Golden Kamuy – 07 – #NotExtinctYet

Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Shiraishi end up in a good old-fashioned standoff with Nihei and Tanigaki, ending with Tanigaki racing off with Asirpa so she won’t hear the screams of Sugimoto and Shiraishi’s deaths. But because Shiraishi is an escape artist, he and Sugimoto are able to slip out of their paltry binds and pursue Tanigaki.

Nihei underestimated Shiraishi, and Tanigaki underestimates his surroundings, tripping a deer trap that puts a wolfsbane-dipped arrow in his leg. He has no choice but to release Asirpa so she can cut the poisoned flesh out (gross), but when she’s done Nihei catches up with them and uses Asirpa as bait for Retar.

However, Retar was simply no match for Nihei, because Retar had backup, in the person (well, in the wolf) of his mate, who delivers the fatal bite to Nihei’s jugular. When Sugimoto and Shiraishi arrive, Nihei has basically bled out, while Retar rejoins his family, something Asirpa (not to mention nobody else) had any idea he had.

So, reports of the Ezo Wolf’s extinction were grossly exaggerated. Seeing Retar with his family brought tears to my eyes. I also felt for poor Ryuu, who lost his master, but thankfully Asirpa insists on taking Tanigaki to the village, lest the loyal-to-a-fault Ryuu stay with him until he dies then starve to death.

In the village, the young Ainu get another good look at a Japanese fellow with weird ears in Shiraishi, while he and Sugimoto tuck into some deer stew and something I’m going to call “salmonsicles”. When the village elder speaks of how the gold sullied the rivers that brought them fish, she mentions how Ainu from all over Hokkaido squirreled away a hoard of gold far larger than even the prisoners know about.

Tanigaki, wounded but conscious, basically corroborates the old woman, and adds the story of his commander, Lt. Tsurumi, who had to lead a forward advance that led to the deaths of half the 7th. The chief of staff committed suicide in disgrace and left the entire division in disgrace, unpaid and unawarded for their valor. From there, Tsurumi vowed to seize Hokkaido for the 7th and open a weapons factory so that their families could work and be provided for.

Tanigaki’s story paints Tsurumi in a more sympathetic light, but it doesn’t sway Sugimoto from his goal to find the gold and keep it away from Tsurumi and men like him.

Speaking of ‘men like him’, the group led by Hijikata goes into town, mostly so that Ushiyama, a raging hulk of a man, can sleep with some women lest he go even more berserk than he usually is. Then Shiraishi, in his infinite bad luck (why else would he be so good at escaping?), ends up face to face with the man-beast, and unwisely tries to run from him.

Ushiyama will have his “little chat” with Shiraishi, and he bowls through four people like they’re ninepins, shakes off being buried by rocks, tosses a horse-and-sleigh aside like they were nothing, and is generally an cartoonishly unstoppable monster of a man. Shiraishi finally finds some soldiers of the 7th—four of them—but what are a few bullets to Ushiyama? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out.

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Golden Kamuy – 06 – Be Born Again and Hear Pleasant Sounds

No bloodthirsty samurai or touched-in-the-head military commanders this week, just two pairs of hunters pursuing their prey. In Nihei Tetsuzou Tanigaki finds someone who both respects and can relate to his Matagi heritage. When it comes to hunting, he knows his stuff.

Nihei’s also a rude old man obsessed with boners, and nothing makes him more erect than the prospect of killing the one remaining wolf in Japan, considering how clever such a wolf would have to be to escape extinction thus far.

Meanwhile, in those same mountains, Sugimoto and Asirpa continue to track the buck he wounded, but the damn thing manages to have the speed and stamina to force them to give up for the day and seek refuge in a felled tree.

While dining on Nihei’s bear delicacies, Tanigaki decides to toss his cap in the flames, abandoning his military life. While returning home may be difficult, showing up with the head and pelt of a great white wolf will certainly help matters.

Elsewhere, Sugimoto is in perfect position to kill the buck, but freezes when he sees the bloodcicle sticking out of its rump, and sees himself: an immortal beast doing everything it can to stay alive. Sugimoto woke up that morning from a PTSD nightmare, but can help but see his own indomitable spirit staring back at him.

Thankfully, Retar is around to bring the buck down once and for all. Asirpa cuts it open and has Sugimoto place his freezing hands inside its still-steaming warm body. It’s heat is becoming his heat, and when they feast upon its brains and other parts (and wash it down with sake) its death sustains their life.

