TenSura – 45 – Demon Lords “R” Us

From the battles of Benimaru, Gobta, Gabiru, Geld, and the Beastketeers we rewind a bit back to Rimuru’s palace, where he sees Shuna off before heading through the ominous portal from which an extremely powerful demon maid named Misery emerges to escort him to Walpurgis. Before heading off, Veldora and Ramiris tell Rimuru the names of the other demon lords: the giant Dagruel, the vampire Roy Valentine (and his predecessor …Milis?), the demon Guy Crimson, and the lazy Dino.

As Rimuru, Shion, and Ranga walk through the portal to a very important and potentiall very perilous meeting, Shuna arrives at the outskirts of Clayman’s castle, flanked by Souei and Hakurou. They’re surrounded by a mist that dulls their magical senses, and before they know it they’re surrounded by an undead army led by Adalman, the Index of Clayman’s five fingers.

While Souei and Hakurou buy time by battling a zombie dragon and knight, respectively, Shuna uses an Alignment Field to cordon herself and Adalman off so they can have a nice little magic battle. It seems like it’s been ages since the good princess got something to do, but it was worth the wait, as she kicks some serious skeleton ass.

Mind you, Shuna doesn’t move around much, nor does she ever raise her voice. But that’s fine; the dignified, elegant princess isn’t one to scurry around or shout. She stands with absolute confidence in her power as she calmly counters his Acid Shell with her Flame Wall and his Curse Bind with her Holy Bell. That last one surprises Adalman, who didn’t know a monster could summon a Divine Miracle.

When she rewrites his suicidal Disintegration mega-spell with Overdrive and disperses most of the undead army, she also inadvertently lifts the binding curse Clayman cast Adalman and Co. in order to have their…er…undying loyalty. But now that he’s been soundly defeated by a worshipper revere-er of Great Rimuru, Adalman is all about meeting the Lord Slime, and happily offers to guide Shuna & Co. to Clayman’s castle.

As for Great Rimuru, he encounters Guy Crimson (who definitely has his game face on), Dagruel, Guy Valentine, Milis (possibly), and Frey for the first time, and has some harsh words for Leon regarding what he did to Shizu that results in Leon inviting Rimuru to his castle…assuming the slime survives Walpurgis.

That’s when the other new kid on the block Clayman arrives, with a very out-of-it-looking Milim in tow. Rimuru surely could tell something was very wrong when Milim didn’t immediately run to him and gather him into a warm embrace—they are BFFs, after all. But what really sets Rimuru off is when Clayman, clearly drunk on power, strikes Milim in the head. Everyone is shocked by Clayman’s conduct, but Rimuru is just mad, and promises Clayman’s death won’t be painless. Can’t wait to see it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Zombieland Saga: Revenge – 07 – We’ve Got a Live One

This week’s opening minutes are very familiar, because they unfold very similarly to the very first episode of ZLS, when a super-chipper Minamoto Sakura’s life was unfairly snatched away by a passing car.

In the case of Yuzuriha Maimai (Hanazawa Kana!), she trips and falls on the way to the bathhouse, smashing her glasses. Undeterred, she accidentally walks into the men’s bath, then slips on a bar of soap that happened to slip out of a bathing Koutarou’s hands.

Cue the death metal and multiple camera angles that, in its first ever episode, made clear that this wasn’t going to be quite like other idol series.

We quickly cut to the briefing basement, where Koutarou, Maimai’s wrapped corpse behind him, announces they have a new member! There’s no doubt that among the many thoughts going through the girls’ heads is Did Koutarou finally go too far and murder someone??

Fortunately, the “corpse” comes to—apparently, Maimai is too dumb to die (either that, or the blow to the back of her head wasn’t as bad as it looked). In any case, Maimai’s series of errors led to Koutarou panicking and not confirming she was actually dead before exposing the rest of Franchouchou to a living person.

Fortunately, Maimai is a good girl, and also a huge fan of Franchouchou and Number One in particular. She has no intention of telling anyone their secret, but since she’s there anyway, she asks if she could join the group anyway! Koutarou, thanking his lucky stars he didn’t accidentally kidnap someone brighter, agrees, and Maimai is christened Number Seven.

While Maimai knows all the words to their songs and all the moves to their dances, her brain and body rarely operate in concert. As a result, her training does not go smoothly at first, but Ai, consummate professional that she is, never loses her patience, and Maimai eventually starts to improve.

When her school’s cultural festival committee is deadlocked on what the big act should be, she says she can get the Franchouchou. The girls are excited to perform there, particularly since they either didn’t spend much time in high school or, in Lily’s case, never made it there. It’s also slightly implied that Koutarou seduces the principal to get approval.

The girls stop by for a pre-festival tour of the festival, and when Maimai tells Sakura how she thought Saga was “done for” until she heard Franchouchou, Sakura can’t help but remember how negative her outlook was until she first heard Ai and Iron Frill. Maimai is shocked to learn of the group’s intention to have a “revenge” show at EFS, but Sakura tells her that’s what Franchouchou is: they never give up.

