O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 09 – What Now?

At least, for a little while, we get to experience the pure initial jubilation of Kazusa and Izumi being a couple, meeting outside their adjoining houses, and walking to and from school together. Everything looks brighter and shinier, food smells and tastes better, and Izumi looks cuter to Kazusa’s eyes. They’re very much on cloud nine, but throughout it all there’s the underlying knowledge that it just can’t last.

Rika, too, admits she has changed, as a “victim of love”, but has also learned that boys are far more sensitive and nuanced than she thought, and tells the rest of the club to value them as humans—something only she didn’t do before.

While all five girls were in one way or another “losers,” now suddenly Kazusa and Rika are “winners,” having broken the plane of boy-girl romance, and their subsequent floating on clouds does not go unnoticed by those left behind. As a self-proclaimed “loser” himself, it’s Milo-sensei’s experience that winning stifles the imagination, which suits Hitoha just fine.

You could also say that winners are so busy winning their guards are down. Kazusa buys Niina’s half-hearted congratulations, but what Niina doesn’t tell her is that she’s still considering whether to steal Izumi from her, and if so, how. Momo isn’t okay with that, and promises Niina that losing two friends (her and Kazusa) for one boy isn’t worth it.

Niina begs to differ: after all, saying she can’t have sex with mere friends—something Momo doesn’t seem that sure about.

So as their destruction is plotted, Kazusa and Izumi go about their wonderful glittery romance…only the glitter gives way to awkwardness when they find themselves alone in Izumi’s house together. What’s the next step for them? They have no idea, not just what they want to do, but what the other person wants to do.

They aren’t communicating properly yet, nor have they set boundaries or lack thereof, so they make assumptions, some of which are right, like Izumi sitting beside her. They hold hands together, but they both get hung up on how sweaty their hands are, and then Izumi’s mom comes in and suddenly they’re six feet apart.

Ultimately, they won’t know what they want to do until they try something, and they won’t know what to try with each other until they discuss it. Right now, their deep, ten-year familiarity is clashing with the newness of their boyfriend-girlfriend status, and resulting in a bit of a short-circuit.

Meanwhile, the fact Kasuza is with Izumi and Rika is with Amagi means the lit club is suddenly taking a break, giving the recent festival as an excuse, but let’s not fool ourselves: Momo and Hitoha and especially Niina are only going to sit and listen to Rika and Kazusa talk about how great it is to be dating boys for so long.

So Momo goes home alone, not knowing quite what to do about the rift between Niina and Kazusa. Niina invites Izumi to “ride the train” with him assuming she’s willing to offer advice as a friend. Hitoha ambushes Milo-sensei in the clubroom with an “expose,” and give him an ultimatum: sleep with her, just once, or everyone, including his beloved Tomita-sensei, will find out about all the things he’s said to a high school girl.

While I doubt Hitoha was simply bluffing here, the fact remains, she wasn’t 100% prepared for him to not only say “okay” to an offer of sex, but set a time and place for him to pick her up. Milo is quickly approaching the point of no return, but his feelings for Tomita, and the threat of her knowing how deviant he’s been, are clearly clouding his judgment.

Later, Hitoha waits at the agreed-upon time and place, and gets in when Milo-sensei stops and tells her to, tossing her underwear into a nearby garbage can. No good can come of this!

In a nice bit of synergy, the same book that Rika and her new gal friend Sonoe (with whom she now interacts far more comfortably) bond over in the library is the book Niina presents to Izumi on the train, describing his relationship with Kazusa to the The Little Prince and the one rose on his planet. When he went to earth, he found that roses were commonplace, but a fox told him that the sum of his time and experiences with that first rose make it unique.

Saegusa tells Niina that she’s the fox, saying the words that will lead to the Prince living the rest of his days with that one special rose, while the fox itself is never mentioned again once they part ways. To not be forgotten like the fox in the story, Niina has to make a bold move.

