Allow him to show you despair.
Isn’t Haunted fabulous? He’s so extravagant it’s hilarious – they never explicitly tell you this, but Kyouya’s waifu was actually already dead long before the tournament. In fact, the girl who spoke to Takeru last episode was merely a cloned homunculus of her placed within the academy as a spy by Haunted, except it was a clone who had all the original’s memories and no knowledge of the fact she was a clone at all. He had planted seeds from his Belladone Garden inside, and the idea was that he’d be able to gatecrash the tournament at an opportune moment by bursting out of her corpse and proclaiming his arrival like a true hero always does. I really liked how they did it, I think it was the best adapted scene of the episode – along with how Hayato started shouting, “Who told you to stop shooting?!” when Inquisition thought Haunted was dead. It’s again an implied thing forever condemned to non-existence by the adaptation, but Hayato and Haunted have fought before, and Haunted doesn’t like him very much. I mean, think about what he did this episode – he saw Hayato, then decided to run away from him by forming a barrier between them so he wouldn’t have to fight him. The poster boy of despair is someone who looks very self-confident in his combat abilities – so what does that tell you about Hayato?
In general, I think it’s a shame that this episode was allocated so little budget. Haunted as a character was wonderful, and the way he voiced all his perverted thoughts about how Mari’s suffering turned him on was exactly how I imagined him to be – and let’s face it, there were some lines I fully agreed with, like that one about Mari-san being perfection. And Nacht’s acid personality has really grown on me compared to last week, I really loved the banter between her and Lapis’ deadpan smug over having the better host. Despite the pitifully few scenes Lapis has been getting so far in the anime, she’s managed to be so based during every single one of them.
But the fight itself was pretty sub-par, both in the animation quality and the details of the fight itself. It’s one thing to rely heavily on CG, but the sword combat itself was really lacking in dynamism – it was static, with hardly any fast-paced movements or techniques. It felt more exciting reading about how Takeru used Lapis to change his weapon type over and over to overwhelm Haunted instead of watching a few frames implying the same. In the end, a single thrust wasn’t supposed to be the end of it for Haunted – remember, he survived a hailstorm of bullets and just stood up after it like nothing was wrong. Takeru was supposed to repeatedly hack Haunted to bits until he could no longer regenerate himself, and that’s where he was supposed to retreat – in the first place, I don’t think the anime is depicting Double-Edged style techniques like the last fight’s Yamata no Orochi or this week’s Unicorn’s Destructive Lance as anything different from a normal attack. I thought Twilight Enchantment was quite good this time round, helped by Lapis’ sinfully sultry voice, but Berserk Enchant for Nacht is supposed to make Haunted go even crazier than he already is, boosting his combat specs in return for his sanity – it’s what the name of the intrinsic magic implies. But all it was shown to be in the adaptation was a sword thrust. I do have to admit though, that activation chant was glorious. “Too late do you offer to make peace with me, for now I have drawn the sword Dainsleif.” So much hype!
Another victim was the world-building, which I was hoping they’d develop a little in the context of Mari. If you were wondering about the double standard imposed by Ouka and Inquisition in general in labelling Mari a murderer (when Ouka has probably killed just as many as she has, if not more) it’s because the discrimination is real. In their world, witches have a really, really shitty life – the number of people who treat them as actual people is not very high at all. You could kind of guess from the mere fact that Inquisition exists, given that their function is openly described as ‘witch-hunting’ – but given that we’ve seen hardly anything outside the school, it’s hard to guess the extent to which they oppress witches, and exactly how significantly it’s been institutionalized. I think I said this was a post-apocalyptic setting back during the first episode, and I meant it – what the anime hasn’t bothered to mention is that there was a war in the past between humans and witches, which ended with almost all of the planet being uninhabitable because of world-scale disaster caused by magic. In that context, it’s not surprising at all that witches are persecuted by Inquisition, as they were essentially blamed for everything that went wrong.
So, where do we go from here? A few small hooks at future plot points, the most obvious one probably being the reference Haunted made to the Kusanagi family being a demon-hunting clan. Hayato and his Relic Eater have also been teased. If Haunted is following orders from above, that basically means there are people even crazier and stronger than him within Valhalla! And don’t forget about Kyouya – he’s been nothing but an edgy-looking punk so far, but his experiences this episode consisted of watching his waifu’s body get torn apart by thorns from the inside-out, before blooming into a massive flower inside of which contained an even edgier guy in a priest outfit. He can’t be very happy with life at the moment. And of course there is Mari x Ouka, which is everyone’s new OTP. I hope you share my anticipation in this becoming the new Kumiko x Reina, except with a lot more tsun and denial.
I have to say, I’m worried about the direction we’ll be heading in, because I don’t recognize the title of next week’s episode at all. I have a hopeful feeling that it might be from Volume 4 (and we’ve just finished Volume 2) which means that they’re doing a slight rearrangement of the adaptation order – as they’ve announced the VA for a character from Volume 3, they probably won’t be skipping it but merely reordering it slightly instead. I guess it would put things in increasing order of darkness, because I seem to remember Volume 4 having less suffering than Volume 3 on the whole – although this is all in relative terms, meaning that it’s still getting darker overall. And by the time we hit Volume 5, this episode will feel like Non Non Biyori in comparison. Isn’t that exciting?
P.S. One complimentary Mari, coming your way. Also, Volume 11 has been fully translated! It was really good!