Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 03 – In Borrowed Clothes

Railgun T has done a great job so far putting a fun esper-y twist on the classic sports festival formula. Like the three-legged race last week, the balloon hunt is made more creative and exciting with the use of abilities. Adding MISAKA 10032 while Misaka Prime takes a rest takes things up a notch.

MISAKA is never not fun to watch as she calmly assesses her environment dodges attackers and adds notches to her belt. Unfortunately the rest of the Tokiawadai team is so confident of victory they don’t bother with any real teamwork and are undone by the scrappy underdogs’ simple tactics.

That said, Kongo’s melodramatic “death scene” was so worth it, and I liked the idea of Tokiwadai’s adult leaders being glad their pompous rich girl students are having their asses handed to them. They intend punish them with extra dorm chores, and hopefully the sting of the loss will make them rethink their strategy next time they face a seemingly easy opponent.

Speaking of stings, MISAKA probably only loses because Baba-kun (the other team’s leader who had intel on all the Tokiwadai students) uses the balloon hunting fracas as a distraction so he could sting her with a tiny robotic bug. When MISAKA meets with Misaka later, the real deal tells her there’s no reason to hang her head as long as she had fun.

This week marks the first Kamijou Touma cameo, as he runs into Misaka quite by chance as she’s in line for drinks. Misaka is uncharacteristically civil with him as he offers to grab drinks for her, but things take a turn when Misaki spots her with him, is momentarily embarrassed, and takes Misaka’s arm like they’re BFFs.

The last straw is when Misaki, seeking to insert herself into their relationship, gloms onto an unwitting Touma, and her much larger breasts press against him, leading Biribiri to shock him—and for him to cancel said shock with his Imagine Breaker, which sports yet another new sound effect.

As packed as this episode was with Misaka, MISAKA, Touma, and the Balloon Hunt, the show doesn’t forget to check in on the rest of the central quartet. Whether it’s Shirai not losing a step with her Judgment duties (thanks to her teleportation) or Uiharu agreeing to help Ruiko locate “Shadow Metal” for the thrill of it, it’s just great to see these characters back in action and in the spotlight.

If all the preceding events make it sound like a lightweight episode, the episode’s conclusion certainly changed that perception, as the effects of the robo-bug hit MISAKA when she’s alone and isolated (aside from her cat) while Misaki and a suited fellow move in to apprehend her.

Earlier, Misaki was watching a big screen and I could have sworn she could tell the real Misaka wasn’t participating in the balloon hunt. She also mentions how her Mental Out ability is another tool she can use to prove someone’s identity.

Either she’s still fooled into thinking MISAKA is Misaka despite all that, or she’s going to use MISAKA as bait to nab the genuine article. Either way, Misaka’s troubles are about to outstrip Misaki glomming on her guy…

Bofuri – 03 – No More Maples!

As expected, the admins at NWO reign in Maple’s invincibility somewhat, as she’s now only able to use her Devour skill ten times a day and can now take a degree of damage. Maple isn’t happy, but Sally reminds her of all the damage based effects now available to her.

Before heading to the dungeon that leads to the second level, the pair do some sightseeing. They spot a pair of newbie sisters just starting out, visit a cafe where they meet others who ranked high in the first event, and get a lead on a sidequest in the North Forest.

We learn Sally is super afraid of any kind of ghosts, making Maple the steady party member for this particular quest. They locate a cabin with a hatch that leads an underground passage. There, a man in apparent constant pain is tied to a chair.

Maple’s potion has no effect, but Sally casts a string healing spells, exhausting her MP, and he’s finally healed. Their prize for completing the quest is a Super Speed Skill. Sally celebrates by showing Maple a “never-ending sunset area” where they can just relax and soak in the gorgeous view.

The next day they tackle the dungeon to the second level, which contains a formidable boss: a humongous stag that forms from a tangle of huge vines. Maple’s Hydra attacks have no effect, and the stag launches an earth-shattering counterattack. With no agility, Maple has to be yanked to safety by Sally, and she lands awkwardly, resulting in a brief K.O.

Sally, on the other hand, sticks her superhero landing perfectly and presses her attack on the stag, using her high speed and evasion traits to deliver a death by a hundred slashes followed by an authoritative coup-de-grace. It’s the second straight episode with an exciting, kinetic Sally battle.

