「杯中の蛇影」 (Haichuu no Daei)
“Seeing Snake Shadows in Every Cup”
I’m finding it quite funny right now how Genjitsu has effectively morphed into a story of the week show. For all the changes afoot and politics at work everything right now is seemingly about a life lesson one can apply to their own experiences – because yes, political science isn’t solely restricted to the whims of societal management. You want to effect change you get your ruthless persona on, because who knows, it might just yield you some pleasant bedside memories as well.
Outside of Kazuya quite literally purging Elfrieden of its landed class and anyone with delusions of grandeur, probably the biggest (un)surprise here was Carmine winding up surviving that little trip through suicide. Yeah yeah, bring up all the potential of Mr. Catman not being the guy, but I think it’s fairly obvious he is Carmine considering Kazuya’s temperament and beliefs. Carmine after all rose up in rebellion, yet did so in part to help Kazuya more than hinder him – his actions were for the benefit of Elfrieden and such deliberate strategy wouldn’t be lost on the isekai’d hero of the moment. Mind you it doesn’t mean Carmine will be publicly rehabilitated anytime soon (there’s a reason for the mask and lack of speech), but Kazuya true to form isn’t about to let a useful tool simply enjoy the release of death.
Speaking of death, yes, this week definitely was a shocker. While clear until now Kazuya had the capacity to do otherwise brutal things, offing the heads of most of Elfrieden’s nobility certainly takes the cake for utter ruthlessness. Such ruthlessness, however, as Kazuya mentions, is part in parcel of rulership; you cannot keep your subordinates and charges in line purely through love alone, at some point you must use force to assert your will, and when you do you must ensure it doesn’t stop at half measures. In this way Machiavelli had it right: fear is always preferable to love because it invites hesitation, and hesitation keeps you ruling – and living – that little bit longer. Like any tool though it’s best used in moderation, like any force when used it’s best done so all at once. Doing so ensures the possible extent of your cruelty is known, but when you may apply it is up in the air – it’s that uncertainty which ensures those who may otherwise have acted out against you remain on the fence. Kazuya did what he did (no matter his disgust) for this reason, and it’s this reason which led him to making his request of Carla. Sometimes maintaining moral balance is hard and you need a suitable eye to keep you on track.
Of course, staying on track may prove to be the least of Kazuya’s worries as it appears we’re now entering the realm of relationship struggles. Liscia and Aisha might be hassle enough keeping under control (heh), but factor one pesky princess into the proceedings and I think we’re in for some fun times. Whoever said political scheming had to be boring?
Colour me impressed… Kazuya really sticks to Machiavelli, though he isn’t above bending the rules (yeah leader of the Kuronekos is quite obvious, which IMHO makes the entire masking ploy useless in the first place…)
Executing the traitorous lords was more surprising, since there was no evidence against them initially, and they posed as hardline loyalists… But those 2 who openly pleaded for lives of the defendants, were actually the only honest ones. No wonder the kingdom was going to hell in a handbasket with such nobility class…
Kazuya is a good man at heart though, and killing, even necessary does weight heavily on him. One result is appointing Carla as his personal morality anchor, another is fun bedside scene we do get to watch. At least until it is lights out and doujin makers imagination on!
Finally, we do get some spotlight on Roroa. I dont know yet what her plans are but she will definitely be royal pain in the @$$ for Kazuya. She has more IQ than her entire male family sidecombined, and by large margin. Whatever she will plot, will cause Kazuya more trouble than that silly little war her father and brother conocted…
To be honest, that’s a common trend in all sorts of Japanese fantasy and isekai stories: the nobles are corrupt and it seems that the only good solution is to give the king/emperor/whatever full power over them.
I wonder if it’s the result of how the Japanese see their own history. They probably associate periods of chaos with nobles fighting against each other, whereas strongman unifiers that make them fall in line are praised as visionaries or guarantors of peace and prosperity. Meanwhile, European Enlightenment would see the absolute authority of any ruler as something as dangerous as aristocratic privileges, or even more.
This is why Machiavelli’s lessons should be difficult to apply. For all the praise of political realism, Machiavelli wrote for city-state politics where a Prince could take care of things with his own hands. It was more difficult to apply to largwer kingdoms (and in turn those kingdoms would routinely made Machiavelli’s lessons for Italy meaningless because they could just force the city-states to comply with their larger armies). If nobles were so easy to subjugate as this series makes it look like, the history of the world would have been veeeeeery different.
Nawh the trend is fairly consistent for the trend across most global history, especially pre-industrial. The nobility has always wielded significant power even among the most absolute of monarchies, a power which they have exerted should they have felt their position – i.e. wealth and influence – threatened. Japan likely emphasizes it more in stories given how much longer the country experienced feudal politics and how violent the switch between it, imperial diktat, and liberal democracy went.
Do agree on Machiavelli’s limitations though. The treatise is meant for the city state where individual personalities can leverage major sway, not the modern multinational state where entrenched interests often overwhelm singular politicians. Nevertheless the basic lessons are still applicable: you do not get anywhere on love and friendship alone, unless you’re willing and able to ruthlessly crush your opposition at the appropriate time you will lose and become little more than a historical footnote.
