「漆黒の公女」 (Shikkoku no Kimijo)
“The Black Princess”
Once again, this is an episode of two sides. One of them, lovely, the other—thought-provoking, at least. And more than a little infuriating, though it’s because of the character’s actions as much as anything, which is the best way for a storyteller to infuriate.
First was the meeting in Villar’s throne room, followed by the walkabout by Theo and Siluca. Villar continues to puzzle me—he could have had the Union, if not for his own ambitions than because Alexis is a bad wartime leader, but he not only threw that away, he missed an opportunity to stymie Marrine and add to the Union’s power even more. Of course he’s hamstrung by the Union’s ill-timed attempt at peace, but if he’s not playing the crappy hand he’s dealt himself all that well. Unless that look he gave Theo was what I hope it is. Was that him asking Theo to take care of Siluca? Or, even better, was that him asking Theo to act against Villar’s orders and go rogue, so that he can act to fix this problem where Villar cannot? I hope it’s the latter. That would make Villar a much better leader and strategist. If he was just asking Theo to take care of Siluca—well, Theo was going to do that regardless. That’s a waste of time.
As for Theo and Siluca themselves, hoo boy that moved into full-on outspoken romance territory quicker than I expected. Which is great! It felt a little out of nowhere, since this anime is still hamstrung by too quick a pace; we could have done with more foreshadowing that Theo reciprocated Siluca’s feelings, or at least that he was sufficiently fascinated with her prior to his giving up his court rank for her initially. It was there, but it was more told than felt. Still, wandering is a good look for Theo, and being open and forthright about his feelings is as well—as it is for Siluca, when she makes sure that they’re both clear about their feelings for one another. Crystal clear. Did we just see romance, in an anime, that doesn’t involve a ton of misunderstandings? That involves a girl who admitted her feelings without tsundere antics, and a guy who suspected them but wasn’t sure enough to make a move until now? These are relateable, even ordinary actions and feelings as their relationship comes together, despite the extraordinary setting they live in. That was really good, and really sweet. I think I may have applauded when they kissed!
Then comes Marrine’s battle against Lord Pavel, and oh man do I have a lot to say. Chiefly: Marrine is shit at this. I don’t know why she didn’t just siege the fortress—maybe the Alliance has a shit navy, we’re never told—but cruelty is liable to do more damage than good. Going against their version of the Geneva Convention, and not accepting surrenders, does not make her strong. It makes her barbarous, and it will also make her more enemies. Right now she faces a Union that’s foolishly suing for peace when it ought to be pressing its advantage. May gassing a lord and slaughtering all of his warriors will break their will, but more likely it will galvanize it. These tactics turn doves into hawks, and bystanders into enemies. It does not show strength. It’s dumb.
Not that cruelty is entirely without worth as a strategy, if we want to get all realpolitik here. The Assyrian Empire made good use of cruelty, and it ruled for nearly 2000 years (though that was at a more primitive technological state than in Grancrest Senki). Cruelty and a lack of mercy can be useful in war, if you’re thorough enough about it. It’s just that Marrine is using it too soon. If she used her magical mustard gas to break Altirk, that might have value, since Altirk seems to be the bulwark of martial strength among the Union. Cruelly shatter Altirk and then the rest of the Union might fall easily. (Or it might galvanize.) Use it now, though, while Altirk still remains, and you might give Villar what he needs to rally the Union back into a war footing and repel your eventual assault—or help Theo recruit the scoundrels he needs to go rogue and disrupt your plans. This early, your main enemies can respond.
You only break rules like this if there are huge dividends to be won. Why do you think the Germans kept invading through Belgium when they knew there’d be an international outcry? Because defeating France, then considered arguably the greatest land army power in Europe (the Napoleonic Wars weren’t that long before WWI), was worth the price. Here Marrine is knocking off a piddling lord in order to cow a couple others. That’s low value for the potential backlash. The other time to use these tactics is if both sides are doing it, but that’s not the case here. Only she has violated the Lords’ Code. Not a good plan, Marrine.
The final piece of this episode was Milza’s alliance with Marrine. And by alliance, I mean unpleasant sex. Which was exactly the right tone for this scene, because it’s not like they were making love. There was no love. This was fucking, and not even the fun kind. The raw kind, the type that looks like it hurts. It stands in stark comparison to Theo and Siluca’s delicate kiss. It does all sorts of character-building things, most chiefly showing again what Marrine is willing to sacrifice in order to achieve her goal, in comparison to Villar who did not sieze his chance. The whole alliance between Marrine and Milza—the military one, I mean—just further cements Villar’s failure, because even if Theo does go rogue and pull the Union’s ass out of the fire, Villar will still have lost a valuable ally. Infuriating indeed, even if it remains somewhat compelling.
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