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Karasu wa Aruji o Erabanai (YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master) – 12

Wakamiya may just be entering magnificent bastard territory.

Though some of you are surely tired of my repeating it by now, Karasu wa Aruji o Erabanai is really great. It’s great because it doesn’t just do one thing well, but a bunch – and exceptionally, too. It’s clear that Abe Chisato’s writing is spectacular – the mysteries make sense, the reveals happen neither too fast or too slow, the characters are three-dimensional and fascinating. And Pierrot is just doing Pierrot things here. They know how to adapt, period – but this sort of historical fantasy just seems to be their absolute sweet spot (see: Yona, Akatsuki no). And without a huge budget Kyougoku Yoshiaki and the design team are delivering a gorgeous end product (just as they did with Yona).

It’s all kind of a perfect storm. And then, having the sense to cast Miyu Irino – quite simply one of the best seiyuu of any generation – in this against-type role really seals the deal. Miyu doesn’t act in anime that much these days (I think this is mostly by choice) but clearly, he chooses carefully when he does. Nazukihiko is a force of nature – Kin’u indeed, he’s as if of another world. What kept running through my mind as I watched this tense and gripping episode play out is “what a charmer he is”. His bluntness is off the charts – a couple of times I just broke out laughing.

What Wakamiya also is, of course, is scary smart. He’s orchestrated all this like Seiji Ozawa, and this was the climactic passage of the first movement. He’s gathered his three remaining suitors together to break them down one by one – to reveal their secrets, to lay their natures bare for all to see. He starts with Shiratama, and in some ways her evisceration is the most straightforward because her sins are already mostly on the table. What I sense in Wakamiya’s grilling of Shiratama is a vein of sympathy, as the youngest candidate and one who’s clearly been manipulated at all turns (especially by Cha-n-Hana). He uses harsh words – he seems to know no other way – citing her lack of initiative as “laziness”. But he does it to force Shiratama to finally stand up for herself.

If the Prince came to this meeting truly intending to choose a consort (which I think he pretty clearly did not) Shiratama would in many ways have been the easiest choice. He has good relations with the North and a Northerner as his closest advisor, and they seem pretty sane as a group (by Yamauchi standards). That he did what he did suggests to me that Nazukihiko was putting Shiratama first – giving her a chance to be happy rather than sentencing her to a life of misery at age 14. That would be a pretty selfless act, but one which makes his own path forward much more complicated.

And then there were two. Masuho no Suseki has drawn the short straw plot-wise, but she emerged as my favorite. There’s been no obvious shockers with her, and indeed almost no exposition about her Western clan. Is that building to something later? Who’s to say. And indeed, especially given revelations later in the episode, absent some unknown reason it’s somewhat puzzling that Wakamiya didn’t choose her. Her grilling focuses on pride more than anything. And she clearly has plenty of it. Masuho user her platform to plead Hamayuu’s case, and not unconvincingly. Wamakaiya’s rebuttal that he can’t do anything for Hamayuu when she’s not present to make her own case is logical, but it’s as much for Masuho’s benefit as anyone.

I think Masuho would, as the Prince suggests, make a fine empress. I also think she doesn’t want the job, but still – he might have chosen her anyway. Knowing that he wasn’t going to Nazukihiko pushes her away, makes it easier for her to refuse him so that she doesn’t have the dishonor of having him refuse her. I feel there’s another shoe to drop with Masuho no Susuki and her clan – that slate is just too blank at this point. But with her out of the running that seemingly clears the stage for Asebi, which is certainly the direction the plot has suggested more than any other.

For a bit there, I was wondering if this was going to all end in that straightforward a fashion. That would have been uncharacteristic of Yatagarasu though, and I should have trusted my instincts. I’ve been wondering for a while if Asebi could possibly be as much the feckless naif she appears to be. And we got our answer – a thunderous “no”. Is she in love with Wakamiya? Unequivocally – and she’s the only candidate who is. She’s also the only one with whom he shares a history (which he of course remembers). But there’s far more to Asebi’s story than that.

Seriously, this show just has the juiciest twists – what a ride. And they make sense, and are always foreshadowed (though never obviously). What’s undeniable here is that Asebi directly caused the deaths of two people – Samomo and Kasuke. Who’s Kasuke? The Eastern manservant she summoned against all protocol to the Cherry Blossom Palace to deliver information about her mother he refused to put into writing because it was so dangerous. He was the raven killed by Takimoto (Kazumi was indeed the wounded one Sumio found – and that of his own doing).

Kasuke was also the raven Asebi apparently sent to rape her older sister Futaba – thus forcing her to concoct the disfiguring illness excuse and recuse herself from the derby. And what’s really striking here is Asebi’s detached response to Wakamiya’s revelations. Clearly it would never occur to her that she did anything wrong – a girl in her position should do everything in her power to get what she wants. It’s only her right, after all. She’s far, far scarier than Shiratama – basically a child lashing out with almost comical lack of subtlety. Asebi is cold as ice and seemingly devoid of any remorse or even sense of embarrassment at being caught out.

It should also be noted that Nazukihiko is extremely smart, well-informed, or most likely both to have lamped out all this. But with all that now on the table, where does he go from here? Karasu wa Aruji o Erabanai has obviously surprised me more than once, but it’s hard to concoct a scenario where Wakamiya can marry Asebi now. But even with this contest imploded as only he can implode it, he still does need to choose a consort at some point. Is that Hamayuu come back into the picture, the South chosen against the run of play? Futaba, the Eastern princess who should have been at the rite? Or someone else whose entry into the narrative hasn’t even occurred yet? As with everything about this series, it’s fascinating to ponder and should be exciting to find out.


The post Karasu wa Aruji o Erabanai (YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master) – 12 appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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