The big day arrives, and wouldn’t you know it, Maimai doesn’t screw up once! Instead, she totally surprises her friends and classmates by appearing on stage and performing with Franchouchou, announcing after their first song that she’s the newest member…only to then immediately announce she’ll be “graduating” from the group as soon as she leaves the stage.

Her reasoning is solid: while she initially thought she was “one of” them, and they welcomed her with open, caring, and encouraging arms, the bottom line is that other seven have no choice but to do what they do, because they’re zombies. Maimai reckons she needs to live out her life in Saga first in this new Reiwa era, inspired by their dedication to continue rising up and living life to the fullest despite being dead.

After giving a giddy Saki a parting gift of a 20th-anniversary color Tamagotchi, Maimai parts ways with Franchouchou. Part of me is sad Hana-Kana’s time with the group was so brief, but I absolutely understand, respect, and even admire Maimai’s choice.

And while she’ll absolutely never spill the beans about Franchouchou’s true undead nature, reporter Ookuba Shinta has now matched all seven members except Yuugiri to their living counterparts.

Whether he’ll put this scoop on the front page immediately, or go to Franchouchou first for further explanation, I don’t know the guy well enough to say for sure. All I know is, the preview for next week confirms that Yuugiri, the only member on which he has no info, will finally get her own focus episode, which looks to be a period piece. It’s about time!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Irina and Crow’s discussion of this episode here!

Mars Red – 02 – Sin From Thy Lips

In the ruins of the bunker where Misaki was being held, Moriyama informs his newly-promoted boss Col. Maeda that there have been more vamp sightings in Kayabacho. Nitto News reporter Shirase Aoi is after the truth of the recent spate of “human combustion” incidents and keen for details on Misaki’s “elopement”, while yearning for her childhood friend, who never returned from battle in Siberia. She’s also miffed that Salomé has been replaced by Romeo & Juliet at the theatre.

We meet the vampiric members of Maeda’s vampire unit Code Zero—the “unranked” Yamagami, “A Class” Kurusu Shuutarou, and “mad scientist”-type Takeuchi—as well as Suwa, who seems to be human. Their first trip for intel on the vamps in Kayabacho is Tenmanya, a shop full of knicknacks, antiques, and curios. Its proprietor plays both sides of the human-vampire conflict.

Tenmanya is willing to offer some info in exchange for ruining his competition. Those rival “blood sellers” are selling a bootleg of his “product”—the vamp equivalent of the hard shit—and a vampire couple are enjoying it and themselves, though the woman seems to think her mate is drinking a bit too much.

While playing a bouquet of asters at the stigmata where Misaki burned up, Maeda encounters Aoi, and learns that one of his vampire agents, Kurusu Shuutarou, is her childhood friend reported dead. He doesn’t tell her of Shuutarou’s fate, nor why he’s leaving flowers, other than he “couldn’t keep his word.”

At midnight, all bridges and streets leading out of Kayabacho are sealed and Code Zero moves in on the vampire couple, who sense danger and aren’t prepared to go quietly. I love how simple yet frightening vampires are depicted in Mars Red, and once again the lighting and camerawork really sell their speed and ferocity that far exceeds human limits.

Unfortunately for our couple, they are cornered on a bridge, and Maeda has brought plenty of his own vampires to take them down. The male vamp chugs one more vial of the black blood and goes out in a blaze of glory, but it’s Suwa and not the Class A Kurusu who delivers the killing blow. Despite being an extremely powerful vampire, Kurusu is disgusted and even a bit scared of blood.

The “parent root” female vamp tries to flee, but she’s headed off by Maeda, who rather violently stuffs his fist through her mouth then slashes her with his sword. How he, a mere human, can do this is not clear. Is he not a mere human? Unfortunately Maeda’s aide Moriyama has to be put out of his misery. Maeda handles it, then has a solemn smoke on the bridge.

Like Tenmanya, Mars Red has the eclectic style and pleasantly musty scent of a shop with odd hours filled with neat things. I also like the connection between Aoi and Kurusu, though I wish after two episodes I could summon more than a shrug about Colonel Maeda, who’s almost too stiff and stoic for his own good.

Assassins Pride – 11 – A Vast and Insidious Conspiracy

From the moment Mule and Salacha arrive, Melida and Elise are at Mule’s mercy. Her family administrates the library, and she knows what all the books do, from dressing them in fairy tale cosplay to showing them the way through the labyrinth. The whole time, we know Melida and Elise’s “new friends” are up to something.

What we don’t know is why, aside from loyalty to their respective houses. What those houses are conspiring to do to Melida is evil, and all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. So…who are Mule and Salacha, really?

When the quartet completes a trial, which consists of defeating low-level imps and organizing books, four new books bearing their names materialize on a shelf. This is when Salacha decides: forget her bro’s orders, she’s Melida’s friend, and she owes her at least the warning that all of this is a trap, and help her chase down Mule, who’s taken her book.

