Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – 06 – Apples and Lemons

Ever since the vortex incident that thrust her and Iska apart, Alice has been sighing heavily a lot while looking out the window of her bedchamber. She’s clearly pining for him, purportedly to fight and defeat him once and for all, but both we and Rin can see there’s more to it than that. Absent any other leads, Alice decides to return to the Neutral City Ein, hoping they’ll bump into him once more.

Meanwhile, in the empire, Mismis’ left arm has felt funny ever since falling into the vortex. But it doesn’t hurt, so she chalks it up to nothing serious. Their next mission, however, is no joke: Led by Misya, Unit N07 is to infiltrate the Sovereignty and capture Queen Nebulis! We learn how difficult it is for any non-astral mage to enter the Sovereignty.

The crests all mages bear are used as passports, which is a fuck-you to the empire for using those same crests as evidence for their witch trials (and subsequent genocide). Iska, Mismis, Nene, Jihn seem like nice people, but Jesus Christ is the empire they serve fucked up!

Alice and Rin arrive in Ein, and stand by the fountain where she encountered Iska before. However, in this case where she’s actively trying to encounter him, Rin doubts they’ll find him easily. Rin even suggests Iska might’ve died in the vortex, but Alice won’t hear of it: he’s alive, and she’s going to date—er—fight him. Even so, three days pass, with no sign of Iska.

Rin is concerned about Alice’s sudden intensified fixation on Iska. Other families are watching the Lou family for weaknesses, ready to take the throne, while Alice’s sisters are diligently preparing for the forthcoming eleciton. Meanwhile Alice is committed only to fruitless stakeouts in Ein. Rin knows she’s the only person who can get Alice “back on track”.

Meanwhile, Mismis’ arm won’t stop feeling strange, so she removes her jacket for Nene to inspect it, and that’s when she discovers…an astral crest. In one lift of the sleeve, Mismis’ life has changed forever. If the research institute found out she was hiding the crest, she’ll be summarily executed! Even if she comes forward of her own free will, she’ll be imprisoned, likely for life!

All Iska and the others can do is try to comfort Mismis (who is understandably freaking out), and Iska lays out the options: turn herself in, or keep hiding it. As their captain, they’ll follow whichever path she chooses.

In the meantime, Iska decides to take Mismis to Ein, where she’ll be safe for the time being. Ein is so incredibly peaceful and idyllic, one wonders how it’s even able to exist between two warring nations, one of which is brazen enough to attempt the kidnapping of the other’s sovereign. Does Ein have its own force to deter either side from starting shit?

That aside, the minute Mismis leaves Iska to buy some drinks, Alice appears, and there’s a neat little scene where neither Alice nor Iska recognize one another at first due to the glare of the sun. That said, once they do recognize each other, it’s not long before they’re sitting on the bench together, exchanging blushing looks.

Alice even declares she’s glad to see her purported “enemy” is safe after the vortex incident. Indeed, she’s positively giddy to see him, and when she senses something is troubling Iska, she asks him to tell her, as she’s good at keeping secrets (though she undermines that claim rather totally by saying she only tells Rin, who is clearly more than a maid).

Before Iska can say anything, Rin appears with drinks, and to the surprise of both Alice and Iska, she offers one to Iska. It’s an apple-lemon blend, which calls to mind “apples and oranges”—a nice metaphor for the Empire and Sovereignty. But it’s not the strange blend that knocks Iska out: it’s a sleeping drug that Rin slipped into the can. When Iska passes out on the bench, Rin reveals her plan: she assumed he’d reject the offer of a drink due to his distrust.

He’d then take it as a sign he should stay away from her. But Iska did trust Rin, and not just because they were in neutral territory. Alice’s behavior totally disarmed him, because like him, she had no ill intent that day, having declared a “temporary truce”. Rin regrets not using a fatal potion, but the fact remains they can’t just leave him there, so she takes him into custody.

When Mismis returns, even Alice knows there’s no easy way to explain what’s happening, so she slides back into official mode, telling her they’re taking in an enemy of the Sovereignty. That’s when Mismis insists they let him go…and her astral crest activates, albeit without any kind of control. Again, Alice doesn’t have any time to consider why an Imperial soldier has a crest; she freezes Mismis’s foot to the ground and takes off with Rin and Iska.

We don’t learn if any witnesses saw Mismis’ astral power awaken, just Misya meeting with the Emperor himself to report Iska’s kidnapping and requesting instructions. In a way, having the Queen’s own daughter bring Iska into the Sovereignty means the infiltration plan has gone off without a hitch; there will be a lemon in the land of apples. All Iska needs to do is free himself, capture the Queen, and return to the Empire, and it’s mission accomplished!

Of course there are a variety of questions in play: will he be able to free himself? If he does—or Alice is the one to do it—will he still go forward with his unit’s mission, or will he and Alice be able to make a sliver of progress with peace talks? Will Misya learn Mismis has a crest, and if so, will she punish her, or use her to infiltrate the Sovereignty and rescue Iska? Tons to consider…I look forward to seeing how it all shakes out.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

KonoSuba 2 – 10 (Fin)

Well, like its last season, KonoSuba only ended up lasting ten episodes, but it delivered an action-packed and generally really good-looking finale that actually covered a bit of plot to go along with its omnipresent comedy. Plus, everyone had a chance to look really cool, even if things ultimately don’t quite work out as planned, as usual.