With the boss defeated, a disappointed Maple comes to, and the pair continue to the second level’s gathering area, where Iz presents Maple her new white shield, which Maple calls Shirayuki (nice name). The chibi dragon MC then appears to announce the start of the second event: this time, it’s a treasure hunt, and Maple and Sally are able to form a party together.

Since players are allowed to kill other players for their medals, and Maple not only already has a gold medal but has only ten Devours per day, she’ll be even more of a target for opportunistic opponents, so both she and Sally will need to be on their guard. It’s the end of Easy Street…so much the better!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 02 – Mission: Imbibeable

Life is pretty sweet in this strange peaceful world for soldiers like Lts. Neumann, Grantz, and Koenig, except for one thing: there’s no booze. But Grantz discovered that Principal von Rudersdorf keeps a stash of “the red stuff” (i.e. wine) in his office.

Kazuma joins the three in a operation to retrieve the wine and get hammered. Unfortunately for them, noted lush Aqua is wise to their plan, tags along, and recklessly opens a cabinet and snatches the wine, setting off a number of booby traps set by von Rudersdorf.

Just as the lieutenants use their military skills to deactivate all the traps, Kazuma admires the flag of their empire on the wall, only for four Giant Toads from his world to come bursting out from behind the frame. The three lieutenants sacrifice themselves, believing Kazuma will do “a man’s job” and do the same so Aqua can escape with the booze.

Of course, Kazuma has no intention of being swallowed by a toad, so he casts Stealth and escapes, leaving Aqua to run for her life and eventually get swallowed up in the hallway. Naofumi does nothing to help her, and since Ram snitched, Roswaaal discovers the scheme and gives the five would-be winos detention.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 01 – Make that QUINtet

You heard that right: characters from a fifth Isekai join the already huge ensemble cast of Isekat Quartet. The first of them, Iwatani Naofumi AKA Shield Hero, is introduced immediately when he peeks into the class where all the other MCs are. He’s not transferring to their class, however: their only transfer student seems to be Megumin’s familiar, Chomusuke…who unlike Puck, has “student” status.

Raphtalia suddenly encounters Kazuma and Ainz Ooal Gown in the hallway and immediately assumes the latter is a monster that needs to be defeated, but Kazuma calms her down and they join her search for Naofumi. Filo, meanwhile, ends up in the pet area with Hamusuke and Death Knight. Raphtalia and Filo are reunited with the Shield Hero when he protects them from a particularly hard-hit baseball from the bat staff of Mare.

That’s pretty much it! The episode’s only eleven minutes, after all. Naofumi decides that while he’s not 100% sure what’s going on, he and his party will try to settle into a school life of following the rules along with the others who have been teleported. It will be interesting to see if he befriends the other lads from Japan…and here’s hoping Melty, Malty, or others from his world show up at some point!

Bofuri – 02 – The No-Damage Duo

Bofuri’s second episode is split between Maple’s first NWO battle royale and when Risa finally joins her. The battle is a cakewalk for Maple, whose ultra-defensive specialization ensures she takes no damage in the process of bagging more than two thousand kills, most of them absorbed as MP by her Great Shield.

Maple actually gets pretty fierce once various parties start ganging up on her, even paralyzing and poisoning those who flee to up her kill count. Compare that to when she’s waiting for enemies, killing time by innocently drawing intricate Yakuza dragon and Nazca lines. I really dig Maple’s low-key drawing talent, which comes through in the game!

Leading up to Risa’s arrival, I was starting to think it would be a running joke for Maple to bring up the fact Risa hasn’t joined her in the game yet, and that she might never join her due to various circumstances IRL. However, once she finally enters (as “Sally”, her real name in reverse), it’s as a “Swashbuckler” class, high on agility and evasion.

This complements Maple’s tank class perfectly, especially when they have to get somewhere far away fast. Sally simply carries the ridiculously slow Maple on her back as she races across the overworld, while Maple dispatches incoming enemies with ease.

Their destination is an underground lake where they can find a particular kind of fish, the scales of which Maple needs for the white shield she’s having Iz forge once she has enough cash. The duo spends a lot of time fishing, while Sally maxes out her swimming and diving skills and finds a cool underwater dungeon.