Meanwhile, the Headmistress and the upperclassmen (of whom apparently only Shenfa can actually fight) are attacked by a Guild Grimface necromancer, but are bailed out by Kufa, who in turn is bailed out by Williams Gin when the necromancer transforms into Ains Ooal Gown’s cousin.

Grimface has apparently come to eliminate any and all witnesses to the screwing over of Melida, but Kufa made sure some students, led by Rosetti and Naqua, stayed on the surface to repel the guild’s raid. Thanks to Salacha, Melida at least knows that even two of her friends are working against her on behalf of their blood purity-obsessed families.

But what does Mule mean when she says she’s doing this because she “likes” Melida? Is she really doing her father’s bidding, or does she have a third, distinct agenda all her own? Was she just putting on an act in last week’s secret meeting? The final episode (at least of this season) has a lot of questions to answer.

Assassins Pride – 10 – No Point Imagining Bad Scenarios

No sooner than Melida returns to Flandore, she’s encouraged to enter the Vibria Goat Librarian Certification Exam, which in addition to being a damn mouthful, involves exploring Flandore’s sprawling central labyrinth library. Melida and Elise are eligible owing to their status as Luna Cadets, but the headmistress just wants them to stay on the safest level and get the feel of the place for a future exam.

Meanwhile, a widespread conspiracy is in motion against the Angel family, whose political rivals are annoyed that a girl of dubious parentage continues to rise. The movement is led by Salacha’s older brother, and she and Mule flank him as he discusses how they’ll take the Angels down. Mule even offers a magical book to aid them, which begs the question: whose side are these girls on? Salacha’s hesitation over harming Melida seems to suggest the answer isn’t so simple.

Salacha’s brother’s first move is to send in a goofy joker-masked man into Melida’s school to loudly and publicly declare he, not Lord Angel, is her real father. While examining her mana, Kufa reminds Melida that he warned her this kind of thing would happen when she started to gain renown, and to simply keep facing forward and doing her best.

Despite the headmistress’ meager expectations, Kufa thinks Melida should try to win the Certification Exam, in order to silence further doubters of her potential and prove that even if she is technically a bastard, she has what it takes to serve Flandore with distinction. So of course, things don’t go as planned when the Exam begins, with the lift being interrupted and a strange tentacle monster snatching up only Melida and Elise.

As the two girls battle high-level undead—apparently the ghosts of past librarians, very Ghostbusters—in the sprawling library, Lord Angel himself visits her school, and is received by Kufa and Rosetti. After the incident with the impostor claiming to be her father, the Lord’s fears about Melida’s fast rise causing trouble for the family has led him to decide to pull her out of school—away from both Kufa and Elise.

Kufa protests, and the Lord can tell he has reason to, but the dispute is interrupted by a message from Guild Grimface, indicating that Melida and Elise are in grave danger. Back in the library labyrinth, just two undead enemies cause severe wear to the girls’ swords, making it unlikely they’ll last if more than two were to appear. Naturally, ten ghosts appear, surrounding them, which is when Salacha and Mule drop in and eliminate them.

Is Salacha here to carry out her brother’s wishes and those of the families who have allied against the Angels? Is Mule seriously going to take steps to expose Melida’s “blunders”? Or are they there as they were at the slumber party: fast friends who want to protect and aid them?

Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia – 06 – Though Our Battlefields Differ

Other episodes of F/GO have presented bigger earth-(and history)-shattering events, but this was the first one I felt best brought all of the series’ myriad elements together. All the adventure, history, action, comedy, and romance levels were set just right so that they complemented each other rather then got in each others’ way.

This was also the episode in which I most felt the humanity of the characters. It’s apropos the cold open should feature the origin of the current Ishtar. It also had the most one-on-one interaction between Ritsuka and Ushiwakamaru. She’d always seemed drawn to him, and I should have known it was because they’re both Japanese.

Among the many servants with whom he interacts, Ushiwakamaru is the only one Ritsuka sang songs of as a kid, something that both astounds and flatters her. He was a real person, after all, and his story is an amazing one. One of the low-key great things about Fate is that it nudges you to learn more about these historical and legendary figures.

As such, wonderful to see these two countrymen assert their bond of friendship as people, not any Master-Servant contract. Ushiwakamaru also sports one of the more awesome costumes in a show positively bursting with them. Like this episode, it’s a satisfying balance of elements—a little cute, a little sexy, all bad-ass. Not to mention Hayami Saori is perfectly cast as Ushi’s voice—warm, caring, and determined.

Another thing I’m enjoying about F/GO is that while there is a larger overarching story arc, it doesn’t get in the way of smaller, more self-contained episodic stories. Last week felt like a road trip with Gilgamesh; this felt more like a good old-fashioned fantasy quest. Their mission couldn’t be simpler: go to the city of Kutha and recover the Tablet of Destinies.

