Zetsuen no Tempest Episode 18 + 19: The Dancing Princess, The Object of Desire
“Even if I cry, nothing will change.” -Yoshino Takigawa
Summary: Yoshino and Mahiro react to the reveal of who Aika’s boyfriend was in two very different ways. Hakaze swears that if the Tree of Genesis really is behind Aika’s death and so toyed with “her” Yoshino’s life, she will make it pay. She decides to embrace her statues as the mage of Genesis, and adopts the persona of The Dancing Princess, but instead of doing it to save the Tree of Genesis she’s secretly doing it to make Hanemura stronger and thus fully awaken the Tree of Exodus. Yoshino and Mahiro meet at Aika’s grave and finally confront the fact that Yoshino was dating Mahiro’s sister, and no one gets killed or even punched. With the Tree of Exodus almost fully revived, Hakaze announces her intent to find out who really killed Aika by traveling to the past.
Impressions: Aliens? Really? That’s what you’re going with Evangeline? Anyway. With the line between the two sides of the Tree of Genesis/Tree of Exodus camps becoming even more blurred, things are ramping up towards the end here on Zetsuen no Tempest. While some moments do feel a little like they’re being stretched a little too far, for the most part these are two very interesting episodes where we finally see Yoshino and Mahiro dealing with Aika’s death (even just a little bit), and we get some very interesting theories as to what the actual purpose of the two Trees are. Plus! Yoshino takes on Samon for king of the weirdly over the top faces, the return of Samon’s “I’m tripping balls” purple swirl backgrounds, and the promise for more time travel (which is my absolute favorite thing in the whole world and I love it /very heavy sarcasm.)
After telling Hakaze about Aika, Yoshino breaks down in probably one of the more emotional scenes of the series thus far. It’s hard to see him finally allow himself to feel something over having lost someone so dear to his heart. Yoshino is the type who doesn’t often show his true feelings, and especially given the secrecy that the two had to maintain about their relationship, he was even more unable to grieve openly. Adding to the problem is the fact that Yoshino’s almost too logical and is unable to see what good crying or feeling sad about it would do. It’s not going to bring Aika back, so why even bother? Instead of becoming angry and vengeful like Mahiro, Yoshino buries his feelings and pretends that they aren’t their. As Hanemura so astutely points out, both of the two boys are emotionally numb. Even when thrown into a world full of magic, danger, and a disease that turns human flesh into metal, Yoshino and Mahiro don’t react with any emotion, like the light has already disappeared from their world so who cares about the rest. Truth be told, it was a little hard for me to watch Yoshino because I recognized a lot of myself in him. I recently was in a similar situation and so it was difficult to watch him finally give in and cry while I still couldn’t. I think that’s what made me slightly angry about how over the top and funny they decided to make Yoshino’s face. During such an emotional scene, I don’t really want to be distracted by wanting to laugh at how silly a characters face looks.
While Yoshino reacts by finally accepting his sorrow, Mahiro really surprised me by reacting to the news of his beloved Aika secretly dating his best friend in the least Mahiro like way: by remaining calm, and doing a lot of cleaning. I thought he would for sure be after Yoshino’s head, but no. He just cleans. And does a lot of thinking. It’s very strange, and a bit frightening, to see the shows most volatile character go eerily calm. What also surprised me was his and Yoshino’s meeting in the graveyard, and how Mahiro reacted to finally being told the truth. I would have put money on him at least punching Yoshino, but the two have a very calm (and even occasionally humorous) talk about it. Mahiro, instead of putting the blame for his “unrequited love” on someone else, places it soley on himself for being unable to tell Aika how he felt (or even accept the fact that he was in love with her.) It’s kinda nice to see. Aika made her choice, and since Mahiro didn’t act, he only really has himself to blame for any regrets he might have. Yoshino didn’t do anything to deserve being punched, and knowing that Mahiro restrains himself. The two end up reconciling for the most part.
Aika continues to grow on me. I like that she doesn’t conform to Mahiro’s wish for her actions and personality to match her “pretty damsel in distress” look. She’s very upfront about how he needs to learn to accept her as she is before he can truly become an adult. It’s also subtly implied that their “relationship” wouldn’t be able to progress unless Mahiro learns to stop seeing her as a princess that needs to be protected.
