I am slightly mollified by this episode at least starting with the fight against the Beast, showing the girls at work whilst also demonstrating that they are the apex of the military efforts, but certainly not the only aspect of them. Kutori is in fine form as she takes down the 217th incarnation of the Not-Triffid, Ithera expressing sardonic admiration as she and Nephren stand by to provide support if/when necessary. From that 217th Timere however, both the next respawn and a heretofore unknown Beast appear, the new arrival lasering a street and killing the soldiers present.
Limeskin immediately orders a retreat in the face of an unknown situation, to which Kutori rebels and declares her intention to keep fighting. Another beam from the Total Recall ripoff prevents Ithea from stopping her, and Kutori shoots recklessly forward, only to start having very strange visions of random scenes, narrated by a child’s voice. Notably, her eyes also start to turn red, spreading from the pupil. Where have we seen that before?
After the OP, which might have more people going “Oh, hey. Well, what does that mean then?”, the scene flashes forwards to Ithera narrating the last of the debrief about what happened being provided to catch Willem up. Limeskin praises Willem for the work he did training Kutori, who herself is looking depressed and blaming herself for not being prepared to detonate her life in an attempt to destroy the unexpected Beast. Nephren is the first to point out the flaw in her logic - that there was no guarantee Kutori’s sacrifice would have worked, and had it not they’d then be down their most effective fighter facing a worse situation. This seems to make Kutori feel a little better, and so she then raises the unstated-obvious and asks why Nephren is sitting on Willem’s lap this whole time. Nephren replies that Willem would feel better if he warmed up, and overrides his objections to cling onto him even more. Kutori’s tsundere makes Limeskin start laughing, then the doors to the room are flung open by the doggirl from before and anything the episode has to offer in the way of lasting relevance stops for the next quarter of an hour.
Turns out she is the daughter of an old friend of Limeskin’s, who also happens to the Mayor of the city. And someone has threatened to kill him. (remember those racial tensions that were mentioned last episode?) Limeskin rejects being able to help, but tries to enlist Willem to do what he cannot, which Willem immediately shuts down, prioritising his responsibility to the girls. His statement of “not wanting to be a hero” is worthy of more note than its normal use, because in the past that’s exactly what he wanted to be, and as he leaves to collect Tiat from the hospital yon doggie follows along, one-sidedly talking about her problem (with a small element of snark from Ithera).
At this point, glad as I am that they kept this short arc to just the one episode, I still feel they’re compressing important aspects of the story too much. I’ll talk more about what I mean in the Explication section, but suffice to say much of the nuance which adds depth to the characters and their motivations is being left out.
Willem’s continued rejection prompts Nephren to provide background information once again (exposition fairy?), pointing out that the military organisation they all belong to is solely tasked with defending the islands from external threats, and as such is not allowed to interfere in internal political matters. Ithea quoting the relevant part of their regulations is met by wuffie complaining that she’s in the right, only to be countered by Willem stating that “being in the right” doesn’t justify a use of force, and in fact often leads to the exact opposite - “Rightousness” being used to excuse the use of force with the resulting escalation leading eventually to war.
At the hospital, Tiat tearfully tries to pretend she was entirely fine the whole times and shots are nothing to be bothered about, then the adorable is irritatingly interrupted by Ithera bring the focus once again to the forlorn-looking dog-lady, along with another crack about Willem liking little girls. Willem’s response is something neither the girl nor I can figure out, then Tiat smells lunch and runs off towards a stall selling cooked Engrish. The sad canine shadow of the group then suffers a personality kick, slating the quality of the stall’s offerings and intimidating everyone into following her to a much better place to order the city’s signature Engrish, where the cook is totally not Pac-man…
The fuzzy then starts waxing lyrical about her city and in particular how places like the restaurant they’re in have been in films, which gets Tiat to start fangirling as well, their happiness prompting Willem to start laughing and being oddly rude, bringing us to the commercial splash. The group then starts touring with their personally-invested guide, obviously being tailed the whole time, while Kutori again has disturbing flashes of random scenes. (Why’d it have to be clowns?) Her absent attention is noticed by everyone, and she brushes off Willem’s concern only for him to offer to help if she’s suffering the effects of Venenum poisoning again. For a given value of ‘help’ I guess. Changing the massage from a pressure point as it was originally to more of a deep tissue affair does change the implications of this scene - In the LN Willem’s offer is more casual and Kutori objects that her back would probably break if he did it there. Here, there is obviously a more teasing threat, replete with groping hand gestures.
Further sightseeing is accompanied with further adorable, until Kutori also notices that the group is being followed and Willem decides to bring the pursuit to a culmination. Asking to be shown a place where not many people visit, they end up at a well in a small plaza, where, as Willem intended, their pursuers surround them. Cringeworthy ham is then dialled to eleven, as first the thugs take themselves far too seriously, the target of their kidnapping attempt responds just as passionately (somehow forgetting that the ‘children’ present are overpowered soldiers), the girls do not forget that they are overpowered soldiers and express no care whatsoever, partially redeeming the whole scene, and then Willem neutralises everyone by showing that finger-guns can be the answer to any situation.
Honestly, I feel that I got the most value from this episode just from being able to use that picture of Kanna from MaiDragon.
The fan-favourite golems show up to take custody of the racists and we get to see a different side of Willem: that of an asshole manipulator, willing to use dirty tactics to win, setting up not only the thugs who threatened the mayor, but using his daughter as bait to lure them out. That both they and she are inept cretins doesn’t change that fact, and yon wuffles is very upset with him, sadly also lapsing back into stereotypical anime female behaviour that we thought we’d avoided last episode, by blaming him for touching a seemingly innocuous part of her body after she collided with him. To be fair, that’s not why she belts him though.
