Liked this one a lot, but I didn’t love it?

The big problem I’m always going to have with Narratively Convenient Amnesia storylines is that they’re inherently backwards-looking: the character’s past is obscured in some way, necessitating an incremental clarifying of actions and events that occurred before the show began. The core trauma/revelation is a prequel to the main series, and I sort of hate prequels? It’s storytelling dedicated to filling in blanks, rather than propelling characters forward; providing answers rather than asking questions. I want to see characters make new decisions, rather than learn why they made old ones.

As such… not a super-illuminative episode of Saber? We don’t really get additional insight into our characters, so much as reiterating their motivations: Touma keeps promises, Rintaro is a steadfast friend, and Kento’s going to Fix This all by himself. The addition of Luna’s name or whatever… okay? I don’t care. I can’t care, because Luna–for all her significance in flashbacks–isn’t even a character yet. She’s a plot point. Touma might as well have lost a stuffed animal that day, or a favorite book. I can’t care about her loss because there’s nothing there to lose. I don’t care if Touma finds her or not, beyond a vague That Would Be Nice For Touma feeling. I really hope this is the last we have to learn about Kento’s guilty conscience and Touma’s Narratively Convenient Amnesia, because I literally cannot muster up any enthusiasm for backstory about characters that only exist in memories.

As for the rest of this episode, it’s solid enough to still be in the upper tier of Saber episodes. There’s no greater sense of what Calibur and the Book Club are up to (every time Calibur says “universal truth” like it's an explanation, I roll my eyes so hard), but the tone of the episode is nicely settled in This Is Going To Get Worse Before It Gets Better, which makes for an enjoyable twenty minutes of superhero action and adventure. The focus is purely on Kento, Touma, and Rintaro, so everyone else gets very minor bits of business. (Favorite touch was Mei chewing out Kento for almost getting Rintaro killed. Mei’s great! I hope the show gives her meaty scenes in the future!) The whole story here is about Kento’s crushing guilt, and how his inability to share that burden has consequences for all the people in his life. It’s maybe not surprising or clever, but it’s efficient and effective.

I… this show is so special when it lets itself tell stories in the present with its phenomenal cast. When it thinks it needs to spend time with things that happened fifteen years ago, it becomes so much less compelling to me. And, like, I get it: Kento’s trapped in that moment he and his friends made that promise, right before it all fell apart for good, so it makes sense for the show to be trapped there as well. I just can’t find much pleasure in that storytelling. It’s nice to have a touching scene with Touma and Kento, but it’s a shame it needs to be grounded in events that we’ve only glimpsed in flashback.



BURY IT



“Are you sure you’re okay?”

It was a question Kento got all the time. He wondered if he heard it more than any other.

He wasn’t okay, of course. He hadn’t been okay in fifteen years, since the world was saved and his was destroyed. Fifteen years since his father had betrayed the Sword of Logos. Fifteen years since Luna went missing. Fifteen years since Touma forgot him. Fifteen years since he’d been happy.

He didn’t say any of that. He never did. He took that part of him, the part that spent every waking minute working to undo the shame and guilt of his father’s actions, and buried it under the mask of the man he hoped to be someday; a man who took joy in his friends and the life he lived.

He looked Touma in the eyes, as he’d done before with everyone he cared for, and said “Yes.”

It was strange how easy it was to lie to the people who loved him. He’d had years of practice, but he always thought it should hurt more. He wondered if the shame he felt for his father’s betrayal, and the lives it had ruined, left him incapable of feeling it for anything else.

It could be that. Or maybe it was that this lie was in service to his debt to Touma, another invisible kindness to his childhood friend, to spare him the hardship of the truth. He’d been glad that Touma couldn’t remember Luna, as cruel as that might sound. Better to leave the pain to Kento. It was his oldest friend, these days.

But those days were ending, and they were ending now. He’d made up his mind, and there was nothing for it now but to see it through.

Kento smiled at Touma, a smile that was almost honest in its relief, and said, “I know what must be done.”

He turned towards the door, and readied himself to destroy Calibur. He’d hated Kamijo for his monstrous villainy and incalculable cruelty, but he almost appreciated the symmetry of their upcoming battle. To go back to the spot where his life stopped, and close that book– no, to rewrite the ending? It was the sort of symbolism that would make Touma proud. He was going to fix this, in the place where it all went wrong.

It was finally going to be okay.

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