Tag Archives: shapeshifters

To the abandoned sacred beasts (Anime)

Title: To the abandoned sacred beasts

Episodes: 1-12

Hank was once the captain of the Incarnates, an experimental squad of humans who can transform into mythological beasts. But once the war ended, the Incarnates find themselves unable to return to normal society. Their bodies have increasingly succumbed to their transformations to the point where many of them can’t revert to human anymore, and worse than that, many of them also lose their minds. So Hank determines to fulfill the last wish of their creator, Elaine, and hunt down all the Incarnates before madness consumes them all.

This was something I wanted to like more than I did. Shapeshifting people with alternate mythological forms? I am SO down for that. But as the title might suggest, this is mostly a series of vignettes that are uniformly tragedies, with a larger plot involving Hank’s hunt for one particular Incarnate that just kind of sucks.

The worst of it for me is that there’s no evidence Schaal is wrong. Schaal is the daughter of one of the Incarnates, who pursues Hank relentlessly once he kills her father. She thinks there’s no need to kill the Incarnates, even if they can’t transform back, and that they can integrate back into life. I think there’s actually strong evidence in the show that she’s correct—Siren, in particular, shows no signs of being unduly influenced by her more bestial form. Although some Incarnates have certainly lost the battle to madness, it seems horribly preemptive to call this inevitable and just slaughter them all whether they are insane or not.

But instead of looking for a way to redeem the Incarnates, both Hank and Schaal have given up on them and go around killing them.

The animation isn’t usually great, but it’s serviceable. I do appreciate that the Incarnates are hand-drawn and not CG. The overall story doesn’t exactly wrap up, but they tried to give it some sense of closure, as Hank and Schaal have both decided what they are going to do with their lives from here out, even though they haven’t reached their goals.

Overall this is an odd little show. It had plenty of moments of pathos, even if Cain was exaggerated evil and basically invincible (daylight doesn’t seem to bother him, and you can’t physically hit him, so I do wonder how Hank intends to kill him). And despite knowing that every little mini-story was going to have a bad ending, it was fun seeing the various Incarnate forms and personalities. I rate this show Neutral.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #6 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #6

Author: Fuse

Rimuru became a demon lord without thinking much about the consequences—but those consequences are now demanding his attention. The other nations that surround the forest of Jura have questions about him and the army he wiped out. More importantly, the other demon lords have yet to weigh in on what they feel about a newcomer. If Rimuru handles this badly he could make enemies of some of the most powerful beings in the world . . .

This is the first novel in the series that felt like it was really dragging. The various treaties and discussions Rimuru does are important to the overall plot, but rather dry, and might have been better as a shorter summary (if this ever gets animated I would expect the first two chapters, for instance, to be significantly cut down).

Thankfully there are several different battles that take place, both with Rimuru and with his companions. Of special note, Shuna gets her own fight this time, and it’s one of the more detailed fights in the book.

It’s also interesting in that it’s the first look at many of the other demon lords. Rimuru’s poor opinion of Ramiris aside, pretty much everyone but Clayman gives him pause. I liked seeing how they were all masking their strength in some fashion, which leaves even Raphael in the dark about how to handle them.

And Veldora is always SO much fun. Rimuru is going nuts trying to handle the now-manga-obsessed dragon, but he’s probably the only one who can, as Veldora is one of the worst calamity-class monsters.

Overall, although this is a necessary link in the story, it’s also one of the weakest ones. With an unidentified mastermind, a bevy of new demon lords, and hints about the Empire, the future is sure to be more interesting. I rate this book Neutral.

Winds of Choice (Unexpected Heroes #1)

Title: Winds of Choice

Author: Marty C. Lee

Series: Unexpected Heroes #1

Ahjin wants to skip his vocational testing. He already knows what he wants to do with his life: be a skydancer, just like his parents. But when his assigned vocation is the worst thing he could imagine, a priest, he flees. Simply running away doesn’t stop him from hearing the gods . . . and the gods are going missing. Ahjin may have to fight for them, if he wants the world to continue.

