forgiving) get lost on their way there!

Not a problem, as the women work together to communicate with Rin while she rides out (not on her gramps’ motorcycle, which is in the shop, but her old moped) to locate and guide everyone safely to their destination. Crisis averted!

Once the sun sets and everyone is settled in, the five women stand at the top of the hill and admire what they’ve accomplished. Earlier, Rin’s Gramps gave the site his blessing. The group makes plans right then and there to reunite and camp there for New Years, when the sun rises out of Fuji-san’s peak. Rin, to the surprise of the other four, says she’ll also be joining them (albeit tentatively). Of course, she told Aki she’d “think about” helping with the campground too!

As the credits go by we get snapshots of that trip, on which Rin indeed accompanies the others, while we also get snapshots of them continuing their adult lives at their jobs. Aoi’s at a new school, Nadeshiko is still being the best dang camping store clerk ever, Rin is hard at work at the magazine, Ena’s grooming pups, and Aki is sticking with the local tourism.

A planned third season of Yuru Camp will likely return us to the present when they’re all still in school. But it was great to see everyone doing so well in the future. I got the same warm, fuzzy, cozy, calming, healing feelings I got from the show, only a little more adult-y. I honestly wouldn’t mind if season 3 picked up from here!

It also had some low-key poignant commentary on the preservation and revitalization of existing things—as well as the need to preserve and occasionally revitalize one’s old friendships! What better way to do that then to go camping, when we can be one with ourselves, rely on one another, and of course indulge in lavish outdoor feasts!

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 09 – A Matter of Trust

It’s clear Shaddiq isn’t taking no for an answer when he asks Miorine to sell Gund-Arm to him, but he still “graciously” offers sweeteners in the deal: Miorine will remain president, Earth House will remain on the team, and Suletta will get to protect Aerial.

When Miorine asks Shaddiq if he’s the one who caused this situation by having the rules changed, and he can’t deny it, negotiations break down. Miorine decides to challenge Shaddiq to a duel. Specifically, a team battle between his elite (and all-girls) Grassley House, and Earth House led by Suletta in Aerial.

Shaddiq will get Gund-Arm if he wins, and will back off if he loses. Mine also makes sure that the battle will be streamed both school- and system-wide to advertise Gund-Arm’s prowess. That said, they face an uphill battle. The Grassley Girls are no joke and have top-of-the-line equipment; Earth House’s only real pilots are Suletta and Chuchu, and Aerial’s their only mobile suit worth a damn.

Nika continues to meet with Shaddiq in secret, but seems to be growing tired of it. She’s gotta be informing him due to blackmail, right? While trying to find support pilots, Suletta bumps into Guel, who seems half-interested were it not for his father forbidding him from dueling. He seems to immediately regret not helping her.

Shaddiq visits Mine’s garden one more time to try to get her to reconsider, but the bottom line is that she doesn’t trust him not to use her as a shiny ornament just like her father and the rest of the Benerit Group. The sad part is, Shaddiq actually seems to care for Mine, but has just just dug this hole for himself. When he runs into Suletta he urges her to talk some sense into her bride, but Suletta ain’t having it: she believes in Miorine.

While Shaddiq’s Grassley wingmen feature very different personalities (there’s a stern, all-business Sabina, the Bubbly Maisie, the nervous and apologetic Ireesha, the balletic Henao, and the gregarious Renee Costa. They’re all beloved by the school, and they’re all uniformly cocky.

I’ve learned not to bet against Suletta, especially when she’s backed by the plucky and resourceful Earth House and Miorine at the reins of the battle. Still, I got vicarious butterflies in my stomach, as I suspected her support pilots were not going to last long.

Sure enough, the battle starts off with Shaddiq targeting not Suletta but ChuChu, her strongest support, in the rearguard, keeping her busy enough that she can’t provide any cover fire with her rifle. The Grassley Girls cut through the other four Earth House suits like a hot knife through butter.

Now that all of Shaddiq’s pilots can focus on Suletta, they surround her and activate “Antidote”, and old but still very effective Anti Gund-Arm tech that serves the same purpose as an EMP: Aerial is suddenly inactive and grounded. Grassley pilots then start taking potshots at her.

He’s also convinced now that Suletta can’t be Miorine’s bride. She’s too sweet, to innocent, and above all, too honest. His desperate, hardscrabble orphan origin has led him to believe that in order to stand atop everyone else, you’re going to have to know how to lie, and lie well.

Suletta is contrite towards Aerial, lamenting that she’s relied on her for so much. But these words seem to wake Aerial back up, and while we don’t hear Aerial speak, Suletta has a dialogue with her, and they decide that they’re going to pull this battle out of the gutter together.

