Vinland Saga – 02 – Nobody Has Enemies, but Everybody Loves War

As the English launch an ambush on their Danish occupiers during their Saturday bath (note to self: switch up bath days for this very reason) in Northumbria—slaughtering men, women and children indiscriminately—the children in Thors’ village, Thorfinn inluded, participate in mock battles using blunted wooden swords and spears.

It’s a simple but effective juxtaposition of the ideation of war as a grand, noble, and honorable venture, and all it really boils down to: people ending the lives of other people, often without even the slightest hint of grandeur, honor, or nobility.

Thors ended many lives as a warrior, but those days would seem to be over, as he now takes smithing classes not to make weapons, but to make cooking pots. But his old comrades, the elite Jomvikings, have other ideas. A warship captained by Floki land at the village, their mere presence a transparent threat.

It’s revealed Thors essentially deserted when he jumped into the ocean and cast away his sword. The Jomsvikings don’t take kindly to desertion, but they’re giving Thors one chance to repent because he is a skilled warrior. Floki gives him an offer he dare not refuse, because now that they know of his village, it’s the villagers—and his family—who will suffer if he does.

As Floki makes the announcement that Thors has agreed to join their campaign and will need volunteers to crew his warship, the entire village erupts into celebration: finally, a war! But the only one who has actually seen war—Thors—is the very picture of gloom.

As they drag the village warship out of mothballs and prep her for the voyage to Jomsberg, Thorfinn gets a bit overzealous during the mock battles, injuring a couple of kids four to five years older than him, breaking one of their arms with his wooden sword.

When he gets home he tosses that sword aside, because he wants—he thinks he needs—a real weapon. Snooping around the storage room, he soon finds a stately chest, full of Thors’ old regalia and weapons (minus the sword he tossed).

When Thorfinn takes a dagger in his hand, unsheathes it, and holds it up to the light to admire, his father’s huge hand closes upon it, as powerful and concise an image as Vinland Saga has conjured thus far. Thors isn’t the kind of dad to rage or even raise his voice to his kids, so when he asks his son who he plans to kill with these weapons, it carries even more weight.

Thorfinn, all naivete and bluster, says he plans to kill “the enemy,” but Thors asks him who that is, knowing he has no idea. In his many brutal bloody battles, Thors gradually learned that fighting and killing is ultimately pointless, which is why he cast it aside. But his son has already been influenced by his peers and by the presence of the Jomsvikings.

Thorfinn also thinks his father is being hypocritical, as he’s heading out to war. Never does it occur to him that he shouldn’t be thinking about fighting in any battles anyway simply because…he’s six damn years old.

As Helga stoically cleans the dagger wound on his hand, Thors tells her to take care of Thorfinn. The next morning, Leif, who is joining Thors, tells him the conditions are right to begin the voyage, and Thors takes one last look at his sleeping son before departing.

Meanwhile, on one of the Faroe Islands, Floki is meeting with someone named Askeladd, who has been contracted by the Jomsvikings to kill Thors, in exchange for five pounds of gold. Thors is sailing into a trap, to his death, and there’s no guarantee the village will be left alone if and when he’s taken out.

The question is, is he as reluctant and morose about having to mobilize simply because he thought he was done with this shit…or because he knows it’s a trap, has no choice but to sail into it, and can no longer guarantee his family’s safety?

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 11

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This is a Rondo of Angels and Demons, so I’m not surprised to see Julio under the mind control of Riza Randog, thanks to some kind of evil serum she secretes. Sylvia walks in on the two and is appalled before being restrained by RIza’s demon tail, suggesting the drug wears off. I’m guessing both were under Riza’s influence when Ange was around.  In any case, the royal family is in deep doo-doo.

This week gave me just about everything I could ask for in a Cross Ange episode: high stakes, new bad(?) guys; Arzenal camaraderie, more Salia backstory; a significant if incremental elaboration on the world’s mythology; lots of awesome aerial combat, and new friendships being forged in the crucible of imminent death!

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We’ve seen from her hobbies that Salia is still a little girl at heart, and it seems to surprise even her when a group of actual kids salute her and regard her as an idol (she is quite pretty). She can’t believe she’s already a whopping seventeen.

As she and Mei visit the grave of (I’m guessing) Mei’s sister, a fallen pilot, and remembers losing her, as well as having ‘Elektra” (Jill) lose her arm, give Salia a first chance in Vilkiss, but not a second.

If she still lives her life like a kid who needs protecting, Jill is going to treat her like one. WIth only five active pilots, First Troop is downgraded to third.

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But when an enormous cloud of DRAGONs appear directly over Arzenal HQ, the second and third troops are quickly overrun and it becomes necessary to put the half-strength Salia Squad out there anyway. And we’re talking the first couple minutes of combat that the other squads are wasted and the command center is wrecked.

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The DRAGONs are apparently being led (shepherded?) by three Vilkiss-like paramails that emerged from the same portal. The pilot of the lead mail sings a song, and the mail turns gold and unleashes a high-yield beam that destroys half of the damn island. Forget this show being tough on Ange and Hilda; it’s tough on everyone.

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With memories of the past fresh in her mind when the assault occurs, Salia gets it in her head that This Is Her Time to prove herself to Jill, Mei, the rest of her troop, and herself. To that end she disobeys orders and pilots Vilkiss herself.

