Sagrada Reset – 18

Now that Kei knows that Urachi Masamune is trying to eliminate abilities from Sakurada, he tries to determine what Urachi’s next move will be…and that inevitably leads to Ukawa Sasane, quietly the most powerful—and thus most potentially dangerous—of all the town’s ability users.

Urachi indeed pursues Ukawa, but not directly. He sends Tsushima, a non-user, to convince her to join the cause, siting the potential danger of ability users unconsciously and spontaneously activating their powers.

As Kei enlists the help of Murase and Nonoo to locate Ukawa, Haruki, whom he doesn’t enlist, just happens to visit the cat shrine, just for the heck of it.

Haruki expresses how she feels and how she’s worried her recent increased “selfishness” will annoy Kei. Nonoo doesn’t think it will, nor does she subscribe to Haruki’s notions of “being good enough.”

Haruki already has become more than Kei could ever have hoped for. The emotions she now feels are still new, but fiercely felt; a warm fire now burns within her cool, calm exterior. If she were to kiss Kei now, as opposed to the first time, I don’t doubt she’d actually feel something…feel quite a bit, for that matter.

As for Kei’s attempt to get to Ukawa before the Bureau, it fails. Ukawa unleashes her ability, and the rainy clouds part. Kei’s entreaties to Tsushima, about why abilities are the one problem out of all of the problems in the world, that must be dealt with, are largely brushed aside.

Tsushima urges Kei to embrace becoming a normal high school student, which also means being a normal boyfriend, and eventually a normal salaryman and husband and father. And as I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews…would that really be the worst thing? Kei and Haruki are, as their advisor says, burdened with too many unnecessary things.

Those things are very much putting a lot of strain on someone, trying to be a hero, but sacrificing his own life and happiness in the process. Tsushima thinks that’s wrong, and it’s why he convinced Ukawa to use her ability, thus compelling the Bureau to eliminate abilities.

But this episode presents a new and potentially terrifying prospect: Asai Kei can’t ever be normal. Urachi and the Bureau will eliminate abilities by eliminating memories of them in every man, woman, and child in Sakurada. But Kei’s memories won’t be affected.

Kei alone will remember the forty years of time Sakurada was a town of ability users. He is a loose end, and the way he sees it, killing him is the only way to eliminate his memories. Will Urachi stoop that low? Can he really call the town he’s trying to bring about “sacred” after that?

I’m gonna say no. I’m also gonna say…Poor Kei and Haruki! These kids can’t catch a damn break.

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Sagrada Reset – 17

Another week, another dense, intricate Sakurada Reset. Let’s wade in, shall we? First of all, Souma’s second voice message to Kei leads to another incident involving abilities – specifically, an entire supermarket breaks out in laughter, including Kei and Haruki, which is actually pretty momentous considering how subtly the two usually express emotion.

That night, Hitsuchi calls just when Kei is about to call him, asking him for a head shot of Souma Sumire. He also tells Kei about about the Bureau’s current fear of every ability user in Sakurada using their abilities simultaneously.

Kei then remembers what he read in Manuscript 407, which is about the events of 40 years ago when the Bureau was first founded by the only three ability users who were aware of their abilities. Two were a married couple; the husband could “take something” from the entire world at once, and the wife could “retain” something. The third would later be known as the Nameless Witch.

Because of the husband, none of the people in Sakurada know of their abilities, but when he dies, the “spell will be broken”, and there will be chaos. So the Witch proposes they work together to expand the boundary of the wife’s ability (which negates memory loss the husband is causing worldwide), so that when the husband does die, people will know about abilities and they’ll be in a position to keep them under control; thus the Bureau was born.

Back in the present, Hitsuchi eventually sends Kei info on the ability users involved in the last two incidents, then calls Kei to report that after seeing Souma’s photo, he remembered certain things about two years ago. before Souma died, she went to Hitsuchi, who she used to borrow the ability of Tomoki to create voice messages without Tomoki remembering what he did. The messages, then, are from the Souma of the past, before she died.

