This episode is about several things, most chiefly that Margaret and Villar want to fuuuuuck, but they won’t let themselves. How this was conveyed is a microcosm of this series, because it was very good in some ways, but the ball was dropped in all the rest.
First, the good: small, slight movements that show the sexual tension bubbling between the pair . A sigh from Margaret. How she closes her eyes as her fingers slowly rub the stem of the glass. How Villar’s hands move down her arms. That entire dance scene, especially her panting. It’s clear that they’re both into each other, they want to bone, everyone can see it—can smell it. And in a rare move for anime (though not for this type of setting), Theo says that this is the one thing outsiders like them can’t meddle in. The two might lust for each other as clear as day, but our heroes will not interfere.
The not as good: instead of taking this subtlety all the way to the end, instead of having Margaret and Villar talk about something else when the subtext is really about their relationship, or have them go partway (Villar talks about his mom) without outright tying the thread back to the subtext between them, they make it all text. They just talk about their situation, Villar admits to fearing women (which is much more accurate than revering them; dude is scared of relationships, straight up), and they part. It denies us this torturous lack of fulfillment that would align well with the sexual tension—of the two of them wanting this thing, but not allowing themselves to have it, not even allowing themselves to speak it aloud lest their thin veneer of self-control crack. I’d argue that a lack of fulfillment is exactly what was required, even if it would have been frustrating, because then we would feel what they feel. That would have made it more memorable. Instead they just said it all out loud, and Margaret disappears. We’re left wondering what the whole point was.
I said it was a microcosm because it’s a sequence that both shows appreciation and care for the source material, followed by laziness with the same. It’s a half-measure, likely because they’re short on time and money, and dialogue is a cheap and quick way to get to a resolution—even if it’s unearned, and even if a lack of a resolution would have been better. (I have no idea what was in the original, that’s a judgement based solely on what I saw here.) To be honest, time is probably the biggest killer, as always—dis show rushed. At least this one wasn’t as rushed as last episode, though.
The other main conflict of the episode was Theo’s worldview vs that of prince what’shisname. (The interchangable and numerous factions and territories is making it hard to tell them apart.) Though it (once again) wasn’t all that well delineated, the crux appears to be that the prince has resigned himself to the world as it is, while Theo is acting upon his ideals in order to help create the world he wishes existed. It can be summarized in what Theo said—that wherever the prince goes, he will leave a pile of enemy corpses in his wake, though it’s possible that Theo could leave a trail of dead allies in his [wake]. Is it worth it to stand upon ideals if is means that the people whose lives are trusted to you are going to suffer and die? It’s a question that’s been asked throughout history. Not often by actual rulers—traditionally they’ve not given much of a shit about their people, only caring about those who will keep them rich, powerful, and with their heads still connected to their bodies—but philosophers have fun with it. Theo is wrestling with it now.
The rush rears its ugly head again, though, as Theo’s ideals are more inferred than truly understood because the story has never been that interested in letting us spend time really understanding him. Hell, Tigre of Madan no Ou to Vanadis—now there’s a series I bet you haven’t thought about in a while—did a better job of establishing Tigre’s worldview, which is all that kept it from shaking apart amid its own headlong adaptation rush. Grancrest Senki needs to sink some time into Theo before it’s too late.
Also, is individual combatants are so powerful, don’t let them get so damn close to your Crest holder! Jeez. Amateur hour. These lords keep getting taken down in the same way. You’d think they’re new to this world too, the way they’re acting.
- Let’s talk about Villar and his little “25yo and you’re out” rule. As an option for his employees, it’s good. That other lords keep their mages under contract in perpetuity is less than ideal, from an employment perspective (though in this kind of setting, not unusual). But forcing them out regardless of their wishes at 25 is another type of tyranny. Villar does not revere women, and I’m glad he at least admitted that. His fear of a relationship still takes precedent over Margaret’s wishes. He’s still a bastard, even if it’s in a different way, and even if other people are bigger bastards. Which, unfortunately, is too true to life; bastards tend to be loved by fate, and often find themselves in power. Bah.
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Full-length images: 03.