Spy x Family – 22 – Love Means Nothing

A painting in the possession of the wealthy tycoon Cavi Campbell is believed to contain a code that, if unlocked, could reveal dark secrets about the East or West that could reignite a war. It’s up to Twilight and Nightfall to retrieve the painting. But Fiona doesn’t intend to steal it, she intends to win it.

Cavi runs an underground no-rules, anything-goes tennis tournament called Campbelldon. Fiona dons ojou ringlets and Loid a sporty headband as they pose as an amateur husband and wife team, the Phonys. Secretly, Fiona hopes to show Loid that she’s the only one worthy to be his fake wife.

The crowd bets heavily against them as their first opponents are former pros who went into the mountains to train and are here to seek tougher foes. They get their wish, as both Loid and Fiona mop the floor with them. Despite only “dabbling” in tennis, every one of Loid’s serves is a devastating ace.

Fiona goes above and beyond in trying to look as cool and amazing as possible, her resting stoic face belying the colorful imagery of Loid being so impressed he sweeps her off her feet and proposes they enter the “doubles game of life.”

Loid had previously practiced a bit with Yor and Anya, and I kinda wish we could have seen more of that, especially considering Yor rarely knows how to hold back when it comes to physical exertion. Still, Yor is anxious about the possibility Loid is with Fiona. Anya offers her mom words of comfort … that don’t give away the fact she can read her mind.

Loid and Fiona’s next opponents are a pair of brothers who injected themselves with a new experimental doping cocktail (again, anything goes in Campbelldom). But they are undone by their insistence on trash-talking, which quickly gets under Fiona’s skin and leads her to literally beat them into submission with a flurry of smashes.

Before the final, the spies are taken to a waiting room, where they discuss strategy against their opponents: the son and daughter of Cavi Campbell himself. They’re sure to have more than a few tricks up their sleeve. As Fiona resolves to go even harder for the sake of impressing Loid, he takes her hand.

She initially mistakes him for making a move, unable to restrain himself from her magnificence. But he’s really looking at the cuts, sores, and blisters on Fiona’s hand, and tells her to stop pushing herself so hard, as spies who lose their cool don’t live long.

Fiona pulls her hand away and appears to stare daggers at Loid, but in reality, she’s elated beyond reason that Loid, who once treated other spies as disposable, is so concerned with her well-being. Swooning and slightly risqué sounds ensue.

But then both Fiona and Loid notice that a colorless, odorless gas is filling the locker room. They hold their breath, but some damage has already been done, just when they need all their strength, speed, and stamina.

In addition to not being 100%, Carrol and Kim Campbell have totally legal modified racquets: Carrol’s is jet-assisted, while Kim’s has an extending head that greatly extends her return radius. The Campbell kids ambitions may not extend further than wanting daddy to buy them another yacht, but they win the first set 6-3.

Loid and Fiona regroup and come up with a workable counter to their opponents superior equipment, but then another curveball is lobbed their way when bits of the very court beneath their feet start to shift, causing their shots to veer off-target.

This surely isn’t the last of the dirty tricks they’ll face, but Loid is determined to win that painting for the sake of world peace, and Fiona is just as determined to crush the Campbell kids by his side, and convince him to dump Yor and marry her, both for Strix and for real. To be continued…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Eminence in Shadow – 08 – A Terribly Flawed Scenario

This week starts off by replaying the start of the invasion of the academy by Fake Shadow Garden (Shamdow Garden?) this time from Cid’s perspective, and man is he excited to be involved in a terrorist attack! The moment he realizes Rose is in serious trouble, he launches himself into the path of the baddie’s blade, as that’s the role of the background character. In doing so, he (posthumously) wins the heart of Rose, who remembers how hard he fought against her in the tournament and now sees his selfless sacrifice as proof that he loved her.

Rose and all the other students are rounded up in the auditorium, but Cid is left behind, as he’s just a corpse. Or IS he? After punching himself several times in the chest, Cid starts his heart back up, having successfully pulled off the risky “Ten-Minute Death—Heartbreak.” Considering what Cid did to himself to reach this other world, it’s no surprise he’d put his life on the line to best inhabit the role of Eminence in Shadow. Meanwhile, Sherry is researching away when one of the bad guys’ top lieutenants drops in.

She’s saved by one of the school’s elite swordsman who is still able to fight despite the lack of magic, but he falls to the bad guy’s blade soon enough. He only manages to buy a bit of time for Sherry to shuffle away in her flip-flops. After sniping several dozen of the enemy and plummeting dramatically off the school roof, Cid senses Sherry is being pursued and not doing a great job of being stealthy, so he serves as her protective shadow, killing anyone who gets close to her.

