Interesting episode! Not one that was a blast to watch, but one that’s pretty appealing in its subtext.

The beats of the story… not that great? We’ve got our reformed SoL (minus a wandering Ren), complete with Sophia at her post, and it all gives an air of Q1 storytelling: the Book Club are doing some vague scheme, Touma and Rintaro are buddying up for the potential save, the Southern Base is nowhere to be found, and Zooous wants to brawl with Blades. It’s a little formulaic, basically mashing up an early episode’s weightless Megid plot with a more recent Megid Has A Grudge Against A Swordsman plot. There’s a little bit of additional juice from how much the cast is firing on all cylinders, but the structure here is nothing to rave about.

The thing that makes it work, though, is how it’s both a story about two dudes needing to save some lady, and a subversion of that type of story. It’s about Rintaro Needing A Win, to the detriment of Mei’s actual personhood, but it’s also highly critical of stories about men needing to salvage their self-confidence while a woman is in peril.

Like, the thing I love about this otherwise-problematic story (Mei’s more or less off the table as a character after the opening, which, as a Mei fan? NO THANKS!) is that it’s hyper-aware of the optics on this, and leans into it in order to subvert that trope. The point of this story is that Rintaro, for all of his caring about Mei, is only thinking of himself here, and therefore can’t possibly be the hero this story needs.

Rintaro, from the first scene, is completely in his own head. He feels ashamed at his actions that inadvertently supported villainy, and longs to prove himself to his friends. He needs to prove himself. When Mei’s in danger, he needs to save her. When he begs Touma to save her, he needs to feel the worthlessness of not being able to save her. This is a story where Rintaro reframes Mei’s peril as a story about his own redemption and/or suffering, which keeps him from being either effective as a swordsman, or helpful as a friend.

And, y’know, your mileage may vary on how successful this episode is at digging into the toxicity of these types of stories. It’s indulging in tropes specifically to dispute them, but it’s still indulging in them. I really appreciated how it tried to say something about how much we should valorize the men who bravely reorient narratives onto their emotional suffering, though. It’s easy to feel bad for Rintaro, which, sadly, makes it easier to forget about Mei.

Other than that plot, not a lot going on this time? We’re clearly setting up a few threads that’ll pay off later (Sophia reaching out to Kento, Desast reaching out to Ren), but here, they’re just intriguing cutaways from our main action. This is one of those episodes that pretty much all A-plot, with little else to dig into.

I liked that A-plot, though! I’m a sucker for any Rintaro/Mei story, and I really enjoyed how subversive this one was with Rintaro’s rapidly deteriorating confidence and calm. He needs a win real bad! That’s not great for Mei!



DON’T THINK ABOUT ME



It honestly was a pretty nice roof.

Mei wasn’t going to say she regretted the times she’d complained about coming here, but she was definitely beginning to see the appeal. There was a refreshing isolation to the roof, which was a benefit she’d found herself in desperate need of this afternoon. (She definitely did not need the stage and inflatable planet, but that was apparently a non-negotiable part of using the roof.)

The day had started off pretty well, which was a pleasant change of pace. After weeks of frayed friendships and devastated swordsmen, they all got to welcome Rintaro home. He even had his first eclair, which was as dumb and adorable as Mei’d hoped. There was normalcy again; at least, as normal as a group of sword-wielding superheroes engaged in a battle against rival apocalyptic groups of book-obsessed lunatics could be. It was nice, for a moment.

And then she became a pawn for one of the book-obsessed lunatics to fight Rintaro, and the day got substantially worse.

She tried to feel bad for Rintaro, but the truth was she was more scared for herself. Rintaro would blame himself, and scream about things, and she was sorry for that. She’d heard the lies the Megid used to demoralize Rintaro, and they were laughably transparent. She’d never doubted Rintaro’s strength, or his conviction, or his abilities. She knew he’d try hard to help her. She felt bad about how Rintaro would believe the lies, though, because it was just how he was. If Touma ran on hope, Rintaro ran on hopelessness.

But her thoughts today hadn’t stayed for long on Rintaro. They came back to her own sense of shame, for how little she’d been able to stop all of these tragic events. The people caught up in this horrible scheme, the collateral damage of everyday folks; not warriors like her and the Sword of Logos, but innocent bystanders. She’d been helpless to watch as they all became pawns, just like her.

That was the worst of it: the helplessness. She’d always assumed she’d go out fighting, just like the rest of the guild. Maybe bravely protecting one of her friends. Maybe saving some civilian, at the tragic cost of her own life. Definitely something that’d go viral. (She’d been certain of that.) Instead, she was cocooned within a gossip cat monster that gaslit her friends while it slowly digested her. It was like watching a TV show, and learning you’d die at the end of it. It felt… impersonal, which made it all the more horrifying.

So she sat here on the roof, dwelling on her shame and fear and guilt and anger. It was a change from her usual outlets of berating whoever wronged her and venting on social media, sometimes simultaneously, and she welcomed the change of pace. It reminded her of the friends she’d leave behind soon, and the connection grounded her just a little bit. She thought of Kento, and Touma, and Rintaro.

Rintaro. If he could get over feeling like he wasn’t strong enough to save her, maybe he could be strong enough to save her. If not, at least they’d have this roof.

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