When Radiant concluded its first season back in winter of this year, its first story arc ended on a key note that came to define the narrative and direction the series was heading into. Though there has been no shortage of amazing new shonen titles and highly anticipated sequels this year, I’ve had a lot to time to reflect on the series since my write up of the first season. Between its clear homages to the genre and candid approach to tackling heavier subjects like discrimination, what kept drawing me back to Radiant was its characters.
Previously, I covered Seth’s journey and how his understanding of the world shifts when he is forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about the world they inhabit and make some difficult choices with lasting consequences. The new season builds upon that foundation as the latest conflict extends to one of his closest allies in what can only be described as one of the series’ most impactful episodes to date since the climax of the first arc. Having read this chapter in the manga sometime ago, I had originally planned to wait until this particular story arc completed in the anime to talk about it, but after reviewing the episode in question, there was more to the story than I realized. Today, I’d like to focus on some of those recent events, highlighting Mélie and how her current character arc is starting to shape the narrative, and share some thoughts on where the group stands by this point in the story.
In the world of Radiant, those that survive an encounter with a Nemesis gain the power to wield Fantasia and a unique infection or curse. These can manifest in a number of ways: physically (Seth’s horns), mentally (Mélie’s alternate personality), or out of the ordinary (*minor spoilers* Doc’s “molting” and age regression). The most extreme example of this is made within the first episode of Mélie’s introduction and her infection. Under intense stress or moments beyond her control, Mélie’s personality does a complete 180 from her usual cheerful self to a more violent and serious persona.
Until recently, many of these come up as inconveniences to everyday life. In Mélie’s case, it isn’t until the midway point of last season’s Rumble Town arc that her infection hints at a much more troubled history filled with a lifetime of regret and sorrow.
***Spoilers for Season 1 start here.***
After escaping capture from the inquisitors and mistakenly believing herself as the cause of Doc’s “untimely demise” (unaware of his infection), Mélie begins fighting back against the Nemesis ravaging the city. But after being knocked down from the aftershocks of the clock tower’s bell falling, she breaks down after seeing the destruction around her recalling a similar event in her past which triggers her curse.
Her rampage ends when Seth narrowly manages to block one of her attacks and she recognizes him. Though her flashback is left vague and open ended, this is the first time the curse of an infected sorcerer is portrayed as a moment of fear and suffering; a moment that repeats itself later on when Seth unleashes an unknown power and loses all control, unable to tell friend from foe. After these strange turn of events, their bond proves to be the catalyst that takes their characters on a personal journey and sets the tone for the second arc as Seth makes the choice to leave his companions behind, fearing for their safety.
***End of Spoilers.***
Back when I wrote the original review, there was a bit of uncertainty during the season finale that Radiant would follow through with this story line or attempt to sweep it under the rug for the sake of keeping the main party together and continuing the story. One of the most appealing aspects and (arguably) biggest strengths the series has is its willingness to place its characters in difficult positions without a clear answer of right and wrong. Much in the same way that season 1’s Hameline forced Seth to recognize the cruelty of the world he wants to protect and the uphill battle he faces beyond finding Radiant, season 2 sees Mélie undergo a significant change, pushing both of them in new directions.
Having left behind Artemis, season 2 sees Seth venturing off to the continent of Cyfandir, in hopes of finding clues from the Sorcerer Knights on the whereabouts of Radiant. By the time he reaches the capital of Caislean Merlin, he is surprised to find a few familiar faces have made the journey.
If there was any doubt that the show would commit to its previous ending, it is immediately cleared in the first few episodes as Mélie coldly turns away from Seth without a word. With other events taking place in between as the main story begins to take form, the issue is revisited when Seth receives a tip that leads him to the Luchorpan inn, hoping to make amends….
Note: This section contains spoilers for Season 2 Episode 5 (Silent Rain, Distant Hearts -Rain-). While this is mostly self-contained, as it is part of the story and does reference the season 1 finale highlighted before (In Search of the Future -Utopia-), I’m putting this up as a courtesy.
As an additional side note, if you have access to Funimation or Crunchyroll, I highly encourage you to view the episode before reading further. Even if you are not following the show, it is an incredible standalone episode with some of the most evocative voice acting this season, if not the year. Otherwise, carry on.
What begins as a tense conversation turns into a brutal spiral of emotions as Mélie grapples with her feelings of abandonment, her resentment of her infection, and her remorse over her sister Venelope’s death. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as both Seth and Mélie are unable to see how much each meant to the other given the amount of time they spent adventuring together and relied upon at their darkest hour.
