Not only are some of the villains now good guys, and not only are the real villains better established, but this shift in circumstances was shown via their actions (rather than pseudoexciting revelationary monologue), and we even got some decent fight scenes to go with it all. Now *that* was a halfway climax!
My comments last week about Kannagi’s decay as a villain were about as potent as my prediction record this winter (2/9, less than half as good as a coin flip), for this episode did an excellent job in building a villain resume for Akachi. It’s one thing to murder an enemy lord in cold blood for political advantage. It’s another thing entirely to kill that man’s pregnant wife for the fun of it after he’d effectively committed seppuku in front of her to keep her safe. The maids getting the blood puddle treatment first was a choice touch, dragging out the wife’s then-inevitable death and emphasizing the pain permeating the scene. As was their servant’s tearful speech in the aftermath of the battle.
Yagyu Retsudo would be proud, really
High-action Dragonball-style fights are nice, but what really sold me on the action this week is what Kannagi did after the battle was basically over and his sword had been absorbed; going bare-fisted, desperate with rage. This definitively established Kannagi as a character with real emotions, someone whose emotional pain takes a higher priority than his common sense. It’s a pleasantly stark contrast to last week’s episode that laid it out in words that yes, Kannagi wasn’t just an evil ass 24-7.
It’s amazing how quick one set of actions can change one’s view of a character
Even better, establishing Kannagi like this fully justified the Dai-style intervention from Arata we all knew was coming. I’ve said my piece on why I like his character so much, but this was exactly it. He’s a violent, churning mix of mental weakness and obligations towards justice, and he can’t weigh his grudges against what he sees in front of him. The way his eyes quivered while he was staring down Akachi was the cherry on top of an emotional complexity sundae.
Not to be too critical of an episode that was very well-done, but I think it would have been better to end last week’s episode about 6 minutes into this one. That way, Akachi’s been established as the alpha asshole and we have expectations of a 3-way faceoff between Arata, Akachi, and Kannagi to tide us over during the wait. Then this week would have opened with the amped-up action that filled the rest of the episode. Guess the blame for that one can be put on a combination of the real need for some of last week’s exposition and the fact that fight scenes take time to draw.
Still, can’t help thinking how much that would have rocked
This episode was solid enough, and next week is playing up a long-awaited other-Arata at school arc. Reservations be damned, executing well from poor setup enough times is a skill in and of itself. I’m punching my ticket to wherever this express line of a show is going.