How a Realist Hero Rebuilt The Kingdom episode 8

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

One of the single biggest engineering achievements of the Roman Empire was also key to its long-term control over widely-spread territories: its system of ultimately more than 250,000 miles of roads, including more than 50,000 miles of paved roads. While Kaede is correct in this episode about how valuable roads like that are for trade purposes, they are at least as important for administrative and especially military purposes. (This has not changed with time, either; for instance, in the U.S., the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which established and began the construction of the Interstate Highway System, was pitched at least in part as a defense project.) Military units being involved in road construction was not unusual in Roman Imperial times (or in many other time periods and cultures across history), so the Forbidden Army being tasked with such duty here is highly regular; one would even think that their specialization in Earth magic would be helpful to the task, though no use of magic was shown in the road scenes. It does look like Roman Imperial road-building standards were being used in those scenes, however, including the use of the very durable Roman concrete.

The history geek in me loved that part of the episode, though other parts were interesting as well. The series seems to be making a habit of opening each episode with some world-building extemporizing, and while I have mixed feelings about the efficacy of this approach, this installment – about the uneven development of technology due to the presence of magic and fantastical beasts – also spoke to my inner geek. Kazuya is absolutely correct in his lament that technological development is often based on need; in fact, that’s the natural course of things, with the more logical and systematic lay-out of tech development being more a product of civilization-building games than reality. Kazuya does show himself adapting to that at least a bit in the use of Warden Trees to protect the roads, though not at the complete expense of preventing normal monster migration patterns. (The more systematic study of this is a more modern concept, though I would think that populations living closer to nature would have at least some awareness of this.)

The big event this time is the landslide in Aisha’s homeland. A Japanese person studying civil service would undoubtedly have a higher level of knowledge about such things than most, given how prone Japan is to such things (in fact, a big one occurred in Japan just a few weeks ago as I write this), so Kazuya being more knowledgeable on this front is more credible. The use of his Living Poltergeists for search mice is a neat idea, and I did like the added touch of him being driven nauseous by a grisly find; that would undoubtedly be especially upsetting to anyone not used to directly dealing with deaths like that, and it is something which often gets overlooked in these scenarios in fantasy settings.

The strongest parts of the episode were the scenes at the end. Kazuya’s acknowledgement to Aisha that prevention methods only reduce risk, not eliminate it, is undoubtedly one that Japanese citizens in particular can take to heart, and his comments about nature – his most philosophical reflections yet – feed into that as well. That he allows himself to break down before Liscia in the carriage on the return trip also signifies how much trust he places in here, even if his reaction reflects taking too much upon himself. Yes, it is the duty of a ruler or ruling body to put plans in place to deal with disasters, and he should be concentrating on “big picture” issues like that instead of personally looking for survivors, but he is trying to accomplish in a very short time changes that normally require decades or even centuries to develop and implement. He’ll burn himself out this way, so I hope this continues to be a story element going forward.

The episode is far less impressive on the production side. Too many stills, too much limited animation, and whatever the episode was trying to accomplish with the darker color filter in the God-Protected Forest scenes, it was more distracting than tone-setting. (See the screenshot above for the effect.) That is why I cannot quite give this episode a higher rating, even though it is best the best of the last few. Still, at the least the series feels more like it is on the right track now than a couple of episodes ago.

Thoughts On Other Series I Am Following:

Fena: Pirate Princess episode 3 – The plot thickens a bit as a new antagonist group gets established. My biggest gripe about episode 2 – i.e., that Fena was still in that impractical dress – also gets addressed. Can’t see this series ever being a favorite, as it edges a little too much into goofy territory, but I’m liking it well enough. I suspect that I will be commenting on this one on a regular basis.

I’m Standing on 1,000,000 Lives episode 19 – A new quest means a new member, and this time it’s an adult woman who also happens to be both a foreigner and a lesbian. But that’s not the only thing new: we get the revelation that others around the world have been separately dragged into this as well, hence suggesting that the other might eventually show. This also means another time jump of 14 years and the crushing sadness that Kahvel – one of 2020’s best characters – is no longer alive. Hardly the first time that the series has managed to pack some extra dramatic weight, and I doubt it will be the last.

Seirei Gensouki – Spirit Chronicles ep 7 – Well, that got unusually harsh and dark for this series, didn’t it? It did feel at the end like Rio was apologizing to himself at least as much as he was apologizing to the others

Fena: Pirate Princess ep 1-2

Two views on Fena

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

When Fena was very young, she was set loose on a lifeboat from her father’s ship as some calamity befell it. She came ashore on an island, where ten year’s later she’s about to be indoctrinated into life as a prostitute – and she’s in high demand for her “first time” because of her beauty and unusually pale hair. However, she has no intention of following through. Her complicated escape plan gets upended when old men once loyal to her father come to her rescue – albeit not without help. She eventually winds up on Goblin Island, which was once controlled by Fena’s family and where Japanese-themed travelers shipwrecked generations ago and have built their own little microcosm of Japanese society. Due to their enduring loyalty to Fena’s great-grandfather, the Japanese-types seek to carry out the last request of Fena’s father, which involves a strange block of transparent material. All Fena knows about it is that the word “Eden” may be associated with it, so she sets out on a journey on a special submersible boat to seek answers.

