Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 04 – Be Our Guest

In a cryptic and haunting Blade Runner-esque cold open, Estella holds a bird in her hand beside a second caged bird, and when she smiles, another AI lying on a medical bed smiles as well. Researchers’ voices report they’ve “failed”.

The second AI ends up in a junkyard, surrounded by other discarded AIs in various states of disrepair. A light shines on her once-beautiful, now-ruined face: four armed men have come for her, to give her a new mission.

Vivy decides to lie to Yuzuka about knowing her sister, insisting she’s mistaken. Before Yuzuka can argue, the entire ship shakes. Estella informs all hands that a malfunction of unknown origin has occurred, and all guests are to head to the main hall as a staging area for evacuation.

The crash of the Sunrise is beginning, but Matsumoto is confused; it’s far too early. Events have diverged too far from history. Then Vivy and Yuzuka meet Estella in a corridor, and immediately after Vivy notices she’s not wearing a staff bracelet, Estella attacks her.

After doing some digging, Matsumoto discovers the culprits behind “Estella’s” manipulation and the impending crash of the Sunrise: the anti-AI terrorist group Toak, led by an operative from fifteen years ago.

Vivy and Yuzuka escape the evil “Estella” double and soon find the beheaded LeClerc. Vivy removes her ruined arm and attaches LeClerc’s functioning one, then asks Matsumoto to prepare the anti-personnel combat program he tried to forcefully upload before. Yuzuka on the verge of wigging out, so Vivy gently presses their foreheads together and calmly promises her she’ll get her safely back to Earth without fail.

Upon receiving the combat program, Vivy’s entire aura shifts. She’s still Vivy, just considerably more badass. Ditching her glasses and putting her jacket back on, she heads out into a corridor and the Toak agents are absolutely no match for her superior speed and strength as she dodges bullets and delivers vicious blows.

Vivy revives the real Estella in her office, and when Vivy says the terrorists have control of the Sunrise and are bringing her down, Estella realizes only one person besides herself could make that possible: her younger twin sister, Elizabeth. They were created to determine if copying over one AI’s accumulated experience data to another AI would produce a perfect clone of the original. This puts the cold open into context.

Meanwhile in the control room, Elizabeth sets the drop trajectory to crash the Sunrise, just as her Toak “master” recognizes Vivy on a security monitor; turns out he’s Kakitani, the operative whose life she saved fifteen years ago. As Matsumoto would probably put it, her “unnecessary calculation” resulted in Kakitani coming up with this new scheme.

But Beth has some unnecessary calculations of her own, sedating Kakitani and warning the other Toak agents to take him and hurry to the evacuation ship. She wasn’t prepared to let her master sacrifice himself.

She leaves them, ditches her blonde wig, and changes into more comfortable threads for her confrontation with Estella and Vivy. Beth cops to convincing LeClerc that Estella killed the previous owner, giving her all the systems access she needed. Vivy uses her combat skills to protect Estella, and Matsumoto infects Beth with a reformatting virus that affects her motor skills.

Unlike Estella, the free bird who had a mission, Beth had nothing until Kakitani brought her in. She considers herself Master’s “lifekeeper”, defining him as the only member of “humankind” it became her mission to protect. There’s no doubt she got the short shrift, but Vivy and Matsumoto simply don’t have time for the sisters to hash it out, so Vivy headbutts Beth, knocking her out.

In the control room, Estella discovers that the die is cast: Sunrise’s mass won’t allow it to pull out of its descent. Even worse, it’s headed not for the ocean, but a coastal city. To fulfill her lifekeeper mission, Estella decides to systematically separate the Sunrise into its constituent modules, so the smaller pieces will burn up in the atmosphere.

It’s an operation that can only be performed by her, in the control room, so she’ll be going down with the ship. When Vivy tells her they’re sisters too, Estella reminds her, they’re AIs. They live for their missions, not one another.

With another gentle meeting of foreheads—possibly exchanging data—Estella urges Vivy to board one of the departing evac ships. Shortly after, Beth joins her in the control room, her Toak conditioning purged, and the sisters meet in person for the first time.

Vivy reunites with Yuzuka aboard an evac ship, and Estella’s warm and calming voice comes over the PA, apologizing to the guests for all of the inconvenience they’ve suffered, but assuring them that they’ll be alright. She then opens the ships’ observation windows and directs their attention to the sun rising over the Earth.

As Beth begins to sing a sad and beautiful song about the stars with her sister by her side, the evac ships are on course for the airports on the surface, and the human guests aren’t just remaining calm, they’re smiling as they behold Earth’s majesty—and smiling guests was always Estella’s greatest wish.

