So about the Andersen game. When we last saw our Andersen heroes, they were just about to meet the Little Mermaid, but they didn't know what. And first I should point out that, now that we've gotten an ending, we glanced a name in the credits and discovered that Svia is not the Snow Queen. She's just the Ice Princess then. Apparently she wants to go find her sister, who is probably the Snow Queen, but we haven't gone for that ending so we can't say anything about that yet.
So our heroes make it to the port town where they're going to talk to the prince for some reason, but it turns out he's gone evil or something and now they have to hide from scissor-wielding lizards again. They escape to the beach (or the dock; there were boats), where the Ugly Duckling's hot chick radar started going off, and after Svia freezes him for being an annoying pervert again, we find a woman gazing sadly into the ocean. Thumbelina's afraid she's getting ready to jump into the sea and kill herself, so she tries to talk her out of it, but the woman just walks away sadly without a word.
And then we meet her sisters. Or two of them, anyway--they never specify if she has more. They of course were in the water, because they did not have legs. Why? Because *gasp!* they're mermaids! They tell the whole story, pretty much the way it was in the Andersen version only she still has her tongue, just not her voice, but anyway, since it's either kill the prince or turn into sea foam, here's the knife that the Little Mermaid refused to take from them, could you, like, give it to her? She really should just kill the guy anyway, because an evil witch came along and gave him a cursed apple which stole his free will and turned him into an evil puppet. So that's a big bummer, because apparently he was a pretty awesome guy, but now there's no hope for him and the happiest ending he can hope for is dying before he does any more damage.
Then the chapter gets super actiony, because they all go to fight the prince, and they have to face scissor lizards and the evil witch with her new minions--Toad Jr. and Scarab the Younger, who, as you may remember, vowed revenge against the Little Match Boy and the Ugly Duckling. They're pretty useless, as you might expect, so the witch flips the metaphorical switch and changes the now-evil prince into a big scary monster. He attacks Lars (the match boy), and they're all like, "We have to save him! Kill the Beast!" and Lars is like, "No, wrong movie! I mean, no she has to do it!" But the Little Mermaid still doesn't want to kill her dearly beloved prince...until she has to, and she does and it's very sad except that I'm thinking about that knife and the handle of it was covered in giant spikes would would have made it impossible to hold without severely damaging your hand and somehow thinking about that hurts me more than thinking about the stabbing that inevitably occurred.
Anyway, the prince died, but he changed back into human form in his last moments and thanked the Little Mermaid for putting him out of his misery (and the Little Mermaid has another name, but we have no idea how to spell it, so we went to Wikipedia to see if it gave us any ideas; it didn't, but it did take us to the page for her voice actress, and it turns out she's played by the same actress as Hiyori's friend Yama-chan!). So it was all very bittersweet, and then she turned back into a mermaid and got her voice back. Tadah!
And she decided to travel with Thumbelina and her friends to avenge her prince and help prevent further tragedy, but first she has to check in with her family. So Ashell (with a long A, like A seashell) and her sisters help the party breathe underwater so they can all go convince the Sea King (who also has a name, which is not Triton, but which we don't remember) that Ashell should be allowed to travel on land, and Rune is all, "Under the sea, huh? I don't think I like this idea... *shrug*" And he sneaks off by himself to take a special potion to turn off his whatever-it-is-ness that makes him not want to go under the sea. They wouldn't tell us what it was, but they did give us the impression that if it were on, the merpeople would have all killed him.
So they go under the sea and they meet
Meanwhile, Ashell and the Sea King had a big fight that ended with the Sea King banishing her to land, which is exactly what she wanted, so everybody was happy except the Sea King who really would miss her after all. But it's not like she's going to be gone forever. (Apparently she's his favorite because she looks just like her late mother, which was our theory about why King Triton favored Ariel so much, too.)
And then they split up. Thumbelina and Ashell went to see the Sea Witch about making it possible for Ashell to travel on land, and to get some answers for Thumbelina, because she can see everything. Meanwhile, Lars, Svia, and Rune all went to wait for them topside, and everybody thought the Ugly Duckling was with the other party. But anyway, the Sea Witch gave Ashell a golden seashell that transforms into a giant goldfish bowl with wheels on it, and a loyal little servant named Goby, which incidentally is the English word for Dabohaze, but Goby wasn't a fish, he was a little fish-man with a bag on his head. (In a "secret" scene later, they flash back to when Dabohaze went to the Sea Witch and asked to be made human so he could join Ashell, but for some reason she's not supposed to know it's him, so the Sea Witch gave him a new name.)
