Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 01 – Flash in the Pan

I’m on record as saying Rengoku wasn’t established enough as a character to warrant what felt like a 20 minute-long death scene, and that maudlin atmosphere returns to start this new arc-opening double-episode, which is really more of a grab bag of epilogues to the Mugen Train arc. It does its job: getting our demon slayin’ boys off the grief train and onto their next mission to the entertainment (i.e. red light) district. But a cohesive episode it is not.

Lest we forget how goshdarn powerful Muzan is, Akaza arrives at the mansion where Muzan is posing as the adopted son of kind wealthy couple, and has his ass handed to him. Muzan is not impressed that his underling was able to defeat one measly Hashira; he wants every last demon slayer wiped off the face of the earth. It kinda makes you wonder: why doesn’t he just do it himself? He’s clearly strong enough.

Tanjirou visits the Rengoku home to deliver a message to Kyoujurou’s family, and meets his fallen friend’s meak and underpowered little brother Senjurou and his drunken former-Hashira father. Both grieve in their own ways, but Tanjirou is not about to let the dad get away with bashing and mocking his own son, and gives him a patented Kamado Headbutt.

After receiving Kyoujurou’s sword guard and a promise from Senjurou that he’ll piece back together the Flame Hashira Chronicles his dad tore up, Tanjirou returns to the Butterfly Mansion to rest, heal, and train, aided by Aoi, Sumi, Kiyo, and Naho. It’s a pleasant and fun enough way to re-introduce the cast for those who like me may not have seen them since last summer, while enabling the show to break out its comic zaniness.

Months pass, and the three lads all go off to defeat various low-to-mid-level demons in nearby villages. One such mission represents the only real non-flashback action sequence, and is also the first time we see Nezuko, which occurs halfway through this 46-minute outing. That’s too late if you ask me, but it was good to see the siblings fighting together to bring down a demon.

This new arc’s quirky Hashira character does not ingratiate himself with Tanjirou, Zenitsu, Inousuke, or me: not when he’s forcibly carrying Aoi and Naho away for some undisclosed mission seemingly requiring women. When the three lads surround him and Tanjirou says they’ll go with him in their place, it doesn’t make a lot of sense…didn’t he need women? He also spanks Aoi…for no discernable reason.

So yeah, this Sound Hashira Uzui Tengen guy seems like a real piece of work, in contrast to the brash but fundamentally decent Rengoku. I also have no idea what he’s going for in the fashion and accessory department…only that it’s a lot. Fortunately, the Aimer-sung OP shook off the cynical cobwebs and got be back into a Demon Slayer state of mind, which is to accept wild changes in tone from overcooked drama to madcap comedy and everything in between, this time in a fresh urban setting.

The aquatope on white sand – 24 (fin) – Fishness as usual

The eight-word review? It stuck the landing with heart and soul. Aquatope wraps with three big events, the first of which is the most workmanlike. The entire staff is mustered to stock the new White Sand Dome, and it unfolds mostly without dialogue, just showing us just how complex such an operation is, and how speed and efficiency is balanced with the utmost care and delicacy with the living things they’re welcoming to Tingarla.

The second big event is the first wedding ceremony. We start with Kaoru and Chiyu joining Kukuru, Fuuka, and Karin in preparing the little personal touches that make the ceremony special and memorable, like name cards that feature a sea creature that matches the personality of the named. The barefoot magical affair goes off without a hitch; even Suwa can’t help but smile at the success, both in terms of getting a couple married and getting their family and friends interested in aquariums.

The third big event is the Grand Opening of the White Sand Dome, for which there’s a line going out the door and all the staff are out on the floor to greet them. Karin is now an attendant, and Kukuru’s grandparents attend and are proud of the growth they see in Kukuru. That said, she still wonders if she made the right choice to stay in PR and asks her gramps what she should do. His wise-as-usual advice: do yourself the favor of turning the path you chose into the correct one.