Tanks like Maple can’t swim, so it’s all up to Sally to take out the beastly aquatic boss at the end of this dungeon. It’s a cool design with lots of pyrotechnic attacks. While both the boss and Sally are CG, and the frame rate screeches to a near-halt, that’s somewhat mitigated by the blur used to indicate they’re underwater. It’s also an exciting, fast-paced, and well-directed battle.

When it’s over, Sally returns to a worried Maple with a new awesome-looking outfit. That’s when the game’s dragon mascot informs them that the second level of the game will soon be opened for those who meet the conditions. In need of a new pair of boots to complete her Swashbuckling look, Sally tosses Maple on her back and races back to town.

The news of multiple levels to the game satisfactorily explains why Maple was able to become so powerful in so short a time: she’s still only on the first of those levels. This fact, and the tough fish boss fight, bode well for their future adventures and battles posing a greater challenge.

One of many details I’m liking about Bofuri is the restrained use of cutaways to online chatting, between the A- and B-parts and before the end credits. The chatting chronicles Maple and Risa’s progress and rise in notoriety. Like similar cutaways in Durarara!! it adds depth, texture and a sense of community to the show.

BokuBen 2 – 13 (Fin) – Taking a Helping Hand

After Fumino’s improvised kiss and monologue, the Sleeping Beauty play is salvaged, but neither she nor the thorns know Nariyuki was under the cat costume. Only he knows, but was too embarrassed by the misconception that he shouldn’t have been on stage in the first place overshadowed his curiosity about why Fumino kissed him.

The festival goes on, with Rizu closer to her goal of selling 1,000 bowls but still needing another marketing boost. Rizu idly mentions how the two of them could do well if they owned a restaurant, and then slurp up the same noodle, catching the attention of a passing girl who declares them “sweethearts.”

A light bulb goes off for Nariyuki, and while he and Uruka “pretend” to be a couple, Asumi tells them how any two interested people sharing a bowl will enjoy effects similar to the upcoming fireworks jinx. The crowd is initially dubious when Nariyuki and Uruka are awkward, but quickly convinced of the udon’s power when the two start behaving more like a genuine couple.

With Kirisu’s lecture a big hit despite the lack of the cat costume her colleagues got her (her turn as an idol won many hearts and minds, and allowed them to see her for the competent educator she is), and the 1,000 bowls sold, all that’s left is for Nariyuki to relax, kick back, and enjoy the fireworks.

That is, of course, until the three cohorts representing the three main girls—The Thorns for Fumino, the swim club for Uruka, and Sawako for Rizu—all shove the girls from behind into Nariyuki at the same time. He then proceeds to land on the two people in front of him: Kirisu and Asumi.

While it seemed like everyone would be touching him for the big moment, the first firework is a dud. When the actual fire firework explodes in the sky, he’s holding only one person’s hand, only that person is backlit and he can’t 100% tell who they are.

At his next and final mock interview with Kirisu, Nariyuki knows what is expected of him and doesn’t disappoint, from his posture in the chair to clearly stating why he wishes to become an educator like her: to become “someone who understands the feelings of those who are incapable,” and who can stand beside those who face what they can’t do until they can.

Nariyuki Yuiga may have ended up in all kinds of compromising positions, but none of them were really of his making, only surrounding efforts, circumstances, and luck. The conceit of BokuBen is that he’s Yuiga isn’t looking for a girlfriend; through the tutoring that transitions into friendships, he’s been awakened to his true calling as a teacher.

That being said, while Nariyuki never did anything to enter into the myriad romantic-ish situations in which he’s found himself, he can’t deny that most of those times he felt something, even if other events glossed over deep analysis of those feelings. That might change when the last of those situations calls back to a crucial moment of the festival, and will be the last such moment for a long, long time.

I speak of his farewell to Uruka. Kirisu gives him one last assist when his train breaks down by giving him a white-knuckle ride to the airport in her Honda Fit (which might be a Mugen judging from the acceleration). When he runs to meet the others and say goodbye, he faceplants, but it’s Uruka who reaches out her hand to help him up.

