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Karasu wa Aruji o Erabanai (YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master) – 06

Another five minute episode of Yatagarasu in the books. Or so it felt like, anyway. You know a show is good when you keep checking the time, hoping there’s more left than there really is. When confronted with anime this good I tend to just sit there with a shit-eating grin, letting it wash over me. It’s not hard to see why Miyu Irino, who rarely takes TV anime roles these days, chose to accept this one. I’m just glad Kyougoku Yoshiaki and Pierrot thought of him – it’d be easy to forget about Irino, as little as we hear him these days.

The two plotilnes (and thus the first two novels, in effect) get more or less equal time this week. The princess thread has not been as interesting – or as fleshed out – as the one with Wakamiya and Yukiya. But this really clicked on both fronts. We begin with Fujinami and Samomo, and the former appears to be in ill-health. After the credits we jump to the Crown Prince’s hut, where last week’s cliffhanger left off. What’s Atsufusa’s game here? He claims to be loyal to his master Natsuka, but alarmed over what’s being done in his name. He offers a deal – if Wakamiya will safeguard Natsuka after he becomes Kin’u, Atsufusa will help with his ascension.

Wakamiya is obviously right to be suspicious here. Atsufusa may or may not be genuine, for starters. And even if he is, he may be giving his master too much credit – is Natsuka really divorced from the extremism rising under Rokon? Natsuka is a Sphinx to be sure – he seems to be trying to give himself plausible deniability above all else. I can’t shake the vibe, though, that he’s playing his mother, the Empress. The Crown Prince sets a test for Atsufusa, a chance to prove both his sincerity and his usefulness. We aren’t immediately told what it is, but all will become clear on the night of Tanabata.

Back among the princesses, Tanabata brings their politicking to a fever pitch. I admit to this point it’s become a bit difficult to keep all these cardinal directional houses straight, but it’s obvious Asebi (East) is the wooden spoon of the group. Fujinami is clearly in her camp, but as Cha-no-Hana (North) points out, Fujinami is supposed to neutral in al this. She’s arranged for her gifted (and seemingly infamous) koto to be present for Asebi to play in front of the other ladies at the Tanabata gathering, and a few eyes are opened with Asebi’s performance. But that it happened does breach some sort of protocol for the competition, clearly.

Cha-no-Hana makes it clear that something untoward happened with Asebi’s mother in the past. And she tries to connect it to the story of the lend of the “Lady Raven” – who came to the palace to seduce the prince and was killed. Asebi’s lady obviously takes offense at this, and once more the squabbling bubbles over into near-confrontation. Privately, Fujinami confirms to Asebi her desire to see her win her brother’s hand, and the latter makes a request for the lady Samomo (who they both seem to value as their primary confidante) to come into her service for a while.

Meanwhile, the Crown Prince and his two retainers await some sort of signal on the night of Tanabata. When it’s not forthcoming, he and Sumio depart for the Cherry Blossom Palace, leaving Yukiya behind with only a kumquat for company. But that signal does arrive – clearly this was Atsufusa’s task. It’s an invitation from Tooru (head of the Southern Clan, and Atsufusa’s uncle) to attend a meeting at the Southern Palace. It was proffered only after the Prince was seen to have departed for Tanabata at the Cherry Blossom Palace, on the assumption that it would thus be impossible to accept. But clearly Yukiya knows exactly what the plan was if it arrives. A quick mid-air switcheroo is executed, and the Prince is off to the meeting. Yukiya, as usual, is left holding the bag (and to do the dirty job).

There’s an awful lot to unpack here. Yukiya’s message to the angry women about Wakamiya’s letters is obviously a pointed one. Is it true, or a ruse? For Wakamiya, this seems to be all about the chance to confront his brother in a discreet setting, where things can be said openly for a change. And amongst the princesses, Shirotama (North) confronts Lady Hamayuu (South), offering favorable treatment if Hamayuu supports her to become Wakamiya’s bride. When that’s rebuffed, Shirotama shifts quickly to blackmail – she threatens to share the older woman’s “secret” unless she withdraws from the derby.

Oh what a tangled web we weave…. So much deception is being woven on all fronts here, but evidence suggests that Wakamiya may be better at that than anyone else – this game is being played on his turf, it seems. But is that enough to overcome the disadvantage he obviously has in terms of sheer number of allies? Quality over quantity is his mantra there, and to be sure he seems in much firmer control of his faction than Natuska is of his (or the Empress of hers, if indeed they aren’t one and the same).

The post Karasu wa Aruji o Erabanai (YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master) – 06 appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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