Categories
Media Review

Otome Youkai Zakuro

Otome Youkai Zakuro

This week I watched the 13-episode series Otome Yokai Zakuro, or “Demon Girl Zakuro”, on Crunchyroll. It’s based on an ongoing manga series about a half-spirit girl named Zakuro, her half-spirit and full spirit friends, and the human imperial army officers who team up with them to form the Ministry of Spirit Affairs. The story takes place in 19th century Japan shortly after the Meiji Restoration, during a time of unrest and change due to westernization. In this slightly-altered history, humans and spirits live side-by-side, but westernization efforts are marginalizing the spirits, causing conflicts to arise. And of course, there are evil spirits, too. Zakuro’s team takes requests from various parties, then attempts to nail down the problems that are occurring and resolve them.

One thing I noticed right away was that the male lead, Agemaki Kei, was voiced by Sakurai Takahiro, who also voiced my beloved Shibuya Yuuri from Kyou Kara Maou. He plays a similar character here, so his voice is pretty much the same as Yuuri’s. It was really nice to hear it again. At the end of the series, he even has a very Yuuri-esque line about people coming to understand one another. ^^

I found the setting extremely interesting. While the spirits live in a traditional-style Japanese house, and many people on the street still wear traditional garb, there were also plenty of people wearing western-style clothes, and the army officers’ uniforms were of course western-style. The characters took trains, new to Japan, to reach distant clients. Much talk was made of the “new calendar”. (Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873.) Overall, there was kind of a Victorian-meets-traditional-Japan vibe.

I loved seeing Zakuro and her friends’ reactions to things like cookies and milk. While the others were generally cheerful and open-minded, Zakuro often complained about cultural items and practices she dubbed バテレン–bateren, a word referring to Portuguese Jesuits or simply to Christianity itself. (The Crunchyroll translator subtitled it as “Jesuit”.)

The artwork was quite pretty, and the animation was very smooth. The story didn’t shy away from some particularly nasty concepts, such as a spirit that liked to eat women and children. There was some stylized violence, but not fountains of gore.

Pacing was Zakuro‘s weak point. I didn’t realize going in how short the series was, and as various concepts were introduced I imagined it would take many episodes to resolve them all. The series climax seemed to come out of nowhere, and the resolution seemed to drag while still somehow feeling hasty. With all the threads the story had woven together, we needed more time with the Ministry of Spirit Affairs to see their bonds grow, more time seeing Onodaka leading from the shadows before it became obvious who he was, more time to spin out Zakuro’s story so it didn’t feel like we had to choke down an entire buffet line of exposition during the series climax.

I did like the denouement…even the two-second, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it car passing by to answer the question of what happened after the fire. It all left me with a good feeling. (Except Zakuro’s persistent tsundere tendencies. Honey, at some point you’ve got to just roll with it.)

I also liked the flashback scenes with Zakuro’s mother, in no small part because they featured Morikawa Toshiyuki, who played Conrad in Kyou Kara Maou. He changed his voice for this part, but I still recognized him right away. Love.

I usually get a little annoyed with anime that feature twins, and I expected that to be the case here, especially when Bonbori and Houzuki told Ganryuu he should be in a relationship with both of them. But somehow they didn’t irritate me as much as I expected they would. (Maybe they would have if the series had been longer.)

I absolutely adored Susukihotaru’s relationship with Riken. I know, it’s extremely cliche: the proper lady and her strong and silent man. Shut up. It was sweet.

Agemaki and Zakuro’s relationship was great, too. I think it needed a little more time to truly flesh out before it got to “I love you”, but there were some extremely impactful moments, especially when Agemaki was captured and Zakuro found the candy ticket, and when Agemaki asked Zakuro, of all people, to come with him to deflect some of his father’s gregarious attention. If the series could have been longer, I would have liked to have seen more done with the Agemaki-Zakuro-Hanadate love triangle, and with Agemaki trying to make himself worthy of Zakuro. I’d also like to have seen more of why Agemaki fell in love with Zakuro. I think it partly has to do with how her abrasive personality paradoxically made him more comfortable being around spirits, and partly with her beauty and battle prowess, but I’m sure there’s more to it, and I would have liked to have seen that explored.

Ultimately, seeing this series has simply made me want to read the manga! I’d love to see how this story was originally told, and what other stories the author has come up with. The characters are interesting, the story is fun and complex, and the setting is fascinating.

And now, some spoileriffic screencaps:

Agemaki looking flabbergasted
“You’re the worst!” …not really the desired reaction, here.
Zakuro and Agemaki about to kiss
THIS is the desired reaction.
Agemaki sprays milk EVERYWHERE
Aaaaaand here’s the aftermath.
Categories
Japanese Media

Conrad’s cold pack

I just discovered that someone sold Conrad-branded cold packs with his cringe-inducing pun, そんなはずがアラスカ, printed on them. Here is a picture from an eBay listing for the item:

Photo of Conrad cold pack from eBay
This line, そんなはずがアラスカ, is a play on the phrase そんなはずがあるっすか?, which basically means “That couldn’t be the case.” Literally, it’s more like “Could you really have that expectation?” What Conrad is doing is changing the very last part, the part that asks the question. He leaves the introduction of the topic, “the case” or “that expectation”, and then changes the question part to–wait for it–ALASKA.

