「戦乱の真実」 (Senran no Shinjitsu)
“The Truth of the War”
So, last week, Egao no Daika started things off with a round of exposition. They tried their best to make it organic, weaving it into the dialogue. This week, apparently they’ve decided it’s all too much work and too time consuming, so we get an info dump instead! Joshua’s backstory was unloaded on us all at once in a series of narrated flashbacks. It’s not exactly subtle, but it gets the job done, at least. We now know of Joshua’s tragic past, how he got involved with the princess, and the general foundation of his fanatical loyalty.
Per Shounen Manga Principle #47, now that we know Joshua’s backstory he’s allowed to die.
Now we know why Egao no Daika spent so much time developing characters and relationships in the pilot. Normally, in terms of power to hook an audience, characters are less effective than things like world and plot. Most people simply don’t easily form attachments to strangers and it takes time to develop characters and slowly have them worm their ways into our hearts. So most stories start with something more visceral, like a fantastical world or an intriguing mystery to bait audiences into investing enough time to actually care about the characters. But Egao no Daika really, really wants to kill Joshua (I’m assuming the monitors behind him were saying that he’s supposed to be dead) so we need to at least the barest of emotional connection to him (and the princess since, let’s face it, it’s more about her grief than his death).
Assuming that Joshua is dead For Realz, Episode 02 is a curious time to be bumping off a ‘main’ character (i.e. someone who shows up in the OP/ED). These kind of sudden turns of the plot are usually reserved for some sort of episode 03 twist (the most notorious modern example being Madoka Magica), but here we are with the plot hardly warmed up and we’ve already begun the body count. That said, I don’t feel like this was actually intended to be a ‘twist’. It was simply much too predictable. You don’t even need a high level of genre-savvy to see it coming because the death flag was raised so high and flown so proudly, even as of the first episode. Let’s see: he made a promise to return. He’s the childhood friend. He’s a potential love interest but he’s not the deuteragonist (spot taken by this girl). Other characters keep mentioning his recklessness. And most importantly, he wears red, so we can call him a red-shirt. He was doomed from the start, right? That’s why I felt this episode was less of a shock and more just taking care of obligatory business. Apparently, something terrible needed to happen to Joshua just to get the plot rolling. Again, it’s perhaps a bit heavy-handed, but it’s just the jolt needed to dispel Princess Yuki’s naivete.
That said, I would have liked a bit more world-building first, to see more of this kingdom and the façade they had constructed before it was shattered so easily. I mean, they were hiding an entire actual war from their monarch, which is tantamount to a coup. I would like to have seen more about how they managed to pull off that trick. But we’re probably going too slow already (one cour of anime simply is not a lot) and we’ve got to move on. At least Stella Shining, she of redundant names, was finally introduced at the end of the episode and maybe by episode 03 we can finally say that the cast is complete. It’ll have taken us uncommonly long to get there but hopefully it’ll be worth it as our protagonists at last earn their top billing and we can dive into the plot in earnest.
ED: 「この世界に花束を」 (Kono Sekai ni Hanataba o) by キミノオルフェ (Kimino Orphee)