Kukuru and Fuuka take a break at the White Sand Dome, and Fuuka recalls how when she first got to Gama Gama she felt like she was drowning in a dark sea, which is just how Kukuru felt after Gama Gama was razed. But neither of them feel that way anymore. They love Tingarla, and right on cue, the same “effect” once thought to only occur at Gama Gama happens in the White Sand Dome, as Kukuru’s parents and twin sister join her and Fuuka in reveling in the sea life.

The fourth and final big event is, of course, Fuuka departing for Hawaii (specifically Oahu, as we later catch a glimpse of Honolulu). The difference between their last airport farewell and this one is like night and day. There’s no frowns or tears, all smiles and heads held high. Kukuru says “off you go” to Fuuka like she’s leaving for school for the day, not two years. “I’ll be back,” Fuuka replies in the same casual way. By the time Fuuka is in the air, Kukuru is already back to work at Tingarla.

As I suspected, the two years practically fly by, both in that we get a time jump to Tingarla’s third anniversary and the day Fuuka and Kaoru return home. There are a lot of subtle changes you’d expect, both in Kukuru’s hairstyle to her more confident demeanor at her desk. You can tell she’s taken on what’s in front of her with all her heart, and thrived.

She’s not alone: Kuuya has embraced his role as chief attendant and senpai to his old friend Karin. Udon-chan is now Tingarla’s chef. Kai is back as an attendant, and Choko has found a pretty young mate. Suwa has promoted her from Plankton to Nekton…though honestly I would have been a lot happier if he just called her by her damn name.

While in the taxi back to Tingarla with Kaoru, Fuuka gets out to stop by the shrine to Kijimunaa that she and Kukuru set up in a little wooded area not far from the aquarium. Fuuka gives the deity an offering of Hawaiian Macadamia nuts. These last two years, she and Kukuru have continued to do what’s right, and everything has worked out.

In scene where the two run straight at each other and embrace, I had all the feels. I could feel the love between these two young women; I could feel the relief they were back on the same island together; and I could feel the strength and wisdom they’ve both amassed, finding and nurturing their new dreams. The spirit of Gama Gama lives on in both of them, and as Gramps said, the hardships they both endured eventually led to wondferful rewards.

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 15 – Shokugeki no Jahy

With the Dark Lord restored and her nemesis now her pawn, Jahy wants a reward for all this progress in the form of her dear friend Kokoro’s company and praise. Unfortunately, Kyouko is still following Jahy around like a lost puppy. When Jahy takes Kokoro and runs, Kyouko assumes it’s a game of tag and chases after them with her Magical Girl Speed.

When hopes of Kyouyko being carted off by the cops are dashed, Jahy finds herself in the awkward position of having to admit that Kyouko (whose name she just learns now) is a friend. Not only that, she has to come to terms with the fact that Dear Kokoro belongs to no one, and she is biologically incapable of not becoming friends with someone.

Thus, Jahy must adjust to the fact her playdates will consist of both Kokoro and Kyouko. Yet when she heads to work looking forward to being away from her, she learns Kyouko has responded to a flyer for a part-time job, and the manager hires her on the spot. Now Kyouko is her friend and co-worker.

At first, Jahy is happy for the prospect of extra help—she’s asked for it in the past—but as expected, Kyouko is as big an accident-prone klutz serving customers as she is defeating evil as a magical girl. Jahy only salvages the situation by wowing the customers with feats of balance and dexterity…catching everything Kyouko drops.

Kyouko is discouraged when Jahy orders her to stop doing…everything and just stand back and observe, but the manager assures her it will be okay. Jahy, after all, was horrible when she first started, but as the manager has come to learn, Jahy will give something she cares about her all.

Thanks to Jahy’s diligent training, Kyouko ends up learning the ropes fast and finding her footing. It also has to help that Jahy found a tiny mana crystal in Kyouko’s hair, which must have been causing at least some of her serving mishaps.

