“[N]o plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.”
“Perfect plans, aren’t.”
The episode introduced Princess Piña Co Lada, third princess of the Empire, and her Royal Order of Knights. It also seems fairly accurate in showing what would happen when a medieval army does when its leadership is destroyed, or worse, when its wanton excesses are encouraged by what leadership they had.
On the road to Italica, Lelei is overly curious at the map and compass, while Kurata recounts how the hellish Sergeant Major who was the bane of their training experience, is now fawning over a young girl like Lelei. Off in the distance, they spot smoke, and though Lelei’s usage of the wrong word does add a little bit of a reminder that she is still learning Japanese, Rory merely licks her lips in anticipation, for she senses spilt blood.
At the source of the smoke, lies the city of Italica. Piña Co Lada, the princess knight from the previous episode, is commanding her guard and the townsfolk in defense of the city. Fighting is fierce, but they manage to break them off. Checking up on her companions, they reinforce their lines. Hamilton, one of the other female knights, asks why they are fighting bandits. She states she doesn’t know; they had raced to Italica thinking that it was under attack from the men from the other world, only to find it was their allied armies that had resorted to banditry.
She asks the townsfolk to hold out for three more days, when the main unit of her forces arrive, before heading back to the main manor. A butler asks if there is any way to stop fighting, to which she responds that there is. It is to let the bandits in have their way with the town. She says, and I quote: “As hateful as war may be, if you get fixated on avoiding it, you’ll end up losing everything.”
A maid brings up some food, who explains that the lack of spices or flavor is to keep her from falling ill when she’s exhausted. Asking if she’s lived through a siege before, she remarks she was once an inhabitant of a town that was conquered by the empire. Heading out to rest, she asks to be wakened when anything happens. If she doesn’t wake, the maid will merely splash water on her.
As she rests, she recounts the start of her knightly order when she was younger. Trained by Grey Co Alda (no relation), she and her young friends are a noble daughter’s attempts at playing soldier. Even as they trained for war, her father, merely treats his daughter’s Rose Knight Order as honor guards. Grey has her endure the slights, noting that their strength will be needed eventually. Unfortunately this was to send her knightly order to die scouting Alnus Station.
She is woken from her dreams by the maid who has done exactly as she promised, dumping a bucket of water on her.
Gray had woken her to note that there were strangers (Itami and Third Recon’s vehicles) approaching. Seeing who had come out of the vehicles, they were at first relieved at the appearance of a battle mage (Lelei), an Elf (Chuka), but dismayed at Rory’s appearance. They were unsure if the bandits had been joined by the fearsome apostle, but Piña notes had she truly joined the bandits, they’d all had been killed. Answering the knocking at the door, she decides to greet them, throwing the door open and knocking Itami out.
When he comes to, Itami (who responds to his comms in time to prevent Third Recon from saving his sorry ass) and company are shocked to find out about Piña’s high status, and she fills them in. Italica was governed by Clan Formal, whose lord had suddenly died. His eldest and second eldest daughters had already married but had fought with each other to be the regent for their younger sister, the true Lord Formal. When the allied kingdoms were sent to attack Alnus, the lords had disappeared. It was too much to ask an eleven year old girl to command troops in battle, so she does so in her stead.
Noting that they can’t do trade with the situation they’re in, he commits his squad to help defend the town. As the third recon squad sets up, Hamilton asks Piña if it was wise to let the ‘men in green’ inside. Piña replies that they had no choice, saying they needed their strenght. Meanwhile Itami gets yelled at by high command for not being able to properly answer the Diet summons and get back home in time.
Watching enemy scouts survey their positions, Itami and the Sergent Major note that the Princess intends to use them as bait, luring the enemy into attacking the seemingly ill defended south gate, before crushing them in prepared defenses inside. They are unsure if the enemy will fall for that, but Itami notes she’s the commanding officer, and has his men prepare their defenses. Kuribayashi hands Itami an NV monocle, to which Rory helps Itami mount on his helmet. As they do this, she asks him his motives, especially since they are helping the princess of their current enemy.
While Emroy, being the god of war, doesn’t find killing a sin, Rory says it is the motive behind it that is important. She says that lies and deception taints the soul. Itami responds to her questions that it is his intention to protect the people, and to have the princess understand that it is better for the Empire to be friends with them, than to fight them. Rory seems delighted by this, taking his answer to show the princess the might of the JSDF as an intent to terrorize Piña’s very soul, and agrees to help, much to Itami’s surprise.
Later that night, the bandits attack the eastern gate, away from their intended feint. Rory is frustrated at not being at the fighting, while Itami, Kurata, and the Sergent Major discuss that the enemy, while being bandits, knew how to fight since they were formerly trained soldiers. Back at the eastern walls, the townsfolk’s counterattacks are defeated by the magic of a mage, and the better fighters overwhelm the defenders. Norma, one of Piña’s knights, observes the ecstatic looks on the enemy, asking himself if they had come here to find a place to die.
