Last episode ended with a crisis centered around Alas Ramus: despite Chiho’s delaying action, Gabriel was coming back for Alas Ramus in the morning, and neither the Devil King nor the Hero had the power to stop him. In the past, Maou confronted these challenges with a healthy dose of cockiness, even if he wasn’t always on top of the situation. But that was before he actually had something to lose beyond his own life (and job, perhaps) if things didn’t work out. Despite only being present for a few days, Alas Ramus has changed him, more than he’d probably care to admit, and that makes for a far more interesting emotional dynamic here.
Though the source novels had their faults, one of the things I always appreciated most about their story is that it didn’t cut corners. Very little in the story happens without reason, and there are always deeper motives with long trails behind them, trails that may be long-obscured but which eventually become clear. Despite condensing some content, this episode does a solid job of covering all of the crucial bases in the last quarter of novel 3. Maou may steadfastly insist that the story which Maou tells Alas Ramus and Emi is not autobiographical, but it also lays clear why he is taking his status as Alas Ramus’s father so seriously: she is the incarnation of the symbol of his rebirth and movement towards becoming the Devil King. Alciel’s comments to Crestia and Maou’s post-story comments to Emi together further clarify that his quest for power and domination wasn’t actually based on evil motives; he sought better circumstances for his people, and just didn’t bother to consider that it was coming at the expense of “others.” That he may have lost himself to greed in the process is an all-too-human reaction. Clearly this is also making an impression on Emi, though that doesn’t at all mean that she’s forgiving him.
The metaphysics going on here also continues to be interesting, as this episode clarifies that Better Half is also a Yesod shard, just like Alas Ramus is. Though the episode does not explicitly say so, that strongly suggests that the reason Alas Ramus calls Emi “mama” might be because Emi has another Yesod shard fragment in her and Alas Ramus can sense that. Connected to that is the episode’s first big surprise: that for all of her utterly-adorable toddler cutesiness, Alas Ramus is also an utter powerhouse when provoked, one strong enough the even Gabriel has a tough time with her. (That the outer wall of the Devil King’s Castle gets blown out in the process is not a trivial detail, either; this will have a big story impact in upcoming episodes.) A combination of these factors easily explains why Alas Ramus is able to bond with Better Half and make it strong enough that Emi can now stand off Gabriel, though that should certainly make for some interesting complications going forward, especially when Alas Ramus wants to see Papa.
But that’s not the only interesting development. Gabriel reacted very negatively to Maou bringing up the legend of the “ancient King Satan” and further warned Emi about a repeat of “Demon King Satan’s calamity,” both of which clearly refer to one of Maou’s predecessors. Both that and Gabriel’s comments to Emi about how she should have a clue to why the angels are finally getting around to retrieving the Yesod shards because of what she is (i.e., a half-angel) suggest that the status quo in Heaven has changed, and the mysterious angelic-looking woman who’s been working behind the scenes may have everything to do with this. The epilogue scene between Gabriel and Sariel provides an even bigger twist by ending the episode on the reveal of who she actually is: Lailah, Emilia’s angelic mother.
That raises a whole boatload of questions about what Lailah is doing and why (and about why she didn’t reveal her true identity to Emilia), but there’s also an interesting bit of Jewish mythology at work here. Lailah is the angel of night, but she is also in charge of both conception and pregnancy. By some accounts, her role is to bring the seed of Man before God to determine the potential life’s fate. If original novel writer Satoshi Wagahara intended the name choice to be meaningful (and, based on how thoroughly-researched the novels are, I have to think he did) then that makes her the most appropriate choice to be the mother of a half-angel and puts an added depth on what she’s doing with Alas Ramus. The particulars of these naming conventions is something that I did not pay full attention to when reading the novels, but I fully intend to pay more attention to that this time around.
The technical merits of this episode are more solid, too, with effective use of scene framing to keep the episode lively despite it actually only having a minimal amount of action. Still not entirely used to the more exaggerated expressions, but that is starting to grow on me, too. Overall, a strong episode held back only a little by some inconsistent pacing and the dramatics of the battle against Gabriel not quite 100% landing.