OP: 「Kimi to Revue 君とレヴュー」 (君とレヴュー) by (Bocchan (CV: Natsuki Hanae), Alice (CV: Ayumi Mano))
「坊ちゃんとアリスと魔法のプール」 (Botchan to Arisu to mahō no pūru)
“The Duke, Alice, and the Magic Pool”
For me, this adaptation is always a tug of war between appreciating what it is and lamenting what it could be. Shinigami Bocchan to Kuro Maid isn’t quite a great manga in my opinion, but it’s very good indeed. I do think that comes across in the anime, which is fine in terms of direction and writing. But if this series wasn’t hamstrung by the CGI and the casting, I think it could be something really special. And it’s not, most of the time anyway. It’s just good, with what works outweighing the ballast, and occasionally sparking into true pathos. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all – it’s just the nature of a fan to be greedy.
This season may just look a hair better than the first (I even thought I saw a couple of non-CGI scenes, like the disembodied hands clapping). And for me the material it covers is definitely stronger than what the first season did. So all in all I think there’s a good chance of a level up, even if The Duke of Death and His Black Maid is one of the last series in the world that should ever be CGI. And indeed this was a very good first episode, easing us back into the story after almost two years away, and introducing some of the elements that will take the story to another level.
The bit with the house of cards was cute and fluffy, but the episode really starts with Caph and Zain at Circus Gemini. One of the strengths of the manga is unquestionably the supporting cast, and Circus Gemini is possibly my favorite subset of the series. Capth and Zain have latched onto it as a non-judgmental place where they can “pass”, and no one will ask awkward questions. In fact Zain suggests that Caph could permanently pass as human, something he could never do – but she’s only interested in staying with him. For now Circus Gemini is a good half-measure for them, close to Bocchan and Alice and a fun place to work.
Among the performers at Gemini is Hugo (Ishigami Shizuka), a little ex-pickpocket who’s sweet on Caph (who wouldn’t be). The Zachou (ringmaster) is a charmer. Ringmaster (Mizunaka Masaaki) clearly understands the sort of person drawn to places like this, and the importance of leaving their secrets unmolested. As for Zain, he’s brought back a stash of magical items from Daleth’s place – and he’s determined to use Bocchan and Alice to field test them for him.
One of those items is a sort of insta-pool, which Caph swings by the mansion with. It would probably be unsporting to point out that bikinis didn’t exist in the Victorian age, and Caph and Alice look good in them anyway. Caph goes a little crazy with her magical shackles removes, and Bocchan almost passes out from the heat in the room (he declines to avail himself of the pool). I’ve seen many kabedons in anime, but that may be the first life-saving one.
The most important item of this batch, though, is the “sweet dreams” box, which promptly whisks Bocchan – and Alice – into a world of his fantasies (where they’re greeted by Alice as a bunny girl). In a dream world he could touch Alice of course, though he doesn’t. And the dreams we see trend rather towards the wholesome (more so than Alice’s would I expect) – like sharing his piano with an audience. What Alice sees behind door number two is the real kicker though – herself in a wedding dress. Every reminder of what these two have is also a reminder of what’s denied them, and that juxtaposition is what really gives this series its emotional heft.
ED: 「Hoshikuzu Requiem」 (星屑レクイエム) by (Nasuo☆ (なすお☆))