Whether someone was actually touching her bottom on the train once it gets crowded is immaterial; the point is, Niina wanted a situation in which she could tell Izumi to place his hand on her bottom. Not only that, there’s now a record of their exchange on their phones she could potentially use against Kazusa.

So one of Izumi’s hands is sweatily, awkwardly clutching Kazusa’s as the ticking of the clock grows louder and louder, and the other hand is resting on Niina’s bottom, with Niina’s hand guiding and keeping it there. So, as is asked many times in the heads of the characters this week, What Now?

Trouble…that’s what!

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The Rising of the Shield Hero – 17 – Rite of Succession

The next morning, it’s No More Mrs. Nice Fitoria. She binds Melty in a wind prison and demands once more for Naofumi to make up with the other heroes. When he refuses, she once again threatens to kill all four heroes, but first gives his party the chance to prove they can take on the waves on their own. She’ll determine this by fighting Filo.

As expected, the spirited but woefully under-leveled Filo is absolutely no match for Fitoria…at first. But with continual pointers and encouragement from Naofumi, Filo keeps getting back up dusting herself off, and trying again. Eventually, she’s able to summon enough power to literally put a scratch on Fitoria’s face. That’s enough to satisfy the queen: Filo wins.

Not only that, but Fitoria names Filo her official successor, conjuring a crown to place on Filo’s head, which is replaced by an ahoge of which Filo very much not a fan. She opens a new Filolial-themed section of Naofumi’s sphere grid—albeit all shields he’s of too low a level to access—and increases Filo’s stats (though she still can’t break Level 40 quite yet).

She also apologizes to Melty by giving her a ride in her giant filolial form (of which I wish we could have seen more), and throws a huge party. Throughout these events, and the episode itself, Kevin Penkin’s marvelous score really asserts itself, elevating the images on the screen. This show’s music is just a pure joy to listen to.

Once the festivities have wound down and everyone else is asleep, Naofumi finds himself in a similar situation as the previous night: alone with a Fitoria committed to getting him to reconsider his hard stance on not playing nice with the other heroes, which she actually manages to achieve when she points out that his refusal to defend himself against Malty’s lies is as saying the lies are true.

While Fitoria doesn’t have the best memory, on two occasions Naofumi says something her hero once said to her, and the nostalgia leads to her tearing up and placing her head in his lap to be patted. The reason Fitoria works so hard to make Naofumi repair his reputation and relationship to the other heroes goes beyond the fate of the world: she knows he’s a good man by dint of raising the next Filolial Queen. It’s time the rest of the world knew it.

As for those other heroes, both Sword and Bow enter a cave seeking some kind of treasure, only for it to be a trap that incinerates the entire cave. I highly doubt they didn’t survive, though it’s not like I’d care if they didn’t…

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 14 – Don’t Get It Twisted

Keiji is lonely. Touka is lonely. So they arrange a date at the grand opening of Moon Temple, AKA The Temple of Babylon, AKA “Teratsuki Kyouichirou’s Folly,” a massive, bizarre, twisted tower in the center of a postmodern park, the final legacy of a once hugely-successful CEO who died suddenly at 56.

The lovebirds aren’t the only ones to attend the unveiling: there’s a massive throng waiting in line hours before the opening, among them a mother and son, who upon leaving the bathroom finds himself face-to-face with a Teratsuki claiming he was “just born.”

Despite assuring Keiji she won’t be late, Touka is made late by the emergence of a fresh threat to humanity, and so Boogiepop takes over her body to intervene. Keiji, waiting for Touka in a cafe, encounters “Boogiepop”, but something’s off; it’s a fake, calling themselves the “King of Distortion.”

A girl named Sakiko on a date with a guy she’s not particularly interested in spots the real Boogiepop rushing past, but she only knows of the legend of the Boogiepop who kills women at the peak of their beauty. Niitoki Kei, who knows better, also spots Boogiepop and chases after them into the tower.

Kei ends up in the schoolyard, the same place and time of day Saotome Masami was killed. Saotome appears before her, calling himself the “King of Distortion.” A guy who was working at the tower but now finds himself in a restaurant with that same King, in the form of a girl he wanted to whom he wanted to say something but never did.