Sherry’s refrain of “it’s just my imagination” is one of many comedic highlights, and when she finally trips and nearly falls down the stairs, Cid is there to catch both her and the artifact and recommend she stop thinking out loud, stop trying to decipher the artifact while moving, and ditches slippers. He escorts her to her father’s office, where she finds unpublished research of the artifact she’s been charged with, which is the control unit for the Eye of Avarice that’s created the anti-magic field.

But the Eye isn’t just neutralizing magic, it’s absorbing it. Given enough magic, it will eventually reach its full capacity and release in one huge explosion that will level the school. So it’s a magical bomb threat. Sherry is game to fine-tune her artifact so they can shut the Eye down, but to do that Cid has to head back to where Sherry was to fetch the tuning instruments. After righteously toying and fucking with the lieutenant guy, he encounters Nu, who finds her ex-betrothed dying in the room where Sherry was working.

Nu reports that the real Shadow Garden have arrived on the scene and are ready to go on Cid’s orders. The only downside to that is that Gamma, the clumsiest of the Seven Shadows, is in command. Cid then fills Nu in on what he and Sherry plan to do, and he describes the plan so nonchalantly it basically reinforces her belief that Cid is a mastermind of unsurpassed brilliance, when he’s actually just been wining it all along and doesn’t even believe any of this is real.

But of course, it is, and the lives of  the whole school are in his, Sherry’s, and Shadow Garden’s hands. Watching him cut through the bad guys and have tons of fun doing it was immensely entertaining; watching him and his allies save the day should prove the same or moreso.

The Eminence in Shadow – 07 – Making Friends

Ever since she received the gift of chocolates, Sherry’s head has been in the clouds. She’s moved to action when she tastes one of them, and finds it irresistibly sweet. Nu shows off her disguising abilities by posing as an academy student to give Cid her report; they couldn’t get anything out of the brainwashed “Child of Diabolos”.

A “Named” Child (one who has kept their personality through the cult conditioning) has been sent to the capital, surely to continue sullying the name of Shadow Garden. There’s a sad little moment when Nu briefly daydreams about a normal high school life of fun and dancing, only for it to turn into a nightmare.

Cid has a nightmare of his own on his hands: he’s been entered into a fencing tournament against his wishes. He makes lemonade from lemons when his opponent is Rose Oriana, Princess of the kingdom of art and culture and also the academy’s top swordsman.

Because Cid is Cid—pathelogically devoted to playing the nobody—he uses this opportunity to be defeated in the most embarrassing “bloody” ways imaginable, only to get back up and demand the fight continue. Rose slashes him and he goes flying every time, but she can sense his fire…and likes it.

When she finally admits she was underestimating him and takes the kid gloves off, the ref jumps between them before she can lay down a strike. Rose is technically the winner, but she feel like a loser because Cid never gave up in the battle of spirit.

Despite trying to come off as as pathetic a loser as possible (and has practiced 48 different ways to do so), Cid inadvertently gains the ungrudging respect of Rose, an unquestionably powerful “main character”—not exactly what Cid was going for!

In that same vein, Cid didn’t put any thought into whom he gave chocolates to, but by giving them to Sherry Barnett, he picked one of the rare girls at the academy who admired what she saw of him out there in the arena. Recognizing him through his (fake) bandages, she seeks him out and invites him to coffee.

There, Sherry presents him with a bag of homemade cookies as a thank you—even though Cid doesn’t remember giving her chocolates. When he casually agrees to her proposal that they “start out” as friends, and then learns whose daughter she is, Cid is immediately apprehensive; should a background character such as he really consort with such heavy hitters?

He has no idea how happy he made Sherry with his acceptance of her offer. But when she still can’t concentrate on the artifact research, she pays a visit to Alexia, and over an extremely sweet and milky cup of coffee (contrasted with Lexi’s black) asks if she and Cid are still dating. When she says they’re not, and never really were, Sherry can’t contain her elation, which gives Alexia quite a bit of pause!

After befriending Sherry, Cid uses his “injuries” to justify staying away from classes for five days. Upon his return, Rose (the student council president) and her apparent Veep pay his class a visit to talk about elections. But just then, Diabolos commences an invasion plan by cloaking the entire academy with a magic-dampening field.

Among his classmates, only Cid seems to notice the change, and even senses when danger is approaching before it does. When Rose draws her sword to challenge the invaders, she’s unaware of the field, and almost gets seriously hurt. Instead, Cid comes between her and her charging attacker…and gets badly slashed across the chest.

As Sherry takes her coffee with a heap of sugar, I’m inclined to take Cid’s injury with a grain of salt. His performance at the tournament showed that he can an elite dark knight and a stadium full of people into thinking he’s getting seriously hurt. This seems like another opportunity to show everyone how very good he’s gotten at looking so very bad.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 13 (Final Hole) – Killing You, In Golf

As Birdie Wing outings go, this last one was a bit tame; I’d almost go so far as to say leisurely. But I went in almost certain the entire All-Japan Girl’s Tournament wouldn’t get wrapped up in one episode; if it had, it would have surely sucked.

