There was an awful lot going on in this episode – so much so, in fact, that it makes the fact that most of episode 13 was recap somewhat more galling than it already was. This definitely had the feeling of a lot of development crammed into too tight a space – quite a shift for a series that spent 4 episodes without any of the main cast moving more than a foot. Add to that the fact that we have a change of venue and a clear transition in what sort of story ZnT is telling, and there’s a bit of a disconnect for me. Still – there are ample hints that the essence of the Zetsuen no Tempest I became so fond of is still in there, although I had to look a little harder to find it.
If I had to some up the difference between the Zetsuen of the first cour and this episode, it would be that the latter feels much more conventional. The first cour was all grand sweep and soaring drama, Shakespeare and Beethoven and sword hilts on stones. Episode 14 was a modern, conventional anime without much of an operatic feel, and if it stays that way I can’t help but feel a little wistful about what was lost in the transition. But any anime that can come up with dialogue like “If I could save the world, maybe my girlfriend would come back!” and “If he starts waving his staff around it won’t end well” clearly still has a pretty quirky sensibility about it.
The rushed events of this episode are somewhat confusing, truth be told. Superficially it seems almost as if we have a role reversal, with Hakaze questioning (quite rightly, in my view) the wisdom of the revival of the Tree of Genesis, and Samon talking about killing Yoshino because he might be the Mage of Exodus. Samon continues to be the most interesting character in the series for me – anyone who can say “I rarely jest” and make it the funniest moment of the episode is OK in my book. His motives at the moment are pretty obscure, but some of what he said during this ep didn’t make much sense to me – including the bit about how Yoshino was unnecessary on Fuji-san because Mahiro would have eventually brought Hakaze back (I don’t buy it). I also don’t think he’s really serious about killing Yoshino, though he does seem to want to keep it in play as a sort of last resort. Watching Samon try and comprehend the ways of the heart is a pretty amusing thing, but he does seem to have the right of it in that Hakaze has surely fallen hard for Yoshino. I just don’t get the leap from her behavior to his being the Mage of Exodus, simply because he’s influencing the world independent of the Tree of Genesis’ wishes. Samon may have figured out that Hakaze was hot for Yoshino, but he’s underestimating the power such feelings can hold over a young girl – I think it’s simply a case where Hakaze’s crush on Yoshino is causing her to act independently of what the T of G might want.
Added to the confusing mix is just what role Hanemura has to play in all this. Given that we’re privileged to hear so much of his inner ramblings it seems clear that his hapless goober act isn’t an act – he really is just a dumpy loser who happens to have inherited some magical powers. His powers are also obviously genuine and born from Exodus, though he has little clue how to use them. That doesn’t mean he’s the Mage of Exodus but he’s at least relevant, and the fact that he met Yoshino and Hakaze can’t possible be coincidental given the established parameters of this mythology. Who arranged it – the Tree of Genesis? If so, why? In giving Hakaze the opportunity to test Hanemura’s powers perhaps the Tree gains a competitive advantage – in any case she’s able to determine that the boy is indeed a mage, but not an especially powerful one. Or at the least, not one who knows how to maximize his powers.
It would surely vex Samon even more severely knowing that Hanemura, too, seems mostly driven by thoughts of his girlfriend more than thoughts of the world. This is surely a major theme here: as the fate of the world hangs in the balance, everyone is driven by their romantic feelings and by jealousy – Mahiro, Hanemura, and now Hakaze too. Only Yoshino seems to be acting relatively free of his hormones, which makes him the least predictable and most dangerous of the main cast – and another consideration is that he might be hiding something about his role either as the Mage of Exodus or in Aika’s death (I sincerely doubt both, but you never know). Samon’s emotional radar is so dysfunctional that he’s probably the worst possible person to be making decisions based on trying to analyze everyone’s behavior, and Hakaze seems to have a growing blind spot thanks to her feelings for Yoshino. There’s still Junichiro out there as a wild card, and we’re seemingly going to get two more characters introduced next week, including Hanemura’s girlfriend. Yamamoto holding the crucial piece of information that Yoshino was Aika’s boyfriend is a wild card too – is it a question of whether she’ll decide to use that to her advantage, or when?