For those of you who don’t read Japanese, here’s a romanization that will make everything clearer.

The original phrase: sonna hazu ga arussuka?

Conrad’s version: sonna hazu ga arasuka.

Just a slight sound change, and the whole meaning is different! Yet similar enough to be punny.

Of course, this joke fails, because it doesn’t make any sense. Alaska? What? When Conrad makes this joke in Kyou Kara Maou, Yuuri is horrified that such a cool, handsome guy like Conrad would make such a terrible pun…

Conrad is pimp.
…but he reminds himself that everyone has to have a flaw somewhere.

Here’s the kicker, though. In Japan, when a joke falls flat, people basically respond by going, “Brr! It’s cold!” I don’t know why this is, but in my head I equate the cold, frosty scene after a bad joke in Japan to the crickets and tumbleweeds we evoke here in the US. And this, my friends, is why it’s so hilarious that Conrad’s terrible pun is printed on a cold pack.

Conrad’s jokes: guaranteed to cool you down.

Categories
Japanese Review

Kyou Kara Maou OST 3

I’m a big fan of the music of Kyou Kara Maou. Youichirou Yoshikawa expertly weaves together Baroque, pop, acoustic, keyboards like something out of The Princess Bride, and swelling orchestral movie soundtrack styles for an eclectic blend worthy of the cultural mishmash that is the universe of Shin Makoku, Dai Shimaron, et al.

The actual name of the third soundtrack is 今日からマ王! ユーリ陛下・生誕記念!? 想い出のアルバム, which means “Kyou Kara Maou! King Yuuri’s Birth Commemoration?! Memory Album”. I’m guessing the “birth commemoration” thing is a reference to Yuuri’s coming-of-age ceremony, which occurs early on in season 3.

The album came out in July of last year(!), but due to the odd name, which is a far cry from the easily comprehensible “Kyou Kara Maou OST2 + D“, I didn’t realize it was a soundtrack until a couple weeks ago. Perhaps this is why the album is also referred to online as 「今日からマ王! 第3シリーズ」O.S.T.&メモリアル・ダイアローグ, or “Kyou Kara Maou Third Series OST and Memorial Dialogue”.

Regardless, I was very excited when I realized what this album was, I ordered it immediately, and I’ve spent the past couple of weeks listening to it over and over. Like the other KKM OSTs, it’s got some great pieces, with a few disappointing and surprising omissions. Here’s the rundown.

1.      閃光~魔王のテーマ3 – “Flash ~ Maou Theme 3”

This is the spooky new Maou theme that made me wonder if Yuuri was going to turn evil. It first appeared in episode 81 and was used to great effect in episode 99, when Saralegui uses Yuuri against Dai Shimaron for the first time. Though the piece initially seemed to foreshadow a moral fall, Yuuri’s purity was ultimately incorruptible, and it was Geneus and Saralegui who ended up bringing forth Soushu-like energy in the end. This theme faded out as the series progressed and Yuuri matured; it stands as a testament to what can happen if Yuuri lets his emotions rule his powers.

2.     切願~ジェネウスのテーマ – “Supplication ~ Geneus’ Theme”

This theme truly serves its purpose of representing the tragic character of Geneus. It’s sad, wistful, filled with longing, quiet, despairing. It’s the theme of a man who’s been cowed, a man who acts out the wishes of another, a man with an impotent will. There’s calm but sorrowful chanting, sad strings, and then the echo of Shinou’s theme to represent Geneus’ true desire–the very thing he can’t have.

3.     神謀~サラレギーのテーマ – “Divine Strategy ~ Saralegui’s Theme”

There are two three themes used for Saralegui, both involving Asian-style string-plucking music. (I should probably know what instrument that is, but I don’t. Some kind of lute, perhaps?) This is the more evil of the three. While I’m glad to have this creeping, calculating, overconfident theme, I wish I could also listen to the piece used at the end of episode 84 or 85, when we first see Saralegui. That version is more gentle, and I think it represents the part of Saralegui’s soul that is drawn to Yuuri. When the episode first came out, I made a .wav file from my fansub so I could listen to it. The piece can actually be heard in track 26 on this album, but Yuuri’s talking over it…I wish I had a raw version, without talking or episode sound effects. The third Saralegui theme can be heard in track 25, with Saralegui talking over it. It’s kind of between the other two; not sinister but not gentle, it’s more of a general theme.

4.     神剣 – “Divine Sword”

We first hear this piece when Shori uses the Divine Sword in episode 105(?), and it comes out again in episode 111, when Alazon appears at Blood Pledge Castle and Beryes reveals his true shinzoku appearance. It’s strikingly different from most other background music in the series, powerful, with strong, eerie organ, the low tolling of a bell, cymbal and gong crashing, and chants that seem swept along by the sheer might of the shinzoku. It’s the music of the “gods”.

5.     雄飛 – “Embarking”

When I first heard this piece, in the OVA, I was irritated. The main melody is pretty much a rip of “Fireworks” from the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix OST. However, as time has passed and I’ve listened to both pieces, I’m starting to like this one a little better. Where “Fireworks” is pretty repetitive (other than a weird guitar solo that wasn’t used in the movie), “Embarking” has interesting variations and eventually goes into a different theme. It’s kind of like Yoshikawa heard “Fireworks” and said, “I bet I could do that better!”

