What I continue to admire about this show is its willingness to humanize its villains. Once again, the old adage is true: “An enemy is one whose story we have not heard.” As a result, German literally refuses to fight Bernardo until he has heard his former friend’s story. The latter even causes a cross-shaped chunk of architecture to fall upon German’s head, but the silver Makai Knight would not falter. Plus, Bernardo had sacrificed his life to aid German and Anna in their escape, so the least German could do now is listen. It’s not like he’s going to pardon Bernardo’s sins. After all, it’s too late for that. Bernardo had committed many crimes, and he will pay for them when it is all said and done. But it would do German no good to kill his foes indiscriminately. After all, he’d be no different from the villains. The thing is, Mendoza isn’t entirely wrong. Some people’s negative feelings do give rise to the Horrors. That much can’t be denied. The problem, however, when you hold everyone responsible for the actions of a few.
The weak and the fearful hunt the Makai Knights and Priests down with extreme prejudice. Their victims beg for mercy, but these persecutors will not listen. Mendoza is no different. He’s simply positioning himself at the top so that hey may rule over the very same creatures that he despises. Like the weak and the fearful, he is unwilling to hear what his enemies have to say. Likewise, Bernardo fell to the dark side, because he, too, was tired of listening. Sure, he had taken the oath to protect the people, but at the end of the day, Bernardo’s greatest strength also proved to be his greatest weakness. As a result, he was willing to do anything for his friends, but that ‘anything’ also meant opening his heart to darkness. And because he believed that his friends were in grave danger, Bernardo no longer cared why the people were “shallow and weak creatures.” All he knew was that they were beneath him. This is the trap that German wants to avoid, and that is why he insisted on listening to Bernardo’s story.
Again, people deserve to be punished for their crimes, but even the worst amongst us will have a story. As Anna would suggest, “That’s why we protect them. People are weak and they easily go down the wrong path. But every once in a while, their hearts are so strong that they turn the impossible into reality. We have to believe in the strength of those hearts and protect them.” Bernardo heard these same words in his greatest moment of weakness, but unfortunately, this memory of Anna couldn’t help him stay true to his convictions. I thus can’t help but wonder about that. What made him all-too-human? What was Bernardo’s fatal flaw? Perhaps this bit of dialogue gives us a glimpse into his heart: “Robert, I have always wished to defeat you! You, who had everything that I wanted!” I imagine that Bernardo was perhaps in love with Anna as well. He couldn’t compete with German in battle for Anna’s affections, though. So instead, he hopes to settle the score on the battlefield.
Stray notes & observations:
— Well, now he just looks like a bad anime Joker.
— It’s interesting to see that German can get extremely serious, and when he does so, even Leon knows to pull back.
— So what happened here? Mendoza burned away Bernardo’s flesh just to recreate an eviller him?
— This line kind of reminds me of the exchange between Obi-Wan and Anakin near the end of Revenge of the Sith. But instead of taking it seriously, German is just bored, which is probably the right response. Hell, Bernardo is even missing one of his hands…
— Whenever the Makai Knights are fighting each other, the animation is mostly fine. The animation elsewhere, however, are silly. Maybe the show wants to be goofy, but I can’t help but wonder how much better everything could be if we could take these threats seriously instead of laughing at them.
— As for the epic clash between German and Bernardo, it’s not exactly perfect either. Sure, it looks cool, but I have a few minor quibbles. First, the show tends to cover the action up with way too much dust and wind effects. Secondly, there is not enough contrast in the scene, so it’s just dark shades on even more dark shades. As such, the details are lost.
— The conclusion of their duel was a little cliche. As expected, Bernardo fights dirty, but German was really just lowering his defenses to lure his former friend into a false sense of security.
— As Bernardo is about to die, it seems as though he wakes up. Perhaps a part of him was brainwashed by Mendoza, but even so, I really do think he genuinely believed that humanity wasn’t worth protecting.
— Nevertheless, German embodies the sort of compassion that you should expect from the hero of the people. For instance, he has no qualms about embracing his former friend in his final moments. You can hate people’s actions, but you don’t have to hate them. If Leon wasn’t getting angry at his father all the time, he could learn a thing or two about becoming a better person.
— People were afraid that German might die in this week’s episode, and while this is fortunately not the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did die by the end of the series: “Thank me the next time we meet.” Foreshadowing, perhaps?
— Mendoza has been torturing people to draw out their negative feelings, but we already knew that. Still, I wish the show was more macabre in this sense…
— …and less this. Again, it looks kind of goofy, doesn’t it?