While expectations were lower, I still looked forward to lots of Eve and Aoi flirting, and in this I was not disappointed. Eve even starts things off frisky by giving Aoi a Nafrecian peck on the cheek and then claiming Ichina as her personal body pillow for the night, while Coach Reiya rightfully shoots Kinue down.


It’s a good thing Ichina shared a room with Eve too, as neither Eve nor Aoi would have slept a wink and not been ready for the golf. That said, due to their high qualifying rank they get a fairly late tee time, giving them time to good off more.

As Kuyou and Kaoruko do battle against another pair, their coach Date gets trash-talked by Reiya, who is confident his two first years will win decisively, seeing as how Aoi is golf royalty and Eve is the apprentice of the legendary Leo Millafoden.

This wouldn’t be much fun if Eve and Aoi didn’t run into a little adversity, as Eve’s worst enemy turns out not to be Himekawa Mizuho, but her own over-aggressiveness. She puts a ball into the bunker, and Aoi, perhaps a little too wound up about getting to play beside Eve, misses getting the ball out. That said, the two win their first round comfortably.

The thing is, Eve wanted to defeat their opponents to a pulp—kill them, with golf—as funny a collection of four words as I’ve heard spoken in an anime (I particularly love that comma in there). Their win, while easy, is also much closer than either of their elite rival pairs from Kouran and Nada.

We also learn that while Aoi is the daughter of Hodaka Kazuhiko, Himeko seems to have inherited his brand of golf, so much so that Aoi recognizes it instantly. Himeko and Kaede destroy their opponents in their two rounds, an impressive response to Eve and Aoi’s superior score in the qualifiers.

Eve’s usual mind games won’t work on the Kouran or Nada girls, but Ichina feels it’s actually good for her to be experimenting with her aggressiveness in earlier matches where it’s safe to do so. Eve and Aoi will have to take every risk they can to defeat Kaoruko and Himeko, to say nothing of killing them, in golf.

Naturally, this ends before those key duels take place, and a second season of Birdie Wing in Winter 2023 has restored my faith in both anime and humanity. As far as I’m concerned, the golf flirting and murder can go on indefinitely; a veritable Hole in One Piece.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 12 – They’re Coming After Us

Nadaminami’s Himekawa Mizuho, Japan’s Number One high school golf girl, knows the upcoming doubles tournament is meant to be a coronation for the Athena CEO’s daughter Aoi, another stepping stone to the pros. Mizuho’s partner bristles at the idea, but Mizuho wants the best rivals possible in order to become stronger. Aoi isn’t an obstacle, but a tool to hone her own greatness.

But before Mizuho can face off, both she and Kaede and Aoi and Eve need to get through prefectural qualifiers, which for both pairs amounts to barely more than a warm-up. Coach Reya doesn’t even bother attending; if they can’t win the qualifiers, they never had a chance anyway. Aoi and Eve stand out, being incredibly cute and blonde, respectively.

Their only serious competition in the qualifiers is Satou, a third year and an absolute unit, but while she drives the ball further than Aoi, Eve drives it even farther with her Blue Bullet, crushing not only Satou’s spirit but the other players watching as well.

The qualifiers become a match between Aoi and Eve; whoever has the best score will treat the other to burgers. We’ve been waiting for the opportunity to watch Eve and Aoi do proper golf battle, and this episode does not disappoint. It even has their caddies Ichina and Amane getting along, despite their analog and digital approaches to caddying.

In addition to their personal wager, Reiya tells them before their match that Nadaminami and Mizuho already advanced with a 10-under score. Aoi and Eve end up tying at 11-under. When an underling gives Mizuho the report, she warns Kaede that Aoi and Raiou’s new “secret weapon” are coming for the crown, and she’s fired up.

After a brief call to Klein and Lily (who is upset Eve shipped her the wrong Gunpla), Eve hops on the Raiou bus to the tournament fashionably late, wearing her “battle gear”, a bodacious outfit that flaunts the school dress code. Kinue is appalled, but Reiya allows it, because he wants all eyes on Raiou.

Eve also declares she doesn’t mind guys like Reiya, but Kinue grabs his sleeve and tells Eve she can’t have him, which…girl, get you someone who doesn’t make you golf your elbow off on purpose! After Ichina explains tournament-style match play rules, Aoi expresses her excitement over playing so many strong golfers, and Eve gives her a teasing head pat that turns her ears hot pink. I never tire of these two flirting.

Once they arrive at Athena Golf Course, venue for the tournament, Eve walks right by Kuyou, whom she pretty much beat, acknowledges Kaoruko, and then loudly calls Himekawa Mizuho out. Kaede can’t believe how uncouth this foreigner is, but Mizuho has no problem walking right up in Eve’s face and introducing herself.