Jahy exhibits her typical snobbishness in foisting something the manager wants help with on Kyouko, only to parkour herself over to the dining area with fork and knife in hand when she learns that something is a taste test for new menu items, starting with stewed flounder.

While Kyouko offers gourmet criticism that wouldn’t be out of place in Food Wars (and must indeed be a nod to that franchise), Jahy is more cryptic, both because she’s not so well-versed in food critic-speak, but also because she wants to use this opportunity to eat tasty food for free…which is truly the feral demoness we know and love.

As a result, Jahy is able to sample ginger pork and then cubed Wagyu steak. Eating meat revitalizes her like nothing else, as she’d become so used to bean sprouts due to her low budget. But the steak gives her a full-on Food Wars-style foodgasm, metaphorically stripping her clothes off and sending her straight to steak nirvana.

What makes all this indulgence possible are two key qualities of the manager and Kyouko: the former has been overthinking her menu so much she’s not thinking straight, while the latter is so deferent and adoring of her first and best friend that she’s not thinking straight either. In the absence of better judgment, Jahy is able to feast to her dark heart’s content.

Unfortunately someone who does have better judgment (at least when she’s not knocking back booze) arrives in the form of the landlady, who stops this charade by very clearly identifying what’s going on here (Jahy just wants food) and vetoing the choice of steak on the menu (since they’d never make a profit).

Then the Demon Lord shows up out of nowhere, drawn to the pub by some combination of her meal ticket Kyouko, Jahy’s mana crystals, and the smell of delicious food. She polishes off all the food and wants more, but Kyouko cuts her off before she can cause lasting damager to the manager’s business.

The lord is upset, but Kyouko mitigates that by promising she can have her choice of anything at the konbini on their way home. Jahy has to watch in outrage as her Demon Lord walks away hand-in-hand with Kyouko. If Jahy could out-feed her superior, she could defeat Kyouko in this fresh predicament. Alas, bean sprouts aren’t going to get it done…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 06 – Moon Shot in the Arm

Traumatized by what she saw at the crash site, Irina has a nightmare about suffering the same fate as all those poor test dogs. But as usual, she keeps her troubles within and tries to power through them, training as if nothing is wrong. But her mental anguish results in physical ailments: fatigue, loss of apetite, and anemia. With only days before the launch, this is no time for her numbers to be dropping.

Remembering what Irina told him about drinking the goat’s blood, Lev arranges some blood to drink. Not knowing where it came from, Irina refuses it, saying she’d rather die than defile her body. Unwilling to let her dream die, Lev offers an alternative: she can drink his blood…from his arm.

Irina agrees, and not long after digging into that arm, the light is back in her eyes, and the color back in her flesh. It’s also the equivalent of this particular couple’s first kiss…a vampire’s kiss. As such, both of them act bashfully and nervously before it happens. Once it’s over though, Irina looks and feels so much better, Lev is glad he had blood to offer. Still, Irina seems to feel a bit guilty for taking it.

With Irina back on her feet, the two enter the final stages of her training, including the harrowing parachute spin. Her first such trip to the ground is in tandem with Lev, who keeps her calm when the g-forces start to rattle her. Once they land, Lev tells her that her next jump will be solo. Who knew then that meant he wouldn’t be around for it!

Due to what looks like some shenanigans from Franz, the centrifuge goes haywire. Lev basically breaks the machine in order to stop it, enraging the old asshole researcher, who then decides to start beating on Irina. Lev doesn’t lose his temper, but it doesn’t matter.

When the old coot trips and falls backwards, it’s all the pretext he needs to have Lev hauled away for assault. Irina is now left without a protector…and her capsule will indeed be fitted with explosives in case it lands near the borders. In other words, just as Lev and Irina had their closest and most tender encounter, things couldn’t be worse. The only bright side is that Irina does indeed seem bound for space in just a couple of days.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The World’s Finest Assassin – 05 – Making a Name, then Taking a New One

When Lugh goes into town with Tarte by his side, he’s practically mobbed by townsfolk eager to give him free stuff as thanks for all the kind assistance he’s given them. Whether it’s developing a fertilizer for the grocer’s onions, replenished a water supply, or mended the leg of a cow, he demonstrates every day that being a noble is more about power and strength, but winning hearts. And he’s not shy about one of those heart’s being Tarte’s.

