18if #7 – No preamble this week as Haruto and Kanzaki are immediately repurposed into the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion in a realm controlled by a witch who loves The Wizard of Oz. Only this journey is about the Tin Woodman, and what he lost when he was rebuilt without a heart.
Pol and his best friend Pot are of course named for the infamous Cambodian, but that’s just a hint to think in terms of autocratic rulers. Japanese viewers will immediately recognize the rolypoly prince as a stand-in for the short fat dude currently dictatoring just the other side of the Sea of Japan. Allusions are made to Kim Jong-un’s education abroad (in Switzerland), reports that he had his own uncle executed, and North Korea’s periodic famines.
And then there’s the whole atomic bomb aspect. Japan is kept constantly anxious that it will be at or near the top of the list of targets if North Korea ever manages to put together a working nuclear missile and gets crazy enough to fire it. If dreams affect the real world, does that mean that Pol’s kingdom is now a nuclear wasteland? That would mean Nene’s attempt to break through his isolation and shake some sense into him has lead to untold deaths…but maybe it was only a choice of whose country got bombed.
And on top off all that, there’s the heart-wrenching story about the cat, the journey through Chinese philosophy, the nod to Kurt Vonnegut, and an entirely new art style, all in 24 minutes. This isn’t just a new high point for 18if, it’s easily the single best episode of anime I’ve seen this year.
Chronos Ruler #7 – One minute Kiri is on a plane to Couljours lamenting his increasingly embarrassing relations, and the next minute they’re all one big happy family ready to kick Horologue butt. The catalyst for this transformation is one Bill Raiden, a devastatingly trope-savvy online gamer with a demon-summoning ring.
Bill is a past hikikomori — a shut-in who has completely retreated from the physical world — who was forced back into contact with the world when his mother died. In a contrast to how anime often valorizes the hikikomori lifestyle, Bill feels bad about disappointing his mother and treating her as a servant, and is under the impression that if he helps the Horologues out, he can go back in time and make it up to her.
After a solid fight with Bill and his dragon and some exceptionally dodgy physics (I like that Mīna had to put up a wall of air to keep the plane from depressurizing, but then being able to stand on top of a plane travelling hundreds of miles per hour and chat casually, sorry, no), Victo suddenly half-remembers…something. About his maybe-dead wife, perhaps? But he has a vision of two coffins, at least one of which is empty. Who else may have been caught up in whatever scheme he was running before he started losing his age and memories?
Made in Abyss #7 – Some important tidbits are dropped about both Lyza and Riko, but the main theme of this episode is that Ōzen is a stone-cold sadist. Possibly one who really believes she’s helping people prepare for the rigors of the lower Abyss, but her solution to pretty much everything seems to be to find ways to batter those around her both physically and mentally.
We see Lyza’s early relationship to Ōzen — but more importantly, we learn that Lyza grew up in the very same orphanage as Riko. This cycle of explorers who are touched by the Abyss leaving behind children who then go on to be explorers themselves has been going on for a while. In Riko’s case, that even includes the Abyss playing a part in her birth — she was stillborn, and somehow rebuilt by an artifact.
We also learn that Ōzen’s strength comes from the deliberate use of artifacts to enhance it. So what did Lyza do to herself to become the Terminator? Was it involved in Riko’s stillbirth, or was its influence part of why she gets headaches looking at the surface world?
Magical Circle Guru-Guru #7 – Another village, another monster-killing quest. This one is complicated by the fairies being a bunch of shippers who can’t wait to see the hero and heroine get together. Kukuri acknowledges her feelings to herself, but she wants to tell Nike about them in her own time, and, more importantly, in her own clothes rather than some fanservicey getup.
Part of the reward for this one is a much larger quest of the type that keeps many a long-running fantasy series going: Kukuri must visit every region of the world and recruit the help of all the local guardian spirits, while Nike must somehow make contact with a group of elemental lords. This means they’ll be at it a while — hopefully the jokes will last.
Katsugeki Touken Ranbu #8 – The First Unit is almost ready to hand the spotlight back to the Second, but first they’re going to compound the changes made to history by introducing a few more of their own, helping out the survivors of those who were killed by Slasher. And, it’s a nice gesture, but it’s still hanging over all of this that even what looked like a major failure a few episodes ago turned out to have no effect, and ever since then it’s felt like there are no stakes in this story at all.
Meanwhile, Kanesada is still moping about that non-failure, because nobody seems able or interested in explaining to him that being overwhelmed by crushing numbers of enemies is not really his fault. Still, everyone does eventually manage to assure him that they’d go back into battle with him, and the Second Unit is mobilized to fight a new threat in an unknown time.
Having done the Meiji Restoration and the Sengoku Period, I’m going to guess that next they’ll be hitting the late Heian Period.