Eve can tell Mizuho is strong and “worth defeating”, but Mizuho isn’t intimidated in the least—just as Aoi wasn’t when she tried her usual shtick—and says something with dead seriousness that just made me laugh out loud because it’s so dumb and awesome: “I’ll kill you, in golf.” Mizuho may be Number One now, but that was before Eve dazzled the Japanese high school golf stage. She’s coming for the Queen, and she’s not planning to miss.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 11 – Polishing the Diamond

We check in on Aoi, who is finishing off a lauded competitor who couldn’t bring it in a practice match, and she’s looking forward to reuniting with her soul mate Eve when instead she’s summoned to her grandfather’s house. She’s only mad until he serves her her favorite cake from Hokkaido. The true purpose for the visit is so Gramps can find out who Coach Amuro is pairing Aoi up with.

Shinjou says without hesitation: Eve is the best replacement for the injured President Jinguuji. Back at Raiou, Amuro doesn’t bother putting Eve in the standard golf practices with the plebs; he knows he has a diamond in the rough on his hands, and when Jinguuji removes her arm sling and volunteers to polish her, he agrees. Ichina also tags along for the three-day retreat to the Athena Golf Resort, the better to build chemistry with Eve.

While Jinguuji wants Eve to learn about Japanese courses, Eve starts off their training sessions with her bullets. Jinguuji throws a wrench in her works by moving her balls into uncomfortable and difficult positions. Easy Mode is officially cancelled. Eve complains at first, but when Jinguuji assures her that she’ll have to master all kinds of unplanned shots to beat the best Japan has to offer, she rises to the challenge.

A nifty day-to-night training montage ensues, with Even getting the hang of Jinguuji’s coaching and actually seemingly learning something. Jinguuji also makes sure to run Eve ragged across their three days, so much so that Eve falls asleep in the hot spring and leans up against Ichina…something she’s lucky Aoi didn’t see.

Everyone, including Ichina, venerates President Jinguuji, but she claims to know the truth about herself: that she’s a “weed” who can grow to impressive height but can never reach the sun. In trying to become the golfer Amuro wanted her to be, she ruined her elbow, and it will never be the same. We see Jinguuji at her lowest moments, the imperious façade she shows Eve completely broken down.

Amuro, the asshole, actually seemingly engineered things so that Jinguuji would injure herself and make way for Eve, presumably after he saw her play on TV. That’s pretty shitty, and my skin crawled when he gave her a commiserating hug. After treating her like a tool and literally breaking her, now you treat her like a human being?

The next day, Amuro announces that Aoi and Eve will be the two Raiou representatives for the All-Japan Girls High School Doubles Championship—a tournament that, again, Aoi’s mom invented to serve as a spotlight and springboard for her daughter. Amuro wants to eliminate any doubts the other golfers might have about his choice.

What results is Aoi and Eve’s much-anticipated first golf date in way too long a time. Both of them remark how they’ve been disappearing from one another ever since Eve arrived, only to laugh it off and quite casually put on one hell of a show for their club-mates, both with their golf and their lovey-dovey interactions.

Here’s hoping Birdie Wing continues its brisk storytelling by covering the start (if not all) of the tournament in its final episode (or two). I’d hate to think the show is ending so soon with so many big golf names being introduced for Eve to challenge and defeat, and to not give this splendid series at least another cour (and ideally three or four more, a la Chihayafuru) would be criminal in my eyes.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 05 – Golf Eve Online: Aoization

After that doomed mad dash to the golf course in a poorly chosen classic car driven by Tinarina from Raw Time, Aoi feels betrayed…until she sees Eve’s ball soaring through the sky as the plane takes off. Once back in Japan Aoi tries to get back on the first flight to Nafrece, and she’s only stopped by Shinjou.

Aoi is feenin’ for Eve so hard, she barely manages a shrug at the appearance of her top amateur rival Himekwa Mizuho, and even lets slip to her mom/sponsor Seira that she met someone amazing at the tournament. Seira immediately launches an investigation into this “Eve Aleon”.

Meanwhile, Eve can think of nothing more than getting back on the course with Aoi. She’s listless, and needs to get the doe eyes from her three kid siblings to get off her ass and hustle Mr. Kevin a sixth or seventh time. She ultimately wins, since Lily buys pizza to celebrate, but it’s touch and go at the beginning of the three-hole game.

Eve just isn’t feeling the “heat” she felt at the tournament playing Eve, and worse still, thinks she may never feel that heat playing golf again. I mean, if you can’t play with your soul mate, what’s the point of anything? I be she wishes she’d gotten Aoi’s contact info, huh?

While Aoi and Eve struggle with being apart, Rose stops by Cathy’s HQ to collect the not inconsiderable payout she got when Eve beat Dollar Tree Morticia. Cathy wants to hire Eve to work exclusively, envisioning she can “service” fans even if she loses. Rose says that sounds like a great idea but probably wouldn’t fly.

