Just before the next episode! Apologies for the delay, I’ve had a bad cold be kicking my ass for the past couple of weeks. At least that’s all it was this time, last time I got to the third episode of a series I was doing weekly reviews for, whatever I caught cost me a year…
Anyway, brief recap: Fairies use ancient human magic swords and can detonate themselves in combat, and it’s Kutori’s turn to do exactly that in a few days. Explains all those comments she’s been making about regrets, right?
Faced with this situation, Willem seeks out the warehouse’s Records Room (all militaries love paperwork) and finds it about as well organised as this article is punctual… Getting started sorting through the mess, he’s joined by the third of our primary trio of heroines - Nephren. Thus begins one of the more enduring partnerships in the story; if you think back to the very first scene where everything is going to hell, you’ll find these two are together even there. It’s not romantic or any sort of jealousy on the part of Nephren regarding Kutori, rather Nephren is very astute and realises just how hard a time Willem is having, and takes it upon herself to stay with him to make sure he doesn’t break from it. (Calling yourself as a “pet” is not the best way to describe this relationship though ’ren - A joke from later in the story).
Willem asks Nephren to help him look up information on Timeres - the type of Beast that’s due to attack an island in 5 days time and our first hint that Willem isn’t exactly okay with accepting the status quo regarding the deployment strategy of the girls. The next one comes after Kutori wakes up the morning afterwards and spends some time bitterly regretting being a teenager. Her angsting is interrupted by Collon and Lakhesh, who casually point out that she’s seeming much better than her usual state post-combat (that massage wasn’t just an excuse to touch girlflesh, who knew?) before Collon casually drops Willem in it by way of the age-old ‘exact words’ cliche.
Her peevishness at him deepens into a far more abject rejection after he clearly states he’s trying to find a method by which she need not sacrifice herself, perhaps an odd attitude on the surface but I think most people will understand the fear of daring to hope after one has resigned themselves to fate. In Kutori’s case, her fear is not only for herself and her imminent death, but also for all those who came before and obediently served their role as weapons, eventually for one last time.
Moving outside, Kutori taking her Senioroius and Willem an unnamed blade (the LN gives it as a mass-production Percival), he starts challenging both her skills and assumptions by dropping her to the ground repeatedly, despite the vaunted prowess of her weapon. Willem’s combat experience aside, you might expect the girls to at least be trained in swordplay, but it’s important to keep in mind that the carillons are less swords and more magic devices that happen to be sword-shaped. As Willem points out, they don’t enhance the wielder directly so much as provide strength proportional to what they are wielded against. Otherwise how would the inherently weak Emnetwiht triumph over foes such as Dragon or Gods?
The more they fight and the more Willem highlights the lack in Kutori’s outlook, the more she rejects what he has to say, as her resolve to die crumbles and the acceptance of all those she’s seen go already is undermined by the idea that if they’d just known more, their deaths might not have been such an inevitability. It’s a powerful scene, all the more given that one of the two is trying to pass on the only thing he can from the remains of his civilisation, and the other is merely fifteen years old and already resigned to die. The impromptu lessons comes to an end however, when Willem collapses into unconsciousness and starts bleeding from his mouth. Wielding a Carillon does require some application of Venom after all, and his body simply cannot take it.
Meanwhile, Naigrat has been receiving final orders for the deployment of Kutori, Ithea and Nephren, and unknowing of Willem’s plan bitterly acknowledges them before wailing in despair over the necessity of sending children out to die. The door to her room being flung open causes her to try and hide her outburst from the children she wishes to be strong in front of, before hearing the state Willem has ended up in.
This moves us to another flashback, where we see Willem in a devastated land beneath a tortured sky, facing an ominous giant figure he’s apparently just defeated at great cost to himself. An acrimonious exchange occurs before the giant explodes (revealing a flaming skull I suggest taking note of), where we learn the giant may be defeated but he’s not destroyed and will eventually return. The consequences of the fight however, will prove fatal for Willem. As he starts to petrify, he says goodbye to “Lillia” (They’ve changed Leila’s name too dammit!) and a “Souwong” (Suwon) who the anime hasn’t explicitly introduced yet, but I’ll reveal is the blonde lad from the previous flashback. A final sight of Almaria, and then Willem awakens in the present to a typically Naigrat assessment of his physical state as it pertains to his quality as a food item. The anime skips over that much of the damage was what he suffered in that last fight before he petrified, and the rest is from trying to fight Kutori with all that damage. We also miss out on Naigrat once again inflicting a minor Suspension Bridge Effect on Willem before remarking about wanting to eat him…
The commercial splash screen has thankfully changed Kutori’s naked body to a silhouette now, and leads into Naigrat telling the Fairies about Willem true nature as an Emnetwiht and how she came to know him (interestingly, in the LN she explicitly asks his permission before doing this). Naigrat’s fear that the girls would reject Willem after find out is undercut slightly by them all screaming and running out of the room… to jump on him (still wounded) and pester him with questions (Dammit Collon!). With Naigrat ushering the little ones away, Willem is then confronted by the three older girls; Ithera in particular questioning why he’d risk his life for them (even just by sparring with Kutori). Willem responds that it’s natural to help cute kids, especially girls. His dodge is returned by Ithea pointing out that they’re all girls so gender isn’t really relevant, to which Willem basically applies Neoteny within Evolutionary Biology by stating that an appealing appearance suggests a desire to be cared for, and the fact that all Fairies have those appearances when they could look like anything speaks for itself. (It has been suggested that humans are hardwired to find juvenile features ‘cute’ and respond with caregiving desires. Relevant to our particular fanbase, the stereotypical ‘anime’ style of character design leverages a large number of neotenous characteristics: large eyes, large heads, small noses etc).