One night Cian summons his son to the dark room where he usually examines his growth. Instead, he does so in another manner, by asking Lugh “how Tarte is.” After reporting how in two years Tarte has become the equal of any member of the branch families, he also assuages his pops’ suspicion that Tarte was a spy meant to steal Tuatha Dé techniques.

Lugh admits it was incredibly fortuitous for him to just happen to run into someone like Tarte, but he can’t very well say the Goddess drew him to her she’s too busy watching the other hundreds of “finest” fighters not doing as well as Lugh.

Cian eventually invites Lugh to a special training center where they go up against each other. Lugh is impressed by his dad’s ability to mask his true movements and intents with traps and feints, but at the end of the day Lugh is faster, stronger, and if I’m guessing right, possesses at least a decade more experience in assassination that Cian, and wins the day. Huis dad couldn’t be prouder.

From there, we get a glorious montage of Lugh accompanying his father on jobs, which begs the question, just how many people need assassinating in this kingdom that Cian is so damn busy? That said, I’m willing to table that question since it’s fun watching the two slink around, Lugh dying his hair black so he doesn’t stand out, and just offing dudes in all manner of ways.

Cian and Esri hold a grand banquet to celebrate the next step in their son’s progression: moving on his own to Milteu to pose as the son of a wealthy and powerful merchant, the better to gain access to the fortresses of nobles in need of killin’. It seems like an awfully public party with lots of opportunities for agents of those nobles to infiltrate. Then again, it might just be Tuatha Dé and its branch families who are invited.

One branch son who is not ready to accept Lugh as the future main family head is Ronah…until literally moments later when his throat is nicked and his arm broken with ease by Lugh, proving on the spot who the “stronger” person is.

But to the show’s credit, Ronah isn’t just cast aside as an upstart punk who got taught a lesson by the protagonist. Instead, he accepts his loss and is determined to improve. Lugh encourages this, and even offers to make Ronah his subordinate and knight, gifting him a superlight sword of his own design. Ronah is all for it, and wishes Lugh well on his next journey.

While Lugh is “leaving the nest” and his parents, Tarte naturally tags along…who would dress him? Apparently Esri taught Tarte…something that she’d rather not elaborate on when they’re about to depart. But once in the wagon on the way to Milteu, Lugh reminds Tarte that he’s not Lugh anymore, and won’t be for two years. He’ll be Illig Balor, son of the head of the Balor Trading Company.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Takt Op. Destiny – 05 – Train Ride of the Valkyrie

The road trip continues until Anna catches a flat tire, and Takt, chivalrous as always, is sitting on the car as she tries to jack it up. We learn how dangerous it is to not be mobile when D2s almost immediately show up, but after learning something from Lenny and Titan, Cosette is able to dispatch the baddies with pinpoint accuracy and efficiency.

At the end of the battle Cosette finds herself standing on a train track, and an incoming train is forced to stop—and good thing it did, as it would have definitely borne the brunt of their collision! She’s met by a tall and honorable-looking fellow Musicart in knight’s armor. It’s a Symphonica train.

In charge is the blond, arrogant Commander Felix Schindler, who considers this unregistered Musicart and Conductor to be valuable pawns if managed properly. The train is on its way to Houston, so he offers Anna, Takt and Cosette a ride as they’re ultimately headed to New Orleans.

Schindler tries to keep things cordial, but while Cosette is easily distracted by a super-rich chocolate confection, neither Takt nor Anna particularly like or trust this guy…especially when the knight Musicart basically tells them to stay in their cabin like glorified prisoners.