This collaborative project seems to be streaming subtitled on Crunchyroll and airing in dubbed form on Adult Swim. Though created and directed by the creator and director of Netflix’s B: The Beginning and animated by Production I.G., the series’ first two episodes felt like a deliberate effort to mix Western animation sensibilities with anime style, and this sometimes creates some jarring tonal jumps. The Western influences mostly show through in the more slapstick humorous aspects, while the action, designs, and ambiance are more typical of higher-end anime productions. The target audience here is also a bit confusing; at times the first two episodes feel like they are geared to be accessible to younger audiences, but Fena and her prostitute friend (guardian?) also speak frankly about Fena selling off the rights to her virginity (the series uses the term primae noctis for this) and some brigands tasked with killing Fena do talk about “having fun” with her first before being slain.

Beyond that, the first two episodes feel disjointed in other thematic ways. This is a clearly Western setting which has a very traditional Japanese-style enclave nearby? A time period which looks like it might be late 16th or 17th century, and yet there’s a submersible all-metal boat which looks like it could have sailed out of the pages of a Jules Verne novel? I also found it strange that Fena would have been sent off on her journey at the end of episode 2 without a clothing change, especially since she is shown in more appropriate sailing clothes in the opener and closer.

The jury’s still out on Fena herself as a character. She does seem independent-minded and ambitious while still having some bratty qualities, but she is not quite the instant charmer that Pacifica Casull from Scrapped Princess (the character she seems most spiritually similar to) was. Other characters are more stock personality types at this point. The plot seems like a fairly standard “explore to get to the bottom of a mystery” caper, but we’ll see on that, too.

Overall, the first two episodes have enough going for them on the set-up and technical front for me to give them a mild recommendation, but I am a bit leery on how this might play out.

How A Realist Hero Rebuilt The Kingdom ep 7

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Last episode ended with what appeared to be a shocking revelation to Kazuya from Glaive Magna, or at least something that he called “heavy.” And yet this episode entirely passed without any follow-up on that – or, indeed, any indication at all that such an issue is lingering. Granted, the elder Magna did say that he was not expecting the king to do anything about it at that time, and this being held off as a big hook for later seems entirely plausible. Still, a matter of such stress going completely unacknowledged is an awkward way to the handle the situation if it is not a complete oversight.

What the episode does do is use its now-traditional extemporizing in the intro to explain the organization of magic both in the world in general and in Elfreiden in particular. Much of this should be familiar to anyone who watches a lot of fantasy anime and/or plays fantasy RPGs, with the only minor tweak here being how specialists in each magic type generally end up in different military roles in Elfreiden. The one interesting point here is how “dark” magic is the catchall designation for “not easily classifiable as light or elemental,” which seems like it was brought up entirely to explain why Kazuya’s Living Poltergeist counts as dark magic. Honestly, explaining all of that probably was not necessary for introducing the mascot-sized version of the little ninja guy Kazuya was manipulating earlier using LP, but at least that allows for a vague thematic connection. And my, it looks like the ninja mascot could be as much of a charmer as Kazuya is proving to be.

The whole “adventure into the underground” part was just the fluff piece part of this episode, however. The real business is about the building of the new port city. The lead-in to this, where Kazuya is rallying and praising the white-collar workers who helped get the kingdom’s finances in order to make the project possible, is a little funny but also felt like it was stretching to use up time even at the time it happened. The series also uses another now-familiar gimmick by having Kazuya explain the purpose for it to Liscia so that it can also be explained to the audience. That people from a Renaissance-level setting would not be fully cognizant of economic principles like the Laws of Supply and Demand is at least somewhat credible; there is some evidence that earlier scholars understood the underlying concepts, but the laws did not start getting formalized until the late 17th and 18th centuries. These days, anyone with a high school level of knowledge about economics would be familiar with the basics of it, and someone like Kazuya, who was studying for civil service, would certainly know more than the average.

Even so, building a new port city expressly for the purpose of using these laws is quite ambitious, long-term thinking. So is the notion of specifically designing the city to minimize the impact of future disasters. This isn’t at all a new concept, but it is one that rarely gets used since cities are rarely planned out in advance. (I also find it interesting that this topic comes up when another concurrently-running series – I’m Standing on 1,000,000 Lives – is also using the concept of the lack of planning for disasters as a plot point.) I have always liked the concept of couching a natural disaster in mythological or supernatural terms (again, another direct parallel to what 1,000,000 Lives has been doing recently), and leave it to a dweller of a nation historically ravaged by tsunamis to figure out that the “sea god” was probably that: it wasn’t that a sea god was angry at people settling there, it was that the area is in a common long-term path for tsunami.

That is the aspect where the series is at its strongest, although these little moments between Kazuya and Liscia are growing on me, too. Once again, little that’s exciting is going on, but at least the series is staying consistent to the tone and nature it has shown so far.

English Dub: The first two episodes of the English dub are now available. Despite some minor, occasional points of stiffness in deliveries (mostly, I think, due to being too diligent about matching lip flaps), it seems to be a decent dub job so far. Casting seems fine, especially veteran Keith Silverstein as the former king, though the acid test will come when a passel of new recurring characters gets introduced in episode 3.