(In a well-placed moment of comedy, Ritsuka asks why Gilgamesh doesn’t remember what he himself wrote on said tablet; Gilgamesh response is Pure Gilgamesh: “Why do I have to retain in my memory a clairvoyant premonition I wrote in a dream?” #DemigodProblems)

Sadly Ushiwakamaru can’t join them, but the party of Ritsuka, Mash, Merlin and Ana is more than adequate. On the way to the city, whose entire population seemingly died peacefully in their sleep, the party encounters the collateral damage caused by Ishtar’s Cautious Hero-style demonic beast extermination, and she’s been making off with the gems of those she “saved.”

The night before they enter the city, Ritsuka has a nice chat with Merlin about how even though he’s just an ordinary human, he has to do what he can to the best of his ability, which means a strict workout routine to stay in shape. From her tent, Mash seems disappointed Ritsuka thinks she only chose him because he was virtually “the last man on earth.”

Once in Kutha, the party splits up to look for the tablet…simple enough, though Mash was weary of Ritsuka going off with only Fou for protection. Turns out her intuition was correct: Ritsuka suddenly strays into the Underworld, which in this age is a very real place people stray into all the time (and in Gilgamesh’s case, even went on a quest there).

The hostile undead who surround Ritsuka are eventually dismissed by a man Ritsuka seems to recognized named Ziusu-dra, who castigates Rituska for entering the Underworld while still alive; a big no-no. Still, he sees Ritsuka is a nice guy and so lets him off this time, sending him back to Kutha.

He awakes to find Mash shedding tears of joy and relief after she shed tears of panic and worry for his safety; going back to what he said to Merlin last night, Ritsuka may well not quite grasp just how much Mash cares for him, and is not merely resigned to serving him. And what do you know, the Tablet of Destinies is in his hands. Looks like he was meant to stray into the Underworld, if only briefly.

Of course, the mission was never going to be quite that simple: Ishtar suddenly arrives like a fighter jet; Chaldea only warns the party four seconds before she attacks. She’s there to “save” them just like she saved the ranchers whose lands she ravaged and pockets she picked, and intends to collect payment in the form of the tablet.

Ritsuka’s not about to fail Gilgamesh, so they must fight. And what a fight. From Ishtar’s concussive kicks to Mash’s shield and her graceful gliding through the sky, to Ana’s decisive chain-assisted counterattack, we’re treated to a beautiful, deadly dance. My only complaint is that it’s over too fast, but I’m also glad it didn’t go on too long.

Going back to the cold open, we learn Ishtar was summoned using ahuman girl as a vessel. Despite nearly all Mesopotamian gods being blonde as a rule, Ishtar retained her vessel’s black hair, since the human girl’s will merged with Ishtar. That goes a ways towards explaining her peculiar behavior that both saves and hurts humans.

It may also explain why she’s willing to cooperate when she wakes up finding herself tied up, surrounded by Ritsuka’s party demanding answers. She explains that the other two goddesses were drawn there by Gilgamesh’s Holy Grail. The three of them decided to enter a competition whereby the first to defeat Gilgamesh and claim the Grail shall rule his lands. They also entered a three-way non-aggression pact, so Ishtar won’t go so far as to tell Ritsuka the true names of the others.

The party fails to connect the ease with which Ritsuka entered the Underworld to Kutha’s status as a place where undead congregate and dwell…until they’re surrounded by massive horde of skeletons. With the tablet in hand they make a run for it, but not before Ritsuka frees Ishtar from her binds. Having been treated so kindly despite her hostility (and perhaps motivated by her human half), Ishtar returns the favor by obliterating all of the skeletons with a single all-out arrow burst, sparing the party a tough battle.

When Ritsuka earnestly thanks her before turning back to Uruk, the blonde goddess half of Ishtar wonders if perhaps he’s “a sacrifice too good for the other goddesses.” I enjoyed the ambiguity of that line, just I enjoyed the entirety of this splendidly balanced episode.

KonoSuba 2 – 03

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KonoSuba calls back to its first season more this week, but for some reason it didn’t bother me as much, probably because it’s always a hoot to watch Kazuma and Megumin explosion training montages, and even more of a hoot to have Kazuma and Aqua tackle a dungeon, with no one but each other to bounce off of.

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The episode also doesn’t hesitate to remind us that Kazuma is a bit of a cad and a perv, considering the “rustling” going on when he and Aqua used to sleep in the stables. But with Darkness away (having seemingly but probably not unspeakable things done to her) and Megumin sitting out the dungeon (an accidental explosion could kill them all), the balance of the episode has a fleet, stripped-down feeling to it.

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Also, it manages to surprise by making this one of the times when Aqua is not only the most capable party member, but absolutely essential to clearing the dungeon. Whether undead are naturally drawn to her or not, one can’t deny she’s good at dispatching them, and with style to boot. I loved how a string of anti-undead spells were suddenly interrupted by an exuberant “Nature’s Beauty!” for good measure.

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Once they reach Keele, the former court wizard who has a whole story and after whom the dungeon is named, there’s a bittersweetness to the fact he became a lich to protect his love, and thanks to Aqua, can return to her through purification.

