How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 3: Fight the Fallen

Apparently the writers are aware that a lot of viewers call it at episode 3. Fan-service is low comparatively this week and plot stakes are high ending in a cliff-hanger designed to force viewers to commit to at least one more. Was it successful?

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While it might have been very easy to dismiss this title as just another fan-service laden isekai story adapted from a light novel there have been definite signs of some thought put into this anime right from episode 1. Whether or not the aspects it gets right are enough to offset some of the other elements is entirely up to the individual viewer, but episode 3 is probably a good indication of what this show might be able to do. With the fan-service dialled back to about a five instead of a nine out of ten (there’s some low angle shots of the girls, an ongoing focus on bouncing breasts, and a sequence where elf-girl squishes herself against Diablo for the length of a conversation), there’s actually time for some plot development and this is actually going fairly well.

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The story Rem told in episode 1 about housing a demon’s soul is fairly relevant as is the discontented Mage who has been mostly the butt of jokes for the past two episodes. We also get more of a sense of who Diablo is going to be in the world as he steps up to the task of defending others for little gain of his own. The duelling personalities of the main character continue to work well with his in-game persona carrying him on even as his inner self kind of freaks out at the thought of fighting.

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I’m not about to proclaim this one a master-piece or even particularly great in the grand scheme of things, but realistically, there’s actually a fairly solid story being set up here and these first three episodes have given me reason to believe that the plot is even going to work on being cohesive and tying points together making encounters not feel so pointless or random. It could all still just become a boob and butt fest with the girls, but this episode came with a decent enough attempt at narrative and characterisation.

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Goblin Slayer Volume 3 Light Novel Review: It’s A Date, And Goblins

The Harvest Festival is on its way and all the female adventurers and friends suddenly have one thing on their mind. Too bad Goblin Slayer only ever has one thing on his mind – killing goblins.

Previous Reviews

Review:

Of the three volumes I’ve read so far, this one is probably the weakest. And that’s because instead of feeling like we were on some epic adventure (albeit to fight goblins), this one genuinely felt like we were reading a harem based light novel with a wishy-washy protagonist, girls who have no purpose outside of their pursuit of him, and ultimately a conflict that felt like it was thrown in at the end for the sake of having a final fight. And while none of that makes this a terrible read, it certainly wasn’t as compelling as previous entries.

However, the positive would be that Goblin Slayer is given more time to become a bit more humanised in this volume. He’s still the enigma and still has complete tunnel vision for goblin killing, but his interactions with the rest of the cast help to paint a broader picture of his overall personality when removed from blowing up goblin nests. Priestess also comes out of this volume looking reasonably good with her being able to showcase how far she’s grown since the opening of volume 1 where she was the scared little girl in need of rescue.

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Unfortunately, the rest of the cast, whether it is Guild Girl, Female Knight, Cow Girl, High Elf Archer or Witch, they all just come off looking pretty vapid and silly as they scurry about trying to attract this or that guy’s interest at the festival. Then again, it isn’t as though Dwarf Shaman or Lizard Priest come off any better. While they aren’t trying to attract a partner they seem to spend almost two thirds of the book doing nothing but taking part in various eating and drinking activities.

And that’s more or less the whole problem. Even though Goblin Slayer is preparing for something from the beginning, it is easily dismissed as his usual eccentric paranoia and doesn’t really count as foreshadowing. The disgruntled adventurer is an obvious flag early on, but it doesn’t amount to very much. So by the time things start happening and the much needed goblins arrive (needed because how can he be Goblin Slayer if there are no goblins), the reader is more or less suffering from festival fatigue and it is almost a relief to see the town plunged into danger.

The danger itself though never feels all that real. Unlike in the previous volumes where the Goblins attacked either a farm that was pretty remote or were underground, here they attack a town. There’s very little reason why our plucky adventurers seem to be fighting without back-up given how many adventurers are in the town (and I don’t care how drunk they claim they might be after the festival), and yet the book insists on having the core group take on much larger numbers by themselves. While it is an excellent showcase of their abilities, it kind of pushes plausibility and after a fairly dull set-up it isn’t really much of a payoff.

So I left this volume with mixed feelings because there are some great character moments here for Goblin Slayer and Priestess and the final fight is actually kind of exciting even if it makes little sense in context, but there’s just too much down time here and too many female characters being too cliche female character from a light novel. I’m hoping the next volume picks back up because if this is an ongoing trend with this series I may very well let this one go and that would be a shame. It has been a lot of fun up until this point.


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The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar Episodes 1 + 2: Why Not?

