Bring the Pain; It Won’t Stop These Magical Girls

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Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 11 Review

As Asuka faces off against Giess and War Nurse Kurumi faces of against Whiplash, the fighting above ground grinds to a halt with The Russian magical girl rescuing Mia as well as Nozomi and Sayako. Of course, there’s no more reason for the fighting to go on above ground given the box with the magical tool in it has already left the building and so the fight below ground, while grand and all, is mostly just marking time.

Asuka vs Giess - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka  - Episode 11

Kurumi gets quite the beating in this episode, both physically and emotionally. We already knew War Nurse wasn’t amazing at hand to hand combat so her opponent couldn’t be any worse. Yet, despite flash backs to days of being bullied and a lot of mental trauma, War Nurse isn’t going to take a beating lying down.

Kurumi - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

This is probably the best showing Kurumi has been given so far in this series. She’s wanting to go help Asuka, but more than that, she doesn’t want to feel pathetic. She doesn’t want to return to who she was. Kurumi gives this fight everything she has and while she is still very much a support fighter, you have to respect her victory in this instance.

Asuka - Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka - Episode 11

Asuka on the other hand is a front line fighter but her opponent is also ill-suited. She takes significant damage including the loss of an arm, but don’t think that’s going to stop her.

Now, I should point out, that the fact that Nozomi lost an arm earlier in the series and they simply reattached it takes a lot of the tension out of this sequence. There’s never any doubt that Kurumi will get there and repair Asuka’s arm for her so the cringe and fear that should really work with this scene isn’t there. So instead it feels a little bit flat despite the apparent gravity of a teenage girl having her arm torn off.

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Again though, we know it isn’t going to be permanent, unless Kurumi dies before the fight is over but that seemed unlikely, and also, the audience knows the reason for this fight has already gone. Asuka isn’t aware of it so is fighting for real, but it makes it hard for the audience to invest.

Of course, that doesn’t make Asuka’s winning attack any less cool to watch.

Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Episode 11

I don’t know what they are going to do to Whiplash but I don’t think it will matter. She was pretty broken after losing her fight and then Giess put the final nail in the coffin by revealing what his side did to her.

Whiplash - Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka - Episode 11

The one thing I do know is that none of this will be properly solved next week unless it is done at break neck speed so it seems we’ll be left hanging at season’s end. And was that last comment by the villain about the magical tool a sign that Sayako is actually going to become a magical girl or am I reading too much into that?

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Empty Promises Preceding Empty Actions

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23 Review

I’ll give this episode its positives first, because to be honest I’m kind of at the point where I’m not sure if next season I’m going to continue with episode reviews or whether I’ll just watch in batches of three or four episodes at a time and review once it is done. On the positive side, we finally got some action and significantly less exposition. The action was flashy and sparkly and suitably dynamic and all and all it kind of worked.

And there the positives end.

Cardinal - Sword Art Online Aliciztaion Episode 23

Cardinal makes the Administrator swear on her fluctlight that she’ll let the others go and then offers essentially to die. Administrator, agrees (as if anyone believes her) and then proceeds to blow Cardinal around the room with a bunch of flashy light and explosions ending with a limb flying off and Cardinal flopping onto the ground to be held by Kirito.

So, why didn’t the Administrator just kill her?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23 - Eugeo are you...

Oh I know, this is meant to be showing us how cruel Administrator is by playing with Cardinal. Also how over-confident etc, etc. But mostly it is just making her look like a complete idiot because what it does is gives the Cardinal a chance for one more program.

Then we have the whole sword automaton thing that is apparently made up of three hundred people somehow drawn from the memories of the inegrity knights (okay, that part lost me a little, but it had to do with the shiny little crystals in the roof).

Sparkly Ceiling - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23

However, if I thought the Cardinal was dumb for trying to make deals with the Administrator, and then I thought the Administrator was dumb for not just actually killing her, then Eugeo gets the prize for most idiotic decision making of the episode.

Cause, you know, turning into a sword and flying around is going to fix everything.

Eugeo - Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 23
The imagery was also somewhat less than subtle.

What’s tragic is Eugeo’s one sword, I’m guessing because he chose and accepted it, took out the core of the 300 sword thing. Which just kind of makes you wonder if maybe they couldn’t have figured out a better way to do that.

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Then he turns his attention to the Administrator and attacks her. Admittedly, he does land a blow and injures her but the end result is one dead Eugeo.

I kind of feel like this series threw his character well and truly under a bus. Giving Kirito and off-sider and a male companion was actually kind of novel but mostly he’s just been used by the plot over and over again and now they’ve split him in two and dropped him bleeding on the floor. I’m just not convinced that this was a particularly compelling character arc and given how idiotic his actions were here I’m not even particularly upset that he met his end.