6.     夢現~アラゾンのテーマ – “Sleepwalking ~ Alazon’s Theme”

We first hear this piece in Saralegui’s dream/flashback about his mother. It’s a very pretty, slow and dreamy piano solo. I think it represents the more innocent time of joy and love in Alazon’s life, before the Divine Sword was stolen. If back then she was “sleepwalking”, the theft snapped her awake and hardened her resolve.

7.     襲来 – “Attack”

This is the new, oft-used fighting music. It’s similar to the old standards 戦闘 (“Battle”) and 厳峻 (not sure how to translate that one!) from OST 1–lots of drums and strings all over the place, with horns heralding the encounter.

8.     反撃 – “Counterattack”

More battle music! This slower piece is used a lot with the White Ravens and includes plenty of strings and horns. Sharp bursts call to mind running and ducking behind trees, and then the slow, charging strings and horns hail the coming onslaught. The horns do something similar to what they do in 襲来, but slower and in a diminished 7th (I’m pretty sure, anyway…I’d need to check it on a piano).

9.     試練 – “Ordeal”

This piece was used when Shinou flew up to help Yuuri at the end of episode 115 and beginning of episode 116. The low, rumbling intro and  triumphant horns call to mind a warring army, a crisis, and then a regal figure appearing to bring new hope.

10.     勇姿 – “Hero”

This piece was used for Alford and for episode previews. It’s a little more simply heroic than most of the series music–there’s no gray area, no emotional crisis, just a hero doing his thing. I like it though; it’s soaring and passionate.

11.     風の子守歌 – “Lullaby of the Wind”

This is the song Greta’s mother sang to her in the magical flashback in episode 93, which shares its name with this piece. Since this song is only used in one standalone episode, I was surprised to see it included on an album. It’s okay, but I would have rather had the Latin-inspired instrumental piece from episode 89, 花嫁はアニシナ!? (“The Bride is Anissina?!”).

12.     希望 – “Hope”

This is the quiet, gentle piece that serves the same purpose for season 3 as 追憶 (“Reminiscence”) did in the first season: it gives you warm fuzzies. It’s pretty and soothing. It’s used for episode denouement and for quiet times at the palace.

13.     架橋 – “Bridge”

This is actually a variation on 邂逅 (“Chance Meeting”) from OST 2. The tempo’s the same, and the left-hand piano is identical, but the piano right hand is an octave higher doing a pretty little theme that would probably act as a good harmony to the original piece. The strings come in later, swelling to support the right hand piano theme. It’s a nice variation, but I think I prefer the original.

14.     宿運 – “Destiny”

This is the spooky piece that’s always associated with Murata/Daikenja and Shinou. It’s often played in the Shinou Temple. The theme is actually a slow, more haunting variation on 畏敬~眞王のテーマ~ (“Reverence ~Shinou’s Theme~”) from OST 2.

15.     帰還~ジェネウスのテーマ2 – “Return ~ Geneus’ Theme 2”

This is a vocal version of the music played in episode 116, when Yuuri saves Geneus’ soul and all the dark power is transformed into beautiful energy snowflakes. I do enjoy the vocal, but I prefer the instrumental and really wish it had been included on the album. It can be heard in track 25, with Saralegui talking over it.

The next eleven tracks are the individual voice actors performing lines from throughout the show–or, in Conrad’s case, paraphrasing, since much of Conrad’s character development didn’t occur in easily-recognizable dialogue.

16.     ユーリのメモリー for コンラッド – “Yuuri’s Memory for Conrad”

17.     コンラッドのメモリー – “Conrad’s Memory”

18.     ギュンターのメモリー – “Gunter’s Memory”

19.     ヴォルフラムのメモリー – “Wolfram’s Memory”

20.     ユーリのメモリー for ヴォルフラム – Yuuri’s Memory for Wolfram”

21.     グウェンダルのメモリー – “Gwendal’s Memory”

22.     村田のメモリー – “Murata’s Memory”

23.     ユーリのメモリー for 村田 – “Yuuri’s Memory for Murata”

24.     勝利のメモリー – “Shori’s Memory”

25.     サラレギーのメモリー – “Saralegui’s Memory”

26.     ユーリのメモリー for サラレギー – Yuuri’s Memory for Saralegui”

27.     大切なもの(TVsize) – “The Important Thing (TV Version)”

This is the light pop song played in episodes 92 and 117. It’s kind of cheesy, but nice.

One piece I was very sorry to discover was not included at all, not even as background music for a memory, was the Latin-influenced instrumental from episode 89, 花嫁はアニシナ!? (“The Bride is Anissina?!”). The piece is played when Gwendal drags Anissina away from the castle and everyone (even the audience) thinks they’re eloping. It isn’t used anywhere else in the series. It’s just lovely, and I’d like to listen to it on repeat. There were also several pieces used as background music in the Memory tracks that I’d like to have clean.

In all, though, I’m pretty pleased with this album. It’s great to have so much more of the music I love, and the memory tracks provide good Japanese listening practice. Maybe in a future post I’ll break down what’s said in each of the tracks.

Alazon

This post was written for what I thought was going to become a Kyou Kara Maou fansite, but since I didn’t do anything else with it, I figured I should just put this post here.