Nihei and Tanigaki stake out the buck carcess, believing the white wolf will return for the meat, but the next morning they only find its droppings, which Nihei burns to further anger the beast. He gets tantalizingly close to putting a bullet in Retar’s brain, but this time Asirpa and Sugimoto have the wolf’s back, startling it off with an arrow.

With that, Sugimoto the Immortal comes face to face with Nihei, who wishes to become part of the mountains, but only when he’s good and goddamn ready, meaning he’ll put up a hell of a fight before he surrenders his tattoos, especially since his wolf hunt was interrupted.

Golden Kamuy – 05 – He Stole The Guts!

Tsurumi’s less personally-motivated soldiers manage to save Sugimoto from the more vengeful brothers, but it’s only a matter of time before they get to him again and finish the job. Asirpa and the Escape King Shiraishi decide to work together to spring him.

Asirpa tells Shiraishi that she believes his “immortality” is the product of him being able to look death straight in the eye and deal with it, but I still maintain there are simply spirits looking out for him; spirits that take many forms and have many faces, including her own and Mr. Slippery.

Sugimoto escapes by tricking Tsurumi and his men into thinking he’s had his guts spilled and he’s near death, and will give them the tattoos in exchange for treatment. But it doesn’t take long for the sharp-witted lieutenant to discover something amiss about the corpse his captive left behind.

Turns out Sugimoto stole the other man’s guts and passed them off as his own. Now free, a Sugimoto in far better shape  commandeers the horse-drawn sledge, while a Shiraishi in disguise burns down the 7th Division’s headquarters to keep them busy.

All in all, a neat little caper, and by the end of it, Tsurumi doesn’t even want to kill Sugimoto anymore. Why keep trying to kill an immortal man when you can just wait for him to collect the remaining tattoos, then take them?

The reunion between Sugimoto and Asirpa is understated and a bit awkward (it’s also painful for Sugimoto, who gets whacked by Asirpa’s sutu) but Shiraishi breaks the ice by suggesting they kill the horse they stole. They use the meat not just to reward Retar for his good work, but to make a sukiyaki-type dish for dinner.

That dish, for which Shiraishi enthusiastically acquires all the other necessary ingredients, includes miso, but while she makes some hilarious faces, Asirpa finally gathers the guts to taste it, and is pleasantly surprised (though she still refers to it as poop).

As Sugimoto & Co. enjoy their freedom and his horse sukiyaki,  the old samurai Hijikata Toshizou adds fellow master swordsman and former Shinsengumi Nakagura Shinpachi to his growing band of badasses, and when a gang of bandits torture his messenger, he strolls in, offers death or partnership, and the bandit leader chooses death.

Ushiyama’s casual tossing of one of the bandits into the rafters head-first was a nice bit of physical comedy that also demonstrates how tough these guys are. Then there’s old man Hijikata reloading his shotgun with one hand while wielding his katana with the other. “Numbers don’t matter, they never did”, he says, and even if he won’t be able to conquer all of Hokkaido, he’s sure as shit going to kill a lot of people trying.

The next morning, Sugimoto’s skewer wounds have healed nicely, but he’s falling behind Asirpa in the deep snow. Then they come across a special vine that will not only slake their thirst (though they get a bit selfish in who gets to drink from it) but material to make snowshoes that will greatly increase his mobility.

In another part of the woods, Tanigaki has found Tetsuzou Nihei, a legendary hunter who uses a single-bullet rifle and no spare rounds between his fingers, because “if you have five bullets (like the soldiers), it makes you believe you get five chances.”

Tanigaki wishes to work with Tetsuzou to hunt down that giant white Ezo wolf. Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Shiraishi better not let their guards down.

Golden Kamuy – 04 – The Grim Reaper vs. The Immortal

While retrieving his knife to help Asirpa gut some sculpin for dinner, Sugimoto very nearly walks into a poison arrow trap, but is stopped by Asirpa’s uncle. It’s almost as if there’s a guardian spirit watching over him, keeping him from being killed before he’s done what he has to do in life.

The Ainu truly believe in such spirits, which they call turenpe, and they’re believed to be what gives people different personalities and abilities. And even though Asirpa herself doesn’t offer things to her turenpe by presenting it to the back of her neck, as it’s more something the older villagers do, Sugimoto respects his elders by following the tradition.

Between the turenpe and the kisarari game with the children, combined with the uncle’s talk of the gold being cursed because Ainu panned for it in a sacred river to collect war funds, there’ quite a bit of Ainu culture displayed in the episode’s opening act.