Eugeo Sword - Sword Art Alicization Episode 23

Kirito also has Asuna flashbacks as Alice gets in-between him and the Administrator and that is apparently what triggers him into action. Not Cardinal’s death. Not Eugeo choosing to turn into a sword, which no one did anything to stop. Not Eugeo subsequently fighting alone as a sword before being cut down. Not Eugeo dying. But a flash back of Asuna jumping between Kirito and Heathcliff from Aincrad. That gets him moving.

I like the Aincrad arc a lot, but really?

More importantly, unless Kirito has some program destroying move in mind he’s still going to lose. And if he does have a program destroying move in mind, Eugeo’s death was worse than idiotic, it is pointless.

Sigh.

Really wondering what is supposed to be appealing about the current state of the story because I’m just not getting it.

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And Then Shizue Stole The Anime Right Out From Under Rimuru

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That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 24 (Extra) Review

This is probably the most fun I’ve had with That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime since the first cour and it is an episode that takes place prior to Shizue meeting Rimuru. She travels to a kingdom to help deal with a summoned demon but things aren’t what they seem at first.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 24

I’m going to be honest, I would love to say that there’s some great characterisation and story telling going on in this episode, and comparatively there actually is, but twenty minutes isn’t exactly a long amount of time and as a stand-alone story there is only so much they can do. While both Kuro/Black and Shizue come across as very interesting characters, without actual follow up this episode doesn’t quite get them there. Fortunately we’ve already seen how Shizue’s story ends so this works nicely to fill in her character and as for the demon, well it is nicely teased that Rimuru is going to meet him sooner or later so we can expect that we’ll meet him again.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 24

What really works though is that this story is tightly structured with very little left to waste. The first act has a human desperately summoning a demon. We’re never given the absolute specifics as to why, but given what the demon does and what we learn about the kingdom, we can probably take a fair guess as to who they were and why they wanted to summon a demon. Even without that particular bit of information, it is a reasonably dramatic opening for a story and right from the start the demon is pretty cool and interesting looking. Here’s someone you want to get to know.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 24

Shizue entering the story and being met by another adventurer is a little clunkier, but it does solve the problem of having to narrate all the exposition when Shizue has someone else to bounce a lot of conversation off of during the early part of the episode and to fill in the details of why they are all there. But once the action starts, we see Shizue at her finest making decisions and taking action.

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The final act links things back in with the main story and while they do rely on some narration here to explicitly link to potential future events for Rimuru, it feels warranted and this story has been interesting enough that it is a nice tease of something to come.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 24

Of course, the question I’m left with is why weren’t more episodes in the main series as interesting or well paced as this one? Why weren’t the characters given just that little more time and attention, some emotional nuances, anything to just make me want to pay that little bit more attention to them? I really enjoyed this story and I’d happily watch a whole season of this kind of story even without the main plot line. While I wasn’t overly impressed to find out this season was ending with ‘extras’ I will admit that this one definitely went above and beyond my expectations of extra material and really was just fun to watch.

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 8 Light Novel Review

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Volume 8

The party is finally splitting up and there are some dire consequences to be found.

It’s honestly going to be impossible to review this one without spoilers so if you haven’t read this far in the series, check out the links below for some of the earlier books or check out one of my other light novel reviews here.

For those still with me, level 8 really stepped things up. As much as I loved the last couple of volumes as they left Grimgar and travelled through the Dusk Realm but the end of the volume where they finally emerged back into Grimgar was a bit of a relief. The question became what now that they’ve gotten back to Grimgar considering it isn’t their world either (though at least there are more humans in Grimgar and they’ve gotten a bit used to it).

Well, it turns out a lot can happen when the party finally arrives back. They aren’t anywhere they know in Grimgar, in fact they are a long, long way away from their familiar territory and hunting grounds or allies that might help them. This presents a number of fairly immediate problems because even though Haruhiro and the gang have undeniably gotten stronger even before their trek through the Dusk Realm (and they most definitely found strength through enduring that), they are still very small fish in the larger pond.

So the team splits up in order to scout the surrounding area and figure out what to do next.

Honestly, as soon as they made this decision it was clear what was going to happen and yet they still managed to make this interesting. Ranta and Merry end up with one group made up of orcs and other inhumans while Haruhiro and the rest end up kind of attached to a mercenary unit that may or may not be assisting a samurai village.

As the team learn about this part of Grimgar, the Samurai villages, Arnold – a force of nature, and everything else that is going on, they are continuing to search for Merry and Ranta however Ranta as always has an interesting knack for survival. When up against an unbeatable enemy, make the enemy a friend remains his standard practice and while it might be argued in this instance his instant bow act saved Merry’s life, it would be difficult to say that Ranta has particularly grown as a character.

