Shin no Nakama – 11 – Our Own to Live

Tisse’s first act as savior and protector of Ruti is to go to those who care about her—Red and Rit—and let them know what’s going on: how a contract demon met with Ruti, gave her a drug that weakens her Hero’s Blessing, and broke Godwin out of jail to make her more of it.

Meanwhile Ares, Theodora, and Albert have returned to Zoltan, presumably to retrieve their wayward hero. Ares and Albert make themselves invisible (which is something you’d think Red could detect) as Red chats with a one-handed Danan. It doesn’t take long for Red to make clear that a.) he left the party of his own free will, and b.) he’s now found where he truly belongs.

Ares ends up tangled up with a second Danan, this one with both hands, who seems a bit too sharp to be the real Danan. It’s also pretty clear Danan wouldn’t lead Ares right into Red and Rit’s unattended apothecary so he can wreck up the place. He even ruins their big bed! All while “Danan” kinda looks on and scoffs. He’s clearly got plans for Ares.

Red and Rit are out, because they decided together that they can’t continue their quiet life while Ruti is in turmoil, and if Shisandan is still alive and assuming the form of Danan and others, they can’t stand by and do nothing. Red rushes ahead to the ancient elven ruins where Godwin is being held, and lures Ruti stright to him by threatening to harm the alchemist.

Now that Red is no longer ignorant to her situation, Ruti is prepared for her brother to hate her, and demand she return to her duties as Hero. Naturally, Red doesn’t do this; if he did anything like that, he’d be a real hypocrite! On the contrary, he’s been studying ways to lesson her Blessing’s effects for years, for a time when she wants to go on her own journey. It seems that time has come. As far as Red’s concerned, just as his and Rit’s lives are theirs to live as they please, so too is Ruti’s.

Ares…doesn’t believe this, and when he arrives at the ruins and tries to order Ruti around, Red can’t hold his tongue. This makes the already unstable Ares go a bit nuts, casting a spell that slams Red into a stone wall hard. Ruti responds by stabbing Ares with her sword, but missing his vitals, assuring him that if he hurt or tries to seriously hurt Red, she’ll slay him and not bring him back.

In a show full of complex personalities and motivations, Ares is probably the least interesting character—even moreso than Theodora and Danan, since at least they have honor. This guy is just a pathetic brat, and now it seems Shisandan (in the guise of the adventurer Bui) wants to make a new party with him to search the ruins for a relic of the First Hero.

Bui is certain Ruti will return to being the hero if Ares gives this relic to her, which makes me think it’s the kind of relic that messes with  free will. In any case, I hope Ruti doesn’t regret not finishing Ares off when she had the chance…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shin no Nakama – 10 – It’s Nobody’s Fault

Like last week, this episode featured a lot of what I love about Shin no Nakama—Red, Rit, Ruti, Tisse, Mr. Crawly Wawly, and more of the slow quiet life. But it also came with a near-constant tension over Ruti’s present drug problem.

Surprisingly, that’s not revealed to Red yet, and he doesn’t infer it on his own, but to be fair, he’s a little overwhelmed to suddenly have Ruti back in his life saying the party’s adventures haven’t gone smoothly, and she wants to move to Zoltan to be near him.

In his new world where he’s chosen free will over his Blessing (and Rit has done the same), who is Red to tell Ruti she can’t do as she pleases? Eventually she’s going to run out of drug and the Blessing will once again assert control, but even as the Hero, Ruti would be happier with Red back in the party. In fact, she believes they can’t defeat the Demon Lord without him.

Red makes it clear very early in his reunion with Ruti that he doesn’t intend to rejoin, which would suggest he’s made his choice between the slow life with Rit and the fast one with the Hero. But it’s not that clear-cut. I think a lot of the reason Red doesn’t ask any questions about Ruti’s sudden change is that as the person who loves her most in this world, he’s just so glad to see Ruti like this.

Red and Rit put their blooming romance aside this week, and to the episode’s credit, it doesn’t go off-character with Rit and Ruti at each other’s throats. Tisse can still feel the tension, and fears the worst could happen if she’s not vigilant, but just as Mr. Crawly Wawly asked her to “look closer” when Ruti tried to pet him, he also shows Tisse a way forward.