Other Series I Am Following:

With the school year back in session (and with heavier time demands than during COVID lockdowns last year), I am fully expecting at least a couple of series that I have been watching to this point to fall by the wayside; Kageki Shojo! is currently seeming like the most likely candidate for a drop, and it may not be the last one to go. Since there’s not much that I am highly excited about this season, that means that this section will probably continue to be shorter than what it was last season.

Fena: Pirate Princess – This has now debuted, but I will be writing it up separately.

86 English dub episode 9 – Okay, so this isn’t technically part of the season, but the dub has now advanced this far and is spectacular; it’s easily one of Crunchyroll’s best recent dub efforts. I am strongly considering doing a viewing guide for the series as a special posting once the dub is complete.

The Detective is Already Dead episodes 6-7: This series is starting to aggravate me, as it feels like someone got lazy while putting a much better series together.  I wholly agree with ANN reviewer Christopher Farris that the series invariably shines brightest when Kimihiko and Siesta are interacting with each other, and that can be seen in both of these episodes, especially in the bedroom scene. (Siesta bouncing around while drunk was a delight in more than one sense.) The randomness of the series’ construction had also been bothering me, but with episode 7 it finally clicked that the “Eye of Sapphire” mentioned at the end of episode 6 – and which Kimihiko and Alicia are looking for throughout episode 7 – is probably the idol’s false eye from the episode 3-4 arc. How or why those are linked is unclear, but it seems too much of a coincidence to ignore.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime ep 42 – One last set-up episode before Walpurgis events begin, and this one may be the most interesting of the lot. Rather than entirely focus again on what Rimuru is up to, it introduces us to one of the other Demon Lords and looks at what they are up to and think about what Rimuru is doing. The mix of misconceptions and keen insights is interesting, as is the introduction of another Demon Lord on Milim’s level, another dragon on Veldora’s level (his older sister, in fact), and an explanation for how Milim came to be Clayman’s pawn. This series might finally get lively.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom ep 6

Rating: 3 (of 5)

This time around, the episode begins with some lecturing on the political situation of the continent, as having at least some understanding of that is necessary for understanding the conversation that Kazuya and crew were starting to overhear at the end of last episode. The short version is that Elfreiden has, at best, only a neutral relationship with most of its neighbors and a potentially hostile relationship with one. Even more problematic is that Elfreiden’s three main dukes do not trust Kazuya (for understandable reasons, given how he came to be king), though fortunately for Kazuya, the Dukes also don’t trust other kingdoms which have been making overtures to them, either (again, for understandable reasons, given the situation). That will eventually give Kazuya an opening to deal with the problem, but for now, his goal is to win over one promising young soldier who seems inclined to side with one of the dukes aiming to oppose Kazuya.

I did like how Kazuya taking his time to win over the young man unfolded, as it showed Kazuya doing it not through threats, grand deeds, or charisma but instead by approaching the young man in terms that the soldier could appreciate: namely, that siding against the king would put him at potentially battle-level odds against the girl he was at least longtime close friends with and quite possibly in love with. Kazuya further gets credit for recognizing the thoughtfulness of the fox girl and further realizing that he can kill multiple birds with one stone by appointing her as a staff officer under his strategist, which not only takes advantage of her insight and encourages her loyalty but also draw the young man (Halbert Magna) tightly into position by putting her at the fox girl’s side. Doubtless this will also insure Halbert’s father’s loyalty as well, as his son gets both leniency and a worthy position out of it.

On the downside, the gracelessness of these info dumps leaves a lot to be desired. Director Takashi Watanabe is more known for high-spirited action-heavy fare like The Slayers, Ikkit Tousen, Shakugan no Shana, and Freezing, but he has also done more thoughtful titles like Starship Operators and especially Boogiepop Phantom, so I have to think this is more a problem with either the original writing or the series composition. Either way, the production team still has not figure out how to get these dumps to flow better with the storytelling. At least this is partly balanced out by a nice Kazuya/Liscia scene, Kazuya’s more advanced use of his Living Poltergeists, and whatever Juna was preparing for with what she was holding behind her back; she may be much more dangerous than she looks.

Once again the episode ends on a minor cliffhanger, as the matter that the elder Magna brings up certainly doesn’t seem to be trivial. Hopefully it’ll be something to shake the series out of the rut that it is sinking into; we’re six episodes in and it still feels like the series is in set-up mode.

Other Series I Am Following:

Limited additional commentary again this time, and it may stay that way for a while, as the return of school in my area is going to start seriously cutting into my free time. (My school’s first day for students is tomorrow as I write this.)

Night Head 2041episode 4: While I still have issues with aspects of the underlying premise (I have a hard time buying that something that drastic could be implemented so fast, war or not), the plot developments and better-than-average 3DCG are enough to keep me going on it. The series certainly has a good eye for staging action scenes, at least.

