A spicy interaction occurs in the hot springs and Shadow unveils the truth behind the Goddess’ Trials?!
Recap & Reaction
Based off the ending of the previous episode, you’d think things would start off a bit more tense. Instead, the episode starts off ho hum with Cid experiencing the relaxing nature of a hot spring. With a completely relaxed look with his eyes closes, he nonchalantly enters the hot springs and without (the viewer) realizing it, Alexia Midgar is absolutely shocked that Cid entered the hot springs with her in it!
No way there is a public unisex hot springs..
Sometimes the absolute shocking nature and comedic irony is enough to deliver one hell of a punchline. One, Cid walks in naked not giving a care in the world that Alexia is there with nothing but a towel over her head. Two, we know the violent end to their relationship and how she’s still into “him.” Three, a not so “happy ending” is as close to to a guarantee as possible.
Cid vs Alexia in the Onsen of Tension
Alexia breaks the tension and they start catching up after their break up. Cid has some funny underhanded comments to himself and Alexia plays up her persona, somewhat apologizing for the “violent” break up.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Alexia play “tsundere.” With the added layer of her genuinely being into Cid, it creates a funny dynamic that the story will keep picking on and it’s Cid finding creatively funny ways to deny Alexia.
Alexia explains that the “Goddess’ Trial opens up once a year, when the sanctuary doors are opened” as it is a “fighting ritual.” Ancient spirit warriors wakes up in the sanctuary and fights the challengers. She explains further that you have to “apply in advance” to be able to participate.
As Alexia expounds further about the secrets of the death of Archbishop Drake, Alexia slides in that Cid “should join the Crimson Knights.” In a quick response, Cid denies. Alexia keeps finding ways to get him to join and Cid denies her again and again.
Once again, Alexia’s hubris can’t hide the fact that she still wants Cid close to her. Her little sneaky backdoor ways to try to get him to join the Crimson Knights and roping him into her “secret missions” made the dialogue even better.
The conversation switches back to Alexia outwardly admitting and hoping that Cid would “enjoy what he sees.” Cid responds with “making a point not to look at people at hot springs.” He goes on to shade Alexia with “stop looking at my ‘Excalibur.'” Alexia mocks his “Excalibur,” as a “worm.” Then, Cid reverses her quip with the cliche saying that “you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover,” smacking his pristine male form with a towel to signify his alpha male dominance. With no hesitation, he confidently gets out of the water in front of her and states the following, “when a holy sword is removed from its sheath, it’s sparkling blade is set free and it sets off on a quest for the Garden of Chaos.”
Out of all of Cid’s relationship dynamics with the other cast of female characters, the most appealing and cause for the most entertaining interactions have been because of Alexia. Akane was a prelude for Alexia. Sherry was too much of a child and boring. However, the oblivious part of her personality shined in some spots with the help of the Alexia interaction. At this point, Rose has only provided funny gags. Now that Alexia is fawning over Cid in the inside, this adds to the incredibly diverse way the story can use her character. Not only can Alexia be used as a funny gag for constantly being denied by Cid, she can be utilized for very important parts of the story. Alexia is the perfect character to highlight this arc’s theme of focusing heavily on every female character competing for Cid’s massively growing goodies. All seemingly from comically ironic reasons.
Alexia Catching More “Ls”
The next scene jumps right into the Goddess’ Trials. It flashes back to Alexia confronting the new Archbishop Jack Nelson, who is acting inconsistently with the sudden murder of Archbishop Drake from the end of the prior episode. It turns out that Alexia was sent by Midgar Kingdom to “audit” Archbishop Drake, but his sudden murder led Archbishop Jack Nelson to cancel the audit because he is now deceased.
After Alexia was brimming in frustration with the most suspicious Archbishop Jack Nelson, her sights set on “Natsume Kafka,” who is Beta. With the brewing jealousy between many of the girls, it’s none other than Beta and Alexia that exhibits competition over Cid’s sparkling sword.
This arc has taken a page out of the psych book and decided to make Alexia demonstrate the reality of what it is like when there are other more attractive and voluptuously superior women around her.