Opening the door, the enemy comes in, taunting the townsfolk by treading on the dead bodies of their fellow Italicans. They fall for this and recklessly charge at the much better trained bandits, Piña unable to hold them back, and noting how her plans have fallen, noting she can’t very well ask the ‘men in green’ for help after she had put them in suicide positions. Back at the South gate, Itami wonders what the princess would do now as the town is seemingly burning down.
As I have pointed out in the introduction, no plan survives contact with the enemy. This applies very much so to Princess Piña Co Lada, who, for all her training, has not been bloodied in battle before. Her plan to utilize Third Recon to give the appearance of a weakly defended force while hiding her main forces in a secondary line was seen through by the seasoned commander of the bandits, attacking a side that is less strongly defended.
Her simple plan to utilize what strengths she had left falls completely, and the commoners under her command, poorly disciplined and low in morale, succumb to the taunting of the former soldiers turned bandits. With only four knights to shore up the militia and townsfolk, she notes her desperation in allowing the ‘men in green’ to come in and help defend the town.
One thing I did worry though, because the Battle of Italica is a case where we see the depravity of the medieval world in the Special Region. The scene in which the bandits taunt the townsfolk was done initially by the naked bodies of their dead and dying war prizes from the earlier raids, tossing the mangled bodies of their women folk before the men and goading them to attack. But so far it’s been a relatively bloodless series. The manga I believe was already highly rated, content wise, it would make little sense I imagine, if they let the anime go that path and thus eschewing a broader audience with a higher rating.
Itami’s character is worth noting. He is an idealist from the start, intent in keeping the fighting down, fully believing in the cause of the JSDF, even if sometimes, the leadership wants to bend a few rules. He is, in my eyes, the moral sounding board to which the Japanese characters can be gauged upon. Especially true that he is made to resound with Japanese otakus.
One thing that surprised me, from reading the manga and in here, was Princess Piña’s quote:
“As hateful as war may be, if you get fixated on avoiding it, you’ll end up losing everything.”
-Princess Piña Co Lada, explaining Si vis pacem, para bellum to the House Formal butler.
It may be a little jab at the current Japanese public consciousness, edified by Article 9. One of the many quotes within Gate‘s various mediums to show what side the author is on. Japan for all intents and purposes, has one of the more powerful militaries in East Asia, up there with the People’s Republic of China and the United States. The launching of its newest ‘helicopter destroyers’ (basically LHAs) in the past two decades, introduction of its newest main battle tank and their hand in various peacekeeping operations shows it is no slouch, though still not bloodied. This quest for technical upgrades is coupled with the current Japanese Prime Minister’s moves to ‘redefine’ Article 9 amidst national and regional fears and shaming over their violent Imperialist past is something.
It is works like Gate, early versions of the Kantai Collection game, Zipang and the like, that might be fueling the fire. Coupled with the seemingly family friendly outreach the JSDF does in their recruitment drives (holding consistent open houses, having their various bands perform in public with renditions of popular songs or anime themes), one can say this is helping bring back a rise in what seems to many as mindless Japanese militarism.
Though from my point of view, it’s simply as it’s said in the tin quote. Japan needs to acknowledge that it needs to protect its national sovereignty, and that may mean a rethinking of their military footing from a strictly within territorial waters forces, to something that can project the Japanese flag in a foreign port as a friendly ally and a deterrent from the regional baddie, the PRC. I’m quite sure many readers (or all) and many Japanese would disagree with this view, but I think it is why Itami is the lone naïve soul. He doesn’t want to fight, he cares about his subordinates, though he will fight if the cause is just.
Besides, if we Americans would excuse the blatant ‘Murica, fuck yeah!’ messages Michael Bay loves to put in his recent films, why can’t Japan explore such nationalism? Oh right, because Imperial Japan in the twentieth century. Hell the constitution’s ink was barely dry when some famous author with right-wing tendencies tried to incite the JSDF into a coup attempt.
At this point, finding an example or meaning of a just cause for the average Japanese might be hard. Especially if many merely view the JSDF as well paid and trained disaster relief, and any attempt to turn it into anything but that is to slide back to the days of Hideki Tojo and wanton Japanese atrocities through war.
A note about the names. Piña Co Lada and Grey Co Alda aren’t related. The ‘Co’ in their names apparently is due to their chosen God’s name. And I think I’ve revealed something too early from a tidbit late in the Manga. Another thing I’m not fond of is some of the character designs. I think I’ve made it clear, I do like Rory and Kuribayashi’s versions in the Manga. Rory has a sense of power in the manga that I don’t feel in the slimmer adaptation of her in the series, and I think I’ve made plain my annoyance at Shino’s moe-ification. One other annoyance I found was turning the harpy mage into someone who fits more with Monster Musume than the gritty and much more raptor-like predatory design in the manga.
Anyways, sorry to have y’alls read through my ramble. Onwards to the pictures!