A good, if a touch wonky, first battle between the peoples of Yamato and the Uzuurussha.
Maroro, The Ignored Voice of Reason
Now we know why they took the time to introduce Maroro back in episode two. It was nice to have a voice of reason in Dekoponpo’s camp, especially as Maroro proved that he actually has a decent tactical mind. My favorite moment though, was when Maroro was like “I told you do.” He’s a goofy character, but I couldn’t help cheer for him then. You go, Maroro! You did tell him so! Now get the hell out of his camp before that idiot gets you killed.
The Uzuurussha Fight Like Barbarians, Almost
I liked how the Uzuurussha fought, mostly. They really do feel like barbarians, but not in the insulting sense—like their upbringing has made them willing to employ more brutal tactics, and like they’re far more clever than the civilized society they’re facing gives them credit for. To wit: The Nakuan. While I don’t want to praise someone for taking women hostage to force their men to fight, damn if it didn’t work. And for most of the episode I was wondering why the hell these citizens of Yamato weren’t immediately switching sides when they met the Yamato armies—I had originally assumed the Uzuurussha would be right behind them with spears, ready to gut them if they didn’t fight, but the hostages worked a lot better.
I am disappointed that the Uzuurussha didn’t make more use of cavalry; if they had been primarily mounted archers, I would be gushing about all the historical parallels again. But then they did a feinted flight to draw Dekoponpo’s forces into an ambush, which is a vintage barbarian tactic, and not easy to pull off when you can’t communicate well in battle. The only thing I can say that I absolutely didn’t like was how they lined up in columns. Ain’t nothin’ barbarian about that. Though, being that it’s effective and they were using infantry, it’s quite possibly correct. I just can’t imagine the Goths or Gauls or Celts forming up in columns to face off against the Romans. The Roman’s comparative organization was one of the reasons they kicked so much ass. So I’m not sure whether that’s a mistake or not, but I noticed it.
Here’s a fiction writing tip for ya: Avoid the passive voice. To paraphrase Stephen King, don’t write The meeting will be held at seven o’clock. Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write The meeting’s at seven. It’s The writer threw the rope, not The rope was thrown by the writer. Avoid the passive in favor of the active, because while the passive feels timid and safe, the active lends a direct and forceful flavor to your prose. Passive voice belays weakness, while active shows strength.
What about with characters?
13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
This is a frequent problem with VN protagonists, and it’s the problem with Haku as well. He’s passive. He’s led around by the other characters. He doesn’t appear to have strong opinions of his own. Opinions, certainly—but when Rurutie decides she wants to save the captured women, he discards his own preference for not getting riddled full of arrows and agrees to help. I can’t say I’d have been happier if he’d stuck to his guns, but at least he would have stood for something. Probably better if he weren’t so ready to run (before they even did anything) in the first place.
To be fair, Haku is better than many VN protagonists in that his entire character is built around a laid back attitude—he actually has character to speak of, it just so happens to be a chill, passive one. But even with that excuse, it’s still poison to the audience on occasion. A lot of people are passive in real life, but here’s the rub: They’re not the kind of people we tell stories about. For better or worse, that’s the truth. We tell stories about people who act, not those who are tugged along by the tide. To steal a line from Luck and Logic, they end up was Villager A. Haku is a good example of why. He’s a likable guy, but he’s also deeply frustrating at times.
The Will To Fight
For all my criticism of Haku this episode, the tension between his lack of desire to fight and the episode’s seeming support for it didn’t end up being a straight case of “Haku is wrong, Rurutie needs to learn when to fight.” That’s the thrust the episode took, but I don’t disagree with Haku entirely—not being able to fight (and kill) is normal, or at least it should be. It was even discomfitting to see the young-girl-in-love-with-being-in-love Atui start ending lives. I still think Rurutie and the people of Yamato are in the right here—they’re being attacked, and they need to repel the invaders and rescue their people. (This is in the absence of knowing whether Yamato did anything to provoke the attack, which could make the situation more gray.) Still, it’s an interesting thought.
If I have any complaint, it’s the convenient nature of Haku and Rurutie stumbling across a situation where Rurutie felt she had to fight, and where they just so happened to rescue the master swordsman’s daughter, so he wouldn’t, ya know, kill Atui. I’m happy, since Atui is awesome (and a lot more powerful than I thought—damn, girl), but it was convenient.
Overall I enjoyed this episode. The underlying theme came across well enough, and the fighting was good. Next time it looks like the more competent generals are going to get involved, which should be fun. Maybe we’ll get to hear more about these Akuruturuka—the masked (wo)men. I’d like to know more.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The fighting was nice, Atui is awesome, & Rurutie made her decision, even if Haku’s passivity rankled somewhat #utaware s2e14
- Did Kuon just blush over Haku? Shipping furiously!!
- Another ding to Dekoponpo’s shitty military strategies: How do you expect to chase down infantry with infantry? They travel at the same speed. That’s what cavalry is for. That’s one of the (many) reasons that WWI was such a mess—modern weaponry destroyed the ability of horse cavalry to pursue running enemies (which is where most of the casualties happened in ancient battles), but mechanized cavalry didn’t start to appear until the end of the war. No one could deliver a knockout blow. Dekoponpo was just asking for his forces to be stretched out at best.
- I didn’t expect Kuon to be so good at martial arts. I thought she was more of an explosives and mobility kind of gal. Though I guess her mothers are pretty badass, so not surprising.
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.