I wasn’t going to cover this one initially but was still trying to decide between this one and How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. After two episodes the overall opinion is both are riddled with problems so I might as well go all in (or drop them both but we’ll see what episode 3 does).

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Right, so we’ve got another average guy in a strange world with a smart phone that for whatever reason actually works and he’s surrounded by beautiful girls. So, we’ve seen this already, what is this doing new other than giving us an even more annoying title to type?

Well, the first episode didn’t give us much new, except perhaps a more overt sexual advance from one of the girls that we would normally see. Or at least that’s what I would say if this was an already established show. However, this one seems to have dropped us head first into the middle with Yuto having already been in said world for two years and already risen to a position of power in the Wolf Clan. This at least means we don’t have the fish out of water experience with our main character because he’s already relatively acclimatised. While this might seem like cheating, it actually does cut through a lot of the standard points that would normally bore me silly as characters make similar observations to ones we’ve seen before.

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The other thing it did that was a little bit novel was strongly suggest that we’re still on Earth but in the past and gave Yuto the ability to call to the present day with his phone seemingly provided he’s near some weird device which from the OP seems kind of critical to the whole travelling to where-ever he is situation though nothing has been explained about that. Now while neither of these points makes for a totally new experience, they at least shake up the formula a bit.

The second episode gave us a bit more combat focus and while it wasn’t amazing and having Yuto explain his strategy and reasoning throwing in healthy doses of all the usual war quotes in the process really undermined any sense of tension, it wasn’t terrible. Even the hot springs sequence where the leader of a clan Yuto conquered in the previous episode wasn’t as painful as it might have been.

While I’m not expecting much of anything from this anime, it so far has been watchable. And in a season that has been pretty flat in terms of first episodes, this one is kind of on par with the rest of the pack so far so we’ll give it a little while and see how it goes.


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Record of Grancrest War Series Review: Run While You Still Can

Record of Grancrest War is a fantasy series that doesn’t seem to understand that cohesion is an absolute must when building a fantasy world. However, that’s just the start of this anime’s problems.

Review:

I really love fantasy. There’s just something really great about stepping away from this world for awhile and losing yourself in another world with characters who are struggling to overcome overblown evil and to find their way in their world. That means, even when early indicators are that a story might not hold up, I tend to hold on and hope. In many cases that leaves me feeling a little burned.

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Record of Grancrest War isn’t actually a case of me feeling burned. I’d honestly be lying if I said I didn’t quite enjoy that frustrating twenty minutes of viewing each week even as I wrote ever snarkier episode reviews about it. It isn’t so bad that it is good, nor is it actually good. There’s just something about it that remained appealing and kept reigniting my optimism that maybe this anime might pull itself together even as it failed to capitalise on anything time after time.

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While that means I don’t have regrets about watching it; it also pretty much means I will never put myself through a rewatch of this anime nor would I actually recommend it to someone unless they were equally desperate for a fantasy and weren’t too concerned about the quality of the story being told.

So let’s look at the show in greater detail.

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Essentially this story bites off a lot more than it can chew. It starts off with a wedding that is essentially interrupted by chaos appearing and killing both the father of the groom and bride, apparently stopping the continent from being united and plunging it into war. It’s a fairly dramatic back drop for a story, but we’ll not get back to this particular plot line for a fair while so just leave that in the back of your mind.

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We jump to Theo and Silua, who from the OP are apparently the main characters but be prepared for these two to just disappear from the story for episodes at a time and regularly not be even half as interesting as anyone in the support cast. Admittedly, there are some adorable Theo and Siluca moments and by the climax Theo is the speech making protagonist that I kind of hoped he would become, but realistically these two kind of bring the show down right from the start by not being interesting enough to shape the story around.

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Instead we keep going off on little side quests about following other characters and their plights. Villar and Milza eat up a lot screen time in the first half of the series being a far more interesting hero character and antagonist. And Marrine and Alexis eat a substantial portion of the second half, being the couple who didn’t get married in the beginning and end up leading opposite factions in the war (at least Marrine does as Alexis is more of an artist than a fighter). Throw in some werewolf maids, an assassin, a warrior, other Lords and Mages, and even a Vampire King who will apparently be super important in the final episode even though we know nothing about him, and the story is cluttered, unfocused, and bloated.

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None of this is the end of the world for a story if it manages to link its ideas together, but Grancrest just kind of reels from event to event, jumping time and space with little care for its audience. You never get a sense of the world as characters literally move between cities and islands and cross half a continent without any real indicator of how long that took. The world as a result feels like a series of hubs rather than an actual world.