Mind you, Rose most assuredly doesn’t discourage Cathy for Eve’s sake; Eve is a tool she wants to use to make money. Cathy knows this too, and so her pursuit of Eve has probably only just begun. As for Seira’s investigation, when she learns Eve is an “illegal golfer with mafia ties” she stops worrying about Aoi having a genuine rival.

To Seira, Eve is just a “pebble” on Aoi’s otherwise smooth road to success (and succession), but to Aoi, Eve is everything. When Clara introduces Eve to the concept of VR golf and how it’s particularly popular in Japan, Eve decides to try it out, presumably in the astronomically small chance she’ll run into Aoi virtually.

I love the whole VR setup, which is the kind of advanced SAO-style full-dive tech our world has a long way to go to achieving. The details are great, from how she’s so focused on golfing she lets the attendant dress her up as a techno cat maid, to the way the course uncannily moves so she doesn’t have to.

Rose’s manipulation of Eve’s motivation is so unyielding, she not only sends a message to Aoi in the middle of the night masked as a message from Eve, and shows Eve rankings that indicate there’s one player in all of VR-dom better than her…she listens in on the two when they inevitably reunite on the course, albeit a fake one.

And what a reunion it is, what with how wildly the two are dressed and how much they missed each other after such a short time. It’s clear even seeing virtual versions of each other (which aren’t that different from their real selves) really puts a spark back into both of them after how down they felt in each other’s absences.

Still, Eve is frustrated that she can’t play Aoi on a real golf course, so Aoi gets her to promise to meet her one one someday soon. That means getting on the youth golf tour for real—without “special invitations”, but if it’s to play golf with Aoi, Eve is ready to pinky swear. She would have, too, if she wasn’t suddenly logged off.

A tearful Lily is the one who logged her off, and she has terrible news…they’re about to lose their home. Is this more Rose fuckery, as in they can buy the place from whoever is taking it if Eve wins another match for her? I wouldn’t put it past her. Either way, if there’s a way out of this crisis, I’m sure it will be golf-related. Hell, it had better be…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 04 – Snakebit

When Aoi missed her putt, Eve confronts her angrily, thinking she let her win. But Aoi admits the miss was “her mistake”—apparently no one noticed Anri flashing a laser into Aoi’s eye before she putted, including Aoi herself. But she wants to have another go at a real game with Eve, so they agree to meet back at the course at 5 AM so they can play until her flight back to Japan.

Normally Eve would be able to keep such an appointment, but Catherine cashes in on Rose’s favor to her for letting Eve into the tournament that very night, and Rose and Anri deliver her to a massive configurable underground golf course. This is just the window-lickin’ craziest shit.

Eve is Catherine’s golfer, while her opponent in a real estate deal, fellow mobster Mr. Nicolas, has hired the thoroughly corny Vipère, a vampy minx in a leather catsuit. In addition to their employers’ bet, Vipère makes it interesting for her and Eve by saying whoever loses becomes the personal property of the other for a day.

Eve is neither amused nor impressed by all this nouveau riche and faux-vampiric posturing, and simply wants to get on with the game. But every other shot she makes is totally off, and she has no idea why…until she notices the same thing most of the audience probably noticed immediately: Vipère stinks. Not at golf, but literally.

Every time Vipère unzipped the front of her catsuit near Eve, she messed up. Turns out her perfume is a sublt poisons that threw her game off just enough to almost lose. Not about to lose to a cheater with fangs and a way too active tongue, Eve uses her Yellow Bullet to drive her ball out of a bunker and straight into the hole, beating Vipère and fulfilling her favor to Rose and Catherine.

What follows is a lot of plot malarkey, unfortunately. First, Eve has Vipère drive her to the course to meet with Aoi…in Vipère’s slow antique car. Aside from it not being Vipère’s style at all (why is it yellow?) Anri was right there in the parking lot with a Jaguar XJS, which if I know Rose had a V12. Combined with the fact the distance from the underground course to the above-ground one wasn’t revealed until it became a problem, and my eyes were rolling like a Titleist on the green.

Just as Anri manufactured Aoi’s loss and Vipère almost manufactured Eve’s, the the plot tomfoolery ends up manufacturing the first major interpersonal conflict between Aoi and Eve, as Aoi waits as long as she can but has to board her flight before Eve gets there. She leaves her Pac-Man ball on the tee, but drew a tear in its eye and “Liar” on the other side.

As her plane takes off, Aoi spots Eve and her Blue Bullet taking flight. So, I guess the airport is right next to the golf course? What with that crazy golf bunker, I half-expected Eve’s golf ball to go into the jet engine, forcing it to land and giving the two a chance to play.

