「皇女の火遊び」 (Oujo no Hiasobi)
“The Princess Plays with Fire”
When the cat‘s away, the mice play around a bit but then drop it all and grow beards. …Why is this metaphor so weird?
Stilts likes subheadings
Welcome, Utawarerumono fans! I’m Passerby, sitting in for Stilts. He has been physically transported to an MMORPG world where’s he’s living out his dream life as a magical-fantasy-action-harem hero while moonlighting as a mecha pilot. He’ll return once he realises that this MMO is G-rated and has no whiskey.
I come from a slightly different perspective on Utawarerumono than Stilts; neither of us have finished the first anime, but I have played the game for that one (albeit a fair while ago). This means two things: I have a bit more knowledge of the lore, and I look at Itsuwari no Kamen as an adaptation of a videogame. This means that, although Itsuwari no Kamen has so far been woefully slow with establishing its central plot, I can guess at what kind of story it intends to be in the future based on the plot of the original and the kind of story that the genre of the game (tactical RPG) naturally lends itself to. It also helps that I turfed this show to Stilts after the pilot, so I didn’t have to worry too much about it and could just be content to wait. But of course, now that things seem to be kicking up a notch, I’m back! Mwahaha. It’s all gone according to my evil scheme—the best kind of scheme, where I don’t actually actively do anything.
A parody of itself
Itsuwari no Kamen hasn’t been all that serious save for occasional flashes of the deeper mystique of the setting. I dare say, though, that The Princess Plays with Fire is the silliest that Itsuwari no Kamen has gotten to date. My immediate impression of the episode was that it was a farce on every level. Think about it this way: in a fantasy story, or a tactical RPG, the princess being kidnapped, and rescuers fighting bandits, would be a completely legitimate subplot. Not here, though. Of course, the entire kidnapping threat was an act, but they couldn’t even take that seriously. The threatening letters were silly. The showdown was silly. Even the Greek chorus was silly. Why would you even bring the udon stand with you except to undermine the tension? Overtly, the princess’s scheme and the narrative itself was faux drama.
Or maybe it wasn’t!
I enjoyed the parody, but I was still hoping for a serious edge to come out of the entire charade, because when The Princess Plays with Fire I would be somewhat dissatisfied if she didn’t get burned. Our ray of hope for this was Oshutoru: as Ukon, he manages to be chill, but with the mask on Oshutoru, General of the Right, has no time for frivolities. And then… holy hand grenades, Batman, an honest-to-goodness fight scene! Wait, is this the right anime? Are we allowed to have one of those? Sure, Utawarerumono couldn’t help but deflate the fight as well, but it was genuinely exciting to see Haku go at it nonetheless. Game players are probably used to Haku fighting, but for anime-only folk this was likely a genuine ‘woah’ moment.
I may be reading too much into it, but I consider this development to be a turning point in the narrative. As the princess has her realisation about what’s at stake, I think it’s a reminder for the audience as well. Haku has involved himself with the highest echelons of Yamato’s ruling class. Kuon is a spy of sorts for a foreign power. There is serious business going on here, even though we might not have really seen the effects so far.
Aside: Dude, where’s my Kuon?
The other reason for which I interpreted a shift in tone this episode was because of a notable subdued role for Kuon. Now, I enjoy her character greatly, but I suspect that her initial role is done. For this first half of Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen, Kuon had to basically carry the show, because the protagonist, Haku, certainly wasn’t going to do it. Haku is a very passive type (and also, game-wise, the player avatar), Kuon has to be the opposite and push Haku around. And through all the world building, the character introductions, and slice-of-life bits, Kuon has to as cute, fun, and naked as much as possible as the main fulfiller of the entertainment quota.
But now, I think, Haku has shown himself of stepping up to the plate and be a protagonist in more than just his snark (amusing though it is). And, if my predictions about the plot finally getting ‘serious’ is right, it’s now time to shoo out the clowns (trope!), so the ‘fun’ has to start taking a backseat. Still, probably not entirely, and Kuon is still the heroine so I’m sure she’ll find a dramatic role for herself easily enough.
Looking ahead ~ Stilts returns without a liver
I was equal parts entertained and impressed by this episode; I found it both funny and rather neat in execution. It was like a play within a play within a play, nesting each of its acts within each other—that’s Hamlet level stuff. Therefore, I will be slightly disappointed if the next episode does not match up to this one, especially since it’s tasked with closing out this cour of Utawarerumono. It seems that Haku has at last assembled the last of his party and we should be good to go. Unless the last two are to be introduced next week? But if it’s the cryptic twins then we’re still getting closer to the plot.
Of course, the possibility exists that I am absolutely wrong about everything, which is where I put my money most of the time. But, hey, I can speculate as wildly as I like since I won’t be here next week! I’ll let Stilts-senpai sort it out. Mwahahahaha.
tl;dr: @PasserbyRC – I created a Twitter account just to do this parody #utawarerumono s2e11
- The other effect of not having blogged this show since the pilot: I don’t remember anyone’s names. Lots of referencing was done for this post.
- When did Haku become so physically competent? He’s been level grinding off-screen.
- Your love is doomed, princess. As far as the gallery is concerned, Ukon x Haku is OTP.
- Nice detail showing Haku carrying his metal fan with him this episode. I should have noticed the Chekhov’s Gun (trope!) earlier.
Passerby hasn’t written a novel, but over at The Stranger’s Room, the last four posts: Play this Game – Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, A short story: part 1, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void – More is Less, and Don’t Call Me a Pirate, Call Me a… Corsair.