You guys –
You guys, they figured it out
Elaina finds herself at the gate of a coastal country and is informed by the guards that the country’s name was recently changed to The Land of Truth-Tellers, on account of a magic sword wielded by the king. Intrigued, she enters, finding a magical barrier that indeed prevents her from completing a declarative sentence (spoken or written) that she believes to be untrue. The streets are quiet, though – the people have taken to communicating primarily through gestures and grunts rather than be forced to say what they really think. Elaina joins a crowd of people observing a fistfight, extracting some catharsis in watching the tensions between two individuals finally boil over, until the scuffle is stopped with the arrival of another visiting witch – Saya, who is on assignment from The United Magic Association.
Elaina and Saya locate the former palace witch, Eihemia, who requested aid from the association – she poured all of her magical power and her voice into the enchanting of the seal sword at the king’s behest, but regrets her action after seeing the results of the barrier. Since Eihemia was let go from her position due to no longer being able to use magic, Elaina proposes a daring act of infiltration. The plan encounters a snag when the trio finally finally encounter the king and his limitless supply of guards, but Elaina manages to destroy the sword, dispelling the barrier and returning Eihemia’s magic and voice. All of the country’s inhabitants seem to take the whole situation as a failed experiment, and happily return to their former lives. Saya and Elaina part ways, with Saya headed back to The United Magic Association for more paid gigs to refill her finances after she spent them all on a pair of matching necklaces, one of which she gives to her mentor.
I’ve gotta say – I’m starting to warm up to this show. My issues with Saya as a character have not diminished, particularly, but I do feel like her comic potential is being tapped pretty well, so now I feel torn instead of just dismissive. There’s a gag where Eihemia is bemoaning (via notepad) her ejection from the palace, wishing that the king wanted to keep her by his side, and Saya comments that he may have found the revelation that she’d spent her magic and her voice to fulfill his request as an overwhelming display of her feelings, with the punchline being Saya’s own lack of self-awareness vis-à-vis Elaina. Like, it’s a well-executed piece of comedy, but… I kind of wish it weren’t? At least the philosophical confrontation with the magic battle in the background was generically funny.
I have similar mixed feelings about Elaina herself. The literal plot of the first episode was an elaborate scheme to make sure that she doesn’t become conceited, but I feel like every episode so far has had her demonstrate that the effort was not, shall we say, totally successful. She’s obviously skilled and clever, but both of her tests of the truth-telling barrier turned into gags revolving around her self-absorption. Not my favorite trait in a main character.
The moral of the episode is that white lies are the mortar that holds the rest of society together, or some similar metaphor, which I am okay with, to a point. Notably, one of Elaina’s first acts in the city is to purchase a baked good, after asking the woman behind the counter point-blank if it was fresh, and receiving a nod and a grunt of approval. Elaina judges the bread to be day-old after biting into it, contributing to her disillusionment with the barrier, since the prevention of overt lies hasn’t made the citizenry any more honest. At the end of the episode, when the city celebrates the return to normality, the same woman is seen jovially advertising her “fresh bread”, which I think is darkly humorous, in that the implication is that a good chunk of it is still yesterday’s leftovers, but it kinda leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s a slippery-slope thing, I think – I’d prefer that deceptive advertising not be normalized, since, if my memory of industrial-era history serves, labeling laws started becoming a thing because the equilibrium found by the invisible hand of the market tended to involve the amount of sawdust that companies could put into their food before their customers noticed. Heck – there was a big fuss only a few years ago involving grated cheese, though, this being the twenty-first century, the wood pulp cellulose in question was presumably food-grade (something to think about the next time you pick up a container of Parmesan).
As an aside: in a show that already has significant structural similarities to Kino’s Journey, this feels mined from the same vein as the episode where a country discovered a way for its inhabitants to read each other’s minds, ultimately forcing them all to live miles apart to avoid hurting each other. I’ve actually been thinking about that episode a lot, recently, for ::looks around:: obvious reasons.
I’m gradually warming up to this show – I have some issues with the top-level decisions being made, but it’s at least well-executed at the micro level – and they did fix the moon.