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1. Marching starts the story heading towards a major moment in Atlatan’s history, as it’s six months after the first episode’s disaster and the Fantasy Alliance and Factory Union are finally heading for their first major meeting. Before that though, there’s a bit of bittersweet news: Villar’s head mage (who I’ve been calling Big Red for the last couple weeks but is apparently named….*checks notes*…Margaret? Eh, why not.) is having a birthday! Unfortunately, it’s her twenty-fifth birthday though, which according to the Earl’s rules mean he has to end his contract with her.
25 is a really peculiar age for this, and is part of why I can’t decide if Villar’s a really decent or really shitty person. In Japan, a big cultural thing is the the sale of a cake covered in whipped cream and topped with strawberries, sold exclusively during the holiday season. But like most items sold during the holidays, once the day passes the leftovers are sold at a massive discount. So this gave rise to a really unfortunate comparison where women past the age of 25 are referred to as Christmas Cakes: “because no one wants them after the 25th”. So the Villar only picking up young women and then letting them go immediately after they turn 25 is…yeah. But we’ll get into another way to look at that shortly.
After realizing it’s her birthday, Villar takes the opportunity to throw Margaret a massive ballroom-style party. It’s incredibly lavish, complete with a full scene of classic ballroom dancing–there’s a questionable moment that felt needlessly sexual, and I’m pretty sure anyone who’s seen Welcome to the Ballroom thought it was trash, but overall I was pretty impressed. There’s a sadness to this beautiful moment, even if its weakened by the fact that we haven’t had nearly enough time to get invested in Margaret and Villar’s relationship.
2. Of course, this ain’t a ballroom dancing anime so it doesn’t take long before they change it up. Theo gets inspired by Villar and Margaret and invites Siluca to dance…but since he’s a country bumpkin, he’s got a classic case of having two left feet. He improves over the course of their dancing, but it’s still not nearly enough for Lord Mirza, who’s had a problem with Theo since they met last episode.
To Theo’s credit, while people are constantly calling him bland, it’s actually starting to seem more like he’s adaptable to whatever situation he’s placed in. When he was the boss he adapted fairly quick to leading his troops into battle, but now that he’s under Villar’s direct command he’s able to play a servant gracefully. Mirza insults him directly and Theo still plays it off like it’s no big deal, leading to him being challenged to a duel.
It’s hard to tell if Mirza was just screwing around because he didn’t want to go for a killing blow, or if Theo simply didn’t want to attack a guest of his master, but the match is pretty close even though it ends in Mirza’s favor. More than anything, it feels like he’s angry at the idea that anyone could follow Theo because he’s so peaceful a character. Mirza firmly believes that it’s impossible to put an end to the war between the two sides without a lot of casualties, which is something we see later.
3. After the party, Villar and Margaret get to spend one final moment together. Margaret finally confesses her feelings and her desire to stay, and Villar points out that if he offered her preferential treatment it would only cause trouble with the other mages. Moreover, as it turns out she’s a priestess belonging to another land. But none of that feels like the real reason he’s turning her away.
In their final night together, Villar explains to Margaret his complex past. The child of royalty from two different families, when hostilities initially broke out each one of them took a different side. His mother was the daughter of the man who founded the Fantasy Alliance, while his father defected to the Union. Unable to return to her own people, she took her hatred out on Villar, abusing him (emotionally if not physically) and claiming that he was never her son. Despite this, up until now Villar has been portrayed as a bit of a mama’s boy. He eventually came up with the belief that she did so so he wouldn’t be shunned out of his family title and land by his father. Seemingly, we’ll never know if its true, but he’s simply chosen to find a reason to love the woman that gave birth to him over hating her.
That’s basically saint-like behavior. And near as we can tell, he’s never abused his power over the women he’s entered into contracts with–they actually all seem incredibly happy. Cynically you could look at it as him kicking them out once they turn 25 because they’re no longer young and pretty, but the stated reason is specifically to allow them to get married and have children. This implies that the world of Atlatan is very different than our own. Viewed from another angle, he basically gives them an internship under one of the most powerful men in the country, then releases them to pursue whatever opportunities they desire. Yeah, he lays it on more than a little thick with his bullshit “no one loves women more than me” phrasing, but all signs point towards him being a great guy. Just one who suffered enough abuse from his mother he’s too terrified to commit to a woman that clearly loves him, which is more tragic than anything else.
4. This is the only absurd part to the episode. Because apparently Siluca gets seasick, she’s requested that Villar and his company travel by land to the meeting with the other Lords. And because Theo and Lassic conquered the lands of Sievis, the lands surrounding Artuk are pretty upset, and want to make a retaliatory strike. So instead of making moves to try and stop that, they’ve decided to simply conquer the lands that have a problem with them on the way.
I have this feeling that Villar is definitely going to die in the next arc. He’s asked Theo to come along because the Rossini family (those in charge of his home of Systina) will be present at the meeting, and I can’t shake the feeling Theo will do something minorly heroic that will have Villar hand over the lands of Artuk in his dying breaths. And while that’d be fairly predictable, I’m kind of okay with it. The one thing I wish this show would do is at least try to pretend like conquering someone’s land isn’t as easy as showing up on their doorstep and killing everyone there. *coughs* Speaking of…
5. Allow me to present a story in three pictures. Mirza requests to be allowed to go to one of the castles on his own and speak to the lords there in the hopes of getting them to stand down peacefully. After informing them to hand over their crests and abandon the castle (even allowing them to take whatever possessions they wanted from there), they decide they’ll instead send a message by killing Mirza. So. A quick flashback to something Theo realized after fighting Mirza…
And as for how that fight ended…
It’s a bit OP, but Mirza clearly isn’t screwing around. This is a man that believes in wiping out your enemy with overwhelming force in order to lead to the smallest number of casualties. And so far, his plan is working. Jeez.
Record of Grancrest War is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.