As Miorine watches, validated in her trust in her groom, Suletta cuts through the Grassley Girls just like they cut through her support pilots, flashing heretofore unseen Gundam tactics and delivering a hearty and welcome helping of comeuppance to the arrogant chicks.

In the ensuing 5-on-1 melee, Shaddiq does manage to take out Aerial’s left leg, leaving Suletta immobile and her all-important antenna vulnerable. Shaddiq swoops in for the “killing” blow, only for a sniper beam to blast his mobile suit’s head to smithereens.

Miorine, who knew Shaddiq wouldn’t trust his subordinates to finish the job, knew he’d go for the win himself, and was ready for him. In the end, Suletta and her crown jewel Gundam were a shiny decoy, and Shaddiq was caught completely off guard. Suletta hops out of her cockpit and repeats the slogan from GUND-ARM’s promotional video.

Shaddiq may have tried to play dirty with the rules, but it bit him in the ass, as he and Grassley lost fair-and-square to a seemingly hapless underdog in a very public and widely-viewed battle. He accepts the results and honors Mine’s stake: he signs a memorandum that forbids him from interfering any further in GUND-ARM.

He even seems to regret having taken the tack he did. In hindsight, he wonders if she would have accepted his hand in marriage if he’d dueled for it back at the start. But for Miorine, it’s too little, too late. She’s fine staying in control of the company she built, and fine with her kind, sweet, and lionhearted groom.

That seems to be the end of Shaddiq as a threat for now, but Elan’s scheming and Mika’s apparent betrayal still looms, as does whatever new path Guel’s dad has in store for him. Will the next time he and Suletta meet be on the battlefield? Will there ever be a time when everyone just leaves GUND-ARM the ef alone and let them get to work? I hope so…

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 08 – A Better Future Than Our Fathers

Miorine has taken the plunge into entrepreneurship, but finding herself without any kind of labor, she conscripts Earth House to help get GUND-Arm, Inc. on its feet. This starts a stir of dialogue among the Earth House members, who for the first time this week feel more like a motley group of individuals than a monolithic unit.

Miorine also needs to get a better read on just what the heck she just acquired, and that means a meeting with Lady Prospera. When Suletta sheepishly asks her mother why she lied to her about Aerial not being a Gundam, Prospera removes her arm and basically says it’s all about perspective.

GUND-Arm tech has been widely reviled as “accursed” tech—not entirely without merit due to the effects of Permet on humans—while those who dabble in the tech have been regarded as “witches.” Suletta buys this explanation hook line and sinker, but Mine knows a parent appeasing her kid when she sees it.

She wants to dig deeper into what Gundams are all about, beyond both the pro-and-anti propaganda. So, apparently, does Shaddiq, who minces no words (and spares Suletta no feelings) in proposing that not only should Miorine let him run GUND-Arm, but also take his hand in marriage.

Suletta thinks Shaddiq is in love with Mine, but Mine knows better: Shaddiq is after something, and due to his background as an orphan run by the Grassley family, she knows he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

Disparate backgrounds are front and center in the first official meeting of the staff of GUND-Arm, Inc. Once everyone sees the dire financial straits the company is in before even officially incorporating, the group starts to splinter into  positions based on their background and circumstances.

Earth House has war orphans and rich kids with high ideals. Developing weapons seems like the most profitable direction for GUND-Arm, but that would create more war orphans. I appreciate how everyone, from Chuchu and Nika to the other Earthians, each have a unique perspective to offer. This leads to conflict, but Miorine calms the seas by agreeing not to commit to making weapons, then delegates the various incorporation tasks to be completed in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, Guel is still camping in the woods (and sadly has yet to run into Space Honda Tooru) and being bullied by his former toadies when Shaddiq arrives and scares them off with his mere words and presence. He tells Guel he’s fond of him and wants them to join forces. Guel refuses, since he’s done being beholden to anyone, but again, this is Shaddiq, and he wants something.

Shaddiq also has a plan, a plan he thought he could leave to Guel, but Guel failed. That plan centers around possessing Aerial, but unlike Guel and Ceres does not intend to take it via a duel. Instead, he’ll rely on his gift of gab as long as he can.

Mine’s fact-finding mission takes her to Bel and Piel Technologies, where she learns more about Vanadis and the “true ideals” behind GUND tech. It leaves her with a lot to think about in her rose garden module. There, Shaddiq meets her and makes another attempt to convince her to give him GUND-Arm.

The two have known each other a while, as evidence by a school project they once worked on together. Shaddiq tells her that people will buy Gundams regardless of the regulations against them. Mine reminds Shaddiq that his dad is “allergic” to Gundams and wants them “erased from the world” but Shaddiq doesn’t feel that way. In private and to Mine, he believes both their dads’ visions to be too narrow, and the two of them can create a better future.