Of course, when Cosette detects D2s outside, the leather, glass, wood, and metal of the train cabin are no match for her, and we get an awesome new kind of battle for this series: a battle on a moving train. Again, Takt and Cosette prove they were paying attention to Lenny and Titan’s instruction.

The uptight knight Musicart doesn’t care at all for their constant insolence, but the other Musicart, Schindler’s personal guard, takes a liking to the pair. She also reveals that the knight Musicart is actually a big ol’ softie who has yet to bond with a Conductor, and recommends Takt basically bring her to heel. This Musicart also wants Cosette’s eyes…so…yeah. She’s a bit of a wild card!

While Cosette was far more precise than her first battles, she still caused damage to the track that takes a half day to repair. With valuable D2-luring material on board a train that’s now a sitting duck, when the sun starts to set a properly massive swarm of aerial D2s descends upon the train.

Cosette and the Knight go to town, but even the latter eliminating D2s quickly and efficiently, the sheer numbers they’re up against mean Takt is soon exhausted. The Knight, with no Conductor to draw energy from, starts to fade even faster.

Even so, neither of them give up, and the Knight seems to admire how Takt continues to conduct even while lying prone on the dirt, for the sake of protecting the train. When the battle is won thanks to some unconventional thinking from Takt (having Cosette blast a couple of nearby cliffs to dust most of the D2s), she even flashes a smile and properly introduces herself as Walkure. When Takt voices his approval with that Wagner piece, Walkure (who I think I’ll just start calling Wally) blushes and swoons despite herself.

When a giant D2 boss shows up, with Takt and Wally basically running on fumes, Schindler turns to his trump card, Hell. Voiced with a seductive unhingedness by Ueda Reina, Hell activates her wheel boots, climbs up the cliff to where the boss is, and absolutely kicks the shit out of it, laughing maniacally all the while, and seemingly experiencing a measure of ecstasy upon defeating it. This is clearly a Musicart who absolutely loves to fight and destroy. Unlike Cosette, this isn’t duty; it’s pleasure.

When the train reaches Houston (or what’s left of it), Schindler is determined to claim Cosette and Takt as his pawns in a larger political game. So it’s extremely rewarding to see Takt refuse any and all offers. The three get in the car and motor out of there.

Rather than place a collar on a couple of “stray dogs”, Schindler got growled at and utterly rejected. He’s pissed, but Hell is more amused than anything. As for Wally, she seems to be the odd Musicart out, as her services are no longer required by Schindler, but she doesn’t join the road trip either. I hope we’ll see her again soon. But first…time to hit the Big Easy!

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 05 – Free Falling

A military bigwig arrives to inspect the training facility, and to also tell the two dozen or so candidates that only six of them will make the cosmonaut cut. When one of those candidates screws up their parachuting drill, Lev is suddenly back on the active roster. He might end up in space after all.

Meanwhile, Irina is in the anechoic chamber, which she basically treats like her coffin, only larger and most likely quieter. While in there, she’s left alone with her awful memories of when her village was massacred and her parents torched. At one point she softly calls Lev’s name, and can’t help but grab his sleeve when he finally comes in to release her from her solitude.

Irina probably figures she can’t hide the fact that she doesn’t hate Lev’s guts, so she comes right out and says she considers him the only human who isn’t bad. I’m not sure what that pink-haired researcher did to her! All joking aside, we get another great skydiving scene with Irina ending up in the unenviable situation of having to stare at Lev to keep her head up, even if it means being unable to hide her blushing.

When the two are up in the air they can forget about all the awfulness that surrounds them, but they come back down to earth literally and figuratively when they witness an aborted space capsule flight and the corpse of one of the experiment dogs. Those horrible flashbacks come roaring back, putting Irina in a state of shock.

