“Doctor…I think I’m going insane.”
“That might be harsh, but why do you think that of yourself?”
“Well, I was watching Blade and Soul…”
“Ah, let me stop you there. Blade and Soul is enough to drive anyone a little mad. It’s a momentary madness that will pass with time.”
“No, Doctor, it was worse than that.”
“I was watching Episode 6 and…this normally doesn’t happen to me but…I…I think I liked it.”
Yes, believe it or not…I enjoyed this one. Is it the depression from Brynhildr and Akuma no Riddle failing to live up to hope, and Black Bullet faceplanting into the ground? Is it that, by comparison to last week’s crime against Humanity, my expectations were so low that a passable episode of this trainwreck caught me off guard and now I am pleasantly surprised?
Am I just a sucker for evil lesbians?
Let’s be clear, there are some serious contrivances and all the usual Blade and Soul nonsense. But I think it’s no small coincidence that the first episode to depart from Alka’s trail of tears is probably the best in the series so far. We focused on the villains and supporting cast this time. Even Hazuki started acting like a normal fucking human being. I know! Let’s get into this deeper.
There’s something else here. I had that “middle of the line” feeling. You know how when you’re channel surfing and you just stop on a show that, you just fall into it. Maybe it’s a movie 20 minutes in, or whatever. But you’ve missed the beginning, you’re just watching the action or whatever. You don’t know which character’s supposed to be the hero or who is on who’s side, but you’re compelled to continue watching, because you want to know more, hoping you can pick up tidbits to piece the whole story together? That’s how Episode 6 feels. It’s very odd…
And I can’t entirely put away the nagging feeling in the back of my brain that this was orchestrated, as the characters from LAST episodes eye-gougingly awful outing are shelved here. Like the team realized what a mistake they’d made, but it was too late to pull the episode, so instead we dedicated one to the other characters as not to remind us what they DID last time.
Perhaps I just expect SOMEONE wants to apologize for it.
Getting into it, Jin is having a dream. She herself is as we see her in the real world, like a dark angel. She’s battling a white version of herself, and she pierces the white doppelganger through, watching the blood drip onto the floor…when their positions reverse, and we see it is her bleeding into the ground, the angelic Jin looking down on her with pity.
Nothing’s going to REALLY come of this at the end of the episode, but as it stands right now, that was an effective opening.
We then see a little furry boy, Yuu, Dragonballing his way to success in the woods. Seems he was trained by the same master Alka had, and is being held up by this Palam resistance army as a savior of sorts since he is privy to the secret techniques. But he is, at best, a trainee, and nowhere near the level of Jin and her little entourage. Still, it gives people hope, and he’s willing to maintain the illusion for their sake.
Speaking of the evil trio, they are scouting the gathering. Uh oh. Refreshingly, there’s a show of competence and military order here. Well, SOMEONE has to be fairly competent in this show. I realize it’s just the basics, but hey, in the kingdom of the blind and all. But what’s truly excellent about this scene is the direction. This episode focuses very heavily on the Jin Varrel/Yu Ran relationship. Admittedly, this may be why I enjoy it, but their body language, the shot composition, it all feeds us buttloads of information, despite the fact only about three lines of dialogue are about their dynamic specifically. As would your relationship dynamic with your spouse if they were a coworker. It’s not important ALL the time, but it’s present, and we’re seeing a similar thing here. We don’t have to be told about Jin’s, frankly, stunted social skills. We see Ran caring for her, combing her hair when they’re alone, no dialogue to point this out to us, it’s just background noise. And this shot here, where, while on the surface, she is respectful and deferential to someone who outranks her, the way she stares at Jin tells us more is up than we are being directly told.
This is going to be a recurring theme throughout, Ran’s abnormal attention to Jin despite the latter sounding like she could give two shits if Ran dies or fucks her brains out. It’s not a lot, but this is Blade and Soul we’re talking about, so the tiniest praise is worth pointing out.
That night, we see Ran receiving a communique from Palam. Apparently this is supposed to mean something.
After the rebels hold their “give one for the Gipper” speech, we see Ran tending to Jin. This is the first time we’ve seen her naked. Wait, episode 6? Damn, much later than I would have expected. But there are scars all over her, blackened flesh that looks insanely painful. And there’s a brand new scar in her hand that Ran’s never seen before, and her look shows genuine concern. But Ran is trying to make her feel better in her own way. They’ve been discussing the dream, and Ran jokingly chides that Jin shouldn’t be having dreams since Ran keeps her up all night.
…Uh…excuse me…I need to…take care of…getting a piece of…milk…
I don’t have to explain myself to you guys.
Loana is leaving the inn. Karen says she shouldn’t leave, that revenge is a silly endeavor. This pisses Loana off, yelling at Karen even louder than she probably intended. But Karen shrugs it off, implying that…yeah, she feels people SHOULD hate her. And can’t argue it.