We also learn more about Retar, a white wolf Asirpa and her father found on a hunt one day, and whom she raised from a pup. One day, after her father was killed, a grown Retar heard the call of the wild and trudged off to where he belonged. Asirpa understood why he did it—he couldn’t be a pet dog—but it still devastated her, especially considering her father had just left her.

Asirpa is lonely, and as long borne the weight of grief, but her uncle has noticed that she’s smiling more, and believes it’s because of Sugimoto. Since he regards Asirpa as a smart young lass, he concludes that Sugimoto is a good man. Her grandmother even tells him to stay with Asirpa forever, but while he says he understands her words, he ends up doing the opposite, leaving her alone as she sleeps in the night.

Perhaps he simply doesn’t want to involve her in anything that will cause her to lose more loved ones. Considering what a trouble magnet he is, he kinda has a point.

But the next morning, it’s not even a question of Asirpa tracking Sugimoto down, if only to smack him upside the head with a ceremonial stick. She also must know that without her he’s likely up to no good, and of course, he isn’t. Retar comes to her aid, and she uses Sugimoto’s old smelly sock to give the wolf a scent to follow.

After a tasty bowl of soba, he’s accosted by members of the 7th and brought before Tsurumi, who knows full well who Sugimoto is and what he’s after. He also tests Sugimoto’s toughness by skewering him through the cheeks. Sugimoto, not one to shrink before tough handling, maintains his ignorance of the map skins and endures the physical punishment.

Asirpa and Retar enter town under cover of darkness, but to her surprise (and disgust) the sock wasn’t Sugimoto’s, but the Escape King Shiraishi’s. He manages to escape—briefly—before having his head gnawed on by Retar once more.

Meanwhile, perhaps not a block away, the twins Sugimoto fought at the soba house pay him a visit in the night hoping to come away with some of his fingers, but one of them gets too close, and Sugimoto headbutts him viciously, then flips himself in the air, breaking the chair he’s tied to and freeing himself.

He’s locked in a struggle with the knife-wielding twins, but something tells me his guardian spirit will continue protecting him. That, and his friend Asirpa, who upon reuniting should impress upon him the futility of trying to ghost someone with a wolf for a friend.

Golden Kamuy – 03 – An Ainu Girl for a New Era

We begin this week with another demonstration of Ainu field cuisine, with Asirpa whipping up a sumptuous soup out of rabbit meatballs, mushrooms and leeks. All it needs, in Sugimoto’s opinion, is a bit of miso paste, but when he takes it out Asirpa mistakes it for poop—a perfectly reasonable reaction considering she’s never seen it before!

After that light fare, the morning brings heavier troubles: Asirpa spots something else she’s unfamiliar with—the glint of binocular lenses—and she and Sugimoto find themselves on the run from the 7th Division, who close in on them quickly thanks to their skis. Sugimoto decides he and Asirpa will split up, and if caught she’ll not resist and pretend to know nothing.

Asirpa is caught, and as Sugimoto assumed, the soldier isn’t interested in harming a little Ainu girl…until he learns she was hiding treasure maps and can understand Japanese (her initial dialogue with him involved telling the soldier in Ainu that the man she was with puts poop in his soup and eats it). Fortunately, Asirpa’s Ezo wolf buddy Retar comes to her rescue.

Meanwhile, three men surround Sugimoto, who has no choice but to bet on his Immortal status and believe Asirpa’s assertion that a bear won’t kill a man who enters its den by diving right in. When the soldiers fire into the opening, the bear pops out and mortally wounds them all before dying.

While both the bear and wolf CGI stand out in a not-so-good way, it’s not enough to pull me out of the action; both seem very much ferocious threats to the humans.

Sugimoto emerges unscathed and reunites with Asirpa (giving Retar a nice belly rub for his assistance), but he’s worried she won’t let him keep the orphaned bear cub he carried out of the den. Rather than eat it like he fears, she decides they’ll take it to her village, or kotan, where they often raise orphan bears.

There, Sugimoto finally steps out of the wilderness and into a different world entirely—the world of the Ainu. Asirpa’s grandmother is the most venerable member of the kotan, and the villagers are more curious about Sugimoto than scared of him.

Granny promptly asks him to take Asirpa for his wife so she can die happy…but she says it in Ainu, and her interpreter, Asirpa herself, does not translate for him.

Asirpa further explains the way of life of her people, which is largely shaped by their belief in kamuy, or gods, coming to them in various forms, including animals. If they come across a baby bear, for instance, they take it as a sign that the bear should be loved and cared for, and eventually “sent back” to where the kamuy reside.