Kazuma is pleasantly surprised throughout the dungeon trek with Aqua’s staggering awesomeness, right up until he realizes the reason they’ve been chased around by undead all this time was because of her.

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Still, I maintain it was a good thing Aqua accompanied Kazuma. They got a bunch of loot, and Kazuma was reminded that Aqua isn’t always useless, and sometimes he is. Unfortunately, none of the gold they make goes towards their towering debts, because they instead end up buying the house however many rounds it takes to send Aqua into the alley to vomit the gold away.

As is so often the case, Kazuma & Co. can’t help but take two steps back for every step forward, at least as far as money goes. But that was still a damned entertaining dungeon trip.

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KonoSuba – 08

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Winter isn’t Coming, it’s already here, and Kauzma and Aqua are finding it impossible to continue living in a freezing cold stables. One wonders where Megumin and Darkness are living. Anyway, Kazuma decides the best way to make enough money to pay for warmer digs is to gain a new skill.

The person he asks for that new skill is a friendly lich named Wiz. Her introduction is initially a bit confusing, becaue Kazuma and Aqua seem to know her well, yet couldn’t recall who the heck she was. Turns out she’d never been introduced until now. Furthermore, they learn for the first time that she’s actually one of the eight generals of the Devil King’s army.

As such, she was a contemporary of the late Verdia, though quite amusingly she’s not choked up about his demise, considering he often tossed his head by her feet so he could look up her skirt. The Devil King needs a better HR person, ’cause that shit can get you sued. Also, due to her undead nature, Aqua constantly wants to eliminate her.

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Kazuma doesn’t let her, and gains a skill from Wiz that drains an opponent of magic and health. Then a happy coincidence occurs, as someone comes in Wiz’s shop needing a big haunted mansion exorcised. Kazuma and Aqua take the job, and Megumin and Darkness join them at the impressive and comfy-looking new place.

Of course, I assumed Kazuma and Aqua would end up right back in those freezing stables, huddling for warmth without regard for propriety. Because since when is a seemingly awesome mansion not have some huge problem with it that renders it utterly unlivable?

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Sure enough, even though Aqua seemingly does some exorcism work on the place, Kazuma is visited in the night by not one or two but hundreds of that good old cliche, creepy laughing dolls. He eventually finds Megumin in Aqua’s room, wanting to go to the bathroom with her.

Kazuma also has to go really bad, so the two have to deal with constantly being surrounded by creepy dolls and having to hold it in to the point of agony. Megumin even leaves her pants and pantsu behind in the ongoing chase.

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The cliched creepy dolls (and ludicrous number of owls!), along with the much more mundane need to pee really bad, made for a reasonably chuckleworthy combination of problems.

Though it’s all resolved pretty easily in the end, Kazuma forces Aqua to give back their “special reward” for eliminating all the new spirits that had taken up residence in the mansion, after he realizes it was her own magical barrier that kept the spirits from going where they wanted – the graveyard where they met Wiz.

All’s well that ends well, though, as the party finally has a respectable place to live, and Kazuma is a little closer to achieving the ideal “down-to-earth lifestyle” he desired. Adventuring will surely be more rewarding now that he’s not risking hypothermia every night!

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KonoSuba – 06

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This week lampoons the “Epic Boss Rematch” common to fantasy anime, inverting it in numerous, hilarious ways. First, the Dullahan Verdia has to come to town to confront Team Kazuma and complain about how they haven’t come to his castle yet.

Unbeknownst to Kazuma, Megumin has continued her bombardment of that castle, while Aqua assisted by carrying her home each day. You didn’t think she stopped blowing the joint up just because she didn’t appear on camera doing so, did ya?

Verdia then attempts to look down on the party (having formerly been a noble knight) for not avenging their fallen comrade, only to see Darkness is alive and well and appreciates his praise. It’s only when a fed-up Verdia threatens to slaughter the town that Aqua switches from mocking mode to attack mode.

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Her impressive Holy-based magic proves painful against Verdia, but doesn’t have the effect she intended (utter decimation). Now that she’s shown she’s not the magic novice he assumed, the gloves come off as he summons an undead army to, well, chase Aqua, then Aqua and Kazuma around.

Kazuma gets the idea to lead the army and Verdia into a trap with Aqua so that Megumin can blast them – and she does blast them, creating a giant crater in the earth – but while Megumin is out for the count, her efforts only made Verdia even madder.

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When other adventurers attack him, he uses more of his own magic to apparently kill them, and for a few moments, the show almost seems to enter serious territory, as Darkness is visibly horrified by this turn of events. It’s her turn to take on Verdia, to avenge those dead men, so she leaps into action.

Only problem is, as awesome as she appears as she’s fighting him, her “finishing blow” completely misses, turning her pink with embarrassment. Even so, she wields an effective weapon against Verdia: her ability to weird him out with her masochistic ranting. This is a chaotic party that can keep any foe off balance enough for one of them to discover a weakness, which Kazuma does…and it’s water.