Alazon's face

Alazon is the main “villain” in Kyou Kara Maou season 3. She has a pale complexion, long, light gold hair, and rich gold eyes. She wears an elaborate headdress and a dress covered by an unorthodox cloak that seems to hold itself in place around her, rather than being draped on her body. There is a red mark on her forehead in a shape not unlike a tulip with two small leaves, and she wears purple lipstick on her top lip.

She is queen of the shinzoku country Seisakoku, elder sister to Beryes, former lover to the late King Gilbert of Shou Shimaron, and Saralegui’s mother.

Alazon's headdress and cloakWhen the shinken disappeared and Seisakoku began falling into ruin, Alazon sent Gilbert and Saralegui away. Her spoken reason was that Seisakoku had no need for those without houryoku. But her true reasoning was more complex. The presence of Gilbert, a human prince, in her weakening country was dangerous. Search parties might come looking for him and take word back to human lands of a country of magical beings, ripe for the plucking. And there was already discontent among her people due to Gilbert. Such strife could only hasten the destruction of a country already on the decline.

Saralegui was a slightly different matter. She sent him away not to protect herself or her country, but to give him what she believed would be a safer, better life. He’d be more at home with others who weren’t blessed with natural houryoku, and he’d be better taken care of in a thriving country. She had no way of knowing that Gilbert would be unable to make a connection with his son.

It is certain that Alazon put the welfare of Seisakoku above herself. But perhaps Alazon’s mad, blind search for the shinken was also driven by her desire to reunite her family. Perhaps she felt that if she could restore Seisakoku to its former glory, it would be safe to open the borders–or at least to invite Gilbert and Saralegui back. But 18 years passed, Gilbert died and Saralegui grew up, and Alazon’s mind grew ever wild and focused. She likely became divorced from the reality that she could never go back to the life she gave up, that her son had become a young man whose heart she didn’t know.

She did, however, yearn for the child she gave up–she sent Geneus to learn about Saralegui on the pretext of “using” him in the future, but never revisited the subject. And the day of their unexpected reunion, she was so startled and vulnerable that she was unable to continue with her mission–unable, indeed, to go against Saralegui’s wishes.

It takes a good deal of time for Alazon to realize her son’s feelings. In fact, it almost seems as though she never does, or at least doesn’t know how to deal with them. She orders him to give her the shinken; he refuses to respect her authority. He feels betrayed that she doesn’t want him to use the sword to save Seisakoku; she ignores this entirely and approaches the matter with unyielding severity.

Alazon doesn’t really ever have a “what have I done?” moment. Even when Saralegui goes mad with anger and sadness, all she can do is what she’s always done: fiercely protect, not nurture. She throws herself in front of the burst of negative energy that might otherwise have killed Saralegui. It is then, and only then, that Sara begins to realize the true meaning behind Alazon’s seemingly callous actions.

And proud Alazon does not change. She does not apologize to anyone but Geneus. She does not even apologize to her son.

Saralegui is proud, too. In the final episode he shows his mother that he understands her not by giving in to emotion, but by casually remarking that he will return to visit Seisakoku, as he was born there. “Let’s meet again someday, Mother.”

And then, finally, strong, proud Alazon’s lips curve up and compress as eighteen years of tears bathe her face. ㋮

Alazon's tears

Kyou Kara Maou 90

Plenty of spoilers in this post. You’ve been warned.

We’re well into the sword-stealing plot now. Yuuri and his retainers (minus Gwendal, Gunter, and Murata) are in Caloria for a celebration for the defeat of Soushu. They run into Alford, who has a unique sword in his possession along with the holy sword. Janus (I’ll just go with that spelling for now) shows up with a huge monster and demands they hand those swords and Morgif over…or he’ll start destroying Caloria!

Yuuri makes what to him is an easy choice: hand over the swords. He makes this decision not only for himself, but for Al, who reluctantly agrees. After the swords are taken–just like that!–the monster and Janus disappear; they had simply been an illusion.

"That enemy of ours sure knows how to trick us. " By "us" he probably means "Yuuri"

"WTF?"

“It couldn’t be helped,” Al says. “You didn’t make the wrong choice, Yuuri.”

But I’m not sure if I agree with that sentiment!

You can always argue that hindsight is 20/20, and it really does seem like the most noble thing to do to try and save the people of Caloria. But you have to remember that this isn’t just a matter of giving up their personal swords. The three swords the White Ravens wanted aren’t just any swords. Al’s has holy power, Morgif obviously has demon power, and the third, rusty sword has some as-yet-unexplained effect on people with maryoku (and probably other powers). You have to weigh the dangers. Is it more dangerous to let a monster rampage a city-state, or to let an amoral group have three ridiculously powerful magical items?

To be fair, the person who should have spoken up–Flynn–did not. I can’t imagine Conrad or Josak recommending against saving people, even though Josak seemed to have the whole deal figured out from the beginning. Wolfram’s the logical one to do it, but Yuuri rarely listens to Wolfram’s advice even if he had said something. The person who speaks for Caloria should have protested on behalf of her people. That she didn’t either means she didn’t understand the enormity of the situation, or she’s still “following” Yuuri, even though he told her he doesn’t want to be followed.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure if Flynn has ever gone against what Yuuri said since the box incident.