Once again, I feel that the changes to the way events occur change the import of the events occurring. Willem in the LN is far more irritated by the accusation of sexual harrassment, far more intimidating when confronting the thugs (getting Ithea to manifest her wings to demonstrate the girls are more than they appear) but most importantly, talking the thugs into giving themselves and the rest of their collaborators up by over-awing them with deduction and command of the entire situation. We also get a significant moment with Kutori, when she dismantles Willem’s casual dissembling regarding handling the situation in such a slapdash manner, breaking down the contingency plan he had for eliminating the entire group of assailants within three seconds and being more angry that he’s trying to hurt himself than any idea that he’d put them at risk. She’s also far more candid about her feelings regarding him, much to his discomfort as her surety moves them from the realm of a child’s crush to something he can’t just brush off and avoid confronting. Just as Naigrat had warned earlier.
Sunset, and the group (sans fuzzy) proceeds to their airship to go home. Willem and Kutori lag behind and have a heartfelt conversation compiled from several different conversations through this arc of the LN. I don’t see a problem with moving them to here, but the personality of both Willem and Kutori are, as I’ve said, altered to be more emotional at the expense of depth to their character. (Kutori’s response to Willem opening up remains the same however. Poor Willem…)
At the dock, A rabbitman approaches and requests Willem come with him, a request Willem rejects. This prompts the bunny to say a name, the name of one of Willem’s companions from 500 years ago (not Leila, sadly). A name that obviously, no-one in the present should know. Reluctantly, Willem agrees to find out what’s going on, Kutori pleading with him not to stay behind as he has a promise with her to keep, and Willem sees a flash of Almaria as she tells him she’ll be waiting for him to come back. I feel this could be confusing, as although the circumstances of the words are similar, we have had no indication that Willem felt anything other than familial affection for Almaria, whereas Kutori is a different proposition. Also, rather than Ithea making that crack about someone having a hard time because Willem isn’t actually into little girls, Kutori herself says it in the LN, deliberately loud enough that Willem can hear her.
End of the episode, and the next ep preview shows us Willem talking with the statue beardy from the OP, Kutori in full battle gear looking pissed and Leila in a wooden hut, which I expect to be that chat from the beginning of volume 2 that I said was skipped last episode.
So, let’s go over what this episode did and didn’t do. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I feel the politics aspect of this arc is not important overall, serving adequately as a vessel for further subtle progression of the actual story. This subtlety is, as I’m coming to expect, generally being left out of the anime. Whilst I’m glad that they only wasted one episode on this, honestly, I’d much rather they just skipped it entirely and given more time to what actually matters. Frankly, I feel that they’re almost going out of the way to avoid confronting what is the main plot underlying everything.
Not to give too much away, I think, but one major reveal that the anime has refused to show, is that readers of the LN know how humanity went extinct. And that opens up many more questions which are constantly alluded to in little lines here and there throughout the story. You’re not allowed to forget that what you know is behind everything you’re seeing, the daily lives of Willem and the girls. Some forms of horror work by building suspense in anticipation of the reveal. Others work by telling you what’s going on and letting that knowledge twist the normalcy you would otherwise see nothing wrong with. The LN uses the latter, very well. The anime doesn’t actually seem to be going for either. I’m a little lost as to what direction the studio mapped out for this.
Overall, all the characters feel less well developed, even the secondary cast. Originally, Limeskin tried to give the debriefing of the battle against the Timere, in his usual warrior cryptic way of speaking, and Ithea had to take over after no-one understood what he meant, much to his chagrin. He then also forces Willem into accepting the request from his friend’s daughter, by pressing it on Kutori after Willem refuses, knowing that Willem will take over the responsibility anyway. Ithea likewise has moments of odd descriptors appended to her, with her facial expressions seeming “artificial” at times, expressing almost-hidden hatred for the cyclops doctor they meet when picking up Tiat, and being willing to challenged several well-armed Military Police who accompany the rabbit to the dock to ensure Willem complies. Even Nephren is said to break her dispassionate persona, though not to any great noticeable degree, especially when Willem refuses to board the airship with them at the end, lecturing him about not keeping his promise with Kutori (who herself remains pissed at him).
As well, once again Willem’s connection with the past is either downplayed or ignored. The conversation with their mournful puppy client is a very brief version of the one from the novels. “Being in the right” is used in place of the explicit use of the term “Justice” in the LN, and this conversation there revolves entirely around the fact that “Justice” is something that anyone can claim and then use to justify their actions, whether or not they believe it and whether or not that claim comes before or after violence has been resorted to. Interestingly, Ithea calls him on the apparent contradiction between his dismissal of the idea of fighting for justice and his former profession as a Quasi-Brave, supposedly Just warriors. Willems responds that ‘Justice’ has no place in a fight for survival, and humanity was simply doing whatever it could to avoid being wiped out. They weren’t fighting for justice of any sort, they were simply fighting to live. Being a Brave is also what Willem attributes his impressive deduction and intimidation of the political wannabes to: Braves would frequently get caught up in power struggles and face assassination attempts, a fact that Willem laughs off pretty casually. The anime gives us a wounded badass in true smouldering-yet-vulnerable emotion. Willem of the LNs is, to my mind, a far more interesting person: Far more fundamentally broken, broken so deep that what you see of it on his surface can almost be played off as normality, yet at the same time less concerned with what normal people would consider insane, as he’s seen and done so much, living beyond that point for so long that no-one who hasn’t can really understand. True Braves are completely abnormal existences, and Willem’s desperate efforts to try and reach that level resulted in him becoming as abnormal, if in a different way. In the flashbacks, even his own companions regarded him as such. In trying to either make him more relatable or just more emotive, I feel the anime has lessened him.
If we ever do get more of his past, I guess we’ll see how it alters the perception of his present.