…Lady, after that shit you pulled last week, I hate you.
Yuu witnesses his partner, who’s the face of the camp leadership, negotiating with the same messenger (or at least, the same outfit) we saw with Ran. Yeah, Palam is backing the rebels to kill the Flower Monks (our dastardly trio). Yuu runs to Jin’s tent. He wants them to withdraw, since the rebels have lost family and home from the Palam military and negotiating a peace in the next six hours seems impossible. So if the Monks withdraw, they won’t be caught in the crossfire, and maybe no one has to die.
Jin is insistent. They finish their job. She’s as attached to “the mission” as Alka is, even telling Yuu there is no point to it. Yuu says the weirdest thing, “Isn’t it odd Palam sent you to the middle of the desert?” No, not really kid, because this is a pacification army and the dissidents made camp HERE. But even in light of this wisdom, she won’t budge. A fairly badass fight breaks out. Yuu may be a trainee, but he’s holding his own and manages to escape.
Change in plans. They attack the rebels now. But some of the soldiers squeal on Ran. Jin seems very eager to believe them, and orders Ran to remain behind for the attack. Ran’s face is panicked. She practically jumps at Jin, trying to beg her to trust her, but Mongo stops her. Again, this theme of their dynamic not taking center stage, but present.
…I kinda like Mongo. It’s campy as fuck, but the guy can only communicate like he’s having trouble on the toilet. The fact that everyone can understand him is…it’s just self aware enough that it gets a pass, and is funny every time.
Yuu can’t get to the camp in time though. Jin’s wounded him, and while he is able to fight off the impurity, it’s taking time, and he passes out.
Back in town, Hazuki approaches Loana. She seems to harbor suspicions about Karen now. She doesn’t trust her. Yeah, almost like she ran the mafia. But, what’s important to remember here…actions had consequences. Fuck. What show is this? This scene is basically filler, judging by its position and length, it’s just Hazuki talking about how awful Pleasure Gang outfits are, but we know she’ll be tagging along with them.
Jin’s leading her forces but, it’s a trap! Not just the rebels, but the very soldiers who squealed on Ran. They’re here to kill Jin. But yeah, they’re men. In this universe that’s like being in a wheelchair.
And Jin interprets the battle as herself killing white angelic forms of herself, as the dream before. Jin’s mind has really been warped by her powers, from the looks of things. Much like River in Firefly. It is the same kind of behavior and imagery expressed, and possibly for the same reasons (we’ll just leave the autism allegories out of this debate). She murders everything. Not one life is spared.
So why did this happen? Well, one, and most likely, it’s a horrible contrivance.
But I prefer the character driven element. Jin told Yuu this was pointless, and we get an echo of that as she emerges from her destruction of the entire rebel village to the army camp, where Ran and Mongo have obliterated the supporting army that was coming to help the turncoats. It’s why she left Ran behind, I like to think, to protect her. And as she looks over the decimated army, she utters “It’s the same.” A good visual of the pointlessness of war. In the end, lives lost are lives lost. And, that theme again, Ran smiles, glad to see Jin is well, but the latter just passes her by, emotionless, causing Ran to scowl, hurt, and she notices the fresh wound on Jin’s hand is starting to bleed profusely.
Back in Palam, the leadership is full of it, saying “Oh well that plan failed, let’s just reincorporate the monks into the military!” But Jin is already here, and in a display of power, soils the guy’s pants to never betray them again.
Ran is before the emperor of Palam. Not Jin…interesting. More interesting, the emperor says Jin, as he calls her, the black bird, is dangerous. Ran says she can control Jin. The emperor basically says “That’s nice and all, but if shit goes down it will be too late.”
And, seeing that display of her power, we’re inclined to agree with him. I’m reminded of when one of Ronald Reagan’s advisers said “It is US policy to avoid nuclear war, that is why we must build bombs.” It doesn’t matter when, or who starts it, once that WMD goes off it is too late.
And, that theme. Ran may feel she can be a carrot to keep Jin in line, but her confidence in herself and her affection for Jin may indeed be blinding her to her lover’s destructive capabilities.
But what’s nice, is that we are free to interpret Ran’s actions as we will. Is she purely manipulating Jin for the Emperor’s benefit? Or is she protecting the woman she cares about from his wrath and fear? We aren’t given an answer, though frankly, both sounds nice. She clearly doesn’t have a problem pissing the Emperor off (vaporizing his dog while it’s in his lap), so a combination of ambition and love, perhaps? Or just ambition? The show hasn’t told us, but I’m willing to let it slide because it’s something to think about.
And, really? This is clearly an abnormal, even dysfunctional, relationship, but there do seem to be genuine feelings behind it. As warped and twisted as our villains are, here they are mostly portrayed as normal people. And that is a refreshing change of pace.