OK, remember what I said about feeling kind of bad for Allesand? Well – fuck that.
If there was a general trend towards the idea that Charioce might eventually be redeemed on some level, it seems to have reversed itself substantially this week. But I’m still not a buyer yet, and I suspect that this episode was full of things that weren’t as they seemed – or at least painted an incomplete picture. And that goes down to the very last frames of the epilogue, which both defy easy understanding and acceptance at face value.
We pick up right where we left off (actually a few minutes before – I hate recaps), and jump right into the reveal that the assassin sent to kill Nina (who I’m pretty sure is played by Ishizuka Unshou, though I can’t find a credit anywhere) is actually a dragon. A full-blooded one, who heaps disdain on half-breeds like Nina and the village that harbors them. This fight doesn’t go on long, but long enough to tell us with certainty that Nina is no match for this purebred serpent (though whether this is purely a function of genetics or age has a part in it, I don’t know).
The cruelest blow Nina receives surely doesn’t come from the assassin, though, but the Onyx Knights commander – who tells her that it was Charioce who ordered her killed. This is one of those developments that’s almost surely misleading or outright false – yet I don’t cut Charioce any slack over that, for it’s something he surely knew would happen whether he ordered it or not. If Nina had died Charioce would have been just as complicit as if he’d given the order himself, as far as I’m concerned. Irrespective of that, Nina is devastated to the point of incapacitated – but fortunately her protector Favaro is so enraged that he and Kaisar are able to break free and stall the execution long enough for the cavELry to arrive, just in the nick of time.
El is very much at the heart of what goes on in this episode, starting with his rescue of Nina and progressing from there. His fate is being debated as if he’s not in the room, but El’s initial refusal to return to Heaven initiates a conversation in which the truth of his circumstances are finally revealed to him – by Bacchus, no less. El’s conviction that he was created to save the world is partly a product of pubescent hubris, no doubt – but I think there’s an element of truth in it, too (again, what we see is either incomplete or outright misleading). Ultimately, though, El’s reluctance to return to the land of the Gods is fueled more by his attachments in the land of men than anything else.
El’s round of goodbyes is as well-played as his reunion with Azazel was – to some extent it’s sensing Mugaro’s pain that pushes Nina to suck it up and deal with her own, and her promise to sleep with him one last time (and his response) is adorable. But as ever, it’s with Azazel that El has the deepest ties, and their farewell is a gut punch – Azazel tells El to remember the name Mugaro (the name he gave the boy) and doesn’t resist when Mugaro breaks down and hugs him.
It would be a sweetly bitter way to end the episode but for the postscript, which sees Allesand seemingly murder El in cold blood (and lots of it). Questions abound here, starting with the obvious one – why would Allesand do this? Is it a promise he made in order to buy his way into the Onyx Knights, or was he blackmailed into it after his role in smuggling Nina into the palace? The biggest question, though, is that of El’s fate – and I refuse to believe it ends here. After one of the most interesting arcs in the series it just doesn’t make sense for El to leave the story in such an anti-climactic fashion, though I admit there may be an element of wishful thinking in that. Whatever happens with El, Allesand has joined the ranks of the irredeemable for me – whatever fate Charioce suffers, Allesand should rightly share it.