As he looks up at her, she’s backlit, just as the girl was by the first firework. If it was Uruka holding his hand then, and the jinx is reliable, the show closes by hinting that Nariyuki may have finally realized something else besides that he wants to be an educator. As both he and Uruka stare at their hands from the air and ground, respectively, perhaps he realized who he wants to be with—whose hand he wants to take and not let go once she returns home.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 12 (Fin) – Victory Lap

With the Team Shokugeki won by the Rebels, everyone’s expulsions are canceled and their student IDs returned—albeit in far worse condition thanks to the abuse to which Momo subjects Bucchi. Azami steps down from the directorship, while the eight Elite Ten members who participated in the Shokugeki for Central lose their positions, freeing up the spots for the rebels.

At first I thought Erina would take the first position in the New Elite Ten, but instead she acknowledges that none of the rebels would have been victorious were it not for Souma’s actions, so she recommends him for the top spot. At the same time, Senzaemon is content to remain retired, so it’s Erina who takes over as director when Azami vacates the position.

With the third years moving on to the next stage of their lives, the New Elite Ten consists of Souma, Satoshi, Terunori, Akira, Ryou, Alice, Takumi, Etsuya, Nene, and Megumi. Both Souma and Erina are far busier with their lofty new positions, but Souma makes it clear to the whole school that no one will be punished for siding with Central, and anyone—anyone—is free to challenge him to a Shokugeki at any time.

With the Rebellion triumphant, the episode basically takes an extended victory lap, as the framing device of a letter narrated by Tenth Seat Megumi shows us where everyone has ended up, and how a number of characters  have made slight updates to their appearance for the new school year. There’s even a quick glance a a new potential challenger to Souma and/or Erina, who may be a new first-year. Further developments will have to wait until the fifth—and likely final final—season.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 11 – Making Beautiful Music Together

After a moment’s confusion by Souma’s insistence Erina treat their two-course meal as a Shokugeki in and of itself, it occurs to her that he’s right: classic teamwork has never been their strong suit and never will be. Instead, they have to challenge each other to the very hilt, which means an inter-Shokugeki Shokugeki is the only way to go.

Because I am a joyless person, I often skip to the end of Shokugeki no Souma episodes to get a glimpse at who might win, even if it’s somewhat obvious. I won’t do that for potentially game-changing or arc-resolving episodes, however, and so I didn’t do that here.

With only ten minutes remaining, Erina crafts the dish that will beat Souma’s and score the rebels victory over his father and Central. Everyone notices she’s working with a lot more forceful passion—like Souma usually works. She also uses Souma as an assistant, trusting him tasks that will be essential to the success of her dish, and thereby demonstrating splendid teamwork under fire.

When Erina describes her completed main course as a “chicken-and-egg rice bowl”, Azami refuses to even taste it, so disappointed in how far his daughter has fallen. Instead, he has Eishi and Rindou serve as his tasters. Of course, first they have to taste Souma’s dish, which they find so impressive they can’t imagine anything better could follow it up.

But not only does Erina’s Le Plat Veritable: The True Gourmet That Escaped Paradise, Delinquent Daughter Style surpass Souma’s dish, a reality is created for its tasters in which basically no dish could ever have followed Souma’s up so perfectly or surpassed it further. Even more shocking, a vital part of the dish is a croute containing…squid and peanut butter!

Long derided as a form of culinary torture, in the hands of the god tongue it elevates the Jidori chicken in her dish, but also connects it to Souma’s appetizer, creating a synergy between two seemingly vastly different plates that could never have been predicted. Erina may have had to push herself beyond her usual effortless culinary elegance, but when you see her beaming face, you know she enjoyed the hell out of it.

But while Eishi and Tsukasa acknowledge the dish, Azami is still dismissive, calling it a “pile of slop” filled with the “unnecassay passion”, pain and suffering of its chef. He likens Erina’s chosen path to that of his senpai, Souma’s dad, and said it will only lead her to the “Wastelands,” suffocation, and despair. But then Erina insists he taste it and give her and the rest of Totsuki his impressions.

Try as Azami might to fight back the reflexes of his body with the stern logic of his mind, but he cannot. When he reiterates his fear Erina will walk the Wastelands alone, Hisako comes forward and contradicts him, not as Erina’s servant, but as her friend.

Azami’s Gifting ability affects not just those in his immediate facility, but the other members of the Elite Ten, the rebels, Hisako, even Urara! Clothes are torn off left and right as a great distant hammer drums out a beat: beautiful music that Souma and Erina have created. Then Azami’s clothes tear away as well.

