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Fall 2022 Preview Guide

Last Update: 10::36 a.m. EDT Sunday 10/2

Welcome to my Fall 2022 Preview Guide! I expect to cover every full-episode series that will be debuting this season, but atypically, I will not be able to do most of this season’s sequels; only Spy x Family (which I may take straight to episode reviews, to continue what I was doing in the spring), Peter Grill, and Bleach are likely to get done. I do intend to sample Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury with a “do you have to be a diehard Gundam fan to appreciate this?” eye and will certainly be giving the reboot of Urusei Yatsura a close look, too.

These will be listed in newest to oldest order, and this post will be updated multiple times per day on busier days. With no super-late-debuting titles this season, I expect to wrap this Guide on October 15th.

Note #1: I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss had a sneak preview a week early, so it was covered separately here.

Spy x Family p2 (ep 13)

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Note: I am putting this here for now because I am yet unsure if I will continue episode reviews of this series. (I am seriously tempted to do Raven of the Inner Palace instead.)

For the most part, the first episode of the second cour is classic Spy x Family fare, so anyone who enjoyed the first cour should enjoy this episode, too. Twilight is doing spy stuff, Anya is getting into danger but also having fun, and Yor goes all aggressive on Anya being threatened while heavily misunderstanding what’s actually going on. The new addition, of course, is the dog shown briefly at the end of the first cour, a dog which seems to be smarter than normal and have precognitive ability. (Sadly, he was not smart enough to avoid running around in a circle. . .) And the Forgers were looking to get a dog anyway, so he will be a permanent cast addition.

So yeah, lots of danger, lots of fun, all of the characters being cool to some degree, and a couple of good side jokes; I especially liked the “war dogs” doing body builder poses for Anya in the background in one scene. Nice new set of opener and closer, too, though they are not as strong as for the first season.

Housing Complex C

Airs: Toonami on Sundays (at midnight); HBO Max later

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Effective horror-themed anime are quite rare, but this new mini-series is using the month of October to make a hard push for as creepy a production as it can muster. The premise here is that a rundown seaside apartment complex mostly inhabited by senior citizens is suddenly getting an influx of new tenants, and a bunch of strange things are going on that partly do and partly don’t have to do with that. One character tries to pass off seeing a monster as an optical illusion (the theme of the first episode), there’s a hikkikomori obsessed with drawing Cthulhu gods, an old storeroom with a mummified dog, and a cheery girl who may or may not have something odd going on with her talked-to-but-not-shown mother. Some of the unsettling factors are even more ordinary ones, like a bunch of foreigners with an unfamiliar religion. Flashes indicate that something really bad and bloody may have happened on the site centuries ago, and an opening scene indicates that one or more characters will eventually go berserk. Even the seemingly-normal new girl is implied by the opener to have a devilish side, too.

In other words, a whole bunch of teases and pieces are being laid out here, with the assumption that they will connect up later. I am a little concerned that the production is moving too fast and trying too hard, but this is supposed to only run four episodes, so it cannot afford to pace things out more. Production merits, characterizations, and voice work is good enough that I’m willing to give the series the benefit of the doubt for now.

Raven of the Inner Palace

Streaming: Crunchyroll on Saturdays

Rating: 4 (of 5)

As a big fan of titles like The Story of Saiunkoku/ColorCloud Palace and the (as-yet-unanimated) The Apothecary Diaries, this one was squarely enough in my wheelhouse that it was one of my most-anticipated new titles of the season. I’m pleased to say that it doesn’t disappoint for what I was expecting, even though it is a far more purely serious tale than the other two.

At the heart of this first story arc are two mysteries: exactly who (or perhaps what?) is the Raven Consort, who seems to have mystical powers, could be a century old despite her apparent youth, and has status equivalent to an Empress but live apart from all? And who was the wearer of a haunted jade earring? The latter is the query which brings the new Emperor to the Raven Consort, and the intrigue-riddle mystery she goes undercover to try to unravel when he bribes her with her favorite food. A scheme to honestly and incontrovertibly justify the execution of the imprisoned Dowager Empress (who is, based on flashbacks, a real piece of work) is also involved for further gravitas.