Of course, there’s a good chance that would have ended in fiery tragedy, so maybe it’s best Eve didn’t hit the plane….I just hope their budding friendship hasn’t been shattered irrevocably. After all, Aoi began the episode with a mistake caused by others; now that Eve was late, the two are even par, as they should be.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 03 – Just Golf, Baby

Eve doesn’t half-ass anything. When given an audience with Rose’s boss, a higher-up in the Nafrece underworld, she offers up her damn body in exchange for the chance to play in the U15 Tournament. Fortunately, the boss lady rejects that offer, but I am worried about the one she accepts, which Rose brings up without Eve knowing what it is.

Whatever Faustian deal Eve is now tangled up in, all that matters is that she’s able to keep her promise to Aoi to play one round—in this case, the final round of a world tournament. Rose makes sure she looks the part, dressing her in her boss’ brand name attire and giving her a full set of clubs. After a couple episodes in street clothes, it’s great to see Eve all glowed up.

The two other girls in her team unfortunately go through hell, as Rose tells Anri, because Eve is a simple destroyer, concerned only with defeating her one opponent; Aoi, who enters the final round 9 under par. As Rose racks up a -3 in four holes Rose further describes how Eve’s style of golf methodically destroys any opponents in her vicinity, causing them to forget their own styles in a hopeless bid to keep up.

While her group mates are probably going to be feeling the negative aftereffects on their own games for many matches in the future, Aoi is spellbound by Eve’s performance. As the leader, Aoi is in the final group with the latest tee time, but she just can’t wait to get out there and play “in the same air” as Eve, who she can tell is having a blast.

Aoi begins her round knowing Eve’s score, and insists that Amane keep her updated every three holes via hand signals. Amane is fine doing this because 1.) she’ll take whatever motivation for Aoi she can get and 2.) she’s quite certain even Eve can’t hope to beat Aoi. But while Amane knows Aoi’s game like the back of her hand, she’s only seen a little bit of what Eve can do. This time, she sees more, including how accurate she can be even while driving her ball through the same woods where it got lost in her last game with Aoi.

While Eve and Aoi duel, their respective support groups watch; her classmates at the fancy Raiou Girls Academy in Japan (the architecture of which reminds me of a car dealership or auto parts store for some reason), where we meet Haruka, Aoi’s supposed rival in her homeland, and Ichina, who wants to be a caddy for someone like Aoi, not a player, and is training accordingly.

They, like Amane, and even Eve herself, believe it’s a foregone conclusion Aoi will go one point under Eve to take the win on the 18th hole. But on what should be a straightforward birdie putt misses the cup, an error so timely and uncharacteristic it makes me wonder if there’s some kind of chicanery involved. That feeling is amplified watching Rose spreading her arms at the sun like a villain about to cackle.

While I don’t forsee I’ll be the biggest fan of Eve and/or Aoi being pawns to these gangsters, this episode was 99% Eve and Aoi enjoying the absolute goddamn hell out of a match together, and however it ends, they’re going to want to play each other again as soon as possible. After all, until someone shows up who can beat either of them, they’re all they’ve got.

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 08 – Tough Love Tomoe

For a show called Moonlit Fantasy, there’s an awful lot of reality rearing its practical head this week. Tomoe reports that the orc and lizardmen warriors are, in a word, terrible; not 10% as strong as she’d like them to be. No doubt inspired by her historical dramas, Tomoe organizes a tournament of sorts in which the various races fight each other, thus making each other stronger. Mio doesn’t really participate in any of this, while Makoto simply has to sit and look stoic.

Makoto factors even less in the next segment, in which Tomoe focuses her drill sergeant skills on the four-person party of Toa, Hazal, and the elf and dwarf women. Blessed as they were by the goddess, she knows there’s a lot more she can get out of them if properly trained, which translates to exhausting, torturous and life-threatening for the four adventurers.

When the four go up against a group of boss-level monsters called shadow tails, they forget their training and three of them rush headlong into the fight while Hazal stays back and heals/supports. This is all wrong, and is the real reason they think they can’t beat the beasts, not because they’re not powerful enough. She has them set a trap and then play to their strengths, and they make quick work of the shadow tails, surprising themselves in the process.

They’re again weary when Tomoe sends them to clear out an entire cave of shadow tails, this time without her supervision, but just as the guild girl is telling Tomoe what a low chance of success the four will have, they burst through the doors of the adventurer’s guild tired, bloodied, but victorious. Tomoe isn’t just talk (and mimicking TV); she really can bring out the best in people.

While it’s generally good fun watching Tomoe put Toa & Co. through their paces and showing them they’re stronger than they thought, Makoto is relegated to side character status, asking Rembrandt for some shop space to rent. Rembrandt gives him a counteroffer of some space in a neutral city where the Kingdom in which Tsige resides can’t bother Makoto with their passionate devotion to espionage.