The Detective is Already Dead episode 6: Still want to love this series, but it’s fading. I can see the kind of attitude that it is striving for, but it is not pulling it off, and the current flashback is not yet contributing anything to the overall sense of continuity.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt The Kingdom episode 5

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

I will give the continuation of the foodie broadcast some credit: it did find something interesting to finish its cooking segment on. The notion of using a specially-killed slime gelin as the base for making what is essentially udon noodles is a clever twist, one that I might expect more from the manga Delicious in Dungeon. (On a side note, that is one of the two as-yet-undapted manga that I most want to see an anime version for.) Discovering things that most had not even conceptualized as food (much less considered) proves Poncho’s value to the kingdom of Elfreiden. However, he’s the least charismatic of the supporting characters so far, so I hope he fades into the background for a while.

Beyond that, the otaku-pandering nature of the series is gradually showing more and more, which gives it further separation from more dedicated world-builders like Ascendance of a Bookworm. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it just depends on what you want from the series. This shows most clearly in the second half. I don’t at all have a problem with the notion of a ruler going undercover to scope out life outside the palace; there is plenty of literary and even some historical precedent for this, after all. But doing it in school uniforms with a suspiciously modern design to them? Trying to disguise himself behind glasses, especially after showing his face in a nationwide broadcast? Someone’s trying too hard to gimmick the story here.

The topic which comes up for discussion while Kazuya, Liscia, and Aisha are at Juna’s café is an additional bit of pandering, even if there is historical precedent there as well. With so many pretty girls around, Kazuya not ending up in a harem situation at some point would have been more surprising. To make things easier, the harem concept is built in here: polygamy is widely-practiced and accepted in this world, including both men having multiple wives and women having multiple husbands (though the latter is rare). That means that the situation of Liscia’s parents being monogamous is rather unusual, with her father marrying into royalty rather than the other way around, but they do have special circumstances and that does explain why everyone seemed to be deferring to the queen even though the king is announcing the decisions. Even so, Liscia not batting an eye at the notion of being just the first of Kazuya’s theoretical “less than eight” wives seems awfully convenient. Guess she might not end up being the resident tsundere after all?

Still not a fan of the weak way that this series sets up its hooks for the next episode, but at least it looks like Hakuya is going to be back in the picture more prominently. So far, the series feels like it is just settling into cruise mode.

Next week I will have thoughts on the English dub, which began this past weekend with episode 1.

Other Series I Am Following:

Limited list this week, partly because I am already behind on getting this posted.

I’m Standing on 1,000,000 Lives eps 16 – For all of the substandard production values that weight down the series, and for all of the weak staging of the orc fights, this one still somehow continues to land occasional moments of greater gravity and impact. That is quite evident in the chaos of the eruption, which disrupts the fight against the orcs. I loved the way the island’s songs spoke to past eruptions, hence preserving the legacy of the island’s dangers in a way later generations might appreciate if they can just remember the context; very reminiscent of a key storytelling element from one of my all-time favorite fantasy series: Moribito – Guardian of the Spirit. Stuff like this is why I keep coming back to this series.

Preview: The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!

Jahy in child and adult forms

The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!

Streams: Crunchyroll on Saturdays                          Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Jahy was once the domineering second-in-command of the Dark Realm. However, a magical girl smashing her main mana crystal didn’t just throw her out of the Dark Realm and into the human realm; it also reverted her to the body of a child. The mana crystal pendant she has left still gives her some power, enough so that she can temporarily revert to her adult form, but until she can collect more mana crystals she has to use that time to eke out a living at a waitress at an izakaya restaurant, while also contending with her employer’s sister, who is her landlord and, for some reason, expects to be paid rent on schedule. Oh, the ignominy!

This much-anticipated manga adaptation is a straight comedy in a familiar vein: a once-powerful person must lower themselves to squeaking by as an hourly employee after finding themselves largely-depowered and destitute in this one. In concept it much resembles The Devil is a Part-Timer!, even down to the magical girl responsible for Jahy’s situation also eventually showing up (based on the opener, anyway). This version is aiming for less sophisticated humor and more of a slapstick-style focus, but that is not necessarily a negative here. Jahy may not be a terribly original character, but a girl who could easily be mistaken for having delusions of grandeur is ripe with comic possibilities. Also, as cute as she is in child form, she is one of the sexiest of recent anime character designs in her adult form and skimpy demonic dress; if a flood of doujinshi doesn’t result from this title, I will be quite surprised. The animation does not seem to be overly stressing the potential fan service angle, so those concerned about being distracted by such content need not worry.

While I am not likely to follow this one (my viewing schedule is already unmanageably full as it is!), I might check in on it from time to time, as it looks like a good deal of light fun.

Special Review: DanMachi novel 16

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Note for anime-only followers of the franchise: The events of this novel take place after the arc likely to be covered by the upcoming season 4 of the anime. Being familiar with that arc (covered by novels 12-14) is not strictly necessary for understanding what this review will be talking about, and no spoilers for it will be given.

Note for novel followers of the franchise: Reading the Familia Chronicle: Episode Freya novel before reading this one is very strongly recommended, as that introduces some of the key members of Freya Familia who are present here but haven’t previously been brought up in the main series or Sword Oratoria and provides some vital clues about the truths underlying this novel.