The series’ character design motif successfully portrays the Raven Consort as a thin, delicate, and mysterious beauty, and that together with the art design produces some lovely visuals. Certain aspects of the art design may be too CG-based for some tastes, but both the look and the sound of the series work together well to promote the overall aesthetic. That helps make for a quite promising start that I highly recommend for fans of ancient China-based historical fantasies.

Beast Tamer

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays?

Rating: 3 (of 5)

Many years ago, I encounter a group of players on the TTRPG circuit who were so adamant about not playing with certain types of characters (whom they regarded as having poor combat effectiveness) that they even made and wore T-shirts stating that. I have no doubt that TTRPG gamers the world over are familiar with something like that, and have to wonder if that’s at the core of the slew of light novel-based stories about individuals being kicked out of Hero parties for apparent ineffectiveness. (Banished From the Hero’s Party is one anime predecessor, and I fully expect Roll Over and Die will get animated at some point.) In this variation, the useless person is a Beast Tamer, whose ability to control animals makes him more suited to support rather than combat roles, and that’s not good enough. The other difference here is that the Hero is one leading the firing effort and the rest of the party is clearly of one mind about it, rather than it being done behind the Hero’s back.

Of course, like in the other cases, Rein is extraordinary in ways that the Hero’s party just can’t appreciate. They will doubtless find themselves under-appreciating how vital his support role was, but more importantly, Rein is strong enough to make contracts with Spirits which have animal traits – in the case of this episode, the adventuresome Cat Spirit Kanade. Exactly what that means is unclear; the episode only differentiates between temporary and more permanent contracts and doesn’t elaborate at all on what benefits there might be to Kanade. Clearly there have to be some, for her to both propose and agree to it, but I can at least buy that Rein might not know himself how this works with sentient beasts since the possibility never even occurred to him before. Learning about that is just enough of a hook to get me to watch a little more, as otherwise this looks like a standard “collect a harem” set-up (four other Spirit girls are shown prominently in both the OP and ED) and is utterly mediocre on both visual and animation fronts.

The Master Has No Tail

Streams: HIDIVE on Fridays

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Mameda (which is apparently the general name for a young tanuki) is a fledgling tanuki on her first trip to Taisho-era Osaka. She aspires to fool humans just like her dad has, but she quickly learns that hard way that humans have advanced enough that they are no longer easy prey for standard tanuki tricks. But she does discover one way which might work: the distinctly Japanese comedy style called rakugo. She is so dazzled by the performance of one Bunko (who also instantly knows exactly what Mameda is) that she sets her mind to learning this art form herself so she can accomplish her goal.

I don’t get rakugo at all, and did not find the routine here all that funny or impressive in style. That’s a barrier which will probably keep me from appreciating this series. However, the set-up is interesting enough, the logical follow-throughs sensible enough (fake money doesn’t work because of the lack of watermarks, for instance), and the two key characters likable enough that I could see this one finding its niche audience. Mameda definitely has the spunky cute factor working for her, and the closing theme is a winner, too.

The Devil is a Part-Timer!! episode 12

Rating: C+

There is a moment early in this episode which speaks best to the spirit and attitude of the show: the scene where Maou and Ashiya have to take the subway to get to the second tower, while Emi just conjured up magic boots and flew over to the first tower. Sadly, it’s one of the few places in the disappointingly-drab season finale which seemed entirely on point.

