Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 11

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I don’t believe the first and second halves of an episode of RKC have been as different as the the ones in this week’s outing. Things certainly start out foreboding with Ikki and Stella getting photographed kissing and the director warning him about the Ethics Committee chief Akaza (the gangster in the fedora we’ve seen in the shadows) snooping around, while promising she’ll protect him should the need arise.

But then the episode takes a turn for the lighthearted and fluffy, with Ikki and Stella officially meeting Toudo Touka for the first time, and learning she’s not at all the same person when not in the arena. She’s clumsy and highly susceptible to instances of fanservice, but also friendly, kind, and compassionate.

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To whit, she and the council spend a day with underprivileged children from a local orphanage, and Ikki and Stella are invited along; Stella because she’ll be a hit with the kids, and Ikki…well, Ikki helps out with the cooking. It lets him further observe what a generous and wonderful person Touka is (he also hears about it from the tiny white-haired council member, whose humanity Touka restored in his darkest hour).

To him, Touka’s trump card isn’t her lightning or her ability to essentially read the minds of her opponents. It’s a far less easily quantifiable power to make everyone around her better, and more importantly make them feel like they can be better, than their humble origins. Proving it and inspiring people every day is her source of strength, which makes Ikki ponder what his own source might be.

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And boy, is his strength tested in the second half, when things take such a dark and sinister turn, the very palette of the show dissolves into stark black and white with harsh spot color and the grainy texture of film, complete with multiple title cards documenting the passage of time.

After the newspaper with their kissing photo on it is circulated, Ikki is incarcerated by the Ethics Committee and forced to endure days, then weeks of interrogation before a tribunal led by Akaza (his fathers’ henchman), then locked in a room with no furniture and strange noises coming from the walls. The intent is clear: get Ikki out of the picture.

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On its face, his accusers’ case is ridiculously arbitrary and unsubstantiated; it’s all trumped up rumor and intrigue and public opinion. But that’s exactly what those accusers want, and those who control the levers of power and information have their way with Ikki; he never had a chance.

Back at school, Stella, Shizuku, Alice, and the newspaper girl read about Ikki still wining selection matches in captivity, but the cloud of rumors and looks and laughs and side comments eventually gets to Stella, to the point she wonders if it would be best for Ikki if she broke up with him, blaming herself for his treatment.

At this, Shizuku hits her with a splash of cold ultrapure water, and warns her she won’t forgive her if she betrays Ikki, who decided to willingly face his accusers out of his love of Stella, and his desire to be with her out in the open. Of course, with scandal in the air and the subtle truth of their relationship drowned out by innuendo, that may no longer be possible.

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Even so, Stella realizes she erred in considering a breakup as the solution. Ikki is fighting for her, in the arena and the courtroom, so she sends him a lock of her hair (relayed to him by the blood-puking teacher in a neat bit of guard misdirection) as a symbol of her solidarity in his efforts.

Seeing that Stella is still out there fighting for him and for them as well, he decides to swallow his pride and speak to his father Itsuki one-on-one; a request that is granted despite Akaza’s objections. There, Ikki plays the Good Son and tells him of his exploits and victories at school, hoping it’ll be enough for his dad to finally acknowledge his strength.

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Then the final hammer is brought down: his father has always acknowledged him, but only as a mediocre talent not deserving of instruction, who would only create a mediocre result. If he were to succeed, it would create hope in others who aren’t optimally skilled, putting strain on his organization. His father has the opposite aim of Touka: to keep those who are low low, “in their rightful place.” He considers Ikki one of those people who aren’t worth his time, effort, or love.

It’s a devastating blow to Ikki, who thought, perhaps unreasonably, that his father still had a loving bone in his body for him, but no. Further more, that Touka, who works to lift people up rather than let them keep being trampled on? She will be Ikki’s opponent in his 20th and final selection match. Akaza says if he wins, all charges will be dropped.

I know what my first reaction to this was: Maybe Touka will let him win? But I only thought that a viable possibility for a moment; there’s no way Touka would throw a duel. Still, if one is to believe Ikki’s dad, that Shizuku is the superior talent in their family, and she couldn’t come close to defeating Touka, what hope does Ikki have, who still doesn’t know his source of strength (maybe Stella, buddy?) and has just been crushed by his “father?”

