Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – 01 (First Impressions) – An Astral Meet Cute

In a premise last encountered as recently as Spring’s KURONEKO Project: Zero Chronicle, the two most powerful young members of their respective warring nations want the same thing: to end the war and attain balance. They are Saint Desciple Iska of the science-oriented Empire and Princess Aliceliese Lou Nebulis IX of the magic-oriented Nebulis Sovereignty.

When we meet Iska, he is freeing a Nebulis witch from an Empire prison, presumably as a show of good faith to her and her nation. For his crime, Iska is himself is imprisoned for a year, after which his bosses the Eight Great Apostles assign him a redemptive mission: defeat the purebred “Ice Witch of Calamity”.

Iska gets his old team together, the Special Defense for Humankind Third Division, Unit N07. It is composed of the cheerful redheaded engineer Nene, the silver-haired stoic Jihn, and their petite scaredy-cat Captain, Mismis. All are happy to see their friend free and back in the mix, but Mismis warns him that either the Great Apostles have set Iska up for failure, or he’s their very last path to victory.

That’s because the Ice Calamity Witch is one tough customer, capable of dominating a battlefield all on her own. After reaching their lightly-guarded base and heading to the front, Iska’s unit’s humvee is upturned and they are ambushed by astral mages (AKA witches).

Iska is a little rusty after a year in jail, but he’s got the skills, the tools, and the teammates to make quick work of what turns out to be a group of low-level Nebulis grunts, whose flame magic doesn’t even singe his ahoge.

Turns out the Ice Calamity Witch is in the vicinity observing the fight, and her maid-uniformed attendant leaps out of their tree perch to join the fray, summoning an earth golem to overwhelm Iska. However, her mistake is believing these are mere Empire grunts.

Iska quickly shows this sub-boss otherwise, handling everything she throws at him with only a few scratches in exchange. It’s our first taste of extended combat in Kimisen, and it’s not bad: quick, precise, exciting, and dynamic.

Ultimately Iska proves he’s no grunt by handily defeating the maid, whom her mistress the Ice Calamity Witch Alice calls Rin upon arriving to save her. She’s already frozen the Empire base and its reactor and shatters them, revealing Rin and the grunts were a diversion.

Alice and Iska order each other to surrender simultaneously, but when they do battle they are pretty much equally matched. Both are also determined never to back down or retreat until the war is over and the nations are united. This gives the Ice Witch pause, as she expected an Empire soldier to threaten her, not have the same geopolitical outlook!

Once Iska’s attacks make Alice step back—apparently that something rarely if ever happens—the icy earthen back upon which she lands gives way and she starts to topple to the ground. Iska catches her and holds her in a princess carry, and the two…just kind of freeze like that for a moment.

When she protests to having been caught by the enemy, Iska says it was just reflex. In any case neither has the will to fight any further, and so Alice and Rin retreat on her giant eagle-like bird, and Iska doesn’t stop her. The battle basically ends with both thinking “Well, that was weird…”

Back home, Alice attempts to wash away the strange feelings she got from her encounter with Iska with a long bath, to no avail. Eventually she convinces Rin to attend her favorite opera in Neutral City, which just happens to be a tragedy about two lovers from nations that are bitter enemies. Alice cries easily and profusely during the opera, to the point she has to borrow a handkerchief from someone behind her.

When the lights come up, that someone is revealed to be…Iska. Assuming he wasn’t stalking her and this is a coincidental meet-cute…what are the odds? And so, her favorite opera begins to play itself out in real life, only it hopefully has a happier ending. Magic Romeo & Juliet, anyone?

Kimisen is already better than Kuroneko Project. Iska, Alice, and their friends are broad strokes, but share great chemistry, and Iska’s unit has a pleasant lived-in family dynamic. The show also looks much better, with decent character design and combat animation. Finally, there’s no messing around…the two potential future lovebirds meet immediately, with instantly charming results.

I’m definitely in for now. I imagine next week will have a bit less expositional lifting to do, which will only work in its favor as we get to know Iska and Alice and they hopefully get to know each other. After all, if the two most OP’ed warriors in their respective nations can get along and they’re supported by their friends, then peace has a chance!

Rating: 3/5

Sore ga Seiyuu! – 13 (Fin)

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Still basking in the awe and enormity of the biggest event of her young career (which is even more enormous in her dreams), Futaba is feeling a bit listless and aimless, which isn’t a good place to be what with her assessment at Aozora looming. Despite her secondary circle of friends (who are either still trying to become seiyus or moving on to other things) believing she’s “super-elite”, Futaba can’t hide her relatively quiet and undistinguished past two years. Sure she’s worked with plenty of legends, but if she doesn’t want to get fired (and go through with her promise to give up on a seiyu’s life if she is), she needs to think more about her future; find a focus; anything to tell the assessment panel.

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She sees a glimmer of that future when she imitates a passing boy, which is doubly significant because A.) she’s so good at voicing boys she gave Ichigo and Rin a start, and B.) the boy was talking about how not to get lost: Remember something big that doesn’t move. As a city-dweller who’s bad with directions, I myself lived by this advice…at least until I got a smartphone with Google Maps (and devised a mnemonic device for memorizing street names).

But I digress: When Futaba first shows up to the slaughterhouse office for her assessment, the atmosphere is suffused with dread and despair, as everyone who exits that room comes out looking miserable. When she takes her seat before a rather intimidating row of assessors, barking questions one after the other, she very nearly loses her nerve, but still manages to get out where she sees herself in the future.

