Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 02

Wenias is a world where inaccurate assumptions abound while forgiveness is in short supply. It’s in a state where most witches hate humans, most humans hate witches. And it’s one assumption—that Mercenary is a witch-hunter rather than a present witch-harborer—that leads to an episode of trouble for Merc, Zero, and their third member Albus.

Merc & Co. are welcomed to the village with open arms, because they appreciate his service as a beastfallen witch-hunter. But when an old woman reports a ring stolen and Albus produces that very ring (which he found in the spring outside of town), the villagers, wracked with grief and pain from witch raids, turn on a dime and demand justice.

The villagers have been through too much, and suspect outsiders so much, that it doesn’t matter if Albus is in fact innocent, and they’re immune to calm discussions, only taking it as further proof of guilt. So Merc has to scoop up Zero and Albus and skedaddle while they still can. But the villagers, desperate to blame and punish someone for their ills, pursue them deep into the forest.

Only one villager—the old woman who lost the ring—has the trio’s side, and shows them a safe escape route. She does this to thank Albus for finding her ring—which was given to her by none other than the great witch Sorena—but also because she to is a witch, albeit one in hiding.

The older generation seems more open to negotiation, cooperation, and forgiveness regarding “the other side”, while the younger people on both sides want blood and fire to satisfy their thirst for justice. And yet just like this little incident with the ring in the village, Sorena herself fell victim to a misunderstanding, having been performing magic when a plague broke out.

She was blamed and burned to death, leading to the violent witch rebellion that rages on. But the witch-in-hiding with the ring believes there’s still hope that witches and humans can—and must—coexist peacefully, someday. The developing Merc-Zero-Albus trio is small-scale but important proof that she’s right.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 01 (First Impressions)

In a world where witches are hunted and burned by normal humans, a half-man, half-cat “beastfallen” witch-hunting mercenary encounters a petite, seemingly young witch named Zero in a forest.

They make a pact: the Mercenary will be Zero’s guard as she searches for her associate Thirteen. In exchange, she will make him human. She’ll do so using magic from the Grimoire of Zero, so-called because she wrote it. She impresses that upon a young witch named Albus who tries in vain to hunt the Merc. 

Fresh of the heels of Re:Zero, this similarly-named, similarly-set new show eschews the modern-guy fish-out-of-water angle for a more straightforward pact-between-classic-foes story.

The nameless (for now) Mercenary fears and hates any and all witches, and kinda hates himself too, for causing his family and village to suffer and die. But he’s got a good heart, so he’s not going to leave a hungry, cute little girl in the forest.

Does he bite off more than he can chew, oh, definitely. And a great deal of the appeal of this otherwise not-too-original fantasy milieu is in the relationship that forms between the Mercenary and Zero, complete with lots of informal, playful banter.

It’s an intro that doesn’t try to do too much, but gives us a good-enough glimpse of the situation and then focuses on the two lead characters, quickly breathing life into both so we care about them immediately.

Is there excessive explanation of “sorcery” and “magic” and the differences between them? Sure, but because Merc wasn’t totally informed himself, Zero’s lessons at least serve the story rather than simply bring us up to speed.

Also, there’s the fact that this seemingly-young girl literally wrote the book on magic, to the extent that fellow magic-user Albus has his ass handed to him when going up against the author. And they’re on a journey to a place with a defined goal, which can be nice for contrast when watching other, more mysterious shows.

Add the fact it’s a Monday show, and Zero looks like a keeper.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 01 (First Impressions)

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I enjoyed the simplicity of Natsuki Subaru’s transition from one world to the next: after buying some food at the Mini Stop, he rubs his eyes, and when they open, he’s simply there, in a medieval-style fantasy world filled with humans and demi-humans. Being a shut-in NEET, Subaru rolls with it, confident he’s seen this kind of world in games he’s played and can thrive if he plays his cards right.

And it’s a lush, detailed world. Like Grimgar, Re:Zero takes its time building out the world and its rules, but in a different way. Instead of providing long pauses in dialogue or action for us to admire the world and become attuned to its slower rhythms, Subaru is in the middle of a bustling city and bounces from one strong personality to the next.

Subaru also makes no bones about the fact he’s dead broke and lacking in magic or other skills. All he has is the physical training he put himself through to guard his home back in his own world, and that only takes him so far. He expects a cute girl to save him, but it’s not the first one (a tiny, fleet thief in a hurry), but the second (an silver-haired ethereal maiden with a spirit cat).

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The girl—a half-elf who calls herself Satella (and voiced by Takahashi Rie, a favorite here at RABUJOI)—and her spirit-cat Puck are looking for the person who stole her jeweled insignia (probably the tiny thief), and Subaru decides to help her on this mission after she stayed by his side until he woke up from his injuries.