Ithea naturally responds by making a crack about him liking young girls, and Kutori’s leaving is lost in her and Naigrat laughing at Willem’s reaction.
Realising that he does actually know what he’s talking about, Kutori tries to physically flee from her growing fear of possible survival, growing a pair of glorious Venom wings and trying to get as far from the island as possible. For a change of pace, we see a flashback from her perspective this time, showing her as a young Fairy being given the brooch she was so desperate to get back in the first episode, before the older Fairy she received it from walks away - in battle uniform carrying Senioroius. (In the LN, rather than being given it, Kutori actually didn’t like the Fairy it belonged to who acted like a boisterous older sister. She in turn said she kept trying, and failing, to win the brooch from an older Fairy when she was young, until one day that Fairy never returned from a fight, leaving it behind. Having won it by default, Kutori’s senior felt an obligation to wear it even though it didn’t actually suit her. Then, one day, she never came home. And when Kutori went into her room, the brooch was sitting on her desk, left behind. So Kutori picked it up and started to wear it).
Her crying as the resolve she had to die breaks down is interrupted by the fact that flying through clouds makes you cold and wet, and as she falls out of the fluffy mist she happens to see a small airship heading the opposite direction. Landing to dry off, we find that it’s the airship of the large lizardman we’ve seen a couple of times before, one Limeskin. The two converse over tea, Limeskin being surprisingly accepting of Kutori’s lack of glee over her upcoming sacrifice and responding with cryptic adages I‘m sure he thinks are very profound. Nonetheless, it adds to the characterisation of someone we’ve only seen briefly up until now, and typically in a very brusque fashion at that. Don’t get too used to seeing him though. Also, missing from this scene is Limeskin beginning to warm up to Willem, praising him for challenging Kutori’s resolve and saying he might be a true warrior after all. It’s never stated, but I have to assume Limeskin knows the truth about Willem as well. Either way I guess he’d either be a broken relic from a despised past, or just a Disfeatured nobody given a job through connections. Neither one a reason for Limeskin to think well of him.
Kutori then returns to the island, having somewhat accepted the fact that she still wants to live; flying over Willem sitting with her sword in a clearing by the island’s edge. A couple of petulant remarks, and then we see Willem cause Seniorious to separate into its constituent parts, floating around the two in a dome of light. At this point, I have to accept that the logic behind why the author called them Carillons is quite well founded (see a discussion in the comments of the last episode) though I still think it’s a stretch, so let’s just run across it very fast… The visual itself is wonderful, and we discover the nature of the Carillons: arrangements of magical talismans set into the shape of a sword so that their various effects mutually interfere in a desired way. That said, the individual talismans themselves are less impressive than their swords’ storied pasts - the great Seniorious comprising such things as a talisman to help you make cat noises, or avoid burning your tongue on a hot drink…
We also find out that Limeskin really is a pretty reasonable guy, Kutori saying that if she thinks her sacrifice will not be necessary on the day, he won’t order her to go through with it. The conversation joking descends into cliches, before Willem says that he’ll grant Kutori any wish she wants if she comes back alive… before rapidly setting caveats on what he just said, heh. Then, in a typically Shuumatsu end-of-episode bittersweet moment, Kutori asks for butter cake, mimicking Willem’s ancient request to Almaria before the battle he never returned from.
The episode then ends by skipping forward those remaining days, with Willem telling Grick about the events we saw in the episode whilst the three girls depart, Naigrat and the rest seeing them off. As Grick criticises him for not being with the others, Willem channels his inner tsundere before asking about cake ingredients. We then have the ED, and the next episode preview showing Willem is despair, suggesting something very bad happens.
But, to ruin it all for you, I would point out that the girls left in their combat uniforms, and were not wearing them in that opening scene where everything seems to be going exceptionally badly. The LNs managed the fakeout, but the anime hasn’t really allowed the emotional space necessary. That said, if I’m right, we should reach the end of the first volume in the next episode (actually we’ll be into volume 2), and that means we should reach that moment at the very end, which made most of us who were reading go “Oh shit, oh no” and keep reading through everything that’s happened since. Look forward to it!
