Like the second episode, this one started off by bouncing an idea from a few angles – this time, it was “what you gain from fighting.” The defeated martian knight was probably the most childish in his desires here, scoffing at Slaine’s reasons for fighting while bemoaning his loss of “honor” on the battlefield. The childishness of this desire was then pretty much immediately highlighted by framing it in the actual voice of a child, as Inko mused over how nice it’d be to get a medal in battle. Their instructor was quick to provide the cynical counterpoint there – “dying for honor isn’t so bad when you’re living in misery.” He’s talking about his own regrets, of course, but if you’re not living in the war-story dreamland of the martian knights, “using yourself for the cause” may be the only way to actually gain the will to fight.
Following this, I very much enjoyed the little exchange between Asseylum and Rayet. Rayet’s one of the more clear pragmatists here, whose very uncertain position and immediate experience with loss has left her with none of the childish optimism of the other kids. In response to Asseylum’s high-minded “I must stop this war” speech, her response is “if you want to die, that’s your concern. But leave me out of it.” She’s right to say this – for all the niceness of the princess’s rhetoric, her position here is clearly very dangerous, and giving her location away would put everyone on board the ship in extreme danger. Her moral choice can’t really be considered a “personal” sacrifice when she’s deciding the fate of every person around her.
On the visual side, I liked how this episode constantly isolated Slaine in the frame, casting him in massive shots where he only occupied a small portion of the screen, often shoved to the side. He is without ally in his position, trapped in a hostile machine far larger than himself, and the show’s cinematography really helped highlight that. The martian empire is vast and terrible, and Slaine is just one small boy. Though the episode’s last-second revelation may end up offering a clue to Slaine’s escape from powerlessness, since apparently his father is somehow deeply involved in either the cause or power of the martians. Which will also tie into how Slaine found himself on Mars in the first place.
And then, as usual, we had a final battle. This one wasn’t as satisfyingly constructed as the last couple (the episode was pretty busy with other things, but it still should have foreshadowed Inaho’s blade-countering trick), but I really liked the speech patterns of the martian knight. From the beginning of the fight to the end, he was playing a role – this was the glorious conquest he’d been waiting for, and he would embody it even if the world refused to agree. There’s a kind of inherent sad humor in him saying stuff like “so you show yourself… my nemesis.” He’s built up the idea of what this battle and the “honor” it represents so completely that he immediately assigns a teenager in a trial robot the role of “nemesis” in his personal story. And in the end he gets to die for his honor after all.
Also, Inaho’s “where are my pajamas?” How do people not like this guy!? Look at that smile.