by Richard Eisenbeis,
How would you rate episode 10 of
In which some of our heroes have lived long enough to become the villains.
On the surface, this episode is one giant fight scene as Licht, letting the dark, murderous version of himself off the leash, battles the equally insane Sonohara. But beneath that is a surprising amount of character development—especially once Jail re-enters the scene.
As was finally confirmed in the previous episode, Licht is indeed a Legendary Ace. However, despite it being 300 years after the last war, he is not the only remaining one—Sonohara is as well. Thus, she is able to push her former companion to his limits both physically and psychologically—forcing him to draw upon the true power of the Legendary Aces. The problem with this is that while this allows them to increase their star count at will, it comes with a corresponding increase in a lust for killing.
Sonohara, in this altered state, kills for the fun of it. Fighting or even dying are secondary to the thrill of the kill. Licht, on the other hand, has managed to channel this mind-corrupting instinct into a drive to kill all “enemies”—i.e., anyone who opposes him. While that might seem okay at first glance, this narrow definition means that anyone who tries to impede him—be they a friend from the past like Sonohara or a new love interest like Hina—is marked as a target for death in his addled mind.
However, the fact that he has any control at all in this state is what's truly interesting. Over the course of the episode, it comes out that Licht turned himself into a killing machine so that others—his companions like Sonohara—wouldn't have to be. He would take all the sin on his own shoulders and become a heroic sacrifice to protect the souls of those he most cared about.
Yet, sadly, it is clear that he failed in the end—especially as Sonohara's backstory is revealed. She was so kind that she wasn't able to bring herself to kill anyone in the war, despite her powers. Yet now, under the influence of a drug which forces her into a murderous mindset, she's killed dozens. And as the drug wears off it destroys her to know she is responsible for the deaths of so many.
Seeing that Sonohara is a pawn—and clearly not responsible for her own actions—Lynn and Hina attempt to talk Licht down from killing her. However, the power of love is no match for Licht's single-minded focus on killing his enemies—and it is only due to Sonohara herself taking a pot-shot at Licht to get him focused back on her that Hina doesn't end up as a bloody explosion like those we saw in the last episode.
Here we see Licht: the broken hero. In his madness, he clings to an ideal that he has long since failed at accomplishing. Nothing we have seen in the series so far has been able to heal him of his trauma—not even his time with Hina. He has been a man running in fear of his own past self. And now that he has slid back into who he used to be, the hero of a previous generation stands ready to kill his own companion—and in that act make all his self-sacrifice for her (and those like her) completely moot.
So it makes sense that the only one capable of stopping Licht is the hero of the new generation: Jail Murdoch.
In retrospect, the first nine episodes of Plunderer haven't been about Licht's redemption—they've been about Jail's growth from a government lacky into a true hero. Due to his interactions with Licht, Lynn, Hina, and Nana his moral compass has shifted from external to internal. No longer do his orders dictate what is right or wrong. Rather, it is his internal sense of justice that takes that role. But more than that, he has learned to see more than the big picture—to see the important nuances that separate good from evil.
Sonohara has killed his men and numerous civilians—and even shot him in the back. The old Jail would have likely marked her as evil and dealt with her accordingly. But the new Jail is able to see the mitigating circumstances—that she was drugged out of her mind and is not responsible for her actions. Thus, he moves in to protect her from Licht—despite his own grievous wounds.
On paper, Jail is extremely outmatched. Before, Pele mentioned that Licht fought Jail to a standstill when Jail's count was nearly double Licht's. Now, Licht's count is over four times Jail's. Yet, when Licht's blade comes down to kill Jail and Sonohara, Jail stops it with nothing but a tiny iron shield at the tip of his finger.
You see, while count is what gives Jail increased speed, durability, and the ability to make his iron constructs ever more massive and complex, it is his conviction that what he is doing is right that gives it its hardness. Jail is preventing an innocent girl from being murdered. Nothing can convince Jail that he is in the wrong and thus nothing can cut his iron; it wouldn't matter if Jail's count was one and Licht's one million.
What follows is a battle of convictions: Licht's broken conviction to kill so his friends wouldn't have to versus Jail's conviction to protect the innocent—be that Sonohara or the kind man at the center of Licht's shattered soul. It's a fight that this twisted version of Licht has no chance at winning.
After the battle, the episode ends on its own little cliffhanger. During the fight, Nana mentions that the Legendary Ace's power to increase their counts at will comes from “Shumerman”—as does the accompanying murderous intent. At the end, we learn that Shumerman is not a thing but a person—a high ranking military officer.
In Shumerman's introduction scene, he tells a group of children the story of the Tortoise and the Hare—though with a twist. Instead of going slow and steady, the Tortoise gets imbued with the blood of a passing witch—before using his newfound magical speed to murder the Hare. It doesn't take a genius to see this is a metaphor about what happened to Licht and Sonohara—that his “blood” is what gives them control over their counts. Though what this means outside of this metaphor is a mystery that probably won't be answered anytime soon.
• I've cracked the code: Jail Murdoch ➔ Iron Jail ➔ Man of Iron ➔ Man of Steel. Jail is his world's Superman.
• You have to love that Jail has been secretly keeping a second ballet this whole time—and one far stronger than the one he wears normally.
• Judging from the flashback of Sonohara waiting for “Rihito-senpai” at the school gate, it looks like both she and Licht were originally from modern-day Japan—which fits given that their birth names are both Japanese.
• At this point, it's hard to believe Nana isn't a Legendary Ace herself. She just knows too much otherwise.
• The entire next episode preview promises a return of fanservice next week. Welp… it was good while it lasted.
Plunderer is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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