Well, this was a white knuckle episode, wasn’t it? Lot of surprises, at every turn. Enough so, I’d rather dive on in and save any other thoughts for after the recap. Which is a good sign they did a great job on their penultimate outing.
Rather than dive back in right where they left off, the episode opens on another scene, that of Mary snoozing under a tree. After the intensity of last weeks cliffhanger, it’s surprising, to say the least.
Before we get into what’s up, can we just give massive amounts of credit to the animators here? I mean, seriously. This is just breathtaking.
Week in and week out, this show is just a feast for the eyes.
Anyway, Mary is woken up by her old party, who tease her a bit about being tired. She gives as good as she gets, though, before they all gather up to head down into the Cyrene Mines. As she follows, Mary hears a voice calling to her, and after a moment, we see what’s really up.
The party is hiding from Death Spots as the beast hunts them, and for a minute, Mary got lost remembering her former friends. Faced with that behemoth, it’s understandable, but one look at how worried and afraid her new party is, and she shakes it off, leading them away from Death Spots.
In an attempt to shake the brute off their trail, they head down to the fifth level. It just happens to also be where the Kobolds smelt all their ore, making the whole place a giant, sweltering smithy. There’s also a ton of the beasties about, meaning the party is going to have to stealth their way out.
They manage to avoid detection and follow Mary to a long buried temple of Lumiaris, the God of healing. Kobolds don’t worship him, so they never come here, giving the party time to catch their breath before finding a way back up and out of the mines.
As they gather themselves, Mary finds a staff on the ground. Her staff. The one she left behind when her friends died. The same friends who have now fallen under the curse of the No Life King and approach, zombies motivated only by the desire to kill.
Mary faces them with all the courage she can before telling Haru she needs to be in the forefront of the battle. She has learned a way to end their suffering, the Dispel magic, that will undo the curse of the no Life King. It will not restore them to life, but it will end their unlife. The only problem is that she has to be close enough to touch them.
Haru gets it, though, and orders Ranta and Moguzo to engage the warrior and thief, while he and Yume take on the caster, giving Mary time to cast the spell. Shihoru stays back where she can back them all with magic.
It’s a good plan, except that the zombies are very agile, and still possess all their skills from life, including the ability to cast spells like Firewall and Magic Missle, hampering Haru and Yume. What’s worse, Ranta can’t get close to the thief, and it’s all Moguzo can do to hold off the warrior, who is stronger now in death.
Haru is briefly paralyzed with doubt as he tries to assess the situation, but Mary knows that the Firewall is a double edged sword. They can’t see the caster, but she can’t see them either. She dives in, followed by Haru, and manages to get the spell off, ending Mutsumi’s spells as she turns to ash.
With her out of the fight, Haru directs Yume to back up Moguzo while he goes to aid Ranta, who can’t land a blow on the nimble undead thief. Together, they pull off an improvised combo that leaves the undead Og crippled, allowing Mary to cast Dispel.
For his part, Haru is impressed Ranta knew what he was up to, but Ranta blows it off as obvious. When Haru is startled by this, Ranta points out that he tends to overthink everything, and needs to stop, because he isn’t Manato.
Ranta isn’t wrong, either. Haru is at his best when he improvises, and trusts in his team. Stopping to think only slows him down, especially in the heat of battle. It’s an oddly observant point on Ranta’s behalf, and something Haru should take seriously.
With another down, the party has only the warrior, Michiki left. Ranta dives in to distract it as Yume hits it from the side, but it deflects her arrow. This leave sit open to Haru’s Spider attack, however, and allows him to tie up the zombie’s sword arm, which Moguzo makes short work of. With it disabled, Mary, now in tears, is able to Dispel the curse. In the final moments, Michiki thanks her.
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t tears in my eyes.
With Mary’s former friends laid to rest, Haru takes a moment to think on the nature of life and death, and how one day, all of them will be nothing but ash. This confrontation was sobering for him, but for Mary, it was a relief. At long last, she was able to put her beloved friends to rest, the way they should have been. She thanks them all for helping her, and even Ranta has the sense to be respectful of the moment.
As Haru helps Mary to her feet, Moguzo thinks of the battle, and how strong Michiki was. It makes him want to be stronger. This sets the group to talking about the ways they want to improve. Shihoru as a caster, capable of matching the versatility Mutsumi had. Ranta just wants a cool finishing move, while Yume, for some reason, wants a wolfdog. Thus begins another of her pointless, yet adorable stories.
As they rest and reflect, Yume and Shihoru gives Ranta a look that has him wondering what the hell. He didn’t even say anything this time!
Then, Death Spots arrives.
It is without warning. The beast just crashes through a wall, taking them completely off guard. Haru narrow avoids the massive sword Death Spots carries, not once, but twice, before ordering the party to run. They can’t take the monster on. It’s too big, too fast, and too strong.