As the several dozen decoupled components Space Hotel Sunrise burn up in the atmosphere shortly after the song concludes, Matsumoto declares their Singularity Project mission accomplished, and shuts down until their next mission in the future.

Vivy confesses to Yuzuka, that she was lying before about not being Diva; not she did know Momoka, she was her only human friend, who gave her her name and the bear. Vivy gives Yuzuka the bear for safekeeping, and the two await their return to humankind’s proper place: Dear Old Earth. So ends another fine chapter in Vivy’s epic time-traversing odyssey to save humankind.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 03 – Space Hotel Sunrise

Fifteen years have passed since Diva rescued the assemblyman, Momoka died in a plane crash, and Matsumoto beat the ever-loving shit out of Diva to prove the point that they can’t meddle excessively in the timeline. He had her body repaired and she returned to NiaLand, where she continued to perform and attracted larger crowds over the years.

She’s still wrestling with the concept of singing “with all one’s heart” when Matsumoto returns to report the next “Singularity Point” requiring action. He also scolds her for influencing the assemblyman to push for even more pro-AI human rights legislation. But the more pressing crisis is that of Space Hotel Sunrise, whose AI director crashes into the earth, killing thousands.

Matsumoto arranges for Diva to join the space hotel’s all-AI hospitality staff under the name Vivy, going Full Temporal Secret Agent in a thrilling space venue that calls to mind the Fhloston Paradise space cruise in The Fifth Element. She meets the director, Estella, and learns that she’s her successor model—essentially, her little sister.

While Estella reminds Vivy to keep smiling for human guests who may be on edge from being in space for the first time, Matsumoto’s assignment for her is simple: prevent Estella from crashing the Space Hotel Sunrise by eliminating her. The crash is a major catalyst in anti-Ai sentiment that will eventually lead to the AI uprising.

The problem is, Vivy simply can’t reconcile the Estella she’s met—and observes playing with children in a Zero-G bubble room—with the Estella later remembered as “the single most grievously defective AI in history”. Matsumoto considers this irrelevant.

They’re here to destroy Estella and prevent the crash; anything else is “needless calculations” he warned her about. Still, while fulfilling her hospitality duties, Vivy learns from her co-worker Leclerc that there are rumors Estella took over the hotel and was involved in the death of the previous human owner.

Vivy decides to investigate Estella on her own, but Matsumoto follows her into Estella’s quarters just as Estella arrives. When Estella picks him up, he prepares to hack her and cause a system failure, but Vivy casts him aside and asks Estella straight-up about the previous owner.

She maintains that the owner died in an EVA accident, which Matsumoto later confirms she had no involvement. Estella asked his family for permission to keep the hotel going under her management to keep a promise he made to him before he died. When she says anyone would laugh at an AI talking about such things, Vivy, genuinely moved, says she wouldn’t laugh.

Just then, an alarm sounds, some 23 hours before the crash is slated to occur. Estella runs a scan and determines a malfunction in a security wall. She asks the rest of the staff to double check all systems while she opens up the roof of the main hall to reveal the dazzling night sky. Then she sings a song to calm and soothe the stressed guests—a true professional all the way.

However—and this will probably be important next week—Matsumoto is right beside her when she opens the roof. Did he do something to her while they were in physical contact? Also, a girl recognizes Vivy as Diva and introduces herself as Momoka’s younger sister. For Vivy, that seals it: she isn’t going to let another Kirishima die, no matter what.

However, something is very rotten in the state of Leclerc, as she meets secretly with Estella in a cargo bay and holds out some kind of device Estella presses with her thumb. Moments later, as Leclerc walks away, Estella rushes up to her as if to gather her into an embrace, the shears Leclerc’s goddamn head off and sighs in a thoroughly sinister way.

This sudden carnage occurs while we’re still hearing Estella’s lovely song about the stars, providing a wonderful clash of the beautiful and the horrific. Whether it’s Leclerc who caused Estella to malfunction with that little thumbpad or Estella just snapped, Vivy’s trials aboard Space Hotel Sunrise have just begun.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 02 – Narrowing the Mandate

The first episode didn’t so much end as pause, but because the second episode was immediately available, that wasn’t a concern. Diva is in time to take a bullet for Aikawa, but it’s only the first of dozens of time she’ll need to safe his life throughout this harrowing, pulse-pounding action-packed episode of Vivy, which due to the corporate skyscraper setting and terrorists could be called Die Hard: With a Vivy-engeance.

