「親子げんか」 (Oyako Genka)
When we come at it from the perspective of Rudeus, Paul sure comes across like an unreasonable douchebag who can’t even be happy that his son is still alive. That was definitely my first impression of the situation, and one I’ve had for a couple of years having read the novel which is narrated from the perspective of Rudeus.
While Rudeus chose to forgive Paul, I never did. Well, I never did until now.
In the light novels, we are largely told the story from Rudy’s point of view, and never get to properly see where Paul is coming from. In an instant, the anime surpasses the original while preserving its creative spirit by venturing to show us exactly what Paul went through over the past 2-3 years following the Mana Catastrophe.
The episode opens with a short cinematic. That short cinematic, much like Up, telling us an entire lifetime’s worth of stories – rendering powerful emotions that you didn’t think were possible from a mere couple of minutes.
Immediately following the teleportation, Paul is aware something is wrong. He knows it’s not a dream – that much is clear given how he’s still holding a vulnerable Norn who looks up to him with eyes full of fear. And he knows the first thing he has to do is get back home and establish what exactly has happened. Whether Zenith, Lilia and Aisha are safe.
To that end, he uses his former adventurer’s rank to take on a quest at the local guild, which affords him the temporary usage of a horse for free while on said quest. However, Paul never planned to see through said quest. He uses the horse as his priority to get back to Buena Village, only his rapid speed means that Norn falls ill along the way, delaying their return by two or so months.
When Paul finally returns, to his horror, he discovers that the entire Fittoa Region no longer exists. This is pretty much close to his worst-case nightmare scenario – Zenith, Lilia and Aisha are confirmed to be missing, and their fates are completely unknown.
So what does Paul do? He’s a charismatic man of action and instantly seeks to assemble a squad of rescuers from those who survived the Teleportation Incident and made their way back. Through his connections with Zenith’s family, who are nobility in Millis, Paul comes to discover that many of the victims teleported to the region have been opportunistically turned into slaves.
Thus Paul decides to establish his base of operations in the Holy Kingdom of Millis. There’s much hope and everything seems to be going smoothly. And the cinematic even shows us how brightly Paul shines from Norn’s perspective. He’s her father, the rock who has kept her life together following a tragedy beyond all comprehension, and above all else, her hero.
Where possible, Paul uses money or the political power of Zenith’s family to free slaves. Where that is not a possibility, his party resorts to kidnapping them back. Unfortunately, this leads to several bloody skirmishes in which lives are lost – with Paul being blamed by some of his own people for the death of their comrades.
Combined with the fact that Paul has been able to unite hundreds of families, or at least bring closure to other people about the demise of their loved ones, the lack of any news about his loved ones sinks Paul deep into a depressive torpor, relying on alcohol and Norn as the two constants to keep him going.
Seeing slaves being sexually abused, tortured, even killed only affirms to him that this could very well be the fate of his loved ones. And the burden of this agony and despair transforms him into an immensely tortured soul.
You know Rudeus and his accusation of Paul being unfaithful to Zenith and Lilia given his track record? That’s an extremely unfair spit on the face for a man who has done nothing but work himself to the ground, searching for his beloved family members over the span of 2-3 years. Even more so when you consider that Paul has remained celibate all these years. Paul? Being in control of his private parts? Yes actually.
The only reason Vierra wears skimpy armour is not to entice Paul. Rather, both Vierra and her younger sister were forcibly made into sex slaves for Millis nobility – an experience so traumatic for her younger sister who has become withdrawn and afraid of men. Vierra chooses to wear the skimpy armour to draw any male gaze away from her sister and towards herself. Obviously he never had context. But it makes Rudeus and his accusations even more heinous. He’s kicking down a man who’s already depressed and trying his best.
So now that father and son seemed to have irreconcilably snapped, being comforted from the miserable pits of their wallowing by Norn and Eris respectively, where can they look to go following this aftermath?
Ruijerd dispenses his wisdom to Paul – about how grievances can only be settled as long as father and son are both still alive. If anybody was qualified to comment on the situation, that would be Ruijerd, who most probably never reached that reconciliation stage before his son’s death.
And for all his flaws, it takes a man of courage like Paul to own up to his mistake and make the first move in seeking out reconciliations.
I was similarly taken aback when Rudeus jumped into Paul’s arms. Then I started crying when I saw Paul gradually break down into inconsolable tears. You could see the years of stoic tension vanish from Paul’s face, replaced by the tirade of grief he held back for all those years. As well as sheer relief.
The unbearable weight of silent suffering is finally relieved from his shoulders, through someone else’s acknowledgment, makes for an unbelievably emotional and cathartic moment. We might not have suffered ourselves, but there’s something vicarious about watching someone go through such a torrid experience, that it comes as a relief for our sympathies when they are finally relinquished from said suffering. Even if only somewhat.
What made this moment even more powerful was when Rudeus finally refers to Paul as ‘father’ for the very first time in his mental monologue, instead of ‘Paul’. For the entirety of his second life, although he clearly respected Paul, Rudeus has also acted quite distant for the most part in terms of their father-son relationship. To finally see him accept Paul as his father sure struck me in the feels. He may not be perfect. But there’s not a shadow of a doubt Paul means well and will do anything for the sake of his family.
So father and son emphatically reconcile, parting ways with their determination to rescue loved ones renewed.
「それぞれの旅」 (Sorezore no Tabi)
Who could have guessed that Roxy went through such a miserable childhood?
Given her lack of telepathic abilities, that actually explains a lot about her inferiority complex.
It also puts into perspective just how deeply she cares about Rudeus. That she would return to her place of trauma and suffering on the off-chance she could discover any news or leads on his status.
Her reconciliation with her family fairly touching – albeit less emotional for me. Roxy’s parents hadn’t really fucked up. In fact they tried to do everything they could. So it wasn’t like they had gone through some extensive character arc development, other than unconditionally loving their daughter and always caring for her well-being.
Nevertheless I’m glad Roxy was able to finally make amends. Not to mention she was able to confirm Rudeus at least survived the Mana Disaster, and most likely lives due to his association with a formidable Superd bodyguard. The irony being that if she hadn’t tried to avoid her parents, she would have discovered this news sooner.
In terms of the cameo appearance, I don’t think anyone could guess that Roxy had been affiliated with Nokopara – the horseman that learned a hard lesson trying to mess with Rudeus.
For me it highlights there are all sorts of different folk out there, and that they aren’t inherently evil per se. Is Nokopara a jackass? Yeah. He thrived off exploiting the vulnerable and bullying the weak. But you could even draw parallels between horseman and Paul – they are both flawed fathers who deeply love their children and would do anything for them. In horseman’s case, this applies even if it means leading a dishonest life.
Now that she has confirmed Rudeus to be safe for the time being – what next for Roxy? Perhaps a return to the Shirone Kingdom, where Pax awaits her.
Anyway, more catching up to come. The posts for Episode 19 and Episode 20 will hopefully be up before Episode 21 comes out. Although I’m considering doing a tri-post which should sufficiently cover the Shirone Kingdom arc.