Traveling with Sakuin, Souma engages with the human lie detector in non-superficial conversation, asking her opinion on the Bureau. Sakuin believes the Bureau’s foundation has started to crumble, even going so far as to call her boss Urachi a “monster” that nothing can be done about. Urachi’s plan is to eliminate information on abilities from the town, which would, after all turn Souma back into a “normal student,” which is her intent.

Despite knowing Urachi’s methods may not be the most moral, Sakuin is of the mind that abilities are “unnecessary,” but as she lacks the means to remove them from the town, she leaves it in Urachi’s hands. As for Kei, all the remembering of information—including the realizaiton Souma may have died for him—has led to him having a rough time; something Haruki can sense when he visits her house.

Why does he visit her house? No, not for a booty call…Souma’s third voice message instructs him to deliver a copy of his favorite book to Haruki. We don’t learn what that book is, nor does Haruki (he left it in her mailbox to look at later), but when Kei opens up about his problems to her, Haruki is heartened. She suggests he rests, but there’s more he needs to do, and Haruki isn’t about to stop him that.

That ‘something more to do’ apparently involves returning to Haruki’s dreamworld, where he finds both Michiru and Chiruchiru “locked” by Urachi’s underling. According to a blue bird Chiruchiru created to tell Kei what happened, the Bureau entered the dream world and locked Michiru, Chiruchiru, and the world’s Souma.

The bird implores Kei to help Michiru escape the lock, and also gives him the name of his “nemesis”, which he hadn’t known was Urachi until just then. It’s a name he knows, because two of the three founders, the husband and wife, had the same name, making Masamune their son.

After his parents basically kicked the abilities can down the road, Masamune is looking for a permanent fix, and seems to be getting closer. It remains to be seen if he’ll succeed, or what succeeding will mean for Kei, Haruki, Souma, and everyone else in Sakurada.

Sagrada Reset – 16

Urachi has a plan. His plan is to wipe out all of the abilities of Sakurada and start everything anew as if the last forty years of people with abilities never happened. In effect, it’s a plan to “fix” something that is not in its natural state. Sakurada should be a normal town, and yet it isn’t, and hasn’t been for four decades. He merely plans to fix that.

Considering it’s the job of our protagonists, or ‘heroes’, Kei and Haruki, to use their abilities to help people and improve lives, Urachi’s plan would seem to be at odds with their reason for being…and yet I can’t regard Urachi as a ‘villain’, no matter how much he may smirk (in his sleep or otherwise).

For if there were no abilities, Kei and Haruki would no longer have the responsibilities that come with them; they could merely carry on as normal humans, as a normal couple, in normal love with each other. What’s so wrong with that?

Nothing, IMO, which is why I won’t be “held hostage” emotionally by this latest four-episode arc, in which Souma believes “everything will end in a few more days.” I’m game for any outcome. I’m along for the ride.

Souma reaches out to Urachi, agreeing to identify herself (though only as the “second witch”) if he halted investigations into her (and Kei) for one month; he agrees. Meanwhile, Kei takes stock of his relationship with Haruki, and concludes that while she has progressed a great deal despite all the resets (they save all the time, after all), he has “stopped”, keeping what they have as a collaboration of ability users.

He is his own worst enemy, so during the cultural festival at school (in which he and Haruki will play lovers on stage despite not really being lovers), he makes a concerted effort to get moving again; to progress, as Haruki has progressed. Meeting her on the rooftop, Haruki is the first to speak, apologizing for the reality that she has come to hate Souma as a rival for his attention, both ability-wise and romantically.

But Kei makes it clear to her that he’d want to be with her even if she didn’t have her ability. I think that’s huge, becaue all signs seem to be pointing to that anyway. It’s not Souma he wants to be with; it’s Haruki. Upon hearing these words, out loud, and not having to worry or create scenarios in her head, Haruki blushes and beams…while Souma stews in a dark bedroom, accusing Haruki of being in a place where she “can’t get hurt” while she, Souma, feels all of that hurt. She’s tired.

