「災厄の目覚め」 (Saiyaku no Mezeme)
“Awakening of a Natural Disaster”
There was something very poignant about Siesta saying how she wants all of them to eat delicious food together, fight over the bed together, and age together. For a show that can be so juvenile, bringing up the image of everyone growing old together showed potential for great depth and maturity. It also made me very, very worried. I had good reason to be. Statements like those are typically like a giant, flaming death flag waving across the sky with all the subtlety of a Chinese military parade through the middle of Tiananmen Square. It says “You want everyone to grow old together? Prepare for someone not to last the week.”
So, this episode. While Zero no Tsukaima has traditionally kept a pretty light tone, this episode starts with the city of Aquileia burning. Lightness of tone? Gone. Yet while the damage inflicted was horrific, I found it less terrible than when Joseph was blowing chunks out of the country earlier this season. The problem here is with the villain. To me, human villains will always be the most threatening antagonists. While Joseph was undeniably a monster in a moral sense, he was still a person like you or I, so the fact that he could have become so warped as to kill so many is much more disturbing. It makes one imagine how close other people could be to the edge, or even wonder if we have that within ourselves. The Ancient Dragon, on the other hand, is a force a nature. It’s an actual monster, with no indications of thought put into anything it does. It’s just a mindless beast that can be killed without any moral quandaries. Compared to the madman who thinks, a beast can never be as frightening.
…I digress. The first major event of this episode was Louise finally telling Saito about the risk of using Lifdrasil’s power. Now I say “finally”, but Louise knew for all of one day before she told Saito, so she actually did exactly the right thing. It would take me about that long to wrap my head around the situation enough to say something, so I give her full marks. Louise may be super tsun a lot of the time, but she always does what’s right for Saito in the end. And you know what? Saito decided to use his Lifdrasil power anyway. Just like I said he would! It just goes to show you how wrong the Pope was to keep that from Saito. A true hero stands up even when he might die, and Saito recognizes that if he doesn’t stand up then others are liable to die in his place. Kudos.
Yet the death flags that Siesta inadvertently raised had to come home to roost somewhere, and they didn’t waste any time doing it. Of the two character deaths, it was the destruction of Derflinger that was both the most epic, and the most saddening. Saito and Derf taking on the Ancient Dragon’s blast head-on was impressive to say the least, and it was another one of those moments where Saito proved himself to be a hero. But more than that, it was clear how much Derf’s demise effected Saito, which enhanced the feeling of the scene. It’s sometimes difficult to remember how much those two have gone through together, since Derf so seldom talks, but think about it – throughout most of this series, Derf has always been there for Saito. When he was fighting with Louise, Derf was still there. When he was sleeping on the couch, Derf was still there. When he was training, fighting, and nearly dying, Derf was always there. Hell, when Saito charged an entire army by himself, he wasn’t even truly by himself…Derf was there. And hearing how proud Derf was of Saito, right before he shattered? I’ll admit that I gave a silent salute to Saito’s fallen aibou.
But if I had one qualm about Derflinger’s death, it was that he died because of the Pope. I don’t think I’ve made any secret of this, but I have never much liked the Pope. Not only did he use Louise, Saito and Tiffania to bait Joseph into making a move earlier this season, but he kept the truth about Lifdrasil’s power from Saito, which was both stupid and wrong. So whereas I was saddened by Derf’s death, about all the Pope’s demise got out of me was a shrug and a “good riddance.” Not very nice of me, I’ll admit, but the Pope didn’t deserve the trust he received from Saito and the others.
My big question now is, where do we go from here? With only two void mages and a single familiar left (and presumably Julio, though I doubt he’ll keep his lame Windalfr powers without his master around), how exactly are they going to take out this big ‘ol dragon that has been giving them so much grief? I mean, it’s not real smart, as evidenced by how it walked right into a canyon and let itself get buried in a ton of rock, but it still has plenty of raw power at its claws. Perhaps even more power than before, if eating a void mage gave it a power up. There’s also the fact that we’re running out of episodes, and the preview doesn’t even mention anything about their new foe. Is this the note we’re going to end on, with Saito and the others pitted against a mindless beast? Some good stuff happened this episode – Derf, I salute you! – but I’m worried. I want there to be a fitting end to this show that I’ve enjoyed so much. Come on J.C. Staff, you’re the ones who made Ano Natsu, so I know you have greatness in you! Bring it to bear on these last few episodes, please.