It would be hard for a leader to argue for the possible destruction of her country and deaths of some of her people. But I feel that if she’d looked at the situation objectively, she would see that this decision could have repercussions not just in Caloria, but across the entire world.

Someone should have been there to point that out. But no one was. Murata was either back at Shinou’s temple or on Earth. Gwendal was at the castle. And no one else stepped up.

I guess what’s strange to me about this is that everyone just did what Yuuri said without protesting much at all. In the past, they’d challenge him, make sure he was looking at all sides of the issue. He’d usually go ahead and make the exact same decision, but at least I felt comfortable that he knew what he was doing. Not so in this episode.

Another thing that seemed to be curiously lacking was the strategy behind the scenes. Typically when Yuuri makes decisions with big consequences, his retainers have a plan to bail him out. Maybe this plan exists and it’ll be revealed in the next episode. I sure didn’t see a hint of it in this one. “Let’s go get our swords back” isn’t much of a strategy.

Here’s hoping there’s a purpose to all this. I’ve been feeling somewhat weird about the general conceits of the show all throughout the third season. It seems to me like Yuuri’s standard decision-making is being demonstrated time and time again to be flawed. I don’t know if that’s on purpose, and if Yuuri is going to grow, or what.

On the one hand, I don’t want Yuuri to lose his drive to protect. But on the other, I wish he would temper that with a little more common sense. Now that he’s been in this world awhile, he can start making judgments based on his knowledge of its rules, rather than Earth’s. It should get to a point where he can start thinking of the consequences, instead of having them pointed out to him by someone else.

* * *

Random shot of Sara from the end of the episode! What can I say, I like him.

Hey look, it's Sara
Categories
Review

Kyou Kara Maou OST 2 + D

The second Kyou Kara Maou OST was released on April 23. It includes two discs, with the OST on one and a drama on the other.

I haven’t listened to the drama yet, but I’ve played the hell out of the OST.

This soundtrack is wonderful, but there were some surprising omissions. The music that plays at the amusement park during the “apple tree” flashback is one obvious example. I don’t care so much about having that, but I’m surprised that it was left out. I was really looking forward to having the updated version of track 18, 降臨 (kourin, advent or descent), from the first OST. That’s Yuuri’s Maou-mode music…or at least, it’s the music that often plays when Yuuri enters Maou-mode. Tracks 4 and 5 from OST 2 actually claim to be Maou themes, but I will always associate track 4 with Shinou, as discussed below.

Here’s the rundown:

1. 出陣 (shutsujin, Departure for the Front)

2. 曲宴 (Banquet Music)

3. 畏敬~眞王のテーマ~ (ikei~shinou no teima, Reverence~Shinou’s Theme)

Note: This is not the “shin” that means new or ultimate. This is actually the kanji for a person named Shin.

4. 絶大~新・魔王のテーマ1~ (zetsudai~shin maou no teima 1, Immense~New Maou Theme 1)

Note: This “shin” is the one that means new.

5. 必殺~新・魔王のテーマ2~ (hissatsu~shin maou no teima 2, Certain Kill~New Maou Theme 2)

6. 春暖~新・ギュンターのテーマ~ (shundan~shin gyuntaa no teima, Spring Warmth~Gunter’s New Theme)

7. 探求~アニシナのテーマ~ (tankyou~anishina no teima, Quest~Anissina’s Theme)

8. 清風~ダンヒーリーのテーマ~ (seifuu~danhiirii no teima, Refreshing Breeze~Dunheely’s Theme)

This is my all-time favorite track. That’s kind of odd, since I don’t recall ever hearing it in the anime whatsoever.

9. 慈愛~ジュリアのテーマ1~ (jiai~jyuria no teima, Kindness~Julia’s Theme)
10. 悲哀~ジュリアのテーマ2~ (hiai~jyuria no teima 2, Sadness~Julia’s Theme 2)
11. 宿命~勝利のテーマ~ (shukumei~shouri no teima, Destiny~Shouri’s Theme)
12. ありがとう~(インストゥルメンタル1) (arigatou~insuturumentaru 1, Thank You~Instrumental 1)
13. 危機 (kiki, Crisis)
14. 火蓋 (hibuta, Gun Barrel Cover?)
15. 拮抗 (kikko, Rivalry)
16. 光明 (koumyou, Hope)
17. 進軍 (shingun, March)
18. 決戦 (kessen, Decisive Battle)
19. 約束 (yakusoku, Promise)
20. 想望 (soubou, Yearning)
21. 邂逅 (kaikou, Chance Meeting)
22. サブタイトル (sabutaitoru, Subtitle)
23. アイキャッチ (aikyacchi, Eyecatch)
24. 予告 (yokoku, Next Episode Preview)
25. ありがとう~(インストゥルメンタル2) (arigatou~insuturumentaru 2, Thank You~Instrumental 2)

In other news…

I thought it was impossible, but someone has figured out how to write maru-ma in text!

Really, I figured there should be a way–it’s common to put a circle (maru) around a character. But all the KKM websites had it as a graphic, so that led me to believe it was impossible. Glad to know it’s not; I can now write Kyou Kara Maou properly in Japanese.