Meanwhile, the Sea Witch reveals to Thumbelina that she can make that medicine to make her big again, but she's never done it before, so in exchange Thumbelina has to be her test subject. Meanwhile, here's a look through my crystal at some guys who are fighting for some reason. I really don't remember why that was significant, but it sure looked like that guy in white might be in trouble (he got knocked into the ocean) (it was the Dragon Knight fighting the Black Knight, of course). But then the crystal ball blacked out, and when the Sea Witch tried to get reception back, the channel changed to the inside of some palace where someone was like, "Who's watching my knight? Stop it." And the crystal ball breaks. Dun dun DUN! But the Sea Witch isn't too worried about it, because like whatevs.
Also, the Sea Witch tells Thumbelina that the true evil is inside her, or something? There was something very ominous about how she has to protect herself from dark forces without...and within! Dun dun DUN!
Anyway, back on land (in a chapter we only got after getting an ending), the human types have a run-in with the witch and her minions which somehow devolves into a game of beach volleyball, and pretty much served no purpose but the fannish ones. Meanwhile, the Ugly Duckling is back in the mermaid palace, living the good life with an entourage of merladies. Then he gets bored and decides to find his party, and a giant sea turtle takes him to land and gives him a box. And he wakes up on land in the future, and the environment has been destroyed and guys in hazmat suits are shocked to find a living creature, so they decide to experiment on him. And then he wakes up for real, but he still has the box, and it turns out he was dreaming the whole time and the Little Mermaid's brother is the one that brought him to the surface.
Then the party travels onward to a hot springs town, where they save the owner of an inn from goblins, and in exchange get a free stay at his hot springs inn, where the water happens to have magical healing properties. And this is where you finally get to make the decision that may or may not lead you down a romantic path, because after working out Svia's ice problem, the girls all start talking about boys. Ashell's all like, "I just don't like that...Rune, was it?" And Svia's like, "I can't stand that duckling!" (Ashell calls the duckling "Little Bird", which makes sense because as a mermaid she wouldn't know about different bird species. And it's super cute. She also thinks Little Bird is cute, or at least she doesn't get annoyed at him.) And then they ask Thumbelina if she likes anybody in the party, or who's the least undesirable of the party. First we went with Little Match Boy, because he was first in line, you know?
Meanwhile, the boys are getting drunk and/or meeting the Dragon Knight, who happened to be at the hot springs on this very night because of that time he fell of the cliff and now needs magical healing water. When they're all done bathing, Thumbelina gets to meet the Dragon Knight, and he gives her a magic horn that she can use to call him if she's ever in trouble. And then when everyone's asleep, the Ugly Duckling decides it's time to open up his secret box gift and see what's inside it. A weird mist comes out of it, and he starts to feel strange...
And before we can truly start down Lars's path, there's another chapter, which is so far one of the best non-ending chapters. The party is leaving the inn to continue the journey, and this time they actually do notice that the Ugly Duckling isn't there yet, so they wait for him, and when he finally shows up, he starts being the jerkiest jerk he's ever been. I mean, sure he's been annoying before, but now he's being downright mean! He tells Lars that everyone hates him and he tells Svia that everyone's afraid of her and there is definitely something wrong with this stupid duckling. But the party soldiers on in awkward silence until they can't take it any more and Lars goes off to find food, and Svia decides to take a walk. The Little Mermaid is worried, so she decides to go after her and make sure she's okay, and Rune's like, "Good point, I'll go check on the Match Boy," and Thumbelina says, "No, he'll be fine. Rune, you go with the Little Mermaid to check on the Ice Princess." (They don't call people by name, only by title.) So Rune's like, "You're always right *shrug*," and the Little Mermaid's like, "Heeey...!" and they go off together. Rune is a pretty sharp guy and he realizes that Thumbelina wants them to make peace, so he tells Ashell that it's not really fair of her to hold a grudge against him for what his ancestors did and don't you think we should be friends, and Ashell's like, "IIII gueeeess." Apparently whoever Rune's ancestors are abandoned the merpeople ages ago.