In exchange for the sending, they get the bear’s meat and pelt, while the care they gave the bear prior to the ceremony is to convince the kamuy to keep returning and providing resources. In this way, it’s not a matter of offerings or sacrifice, but of merely assisting the kamuy in their travels back and forth between the two planes. It’s all quite fascinating and engrossing.

I just hope that Asirpa’s village will survive what could well be a good deal of collateral fallout from her and Sugimoto’s dealings with the 7th Division, as well as the prisoners themselves who seek the treasure of gold.

There’s a lot of competing interests in play, and among their rivals are characters with colorful personalities, from Tsurumi (missing the front of his skull, but otherwise a picture of health) to Hijikata (still a boy with a sword at heart, with no qualms about interrupting his comrade’s, er…lovemaking). Sugimoto and Asirpa will certainly have their hands full.

Attack on Titan – 28

Conny’s village is full of questions. If the Titans attacked, why is there no blood? If the villagers evacuated, why did they leave all their horses? And what’s with the emaciated Titan on top of Conny’s house? Why did he hear it say “Welcome home?” There are all intriguing mysteries on top of the ones we already have, but the squad has to keep moving, and Conny has to forget about what may or may not have happened to his family and continue his duty.

Krista and Ymir, like Conny, must feel pretty vulnerable without their battle gear, but they’ll simply have to trust that the soldiers around them will keep them safe. Instead of fighting, Krista & Co. will be called upon to bear witness and send reports. Krista is fine with staying, and feels bad that she’s made Ymir join the scouts, but Ymir insists she’s here “for herself and nothing else.” Another Titan in hiding, perhaps?

This is often a creepy show, what with all the bizarre-looking naked humanoids running around eating people, but Titan manages to up that creep-factor not with Titans, but with a lack of them, or anything at all. Two units travel in the pitch black darkness, not knowing what could be just out of range of their light. Turns out, it’s another unit also looking for the gap in Wall Rose…but neither unit actually found one. What exactly is going on here?

Eren & Co. finally reach Ehrmich District, and Levi makes sure Pastor Nick gets a good long look at the faces of the masses of people and families being displaced due to the wall falling. It seems to work, at least a little, as after being harangued again by Hange, he finally gives up one name: Krista Lenz—who he and his order were instructed to monitor, and who may “know the truths which even we cannot perceive.”

Hange believes that Eren may be able to repair the wall breaches…with hardened Titan skin, of the same type that didn’t evaporate after Annie returned to human form. Sasha also re-joins her comrades.

Krista, Ymir, & Co. end up spending the night in an abandoned castle none of them knew about until the moon came out. To their misfortune, a hoard of Titans besieges them, the first instance of Titan night-fighting. It may well have something to do with the fact this is the same group that hangs around the Beast Titan…maybe he trained them?

In any case, Ymir looks shiftier than ever, but she and Krista can only sit back with the other rookies and hope the pros get the job done. Meanwhile, Hange mentions an abandoned castle which I assume is the same one here, and heads there with Eren & Co.

Attack on Titan – 27

After a quick check in with Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and Zoe as they prepare to head to Ehrmich District—during which Zoe hopes her new buddy Pastor Nick will be more forthcoming regarding Wall Titans—the story jumps to Sasha Blouse, and it’s her story that dominates the episode.

A flashback shows she was always ravenous about sneaking food, and was at the time totally against abandoning her huntress lifestyle for the greater good, as her father was contemplating doing. He told her to suit herself, but to be forewarned: If you’re not there for people when they need you, they won’t be there for you.

Arriving at her home to find an unfamiliar new village, she finds only two people still alive: a paralyzed mother being slowly eaten by a small Titan, and the woman’s daughter, who can only sit by, watch, and become profoundly traumitized. Good lord do the kids witness some hellish things in this show.

Sasha is there for the girl and her mother, but the Titan’s nape is too tough for the axe she wields. Her only option is to leave the mother behind to buy time for her and the kid to get away. The girl later says the rest of the village left her and her mother behind (Not cool, villagers. Not cool). Things get even more tense when Sasha’s horse runs off, and you can hear her struggling to keep the panic in her voice, lest she scar this kid eve more (too late for that, I think).

In the flashback with her dad, Sasha spoke in her country bumpkin accent. While running from the Titan with the girl, she remembers a random little interaction with Ymir and Krista, who argued about whether Sasha is kind and polite because she’s scared of people and ashamed of her backwater upbringing, while Krista likes Sasha is just fine, however she wants to be.