Lev’s superior picks them up, and tells him that no one was supposed to see that. Back in the command room, the mission commander battles both his ailing heart and the political reality of having to self-destruct Irina’s capsule should she land in another country. You can tell he’s way more in this for the science and discovery, not the patriotism.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The World’s Finest Assassin – 04 – Nice to Be Needed

Ansatsu Kizoku is by no means the best-looking or most original anime of the Fall, but it just might have the best structure, or rather most interesting structure to its narrative. I love the way it darts and weaves back and forth through time. Macro-wise, we’ve already seen Tarte in action, but this is the episode that truly introduces her as a character, not merely an ass-kicking machine.

We begin with Tarte in pretty much the most dire situation someone can be in. Winter is coming, so the family decided to cast her out so there’d be enough food (it’s implied their lord overtaxes, which caused families to make impossible choices). Starving and running out of strength, she’s set upon by a pack of wolves.

Here’s what immediately made Tarte interesting: she smiles moments before her death. She neither fears nor blames the hungry wolves; hell, she respects them. If this is how she goes, at least she’ll be put to good use keeping other living things alive. When her family abandoned her, she felt she had lost all reason to exist. Then our friend Lugh arrives, and uses the wolves to practice his killing skills while Tarte watches.

Mind you, Lugh doesn’t arrive to save her until after we get an extended scene of him at the harvest market, watching the townsfolk prepare for the winter by preserving and rationing. There’s even a brief little aside of comic relief when the Goddess checks in on another person like Lugh who isn’t faring so well. It’s when Lugh goes hunting so his family will have meat in the winter that he comes across Tarte.

Tarte happens to be backing a huge amount of mana—more than he’s seen in anyone in town—and the grizzled assassin in him knows it can’t be a coincidence; the Goddess must have sent her to him. The thing is, that seemingly throwaway gag of her watching The World’s Finest Special Ops Guy become a NEET over four decades proves she’s not always watching Lugh and making things happen. Sometimes…things just happen, like meeting Tarte.

Lugh’s initial interactions with Tarte are seemingly kind, if somewhat emotionally distant and logical. It’s only after he’s struck a deal for her to bind herself to him mind body and soul that he reveals he manipulated this font of mana into someone who would never betray him; someone who owes their existence to him and so exists only for him.

Two years pass, and Lugh has been training Tarte into the fellow assassin he’ll need to take on the Hero. He hasn’t told her why he’s training her, nor is she curious. When he performs the same examination of Tarte that his father performed on him, it’s super clinical, medical…professional. Lugh may have the body of a twelve-year-old, but he’s no Lewd Rudy.

When I think about how Lugh interacted with Tarte with such precision calculation, I remember what his father said: they are people, not tools. A tool would not have been able to get Tarte to trust him or devote herself to him so easily, but Lugh has been raised to be empathetic and curious, and so is a much better judge of character than your stock killing machine.

The same can be said of Tarte. Takada Yuki does such a fine job initially voicing the starving Tarte and then imbuing her voice with more strength and confidence once two years pass. Tarte may be really really good with a spear (collapsible or otherwise), but she’s also a good person…or as she once said of Lugh, a good person “as far as I’m concerned”.

How we treat others matters. Tarte witnessed Lugh slaughter the wolves with the deftness of a surgeon, and hears how he’s killed people and will go on killing people as part of his duties. But he’s still a good person to her, because he and he alone saved her when he didn’t have to.

Now that both Dia and Tarte have been properly introduced (and are both exceedingly charming, rootable characters to complement Lugh’s aloofness) I imagine the cool beauty Maha’s story is next up. I’m looking forward to more taut, confidently structured storytelling.

Takt Op. Destiny – 04 – An Efficient Harmony

Lenny and Titan begin training Takt and Destiny out in the desert, but between Takt’s general recalcitrance, Destiny’s tendency to take things up to 11, and Titan’s description of what a Conductor should do to properly conduct a Musicart, well…let’s just say the results are mixed!