One of the longest-standing supporting characters/wannabe love interests in the DanMachi franchise is Syr Flover, the waitress at the Benevolent Mistress who regularly makes Bell’s lunches and has clearly long been sweet on him. Throughout the main series, Familia Chronicles: Episode Lyu novel, and various stories in the Memoria Freese game, an element of mystery has persisted about who she really is. Despite having no Falna, she has shown an uncanny ability to win people over and is frightfully unbeatable at poker. More significantly, connections to Freya Familia have long been implied despite her not being one of their adventurers; one of Freya’s Level 6s has been known to watch out for her, she has been known to name-drop the familia, and she is working at a tavern run by a former captain of the familia, who once mentioned about having to go to Freya Familia to talk to them about something because of her. Further, Bell obtaining the grimoire which gave him his magic after Syr indicated that he could borrow the book (and after Freya specifically pulled it off her shelves with the intent of it getting to him) has always seemed too coincidental, and Syr has always seemed to get away with things that the other waitresses couldn’t (or at least with far less harsh punishment). The Episode Freya novel is even more clear about the connection. So who is Syr, really?

That’s the question that this novel spends almost its entire time preparing to answer, with the revelation finally dropping on the next-to-last page of the main story. The impetus of the novel’s plot is Syr formally inviting Bell on a date during the Goddess Festival, with an implication that it is part of a high-stakes challenge between Syr and Freya. The story takes Bell through the preparations for the date and then the date itself, while the rest of Hestia Familia is being distracted by a favor being called in. Naturally, given the individuals involved, this is not without complications, both in the form of Freya’s overzealous and overprotective minions and Syr’s own desires to upend the plans, to say nothing of certain individuals with an interest in one or both parties who wind up spying on the date.

At its most amusing, the novel shows Bell living up to the series’ title as part of his “training” to become a proper date for Syr, and there is something inherently funny about the normally-timid Bell suddenly outwardly becoming a suave ladies’ man, to the point that even Syr takes a while to get a handle on what she’s dealing with. The date visits some familiar locations but also allows the introduction of some of the more touristy features of Orario (although the dimensions of some of them strain credulity!) and throws in cultural features as well; the Goddess Festival, which is basically a Harvest Festival done Orario-style, is an interesting addition, and references are made to other celebrations which, to this point, have only been mentioned or appeared in the Memoria Freese game. Details on one of the in-setting book Dungeon Oratoria’s best-known stories are also introduced.

However, the novel does have a much more serious side, and that kicks in as the temptations rise for Bell and the stakes seem to rise for Syr. The novel also does not forget Bell’s supposition at the end of novel 15 that there might be a connection between the ancient hero Albert and the current hero Aiz Wallenstein based on surname similarities, though that is more of a side point. (That Albert was responsible for the Black Dragon being one-eyed is, I believe, a new revelation as well.) All of those lead to the dramatic climax, which is followed further by the revelation of Syr’s identity, which is followed by what writer Fujino Omori refers to as a “plot bomb” in the Afterword. And yeah, that’s an apt name for that final development. It has the potential to shake up the story at least as much as Weine’s introduction at the end of novel 8 did. However, given the character of the person responsible for the development, it is something which had to be expected to happen eventually.

Without getting into spoilers, the revelation about Syr’s identity is, unlike the revelation of the true masterminds in Sword Oratoria volume 12, something which is reasonably deducible. It is a possibility that I have long had in the back of my mind but was not fully convinced could be supported by circumstances. The logistics of it also seem a bit suspect. However, a handful of details scattered throughout this novel point firmly in that direction, and in retrospect, certain events and behaviors which have been scattered across the breadth of the main series and Familia Chronicles novels make much more sense within the context of this revelation. This also raises the question of who all knows the truth. The upper echelon of Freya Familia seems to, and I have to think that Mia does, but the rest of the Benevolent Mistress waitresses (and especially Lyu) clearly don’t.

In a technical sense, this may be the best of Omori’s novels yet, as it avoids nearly all of the niggling style quirks that have frequented Omori’s previous novels. The one downside is that he seems to conveniently forget about certain supporting characters that were left in a bind shortly before the end, but presumably the next novel will have something to say about that.

 In all, the story is a satisfying addition to the franchise, one which leaves shivers of anticipation about the upcoming consequences of its ending.

How A Realist Hero Rebuilt The Kingdom ep 4

Note: Click here to skip to the “Other Series I Am Following” part

Tomoe and Kazuya

Rating (first half of ep 4): 4 (of 5) Rating (second half of ep 4): 2 (of 5)

Ugh, again, apologies for this being much later than it should be; my weekend was unexpectedly busy, and then the arrival of a high-priority novel (which may be reviewed separately) delayed this a couple days more. But I should be back on schedule for episode 5! For real this time!

With the advent of episode 4, Realist Hero is proving to be nearly a frustrating a series as it is a fascinating one. This trend clearly started last episode with the all-too-long introduction of characters who will play key roles in the story going forward, and it continues this episode by spending nearly half of its run time on a food-tasting broadcast. . . one which – impossible though it may seem! – ends on a food tasting-related cliffhanger. Hopefully, the carry-over of this one to the next episode will prove to be as significant as last episode’s cliffhanger about the little wolf girl’s secret was.

