「連なる陰謀」 (Tsuranaru Inbou)
“A Conspiracy Linked”
The villains revealed themselves at last as the Shield Hero’s true enemies, and you get three guesses who they are.
Myne’s shown a willingness to threaten her sister’s life for the crown. That gives her a definite motive to target the Shield Hero since Melty would most likely die in the crossfire. Or maybe it’s Glass. We haven’t seen or heard much of her since she effortlessly defeated a Soul Eater then shrugged off Naofumi’s Iron Maiden. It’s about time she made another appearance. Or, perhaps… It’s that creepy Pope Naofumi bought holy water from way back when Raphtalia was inadvertently cursed by his Rage Series?
If you guessed Option #3, and I’m sure most of you did, then you’re correct. The Pope despises the Shield Hero, to be sure, but not only the Shield Hero. He also has it out for all the heroes thanks ostensibly to them making bigger messes than they solve, and for the Royal family, which he wishes to drive out of power and replace. The fact that the heroes have been enjoying the perks of their position without fulfilling the duties they were summoned for is something that Fitoria mentioned earlier on. She’s been picking up their slack while they relegate their protection to Melromarc, and with cooperation being nonexistent between them, their protection doesn’t count for much.
However, I wouldn’t give the Pope too much credit. Despite his lofty bearings, his actions stink of a power grab. One that’s probably been decades if not centuries in the making.
Naturally, all this falls into place when Naofumi is trying to defend his actions and reputation to Motoyasu, as he promised he would to Fitoria. Unfortunately, Motoyasu is the worst possible choice at this point. He’s been so blinded by his anger and stubbornness that nothing Naofumi says can get through to him. As it turns out, Naofumi was framed for Ren and Itsuki’s murders, if you can imagine that. And not even the Pope literally almost killing them with a magical nuke is enough to sway the Spear Hero from the belief that Naofumi is to blame for absolutely everything. A violent wake-up call though this may be, it’s been a long time coming.
All of Naofumi’s interactions with the Spear Hero up until this point have fallen into a familiar pattern. Naofumi runs into him, Motoyasu attacks while spouting accusations, Naofumi defends himself while denying these accusations, then Myne shows up to make a royal decree. It was stale long before this episode, so seeing so much time devoted to it was hardly a preference, but it did give Firo and Melty the chance to show off their magical prowess and teamwork. Plus, Firo sent Motoyasu flying Team Rocket-style again. That’s always a treat.
In addition, the use of excessive use of flashbacks, including one depicting a scene from not even five minutes earlier, felt like padding to fill the runtime so that the Pope’s shocking revelation could end the episode. More on that, the Church’s betrayal does bring the question of just how involved Myne was in their schemes. Without doubt they’ve been supporting her, and it seems as though they’ve been working together up until this point, but the plan was always for the Church to rule through her, not to usurp the throne. Though the fact that Myne has been betraying the heroes from day one shows that she’s nowhere near fit to rule, but the Church smearing Naofumi’s reputation through the mud, attempting to kill Ren and Itsuki (show me a body and I’ll admit they died) and even betraying her by ironically pulling the same move she did on Melty – i.e. trying to get her killed in the crossfire then pin the blame on the Shield Hero – shows that they shouldn’t be ruling, either.
Things look bad with God’s Judgement raining down on their heads, but Naofumi hasn’t made use of his Rage Series yet and Motoyasu hasn’t yet tried combining their powers, so their collective prognosis, while grim, definitely isn’t hopeless. And even if they can’t get their acts together in time to fend off the next blast, there’s always a chance for divine intervention.