This was a solid episode with great parts for Merchant and Hero, but primarily a setup episode (which makes sense, since 9 knocked down most of the dominoes set up so far). I can’t wait for Demon Kings reaction to the mess her allies have made. I’m kind of assuming it’ll take a united Demon/Southern Nations alliance to bail them out of this one.
Also, Merchant and Dragon Princess work well together. They’re both ambitious, goal-oriented, and vain, but their specialties are both opposing and complementary, Dragon’s bluntness is a good counter to Merchant’s scheming, and their conversations show their mutual respect. Hero made a good call introducing these two.
I’d talk more about details and themes, but I’ve been watching/writing on a freaking bus. Next time!
This show always manages to use the fewest possible words to get a point across. “I have no troops to spare. Can you deal with them?” “Yes. But would it anger you if I said I did not want to fight the demons?” “…we cannot afford a fight on two fronts.”
Bam, there we go. Hero’s motivation, the king’s pride, his ultimate ceding to the needs of the moment, which allows Hero to further his goal of integrating the two cultures by allowing for straight diplomacy – all covered in three brief lines of dialogue. Plus, neither of these characters have a particularly great way with words, yet this dialogue is a perfectly believable, snappy argument between the two of them that never oversteps into open hostility – this is how Hero has learned to negotiate. It really continuously amazes me that this story wasn’t written by a professional… although obviously this adapation was, and has succeeded in distilling the essence of these characters into the snappiest possible exchanges. Such sharp work.
8:45 – It’s not the characters. It’s the dream. Our world, the real world, is so far away from passing the hill – and we’re not even trying. Our very systems of economy prevent justice, prevent equality, prevent true freedom… we live as wage slaves distracted by our shiny 21st-century toys. But seeing these characters fighting so hard against the forces that shape our world, against our weak, human nature… it’s pretty goddamn inspiring.
15:42 – Spells spells explosions explosions bleh. This show is no good at this kind of stuff, and I kind of wonder why they even bother – like, they just introduced that army as a conflict this episode, did they really exist just to inject a little false tension and then be teleported away with a massive dose of magicy bullshit? I’ve said before that my least favorite parts of this show are when it tries to work as an actual fantasy story, and that’s still true – whenever it veers into total fantasy-land nonsense, it both counteracts the ways this story actually reflects reality, and just doesn’t come off as very distinctive or engaging. Hopefully this is all going somewhere.
16:38 – A really, really tidy bit of storytelling here. Normally, these large-scale fantasy battles are just a clusterfuck of things happening with no real stakes – all sound and fury, basically. Here, they cut back for a moment, using two lines of dialogue to establish the student soldier as an intelligent man (well, a good student, at least), and then letting his message to the troops quickly lay out both the terms and stakes of this battle. That way, the audience is actually invested in the events as they happen, because they understand something of the strengths of each side, as well as the stakes. Beautiful economy of scene-setting – action scenes only really work if the audience can actually tell who’s winning or losing.
18:58 – SEE?!?!? “She’s nearly become the King of Evil.” OH NO, NOT THE KING OF EVIL! Isn’t that EXACTLY the kind of BULLSHIT SIMPLISTIC STORYTELLING this show is ENTIRELY A REACTION TO?!?!? GAH that makes me mad.
23:13 – Oh no, she’s manifested the KING OF EVIL’S EVIL SCYTHE OF EVIL. Fuuuuuck you.
Okay, seriously, the last thing, like literally, absolutely, positively last thing this show needed was a dramatic showdown between the representative of all good and the representative of all evil. Like, what’s the point of all this other stuff if, in the end, humanity is saved not through negotiation, compromise, science, and education, but through the guy with the biggest sword? What does that actually say about anything? Hell, maybe next episode love will save the day, and we’ll all learn a valuable lesson about the importance of sharing.
Still, everything outside of this aggravating high fantasy bullshit was excellent. The merchant and students in particular had some really choice material, and there was a lot of sharp, efficient storytelling throughout. But man, this “spirits of the ancient kings” stuff just couldn’t be less warranted. And honestly, it’s so far beneath this show that I have to assume next episode is going to subvert it. Positive thinking!