I had wondered where the series would go next after wrapping things up so neatly last episode, and the answer was not what I expected: introduce a “mad scientist” character who looks like a little girl walking around in an adult-sized lab coat. (You never actually see her hands because they’re always far up in her sleeves.) While I understand where the series is going with this, this new development is not one of the series’ finer moments.
I say that partly because it feels like this trope of a highly-advanced technological remnant being the basis of a dungeon has been used too much lately; we saw something very similar in last season’s Banished From the Hero’s Party, for instance. Of course, this is also a common fantasy trope which goes back decades (and not just in anime), but this application of it is one of the least interesting I have seen. And is it even necessary for what the story is doing at this point? Nearly everything which transpires here could be explained without resorting to ancient high-tech, so this seems pointless and needless unless this has some connection to the Big Picture of the setting.
That griping aside, the storytelling does at least set some other threads in motion. It establishes that the kingdom of Elfrieden may have an utterly invaluable power source in vast quantities beneath its surface, one which is currently poorly-regarded because only its negative aspect is considered and its potential as a power source is not understood. It does, in fact, have so much potential in Kazuya’s eyes that it could make his kingdom a target if it were to be widely-known-about. It also makes its discoverer, Genia Maxwell, an utterly invaluable person in Kazuya’s eyes, on a level of importance with Tomoe, so he wastes no time in using Liscia’s advice to secure her loyalty by arranging for her to marry Ludwin (hence the title of the episode – “Strike While the Iron is Hot”). Yes, Kazuya’s motives are absolutely manipulative and underhanded, but things like this have been common practice for leaders throughout time, so there’s nothing out of line by it. And at least consulting with Liscia on it gave her something to to this episode rather than just stand around. (Really, I’m trying to remember the last time in an anime that a character was so omnipresent while doing so little as she has.)
And at least all of this scheming does at least lead to what may be the overall point of the episode: providing a hook to bring dragons into the picture. The second season opener prominently shows Kazuya and Liscia riding around on a flying dragon, so the latter coming into the picture at some point was a given. Bringing Genia in also allows an avenue to introduce other science-themed characters shown in the opener, but leave me wondering where the Native American-themed characters are going to fit in. Guess we’ll see about the dragon part, at least, over the next few episodes.