「あの人が置いた布石が、いよいよ意味を持ってくるのか」 (Ano Hito ga Oita Fuseki ga, Iyoiyo Imi o Motte Kuru no ka)
“So Now Their Plans Are Finally Coming To Fruition?”
Covering a typical Maoyuu episode is a mental workout. In the space of a single episode events so major that they’ll take years to fully unfold were laid on us, with serious consequences for the entire human world. I’m not sure I got everything that happened, but I’ll try to lay it out. For you.
“There are two, so pick what you like.”
Setting belief aside, when a nation gives power over itself to an outside entity, they had better have a damn good reason for doing so. While some may even argue over whether something like the United Nations is a good deal, the one the Southern Triad has with the Church is not one on any level. They allowed the Church to wield power over them for its own naked benefit, and they got absolutely nothing in return other than demands and insults to their sovereignty. That means there’s only one thing to do…
I’m reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett: “Thou shalt not submit thy god to market forces!” (Small Gods) That’s right – competition! If the Church has a monopoly on belief, break it. It looks like they have their own little Protestant Reformation on their hands, and it’s a good thing too, because though this will make things more difficult in the short-term, it will help them in the long-term. Even if the Church were not so corrupt, having so much power concentrated in a single outside entity is dangerous. Better to introduce a little competition to the world, to keep them on their toes. Viva la free market (of belief)!
Holding the Economy Hostage
Speaking of free markets, Seinen Shounin spent this episode doing his best to twist the hell out of them. Now, you’ll have to pardon me on this, because while I am a master of politics, strategy, and the written and spoken word (which aided me greatly in covering explanation-heavy Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon), when it comes to economics I’m a little more uncertain. I’ll try to lay it out for you though, and any econ gurus are welcome to post corrections in the comments. Feel free to skim this section if you don’t care about the gritty details.
As near as I can tell, Seinen Shounin held the economics of the Central Nations hostage through buying and selling wheat futures. Now before I start, keep in mind that the key to everything that follows is uncertainty.
Okay, so what the Alliance did was go to all the wheat producers and say “I’ll buy next year’s crops for X, here’s the money now.” From the producers’ points of view this was a great deal (at the time) because it decreased uncertainty – they already had the money in the bank, so they didn’t have to worry about getting paid. Now all they had to do was produce the crop. Yet remember that a good businessman will never do a deal where he stands to lose money if he can at all help it. The producers locked in a price, but so did the Alliance. That means that if the price drops, the producers win out. If it rises, the Alliance will make a killing.
Oh look, there are no laws against market manipulation, one of the parties [the Alliance] is large enough to seriously distort the market, and no one can stop them. Guess what happened!!
The key is still uncertainty. When people are uncertain, they hoard. They hoard money, they are hesitant to sell their essential commodities (such as food), and if they do sell, they’ll sell it at much higher prices. So the Alliance starts buying wheat (not just the futures, but the existing product), which decreases supply; thus, the price goes up. Merchants see that the price of wheat is rising faster than it usually does, so being the silly humans that they are, they assume it will continue to rise (“The housing market is going up, and it will never stop going up eeeever!” *crash*). That means it’s in their best interest to either hold their stock and sell it tomorrow, or sell it now at a higher price…which of course drives up the price for everyone either way. In effect, because everyone believes that prices will go up, they do. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, not to mention a medieval sociologist’s wet dream.
Meanwhile, uncertainty grows because of the war brewing with the Southern Triad, making people more hesitant to sell what they have, more likely to hoard. But it won’t work. Unfortunately for them, Seinen Shounin has taken inflation and dialed it up to 11. Money is always eroding in value unless it’s spent or invested; this is as true in our world as it is in theirs. But the levels we deal with have been small in recent years, manageable – maybe 2-3% a year (in the developed world). Now the Alliance has ramped inflation up to levels approaching the hyper variety (though they’re not there yet! …yet). Everyone is losing money, and the money they have is worth less (you listening, creepy noble guy?). And through all of this uncertainty, the only thing that’s certain is that the Alliance is going to make a lot of money. Maybe. If they don’t smash the board to pieces in the process.
I’ll finish with two quotes to cap off this impromptu economics lecture. First is from the esteemed Warren Buffett:
“Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”
That’s why Seinen Shounin said that they should buy up all sorts of things – not just wheat, but iron, charcoal, and silver too. Uncertainty is high, so people are scared, meaning those prices are liable to rise. Though of course, it’s not only that – he plans to use that uncertainty to make the possible war into an inevitability, and then sell those commodities when the prices are higher. Clever girl. The Buffett quote is still a good one to live by, though.
