「奏上の時」 (Sōjō no Toki)
“Speaking to a Princess”
As I was saying last week, action is not going to be the wrong suit of Utawarerumono. I wonder if this is not more an issue of choreography than animation; they seem to have frames enough for Kuon’s majestic hair, but making a fist-fight pop on screen requires a different skillset (in the storyboarding) altogether. And it’s not like Anju can suddenly break out kung-fu moves just because it’d be cool.
In return, we get plenty of detail in the Anju-faces. And from the looks of them, this episode really put Anju through the wringer. As it should: Anju needs more of that trial-by-fire character development in a hurry if she’s going be the one whose wants and needs are essentially driving the entire conflict. Plus, if Anju is being positioned to be Kuon’s foil (and she is, at least by the Japanese title of this anime) she’s going to need to take more beatings than this to earn the right to play oppposite the female lead.
Speaking of Kuon, is her character arc… more or less done? She’s come completely full circle – ater grieving the death of her first love, Kuon finally took on her responsibility as the Divine Scion of Tuskur, and headed the invasion of Yamato. Now she’s gained hope that Haku is perhaps actually alive, she’s gone back to being just Kuon, and the invasion of Yamato has been shelved. Was… that it? On the one hand, I do appreciately neat resolutions and characters who know what they want and show agency by actively choosing to go after it. On the other hand, conflict is interesting. I feel that a more conflicted Kuon, torn between her duties and her freedom, her family and her friends, Tuskur and Yamato, makes for a more compelling character. Plus, her personal conflict also added to the overall conflict of the plot. Why settle for the chaos of war when we could have had the conflict of a three-way war? Again, far less neat for the writers but for more spicy for us, the audience.
I must admit though, if it was up to me, I wouldn’t be able to deny that smile either.