Kobayashi Yuu has always been such a great choice for Sasha, because there’s both a gentle and an intense side (usually hangry, but in this case because of the situation) and she nails both perfectly. It’s time to be not-nice when she tells the kid to “Get Runnin’!” Then blinds the Titan to disorient it; ditching the bow to make sure the last arrow finds its mark, and slipping out of the Titan’s grasp thanks to the great deal of blood spilled by its wounds.

Meeting back up with the girl, they soon hear horse hooves: her father and others from her village. It’s the first time in three years she’s seen her dad. He knows what she did for the little girl, and when he tells her “Sasha…Yer all I hoped for,” its a lovely, warm moment of reconciliation.

Sasha didn’t quite get it before she left home, but she does now. Livin’ in the woods alone just ain’t gonna cut it no more; people gotta be non-awful-like if they’re to be survivin’.

Sasha may have found her dad and a little girl in her village, but when Connie arrives in his home village, it doesn’t look good at all…particularly the horrifying Titan with emaciated limbs lying face up on top of his family’s house.

Since we don’t see any bodies, there’s hope some or even all of Connie’s family got out, but more importantly, how did a Titan that can no longer move end up there? It looks like it could have been dropped down there like a giant sack of potatoes.

Keeping Eren and Mikasa on the sidelines hasn’t hurt the show two episodes in a row now thanks to a smidge more backstory on Sasha, whose gluttony shtick used to annoy me, but has become a much more sympathetic character…someone I definitely don’t want eaten.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 25 (Fin)

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This was an episode full of tying up loose ends, the most important of which being Subaru presenting himself before Emilia a better and more useful man than the last time he saw her. He even gets to be a badass action hero! But as a loose-ends episode, it works very nicely, even if it’s not perfect, and leaves a lot hanging in the air (likely for another season, but not anytime soon).

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The first loose end is Betelgeuse, who very annoyingly won’t go down much of the first act. I was pleased Subaru used the Witche’s curse to expel Betelgeuse from his head so Julius could finish him, especially since we got a good look at the Satella herself. She does look a lot like Emilia…if Emilia were all black with a purple outline and glowing eyes!

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I rolled my eyes a little when moments after defeating Betelgeuse, Juli and Subie get a call from Felis another problem fresh out of the blue: an unaccounted-for sack full of fire stones.

There wasn’t any doubt that sack would be stashed in the wagon Emilia and the village children just happen to be riding in, nor was there the slightest chance, even in an often sadistic show like this, that this latest particular bomb would go off.

When Subie and Otto are acting like a comedy duo in a wagon Otto has nitrous’d with his magic in the last episode, it’s reasonable to assume things will work out.

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The whole rescue attempt felt like an excuse for Subaru to confront Emilia as the one who led the army, something she only just learned about from some snot-nosed kids who don’t know how to keep their damn mouths shut. Betelgeuse’s extended demise further delayed the inevitable reunion, and by the time Betel had become a Ghibli Goop Monster with his head on fire, I had long since had my fill of the manic bastard.

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But the how of how Subaru came to triumphantly reunite with Emilia didn’t mar the fact that this episode took great strides to repair what had been an estranged relationship not just between these two, but between myself, representing the non-manga-reading audience, and Emilia. Takahashi Rie does a great job reintroducing Emilia-tan to us, as she gets to express a good number of powerful emotions during the final ordeal.

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Subaru basically gets to make the perfect series of gestures to reunite with Emilia, swooping in, grabbing the bomb, and running off to get it away, but not before telling Emilia he loves her. After smashing the whales, the giant fallen tree is the gift that keeps giving, as its trunk largely shields Subaru from the blast he’s still pretty close to when the stones detonate.

It is here when Emilia, still processing everything Subaru has done for her these last few days/weeks, completely unbidden, springs into action, rushing into the danger, desperate to find Subaru alive and alright. And perhaps because the show is finally done torturing us, he is!

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From there, there’s no long, sprawling epilogue, showing what becomes of who. Just a simple scene of Subaru lying on Emilia’s lap, the two of them overjoyed to be together again.

The way Subaru describes it, Emilia is made happy for the first time by the prospect of “special treatment.” This can’t quite match the Rem Confession episode in emotional power, but it comes darned close with much less time to work with.

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I also appreciated that Emilia doesn’t have an instant reply to Subaru’s confession. It’s all well and good to say “I love you too”, but loving and being loved are so new to her it’s going to take time. Time Subaru assures her she has.