As the title of this post says, it’s nobody’s fault Ruti became the Hero, but when she reminisces about her first battle against a giant owlbear—a battle she had to fight because her Blessing compel her—it kinda makes me wish the Almighty who bestows Blessings were a character in this show, so Red  could slug them in the face.

What Mr. Crawly Wawly and then Tisse discover is that it may be up to them to keep Ruti on the straight and narrow. Ruti is in love with her past when she could feel heat and cold and taste honeyed milk better and could sleep and be with her brother. But as much as Red loves Ruti, he also loves Rit, and he can’t live both lives with both of them at once.

It’s nobody’s fault things got this way (well, maybe Ares), but Tisse believes if anyone can save the Hero by helping her to move forward with her life and her destiny, it’s her. In that regard, the fate of the world may rest on the tiny silver-haired soft-spoken assassin…well, the shoulder that isn’t occupied by The Mister Crawly Wawly.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shin no Nakama – 09 – Warm Hands, Full Hearts

Ruti takes Tisse and their Fisher-Price airship and head for Zoltan to break an alchemist out of jail. Why is the Hero abandoning the rest of her party to do crimes? Because the goatman gave her a sample of the Devil’s Blessing, which weakens her Hero’s Blessing and makes her more human.

She wants a steady supply of the drug, and she trusts Tisse. We get more time with the tiny assassin than all previous episodes combined, and thanks to the legendary Kugimiya Rie (Tisse’s seiyu) and the adorable Crawly Wawly, all of that time is a delight. This is an episode full of jokes that keep things light, unlike the last two weeks where all the self-serious plotting got on my nerves.

I also said the last two weeks that all I really care about is the main couple, but that’s not true; I always cared about Ruti and was fascinated by the curse of her Blessing, and now I care about her and Tisse, who hides the fact that she’s a sweaty bundle of nerves beneath her cool exterior.

Speaking of cool, Winter has come to Zoltan, and business at Red and Rit’s is slow since people don’t want to leave their homes. Rit suggests Red craft a hand warmer similar to the ones form Loggervia, and they’re a big hit in town. Rit saves one warmer for her and Red to share, strolling until they find a private park bench where they  can cuddle and smooch.

That’s the good stuff right there: the Quiet Life of the show’s very long title that both OP and ED promise and that drew me to this show to begin with. That said, that coziness blends well with the gently building tension as Ruti and Tisse get closer to Zoltan, but don’t run into Red and Rit immediately.

In fact, both Ruti and Red end up dealing with the same bridge knight seeking to challenge anyone who crosses. Ruti easily dispatches him into the river where he loses all of his possession. When he challenges Red in nothing but his bear boxers, Red does the same thing, and he loses he boxers too.

Tisse encounters Red first, not knowing who he is when they’re sitting beside each other at a very chill udon stand. As both are seasoned professionals, they quickly but discreetly size one another up and determine that they could be trouble; Tisse because she’s a capable assassin, and Red because Tisse can tell he’s a far stronger knight than the one who lost his drawers.

As expected, Ruti has no trouble at all executing a prison break and extracting Godwin, the alchemist, who will make as much of whatever Ruti wants if she just stops staring at him. The next morning Tisse wakes up to find Ruti didn’t sleep…but you get the feeling if she had enough Devil’s Blessing, she could, and she wants to.

What leads Ruti and Red to finally cross paths at the very end of the episode is nothing contrived, but a practical matter of Ruti not wanting to heal Godwin’s wounds with her Hero’s magic lest her cover be blown. For that, she needs an apothecary, and Tisse, who had already scouted the whole place, knows where the best one is.

What Ruti didn’t know is that the apothecary is the same guy who she met at the udon stand. Fresh from a fairy hamlet on Zoltan’s outskirts where he healed a very blue, very pretty, very naked undine from a cold-like curse that seems to be going around, there he is, welcoming new customers. When Ruti and Red lock eyes and realize that fate has brought them together, Ruti can’t conceal her overflowing happiness.