Mio also gets very little to do until the very end of the episode when Makoto orders her to Tinarak Forest to gather ambrosia fruit. But as another adventuring party trudges through the dense woods, they are shadowed by a pair of silver-haired elves(?) who don’t think very highly of humans at all. In all, it was a serviceable, functional episode, but it was neither all that exciting nor all that humorous. It was just kind of there.

The Day I Became a God – 04 – Slapping the Winds Together

After a virtually incomprehensible cold open in which Suzuki watches an interview between two scientists that left me scratching my head, we’re back to the Narukami residence, with Youta catching the beautiful, brilliant lawyer Tengan Kakou on the TV.

Before he knows it, Hina is winning an online mahjong preliminary in his name, stamping his ticket to the in-person tournament organized by his TV crush! Even Izanami, a mahjong buff herself, attends along with his best mate Ashura.

I’m just going to put this out there: I don’t know jack-squat about competitive Mahjong, having only played the solitaire version that’s just matching up like tiles. Narukami is similarly a complete novice, but received precise divine instruction from Hina. His resulting tactics in the game do not conform to the traditional competitive play—which just happens to be what Tengan Kakou wants.

This episode seems like a case of me enjoying watching Narukami fall far behind as if he had no idea what he was doing (because he didn’t, he’s just following Hina to the letter) then come roaring back with some frankly ludicrous bending of the rules, which even leads to the adoption of Uno rules. At the same time, I kept feeling a bit left out due to my aforementioned ignorance of Mahjong’s rules and terminology.

Fortunately, what we saw probably couldn’t be described as anything resembling a “normal” game, and indeed there were times when it seemed the show was parodying serious obscure game competition shows like Chihayafuru. Youta simply kept bastardizing the obscure terms until he adopted a game language all his own.

Not only does he win fame (and likely a tidy cash prize), but the attention of Tengan Kakou, who is initially cordial in her congratulations but before long is macking strongly on someone I assumed hasn’t quite reached age 18. Those uncomfortable undertones aside, their use of Mahjong terms as double entendres makes for quite the side-splitting exchange between the two:

“I’d like to see your infinite reiichi.”

“But you can score! An incredibly high-value hand! It’s an extraordinary yaku you may never encounter again!”

“I’m in unrequited love with another woman, which earns me the furiten penalty. Therefore, I am unable to score!”

Sadly for Youta, the unrequited love for whom he spurned the Great Tengan Kakou (leading to her sic’ing her bodyguard on him, who tears off the sleave of the suit he borrowed from his dad) took off for home without waiting for him, rendering this entire enterprise somewhat pointless.

There are thirteen days left until the end of the world. Unless something of genuine substance comes from the hacker-and-scientist side of things, it’s looking like Hina’s goal isn’t for Youta to help her save the world from ending, but simply living his life to the fullest until it does end. Or perhaps these experiences are somehow preparing him to save the world when the time is right?

All we know is, Youta has performed a piece of music for Izanami, rescued a family ramen joint, and won a mahjong tournament all in the same summer, with more to come. He’s having himself quite a summer. Like the ridiculous mahjong match he played, I’m fine just enjoying the crazy ride for now.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 09 – The Other Side of the Story

Flash back two thousand years to the Human capital of Gairadite. Anos stops by, walking nonchalantly through every barrier the Humans can throw at him. But he’s not here to conquer, but to forge a peace. Hero Kanon is incredulous, but seems willing to hear Anos out. His general Jerga…isn’t, and ends up with Anos’ hand through his chest.

Back in the present, Menou Historia has “temporarily” replaced Emilia-sensei, and informs the class of the impending inter-academy classes in three weeks. We learn Demons and Humans use magic in very different ways.

A select team of students will travel to Azeshion’s Hero Academy, Arclaniska. For everyone but Anos it will be everyone’s first trip to the Human Realm, and he wants to make sure they’re ready, tirelessly sparring with Misha, Sasha, Lay, and Misa.

He also gives Lay a magic sword that was once master by his right-hand-man, whom I assumed was Shin, before remembering the promise he made to Kanon after getting stabbed by the Hero: that if they reincarnated in 2,000 years it would be as friends. So is Lay Shin, or Kanon? It’s not that clear.

Meeting with the newly-freed Melheis, Anos learns that Gaios and Ydol are on the mend, while the Humans’ Hero Academy has raised an elite class of reincarnated heroes, suggesting they may be preparing…something. The students are expected to find their way to Azeshion on their own within ten days; Team Anos (minus the fan club) are teleported there in one second.

While touring the city, Sasha notes how it’s not that different from the Demon capital. When Anos compliments her eyes again, they start to go out of control until Anos calms her down. He promises not to treat her like a child if she’ll promise to use her eyes to protect everyone if he’s ever unable to do so.

They arrive at the front gate of Hero Academy Arclaniska, where they’re met by third-year student Eleanor Bianca, a friendly, cheerful young woman happy to show them around and impressed by Anos’ knowledge of the Hero Kanon.