After using Darkness’ noble status to gain access to a contaminated hot spring, the party encounters Hans, the frustrated man whom Kazuma related with so much last week. Turns out he’s a leader in the Devil King’s army, and a deadly poison slime to boot.

Wiz is content to say hi to her old comrade at first, but when she learns he’s eaten the innocent hot springs overseer, she finally shows her teeth…and Horie Yui finally gets some meaty badass lines.

When the angry mob finally catches up to the party and sees Hans’ true form, they realize Aqua wasn’t a fraud after all. They send healing magic her way as she attempts to purify the spring, while Darkness protects them from errant slime bombs (even though they still hate her for being an Eris cultist).

Kazuma buys time for everyone by serving as a diversion for the slime and getting eaten (but not fully digested, facilitating his resurrection later) so Megumin can use Explosion magic to reduce the slime’s size, allowing Wiz to encase him in a Cursed Crystal Prison.

When even that’s not enough, Aqua draws power from her wishy-washy followers and their ridiculous credo (and that old man chanting about Eris’s padded chest) to land a GOD BLOW and GOD REQUIEM on Hans, finishing him for good, probably.

It’s perhaps the coolest and most badass we’ve seen Aqua look yet, and the shortened season clearly freed up significant fundage for a dazzlingly-animated battle…though Kazuma is dead for a full half of it, the camera still cuts to his dry bones often. He did his part!

Naturally, despite all the displays of badassdom, Aqua’s magic finishing moves ended up turning all the profitable hot spring water in Arcanretia into plain ‘ol water, and she’s run out of town by her justifiably angry, ungrateful followers.

The gang heads home the same way they arrived: by wagon (Wiz was greatly weakened and almost killed, again, by Aqua’s magic), and everyone is just happy to be home. Even after all he’s been through and all the failure and destruction his party has wrought, he still feels blessed to be living in such a beautiful, if often hard, world. It’s certainly better than being cooped up in his bedroom back in Japan, right?

KonoSuba is the kind of show that could simply keep on going, and the parting message that thanks us for watching doesn’t rule out a third season. But ten is a good number for a season of KonoSuba, and a year is a good amount of time to have in between those seasons, so no rush.

KonoSuba 2 – 09

This week Aqua leans in on the job one would think she was born (in human form) to do: the job of a high priest. That means confessional duties, which she takes very seriously, to the point of stonewalling Kazuma and forcing him to “confess” to breaking her favorite cup and drinking her good hooch, at which point she gets flustered and whiny.

You can’t say Kazuma doesn’t know how to press her buttons! But she’s also cheeky enough to give an old man troubled by the temptation from Eris’ boobs a mantra to repeat whenever he feels that temptation again: Eris pads her chest. The artful way she says it really makes it sound like a mantra, too.

Kazuma, now convinced he won’t be able to get Aqua to reign in her overzealous, abusive followers (who have reduced Megumin to a crumpled ball of nerves, but continue to turn Darkness on), hits the baths. The mixed baths.

There, he sees (and sees, and sees) a buxom (and creeped out) she-elf, a man on the brink from all the proselytizing, and hears an earful of genuinely good things said about him by Megumin and Darkness, but only because they thought he wasn’t there, trying to spy on them.

Still, it’s nice to occasionally hear from the characters why they stick together.

That night at supper, Aqua is in another state, this time because she was kicked out of the very church that worships her, for accidentally purifying the hot springs.

In an ill-conceived effort to re-win the people back, she decides to blame the purification on the Devil King, and asks her party-mates for help in her crusade to save her people and their town. Darkness only agrees to help when Aqua gets up in her face (and purifies her grape juice…how rude!)

I also greatly enjoyed the running gag of Aqua’s holy-element tears of distress actually doing harm to poor, undead Wiz, to the point she’s basically on the verge of death this entire episode.

Kazuma and Megumin are out, obviously, because they have no interest in helping the townspeople, who in their opinion ruin an otherwise perfectly nice town.

In an otherwise lovely day, those people proceed to do jut that: ruin Kazuma and Megumin’s day with constant urgings to join the church, until the two are on the brink of madness.

The townsfolk may be unrelenting in their enthusiasm for aggressive recruitment practices (we witness a number of fine examples), but they’re not fools. Their golden goose is the hot springs, and when Aqua seems to be the culprit in purifying them, they’re not happy.

They also don’t believe, even for a second, that she’s actually the goddess Aqua…even though she is. These are people who live among magic, fantastic beasts, and demi-humans. But the suggestion that Aqua might be an in-the-flesh goddess elicits only stifled laughter or anger.

That anger boils over into an angry mob surrounding the gorgeous inn where Aqua and the others are staying. And all I can say is, how has it taken this long for Aqua to end up with an angry mob (with torches and everything!) eager for her blood? I guess she’s just been lucky.

In any case, the peoples’ refusal to believe their own goddess contrasts with non-Axis followers Darkness, Megumin, and Kazuma’s acceptance of Aqua in their party. They’re all misfits, after all. These guys just don’t do well in big crowds.

And while the mob doesn’t pose any danger (one EXPLOSION from Megumin could resolve the standoff) and may not even be picked back up next week. But it’s a fitting end to a visit to a city Kazuma and Megumin can’t leave soon enough, Darkness can’t help but love, and where Aqua may have lost faith in the faithful.