After Kei and Haruki save (not wanting to risk resetting their time on the roof), Kei receives a voice message from Souma that Tomoki says he didn’t send, suggesting someone else out there can send such messages. She tells Kei to go to a very specific intersection with Haruki and collect trash.

Souma then meets with Urachi in person, and he brings along not just his lie detecting underling, but another who can “lock things” in time, whether to give them a private instance in which to talk over things, or to prevent his notes from being reset. Urachi’s notes are key, because his ability is “memory cancellation,” making it hard for a precog like Souma to use her ability on him specifically.

However, Urachi and Souma seem to be in agreement that abilities should disappear from the town; and she says she’ll do nothing to impede him. When his lie detector confirms Souma is speaking the truth, he’s satisfied his plan will succeed. Will it actually succeed? Well, we’ll just have to keep watching, won’t we!

The next morning Kei and Haruki do clean up duty and…a very odd sequence of events occurs: A girl trips on the sidewalk, a car backs into another car, causing minor damage and minor injuries to one man…but neither Kei nor Haruki can turn their heads to see the actual accident, almost as if they’re being prevented from doing so by some unknown ability.

Souma is as close to Urachi and his associates as she can be, and his lie detector is always confirming she’s being truthful…but that’s only because Souma didn’t tell Kei anything face-to-face; she relied on a voice messaging ability. She uses it again to instruct Kei to go shopping with Haruki at a certain mall, at a certain time. It’s almost as if she’s lulled Urachi into a sense of supreme confidence…but she’s clearly up to something she’s not telling him.

 

Sagrada Reset – 08

After this week’s first act, I’m convinced this show excels at getting us to underestimate Asai Kei, at least as much as his adversaries do. Last week Eri Oka seemed to be holding all the cards, but it turns out Asai isn’t trapped in the photo for more than a few minutes.

Even though that buys time for Eri to mess with Haruki, Asai has Murase in place to mount a rescue. A rescue that occurs after Eri tries to plant false memories in Haruki, which not only doesn’t work (thanks to a little device in Haruki’s ear with Asai’s voice) but restores Haruki’s Reset ability.

It’s a great little turnaround, flummoxing Eri, who retreats for the time being. And having Asai and Haruki back together underscored how much anxiety I felt when they were apart. Of course, I’ve seen all their interactions thus far, but it’s important to remember Haruki doesn’t remember a lot of them.

That’s why she’s not keen to immediately reset; she wants to remember what Asai did for her. So instead of resetting, she saves, and Asai returns to the Sasano case, apparently confident Eri won’t be bothering them for a while.

The next morning, Asai receives a message to “come see someone”, and three photos, one of a woman on the beach, another of a blossoming cherry tree, and the third, Souma Sumire at sunset. Asai assumes it’s the “Witch” who is summoning him, so he goes to the beach.

There, he takes what he learned from his encounter with Eri, enters the photo, and converses with the Witch in her younger form. Because her ability is knowledge of the future, she knows what she’s going to do, and when she’s going to die, and wants to escape the bureau to see Sasano before that happens.

To that end, she used both Asai and Eri, but presents Asai with a choice: he can stop Eri, possibly leaving the Witch to die in confinement, or save the Witch another way (a way she may already know he’ll implement, mind you).

Asai gathers Sasano, Haruki and Murase, and head to the Bureau, Scooby-gang-style, and wait for Eri to get them inside. Sasano, armed with a Polaroid, takes photos of the building’s interior, one of which proves useful in getting one of the Bureau guards “out of the picture.”

This infiltration of the Bureau is only preparation for the next infiltration, when the actual rescue of the Witch is to take place. Asai has Haruki reset, sending him back to when they saved on the beach. He then jumps into one of the photos they took of the Witch’s room and asks her to call him.

The photos are still around because Murase had them, and her power negates reset, while his communication with the Witch of the past reaches the Witch of the present because she knows the future. It’s a complicated metaphysical labyrinth, but it checks out.