What her father calls “contamination” are the precious experiences Erina has had with people of so many backgrounds, skill sets, and values, expanding her culinary universe in ways she could never have imagined, providing the “ulimate spice” for her cooking. Urara has no choice but to declare the rebels the winner of the final bout and of the Team Shokugeki.

All that’s left to do is for someone to say “Glad you enjoyed it!”…and Souma defers to Erina, who is, after all, The Boss.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 10 – The Battle Within the Battle

The final bout is here, and Souma and Erina are forced to work together on a two-course meal. It goes about as well as you’d expect. Souma seems determined to challenge Erina at every turn, even after he lost rock-paper-scissors and got stuck with the first course. Meanwhile, Eishi and Rindou work like a well-oiled machine, and the latter presents their appetizer before the rebels even start cooking.

It’s a mushroom mille-fille using the formic acid from ants of all things to provide a unique and tantalizing tang, and it’s so delicious and well-composed, Azami’s “Gifting” ability—inherited by marrying into the Nakiri family—suddenly activates, disrobing some of the rebels (though I’m not sure why Ikumi is embarrassed, she rarely wears much to start with!)

Rindou’s dish is specifically crafted not just to show what her mastery of rare ingredients can do, but to provide the perfect preamble for Eishi’s main: a delicate yet powerful salt-crusted venison that transports everyone who eats it to a culinary Eden. It’s the ideal Azami talks about when he talks about Central, and even Souma has to admit it’s pretty powerful. But this isn’t a battle to determine whose cooking is best, necessarily, but how they come upon those flavors. It’s about the creative freedom of all chefs, not just an elite few.

As Souma cooks, he is constantly turning to Erina to taste things, tuning each of his ingredients like one would tune the strings of a guitar before a concert, “taking advantage” of her God Tongue the way her father wants to in his Central regime. His resulting dish combines two of his specialties—dishes only he could come up with—into one super-specialty that maximizes both his resourcefulness and playfulness with Erina’s God Tongue ability.

That resulting dish, “Countdown Caveman Meat, Cheeky Youngster Style”, wows all the judges and even causes another bout of Gifting from Azami, who cannot deny Souma juggled some very disparate flavors and techniques into a fascinatingly odd yet still cohesive plate. Unfortunately…it ain’t an appetizer. For one thing, the portion of meat presented is huge, and comes with a side of veggies. It appears to be its own meal, and for that reason, in this two-course Shokugeki, it gets a zero.

Everyone on both sides of the war is shocked that Souma, known for his rashness, would be so thoughtless as to sabotage the crucial final bout by failing to follow the simple rule of creating a dish that must come before another. But Souma hasn’t gone mad; he’s done this to challenge Erina one final time, when it matters most.

He tasted all of the mains she made the previous night; none of them would have beaten Eishi’s venison, because they weren’t her specialty. Souma went and created the best flavors he, Yukihira Souma, could make. Now it falls upon Erina to beat those flavors, and even overcome his un-appetizery portions, with her own gourmet specialty. In effect, Souma started a Shokugeki within the Shokugeki. If she can beat his dish, they lose. Time to put up or shut up!

Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy – 08 – God is in…The Horse?

When no new requests for help were coming into the Hero Club, I assumed that the StuCo had finally commenced implementation of their plan to bring the club down. But then the Drama Club bursts in and begs the club for help so that their club won’t get shuttered by the StuCo.

They present their request as you’d expect a drama club to do so: dramatically, demonstrating a lot of shared qualities with the Hero Club members. The Drama nerds clearly see that potential too, and so have big plans for them.

While the Drama Club runs into a few snags—Kazuhiro won’t run, Yamato can’t remember his lines, and Futaba refuses to take the stage—they mitigate these problems as they come, and before long the operation is a well-oiled machine.

The Drama Club prez even manages to get Rei to believe the “prince’s horse” is an absolutely vital role! Mizuki also discovers that Futaba may have a side-hobby of posting videos in which he performs songs…rather uniquely, but doesn’t immediately put two and two together (another sign of anime-vision).

Throughout all of this, I was wondering where the StuCo was…they’ve been stalking the Hero Club all this time. Were they the ones who created this situation for the Drama Club; in order to keep the Hero Club busy on campus so they’d do less damage off it? We will see.