What makes the episode even more disappointing is that it had some material to work with. The big revelation here is that Emi’s father, Nord Justina, is not only alive but also in Japan. Since the foundation of Emi’s motivation for fighting the Devil King is her father’s death, this is an Earth-shattering blow not just to Emi’s raison d’etre, but also to her attitude towards Maou. How can she justify her actions if she does not have specific reason to hate him anymore? This is a matter with such heavy future consequences that the episode-ending confirmation that Lailah was, indeed, the angel who saved Maou as a child pales in comparison. So does the implication, from various tidbits throughout the episode, that Lailah is being sought partly because she is trying to fix something intrinsically wrong with Enta Isla that was caused by Heaven, and doing so would be detrimental to Heaven. (That Lailah is also being sought because having a child with a human implies that humans and angels are more genetically similar than the angels care to have acknowledged is also an interesting point with possibly greater implications.)

There’s also Chiho finally getting to have her turn at being part of the super-powered action. Granted, everything she’s doing is more or less just channeling for Lailah, and she looks good in the action pose of firing the magical arrows. Sadly, the action is otherwise a letdown. Although this has been a problem all season, the action in this episode feels extra-limp; it has no dynamism, energy, or real sense of battle choreography to it, and the musical score is not helping much. Admittedly, the actual fighting here does not amount to much, and this has never been an action-focused series anyway, but I still expected more than this. That this episode aired on the same day as the action extravaganza that was DanMachi‘s cour-ending episode, and just a day after the equally visually-awesome season closer for Made in Abyss, is an additional bit of unfortunate timing. But hey, at least they kept the detail about how Chiho is so busty that her hospital pajamas are straining a bit to stay buttoned. . .

In all, the episode had enough interesting reveals, plot hooks, and commitment to the series’ sometimes-quirky style of humor that I cannot give the episode too bad a grade. Additionally, an announcement has been made that another season is coming next year, and that it will feature the debut of a new core (and, by extension) new peripheral cast member. While this is not the franchise’s strongest material, enough is still going on here that I would be back even if I had not read far ahead in the novels.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? IV episode 11

Rating: A

Last episode ended with Bell in his worst shape ever – possibly even dead. Naturally, a series so heavily-dependent on its protagonist was not going to kill him off, and as I noted last episode, the series did leave itself a combination “out:” The Goliath Scarf reduced what should have been a fatal blow to just a stunning one and the ally coming through the water to help had far more potent healing, than Ryu alone could manage, strong enough even to reattach a limb. For a change, not a bit of this feels contrived, as the scarf was the result of two of his allies and Marie’s help is the product of his unwitting diplomatic efforts with her. Reprieves are far more tolerable and dramatically satisfying when they’re earned, and this one definitely was.

That both directly and indirectly leads to some more fantastic action sequences. Ryu’s attempts to fend of Juggernaut as it goes after Boris provided terrific details and outstanding use of her expressions, as did the attempt of Boris and the Riviria spellcasters in their ill-fated efforts to take Juggernaut out with magic. And all that was just stage-setting for Bell’s triumphant return, where he uses Hestia Knife and the Goliath Scarf both offensively and defensively. Scene framing, battle choreography, and especially the musical score and sound effects all hit exactly the right notes, leading to Bell’s use of his newest ultimate technique:

. . .And in the classic spirit of shonen action series, it’s still not enough, because this foe is on another level from anything previous. Jura’s attempt to take control of the Juggernaut failing with fatal consequences was predictable enough, as he never seemed to account for the fact that Juggernaut simply exists to exterminate threats. Would such a primal force be at all controllable? The renewed presence of the Lambton was doubtless a surprise twist for anime-only viewers, and is the tool by which the story sets up its season-ending cliffhanger: a badly-injured Bell and Ryu stranded on Floor 37, far deeper than he has ever gone before.

And that’s not even all the fun! Even though the Juggernaut pursued, the rest of the gang up on Floor 25 has their own problem with the floor boss for the Great Falls, Amphisbaena, shows up early as a result of the area’s routines being disrupted. (In Greek Mythology, the Amphisbaena was a serpent with a second head on the end of its tail.) That sequence is itself a visual and presentational feast, even if it does rely much more heavily on CG. Hence we effectively have a double-cliffhanger and plenty of dramatic threat to go around for next time.