Before pulling it all off, Asai meets with a surprisingly chipper Eri, who accepts her loss but isn’t ready to give up on beating him, thus proving he’s weaker. Asai, meanwhile, knows that she won’t hurt him as long as he’s “defenseless.” Considering this is a long show, Eri is sure to be back; we’ll see whether she poses a greater threat at that point.

As expected, Asai gets a call from the Bureau, who bring him to the Witch, who asks him the same questions about “loving a stone” she asked Haruki, to which Asai answers he’d still love the stone if it was the girl he liked. But is that girl Asai…or Souma?

Regardless, Asai gives the Witch the photos she needs to escape and knock on the window of her boyfriend, just like the story Sasano told her when they were far younger. All these years, the Bureau has kept her under lock and key, fearful of her power. But after a time, or maybe all along, it was a power she never seemed all that interested in having, let alone using.

That’s why she decides she’ll leave Sakurada, forget about her power altogether, and live out the rest of her days—all seven of them, by her reckoning. But before she does, she indulges Asai by telling him his future: he will be involved in “something big”, something involving her “successor”, whom Asai correctly identifies as Souma. The Witch tells him he’ll run into her again. I certainly hope so!

Whew, what a ride. This mini-arc contained the most complicated ability machinations yet, and it was downright exhilarating watching all the pieces be carefully maneuvered into place before being set into quick, decisive motion. On top of that, we got confirmation Souma isn’t totally dead (though whether she’ll merely exist in that photo or not, who can say).

By not forgetting what Asai did for her, Haruki’s affection for him continues to grow. Murase is proving to be useful as “muscle” (i.e. putting holes in things or neutralizing abilities) while Eri has vowed to come back at Asai, insisting he should “be afraid.” One thing I’m not afraid of: losing interest in this unapologetically bizarre, engrossing show.

Sagrada Reset – 07

“Things seem to be getting rather complicated, huh?”

I could not have said it better than Tsushima myself: Things are getting complicated, and for once, Asai has a worthy adversary who manages to stay a step ahead of him the entire time, leading to even higher stakes by episode’s end.

But let’s go back to the beginning, and the photo by Sasano that entices Asai so. It’s indeed a photo of Souma Sumire, on the same beach where they first met and promised to meet again. And I suppose he could, in a way, by entering the photo as Sasano does.

Extremely unsettling metaphysical ramifications aside, we also learn something simpler: the evolution of Oka Eri. She was once Fujikawa Eri, before the hair-dye and contacts and rad clothes; the “weak and worthless” daughter who took abuse from her father.

Two years ago, Asai saved Eri by telling her to change her name and use a piece of evidence to blackmail her father if she so chose. Oka Eri was born, and I believe part of her believes that she’s paying Asai back by confirming his weakness, in hopes he’ll return to his former strength; the hero to her villain in this story of life.

Asai has moved on from the person he was two years ago, but meanwhile, Sasano is able to travel to 28 years in the past where a much younger Oracle lives inside one of his photos. The two of them have a plan, and it’s a long-game kind of plan. When Sasano tells her the Bureau is going to try to shut him down, she tells him not to resist, but to give her a certain selection of photos before they come.

Asai all but confirms how soft he’s gotten since meeting Asai by being drawn away from her all too easily by a frantic phone call from Murase Youka. On her own, Haruki does her best to get away from a pursuing Oka, but around five seconds of eye contact are all the villain needs to steal her reset ability.

After confirming she can’t reset, Haruki begs Asai to help her get it back, and he agrees. He’ll accede to Eri’s demand for the MacGuffin in exchange for Haruki’s ability back, then learns more from Tsushima about Eri’s ability and its weaknesses, which will no doubt be pivotal in his counterattack.

However, he doesn’t get to make one this week. Standing his ground on having moved on from the “hero” Eri saw him as two years ago and worshipped, he offers the MacGuffin without any resistance; his only goal to restore Haruki’s ability.