That is not a bad thing, as the people behind this production know what they’re doing and execute beautifully. Also, Aikawa’s pursuers are no two-bit op, but the well-trained and equipped anti-AI group Toak, represented by the younger, less-experienced Kakitani and the hulking Batou-like Kuwana. They’re not just there to kill AIkawa, but blow the whole damn building to kingdom come.

Diva conceals her identity by placing a disguising filter in Aikawa’s AR glasses, so all he sees is a generic AI drone. Diva and Matsumoto’s mission is simple: keep him alive. But between her tactical inexperience and the fact that she has the AI equivalent of free will with all its inherent unpredictability, Matsumoto soon decides it best to inject her with combat training a la The Matrix.

Diva severs the wire connection, angry that Matsumoto has only been offering a “slow drip feed” of the future and is now trying to override her singing mandate. But Matsumoto makes it clear there’s a reason he did that: he doesn’t quite trust her yet, even if the professor and researcher with whom he shares his name did.

In the midst of their quarrel, Kuwana gets the jump in her with a “Logical Bullet”, which scrambles her circuits and renders her inoperative. He then shoots Aikawa dead and shoots Diva for good measure, accidentally getting her blue “blood” on his boot. As the Toak team prepares to set the bomb timers, it looks like Diva failed her mission big time. At the same time, it soon becomes clear when Matsumoto hacks Toak bombs that Kuwana was tricked.

Matsumoto used his night-vision goggles to show him what he wanted to see: him killing Aikawa and destroying Diva. By the time Kuwana realizes there’s no blood on his boot, they’re already headed to the very Matrix-like imposing lobby. When they’re confronted by Kakitani, who clearly hates both AI and Aikawa with the hotness of the sun, Matsumoto detonates some of the bombs, bringing rubble down on him and the other Toak operatives.

But as a giant piece of concrete is about to smash Kakitani like a pancake, Diva runs under it and catches it, causing severe damage to her arm and tearing her jacket. Far from grateful, Kakitani seems disgusted and horrified an AI saves him, and later expresses that disgust verbally to Kurawa. Matsumoto, meanwhile, is frustrated that Diva continues to act erratically.

Of course, she isn’t: she’s acting according to her personal prime directive: make people happy with her singing. In order to do that, people have to be alive, so if a person needs rescuing—even a terrorist and her enemy—she’ll do what she can, as she does here. In the midst of all this chaos, Aikawa admits he doesn’t really care about AIs, but is paying lip-service to aid his political rise.

Matsumoto tells Diva that the professor was wrong to stake everything on her, but he had little choice. 100 years in the future, the only AI body that remained in complete form without evolution or modification was Diva’s, as her status as the first autonomous AI meant she was soon turned into a museum exhibit. This is a wonderfully awesome detail to me, as it has a parallel in the reboot of Battlestar Galactica: the human race was saved by an obsolete museum ship the evil Cylons couldn’t hack.

Matsumoto wants Diva to understand that even if she was originally programmed to be a singer, in the very near future she’ll be relegated to an inert, silent artifact, and become the longest of long shots of a researcher trying to prevent humanity’s destruction. He scolds her for letting “such a thing” as her singing mission jeopardize the Singularity Project.

But Diva tells him to take it back and defiantly shrugs the concrete off of her, and pulls off her torn jacket, saying it doesn’t matter for AIs how long they operate, but how they continue to operate. She still considers her mission is to sing. To accomplish that, Aikawa must live, but so must Kakitani. Also, she has to bring the whole building down.

So begins a rush from the lobby to the open observation deck near the top, where Diva takes Aikawa’s hand, breaks into a run as the bombs detonate (after all of Toak evacuates), and helps ensure Aikawa is able to leap from the one toppling building to the next. He lands hard, but he’s otherwise fine as Diva follows him with a bad-ass balletic leap. Kakitani catches her in midair with the full moon as a backdrop, shattered glass flying everywhere. Everything about this scene just owns so hard.

After Aikawa thanks her and they part ways, she asks Matsumoto if there’s a chance he could get the AI naming laws passed anyway, but Matsumoto assures her that won’t happen. Aikawa proved a more effective legislator in death than he’ll prove to be in life.

His career will flag and he’ll be voted out before any law sees daylight. And yet, the way Aikawa repeats to himself what Diva said about “not how long you live, but how you live”, I could almost see Aikawa suddenly growing a spine, thereby undermining Matsumoto’s mission.