The events of this episode bring the fourth season’s first half to a conclusion at the arc’s most logical break point: the end of novel 13. A second half will be returning in January, and given the production quality we’ve seen here, I’ll tolerate the wait. If the franchise needed any reaffirmation that it’s one of the top fantasy action series of the past decade, this episode should provide ample reinforcement.

Special Preview: I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss

The Fall 2022 season does not officially get underway until Friday 9/30, but one title has debuted a week early on Crunchyroll. So let’s take an early first look.

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays, beginning 10/1

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Isekai titles where the heroine reincarnates as the antagonist of an otome game – a character who is destined for a Bad Ending – have practically become their own subgenre in the last couple of years. This new light novel adaptation so wholeheartedly falls into that classification that it almost seems to be poking fun at it. Normally, I don’t care much for these branch of isekai, but this one’s debut proved surprisingly involving.

A lot of that has to do with heroine Aileen Lauren Dautriche, the daughter of a duke who finds herself remembering a past life where she plays an otome game which seems oddly similar to her current circumstances – namely, getting rejected by the prince in favor of the game’s heroine/insert character. She knows she’s destined to die at the claws of the Demon Lord (who happens to be the prince’s banished brother), so she quickly pivots and sets her efforts to making sure the DL has no impetus to into Dragon Mode. Her upbeat, take-charge attitude as she determinedly pursues the dashingly handsome Demon Lord makes her easy to root for, and pushing the pace was also absolutely the right call; it matches nicely with her spirit. The story also simply and effectively establishes Aileen’s background and where she might have gone wrong enough to end up in the villainess role. Even so, the episode wouldn’t work anywhere near as well if it did not also embody a somewhat flippant storytelling attitude. Aileen knows how ridiculous all of this is and just runs with it, and Claude’s reflexive magical reactions to what she does express his personality in an amusing way that his face doesn’t.

The first episode looks pretty good, too, especially in Claude’s character design, and delivers on just the right musical accompaniment. Overall, the first episode her has enough going for it that I may actually check out more of the series.

The Devil is a Part-Timer!! episode 11

Rating: B+

Ashiya is unquestionably devilish in the most literal sense of the word, but this episode we see that he can be that way in the figurative sense, too, and even without trying. Seems like Maou is not the only devil who is getting a human woman to crush on him.

And really, it’s not at all hard to understand why Rika is palpitating over Ashiya. He’s tall and handsome and has been proper and courteous – the perfect gentleman, in fact – in all of his encounters with Rika, even when Rika was being somewhat aggressive. Even Maou, who failed to notice for a long time that Chiho was crushing on him, is picking up on it. And while Suzuno has a point both about Maou’s indelicacy in asking Rika about it and keeping Rika out of their affairs, Maou has an equally good point about taking Rika into the loop: if Rika cannot handle the reveal, she is, indeed, best staying away, but if she can, then what’s the harm?

Of course, we’re talking about a scenario where the Hero is seeking out Yesod fragments, her angelic mother is (literally!) sneaking around behind her back, and another apparent angel with an Afro is up to no good, so things are not going to remain too casual for long. TVs are exploding and Chiho is in the hospital, and it all appears to be related to the angel Raguel*’s hunt for Lailah. (What the anime leaves out here from the novel is that phone service is also seeing disruptions around Tokyo, which kept Emi and Rika jammed with calls when they were at work.) As before, the series shows that, however emotionally insensitive Maou may be, he’s not all brawn, either, as he quickly pieces together what Raguel is doing and where he’s probably doing it from once he has the full picture. The little details here, like Suzuno working formulas concerning the application of celestial force, are also neat touches that have long been a franchise standard.

In general, this feels like the stereotypical episode for this franchise, and in this case, I mean that in the best sense. It has a good mix of the mundane and supernatural, lots of amusing little quirks, a playful tone that can become serious when needed, and the whole crew preparing to take action with the backing of one of the series’ staple dramatic themes. Watching how the season finishes out next episode – and what the deal is with the Yesod fragment ring Lailah puts on Chiho – should be fun.

