「無能王の乱心」 (Munou Ou no Ranshin)
“Madness of the Incompetent King”
I’m going to make an unfair comparison – King Joseph reminded me of Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. I say this is unfair because comparing what is (in my not-so-humble opinion) the best blockbuster superhero movie produced in my lifetime to a pretty good ecchi/fantasy anime is like comparing apples to another apple that is made of diamonds and solid gold. They’re both enjoyable, but one is pretty obviously better than the other, and putting them next to one another just insures that everyone’s feelings are going to be hurt. And probably a lot of people will die.
Still, I’m doing it anyway because King Joseph struck me as a poor man’s Joker this episode. With his speech about committing mass atrocities just to see if he could feel anymore, I couldn’t help but recall Michael Caine’s Alfred talking about the Joker – “Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” And you know what? Anything that makes Michael Caine’s voice pop into my head is fantastic in my book, and this episode was no exception.
First of all, Saito. I have so much respect for Saito this episode. There were three times he really impressed me. First, his “mind’s eye” bluff. I was sputtering about how stupid he was when he was standing there with his eyes closed, and I was just waiting for him to somehow manage to hit Joseph by force of Plot – and then he grabs Joseph’s knife hand and goes for the kill. Sure, it didn’t work, but kudos for the plan. The second time was when he let Tabitha make her own decision on whether to kill Joseph or not. Once again I was cringing, waiting for him to be all goody-goody like Louise was, but he did the right thing and let her decide. Okay, so it’s not the stereotypical “right” thing, but Tabitha will now be stronger for having made that decision herself. Another point for Saito. Finally, the third time Saito impressed me was when he called Julio and the Pope out on their scheming bullshit. Actually, I’m a little more fond of those two as well, since they had the decency to come clean when they were figured out, but Saito still comes out ahead for seeing through them. Saito really earned his harem this episode, and a new title of “Hero” to boot. Nice.
Mind you, not all was cherries and blowj–pops. I did spend an unhealthy amount of the episode yelling at my screen “Shoot her! Shoot him! Nuke him! JUST KILL THEM ALREADY!!“, which is totally not crazy at all, right? Of course, I was doing that when Saito first approached Joseph, but his shundo–I mean, Acceleration spell meant it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Still, if I were Saito, I would have capped Sheffield in the chest and shot Joseph the second he was down…which is probably why he gets the girls and I’m an anime blogger, ORZ.
In addition, this arc felt like it was over awfully quickly. There was a lack of build up, of tension. The resolution just came so fast that I never had time to truly appreciate how much of a crazy mass-murderer Joseph really was. It feels like this arc should have been a four episode affair, so that we could have had one episode of gargoyles snatching crying babies, ships crashing into civilians and the other Tristain mages getting in on the action. That would have really built up Joseph as a complete monster, and made his death all the more satisfying.
Still, these are minor quibbles overall. I realize that J.C. Staff has a lot of material to go through and only so many episodes to do it in, so they can’t necessarily spend the time needed to build the first bad guy of the season into a real monster. So, was this episode enjoyable? Well, Saito was a badass, Louise kind of was too, both Siesta and Tiffania were useful in battle and there were plenty of explosions to go around. Yes, this was an excellent episode! It’s looking like next week is going to be a break for some ecchi fanservice, but hopefully this intermission won’t take too long. While the thought of Montmorency pinning down Kirche is fantastic for so many reasons, I’ve really been enjoying all the action so far this season, and look forward to its swift return.