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The story also keeps forgetting that the whole point was to end the age of chaos. It gets back to it in the climax but you can go episodes without anyone mentioning chaos. And the chaos beasts that are such a big deal in episode one just vanish for nearly half the series. You can’t help but feel you are being told chaos is a big deal just so the climax makes sense but there’s no evidence to support that for the bulk of the series. Mostly because the series focuses almost exclusively on fighting between the Lords and acquiring lands and crests.

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Theo’s crest makes pretty lights. Not sure if it does anything else, but look, pretty.

And this is where things get really dodgy on the world building side. The crests don’t ever make sense. What one Lords crest does isn’t the same as another and the discrepancies are given no explanation. Even the titular ‘Grancrest’ itself has no explanation other than it will end chaos. Great, what does it do? And you’ll still ask that question at the end. Because while it does end chaos, the how and the why are without even a quick explainer.

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I guess I can’t get through this review without mentioning the visuals. Even in episode one the animation isn’t great. While you can ignore it and enjoy the episode, it isn’t exactly something you would praise. However there are countless moments in episodes where the animation is just outright bad and distracting. And while in a more compelling story they might get away with this, in a show where the story makes little sense, the characters aren’t really winning us over, and the world building has failed, poor animation just takes things a step too far and it becomes quite painful to watch in some instances. Blending poor animation with poor CG also doesn’t help the situation (ask Irina about the water).

Then we have this overly dramatic soundtrack that would work perfectly for a game or a competent anime of this nature, and yet here just feels like it is desperately trying to prop up the thin outline of a narrative and it fails.

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There we have it. Nothing really to recommend here and yet it isn’t unwatchable. I can complain all I like, and I certainly did in the episode reviews, but I kept going back to it and watching. Realistically, after the half-way point I didn’t even want to drop it because I actually did want to see if Theo would become the Emperor and save the world, even if the process involved to get him there made no sense.

If you put yourself through this anime, I’d love to know your thoughts.


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How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 2: Fan-Service and Boobs in Fantasy Land

I’m thinking that anyone who finds fan-service and boob gropes a major problem are going to have already ditched this show from consideration and I can’t say I blame them. That said, does this anime offer anything else?

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Seriously, it is kind of accepted that fan service moments are going to permeate these kinds of stories, particularly with a set-up as blatant as summoned demon lord enslaves his summoners (who happen to be a cute cat chick and an elf with gravity defying breasts), and yet I can’t help but wonder if the beginning and end of this episode couldn’t have ended up scrapped on the editing floor without discernibly changing the episode. The entire pre-credits sequence was the usual trope of boy wakes up, realises he’s still in fantasy land, and then wonders what his hand is touching. Oh, it’s the elf’s breast. And then instead of moving his hand he proceeds to grope her blaming his hand for having a mind of its own. And then he realises his right hand is on the cat girl’s breast. It all ends with cat girl losing her temper and probably hitting him before we begin the credits.

While I get there is an audience for this kind of sequence, the majority of people I know who watch anime tolerate this kind of nonsense rather than enjoy it. And even those people who watch a show for the more ecchi moments would surely want something presented better than this? The final sequence in the show goes back to boob grabbing with the elf girl straddling the demon lord for whatever reason and then the cat girl coming in and claiming she’s aware her boobs are small before she once again probably pummels them. It is lazy fan-service at best and it is when this anime is at its weakest.

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In between these two sequences we get a mixed bag of an episode with the part registering at the adventurer’s guild and taking on a quest. There’s some lighter moments like when Diablo tries to play down the elf’s fear of a blood seal and then proceeds to slice his own thumb open leading to copious blood spray (wait, I was meant to be covering light moments), and then the magic mirror works quite well. Even the absence of fast travel or teleportation leaving Diablo to declare the game ‘BS’ was kind of amusing before we got a reasonably decent fight sequence considering how overpowered Diablo is (meaning, there’s really no opposition and just a one sided defeat with some extremely unfair magical attacks).  It isn’t great by any means, but it is actually kind of fun.

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The question most viewers will have to ask themselves is whether or not the excessive fan-service is a plus or a minus and whether they enjoy it or are willing to tolerate it for what seems like it will be a fairly average kind of show. For me, I’m probably sticking with this one but I’m not expecting it to exactly rank high on my list of anime from this year. And if the fan-service ends up increasing from this point, I will probably drop because the elf on the bed at the end of this episode is kind of my limit. And if you are looking for screencaps of the fan-service, I’m probably not going to be much help because I’m not taking those.

