「火の試練」 (Hi no Shiren)
“Trial by Fire”
With last week’s morbid events involving Tanya offing Aston Sue and taking his prized rifle, you would think Youjo Senki would slow down and revel in the foreshadowing. Yeah, maybe in another universe. This week took last episode’s flirt with amorality and cranked it up to 11, likely offering up Youjo Senki’s best episode to date as morality and efficiency clashed in the strongest manner possible.
The focus here this week was on that little uprising in a not-French city, where a group of partisans obtained some friendly mage support and proceeded to wreak havoc on the Empire’s logistics. In war these actions are a normal occurrence, initiated by men and women who believe the risk of certain death—partisans are usually considered non-uniformed combatants under wartime law and thus treated like spies—is worth it for impacting the enemy’s war effort. Normally partisans and occupiers try to isolate their actions from the civilian populace, but in many cases both sides become intermixed, whether due to circumstance (i.e. encircled sieges like Breslau in 1945) or deliberate action (i.e. WWII German treatment of Russian civilians) This episode is a prime example of such intermixing, where both Empire and Republic used Arene’s populace for their own purposes, collateral damage be damned.
At face value you would think Tanya—and the High Command—are to blame. After all an artillery barrage was used, Tanya diligently obeyed orders to fire on civilians, and the little loli even designed the template for transforming cities into warzones. Such thinking, however, ignores the responsibility of the partisans. The enemy made use of the city for defensive positions, dropped mages in for additional support, and did not evacuate the locals when the opportunity was given. In effect the citizenry became human shields for a strategic delaying tactic. Not all too surprising then the Empire dispensed with moral uprightness and called the bluff. Both sides bear responsibility for the resulting slaughter and continuing the cycle of hate.
What particularly intrigues me too is how well Tanya represented the nihilistic theme of this episode. We already knew what the little loli is like personality-wise, but the events here arguably illuminate it best. The city busting plan for example showcases just how invidious the little loli actually is, as it was all but designed to efficiently shorten the war for her benefit. That skipping and monologue with the commander? That wasn’t just hesitation or fear, there was excitement for seeing workplace efficiency in action. More than the facial expressions, the innuendos and small reveals this week show just how dangerous Tanya actually is when in positions of influence. As her subordinate subsequently discovered, there is no room for human decency when commanders and enemy both are willing to dispense with such formalities for the sake of victory.
The biggest surprise though of course lay at the end, where Anson Sue returned not only alive, but with the assistance of God Himself. I admit I’m a little surprised he actually did come back, but with Tanya now openly scaring her own allies—we don’t clearly know who her subordinate fired at for example—the enemy gearing up for a prolonged war of attrition, and Tanya’s name quickly disseminating amongst her opponents, I’m eagerly looking forward to what happens next—nagging concerns be damned. Something serious is about to go down, and if Zettour’s devious grin is anything to go by, it’s going to be bloody. Bloody awesome.
ED2: 「戦線のリアリズム」 (Sensen no Riarizumu) by Mako Niina