* – In Judaic traditions, Raguel is the Angel of Justice, the one charged with essentially being the sheriff for fallen angels and demons, so this episode’s interpretation is largely following established religious lore

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? IV episode 10

Rating: A-

The wonderful summary quote for this episode on HIDIVE tells it all: “Some monsters you must fight and from others you must flee. But beware the Juggernaut lest you simply cease to be.”

The DanMachi franchise has had no shortage of intimidating foes over its run, whether it be a giant ape, a Minotaur, a Goliath, a Moss Huge, a Demi-Spirit, or even other adventurers. But no creation of the franchise has been more viscerally unsettling than the Juggernaut, a sleek, angular creature designed to simply obliterate anyone nearby in the defense of the Dungeon. And while the series has always made a point of emphasizing how unforgiving the Dungeon can be, no scenes in the franchise drive that point home more forcefully than the wholesale slaughter the Juggernaut carries out in this episode. It has speed that even a Level 4 has trouble tracking, claws that can skewer foes or rip them half, a bit that sever a person just as a well, a whipping tail which can throw opponents into walls with the force of a sledgehammer, and defenses which can reflect magic attacks. It’s not exactly wiping out chumps, either; most in Riviria are at least Level 2, yet they don’t even have time to react. Even Bell, the hero, cannot stand against it for long, and suffers uncharacteristically harshly for the hubris of thinking that he could.

Supporting all of this is some of the most truly outstanding sound design I’ve ever heard in an anime series. I have sung the praises of the soundtrack and sound effects before, but this episode takes those to another level. The Juggernaut’s unearthly screeches are what a true monster should sound like, the macabre sound of the bases drive the heavy tone of the dark revelations about the monster’s origins, mournful cellos speak to loss, and the tense symphonic orchestration powers the action scenes – or, rather, slaughter scenes. If you’re not listening to this episode on a headset or high-quality speakers, you need to, or you’ll miss out on all the neat little audio touches.

The whole episode isn’t just the Juggernaut, though. Jura and Ouranos take turns explaining how this is the creature which ended Astraea Familia and how that accidental summoning of it five years ago has been kept a secret for fear that adventurers knowing about it would make matters worse – and Jura is living proof of that. Implications are cast out that Ryu only survived at the cost of her fellow Familia members, though Jura’s insistence that she personally threw her comrades under the proverbial bus just to survive doesn’t jive. (And Jura is the farthest thing from an unbiased source here.) Quite possible that Ryu’s not denying it because she may see it that way herself, but the more likely scenario is that they sacrificed themselves so she, at least, could get away. Likely we’ll find out the truth of that in upcoming episodes.

And this definitely isn’t the end, because there’s no way that the franchise can do without Bell; he is the series’ identity more so than just about any other fantasy series character in recent memory. Yes, he lost his arm, but that did fall in the water, and someone waterborne is clearly headed this way despite her own terrors. Yes, it certainly looked like Bell was down for the count at the end, but notice how carefully the scene of him getting whacked by the Juggernaut’s tail showed the tail striking against his scarf – the scarf made of Goliath hide, the very one that the prescient Cassandra insisted that Welf make for him. The series doesn’t need to pull something out of its ass to save Bell under these circumstances, as the mechanism has been carefully built in over the last few episodes. No, the more interesting question is how Ryu, who spends the entire episode overwhelmed by fear and loathing, will react, especially in light of Jura’s insanely dangerous scheme.

For all that the episode does well, though, I still cannot give it a full A grade. That’s because the info dump which spans the middle portion of the episode saps some of the intensity and bogs the episode down just a bit. Yes, those are relevant and important details Jura and Ouranos are spilling, and yes, the episode needed some stall so that it could end on the right cliffhanger, but the episode spends just a little too long on them.

Strap in folks, because the ride’s far from over, despite the looming end of the cour.