Subaru doesn’t wake up back in front of that convenience store, but merely admires Emilia’s tearful, radiant smile, as the episode fades to white and we’re treated to an extended mix of the original ED.

All in all, an imperfect but still solid and satisfying, and entertaining finale. If a second season comes along one day, I’ll surely be tuning in. If not, it was a fun ride. Often stressful, enraging, and heartbreaking…but also fun.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 24

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So, the first attempt to save the village and take out the Witch’s Cult was met by some mishaps, such as the time-consuming misunderstanding that led to a confrontation with Ram, the killing of villagers before evacuation was complete, Emilia taking the field of battle, putting herself at risk, and oh yeah, Subie getting possessed by Betelgeuse.

But when Julius and Felis killed him, he died and came back just like he always did, without any twists due to his possession. And fortune not only smiles, but beams on him, as he wakes up right in the middle of the planning phase, allowing him to casually introduce the new information he gleaned about body-snatching, the traitor in their midst, and Ram.

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His new plan revolves around convincing Emilia to go along with “Crusch’s plan” to evacuate the mansion and village, including Emi-tan herself. She agrees, because she believes the plan put before her, while not entirely or even partially of her own making, is the best plan as far as she can tell.

So she’s put on a wagon with some enthusiastic village kids, and sent off to safety, while Subie and the knights capture the traitor and take the metia he was using to pass information to the cult. It’s important to note Subaru himself wore the recognition-blocking robe Emilia threw at him, so she had no idea he planned all this.

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Suffice it to say, thanks to learning the lessons of last week’s ‘dry run’, everything goes off without a hitch, as Subaru once again confronts a Betelgeuse now weakened by a lack of fingers nearby. Subie also allows Juli to uses a spell, Nect, that lets him see with his eyes, alowing him to see the unseen hands and cut through them.

This achieved one of Subie’s secondary objectives: to properly make up with Julius. He is, after all, a crucial part of the plan and why, when the episode ends, it looks like the end is near for the Sin Archbishop, and very good for Subaru, who has once more learned from his past mistakes, put pride aside, planned carefully, and relied on and trusted in others.

This is how he has truly become Emilia’s knight.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 23

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False Alarm: No Fresh Hell, just not completely dealt-with Old Hell on this week’s menu. Hell leftovers, if you will. Ram puts the convoy under an illusion spell because she fears Subaru switched sides and the convoy is his invading force. This is due to a misunderstanding: the letter sent to the mansion was blank, usually a declaration of war.

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No harm, no foul, then, right? Ram accepts Subaru’s explanations, and while she’s not in love with him like her sister, he and she still have quite a bit of history which lets her withdraw her aggressive stance with confidence.

It’s also confidence Subaru needs in order to tell the people of the village they need to evacuate. At first a couple of malcontents curst the “half-elf” who brought this upon them, but with Ram’s help, Subie successfully persuades the villagers, even the racists, to cooperate.

Just when Subie is about to head for the mansion with Juli and Felis, the latter discovers one of the merchants has been possessed by a member of the witch’s cult. The man self-destructs, nearly killing Felis and Subie, and the remnants of Betelgueses fingers attack the village.

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Smoke (and Unseen Hands) fills the sky, blood stains the ground, adn the scene starts to resemble one of Subie’s past nightmare scenarios. But this time, he isn’t singularly responsible for failing to detect the cult’s, inside men; he’s just one part of an alliance made up of far more capable people than he who also missed this one.

That being said, and in spite of her earlier warnings to the villagers falling on deaf, non-pointed ears, Emilia arrives to help deal with the threat and protect the villagers who still live.

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She and Pick manage to take out all of the fingers…that they know of, all of whom talk and move and act like Betelguese. But even Emi’s last defeated opponent isn’t the end. When one of Juli’s lesser spirits, deployed to protect Subie, leaves Subie’s body, Betelgeuse possesses him.

Since we’ve never seen Betelgeuse leave a body that went on to survive, it sadly looks like the end for this version of Subaru, as he compels a reluctant, emotional Felis and Juli to kill him before Betelgeuse completes his hold. When the curtain falls on the episode, it would seem they obeyed him.

Will we shift to the focus of everyone but Subaru now that he’s left this world, or will we continue to following him as he respawns…wherever it is he respawns? Whatever the case, I doubt this turn of events will be resolved as quickly as Ram’s misunderstanding…

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 03

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Three episodes in (four if you count the prologue) and we still only know three of the eight party members in the OP, so the show largely skips past Sorey and Mikleo’s journey to the point where they’re at Ladylake’s gates, meeting the fourth (future) member. She’s got rosy hair, so I’ll call her Rose for now.