Momoka frees Ange and Hilda and they race to the hangar bay. It’s kinda cute how pissed both Ange and Hilda that they’re so dirty, stinky, and disheveled from their confinement, but things get grimmer as they traverse the bloody corpse-filled mess hall.

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It would be enough in their rusty states to simply hop aboard their own paramails and fight the biggest battle Arzenal has faced yet, but Ange and Hilda have to reel in Rogue Salia first before she gets herself killed and Vilkiss destroyed.

Rivals they may still be, but Ange and Hilda prove they’re still quite capable of working well together under duress. Hilda even gets a little turned on by Ange being so close, which is understandable considering how much sex Hilda is used to and how long it’s been since she’s felt a woman’s touch.

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Ange also breaks out her daredevil routine, jumping on top of Salia and then tossing her off for Hilda to catch. There’s a lot of trust in these maneuvers, and however much the girls may swipe at each other, it’s clear they all know that they can count on one another.

That’s probably no comfort to Salia, as it’s basically confirmed during her short stint piloting Vilkiss that despite all her hard work and determination, she just doesn’t have what it takes. Vilkiss is sluggish and unresponsive in her hands.

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But Salia’s shortcoming isn’t so much talent as intuition, not to mention blood. When Ange hears the enemy mail singing again, activating its main weapon, she sings her song right back (a little Macross with our Gundam, if you will) which causes an identical golden transformation in Vilkiss, both to Ange’s and the enemy pilot’s surprise.

About that enemy: she’s the Chinese-looking woman at the end of the line of faces in the credits, and her outfit is extremely bizarre yet awesome-looking – essentially a loincloth that descends from bust to groin with a cross strap for her bust. Interestingly, it reveals the opposite parts of skin as the Arzenal flight suits. That would make for some bad-ass cosplay.

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This woman wants to know why Ange knows a song no “unworthy citizen” should know, and Ange just wants to know who the heck she is. Both are then shown flashes of what looks like histories that never occurred involving the both of them, as everything from opponents to classmates to lovers. The still-nameless pilot withdraws after an alarm and five ominous words: “The time comes, it seems.” 

Nearly halfway through the series, we may still be in the dark about what’s really going on here, but this episode made us rest assured the time is indeed coming when light will be shed on that darkness. In the meantime, the Arzenal girls keep on keepin’ on, since all they have are each other.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 10

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One reason I handed off Gundam-G review duties to Zane was that there was just too much going on, none of which made enough sense me to care, whether it was the endless parade of proper nouns or the endless arbitrary political machinations. Ange doesn’t make sense either sometimes, but it’s telling a far more cohesive tale that has actually drawn me in.

It’s also uncomplicated: by making the Norma out to be monsters, something not all of them are by a long shot) the arrogant, prejudice masses of mana-using humans are the real monsters, as demonstrated at the evening public whipping, mocking and hanging Ange must endure for basically causing ‘mild discomfort and unhappiness’ for a few people.

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Franklin: This is for you.

Yes, the people, including Ange’s former classmates, her brother, and even her little sister, are nothing but spoiled, petulant, hyper-sensitive shitstains and there’s nothing redeemable about them, nor is there meant to be anything redeeming about them. Uncomplicated.

Tusk also swoops in undeterred by any air defenses and actually takes his sweet time rescuing Ange like we knew he would.

The show doesn’t bother mussing its hair about details like ‘Ange did murder dozens of people’ (the scum deserved it), or ‘Tusk’s hoverbike is oddly quiet enough for Ange to give a “Fuck You” speech to the crowd’, and ‘its exhaust is cool enough not to burn her siblings on her way out’, or ‘Tusk buries his face in Ange’s crotch, making this kind of his running gag (which is terrible). Uncomplicated.

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Never mind how Ange and Momoka found the cabin attachment to Tusk’s paramail while he was unconscious, I think this is the question we all most wanted answered this week. While Tusk doesn’t have a satisfying answer, we must assume he either has extremely bad (or possibly in his case, good) luck, or is actually a pervert who targets Ange’s crotch any chance he gets.

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In any case, the joke is only used once, and our dealings with Tusk are thankfully limited to the first half. The rescue was ultimately swift and uncomplicated. And don’t say Jill doesn’t have a sense of humor, because when she locks Ange up for desertion, she has her share a cell with the also recently-recaptured (never mind how) Hilda.

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The balance of the episode are the two proud and tenacious women licking their wounds and laughing at their own pathetic stupidity, believing they could simply go back to the world like nothing changed. These scenes built up more reluctant camaraderie between Ange and Hilda, who in the end agree to form a loose accord to take on and destroy that world full of bullshit for fooling them both not once but twice.

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Of course, things won’t be quite the same at Arzenal, either, which didn’t stand still when Hilda and Ange deserted. Now they’re broke, possession-less, and at the bottom of the food chain. Chris takes over Hilda’s role taking over for Zola, which is an interestingly little twist as she always seemed so passive. But being betrayed changes people.

Salia and Ersha, Chris and Roselie; these are women who came to Arzenal as babies and have never seen the other world, let alone ever considered there was a place for them there. As such, none of them can quite fathom why Hilda and Ange did what they did.

Their isolation has also left them children on an emotional level, albeit children forced to fight. They put their trust into Ange and Hilda, and won’t forgive their treachery easily, if at all (Vivian already has).

Or maybe it will just take an episode. You know Ange; it likes to keep things…uncomplicated.

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