Rating: 3.5 (of 5)
One of the single biggest engineering achievements of the Roman Empire was also key to its long-term control over widely-spread territories: its system of ultimately more than 250,000 miles of roads, including more than 50,000 miles of paved roads. While Kaede is correct in this episode about how valuable roads like that are for trade purposes, they are at least as important for administrative and especially military purposes. (This has not changed with time, either; for instance, in the U.S., the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which established and began the construction of the Interstate Highway System, was pitched at least in part as a defense project.) Military units being involved in road construction was not unusual in Roman Imperial times (or in many other time periods and cultures across history), so the Forbidden Army being tasked with such duty here is highly regular; one would even think that their specialization in Earth magic would be helpful to the task, though no use of magic was shown in the road scenes. It does look like Roman Imperial road-building standards were being used in those scenes, however, including the use of the very durable Roman concrete.
The history geek in me loved that part of the episode, though other parts were interesting as well. The series seems to be making a habit of opening each episode with some world-building extemporizing, and while I have mixed feelings about the efficacy of this approach, this installment – about the uneven development of technology due to the presence of magic and fantastical beasts – also spoke to my inner geek. Kazuya is absolutely correct in his lament that technological development is often based on need; in fact, that’s the natural course of things, with the more logical and systematic lay-out of tech development being more a product of civilization-building games than reality. Kazuya does show himself adapting to that at least a bit in the use of Warden Trees to protect the roads, though not at the complete expense of preventing normal monster migration patterns. (The more systematic study of this is a more modern concept, though I would think that populations living closer to nature would have at least some awareness of this.)
The big event this time is the landslide in Aisha’s homeland. A Japanese person studying civil service would undoubtedly have a higher level of knowledge about such things than most, given how prone Japan is to such things (in fact, a big one occurred in Japan just a few weeks ago as I write this), so Kazuya being more knowledgeable on this front is more credible. The use of his Living Poltergeists for search mice is a neat idea, and I did like the added touch of him being driven nauseous by a grisly find; that would undoubtedly be especially upsetting to anyone not used to directly dealing with deaths like that, and it is something which often gets overlooked in these scenarios in fantasy settings.
The strongest parts of the episode were the scenes at the end. Kazuya’s acknowledgement to Aisha that prevention methods only reduce risk, not eliminate it, is undoubtedly one that Japanese citizens in particular can take to heart, and his comments about nature – his most philosophical reflections yet – feed into that as well. That he allows himself to break down before Liscia in the carriage on the return trip also signifies how much trust he places in here, even if his reaction reflects taking too much upon himself. Yes, it is the duty of a ruler or ruling body to put plans in place to deal with disasters, and he should be concentrating on “big picture” issues like that instead of personally looking for survivors, but he is trying to accomplish in a very short time changes that normally require decades or even centuries to develop and implement. He’ll burn himself out this way, so I hope this continues to be a story element going forward.
The episode is far less impressive on the production side. Too many stills, too much limited animation, and whatever the episode was trying to accomplish with the darker color filter in the God-Protected Forest scenes, it was more distracting than tone-setting. (See the screenshot above for the effect.) That is why I cannot quite give this episode a higher rating, even though it is best the best of the last few. Still, at the least the series feels more like it is on the right track now than a couple of episodes ago.
Thoughts On Other Series I Am Following:
Fena: Pirate Princess episode 3 – The plot thickens a bit as a new antagonist group gets established. My biggest gripe about episode 2 – i.e., that Fena was still in that impractical dress – also gets addressed. Can’t see this series ever being a favorite, as it edges a little too much into goofy territory, but I’m liking it well enough. I suspect that I will be commenting on this one on a regular basis.
I’m Standing on 1,000,000 Lives episode 19 – A new quest means a new member, and this time it’s an adult woman who also happens to be both a foreigner and a lesbian. But that’s not the only thing new: we get the revelation that others around the world have been separately dragged into this as well, hence suggesting that the other might eventually show. This also means another time jump of 14 years and the crushing sadness that Kahvel – one of 2020’s best characters – is no longer alive. Hardly the first time that the series has managed to pack some extra dramatic weight, and I doubt it will be the last.
Seirei Gensouki – Spirit Chronicles ep 7 – Well, that got unusually harsh and dark for this series, didn’t it? It did feel at the end like Rio was apologizing to himself at least as much as he was apologizing to the others