Were it not for Rose, Sorey wouldn’t be able to enter the city. That being said, Mikleo doesn’t do well around so many humans, who excrete a miasma of malevalence due to the worries about a war between Hyland and neighboring Rolance.

Princess Alisha’s non-aggressive stance, refusing to launch a preemptive strike, is only intensified by her experience in Elysia, where she say her dream of mankind (well, one man) coexisting with the Seraphim. Also, the hellion is also in Ladylake, though apparently not to kill Alisha, only to observe.

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The rest of the episode takes place within the confines of a kind of great temple to the sacred blade, which is stuck in a rock smack dab in the center. No pun intended, the relatively close quarters prove a double-edged sword, compared to the more exciting hellion chase last week or earlier this week on Ladylake’s rooftops.

It’s good that things are so compressed in this one room, because it ups the tension. There’s also the sense that the assassin hired by frustrated warmonger Lord Bartlow is closing in and tightening the noose on Alisha.

Of course, there’s no mistaking Komatsu Mikako’s wonderful voice, so it was clear the moment the female assassin started talking that she was Rose, the girl Sorey met. The episode isn’t coy about this, also showing her piercing blue eyes a small glimpse of her rosy hair under the helmet.

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Sorey and Mikleo learn that the Lady of the Lake is a Seraphim who dwells right beside the sacred blade, though no one can see her but them. After Alisha delivers a speech that goes over with the crowd about as well as Ted Cruz’s at the RNC last week, the Malevalence coalesces into a giant hellion in dragon form, at about the same time Rose attacks Alisha.

Suddenly the vast interior of the temple feels like a suffocating braizer in which Alisha is fighting for her live against a very skilled opponent (who uses a very different style than a knight would) and a boss none of the people can fully see causing a right ol’ ruckus.

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Of course, we know what has to happen here: Sorey must take grasp the sacred blade, form a contract with the lady (named Lailah), and pull it out of the stone. Sorey becomes Lailah’s vessel, transforming him into a dazzling dandy of a hero to slay the dragon with the blade.

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The dragon is slain, and the assassin withdraws, but Sorey has been warned: being the Shepherd will be an exhausting, alienating, thankless, lonely job. I’m not so sure about that last bit, especially after seeing that ED featuring Sorey hanging out with Alisha, Rose, Mikleo, and the rest of the party he has yet to assemble.

So far, each episode has set out to progress Sorey’s story by a notch, and has so far succeeded. Alisha’s prologue set the stage. Then Sorey and Mikleo met Alisha. Then Alisha invited Sorey to Ladylake, where he met Lailah and became the Shepherd.

It’s a brisk, efficient pace that manages not to feel too hurried or contrived. The addition of Komatsu Mikako to an already strong voice cast is always welcome. And, as expected, ufotable’s visuals and music continue to be beyond reproach.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 02

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The gorgeous landscapes and stirring score of Zestiria continue to immerse me deeply into its world; in this case, the land of the Seraphim, along with Alisha. Sorey takes her to his home village, Elysia, because he has no other choice; human or not, he can’t just ignore her or leave her there.

In a nice twist, being a human with no prior contact, Ali can’t see Mikleo or any of the other villagers, so it appears at first that Sorey is all alone. But Alisha still believes in the Seraphim, and is convinced that they, and the Shepherd in particular, are humanity’s only hope.

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It’s a good thing Sorey is so nice and neither Gramps or the villagers press for her expulsion; what could she do by going back alone, now? The horrific events that transpired on her particularly bad day are now the stuff of her nightmares, but just when that fear makes her doubt her faith, Sorey shows her the exterior of the grand ruins she found herself in last week, including the mural and glove of the Shepherd (which he gifts to her). It’s not just legends.

I also like how Gramps and the others realize this human has a good heart and isn’t the kind of threat that would invite “calamity”, as they originally feared. You can feel how unwelcome Alisha feels at first, but as their attitude towards her softens, her stay becomes more peaceful.

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Naturally, she can’t just stay in the clouds with the Seraphim forever, so she heads back the way she came to Hyland, hoping there’s enough of her world left to save. I was surprised she wasn’t asking Sorey to accompany her and participate in the Sacred Blade ceremony…until she did just that. If Sorey indeed wants a world where humans (not just him) and Seraphim coexist in peace and harmony again, this could well be the way.