While Diva’s mission is accomplished for now, Matsumoto playfully takes her to task for introducing far too many unpredictable variables, and strongly recommends she avoid “all or nothing” strategies when she’s all they—and humanity—have. Her “antics” in the Die Hard operation make him shudder to think what’s ahead for them. From a vantage point that overlooks the city, Matsumoto points out the colossal Arayashiki tower looming further out on the horizon.

He says the taller the tower gets, the more AIs in society will evolve. Call it a barometer of their progress; they want the tower to remain as short as possible—even bring it down if necessary. Diva and Matsumoto shake hands, and Diva agrees that she’ll continue helping him stave off the future war—but only as long as it isn’t in violation of her mission to make people happy through song.

Matsumoto is also quick to mention that while they did bring down a huge skyscraper tonight, the collapse caused no deaths and the overall changes to the timeline were within an acceptable range. He goes on to warn Diva that while they technically have the ability to alter history however they like, Diva’s actions will fall strictly within the limits of the Singularity Project.

When Diva looks as if she’s contemplating who and what else she can save in the present while also saving the future, Matsumoto commandeers an industrial power loader straight out of Aliens and, before even Diva can react, uses it to violently smash her against a far away wall. His tone becomes far more grave as he warn her “Let’s not do this.”

He cannot allow her “personal calculations” to unduly affect history or cloud the mission to prevent the excessive evolution of AIs, and that’s it. That means, despite seeing a newspaper article from a day from now in which a plane crash results in the death of her young friend Momoka, Diva is forbidden from tending to “every single accident in history.” Momoka looks out from her window seat and spots Diva moments before the plane explodes in a fireball, and all Diva can do is watch in horror and shed a tear.

Just when you thought Matsumoto would be a constant source of comic relief, he demonstrates his merciless devotion to sticking to the plan. It will be interesting to see if Diva remains cowed or if she finds small ways to rebel against Matsumoto’s—let’s face it, inhuman inflexibility. The future must be saved, but how it’s saved matters to Diva—just as how she continues to live is more important than how long she lives.

With this one-two punch of thrilling opening salvos, the curiously-titled Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song has already established itself as an early contender for Best Anime of 2021. I can’t wait to see how it shakes out.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 01 (First Impressions) – Her New Mission

We begin at the end, and I immediately deem it hilarious that “music” is one of the two genres MAL lists under this show, the other being “sci-fi”. With “music” in there I was certain I’d have to sit through at least theme park idol song, possibly with CG dancing. And while an idol is indeed walking down the tunnel to NiaLand’s main stage, the music starts up, and she begins to sing and dance…let’s just say the audience is indisposed.

For as the idol sings and dances, a horrific massacre is taking place, both in the stands and throughout the park. The AI hosts have gone berserk and are engaging in a festival of cold blunt force savagery upon the human guests. Splattered blood and little fires are everywhere. Like Skynet, the machines in The Matrix, and the hosts of Westworld, apparently the AIs have decided to do away with humans as the earth’s dominant species.

One of the park’s researchers manages to get to a place where he can activate a special emergency protocol involving an AI named “Diva”, all the while apologizing in advance for the terribly heavy burden he’s placing upon her and her alone. AI techs arrive and shoot the researcher dead, but not before he activates the program.

After some brief exposition on the fundamental “one single mission per AI” mandate that keeps the lives of AI “free of confusion”, we meet “Diva” (voiced by Tanezaki Atsumi – Chise from The Ancient Magus’ Bride), the world’s first-ever autonomous humanoid AI, who was given the mission “to make everyone happy by singing with all her heart.” But despite her massive potential, Diva seems relegated to a quiet corner of NiaLand singing to a bored crowd of two or three at best.

Diva has a fan and friend in the human girl Momoka, whom she helped when she got lost once and nicknames her “Vivy.” Momoka even gives Diva a teddy for her first birthday. At the moment Diva’s moments disallow her from getting anywhere near the vaunted Main Stage, but Momoka has her promise to “someday” sing there, where her powers of song can reach the most people.

Diva’s otherwise routine day is suddenly interrupted when an ominous timer that was in the top left corner finally reaches 11:35:00:00, at which point “Project Singularity” is executed. Diva’s consciousness is transferred from her body to a virtual construct called the Archive, where she meets a program in a floating cube that assumes the name of his developer, Matsumoto.

Matsumoto is here from 100 years in the future (and the massacre we witnessed) to ask Diva to join him in “destroying the Ais”. Diva immediately suspects some kind of virus or error, but all scans come up clean, and no matter how many times she asks Matsumoto to piss off, he refuses, and instead shows her imagery recorded from the future when Ais turned on humanity. In the first few minutes over 10,000 humans perished, and that’s only the beginning, if the future doesn’t change.

