I thought this one worked pretty well? There’s a lot of weird mystery stuff in here that I’m largely immune to (I definitely spend brainpower more on figuring out characters than I do figuring out mysteries), but the confident way in which it was presented kind of got me on its side.

I’m pretty much just talking about Desast.

Immediately fills the villain void this show was in, while also making Calibur someone worth caring about. Desast has such devastating charisma, right from the start. He basically tells Calibur, the guy who summoned him, to go screw. He’s excited to duel with Buster. His loss is taken with a laugh; he seems to relish the idea of having an excuse to fight again later. He’s just fun, in a way that Calibur’s quiet menace and the trio of book gangsters had yet to manage. He comes into Buster’s story of a terrified parent and goes Man You Got Old. It’s great!

(His name's also, like, "disaster", which is cool as hell.)

It, again, even makes Calibur cooler? After a rousing Desast duel and a goofy Megid fight, Calibur’s last-minute attack on Touma and Rintaro strikes the right chord of predatory malevolence. Everything that was done was to separate out the various members of the Sword of Logos, tap their strength, and leave them vulnerable to Calibur’s power. It’s a cunning tactic, a world away from the last few episodes of random beatdowns and crossed-fingers from our troupe of terrorists. This is a guy who knows what it’s going to take to get what he wants, and is capable of doing it. Also great!

The remainder of the episode was solid, if less exceptional.

Ogami’s storyline, him seeing past Touma’s artistic facade for the dedicated warrior inside, was nice. It’s mostly just a standard Warrior Respects Warrior thing, but it’s landed effectively. I wish they’d found a different angle on it – something where Ogami finds value in Touma’s sweetness, or studiousness? – but what they gave was at least coherently done.

I don’t know that I loved the Sora resolution? The metaphor is strong, about the wonder of imagination and the worlds a book can take you to, but let’s be really real here with ourselves: that kid was excited to see a superhero do a form change and detonate a monster. Unless that kid’s going to take a Reading Rainbow to Kamen Rider Spirits or whatever, I’m not sure he’s going to get the same sense of wonder in his life. It’s a nice message, but it’s kind of not what Sora experienced.

I’ll let it go, though, because as a fellow bookseller, I was glad to see Touma do the coolest aspect of the job: getting a minor piece of information and figuring out what book it’s from. There is no more superheroic feeling as a bookseller than having someone offer a tiny detail from something they half-remember, and you spending a couple seconds in thought before going Oh It’s A Book Called “Friday”. That’s such an electric charge moment, and I’m glad Touma was able to showcase it for a generation of children.

Overall, this wasn’t a perfect episode, but everything in it seemed to work a little more effectively than last time. The villains are cooler, the fights are stronger, and the mysteries seem a bit more appealing. Pleasantly surprised!



HOME FROM WAR



So, that happened.

There are times in your life when change feels incremental; a series of barely-perceptible alterations that are only identifiable if the time frame is measured in months and years, rather than days or weeks. Diets that seem to bounce off layers of fat, savings that never quite seem to become usable funds, home improvements that only manage to create long-winded excuses to guests about unforeseen developments and arguments at hardware stores. Kouhei was used to those types of change, for better or for worse.

But when a blank plastic book transports you to the stomach of a mythical beast in a magical forest, and an excitable ditz shoots fireworks that summon superheroes… it feels like the universe is sending you a sign that it’s okay to drastically reexamine your life. It might even be a demand to do so immediately, because you might not get a second opportunity.

Changes came rapidly for Kouhei after that afternoon. He threw himself into his family with the same energy he used to avoid them. Gone was the fear that he’d hollowed out his hopes in favor of stability; returned was a confidence that he had a family that needed him, and a family that wanted to be there for him. The man who used to chase away feelings of parental inadequacy with self-delusion – that he was still taking care of his son, even if his son couldn’t understand that – looked at his actions with a newfound honesty. What could he do right now, today, for his son?

Family dinners were no longer something to sleepwalk through. Games were played in the small backyard: stories of superheroes and monsters, even if Yohei never quite knew where some of the finer details of swordsmen and lizardmen came from. (It was to Kouhei’s relief that his family never inquired after his renewed dedication to them; it meant he hadn’t been as lost as he’d thought.) Weekend excursions broadened Yohei’s horizons and cultivated new passions in the young boy. Kouhei finally felt like a father again.

This weekend’s trip was to a small bookstore another parent had recommended to Kouhei. A local mother (Yu, he thought, or perhaps Kaoru) had been by recently, and said it had some charm to it. Yohei’s interests lay more in the physical – that jeweled Sentai show certainly had him careening through the house most days – but maybe there’d be something to keep the boy’s attention.

It was a pleasant weekend afternoon, so the tiny bookshop – small had been underselling it – was crowded with a few other families. Yohei had found a corner of the store to rifle through a shelf of picture books featuring bugs, dinosaurs, and all manner of creatures to win the heart of an outdoor-loving child. Kohei browsed aimlessly, mostly waiting until his son had made a selection.

“That one yours?”

Kohei, startled, turned to the voice behind him. The man was a decade older than him, with close-cut hair and a weathered face. He had on a white polo, collar turned up like he’d stepped out of 2008, under a navy military coat that looked like he’d stepped out of 1808. He half-expected the man to invite him to a Napoleonic reenactment. Or a kegger.

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, that’s my son. Yohei.”

The man nodded approvingly, as though having a son had earned Kouhei the privilege of further conversation.

“That’s mine over there, Sora,” the man said, pointing towards a boy on the opposite side of the room. The boy was dressed like a miniature version of his father: white shirt, jeans, elaborate boots. (Kouhei presumed that the military surplus store was having trouble sourcing a child-sized captain’s coat.) The store’s owner was excitedly recommending various fables and fairytales to the boy, who marveled at each of them.

The gruff man shook his head slightly, but smiled throughout. “I don’t know where he gets this from, all this book stuff. Just the other day, he was crazy about the outdoors, running and playing, and now he wants to come here all the time. Touma, the kid who runs the place… good guy, but, man, I don’t know. Hard to see the point to it, you know?”

“Heh, yeah, maybe,” Kouhei said, surprised at the man’s casual unburdening to a stranger. “I think it’s good to get some different perspectives for kids. It…” Kouhei didn’t know the man, but if they were getting stuff off of their chests, well… “It’s good for any of us, really. Best thing about having a son is letting it push you to find other parts of yourself. Hard to change for me, for my own problems, but it’s easy as anything to change for him. If that’s the case, why stop him from trying to change? Does that… does that make sense?”

The man squinted a bit at Kouhei, who wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Had Kouhei overstepped, broken some Naval code of conduct? Was he about to be punched in the face, or keel-hauled?

That lazy grin came back to the man’s face, and he punched Kouhei causally in the arm. (So he had read the situation correctly enough to predict being punched; it’s nice that he didn’t miss the social cues entirely.) There was a mild chuckle, and then:

“Yeah… yeah, I get that. We get to be here for the whole thing. Nothing better than that, man.”

Kouhei saw that his son had decided on his book (a giant picture on the cover of a grasshopper was no surprise), and took the opportunity to excuse himself. The gruff man nodded once, and then walked to wrangle his son away from a growing mountain of books.

It was a pleasant conversation, if somewhat sudden and almost alarmingly honest. He hoped the man was a good father, even if he seemed to be a strange one. Either way, he was ready to gather up Yohei and leave for home.

These days, he was always ready to leave for home.

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