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100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams Episodes 1 + 2: Fairy Tale Logic At Work

There’s something kind of fun about reliving a fairy tale even if it isn’t exactly thrilling. 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams is more of less what happens when you blend an otome game with a book of childhood fairy tales.

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Our heroine has no name and is only referred to at the Princess. She’s been summoned from another world (clearly ours) to awaken the sleeping princes. The only twist on this generic set up is apparently she was originally from the Kingdom of Dreams and was banished and they’ve simply brought her back. That would be a neat twist if she had any memory of it, but she does not and so we just have a fairly clueless girl getting dragged into a fantasy setting where she simply prays so that the Princes in the party can have a power up to defeat the dream eaters. Honestly, the heroine annoyed me to no end in this and the basic set up more or less assures us that she will do nothing of note throughout the series other than become the damsel in distress and occasionally show signs of grim determination to encourage those who follow her.

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The two ‘princes’ we meet in the first episode are a nice contrasting pair, though repeated dialogue is already wearing thin and we’re only two episodes in. We could definitely play a drinking game that every time Kiel says ‘probably’ we should take a drink and every-time Avi threatens to stab him we should take a drink and by the mid-way point of episode two I’m pretty sure even the most hardened drinkers might be falling off their chairs. The prince/princes introduced in episode 2 seem kind of interesting and I guess we’ll find out what’s going on with them in the next episode but given the title, I’m guessing we’re going to end up meeting a lot of guys as the story goes on (and why does every kingdom have a prince but there’s only one princess).

Navi, the ‘butler’ is also already a little on the annoying side and his repeated joke is to speak and surprise the other characters so that they exclaim that the stuffed animal spoke so that he can deny being a stuffed animal. Hilarious.

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The visuals go from being breathtakingly beautiful when they focus a lot of attention on a particular scene (such as the Princess using her magic) to being truly ugly when they seem to have taken a short cut with the animation. Characters running and sometimes talking look particularly hideous at times and some backgrounds are less complete than others.

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Despite all of that, if you enjoyed basic fairy tales as a kid, this is pretty much like walking through an extended fairy tale. Honestly, you could pick it apart really easily or you can just settle back and enjoy the ride. While the quality isn’t great, it isn’t unwatchable and I was kind of in the mood for it so despite all my complaints above I’m going to keep watching for a bit.


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Goblin Slayer Volume 2 Light Novel Review: It’s Always Goblins

Goblin Slayer has quite the reputation now and in this volume he’s answering a quest request from the Sword Maiden herself, a Gold-ranked adventurer who apparently fought a Demon Lord.

My review of Volume 1 can be found here.

Review:

While this second volume doesn’t quite have the drawing power of the first, it is a very decent follow up. There is an understanding that while the protagonist is cool and all, he can’t carry the story alone, and so a lot of energy has been put into the support cast. And even while many of these characters do come off a little too one-note at times, they are all quite interesting notes and the interactions between them are always kind of fun.

The reason this novel works so well is that the readers have a soft spot for this cast. We’ve watched them come together and fight off a horde of goblins with a lot of risk and very little reward. We like these characters already and we don’t want them to die. So when the story plunges them headlong into danger there’s an instant hook to make us keep reading. Because even though I know there are plenty of novels to come and therefore it is very unlikely that the main cast are going to die here, abandoning the story when they were still stranded in a sewer never really crossed my mind as a viable option.

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If I had to complain about any character in this particular volume, it would be the Sword Maiden. I’m not really sure what they were going for. At times she seems super seductive, at others she’s the fragile and damaged adventurer, and others still she just does not seem like she’s a real character. And given she’s the catalyst for the adventure in this volume that’s probably the book’s weakest link.

However, once the quest is accepted and the characters are on their way through the tunnels and facing some fairly hairy situations, using arrows, swords, slings, magic, and whatever else is handy to survive the next encounter, the story moves along beautifully. There’s some fairly tense moments in the darkness and as the characters do come under heavy fire and several of them do sustain some fairly heavy injuries considering they are the main party – a feat the book only gets away with because there’s magic around so ultimately they manage to get the cast back on their feet before the final act.

Basically, if you enjoyed the first story, and you are up for another adventure fighting off a horde of goblins who may have learned a couple of new tricks, then this story will work for you. The writing style remains much the same and is quite enjoyable, the characters are still pretty fun, and the fight sequences manage to be exciting without getting too hectic. I had a lot of fun with this second volume and I’ll be reviewing volume 3 very soon.