Alexia and Beta play “mean girls” towards each other in judgemental fashion as they come up with the same conclusion towards each other. Beta says to herself that she is the one most suited to fulfill her story line of “The Chronicles of Lord Shadow: Complete Edition.” She is convinced that its people like Alexia that is “corrupted on the inside.”
Alexia just can’t catch a break. After Cid denies her advances, she gets slighted by Sherry coming to her room to ask about her and Cid’s relationship status. Thereafter, she gets lambasted by Cid’s “sparkling sword,” Now, Beta got her squishing her own wiggle wiggle, jiggle jiggles together in self-conscious fashion.
Sensing Beta’s condescending gaze, Alexia stomps on Beta’s foot. Beta begrudgingly asks her to remove her foot as Beta slips her foot away, only for Alexia to get one more foot stomp in; all the while Rose is watching the Goddess’ Trials next to Alexia as happy as can be.
NPC Cid Kagenou
Archbishop Jack Nelson commences the Goddess’ Trials and a few would be throwaway characters arrive to challenge whatever warriors end up being summoned. Cid watches on and gets bored by what he sees. He daydreams on how he could make his way into the tournament as Shadow, but is still satisfied being a background character throughout the event.
Of course that’s not going to happen, right?
Out of the blue, “Cid Kagenou” gets called to battle. To everyone’s surprise, Cid ponders his three available options: fight in the tournament as Cid, runaway or to “confuse the matter.”
This begs the question of who actually signed up Cid to battle in the tournament?
The first option is out of the question because the ritual summons a warrior from the past that is comparable in strength and power to the challenger. This will out Cid, revealing his true powers. The second option to runaway is a vehement “no” because it could get him kicked out of school. So, that mysterious third option was the choice Cid made. Using a distraction light show in the sky, Cid attracts everyone’s attention to above the stadium and by the time the audience looks back down, Shadow has arrived!
Shadow opens up whatever ritual himself without Archbishop Jack Nelson’s trigger and a stunningly beautiful and powerful ancient warrior appears. This warrior is named “Aurora, the Witch of Calamity” as explained by Beta. Continuing further that she “once brought calamity to our world.” Bribing the archbishop’s eyes with big appealing visuals, Beta asks Jack Nelson to expound further about the history of Aurora.
A blushing testosterone induced Jack Nelson tells the ladies that Aurora is only known to a “select few” and is the “strongest witch in history.” He condescendingly says that “a lowly bandit like Shadow has no chance.” Alexia responds with how wrong he is. The fact that the most powerful witch in history appeared, means that Shadow has similar capabilities.
This scene was one of the more important story and plot moments. Here, we find out that Aurora’s past is actually shrouded in a ton of mystery. There is some obvious link to the Cult of Diablos and to the church.
In terms of character development, we get to see Beta exercise the side of her that is able to be witty and gain intel in the process. Later on, Alexia shows just how observant she really is in terms of fighting when the fight between Shadow and Aurora commences. As for Rose, she’s kind of just there…
Shadow vs Aurora, the Witch of Calamity
Floating in the sky, Aurora slowly makes her way down to the platform to stand face-to-face with Shadow. With an excited grin, Shadow mentions how “she feels just like him” and analogizes this fight as a “conversation.” Every movement that Aurora makes from her hands to her feet are reflections of himself. Comparing even further that each attack and response is like a wonderful flow of communication that allows him to respond “back and forth, again and again.”
Aurora starts off the fight with a multi-attack that shoots out piercing spears, similar to Shadow’s slime. It appears that Shadow can do nothing but attack and the archbishop still doubts that he has a chance. Beta calmly states in her rebuttable that she hasn’t actually hit him once, asking for Alexia’s confirmation.
Shadow continues dodging every attack Aurora throws at him while praising this “violet-eyed opponent,” giving her the name of “Violet” out of deep affection of their incredible bout against each other.
Throughout the whole fight, Aurora doesn’t speak at all, but makes particular face expressions that boils down to the audience’s interpretation. As Shadow decides to finally attack and end the fight, Aurora changes her face expression from worry to a smiling grin. Shadow says to himself how much he was able to “have a conversation” with her and wished that he could have gone full power in this fight. After a dramatic finishing gash with an epic pose to boot, Aurora dissipates and Shadow flies off.
