Rating: 3 (of 5)
So the Native Americans long shown in the opener have finally appeared. Only it turns out that they are not associated with the dragons after all, but rather are refugees.
In many respects, patterning refugees after a generic Native American motif is loaded with an irony that may or may not be intended. Assuming that the adaptation is sticking reasonably close to the novels, original writer Dojyomaru has shown before at least some familiarity with American history, so it is entirely possible that Dojyomaru knew just enough to recognize that Native Americans would be a fitting representation of displaced people. (The writer certainly didn’t put any effort into giving them Native American-sounding names, though!) The additional irony, if that is true, is that it makes Kazuya’s proposal to Jirukoma and Komain come across all the more harshly, and that, I suspect, was not intended. Granted, the circumstances here are fundamentally different; they were forced out of their homeland by the Demon Army, not the country Kazuya represents. Even so, I cannot imagine an American writer having the gall to present a scenario like this.
The proposal Kazuya puts forward to them is loaded with all sorts of implications independent of the cultural identity being borrowed here. (And to be clear, the borrowing only extends to general appearance and them praying to nature spirits. No other negative stereotypes of Native Americans are portrayed.) Refugees have been a problem throughout history and remain a thorny issue even to this day, as the opening narration dutifully points out; in fact, the timing of this is quite ironic as well, given the current mass surge of Ukrainian refugees resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps because he is basing his decision on real-world refugee cases from the past several decades in his home world, his solution to the problem is direct and blunt: the refugees must either formally join the country or leave. Allowing them to exist within Fredonia’s borders while they still maintain intent to eventually return just leads to problems which can last for decades, problems only exacerbated when new generations appear with no direct ties to their parents’ homelands. Essentially, he’s telling the refugees that that there’s no place for them if they will not integrate.
Of all of the decisions that Kazuya has made so far, this is the one that I can most see having long-term negative consequences. Jirukoma leading those unlikely to integrate off to fight against the Demon Army seems like an unrealistically convenient simplification of the situation, one seemingly-designed to eliminate problem cases before they happen, but that feels like too simple a solution. And the series is not subtle about driving home its point with the difficult birth of a refugee child, an incident which itself might intended as symbolic.
About that problem birthing, the stats used here are essentially correct. Some form of caesarean section has existed for millennia, but prior to the late 1800s the mortality rate for the mother was so high (as much as 85% by some estimates) that it was typically only done in desperate circumstances, such as when the mother was dead or would likely die in childbirth. Some of the steps described here are considered key ones in reducing the mortality rate, and real-world attempts certainly don’t have the benefit of light magic as an assist. (I do have to wonder, though, how familiar the people of this would be with blood transfusions, as this has not been brought up before.) In addition to (somewhat awkwardly) hammering home Kazuya’s point about refugees, the birthing also provides a convenient opening for Liscia to get on Kazuya’s case about working towards a baby of their own. Really, why is he so reluctant about this, other than the meta logic of being the “good guy”?
Overall, like the last episode, this one plays out much too unrealistically conveniently to be fully appreciable, and the artistic effort only seems to be getting more unstable. At least there are still two episodes remaining (this one is set to run through April 3rd), so hopefully the series can manage a stronger seasonal finish.