Episode 1-2

by Richard Eisenbeis,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Plunderer ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Plunderer ?

Plunderer is the story of Hina, a young woman on a mission to fulfill her mother's dying wish: to find the legendary Ace--a hero from a war long ago. For five years she has walked the land searching for him. Now, she has finally reached a town where the Ace has supposedly been spotted. Unfortunately, all she finds is Licht, a perverted man in a Noh mask, whose life seems to be nothing but sexually harassing women and getting beaten in retaliation. But little does she know that her fate and his will forever be entwined.

The first episode of Plunderer is world-building, plain and simple with Hina as our viewpoint character. Hailing from a remote area, she knows little beyond what her mother taught her. Thus, she is almost completely ignorant of the world and society she finds herself in--making her the perfect person to ask the questions needed for us to understand what is going on.

Through her misadventure in the first episode, we learn about the key system of this fantasy world: the count. Everyone has a number magically engraved on their body that increases whenever they do a predetermined action--or decreases when they do that action's antithesis. Should a person's count hit zero, shadowy hands emerge from the ground and drag that person down into “The Abyss.”

Moreover, if one person has a higher number than another, the person with the smaller number must obey the orders of the one with the larger number. Though, as Hina discovers when hassled by the local military sergeant seeking to take advantage of her naivety, there is one exception to this rule. If you wish to reject an order, you can gamble your count in a winner-take-all (minus one) fight--though this is something supposedly reserved for military members alone.

While it's a lot of info to take in, it is parceled out in intervals across the episode--giving each new piece some time to be absorbed. In between the world-building, we get introduced a bit to Hina, Licht, and Nana--their personalities and place in the world.

The other key point the episode stresses is that not everything is what it seems and we shouldn't believe all that we see or hear. It's clear by the end of the first episode that, this world, for all its normal appearance, is a fundamentally unfair one. After all, for some, increasing your count is easy. Nana, for example, only needs for people to praise her cooking. Licht's count, on the other hand, only goes up when a woman accepts his advances (and with a -999 we can see how well that has gone.) It's obvious that many have an insurmountable disadvantage from birth based on count alone.

Moreover, there is the fact that only soldiers are able to challenge orders. Since they are the ones actually trained to fight, it's all but certain they will win. This implies that this peaceful fantasy land is actually a military police state where any and all freedoms and rights are an illusion--especially when the military is as corrupt as we see it is.

There are also oddities in the background that you might not notice in the heat of the moment that point to the incongruities in the world. For example, in the first scene of the anime, we see what happens when a person's count hits zero. Yet, only a few minutes later we see a person with a negative count. It's a clever visual way of providing hints that not all is as it seems and that even the rules of this world have many loopholes. This theme becomes even more prominent in the second episode.

While the first episode is focused on world-building, the second is focused on character building--oh, and fighting. Lots of fighting. Our focus this time is not Hina but Licht. In the first episode, we see him as nothing but a weak pervert. In the second, we see him as a legendary fighter with a strong sense of justice--and one not afraid to play the bad guy to save the innocent from dangers unseen.

When both of these are combined together we get our first glimpse of his true character. In the fight, Licht shows that he has super speed. Thus, if he really wanted to look up women's skirts, no one would even notice. Likewise, he has a martial prowess far above even trained members of the military. There's only one reason a normal person would be able to kick him around: if he wanted them to.

Herein lies the true mystery of his character. Why does Licht act the fool? Is it merely a means of hiding in plain sight? Or is there another reason that drives him to take constant, endless punishment and drive his negative count even lower?

The second episode ends with a reveal that completely throws all the world-building done so far into question--though it may not seem like it at first. In the final scene, a mysterious soldier confronts Hina about Licht, explaining that the Ace himself is a far bigger prize than the trinket Hina's hiding. And after this monologue, he reaches into his pocket and puts in an earpiece and begins talking to someone on the other end.

Everything we've seen so far implies that this is a fantasy world with medieval level technology and some amount of weaponized magic. The stylized flashbacks of the war serve to support this. The two-way radio he's using is 1,000 years more advanced. And while Hina certainly wouldn't be unable to understand the implications of the radio, it is a big hint for us, the viewers, that a lot more is going on here than it seems.


Random Thoughts:

• If I were to pitch Plunderer to friends, I'd say it's basically Trigun meets Bleach

• If Hina traveled for five years, how did she get money for food, clothing, and shelter? Did she do lots of part-time work off-screen, or, as her count rose and rose, did she just think people were super nice when they gave her what she asked for--not realizing that they couldn't refuse her?

• I love how Nana's count of 77 implies she must be a pretty bad cook. I mean, that's her net count of someone saying “delicious” versus “disgusting.” Given how kind she is, I wouldn't be surprised if people just make sure to compliment her food every once in a while just so she doesn't get sucked into the Abyss.

• Licht's count seems next to impossible to rise. If getting rejected drops it, that means that his romantic advances have to be accepted to make it rise. But if the woman's feelings ever change, wouldn't it just drop again?

Plunderer is currently streaming on FUNimation.

Richard is an anime and video game journalist with over a decade of experience living and working in Japan. For more of his writings, check out his Twitter and blog.

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