That said, his presentation in this volume was perhaps the most nuanced yet as it seemed he was well aware of his failings but desperately wanted to save Merry and couldn’t think of a better way to go about it. It made me quite interested in where his character might go, assuming of course he lives long enough to go anywhere from this point.

However, this does set up for a climax where Haruhiro and Ranta face off. Now, anyone who has read seven books in this series will be on their edge of their seat for this confrontation. While these two have been in the same team since the beginning, the friction between them has never gone away and finally seeing them on opposite sides for real is one of those character moments you are just grateful actually eventuated and they didn’t back away from it at the last minute.

Haruhiro Vs Rantar

While the conclusion is yet to be decided and I’m kind of hopeful that eventually they pull the team back together, Grimgar has a penchant for being very realistic about some things. Water once spilled can’t be returned to the glass and all that. Is this the end of Ranta in the group or will they find someway to save him?

Outside of the interesting team dynamic moments, I must say Grimgar continues to introduce some weird and yet interesting supporting characters. While such a large cast might be a problem if handled poorly, here they manage to keep the focus on how each encounter changes the core group so characters coming and going from the story around them is actually handled fairly well with enough reminders of who the important support cast are for us not to forget (even though it has been awhile since we’ve seen them as Haruhiro’s group have been separated for a fair while now).

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Volume 8

The story continues to move at a good pace giving each moment enough time to have the appropriate emotional weight without lingering overly long on any one point and while Ranta’s dialogue remains fairly insufferable, it has become pretty accepted at this point that it is part of his character.

If anything, I’d have to say my only real criticism of the story at this point is that it has become decidedly serialised. Earlier books could be read more or less independently, though needed to be read in order, and these later ones pretty much build to a climax but leave so much still be to be discovered. That would be fine if all the books were out and while I have volume 9 to read and ready to go I suspect that I’ll soon want volume 10 and unfortunately it is pre-order only and Volume 11 isn’t out until October. That would be why I haven’t been in any rush to get through these volumes because I want the story relatively fresh when I read the next book.

Grimgar remains a really great read and I think the writing has gotten better since book 1. The story and world building are great, the character development remains believable, and the books haven’t fallen into a repetitive pattern as each new adventure really does build on the last but take us somewhere new to learn more about the world and characters. I very much recommend this series to anyone looking for a more serious isekai (though early books do still have too many random fanservice moments just because).

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In The Absence of A Reasonable Argument, Rely on Sophistry

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Grimms Notes Episode 10 Review

Well, the villains finally take the time to speak with Ex regarding their ambitions in Episode 10 of Grimms Notes. Curly asks Ex whether it is more important to protect Jeanne D’Arc’s life or her fate and Ex utterly fails to answer, mostly because despite 9 episodes of dashing into story zones and correcting fates, Ex has never really addressed the big question of whether or not his actions are right.

Grimms Notes Episode 10

Just when you think he might be developing something resembling a reasonable character who at least contemplates his actions, he throws aside thinking it through or the consequences and just accepts that Jeanne is committed to her fate, as written in her book, and so he’ll trust in her feelings.

Grimms Notes Episode 10

The problem with that argument is that we don’t know how much Jeanne is actually in control of those feelings. Her rising up and leading the French was written in her book of fate. As was her acceptance of their ultimate betrayal and her death. So trusting in the feelings of someone being controlled by fate as a justification for defending that fate is at best a flawed argument and is more likely a form of self-deception so that Ex doesn’t need to ask himself the big question of whether or not he’s actually the one doing more harm than good by assisting Reina in tuning story zones.

Grimms Notes Episode 10

The ongoing avoidance by this story of looking at this big question is really starting to bug me because exploring it and having the characters really deconstructing their motives could have been a really interesting affair. Instead the good guys are good because they are and no matter how logical the villains seems they are the villains of the story. The nebulous story tellers have so far escaped being questioned for their questionable morality in creating characters who are clearly sentient but are then forced to live out lives that involve avoidable suffering.

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It all just seems like a strange premise if the story isn’t willing to actually address any of these issues.

But hey, another story tuned and back on track. Jeanne can lead that army, at least until she is killed.

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Apparently They Do Grow On Trees

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Endro Episode 9 Review

Like me, you probably didn’t actually bother to think about where the Cartado the characters have been using in Endro have come from. I mean, it is hardly a critical plot point other than Mei’s obsessive fascination with everything to do with them. However, here’s an episode devoted entirely to the mystery of where they come from and how they are harvested.

Endro Episode 9 Cartado Trees

That’s right, harvested. Because apparently these cards to grow on trees in a hidden village that the overly cute girls have just scored themselves an invitation to for a festival.

