Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii – 10

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That might be the best shota vs. obaba showdown since Killua vs. Bisky (ironically).  I hope this one has a different outcome.

Apart from a couple of wayward steps in the middle, Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii has been consistently pretty damn good, and it’s shaping to finish up with what looked like a cracking couple of episodes.  We’ve seen some nice development between Livi and Nike, and of course that’s the straw that stirs the drink with this series.  But now we’re getting what’s surely the best plot of any arc, and an intensity level (in more ways than one) that surpasses anything we’ve seen up to this point.

I confess that one of the reasons this show appeals to me is that it almost feels like seeing Otoyomegatari play out on-screen, something we may never actually get to see in its own right.  There are more differences than similarities, but there’s an essential quality to the main relationship that’s shared, and it goes beyond the calendar.  The last couple of episodes have beautifully depicted the gradual transition of Nike’s feelings from those of maternal affection to genuine love, a sea change in the way she views her partner.  We saw that happen memorably between Amira and Karluk of course, in circumstances that were not wholly dissimilar.

For the Nth time, I really like these two and the way they interact with each other.  Nike’s mounting romantic tension playing out was pretty hilarious – chopping wood and peeling potatoes enough for thousands as her mind wrestled with these new-found urges.  “You’ve done that lots of times” she thinks – interestingly – about the kiss.  And when she walks in on Livi changing she thinks “You’ve seen him naked lots of times!”  But that was then and this is now, and once out of the bottle the elephant genie can never be put back.  I also like the way Livi expresses himself here – “It’s fine”, he says of their height difference.  “I won’t be like this forever.”  He also reveals (not for the first time) something of a poet’s soul in the way he reflects on how the “closed in” nature of the rain makes him feel more secure that Nike won’t fly away from him.  As anime romance goes, this is good stuff, really believable and articulate.

Of course there’s a fly in the ointment, and that’s Nike’s grandmother.  She’s the real power in the Principality of Rain, a formidable figure and opponent.  And more so than any of the earlier arcs, this one represents a credible and intriguing conflict and a true threat to Nike and Livi’s future.  Tohara is an intriguing figure – rather than try to exploit the opportunity a worldwide drought gave the Principality she closed off the country to avoid having their powers become the object of a war.  There’s wisdom in that, but it also reflects a strong isolationist strain – one born of necessity, arguably, but in old age it seems to have taken root and expressed itself in dark ways.  She’s the real enemy for Nike and Livi, not Kitora (Kondou Takayuki) the lovestruck cousin and childhood playmate of Nike.  He – like everyone else in this country it seems – is merely dancing to Tohara’s tune.

I have my own suspicions about Nike’s father, who portrays himself as a meek and clueless son-in-law who screwed up by marrying Nike off while Tohara was off touring the world with Kitora.  My guess is that this was a father trying to give a daughter something better – get her out from under Tohara’s suffocating domination and being the process of opening up his country to the world (perhaps a hint of social commentary in that).  Either way, though, Tohara was furious and this entire false illness and subsequent visit is engineered to wrest Nike away from the Sun King forever.  This eventually leads us to Kitora knocking Nike out with incense and locking her up in the magic-proofed prison tower (there can surely be no greater gesture of familial love) and the old woman proceeding with a plan to hypnotize Livi and make him decide he has no interest in being with Nike.

Fortunately, Livi is quite the master when it comes to the politics of deception, and he’s not fooled.  This is really a terrific setup – Livi doing battle with the obaba on the outside, while Nike throws herself against the bars of her cage until she’s bloodied, much to Kitora’s horror.  Neither one of them is willing to sit tight and wait for the other to act, which is what I really love about this pairing.  If not the Duke himself the wild card here is surely Nike’s sisters, who likewise seem to chafe under their grandmother’s stifling authority but for the nonce are too frightened to act against her.  That is, apart from Kara, who’s the one who assists Livi after he escapes from the failed attempt to sedate and hyptnotize him.  Kitora too is likely to end up helping Nike rather than see her damage herself further, which is going to leave Tohara increasingly isolated.

The power of love can’t be denied – and certainly not by the bride’s family trying to steal her back, be it in 19th Century Turkey or wherever the heck this series is set (no medieval lands with film cameras and electronic music spring immediately to mind).  It’s nice to see Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii steaming towards the finish line by focusing on what it really does well and showing new strength as a plot-driven drama, too – there’s nothing quite like a good love story and anime gives us far too few of them.

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8 comments

  1. R

    You'll have to kill them, both of them, to stop them obaba, because they won't stop until they're back together or they've killed themselves trying. And that won't accomplish anything good for you, will it?

    If you listened to the conversation during the confrontation, it became clear that the old woman had already lost, in one sense. She's doing this because she doesn't want to let Nike's powers out from under her control, and she doesn't trust Livi with them. She speaks as if the powers themselves are the only thing that's important: as if Nike as a person doesn't matter. To Livi it's Nike herself that matters.

    Obaba has lost. Livi cares more about Nike than Obaba does. She no longer has the right to stand in his way.

  2. I certainly don't disagree with any of that.

  3. M

    I know we are supposed to say love trumps all but obaba does have a point. This is giving a bloody handed conquer nuclear weapons that breed more nuclear weapons.

  4. M

    Perhaps,but it's Livi & Nike's responsibility to make sure that such powers won't become the equivalent of nuclear weapons,be it with Nike herself or with their heirs.
    And from what we've seen so far,I think we can trust both of them with that responsibility.

  5. R

    The thing is the situation is really no worse with Nike marrying Livi, when viewed from a long-term multi-generational standpoint, than with Nike never having left. Their policy of isolation was started by obaba, and she, simply put, is old. How can she be any more sure when she dies that her children and grandchildren and their children and their children's children will follow her policies if they live inside the Principality of Rain than she can if they live outside it?

    Her grandchildren are already starting to break away from her preferred path. She isn't going to be able to keep things bottled up once she dies. It just won't happen.

    The best solution I see is to take advantage of the opening Nike and Livi have given her. Nike has become almost a living icon for the people of the Sun Kingdom: her subjects love her (aside from the factions who want to depose Livi, but they'll never love anyone who's in their way to get power, so they don't count). People don't view her power as something strange, unnatural, or dangerous, but as a blessing from their beloved queen. That's positive PR: she can use that to allow her people to become part of the world once again.

    Yes, it can be dangerous, but the danger would exist in the long term whether or not Nike was with Livi. It is better to take advantage of the situation to put their people forward in the best light, and instead of letting isolation be what keeps their powers safe work on teaching ethics, and ensuring all parents will teach their children. There will always be a risk, but there are risks in everything in the world, and I think that solution will be more sustainable than trying to hope that obaba's policy of isolation will hold out after she dies.

  6. I think the breaking away starts with the son-in-law, but he's playing the game of pretending it was all just him being an idiot.

  7. e

    Nike's father is totally playing fool I agree. But unless Kitora outgrows his jealousy and grows a pair next week it seems it's up to the girls and one (awesome <3) child King to do some upfront tide-changing.

    Amusingly enough even if we removed electronic music, stroboscopic lights and cameras the clothes are all over the place (Livi's kingdom fashion alone ranges from Renaissance to the whole XIX century. And Nike's favourite pink tunic is the lovechild of vaguely barbaric/early medieval and a contemporary shirt dress. Eh :,D ). But hey we can do with kitchen sink accuracy when the emotional aspect is done right can't we.

  8. C

    Well I wasn't really expecting that :O I still have the sneaking suspicion it's all a test but I hope not because I'm really liking this mastermind granny thing!

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