Back at Earth House the incorporation paperwork is proofread and the PR video is choppily edited, but Mine hasn’t been seen nor heard from in days, and Chuchu even posits that she might have flown the coop for Earth. But Miorine disappoints her by returning, and not empty handed.

She plays the Vanadis Institute’s presentation that lays out the true ideals of the GUND format—not weapons of war, but medical technology that will enable people to live better lives, while expanding the human biosphere. A technology of hope, not destruction and despair.

This is the direction Miorine has chosen for GUND-Arm, and nobody at Earth House has any objections. Despite being the rich Spacian princess, she’s appealed to her team and won them over with a convincing and attractive business model they can all feel better about.

GUND-Arm gets a slick new logo, and a not-so-slick but also adorably disarming PR video featuring synchronized movement between Aerial and Suletta. It does exactly what Mine said was needed in a PR video: to show that Gundams are not to be feared.

But all fun aside, Chuchu is legitimately moved by the direction GUND-Arm is taking, since as a miner’s daughter she knows all about the myriad injuries that make day-to-day life harder for her people. She’s grateful to be able to help them while also making money. The Earthians who had been bickering make up. Now they’re all united in purpose.

The episode allows a few moments of peace and romance as Suletta and Mine share a hoverbike back to Earth House, carrying the celebratory takeout dinner. Mine gets to rest her head in Suletta’s back for only a moment before she gets a text notification that threatens to kill GUND-Arm in its infancy.

That potential killing blow comes in the form of new safety verification regulations being drafted into the school rules regarding student startups. It’s the classic “the club’s going to be shut down!” scenario, only instead of lack of members, it’s an abundance of negative PR over what they’re doing, along with a distinct gap in political muscle.

Of course Shaddiq is behind this, and his assembled group of scheming ladies—also with wildly different personalities—each have something to say on the matter, from celebrating to lamenting the downfall of a rival. The way is paved for a hostile takeover, after Shaddiq’s two more cordial proposals were rejected. Now he vows to take over her company and seize Gundam from Miorine’s hands.

Shaddiq had been on the fence for much of this season, but revealing his true colors comes as no surprise, because the show did the work needed to lay out everyone’s background and motivations, just as it dug into how even the members of Earth House have their differences. Will Miorine, Suletta, and their plucky startup manage to weather the storm?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 17 – If You Have Love, You Can Fly (But Jets Work Too)

Anya’s initial attempt to impress Damian with news of her new dog failed, so she’s brought a new family portrait to “accidentally” drop when Damian is passing by, hoping he’ll see it and marvel at Bond’s grand floofiness.

Unfortunately it doesn’t go as planned, as Damian and his toadies ignore the photo. It flies off and is picked up by Becky, who is immediately smitten with the hot guy and asks Anya if he’s “seeing anyone”. A dismayed Anya responds “Papa is married to Mama!”

In a stroke of luck for Anya, she and Damian are paired off for and arts-and-crafts project: making an animal. Becky ends up making a model of Loid with a “battle suit” from her dad’s company, and when substitute teacher Mr. Henderson tells her the assignment was animals, she once again demonstrates her precociousness by stating “In the end, humans are animals too”, something our mustachioed paragon of elegance cannot dispute.

Anya doesn’t fair so well, as she’s as bad at arts and crafts as her Mama is (or at least was) at cooking. When she reads Damian’s mind to make a griffin, the heraldic beast of his family, she magnanimously offers to assist, but proves absolute rubbish, building legs with jet engines and uneven feathers. Damian is so pissed by her uselessness he makes her and another girl cry, inviting a scolding from Mr. Henderson, who exclaims “Not Elegant!”

Henderson understands Damian probably wants to impress his father, but he tells Damian there’s no need to rush; all he can do is what he can with the resources he has. The resulting “griffin”, with Anya’s interpretation of a griffin beside it, looks like a disaster, but it invokes patriotic fervor in one of the bigwig judges, and the pair end up winning first prize.

The griffin is proud-looking despite its sorry state, while what is interpreted as “the corpse of an innocent baby griffin” moved the judge to strong emotion. It’s a great bit of still art.

Unfortunately, Anya doen’t really make any progress in her friendship to Damian, nor does the prize include any Stella. But as big of a jerk as he often is to Anya, I couldn’t help but feel bad when he called home and had to settle with talking to the butler Jeeves, since his father is away in more ways than one, and generally disinterested in his second son.

The episode switches gears to do a brief profile of Sylvia Sherwood, AKA Handler, AKA Fullmetal Lady, so-called due to her flawless performance as a spymaster for Westalis. Varying cinematic shots of her walking down the street create a sense of paranoia, but her tail turns out to be a couple of easily-fooled guys who never considered she’d use the public pool locker rooms to change into a disguise and give them the slip.