But Eri has another trick up her sleeve, which digs an even deeper hole for Asai and Haruki: she traps him in a photo of the lighthouse balcony they’re on, taken during the day, underscoring how hopelessly cut off he is from the “non-photo” world. And poor Haruki, who trailed after Asai, hoping the plan would work out, is once again vulnerable to Eri’s whims.

All in all, quite a mess Asai and Haruki have found themselves in. A satisfying conclusion would obviously get them out of this mess, but also, as with Murase earlier, convince Eri not to be a villain anymore, not because she’s being forced to quit, but because she wants to. That’s going to take some doing…

…And that’s before we even get into whatever Sasano and Oracle are planning.

Sagrada Reset – 06

Sakurada Reset continues its penchant for whimsically jumping from timeline to timeline by starting four years in the past, with Kei on the train to Sakurada. He encounters a man in a suit who hands him a phone that immediately rings, and a nameless “witch” is on the other end, telling him the “place he belongs” is the town of Sakurada, but warns him he’ll never live a normal life, as the town will “grab on to [him] and never let go.”

Well, we know how he chose, and it leads to his latest assignment: meeting with Sasano, an elderly gentleman whose ability to enter photographs (and thus, relive moments from the past his photos capture) has been taken away. He wants the MacGuffin to get his ability back, but Kei believes there’s a more surefire way: use his and Haruki’s powers to stop whoever sealed his ability before they seal it.

When Sasano insists on repaying Kei once he restores his power, Kei asks if he’ll use his ability for him, after seeing a figure on the beach in a photo that could very well be Souma Sumire, the loss of whom no doubt weighs upon Asai every day. Perhaps seeing and hearing her one last time could assuage that regret. A chat with Hitsuchi-kun reveals that Sasano was one of the founders of the Bureau.

After not getting changed in front of Haruki (who’d have been totes okay with it) and enjoying a lunch she prepared for them, Kei tells Haruki the thought experiment of the “Swampman”, and it leads to Kei assuring Haruki he’d be sad if she died and was replaced by someone who looked exactly like her. Furthermore, he wouldn’t want to go on living without knowing the truth. Both assertions please Haruki.

The two are then summoned, as Tsushima assured them they would be, and they accompany the same suited man who approached Kei on the train years ago. They’re then separated, as only one of them at a time may meet with the person who wants to meet with them.

That person turns out to be another founding member of the Bureau, or at least a facilitator. She has no name, and refers to herself as a “witch” with partial jest and partial wistfulness. In reality, she is an oracle, able to see the future, both of Sakurada, the Bureau, and individuals like Kei and Haruki.

Naturally, she cannot tell them those futures, but only offer riddles, much like the Oracle of The Matrix. Aside from educating Kei on her purpose, and the fact she is near death, the “witch” does not dispense as much knowledge as she likely gains by seeing Kei’s future. She also “apologizes” to him but doesn’t say what for.

As for Haruki, the “witch” presses her on how she feels about Kei and why, talking about a stone with thoughts that can be turned into a human and whatnot. Ultimately, it’s a simple “chat with a girl about love”, and after reading her future, the “witch” has all she needs and bids her farewell.

After Kei was dismissed, he is confronted by Eri Oka, the girl who took Sasano’s ability; someone he knows and who knows him, calls him “senpai”, and a “hypocrite” and thinks he used to be “more badass”. She’s there for one thing: to be the villain, causing trouble for people.

Her specific threats: to take the MacGuffin from Kei, then take away Haruki’s Reset ability. She claims to hate Kei, and wants to see him hit rock bottom…and taking Haruki’s power would certainly do that! So when Haruki emerges from the building, he immediately requests she reset, and she does.

Oka Eri likely assumed Kei would get a reset or two in in an attempt to thwart her plans, but the threats have been dispensed. Now Kei and Haruki have to figure out a way to defeat her.

She’s a bit stiff and obvious as a villain, so I’m wondering if she’s truly what she says she is, or merely using her villain persona as a means to test the service club’s dynamic duo like they’ve never been tested before. Either way, it should be an interesting confrontation.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 04

Grimoire of Zero continues to feel episodic; last week was the big city episode, while this was largely a transitory outing, full of little slice-of-life vignettes that serve to deepen our understanding of who Mercenary, Zero, and Albus are—not to mention having the latter two bounce off the former, both literally and figuratively.