Alisha leaves, her hope and optimism that a hero will rise restored (and likely of the belief it’s a good chance Sorey is that Shepherd), but the moment she’s out of sight, Gramps detects a hellion in his territory, and Sorey and Mikleo rush to meet it.

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The fox-faced hellion injures a Seraphim and then tangles with the two young fighters, showing impressively explosive speed, nimbleness, and strength.

It’s a short but fantastic battle that came out of nowhere, and felt even more fast and chaotic due to my being lulled into placid “village time” to that point. Quiet and still, or frenetic action; this show can do it all.

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After Gramps scares off the hellion, what it said about its “main dish” concerned Sorey, who concludes it was after Alisha all along. So he heads off on his own to catch up to her and protect her from what could well be a foe far out of her league.

To Sorey’s delight, Mikleo appears, and will accompany him on his journey to Alisha’s capital, with wise words from Gramps: be free, find your own path, and live life to the fullest. They strike out as the sun starts to come up, and the entire world seems to unfold before them in all its glorious majesty. This looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 11

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Re:Zero continues to dominate our Spring schedule, blasting ahead of the field and lapping it numerous times with its awesom-nitude. Last week set things up for another potential heartbreaking reset, but instead there was no death nor Return by Death; only victory and sweet sweet closure.

It begins, surprisingly enough, with the origin story of Ram and Rem. We’e only known the relatively inept-at-everything Ram, but she was once a demon prodigy, despite only having one horn. Indeed, a display of her power kept her and Rem from being killed in the cradle. All Rem could do was try to be content in standing behind her sister as she dazzled everyone with her talents.

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But one day, when their house was attacked and their parents killed, she lost her horn while protecting Rem. This Rem-centric flashback makes a point of showing the tiniest of smiles of relief on Rem’s face when that damn horn, which had caused her so much grief and self-hatred to that point in her life, finally broke.

And yet, back in the present, Rem has never forgiven herself for smiling, or for envying her sister, or for putting her in the position of having to protect her at the cost of her horn. The “inept, less-than” Ram is a product of Rem’s weakness and worthlessness, and she’s been trying to make up for that ever since, including going after the Mabeasts alone.

Upon coming to, her first reaction is distress that Ram and Subie are there, rejecting her whole notion of sacrificing herself for them. But they can’t change the fact they’re there, here and now, and aren’t going to abandon her.

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Instead, Subie promises he has a plan for the mabeast boss, and sends Rem away on Ram’s back to safety. Rem, however, can’t help but call back to Subaru, which just so happens to imbue him with the courage and confidence to pull off his trump card: a Shamac spell that gives him the opening he needs to stick his broken sword in the mabeast’s throat.

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Unfortunately, that’s not enough to kill it, but just before he passes out from using all his mana, Roswaal arrives to mop up, grateful his subordinates were able to hold their own as long as they did, and all too happy to help.

Rem pounces on Subaru, happy beyond words he’s still alive, and though he passes out and wakes up in his bedchamber, the curse is lifted, so he didn’t die and the same timeline continues on, much to my delight.

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He wakes with Rem’s hand in his, and he then must endure an extended monologue filled with self-loathing and inadequacies stemming all the way back to when Rem and Ram were newborns about to be killed. Even then Ram saved them while she just lay there.

Obviously, Rem is being far too harsh on herself, undermining the wonderful, powerful individual she became by her own efforts, and far too quick to dwell on the past. Subaru tells her she should focus more on the future, value herself more as others like him do, and smile and laugh that life turned out as well as it did. And Rem eventually lets herself laugh, tears in her eyes. BAWWWW.

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With all the talk of leaning on one another, this sure looks like the start of a Subie x Rem romantic arc, but the next time we see Subie, he’s asking Emilia on a date like he did before, and again she accepts, even with her fuzzy concept of what a date is. So I guess Subie’s primary love interest remains his EMF.

As for Ram, now far less than she once was, but at peace with it, we see that her sessions sitting in Roswaal’s lap are so he can restore her mana. Since Roswaal brought her and her sister into his home, Ram has always been utterly devoted to him, and he makes it clear that he may be away for a while, so she must continue to take care of her little sister and Subaru in his stead.

I don’t know what tragedy might befall our friends next (and I’m sure they’re in for more trouble), I’m glad for an ending without a taste of what’s to come, that I may simply revel in the progress that Subaru has made. He and Rem have come so far, but the evolution of their friendship couldn’t have happened more naturally, as if it was always meant to be this nice. Also, hopefully Subaru will get to actually go on a date with Emilia!

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