Then there’s the odd emergency of the wrecked scenery with one day left. A group of cats is blamed for the damage, and Futaba pulls everyone together and makes new scenery, so I’m not sure what the point of the emergency was! With three episodes left, I imagine the final showdown with StuCo will take place in the final episode or two. Until then, there’s a show to put on!

Astra Lost in Space – 04 – Songstress of the Mushroom Kingdom

In addition to action, adventure, and danger, there’s also quite a bit of plain old life aboard the Astra, and whenever the crew is not working against the clock to save their skins, there are little quiet moments of that life: Zack accidentally walking in on a naked Quitterie (and even worse for her, not blushing about it); Funi coming up with a new way to address Kanata (“Aye, yeah!”); or Kanata basically telling the traitor, whoever they are, to “do their worst.”

In the meantime, the crew is going to focus on food and water, not investigations that will waste time and sink morale. While I’m sure the mystery traitor will cause more problems down the road, I’m glad it’s not totally dominating the narrative or the headspace of the crew members. Instead, the crew splits up to find food on the planet Shummoor, a name that sounds kind of like “mushroom,” and thus a hint about who or rather what is the true king of the planet.

Thanks to some friendly Gruppies, one team makes it back to the ship with giant cacti full of water, while the other team has a pretty big haul of delicious fruits. Unfortunately, those fruits spoil almost immediately after being picked, making them unsuitable for storage. This presents a serious problem: their first day’s haul of food will only be good for five days at most; not nearly enough to reach the next planet.

After Ulgar earlier called the towering Yunhua a “big girl” and “useless”, Luca’s thoughtless joking words about being worried Yunhua inadvertently eating all of what little food they have are the last straw. Aries and Kanata find Yunhua’s glasses and a note saying she’s left the ship and will stay behind for the benefit of everyone else.

Naturally, Captain Hoshijima is not going to remotely accept that; each crew member is precious, regardless of their talents or other perceived value. Thankfully both Luca and Ulgar show at least a measure of remorse for their ugly words.

As to Yunhua’s crushing lack of self-esteem, it’s chalked up to Yunhua’s dream to sing like her mother (a famous professional singer) and that selfish mother’s commitment to making sure Yunhua not only never sings to anyone, but remains as invisible as possible.

Even though Kanata has skills for which he’s been praised (and indeed qualities that made him the consensus captain), he can still empathize with Yunhua, for the trauma in his past stems from an inability to do anything to save his sensei. He knows what it’s like to feel useless, but what’s even more useless is to keep feeling that way.

But Yunhua leaving the ship isn’t the crisis of the week, it’s the mushrooms, specifically, when the Pole Tree releases poisonous spores that knock out Aries, Zack, Luca, Ulgar, Funi, and Charce, who at leasts manages to send an SOS to Kanata warning him not to take his helmet off.

Every planet is going to have a bit of an edge of danger to it—it’s built into human nature to fear the unknown—but I like how Astra smartly builds up its threats with clues, while also presenting possible solutions that, while not impossible, still require the crew to work together—or for individual members to do what is necessary when it’s their turn.

Dr. Quitterie is stumped; the medical supplies on the ship can only make the six patients a little more comfortable, but aren’t sufficient to cure them. As Kanata did with the traitor mystery, Quitterie drops her beef with Yunhua running away (and risking everyone else’s life to look for her) and asks her to help out with the patients.

Charce, still barely conscious, figures out the process of the predatory Pole Trees that rule Shummoor, and their symbiotic relationship to the moss and other plants. When Kanata asks if the ecosystem has some kind of limiter on the predation of animals, Charce says there could be an antidote out there: a medicinal mushroom. Sure enough, Yunhua used that very mushroom earlier to cure an ill gruppie. Kanata runs back out there to find some.

He has no luck, and worse, Quitterie succumbs to the spores, having been around the infected so much. That means the only non-bedridden crew member on the ship is Yunhua. Remembering her chat with Kanata about her dream to sing but reluctance to defy her mom, Yunhua steps up and finally does what only she can do: sing to her ill crewmates, sing with all her might, and by doing so create a soothing atmosphere suitable for healing.

As she envisions herself on the stage, in a glittering purple gown, with her bangs out of her face, belting out a reassuring song, Kanata realizes that the Pole Tree won’t allow access to the antidote fruits unless he’s suffering the symptoms of the poisonous spores. So, in true Classic Sci-Fi Captain-y fashion, he takes a huge gamble, removes his helmet, and lets himself be poisoned.

