「一角獣城, 落つ」 (Ikkakujuu-jou, Otsu)
“The Fall of Castle Unicorn”
So Villar is dead, thanks to a heretofore unheard of ally joining Marrine for the assault, but also because of mistakes made episodes ago that were entirely avoidable. The core of this episode was lousy, even if the actual events of the episode were pretty good, because the writers set out to do one thing and they did it well: showed the slow, inexorable, painful defeat of Altirk and death of Villar. And boy did we see it.
Last moments with loyal companions. Final kisses between lovers long denied but finally embraced. Heroic sacrifices that amounted to nothing, and suicides that amounted to even less. Going out in a blaze of glory, as the one of the two couples I cared about in this show (Margaret and Villar) were forced to exit stage right so the other couple (Theo and Siluca) could take center stage. A touching scene, followed by Villar falling over just because. Marrine’s regrets feel cheap. She just ordered a volley designed to disintegrate her cousin. It feels pointless to focus on her feelings now.
If the purpose of this episode (and this entire arc) had been to show that war is pointless, I would be forced to praise it, because all these deaths were utterly needless, both because the entire war is stupid (as wars of conquest always are) and because Altirk shouldn’t have been in this position if Villar hadn’t chickened out and had just taken control of the Union from Alexis. He got outmaneuvered by a fool, and paid for it with his life. It was all pointless—but that’s not the message here. There isn’t really a theme or message. There are just events, and as one commenter (PurpleBomber) so aptly put it, Villar needed to die so there would be a power vacuum for Theo to fill. So he dies.
The reason this is all so frustrating is that it was avoidable. Had Villar been cleverly outmaneuvered, then it would still be frustrating (because if politics isn’t frustrating, someone isn’t doing it right), but at least it wouldn’t have been so easy to fix. That’s true of several other events. When viewers can so easily chart the course that would have led away from this tragedy, and when it’s so patently clear to the characters at the time too (Siluca was yelling about it), it’s so frustrating that the slow, inexorable pain of this episode doesn’t work correctly, because the core is rotten. Instead of it feeling terrible, it feels stupid. It feels designed, when it should be a clash of formidable factions instead.
To be honest, I’m getting to the point where I spend more time ragging on Grancrest Senki than I do enjoying it, because the anime is too rushed and I have serious questions about the source material underneath. Next week appears to be an 11.5 recap episode, so there will be no post, and I may drop the series either here or after another post or two. There are just too many good anime premiering next season, and if it comes down to missing one of those or continuing this, Grancrest is liable to fall by the wayside. Though then again, I dislike dropping series, and a renewed focus on Theo and Siluca could really improve matters. We’ll see how things look over the next few weeks.
- “In that case, how shall we lose?” Margaret continues being one of the best characters in this show, to the bitter end. That’s a good way to look at it, given the shitty circumstances they found themselves in. If you’ve gotta go out, at least decide how you want to do it.
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