by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
I am drawing a blank here, or was Darcia introduced awfully suddenly this week with no prior sightings? I'm willing to believe that I forgot given everything that's going on in the world right now, but even if she did show up in an earlier episode, it was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment. It's also a sign of what manga readers have been noticing for a while now, which is that events are being reordered a bit. That in itself is perhaps a bit risky, but by no means a terrible thing (adaptation is an art, after all), but whether she popped up earlier or not, Darcia's role in episode seven is a sign of what can happen if you're not careful about tying up the loose threads of reordered plot points, because she mostly serves to be confusing here. Presumably she's intended to be another sign that Arte is settled in to her new life outside the manor (or palazzo, as the case may be), but that's been established well enough that Darcia's literacy lessons don't really serve much purpose beyond pointing out that someone wasn't being as careful as they ought to have been during rewrites.
Even without Darcia, however, this is something of an off episode for the show. While it does carry over the initial appearance of Yuri, the Venetian nobleman with the Russian first name and French last name (which tickles me but isn't otherwise worth remarking on), his somewhat abrupt offer to hire Arte as an artist in her own right at his home in Venice feels like something that ought to have been allowed to build a bit more. His connection with Veronica is brought up and then dropped rapidly – even if Veronica wouldn't have mentioned it, Arte saw him at her house and certainly would have said something – and his obsession with hiring Arte really doesn't get much reason beyond “because we said so;” as far as we know, he's seen exactly two pieces of her work when he makes the job offer. And that's not even getting into the Ruthanna storyline that arises and is resolved in less than half the episode.
That's not to say that there isn't a potential link between all of these disparate and poorly stitched together storylines, and they could all suggest that Yuri has matrimonial motives in bringing Arte to Venice. If he heard from Veronica that Arte is a noblewoman, then observed her teaching Darcia, our learning about Ruthanna's troubles with her dowry could point to something Arte would need to be more aware of in the near future. That Yuri kisses Arte's hand twice indicates that he's treating her with the deference due her social station, so this may not be as far-fetched as it seems – and that Arte has no way of knowing how well-informed he is could explain her surprise at the gesture.
In some ways I'm actually hoping this is where things are headed, not because I'm all that keen on this show deciding to go back to the whole romantic subplot idea (I wish Ruthanna had kept her mouth shut at the end there), but simply because it would make this episode make a little more sense in the grand scheme of things. If it's just designed to get a couple of pesky characters in and out of the story before moving over to Arte's life in Venice for the next six-odd months, then it really doesn't even deserve the three I'm giving it.
All of that aside, Ruthanna's issues with getting her dowry back are true to the times, bringing up an issue we don't really think about very much outside of Jane Austen novels. During the Renaissance, widows really were supposed to get their dowries back, the idea being that they wouldn't be able to support themselves without a husband, and the money was intended to pay for their upkeep in any event. Ruthanna's mother-in-law is absolutely being a tyrant about it (and if you couldn't tell, witness how she endangers her unborn grandchild by shoving Ruthanna off the stoop). Of course, as a woman, Ruthanna wouldn't necessarily have much legal recourse to get the money…if Arte's smart, she'll save up what she makes in Venice, because no matter what amazing opportunities she's getting, being a woman during the Renaissance wasn't necessarily a good time.
Arte is currently streaming on Funimation.
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