The Devil is a Part-Timer!! episode 10

Rating: 4 (of 5)

With this episode, the series is fully back on track with the novels, picking up in the early stages of novel 5. The one change is that Emerelda didn’t bring up Lailah at all in the novel; as speculated last episode, that’s clearly meant to be a replacement for references skipped during the first season. While bringing up Lailah may presage developments in the next couple of episodes, it does not sidetrack in the slightest the overall story thrust: other events are percolating on the side as Maou is on a holy quest to obtain a TV.

Yes, that means a full return to the franchise’s tradition of having fun with over-dramatizing minutiae, and perhaps not surprisingly, that makes for the most purely entertaining episode in a while. Even Gabriel, who has (in the series’ classic ironic style) taken up residence in an Internet cafe, gets in on some of that action. Most of the rest is an overly-big deal about whether Maou is justified in getting a TV – or, perhaps more precisely, how he justifies it. The bigger shock to Emi is that Rika, her friend from work, is getting dragged into that as well when she mistakes Ashiya’s no-actual-ulterior-motives request for advice on evaluating TVs as a date. That Rika is flustered rather than bothered by this is not half as funny as how much trouble Emi has dealing with it while at work. With all the other crazy things going on in her life, this is what she is completely losing her composure over.

The plot is not being overlooked here, either, as several potential threads spin out here. In another bit of irony, just as Maou is on a quest for a TV, something happens to Chiho involving a flash from her TV. Gabriel’s visit to Lucifer reveals that he’s shifted focus from Yesod fragments to artifacts related to the legendary Overlord Satan (rather than Maou, the current Satan), which is certainly suggestive of a bigger scheme at work amongst the angels. The arrival of another angelic visitor also seems imminent (in fact, based on Gabriel’s phone call, he’s already in Japan), while Emi is using her enforced off time to look for further Yesod fragments, which may or may not have something to do with her mother. And oh, yes, Enta Isla is going to war in the continuing wake of the power vacuum left by the defeat and disappearance of the Demon King. If that all seems to anime-only viewers like more than can be resolved in the remaining couple of episodes, you’re absolutely right; the war reference is a teaser for later events (ones that might be reached if a third season is animated), so it may not even get mentioned again this season.

The other interesting point is a little more background on Lucifer/Urushihara. As in Biblical lore, this Lucifer also “fell” from Heaven, but in this case the impetus was boredom rather than pride. To him, Satan (was simply doing something far more interesting. Which Satan – Maou or the earlier Overlord Satan – he means is a bit in question, but seems to be Maou. If that is the case, then that means that the original Satan was also from Heaven. Again, not a revelation that will have immediate enough consequences to impact this season, but it is a plot element for the series’ long haul.

So yeah, it definitely feels like the series is back on track after a weak side track.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? IV episode 9

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Ryu is unquestionably a killer. However, she only kills people in the cause of vengeance, so whacking an informant isn’t her style. How moral it is to kill for vengeance is another matter, but that delineation that Bell insists on having spelled out, combine with him realizing what the item he picked up last episode was, is enough to de-escalate the initial potential fight between him and Ryu. It was a fight that neither wanted anyway, but more interestingly, it also establishes that Bell doesn’t seem to have as much of a problem with Ryu taking Jura out over past misdeeds. Of course, to make certain that Bell doesn’t get caught in any moral quandary, Jura quickly shows plenty enough villainy to justify even a heroic figure working to take him out.

That easy out is the only minor issue I had with what is otherwise a tense, well-executed episode that, despite the immediate danger the two Lambtons pose, is actually just set-up for the real fight next week. On one front we have Ryu and Bell teaming up to deal with the Lambton controlled by Jura; on the other, the rest of Bell’s expeditionary team must deal with the Lambton sicced on them by Turk. The Bell/Ryu fight shows where the skimped effort on animation last week went, with the snake-like lambtons being impressively mobile and well-integrated into the animation. (If CG was being used at all for them, it was hard to tell.) Though the other fight gets less emphasis, it also showed some nice teamwork in taking down an intimidating monster. I also liked how this gives a clearer picture of what tamers can do in this setting; they have been mention a couple of times before in both the first season of the main series and in Sword Oratoria, but this is the first time we really get to see what they can do.

