OP2: 「天かける星」 (Ten Kakeru Hoshi) by Suara
「八柱将」 (Hachi Hashira Shou)
“The Eight Pillar Generals”
Prepare yourself for a crash course in Yamato politics. Not an entirely unpleasant one, but it’s a lot to take in.
The Barbarian Uzuurussha
Though Yamato is an ancient name of Japan, and the name of the dominant ethnic group within Japan today (and, like, twelve other hella Japanese things), the current plight of Itsuwari no Kamen’s Yamato reminds me more of ancient China. Perhaps that’s my ignorance of Japanese history showing, but it feels a lot like China’s constant struggles—up until a few hundred years ago—with nomadic steppe horse archers. (Warning: I’ve been listening to a lot of Hardcore History lately, so history nerdery incoming.)
The example you’ll be most familiar with is the Mongol Empire that began under Ghengis Khan, but they’re only the most successful example, because China had to contend with horse archers like the Xiongnu well before the Mongols ripped them a new asshole (and ultimately founded the Yuan dynasty, whoopsie, those barbarians made themselves respectable. Pay attention, Yamato). And there was a certain pattern to these conflicts that Itsuwari no Kamen is riffing on. First of all, hardship: The peoples of the Asian steppes had it hard, and this tended to breed a hardy, brutal people. The father at the end said as much. I would caution that starvation and poverty do not always make one stronger, as the starving German soldiers at the end of WWII could attest to—sometimes, what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. But hardship can forge not only a body, but a people and the Asian steppes often did. I imagine where the Uzuurussha came from did as well.
The other factor that always made the settled societies around the steppes get nervous, and which the Chinese were always intensely monitoring, was every time a leader stepped up and tried to consolidate all the various tribes under one steppe confederation. Every time this happened—Atilla the Hun, Ghengis Khan, there are so many others—bad things tended to happen to whoever they set their eyes on. So the Chinese were constantly trying to undermine these steppe confederation before they could form, something which Yamato would have been wise to be doing as well. But as our history shows, they and the other settled societies weren’t always successful, and it appears that Yamato wasn’t either. If this guy is cut from Ghengis’ mold rather than one of the other chumps lost to history, underestimating him would be unwise.
If it turns out the Uzuurussha are primarily mounted archers, I’m going to squee so hard. And you’d best be ready for some serious fireworks. Because the Chinese were arguably the greatest civilization in the world when the Mongols arose, and they conquered ’em anyway … though to the ancient Chinese’s credit, it took them a long damn time and rivers of blood. Fun fun!
The Eight Pillar Generals, Explained
In the best traditions of my Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon posts, let me tap out a little primer of what, exactly, the Eight Pillar Generals (plus two) do:
- The tl;dr version – The Eight Pillar Generals are in charge of subduing foreign threats, whereas the two Royal Generals—of the Left and the Right—guard the capital.
- Woshisu, Raikou, and Dekoponpo (right to left) rule the lands of Yamato for the emperor. It sounds like they’re governor-generals of the homeland. Raikou is noted to be an unmatched tactician.
- Oozen is the Ouro of Kujuuri, and Rurutie’s father. “Ouro” means “ruler.” So it sounds like he’s more of a regional governor-general.
- Soyankekuru is the Ouro of Shahhoro, and Atui’s father.
- Tokifusa is the Ouro of Izuruha.
- Munechika is the guardian of the capital, and the ultimate shield. That makes it sound like she primarily concerns herself with defense, but it’s later said that defending the capital is what Oshutoru and Mikazuchi do. I imagine her role is to form the part of Yamato’s army that does not break. The rock which the rest of the army can turn around. Her army is mostly infantry.
- Vurai destroys the enemies of Yamato, and is the ultimate spear. Pretty self-explanatory—he’s the tip of the spear that hyper-murders Yamato’s enemies. He’s said to be very loyal. Dude is scary.