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How Not To Summon A Demon Lord Episode 1: An Isekai Entry With A Bit of Ear Nibbling

We’ve got demon summons, enslaved girls, an elf, a cat girl, magic, bouncing boobs, and a guy pinning a girl to a bed and then having no idea what to do next… Yep, we’re back in the isekai genre so I guess the question is whether this one is any good.

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It is amazing how many things in the isekai genre I dislike by default and yet I actually don’t dislike the genre. The repetitive set-ups and characters, the over-reliance on game mechanics to propel the plot forward, and the annoyance of relying on girls in skimpy outfits with various breast sizes for a lot of the comedy and fan-service really all do deserve to be criticised to forever and back. Yet if I look past all of that, How Not To Summon a Demon Lord actually gave us a fairly average first episode and has a bit of potential to be not terrible, which is kind of promising given I lost count of the number of close ups of the elf girls breasts flouncing up and down.

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Maybe this is just my popcorn style viewing, but the generic shut in main character (who wouldn’t withstand any kind of analysis given he’s the worst kind of gamer stereotype) ending up in the game world as his in game character Diablo who is extremely overpowered managed to entertain me. He’s not a good character by any means, but his internal panic compared to his external role playing dialogue worked well enough for amusement and the set up of the cat girl with a demon soul trapped inside her was intriguing enough as a plot point to make me want to know what is going to happen next.

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Okay, I’m not going to jump up and down about this one because there’s definitely the usual elements that turn people away from isekai stories and so far it hasn’t done anywhere near enough to compensate for those weaknesses, but I’m going to give this one a couple more episodes to see if it can find its feet and make itself that little bit more distinct.

If you watched this first episode, I’d love to know your thoughts so leave me a comment below.


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Record of Grancrest War Episode 24: At Last, The End

We’ll burn 10 minutes of this episode fighting the vampire king who is apparently important despite not really showing up at all prior, and then we won’t fight the Mages in Eramu because they’ll just poison themselves. Yes, this is how Record of Grancrest War Ends. Not with a bang, or a whimper. Unless that’s the sound of the audience hitting themselves for watching this far.

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Yes, let’s just pretend the last ten minutes didn’t happen and that someone hasn’t just died. It is better that way.

Clearly this episode has some issues as a final episode, but for the most part these are issues that have plagued the whole series. Priscilla being a deus ex machina to overcome the vampire king is more or less par for the course that this show has run, and the fact that the mages, set up as the true villains, are taken out in almost ridiculously short order because they are already pretty much defeated and then the only mage left of note kills himself (what is it with the suicidal mages in this story) is just what you would expect.

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So with that said, I’m not actually disappointed in this and the show’s general unwillingness to follow through on knocking off any of its main characters. So many death flags for both Silica and Theo and yet these weren’t acted on, nor were other characters forced to sacrifice themselves on their behalf. Essentially they all just held hands and walked through the finale because Theo promised to end chaos. Apparently that’s enough to allow him to succeed.

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With that, this anime is done and I will now have to get around to writing a series review. That should be fun.

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Record of Grancrest War Episode 23: The Final Battle?

The newly united army under Emperor Theo marches on Eramu and so the Mages throw a giant cyclops at them? Right, totally saw that coming.

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Before getting into the silliness that is the plot development one episode from the end of this series, I’d like a take a moment to discuss how truly ugly this episode was. Given a lot of the run time was given over to the fairly small scale battle of Lassic and his couple of trusted helpers (who I think we’ve seen once before, maybe twice) taking on the cyclops without the aid of the army for reasons, I’m kind of thinking this sequence needed a lot more polish. However, I’m also thinking Lassic wishes he was a protagonist really because there’s no other excuse for it. He didn’t even manage to gloriously die which might have at least made it vaguely worth the while.

Seriously, Lassic has never looked this bad. What was going on with this episode?

However, outside of random monster killing, we then get all the different groups working together to break through the gates of the city while no mages actually attack them. Why not? Don’t really know. Why is that girl suddenly having orgasms at the sound of cannons like she’s Rory Mercury? Really don’t know. Is there any reason we need a circus troop climbing sequence? Not really.

This is another case of don’t think too hard. It’s just going to hurt.

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Finally, Theo gets ready to do something other than making grandiose sounding speeches about why it is noble and all to let his friends go get killed for their honour or something, and just as he takes a step, he and his little band of friends get whisked away to the forest by the Vampire King from like episode 4 or 5 who has done more or less nothing since then other than a couple of cameo appearances. And I still don’t even know why vampires exist in this world or story.

There’s only one more episode. We can get to the end of this. It will be fine and then it will be finished.

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