First Half:
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Second Half:
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Author: sesameacrylic

Zane Kalish is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

6 thoughts on “Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 11”

  1. Dang I really like the stylistic changes in the 2nd half. It really switched up the tone of the story. Goddamn you could feel Ikki slowing being crushed the the weight of his completely bullshit incarceration. The so called “ethics” organization blatantly violating human rights like that was just fuck. Ikki really has one heck of a shitty father too.

  2. I thought the execution of the second half was incredible (and the first half was fun too, it’s fun moments that make dark moments work), but honestly the premise frustrated me.

    This plot essentially established their government as balls-out evil. Any nation/organization that can throw a minor in prison for weeks based on having a girlfriend (sex or no, since cultural mores aside, that’s not illegal) is the freaking EMPIRE.

    That to me is somewhat poor writing since, in service of making a dramatic point, they just threw their entire setting under the bus. I no longer want Ikki to win a match, I want him to start a rebellion, and unless this series takes a hard left somewhere soon, I don’t think that’s where they were going with this.

    I honestly thought the rest of the series where his family was established as subtly manipulating events from behind the scenes to make Ikki miserable was more clever and a more logical background than the idea that they could just throw him in a cell and starve him on the basis of nothing if they felt like it.

    1. Honestly I know where you’re coming from. I felt similar feelings too. The author opted to weaken the setting of his story to generate drama of the moment. I can’t say it didn’t work though, as when I read it in the LN I was ENNNNRAGGGGGGEDD at how absurd it was, and it made Ikki’s eventual triumph all the more greater. Still, it does take a step too far and start to make the whole government seem too unrealistically dictator-like.

    2. It’s a very good point: when The Organization is so clearly, transparently unjust, in-the-wrong, and evil, it makes rooting for Ikki too easy; almost automatic. At least a whiff, a smidgen of complexity in the conflict is always welcome. This is, like much of the sequence, stiflingly black-and-white.

      Then again, they could have gone further: incarcerate Stella and do awful crap to her as well.

      That apparent laziness in just making the government and Ikki’s dad balls-out evil stands in contrast to the far more thoughtful writing that’s been present in the development of Ikki and Stella’s romance (her sending him a lock of hair was wonderful).

      We know, and have seen, that the show can do better, so when shit goes down, it’s normal to hold the mounting final conflict to the same higher standard.

      1. I have to agree on this point. The largest glaring flaw in this series is the lack of dimensionality in the villains of this series. Kurado was probably the only decent one this series had to offer (whom I’m guessing will be seen later). The other ones seemed to be evil just for the sake of being evil. One dimensional villainy aside, this series also purposefully goes through one of the most over-done settings of all time. There’s always a magic/combat school series every season and even quite a few with a red haired tsundere female protagonist whom eventually partners with the main protagonist. The only difference is that this series have pretty good writing and actually had a romantic plot. It also gives a decent amount of attention to the plot rather than just pure fan service.

  3. What really got me by the throat was the crushing of Ikki’s faith that his father could love and respect him and therefore could acknowledge his strength. What he discovers is that his father only cares for a cold and institutional notion of strength and excellence that is also one of the central motors of social control in their society. This tears at the core of Ikki’s being perhaps leaving him farther away than ever from answering “What is fountainhead of my strength?” Obviously that will be answered next week somehow I figure.

    it was also gratifying too that Shizuka repudiated her claim on her brother in her angry challenge to Stella to stay strong and love Ikki as he loves her. That was a great moment too.

    Next week Ikki isn’t just fighting the strongest fighter, he is fighting someone he respects deeply, he’s fighting to find his reason for being, and he is fighting to overcome the whole rotten knights’ system. Maybe he is fighting for Stella too. Could the stakes be any higher?

    This was a great episode of sharp contrasts that complemented each other very well, even if Akasa, the gaolers, and to a lesser degree, Ikki’s father were a little one dimensional as villains.

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