This episode…well. They actually… Ew. Let’s go ahead and get right into this, so I can go jump into a shower immediately afterwards. Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions, please share it on Facebook or Twitter! It really helps. And if you’ve got any comments or questions, please hit me up @SageShinigami.
1. “Black Princess” picks up on the same plot points we left episode 8 with, only a few days later. Marrine is taking the forces of Waldlind down to Starck, the neighboring country to Altkirk, in order to conquer their lands and make her way into her cousin Villar’s territory. The Lord of those lands is here asking Villar for help, and nearly everyone seems to believe Villar should use this opportunity to work alongside the people of Pavel. Siluca desperately pleads with Villar, saying this is the best chance they have of resisting the forces of Waldlind, but Villar turns both her and the Lord of Pavel down out of respect for Alexis’ attempt at peace talks.
There’s a long game at play here, as Villar has displayed his strategic prowess time and again. However, for now he’s managed to tick off everyone around him. He suggests to the people of Pavel they should simply acquiesce and become allies of the Fantasy Alliance, something their Lord views as utterly contemptuous. Siluca gets so upset with Villar she’s dismissed from the court. And then there’s Mirza.
There’s more to be said about Mirza’s actions–so, so much–later, but for now it’s worth reminding everyone Mirza has always preferred the path of a dictator. He was only ever aligned with Villar because he believed he was a man who would do anything it took to unite the continent, and if he ever believed the contrary, he would take Villar’s lands for himself. That was literally his first appearance and first major conversation. Let’s keep that in mind.
2. After Siluca gets kicked out of court for being too forceful, Theo brings her along on a tour of the country. There’s a bit of continuity here, where we’re reminded Altkirk exists right next to a spooky forest full of magical beings, including an entire city of vampires–Theo even saves a vampire kid from a giant insect during the middle of a montage scene.
But the two of them are forced to take shelter inside a giant tree from the rain while traveling, where the first big plot point of the episode happens. Drenched from the storm, the two take off their clothes while Theo tries to start a fire. (As a sidenote, I could’ve sworn Siluca was a master of several types of magic–she can’t make a single fireball for warmth?) While they’re trapped, Theo finally decides to tell her how he feels about her…though he holds back on doing so directly until Siluca forces him to be clear.
It’s hard to come down one way or another on this part of the episode. For sure, Siluca originally thought of Theo as a means to try and make up for failing to stop the monsters from killing the archdukes. But somehow she’s gone from looking at him like a political pawn to a man worthy of her affections. I’m not against the pairing, but it feels like not much work has been done for these two to have fallen in love with one another, not when eight episodes prior they barely tolerated one another.
….And yet, there’s the side of me cheering for this because this is clearly where the relationship was going and they’re not endlessly teasing it. In other series, characters dance around the question, blush endlessly, and no one ever approaches anyone else until the epilogue, if then. There was some of that here, but we’re not even ten episodes in before the show tosses that trope right out. They purposefully avoid going half way with it too, as Siluca stops Theo the other anime cliche of merely saying “You’re very important to me” (which a friend could say about another friend) and makes him admit to being in love with her. That’s the kind of straightforward romance that’s so rare outside of actual romance anime series, you can’t really be mad about it.
3. Elsewhere, we get to see how Marrine’s first active military campaign is going. The forces of Pavel don’t seem to be an issue, but Mirza cements himself as the strongest warrior on the show thus far by easily tearing through some of the same armored crossbow users that took out Aishela in a matter of seconds. In addition, the unique way the land of Pavel is set up makes it impossible to actually conquer the land without suffering heavy losses.
But Marrine’s mage advisor Aubeste comes up with a foolproof plan: there’s a marshland near the castle with a high level of concentrated Chaos that can be turned into a miasma called Chaos Hazard. Using the wind to send the Chaos Hazard to the fortress, the army there would be overwhelmed, and Waldlind’s forces could take the fortress without trouble. If that plan sounds both grimy and so absurdly overpowered you’re wondering, “Why don’t people use this all the time?”, the answer is it’s a violation of the agreed upon Lords’ Code. In effect, this is a war crime. Especially since the Chaos is exactly what all the Lords are trying to unite the kingdom to stop.
