When I heard about this arc being hard to watch I readied myself for a number of things. I was prepared to see Subaru die gruesomely, to see him tortured and broken. However while I was ready to see him get destroyed by others; I didn’t expect him to be the architect of his own destruction. This was truly a painful episode to watch with Subaru attempting the brute force his way through story developments like a typical shounen protagonist and it just failing miserably. It wasn’t elegant, nor was it impressive and Subaru came off as outright pathetic in his attempts to make himself seem like a big deal. This is by far Subaru’s lowest point in the series and the visuals certainly show it. The manga tried to give him dignity in that there he was at least given some acknowledgement and looked decent even when getting beaten. Not in the anime, here he looked seedy, graceless and desperate.
Which leads me to rethink something I said in the last episode review of this series, namely that I was worried about Rem becoming irrelevant to the story. Perhaps I was worried about the wrong person and in truth the one whose rapidly becoming irrelevant is Subaru himself and he’s all too aware of it. After the closure of the mansion arc Subaru is in a a brand new run where he has no real idea of how anything will turn out. His usefulness has dropped to zero and his existence in Emilia’s life is no longer necessary. For when you think about it, he has no real reason to be at the King’s selection nor any real reason to be in Emilia’s life. The spotlight is moving away from him and I think Subaru has noticed. That’s what makes this episode a little easier to watch for me, for I see it as Subaru desperately kicking and screaming so that he doesn’t end up left behind.
I will admit that seeing Subaru going through all this is not a pleasant experience and while I appreciate the subversion of the shounen tropes, it’s still somewhat flustrating to see Subaru act like this. What makes this somewhat more frustrating is that Subaru is basically making the moves the viewer likely would. I know if I heard someone start berating the girl I liked by racist assumptions I would call him out on it regardless of where I was. Same goes for Julius as he questioned Subaru’s declaration of being Emilia’s Knight, I too would try to shout him down. Upon being challenged to a duel I would relish any opportunity to hit him. But here Subaru is making all the moves the audience wants but is experiencing the consequences of taking such actions. By declaring himself a knight he publical embarrassed Emilia in front of everyone and by fighting Julius he showed everyone just how much of his words was pure empty talk. I really like that when looking at it from Julius’s perspective all his actions seem logical. Most often to make the hero look better they have his opponent act illogical and unreasonable but here Julius was the more level headed one. He tried to make Subaru see just how he was making Emilia feel and even his challenge was him giving Subaru a chance to show his worth; while preventing him from getting murdered in a back alley for insulting the knights by making him an example. Obviously he isn’t right in every regard, I am fairly certain he got some enjoyment out of beating Subaru to a pulp and his philosophy of might makes right is just wrong. However he isn’t just some one dimensional caricature for Subaru to beat down and show everyone how great and right he is.
On the matter of the king’s selection I find it amusing that none of the candidates is aiming to simply be a good ruler and many are going for a radical and dangerous change. We have Priscilla who basically promises a complete dictatorship. Crusch wishes to rid ties to the dragon and let the people rule the nation which seems like a pretty big deal. Anastasia admitted that she is only after the crown to satisfy her own greed. Felt after being pushed into running as ruler due to Roms interference, declares that she was get rid of the social class hierarchy. Emilia in contrast seems to be the most reasonable one and promises to give equality to all people. Basically each participant has pretty much declared that they are going to do whatever the hell they want when they get the crown so I wonder just how this is planned to be settled.
The defining aspect of this episode is the scene after all of Subaru’s embarrassments where he and Emilia finally have a talk. The talk bordered on the overly melodramatic but hit some big points. Namely that Subaru has placed Emilia on a pedestal so high that he can’t even see her for what she is anymore. Emilia cannot understand just why he holds her so highly and Subaru can’t explain because of the curse. Leaving him rambling like a madman to Emilia about events that just didn’t happen to her. After Subaru lets out his most selfish true feelings; Emilia declares that they go their separate ways leaving Subaru alone. This is probably the most human Emilia has been in the series and he comments such as “I had high hopes for you” cut deeper than a knife. This is a massive turning point in the series but one that has me worried. This is big in regards to Subaru in that once he arrived in this world he made Emilia his center and focused all his efforts for her.
Now he’s lost that and the time has come for him to find a new objective but there lies a problem in this. If Subaru dies then possibly all this will be undone and even though while watching this episode I desperately wanted someone to kill Subaru just to undo the utter cringeworthy displays he put in, I do not want his confrontation with Emilia to be undone. If I am asked about whether this episode was a good or bad episode I say my decisive factor is what comes after this. This could be a great example of Shounen deconstruction if it remains this way and a great cornerstone of Subaru’s development as must pick up the broken relationship pieces caused by his mistakes. But if all this gets swept under the rug and Subaru gets to replay for the perfect end then this episode will leave a particularly bad taste in my mouth.