 

Sure enough, the medicinal mushrooms reveal themselves before him, he eats enough to get back on his feet, and the very gruppie he and Yunhua saved gives him a ride back to the Astra. The other ill crew members eat the mushrooms and recover.

The captain put his crew before himself and they are grateful for it. But Yunhua is even more grateful for Kanata helping her break her chains of self-loathing, leading to her playing a vital role  in the crew’s recovery.

As for the crew, they’ve likely learned some vital lessons for future planetary excursions: just because a plant or a mushroom doesn’t have teeth or a roar doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous or deadly. Anything in this vast universe is capable of ruling a kingdom, and mere humans interlope at their own risk.

Astra Lost in Space – 03 – This Is NOT It!

Aries has heterochromia. It’s a detail I never noticed in the first two episodes, until it was explicitly mentioned this week. I thought I was so sure they were the same color, but I looked back on those episodes, and sure enough, one of her eyes is more yellow; the other more green. My eyes just…didn’t notice.

It’s a subtle and clever way for the show to communicate not only that one’s eyes (or other senses) can fool them, but that things could be going on right out in the open and we may not even notice them until it’s too late. The same goes for Kanata, who both suspects and doesn’t suspect everyone. Like us, he may suspect Yunhua and Ulgar the most, but just because we know the least about them.

On their twenty-fourth day in space, Zack anounces that the Astra has arrived at Planet #2, Shummoor, but the rest of the crew is too busy shooting the breeze, which should be seen as progress. Then Funi (and her puppet) start talking about how she was adopted the same day she arrived an an orphanage, and how she overheard adults saying “put her on Beego and we’ll illuminate them all.”

Change “Beego” to “B-go (or 5)” and “illuminate” to “eliminate”, and it sure looks like everyone was put on this ship because they wanted to get rid of them in one fell swoop. With this theory afoot, Kanata decides to tell the others that there’s a traitor in their midst. Ulgar finally reveals something about himself: he’s the estranged son of the school vice principal, a man able to transfer students and choose who goes on what team.

I loved that this exchange marked the return of the haunting music that backed up the first episode’s cold open; a piece that captures both the unfathomable size of space and the equally unfathomable variety of perils it offers. And yet the greatest danger to everyone may be someone among them, not anything out there.

All this talk of a traitor is too much for Quitterie, who loses her composure, even pushing Aries away when she tries to comfort her. The fact is, no one can prove they are or are not the traitor. So Aries decides to table that particular dilemma for now, and have some snacks before heading down to the planet.

Both in this defusing of a volatile situation and in the insight she offers vis-a-vis the possibility of the traitor being on the kill list themselves, making theirs a suicide mission—Aries proves she’s far brainier and tougher than her space-cadet-with-a-photographic memory exterior would suggest.

In the midst of the discussion about this potentially suicidal traitor, another act of apparent sabotage goes down: a hole is blown in the ship’s hull, rupturing a water pipe.

Charce finds fragments and determines that it was an accident, not treachery from one of their own: a meteor pierced the hull, causing damage that if not repaired will spell the end of the ship. It’s actually comforting that it was a truly random, chaotic event, something that happens in space all the time, and something even the traitor did not expect to happen when it happened.

After reciting a couple more lame, vague “survival tips,” Kanata quickly and decisively assigns tasks to each member of the crew, each according to their strengths as he knows them. And after the events of last week, where he made decisions and acted when no one else could, the crew responds by going along with his assignments without protest. He also instills in everyone a palpable sense of “we can do this” by dint of sheer charisma.

The crew springs into action…well, all but Yunhua. Yunhua gets water in her face and some of it ends up down her throat. Because water forms balls in zero-G, she starts to drown, but Quitterie, the closest thing to a medic on the crew, acts quickly to save her, absorbing the water with a cloth. Yunhua is left alone to rest, and while it’s highly unlikely she meant to almost drown, I couldn’t help but think she was up to something arranging to be left on the bridge with no one watching.

Once a series of cables connect the backup generator with the gravity reactor thingamajig (technobabble), the system still throws and error due to a weird bird/bug-like critter flying about that the computer does not recognize. If they can’t nab it, they’ll plummet to their deaths.

