Simply put, Leon was and is alienated until the final moments of this week’s episode. Until Alfonso stripped our protagonist of his rights to Garo, Leon was supposed to be the people’s savior. He was supposed to be the Hero of Light. Nevertheless, he suffered alienation from the very task that he was destined to fulfill. He was alienated by the heavy burden upon his shoulders. And who could really blame Leon? He never got to have a normal childhood. He never knew a mother’s life (directly). He’s had to be selfless when he could’ve been selfish. And y’know, before we fall to our knees and praise Alfonso for his heroism, we must remain cognizant of the fact that the prince’s environment probably had something to do with the upstanding man he’s become. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to downplay Alfonso’s greatness at all. Thankfully, someone was around to pick up the pieces when Leon succumb to his own tragic flaws.
But the truth is, Leon had a pretty shitty start in life. We often get to be selfish in our youth, but with our parents’ love and guidance, we eventually mature and understand our responsibilities. Still, that developmental period serves as an outlet for our immaturity. We get to be childish and self-centered, because we are still maturing. Leon never had that luxury. More importantly, however, I don’t know how good of a father figure German really was to the kid. We all like the guy because he’s charismatic, but let’s face it… we can’t really know whether or not he was the best father. But even if he was, the man had a hell of a task on his hand. I’m not saying it’s impossible. Plenty of single parents have raised their kids properly. But how many can say that they’ve raised their kids properly, trained them to become the Hero of Light, and also deal with the kid’s latent anger towards his mother’s killer? Yeah, none of us.
Even if German was more than perfectly adequate as a father, he had a Sisyphean task. And even when Leon did help people, they were rarely thankful. Often times, we saw these easily-frightened, superstitious folks run away from Leon in terror. It’s not a surprise that Leon became alienated from the true purpose of a Makai Knight, which was to protect and save the people. But what truly makes Leon such a fascinatingly complex character is that, up until the final minutes of this episode, he also carried with him a huge sense of entitlement. Garo was simply handed to him because he was his mother’s son. Yes, I’m sure it’s no easy task to defeat Horrors, but Leon has never really had to deal with any other hardship in his life. Has he received much education? Has he ever had to lift a simple tool until this week’s episode? Long story short, has he ever had to work?
Therein lies the problem: for all the trials and tribulations that Leon has had to suffer, he’s also spoiled at the same time. He can’t love the people, because he can’t truly appreciate what the people literally have to do to simply survive in this harsh, bleak world. It’s hardly a coincidence that German finds himself being treated by that lower class woman with a heart of gold — we’ve seen her pop up plenty of times in previous episodes — and at the same time, we also see Leon being treated by Lara, a simple peasant girl who spends most of her time toiling away on her late father’s farm. Like father, like son, eh? But there’s one crucial difference between Leon and his father: the latter actually cares about the people. Sometimes, German cares about the people too much, especially when the prostitutes. Having said that, there’s something to be said about loving everyone, including the people at the very bottom of society.
Jesus might even have something to say about extending a loving hand to beggars and whores. That’s not to say that German is Jesus. Oh, far from it. Naturally, German isn’t a perfect man, and he certainly gets sex out of his time with the prostitutes. Nevertheless, he doesn’t judge or reject anyone. We’ve seen how he refuses to even harm a hair on the very crooks and thieves that had scammed him. On the other hand, you always feel as though Leon has kept others at arm’s length. He’s friendly enough with children, but that’s it. He’s even cold and distant to his own father. As such, this episode is not just about teaching Leon to learn the meaning of hard work, it’s also about learning how to love the people that he was supposed to be protecting. Supposing it was Leon who had protected them from Mendoza’s machinations, these peasants wouldn’t even have the time nor the energy to be thankful.
