This was another magnificently over-the-top episode for Zetsuen no Tempest, which isn’t satisfied with its own florid dialogue – it’s actually quoting soliloquies from The Bard directly of late. Interestingly, while the superficial template was obviously “The Tempest”, most of the lifted dialogue has been from “Hamlet” – and indeed, the story owed just as much to Shakespeare’s most famous work as it does to the one this anime shares a title with. This week Mahiro used the words of Act 4, Scene 5:
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
I dare damnation. To this point I stand
That both the worlds I give to negligence.
Let come what comes, only I’ll be revenged
It’s interesting that it’s the words of Laertes that the manga puts in Mahiro’s mouth – seemingly, that would make Yoshino Hamlet and Aika Ophelia, if you want to carry the metaphor to its logical terminus. In the event you haven’t read “Hamlet” and the manga does indeed plan to hew closely to that revenge tale, I won’t spoil the end just in case – but we’re certainly going to be in for a dark ride if so.
As always with ZnT (could any two anime with the same initials be more different?) the atmosphere is off the charts, but the plot is really starting to catch up. Still, the highlight of the episode for me is the gorgeously theatrical scene when the boys break through the barrier and confront Samon. The physical scene matches the emotional turmoil at play – as the bombs and missiles rain down on the magical barrier the Kusaribe have erected, storms swirl on Hakaze’s island and the orchestral soundtrack swells, Mahiro and Samon lob verbal grenades back and forth and take each other’s measure, as Yoshino takes the measure of them both. There was really no reason for Samon to keep pounding his sword hilt on the rock – it’s a rather odd thing to do and serves to practical purpose, a purely stylish touch. But that’s what makes this series so unique, the purely stylish touches. It’s truly beautiful anime, a gorgeous scene with tremendous work by the cast, especially Koyama Rikiya. This was the moment that Samon really came into his own as a character, and he now stands as a much more interesting figure than Hakaze for me.
Content-wise, it’s been clear for a while that the good vs. evil aspect of the Kusaribe civil war is far from clear cut. It was an interesting choice to have so much exposition come in the form of a monologue from Jun, who was apparently breaking the fourth wall – very Shakespearean, but nevertheless bold for an anime that hadn’t used the technique up to this point. Samon is going to spin things his own way, of course, but Jun loved Hakaze – and his version of events seems to corroborate Samon’s side of the story. It’s a fascinating dilemma – the Tree of Genesis will remake the world, and if Samon is right it will mostly or totally destroy the “wrong” world we live in the remake a perfect one. Only the Tree of Exodus can prevent it, and it’s the influence of the Tree of Genesis that’s caused the devastation surrounding the Tree of Exodus.
Who to believe? My gut tells me that Hakaze is so arrogant with belief in her own power than she believes she can control the Tree of Genesis, and she can’t. My sympathies lie more with Samon, whose “We’re the servants of the Tree of Genesis, not its slaves.” rings the most true of anything either mage has said. But who knows – and of course, this is all complicated by the fact that Hakaze is apparently dead and has been for quite a while, able to communicate from the past (two years ago) to the present only because of the magic in the communication with Mahiro. If this is true – and it feels true – it amounts to an enormous risk by Samon, as with no Hakaze he’ll have no backup plan if the Tree of Exodus goes out of control. But if he believes following Hakaze’s path meant devastation was a certainty, it’s a justifiable risk.
Altogether, there’s a lot out there that doesn’t add up – and we still have two-thirds of the series to go, after all. Hakaze is either dead or she isn’t – I think the show can work either way – but the mystery of Aika’s death is the big one hanging over everything. There’s something extremely odd about that whole situation, starting with the possibility that fate itself engineered her death to drive Mahiro into the battle. I’m not even convinced she’s actually dead, but either way she’s connected to the Kusaribe Clan – if she’s dead it was by the hand of a Kusaribe, and there’s surely a reason. And of course much, I think, is going to come down to Yoshino’s choices. While Mahiro fixates on his revenge Yoshino is more concerned with the big picture an must decide which side is in the right – and he must decide when (soon, it seems) to tell Mahiro the truth about he and Aika. Every way I play the endgame scenarios out in my mind, Yoshino is always the main character – he’s Hamlet, and it’s going to be his choices that drive the final act of the play.