(Note: Episodic notes are still mostly to be found on the Episodics Notes’ page, but up to a couple every week will have their write-up appear on the main page, when I think they warrant it. For those who don’t know, I take the notes as I watch the episode, and merely re-order them afterwards.)
Here we are, at the season finale. Not the series finale, because obviously the two siblings will keep going until they rule the world and challenge Tet. What will happen then? Blank never loses, but the question is what they will ask for, what will be “victory”.
Here we are at a small juncture, where Blank must win to save humanity, but this victory is will displace the Werebeasts, what they feared done to them, they will do unto others? Leave them at a position where they can be decimated? That doesn’t sound to me like what will happen.
To me the real narrative question of interest at this point isn’t whether they’d win (because they will) or even howthey’d win, as this show is nice, but it’s not as clever as it thinks it is – but what they will do after they win. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d ruffle Izuna’s hair and go “This was fun, wasn’t it?” – But the real issue is with the leader of the Werebeasts, still hiding in the shadows.
Let’s get to it.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) Having Fun With Friends:
1) The siblings apparently didn’t calculate for Izuna going all-out, though it is what they wished for! Must keep the tension going, to keep the appearances of the siblings always being on the verge of defeat and having to come up with “new” solutions, only to later show us it’s all been planned from the start. It’s a fine balance to maintain.
2) Izuna is having so much fun, can’t you tell?! Like Jibril, her having fun has her looking like a psychopath.
3) The werebeasts also believe in battles being over before they begin, which is why they set up the game, and then sent Izuna the hidden berserker. But seriously, Shiro, you’re used to playing in video games where physical parameters aren’t as they are in the real world, I’m sure you should be able to handle one Raid Boss :P
4) “She’s going beyond physical limitations, so physics equations won’t help you.” – A line that sounds cool, but it’s all sort of nonsense. She goes beyond the physical limitations of her body, not of what is theoretically possible.
5) Now Izuna looks happy! Bluffing mini-game, bluff, then prepare for their read, but what if they’re so good that it doesn’t matter? Hue. I predict now is the time my prediction from last week will come into play – there was a chat between Humanity’s team before the game began. Steph has to prove her worth. I assume Steph will win, and just as Sora and Shiro had proven to Jibril the worth of humans, so will this prove to the Werebeasts the value of “regular humans”.
6) Shiro having aimed at Steph, who was just there when they fought Izuna off of the tower is a bit of an “asspull”, something that we hadn’t seen, and had no idea was coming. It’s basically a random “Gotcha!” moment, even if the plan with Steph was something that was done beforehand and had some actual hinting at.
7) “In a game, all you can do is advance your agenda, or respond to another player advancing theirs. The question is who has the initiative.” – That’s true. I wonder how long it’d be before the series forces the protagonists to go against that fact, just as the series told us that you don’t enter fights without perfect knowledge, and then kept throwing the siblings into games where they lacked perfect knowledge, orseemed to, at least. But this might be a bit harder, as it’s not prescriptive, of how to win, but descriptive, of how games are.
Then again, bluffs are an action interacting with the agenda while trying to change the initiative, or the answer to the question people can perceive.
8) Well, we’re only 6 minutes in, and the leader of the Werebeasts began moving, so let’s see what they do with the other three quarters they have left of the episode.
2) Losing is Freedom:
1) Hm, is this the real conflict of the show, within the narrative? The happiness of the individual as opposed to the wishes of the many? Well, Sora and Shiro gave humanity what it wanted, even when humanity didn’t wish them to. But they could’ve lost. So are they saying they played for the same reason they always have? For fun? That sounds like them. The tension between individual desires and global expectations, also related to their hikikomori ways.
2) “I had fun and now we’ll suffer!” – Ah yes, the old lines. Of course, had she not had fun, it wouldn’t have stopped Sora and Shiro from winning. If you’re going to lose anyway, at least go out with a smile ;-) Well, as I predicted, I’m sure Sora and Shiro will do something different, especially as the Werebeast homeland still remains. I suspect they’ll use this victory to get concessions that’ll get them closer to world domination.
3) “How does it feel to know there’s an enemy you can’t defeat, no matter how hard you try?” – Boy, I can’t wait till Sora and Shiro find the answer to that :P And no, one another doesn’t count, that’s a tie, and they’re working together. It could also be the answer here – “If you can’t defeat someone, work with them!” – but Sora and Shiro are equal, where Blank is superior to the Werebeasts.
4) “Losing is awesome!” – So, it is about how Sora and Shiro keep losing to one another. So, by that logic, aren’t they going to have fun when they lose together? And more to the point, how would they face the rest of humanity had they lost and gone “This was awesome!” – Yeah, if losing is so awesome, you’d think they’d let the protagonists lose, and prove it to us, where it matters. For now I’ll file it under “empty words” and “lines you can utter when you’re the victor” – being kind after you win is easy (and always win). Grace in defeat is the real test.
5) “There won’t be pain and suffering. This whole world is a game, which is what everyone in this world is missing.” – In other words, losing is something everyone here fears while they should embrace it, and there’s someone or something making sure you’ll at most cry due to losses, and not more? First, we know historically it’s not right. People lose jobs and have to get mistreated due to losing games, and can even starve to death. Second, who then? Tet, of course. Or someone as magnanimous as Blank, of course.
Well, that’s the Gambit Roulette of the whole show, so it’d take some time to get cashed in, or should. But we all know it can be hard to sit on an idea for a whole series and not give into spoiling it right away ;-) It’s not like one novel, here the pay-off can be years into the future.
