And indeed I didn’t.
Last time, I said that Hero’s plan to use the Young Maid as a doppelganger for Demon King to give to the Church was a rather dickish move – since, even though he said he’d save her, she never really gave her consent to take such a dangerous role. Well, I may have exaggerated a little there. After all, it really was not a bad idea. They’re giving her in to religious zealots who are going to bring her to their capital so that they may burn her at the stake, but surely they are not going to do her any harm until they get there! What could possibly go wrong?
Oh, no, what are you doing.
So not everything goes according to plan – or if it does, then the plan was pig crap. Young Maid gets beaten, whipped, humiliated in every possible way. After such punishment is lashed onto her, however, the inquisitor or whatever he is remembers he’s a bad guy and as such has to do something very stupid to compel his own demise. He then proceeds to give Young Maid the freedom to give her last words to the crowd – as if an heretic’s sin wasn’t exactly that of communicating inflaming, dangerous ideas, that is the kind of ideas you don’t want to be presented in the face of an already sympathetic and rebellious mob. And Young Maid does not fail to deliver. In fact, she gives one hell of an inspiring speech, which also counts as the best voice-acted moment in the series so far and the only one which came close to moving me. She remembers her own childhood – though she’s actually impersonating the Demon King impersonating the Crimson Scholar, it perfectly makes sense, since no one knows jack about the Scholar’s past – and how learning and improving herself helped her to fulfil her identity as a human being and transcend that role of an “insect”, a soulless being whose only purpose is to work and die for someone else’s sake. It’s particularly touching when she goes through all the hardships that she’s crossed and that have killed off her brothers and sisters one by one – the creepiest moment being the implied rape and murder of one of her sisters by the hand of their land owner, though I’m pretty sure such devious behaviour would have not been considered acceptable even by medieval standards, and if discovered would have led to the disowning of its perpetrator. The entire speech is clearly a call back to her first meeting with the Head Maid, when she asked to “become human”.
On that topic. This episode remarks my feeling that this show’s writers are often oblivious. The message they want to convey is undoubtedly positive, but their little care for details often causes the show to have some unintended terrible subtext. This showed in episode 2, when Head Maid’s speech, which was probably meant to incite the two escaped serfs to take their life into their own hands, passed off as insufferably smug and elitist, and happens again here, where the fact that Young Maid is not replacing Demon King of her own will kind of defeats everything she says here about freedom. It’s like the Hero and everyone else is just “oh, she won’t die, so she’ll be ok”. That’s awfully superficial, without considering that for historical accuracy, in the Middle Ages those deep, bleeding whippings probably could kill you – I strongly doubt the Inquisition disinfected its flails after all. And in fact, the lack of commitment to the plan on the Young Maid’s part is ultimately its demise. What had been concocted as a clever, Machiavellian way of giving the Central Nations what they wanted while not really giving it turns into a total mess when Young Maid inflames the crowd to the point that they begin to throw stones at the inquisitor and his guards. Things go out of control pretty quickly, the immediate beheading of the Scholar is ordered, and the King himself has to step in and cross blades with the executioner to stop it. At that point, diplomacy goes to shit. The King declares that the Crimson Scholar is under his own protection, the Knight claims that she’s actually to be considered a saint, not an heretic, the inquisitor and his men are kicked out of the realm and are lucky to have escaped lynching. If Totally-not-the-Pope could have coped with a discreet refusal to give in the Scholar, public humiliation of his emissaries and challenging of his doctrine are a straight out declaration of war. We’re witnessing the birth of Totally-not-Protestantism here. The Winter King is basically Martin Luther, John Calvin and Henry VIII all wrapped into one.
Then for some reason the anime turns into Magi for thirty seconds.
Then there’s some enigmatic moment with Demon King who’s visiting the tomb of her predecessors and possibly inheriting their ancestral memories and finding out that the story that she’s living now has been played over and over again, between many Demon Kings and Heroes? I don’t know, but that’s how it looks like. And whatever this endless loop means, the last words seem to suggest that if it will be finally be broken it will be thanks to the power of LOVE.
Whatever. This episode could have laid the ground for some major conflict. Overall, cheesy as it may have been, Young Maid’s speech was still one of the highlights in this usually very dull series; however, the events of this episode, in the hands of any writer who wanted to picture a realistic historical plot, could only lead to a worsening of the situation, possibly even with the Winter Country attacked by the troops of the Church in a new Crusade. However, seeing how the show seldom worries about realism and often prefers to give us just a series of heart-lifting moments with a side of mildly annoying trouble just to make us feel like there’s a conflict or something going on, I doubt that’s going to be the case. But that’s going to be next episode’s problem. For the moment, this episode still wasn’t nearly as boring as the last one, and at least, that’s something.