We witness two separate meetings between Sylvia and Loid, with the episode underscoring that every meeting threatens both of their lives. So it’s amusing both that Loid makes sure not to tell the Fullmetal Lady that the tag on her dress is still on, and also that his “report” to her on Operation Strix involves Anya’s athletic progress.

The final post-credits skit, basically an omake, is a flashback to when Anya would cook dishes for Yuri to eat (all of which are pixelated and feature worryingly unnatural colors), and Yuri scarfs it down with a smile in between projectile vomiting. When he tells her she’ll make a great wife, she gets bashful and slaps him so hard he bounces off the floor and spins horizontally to the far end of the room.

This combination of being repeatedly poisoned and thrashed about due to his sister not knowing her strength is what makes Yuri the excellent operative he is today. He’s been toughened to such an extent that getting his by a truck is of absolutely no consequence. After all, Yor’s tougher than a truck.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Lycoris Recoil – 12 – Spider Lily Shuffle

Takina’s heroic arrival means Chisato’s finally able to maneuver herself into position to fire her gun near both of Majima’s ears, incapacitating him long enough for her to blast him with her concussive rounds and for Takina to shoot him with binding rounds.

He still gets in a couple of kicks, however, so as the girls recover by lying on the ground for a bit, Chisato asks why Takina there, Takina says she quit, and Chisato says she’s a big ol’ dummy. Takina won’t disagree, but between the DA and Chisato, there was no choice.

Chisato proceeds to find Mr. Yoshi, who expresses immediate disappointment when he learns she didn’t kill Majima. When Chisato tells him that she’s already plenty happy helping people, he says he “didn’t wind up the spring of a dying doll” for that. He can’t stress enough that Chisato can only fulfill her purpose by taking lives.

Takina, who is listening in the hall, has heard enough. If Chisato won’t shoot this guy, she will. Especially when they learn he’s had the advanced artificial heart put in his chest, making it so that he must die for Chisato to live. While that’s perfectly okay for Takina, it’s not at all okay for Chisato, who stops Takina from killing him.

Yoshi’s sidekick drops in and kicks Takina out of the tower and almost to her death, creating yet anoher cruel game for Chisato: kill his sidekick before she kills Takina. When Takina is holding on to a beam for dear life and Yoshi starts shooting at her hands, Chisato begs him to stop. When he won’t she finally pulls the trigger and sends a real bullet into his chest.

Fortunately for her, it goes straight through him and misses his vitals. Takina survives her bout with Yoshi’s sidekick (albeit with a half-bloodied face to show for it), and unloads a clip at the two as they retreat. Chisato tells her to stop and holds her as she says even if they killed Yoshi to save her, she wouldn’t be Chisato anymore. The time comes for farewells for everyone, but she’s not gone yet.

As Mizuki and Kurumi arrive in a helicopter to pick them up, Chisato and Takina learn about the next crisis: now that they’ve been outed to the public, the director has decided to eliminate all of the Lycoris (with the male version, LilyBell). Mizuki flies them to Enkuboku, while Kurumi gives them a USB dongle to put in the Enkuboku servers. Fuki and Sakura go floor to floor gathering up the wounded Lycoris, with Erika having their six, filling in for Takina.

When the three bite off more than they can chew with two of Majima’s bigger thugs, Chisato and Takina come to their haughty colleagues’ rescue once more, and then they proceed to the server room, where Sakura points out how Fuki and Chisato’s arguing sounds a lot like flirting.

Once the USB is in the server, Kurumi, AKA Walnut, proves she was and is the world’s best hacker, creating a new cover-up for the Lycoris (announced to the city as an immersive crisis adventure simulation…though that doesn’t explain the guns dispersed among the public) and leading the cops straight to Robota’s hideout.

With the Lycoris given fresh cover and Chisato dodging LilyBell’s bullets, the director orders them to retreat. Lilybell’s 1st glares at Chisato on his way out, and Takina isn’t sure whether she should be unsurprised or jealous. Probably both. Takina and Erika get another nice little moment, as Takina shows how a little Chisato has rubbed off on her by ribbing Erika for being “awful” for taking her placed at the DA.

It looks like all’s well that ends well, until Kusunoki is informed that the cleaners responsible for retrieving Majima have gone silent. The elevator doors are about to close when Chisato spots her bookbag and runs out to get it. Majima then sprays a clip into the elevator (all bullets absorbed by an airbag thanks to quick thinking from Fuki). But the elevator doors close on the Takina, Fuki, and the others, leaving Chisato all alone with Majima for a final round.

Majima’s plan to turn the public against the government failed, and he’s lost Robota, the only means of attempting to do so again. So this is clearly just him wanting to either kill or be killed by his finest and most interesting opponent. As for Chisato, she seems resigned to her fate, and unless there’s a third fake heart out there somewhere, Takina may have to be too.

