How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
by Grant Jones,
How would you rate episode 10 of
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom ?
Suddenly this has become a much different series in the span of a single episode. After nine episodes of fairly slow buildup regarding the nature of the country and Souma's reforms, we get thrown into a full-blown war story. Armies are on the march, cannons are firing, and wyverns are taking flight as the Hidden Army battles the forces of the three dukes. There's still some machinations of the mundane sort regarding mercenaries and payments, but now the focus is on strategy and maneuver more than courtly intrigue.
In some ways this is a welcome change. I personally enjoy fantastical war stories of this sort. Castle walls peppered with magical fire and cannonades, flights of mythical beasts providing air support, the shocking twists and turns of surprise assaults on the enemy's backline - it's all fun stuff. We get aerial raids on armored battleships and accompanying Itano circus-esque bolt thrower fire. We get elven arcane archers shooting cannonballs from the sky, and a nice callback to the rescue episode to boot. It's fun and exciting stuff, even if the animation's stilted nature dulls the shine a bit.
The problem I think is one of tonal whiplash. It's really jarring to go from long-winded discussions weighing the benefits and drawbacks of producing cash crops during an economic crisis and famine, to suddenly seeing magical explosions in a high fantasy war zone. I assumed something like this was in the cards, especially given the disastrous move by Souma last episode, but I did not expect the narrative to smash cut to war so quickly.
This speed somewhat stretches the believability of everything in the process. I get it, we're in a fantasy land full of talking lions and elves - realism was never in the cards. But the series has really leaned into the practical concerns of kingdom management and how modern reforms could improve the lives of everyday people with a bit of perspective and political will to make changes. Souma's super power is his knowledge of municipal, political, and crisis management, right? Well, apparently it's also having two giant beasts of burden that can pull a steel-plated battleship with retrofitted metal wagon wheels on a forced march across the country to surprise a demon's duchy and battle off wyvern air squadrons.
That tonal whiplash is even funnier in the moments where this episode tries to meld the two ideas. Kaede mentions that being able to summon a castle overnight right under the enemy's nose is thanks to a combination of her powerful ritual magic and Souma's knowledge of standardized two by four planks. Folks, I think we all know which contributed the most to a pop-up castle appearing overnight.
I'm not sure if these qualities necessarily make for a worse episode, but it is jarring and feels like we have entered a different mode altogether. I'm not sure if this high fantasy war story shtick is here to stay, but I do wonder how appealing this all is if someone had been enjoying the past nine episodes...
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