But Marrine doesn’t really care about the “rules”. She’s already been forced to leave the man she loves, so at this point she’s willing to abandon everything else as well if it means she gets to become ruler of the continent and bring an end to the era of Chaos. And with this, we’ve set up one thing for certain: though Marrine always tries to make the most pragmatic decisions, they wind up hurting her in the long run. More on that in a bit.
Anyway, as expected the plan goes off literally without a hitch. The miasma leaves everyone in the castle helpless, and Marrine’s soldiers are able to storm the place and murder all the sick and injured soldiers. Aubeste’s plan here wasn’t just smart, it was foolproof, and Marrine’s forces murder every soldier in the castle unmercifully as a display of strength to all neighboring forces. She’s making a statement here, and it could set her up as a major villain in this, if they go that path.
4. One of the cooler small parts of this episode came from watching Aubeste stir up the Chaos in the first place. For one, I always love when creators actually come up with incantations for spells; it shows they’re willing to put the work into developing their lore to make telling a high fantasy story worth it to begin with. It’s also great how Aubeste wasn’t able to simply cast a spell here and be fine–the miasma causes his nose to bleed and nearly takes out the soldier and other mage with him. It makes the miasma seem even more deadly, just before it invades the castle and makes everyone there helpless.
5. Alright, here we are: the reason this episode is so controversial in the first place. Mirza watches as Marrine’s forces lay waste to the Lord of Pavel’s castle, amused at how she’s willing to make the tough choices. Having already seen how powerful an ally Mirza is, Marrine sets up an arrangement to meet with him. He agrees, but requests she attend without her army. She acquiesces, and what follows is the most logical occurrence given what’s happened up to this point.
After Villar has proven himself not to be the bloodthirsty man Mirza expects him to be on two separate occasions, Mirza decides to abandon him. Meanwhile, Marrine has proven there’s no lengths she’ll go to in order to conquer the lands and end the age of Chaos. She wants to achieve the goal her father and her grandfather failed at. But Mirza’s pretty pissed Villar has veered off the path he believes a proper ruler should tread, and so he wants an assurance. Marrine has pretty obviously been in love with Alexis from day one, and so to prove her loyalty to their union…he requests a “night” with her. More specifically, he outright claims he’ll make her one of his conquests.
Now here’s where a lot of people get frustrated with this show: Marrine agrees. I want to highlight that, because watching the clip making its way around the internet you might be under the impression what happens at the end of this episode is non-consensual. But no, after an episode in which Marrine has already displayed a frankly surprising amount of cruelty for her fellow human, she sees this as just another wall to climb. She even has her ladies in waiting undress her before the deed happens.
Now yes. The scene itself–which is shown in its entirety rather than the elegant cutaway we got with Theo/Siluca–is awkward. Watching it made me feel dirty, and a little disgusted, especially when they spent two episodes going into excruciating detail on how how much Alexis and Marrine love each other, but that’s the point.
For one thing, it’s awkward because watching this isn’t meant to be arousing or romantic. This entire episode has been about testing Marrine’s boundaries, seeing how far she’s willing to go for the sake of her goals. She’s already done something unforgivable by waging chemical warfare on a castle of troops, all in service of becoming the ultimate ruler of the continent. This is just one more thing she’s willing to do if it means supporting her army. After all, Mirza isn’t just a powerful warrior, he’s a warrior-prince to a land capable of bolstering her forces.
Earlier, I mentioned Marrine is a character who has continually made the most pragmatic decisions in the series, but those pragmatic decisions often do her more harm than good in the short and long-term. Leaving Alexis instead of marrying him restored the decades long tension between the Union and the Alliance. Rebuffing Theo and Siluca lost her three territories so far. And that happens here too; she immediately regrets her decision, even shying away from any affection during the act. She’s gone from betraying the rules of the land, to betraying her love, and ultimately herself. But this is business, and there’s an agency to her actions that’s making her the most compelling character on the show right now.
Of course, whether or not she keeps her agency going forward is what’s going to decide whether this ending elevates the show, or if its just schlocky garbage meant to keep our attention for another week.
Record of Grancrest War is available on Crunchyroll and Hulu.