「冥府騎士団」 (Meifu kishi-dan)
“Knights of the Underworld”
Coming on the heels of a run of episodes that have been very good rather than stunning, this was a pretty nice return to form. As great as Ousama Ranking is there’s an awful lot g0ing on, and an awful lot of people driving it (and this is just the first part of the manga being adapted). The characters are fascinating pretty much without exception and the sheer masses of them are important to the series extremely nuanced nature. Still, I think it benefits from a narrower focus at times – especially when Bojji and Kage are part of what’s in that focus.
Most of the cast is quite hard to pigeonhole on the whole heroes vs. villains spectrum, and that certainly applies to the two characters at the center of this week’s action. Domas is somebody I feel considerable empathy for – to a point. Because of the oath he swore Daida put him in a position where his honor would be shattered either way – fulfill his oath and do something reprehensible, or break his oath and end his service to the throne. I think he made the wrong choice, but probably the one most men in his position would have made.
Domas’ role now is to fulfill Bosse’s order to seal off the Underworld entrance below the castle, but things don’t progress that smoothly. The Order of the Underworld shows up, and obviously have Domas hopelessly outnumbered (especially after he sends Hokuto away to hide himself). Domas isn’t the biggest genius in this cast but he’s no fool – he realizes there’s a good chance he and these men have no good reason to be fighting each other. But they’re not giving him much choice, forcing him to show his true strength – which doesn’t seem to have been impacted much by his Jaime Lannister makeover.
Death-Har is a pretty morally ambiguous figure himself. He’s trying to take advantage of the chaos in Bosse’s kingdom to claim it for himself, but he’s not there on a killing spree. Indeed, as soon as he tells Domas there’s “one exception” to his plan not to kill anybody, it’s pretty clear who he’s talking about. And it does seem pretty clear that the forces of good in Ousama Ranking are at odds with Miranjo, so there should be common ground there. But of course we don’t know exactly what Death-Har intends to do with the kingdom once he’s won his planned duel with mini-Bosse.
What we do know is that Death-Har is both wicked strong and ruthless – “Underworld” and “underhanded” go hand-in-hand (and foot) where tactics are concerned. As brutal as that kick in the nuts was, it seems pretty clear it was almost a cruel kindness – Death-Har could have killed Domas easily enough, but he did what he did intending to disable him. His bedside manner is about as winning as his face, but I don’t get the sense that Death-Har is outright evil (though indeed, that last part could apply to almost all the seeming villains in this cast).
Things kick into high gear with the arrival of Bojji and Kage (a timely one thanks to Gigan). Facing Domas is not easy for Bojji – it forces him to confront a wide range of emotions (fear, despair, rage, even hate) all of which are unpleasant. Domas’ reaction to seeing Bojji is indicative of just how much he hates himself over what he did – he’s immeasurably relieved to see the boy alive but totally incapable of facing him. He even tries to off himself (though I think he knew that wouldn’t take) as a form of penance. He’s underestimating Bojji’s capacity to forgive – though perhaps not his own.
This stare-down is a fascinating one. Bojji is tasked with protecting his party from a foe far stronger than any he’s faced before – but it’s not even clear if Death-Har really is a foe. I mean, if he wants to kill Miranjo and take the prisoners back, is that something Bojji should really be opposed to? Of course he doesn’t want to hand over the keys to what he sees as his kingdom to the Underworld, but I get the sense that Death-Har could be moved off that position once he sees just how different the situation in Bosse is from what his spies told him. One way or another the next few moves in this chess match are going to be extremely interesting to watch play out.