「パラディンブレイク・2」 (Paradinbureiku 2)
“Paladin Break 2”
Planet With is certainly delivering the goods. Yes, my expectations were very high for this series – and they’re being met – but I think sometimes we use “expectations” and “hopes” interchangeably when their meaning is very different. With Mizukami Satoshi writing this is what I genuinely expected – it wasn’t just a matter of hoping for the best. He’s certainly touched on the emerging central themes of this show in his prior works, but genre-wise this is pretty much new ground for Mizukami – and I can only hope there’s more mecha anime in his future. He’s revitalizing a sometimes-tired genre like a cortisone shot.
Indeed, there was only one real off note this week, and given that exposition by explanation is one of my buttons, I’d be remiss in not pointing it out. The Generalissimo’s monologue was oddly clumsy by Planet With standards, but it was at least contained within an altogether wonderful sequence by Wakamoto-san (his “I’m sick of this, let me talk directly!” was my favorite part of it) . Wakamoto has this way about him, where after hearing him voice a character you can’t imagine anyone else doing it – and he and Koyama Rikiya (who’s emitting some of the most emotive and information-packed “Nyan!” in anime history) riffing on these characters is one of the unmitigated delights of Planet With.
Where the real brilliance of this series lies, I think, is in having packed such a monstrous amount of content into six episodes without ever having seemed rushed. That applies both to plot and intellectual content, and indeed there’s been more than enough already for an entire series – and this one is only half over. I don’t know where it’s going to go from here, though my guess is into the past – that’s a technique Mizukami has used before. The short-term conflict on Earth has been resolved – Paladin is defeated and the power of the dragon dispersed. But that wasn’t the real conflict, just the distraction, and the key to what the future holds for Earth probably lies in Souya’s past (which means Sirius).
Of the two cliffhanger battles which capped last week’s episode, one ended fairly quickly – Souya dispatched Takezou with relative ease. Indeed the most important moment of this fight came not in the fight itself, but the aftermath, when the old man gave the boy a message (which Souya will later hilariously mangle) for his son: “Being able to endure the unfairness of the world and still remain kind is a more noble thing than justice.” It’s something of a house specialty for Mizukami to toss off startlingly profound one-liners as if they were casual asides, but the heart of the story is largely encompassed by this one. Justice is a siren’t song, a mirage that lures the strong down the path of oppression.
Just like that, Takezou and Yousuke-kun gladly hand over their vials to Souya, and Paladin is no more – they’ve clearly seen the hollowness of their cause. But the other showdown is still very much engaged, and it’s not simply a matter of the Generalissimo and Shiraishi facing Takashi in mech warfare. This is battle of sweeping philosophies, of world views – Takashi’s “justice to the strong” and the Sealing Faction’s warped manifest destiny. The funny thing here is that the criticisms each combatant levels against the other are spot-on – both their governing models are seriously fucked up. Colonialism and lobotomization vs. a dictatorship of personal ideology – no matter which side wins, the Earth is screwed.
Of course, Wan-kamoto-san ends up kicking the can down the road, sending the dragon through a short warp and bugging out to orbit (there to watch events unfold while doing a Gainex pose) as he lets Sensei, Souya and Ginko deal with the problem. That’s fine with Souya in the sense that he still seeks revenge for what happened to his planet, even though it’s still not totally clear how Takashi is related to the dragon that committed that atrocity. That dragon was sentenced to banishment to a hole in space (read: death) for destroying Sirius before the Sealing Faction could suppress it – is Takashi its reincarnation, as the Generalissimo says, or is something else going on here? It’s also interesting to note that the destruction of Sirius must have happened quite some time ago – which means Souya-kun either slept for a long time or is a lot older than he looks.
This is one hell of a fight, with both sides pretty much putting all they have (Kitarou himself would be proud of Souya’s finishing move) into it (including Ginko joining Souya inside Sensei), but again, the best part is the aftermath. Souya’s reaction to what happens reveals the truth of it – for all his talk of revenge, he’s no killer. What he wants to be is a protector, not a murderer, no matter how “warlike” the Siriusians supposedly were. And in his own mind, Souya had no intention of killing Takashi – but it does seem as if he died, perhaps as a result of using up all of his dragon power. If his Paladins were bolstered by a vial of the dragon’s power, Takashi seems to have literally been a creature of that power.
There is a way to a Mizukami story, a meticulous sense of one step leading to the next with a destination clearly in mind. Usually we can’t see what that destination is until we’ve almost arrived, and often – as is the case with Planet With right now – it’s impossible even to guess the next step with certainty. The conflicts are always collisions of opposing sets of ideals, and that certainly seems to be the case here – and I suspect Souya is going to have to find pieces of the truth in each of those competing ideals and decide for himself what his own truth is.