Solid episode, with a lot to recommend it, even if it’s still a very Saber approach to a plot-heavy episode.

Lemme get the negative part out of the way first: this whole Calibur/Book Club plot continues to be first draft-level vague, with almost nothing specific motivating its tension this time out beyond our heroes’ desire for revenge and the inherent Villainy Is Bad ethos of this franchise designed to sell toys to Japanese children. Calibur’s constantly inadequate refrain of Universal Truth is now ably assisted by a boilerplate Humanity Sucks conviction, rendering his normally taciturn disinterest for the Sword of Logos into something almost insufferably generic. He’s just a sneering villain now, with nothing to say – but more verbose in his personal defense. That’s a bummer.

The Book Club stuff is similarly a shrug, where I don’t understand what they want, why they want it, or what they’re planning on doing with. It’s been fourteen episodes, and their plan is still frustratingly opaque. Like, they want power! And it’ll help them rule the world! The end! That is… boy, it wouldn’t be good enough for this show’s first arc, let alone something more than a quarter of the way through. I’m beyond sick of them.

But! Besides that? Pretty good episode.

I like how the show honors Kento’s baked-in martyrdom by letting the entire cast shoulder the burden of his goals in his absence. It’s a testament to Kento’s character growth that his quest is forcefully picked up by the entire Sword of Logos, who visually honors him throughout the episode by using his Wonder Ride Books to combat the Book Club. It’s a nice little We See You moment by Touma and the gang, to literally carry Kento’s weight in this story.

And to use it in an episode with wall-to-wall action? Even better! As this is clearly a two-parter, we’re in a fully action episode of Saber, for better or worse. I’m not as much of a fan of extended action sequences, but for those of you who want to see well-choreographed action across multiple locations with basically the entire cast, this episode is happy to exceed your expectations. There’s a bunch of clever tactics (I loved watching Kenzan, Slash, and Buster trade Wonder Ride Books to try and outwit the Book Club), and no shortage of exciting momentum shifts. It’s as solid a long-form TV fight as you’re likely to get.

For me, though, the episode highlight was exactly what you’d think: Rintaro gets a power-up, flanked by an energetic Mei. It’s mostly the second half of that description that did it for me, if I’m honest. King Lion Daisenki is a neat form–I like the cannons and more flattened-out lion head and blue Dragvisor–but I’m mostly here for Mei’s exuberant commentary. It’s so fitting for Rintaro’s power-up, you know? He comes in all forthright and commanding as a swordsman, and Mei’s like YAY CAT ARMOR <3 in the background. It’s that mix of Rintaro’s serious professionalism and Mei’s genuine enthusiasm that makes the two of them endlessly fun to watch.

I’m definitely finding little pleasures in this show, despite the main plot being a slog for me. (Even Rintaro’s new power-up mostly comes out of nowhere, as Rintaro and Mei just have to wait for it to finish baking, like it’s the world’s most book-shaped loaf of bread.) The teamwork of the cast this time out was exhilarating, and any one of them is compelling enough to keep my attention for an entire scene. But they’re in this story against villains who continuously fall beneath my sinking expectations, in service of an apocalypse that lacks any distinguishing characteristics. I need this part of the show to change! Soon!



PREFERS UNHAPPY ENDINGS



Takayuki looked up into the sky, hoping things would be different. They weren’t. Still a glowing, gigantic book in the sky; still ringed by rotating flames.

It had been almost a day since he’d first seen it, along with other shop owners in the building. They’d discussed what to do, but no one could quite decide on which city service might be responsible for dispelling the nuisance, or if closing up would be safer than waiting out the supernatural event. As the owner of a liquor store, Takayuki voted in favor of continuity of community: namely, keeping their various shops open as a way of helping their neighbors feel a little more normal in light of unprecedented events.

(Secretly, he knew that folks would probably want to get hammered if an apocalypse was imminent, but that wasn’t the argument he thought might win over the room.)

But that was a day ago, and the glowing book’s presence was starting to feel normal. Which was its own level of troubling. The longer it stayed there, not doing much of anything, the more worried he was getting. Previously, it had been something he thought would either disappear or kill them all; now, he was afraid of what this status quo might actually be.

He was sweeping up in front of his store, when Desast wandered by.

“Morning, Desast,” Takayuki greeted the demon swordsman.

“Hey, Takayuki,” Desast responded as he meandered towards the storefront.

Desast had become a routine presence along this block the last few months. He claimed to be a demon swordsman, but no one really knew who he was. Some folks thought he was an overly dedicated cosplayer. Some folks thought he was an eccentric retiree. Takayuki didn’t much care, and didn’t waste any curiosity on Desast’s story. If he wanted people to think he was a demon swordsman who was looking for worthy opponents, Takayuki didn’t much care. It was a nice distraction from the day, and that was good enough.

“What do you make of that?” Takayuki gestured to the sky with his broom, as though there were any other possible topic of conversation that he could be referring to.

Desast looked up briefly, then looked back at Takayuki. “Make of what?”

“The–” Takayuki sputtered in astonishment, then caught his cool. “Oh, HA HA, very funny. You got me again. The book, funny guy. What do you think’s up with that gigantic book?”

Desast tilted his head slightly to the side, his rictus mask typically unreadable. He stared at Takayuki for a moment, and then spoke.

“What, that? Hell, man, that’s the book that’s gonna end the world. You guys are maybe an hour away from two worlds colliding, and the Megid gaining the power to fulfill their darkest, sickest desires. It ain’t gonna be a real good Tuesday for you chumps, I’ll tell you that much.”

Desast’s attitude was… controversial in the neighborhood. Some folks took his prickly demeanor as confrontational, or at least annoying. Takayuki was one of many who was able to see past Desast’s lack of refinement and poor social skills, to the people-person underneath. He was caustic, but approachable; smart-mouthed, but genuine. He had a disarming way of connecting with people, despite the bizarre costume and mask.

So while Desast’s comments might have seemed inappropriate to others, Takayuki understood what he was trying to do. Things were uncertain, and Desast was just trying to lighten the moment with some humor, gallows or not. Better to say the most ridiculous thing, and laugh at the absurdity of it, than focus on the more terrifying unknowns.

Takayuki snickered at Desast’s joke, and got back to sweeping. “That’s a good one, Desast. You sure come up with the craziest crap.”

“Whatever you say, Takayuki. I’m gonna get going, maybe see if there’s anyone to brawl with before the curtains come down on your whole world. See you tomorrow, if you’ve got one.” With that, the demon swordsman slouched off towards the park.

Takayuki looked back up at the glowing book, a little more relieved than he was earlier. “You bet. See you tomorrow, Desast.”

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