This was amazing fun. I love how the rather typical earth/air/fire/water split was reflected in the physiologies of its peoples: wings, water-dwellers, shapeshifters, and the desert dwellers. Frankly, with winged people and shapeshifters it’s pretty much pegged my interest right from the start.

It helps that the writing is strong, as well as funny. Ahjin is absolutely adamant that he wants nothing to do with “his” god, and as the story goes on it’s very clear why he’s holding that position. It’s also ironic that this deep distrust is what eventually wins him the trust of the other gods, who don’t like his god much better than he does.

Overall this is an excellent story and I’m so glad the first book mostly focuses on the winged people. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #5 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime #5

Author: Fuse

Format: Light Novel

Rimuru is off on his tour of the surrounding nations, so Benimaru and the other residents of Tempest are doing their best to run everything like normal. Only there are various plots afoot, and without Rimuru, Tempest is poorly equipped to manage them . . .

It’s really hard to summarize this without spoiling some of the best twists. This book covers some of my favorite material in the overall story.

The prologue alone sets out the more ambitious scope of this book: the Beast Kingdom allied with Tempest is under attack . . . by Milim? But explanations will have to wait for much later.

Mjurren, a magicborn working to carry out some of those plans, gets a lot of focus. I actually like the love triangle that unfolds around her because it’s so silly—one of her would-be suitors is determined to win by waiting for the other one to age to death. For her part, she views Yohm and his comrades more like a babysitting job, where she’s the only adult in the room.

And I love watching Rimuru break down and go more than a little crazy when he finds out what happened when he was gone. It’s all the little things he does that betrays his raging heart. And then he decides he’s putting his foot down. No more pretending the world is full of nothing but people with good intentions.

Raphael is another favorite. “It’s just your imagination.” The snarky little quips go almost entirely over Rimuru’s head. I love how Raphael is developing as a character, and the conflict between emotions and logic as sentience grows where no personality should even exist.

Overall this is a very solid continuation for the series, as it provides a lot of character development for everyone around Rimuru, introduces interesting new characters (and brings back one welcome old friend), and paves the way for a rather unexpected journey. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime (Anime)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime
Episodes: 1-25

Mikami Satoru was an ordinary man, until the day a mugger ends his life and sends his spirit to another world. Reincarnated as a slime monster named Rimuru Tempest, he fumbles his way through meetings with dragons, goblins, ogres, and more in this brand-new world.

So now that the first season is completely over, I thought I’d throw a few thoughts out there.

The first two major arcs are definitely the strongest. The initial exploration of this new world, culminating in meeting Shizu, and the Orc Lord arc were both a lot of fun whether it was anime, manga, or light novel portraying them.

The last two arcs, unfortunately, are a step down in several respects. I never liked the Milim arc much, and cutting down the number of episodes adapting it doesn’t help an already weak plot with Charbydis. The major characters here basically show up, fail to pose a credible threat, and resolve much too fast.

Similarly, the last big arc with Rimuru turning teacher doesn’t have enough focus on the kids who are supposed to be at the center of it all. In both cases, the weaknesses were present in the light novels, but not as strongly because of other interesting content to balance it out. I still hope Rimuru’s journey to the capital gets animated as an OVA, as that had several amusing encounters that the anime completely cut out.

The last two episodes are special episodes. One is a standalone episode about Shizu and a particular demon who will later meet Rimuru, and the last is a recap of the series with Veldora and Ifrit voicing some of the scenes from Veldora’s diary (the short stories at the end of every manga volume). I liked Shizu’s episode better, as it at least provides some new material. Veldora’s diary was a recap coming right on the heels of another episode with a lot of recap (plus they skipped some of the funnier bits of his diary anyway, like how he found manga through Rimuru’s memories and took it as sacred texts).