(As a side note, the Lambtons shown here are not original creations. They are at least partly based on a monster from English folklore called a Lambton Worm, which was, in some accounts, described as being very snake-like.)

But the Lambtons are only appetizers, designed to keep the heroes occupied while Jura’s allies carry out the main element of the plot: arranging and setting off explosive items to damage the Dungeon. The Dungeon has previously been described as a living thing, and like any living thing, defense mechanisms get triggered when it takes sufficient damage. In humans and other animals, that means the release of white blood cells to fight off the infection. So what does the Dungeon come up with in a scenario where multiple floors get heavily-damaged? We only get the faintest hint of that oncoming horror as the episode ends, but Ryu clearly knows it and fears it, because it’s the same catastrophe used to wipe out the rest of her Astraea Familia. It’s just the right kind of irony that a total scumbag like Jura would come up with, and the kind of thing powerful enough to bring on the despair that Cassandra has foreseen.

Kudos to the production team for the sound design in this episode, especially the intimidating growling of the oncoming Juggernaut. Kudos also for the excellent design of character expressions for both Jura and Ryu; this is something easy to underrate until you have seen it done as well as it is done here. The next episode will feature the battle that novel fans have probably most been waiting for, and after the successful set-up this episode, I am eager to see what the Juggernaut looks like in animated form.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? IV

Rating: B+

Just from animated content, we know that Ryu once lost everything – her whole familia – and that one particular rival familia was responsible. In retribution, she did everything she could to wipe out that familia – here identified as Rudra* Familia, a part of Evilus (mentioned not in this series but in Sword Oratoria) – and by her own admission she was ruthless about it. But words spoken in calm, reflective moments do not adequately convey the sheer intensity of what drove – and, as apparent here, continues to drive – Ryu Lion. All it takes is one survivor from Rudra Familia for her to lose her composure, and evidence in this episode suggests that he’s either not the only one or else has some new allies.

Jura admits to having once been a part of Rudra Familia but claims he’s reformed. That’s so immaterial to Ryu that she’s even willing to strike down Bell – her acknowledged ally and the love interest of the person currently most dear to her (Syr) in order to get at him. That puts the good-hearted Bell in quite the fix. Hermes tried to have him shown the dark side of humanity back in episode 12 of the first season, but Bell was able to overcome that challenge without really learning the lesson Hermes intended. He saw some of that in season 2, but Apollo Familia was driven by their god and the business with Ishtar Familia was still mostly in the wheelhouse of heroic storytelling. And the animus of humanity towards monsters in season 3 was understandable with the general populace and just baseline evildoing in the case of Dix and Ikelos Familia. But this is where a dark heart that cannot just be played off as baseline evil or under a heroic umbrella must now be confronted. Whether her intent is morally right or not, Ryu can claim a certain amount of legitimacy in her actions. This isn’t the case with Wienne and Loki Familia; he doesn’t know what’s going on here, so does he, as a prospective hero, have any right or responsibility to intercede?

That’s not the only thing going on here, either. Some strange and powerful critter with six eyes and a bodyform like a snake is also lurking about, making new tunnels, and unsettling Marie, who pops up again to help Bell out. There’s also the strange rumbles and tremors to consider, which do not line up with the kind of magic that Ryu uses. Something more is happening, and it’s a safe bet that Jura and the werewolf Turk are at the core of it. Is Ryu involved, too, or did she just stumble into a bigger scheme?

The technical front this time has both big pluses and big minuses. On the good side, the musical score is fantastic throughout in working to set the tone, with selections reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies or famous classical music pieces like “In The Hall of the Mountain King.” On the bad side, this episode uses a lot of animation shortcuts in its action scenes, more than we’re used to seeing with this series. That could be concerning if it continues, or a sign that the production team is saving up for the more dramatic fight scenes to come. General quality control also drops off a bit in places. Those concerns are why I am not rating what is otherwise a fine episode a notch higher.