Meanwhile, Thumbelina has stayed with the Ugly Duckling to ask him yo, what's the dealio? And he's like, "What? I'm the same old me! The same duck with the unfortunate color of feathers!" And Thumbelina's like, "Yeah. The real Duckling would never use the word 'unfortunate' to describe himself, and hey where's the cologne you're always wearing?" And then, dun dun DUN! he reveals that he's been the evil witch in disguise all along! Oh no!!! And the witch puts Thumbelina in a special birdcage that's made to cancel magic, so there's nothing Thumbelina can do to save herself! So she calls for help to whoever it is you told everybody you liked, but of course whoever that is can't hear her! Oh no! What is she going to do!
Then! Suddenly! There's a slash! and a silver-white feather...I don't remember, it did something dramatic. (I'm sorry. It was a pretty cool scene. Just imagine it showing up and being all dramatic, Tuxedo Mask Rose style.) And there's this very dashing fellow with long white hair and big white wings who calls himself the Swan Knight, loyal servant of the beautiful Thumbelina. He speaks in tanka. Well, not quite tanka. The first one is almost a tanka, with one extra syllable somewhere, but it's divided up like a tanka would be. And as it goes on, it seems to just be 5-7-whatever he feels like, but it's still broken up like poetry. And this guy is like unstoppable! Until he starts writhing in agony, and he's all, "Ugh! My time is up!" But apparently he still has some time left, because he sticks around for a while--long enough, in fact, for the Sea Witch's octopus valet to come along and give Thumbelina the finished potion to make her big (but it's only temporary, and if she uses up a lot of magic or finds herself, like, on the verge of death or something, she'll shrink again), so she drinks it and is big and fights a little, and then everybody else comes back and starts fighting the witch and her minions.
Meanwhile, the Swan Knight has been injured, so while everybody else is fighting, Thumbelina casts a spell to help him, and depending on which one you choose (it's a pretty obvious choice; the guy is hurt, so use the healing spell), he'll say, "I don't want your magic. I want..." and then he kisses her! What! (She says, as if she didn't see it coming a mile away, although it is a little early for kissing in this game. But considering who this guy is.) And then he flies off or something, and the party returns and says the bad guys got away. In the end, the Ugly Duckling comes back, and they're all like, "How do we know you're the real Ugly Duckling?" and we don't remember how he proved it, but we figure he was just the right amount of obnoxious or something. But he did say something that for some reason reminded Thumbelina of the Swan Knight. But that's weird, they don't look or sound anything alike, she thinks. (And we thought, "What are you talking about? They sound exactly the same," because the Ugly Duckling is the only character we've met so far who's played by a voice actor we can easily identify. That actor is Tetsuya Kakihara, who played Little Red Riding Hood in Labyrinth of Grimm!)
Now, this is where the stories start to diverge. The octopus guy told Thumbelina that if she wants to be big permanently, she'll have to track down the great wizard Valfalfa, because he's the only one who can do magic that powerful. So she decides that she wants to... (ellipsis to indicate this is the divergence)
...go back to her hometown to see if there are any clues at her old house because that's where she was born and where Valfalafel gave her mother the magic book. So she and the Little Match Boy leave the rest of the party and return to their village, where they're devastated to see what it's been reduced to. And they meet one of the kids that used to bully Lars before, but now he's nice because he's just happy to see more people who are alive. He tells them yeah, all the survivors are living in the woods now, don't go there, they hate you. (They blame Thumbelina and Lars for the attack, of course.) He also says, yeah, I used to hate how she was always with you. And Thumbelina's like, "Aww, he just wanted to be friends with you!" and Lars is like, "Yeeeah, I'm the one he wanted to be friends with..."
So they went to Lars's house for a big emo session, and Lars was just feeling sad and powerless and wishing his grandfather would have told him something about the magic matches or anything at all, really, and then they find a trapdoor that he somehow never knew about. We guess they had a really good rug? Or maybe the fire also damaged its super awesome camouflage. Anyway, of course they went into the basement where they came across a reeeeeeeeally dark room that put out all of Lars's regular matches. And when he tried one of his magic matches, just one strike and fire magically went to all the sconces and lit the whole room. They found an old chest, and in it, there was a sword, a knife, a match, and a diary. The match was the scary thing, because it was pitch black and Thumbelina had a Very Bad Feeling about it.
