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Third Impressions – Kemono no Souja Erin ( Episodes 23-40)

Note: posts which contain episode numbers in the title may contain spoilers – read reviews instead for spoiler-free opinions.

Though the majority of this arc featured gentle development of Erin and her raising of Lilan, the end of episode 39 appears to signify that the show is ready to approach the resolution of the overarching plot.  The various threads of the story thus far – Erin, the Grand Duke, the Queen, Damiya, and Ial – are merging due to the Queen’s visit to Kazalm and the subsequent attack on the Queen (which is rather obviously hinted at being Damiya’s doing).

The moral implications of what Erin has done in episode 39 really stood out to me – it was a very different kind of scene that what one might expect from idealistic fiction.  Rather than a majestic scene of rescue, her quest to rescue the Queen becomes a a sickening massacre, something that one would never have associated with Erin prior, and one that I would imagine will definitely shake the foundations of her beliefs.  There are a myriad of contradictions in her mind right now – on the one hand, she wishes for Lilan and the others to live as they do in the wild, yet when situations like these arise, she cannot help but rely on the powers of the beast lords for human gain.  She has done exactly what she had previously criticized – manipulate the beast lords for human purposes.  Though those purposes may be noble in this particular case, these differences only have impact to her and other humans, not the beast lords.  Lilan and the others have no stake in human politics, yet Erin, caught up in her desire to save the Queen, seems to have expected Lilan to understand this context in some way.

Furthermore, Erin has revealed herself, and it seems that Damiya now views her as the incarnation of the founding Queen or some sort of divine presence (or, more cynically, someone who can be molded into that role) due to her riding on Lilan.  I would be surprised if she could continue her existence at Kazalm or continue as a teacher in the same way – particularly after the children have seen her at the helm of this gruesome event, though it’s hard to be sure.  Regardless, I am very impressed by the way this anime has maintained its shades of gray with regards to Erin’s bond with Lilan rather than allowing it to devolve into a predictable partnership.  Although Erin’s initial optimism about raising Lilan worked in the beginning, as we go on, we begin to see the value of the Mist People’s pragmatism.  Speaking of which – that is the one remaining plot point that I still hope will become a significant thread before the show ends, as it has always been the most intriguing part of the series for me.

Finally, the conversation between Ial and Erin towards the end of episode 40 was one that I welcomed greatly for its restraint – their words to each other were few but with much weight regardless.  Ignoring the other major plot developments that have occurred, I feel the way that Erin and Ial have grown to appreciate one another from afar has been done superbly in this anime, and the subdued culmination of sorts that occurs here is something that I liked very much.

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