And speaking of that, I was not expecting that to amount to much more than a throwaway moment, but it actually does turn out to have been at least partly worth the cliffhanger treatment. The revelation that communicating with the seemingly-inscrutable enemy might be possible is, as Kazuya correctly surmises, one that could rock the entire continent to its core, so Kazuya’s caution over both who might have heard it and over protecting Tomoe is certainly warranted. Proclaiming her to potentially be one of the kingdom’s most important people is not an exaggeration, either, so the time and care spent in sorting out how best to protect her without raising suspicions is welcome. I also especially liked how both this episode and the last one took pains to show Kazuya crouching down to Kazuya’s level, so she would not feel so intimidated. This is a markedly different approach than seen in a series like Ascendance of a Bookworm, which regularly emphasized that Main was at a seeming disadvantage in dealing with adults because she had to always look up at them. While that wouldn’t intimidate a child with the mentality of an adult, it would a true child in most cases. (Another potential parallel is the situation of Tomoe needing to be adopted for her own protection, a situation that Main will probably be facing if a sequel of her series ever gets made.)

Tomoe’s part is, by far, the most interesting part of the episode, even if it does lean a bit too heavy on narrator exposition about some relevant details for my tastes. The scene with Kazuya and Liscia after that is also cute. Sadly, the whole episode could not be spent on those because two other new inductees need attention – or, more specifically, the point to the enthusiasm over Poncho needs attention. As expected, Poncho’s desirable expertise is in his knowledge of food alternatives for a country facing a food shortage. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the concept here – i.e., using palace personnel to show off how edible and even tasty local delicacies can be – and some of the foodie details are a little interesting, but did a whole half an episode (and potentially then some, since the scene is not complete at the end of the episode) have to be devoted to this? I wonder if there wasn’t a better way to streamline this.

The one other note here is that artistic quality control is starting to look shaky. This is particularly noticeable in how the exact placement of Tomoe’s tail on her backside seems to shift around, but it also shows in the Kazuya/Liscia scene and occasionally others as well. This is hardly a major concern yet, but since this series is more visually detail-conscious than a concurrently-running isekai series like Tsukimichi, it bears paying attention to going forward.

Other Series I Am Following:

The Detective is Already Dead eps 1-4 –I really want to like this series, and I do like the concept of a former sidekick having to step up when the “great detective” unexpectedly passes on, but I feel like it is still settling into its long-term format. The introduction at the end of episode 4 of the blond girl seen prominently in the opener should help fill that out. This one seems like a fine view as long as it is not taken too seriously. 3.5/5.

Battle Game in 5 Seconds eps 1-3 – As much as I recognize that this is just a straight super-powered death game format, I still find myself getting drawn in by it. I still do not like the main catgirl villain at all, but the quirks and intricacies of each person’s powers still holds a lot of potential and Yuri is starting to grow on me. Not so much the personality of lead protagonist Akira, but we’ll see how things go there. 3/5

Seirei Gensouki – Spirit Chronicles eps 1-4 – Though arguably the weakest of this season’s crop of isekai titles on visuals, this one is also offering at least some appeal even to those not won over by the girly-cute character designs. The path to collecting the scattered isekai cases is the biggest draw for me so far, which makes Rio’s encounter with the little girl-reincarnate in episode 4 a potentially intriguing point. I do like how Rio has not fully accepted yet that he was Haruto, instead talking about him like a different person; this would, I think, be a more common reaction. Might hang on this one a while longer to see where it goes.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as A Slime eps 38-40 – The meeting has been going on now for four friggin’ episodes? What the hell? Even by shonen action standards, that’s one hell of a long meeting. I continue to watch this one because nothing else is being released on Tuesdays, but it is doing absolutely nothing right now to get me enthusiastic about it.

Tsukimichi – MoonLit Fantasy- episodes 1-4 – Somehow this series does not feel as generic and cheesy as it actually is, for it is a mostly-pure power fantasy with harem elements attached. The attitude that none of this should be taken too seriously is the right fit for the series, and as a result, each of the four episodes so far has been loads of fun. Even if you’re not looking for another isekai title, I do recommend this one.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S episodes 1-3 – So far this season is not quite as crisp as the first one, and some of its content is edgier. However, I feel it is at least close to recapturing the spirit which made the first season such a fan-favorite title.

Night Head 2041 episodes 1-2 – Haven’t had time to get to episode 3 as I write this, but this one is showing some potential as a much heavier take on controlling those with special abilities. I am not ruling out going to episode reviews on this one since Anime News Network is not covering it this season.

Scarlet Nexus episodes 1-4 – This is probably the most tenuous title on my watch list at this point, as I am not being won over by the nihilistic spirit of its apparent villainous plot. Will give it maybe one more episode to impress me.

The Aquatope on White Sand eps 1-3 – This one is a major winner, quite possibly one of the season’s best. It is fully in the spirit of predecessors like Hanasaku Iroha and Iroduku, and the dynamics between the two lead girls are shaping up quite nicely. Seeing in episode 3 that other characters are going to be allowed in on the magic of the setting was also a nice touch. This will likely be a priority view each week.

