「熟練者《エキスパート》」 (Jukurenmono “Ekisupaato”)
That was one of the most epic, amazing, constantly twisting-and-turning battles I’ve seen in a while–and it’s not over. That cliffhanger, GAH! I want more!!
Calling Out Clammy
As something of a student of political theater, I enjoyed watching Sora & Shiro’s objection to Clammy’s coronation. Without proof, they couldn’t prove she was cheating…but to be honest, I don’t think they wanted to do that anyway. That would have been messy, and it wouldn’t have proven that Clammy’s (and Steph’s) view of imanity is wrong. Instead they insinuated, they implied, and goaded Clammy into a game against them while they were booting her elf helper Feel Nilvalen (Noto Mamiko) out of the room. No one has proven anything, but everyone suspects, and when Sora and Shiro come out on top – assuming they can, from their point of view – they’ll be proven right. Plus, this way is a lot more fun! (For them and us)
Side note: I’m calling her Clammy Zell now, because a few characters said her name clearly enough this episode to make it clear that’s right, even if Clammy is a ridiculous name. It’s just super silly.
Faith In Imanity
I don’t hate Clammy, but I do despise her (& Steph’s) faith in imanity, or lack thereof. They see imanity’s lack of magic as a weakness that can never be overcome, leaving them with no choice but to accept the protection of another, stronger race and stop playing games altogether. Bullshit! Other races may be stronger and more powerful, but that doesn’t mean they’re better, nor should imanity throw its pride away, no matter the odds!
I much prefer Sora and Shiro’s view. They might not have always been the biggest fan of humans, at least back on Earth, but that doesn’t mean they hate humanity, nor do they denigrate its potential. When it comes to the human potential that Sora and Shiro embody, they’re going to fight and prove it. Putting their defiance in JoJo references just makes them all the more awesome!
Chess With A Will Of Its Own
I enjoyed how Sora tacitly tricked Clammy into thinking he and Shiro are agents from another race, to make her hesitant to use magic directly against them. In truth, I half expected them to face her even allowing her to use her elf magic, but that would have been too much – magic they do not understand can make a game unwinnable, and not even Kuuhaku can prevail then. But if there’s a way, Kuuhaku will win. They forced Clammy to use her magic on the pieces instead of them, giving them that chance.
Thus we get living chess. It was an interesting setup, only made all the more interesting when the pieces began ignoring Shiro’s commands. Ohhh man, I really felt for her when she knew how to win, but she couldn’t make the pieces move properly! That was frustrating, profoundly frustrating even for me the viewer, and that’s good. They not only managed to hit upon something universal enough for me to instinctively feel for her, it made me really feel for Shiro. I wanted to hug her too. (Disclaimer: I always want to hug Shiro.)
The Power Of True Charisma
As soon as it was revealed that the pieces were moving based on (at least in part) the player’s charisma, I expected Sora to use his own charisma to turn the tide. What I didn’t expect was how gloriously he did it! With promises of women, money, exemptions, and glory, he forged a bunch of chess pieces into a real army!
Huh? In a real war, what fool waits for their enemy’s ‘turn’?
I laughed! Games are good, but this is my kind of battle. More RTS than chess, or even playing raid leader in an MMO, Shiro flipped the script by treating his “pawns” as people.
“Sora, what is best in life?”
But Sora didn’t stop there. It was a stroke of genius to order the king and queen to the front, because that allowed Sora to juxtapose his army with Clammy’s.
Throughout all of history, no wise king has ever forced his army to obey him through oppression. People will only truly fight for what is right.
True, very true! Clammy claimed she had charisma, but Sora proved he had more. Lead from the front, bitches! But it gets better. What is right, Sora? For what do people fight?
The one true, unchanging righteousness in the world is…cuteness! Cute makes right! All our needs, desires, and instincts seek cuteness, and it is for the cuteness that we will give everything we have!
The Zag – Mind Control Magic
That could have been it, and it would have been a great game. But no–Clammy had more up her sleeve. The mind control magic was straight up, Grade A bullshit. That was another point of intense frustration as a viewer (which once again, means it’s done well), and the source of my only quibble with the episode – really Clammy, you’re surprised Sora figured out it was mind control magic? What else could it be -_- That led to the greatest part of the episode, though:
Sora & Shiro Are Not Invincible–Individually
For an episode with so many amazing over-the-top events, my favorite move was an understated one. First Shiro was frustrated by the pieces that wouldn’t do what she told them to do, and then Sora freaked the fuck out when the mind control magic set in, and he realized he had screwed up. Sora and Shiro are pretty broken, they’re both very intelligent, clever, and capable of pulling out victories that the rest of us would never consider, but they’re not invincible–individually. They doubt and can’t figure out what to do and get frustrated and despair. Rather than denigrating them, that weakness makes me like them all the more. It also drives home the unique point of their warped relationship – while apart they are weak and defeatable, together they are invincible. Sora can lose and Shiro can lose, but Kuuhaku never will!
Dating Sims & Taking The Bait
It still remains that Clammy’s mind control magic is totally unfair. All the props go to Sora for getting down on the board and wooing the enemy queen by appealing to her as a person too, hah! Nobody for a virgin gamer would think of that, but by once again juxtaposing his & Shiro’s forces with Clammy’s, he turned her to their side. But Shiro was right, it changed nothing – as soon Clammy’s pieces touched any of theirs, they would be turned.
Then Shiro made Clammy think she was using her “magic detection device” and goaded Clammy into taking the bait. Ordering the knight to attack – once again, she forgot that these pieces have a will of their own, while Sora keeps treating them as people. Twists and turn, weave and buck–just when I think I know what’s going to happen, this game battle hits me with a curveball. I love it!
Looking Ahead – There Is A Way!
But it’s not over. Damn, that cliffhanger!! I want next week to be now soooo bad!
If I had to guess, Shiro taking command of the army and Sora planning to win without fighting will either involve him going down on the board again or going after Clammy himself, but I’m not sure which…or, the way this show keeps going, if I’m totally wrong! All I know is I want more. When is next Wednesday going to get here already!?
Oh, it’ll get here next Wednesday? Damn, that’s a long time. *twiddles thumbs, waiting patiently* *quietly goes insane*
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – A chess battle full of twists & turns where the pieces have wills of their own. I’m still reeling from all the awesome! #nogenora 03
- Elf Noto Mamiko is always a good thing.
- “‘Lines we wanted to say someday,’ #4! We actually got to say it!” Ohhh man, I’m dying over here!!
- This really isn’t a match that should be taking place in private. The people need to see this. They need to see what their kings-to-be can do!
- I’m constantly surprised by how they pack so much into every episode, but it never feels rushed. This is a lesson in how to adapt light novels well – four episodes per volume, from the looks of it.
Check out my blog about storytelling and the novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: It’s not always the ones you expect, Thinking about Looney Tunes; The safest risk; and I’ll allow it.