The whole town starts firing water spells at Verdia, turning the battle into a kind of aquatic dodgeball. Amusingly, Aqua wasn’t paying attention this whole time, and when Kazuma insults her, she makes the prevailing issue herself rather than the battle at hand.

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When she finally unleashes her high-level water spell on Verdia, she exhibits the same profound lack of subtlety that is Megumin’s specialty, only with water instead of fire. A vast column of the wet stuff comes crashing down on Verdia, dousing him but also wrecking the city walls. Oops.

Greatly weakened by the torrent, Kazuma is able to steal Verdia’s head, and Aqua finishes him off with Holy magic. Victory is theirs! But Darkness knows that victory came at a cost: she reminisces on her interactions with the three fighters who Verdia killed (another funny send-up of an activity common to the genre), only to turn around to find them alive and well, thanks to Aqua’s resurrection magic, leaving her with egg on her face.

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After a job – well, not well done, but done, the party celebrates at the guild hall (with Aqua getting toasted pretty quickly). Kazuma, to his surprise, his praised by everyone in the hall for his party’s deeds, and they’re awarded a cool 300 million Eris for taking out a General of the Devil King.

With this new fortune, Kazuma announces he’s going to retire and live a simple, quiet life henceforth, abandoning his plans to defeat the Devil King himself. This disappoints his three party-mates, but he doesn’t care. But when the guild official comes back with the bill for all the damage Aqua’s flood did to the city, they end up 40 million Eris in the hole, and Kazuma ends up having to cancel his retirement before he was even finished announcing it.

It’s the very end, when Kazuma laments the possibility of spending the rest of his life fighting battles with this inept party that will often cost more than they’ll make them in profit, that rings a bit false. This life looks like a shitload of fun, with minimal risk. I know Kazuma and I are different personalities, but I don’t see why he’s in such a hurry to leave this world. Methinks he doth protest too much!

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OverLord – 13 (Fin)

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In a battle so epic it needed two parts, Momonga—sorry, Ains Ooal Gown—turns the tables for good. Having told Shalltear that everything has gone according to plan, he transforms into “Perfect Warrior”, the armor of Lord Touch Me, a former playmate. He then proceeds to summon superweapon after superweapon, so fast and unpredictably is the onslaught that Shalltear must abandon defense altogether and focus on offense, losing an arm in the process.

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But Shalltear wasted all her skills and most of her MP in the first half of the battle, when she thought the two participants were a lot more evenly matched. Turns out, Ains was simply lying to her, as well as failing to correct her incorrect assumptions about his weaknesses. The only weaknesses Ains had against Shalltear were dealt with in that first half, which is why he thanks her so profusely before Part Two begins.

Once a timer goes off, Ains dispenses altogether with the fiction that Shalltear had the slightest chance against him and casts “Fallen Down.” As she utterly disintegrates in the light of her overlord’s power, a smile marks Shalltear’s face. He was every bit as great as she thought, and then some. Of course she couldn’t win against him.

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The same reason Ains had all those cool weapons is the same reason he’s able to ultimately resurrect Shalltear, albeit, unexpectedly, without her ample bosom (something she laments once she notices). That reason is cold hard cash. I’ve played my fair share of RPGs long after the main quest is complete and amassed fortunes so large I could buy everything there was to buy, which is what Ains does. And while it costs a cool 500 million to resurrect Shalltear, it isn’t as if there was anything else for him to buy.

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It’s all too common for villains to simply disappear into oblivion, cursing the name of the hero who defeated them. OverLord is different. Not only is Ains not a hero but an antihero, but Shalltear isn’t a villain either; she was under mind control, which we learn was only partial, but it still did the trick in terms of having her rebel against Ains. And she comes right back, mostly the same as she was, and certainly just as in love with the adorable Ainsy-Winesy.

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With Shalltear returned to the fold and Nazarick back at full strength, Ains gets back to work, learning all there is to be learned about this new world he finds himself in. He’s awarded Orichalcum Plate, and plots to fortify Nazarick and discover the entities who tried to steal Shalltear’s Mind—we learn they’re from the Slane Theocracy, and they’re not done yet. We also learn that Brain Unglaus is still alive, as Stronoff finds him in an alley.

There’s no official indication at the end of this extended epilogue that there will be a second season OverLord, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was, whether it’s in Winter or next Spring or Summer. There’s certainly plenty of material left to explore, lots of awesome one-sided battles to be fought (and perhaps some not so one-sided), and, of course, the central mystery of What Exactly Happened to the human MMORPG player inside Lord Ains. Though, at the same time, I’m kind of glad weren’t spoon-fed all the answers.

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OverLord – 12

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As it did so marvelously with the Clementine fight (which was nowhere near as technically challenging as this one), OverLord once again delivers with an extremely fun and satisfying payoff to all of the buildup surrounding Ains’ duel with Shalltear. The battle that took up most of this episode’s running time got my adrenaline pumping and didn’t let up, right up to the delicious ending.