Lara’s family is too burdened by debt to kiss the ground that the Hero of Light walks upon. They’re too tired after all hard day trying to till a dry and barren field to even know what goes on in the capital. They have nothing to eat but bread tough enough to chip a young girl’s tooth. Nevertheless, these are the people that Leon has to grow to love and appreciate if he is to dispel his alienation. At the start of Leon’s stay with Lara and her family, our hero still acts entitled. Instead of being thankful for the fact that they had saved his life and nursed him back to good health, he sullenly asks why they had bothered to save him. Lara even has to personally bring a bowl of food to him, because he was too emotionally bedridden to even feed himself. But over time, Leon grows to appreciate Lara and her family’s simple but no less difficult way of life. The turning point seems to take place when he questions Lara’s resolve:
Leon: “Don’t you get sick of it?”
Leon: “Doing the same thing in a place like this, day after day. Don’t you ever feel like giving up on everything and going elsewhere?”
So how does Lara respond? By taking pride in her own hard work: “I’ve already planted seeds over there. Autumn wheat and rye. They’ll sprout when spring comes and in summer they’ll mature. Then we’ll harvest them.” She isn’t alienated. She has an outlet for satisfying work. On the other hand, being a Hero of Light for Leon is more like a status symbol, but nothing more. It wasn’t satisfying for him; rather, it was a burden. He also felt no connection to the people he was supposed to protect, so when his character was tested in the previous episode, Leon predictably and tragically fell to his personal flaws. Luckily, Leon gets the chance to more or less start over. Lara and her family know nothing about him. Hell, they don’t even know his name until the final seconds of the episode (when he finally reveals it to the girl). As a result, they have absolutely no expectations of the guy.
Most importantly, Lara and her family place no burden on Leon. They’ve been caring, nursing, and feeding him for days before they even ask him to do anything remotely useful around the farm. The point is, Lara and her family went above and beyond the call of duty. In a way, how they treated him is almost like… unconditional love. Lara and her family are almost like the family that Leon never really had. So in the end, Leon returns the favor, and what’s crucial to his development is that he does so organically. He does so out of true gratitude. He doesn’t help them, because he carries the burden of being the Hero of Light. Rather, he helps them like any child would eventually learn to help his or her parents out with the household chores. That’s why building the irrigation system is so important. Clear and nourishing water will run across the dry and barren land. Water is cleansing; water represents rebirth. Essentially, our hero is baptized.
Shortly afterwards, he regains his identity as Leon.
Stray notes & observations:
— Not going to say too much this week. I primarily wanted to focus on Leon, because, again, I feel that he’s a vastly underrated protagonist. He has realistic flaws and insecurities. He actually undergoes a hero’s journey that is truly fraught with setbacks, perils, and temptations. Most anime protagonists don’t really have to struggle all that much.
— I wonder if Lara will be a recurring character.
— Still, I would be disappointed if Alfonso somehow becomes a villain. I don’t think he will, but some people seem to suspect that this will be the case. After all, Garo will eventually have to return to Leon’s hands at some point, right? And what better way than to have the two cousins eventually face each other again in battle? But I think this is too predictable. Well, Octavia is still around, and I’m sure she’s up to no good. Hopefully, she can create enough trouble in Valiante that Alfonso never needs to compromise his values. He’s supposed to be Leon’s foil, after all. If Leon is the flawed protagonist, Alfonso can perhaps be the stalwart bulwark who nevertheless runs into trouble because his good-natured personality also leads him to be far too trusting.
— Alfonso sure is working hard these days, though. I think he needs to rest soon, ’cause he ain’t looking too good these days:
— After having two weeks to “sleep” on it, I still don’t agree with German’s decision to be so hands-off with his own son. I just think back to Alfred and the role that he played in Bruce Wayne’s life. The butler never hesitated to pick his master up whenever the latter would fall. I also don’t believe in the absolute that says that we must learn to stand on our own two feet or that we’ll never learn to stand at all. Sure, our parents let go of the bike at some point, but it’s not like they won’t look back if a car runs us over. Seriously, though!
— Emma and Garm share a few words, but their conversation doesn’t appear to reveal much. Emma’s presence in this week’s episode almost feel like a throw-in just to remind you that she’s still in this story.
— The new OP and ED are whatever.