I’ve noticed a curious trend in my reactions to ZnT. The series on the whole is, at the moment, exactly like each individual episode. I tend to be mildly interested at the start, something catches me, and from that point on I’m utterly rapt with attention. It’s almost as if seeing the Golden Ratio play out in dramatic terms – if you put Zetsuen under a microscope or look at it from space, the structure is exactly the same. This is a series that has to be judged as a whole and not the sum of its parts, and without wanting to sound too hyperbolic I’m beginning to think it has a chance to be an actual masterpiece.
I can’t always describe what it is that makes this show so appealing, but I can definitely say that it has qualities that no other anime I’ve seen in recent years has. If “charming” and “natural” are good words for Robotics;Notes, “grand” and “operatic” might be a start for Zetsuen. I’m quite astonished at how beautifully the story is pieced together, something that’s only now becoming apparent, and at how much I’ve bought into the characters after having been rather indifferent towards them even as I was enjoying the scope of the series. It’s a show where the style is perfectly suited to the premise – nothing less than the fate of the entire world would do for something this grandiose, and nothing less grandiose would do justice to the premise. As in Shakespeare – and the Greeks who so inspired him – there’s a sense that all the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely players (wrong play, I know), and of course that sense is a big part of the plot itself. It all fits together thematically and substantively in a way that’s rather breathtaking.
A lot of the credit for the recent run of excellence (during which the three principals still haven’t moved more than a foot) falls with Samon, to be honest. He’s a particular standout in this cast because he’s so utterly different from anyone else in it, but with his tortured intensity and theatrical body language he’d stick out in any show. I love the dynamic here in that we have a man cast as the villain who’s acting wholly in what he sees as the best interests of the world – and he’s no overreaching fool, but someone who’s in a position to know of what he speaks. When he urges Mahiro “Shounen! Think about what is right.” and to “Do what’s right” it’s the proof of his intellectual honesty. Samon is the antagonist, but he’s no villain – and further, I’m still not seeing any compelling reason to disbelieve that his course was the correct one, given the knowledge that was available to him at the time he chose it.
How refreshing, to see a series where we have a bunch of smart people all trying to do what they perceive as right, in opposition to each other not because some of them have evil ends, but because they have conflicting visions of good. Yoshino’s motives seem more and more driven by a deep sense that standing by Hakaze is a worthwhile thing in its own right, and less by the force of her argument. I think Samon is winning the logical battle for the most part – it really does seem as the Tree of Genesis is manipulating events to favor her (not that it’s necessarily wrong to do so) and that Aika was likely part of that master plan. Mahiro’s motives are certainly the most selfish in that his primary goal is revenge, but even he isn’t unaffected by the intellectual battle royale going on around him. For all his bluster and recklessness he’s no fool – not as sharp as Yoshino, but a clever lad capable of sorting through the facts and reaching his own conclusions.
Of course, the game seems to have changed now in a fundamental way that neither Samon nor Hakaze suspected. With the revelation that no one in the Kusaribe Clan was actually responsible for Aika’s death, it’s Hakaze who grasps what the new reality may be – that a new princess may have been brought forth by the revival of the Tree of Exodus – a “Princess of Destruction” as she puts it. This would surely be a fine example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, and I have my own ideas about just who such a “Mage of Exodus” may be – surely the same ones that many of you have – and I can only imagine the way such a revelation would rattle the foundations of the story as it stands right now.
One thing seems clear – one way or another, as the first cour draws to a close we’re in for a major reset. It seems that it’s about time for Hakaze to return from the past (naked). The means have been deduced by the boys and Hakaze and confirmed by Samon – her skeleton would act as the perfect transmitter, and Samon has hidden a sacrifice on her island just for such an emergency. Does this mean a new alliance between Hakaze and Samon against the Mage of Exodus? It seems very possible – Samon’s very plan was built around the notion that he would team with her again should things go off the rails, even if this is a different sort of debacle than he expected. If my suspicions for where things are headed are right, it’s Mahiro who’s going to be in for a major existential upheaval soon. And there’s still the matter of the mysterious Junichirou, not a mage – “I do not possess that ability”, in his own words – but someone able to toss powerful mages about like rag dolls without breaking a sweat. The means of his power and his desired ends are the most obscure of anyone in the cast, and that makes him someone that could fundamentally change the direction of the story.