Now one from Maou herself:
“Keeping all the wealth for yourself may make you rich, but it won’t make you prosperous. You give people money and they spend it. True prosperity comes from a free flow of wealth and goods.”
To put that another way, money likes to get out there and play! If you leave it sitting in the bank – or worse, under a mattress – inflation will slowly eat away at it. That’s not to say that you must spend it – I’m a big fan of investing myself – but the point stands. Though I used a quote about greed before, the short-sighted kind of greed that impoverishes everyone else (you listening, Church?) will enfeeble you as well. You may become rich, but the world will be poorer, and that money will buy you less than it otherwise might. I’m not sure that I really had a point here, I was just impressed that such a deep economic point was in an anime. Moving on.
Seinen Shounin & Karyuu Koujo
Is it just me, or has Seinen Shounin turned his eye towards Karyuu Koujo? Consider me aboard this ship, though not for fangirling reasons. (Okay, not just for fangirling reasons.) I never once considered Seinen Shounin a viable candidate for Maou’s affections, so that angle was pointless once it stopped being amusing. Yet if Seinen Shounin were to become somehow involved with Karyuu Koujo…well, that opens up all sorts of possibilities that I cannot even begin to fathom. Most of all though, it may fulfill his end of the contract with Yuusha – to “find what cannot be expressed in loss and profit.” I once guessed in passing that it might be love, but I think it’s closer to a broadening of his horizons, of growing as a person. Whatever the case, Karyuu Koujo may just be the key. Very interesting indeed…
Maou’s True Form
Pardon me while I freak the fuck out. TWINTAIL FRENCH MAID MINI-SKIRT THIGH-HIGHS MEIDO CHOU!?!? TWINTAIL BOOK NERD CLEAVAGE SHORT DRESS MAOU!?!? *dies from the sexy overload* *resurrect yes/no?*
Ahem. Anyway, this does expose the reason for Maou’s genre savviness (trope!) – she’s a nerd! I think there is a lesson here for all of us who love stories (which is every single one of us – anime counts): you can read until your long days pass you by, but there is no substitute for the story you create yourself. That’s why Maou got out of the library and went into the world, to see a story that had never been told before. We all should also endeavor to tell a wonderful story, lest life pass us by and we end up having told a boring one.
Final thought: I like how Maou opted to spend only the bare minimum of time in the Demon Lord room, sacrificing a true maou’s combat abilities for retaining more of herself. A very smart choice. Rather than a rehash of her predecessors, what the world needs now is a new kind of maou, one who would rather talk than fight. And when there’s fighting that needs be done, she has Yuusha. Awwww!
Looking Ahead – A War in Winter
Thanks to Shounin Shitei’s tariffs, the Southern Triad was spared the economic damage of Seinen Shounin’s inflation by making it more profitable to sell their wheat within their borders. Alas, that was their only chance for a peaceable settlement, even if it would have likely come with the Southern Triad’s starvation (a smart choice on their part, I’m just saying). Now it’s time for war! Tell me – am I the only one who instantly thought about how unwise it is to invade a cold country in the winter? Granted, I don’t think they’ll have to contend with General Frost, but the Central Nations leave themselves with only 2-4 weeks to get the job done.
That’s why it’s up to Toujaku Ou to keep them at bay! With no casualties, if possible. You may call that naive (few casualties would certainly be more realistic), but it’s also important – a minor scrap with naught but injured pride can be brushed off with later diplomacy, but blood on the ground is hard to wash away. Fight well, boys. Just not too well.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Commodity futures, religious reformations, new romantic ships, ohandalso TWINTAIL MAOU & MEIDO CHOU WOOO!! #maoyuu
- I enjoyed how they played with naivety this episode, not just with Yuusha, but with Meido Ane as well. In rejecting the song idea, I thought she was going to get all idealistic, but no – she just wanted to advertise the country, not the religion. Smart.
- If you want to learn more about commodity futures (stay with me here…), I suggest you watch Trading Places. In fact, I suggest you watch it anyway, even if you’ve seen it before. Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, and Jamie Lee Curtis back when they were good? (Well, Jamie Lee is still good, but you know what I mean). Easy sell!