The next day, Diva goes about her routine, this time singing to an audience of no one, as Matsumoto predicted. Still, that’s nothing too unusual so it could have been a guess, so Diva has a human tech run a diagnosic that turns up nothing. Whatever Matsumoto is, she can’t be rid of him. He decides to tell her about another future event that will take place that very day: a bomb in a garbage can will seriously injure a pro-AI rights politician.

Once Matsumoto has given Diva this information, and less than a minute to respond, she chooses the next course of action quickly, and it underscores her unique nature as an autonomous AI—as opposed to the rest of the AI staff, who wouldn’t have been able to unilaterally break out of their primary directives. Diva is different, so she breaks into Terminator-style tromping run, pushes past the bodyguards with ease, and shields the politician from the blast—all in 45 seconds of real time.

The politician, Aikawa Yoichi, is grateful to Diva, and promises that next time he visits the park he’ll come watch her sing. But unfortunately, his dream of naming laws leading to equal human rights for AI will bring about humanity’s downfall in a century’s time.

Matsumoto tells Diva that the first bomb was only a warning, and those who want Aikawa dead will succeed in assassinating him. He’ll be labeled a martyr, speeding of passage of legislation in his name that will ironically doom humanity. So Diva’s next job is to prevent the assassination. Aikawa is ambushed in his office by SWAT-style operatives, but Diva jumps down from the ceiling just in time to shield him, and their bullets don’t damage her.

So begins the familiar but so-far compelling story of the reluctant heroine Diva’s new mission to stop a war between AI and humans that the humans will lose. The only way to do that is to slow or otherwise modify the particular explosive evolution of AI that leads to them to one day say in a single voice “we’re done with humans.”

This is an anime-original series, precluding any adaptation issues. It’s made by Wit Studio right on the heels of the first part of Attack on Titan’s final season, and created and written by Nagatsuki Tappei (Re:Zero), and scored by Kousaki Satoru of the Monogatari series. You can feel all that talent behind the confident, professional, polished production. This wasn’t on my initial Spring list, but it’s there now, and it’s not going anywhere.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 03 – Waking in the Light

Grimoires sap the MP of humans but in exchange allows them to use powerful magic; the demons assume Syalis would try to steal one in order to gain said magic, but really she just wants to read something boring so she’ll fall asleep!

The first grimoire doesn’t make her sleepy, but unbeknownst to her it lowers her MP to critical levels. As a result she’s unable to stand or walk and must roll around like a log. That said, she doesn’t die and require resurrection by the Cleric!

As she bounces down steps and pinballs off statuses, she inadvertently unlockes the most powerful Forbidden Grimoire’s seal. Once again, the princess manages to foil the castle’s defenses quite on accident!

When Azalif, Spirit of the Grimoire is awakened, he assumes the princess wants to use him to break out of the prison and lend power to the Hero. Instead, she smushes him back into the grimoire.

Syalis rejects all of Azalif’s offers to help her defeat the Demon Lord, but when he mentions she can “incapacitate” everyone in the castle, she performs the spell, which again uses almost all of her MP.

Everyone in the castle falls into a deep sleep for three days…except for Syalis, the caster. Not about to be defeated, she finally completes the quest by using a grimoire…as a pillow.

One day, Syalis becomes obsessed with the pressure points that aid sleep, but her teddy slave is too soft and plushy to apply the necessary pressure, so she breaks out of her cell to find someone who will.

Preferring to keep her intentions vague, she only makes things awkward for everyone, including the Demon Lord himself, with her misleading phrasing:

I need someone to touch my body.

I’ll fall asleep in an instant, so please touch me in my room.

You…Don’t say a word and push here.

The Demon Lord relents, presses the right spot, and Syalis goes out like a light. But she soon realizes that without sunlight (the castle resides in eternal night) her internal clock will become more and more messed up and she’ll never feel rested.

Making use of various items she’s stolen in past episodes, she escapes to the Forest of Sacred Treasure to investigate a bright light that turns out to be the Demon Lord’s ultimate weapon: the Sword of Valor.

The demons assume the princess is escaping to meet up with the Hero and prepare to chase her down, only for her to quietly walk past them and back towards the castle, the sword on her back gleaming and humming along. Of course, she has no intention to use it as a sword, but as a makeshift sun to greet her in the morning.

