Thunderbolt Fantasy Sword Seekers 2
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Thunderbolt Fantasy: Sword Seekers 2 (puppet TV) ?
How would you rate episode 10 of
Thunderbolt Fantasy: Sword Seekers 2 (puppet TV) ?
It's finally happened guys – Thunderbolt Fantasy has fully outed itself as a Chaos Dragon spinoff. Ever since the Funky Monk-ey's destiny became apparent, it was only a matter of time before Xie handed the blade over to her dopamine-deficient acquaintance, sending Dong Li into hell in the process. But I didn't expect that Di(ddy) Kong would turn out to have the exact same name – Lou Zhen Jie – as his D&D prototype from all those years ago. You know, Gen Urobuchi is really living the dream. The man is being paid to write high-profile puppet shows starring his goth qi-channeling swordsman OC. That's like the ultimate goal of anyone who has ever created a DeviantArt account. I'm green with envy.
This pair of episodes opens with the long-awaited emotional climax to the Princess of Cruelty's storyline. Having momentarily shaken off the Seven Blasphemous Deaths' control, Xie decides to try one last solo offensive against Shang in a desperate bid to regain her dignity. She loses of course – but Shang is so impressed by her performance that he decides to let the young murderess go. It takes a lot of mettle to resist the mind control sword, so Shang takes that combined with her determination in battle as proof that she's redeemable deep down. Xie is shook at first, but she seems to take the older man's words to heart. She leaves him to deal with the sword and runs off to ponder the future somewhere by herself. Unfortunately, she runs into the wrong person on the way, but we'll get into that later.
The middle of this ninth episode delivers some weirdly late setup for what's going to go down between Vape Wizard and Glasses Cop. At least Urobuchi takes the opportunity to slip in some Hot Yaoi Content™ in the form of Xiao leading Lin on a leash. (He could slip out of those ropes at any time...but he won't.) Anyway, this scene gives Xiao all of the asshole policeman traits that the story forgot to work into the character earlier, like stealing contraband and not actually doing his job. Basically, Xiao proposes that Lin use his thief knowledge to help him offload all of his improperly confiscated goods in Dong Li. In exchange, Xiao will take Lin's stash of cool swords (which he took from Mie Tian Hai last season – nice callback) and sell them back in Xi You. They'll both profit off this, unless Xiao finds a way to betray Lin, which he absolutely plans to do. For his part, Lin stands around acting like the officer's truly got him in a pickle, while tightening his own noose around the constable's neck. For all of his confidence, it appears that Officer Teeth is actually on the ropes himself.
Next episode we learn what Lin pulled on the guy – at some point, he swapped out Xiao's special glasses for fakes (either by intruding on him in his sleep or in the bath, use your imagination) and then switched the packages intended for Dong Li and Xi You. When the boxes are opened, their respective countries immediately identify the stolen merchandise, and Xiao is exposed as a crook. His reputation ruined, Fox Cop starts running frantically through the streets like a stupid idiot baby with his sword out. To my knowledge, he's still in possession of the Night of Mourning, so that'll probably get busted out in some sort of last-ditch effort to save his reputation. Otherwise, his comeuppance has finally hit him, and it's appropriately petty for a man of his character. For all of his bluster, it looks like the Enigmatic Gale has taught him a lesson in topping from the bottom.
This brings us back to the big bad Buddhist boy, Dong Li's worst therapist, the perpetual walking Evanescence song who's just renounced his vow of celibacy to a sword: Lou Zhen Jie. Formerly known as Di Kong, it seems that he waltzed into Xie's shack while she was having her showdown with Shang and fell under the thrall of the Seven Blasphemous Deaths. Seeing as he's never experienced positive emotions before, this drives Di Kong way crazier than most other people. He's immediately 100% committed to drowning the world in blood for the sake of Aoi Yuuki's ASMR voice (which is admittedly understandable), and he decides to start with her previous master.
So that means Xie gets killed off right after her big epiphany to set up the monk as the serious threat. I'm somewhat disappointed by this, especially since Xie is the only female cast member this time around. Like, I get that this sort of stakes-raising shocker death of a sympathetic bad guy is basically what happened to the Screaming Phoenix Killer last season, and his bits turned out great in hindsight, but Xie went through an exorbitant amount of punishment prior to this tragic end. At the moment, it just feels like things were cut unnecessarily short for her. I think some extra backstory would've helped bring her character together. What made her so unsure of herself that she felt it necessary to become a hyper-capable killer to prove her worth? What were the Huo Shi Ming Huang doing for her, and what drove her to join them? Urobuchi is such a strong writer that some of his most complex characters don't get their backstories revealed at all, but when it came to Xie, I do feel like a dip in the ole' flashback well could have smoothed things out. Oh well. There's still time for her to get some Sword of Life and Death-style retroactive characterization when the show eventually turns its attention to the rest of the Bug Bunch. The plot is currently getting railroaded by a certain Original Character Do Not Steal, and while he's great, I do wonder what other threats may be lurking in this land of wuxia.
You know, I just realized what a troll move it was to end season one by teasing the Huo Shi Ming Huang and then spend the second season building up an entirely different threat. It's easy to believe that Urobuchi played Lou Zhen Jie like an enormous griefer throughout his D&D campaign. Anyway, one Hot Topic makeover later and the newlywed Mr. Seven Blasphemous Deaths has taken up murdering people in the streets to please his sword bride. He acts all chivalrous by calling it “milady” and stuff, which is extremely funny. Soon enough, he learns that the Seal Guardians' divine swords can hurt his Aoi Yuuki sword, so he swears to wipe them all off the face of the earth. Aoi Yuuki sword tells him to hold back at first, but then she realizes that Lou can take out divine swords with his qi power alone, so she's really caught a good one his time. You know that a guy is mental when the demon sword in control of his soul starts to think so.
With only three episodes left, the gang is still broken up and the season's big bad is now fully unleashed. I can't predict the show's endgame at this point, but I do hope that it can at least match the first season's spectacular conclusion. If anything, Urobuchi has proved himself adept at this sort of stakes-raising wizardry, so I'm pretty confident that the show will manage. Anyway, may love bloom eternal between friends and foes alike, and may god have mercy on our souls.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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