- Oshutoru and Mikazuchi, as noted, defend the capital. I’m not entirely sure whether they’re mostly concerned with internal affairs or external affairs. They sound like the Emperor’s right-hand and left-hand men. Their forces are mostly cavalry.
It’s nice to know what all of these general’s jobs are, because it makes keeping track of them easier. The roles still aren’t clearly delineated in some places—specifically with regards to Munechika, Oshutoru, Mikazuchi, and who exactly is playing defense. (Edit: Reader Ray provided the answer. In the game it states that Munechika guards the border, whereas Oshutoru and Mikazuchi protect the capital.) Still, things are clearer than they were before. I do worry about this setup, because having such powerful generals smacks of an Alexander the Great situation, where the Emperor’s death without an heir of suitable age and prowess could lead to all the generals breaking away and trying to take the country for themselves. Of course, they do have an apparently immortal (or at least long-lived) Emperor, so that helps quiet worries somewhat.
While I’m at it, let me add the definition of one more important word. “Akuruturuka” apparently means “masked man.” Considering four of Yamato’s top generals wear masks—right, left, shield, and spear—that’s probably going to be important.
Nepotism, Thy Name Is Dekoponpo
As funky as that one Dekoponpo episode was when it aired, it set us up well for this episode, as it quickly became obvious that Dekoponpo was the odd duck out in a group of impressive individuals. It primed us to not be in the least bit surprised when he did all the dumbest things—underestimate the enemy, scoff at the enemy, assume others would agree with him, and ultimately, take his forces on ahead in a move that’s likely to cost Yamato quite a bit, and him personally even more. Hopefully. That’s the other thing all the Dekoponpo we’ve seen so far did—it primed us to root against this idiot. I hope he gets what’s coming to him.
Looking Ahead – Off To War We Go
My biggest question, when we found out that Oshutoru (along with Nekone and Kiuru), as well as Rurutie and Atui, would be going off to war, was whether the Haku Party would stay together. Turns out they will, and the two princesses will stay with them, which is … odd, since I assumed they would be commanding their fathers’ forces, or at least present with them, but maybe that comes later. But most interesting is how they’re characterizing some of the barbarian antagonists as … well, not barbarians. As characters with their own hopes and desires, who feel, as people always do, that they’re in the right in this conflict, or at least that they’re doing what they must. I prefer that to a cacklingly evil caricature.
Also, now that the final monthly post is done, and the Best of post will follow shortly thereafter, I can resume my original Utawarerumono marathon, yay! Er—after intro week. Which might last longer than usual. Blast!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – This barbarian invasion gives off echoes of China’s struggles with horse archers. Also, the Eight Pillar Generals explained #utaware s2e13
- I like the new OP and ED. The OP is about as good as the last one, which I also liked, though I might prefer this ED to the old one. I like the song a lot, and watching Kuon grow is a strange but fascinating experience.
- “It’s more fun with at least one guy like him [Dekoponpo] around, isn’t it?” Oh Emperor, you old jokester. Him repaying a debt to Dekoponpo’s father makes more sense, even if that’s a debt that I don’t think should be repaid (his father’s legacy will be tarnished in the end by his idiot son). Dekoponpo is a dangerous man, for his arrogance, ignorance, and misplaced pride.
- “The warriors of Yamato are never defeated. Thus, any who are defeated are not warriors of Yamato.” I have a feeling Vurai is an extremely effective offensive general, but he’s also clearly a dangerous, dangerous man. Generals with that level of fanaticism should be watched carefully, or killed just to be sure. He also seems like a lot of fun at parties.
- Why is Kiuru, an archer, on the front line of a column of spearmen?
- Maroro is back. Unfortunately, he’s in Dekoponpo’s army. If I were him, I’d abandon that post the first time he sees Haku and co.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel novella. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: $%&@* cuss words, Stephen, what is best in life?, It depends, and Momentum & mental space.
ED2: 「星降る空仰ぎ見て」 (Hoshi Kudaru Sora Aogimite) by Suara