“The Decisive Battle”
A decisive victory is won, but perhaps not one Pars can feel entirely happy about.
We Ride At Dawn
I’m told that the Arakawa manga we got these character designs from isn’t adapted nearly this far, so we’ve been in novel territory for a while now. But this battle here, is mostly anime original. Given how wonky some of the previous episodes have been, and how underwhelming the Return to Pars campaign has been in general, I’m pleased with how damn good this episode was. Not only in budget and action, but in how the story is being told.
Take Étoile’s discovery that Arslan is … well, Arslan. Obviously the point of that scene was to prime her to go after him later in the episode, but it was also used to give the Parsian forces a way inside. And sure, a secret tunnel is perhaps a bit convenient, but these are things that some ancient castles actually had. Hell, the entire castle is convenient, from a storytelling perspective—an old abandoned Lusitanian castle in Pars territory that the Parsians never bothered to study properly? Doubtful … but certainly not impossible. (And the Lusitanians have occupied it for a few months now, at any rate.) What I like is that the puzzle pieces seem to fit together, in a way not unlike the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime. Sure, if they ever adapt the whole thing completely faithfully, we’ll see how everything slots together perfectly. But for now, it does work.
Also, you can’t say we didn’t tell you, Arslan. Dont approach the angry enemy soldier. Not wise. (Elam better survive, dammit!)
So That’s Where The Budget Went
The battle itself was awesome. The entire scene when the Parsian army was riding up, when Arslan gave his rousing speech (in his own way), and then shouted out “Yashasuiin!”? Chills, man. I got chills. I loved how Alfreed and the San Baka Commanders got juicy roles, Kubard got his big damn heroes moment (trope!), we were reminded just how dangerous Daryun and Kishward are, and there were just exciting happenings all over the battlefield. And yes, Farangis walking out into a hail of arrows made me do a double-take, but why is it that we balk at magic like that, but swallow teleportation whole? Because the latter is far beyond what we know to be real, whereas we know that walking out into arrows doesn’t work, just like we know blocking arrows with a sword doesn’t work either. It’s uncanny valley. Faith isn’t rewarded that way in our world, so we balk—but it seems like it’d be easier for a god to nudge arrows out of the way than it would be to do the flashy magic. I give it a pass for that, and because she looked so damn cool.
Then of course, there was the battle between Daryun and Hermes. I’m glad they saved some budget for that one! It was phenomenal. I could have filled up this page with screenshots of that fight alone. And, lo and behold, Hermes didn’t die. Which is good. It would have been too easy had he died there.
Oh, and as for Hermes leaving Daryun alive, when he had all those evil sorcerers at his beck and call? Remember the Terry Pratchett quote I invoked back in episode thirteen. That hasn’t gotten less true. “If a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man…”
Problems of Faith
Pardon my ignorance of real world religions, but I do believe that suicide is frowned upon in Christianity. Which is good, because (1) suicide should be frowned upon, it’s a tragedy in nearly all cases (I invite you all to not get into that argument here, take it elsewhere), and (2) that means the faith of Yaldabaoth isn’t a carbon copy of Christianity. That means it’s free to be its own thing. (Here’s where someone mentions that, oh actually, there are plenty of examples of Christians killing themselves rather than be taken by heathens. Probably true. I just thought the faith itself frowned upon it, whereas the Yaldabaoth faith appears to be all for it. Though maybe that’s just a modern interpretation.)
It’s a bit of an understatement to say that it didn’t feel good to see those women jumping to their deaths. Arslan was channeling all of our feelings when he was freaking the fuck out. And Barcacion—you know, I contemplated for a few minutes that Arslan’s speech might actually turn Barcacion to Arslan’s side, at least long enough to slide a dagger through Hermes’ ribs. I’m not sure if I would have liked that turn of events, but Barcacion just seems so reasonable, up until he seemed so dead.
Obviously the point was to set Étoile upon Arslan with fury unmatched. Obviously. But it fit right into the setting for Barcacion to do what he did. He was trapped. The people living in ages such as this were, to a man, woman, and child, as zealous if not more so than the craziest religious nutjobs we ever see today. Their lives do not matter. What matters is their eternal souls, and there isn’t a barrier between church and state. Remember Kharlan, and how much people hated him? If Barcacion hadn’t killed himself, he would have been a thousand times worse off than Kharlan, especially if his people got a hold of him again. He was trapped by his belief. He had to do it. Which is what puts the cherry on top of the tragedy that is Barcacion and those falling women’s deaths.
Looking Ahead – One Last Time
There’s nothing like a resolution on the horizon. Hermes escaped, and is that him on the walls of Peshawar? Which is good. This story can’t have possibly hit a satisfying crescendo here, even though they were nice enough to tweak things and let it go out on an exciting note. One more episode, and Étoile is going to factor largely into it. It’ll be interesting to see where they leave us off.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The decisive battle is a victory, but with Hermes’ escape and a mass Lusitanian suicide, it doesn’t feel good to be the (future) king #arslan 24
- Another piece of the puzzle that fit together nicely: Arslan deciding to ride into battle himself. It seems like Étoile, whether the girl or the soldier, brings out a more assured Arslan.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now available in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel short story. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: My morning routine, True Ends, Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentals, and What are your two skills?