King Torture’s organization is a really big enigma at this point. It’s got the Sunred comically incompetent villains, but it’s also got a definite second gear that puts it on a creepily effective streak, and that was full-up on display this episode.
According to the man at the top, that was all part of a deliberate ploy. I’d like it less if this were all part of some elaborate plan and not changing gears to fit the situation at hand, but if it is a 100% intentional strategy, then it’s a surprisingly astute one. There’s been plenty of good exploration in other works of what happens when the heroes (or really anyone) win repeatedly and overwhelmingly over a long period of time.*
Whether the initial winning streak was a deliberate one, it was really interesting to see the protagonists react. Mari got a weird combination of angry and bored, tempting fate with an in-your-face challenge to K.T., an acto fo poking the iron maiden that probably made her kidnap target alpha. Masayoshi lost a lot of his initial “I don’t care if it’s just one kid” determination and let his small-time celebrity go to his head. I like him quite a bit less now because of what I saw this week, but I kinda think I’m supposed to. Time will tell whether that move was a good idea or not; it’s harder to stay engaged with a story this sidewindery without a likeable cast of characters. Gotou does kind of take care of that, since he’s still the level-headed smart guy he’s always been. By all accounts, he and the professor were the only ones who saw that the big twist might happen, and I totally emphasize with him flaming Masayoshi’s video streams at this point.
At this point, just the fact that the heroes are in the state they’re in proves K.T. had a point in his monologues. We always knew Mari wasn’t in it purely for the people, but the extent to which Masayoshi soured up, even over an extended period of time, shows that it’s difficult to have motivated heroes without credible villains. And since their battles are looking increasingly like ones that’ll start posting body counts again, the show may start to really deconstruct the hero fantasy in an entirely different way from how I initially expected.
*Including a certain Brandon Sanderson novel that should have been on shelves a month ago. One of the big things I like about A-list manga and anime (as opposed to A-list novels and games) is that they do a great job of keeping their releases to a regular schedule. Granted, from a creative perspective, you do trade away some valuable fine-tuning that way and raise the risk of burnout. But I find that a lot of that is often offset in the quality of the finished product by the increased focus a hard deadline brings. This is one of those issues where each side brings pluses and minuses, and it kinda comes down to what flavor of creation you’d rather have.