As with all of the things she’s done, the Demon Lord is terribly bemused and befuddled, but that’s Princess Syalis for you—always in her own world, seeking nothing more or less than the best possible night’s sleep.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 02 – Her Own Little World

As the Hero Dawner and his party brave the labyrinthing dungeons leading to the Demon Castle, the Demon King shows up to taunt them. Dawner is convinced Princess Syalis is in appalling danger and terribly frightened, but we know better that the King is just putting up a brave front. In reality, the captive Syalis is an entity entirely separate from both man and demon, concerned only with her own comfort during her captivity.

As such, once she wakes up with a bug bite and realizes her cell is open to the elements, she determines she needs a mosquito net. Since she lacks a net, she makes one out of the perfect material: the boss of the ghost shroud she turned into bedsheets, who paid her a visit to give her a piece of his mind only to fall to her giant scissors. If you’re going to confront Syalis, you’d better not be made out of something she can use to make herself cozier!

With the net made, she must reach a point high enough above her bed at which to hang it so it will be effective. Again the means of achieving this objective walk right into her cell in the form of a cat with suction shoes. She “borrows” them (but never gives them back) and climbs up a tower outside her room at the right angle. This happens to be the location of a phoenix nest with the first eggs laid in a century, but she couldn’t care less—she’s just hanging her net!

Her next quest involves locating a pharmaceutical means of improving her sleep quality. When her very blatant efforts to swipe a bottle of sleep potion in the middle of an elder demon meeting come up short, she has the teddies break her out and explores the castle, eventually finding a grove of giant mushrooms that double as fluffy mattresses. Unfortunately, they are toxic, and she dies…again! Turns out she’s died a lot, and the Cleric is working overtime to impress upon her the importance of valuing her life.

Syalis’ attempts to secure sleep potions put her over the 100-mark when it comes to Demon Castle code violations, as recorded by the rule-obsessed leader of the Red Siberian guards. After reprimanding the guard who almost gave Syalis the potion without the Demon King’s consent, he returns her to her cell for a full inspection. When he tells her the hostage (i.e. her) is supposed to be “sleepless out of fear” of the king, her look is so spacy it’s as if she was briefly transported into the cosmos.

After her cell is organized and (most) of the stuff she stole returned, he proceeds to deliver a lecture on the Demon King and his castle. His droning cadence eventually lulls Syalis into acute fatigue, and when she realizes the Siberian’s mane is soft and fluffy, she falls right to sleep, utterly ignoring his pleas for her to be more afraid. It sure seems like a losing proposition, especially since much of the rest of the castle has given up. It’s Syalis’ world, and they’re just living in it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – 01 (First Impressions) – Comfort At All Costs

In an effort to claim the Human kingdom of Goodereste as his dominion, the Twilight Demon Lord takes Princess Syalis hostage. But rather than despair in her unadorned cell, all Syalis really wants to do is get a good night’s sleep!

We follow her increasingly creative efforts to make that happen through the gradual improvement of her sleeping conditions. That’s it…that’s the show! There isn’t the slightest effort to make either her captivity or its political ramifications remotely serious, and that’s just fine! Syalis has her priorities, and they begin and end with her nightly comfort, The End.

Her efforts are laid out as individual “quests”, four of which make up this first episode, starting with a new pillow. At first she considers whether to kill the demon teddies who serve her meals, but she instead simply brushes them of their excess fluff.

Syalis proves wonderfully resourceful and industrious when it comes to locating the materials and tools with which to create said pillow, which makes you wonder whether she wouldn’t be in captivity and the Demon Lord wouldn’t be a threat if she used her powers for things other than improving her bedding!

With her pillow quest completed, she proceeds to have a wonderful night of peaceful sleep, which is very much the opposite of what her host wants. At the conclusion of each of her quests, the Demon Lord stops by her cell to talk, only to find her sleeping so soundly even he dare not disturb her, and holds off their chat to a tomorrow that never comes.

The Demon Lord isn’t the only softie in this giant, lightning-wreathed, otherwise intimidating-looking castle. His guards, servants, and members of his own court are either two Cokes short of a six-pack or simply too bewildered by the princess’ unexpected okayness with her captivity to do anything.

Syalis’ next two quests have her exchanging her crown for a sorcerers’ scissors in order to make a “soft crown” she can sleep in without it marring her forehead, and then stabbing and (re?)killing a “Ghost Shroud” she deems the softest and most luxurious bedsheet.

The latter quest is an exhaustive castle-wide cloak-snipping rampage that none of her captors can stop or even slow down! It’s also aided by the fact her meal teddies are always ready and willing to give her the key to her cell in exchange for a good brushing.