With tears of joy in her eyes and a huge smile, she pounces on her onii-chan with abandon. I suspect the beautiful reunion will be somewhat marred once Red learns Ruti is in Zoltan to procure drugs that make her a weaker hero. In any case, this week was a marked improvement on the previous two.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TenSura – 31 – Bad News First

I never want to hear the good news first. The positive effects of hearing it would be nullified by the bad news, and who wants that? So here it is, a bad news-packed episode of the usually light and fancy-free TenSura with the title “Despair.” Subtle it ain’t, but the more serious shift in tone and heightened stakes are just the shot this show needed after a sputtering start.

First, kudos for presenting an opponent in Hinata so tough she not only makes Rimuru resort to the last trick up his slimy sleeve, but she seemingly obliterates him even in his final form with an apocalyptic Ultima-like spell. For a second there it looked like Rimuru had been taken off the board. While that was only a second, it was a wonderfully tense one!

We learn that when he summoned Ifrit, Rimuru made a doppelganger of himself to take the punishment, deeming retreat to be the better part of valor and turning out to be exactly right: had it been him under that Desintegration, he estimateshe’d have been toast, Holy Field or not. Ranga pops out of his shadow and greets his master like the good dog he is.

One detail we’ll just have to live with is the fact that someone as otherwise shrewd as Hinata simply left the scene without inspecting the crater where Rimuru apparently met his end for possible remains. Then again, she only told Rimuru she sold him short, not that he was anything to worry about. That arrogance led to her getting sloppy in this instance.

Rimuru and Ranga are perplexed when they can’t teleport to Tempest because the “destination doesn’t exist” due to the barrier. Instead they teleport to the nearby caverns, where he meets with Souei and his scouts, Gabiru, and Vesta, who explain the situation as they see it; Souei, bless him, immediately calls out Falmuth as one of the culprits.

We learn that the enemies have taken off, leaving the barriers in place, and while Gabiru’s men managed to save the young children, the city is wrecked and filled with casualties. Rimuru passes through the barriers without a problem, and is shocked by the sights he’s seen, which we must note he’s never seen…not against his capital, his nation, or his people.

Everyone seems to want to keep him away from something horrific in the central plaza, but before he can check it out he hears Benimaru’s attack. He rushes to the ally to find that Beni was attempting to capture Mjurran, but she was being protected by Grucius and Youm. Rimuru ends the confrontation before Beni can do any permanent harm, and when he’s told of Mjurran’s role, he asks to tell him exactly what she did.

She shows him instead, leading him to the plaza, strewn with dozens of dead goblins. Mjurran’s guilt over conjuring the barrier pales in comparison to the guilt Rimuru feels after having given standing orders to the Goblins not to attack humans. Mjurran seems to want to be the fall girl for everything, but Rimuru knows and the Great Sage confirms that there’s plenty of blame to spread around.

This Mjolmire guy from Blumund…he just puts off a very suspicious vibe, doesn’t he? The episode seems to go out of its way to make him far more prominent than he’d otherwise be. Sure, his task to send word to Blumund of Tempest’s situation is an important one; Rimuru should also contact Dwargon. But yeah…I wouldn’t be surprised if he betrays Rimuru at some point.

In an emergency meeting, Rimuru gets the remaining details about the situation, including the fact that the Knight Commander from Falmuth declared the capital “contaminated by monsters”, and that he’ll return accompanied by King Edomalis himself in seven day’s time to accept their surrender and dispersal from the city, or else be “eradicated.”

After his interactions with Hinata, it’s clear now to Rimuru that Falmuth and the anti-monster Western Holy Church have been conspiring to bring his nation down. Mjolmire points out the economic reasons Falmuth is determined to eliminate Tempest. Judging from that knight’s ultimatum, there could already be far too much distance between the two sides for anything other than all-out war.

But what of Mjurran? Rimuru demands to know everything she knows, and she’s happy to tell him, starting by telling him she serves the Demon Lord Clayman. As the ultimate puppet-master swirls his wine and smirks as he glances out the window of his gaudy castle, all the bad news has been laid out on the table and spilled over the edges.