She wants to be a seiyu for a long time. It’s possibly an even more ambitious goal than being a main character or famous heroine, due to the dropoff of seiyu work for most people after 30. But she tells the panel it’s a goal she aspires to all the same, and one she counts on making a reality.

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This week also features Ichigo (her foot now healed a month after the concert) auditioning for and winning the voice role of a local strawberry mascot, and Rin taking and passing her entrance exams. But the spotlight this week, as it was in SgS’s first episode, is Futaba, who despite having never been able to land a main character role, is the main character here. And it’s very apropos for us to see every excruciating minute of her struggles this week, while the others have a relatively easy time off-camera. This is how it’s always been.

But it’s also a welcome development that Ichigo and Rin are right there when Futaba gets The Call—one that starts out ominously but turns out to be a great relief: she’s being given another year to prove herself—and the three are able to celebrate their hard-one individual victories as a unit. Along with Ichigo and Rin, Futaba looks poised to continue working hard in that unit, which will hopefully get her more attention and more roles; especially if she pitches herself as a boy-voice specialist. And the time ahead of her will be more distinguished than the time behind her. Because the Seiyu’s Life is the only life for her!

Like Futaba in the seiyu world, Sore ga Seiyuu! may not be the flashiest or the most watched or lauded, but also like Futaba, it was more often than not extremely fun and rewarding watch full of a unique energy and modesty as it brought insight to the world of a quirky profession while making observations relatable in any profession.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 12

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Ichigo’s foot is hurt, and though she tries to hide it, both Futaba and Rin know it’s hurt. The success of the concert is in jeopardy, but both of them care more about her health. Ichigo, not wanting to let everyone down, assures her she can do it, and makes the others promise not to tell Kaibara. Her foot, her terms, it would seem.

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However, after watching Hocchan on TV and bumping into her at the studio (not recognizing her at first because of her disheveled off-stage appearance), Futaba gets yet another invaluable piece of advice, this time about units: everything is shared amongst everyone, be it happiness, hardship, or pain. That means the foot isn’t just Ichigo’s problem and Ichigo’s call, it’s the unit’s. Rin agrees with Futaba, and Ichigo tells Kaibara, who naturally freaks out.

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However, the Earphones haven’t gotten this far without overcoming hardship (or lack of natural dancing talent, in Futaba’s case.) So Ichigo gets taped up, and both Rin and Futaba will pick up her slack in the dancing department, rearranging choreography to lessen the strain on Ichigo’s foot, doing a slow song while seated, etc. Konno even finds a clever way to conceal Ichigo’s swollen foot: fuzzy leg warmers!…Which at least to me call to mind the soft padding of earphones.

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In order to balance out the proportions of their look (with their $5000 outfits…geez Kaibara!), they also go out wearing bunny ears, and while the first tense few moments after they take the stage they worry they’ll be laughed right back off of it, but the full house of nearly 500 (480 to be exact) end up digging the cuteness.

The trio goes out with everything they have, powered by Futaba’s pre-concert motivational speech that was the culmination of everything she’s learned from working with pros like Hocchan, and while Ichigo stumbles, she doesn’t fall, because Futaba and Rin take hold of her and keep her upright. The unit even gets a call for an encore.

It’s an unforgettable night for the Earphones; far more of a success than any of the girls could have hoped for, especially considering the setback with Ichigo’s foot. But they pulled it off with aplomb, and it was immensely rewarding to watch them do so.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 04

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SgS keeps pace with Dandelion this week, as we come to love the characters in both shows the more time we spend with them. It has occured to me that Sore is very much a love letter to the seiyu industry and the people in it, almost playing like a documentary of these girls’ lives, yet avoids being over-indulgent or extra-congratulatory.

With the highs come the lows, and the lows suck when you’re in them, regardless of vocation. That’s what this episode captures best: Futaba at first believing she’s all alone in her doubt and despair, when in fact, everyone goes those emotions. That knowledge brings comfort and motivation to strive harder.

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With Bodhisattvon wraping and all three girls failing to pass auditions for the next show (doubly upsetting since we saw Futaba part with most of her petty cash to buy the manga), they’re feeling uneasy about the future. Futaba in particular is sure she’ll get more work before the Bodhi recording and radio show both wrap, but she’s incorrect on both counts.

All it takes to clear Futaba’s clouds of despair and worry is to bump into a legend like Ginga Banjou, who has died many more times than she on screen. Because of that, he can lend her valuable words of supportive advice that apply not only to dealing with the deaths of one’s characters, but in dealing with the serial rejection all seiyus (and indeed, artists) must endure. Futaba is not alone.

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When their radio show ends, it looks like Futaba is about to stare down the long, dusty road of non-employment in her chosen field (though she still has the part-time job), but their boss springs another surprise on them: not only has their radio show been extended, but he’s putting them in a unit, to record the theme song to the show and perhaps eventually become a full-on idol group.

This is a lot for Futaba and even Rin to take in, though it’s exactly what Ichigo has been dreaming of. I like how they all react by paying more attention to themselves, whether it’s Futaba being broken out of her daydream by her jiggly arm, Rin training herself to wear miniskirts, or Ichigo’s overdone yet somehow appropriate ringlets.

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Really, I should have seen this development coming: Futaba, Rin and Ichigo already had the built-in look of characters who wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi magical girl or music anime. Now, they could be on the road to just those kinds of roles, if it all pans out. Everyone’s nervous, like they were when the radio show first started. But with time, they got better at that, and they’ll eventually get better at all this unit stuff, too.

ED request: The theme to Sailor Moon Crystal.

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