「絶対魔獣戦線メソポタミア I」 (Zettai Majuu Sensen Mesopotamia I)
“Absolute Demonic Front Mesopotamia I”
If anybody was still doubting whether Merlin was Actually Gandalf, I think Merlin the White can make quite the convincing argument. Now we know why the anime had to take a break last week; it was to give Merlin a moment to jog through space and time to be on schedule to deus ex machina the (literal) hell out of this story.
To be fair to Merlin, this was basically an entire episode of Big Damn Hero moments with all the tsundere ex-villains queuing up to sacrifice themselves for the sake of tears and flashy attacks. Two weeks ago we were talking about Quetzalcoatl’s own five minutes of glory and how perhaps all that time spent setting up the world and characters was worth it so long as those plot coupons could be redeemed somewhere down the line for something suitably epic. Now, in this episode, Babylonia is not just redeeming its plot coupons, it’s completely cashing out. There’s a fire sale on dramatic deaths and everything must go.
While it was quite awesome to see so many unexpectedly answer when
Gondor Uruk calls for aid, and to have them all show off their signature kamehameha or whatever before croaking, it didn’t feel like there was quite enough time for any of them. As a whole, the episode felt good enough but breaking down the scenes it seems like neither Ana!Gorgon nor Kingu!Enkidu got as much love as Quetzalcoatl did last episode and as a result their scenes didn’t pack as much oomph. These are not minor characters — Ana was an early and consistent party member and Kingu was a major antagonist for most of the show — yet they just sort of drop in, do their thing, then drop out again without the level of catharsis their plot-presence demanded (though Kingu gettingthe Siduri-ED as an insert song was a nice touch). It’s an issue of pacing, methinks. You can tell that they really, really wanted to end with the Tassadar Old Man of the Mountain cliffhanger, which really was the highlight of the episode if only for how ham he was with his purple prose (though I suspect the scene meant nothing for anime-only viewers, with the Camelot movie inexplicably being released after Babylonia). But this part of the script was too long for a single episode but too short for two, yet we must still structure our anime in discrete 23 minute chunks. So we end up with an episode a tad too tight around the waist and feeling an uncomfortable chafe, but at least it kept its pants on until Merlin and Hassan I can swoop in and steal the show.
The point of this cavalcade of characters this episode is, I think, to make a point about ‘heroism’. The modern hero carries with them a moral dimension, shaped very much by modern literature and perhaps even by the prevalence of comic book heroes. Our Mans both Super and Spider are expected to not just have super powers, but also be role models to children. In the Classical sense, though, heroes were not necessarily good people at all. Great, yes, but not good, with mighty deeds coming first and pleasant character a very distant second. Consider how much of the Western tradition has been influenced by the Romans, and that much of their idea of virtue was about one’s ability to kill lots of people in the name of duty and country. No, heroes of the past, as far back as Gilgamesh’s titular Epic, were altogether a tiresome lot. But in comes Fujimaru Ritsuka, our protagonist, who is not really all that great by any measure. He gets by only on moral fibre and strength of character. Yet he manages to inspire all these super-beings from history and legend to come to his aid (to the point the ‘greatest’ one would take a bullet for him without hesitation), and by doing so make the difference that will ultimately bring down a primordial god.
What I mean is, it’s okay to play a Bard and put all your points into Charisma.