Edit: Unfortunately I can’t do it here, since it seems the maru is in UTF-8 and I foolishly set this blog to Shift-JIS back in the day. Someday I want to change it to UTF-8…but when I do I will have to edit all posts that have Japanese text in them >_< Edit, almost a year later: My blog is now UTF-8, and the Japanese text seems to have transferred perfectly! Yay! Unfortunately the site that used to have the maru-ma on it now does not

The continuing KKM story

Kyou Kara Maou could have ended with season 2 and I would have been happy. It was a great ending. The purpose of Yuuri becoming the Maou had been fulfilled, and he gained the power to go back and forth between worlds, so you could imagine that his adventures continued, but there was enough resolution that you didn’t need to see it.

Then Kyou Kara Maou R was announced. I figured the producers wanted to tell a stand-alone story, and that was it. But after seeing the OVA, it’s obvious that it was made more as a preview for season 3. I’m not sure on the timing, so I don’t know if it was made to gauge interest, or to simply serve as an introduction. Episodes 1 and 5 tell a story by themselves, as I mentioned before, but it’s not a very robust story. It’s a teaser, to show us who Saralegui is without resolving anything.

By the time I saw the last episode of the OVA, the third season had been long announced, so I wasn’t bothered by the lack of resolution. So far the KKM producers have done everything right–they’ve only introduced elements they intended to resolve. I can’t wait to see what happens with Sara in season 3.

It’s looking like he’ll be in episode 85…and he’ll possibly dance with Yuuri? This is confusing, since they only met in the OVA, so I don’t know if the OVA is supposed to have happened by now, or if they just don’t realize they’ve met before when the OVA happens.

I don’t think the OVA has happened yet. Wolfram was so shocked to see Shinou at his temple that I imagine Yuuri hasn’t told anyone he’s there, but in the OVA everyone knows.

The pace of the OVA is so fast. It’s unclear why they were going to Caloria in the first episode. Everyone was together, so the two groups–Murata, Conrad, and Josak, and Yuuri and Wolfram–would have to have already come back together by then. Not only that, but Yuuri and Murata would have to have gone back to Earth; they return at the beginning of the OVA. I really don’t think the OVA can be sandwiched into the season 3 timeline anytime soon.

(Episodes 2-4 of R could be stuck in at any point, since they’re stand-alone episodes, but I assume they would go either right before or right after 1 and 2.)

I’ll be interested to see how this all plays out. I imagine it will be obvious where the OVA goes in the chronology once we get there…although I’m kind of wondering if the OVA, as a preview, was actually an alternate universe version of events that doesn’t fit into the timeline at all. That would kind of suck, though.

Episode 85 has already aired. Can’t wait to see it.

Yuuri and Wolfram’s wedding

Okay, not really.

Is this actually what Yuuri is imagining Wolfram is imagining? Because I would have assumed Wolfram’s vision would involve a wedding dress.

By the way…

…this is totally wrong.

Not Julia

Seriously, not Julia

Okay, that's slightly better

What, were they twins or something? I mean, neither the elder von Wincott nor Lindsey looked one bit like Julia.

Wouldn’t it be weird if he and Yuuri became friends? Seems like that would be awkward.

This is actually Julia (from episode 77)

Kyou Kara Maou 80 and 81

Okay, so, that was resolved quickly, wasn’t it?

The new season pretty much takes up right where season 2 left off, which is why it starts with the ten (well, nine) aristocrats meeting to pick the new Maou. We saw the usual characters discussing it in episode 78, but there wasn’t a hint that anything had really happened before Yuuri came back. Now we know why everyone was at Shinou’s tomb just in time for Yuuri’s reappearance.

Speaking of Shinou…he is evil!

Then again, if I could haunt somebody...

...I can't say I wouldn't be tempted.

The thing everyone was talking about secretly in episode 79 was whether or not Yuuri could remain the Maou. Some of the aristocrats were fine with it and some were not, Waltorana von Bielefelt most notably.

I did not expect Maou-mode Yuuri to attack Wolfram, so it was quite a relief to see that he redirected his power back into himself. Would Wolfram have been killed if he hadn’t smiled softly and said, “Be a good Maou”? That’s kind of troubling.

I am a little bothered by the art, too…there’s something not quite right about it. It’s better than the OVA’s art, though, which felt a little too indulgent.

Ultimately I am enjoying this, even if the huge conspiracy theory I had got laid to waste within three episodes ;>

Yuuri declares his intent to remain the Maou

"I knew it all along."

"Because I rule. Actually, I literally DID rule. Ha!"

I LOVE YOU MURATA

More thoughts on KKM 79

Josak: Is it okay not to let him know about it?

Gwendal: There is no proof as of yet. If he knows about it, I’m sure he’ll do something unnecessary.

Josak: Yeah, this is Yuuri we’re talking about. He’d probably run off on his own. Or he might even start thinking his own existence is a burden…

It’s got to be politics. Somebody, maybe Sara, maybe whoever we’re seeing in the wintry shot that looks like Big Cimaron, maybe even a country that is supposedly part of the alliance, is pressuring Shin Makoku by planting seeds of doubt in the other nations of the alliance.

“They aren’t even following their own traditions! The Maou hasn’t undergone his coming-of-age ceremony, even though he’s already 16! How can we trust the mazoku to be true to their promises if they eschew tradition when it’s inconvenient?”

And so, just in case, the Ten Aristocrats went ahead and picked out a replacement Maou.

