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Thunderbolt Fantasy S3 – Episode 6

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m eager to journey back into the harsh lands and bitter grudges of Thunderbolt Fantasy, as Shang finds himself with not one, but two separate demonic entities intent on his destruction. With Xing Hai and the Seven Blasphemous Deaths now reunited in form and focus, the Sorcerous Sword Index has never been in greater peril, to say nothing of the continuing efforts of the Divine Swarm, our recently cyborg-upgraded monk, or the murder princess and her courtly underlings.

All of this is nothing but a source of aggravation to our reluctant hero, though I imagine Lin is absolutely in his element. After so recently lamenting the lack of any good villains lately, he now finds himself at the fulcrum of a conflict featuring no less than four nefarious factions, and cozying up to an organization whose ambitions are only matched by their inflated sense of righteousness. Let’s see where his schemes lead him next as we check out a fresh episode of Thunderbolt Fantasy!

Episode 6

“Huo Shi Ming Huang,” the leader of the Order of the Divine Swarm. We’ve come to understand the perspective of his subordinates, but I’m quite curious about the intentions of the man himself

And we open on a necessary flashback, with Shang, Lang, and Tian Ming all squaring off for combat in the battle that presumably cost her her sight. Though Shang would argue to the contrary, he’s prone to taking the weight of the whole world’s sins on his shoulders, so I’m curious to see just how responsible he truly is for Tian Ming’s misfortune

Always nice to return to the energetic cinematography of this show. These puppets’ limited range of high-speed articulation necessitates a fair degree of rapid cuts between closeups, as theoretically singular strikes are divided into smaller poses – first hand on scabbard, then the twist of the foot, then the lunge of the strike. The puppeteers do a marvelous job of infusing the puppets with personality through character acting, but the snappy camera work is also a key collaborator in creating these fights’ energetic final effect

Convincing rain effects, too. Nothing like some pouring rain to juice the drama of a fated confrontation

Lang helpfully informs us that this foe outmatching them is indeed Huo Shi Ming Huang himself

“Only a blade whose existence defies reality can hope to destroy me.” I imagine he intended that as an idle boast, but that’s not the sort of advice you should be offering to the bearer of the Sorcerous Sword Index

Ah, he’s actually attempting to goad Shang into revealing his weapons

“With unlimited power at your disposal, you remain a coward without the force of will to wield it.” Ming Huang would of course interpret Shang’s refusal to exploit the Index as cowardice. Anyone who believes they personally hold the secret of a better world is likely to use any weapon they can get their hands on – in contrast, Shang possesses the humility to understand that he is not qualified to reshape the world in his own image, and that he could not control how the effects of unlocking the Index would spiral beyond his own intentions

“I’ve never seen a clearer case of pearls before swine.” Basically how every villain sees Shang’s choice. Without a limit on our ambitions, we will always trend towards different forms of tyranny – the villains of Thunderbolt Fantasy often seem like they’re striving towards the stagnant, “perfect” end states of Urobuchi’s other works. The sympathetic, human element in these stories is always fallible, and it is in their fallibility that they retain sympathy for the vulnerable elements of society. I imagine an Urobuchian hero could only dream of “victory” in the way Legend of the Galactic Heroes’ Yang Wen-li so humbly described: “just a few short generations of peace, nothing more”

Tian Ming suggests they retreat, and Ming Huang sets his sights on her. Nice characterization of his menace conveyed through his slow, confident march forward in contrast with his opponents’ reckless, desperate movements

Ooh, lovely flame effect for Lang’s enraged counter after Ming Huang scars Tian Ming. The clash of water particles against flames is an impressive use of practical effects

This show frequently serves as a triumphant demonstration of both how practical effects tend to be more impressive than CG, and also how CG is best used as a compliment to practical effects, adding flourishes that simply setting fires or detonating rocks cannot achieve

“I choked at my chance to end the fight, and ran with my tail between my legs.” Shang seems to only overestimate his abilities to the extent where he feels regret for not accomplishing the impossible. A tough road he’s chosen

“Any sacrifice is acceptable so long as the Index is safe? I can’t do that.” The burden of being an avatar of the greater good is too much for him if it means sacrificing those he loves the most – a common lament of Urobuchi’s heroes