Speaking on Machiavelli’s specificalities, I wonder what’s Kazuya’s preferred endstate, will he be satisfied with enlightened absolutism, or will he move towards constitutional monarchy after that?
I fear the answer. Fantasy and si-fi tends to love its enlightened despots. Modern democracies were all born from imposing more and more limitations to the royals. And as Pancakes said, even in the most absolutist states there were some counter powers. But that doesn’t fit Great Man narratives.
“Transition to democracy? What’s that?”
Hmm, I don’t know. The trend I observed has two parts: “nobles bad” and “king good”.
I agree that presenting nobles as scheming, corrupt and the ruin of the country is a common narrative with historical basis across different countries. But my experience with Japanese media is that they are less critical of royalty in these scenarios, as if they were somehow free from the power-lust and the self-entitlement of hereditary privilege while everyone around them (except a select few “good” nobles) ruins the country. Heck, even in Otome Isekais where the Prince is a jerk, he tends to be a brainless puppet rather than a true conniving bastard.
Mind you, Western fantasy and sci-fi loves its enlightened despots too, but the idea of “absolutism” always has some negative or dubious connotations (even when it’s presented as the best solution). On the other hand, the Japanese stories I’m familiar with seem to embrace visionary despotism as the logical answer without anyone raising an issue other than personal ones. I always considered Kazuya a text-book example of this trend.
If people were complaining about the Anime doesn’t have action and all talk, a bunch of side characters just got killed in one room with one strike.
For the scene where Kazuya had all those politicians slayed for choosing sides based on which leader are more beneficial to them. I think it was Robert Downey Jr.‘s Tony Start that said ‘Is it better to be feared or respected? How about both.’ This is basically what Kazuya was displaying, he wants to be seen as reasonable leader when debates come up but at the same time Kazuya does not want people to see him as a pushover.
I like how Kazuya is sending a message to all politicians who server under him, You can’t flip flop sides just so you can only benefit from it. Pick a side and enjoy both the benefits and disadvantage of following someone.
Like the wiseman once said, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Funnily enough respect doesn’t always have to be positive, you can absolutely fear someone and yet still respect them given you understand what they’re capable of. All respect entails is giving the person their due thanks to prior action. Kazuya is simply displaying this in practice and anyone who fails to recognize what he’s capable of will pay the price.
There is difference between fearsome things we respect and fearsome things we despise….
We can respect dangerous enemies if they act honorably, but thugs preying on the weak and defenceless, no matter how dangerous dont get respect.
Culling the nobles was certainly surprising, but I think most of the intrigue in the episode was figuring out Castor’s fate. Especially on how exactly it is decided and executed. Good to see Kazuya really does practices what he’s been studying. Even if it is psychologically hard on him.
Now about a certain cat, can’t say I instantly recognize him. A certain slip of tongue was really what gave it way. So what did Carmine drink last episode? Hair whitening potion?
Probably a sleeping potion or the like, nothing like a bit of beauty sleep to help the complexion 😛
false death, followed by hasty burial and even more hasty exhumation by namless men in black…
do you remember a certain Jedi who after regime change became executioner for certain ruler?
Killing 12 ppl, just like that. Hopefully, they mentioned a bit more evidence in the LN than what they presented here.
Its been a while since I read the LN volume with this part, but if I remember correctly, Souma and Hakuya had the names of the nobles who were working with Amidonia and other countries looking to overthrow Elfrieden. They had been acting traitorously even during the prior king’s rule. I think this was mentioned in one of the prior episodes with the negotiations with Julius and Jeanne.
The nobles that were killed were also shown at the end of the prior episode, where there were a bunch of men plotting something against Souma. Little did they know that Souma had the upper hand.
A little was mentioned however the show definitely didn’t do a good job of leading into it. Outside of last episode’s end scene next to nothing on this potential twist was revealed, but personally I don’t think it was that big a problem. The abruptness and degree of the slaughter succinctly shows that Kazuya’s ideas aren’t only for show and that he will do what’s necessary to retain his power. It’s a nice way of emphasizing that this kid is capable of far more than his potential opponents (and allies) give him credit for.
I assume when capturing Van some incriminating letters were captured or so…
Souma didn’t have conclusive evidence to try anyone of the Fence Sitting Nobles in both the LN and the WN. However, they do have enough (circumstantial) evidence to prove that:
They allied with the kingdom
They allied with the Corrupt Nobles
They allied with Amidonia.
And that is enough for now. “Now” because immediately after the execution is a royal order to search for the remaining evidence for it to be conclusive. Yes the execution and the search for evidence are inverse but that’s Machiavelli for you.
Kazuya should’ve read John Locke and Hobbes (both Behemoth and Leviathan) first before dabbling in Il Principe.
And the Federalist papers, while we are at it…
I like this anime, but everything seems to fit to perfectly into his plans. In turn loses it appeal for me. Even in the first seasons. As if the corrupt noble, the isn’t a cautious one amongst them. As well as the events leading up to this, the war with both the 2 Dukes and then the Principality. Followed the negations afterward. All plans ran way to smoothly in my option. Like they aren’t expecting an resists at all, by having everything calculated. But seeing no contingence plans or alterations if anything goes astray.
It is losing me at that in terms of not realism (I know it’s an Isekai anime) but of believability.