Her final quest of the week involves finding a more overall comfortable bed, away from the din of the various monsters and demons snoring in her cell block. This leads her to literally stumbling upon a wind shield that suspends her on a soft cushion of air…which happens to be a shield the Demon Lord absolutely needs in order to maintain his military advantage.

In order to take the smaller wind-producing piece of the shield with her, she smashes the shield to bits with a passing “diamond guard” she tosses into a pillowcase to make a blackjack. I don’t know why a princess knows about mob weapons, but I don’t care; it’s hilarious, as is the way she jumbles together the useless remains of the shield and tosses it into a chest.

With a potentially ideal air-bed in her possession, Syalis searches the castle and grounds for the best place to set it up. In the process she is spotted by guards, then trips on a slippery demon, falls into the magma moat…and dies. This happens hilariously quickly and casually.

No sooner does she realize she’s dead doe she wake up in the demon chapel beneath the castle, run by the Demon Cleric. She also wakes up in a coffin, and proceeds to use the Cleric’s goat horns to sand smooth, then lines with the ghost shroud and her new pillow.

Her new bed thus perfected, Syalis closes herself into the coffin, away from the noises of her cellmates, and passes into a deep slumber, none the worse for wear after her death-by-magma and rapid resurrection. Of course, that’s when the Demon Lord arrives at her cell to talk, only to have to postpone it for another time, because he’s not one to interrupt a princess’ sleep!

Nimble, imaginative, and filled with lovely stylized fantasy imagery, Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle is a lot of fun, anchored by the always-charming vocal talents of Minase Inori and a supporting cast of colorful supporting voices.

I love how the Demon Lord and his minions are basically a bunch of big ol’ softies who can do nothing against Syalis’ easy, breezy charm. She basically dares them to wake her up and throw her in a dungeon, but that ain’t happening…and even if it did, she’d probably make the most of it!

Finally, there’s also a Hero and his party out there trying to rescue the princess, unaware that she doesn’t need to be rescued. She doesn’t even remember the guy’s name, and trying to remember would be a waste of time better spent improving her bedding.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 06

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Haruna creates a Makie decoy and distracts the human soldiers while Kirishima (still in a stuffed bear) protects the real Makie. After her contact with Makie, Haruna finds she isn’t able to kill the soldiers, so attacks them non-lethally. This drains her energy, and the decoy dissipates. The soldiers find Makie and Kirishima and open fire, but Haruna shields them in time, becoming pinned down herself. She pleads for someone to save them, and Iona and the I-401 arrive to do just that.

After last week’s fiasco, we approached this episode in a bit of a sour mood and with much trepidation. Could Blue Steel manage to pull out of this tailspin? Things were looking grim in the first minutes, with Makie’s lame dying creator-dad breaking out this gem:

You were created as a puppet. And yet, I came to care for you. And now, you are attempting to form a bond with the enemies of humanity. How ironic.

It’s not ironic, it’s just freaking stupid. Anyway, we weren’t about to let this show break our spirits and defeat us, any more than Haruna was going to let those army dudes lay a hand on her dear new friend. So we decided to accentuate the positives. Fortunately, there were far more than we anticipated.

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First of all, as the episode progressed we actually bought into Haruna’s sudden friendship with Makie. She’s Fog after all, so a day of contact is apparently enough for her to form an intense bond with a human, to the point she fights with everything she’s got, but stops herself from killing. All her amassed data and observations led to that bond and the development of emotions, which end up circumventing her Fog directives. There’s also a nice symmetry to Kirishima getting caught up in Haruna’s new-found compassion, just as Haruna got caught up in Kirishima’s sabre-rattling in the naval battle.

Secondly, there was no shortage of “Fuck Yeah!” moments throughout: From Haruna stepping out into the hall to face off with the soldiers, to all of her myriad bullet-deflecting and gun-melting, helicopter-killing tactics. Ridiculous as it was, watching Teddy-Kirishima kick ass was still hilariously awesome to behold. And Iona’s timely arrival and subsequent pwnage of the soldiers—irrespective of her past beef with her Fog sisters—was also most satisfying. This episode did much to assuage the grief last week’s stoked; for the moment, the series seems to be back on track.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Binbougami ga! – 13 (Fin)

Ichiko stops Teddy and Momou from soiling Momiji and she escapes out the window with her. Ranmaru catches them in midair, and they hitch a ride with Bobby to get away. Teddy and Momou are in hot pursuit, but Ranmaru takes on Momou. Using Bobby’s “Jazz Hyper” charm, Ichiko takes on Teddy, but gets knocked out. Keita looms over her when she awakes, and she asks him a “hypothetical” question about Momoji that she already knows the answer to, she races back to Momiji, catching her as she’s falling from the bridge, then dropping her in a passing garbage barge. She returns to her normal, abrasive self.