Thanks to a reckless charge, Death Spots is momentarily buried under some rubble, giving them time to make with the running away. It shakes that off quickly, however, and lets out a deafening howl, alerting every Kobold on the level to the party’s presence. In seconds, they are beset by not just Death Spots, but dozens of enemies, making escape all but impossible.
As they flee back to the forge they first entered, Moguzo clears a path with his War Cry ability, but it closes quickly, and he can’t use it again right away. Shihoru gets tripped by a Kobold, but Ranta comes to her rescue and brings up the rear as the party hauls ass for the well they came down.
Matters get trickier when they have to jump from a walkway to a scaffolding. Haru and Mary make it with ease, as does Yume. Behind them, Moguzo passes his sword off to Ranta and sweeps Shihoru up, carrying her over as Ranta follows with the massive weapon.
Yume keeps the Kobolds from advancing with her bow skills as the party crosses to another scaffold that leads to a ladder up to the fourth level. Escape eludes them yet again, however, as Death Spots bursts back onto the scene, throwing his full weight behind the scaffolding they are on, shattering it.
Everyone but Haru manages to make it over and start heading up. Fleeing along the collapsing scaffold, he almost gets there, but falls short. Just as he is about to fall into the Kobolds, Ranta grabs his hand, holding him aloft.
Ranta orders him to climb, and Haru does, especially after Ranta points out they can’t lose their leader. What he doesn’t say, and doesn’t need to, is again. It’s plain as day on his face, and in his eyes. Never again. He’ll never again let a member of his party, much less their leader, die.
Haru climbs him and they head for the ladder. They almost makes it. Below, Death Spots shakes off the debris of the collapsed scaffold and grabs a big iron wheel, throwing it at them. It shatters the other scaffold right on Ranta’s heels. Haru reaches, but can’t grab him, and Ranta falls to the floor below.
He manages to pick himself up, but there’s no way for him to reach the ladder. Seeing this, he orders Haru to go. Haru starts to refuse, but Ranta reminds him again that he is their leader, and as such, has to worry about the whole party. He has to get them to safety. One can be left behind if it means the rest live.
Reluctantly, Haru follows the others up, leaving Ranta to face not just dozens of Kobolds, but Death Spots. He begs Ranta not to die, to which the cocky Dark Knight simply smirks and says off course he won’t.
Up on the forth level, Haru rejoins the rest of the party and tells them what happened. They can’t save Ranta from this position, and need to find another way down to the fifth level. They are quickly beset by more Kobolds, forcing them to flee again, this time, with Mary leading the way to another well heading down.
She won’t leave another friend to die in this place. None of them will. Not now. Not ever.
Below, Ranta takes a deep breath and faces impossible odds with his usual arrogance. This time is different, though. This time, he knows he can’t win. All he can do is slow them down to make sure his friends escape. His arrogance is backed by that desire. His cockiness has found a purpose. Today, he dies, but it is a death with meaning.
Today, Ranta knows he dies so those he cherishes, his dearest friends, will live.
And so, the stage is set for the finale.
This episode builds heavily on last weeks episode, especially where Ranta is concerned. While he may have told Haru he didn’t need friends or family, here he shows how much they mean to him. Then, he pretty much told Haru he didn’t care if he died, but here, Ranta is willing to lay down his life for them all.
Ranta has been an odd character from the start. So much brash, macho bluster, giving way only a few occasions to show the deeply conflicted, frightened young man behind. This is in every way the culmination of his story arc. He could easily run for it, and probably avoid enough Kobolds to make it out of the smelting room alive. Instead, he stands his ground.
Because if he fled, there’s a chance Death Spots would pursue the others. He can’t have that. He won’t have that. Despite all his claims, he does care for them, and see them not just as friends, but as family. Enough to die for them, and he knows he is going to. No matter how brash or arrogant he is, he knows he can’t stand up against that many enemies.
The episode gives us a lot of growth for Haru as well. During the battle with the zombies, he hesitated at first, thinking about things, trying to figure out what to do, until Mary left him no choice but to act. When Ranta fell, there’s no doubt he would have done the same, had Ranta not ordered him to go, reminding him of what mattered. The party as a whole. So, Haru made the impossible call, and left someone behind.
Being the leader is never easy. It means making those kinds of hard calls. While Haru has managed to avoid it up til now, here he is left no choice. He can risk the whole party, or they can regroup and find another way. He takes the second option, the harder option, and does what a good leader would do.
Most of all, though, the episode gives Mary the closure she needs. While I hadn’t thought about it much, she has been living now just with her failure to protect her friends, but the knowledge that they are still down there, animated corpses, endangering anyone who gets too close, from Kobolds to other Volunteer Soldiers. That burden must have been nearly impossible to carry.
With the help of her new friends, she absolved herself, laid her friends to rest, and made the final step towards truly beginning to heal.
All that is left is to deal with Death Spots.
Next week, the final episode, “See You Tomorrow…”