When Eleanor tells them how Kanon defeated Anos and built the walls, Sasha is outraged, but Anos far less so. He understands how in order for his peace plan to ultimately work, humans had to make a story in which they were the good guys and victors. What’s odd is, Humans believe the name of the Demon King of Tyranny to be Avos Dilhevia as well.

As for Hero Kanon reincarnated, since he had seven sources (or “hearts”), each could be reincarnated into a different body. Four of those are current students in the elite class, and two of them, Ledriano and Laos, confront Anos when they hear he can’t “accept the defeat” his founding ancestor suffered (of course not knowing Anos is the founding ancestor).

After Laos comes at Anos and is handled easily, Ledriano begs Anos’ forgiveness for his comrade’s rudeness and requests that he and Sasha leave for now. Surely these two will see each other again when the inter-academy skirmishes start. But later Eleanor warns Anos that if he’s looking for the original Hero Kanon reincarnate, he may be disappointed, since Kanon was murdered two thousand years ago…by a fellow human.

Featuring a new setting of the Human Realm with its requisite hierarchies, players, and alternate history, this first episode of the inter-academy mini-arc is functional, if uninspiring, expanding the show’s world but lacking the awe and excitement of the previous episode’s battles. There were moments this week when I wished the details of the mythology were less muddled, but that’s at least partly the point: a lot can change in two thousand years.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 08 – Slashing Through Absolute Space

Prior to the start of the final duel between Anos and Ray, the owl MC fitted Anos with a Spirit Drain Ring that saps his Magic Power. If that power is depleted, Ray’s mother will die. If he defeats Ray, the contractual Magic Sword will destroy his source.

Ray decides to damage the contractual sword himself anyway, breaking his contract and leaving him with nothing but his fight with Anos. It’s a duel they both wish to fight for its own sake, not for any outside stakes.

When Anos stabs Ray through the chest (at the cost of his own arm), he learns that both the contractual sword and his participation in the tournament was arranged as part of a plot to eliminate him for good.

The author of this plot? Melheis, who promptly locks Anos in a dimensional prison with more than half of his Magic Power drained.

Melheis seems to have thought this plan out very thoroughly, as it employs multiple contingencies, from the use of Ray’s mom as a hostage to creating an “Absolute Space” where he and only he can reside, thus preventing him from ever being defeated.

He even saved a part of the wall Anos himself used to divide the world into four. What Melheis overlooks is the fact Ray had already made peace with the fact he wasn’t going to be able to save his mother no matter what.

That, and that by bringing his mother into the dimensional prison, he brought the one person who could destroy Ray’s pessimistic resolve with hope and love. She remembers when he slashed a pot with a kitchen knife. Now she becomes a sword (her true spirit form) with which he’s able to slash the un-slashable Absolute Space.

Melheis’ third and final mistake is attempting to eliminate Anos with Beno Ievun (the wall spell) after sapping so much of his Magic Power. Rather than the intended effect of killing Anos, it instead releases a limiter of sorts that had resided in Anos’ Destruction Source. Anos had never faced quite this much peril, so the true depths of his power had been limited…until now.

With that power he summons Venuzdnor, chops Melheis’ legs off, and destroys the prison. He then destroys a tiny Sword of Subordination that was attached to Melheis’ brain, thus explaining his sudden heel turn. With that brain bug destroyed, Melheis is again loyal to Anos.

The duel ends with Anos as the winner, and he makes a very loud and precise speech to all the assembled spectators in the arena and throughout the land crediting his victory to his sword, which contained his father’s very soul.

By doing so, he’s able to create the “tradition” of souls within swords that enables him to heal Ray’s mother’s source and revive her safe and sound (again, her true form being a sword). Ray never had to choose between his life, his mom’s, or Anos. Go fam!

All that’s left is the presentation of Anos’ trophy sword, which has always traditionally been performed by a Necron, hence Sasha making a last-minute appearance in an exquisite dress and a very cute alternate hairstyle. While she initially coldly holds the sword out to him, when he asks her to stick to the script she draw close and kisses his cheek.

Sasha took the job because she knew Anos would win, and she’d never accept any Demon King but him (though we may have gotten our first glimpse of the usurper Avos Dilhevia). Misha, meanwhile, never one for jealousy, simply asks if Anos had fun. He did!

Demon King Academy turned out another baroque magical skirmish that threatened to collapse under the weight of its arcane magical jargon. But just like the battle that saved Misha and Sasha, everything was held together with a solid emotional core, carefully prepared and supported by previous episodes.

Anos isn’t just an all-powerful Demon King. He’s a son who loves his mom and dad, and can and will do anything and everything for his friends. His enemies, while crafty, lack that sense of family unity and are instead held together by a patchwork of defeatable spells, trinkets, and fear; all easily defeatable. That’s why Anos always wins.

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