And yet it still gave us some time to check in on Ains’ guardians back at Nazarick. Albedo admits she let Ains go based on emotion rather than logic—a decision she likely wouldn’t have made had Ains not altered her personality to love him deeply. Demiurge, who he didn’t alter, thinks they’re being derelict in their duty to protect the one remaining supreme being by fighting in his place, but Cocytus considers it blasphemy that Demiurge would question Lord Ains’ orders or question his ability to win.

The bottom line: No one is going to interfere in this fight. So, like us, they sit back and watch. And let me tell you: they’re treated to quite a show.

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When Ains confronts Shalltear once more, she’s still inert and unresponsive, allowing him to cast a variety of high-level buffs that will prove crucial in surviving her attacks as well as doling out his own. Here’s the full list of pre-battle spells:

  • Body of Effulgent Beryl
  • Fly
  • Bless of Magic Caster
  • Infinity Wall
  • Magic Ward, Holy
  • Life Essence
  • Greater Full Potential
  • Freedom
  • False Data, Life
  • See Through
  • Paranormal Intuition
  • Greater Resistance
  • Mantle of Chaos
  • Indomitability
  • Sensor Boost
  • Greater Luck
  • Magic Boost
  • Draconic Power
  • Greater Hardening
  • Heavenly Aura
  • Absorption
  • Penetrate Up
  • Greater Magic Shield
  • Mana Essence
  • Triplet Maximize Magic, Explode Mine
  • Triplet Magic, Greater Magic Seal
  • Triplet Maximize Boosted Magic, Magic Arrow

That’s a lot of buffs, but it’s exactly what one expects of such a high-level fight. And while there’s some fun to be had in having your way with lesser enemies, squaring off against an opponent that will actually put up a fight—an optional super-boss, for instance— is one of the unique joys of RPG play. Watching Ain buff himself took me back to my own preparation for Yiazmat, the strongest foe in FFXII who has 50,112,254 HP in fifty separate million-HP bars.

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That level of preparation amplifies the sense of occasion, and Ains’ internal monologue establishes that even he doesn’t know exactly how this is going to go down. Then the fight begins, and a red battle armor-donning Shalltear cuts loose, matching Ains blow for blow. He surprises her with a few traps and attacks (and bluffs about more, knowing he must preserve his MP), but she has a few skills he’s not aware of, which he’s never witnessed her using but which she assures him her creator Peroroncino built into her.

Most intriguing of all, there are moments when Shalltear realizes she has no idea why she’s even fighting her former master, but then whatever parameters were overwritten to make her rebel (or which activated after a timer went off) kick in, and she presses her attack.

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Reality, Lightning, Fire, Dark, Holy; elemental and non-elemental magic flies in both directions, with moves and counter-moves coming as quickly as the two combatants can call out the enchantments. Indeed, the one thing I think the battle could have benefitted from was more of an enchantment “shorthand”. Sure, it’s impressive that all Ains and Shally have to do to cast ridiculously powerful spells is say the name of that spell, but the lengthy English spell names are a double-edged sword, giving the spells weight but also slowing the casting pace.

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But who cares about long spell names, when we’re treated to Lord Ains conjures an effing Sharknado. (He calls it a “Shark Cyclone”, but still, pretty sweet). I also enjoyed the seemingly mono-directional stream of light-spears that suddenly change direction and hit Shalltear, surprising both her and us. The two just keep pulling out of their bags of tricks.

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But Ains is slowly draining his MP, and Shalltear knows it. Hoping to break the stalemate, she summons her trump card (but probably not her only one), an ethereal doppelganger, Einherjar, as well as her “household” of lesser beasts. Ein lunges at Ains while Shalltear kills her own beasts in order to heal herself. But Ains is ready, activating the skill “The Goal of All Life is Death”; a giant clock counts down, and when the hands reach twelve, both Einherjar and the household disappear, leaving Ains and Shalltear alone again in the midst of a sandy desert where the forest glade once stood.

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Their surroundings thus drastically transformed, the two combatants assess their present state. Both are nearly out of MP, and Shalltear is almost out of skills, but she has all of her HP, and she believes the battle is all but wrapped up. But it would seem Ains was coy even in his internal thoughts, as he expresses to Shally how grateful he is she went all out and fought him with everything she had to this point, believing draining his MP would be the key to defeating him.

But that’s not the case: by not fighting him cautiously, she allowed him to arrange an even larger plan beyond the battle plan executed thus far. And next week, it will be time to show her just how badly she miscalculated. I can’t wait.

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OverLord – 11

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Last week demonstrated just how dark and nasty Shalltear can be, but she was also neutralized by a mysterious force in a forest clearing, and the true nature of her condition was not elaborated on with great detail. In effect, we were as in the dark as Ains. This week, he works to shed some light on what exactly is going on.

He uses a God-level item to locate Shalltear, and then he’s summoned by the Adventurer’s Guild. He tells them the vampiress is someone he’s been hunting for years, and if he nabs her—and he’s pretty confident he will—he wants Orichalcum, none of this Mythril mess.

When other adventurers accompany Ains on the hunt, even though he warned them they’d definitely die if they did, he makes good on that warning by having Mare kill them. That’s some Ice Cold Ains.

