「千里の馬も蹴躓く」 (Senri no Uma mo Ketsumazuku)
“Even a Champion Racehorse May Stumble”
If you were hoping for the pattern of deaths to skip, prepare for disappointment because today marks the date we’re pouring three out for Monkey, Ram, and Horse in that exact order. Everything is going as planned as per the ED credits as the past six people that died were killed off precisely to that order. While there is a sense of unpredictability to the twists and turns to the characters’ motives in Juuni Taisen, any element of suspense on who’s going to win is thrown out the window with six of the contestants getting taken down as the anime predicted early on.
The intention might be for the viewer to know beforehand, but if there were no prior hints in the novel, it is a failing on the anime’s behalf to give away every secret. And the next batch of episodes are a two-parter based on the twins, so these two episodes will probably focus on the Snake zombie and the Dragon being defeated. Hopefully, there’ll be something to spice up how the rest of the tournament will proceed now that it seems inevitable for the outcome to go as anyone can predict based off of the OP/ED giveaway.
Shuryuu biting it marks a very sad occasion for the show. As a fellow Monkey, I now know the pain of losing my Zodiac in the tournament, but that’s just a personal reason. On a narrative level, Shuryuu provided a great contrast to the crapsack world that Juuni Taisen presented. While almost all of the cast was desensitized by all of the murder they’ve seen and caused, Shuryuu made it her life’s mission to be selfless and use her powers to stop the war and destruction. She also provided a counter to the selfish nature of most of the characters given that she was able to give Nezumi food for thought about his nihilistic beliefs. Now that she’s gone, Nezumi’s pessimism comes off like gospel as he tells Uuma that not participating is the same as being dead, and mocks the notion that she’d have a plan if she was going to get killed. She did say she had more than just a Plan A, so she must’ve factored in dying towards one of the plans she had under her sleeve. For now, we’ll have to see if we see any of Shuryuu’s efforts pay off posthumously, or if her becoming a zombie will factor in with any negotiations for peace.
Her demise is also one of the two parts of this episode that set a precedence for how much the formula repeats for character deaths. She went out almost exactly the same way Ino did by initially planning on overcoming him easily only for him to get the upper-hand using Snake’s body. Similarly, Hitsujii went out like Dotsuku by being blind-sighted by his killer’s perceived weakness only to be caught off-guard and killed swiftly. The show doesn’t need to be imaginative, but it loses its shock value when the same two lighting bolts strike twice in the same places they landed.
Admittedly, it was hilarious to see the build-up towards the reveal of Tora’s killing way. Having her come off like a messy drunk for a majority of her screen time was a good way to set up that drowning herself in booze is what helps her kill efficiently, especially with the realization Hitsujii has that instead of acting like an insult to assassins by drinking away her senses, she was powering up this whole time. If there’s one takeaway from the episode, it’s the joy I’m getting from the idea of Tora having the highest possibility of being among the Final Three all the while being drunk out of her gourd.
Uuma becoming a hikikomori is the one part of this episode that feels like a new idea from the anime. Rather than inspiring Uuma to gain the resolve to fight back, surviving his fight Ushii ultimately ended up feeding into the anxiety he has about the likelihood of dying in the tournament, and caused him to hide out. With so many of the competitors joining the tournament for their own reasons, Uuma turned out to be the least qualified combatant to be there, putting too much of his chips on whether he can join a pacifist group that will spare his life. In fact, much of his last moments were spent on reminiscing on how he had engineered his body to be the strongest in the world as a shield for his lacking fighting capabilities, and how the extent of his competitors’ talents are hitting him like a freight train with crippling despair over his failings. Nezumi briefly joined him in his break, but lured Snake to Uuma’s hideout location in the process, getting him killed by suffocating from the fumes of the burning building. What it means for the tournament now that only five fighters remain, and Zombie Snake has honed in on Nezumi is speculation at this point, but it’s getting easier to predict the outcome of the next episode as the Rat overcoming the Snake.