Again, a lot of monologuing has been cut from what the anime shows, presumably both for reasons of time and also because trying to make seeing someone think to themselves seem interesting is quite difficult. I can’t blame the anime for dropping these parts, but I do feel they’re lessening the emotional impact of the overall experience, and for a story which revolves around punching the reader (or viewer) in the Feels, the anime is coming across as a little muted compared to my reading of the LN.
Foremost, the scene with Willem reading about Fairies in the Records Room is greatly truncated. In addition to the knowledge about the Beasts and previous fights against them he was looking for, he also looks into exactly what Fairies themselves are. In his time they seemed to be known existences but in a much more limited form, tiny sprites that enjoyed being near and playing with humans for some reason, but insubstantial and limited. A key point though, is that they are technically ghosts. Souls that died before fully realising and so remained in the world after death, not really understanding what happened to them. We also get a mention of artificially causing Fairies to manifest, and also that already being dead, they would not be recognised as having died in battle even if commanded to sacrifice themselves to save others. It underlines just why calling them “weapons” is so shitty for them, and makes their cheerful acceptance of it all the harsher. They don’t fear death because they can’t conceptualise it, the soul that forms them having died too young to understand. And yet they’re used as tools and told to die once again before living a full life.
We also get another glimpse of just how badly Willem’s mental state is, with an implication that the only reason he allows himself to keep living is to repay the debt of his resurrection to the salvagers that found him, and after that was clear he’d kill himself. Nephren also clearly states her impression of his fragility.
The duel between Willem and Kutori is likewise more visceral, with Kutori getting an imparted vision of how Willem could have killed her after the first pass, as well as both fighters being more intellectual in analysing each other’s capabilities.
Another significant difference is the flashback to Willem’s last fight. The anime shows it as being somewhat desperate and emotionally charged, I guess as you might expect from a fight that results in mutual death, and Willem is almost resigned to not keeping his promise with Almaria. In the LN however, the conversation between Willem and his foe was almost cordial as they both died, Willem expressing casual surprise at the lengths he had to go to to win (which are quite insane - he destroyed eleven swords and finally used seven forbidden spells, any one of which would be enough to kill him through the backlash) and his adversary praising him for his efforts. He also clearly states he had every intention of returning to the orphanage, and laughs that it’s a shame things didn’t turn out so nicely. The farewells he says are mostly the same, but overall his personality comes across as far more easy-going and accepting, even of death, as he has no regrets about the choices he’s made to reach it. Changing his personality the way the anime does I feel takes something from Willem, making him a more normal person perhaps, but Willem being stupidly abnormal in ways he doesn’t see the worth in is quite central to his personality, and why he has the relationships he does with the other characters: both his fellow Braves in the past and the Fairies in the present. He’s okay with dying as it means someone else didn’t. In general, I feel the anime is trying to make the character much more extreme emotionally, though I’m not quite sure why. The usual slightly-intellectual norm allows the times they do get emotional to resonate more strongly to my mind, as well I’m just generally not an emotive person anyway, so over-the-top displays come across as forcing it to me and quickly become irritating. That’s true for real life as well actually.
I also think it important to clearly state that what Willem was fighting was not one of the Beasts, but rather one of the Visitors, basically Gods from another ‘somewhere’ who came to this planet and eventually ended up conflicting with humanity. Just as with the Fairies, if the anime gets far enough we’ll find out more about their nature.
The reveal about Willem’s nature also went a little differently. The facts remain the same, but more emphasis is given within Naigrat’s personal recollections (not what she vocalises) of how despairing and haunted Willem was after being revived, and how she can still see the shadow of that behind his eyes even now. It’s also clearly stated that her fear the girls might reject him is because, as an Emnetwiht, he’s a member of the races said to have unleashed the Beasts they have to die fighting. In case you forgot this is a shitty shitty world.
The anime also cuts a conversation between Naigrat and Willem about the girl’s of the warehouse developing feelings of attraction towards him, as Kutori obviously already has. Whilst he would prefer to ignore them, figuring they’re born out of a lack of options rather than genuine desire, Naigrat chastises him for his attitude, telling him that regardless of the reason the feelings are still genuine, and it’s possibly the only change many of them will ever get to experience it, so he shouldn’t disregard them so casually. Willem persists on wanting to take more of a Father-like role however, habit from his place at the orphanage still.
Lastly the scene with Willem conducting maintenance on Seniorious included the amusing fact that its creation as one of the very first Callions was pretty much an accident on the battlefield. I can only imagine what might have happened to combine a whole bunch of disparate utility talismans into a singular mass and then demonstrated that it could kill practically anything… The joke about Kutori wishing to marry Willem upon her return is strung out a lot more (the lack of some of the banter is something I’m really feeling in this anime, honestly), and we miss yet another indication of how badly Willem is suffering Survivor’s Guilt after the girls leave, with him imagining he hears Almaria’s voice calling for him (“Father”) and turning to the sun to apologise to everyone he feels he’s left behind.
Also interestingly, in the LN it’s clearly stated that Kutori wears her brooch off to the battle, symbolising her determination that this isn’t her last fight. But it doesn’t appear to be present in the anime.