But when that elevator descends to the ground floor, dollars to donuts Takina’s going right back up to the top to be back beside Chisato, as long as she possibly can, until the farewell.

DanMachi IV – 09 – Somebody Set Us Up the Bomb

Will Bell have to fight his friend in order to stop her from murdering Jura? Well…no, because after Ryuu insists she didn’t kill Jean, it only takes a couple of “gotcha” questions for him to determine that Jura has been setting Ryuu up this whole time. Right on cue, Jura sports a villainous smirk and (somewhat forced-sounding) cackle.

Jura, a monster-tamer, has a surprise for Ryuu and Bell: a Lambton, which is not Lamb-themed Reggeton but a giant burrowing snake from the lower floors. Jura is controlling it with a magical stone around its collar that responds to a similar magical stone on Jura’s whip. A second Lambton attacks Lili, Aisha, Welf, and the others.

The Lambtons’ movements seem erratic, but once Ryuu discovers a pattern, she asks Bell to back her up while she brings it down. When the great snake tries to go to ground, Bell stops it with a Fire Bolt, and Ryuu finishes it off with a Luminous Wind.

Bell’s Party defeats their Lambton by having Haruhime cast Level Boost on Welf and Ouka to serve as the party’s shield while the archers riddle its head with arrows, and finally Aisha chops off its head with a Hell Kaios. They got the tools, they got the talent. It’s Miller Time.

But Cassandra is worried. This can’t be the disaster that causes a “banquet of tragedy”. Sure enough, it’s just the appetizer: Jura and the Lambtons were just stalling for time while Turk and the other anti-Ryuu squad mined the entire level with blazerocks. Once ignited, Jura helpfully explains that the Dungeon is made “delirious”.

This, in turn, awakens “Despair”, which like the Lambton has glowing red eyes. While Ryuu has fought Lambtons before, one look at her face, equal parts shock, anger, and fear, says it all: this guy is trouble. Unfortunately, this episode didn’t feel like much more than what it was: stalling for time before the main course.

Overlord IV – 10 – The Pursuit of Happiness

When the Floor Guardians note how easily the man in the red powered suit defeated two Death Knights, Ainz breaks out his patented “Just as expected”, awing his underlings by revealing the true reason he sent a lesser force to a lesser town: to bait the Kingdom’s most powerful protectors: Drop of Red.

Renner meets with her brother Prince Zanac, for perhaps the last time, as Ainz is sending his army to their royal capital and intend to raze it to the ground. Both seem resigned to that fate, with Zanac volunteering to lead the troops while Renner escapes “when the time is right.”

Evileye and Blue Rose end up meeting with Drop of Red’s leader, Azuth, in a brothel, only for their character designs to be somehow outdone by a third Adamantite adventurer party: The Black Scripture, from the Holy Kingdom. They wish to recruit Drop of Red and Blue Rose as allies in the fight to “secure the future of mankind,” i.e. defeat the Sorcerer King. Blue Rose refuses, at least for now, while Azuth is certain attempting to defeat the Sorcerer King is a fool’s errand.

Prince Zanac leads what’s left of Re-Estize’s forces out to the field outside the capital wearing Gazef’s armor, then rides further out on his own to request an audience with Ainz. It is granted, and Ainz makes things proper with a table, chairs, and water goblets. Zanac’s main question to Ainz is why he’s going about this in such a cruel fashion. Ainz states simply that Zanac’s kingdom is to be made an example of, so no one will dare oppose his Sorcerous Kingdom ever again.

When Zanac asks further what Ainz’s goal is, he simply states “happiness”—for himself and those he cares about (the Floor Guardians and other underlings). Zanac can’t really argue with that, and withdraws from the discussion with just one final request: that whatever magic Ainz uses to kill him and his people, it at least be done quickly and relatively painlessly.

Zanac is surprised by how human Ainz is, and how he’s a far more worthy king than he could ever be. However, Ainz thinks the same way: that someone so outwardly unflappable and dignified as Zanac represents true royalty. Contrast that with his nobles, who rebel against him before the battle begins, beheading Zanac and taking his head before Ainz as a tribute, as well as pledging their allegiance to the Sorcerous Kingdom.

Until his last moments, Zanac Varleon Igana Ryle Vaiself stood tall with sword in hand, while these nobles kneel and simper. Frankly, it disgusts Ainz and turns him off personally overseeing the entire invasion operation. He tells the nobles they’ll get a “suitable reward”—the sparing of their families’ lives—then sends them away, but tells Albedo to send them to the Neuronist, and only to let them die (albeit not slowly) if they beg for death.

