The episode includes two vignettes. In the first, Elaina is given a bouquet of flowers and asked to bring them into a city. There she learns that the flowers drive all non-witches mad so the field can feed off them. Then she leaves. In the second, Elaina finds a boy looking to magically show scenes of happiness to a servant girl that works in his house, and whom he is enamored with. Elaina eats lunch and leaves.
This is the first episode of the show that has separate stories in it, and it’s also the first episode that feels like a misstep. After the first two episodes, where we establish Elaina as a powerful, slightly arrogant, but ultimately caring person, we get two stories in which she’s almost completely passive and doesn’t do anything to help anyone. Let’s break it down.
In the first episode, we learn about these cursed flowers.
The flowers use people as nutrients, and their scent magically draws people to the field to be eaten. Nearby, there is this kingdom that has to deal with this constantly, to the point they have border guards with gasmasks and dedicated crematoriums for the flowers.
The tone of the episode is one of tragic inevitability. Elaina met a woman that gave her some flowers, upon seeing the cloth they’re wrapped in a local guard goes to find his lost sister, and in the end Elaina visits the field again to watch him die.
The final scene of the episode, as Elaina flies off to a new adventure, is of dozens more victims marching slowly but purposefully towards the town, all bearing flowers, as if to say ‘this has been going on a long time and will continue forever.’
OK, but like… why? The kingdom has figured out gas masks and fire – just go burn the stupid fields down! Or if normal humans would still be overpowered by the flowers, witches are stated to explicitly be immune from the flowers’ effects – just pay her (or literally any other witch) some money to burn the flower fields! Why is this still a problem?
The second part of the episode is a little more nuanced (probably because it has the majority of the runtime). We meet Emil, a boy who is bottling happiness to make his home’s servant girl feel better.
Elaina know of a similar story, in which a wizard goes to find beautiful landscapes for his sick wife.
In a conveniently foreshadowy way, she can’t remember the ending. Upon meeting Nino and Emil’s father, the situation becomes a bit more clear.
Maximum Creep Businessman here is proud of his ‘investment’, is hospitable towards Elaina, but also turns an appraising eye on her, leading to some really effective uncomfortable moments.
Then everyone has lunch, and there’s a pointless gag(?) about how they feed Elaina way more food than she asks for.
At some point, Nino breaks something, is screamed at, Elaina has a moment of barely contained anger at the situation…
…before merely repairing the item, giving Emil a brief pep talk, and then leaving while remembering that in the story, the ending was that the wife, feeling overwhelmed by all the nice places she’d never visit, used a knife to do something bad (to herself or to her husband is never specified). We end with a moral:
OK, but like… what was the point of all that? The merchant was really effectively set up to be an unlikeable person. Emil had this whole moment where he feels inadequate about his inability to perform better magic.
We have a scene where Nino is shown the joyful scenes by Emil and then begins crying, overcome by the sights of happy people who aren’t, y’know, slaves that get beaten for the slightest failing.
And through it all, Elaina… eats dinner and leaves. She doesn’t help Nino or berate the merchant – slavery is almost certainly legal in this world, so she probably feels like she can’t do anything, so, ugh, fine. But when she finally remembers the tragic ending to the story, she doesn’t turn around and explain to Emil that his misguided attempts to help Nino might be hurting her. She just leaves, and says she never wants to come back to find out what happened. Besides this making Elaina seem like a jerk, it makes me ask – why did we bother characterizing any of the people in this episode?
Overall, I get the feeling that the show has suddenly turned into Magical Kino’s Journey – This Time She’s a Witch. And while that was somewhat apparent from the show’s Episode 1 setup, what doesn’t make as much sense is why Elaina is being the kind of passive observer that Kino largely was. There was nothing before now to make me think that witches had some code of non-interference, or that Elaina would be quite this cold-hearted (Episode 2, in fact, had her doing the opposite of both of those things). I mean, the training and instruction of witches is apparently a function of government (see the novice and apprentice exams, explained in detail in Episode 2), so presumably they are seen as providing some benefit to society. At the very least, we’ve seen that witches will take payment for their work (see Elaina’s teacher), and Elaina’s gotta eat, right? So go nuke that field and get paid! Help a kid because you’re wiser and better read than he is, and his naiveté will get him or his loved one hurt. Or at the very least, if you want to tell a tragic story about evil plants, make it one where magic wouldn’t instantly solve the problem. Because, y’know, your world has magic and your main character is a powerful magic user.
The show is, at least, still very lovely to look at; this is some high quality work.
I just hope it finds something more interesting and engaging to show off with that quality in the future.