Other Series I Am Following – Non-Isekai Fantasy and Supernatural Round-Up:

Vermeil in Gold episodes 1-10 – Quite probable that I will give this one a full review when it wraps for the season, since it isn’t getting episode reviews over on ANN. So far it’s proving to be a competent but not exceptional Magical Girlfriend-styled series set in a fantasy “magic school” environment.

Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun episodes 1-9: I feel like an entire book could be written delving into the subtexts, symbolic meanings, and general nastiness of this entry, and I’m not sure that I am the right one to do it. While not quite as compelling as the first series, it is nonetheless utterly fascinating even when being thoroughly gross.

Call of the Night episodes 1-9 (I have not yet seen episode 10 as I write this): Maybe the series this season most-suited to episode-to-episode analysis. Not really what I originally expected, as it has remained remarkably analytical about the actions and motivations of its core cast, but it has remained fascinating in a completely different way than Made in Abyss.

Engage Kiss episodes 1-9: This one I will almost certainly be doing a full write-up for when it finishes, so I will reserve most comment for then. It’s another Magical Girlfriend-style series, but with a nastier twist and some bigger structural issues.

* Rudra was a Vedic god associated with storms and hunting. Associating him with forces of evil here is definitely the author using dramatic license.

The Devil is a Part-Timer!! episode 9

Rating: 3 (of 5)

I was slightly in error last week. While this mini arc isn’t in the novels, it actually is not anime-original, either; it did appear in the manga adaptation (which I have not read beyond the first volume). That does not make this any less of a two-episode filler arc, but it does mean that it could have some minor impact or reference back to it going forward.

Unlike the beach arc, the threat here turns out to be a much more mundane one: wholly human thieves out stealing from farms in the vicinity of the Sasakis and a thoroughly normal bear who gets startled into charging Maou, Emi, and crew by said thieves. That leads to the first of two mildly amusing scenes, where Emi winds up pulling wrestling moves on the bear. The second comes later, after Maou and crew reason out what’s going on and come up with a plan to stop it, and that leads to the scene shown in the screenshot above, where Crestia stops the thieves’ SUV in its tracks while Emi rips the roof on them and goes nearly as demonic in her intimidation as Maou does; this may easily be Crestia’s best screen shot between both seasons. I also have to give the episode a little credit for linking Maou momentarily getting his powers and demonic form back to the Kappa museum introduced last episode and the way the Sasaki family just rolls with the clearly-abnormal capabilities of Maou and crew under the grandmother’s “being with power used to be born from time to time, but there’s no need to make a fuss about it” logic.

However, the thoroughly ordinary nature of what’s going on here is also thoroughly underwhelming. If this was a more ordinary series than this two episode sequence might have been passable, but the series has shown that it is capable on way more than this on all fronts. It does allow Maou to ruminate a bit more on matters in the Demon Realm which led to the invasion of Enta Isla, and this may be a replacement for some minor scenes skipped here and there to this point, but it does not allow the episode to escape feeling like it is just killing time in between story arcs. (Leaving Chiho completely on the sidelines in this whole affair also didn’t help.)

At least the epilogue seems to be ordering things back towards the main storyline, though I am a little curious what the production team is aiming to do with the last arc based on that epilogue scene. In the original novels, the revelation to Emi that an angel named Laila was her mother came at the end of the first novel, during the scene that happened at the end of episode 6 of the first season. But that was skipped over in the anime version, only to be delayed until now. The delay has not really had any impact on the story prior to this point, so this may be intended to combine with the scene at the end of episode 7 to be a lead-in to a major plot point in novel 5. If so, I am quite curious to see what else about novel 5 they are going to have to jury-rig to make this work, especially with only three episodes left. Guess we’ll find out next week.