It’s a long, hard road ahead for Rimuru & Co., but knowing they’re in a mess was the first step to getting them out of it. Soon it will be time to start making some good news, and it will be all the more satisfying thanks to the depths of despair plumbed here.

TenSura – 30 – The Shizu Hits the Fan

Rimuru bids goodbye Ingrassia and to the kids, leaving them with parting gifts: Chloe gets Shizu’s mask, while everyone gets cool cloaks made by Shuna. He’s about to teleport home with Ranga when the Great Sage announces a massive barrier is in place preventing that. Huh…that’s odd!

One of Souei’s clones appears telling his master to run. Rimuru orders Ranga into his shadow, and another barrier goes up: he’s unable to use skills. He casts Resist successfully, but all magic skills are severely limited, which is just what his opponent wants.

Back in Tempest, things do not go well for Rimuru’s strongest generals. Hakurou steps in to save Gobta , but due to the effects of the barriers, he’s easily defeated by Kyouya. Shion hangs in longer than Shougo expected, but in her weakened state she too is no match for the otherworlder.

Falmuth’s vanguard of knights arrive in the city, and Shougo immediately accuses Shion of attacking him, leading the knights to invoke “human law” and essentially sack the city. It is truly gutting to see children crying in allies, the capital in flames, and a bloody shoe in the streets.

Rimuru needs to get back, but that’s just not going to happen anytime soon. His opponent is Sakaguchi Hinata, Chief Knight of the Imperial Guard and Captain of the Holy Knights. Titles aside, her only master is the god Luminous. Rimuru tells Hinata he’s Japanese too, but she’s not there to listen to a monster, she’s there to avenge Shizu, her dearest friend.

Both we and Rimuru soon learn Hinata is not all talk, and is not fucking around. It’s been ages, if ever, since we’ve seen Rimuru so consistently on his back foot. Hinata’s attack and defense is so quick and precise, Rimuru feels like he’s fighting the Great Sage herself—who helpfully points out that seven strikes from Hinata’s Dead End Rainbow will kill him…and she’s already struck him four times!

Rimuru’s crucial error was walking so recklessly across the Holy Field, the Western Holy Church’s “ultimate anti-monster barrier.” Even a high-level spiritual monster such as himself has most of his strength sapped, and much of what’s left is spent sustaining his existence within the barrier. When Rimuru summons Ifrit to even the odds, Hinata uses her unique skill Usurper to try to frikkin’ steal him, forcing Rimuru to call him back.

Her Usurper reminds him of his final trump card, Gluttony. Great Sage accepts his Awaken! order just before Hinata runs him through, so while he’s not dead, because he’s given way to Gluttony, he loses consciousness, which he describes as sinking into darkness.

That’s not good! None of this is good! Rimuru, his generals, and his capital are all in serious trouble, and he never saw any of it coming, while the baddies are only just getting started. If ever a Milim ex machina were needed, it’s now!

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 01 (First Impressions) – Three-Second Rule

Now that’s more like it! While Lapis Re:LiGHTS felt sterile and lacked oomphThe Misfit has style, passion, and confidence in the story being told, and manage to mix some appealing character moments in with the obligatory introductions. It also teaches an essential lesson about being kind to others, especially family, and not judging books by their covers.

Within two minutes of arriving at the titular academy, our initially nameless MC makes a new friend and gains an enemy. During the entrance trials, that enemy learns that despite looking like a normal new student without a drop of royal blood, the MC makes sport of their duel, killing and resurrecting him at will until he loses the will to go on.

Contrast that with his attitude toward his new friend Misha, whose letter he picks off the ground before they met, can sense his immense power, and whom he invites for dinner at his loving, doting, conclusion-jumping folks. Those folks, by the way, reveal that their son is only a month old.

It’s abundantly clear before he says his name or reveals his true self that the MC is the reincarnation of the Demon King of Tyranny, Anos Voldigoad, and to its credit the show doesn’t over-explain anything. Instead it lets the cozy chemistry and quiet friendship between Anos and Misha play out organically, with her patting his head unbidden when he lists all the horrible names he’s been called.

