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Karasu wa Aruji o Erabanai (YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master) – 13

There isn’t an Olympic slalom course that has the twists and turns Karasu wa Aruji o Erabanai has. It’s always a tricky balance, trying to genuinely surprise the audience without seeming too pull the surprises out of you know where. If you can play fair – give the reader-viewer a real shot to figure stuff out – and still keep them from seeing it coming, you’re a damn good writer. And that clearly applies to Abe Chisato. I don’t feel cheated by any of the developments in the past few episodes and I only saw a couple of them (like the Natsuka one) coming. That said, I still have questions but we’ll get to them soon enough.

First things first, the matter of the rhetorical evisceration of Asebi. That Asebi is awful is pretty much indisputable at this point. The exact nature of her awfulness is a matter of interpretation to an extent, however. What we see here is a sublimely manipulative person with no concern whatsoever for the welfare of those she sees as beneath her (which is almost everybody). What’s really striking is that she appears to have no remorse or indeed, any sense that anything she did was wrong. She’s also cocky as hell, because she seems to presume she can twist Nazukihiko around her finger like she did his sister, despite the inescapable fact that he’s better at seeing around corners than a right-angle periscope.

There’s a lot of blame to go around here. Fujinami allows herself to be twisted, obviously lonely and desperate for companionship (and utterly sheltered). Asebi manoeuvers her into getting rid of Samomo (not to mention stealing Wakamiya’s letters to the other princesses), who Asebi sees as a risk to reveal her secret invitation of Kasuke to the Cherry Blossom Palace. But no excuses, Fujinami allows it to happen. And even if she didn’t intend for Samomo to die, she still killed her. And then we have Takimoto, who catches Fujinami in the act and then moves to cover it up (killing Kasuke in the process of doing so).

What was Asebi’s real thinking with Kasuke and the red kimono – did she intend for Masuho to be raped like she did Futaba? We’re not given an explicit answer, and as Wakamiya says, he can’t prove Asebi’s malice. But he knows what he knows and so does everyone else now, and he can certainly let Asebi know that he loathes her. The fact that Asebi is genuinely surprised to hear this is testament to how utterly disconnected from reality she is (very).

Needless to say, Asebi is far out of the running in the consort derby now. The next twist is that Hamayuu is present in the palace – having been secretly harbored by Masuho no Suseki after her seeming departure. And she and Nazukihiko are old “running mates” as he puts it – calling her Sumi, seemingly her given name. Here’s where I’m a bit uncertain, but I think the takeaway is that Sumi (is the similarity of her name and Sumio’s significant?) was a playmate of the crown prince as a child, but that the story of her parents being falsely accused or murder and executed and then being recruited as an assassin was true.

Indeed Sumi is right – Masuho no Suseki was the logical candidate and would have made great sense (even if we don’t really know why “only the Western House can protect” him). But Nazukihiko’s reason for rejecting her is related to his grand vision. As I suspected he styles himself a social reformer, and one of the reforms he seeks is to change the “warped” (by the Empress and the old Kin’u) relationship between the throne and the four houses. The only way he can do that is by marrying outside the four houses, thus avoiding showing favoritism to any of them. And since Sumi is now a free agent, having bailed on her mission for the South, she qualifies.

Not exactly a storybook romance, and Sumi’s condition that she tend to the Prince on his deathbed is rather grim foreshadowing. But it fits who Wakamiya is. This will hardly make things simple. He may be avoiding favoring one house over the others but now Wakamiya has indeed made enemies of all of them. And he seems about to lose one of the very few allies he can count on, as Yukiya declares his intention to go back to his family in the North, having served the Prince for a year as promised.

This is not a simple matter. Yukiya clearly feels loyalty to Nazukihiko – in fact I would say he’s come to love him as a surrogate older brother. But he loathes the world the Prince inhabits as much as loves the Prince himself. Yukiya can’t understand the compulsion Wakamkiya feels to be at the heart of this nest of vipers – why not let that burden fall on Natsuka (as so many seem to want) and influence things from the shadows? If he does, the boy promises, he’ll stay and serve. But Wakamiya refuses, protesting that if being the Kin’u is taken from him there will be nothing left. Yukiya then follows through on his pledge to depart – the reason being, clearly, that he has no wish to see Nazukihiko cut down by traitors and no doubt in his mind that it will happen eventually.

This represents a transition in the story, clearly. New developments are teased – a strange monster with a big appetite, and a potentially important new face. And it seems very likely that Yukiya will wind up back in the service of the Prince, possibly sooner rather than later. But it’s going to be a while before we see those leads pursued, as Yatagarasu is taking a two-week break (there’s going to be a recap episode with cast commentary next weekend). That sucks, but it’s better than waiting an entire cour I suppose.

The post Karasu wa Aruji o Erabanai (YATAGARASU: The Raven Does Not Choose Its Master) – 13 appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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