He then puts Cocytus and Mare in charge of the impending battle, having “lost interest” due to the cowardly actions of the nobles. They should have let their prince lead an army into a dignified, honorable battle; now they’ve signed their own death warrants for certain. As for Renner, she’s now de facto Queen…of a soon-to-be ruined Kingdom.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E08 – Boars, Stars, and Bears

While the apartment is now repaired (and the kitchen faucet no longer drips!), the MgRonald remodeling isn’t done yet, so Maou needs some new temp work. That notorious NEET Urushihara brings this up is indeed the height of hypocrisy, but he’s not wrong.

When Chiho’s great aunt is injured by a boar at the Sasaki family farm in Nagano, all the young temp workers quit out of fear of attacks. Chiho’s mom drives her, Maou, Ashiya and Urushihara to the farm to help out with the harvest. Maou is happy see sides of Chiho he hasn’t seen before.

Maou & Co are overwhelmed by the sheet vastness of both the Sasaki farmlands and their spacious house (you can’t even see the stairs from the entrance!), but Chiho’s aunt Hinako eases them in with some lighter work, after which her uncle takes them to a hot spring to unwind. There, Chiho suddenly feels something clutch her leg; it’s Alas Ramus!

Turns out Emi and Suzuno tagged along, and it’s clearly not a simple coincidence. That said, when Alas calls Emi and Maou “Mama” and “Papa”, Emi and Suzuno have to spin quite the yarn about long-term babysitting and Alas forgetting her parents’ faces (which is obviously a real thing that happens in families where the parents have to work a ton of hours).

That night, Maou gets his wish to see another side of Chi-chan as she visits him in the night dressed more casually than he’s used to (though he seemingly forgets he saw her in a bikini during the beach arc). They go on a walk, her marvels at how many stars are in the sky.

Chiho tells him about Emi’s mixed feelings about him, Ashiya, and Urushihara doing farm work, since the Demon Army destroyed her hometown and family’s farmland. Chiho reiterates her desire for everyone she loves to live in happiness.

Maou doesn’t get much sleep, as Emi gets the three lads up at 4:30 AM sharp (though Urushihara clings to his futon and gets Emi’s fist in return). Everyone else is already up and eating a hearty breakfast prepared with help from Suzuno.

Because of Emi’s experience harvesting eggplants and Maou’s lack of same, the two are paired up for a greenhouse, where Emi explains why vegetables have to be picked in the morning rather than the afternoon, and before they over-ripen.

Emi also tells him she’s still mad and not ready to forgive him for what he and his army did to her home, but if he were to start regretting his deeds, her anger and hatred might subside…if only “the length of a flea’s turd”, which is a hell of a withering turn of phrase!

After working all morning Maou and the lads get a siesta in, but Maou and Ashiya want to still be useful. They escort Chiho’s baby cousin Hitoshi to see her mom in the fields, since he’s being fussy. I love the little scene of Maou, Chiho, Ashiya, and the little ones getting along, and Hitoshi pulling Ashiya’s hair.

Unfortunately, the good vibes are suddenly extinguished by the arrival of a starving black bear that’s come down the mountain looking for food. The group gets down low and tries to quietly get away, but Hitoshi gets unsettled and starts to cry, alerting the bear to their presence…and that’s how the episode ends.

With a “civilian” among them in Aunt Hinako, dealing with the bear through supernatural means (like, say, Alas turning into a sword) is probably out. Still, I can’t imagine the bear will succeed in attacking anyone. More likely another Sasaki will arrive and scare the bear off.

Overlord IV – 09 – Baking a Softer Biscuit

After chastising a courtier for interrupting her, Albedo cuts to the chase: The Sorcerer Kingdom is declaring war on the Re-Estize Kingdom, but they won’t deploy their forces for a whole month, and Ainz promises not to use any “large spells” like the one that killed 200,000 on the Katze Plains. Brain knows Ainz is planning something (duh).

A month later, and Ainz has already taken steps to ensure a swift invasion of Re-Estize, focusing on destroying the villages near the borders in order to prevent outside forces from interfering. But he’s loath to reveal to his always-gung-ho generals the fact that he’s holding back on purpose, resulting in some humans surviving and escaping.

While not wholly his idea, since Ainz is, deep down, just a regular human gamer, he’s both more empathetic and respectful of the opinions of fellow “lowly” humans, or in this case, slightly-less powerful underlings, like Albedo’s older sister Nigredo (who is missing her face skin…if she ever had it) and the dog maid-themed Pestonya. They urge their overlord not to snuff out a race as innovative as humanity too rashly.

The Sorcerer Kingdom’s latest target is the seaside town of E-Naeul, who have contracted the mithril adventurer group Four Armaments, led by a cool beauty and including a slightly perverted mage. Like many new Overlord introductions, this four-person party brings an immediate lived-in quality with their easy banter and subtle swagger. At the end of the day, they’re professionals, and if their job is to hold E-Naeul as long as they can, they will hold.