We’re then treated to the rather bizarre reality of a D2-ruined Las Vegas surrounded by cornfields of all things. Lenny and Titan meet some old friends in Jonathan and Maggie, who invite the two of them and Lenny’s “kids” over for a home-cooked dinner that’s mostly…corn. Kinda like Interstellar!

That night Lenny and Titan meet with Mr. Lang, who is clearly more than just a nice old guy who runs the farm. Anna and Takt are about to go to bed when Destiny senses vibrations and smashes through the wall of the house. The bouncers in suits at the door where those vibes are coming from are no match for Destiny, who sends one of them flying and crushes the other’s handgun like a soda can.

This secret casino, where Mr. Lang is basically embezzling the subsidized corn farm to fatten his own pockets, is what Lenny and Titan wanted to have a look at, but not to hit the slots. No, with three mid-level D2 bursting out of the casino floor, it’s the perfect venue to teach Takt and Destiny about the proper way to fight: by getting on the same wavelength.

As Titan keeps the three D2s from causing too much damage but pointedly doesn’t defeat them, Lenny carefully, patiently directs Takt on how to direct Destiny in order to create “a beautiful, efficient harmony.” With Takt being precise about where to point her, Destiny doesn’t suck up all of Takt’s life force halfway through the victorious battle. Indeed, he’s still standing at the end, like he could take on three more!

The next morning, Lenny and Titan and Takt, Destiny and Anna go their separate ways, but last night’s battle proved to Lenny that they’ll be okay as long as they keep fighting like that and continually improving. Leny also knows that Takt is the son of a famous musician. He sees potential in Takt as a conductor and musician, and is confident he’ll make it to New York in one piece.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 04 – Fly Me to the Moon

With Lev being told Irina will launch in three weeks and her finally trying on a real spacesuit, shit is starting to get very real. If the higher-ups are to be believed, she may not live a long life even if the launch is successful, but Irina doesn’t seem to mind at all, and continues going through the training with nary a complaint (though she does remark that the suit is really heavy).

While Irina is changing out of her sweaty clothes into a fresh jumpsuit, Lev encounters Rosa in the hallway. Rosa is, so far, a completely one-dimensional racist bitch who is a waste of time. But when she lays into Irina to Lev, Irina overhears, and bids that Rosa say what she wants to say to her face. Rosa slinks off, warning Lev not to get his blood sucked. Even though, if we’re honest, it’s Rosa who sucks here!

When Lev and Irina get some free time before she has to enter an anechoic chamber (where you can indeed go mad quite quickly listening to nothing but your body make noises), Irina kinda prods Lev into taking her to a jazz bar. She gets some soda water, natch, but one sip of Lev’s dark red concoction has her slightly tipsy. No matter; she’s never heard jazz before, and she quite likes it.

Later that night Lev and Irina head out to a frozen lake to skate. While last week’s animation really shined with the airplane ride and skydiving, here Irina performs an elegant performance while an insert song plays. It’s really quite something to behold, and the latest demonstration of why Lev should really try to prevent her from being “disposed of” if he can.

Irina and Lev have never been closer. He tells her how he’s wanted to go to the moon since he was five; she told him how her parents were burned alive while she watched…pretty standard date stuff!

As for the whole post-launch disposal thing, Irina volunteered to be a test subject because it meant she would be going to space, and possibly the moon, before the humans defiled it. Even if the Zirnitrans off her afterweards, they can never take away the fact that she danced among the starts before they did.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The World’s Finest Assassin – 03 – Wonderful First Time

Lugh’s very first magic lesson with his new mentor Dia goes awry when Dia, unaware of just how much goddamn mana her student possesses, tells him to put as much as he can in one of her family’s Materia-like Fahr Stones. He does so, and it quickly turns into a magical bomb that shatters every window in the Tuatha De mansion. Even so, his parents aren’t angry, they’re proud and excited.