The insignia hunt gives Subie and us the chance to explore the world further, and as the sun goes down it only seems to get more and more beautiful, especially when Satella entreats with a mass of lesser spirits on a bridge. We’re in firm Final Fantasy territory here, stylistically speaking.

But as the sky gets dark, so does the show, as Subaru enters an apparent loot house and finds a bloody corpse, then he and Satella get run through by a killer in the shadows.

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Then…things reset. Subaru is back where he started when he first arrived in the fantasy world. Instead of trying to locate Satella again, he continues his search for her insignia without her, ending up at the tavern where he was killed and meeting Rom, the man he found dead there before.

It isn’t long before the thief, Felt, shows up with the insignia, and Subaru offers to trade his cell phone for it, demonstrating with its camera that he can “freeze moments of time with it, to their amazement.

Then the planned buyer of the insignia, Elsa, arrives, and it’s clear from her voice and face that she’s the one who killed Subaru and Satella. Subaru manages to win the insignia in negotiations with Felt and Rom, but when he says he’ll be giving it back to its owner, Elsa turns deadly once more.

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She dispatches Rom, Felt, and Subaru without much difficulty—she’s just too quick and stealthy for a novice like Subie—and he returns to the street vendor once more, as if a reset button had been pushed. That being said, he has the memories of the last two times he was there, but not knowing what the heck is going on, he passes out from exasperation.

Shortly after awakening, he spots Satella passing by, and calls her out by name, apologizing for getting himself and her killed before. Satella, to his surprise, reacts with hostility to Subaru calling her by the name of an infamous “witch.”

A lush alternate fantasy world, a fish out of water and a clash of cultures, a pleasant friendship seemingly domed by murder most foul, and mysterious time looping—Re:Zero serves up quite a bit in its ambitious double-length debut, and even though it wasn’t even on my list initially, now it’s at the top of it.

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Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 04

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Yura is having fun in the C3 Club, but her technical skill is limited, so Sonora decides to train her at a shrine. Sonora gives her a Scorpion vs. 61 and her first lesson is to hit a 5-yen piece from a distance. Yura sees a white fox while climbing thr shrine’s stepes, and the coin becomes a warrior Sonora mentioned died young and was enshrined there. When they call it a day, Yura leaves the gun behind. When she goes back for it after dark, the young warrior confronts her, calling himself Choujirou.

He tells her her the world in which she sees “delusions” is a real realm that is resonating with his own. He transports her to a medieval battlefield on the day and moment he is to be killed by an arrow. A real vz 61 in hand, he asks her to intervene on his behalf. After discussing her ordeal with Sonora (who tells her the gun’s name is Choujirou)Yura returns to the shrine with Rento, and both are returned to the world. Rento watches Yura shoot the arrow down, and in the real world, the airsoft pellet lodges in the hole of the coin. Back in the clubroom, her friends tell her Choujirou died an old man.

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We’ve seen the shy new girl trying to find a place where she belongs, watched her participation in the club stir up passion, and watched her battle a rival club. None of those things are all that different from what Miho experiences in Girls und Panzer. But this was the episode that separated the women from the girls (und Panzer). This week, the ancient surroundings have a powerful effect on Yura, and there she not only discovers “her idea of airsoft”, but also manages to change history itself.

One could dismiss the awesome, fantastical elements of this episode as just that: Yura’s delusions but only at first. That all goes out the window when Rento goes side with Yura and sees the same scene as Yura – and is so freaked out she doesn’t speak of it to anyone! And when Yachiyou tells her Choujirou died an old man, that seals the deal: shooting down that arrow saved Choujirou’s life and ended his need to “fight forevermore”. And thus all of Yura’s past “delusions” so far in the series, and going forward gain deeper significance. The ramifications are positively spine-tingling, and elevate C3-bu to a whole other level.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Yura receives her gun, and it’s a beaut. She also almost whips it out on a train…not a good idea considering what a realistic replica it is!
  • Sonora’s whole lesson at the shrine is a succession of awesome lines…”You fail because you seek success” and such.
  • Looking back, the tone of the battle and Yura’s mood in the moment all determine the nature of the “delusions” that form around her. Very Suzumiya Haruhi-ish.
  • The moment the gun in the battle scene suddenly changes from plastic to metal – and becomes much heavier in Yura’s hands – is one of our favorite moments of the episode. Shit’s literally gettin’ real.
  • We’re eager to see how Rento processed what she saw, and whether she’ll ever bring it up to Yura or the others. Then again, other club members near Yura may eventually see what she’s capable of anyway.
  • The series could always downplay this “power” of Yura’s but we hope it doesn’t drop it altogether in favor of more battles with rival clubs. That would be a huge shame.
  • These developments mean Yura can now visit any shrine with a restless spirit and help them out…as long as marksmanship is required, of course!