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The expected confrontation with Shalltear comes surprisingly quick, and is surprisingly brief. The episode subverts expectations that Ains can undo what’s been done to Shalltear with an ultra-rare item which enables its wielder to make a wish, by having the ring reject his wish. Shalltear remains still and silent. It’s then, when Ain’s rare “super tier” magic item fails to work, that he decides to beat a hasty retreat to reassess his tactics. I like how the show doesn’t always make things laughably easy for the big lug.

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I also like how he was holding back, even with that wishing ring; he’s got loads more trump cards locked up in his fancy treasury, minded by a guard of his own creation: Pandora’s Actor. The shapeshifting sentinel initially appears as a supreme being like Ains: Albedo’s creator; which is a pretty great shock when it happens, for it momentarily confirms he’s not alone on this world, nor is he unchallengable in power.

However, it’s just Pandora’s Actor, whom Ains hasn’t seen in a while and, now that he’s older, realizes how goshdarn lame the fellow is, what with his saluting and German (though I agree his threads are pretty sweet). I appreciated this scene of relative levity despite the solemnity of the task before Ains; he’s been at this game so long, he’s literally no longer the young man he once was: a guy who made goofy characters like Pandora thinking they’re cool, or who saved up all summer for the Shooting Star ring.

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Things return to seriousness when Ains and Albedo travel deeper into the depths of the treasury, into a mausoleum where he raised statues for each of his former comrades before they retired from Yggdrasil. Albedo remarks on the fact he calls it a mausoleum, and wonders out loud if Ain’s Supreme bretheren are dead and gone. He says that’s not quite the case, but wonders to himself if it actually is. This isn’t a game anymore, after all.

Finally, after showing Albedo the sconce where he plans to raise a statue of himself, Albedo can’t take it anymore, and begs her great lord to stay in this world and rule over everyone—over her—forever. He then tells her, he’s come to collect enough world-level items to face off against Shalltear, knowing he’s probably the only one who can stand against her (a revision of my understanding that Albedo was the second-toughest of the Guardians, or maybe Ains is talking about Shalltear in her current state).

With her tears and determination, she eventually gets him to promise to come back from the fight, no matter what ends up happening. But the truth is, Ains is using this Shalltear dilemma as an opportunity to prove to himself he’s worthy of being the Overlord of Nazarick, or if he’s in over his bony little head.

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OverLord – 10

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News from Albedo that “Shalltear has revolted” was definitely a nice stab to end last week’s battle with Clementine and Khajit, and left me with a complex response. On the one hand, if it’s true that Shalltear revolted, it means this world is a lot more dangerous than had been apparent thus far.

But if Albedo was simply overreacting based on her latent dislike of and rivalry with the vampiress, it still speaks to a trend of internal court strife that started out playful and harmless but could spell big trouble, even for the Supreme Lord.

I’m pleased, then, that the actually answer to the question of what happened with Shalltear fell somewhere between those two possibilities, with qualities of both.

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I’m also pleased that OverLord’s quality of storytelling did not falter greatly just because Momonga was out of the picture for the vast majority of the episode. He’s a powerful, dominant presence both in the world and show, so his absence, while felt, was mitigated by giving us a closer look at Shalltear, including her downright frightening “attack” form.

Like Albedo and Narbarel, she looks about as far down as humans as one can, but goes further, looking upon them as food, or, at best, an entertaining “playmate.” But someone who considers humans even more as mere food and toys is the accompanying maid Solution, who is beautiful and seductive, but in reality is a shape-shifting slime monster whose boobs turn into a mouth that swallows a hapless dolt whole.

But interestingly, it’s not a total cakewalk for Shalltear & Co., at least not as much as it was for other Nazarickians thus far. Shalltear not only comes across the redhead to whom Momon gave a red potion (which she uses to save herself), but a well-coordinated force of NPCs manages to hold off a few of Shalltear’s attacks, and may or may not have taken temporary control of her mind.

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It’s that event, and its registry on the master screen, that causes Albedo to suspect a revolt. We can be reasonably clear she’s mistaken, however, and that the reality is more complicated; another mystery Momonga has to figure out with that big bony head of his. I appreciate the nuance of the situation, which is far more interesting than if Shalltear had suddenly decided to rebel against the lord she’s always loved (long before Momonga altered Albedo’s personality to love him), which would be way out of character.

And that’s also something the show keeps present in our own heads: the (anti-)heroes of Nazarick who serve Lord Ains Ooal Gown are the product and offspring of their creators, “supreme beings” like Ains who just happened to also be his friends (at least friends within the game, if not outside of it in the “real world”). As such, aside from his love hack of Albedo which was his doing, everyone who serves Momonga is acting in accordance with the parameters set by their creators, i.e. those friends of his.

So if it was Shalltear’s creator’s will that she revolt against Ains, so be it…but neither I nor Momonga are willing to concede that absent further information. For now, he simply has to find Shalltear…and hope whatever she has doesn’t spread to his other generals.

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