One thing is clear: Albus has quickly softened his “kill all beastfallen” stance, while Zero, neophyte to the outside world that she is, has formed a very close bond with Merc, considering him not just an employee, but a project.

She and Albus repeat the joke about them being sex slaves to the gate guards, but when one of the children he scared away is hurt (when another beastfallen shoves her out of his way), Zero makes it look like Merc fully heals the young woman’s ankle.

Changing hearts and minds will be key if the war between the factions of this world is to ever cease. After that, the downright leisurely pace of the episode is mitigated somewhat by the fact the trio covers a fair amount of ground, much of it very picturesque (see above).

Albus gets some pointers on fishing magic from Zero, while Zero also attempts to give Merc a kiss (and is rebuffed by the bashful tiger).

The trio tucks into another fine meal by Merc (who wants to one day open and run a tavern), and learns that Albus was orphaned and raised by his granny, and that Zero grew up in the caves studying sorcery and may well have developed her Grimoire of Zero in order to eat better. Not a bad reason, if you ask me!

Continuing the theme of Zero wanting to get closer to Merc, she offers to train him in magic, which will keep them together for some time. All this sticking around with people for an extended length of time is clearly a new concept for Merc, but I don’t think he loathes it as much as he sometimes protests; quite the contrary.

Thinks finally take a turn for the dark, and a rather sudden one, at that, once the trio reaches the outskirts of their next destination, the village of Latette. Albus knows the village well, and a dog he knows comes to greet him, but it’s carrying a burnt doll. The trio looks on and is horrified to see it is also smoldering; its inhabitants burned alive.

Is it mere raiders, or more likely, hostile witches fighting in their late idol Sorena’s name to exact revenge on humans? Whatever it is, our trio will likely have to tread carefully once again, and avoid revealing too much of themselves to strangers—something they now have no trouble doing with each other.

Grimoire of Zero has its charms, but it isn’t particularly spellbinding; it’s a bit of a dawdle at times. It’s certainly no match for recent fantasy adventure shows like Grimgar, Alderamin, or Re:Zero. If it was airing any other day but Monday I’d have probably already dropped it, but after a four-episode sample, I believe I’ve watched enough after all.

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho – 03

This week the party of Mercenary, Zero and Albus arrive in the bustling trading town of Formicum. Zero reports to the guards at the gate that she and Albus are Merc’s sex slaves, and they’re allowed to pass at half cost…though it could be argued you can’t put a price on Merc’s reputation.

Once there, Zero shows Merc some gems, and he tells her she only needs one small one to buy a fine set of new threads, which she does. I like the look, even if the clothes are a bit baggy on her. Zero also shows off her utter lack of modesty by trying to change in front of men and women alike. That’s so Zero!

Once they’re settled in…at an inn, Merc tries to sneak out but Zero spots him and they go out drinking, only to re-encounter another Beastfallen who has three captive girls who Zero knows are not witches. So Merc enters and wins a duel with the wolf-man and the girls are freed.

The sprightly dialogue between Merc and Zero continues to entertain, and it’s always fun to watch Merc take down a baddie. But as Merc’s defeat is never remotely in doubt, the whole episode lacks any kind of serious stakes. Still, it’s a pleasant enough watch for an overcast Monday afternoon.

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.

Little Witch Academia – 03

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The heart-pounding and heartwarming fun of LWA continues as its third episode is all about broom flight, or, for the first two-thirds of it, about how totally unable to fly Akko is. No matter how hard she “focuses” or how loudly she says the magic words, gravity won’t release her from the ground.

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She’s wanted to fly her whole life, and proudly bears the scars that prove it. As Akko fails and fails again, you can feel her frustration mounting, especially once she learns there’s to be a broom relay and Diana is the favorite to win. There’s the sense Akko is right on the cusp of a magical breakthrough, but just needs something to go her way and complement her boundless passion.

