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I’m just sayin’, but Revenger deserves way more attention – and respect – than it’s getting.  There are times when my opinion about a series runs this dramatically counter to the general anime zeitgeist – maybe not as often as it feels like, but it happens.  It’s dangerous territory to say this, but I think the generally poor reception this show has gotten (in English, certainly) is symptomatic of how the anime audience has changed over the years.  And how the rise of light novel adaptations has helped shape expectations.  It’s sad that Urobuchi Gen’s least trope-y and most coherent work in years is probably the most ignored series he’s ever written.

Revenger is also an example of why original anime can really work (though it rarely works this well these days).  A writer – a good one, anyway – can walk into the room with a complete story that fits together exactly how they want.  They can tailor it exactly to the length of time they’re given to tell it.  An anime original in the hands of somebody like Urobuchi can be like a bespoke suit, while adaptations are off the rack.  Even the best material (be it silk or manga) isn’t going to fit as well as something custom tailored.  That’s why it’s so frustrating that so much original anime these days is pure polyester (and recycled at that).

Oh, well – that’s enough ranting for one night.  Plenty to talk about in this episode, which effectively (and elegantly) fitted all the pieces of the Revenger puzzle together so that next week can be free to wrap up the story.  Starting with Kanou, whose true reason for his actions regarding the opium is revealed.  He wants to drag the country in disorder (very Shishio-like), ostensibly as the final retribution for Shimoda.  In truth it’s because he wants to be the one to rule over the carnage – so, win-win for him.

Also explained: that piece of bitten gold Yuuen is periodically shown contemplating pensively.  And a rather poignant explanation it is, too.  This is painful on multiple levels, not least that it was Yuuen who inadvertently caused Yui’s suicide (or at least that’s how I would see it in his shoes).  He was the one who told her that the name of the man that killed her father Hirata-san (who effectively foresaw his own assassination and “conditionally” bit gold to try and thwart the opium traders), while he was delivering the hairpin Hirata had him make as a wedding gift (having no idea that Raizou and Yui were engaged).  What’s more, the hysterically distraught Yui bit gold for Raizou’s death, and Yuuen – not knowing the truth – swore the oath.

That coin is many things.  A moral and ethical dilemma, and a spotlight shone on the hypocrisy of what the Reben-ji do.  Indeed, from their perspective bitten gold is a solemn oath.  But Yuuen obviously doesn’t want to kill Raizou after finding out the truth.  Souji may not be an intellectual, but he’s slowly assembled the puzzle into an accurate picture.  For him carrying out the oath makes sense because it was not doing so that led the Reben-ji into the mess they’re currently in.  But of course, killing Raizou now – which Souji at least goes through the motions of planning to do – doesn’t solve any of those problems.  It fulfills the oath, but that’s all.

One of the things I like about what Urobuchi is doing here is that he doesn’t ignore the truth about the Reben-ji.  They’re hired killers.  As Souii says, there have been occasions where they’ve killed people who didn’t deserve it or were genuinely remorseful simply because that was the deal they signed up for.  What kind of solemnity is that?  Yet, in spite of this ugly truth, I at least find all the Reben-ji to be likeable.  They’re complicated, interesting people who aren’t untroubled (apart debatably from Nio) by what their existence signifies.  I would much rather they don’t all die in the finale, which frankly seems very likely (and would fit the Urobutcher profile).

Because there is nuance and subtlety to the writing here, there are still moral differences between the Reben-ji and those who oppose them despite the above.  Shishido is a straight-up sociopath, a sadist and in effect a serious killer.  Kanou is a megalomaniacal zealot.  And Sada’s revenger group isn’t the least bit concerned about the ramifications of their job, or the least bit choosy about who they accept work from.  Yuuen is indeed working with Isarizawa, and combining their resources they manage to smoke out that Sada’s group is using an old English lighthouse offshore as a base.  And that, it seems, is where the final battle is going to take place.


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