by Richard Eisenbeis,
How would you rate episode 23 of
“In which we learn that it is not the powers that make a hero.”
Building on the last episode, half of this episode is centered on the battle between Doan and Licht. It clues us into the relationship between the two, why it's so important to both of them, and why Doan feels so betrayed.
In the war, Licht found himself unable to kill children. The enemy discovered this and sent countless child soldiers against him. So Doan, understanding that Licht was dirtying his hand so the class wouldn't have to, dirtied his own hands by killing those Licht couldn't. This scared both of them deeply. But without each other to rely on, the pair never would have survived the war--and both of them know this. Their conflict is one of ideals, not of two lifelong enemies settling a score.
The war was abhorrent. It forced Doan to do horrible things--he killed thousands of children--and it ended with the deaths of everyone he knew and loved (aside from the other Aces). In his mind, everyone died to create the peaceful world they now live in--to start another war is to rob all meaning from their lives.
But in Licht's view, his friends died not for this world but because of it. While Althea may seem like a paradise compared to the war-torn world they grew up in, it is built on the exploitation of people living in a hell even worse than that. His friends clearly didn't want that--they gave their lives to save as many people in the Abyss as possible, after all. Licht feels he owes it to them to create a better world than Althea--to make a world worthy of their sacrifice. Unfortunately, Doan is unable to accept this view.
The rest of the episode focuses on the battle between Sonohara and Jail--and what both become during it. Since she was a child, Sonohara has defined herself as the victim. After being saved from bullying once, she attached herself to Licht and built up the fairytale in her mind that she would be safe as long as she was with him. Instead of focusing on bettering herself and learning to stand up for herself, she gave into fear and became focused on staying with the one person who could alleviate that fear: Licht. Every time he'd push her away, she'd simply double her efforts to become closer to him.
The drug simply twists her fear into ecstasy while multiplying her need to be with him. Killing no longer bothers her. The more she kills, the more like Licht--i.e., the closer to Licht--she becomes, after all. Moreover, by turning him back into the killer he was during the war, the more like her he will become--further closing the distance between them. And this is where Jail enters the picture.
At this point, Jail has a count of 1--reducing his pherokenetic powers to being able to create at maximum one or two pieces of iron an inch wide. Sonohara, on the other hand, is a warrior from myth and legend with modern firepower and a count of 32000.
She doesn't stand a chance.
While Jail's ability to create iron is limited, its toughness is based on his conviction that what he is doing is right and just. Sonohara's bullets simply shatter against the small disk of iron that appears and disappears to block them. At this point, Jail could simply run up to Sonohara and beat her down but he doesn't. While defeating her outright would remove her from the battle, it wouldn't solve the true problem--the wound at the center of Shonohara's psyche.
And so Jail never attacks her, he simply approaches her and talks her down. He forces her to admit what she truly wants--instead of settling for what she has decided she needs to feel safe. At this moment, what she wants is simple and pure. She wants to not kill Jail--the man she once shot in the back only for him to turn around and selflessly save her life. While it's only a small first step on the road to healing, focusing on it allows her to take control of her fear for the first time and rob the drug of its power over her.
By saving Sonohara in this way, Jail reaches the climax of his heroic evolution. Jail's entire arc has been about him transforming step-by-step from the lapdog of a totalitarian government to his world's Superman. And just like Superman, it's not his superpowers that make Jail his world's greatest hero: it's his willpower to do the right thing and his compassion for others--even those he is fighting against.
Such a man can inspire a world to fight back against evil--to be better than they ever thought they could be. This is the true power of a hero that Schmerman and his force are destined to contend with--and one they can't hope to defeat.
• This marks the first time Licht has talked about destroying Althea not for revenge but in order to build something new and better for all. It's the difference between a villain and a hero.
• I appreciated the fact that the creators remembered that, while we know Lynn has given up on Licht, Pele doesn't. And despite his obvious jealousy, he hopes that her love for Licht will be enough to help her pull through.
• What is the serious look Hina gives Pele during Lynn's surgery supposed to imply? Is it A) that she knows what it means for him to be able to do such a surgery and he better not try anything funny or B) that she is super focused and has no doubt Pele can and will save Lynn--and Pele is taken aback by this show of unconditional trust?
• It's an interesting juxtaposition that Jail is able to talk his opponent down but Licht is not able to do the same with his.
• Note: If you're going for the “hero just got killed” episode-ending cliffhanger, maybe you shouldn't show the character alive in your next episode preview. Kinda undercutting your dramatic tension a bit there.
Plunderer is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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