by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 6 of
If you speak a little Italian, you may have noticed that the game the apprentices are playing at several points in this week's episode, calcio, is the current word for soccer (football) in Italian. The game they're playing, however, isn't quite the same as what people play today; it's calcio Fiorentino, an ancestor of soccer and rugby whose name translates to “Florentine football.” It's a fun detail not just because it's an ancient game (some think it's a variant of an ancient Roman sport called harpastum), but also because there are records showing that it was played in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, which bears a distinct similarity to where everyone is working on the fresco this week. Real-life Piazza Santa Croce's many churches does have some famous frescoes, but the best known ones date to rather earlier than this series is set, so the whole thing is probably more likely to be a shout-out to both the origins of calcio as a sport and fresco painting in general than a deliberate recreation of one specific moment in time, but it's still a neat detail to note.
It also highlights one of the odder things about this series, which is that while characters, notably Arte herself, often act anachronistically or just too Japanese for Renaissance Italy, the period details are usually more right than wrong. (Arte's underwear notwithstanding.) It's made for an odd coexistence of time periods and cultures, and it means that every week there's at least one thing that sounds a discordant off-note in the episode, and since what that is changes episode by episode, that means that everyone gets the chance to be mildly annoyed based on what their particular pet peeves are. This week's glaring issue is Arte introducing herself to the other masters and apprentices; generally speaking, by European standards that wasn't done – someone “made introductions” (introduced you) and introducing yourself could be pretty rude, at least in the circles Arte was raised in. It's interesting, because this one scene is clearly meant to tell a contemporary Japanese audience that Arte is determined to be accepted as an apprentice by the others, a message that someone felt would be best served by spelling it out rather than letting the context do the work.
Even more notable is that the context does do the work, so the whole self-introduction bit wasn't really necessary. When Angelo finds Arte throwing up in the courtyard, it's the culmination of a day where the other apprentices were all murmuring about how she never gives up even when they themselves would have trouble doing what's demanded of her. Arte's work shows her going above and beyond to prove to everyone that not only will she do what's needed, she's capable of doing it. Even her desire to play calcio with the guys at the end is in service of this message – sure I'm wearing a dress, but that doesn't mean that I can't do everything you can do. It almost feels as if the episode didn't trust its viewers to get that without having Arte scream her name at a bunch of confused painters.
I do wish we'd gotten a bit more of the actual fresco painting, but ultimately Arte's proving herself was the more important piece of the story this week. Over time we've seen her convince single people or small groups of them in an individual workshop, so this test devised for her by the guild masters is her major chance to show everybody all at once what she's made of. That's important to her, although we do have to wonder how serious of a threat the “test” actually is, given that we see the masters making disparaging remarks about how they may as well let Leo have a girl apprentice because it's not like anyone else is going to want to work under a guy who used to be a beggar. Arte, of course, doesn't know this, but Leo does, which makes his promotion of the fresco painting to her as a test perhaps speak more about his own ego than any true concern for her. Leo has had to prove himself over and over again because of his background, and showing that his apprentice isn't just some worthless dilettante and that he can train her is a piece of that. It's part of why he took on Arte in the first place, but it also may be making things more difficult for her than they strictly need to be.
Arte is currently streaming on Funimation.
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