In all these cases, the King of Distortion seeks to turn the world to gold (hence the threat), and apparently seeks to do so by creating elaborate illusions and take the form of people that will help them remember something lingering in their hearts—in other words, distortion in those hearts.

When the King and Boogiepop meet, he warns them that he won’t allow anyone to interfere with his “experiment to turn everything to gold.” What we have, then, is a bizarre but intriguing new adversary who uses peoples’ memories, relationships, and insecurities against them and twists their very reality. In light of all this, Boogiepop wonders for the first time if she’ll actually be able to protect Kei & Co.

Overlord III – 05 – Battle of Carne

With her village about to be invaded by monsters, Enri is sure some kind of “evil god” is watching over her, testing her as soon as she takes up the mantle of leadership. But whatever shortcomings she may think she has, she’s stand and fight for her village.

As the civilians flee to a safe-ish gathering place, Enri’s Goblin/Human/Ogre army prepares for an opposing force of other ogres, wolves, and with a combination of archery and siege tactics, they make quick work of the dumber among their foes.

Then the Giant of the East shows up and they start to wonder if they can win this thing. Funny how someone who seemed so powerless last week against Ains is such a fearsome enemy this week. It’s all relative.

As her soldiers fight, Enri ensures everyone is evacuated, but she and Nphi end up cornered by a big blue troll with an excellent sense of smell. The two play a game of cat-and-mouse with him (he’s dumb, but not as dumb as an ogre) but eventually they run out of options and Nphi volunteers to stay behind and buy time for Enri to get reinforcements.

He also picks perhaps the perfect time to finally confess by very cooly asking her to let him protect the woman he loves. Between his potions and spells, Nphi hangs in there, but he always knew one good blow is all the troll would need to kill him. Thankfully, the one good blow he is dealt doesn’t kill him, but he’s definitely in the red.

Enter Beta Lupusregina, for whom neither the Troll nor his boss the Giant are any match. She stops his blow with one hand, thus fulfilling the duty Lord Ains assigned her. Enri returns with unneeded backup, and she embraces Nphi, happy beyond words that he’s still alive. I love how their lovey-doviness is interrupted by Beta showing them a very gross flaming mass of dead troll.

Later that night (the goblins give the couple some time alone), Enri gives Nphi and answer, which is that she’s not quite sure what love is, but she does know she never wants him to leave her side, so if that’s love, she’s in love with him. That’s good enough for him.

The next morning, Enri, Nphi and Nemu are escorted to the Tomb of Nazarick by Yuri Alpha and Beta, and Nemu absolutely loses her shit with how big and clean and awesome everything is. Lord Ains, his skeletal form hidden by a mask and cloak, is perhaps the jolliest we’ve ever seen him, like a proud rich uncle. He makes a note to tell Beta that Nemu is also on the list of people he wants protected.

Among such power, splendor, and charm, Nphi feels a bit outmatched, and that admits that he never had a chance in the first place. But while Ains may be a superior man in many ways, he is inferior in the most important one: he’s not Enri’s type. Nphi is, and so they walk into the dining hall for their George R.R. Martin-esque multi-course bougie meal with hands intertwined. Glad to see these two figure it out!

Overlord III – 04 – Underwhelming Monsters

Despite Beta being scolded for not reporting about the Giant and Snake of the East and West, at least for now it would seem she was correct: they weren’t really worth reporting, at least as credible threats. Sure, they could be a problem for the humans and goblins of Carne, but like Hamasuke they’re not really worth their lofty directional titles.

Maybe, like Beta, I’m underestimating their relative power in this world, but when Ains and Aura (whom he worries isn’t eating enough) actually visit the lair of these apparently fearsome monsters, what they find is pretty underwhelming.

The “giant” is just a troll and the “demon snake”, an old naga. His attempts with the former lead to him using an Aura of Despair spell to knock the troll and his cohorts out, but the naga is willing to submit himself to Lord Ains after witnessing just how pointless it is to try to resist him with physical attacks or even flee with invisibility magic.