There has got to be a reason that it’s Wolfram, some political reason. Gwendal apologizes for the trial he’s put his little brother through. Maybe he was the only quasi-neutral candidate (non-head of house) that Gwendal could think of who was nobility and still close to Yuuri in some way.

There is also something else going on, some sort of plan that the Ten Aristocrats have been asked to agree on beyond simply picking Wolfram to replace Yuuri. There’s evidence of this, I think, in the way the castle retainers discuss the vote.

Anissina: I have received a message from my brother on the matter. The von Karbelnikoffs have no objections.

Conrad: Lord von Wincott gave us a favorable answer as well.

Celi: My brother [Lord Stoffel von Spitzweg] stated various things, but Raven will do something about it.

Gwendal: All we’re waiting on is a response from Lord von Rochefort and Lord von Gyllenhaal then.

Gunter: As of right now, they have not broken their neutrality. I don’t blame them. However, when His Majesty’s coming-of-age ceremony ends…

Gwendal: That is why it must succeed, no matter what.

Obviously, what they’re doing is not trying to manipulate Yuuri out of the throne, but keep him in it, though the actual strategy remains unclear. It looks like we have 5 votes for the measure: von Voltaire, von Christ, von Karbelnikoff, von Wincott, and von Spitzweg; one abstention: von Grantz [is Adalbert head of house or are the von Grantzes absent for some other reason?]; two votes up for grabs: von Rochefort and von Gyllenhaal; and one household decidedly against the whole thing: von Bielefelt. It’s apparent that they hate the plan, want Wolfram to stay in their territory, and possibly don’t support Yuuri as Maou–Wolfram’s line “There is only one true king in Shin Makoku!” seems to be a direct response to his family’s position.

It also appears the von Radfords voted no, since they weren’t mentioned in the list of supporters. That makes it 5 to 2 with one abstention so far. Gwendal will need at least one more vote to get the majority. There might be a rule that you have to have 7 votes to pass something, since 7 is a lucky number, but then again this is a demon kingdom, so I don’t know if 7 would have the same meaning there.

So, as usual, I’m making wild guesses about everything without enough information ;> Remember when I thought Shinou wanted to destroy all humans? (Though I suppose that I was technically right, given that he was possessed at the time :>) Regardless, I’m really looking forward to seeing what develops.

This season may answer some questions about Gwendal and Wolfram’s fathers. We see Lord von Bielefelt at the beginning. Is he Wolfram’s dad? If so, why did he and Celi split up when Wolfram was still a toddler, as seen in the original anime? If not, is Wolfram’s father dead? Is this perhaps his dad’s brother, or some other relative? This list indicates Wolfram’s father is dead, according to the light novels, but I’m not quite at a level where I can read those yet. (Translation please?)

Gwendal, of course, is the head of his house, meaning his father is either dead or retired. In the original anime, when we see Castle Voltaire, we don’t see any other nobles, so that’s still up in the air.

We know all about Conrad’s father…let’s show the other brothers some love! ;>

I’d also like to know more about the other Ten Aristocrats, and why they don’t have representatives at court. Actually, I wonder if Effee is related to any of them. Yes, she’s a maid, but she could also be…a spy!

All right, that’s enough conjecture for now. I need to pack up and head off to Kentucky :)

Edit: As I was packing, it occurred to me that the problem could easily be the fact that Yuuri chooses to go back and forth between worlds. Someone who wanted to get rid of him could argue that it’s hard to have confidence in a Maou who only spends half his time in his country. They could back that up with the fact that Yuuri lets Gwendal do everything–maybe that’s why Gwendal sourly told Yuuri that if he was an adult, he needed to start acting like one and performing his duties.

Kyou Kara Maou 79 (season 3 episode 1)

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?!?!?!?

Okay, so, seriously. I liked the music, a combination of old and new. I liked the introduction of the girl from the OVA, though that makes me wonder what the timeline actually is here. All the characters were pretty much themselves. The OP and ED are kind of mellow, but okay.

But oh what an opener. We saw the heads of all the ten aristocratic families (who were all male except one, I wish to point out) for the very first time. And…Wolfram is to be the next Maou? But why? Is this just in case Yuuri isn’t worthy? Surely he’s proven his worth by now; what’s the point of a big fussy ceremony?

Don’t they realize he won’t use his powers to protect himself? He never has. Every time, it’s been to protect someone else, or out of anger over someone else’s suffering. The only reason he’s not dead yet is because he’s been lucky, or because his retainers have been there.

I have the sinking feeling he’s going to fail his test against the sand bear. And then what will happen? Will he be forced to leave Shin Makoku? Will Sara use all this to his own benefit, convince Yuuri he can get him back in with his friends, only to try to manipulate his power?

Argh :>

(I’m so happy…)

Kyou Kara Maou OVA

IMAGE: Shori is interrupted while playing a dating sim

Last night I watched Kyou Kara Maou R in its entirety. I had seen the first four episodes previously; finally I found a raw version of episode 5. The quality wasn’t great, but I was pleased to discover that I could follow what was going on without subtitles, like I did back when I was anxious to see how KKM season 2 ended.

(There are also some errors in the fansub of episode 4 that I was able to recognize, such as Gwendal’s line, 「それはりすちゃんだ」, which means “That’s a squirrel”, not “Her name is Risu-chan”. I only picked up on this because I already knew that people tend not to recognize the animal Gwendal is trying to make. In this case, Greta thought it was a fox.)