3) The Ruler’s Revenge:
1) More fan-service! Can’t let the fans forget what they’re watching the show for – to get serviced. Giving in is so much fun.
2) “Who could’ve expected you’d do X? Well, I did!” – and now she’s going for revenge, someone who could foresee all that Sora planned, [and took precautions in case she’d lose[(http://i.imgur.com/tRdRlUs.jpg). Yes, she’s over 50 years old, but is she going to be made part of the harem, which I’m sure will end up having a girl from each race, or will Sora have to content himself with Izuna?
More to the point, about the Flugel and the Elves – Sora didn’t make some sort of official accord with him. It’s just like a game of Diplomacy – he exposed weakness of a mutual enemy to neutral parties, and he let their natural tendencies to do his job for him.
3) A true gamer, taking precautions in case she’d lose. A true ruler, thinking of her people. Win or lose, she’ll “win”. If she loses, then Humanity will govern the Werebeasts in the Eastern Federation, and it might be better than the elves. If she wins, then the Werebeasts in the Eastern Federation will self-govern under the protection of both Imanity and the Werebeasts. This is important – it’s set up in this way so even if the main Werebeast territory loses to the elves, the Eastern Federation will remain, because they’re either controlled by humans or self-governed but are an independent party from the main Werebeast group.
Win/win, just as the game Sora played with Stephanie in the beginning, with rock, paper, scissors. It’s not about winning the game itself, but what’s at stake, and why.
4) Defeat the System, Play Gambit Roulette:
1) And so, Sora began his quest. You see, he needs to have the whole world. One way to do it is to own all 16 pieces, and hope there’s a world left when he’s done. The other option is to unite the whole world.
Also, “So we really were playing into your hands the whole time.” – Poor world of Disboard, not having access to TVTropes, unable to read up on Gambit Roulette :P
2) Ah ha! See, now the whole bit about memory alteration, from several episodes ago, is tied into things as well. But of course, Sora only told the Werebeasts that the elves don’t know how to beat them after the thought that they do pushed her to challenge him. And now he pushed the elves to attack, thinking they have the upper hand while they don’t, so he’ll get them as well.
4) “If we’re not all having fun together, we can’t beat the game.” – This reminds me of some social psychology “games” played in high schools, where there are rules on the board, mostly about how to take points between teams. Most of the rules are zero-sum, but in the end even if one team has all the points, they don’t have enough to “beat the board”, which is only possible if all teams work together and slowly increase all their points. In other words, the 10 pledges are Tet’s Gambit Roulette, they’re his attempt to get everyone working together, not by giving them a zero-sum game, but in spite of the appearances of giving them a zero-sum game.
Tet gave everyone a game that looks like one sort of game, to test their ability to work together even so. A small betterment for everyone in the long run, or trying for a quick and easily seen advancement for you and yours. Also, because Tet wants to have fun, and doesn’t want to play with those who don’t, or who’ll try to play a zero-sum game against him.
5) Hope – Coalition Victory is the Goal of the Weakest:
1) “That’s the only way for Imanity to win.” – Kurami knows Humanity is the weakest race, which is why she tried to get them under the protection of the elves. So, what sort of victory can humanity achieve? A coalition victory, where everyone wins and stops fighting and subjugating the weaker races.
2) “A way to surpass your limits without changing who you are, to soar though you can’t fly, to be strong even while weak.” – Yes, and the way is to team up with others? Otherwise, these are ye olde LN-style sort of lines, where true power lies within, and that you are perfect as you are, even while you’re imperfect – don’t change.
3) “Maybe I feel like I can’t lose now.” – Two ways to see this statement – “I can’t lose”, which isn’t fun, or that if you have fun when you “lose”, then you haven’t truly lost. And of course, as the final game with the Werebeasts had shown – you can play games where you win regardless of the game’s outcome, and not due to “fun”, but due to picking the right wagers.
4) I actually liked the final moment. A priestess, meaning a connection to the divine, in a world where the divine truly exist.
Post Episode / Series Thoughts:
This was a pretty good episode. They had a “Gotcha!” moment with how they used Steph’s commands before the game, and the NPC being there, but the part with altering the elf’s memories to push the elves into attacking the Werebeasts so the Werebeasts would join Sora and then get assimilated actually felt like the sort of thing that hadbeen built into, and which struck me as smart.
The bits about losing were good, except that the series doesn’t really support them. Humanity is “the weakest”, but they win no matter what, and they utter lines that come off as condescending from those who always win, and always will. The bit with the fan-service really added nothing, except more fan-service ;-)
The series as a whole was more fun than it had the right to be. It was fun because it reveled in its own antics, because it embraced its silliness. It actually had a fair number of episodes where next to nothing happened and which weren’t exciting, or very funny, but they knew to finish them with a cliffhanger, as to attract attention.
The most interesting thing to me is the narrative choices made – how to maintain tension between “Blank always wins” and “A game is decided before it begins” with actually keeping us invested, especially as how Blank wins isn’t often the most well-done – though the negotiations with the Shrine Maiden this episode, and the whole “global game” were well-done, and actually not entirely spelled out – they didn’t spell out The Shrine Maiden’s way of thinking, just the results. I think the show might have benefited from a bit more of that, actually.
It’s not an easy tension to maintain, and the show didn’t always do the best at it, but it always did its best to keep the appearances of tension, which is a good thing. I think I’ll give this series 6.7/10. Not for how good it is, but for being enjoyable even in its stupidity and crassness, and for trying to maintain tension, even if it often failed because it wasn’t very refined. Whether its heart is in the right place is questionable, but at least it has one.