His inability to reunite with Tian Ming is an emblem of his humanity; he might have done “what was right,” but his personal feelings demand he find something better to bring to her

Can Yun interrupts this ponderous heart-to-heart by nervously asking what they do next. Not really one for the grand moral lamentation, that Can Yun

Shang decides they must return to the Void Junction to continue seeking the Seven Blasphemous Deaths

After bringing up the Enigmatic Gale, the rest of the party are introduced to Lin’s awful nendoroid, and are appropriately horrified. Extremely good character acting for Shang regretfully dragging it out of his sack and revealing it to the team

“I will always be by your side! No need to feel lonely!” The puppeteers are having way too much fun with this ridiculous gimmick

“It’s delightful to see my comrades truly understand me.” Lin has always dreamed of being the ultimate Little Stinker, and now he has the form necessary to make that a reality

Elsewhere, our cyborg monk is searching through that one stretch of bushes so much of this show’s action is apparently adjacent to

Some of the princesses’ men arrive and attempt to detain him. After non-lethally dispatching them, he states he might lead them to Shang, so long as they bring him to their leader

The soldiers agree that it’s better to at least bring back this weird dude than to risk the princesses’ wrath bringing back nothing. The downfall of many a tyrant: when your own subordinates are too terrified to bring you information that might displease you, you end up lacking the honest eyes and ears necessary to rule. I believe Toyotomi Hideyoshi suffered greatly from this issue, with glowing reports of his Korean invasion leaving him unaware of the disastrous situation on the ground

Over in the Void Junction, Lin reintroduces himself to Xing Hai with maximum hair-tossing, prompting an immediate and appropriate “what the fuck is he doing here”

“Of all the imbecilic… you actually trusted a word he said!?” It surprised me too, Xing Hai

“I want to make one thing clear: there is nothing on this man’s mind except how to take pleasure in foiling the ambitions of others!” Fair, fair. She’s really doing everything she can to help these Divine Swarm blockheads, but villains apparently just can’t help themselves when it comes to alliances with the Enigmatic Gale

Ooh, this is great. Lin defends himself by highlighting the precise nature of the plans he foiled regarding Xing Hai, which will of course sound sympathetic to Jun Po on their face, even though his motivation was clearly just to savor the suffering of one more defeated former ally

“He’s a sadist who takes sick pleasure in the suffering of villains!” I agree with you, but you’re not helping your own case, Xing Hai

And of course, Lin defends himself by appealing to Jun Po’s belief in the righteousness of his own cause, stating that someone who deposes tyrants would obviously gain no pleasure from thwarting such a righteous cause. Lin, you are incredible

“Demoness… I believe dredging up your own bitter experiences serves no purpose in this situation.” He just can’t help but rub even more salt in the wound. What a glorious bastard – he is indeed enjoying this situation to the utmost

Jun Po believes Lin also seeks the Index, and thus won’t turn on them until it’s in their possession. Little does he know how petty Lin can be

Over at Phoenix Light Fortress, we see exactly the problem I mentioned earlier: our murder princess demanding the heads of all the search parties’ leaders, simply for failing to discover Lang. You’re not gonna retain good help that way, princess!

Jun Po is of course scandalized by this betrayal of hard-working soldiers

Jun Po and and Lou Zhen share a charged Knowing Look as our monk greets the princess

The princess is shocked by his audaciousness in asking for soldiers, but cannot help but respect his crazy murderer vibes

And Done

And thus a fresh alliance of villains is forged, with Jun Po and Lou Zhen now united in their pursuit of Shang! Man, our poor Index-bearer just can’t catch a break these days, though I suppose at least this episode was mostly spent concocting schemes for his downfall, rather than putting any such schemes into action. Meanwhile, Lin is clearly relishing his preposterous alliance with the Order of the Divine Swarm, and making the most of this chance to rub former allies’ noses in his continued success. That conversation with Xing Hai was Lin at his absolute best, and I can’t wait to see her fury when all of this plays out pretty much exactly how she predicted. Nefarious schemes and fragile philosophies collide as Thunderbolt Fantasy continues its majestic march!

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