They read the diary and learned that Lars's grandfather was the emperor's right hand man, and his best friend was *gasp!* the Great Wizard Varfegnugen! Lars's father figured out pretty early on that the emperor was turning super evil, especially when he let the other wizard (you know, the evil one (because every emperor has an evil wizard)) take his son (Lars's father) away to do evil experiments on. We still don't know the nature of those experiments, but we suspect we'll find out in a different Lars ending. So he got out of dodge and hid in the very rural village of I think it's spelled Fyn where nobody wanted to be friends with him which was fine because he didn't want friends either. Later, the Great Wizard Valhalla decided he couldn't take the evil anymore either, so he escaped with the magic seeds!
More on those later (one of them was Thumbelina! awww), because the other thing he escaped with was the Dark Matches. Dun dun DUN! (I really don't know if it was one match or a box of them. So please excuse my alternating between singular and plural.) Apparently they're the most powerful magical matches he could ever conceive of, and they'll keep burning until they've completely destroyed the wielder's target...but not without taking a heavy toll. And Thumbelina's like, "Hey, I know, we should totally just leave those right here and never speak of them again," and Lars is like, "...Nah." Actually more like, "Iiiii'm gonna take 'em with me just in case, but I promise I won't use them! No, really! I just...want to hold them. For a friend." (Okay, I'm exaggerating. He really sounded like he wasn't going to use them. He wanted them because I guess he just didn't want to let go of anything his grandfather left him...except for his sword, which is too heavy for Lars.)
So they also find a map which happens to lead directly to the evil emperor's evil palace! And they go there and they can just walk right in because of Thumbelina! Well, actually of course the scissor lizards wanted to kill them, but the Toad, Jr. shows up and says, "Sorry, the emperor wants them alive." So they're escorted to a large throne room, and while they wait...the Black Knight shows up! Dun dun DUN! And they start fighting for some reason we don't remember, but it probably has to do with Lars being hotheaded and impulsive. Not so impulsive that he was going to burn down any more forests, but he thought Thumbelina was in danger, so. So they fought and they were losing of course, and Thumbelina and was like, "Wait! I have this horn! If we ever needed the Dragon Knight's help, now is it!" So she started blowing on it, and the Black Knight was all, "Arrrrrgggghhh, it hurts me! Stop blowing that horn! *KILL!*"
She falls to the ground, and Lars is like, "Oh. no. you. didn't!" and goes crazy! Like totally berserk!! And he pulled out a match...and it's black! But he doesn't care (or doesn't notice because of the rage) and he uses it anyway! And it burns the Black Knight! And the Black Knight was like, "I always knew serving the emperor would end in my death, but I wish I could have saved an unspecified you first... *dies*"
Meanwhile, Lars is now covered in marks that would remind a Negima! fan of Magia Erebea, but are difficult to describe otherwise. They're like black swirly tattoos all over his hands and arms and face and he's writhing in agony. And he reaches out for Thumbelina (by the way, she told everyone they could still call her that even though she's big now)...and his hand falls limply to the ground.
We were sure it would end there, because Lars is the Ludwig of this game, and Ludwig had a sad ending in Labyrinth of Grimm. But then Thumbelina woke up in a strange room that she'd never seen before. The Dragon Knight had brought her there--he had heard her call! And he brought her there where she would be safe while she healed. And of course the first thing she asks is, "Where's the Match Boy?" and he's like, "Wellllll..."
They had to lock him up in the dungeon because the curse had made him ferocious, and they couldn't heal him because the dark magic inside him was rejecting all healing magic. The only thing that could maaaaybe heal him was the magic spring deep in the basement, and they'd tried to take him there, but he wouldn't stop struggling. But now that Thumbelina was there to help, they could try again. She went to see him in the dungeon, and he growled at her and it was so sad. But she said, "You were always there for me, and now, I'll be here for you." The next day, they put him to sleep (why didn't they do that the first time?) and took him to the magic spring. They immersed him in a place where he could float and still breathe, but nothing happened. The Dragon Knight told Thumbelina that sometimes it takes a long time for these things to work. She went to visit him everyday while she waited for him to heal, but he never did. The end.
And that was the first sad end we got. It really is sad, but it's also hopeful, because at least he's not dead for sure. So it's a little beautiful. Next we went for Rune's ending, but I think we'll save that for another time.
Today I'm thankful for finally getting to talk more about Labyrinth of Andersen, the Swan Knight, getting to work on some new manga today, learning that we had heard the Little Mermaid's voice before, and getting more new books to translate.