The five episode OVA starts with the first part of a new adventure involving Small Cimaron’s king, Saralegui.

IMAGE: Sara tries bewitching Yuuri

IMAGE: Sara tries bewitching Yuuri

IMAGE: Sara tries bewitching Yuuri

IMAGE: Sara tries bewitching Yuuri

IMAGE: Sara tries bewitching Yuuri

After that it goes into three stand-alone, humorous episodes whose only purpose seems to be to reintroduce Shinou to the world. There’s a worldwide festival held in Shin Makoku, unthinkable before Yuuri’s time as Maou; an ancient magical device that shows people their most dreaded future, with which Shinou decides to play a prank; and a story about on the level of season 2’s “Baby Panic”, in which pink bear bees spawn and give their love to dragons thanks to the power of Gwendal’s obsession with cute. Then we go back to the Sara story.

IMAGE: Sara reveals his true intentions to Yuuri

IMAGE: "For example, I could tell his heart to stop."

Episode 5 was hands down the most epic. Yuuri, Conrad, Wolfram and Josak head to Small Cimaron with Sara and Beries; Murata brings Shori to Shin Makoku on Shinou’s request, and they meet up with the retainers Yuuri left behind to try to find a way to save Yuuri from Sara; another function of Morgif is revealed; Beries demonstrates his powerful houjutsu, ultimately facing off with Adalbert (I LOVE ADALBERT!); and Sara finally reveals his evil powers and demands. If you’ve watched this show at all you can probably imagine how it ends, but it’s still worth seeing for yourself.

IMAGE: Wolfram fights back

IMAGE: "Run! Run for it, Yuuri!"

IMAGE: Yuuri gets pissed

IMAGE: "I believed in you."

IMAGE: Yuuri gets pissed

IMAGE: Yuuri gets pissed

IMAGE: Sara jizzes himself

IMAGE: Maou-mode

The humor is great, too. My favorite part has to be when Shori complained to Murata, “What am I, a battery charger?” XD

IMAGE: "What am I, a battery charger?"

IMAGE: "You didn't do anything!"

There were things I didn’t like about this OVA. A lot of the new music was boring, and some of what wasn’t boring was blatantly ripped off existing pieces. For example, the music played in episode 2 when people are arriving for the festival is essentially “Fireworks” by Nicholas Hooper, from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Plus, in that same episode they introduced some less-exciting Maou-mode music, much to my dismay. It was used again in episode 4, but, thankfully, in episode 5 they went back to the real deal.

Yuuri was still Yuuri, but he was unfortunately much more…uke. He blushed all the time, and in episode 5 he even grabbed Sara’s hand. I can’t speak for how he is in the novels, but in the anime he is very straight–you could argue he borders on homophobic. In the first few episodes he can’t get over how “fundamentally wrong” it is that it’s even possible for him to be engaged to Wolfram. Sure, he gets used to the open homosexuality around him after awhile, but I would hardly say he embraces it.

IMAGE: Yuuri blushing

IMAGE: Yuuri blushing again

Yuuri’s reactions to Wolfram are part of the comedy of the franchise. He doesn’t reject Wolfram because he doesn’t like him–he obviously cares a great deal about Wolfram, to the point of risking his own life. He rejects Wolfram because he is not attracted to men. He’s a self-described “dirty baseball boy”…he’s not going to go around holding hands with men.

IMAGE: Yuuri takes Sara's hand

IMAGE: Wolfram is none too pleased

IMAGE: Yuuri holding Sara's hand

There is a running joke about who he’ll end up with romantically, and a sort of underlying belief/hope that he will come around eventually and get with Wolfram or Conrad or some other guy, but it seemed throughout the first two seasons that this dynamic was meant to be permanent and subtle, not that he is going to actually grow into being homosexual. The OVA refutes this, and it’s jarring.

Another thing that was far more subtle in the anime was Gunter’s crush on Yuuri. The OVA is ludicrous by comparison. Don’t get me wrong, Gunter’s pretty ridiculous in the anime, but the OVA not only crosses the line, it blasts through it like it was never there. He’s constantly having nosebleeds and muttering about seeing Yuuri naked. Again, it’s just jarring.

IMAGE: One of Gunter's many nosebleeds

An OVA is by nature shorter and more concentrated than a drawn-out story, but there’s no need to exaggerate personality traits like this.

Ultimately, though, I did enjoy the OVA. It had all the good stuff: Yuuri’s policy of believing in people, the mazoku retainers’ endless loyalty, bravery, and asskickery, some good seibai, and an interesting new villain. It was a good way to curb my appetite for KKM while I await season 3…which has just started in Japan. Now I’m just hoping someone will pick up the North American license that was abandoned when Geneon stopped distributing anime, so I can own all of KKM on DVD.

IMAGE: Seibai!

IMAGE: Seibai!

IMAGE: The gang

KKM season 3

I just found out that Kyou Kara Maou is getting a third season, which will start airing in Japan in April. Rock on!

I also just found out that Geneon isn’t distributing anime anymore, and they stopped before they were done with KKM season 2, so it’s unclear if those episodes will ever be released in the US. WTF!

(And yes, I am slow with news.)