Overall I still enjoyed my time each week with the show, but I think after the Orc Lord arc the quality does go down a lot. That said, I’m looking forward to season 2, which has already been announced, as it will cover some of my favorite moments in the web novel. (The light novels covering those arcs haven’t come out yet in English.) I rate this series Recommended.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 6 (Light Novel)

Title: Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 6

Author: Ryo Shirakome

Format: Light Novel

Hajime never intended to get involved in the war between the demons and the humans, but when the royal capital is attacked while he’s in it, he can’t help but get caught up in things. In addition, conspiracies are multiplying like crazy: Aiko’s been kidnapped because of what Hajime told her, some of the people around the palace have been acting very strangely, and some classmates are not what they seem.

This volume continues the trend of excellent fight scenes. Some of them are the expected curbstomps—the invading army was pretty much doomed when it picked a city Hajime was in—but Hajime is starting to attract the attention of higher-level fighters who can match or exceed him in combat, which keeps the overall book more interesting.

Aiko had some good moments too, although I still dislike how she’s basically falling in love with Hajime over something he did while she was dying.

I’m a bit mixed on the other student conspiracies, though. Some of this has been set up over the course of a few books now, and it was nice to see how that plays out, but others just felt like the author went “Welp, you need to be evil now.” I don’t entirely buy the reason or the behavior because there was just no clue ahead of time. (And no, the nameless student segments hinting that someone is evil don’t really count for me, since we can’t see it in the person’s behavior otherwise, and those scenes could just as easily apply to others.)

Overall if you’ve been enjoying the series so far, this is another good entry. I rate this book Recommended.

Gods and Kings (Eve of Redemption #9)

Title: Gods and Kings

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #9

The time has come at least to open the Temple. But in some ways it leaves more questions than answers. A conflict spanning thousands of years is reaching its tipping point in the present day. Kari and her allies must coordinate multiple plans over multiple worlds as they fight to overthrow the demonic Overking.

It’s hard to summarize this book because there’s so many characters and so many plot threads. Almost every chapter drops some major revelation or advances something critical. And a lot of the things hinted at did not turn out at all the way I expected (particularly regarding Max’s father). I would definitely recommend catching up on the other books before reading this one, as it drops you straight into the action and never lets up.

I love that the gods are pretty much uniformly good in this series. They’re not the conniving, selfish manipulators so many other books use. They have different focuses, different forms, different worlds, but they have an underlying unity of purpose. And they all care for their believers. Which is one reason that although faith is hugely important in this series, it’s not restricted to a single group.

I also love that Gil gets a fanclub (richly deserved). The werewolves continue to be one of my favorite parts of the series. And Starlenia’s reaction to finding out she can’t inherit the “curse” is hilarious.

The humor stays strong. One of my favorite lines was this:

“Perfect. As for everyone else, I’d say Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, but since that list apparently includes sleeping with demon kings, I’ll just leave you to fend for yourselves.”

Overall, this is another strong volume in a fantastic series. Start at the beginning and work up to this one for the full impact. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 5 (Light Novel)

Title: Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 5

Author: Ryo Shirakome

Format: Light Novel

It’s time for Hajime to return Myu to her mother—but new locations inevitably mean new problems. An oasis town is suffering from a contaminated water supply. Two new dungeons await, pushing Hajime and his companions to their limit.

For the first time, we have a good look into the demon’s perspective. And Hajime meets someone he can’t overpower or avoid, who is competing with him to conquer the ancient labyrinths and obtain their powers.

I also liked the way Hajime gets roped into helping out around town far more than he originally wanted to. Certain types of problems are very easy for him and his party to solve, which makes him feel like it’s not a big deal, even though it’s still things others find impossible to duplicate.

I’m still not a fan of the harem antics, but at least there’s enough other stuff going on to balance it out. Myu’s mother is of course added as another candidate, and Kaori is working on integrating herself with the group.