The zombie rabble that constitutes the main Sorcerer Kingdom force isn’t particularly intimidating; the onna kishi who leads the Four Armaments is far more concerned about the two giant Death Knights, wondering if only two were sent because that’s all it was assumed would be needed to cause the town to fall.

After provoking the Death Knight to charge the front gates, The onna kishi has her partymates buff her up with attribute enhancements, and she conjures a doppelganger of her hand axe so every strike counts twice. More than anything, she doesn’t flinch even a little bit in the face of a massive undead warrior getting all up in her space.

While she’s not taking any damage thanks to her superior speed and agility, she’s not really causing any to the Death Knight, and when the dual-wielding Death Warrior catches up with its companion, it starts to look like even one of the more renowned adventurer groups in the kingdom is going to start experiencing what the “stick” in Ainzs’ carrot-and-stick plan entails.

But then, suddenly, the Death Knight’s head is blasted off, and the knight crumbles into a pile of ash. The shots came from high in the sky, where a figure in a high-tech red metal mech suit is brandishing an equally anachronistic machine gun. The Death Warrior does its best to deflect the red one’s shots, but eventually falls as well, and the red one simply gives a friendly gesture and flies off into the wild blue yonder.

With the biggest enemy threats removed, it’s highly likely the Armaments and town forces will be able to repel the remaining zombies and prevent E-Naeul from falling. But when reports come back of the Death Knights’ defeat, Ainz shocks his Guardians by remarking that he expected this. So who is the one in red, who is identified by the Armaments as an adamantite adventurer…and will Ainz eventually have to fight them?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E07 – A Boom, a Whoosh, and a Hug

The first day’s haul at the beach shack is beyond Ms. Amane’s expectations. Emi meets with Maou, Ashiya, Urushihara, and Camio at the lighthouse to discuss Amane, who is clearly no ordinary human.  Camio explains that the Demon Realm split into hardliners and pacifists after Maou’s fall.

A group of the latter, all ginned up by Olba Meyer, are on there way to Choshi now for the Sacred Sword, AKA Alas Ramus. Both Emi and Maou want to take responsibility for the war they started without leaving it all to Amane, powerful though she may be.

It’s actually a relief that Amane isn’t specifically after Maou or Emi or the sword, and even delivers Maou’s sword that Camio brought along when he arrived in Japan. When a Gate opens and the demon soldiers start pouring through, Emi flies over to meet them first and starts cutting them down, though notably not killing them.

When their leader steps in to have a duel, Emi is game, and has Alas scale down so it’s a more even fight. The fight never happens, though, because Emi bought all the time Maou, Ashiya, and Urushihara needed to transform into their demon forms of King Satan, Sariel, and Lucifer. The troops and their leader are immediately cowed by the presence of their masters.

With a final flourish, Maou puts his arm around Emi and tells his underlings to return home with the message that the king lives and is gathering his power on Earth to bring peace to the demon realm once more. The demons and Camio return peacefully through the light of the lighthouse, and then Maou, Emi, Ashiya and Urushihara close the Gate.

Chiho, Suzuno, and Amane greet the four when they wash up on the shore, most of their power expended. Amane is glad the mess these folks brought to her little seaside town has been cleaned up, but also tells them that they have to leave as the magic they used has upset the balance of one of the few places where souls can be cleansed during Obon.

The bad news is, Maou & Co. are fired and in a flash of wind Amane and the beach shack have vanished, but the good news is that Amane paid them handsomely for their work, and Maou’s apartment has been repaired, so after a tour of Choshi, the crew is poised to return to the “Castle”.

Maou explains that the sword Camio brought him was made of his magic-packed horn that Emi had cut off, and then perhaps chooses his words poorly when he boasts to Emi that once his power is fully back he’ll “dominate” her and everyone else. That gets both Emi and Chiho upset and demanding either an apology or clarification.

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E06 – Chicken Curry

When a fog rolls in so thick they can’t see their own outstretched arms, Maou, Ashiya, and Urushihara seek shelter in their comfy five-tatami room. But when they look out the window, a large form is approaching them: a cyclops. Then a demon centaur.

Finally, a anthropomorphic black chicken Maou actually knows arrives. The other two demons are swept away by some kind of powerful wind magic; only the bird, Maou’s old chancellor Camio, survives, and he soon reverts to a chibi chicken mode.

The first day the beach shack opens things get super busy super fast, and Maou, Ashiya, Urushihara and Amane can’t keep up with the sheer volume of customers or the food and drink orders. Chiho, Emi, and Suzuno come to the rescue, each in character-appropriate swimsuits, and with double the labor (I’m not counting Urushihara) the day is a success.