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After some last-ditch “training” that seems more designed to amuse Sucy than help Akko, the relay begins, and thanks to some magical trickery and research on the competition, Sucy is able to get Lotte out to a sizable lead that she then extends. Then it’s Akko’s turn, and Sucy lends her a potion that turns her broom into a ribbiting pogo stick. As Diana says with disgust, it ain’t pretty.

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Then, the feral broom in the magical items cafe Akko wanted to try out rejects the one who stole/purchased it (Amanda) and takes an interest in Akko. It makes her fight tooth and nail to stay on, and tries to throw her off many times, but Akko won’t let go, and it takes her on a magical ride through homes, under oceans, and through the sky at jetliner speeds.

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LWA truly brings the fun and the wonder, whether it’s the sweeping sights of Akko’s detour or her veritable galaxy of inventive acrobatics and contortions. She doesn’t win – the broom handles break off and the broom turns into a bird and flies off – but she comes in a close second, once again commanding Diana’s grudging respect.

As Diana says, Akko’s got passion. I daresay she’s brimming with moxie as well. Will it be enough? Ursula looks at her younger self in the trophy case, and maybe sees Akko going down a similar path. And she seems worried. But I wouldn’t rule out Akko continuing to surprise everyone—even her apparently disillusioned idol.

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Little Witch Academia – 02

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LWA’s first episode promises Akko has what it takes to be a witch, and possibly a good one, by summoning the power to save her new friends from a wild Cockatrice and transport everyone safely to school.

But not so fast…the next morning Akko can’t seem to get the Shiny Rod to do anything, and her first day of exciting classes turn out to be nothing but lecture after interminable lecture. Whether it’s a student using a small spell to keep potions away, to Sucy stealthily turning Akko’s hair into a plant, I love this kind of magic school minutiae.

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One person who stands out in every class is Diana Cavendish (of the 1,500-year-old Cavendish Family), who is believed to be the finest which of her generation, and the best to ever attend Luna Nova. I’m thinking Granger ability in a Malfoy package.

Yet while she’s undeniably talented, and a little aloof, she doesn’t come off as your typical stuck-up aristocratic jerk who needlessly harasses our heroine Akko. Indeed, she seems to follow the ideal standard of noblesse oblige: she’s polite and respectful, but isn’t afraid to tell what she believes to be a harsh truth: that Shiny Chariot isn’t all Akko makes her out to be.

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Diana also indulges Akko’s desire to show her what Chariot’s Shiny Rod can do, and waits patiently for Akko to do…something, anything. But the Shiny Rod just won’t cooperate. When it’s Diana’s turn to demonstrate her power, she does so, doing what Akko tried to do and make the statue in the courtyard not only move (in an awesomely trippy sequence that may have only happened in poor Akko’s head) but pluck that plant from Akko’s head, restoring her ponytail.

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What with all the talk of Shiny Chariot once being a pretty popular name in “performance witch” circles, no one’s seen nor heard from her in ten years…because she’s most likely assumed the identity of Professor Ursula, whom it was hinted last week could be Akko’s muse.

Considering her interest in Akko, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ursula/Chariot is trying to groom a replacement from the shadows, even bequeathing to Akko the Shiny Rod that served her so well…at least for a time. That being said, if Diana and her admirers represent the average opinion on the matter, it would seem that entertaining masses of muggles isn’t the most respected profession in the magical world.

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Still, there’s every indication the magical political spectrum is as wide and diverse as the non-magical one, with Diana Cavendish insisting (and being able to back up) that “magic is cultivated through the accumulation of lasting traditions and assiduous research,” basically the opposite of Shiny Chariot’s “A believing heart is your magic” credo.

It’s almost science vs. faith! Akko’s faith in Chariot and the power of the Rod summoned the magic necessary to save her, Sucy and Lotte. Then again, there’s a science to her “assiduous research” of the Chariot collector cards and their effects. Her “lasting tradition” is the tradition of fandom.