Meanwhile, Ains has sent Beta back to Carne with the mission/test of protecting not the village, but the three people he values there: Nphirea, Enri, Lizzy (Nemu isn’t mentioned). Aside from them, Ains doesn’t really care about anyone else. Pretty quiet incremental episode; we’ll have to see how Beta fares in her mission next week at the earliest.

Overlord III – 03 – No Mere Village Girl

This week dispenses with Nazarick entirely and stays focused on Carne and Enri in particular as she suddenly faces a multitude of challenges as its de facto leader.

The young goblin Agu reports that he and his fellow tribesfolk were running from the Giant of the East and the Great Snake of the West, who in the absence of the Great Beast of the South (AKA Hamusuke) are gathering armies to fight the King of Ruin.

Carne Village may well be unable to escape getting entangled in such a conflict, and when the battle comes to its boundaries, they need to be ready. In an odd bit of timing, Beta Lupusregina has paid Enri a visit, and offers to ask Lord Gown for help, but Enri wants to first see if the village is capable of handling its own affairs.

Later that night, the Goblins capture several Ogres who Enri is able to convince them to fight for her, thus bolstering the defense of the village.

When Nphirea informs Enri he won’t be able to accompany her to E-Rantel tomorrow, Enri laments that she may be the only one in the world in her current situation. When they cut to another person in such a situation, Lord Gown, I half-expected him to sneeze, since someone was talking about him.

When Enri reaches the gates of E-Rantel, she’s quickly arrested and brought in for questioning. The wizard on duty identifies some powerful magic both in Enri and in the trinket Lord Gown once gifted her, which she learns is worth thousands of gold.

Just then, Momon enters the room, has a quick side-chat with the wizard, and Enri is released, just like that. It’s nice to have friends in high places, and nothing is higher than Adamantite.

Enri visits the very bureaucratic Adventurer’s Guild having to plead poverty, or at least tell them her village can’t bear the cost of the protection it will need without a subsidy from the city, acknowledging it won’t cover the entire cost. Enri drifts off while waiting, but when she wakes up, everything seems to be arranged, almost as if the attendant had been threatened to assist Enri or else…

Upon exiting the city (where goblins dare not enter) Enri gifts her protectors with stout new weapons. Upon returning home, she discovers a kind of “reverse coup”: everyone has conspired to agree that she and she alone should lead the village. It’s an honor she never asked for, but one for which no one else is better qualified.

Even Beta believes that, but as Enri is being officially installed, Beta hovers high above, laughing, when Yuri Alpha arrives beside her. While we had witnessed Beta being all buddy-buddy and helpful with Enri, here we see a different side of her; a sadistic side.

Now that things are going so well for the village, she really wants to burn it all down to see everyone’s faces. I wonder if Lord Gown would approve, if Beta is just having a moment, or if she truly hopes to watch the village perish. I for one hope she’s disappointed, and Enri and her ragtag defense force can hold off whatever’s coming from the forest.

Overlord III – 02 – Chili con Carne (Village)

Unsure of what to do next due to his relative inexperience as an overlord, Momonga opens the floor to his subordinates, and gets a rude—well, polite awakening when Demiurge immediately suggests they’re working towards a path to world domination.

That didn’t exactly occur to Momonga until now, but he pretends to know exactly what Demiurge is talking about, making for a hilarious exchange between the flustered Momonga’s inner thoughts and Lord Ains Ooal Gown’s unswerving resolve.

OverLord never disappoints when it comes to interpersonal humor, and this opening scene is no different. But it’s also a productive scene: the decision is made for the Tomb of Nazarick to declare itself its own country, separate from the complications of being merely an organization affiliated with another nation.

When Demiurge is asked what made him think they’re on the path to world domination, he holds up Carne Village (which we haven’t been to since the first season) as an example of Lord Ains experimenting on a smaller scale with ruling something, rather than pillaging and destroying.