Arriving at the village takes a few little leaps but doesn’t eat much of the episode. It does, as normal, highlight the different personalities of the girls in the core group with Mei, the usually reserved one, being as determined as we’ve ever seen her to reach their destination.

Endro Episode 9

Once there though the story just goes for full cute and weird with the girls seeing the trees laden with cards, changing outfits, and then participating in a competition to become the cartado king by harvesting the rarest ‘wild’ cartado. It’s all kind of good fun though I do like that the end result of becoming the king is a one off lap around the village and that’s all the pay-off, other than the bragging rights which I’m certain Mei is definitely holding onto even if the village location is a secret.

As usual for this series, we get a lot of fluff and silliness, a bit of heart, and some weird antics. It all works well and the episode plays nicely. Now I just wonder why they don’t grow those trees in more places.

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Endro Episode 10 Review

Episode 10 of Endro is a little bit weird. Okay, a lot weird but only a little bit by Endro standards. The girls are on what was meant to be an ‘easy’ quest apparently sent by Mao which makes me wonder if the Demon Lord is back to trying to off the hero or whether the snow-storm was a genuine mistake.

Endro Episode 10

Anyway, while huddled in the tent, they start sharing their dreams for the future in the hopes of keeping each other awake. They kind of fail but it turns out a monster was helping them along by showing them what they were dreaming of. Needless to say, each of the girls is dreaming of what we know they want, heroics, food, cards, and boobs, but Seira is able to break free of the dream when she realises it isn’t real.

There’s not a lot more to this episode other than Seira breaking the others out of their dream with the rather direct approach of smashing their dreamworlds to pieces with a hammer before they eat the combined crystallisation of their dreams (yep, weird even by Endro standards).

Endro Episode 10

Still, if you just want a bit of fun, this episode certainly hits the spot. It also plays on the whole time travel element with Yuusha’s dream most definitely being a throw back to the memory of fighting the demon lord way back in episode one.

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Anime Characters Should Not Review Their Own Episode

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Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Review

While I’ll get to reviewing the episode in a moment, I just want to look at the opening act of this episode which addresses the fight between the Senator (only barely introduced a few episodes ago) and Eugoe (no longer brainwashed), Kirito and Alice. Mostly because there was a lot of build-up around a character only just introduced, a cliff-hanger as the fight got started, and then we spend the opening scene rewatching his power up. Only to essentially one shot kill him. Alice distracts his flame creation with little difficulty, Eugeo diverts attention from Kirito by half-heartedly attacking the administrator causing the senator to look away, and then Kirito light beams him to death. The end.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Kirito

In the words of the Administrator herself, that was boring.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Administrator

All that build up and a week’s wait and nothing. Barely even a whimper.

Then without any further discussion, the Senator’s body is flipped against a wall and promptly forgotten. Discarded as the bit character he was but he essentially served no purpose. None at all. Not even a cool fight sequence and diversion. Literally he just put the breaks on the story for a build up that never delivered.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 dead Senator

Following this the episode gets back into exposition and sermonising mode. They did at least draw parallels between whether the game world and reality are similar in asking whether humans live their lives in fear of being reset by some unknown creator, so points for thematic linking back to the original SAO. However, again, this is a lot of back and forth covering content we already knew. The only real take from this is that Eugeo now knows Kirito isn’t just someone from his world (which I’m left wondering why Kirito hadn’t told Eugeo this by this point, but whatever).

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22

However, the Administrator then decides to reveal her ultimate weapon that will replace the incredibly flawed system with the integrity knights. It is shiny and golden and really large. So cool. In a matter of seconds it impaled both Alice and Kirito and left them bleeding on the ground and Eugeo shaking in his boots.

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Alice is stabbed

Of course, after a spider vs sword golem moment that makes about as much sense as it sounds like it should, Eugeo stabs the special dagger into the floating platform and somehow that lets the Cardinal appear. In an instant Kirito and Alice are healed, we get some more exposition while the Administrator just kind of floats and gloats, and then the episode ends.

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This show makes me want to face palm so badly almost every week at this point.

Nothing is having any consequence at the moment. Eugeo brainwashed – fixed next episode. Senator guy is really powerful – killed in one shot within minutes. Kirito and Alice stabbed and bleeding – instantly healed including their clothes and bloodstains.

Meanwhile, the Administrator seems to just have whatever power they decide to give her which makes you wonder why she doesn’t just rewrite the world’s code to disappear the floor and send Eugeo, Kirito and Alice back to the bottom and ignore them. Why bother fighting at all? As to the Cardinal, who knows what she’s up to?

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 22 Cardinal

I’m almost all for letting the humans outside of Underworld hit the reset button at this point. It couldn’t make it any sillier.

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