“Death of the Emperor”
Study history. If the emperor had done that, a lot of problems could have been avoided.
What, exactly, was the point of Haku & co scoring any kind of victory last week, when they were going to end up routed this episode due to the emperor’s death? I know real war doesn’t owe anything to narrative, but this isn’t real war, it’s a story. It is narrative! How much more stirring would it have been if Haku & co’s infiltration had tried hard against Kurou, and ultimately failed (though they still knocked out the barrier so they could get out), and when they’re already on their backfoot, they learn of the emperor’s death. Then the desperation would have fed directly into the desperation of this episode, and the tension would have been higher.
That may seem like a small qualm, since we would have ended up at the same place, but the higher desperation of everything turning against Yamato would have given reason Munechika’s sacrifice (though I don’t think she’s dead), instead of making it seem like something that just had to happen so that we would understand that Shit Is Serious Now, Y’all. And why the hell did her mask work again? Once again, a weird mistake foisted upon Tusukuru in order to make the plot work. That’s an asspull, writers, and you’re being lazy. Stoppit.
Study History To Avoid Repeating It
Even if the original quote is often repeated incorrectly, the shortened quote is still valid: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. A lot of stupid mistakes could have been avoided if the emperor paid a more attention to history, sociology, government, and ethics instead of obsessing over reviving humanity and dismissing the “decoys” as sub-human. When you centralize the majority of the military power in your empire around your generals as opposed to the state itself, you’re just asking for someone to rip the whole thing apart. Tusukuru was doing it militarily, but now someone’s targeting the obvious fissure between Oshutoru (the most loyal general, the people’s champion) and those who are seen as less savory (pretty much everyone else, to one degree or another). And even if that hadn’t happened, they’re liable to carve out a fiefdom for themselves if conquering the whole empire is a no-go—ask Alexander the Great how long his empire lasted after the funeral games (see: civil wars) following his death began.
Benefit of the Doubt, Lost
As I sit here now, I can’t say that I enjoyed the episode all that much, but I can’t shake the feeling that, at another time, I would have. And I’m not talking about my mood—if this had come earlier in the series, I might have liked it more. Events are actually moving now, after all, even if they’re not doing so smoothly. And the reason for this has to be trust.
The Itsuwari no Kamen anime has largely squandered the benefit of the doubt. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, nor anywhere near the worst I’ve blogged—it’s nowhere near Comet Lucifer—but enough balls have been dropped that, when something new is introduced, I’ve begun to approach it with cynicism instead of optimism. Which, to me, is the death of good storytelling, because once you no longer have the audience’s trust, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to make anything work. So we have this whodunit of “Who poisoned the princess/framed Oshutoru,” and I initially didn’t even try to figure it out, because my underlying assumption is that the reveal won’t be that good. That means I wasn’t expend any effort, didn’t get engaged, and so the twists did nothing for me. It’s a defense mechanism against mediocre storytelling, and when you’ve taught your audience to throw up those walls, they’re not going to be open to good storytelling either.
Looking Ahead – Oshutoru’s Execution
All of that is to say, I don’t know what I think of Oshutoru’s impending execution. It feels like there should have been more of a tussle among the generals; I can’t imagine Mikazuchi voting for Oshutoru’s death, even though the herald said the decision was unanimous. It just suddenly happened, and enough fumbles have been made that I’ve been rendered a passive viewer instead of an active, interested participant in the story. So, er, that happened. I guess we’ll see how it goes.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Yamato is routed, the princess is dying, Oshutoru is framed (probably), & everything’s broken. Way to break it, emperor #utaware s2e21
- The princess is sure that her mother was a person like Honoka. Well, in a manner of speaking…
- Dekoponpo is such a tiresome character. I feel like this series would be noticeably improved if he had gotten stabbed partway through the first cour.
- Another thing the emperor would have known if he had studied a little more pre-disaster human history: torture doesn’t work. It tends to harden the individual’s resolve instead of breaking it. I can let that bit of stupidity slide, though, since precious few people today understand how ineffective torture is.
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: Through their own flaws, Look to the one before, The problem with character development episodes, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Conclusion.