Completing the transition from “Hamlet” to “The Tempest” Yoshino casts himself in the role of Ariel this week – the spirit who acted as the agent of the wizard Prospero and helped carry out his grand plans. There are others aspects to Ariel’s role in the eventual conclusion of the play that I find rather interesting in context of Zetsuen, but it’s probably best not to focus too heavily on that for now – the parallels can be taken a bit too far after all, and there are many steps that have to be taken before we get to that point.
What’s clear more than ever now is that while the Tree of Genesis and the world’s logic may favor Hakaze, it’s Yoshino who’s really calling the shots in the anime – one way or another, he has one up on everyone else and they’re the ones dancing to his tune. Hakaze may have been surprised at how underhanded he is, but I’m not – he’s been far more than he’s let on from the very beginning, and of course he’s managed to keep the biggest secret of all from his closest companion for the course of the story. I don’t see malice here on Yoshino’s part, don’t get me wrong, just a supreme resourcefulness and sense of practicality – but also, I think, a bit of ruthlessness when the situation will demand it.
Once again the vast majority of the episode takes place with Samon, Yoshino, Mahiro and Hakaze standing in place motionless – a classic war of words with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. It’s a splendid dramatic construction, a demonstration of the power of ideas to create drama on their own, especially as the cataclysmic battle between the Kurasube barriers and the modern technology of the Japanese armed forces is erupting all around the stillness of the main quartet. We even have a one-on-one physical confrontation between the splendidly larger-than-life Evangeline and Natsumura (with splendid scenery-chewing by Mizuki Nana and Suwabe Junichi) though to be honest it gets somewhat overshadowed by the verbal sparring going on inside the barrier, and across time.
This is the sort of drama where the actors have to provide their own special effects, and the cast here is required to play it big – and they pull it off splendidly. Kouyama Rikiya (generally great anyway) has especially shone these last two episodes, as it’s been Samon’s inner monologues that have provided most of the exposition and his agonized histrionics almost all the laughs. Indeed, it’s been very difficult to decide who to root for as the events of the last two episodes played out. Hakaze and Yoshino come closest to filling the traditional victim/protagonist roles here, and there’s no denying that Samon has spun a web of deceit that’s the foundation of his entire plan. But is his plan actually wrong? So far, I’ve seen nothing compelling to convince me that Samon isn’t right about what’s the best chance for the world – and I’ve seen no evidence that anyone who’s in a position to make an educated guess actually agrees with Hakaze’s vision of what the future holds if the Tree of Genesis awakens. Frankly, it seems borne of arrogance – but I’m dealing with considerably less than full information.
If anything, it seems that Samon is overmatched by Yoshino – he’s not just a logical thinker but a somewhat archaic one too. The doings of these modern kids are beyond his ken, driven as they are by hormonal imperative and Yoshino’s pure strategic instinct. The wild-card here remains Junichirou, who not only represents the most opaque presence in the story but the most likely candidate for a neutral arbiter between the two poles of belief. Just why did he step in between Evangeline and Natsumura, and what are his intentions? As with everything else he’s done so far, it’s impossible to say with confidence.
The tour de force of the episode was the way Yoshino played Samon like a concert grand piano in laying out his theory about Hakaze – a theory that he no-doubt knew was probably bogus, but which served his intentions perfectly. Initially the notion of Hakaze having been asleep for two years held a lot of appeal as an Occam’s Razor option, but it didn’t take long before it struck me as entirely too simple to fit this grandiloquent story – and indeed, that’s exactly how it played out. Samon’s reactions to Mahiro believing the story were as hilarious as last week’s, and his eventual solution – carving a word into the side of the barrel – was clever enough. But of course it bought Yoshino exactly what he wanted – time, doubt, and resolve. Samon’s cage of time may be real, but he’s a terrible actor and his reactions proved to Hakaze and Mahiro what Yoshino already suspected, that he was hiding something about it (I can’t help but wonder about the meaning behind that conspicuous cough, too). Mahiro seems serious in his commitment to keep his word to Samon if indeed Aika’s killer is delivered to him, but it’s clear Yoshino has won his heart over the Hakaze’s side – as she said, the wind has perceptibly shifted in their direction now. With the desperate clan mages now resorting to trying to bring about the Tree of Exodus’ revival even more quickly, it seems as if one way or another it’s his hand that’s going to be forced, and soon.