「対なるもの」 (Tanairu Mono)
In general, one should not have too much tolerance for a story solving problems using magic.
See this guy who popped up this episode? He is, for all intents and purposes, a wizard. He is able to acquire whatever you want via means most mysterious. He is able to do this basically more or less because of narrative sleight of hand – we will only believe it because of the mystery. We, as an anime audience, are trained to believe that shady characters who don’t open their eye hide many secrets and surely that is how he is able to ply his near unlimited inventory. In fact the moment they try to explain it the mystery vanishes and it’ll likely sound like bollocks so conveniently for the writers they will never have to explain it and they never will.
To be fair, if they’re just using this magic to skip past any questions about logistics, who can blame them? When it comes to war, the most important thing is logistics and a story about war should have to deal with how a small, agrarian, feudal domain like Ennakamuy, now isolated, is able to secure all its wartime supplies. But logistics is boring. So why _not_ just have a plot wizard solve the problem in advance so we can get back to violence and bloodshed ASAP?
More aggregious, though, is when magic is used to solve a problem that the story wrote itself into. This episode, Anju’s poisoning is resolved using a sudden panacea and she’s now up and about as if it was never an issue. It becomes apparent that the poison was only ever to keep Anju frozen in carbonite until the plot was good and ready to receive her again.
The only reason Utawarerumono can get away with any of this is because it had already hung these magical plot-aids on the mantlepiece in advance. Previous instalments have already established the shady merchant and Kuon’s medical family legacy, so these developments now are given legitimacy through foreshadowing. But – and I hate to bring this up every week – if you weren’t here for Act 1 of this saga then obviously the callback isn’t going to work.
Perhaps of more interest, then, is the character work, in particular the central personal conflict of our protoganist. Haku’s continued deception has certainly been a source of delicious angst but it also certainly had room to go deeper. Heading an army disguised as a missing champion to maintain morale and leadership is a trope as old as the Western tradition, but that’s not really personal, is it? No, it needs to hit closer to home, in this episode quite literally visits Oshtor’s surprisingly humble abode just to lie to his mother. And where Haku’s previous deception has been justified as utilitarian, this time seemed tinged with a hint cruelty. Which is great, because more conflict! Actually, this conflict should be less Haku’s and more Nekone’s, shouldn’t it? It’s not his mother, it is hers, and the Haku would never be able to play the Oshtor role at all without her enabling it. I feel that she really should be the focal character so long as a moral quandary is on her.
Of course, there’s no denying that Haku is the one who is wearing the mask and the one who will reap the consequences should it slip. And fake it though he might, when it comes to physical ability he’s never going to make it. Which leads to: cliffhanger! It’s something that something only an anime series can do and the game didn’t have, for obvious reasons, so even for someone fully spoiled I must say – it’s actually rather exciting.
When Mikazuchi began postering for a fight, it was amusing to see Nekone and Haku shitting bricks while everyone watches on, confident that the Oshtor they see can hold a candle up to Mikazuchi as he had done so in the past many times.
I will never forget when Mikazuchi furiously called out Haku for being an imposter. The raw emotions of the situation surged through me.
Even though Mikazuchi loves Anju as his true liege, he distinctly etches upon his soul the Mikado’s final two orders – to protect Anju after he dies and protect the people of Yamato.
Mikazuchi views Oshtor as being his equal, and although it mightily conflicts him to be on the opposing side to Oshtor and Anju, he views Oshtor as being capable enough to uphold the promise to protect Anju while he tasks himself as being capable enough to uphold the promise to protect Yamato’s people.
Now this imposter, who he does not regard as his equal, has taken up that mantle. His incandescent fury transforms from rage, into despair mixed in with pity. Pity towards Nekone and Anju that such a weak imposter (from Mikazuchi’s POV) is trying to bear the name of ‘Oshtor’, and despair because Mikazuchi will never see his brother in arms again and seems to believe without the real Oshtor, Anju will never be able to claim her rightful place back. Or at worst will die in the process of trying to reclaim said throne.
The moment sent chills down my spine, and his fury mixed with desperation conveyed the depth of brotherhood Mikazuchi shared with Oshtor, as Mikazuchi becomes consumed by grief as the realisation hits him like a truck that Oshtor is no longer of this world.