I’m Standing on 1,000,000 Lives eps 13-15 – This is a series that I will probably continue watching even though I will never consider it a favorite or priority view (especially with Kahvel apparently permanently sidelined). Its technical merits are also still as lame as ever. Still, I find myself not quite able to drop it yet.

Remake Our Life!  epis 1-3 – Although I like this series, I am already an episode behind on it, and that puts it at risk of being dropped. (This may be a series that I will watch in chunks as the season progresses.) Still, it is a good series with strong technical merits, and I like how the character developments are setting up so far.

Kageki Shoujo!! Eps 1-4 – Somehow I am still watching this one, and episode 4 was impressive in how it handled the situation with Ai and the not-really-a-stalker guy. On the downside, the upcoming bulimia story arc does not interest me at all. The one thing kinda keeping my interest is seeing how Sarasa’s kabuki background might emerge, but I’m not sure if that’s going to be enough when I have to start cutting back on my view list (due to the imminent restart of school for the season).

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt The Kingdom episodes 1-3

Note: This will be one of my regular weekly reviews, and it should be on a regular “no later than next-day” schedule starting this coming weekend.

Kazuya and Princess Liscia

Rating (ep 1): 4 (of 5)

Rating (ep2): 4.5

Rating (ep 3): 3

Though Social Studies in Secondary Education was my college major, Economics was the one subject in the field that I avoided taking a collegiate-level course on, in large part because the high school version of it bored me. Hence me eventually developing an interest in anime series which are heavily-grounded in economics is quite ironic, but I have favored them ever since starting to follow the Spice & Wolf franchise in the late 2000s. That interest continued with MAOYU and Ascendance of a Bookworm, and one or two others along the way that I am sure that I am forgetting. This isekai series, which is based on a light novel series, has a similar kind of foundation to its predecessors, one which looks more at the nitty-gritty details than the grand adventures of its medieval fantasy setting – at least so far, anyway. That gives it the potential to be involving for those who were fans of any of the aforementioned franchises, though episode three also shows some troubling warning signs.

In the story, Kazuya Souma is a studious young man in modern Japan who doesn’t have any family ties left, but suddenly getting summoned to another world still throws him off. Worse, he finds that he’s not supposed to be a battle hero for the Elfrieden Kingdom who summoned him, but rather a tribute to the Gran Chaos Empire (in lieu of money), which is bearing the burden of the fighting against the invasive Demon Territory and expecting other natures to contribute. To avoid that fate, Kazuya sees only one option: convince the leadership of the financially-troubled Elfrieden to reform their kingdom’s finances so that the tribute can be paid after all. To his surprise, he is so convincing at this that the weak-willed current king chooses to abdicate in favor of Kazuya, as he sees the young man to be more suited to the task.

While this might seem overly optimistic and irresponsible at first, the first episode does at least clarify that multiple nights of discussions led to this decision, and that it might be the first truly sound decision that the spineless king has made. (Interesting that even the ministers seem to look to the queen for approval, though!) The other mild surprise is that Princess Liscia, a boyish type who actively serves in Elfrieden’s military, has not yet turned into the total tsundere which might be expected for a character in her situation. After all, she was promised in marriage to Kazuya as part of the deal, and that suddenly happening would throw anyone off, but through the first three episodes she is shown quickly coming to appreciate how serious and thoughtfully Kazuya is taking his new role and how hard he is working for the betterment of Elfrieden. He’s even being thoughtful towards her, both by giving her the option to reject the marriage arrangement and by showing her what she needs to know so that she can eventually rule herself. By the end of episode 3, signs are already showing that she may be falling for him, so anything less than that eventually happening will be a disappointment at this point.

The first three episodes are all about laying the foundation for the economic revitalization of the kingdom, based on Kazuya’s premise that things like wars cannot be handled unless the kingdom has a firm financial basis first. Episode 2, where Kazuya makes a kingdom-wide announcement that he is recruiting talented individuals in all fields regardless of status or background after realizing that most of the kingdom’s administration is lacking, is the strongest and most effective episode so far at promoting this revitalization. In fact, it’s done well enough to give me high hopes about the series accomplishing grand things despite its more mundane focus. It also furthers some indications made in episode 1 that the series will also be tracking how others in power and information positions view Kazuya’s actions.

Sadly, episode 3 is a regression on this front, one that bogs down badly by taking nearly the whole episode to introduce several individuals shown (and named!) in the opener. The characters being introduced are not the problem, and the specialist role each will play for Kazuya is obvious in most cases: the dark elf is his champion, the singer is his tool for influencing the kingdom’s morale, the smart human will be his advisor, and the beast girl’s ability to communicate with animals has all sorts of potential applications. The most interesting case is the hard-core foodie, who worthiness is least obvious but still important: his knowledge of cuisine from all over the world will be invaluable for determining which food crops would be worthy financial investments both for feeding the populace and for trade, especially since Kazuya is seeking to reverse a previous trend towards cash crops that have gone bust. I did particularly like how the adviser guy’s estimation of Kazuya switched to favorable based on Kazuya picking up on that. But did a whole episode really have to be spent on this? They didn’t even finish with the beast girl’s introduction, either – and hopefully she has something more crucial than just needing to go to the bathroom that the episode cliffhangs on, though I wouldn’t put it past the writing to pull that stunt.