That provides a nice segue for our return to Carne, where Enri is still stacked, Nphirea is still eccentric (and has yet to confess his love for Enri), and Nemu is still adorable. We get a nice slice-of-life act with the humans and friendly goblins working together to rebuild the village.

In a private moment, Enri angrily ruins a knife after thinking about all of the hardship she, her sister, and her fellow villagers were forced to endure. It’s a lot for her toned shoulders to bear. Meanwhile, Nphi’s goblin friend works out a plan where he’ll do various bodybuilding poses when it’s time for Nphi to say something cool to impress Enri.

When word comes from a goblin scout that there’s…something lurking deep in the forest, Enri decides to go in anyway. She has no choice: herbs that have to be harvested immediately grow within the forest; herbs she needs to create potions and medicines that will net capital for the village.

She and Nphi are escorted by a three-goblin team, and shortly after coming upon a prize crop of their treasured herb, something comes out of the forest: a young, wounded goblin being chased by a beast. Enri and Nphi overrule the cautious goblins and decide to fight the beast and save the kid.

Thanks to the brute force of the goblins and the handy potions and magic of Nphi, the beast is defeated and the child healed. He is a member of the head family of a tribe, and warns that the “Giant of the East” has allied with the “Demon Snake of the West.” Sounds like two worthy foes Nazarick need to sink their teeth into.

AICO – 09 – Bogged Down in Matter…and Exposition

In a key early scene that informs the torrent of revelations to come in the on-the-nosely-titled “Truth”, Aiko weeps for the loss of Shinomiya, something for which Shiraishi is very grateful, despite the fact she doesn’t blame Aiko for the loss.

We also learn that Kanzaki essentially leaves the remaining Divers no choice but to press on, questioning whether they took the risk to their lives seriously when they signed up for a mission they knew they might not return from.

Sagami curses Kanzaki’s cleverness, but the kid has a point: they signed up for this. That they were lied to about the details doesn’t change the fact that taking the job meant being prepared to die from the start.

From there, “Truth” unfolds pretty much like the previous episodes, with the team storming through the next zone to get to the next gate…only this is the final gate before Primary Point, and they no longer have a Beetle to protect them from the big stuff.

Thankfully, and somewhat surprisingly, however, a “benevalent” purplish version of the Matter protects Aiko & Co. from the malignant red Matter int he nick of time, in the process sending Kanzaki and Aiko flying like Renton and Eureka.

But once the group enters the facility where Aiko’s still-incomplete operation took place—and where the Burst began—the end of their journey also marks the end of the episode’s momentum. For the balance of the episode, revelation after revelation is made, thanks to Dr. Isazu remotely  talking to Aiko and the others from the facility’s P.A. system.

Much of what he says, we already know: that Kanzaki is really Yura, for instance. Some of the news is, well, new: the “Aiko” we’ve followed all this time wasn’t the one with the real brain after all, but AICO, the elaborate artificial brain occupying the carbon nanostructure-repaired real body of the real Aiko—both built by Yura.

Yura intends to merge the fake Aiko’s brain and body to end the burst, which will also destroy the near-as-makes-no-difference sentient life form he created. No other possible solution is brought up; Isazu simply informs Aiko that the SDF will soon pummel the facility she’s in, so she’d better find cover.

Because so much information is dumped on us, some of which repeats what’s already been revealed to us, things get really stagnant in the latter chunk of the episode. Switching from the facility to the hospital where Isazu is to the hacker’s house where Kurase and Nanbara are only feels like a naked attempt to break the infodump up among different settings, and it doesn’t really work.

The slog is somewhat interrupted when the red Matter arrives, and rather than stick with Kanzaki/Yura or the Divers, Aiko runs off on her own, gets cornered, as is once again saved by the purplish Matter, in which an inviting, brightly-lit opening is formed. When Gummi goes in, Aiko follows, and before she knows it she’s face-to-face with “the other Aiko”, the one Isazu says is the real deal.