Well now, that was a pleasant surprise: a finale that tied everything up neatly and entertainingly, completed Sakura Ichiko’s arc, and providing plenty of high-stakes action and more kinetic comedy. The episode juxtaposes scenes of motion and stillness (with appropriate changes in tone) and gives the whole cast something to do – even Nadeshiko has a (real) cameo. Ranmaru and Momou’s duel is particularly badass, with all the requisite pre-battle banter one would expect of a shounen anime. But one reason this episode worked is that its resolution wasn’t as simple as Ichiko’s original goal of saving Momiji.

At the episode’s beginning, Ichiko didn’t want Momiji to change back because “things were easier this way”, by the end, and with prodding by both Teddy and Keita, she decides to not allow Momiji sacrifice her godhood. But she claims, as always, to be doing it for herself – as friendly and lovable as Momiji-chan was, Ichiko knew deep down it wasn’t right, sparring with the insulting foul-mouthed Binbougami-ga was simply more entertaining. We’d also say that Momiji’s mission was successful: Ichiko’s gone from a lonely, bitchy luck-vacuum to someone with friends she cares about and shares her fortune.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Binbougami ga! – 12

After being bathed by Ichiko and Ranmaru, Momiji has lost her powers and become a regular human, who begins to be noticed by everyone around her. This irks Ichiko, who still suspects treachery. Her suspicions go too far when she makes Momiji cry and run away. Ichiko catches her and apologizes. Life continues on with normal Momiji, until Teddy gets thrown into a garbage truck and returns to his normal twisted self. Teddy and Moumou then plot to make Momiji dirty so her God powers return.

After eleven episodes of being annoyed, pestered, poked and prodded by the God of Misfortune, this week Ichiko comes to grips with a prospect heretofore unthinkable: a kind, pleasant Binboda Momiji who has no desire to bother her at all; on the contrary, only wants to be her friend and to be happy. We don’t blame Ichiko for being skeptical…initially. Callously throwing dinner Momiji lovingly made back in her face was a bit too mean, but we did like how the art style turned to Death Note mode, with Ichiko as the ever-skeptical L and Momiji as the outwardly affable Yagami Light.

Of course, that’s a great anime being parodied by a just-okay anime for not much reason. But for what it’s worth, we enjoyed the nice Momiji, while she lasted, and to its credit, the episode didn’t end with “everything back to the way it was”; a revitalized Momiji in trickster mode getting right back to making Ichiko’s life a living hell. Instead, it cuts to the credits with Momiji willingly facing her fate, which is kind of sad. Ichiko was so busy suspecting a scheme, she didn’t stop to appreciate what a nice person and potential friend the powerless Binboda Momiji was.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Dantalian no Shoka 8

Two characters from pevious episodes return with new phantom book problems. First Camilla, who acquires the Book of Equivalence to continually barter until she gets bored and gets Dalian a teddy she wanted. Second, Huey’s war buddy Armand is suffering from the effects of the Book of Relationship, actually two books in possession of two lovers, only his fiance believes he’s cheating on her. He isn’t, but her suspicions are enough to incur the wrath of the book.

This week had the feeling of another respite episode; Huey and Dalian are not that involved and the stakes and danger are quite low in both segments. While I don’t have a problem with Camilla and Armand returning, I do have a problem with how just about everyone in this episode, including these two, are complete morons, as a more-moe-than-usual Dalian remarks. The bookkepper gets things started by accidentally selling an extremely dangerous, potentially deadly book. Then Camilla uses it as an afternoon’s diversion. Huey and Dalian chase her across a dozen locations in which she makes exchanges. Can’t she just play croquet or something?

Then there’s Armand, who barges into Huey’s house, nearly kills Dalian and Camilla (who’s still there for some reason), and also seems to set the house on fire – yet we never see how it’s put out. Armand’s an idiot for getting mixed up in another book and not notifying his lieutenant the moment he came across it, while his fiancee Lianna is an idiot for thinking every time he looks at or talks to another woman, he’s a traitorous traitor who deserves death. I also had a problem with them actually letting her kill him (to fulfill ’till death do us part’) and so cavalierly bringing him back like it was nothing. These books are not toys!


Rating: 2.5