Their instant easy rapport contrasts nicely with Anos’ absolute ruthlessness in the arena, be it a school-sanctioned trial or in the case of his would-be rival’s brother’s case, a sudden ambush. Where Zepes Indu was a cocky little shit, his brother Leorg throws racism into the mix, deeming only those of pure blood to be worthy of the Demon King’s power.

Before telling Leorg who he is, Anos simply shows him, by letting the older brother’s origin magic bounce right off (since Anos is the origin) then zombifying Zepes and forcing Leorg to reconcile with his brother in order to face him together. It’s interesting that this reincarnated Demon King isn’t so much concerned with toying with far less powerful opponents (though he does) as much as he wants to make them stronger so they can give him a fight!

Anos sensed from the start that as his descendants, the apples have fallen very far from the tree, but perhaps the first step to making them stronger is by strengthening the bonds of family. After all, he’s got himself some very fine parents, while Misha’s guardian also adores her (though her folks are apparently busy, she also has an older sister whom we’re sure to meet soon).

As Anos strikes down all comers, Misha stays by his side, heartened by his kindness and his offer to be comrades and friends, and there to tell him when his two-millennia-old jokes won’t cut it—an amusing quirk of Anos’ that isn’t overused.

Misfit of Demon King Academy is fun to watch but also gratifying because it feels infused with the enthusiasm of its creators, rather than feeling like an exercise of efficiently going through the motions. Most importantly, Anos is one cool, sassy dude; a nice complement to Misha’s understated charm. I’m definitely down to watch more of this!

Fate / Zero – 12

“Why do I always sit on my smokes?”

After the Rumble in the Marble, most Servants take a step back and assess the situation. Kiritsugu sits in a dark hotel room and pores over intel as he chats with Maiya on the phone…and that’s about it, really.

“I like the way your tent your fingers. Why don’t you work for me?”

Reports and conversation are the name of the game again, but instead of interacting with Saber and Rider, Archer is stuck with Kirei, trying to connect the dots as part of his larger plan to make him one of his men. Kirei delivers his report on the motivations of the other Masters to Archer, who points out that the one that seems to interest Kirei the most is Matou Kiriya, who also seems to be enduring the most pain and suffering.

“I mean, this isn’t how I would drive, but this is fine too, I guess…”

Pain doesn’t seem to be an issue for Iri, while Saber doesn’t seem to be feeling the lasting effects from her throughout putting-down she endured at the hands of Rider and Archer. But Saber does find it odd that Iri has her drive and perform every other task that requires the use of her hands. When she asks Iri about it, she reveals she’s become extremely physically weak as a result of shutting down her sense of touch (a homonculus ability, apparently).

While she believes she can recover a bit of strength by sitting in the right kind of magical circle, the bottom line is that she’ll be relying on Saber more and more as this War progresses. Saber, obviously, is up to it. I must say I underestimated her mental toughness. That circle is drawn in a storeroom on a Japanese mansion that looks very much like the place where Emiya and Saber live and practice in UBW.

“Feel that sting? That’s pride, fuckin’ with you!”

From there it’s back to Archer gradually wrapping Kirei around his finger, Emporer Palpatine-style. He gets Kirei to pretty much admit that he is actually capable of joy, and even if he’s previously considered such feelings to be a sin, Gilgamesh isn’t a fan of this newfangled puritanical philosophy that generated people like Kirei and Saber. Joy is joy, and leads to happiness.

So Archer gets Kirei to ‘find his bliss’, and Command Seals suddenly reappear on his hand. Archer believes it’s proof the Holy Grail isn’t done with him; indeed it’s almost as if the Holy Grail rejected his previous role as Toosaka’s ally and spy and reinstates him as a full Master. Archer also suggests Kirei go out and steal a new Servant, and not-so-subtly picks up the Archer piece from the chessboard to indicate who he should pick.

While there were some nice character beats, you can really only portray two people sitting around talking for so long from so many angles before it gets a bit tedious. In other words, another cool-down episode on the heels of a solid 10. That leaves one episode left in the first cour.

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