While Emi cleans one of the ice shavers, Urushihara starts asking her about Olba, a dude from first season who I honestly don’t remember, but who promised him he’d not only spare his life but put in a good word for him in Heaven, where he thought was the only place he could return to after the Demon Army fell.

Later that afternoon, Maou introduces his leal servant Camio to Emi, Alas Ramus, and Chiho, emphasizing that unlike most demons who were more about fighting and killing, Camio’s whole deal was being a thinking man’s demon, and Maou says the creation of the Demon Army was thanks in no small part to Camio’s hard work.

After the episode spends much of its time either being coy about the human that wounded Camio and defeated his two demon escorts or having Urushihara suggest it might be Olba, Amane pops in to ask Maou for help, and Camio immediately fingers her as the culprit. So now Maou knows he’s working for a human powerful enough to waste demons. But to what end?

Also, it’s official: this second season is distractingly awful-looking at almost every turn. This is especially evident with most characters in swimsuits. Those suits and the bodies they’re attached to take different distorted forms in almost every shot. Everyone looks stiff and awkward. If I wasn’t so intrigued about what will become of this revelation about Amane, I’d probably have already dropped this.

DanMachi IV – 05 – Gong of Ice and Fire

Without Bell, the party finds itself well and truly against the wall, to the point both Lili and Aisha decide it’s time to bring out their fox in the hole, Haruhime. Thanks to her study of the grimoires, she’s now able to summon five tails from a fox spirit that bestow Level Boost on Welf, Daphne, Aisha, Ouka, and Mikoto. Suddenly, fighting back the monsters is easier.

But there are so many, and even when they’ve slaughtered them all, the Moss Huge eats all the crystals they dropped and becomes even stronger. I don’t know if it knew the party had someone like Haruhime, but it was counting on using their power and effort to increase its own.

The last couple episodes have really built up the fact that this is a smug, ugly brute of a monster whom I simply could not wait to see ethered by Bell.  But before that happens his party has to endure more setbacks. It takes a huge bite out of Aisha’s shoulder with its toothed trunk.

Aisha then proceeds to demonstrate just how tough she is by continuing to try to fight off the Huge, since she’s the only one who can, even with vines growing out of her gaping wound. Meanwhile, her and everyone else’s level boost fades as the monsters continue to swarm around her.

It’s at this point the injured party they found can’t sit around and do nothing anymore. They decide as a group to make their last stand here, to give Hestia Familia a chance to escape and spread the vital news of the Moss Huge. And Lili knows that a Strategist must sometimes be coldhearted and underhanded.

But she doesn’t leave the injured allies behind. She can’t, and still live with herself or look Bell in the eye. She uses her lightning blade to push back the monsters and save those who were about to give their lives for her. And just then, Haruhime’s fox ears hear a tolling bell, signifying that they just managed to hold out long enough for the one-man cavalry.

Everyone finds cover so Bell can unleash a Firebolt that blasts the Moss Huge clean out of and about a hundred meters below the cavern they’re in. There, in a much larger space, Bell, demonstrates how being on these Lower Floors have helped his mana and physique synchronize better. In short, he’s figured shit out.

As a result, he’s able to observe his opponent rationally, and revels in the fact that it’s neither as fast as the Iguazu nor nearly as strong as Minotaur. The rest of the party is relegated to the grandstands, but that’s fine; at this point both they and we the viewers have earned the right to sit back and enjoy this decisive battle.

DanMachi brings out all its most epic and bombastic battle music for this one. When all of Bell’s melee attacks amount to nothing due to Moss’ ridiculous regenerative abilities, he takes off the kid gloves, imbues his black dagger with Firebolt and awakens its runes, naming the attack “Argo Vesta” after an alternate name of his goddess.

This finally does the trick, and if I have any complaint about the Moss Huge’s demise, it’s that it doesn’t suffer nearly as much or as long as it made so many others suffer. For a being of such obvious intelligence to use it purely to hurt and kill and make itself stronger…it was a bad dude and I won’t miss it!

With the defeat of the Moss Huge, the parasitic vines growing in Chigusa and everyone else vanish, restoring them back to normal. Marie, not interested in meeting his friends, thanks Bell, says she loves him, then waves goodbye. I was hoping for more Marie Time!

But that’s okay, there’s no shortage of allies and hugs waiting for Bell after his impressive feat. But the members of Hestia Familia and their colleagues must understand that their role wasn’t simply to await rescue. Everything they did bought them and Bell crucial minutes he needed to get to where they were.

Everyone contributed, from Cassandra’s well-timed heals to Haruhime’s clutch five-fold boost. And conducting it all was Liliruca, who like Bell learned a lot from being down here. For her, that meant learning that a Strategist doesn’t have to be coldhearted or underhanded, and sometimes luck will reward them.

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