If this were the soul of Rudeus Greyrat, not an old grizzled assassin in Lugh’s body, there might be ample potential for pervy unpleasantness (especially considering Lugh is seven and Dia ten). Fortunately, there’s none of that; even when Dia decides to sleep with Lugh, it’s no big deal. When she teaches him mana conversion for his “first time”, it’s oddly intimate, but ultimately pure.

Another common pitfall for a dynamic like this is to assume that in addition to the young callow student being attracted to his pretty older teacher, the two always have to be bickering or competing. Instead, Lugh and Dia collaborate equally, with Dia bringing her knowledge of the spells of this world to the table and Lugh applying his ability to synthesize his own spells. Together, the two literally make gold out of thin air.

Two weeks pass, and Dia is feeling sad about having to leave, as there’s nothing more she can teach him. So in addition to gifting her with an impossibly sharp beta titanium knife, Lugh earnestly promises her that if she even needs him, he’ll go to where she is without fail. Two weeks may not seem like a long time, but lest we forget, they’re probably share a father, and kids always bond faster than adults.

With the pure, charming innocence of Dia departed for her home, Lugh’s dad admits that despite only being seven, Lugh is ready to learn more about the family business. To whit: Lugh takes him to a prison full of death row inmates from around the kingdom who are there for the purposes of experimentation in the service of further honing their assassination skills.

When Lugh asks why his parents didn’t simply raise him to be an unfeeling killing machine, Cian’s answer is both profound and obvious: because while they are assassins (and damned good ones), they’re people, not tools. In contrast to his previous life, Lugh must use his own humanity in addition to knives and guns to optimize his assassination skills.

The final three minutes turn the chipper magical training nature of the epiode to that point on its head, as Cian orders Lugh to make his first kill. The convict is seemingly scared out of her mind and tearfully begs Lugh not to kill her, but Lugh doesn’t shrink from his duty, lopping off a hand with his own titanium blade and telling her she’ll die a relatively peaceful death.

This draws out the true criminal, who is not scared of dying and curses Lugh to be sent to a hell full of demons. To this, Lugh responds that that might be a nice change of pace next time he dies. This is dark, good stuff. Its consistent, sincere, and serious tone (matching our protagonist’s demeanor without his adult voice intruding upon his new world) more than makes up for its merely adequate visuals.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 03 – Freedom, Not Fear

After a scene involving the pudgy, scheming old men who run Zirnitra from the capital, Sangrad (some who want to kill Irina as soon as the mission is over, some who want to wait and see), we see Lev get his first R&R since taking on the job of Irina’s handler. His former candidate comrades are a mix of curious, pitying, and superior.

It’s clear that due to his time with Irina, he’s no longer one of them…and that might not be the worst thing. As for “things”, it’s clear Anya doesn’t consider Irina one, but a fellow person. As a scientist, she knows the best way to overcome fear of something is to understand it better. She understands vampires to an extent she doesn’t fear them in the least. On the contrary; she adores “Irinyan”.

Lev ends up applying this axiom to Irina’s acrophobia, by exposing her to the most extreme heights so she can eventually realize how goddamn awesome it is when you’re flying and thus overcome her fear. Their moonlight flight is a series highlight in terms of visual panache; it really draws you in, like the great Miyazaki adventure in the sky.

Lev’s experiment on his “test subject” works like a charm, as Irina’s fears are replaced by wonder and a thirst for freedom unquenchable by even the fizziest lemon seltzer available. But the flight doesn’t just change Irina. It continues a gradual but inevitable change in Lev, from a soldier carrying out his duty of handling a test subject, to a young lad developing feelings for Irina Luminesk as if she were an ordinary human woman.

Lev isn’t training Irina in order to achieve the mission anymore; he’s training her so the government won’t dispose of her for not measuring up. Fortunately Irina excels at pretty much everything they throw at her, and once she’s over her acrophobia, flight and parachuting (another bravura sequence) is no exception. One of Lev’s colleagues warns him not to develop feelings for Irina, but it’s clearly already way too late for that!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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