As such, I’m more on Yoshino’s side of things since he wants to have something good come out of something as sad as her death. Mahiro is much more focused on revenge, even if that means more tragedy. I think that in the end, that’s what separates the two boys, and what (if anything) would lead to a real conflict between the two, since even after their scene in the graveyard I don’t think they’ve totally resolved that issue. I think even the two of them are aware of this, which makes things interesting, given how nonchalant they are about the fact that the endings to their respective favorite Shakespeare plays might determine if they become foes or not. Then again, maybe Evangeline is right in thinking that neither Hakaze, Yoshino, or Mahiro should be deciding the future, since they’re all so preoccupied with something and someone who is so firmly rooted in the past.
Evangeline’s theory about the origin and true purpose of the two Trees is very interesting, and I might even be inclined to believe it to be true if it weren’t for the whole aliens thing. This isn’t The X-Files here people. She does bring up some very interesting point regarding alchemy, the Uroboros, and how it might be linked to the Trees. With a disease that changes people from one material into another, you can see how Evangeline latches on to alchemy, a study that focuses on exactly that. The two Trees can represent a serpent of dragon biting its own tail, forming a never-ending circle of creation and destruction, which is the Uroboros, a symbol for alchemy (as I suspect most people who’ve watched Fullmetal Alchemist will recognize.) It’s interesting to think that the two Trees represent the dual meanings that serpents/dragons have, depending on the culture. While some see them as destroyers, others see them as bringers of good, and both sides are necessary since (like a flooding river depositing silt and other minerals which in turn help crops grow; first destruction, then good.)
Evangeline’s theory of why the Trees are on earth is also a real possibility. That they’re both there to measure how far a civilization has grown in order to make sure that no planet becomes a threat is something I never would have guessed at. It makes sense though, since their magic works by making offerings of “civilization”, which are more often than not weapons of some kind. When those become to strong, the Tree of Exodus comes along, destroys everything, and then the Tree of Genesis builds everything back up, starting the circle all over again. It fits nicely with the Uroboros imagery. It’s also a very good point that at some point, science does start to resemble magic. I think we’ve all seen enough Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mythbusters, or just had a good science teacher in school to know that.
Up until this point, I was thinking, wow, yeah that’s clever and at the same time vague enough that I might believe it. But aliens? I don’t know about that. I generally don’t like to mix my fantasy with something more sci-fi like aliens. Then again, we’ve already had time travel, magic, flying one-eyed seeds of doom, and mages dressed like super heroes, so what the heck! let’s throw in aliens too, just to make it real crazy. The whole thing makes me wonder though, if the Trees are really “evil” (or whatever you want to call it) how much longer will Hakaze and Hanemure be able to wield their powers over them? and why give people the ability to control them in the first place if they’re just there to control the world, like Hakaze asks? These are things for future episodes, I guess.
Hakaze’s plan of appearing to fight for the sake of the Tree of Genesis, all the while secretly making Hanemura (and the Tree of Exodus) stronger is quite genius. Seeing that the Tree of Genesis will need to be defeated in either of the two scenarios she puts forth, and the fact that she thinks that her tree has been messing with Yoshino’s life, Hakaze is sneakily attacking the very thing that gives her power. Not sure how great of an idea that is in general, but at least for now it provides some much-needed action scenes to episodes that would have other wise been just a lot of talking. The animation continues to be great throughout the show, but it really shines whenever Hakaze takes on the Mage of Exodus. There are some really nice, fluid moments in there that kinda make up for some of the lazier/weirder facial expressions. Hakaze’s Dancing Princess costume is really beautiful and provides a nice contrast between her and Hanemura.
Now that everyone’s together again, and even sort of on the same side, I can’t help but feel like it’s an uneasy peace. Like at any moment, the tension could snap and everything could come tumbling down. While the situation between Mahiro and Yoshino might seem superficially peacefully, I can’t help but feel like it isn’t truly resolved. Mahiro doesn’t strike me as the type to just let things go, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if Hakaze brings back the wrong news from her impending trip to the past, he’ll be set off like the ticking time bomb that he is. With only 5 episodes left, just how are things going to wrap up? Will it go the tragic route of Hamlet that Mahiro seems set on? Or will it go the route of Yoshino and The Tempest, with a happy ending for all? I’m personally kinda hoping for a tragedy, but then again I like dark and horrible things. What about you?
Final Thought: Every passing episode really drives home how much I’ve come to hate the second opening. Like. It’s just so. freakin’. bad. Yuck. The ending is pretty bad too. Especially when compared to the instrumental music used in the show itself. Sure, it’s a little grandiose sometimes, but on the whole I really like it (I love Beethoven, and at least one of the pieces is a part of his piano sonatas.)