In the aftermath of the fight, the barrier that protected the audience from the battle between the challenger and the ancient warrior spirits breaks down, summoning what looks to be a Cult of Diablos related symbol. Everything from this point on, feeds more to the mystery as a giant red ring appears and surrounds the stadium. Before the episode ends, Alpha cliffhangers the episode with the words “Shadow, so it’s true..”
Judging by the fact that Aurora doesn’t speak at all and Shadow isn’t even breaking a sweat (as if he ever has as Shadow), it was clearly a setup kind of fight that introduces a new character. Beta asks Archbishop Jack Nelson about the details behind her, Cid acknowledges how similar they are and the portrayal of the fight was all about the inner dialogue, rather than back and forth intense action. When something as significant sounding as a character that once laid waste to the entire globe, you’d think there would actually be a real intense fight. In that aspect, this action sequence ended up being a bit of a bummer. Clearly, this episode is still setting up something more significant.
I often ask myself each episode, “was it boring?” At face value, it might seem like a fairly simple question, but to peel back the layers more, the real question arises of “did it keep your attention throughout the episode?” That becomes an even harder question because it makes you as a viewer, flesh out any areas within an episode that loses your attention. There lies the subjective nature of what you deem interesting, important or just flat out care about. For me, there is only one boring part of this episode and it’s the “Cid being bored, watching NPC cannon fodder, be cannon fodder” in the Goddess’ Trials.
To be fair, this scene didn’t last that long. Nevertheless, it would have been better if they would have glossed over scenes with characters that just don’t matter. The creators could have provided more scenes for the fight later or even more dialogue between Rose, Alexia, Natsume and Jack; building up more of this ominous mystery behind Aurora. In the end, if I had to choose which scene or scenes to cutout, it would have been the Goddess’ Trial’s cannon fodder and some of Cid’s scenes that involved the background characters sitting next to him in the audience.
It’s literally everything else. These past 2 episodes leaned into all the elements that really make this show interesting: making fun of cliche romance tropes, edgy dialogue, introducing mysterious characters that advance the plot, teasing an epic fight and to top it off with a mysterious cliffhanger. Of course we can’t forget about the fan service and seeing the girls fight over the main character.
Overall, I am a really big fan of this Cid and Alexia dynamic in the story. Cid continuing his rejection of Alexia while dropping metaphors that had to do with his “junk” was a funny start to the episode. This scene was a prime example of what I like about the delivery of these kind of ironically funny scenes. It emphasized the most crucial moments like the punchline of Cid, unexpectedly entering the hot springs with a hysterical look on Alexia’s face.
Introducing this Beta and Alexia dynamic was something else that I wasn’t expecting that turned out to be pretty hilarious as well. It seems like the writer has a winning dynamic with Alexia against any other potential female suitor for Cid; referencing again how ironically funny the Sherry and Alexia conversation was about Cid & Alexia’s relationship.
Antagonists & Plot Still Meh?
Once the story shifted to Alexia addressing Archbishop Jack Nelson about the “audit” over Archbishop Drake, it felt like any other plot in this show, with everything seemingly being obvious. As a viewer, you are always looking for the tell-tale signs of any potential misdirection that could occur. It’s clear that Archbishop Jack Nelson is somehow connected to the Cult of Diablos. Even though the battle between Shadow and Aurora didn’t amount to much besides some great visuals here and there—it did present even more questions to the mystery behind why Shadow Garden is actually at the sanctuary of the fighting ritual. With Cid defeating Aurora, it feels like a very important revelation of the story is going to be revealed.
Tallying up all the villains Shadow has defeated in the previous episodes, Cid hasn’t really had a challenge and struggled since he was Minoru Kagenou in episode one. With the introduction of Aurora, will the story decide to amp up the seriousness of the plot or stick to the comedic roles and play off the current dynamics between the existing characters? The only way to get the plot more interesting is to provide a real challenge to stimulate growth. Whether it be Shadow or someone else that matters to the audience remains to be seen.
All in all, this episode provided many character-centric peak moments. The good of the show was very good and the bad is something you can easily over look. With enough mystery and stimulus of new characters and situations these characters are in, I still have this enjoyable urge of anticipation of wanting to see how this story unfolds. In the end, that’s a positive indicator of a very good episode.
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