Does this mean Isazu’s daughter is controlling the red Matter? What are the two Aikos going to discuss? Is there any way to end the Burst and save Japan from destruction without destroying the artificial body that apparently started it all?

AICO – 08 – Finally, a Casualty…but Yura Lives

The nano-structured cat is out of the bag, and Aiko and Yuuya have some serious explaining to do to convince the Divers, whose emotions upon learning Aiko is artificially-bodied range from disbelief to anger. Yuuya deflects it from Aiko by saying it was his call to keep them in the dark, and then reveals that the mission is far larger and grander than the Divers thought, and if Yuuya’s mission is successful, the Burst itself will end.

It’s still a lot to take in, but thanks to Shinoyama and Shiraishi backing Yuuya up, Sagami agrees to keep going as per the terms of their contract, with the caveat that should he find out Yuuya is lying about anything else, he won’t hesitate to personally kill Yuuya and Aiko to protect his team from undue danger.

It’s the “undue danger” part I’ve always been a bit fuzzy with. AICO‘s overarching antagonist—the Matter—is so diverse in form and behavior and so overpowered that it’s been an exercise in suspended belief to watch the Diver team weave through and neutralize it so efficiently.

I get that they’re good at their jobs, but this week alone we have a gigantic human-form Matter that’s literally stories in height, and Sagami & Co. firing what amounts to pea-shooters at it. There’s a distinct disconnect between the scale and ability of the foe and the Divers’ ability to survive at all in the Area, let alone get as far as they’ve gotten.

Mind you, things have only seemed too easy up to this point. In this episode, the team finally suffers two major casualties, just when it was starting to feel absurd that they hadn’t yet suffered any. What gives the loss of the Beetle, the nearly indestructible mothership around which the whole mission revolves, extra weight is just how damn fast it happens.

A Matter tentacle burrows through the armor, and within the space of a few seconds, things go from just fine to the heavy laser is overloading and the whole damn tank exploding, with Aiko, Yuuya, and Shiraishi getting out at the very last moment. And they’re not outside long before the Matter starts coming after them.

This results in the next major casualty, and the first human one: Shinoyama, who sacrifices himself to allow not only Aiko and Yuuya, but his lover Shiraishi to live and keep going. It’s a tough loss because the team was already very light on people who believed in Yuuya’s vision of the mission, and his loss only aids the skeptics’ belief they’re way in over their heads (which again, I don’t know how they haven’t known this for days, but fine).

What of Aiko? Well while she’s certainly hamstrung by the fact that she feels pain after any attack on the Matter, and the larger the Matter, the more intense the pain. But when the Matter keeps coming and Shiraishi and Yuuya are occupied, Aiko picks up a gun and a grenade launcher and starts firing. It’s a welcome badass moment for a character who’d been squirming in pain for most of the episode.

While this episode distinguished itself with some of the series’ best battle action and upped the stakes with heavy losses in equipment and manpower, it also saved a nifty little revelation for last: Kanzaki Yuuya is an artificial body like Aiko, with the brain of none other than Toshihide Yura. It explains why he’s fine in the Area without a suit, and why he knows so much about Aiko, is so protective of her, and also sometimes treats her like an object.

While this was wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world—no doubt many saw this coming many episodes ago—I for one was too distracted by other things to ponder who/what Yuuya was. But now it’s official: Yuuya is Yura, which means the Burst was his fault. This is a quest to correct his mistakes, and he’s not turning back.

That’s up to Sagami, who is ready to kill Yuuya and Aiko as promised but holds his fire when Yuuya turns around to reveal he’s actually shedding tears for Shinoyama. Mind you, Sagami and the Divers don’t know who he really is (at least not yet), but Isazu does, and he wants his hands on that tech to save Yuzuha, whose brain waves continue to react in sync with Matter activity.

Made in Abyss – 07

Just as Habo is telling Nat and Siggy about the badass White Whistles (who kinda remind me of the Espada) and wondering if he should have gone against Riko’s wishes and accompanied her and Reg after all, Riko and Reg face their toughest challenge yet: An Ozen the Immovable as their enemy.

