“Proof of a Ruler”
Two weeks ago, I praised the Utawarerumono anime adaptation for managing to cover Rulutieh’s character arc in one episode. I did have the the impression, though, that Rulutieh’s was on the shorter side and expected that the ones to come after would be longer. And indeed, Nosori’s arc has taken this second episode. The problem is, it’s not really two episodes. It’s more one-and-a-half.
Sure, the full length of both of the episodes involved Nosori but her arc – following one plot line, develops her character, addresses her wants and needs – ended in the climax of this one. Even stretching it to the furthest, the debrief of Anju, where she explains that it was simply Nosori’s loyalty that earned the princess’s trust, would be enough to wrap up everything with a bow. That is both Nosori’s strength and her weakness; her simplicity is what makes her endearing but at the same time she can’t really carry the story further so she just makes funny faces for the rest of the episode.
Full disclosure: I don’t really care too much for the harem comedy hijinks. Sure, they’ve always been part of the series and they’re good for a laugh now and then, but it’s thin content to close out what should have been a heavy episode. And I’m not convinved Utawarerumono is particularly interested in them either; they just want to tease some ships that never really go anywhere noteworthy, no matter the shoujo sparkles. Its thematic core is treated with more import; we will find that the central questions of many arcs in Utwarerumono – a story of men, kings, and gods – is about authority, how it is gained, and how it is used. The answer is often ‘poorly’ but it is still something it still wants to explore on many levels, sometimes with obvious imagery.
The obvious contrast between Nosori and Tokifusa is that Nosori already had, without ever lusting for it, leadership. She had her gang, she has her brother, and she had the faith of her liege. And really, she didn’t have to cast the seal in to the waters to prove her temperament; it just showed Tokifusa’s lack. After all, to quote a great sage, supreme executive power derives from a mandate of the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.