The resident marksman, Ulgar, volunteers to shoot the thingy with Luca’s glue gun, as Luca and Kanata keep him steady. He succeeds, and the ship’s gravity and power are restored, halting its death dive into the planet’s atmosphere. Thanks to the talents of the individual crew, and their ability to work together as a unity under Kanata’s direction, the latest crisis is averted.

But that doesn’t change the fact there’s a traitor in their midst. As Luca praises Ulgar’s marksmanship and claims that with a real gun he’d be “unstoppable,” Kanata retorts that guns haven’t been legal in a very long time. And yet there Ulgar goes, into his quarters, to pull out a case containing…a gun.

Could it be as simple as one of the most obvious suspects in the crew actually being the traitor? Or is the reveal of the gun more misdirection? Like Aries’ different colored eyes, the answers may have already stared me in the face long before I discover them for myself…

Fire Force – 01 – (First Impressions) – Exorcising Fire Demons

The premise of Fire Force is as bizarre as it is frightening: in its timeline, the “Solar Era”, spontaneous human combustion is not only a great hazard to Tokyo, but the beings that emerge from the flames, “Infernals,” are demons who must be defeated in order to put the souls of the victims at rest.

That’s the job of Special Fire Force Company 8, of which young newcomer and third-generation pyrokineticist Kusakabe Shinra is its newest member. He just happens to be a witness to the latest emergence of an Infernal, which Company 8 is dispatched to the train station to tackle.

In this way, Shinra gets a first-row view of how the Fire Force gets things done, and it’s as much a battle with a demon as it is a religous ritual; there’s even a sister, Iris, on staff to deliver the proper prayers at the proper time. While Shinra doesn’t participate in the battle, which is another success for Company 8, his quick thinking (and literally flaming feet) manage to rescue Iris from suffering a freak accident at the hands of a falling lamp.

From there, Shinra is taken back to Co.8’s HQ, a somewhat run-down but still very cool-looking cathedral (all of the architecture and mechanical design is very quirky and cool-looking, for that matter). He already met Iris by sweeping her off her feet like a princess, but soon meets Captain Oubi, Lt. Hinawa, and the first-class fire soldier Oze Maki.

Still, while his job is ostensibly to purify fire demons, Shinra clearly has some demons of his own, something he largely gives away every time he gets nervous and his mouth tightens up into a sinister-looking crooked grin. Those demons revolve around some kind of tragedy in his past where he was blamed for his mother and little brother’s death and subsequently ostracized by most other adults in his family and among their friends.

He doesn’t have time to contemplate how he’ll wrestle with those demons for long; the alarm sounds and within minutes he’s prepped and deployed with the rest of the company aboard the armored firetruck “Matchbox” to a factory fire caused by the manager’s wife combusting.

Another firsthand look at a scene of fire and destruction triggers his worst memories of the end of his mom, brother, and home, as he insists within his thoughts that someone else was present who was the primary culprit; it wasn’t a matter of his powers going out of control but someone causing them to.

We’ll see how that pans out, but his Captain and Maki work to keep him in the here and now, focused on the not inconsiderable task before them: the Infernal is one tough cookie.

Ultimately Shinra has to put aside the fact he couldn’t keep his promise to protect his family like a hero, but he decides to make a new promise never to let that happen again, and to protect anyone else affected by the Infernals. He delivers a devastating kick to the core of the Infernal, dispersing it, and Iris says the prayer. Mission Complete.

Outside, Shinra and the rest of the Fire Force gets its due congratulations, thanks, and adulation of the assembled crowd of citizens, not just for stopping the blaze but saving the soul of the manager’s wife. And for the first time since before his mother died, Shinra finally smiles a genuine smile, not the forced smirk with which he is so often cursed at the wrong times.

Fire Force, in a couple words, is pretty damn good. Stylish, fast-paced, and uncomplicated in its presentation of its protagonist, his motivations and goals, and the introduction of his new family and life among Company 8, which is definitely not your typical fire department. It’s a fun and imaginative setting that still feels grounded in reality and modern life.

The vaunted David Production studio provides a feast for the eyes, blending the reds and oranges of the flames with the ever-glowing blue of the fire soldiers as well as the eerie green aurora above Tokyo’s skies. The orchestral score also delivers the appropriate sense of occasion, peril, and excitement, particularly during the boss fight. I’m looking forward to this one.