But while both kids get beaten within an inch of their lives, it isn’t physical punishment that cuts the deepest—it’s Ozen’s utterly curel and tactless presentation of the giant white cube, which turns out not to be merely a vessel that repels curses. Ozen reveals to Riko that she was stillborn, and upon being placed in the vessel, she was brought back to life.

Ozen further explains that she put some of the meat she uses for dinner in the vessel, and it came back to life as well: that weird, threatening-looking but also bumbling and pitiable thing that made Riko wet the bed. The final twist of the knife? Before long, the thing turned back into lifeless meat, and Ozen wonders when Riko’s time will come to turn back into a corpse.

This is harsh, merciless stuff, but Ozen is just getting started. When she threatens to hurt Riko, Reg intervenes with his arms and ties her up, but she frees herself effortlessly, noting how the arm cables are made of extremely tough stuff. She then proceeds to try to pound Reg into dust, and when Riko tries to stop the madness, a light flick of Ozen’s finger sends her flying across the room, knocked out and bloodied.

Goddamn was this shit hard to watch. Reg tries to break out his Incinerator, but while trying to narrow the focus his beam so he doesn’t blow up the whole camp, the bitch grabs his still-charging cannon and points it at the out-cold Riko.

Where it not for a last-second kick of his own arm out of harm’s way, Riko would be gone. Fortunately, she’s not, and the hole his arm blasts in the ceiling doesn’t cause any serious structural damage. But using his cannon makes him pass out, and when Riko comes to, she sees Reg bruised and bloodied, the result of Ozen continuing to beat his unconscious body.

And yet, after three-quarters of an episode of the most heinous, villainous, evil-ass conduct one could imagine, the other shoe drops: Ozen was TESTING Reg’s strength, as well as Riko’s resolve. And let me tell you, she got me, just as she got them.

I never thought for a moment that she wasn’t simply being the evil monster the build-up to her appearance portended. Marulk ‘saved’ Reg and Riko by calling Ozen’s band of cave-raiders to her in…something Ozen both thanks her apprentice for and promises to string her(?) up for.

Frankly, I didn’t know what she was thinking. It’s another way she’s “immovable”…as in unable to be “moved” by anything … except, perhaps, by the prospect of learning more about the Abyss. Riko on her own would never, ever have gotten this far, let alone any further, without becoming, as Ozen says, “poor meals, little seedbeds, or a stain on the ground or some wall.”

And yet while her approach underscores how far from her humanity Ozen has strayed, it also makes perfect practical sense: the Abyss is fundamentally not a place for little kids. Beasts far tougher, crueler, and more cunning await them in the lower layers.

And as flashbacks prove, Ozen isn’t as emotionally “unmovable” as she appears, as she recalls the first day a Red-Whistled Lyza asked to become her apprentice. In virtually no time, Lyza had earned her Black Whistle, and credits her quick success to Ozen, who may have an “irredeemable” personality, but is still the “best mentor ever.”

Does Ozen truly “despise” Riko? Could it be because she sees Riko as Riko saw that meat? Is she, dare I say…scared of what Riko is and might become as she draws nearer to the bottom? With Ozen, deep questions abound.

One thing’s for certain: as much as she has changed (her armor and the 120 or so implants in her body make her cut quite the menacing figure), there’s still some humanity in there; the humanity that lets Riko know the grave she found was empty; Lyza could well still alive and waiting for her daughter.

In the meantime Reg might might might just be tough enough to protect Riko as she continues her descent, but Ozen isn’t willing to send them on their way yet, she needs to gather more ‘data’. She takes the kids out to the far edge of the layer, far from camp or anyone else, and tells them to survive with the supplies they have for ten days.

Furthermore, Reg is forbidden from using his cannon, as the hours she’s determined he shuts down for would likely be fatal to Riko…unless, of course, he manages to bring down whatever threatens them. It’s the toughest of tough love, but in a world where kids are regularly punished by being strung up naked, I guess it’s par for the course.