Tonally, this episode went everywhere and back again, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. Last week left us with Raphtalia pointing her sword at the noble who sold her and her people into slavery. Pretty standard as far as cliffhangers go, but there’s always a chance that the heroes are going to surprise us. Though it seemed unlikely that Raphtalia would actually execute the noble in cold blood, vile and loathsome though he is, Naofumi has such a wide arsenal of magic and spells now that an ironic punishment didn’t seem like such a stretch.
Apparently it was, though. Whenever a hero says something along the lines of, “Killing you would make me no different from you,” I feel like pulling them aside and explaining how very wrong that is. Executing a man who is responsible for the torture and death of dozens does not put you on his level. Some would even argue that letting a monster like him live when given the opportunity to make absolutely certain he never hurts anyone ever again is a crime in itself.
When Naofumi asked Raphtalia if killing the noble would give her any closure, it was a well-phrased question. It allowed her to come to the conclusion on her own that taking the noble’s life wouldn’t truly make her any happier, nor change the past. Killing him out of revenge would honestly hurt Raphtalia the most, since that’s just not the type of person she is. She has a kind, generous nature, as seen when she rallied her fellow villagers to rebuild their village after the Wave, shortly before the noble’s men marched in and ruined everything. Sometimes, taking your enemy’s power from them with forgiveness can be the best possible revenge, as corny as that sounds.
Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that letting him go with no strings attached would be insane. For the interesting moral dilemma of whether or not to punish the noble with death or let him go knowing that there was no guarantee he wouldn’t go back to his greedy, selfish, sadistic ways, Tate no Yuusha took the relatively easy way out by having him attack Raphtalia one last time, before inevitably tripping and falling out of a window. This handily exonerated her of any complicity in his death, though she still blamed herself for it later on during an unearned crisis of faith that would have worked much more smoothly if she really had killed him in self-defense.
Putting that aside for now, the scene where Raphtalia discovered one of the boys from her hometown still locked in one of the nobleman’s cells was genuinely touching. Visually, seeing Raphtalia stand as an adult in front of someone from her village who hasn’t evolved the way she has makes it strikingly clear how much she’s grown. Also regarding that scene, though I’m sure I’ve praised the music composer, Kevin Penkin, for this series before, he really knocked it out of the park this time. The soft female vocals and what I’m assuming was Celtic influence heightened the reunion to devastating impact, leading up to the dramatic reveal of her best friend’s fate. Props to Seto Asami’s performance for the positively chilling scream she pulled off when Raphtalia’s found her bones lying on the floor in the cell they’d shared.
In the future, this confrontation should help Raphtalia on her path to becoming a hero with a clear moral code, but for now, the one most immediately affected is Melty. She’s been sheltered from the cruelty of the world her entire life, and is only now beginning to understand how twisted it can be. Once she’s on the throne, you can be sure that what she witnessed in those cells will be at the forefront of her mind.
And when that day finally comes, maybe Naofumi will at last be able to say, “I am the Shield Hero,” with pride.