No one comes out of this episode looking good, except Kurou.
Military Tactics From Writers Who Don’t Understand Military Tactics
Look at this screenshot of Yamato’s base. This one image is indicative of much of what’s wrong with Itsuwari no Kamen.
Leaving trees around the walls of your fortress is a terrible idea. It cuts down on your line of sight, and allows enemies to use the trees as cover to sneak up on you. While it certainly looks neat, it’s the opposite of what should be done—you cut down the trees around your fortress (possibly for use in constructing your fortress) so your archers can cut down anyone who approaches. While a minor mistake on its own, it illustrates a fatal flaw in Itsuwari no Kamen: while its writers are familiar with the tropes of the original series, they don’t understand the underlying principles that made Utawarerumono successful.
Reasonable military tactics were a huge part of that; the original descended (albeit marginally) in quality the more magicky it got, and was strongest early on when it was a nearly pure medieval sword & horses fantasy. Here we not only have the fortress mistake, but Munechika’s forces successfully stalling Benawi’s forces, even though Benawi’s forces consisted primarily of cavalry. The unaware might not understand how critical a difference this is, but it’s huge. This is the medieval equivalent of fighting armored tanks with infantry wielding only assault rifles. It’s not like the grunts aren’t dangerous to the Abrams or Panzer or whatever the Soviets used, but if the tanks want to get away, the infantry can’t catch them without help. Add to this how Munechika’s forces weren’t using shields, lances, or any tactics that would help them counteract cavalry, and her troops not only shouldn’t have been able to catch up to Benawi’s cavalry, they should have been at a huge tactical disadvantage. Someone didn’t do their research.
These might sound like quibbles, but they’re not. It’s a layman’s understanding of military conflict, thinking if you toss equal numbers of soldiers at each other they’ll more or less be evenly matched. That’s not how it works. Cavalry is qualitatively different than infantry, and that has tactical ramifications beyond “1 cavalry = 3 infantry” troop math. And not paying attention to the simple, basic principles that underwrote the original Utawarerumono story undermines the tale Itsuwari no Kamen is trying to tell. Whatever that is.
Welcome Back, Kurou
About the only person who comes out of this episode looking any good is Kurou (Koyama Tsuyoshi). Not that he’s without his character-derailing failings—he let Haku operate for too long and failed to stop him from blowing up the provisions storehouse, even though he should have easily been able to stop them. (And I still don’t understand why Haku, Atui, and Yakutowaruto didn’t die when they were attacked—hidden armor? Last second dodging? Or just plot armor?) But him going all terminator, in addition to his trademark mix of battle lust and good cheer was fun to see. Partially from nostalgia, granted, though it was also nice to see Kurou, who’s always playing second fiddle to Benawi, shine in his own right for once. I’d also say that it’s nice to see Haku’s team finally challenged, but I’m not sure their plan was any good. I kind of feel like they didn’t deserve the win.
Haku’s, Kuon’s, and Yamato’s Tactical Idiocy
No one else comes out looking any good, though it’s mostly on Yamato’s side. About the only time Tusukuru ends up looking dumb, Kurou’s plot-propelling mistake (in allowing Haku to blow the provisions) aside, is when they let the people who have taken their princess captive approach the provision storehouse with only one guard. Though maybe that was just so Kurou could jump them, in which case it makes sense. But Haku’s plan being stopped when Tusukuru (prudently) warded against magic just shows what an amateur Haku is, and how much better Tusukuru is (especially with all the Onkamiyamukai on their side, thank you Urutorii). Shutting down the masks is a choice development. At least Tusukuru is doing what it can to make these battles more interesting.
As for Kuon, her trickery was, what, act like they were being defeated by Kurou so Haku could throw the bomb he should have thrown immediately? And what was their plan for getting out of the Tusukuru fortress, if they hadn’t been lucky and the bomb knocked out the barrier? (Though if it was obvious that would happen, then that makes sense, but if so they need to tell us that.) Like I said, no one much comes out of this looking good, aside from whoever is in charge of writing all the jokes, who has been killing it all series. I just wish that wasn’t the show’s greatest strength, yadda yadda, we’ve all said thi before.
Looking Ahead – The Emperor’s Death
You know, at the end I was actually rooting for Benawi to kill Munechika. I like Munechika, but Itsuwari no Kamen hasn’t done a good job of moving viewers of the original series from Team Tusukuru to Team Yamato (or at least Team Conflicted), and I was hoping Benawi would do the smart thing and take out a dangerous enemy. But more than that, I just wanted something to happen. Something to change the calculus, so maybe this series could start going somewhere.
At least that happened. With the emperor dead, I guess that would make Anju the new empress. But wouldn’t it be interesting if the old man made Haku the next emperor? Then Itsuwari no Kamen would catch up to where the original series was at episode seven. Which nicely illustrates the other fatal flaw in this sequel: too much time, not enough story. We’ll see what happens next week.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Kuurou goes all terminator on Haku’s team, but still fails to thwart their amateur plan #utaware s2e20
- At least Haku had the good sense to try to hit Tusukuru in their provisions, even if he stole the idea from Tusukuru. And I’m disappointed they didn’t defend against their own favored tactic all that well.
- Just as I was thinking about how the tail whip hasn’t happened in a while, Haku calls it out.
- It’s also a bad ideally, tactically speaking, to leap into the air. Keeping your feet on the ground is combat basics; a jumping kick (for instance) can be powerful, but it’s high risk since it’s hard to land. But that’s one of those bits of illogic I’m usually happy enough to let pass, ’cause it looks cool.
- Kuon and Kurou’s discussion about her betrayal was strange. True, she hasn’t gone all-in against Tusukuru, but the whole damn thing was half-assed. The handling of Kuon’s emotional conflict has been bad and not gettin better.
- That moment you realize your friends weren’t holding back against your old teacher. Ruh roh, Kuon.
- Stilts’ fiction update: In anticipation of my next novel coming out soon™, my first book, Wage Slave Rebellion, is on sale now. It’s only $1.99 until the end of today (Saturday), after which it’ll go back to its usual price. Which is still cheap, by the way ($3.99). If you’ve ever thought of giving my book a shot, act fast. Also, maybe tell your friends? I’ll love you either way.
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: Look to the one before, The problem with character development episodes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Conclusion, and What Star Wars: The Force Awakens did wrong.