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This week, that lovingly-cultivated and maintained fandom comes in handy, just as her believing heart did so last week. Diana shows she’s still young and not perfect when in her hubris she believes she can singlehandedly restore the old Jennifer Memorial Tree none of the professors can diagnose.

She releases a powerful spell that indeed revitalizes the tree, but also strange glowing orbs she assumes are parasites to be exterminated. But they’re not pests; they’re chrysalises containing Papilliodya, which emerge only once every 120 years (or only a dozen times in the entire history of the Cavendish Family).

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Diana is ready to take out every one, but Akko stops her, even taking a direct hit that stuns but does not disable her. Akko casts the spell on the trading card, and thousands of magic butterflies are able to take flight for the five continents, resulting in a stunning display that inspires hope in all who behold them.

When the professors see the restored tree, both they and Diana’s toadies shower her with praise, but Diana, again displaying signs of a healthy conscience, tries to insist it wasn’t her who made it happen, running off before giving Akko the credit. I like to think Diana saw a teensy bit of promise in, and respect for, Akko, despite their very different magical ideologies.

As for LWA, it continues to impress with its eye-grabbing visuals, lean, nimble character design, surprisingly complex characters, lush action, and optimistic outlook – the very definition of must-watch.

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P.S. We already knew the OP was great, as we saw it as the ED last week. Now we see the proper ED, and it’s great too. Both feature memorable pieces of music that don’t try too hard.

Little Witch Academia – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Jist: After being inspired from a young age to become a witch like her idol Chariot, Kagari Atsuko, AKA Akko, enrolls at the magical Luna Nova Academy, meeting a standoffish fellow classmate, Sucy, along the way. Her journey hits a snag when she learns she needs a broom, and when she attempts to share a ride with a second classmate, Lotte, they end up going out of control in the ley lines landing in the forbidden Arcturus forest.

Sucy uses them as bait so she can pluck a cockatrice feather, and in the ensuing chase, a determined Akko summons Chariot’s “Shiny Rod” and uses it to speed Sucy, Lotte, and herself to Luna Nova in the middle of orientation. They later learn they’ll be roommates at the school.

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You Should Definitely Watch LWA because it’s gorgeous and immensely fun, and its first episode is a wonderful introduction both to Akko, the kind of tough, perservering girl she is, and the magical, whimsical world she’s gotten herself into. The show wastes no time subverting any expectations Akko’s trip to orientation will go smoothly.

Since this is my first exposure to the franchise, what it reminded me most of was, of course, Harry Potter, especially the stuck-up witches complaining about their academy admitting students who aren’t of pure blood (i.e. muggle-born). Akko is a perfect heroine, not too perfect, but has all the intangibles one needs to go far, including an unswerving faith that she’ll be able to fulfill her dreams.

It also reminds me, in a good way, of one of my favorite films, Kiki’s Delivery Service, if Kiki started out less well-versed in magic.

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As far as why you shouldn’t watch, well…what the heck is wrong with you, you monster?!? Seriously though, if you’re not a fan of Trigger’s Gainax-esque animation style (similar to Kill la Kill, but a lot less abstract and more focused here) or character design, you may find this a hard watch.

You may also just not into magical school anime, though the title should be a pretty good warning for such people to keep away. And of course, if you are very well-versed in LWA lore, perhaps you just don’t like the cut of this new adaptation’s jib. Again, I wouldn’t know.

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The Verdict: LWA is my first, and possibly only, truly Must Watch premiere of Winter 2017, joining Zane with his fine rakugo sequel. LWA sports heaps of heart without getting cheesy, exciting thrills without getting gory, and an overarching buoyant warmth and optimism that is lacking in so much anime these days, and thankfully isn’t undone in the closing moments by someone’s evil smirk or a Dun-dun-DUNNN.

It’s also less “kiddy” looking than My Hero Academia, and miles better-looking and sounding. Most of all, I’m looking forward to episode two more than anything else on TV, as Akko & Co. officially begin their training after an immensely entertaining introduction. If any of this sounds good, then take my recommendation and watch at once.

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