The scene takes another devastating turn when he tries to explain his rationale, in the worst way possible:
Confirming what she has always feared most about herself, a tearful Mélie delivers the scene’s final heartbreaking moment. Despite reaching the point of no return, she apologizes for her “nonsensical outburst” and even takes the blame for their forced goodbye, leaving her alone once more.
I Did Not Know At All (Post Thoughts)
In many shonen stories, it is quite common for the hero to typically influence those around him through their words and actions. Though this latest conflict is very in line with the “friendship” trope prevalent in other works, it’s the execution that stands out. As Seth is starting to pull people into his orbit on his quest to find and destroy Radiant, it is the people around him who are starting to have the most influence on his worldview and choices. In the current season, you begin to notice as he hesitates to fight at full strength against the Merchants at the risk of losing control, as well as his complete loss of words in this episode as he continued to keep his distance, much to his own anguish. It’s clear that Seth was looking out in the best interests of his friends, but he did not trust himself knowing his other form almost harmed them.
As one of Seth’s first companions and support, Mélie proved to be a reliable friend when he hits his lowest point towards the end of the series’ first run after nearly being killed. While I was rewatching the episode for this piece, I picked up on a line about the number of times they spent at Kettle Coffee and the various odd jobs they took on to tackle their debt; a nod to the previous season’s “fillers” that comes full circle in this moment. For as short of a time they spent together, these two were far from total strangers with their partnership forming a lot of the show’s softer story beats in the first season and as the main arc culminated in Rumble Town.
Of the characters most impacted this season, Mélie had her own share of troubles she kept hidden away from her friends. Having been unable to make connections with anyone due to the conflicting nature of her infection, Mélie had found a friend who could look past it and truly accept her. With Seth’s refusal to reach out when he went berserk, it was a silent admission that their powers will always keep people away; a notion that Mélie had to struggle against her entire life as the people around her left or abandoned her when her curse became too much to handle. In the end, his decision to leave abruptly ended up hurting her by reopening old wounds.
I’ve not had a chance to highlight Doc in the previous sections, but his role in the current arc is worth noting. Something of a comic relief character and often the most resistant to put himself in dangerous situations, season 2 sees a different side of him as he attempts to comfort Mélie while approaching this conflict from a neutral angle. There is an anime-only scene that takes place shortly after Seth has left the inn where Doc steps outside and explains to him what Mélie is going through. It’s a nice touch that places him in a more active role during these events and is one of the few heart to heart moments these two share. And despite his reluctance to get involved in Seth’s journey, there are signs that he took his departure more personally than he lets on.
Throughout this episode, there is a sense of dread as the scene escalates in tension and we see the full spectrum of Mélie’s emotions. From the cold, complete detachment of her initial responses to her eventual breakdown as Seth can only look on in despair, their bond is further emphasized given their shared history as the two find themselves on distant paths, unaware of their situations and the pain they were going through at the conclusion of the first season.
There is a lot to unpack in this scene alone, but “Silent Rain, Distant Hearts” works well by leveraging an established friendship and highlighting the weight of each character’s burdens without ever casting all the blame on one party. If I had to make a direct comparison to the narrative impact of this episode for the series, I see some parallels between this and the beginning of the Water Seven arc of One Piece which (*minor spoilers*) ended with a tense argument over a disagreement of their failing ship, a duel over pride, and a falling out, until…..
Similar to that arc, it’s not much of a spoiler to say that Radiant will have to cross that bridge eventually (if the opening is any indication). Despite knowing the destination, it doesn’t take away the emotional impact of this episode. At any rate, I think it speaks volumes just how well these characters have grown and developed over the course of one season and these first couple of episodes into the second one.
Ending with no clear resolution in sight and the group at a complete loss on how to move forward, the beginning of this arc sees the trio confront a more personal crisis of their own making. Still troubled by Mélie’s last words, other events begin to unfold when an opportunity presents itself to Seth…
To be continued.....
With the second season just starting out, I’ve only scratched the surface. For now, I wanted to highlight what an incredible job studio Lerche did, as well as the incredible talent from all of the voice actors involved in adapting this difficult chapter with a nearly 10 minute scene of pure, unfiltered emotion in one of Radiant’s best episodes. Even without context, I think readers unfamiliar with the manga or the anime can appreciate the craft that went into building up to this moment.
Once again, thank you for reading! As always, feel free to drop me a comment or share your own thoughts.
All screenshots and media taken from Funimation and Crunchyroll.