Overall, if you’ve liked the previous ones this is a good next step. It throws a few more interesting things into the mix, namely the demons, and has plenty of good action scenes. I rate this book Recommended.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 3 (Light Novel)

Title: Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 3

Author: Ryo Shirakome

Format: Light Novel

When Hajime takes on a request to find a lost adventurer, the last thing he expects is to run into some of his old classmates. At least with the monsters he’s on more familiar ground. For his classmates, it’s a shocking revelation that Hajime even survived, let alone how much he’s changed.

This volume contains the moment I was hoping for since the end of the first book: Hajime’s reunion with his classmates. And it was every bit as funny as I anticipated. Hajime immediately goes rather grumpy and close-mouthed, possibly trying to tone things down for the teacher who’s been so distraught over his situation. But he can’t change the obvious fact of his current strength, which in its own way says more than words ever could.

I like that we get the perspective of Aiko, his teacher. She can’t help but see herself as responsible for all these kids, and the fact that they’re now in a world where death is just around the corner bothers her to no end. She doesn’t even have a combat class that she could train to keep them safe. And because Hajime knows this, it makes their reunion even more awkward, because she’s one of the only people he can respect.

Q: After you fell from the bridge, what happened?
A: I went through hell.
Q: How come your hair is white now?
A: Because I went through hell.

Also a major highlight is the continual shock and awe tactics Hajime pulls off. The battles are a lot of fun—and I love how Aiko accurately calls him out on what he didn’t say when she originally asked him about the army.

But it’s not entirely a volume without problems. Yet again we have medical procedures interpreted as kissing, and I’m doubly annoyed that this time it’s with his teacher. Tio, however, was even more eye-rolling. She was better before she joined the party, because once she does she’s yet another flat character whose whole existence becomes getting Hajime to sleep with her (and also punish her, because she’s into S&M). Which means yet another character has a really annoying behavior pattern that’s constantly popping up.

Overall, if you liked the first book I would say give this one a shot because it makes a nice benchmark to show how far Hajime has come. I rate this book Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #4 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #4

Author: Fuse

Format: Light Novel

Having taken care of the most pressing issues, Rimuru and his monster allies are busy building their town. Part of that is establishing trade with the various surrounding nations. They need supplies, and Rimuru also hopes to convince everyone that even though they’re monsters, humans can deal with them just like any other town. But as they move onto a bigger stage, they also attract entirely new enemies. . .

This volume was enjoyable, but also a bit scattered. Rimuru has been having dreams that feel like Shizu is trying to communicate with him, but he’s also not in any particular hurry to pick up on them. The tour of the nearby countries is rather relaxed despite the fact that he’s trying to forge alliances.

It was amusing to see Rimuru finally sign up to be an adventurer. Aside from the funny way he gets his license, this now means he can actually get paid to do what he’s been doing all along in killing the monsters in the Jura forest that pose a danger to his town. Of course, basic economics says that if he actually tried to cash in all his monster parts he’d drive the guild broke.

This volume also introduces the kids Shizu was formerly teaching. It’s neat to see how Shizu’s relationship with the Demon Lord Leon is more complicated than it initially appears. She had been angry at him for a few things, but also appreciative that what he did for her saved her life. And Rimuru, who decided to inherit her will, is trying his best to figure out what she actually meant when she sent him after Leon. Because he’s starting to think Shizu didn’t exactly mean to kill Leon.

The other interesting thing here (although it ties in with the main frustration) is that Rimuru finally meets other summoned people from Japan—and he figures out too late why Heroes are so highly regarded . . . and feared. He’s been able to mostly coast thanks to his unique abilities Predator and Great Sage. But he’s not the only one with unique skills. And when one of the summoned who has made it her life’s mission to eradicate monsters clashes with him, he finally has to fight against someone incredibly stronger than he is.

And that’s the main irritation here: the cliffhanger is brutal. And the next book isn’t out for several months. If that bothers you, read the rest of the book and save the epilogue until book 5 comes out.

Overall, despite not much of impact happening for Rimuru himself, I enjoyed seeing the expanded world. The focus on the practical issues of building a civilization and running a town, the furthering of some earlier plot threads, and the hints of some really big things to come make this a solid read. I rate this book Recommended.