Damn – the Otoyomegatari vibe wasn’t strong enough, now they have to cosplay it?
Soredemo Sekai wa Ustukushii is an interesting mix of the expected and the unpredictable. It does give the appearance of following standard shoujo tropes, but this is not a standard shoujo fantasy. It starts with the unusually balanced relationship between the two leads and goes from there, with the plot itself – while admittedly pretty formulaic at times early on in the cour – providing some surprising turns. I thought I had the anime ending pretty much figured out, but the show has me questioning myself a bit.
The first half of the episode was pretty effective at making things look as if they were going to follow a predictable course. Kitora let Nike out of her cell because he couldn’t stand to see her hurting herself anymore – check. I wasn’t necessarily expecting Livi to actually be clinically dead and Nike to revive him using technically flawless CPR (Livi=Annie), but the general theme was in-line with expectations. Livi found the key, declared victory in his classic chibi-GAR fashion, and the old lady sulked. Check.
Probably the most interesting element of this scenario was the aftermath, specifically what attitude Livi would take towards the Principality of Rain. This is pretty serious business – in effect, Tohara tried to assassinate him, and as the head of state of the most powerful nation on the planet, that’s as serious as it gets. I can see the problem for him here, in that if the truth got out not only would he be expected to punish the Rain country possibly up to and including invasion, but his marriage to Nike would probably be impossible. It would also be in-character for him to either be lenient or to unleash the hell hounds, so this really could have gone either way – but in the context of the story and the character where they stand now, his taking a forgiving stance was the more likely outcome. He’s a little too forgiving in my view, but this is an instance where Soredemo Sekai more or less does the expected.
After that, we got some very charming Livi-Nike bonding time – starting with him climbing a tree and throwing nuts at her. This was great – pretty much all of these kinds of moments have been great – but my favorite part was when he touched her hand and she freaked out. Livi gets right to the essence of it – she’s becoming more conscious of him as a man (those casual flashing incidents are probably going to have to stop). And Nike doesn’t deny it. The level of self-awareness with these two is one of the unusual elements of this series, especially Livi – he manages to be preternaturally savvy about his own emotions while retaining a believably childlike awkwardness about them.
It’s at this point that a new player enters the scene – Nike’s mother Iroha (Tomizawa Michie, a rare and welcome appearance these days). She kidnaps Livi, throws him in the bath and promptly interrogates him (albeit in a non-threatening way) about his intentions towards her daughter. She also shares with him the information that Nike is “special” – that her power is unlike anyone else in the Principality of Rain, and how in the distant past that power was the cause of the destruction of entire nations (and that her husband did, indeed, know what he was doing in sending a daughter away). I don’t think she ever seriously intended to stop Livi from taking Nike back to his home – just to make sure he knew the stakes if he screwed up. Iroha is legitimately in ill health, it seems – weakened ever since giving birth to Nike – and seems to be taking advantage of a good spell in her condition to have a little fun and engineer a pre-wedding feast for the impending bride and groom.
I must confess, as a huge fan of Otoyomegatari who already gets a certain vicarious joy out of this series because of the shared elements in the main relationship, seeing Nike and Livi practically cosplay Amira and Karluk was nearly a heart-attack moment. The traditional garb of the land of Rain isn’t exactly the same, but there are certainly shared elements – with some Himalayan influences strongly mixed in. Nike, especially, bears an astonishing likeness to Amira in this costume with her hair covered. We finally see if not hear Neil sing, Livi makes a speech and plants a big one on Nike’s lips, and a good time is had by all. All, that is, except Grandma and Kitora who’re off sulking. Livi seeks out Kitora and more or less makes peace between them, but Tohara remains a serious problem, seemingly.
That the episode could end on such an unsettling note is evidence that Soredemo Sekai packs the potential for unpredictability – if it hadn’t earned its stripes, the foreshadowing wouldn’t have had much effect. There’t the matter of Tohara and the flower petal – some sort of spell or divining, it would seem – and even more, the preview. It’s an ominous one, very effectively sowing the seeds of doubt about what sort of ending we’re likely to get. Tohara seems very much not to have given up and is certainly still capable of causing trouble, and even if Livi beat her fair and square it’s reasonable to suspect she’s not going to let Nike go without a fight (or worse, an insidious sneak attack) even if her entire family finally stands up for themselves and rejects her xenophobia. There’s some good suspense here, that’s for sure – and it’s much-deserved for this excellent adaptation.