“Makai Knights are ones who protect, not fight,” says Ema. The first half of this week’s episode is pretty silly and light-hearted. We essentially learn how German came to lose all his clothes. Not surprisingly, he was hustled by a pretty face. Still, a Makai Knight like himself shouldn’t have had any trouble with a bunch of hoodlums, so the first half of the episode ends up being pretty purposeful. Storywise, it doesn’t add much; this episode doesn’t really advance the plot in any meaningful way. Nevertheless, the episodes does add plenty of characterization. German couldn’t resist helping Irene out even though it never really is his responsibility to worry about such petty squabbles. He thus helps people out of the goodness of his own heart. Yes, he’s a womanizer, but that’s secondary to his overall aims. German, however, did resist knocking those hoodlums’ heads in even though this would have come easy to him. Even after he lost his clothes — and after Irene showed her true colors — he definitely could’ve fought back and easily defeated his opponents… but he didn’t. Over and over again, we see German take the pacifistic option, More importantly, we also see him do his best to protect others even when it came at his at his own expense. Case in point, he’d rather go naked than let a sneezing child suffer the cold any longer. Of course, German’s not perfect by any means.
If German hadn’t been so eager to nail Irene on the spot, he wouldn’t find himself in this mess in the first place. But could you imagine Leon in the same situation? Do you think Leon would have been as pacifistic? I’m not saying, of course, that Leon wouldn’t have tried to protect Irene either. And I’m sure Leon would’ve done something for that sneezing child as well. But given the opportunity to fight back against those hoodlums, I think Leon would’ve taken it. And you may not agree with German’s pacifistic stance, but perhaps he is bound by a certain duty as a Makai Knight. What you or I would personally do in the same situation isn’t really relevant. Perhaps the Makai Knights must adhere to a certain philosophy, and that philosophy is almost never lift a finger against another human. More importantly, it would appear that Makai Knights draw their true strength from their desire to protect others. Leon isn’t a bad guy by any means. But at the same time, he doesn’t let things go. He gets angry easily, and because of that, he isn’t fighting with the right purpose in mind. He isn’t fighting to protect others; rather, he’s fighting for revenge. As such, Leon can’t tap the true strength of Garo. This seems to be the takeaway, anyway. And without strength, we learned last week that he’s starting to doubt himself.
We learn this week that German used to know the Black Knight. In fact, he, Anna, and the Black Knight used to go way back — back when the Black Knight was really Bernardo. But like Leon, there was anger in Bernardo’s heart. It felt like he wanted to shirk his duties. It felt like he wanted to be free of his constraints: “Every once in a while I feel like going against the duties of a Makai Knight. Overwhelmingly so.” You can sort of understand how he feels. Around this time, the king’s soldiers are hunting the Makai Knights and Priests like dogs. More importantly, however, there’s nothing that the latter could do about it. They can profess their innocence, and they can certainly try to protect themselves, but they were likely not allowed to kill the very same people who were trying to kill them. For whatever reason, this never greatly affected German and Anna. Perhaps they had each other, so they didn’t allow their anger to steep. The same couldn’t be said about Bernardo. Eventually, he had to give his horse to German and Anna so that his friends could escape. Bernardo stayed behind to hold off the king’s soldiers. As a Makai Knight, I don’t believe for a second that Bernardo would’ve had any trouble defending himself. But he couldn’t fight as a Makai Knight, and eventually, he fell to their attacks. Adhering to his duty more or less spelled his downfall, and his heart grew bitter enough that Mendoza could corrupt him.
Like everything else in this story, the villains serve as a cautionary tale for Leon. The Black Knight is certainly powerful, but he’s not drawing his strength from his desire to protect others. He’s long given that up. Rather, he has likely acquired strength through forbidden means, and this is what Leon has to worry about. Yes, he’s not strong enough now to defeat the Black Knight, but if he’s impatient, he might give in. He might also seek quick and easy power through forbidden means in order to gain the strength that he needs. As always, our hero finds himself at a crossroad. Will he put aside his thirst for revenge in his heart and fully accept his duty to protect others? Or will he take the easy route to gain power and allow himself to be corrupted as well? German is a fool in a lot of ways, but the moral of this week’s story is that it wouldn’t hurt for Leon to emulate his dad every now and then.
Stray notes & observations:
— According to German, if Irene continues to do bad things, she, too, will turn into a monster. That’s interesting, because he visits prostitutes all the time. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying that German is hypocritical. Rather, the implicit message here is that there’s nothing wrong with prostitution… at least in this universe.
— What’s with this woman and why does the story feel the need to emphasize her role in this week’s episode? Will we see her again in later episodes?
— Is it just me or is the voice-acting for the minor characters pretty bad in this week’s episode?
— Every woman seems to wear low-cut tops in this universe. Even Anna, Leon’s mom, is rather sexualized in the flashback. Combined with the prostitution point I had made, this universe is rather comfortable with any expression of sexuality. It’s just kind of odd considering the time period. As religious and superstitious as these people are — and considering how they’re going around, looking for witches to burn at the stake — I’m surprised they’re this open minded about sex. Or maybe it’s just MAPPA trying to inject a little fanservice in an episode where German is 99% naked.
— It seems that Ema does more than just babysit Leon. She’s got a difficult job.
— It is pretty cheeky of the anime to cut away from German and Irene near the end of the episode only to have a wolf howl in the distance. And on a different level, this even ties into last week’s episode a bit. The implications that Irene would repay German with her body are a bit creepy from my perspective, though.
— Plus, it’s kind of lame that she has the potential to be redeemed. Anyone can arguably be redeemed, of course, but she wasn’t alone. There were others with her, yet we don’t see their redemption. But they’re ugly guys, and, again, Irene’s got a pretty face.
— It must be cold.