As for the economics side of things, all the points and observations that Kazuya makes are sound, practical ones, such as monetizing treasures that are just sitting around gathering dust and have no major symbolic value or realizing that the over-commitment to a cash crop has cut into the kingdom’s ability to feed itself. Also, some fresh blood with fresh ideas was clearly needed to shake up a kingdom which had become too staid in its ways due to weak leadership. However, did the person doing the shake-up have to be an isekai individual? After all, Machiavelli’s The Prince (which Kazuya was shown reading before getting spirited away) was written during Italy’s Renaissance period, and the economics of things like cash crops – and how that could go awry – was understood (if not widely-used) even earlier than that. The idea of recruiting the most talented regardless of social background is also hardly a modern concept; leaders as far back as antiquity were known to have done that (though admittedly it wasn’t a common practice). Basically, I’m a little concerned about too much credit being given to Kazuya for his innovations based on him simply being from a more modern world.

But I am willing to give the series time to set itself up on that point, since this is not going to be a fast-moving story. Technical merits so far are only average at best, and none of the character designs used so far stand out. Both the OP and ED themes are solid (though the visuals for the latter are lacking), but the musical score is not otherwise remarkable. Hence the series is going to have to carry itself entirely on its story content, but at this time, I can see no reason why it will not be able to do so.

So I’m a Spider, So What? ep 24 (series finale)

Rating: 3.5

First, apologies for the delay on posting this. I have talked about this final episode extensively in other forums, so it slipped my mind that I had not done a proper write-up here.

After episode 23, I was a bit worried about how the final episode would manage to cover everything that was left in novel 5 without seeming too rushed. But that’s exactly what the final episode did: it powered through all of the key points at a brisk pace, which amounts to a more frenetic episode than normal for this franchise. In the process it brings the human side of the story to a cliffhanger stopping point, while also progressing the spider side to the point where Kumoko formally hooks up with Demon Lord Ariel and baby Sophia.

On the human side, the addition of the Glorias to the battle against Kyouya and Sophia has (as expected) a negligible effect on how the battle plays outs. Even those war machines do not pose much of a threat to those two powerhouses, and Shun and his companions are clearly not in Kyouya’s league any more than they are in Sophia’s. (Exactly why they’re so much stronger is beyond the scope of this series, but will be covered in both cases if there are follow-up seasons; Kyouya’s story is told in novel 8 and Sophia’s is given piecemeal from volume 6 on.) Though hardly good, the CG and battle staging is at least a bit better than in the previous couple of episodes, so the real problem spots here are how both Anna’s sacrifice and Shun’s use of Mercy triggering Taboo are handled. In the former case, the anime has done a poor job of establishing Anna’s importance to Shun (and vice versa), which is a failing compared to the novels and sure to leave anime-only viewers scratching their heads. The latter case may also confuse anime-only viewers, since the series has skipped over Shin using Mercy in three other cases; in the anime, he has only been shown using it for Katia and Anna. Otherwise, the series ends the human side exactly where it does in the novels, though it leaves out one slight detail: Hiiro Wakaba was especially memorable because – despite her reclusive personality – she was universally regarded as the prettiest girl in class.

The spider side is handled better, though the series could have put a little more effort into setting up that Kumoko could survive by transferring her mind to one of the newborns created via the Egg-Laying skill; this was only vaguely hinted at as a possibility a few episodes back. The adaptation is skipping a little in having Kumoko go right to Arachne form, but I saw nothing problematic here about how that sequence is handled. Further, seeing the expressions on Kumoko’s human face as she continues to talk mentally (and not through her human mouth!) was a delight. That dovetails directly into Potimas’s efforts to first take – and then later kill – Sophia, who is revealed to have turned Merazophis into a vampire out of desperation for a protector who won’t die on her.

That part and Kumoko’s ensuing arrival and duel with Potimas (or, rather, the remote-controlled Potimas Terminator (which is, presumably, how he survived being beheaded by Sophia on the human side several episodes back) are also handled pretty well; given the production problems the series was dealing with, I have to wonder if that sequence was  originally intended to be done in CG but had to be redone in 2D animation when the CG work broke down. Ariel’s arrival ends that, shows the full extent of Body Brain integrating with her, and shows how the two came to a peaceable working relationship. In other words, while the human side comes down to a cliffhanger, the spider side ends the first major stage of its story and sets up for the transition into the next stage.

On the whole, I can see this episode being a messy experience for anime-only viewers, as it does not resolve much (especially on the human side) and throws out a ton of hooks for future stories. The revelation that the elves are completely the bad guys, rather than just doing some bad things, may also be a bit jarring. As a novel reader, though, I am generally pleased with how both the last episode and the adaptation in general has played out. Yes, the adaptation has had some animation and editing issues that can probably be attributed to a too-ambitious production schedule, and the series would be better if a couple of second-half episodes were entirely redone, but I found it plenty entertaining enough, and enough of a departure from the normal isekai power game routine, to still give the adaptation a favorable rating.