「死線ノ涯」 (Shisen no Hate)
“Horizon of Death”
The story has shifted away from Zess since the capture of Cleo and introduction of Borcuse in the third movie, and this fifth one continues on that trend. In his place, we have Girge bumping heads with Rygart, and ultimately changing his attitude toward the war between Athens and Krisna altogether. Following the near annihilation of Borcuse and his men during their retreat last time (that saw the death of Aires), there was further distrust among Narvi’s Millennium Corps, which had Girge shaping out to be a major antagonist. Quite honestly, I was intrigued by that prospect since Girge’s proven to be a complex character who’s difficult to understand. Baldr’s backstory reiterated that notion, which explained how his son killed a fellow soldier during a training exercise and incapacited all the others for no apparent reason. Evidently, Girge has some screws loose — possibly from all the expectations to live up to his father’s potential — but the fact that he’s calm and composed and possesses quartz manipulation abilities that far exceeds everyone else (including Borcuse) makes him one of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in a while.
It says a lot when I found it rather heroic how he sacrificed himself to protect Rygart in the end, considering he purposely provoked him in a fight just before, stating that it’s not their fault if their weak soldiers die around them and claiming that Rygart’s true objective is to kill Hodr and steal the beautiful Sigyn for himself. Leading up to that, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that it was somewhat jarring to find Rygart and Girge at odds with one another all of a sudden, even though I could appreciate the subplot that turn of events was going for where we have an ungifted person (i.e. “unsorceror”) doing everything he can to protect his friends after his father passed away on one side, and possibly the most gifted person in the world not giving a damn about his potential even when he has one of the best fathers anyone could ask for on the other. On paper, it’s yet another conflict of personal values that drives characters beyond the breaking point, but it’s not a plot device that I’ve grown tired of seeing in different settings. In Break Blade’s case, it wasn’t entirely predictable either, as Rygart’s winning stipulation that Girge become a Krisna general never became reality, showing that protagonists can’t always beat some sense into everyone.
In comparison, Rygart’s clash with Borcuse in his village on the outskirts of Pegg Mountain was fairly straightforward, in the sense that Borcuse mercilessly slaughtered all the villagers, and Rygart assumed the worst about his younger brother Regatts. (Not that the two of them needed another reason to fight one another to begin with.) However, their battle did go on to emphasize that Borcuse isn’t a typical, one-dimensional villain, given his twisted enjoyment in engaging highly skilled enemy knights in battle alone. That’s largely in reference to Girge of course, seeing as Borcuse had very little interest in Rygart during their one-on-one fight and seemed to be toying with him more than anything else. He did eventually take interest in Delphine though — something that becomes more relevant in the final movie.
Unfortunately, overshadowed in this movie and the one before it was the situation between our four main characters, of whom only Hodr really showed any emotion after learning that Rygart charged into enemy lines to look for his brother and got captured in the process. As much as I enjoyed watching Narvi stick a press gun against Rygart’s crotch for defying orders, forcing them to go after him to save his ass, I definitely would’ve liked to see more of the Rygart/Zess and Rygart/Sigyn subplots this time around, since the finale does very little to address either of them. Sigyn telling Cleo stories of Zess’ childish past with Rygart and Hodr made it pretty clear that there’s a lot more story about the four of them to be covered, whereas the amount of time remaining made it painfully obvious that this movie series would never get around to doing so. I don’t mind how there’s been no screen time for the Empire of Orlando’s involvement due to time constraints — other than explaining how Krisna reached an agreement with them and its people fled their kingdom to seek refuge there — but it does bother me that there isn’t any closure between the main characters.
Casualty-wise, Narvi was spared the news of True’s death for the time being, which undoubtedly let her stay focused as an elite knight when Nike ambushed her. Given Nike’s psychotic nature, I can’t say I’m too remorseful about Girge ultimately killing her — especially when he had resigned to dying right after — though I do have a bit of a soft-spot for her character since she’s really petite and voiced by Shiraishi Ryouko. In any case, Io didn’t lose it as badly as I thought he would upon seeing Nike killed right before his eyes, or at least, he didn’t get a chance to because Girge’s sacrifice to save Rygart stole all the attention in the closing scene. Compared to those two, Nile’s death at the hands of Io was less dramatic, until I took into consideration the impact it would have on Narvi to learn that her brother was killed as well. That is, assuming that Nile actually died there.
I’ll leave my impressions about the fifth movie at that, as I can’t really say much more without bringing in my slight disappointment about the final one. For those wondering, things quickly pick up with Baldr throwing away his rank to try and save Rygart, accompanied by the select group of knights that has chosen to follow him.
Note: It’s a bit difficult to look at fifth movie alone when I’ve already watched the sixth one that was streamed on Bandai Channel, but I wanted to talk about the final two movies separately. I’ll have more thoughts on the ending later on and how it left the series as a whole unfinished, should I decide to cap off the much lower quality stream. (The BD release isn’t until July 22.)