Just a word in advance: this contains spoilers for the episode. It should be obvious by the title, but I’m warning you just in case.
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This episode continues Shiroe’s story as he battles through the raid with Naotsugu, Tetra, William and Demikas, among others. It is refreshing to return to the raid party after the lengthy Akatsuki-centered story. While that story certainly picked up towards the end, it had its weak points and was growing stale.
Also, going into this episode from Akatsuki’s story, you know that Shiroe is due to die.
Back at the raid, they discover the next raid boss.
After a short discussion, Shiroe reveals that the chances of beating it are fifty-fifty, and they attack.
After the opening credits, the episode jumps right into the action. This episode is very heavy on MMO technical speak, so for those that enjoy that (like me) it’s a plus and for those that don’t, I’m not sure how you’ve stuck with the series, though if you’ve struggled through that then there shouldn’t be anything new in this episode. The raid party sticks with their traditional strategy for defeating a raid boss: tanks draw the boss’s fire, strikers deal heavy damage, and healers make sure that nobody dies. It is a delicate balance, and it is quickly broken by the boss’s first special attack. With a swing of its mighty scythe, Luseat insta-kills two of the raid party and deals serious damage to many others. While they scramble to recover, they count the cooldown of the boss’s special attack. While they’re counting, the boss lets loose a different special attack, and though it misses they calculate that it could one-hit anyone in its path.
Like any good raiding party, they learn the boss’s pattern quickly, and with a little preparation the next special attack does not insta-kill any of the raiding party. But this boss is not out of tricks yet. Some of the strikers deal too much DPS and aggro the boss, and it roots everyone in place for its next attack. It floats into the air and starts spinning its scythe, eventually lashing out like a disk and striking in an arc, avoiding aggro. This devastating attack killed eleven of the raiders. However, the party refuses to quit and licks their wounds.
As the fight continues, Demikas notices that Shiroe is buffing his damage output. This only furthers the anger he feels for Shiroe, but he keeps fighting.
With their dead revived and their strategy sound, they seem to finally have made some progress when the boss’s dark armor shatters, leaving him in a bright white suit of armor. When Elder Tales was just a game, this transformation only happened when certain events happened on the map, but he can now apparently shift forms at will, making some of the raiding party nervous.
While the party focuses on the giant, floating knight, the shattered pieces of Luseat’s armor melt and form into shadow monsters. The party has to adjust their strategy, letting some of the attackers kill the shadow monsters while the majority focus on Luseat. Unfortunately, they quickly discover that killing the shadow monsters restores Luseat’s health, leaving them with dilemma of choosing between taking the damage the monsters deal or healing the boss to prevent taking damage. After some of the shadow monsters had been destroyed, Luseat returns to his dark form. After he deals massive damage by striking the raiders distracted by the shadow monsters, the party decides to deal with the shadow monsters and deal enough damage against Luseat to make up for it. Luseat shatters again, and the party is overwhelmed by shadow monsters.
In this moment of crisis, Shiroe realized that Luseat creates a number of shadow monsters equal to the number of people attacking it. They adjusted their strategy and only had the high damagers attack Luseat while the rest dealt with buffing and dealing with the shadow creatures.
Demikas notices Shiroe buffing him again, and he swears revenge for his defeat. He plans to publicly defeat Shiroe and humiliate him in front of everyone, but he can’t do that during the raid.
With Luseat’s health down to fifty percent, the raiding party begins to feel the hope of victory. Demikas begins lusting after the raid rewards and the levels he will use to defeat Shiroe. They are so focused on their approaching victory that they fail to notice the gates around them opening, letting in another raid boss.
One raid boss on its own is a challenge to the best players. Two are virtually impossible!
Wait, did I say two raid bosses? Sorry, I meant three!
That’s right! Three raid bosses in one zone! If one is a challenge and two are virtually impossible, three are beyond the shadow of hope.
The three raid bosses steamroll the raiding party, and with the majority of the party dead, Demikas sees his opportunity. He lashes out at Shiroe, knocking him down, but he is smashed by one of the raid bosses. Shiroe fares no better, and for the first time since the Apocalypse, Shiroe dies.
Shiroe awakes in the snow. Memories of his real life, before the Apocalypse, flash through. He sees Christmas shopping and Santa Claus. You see the real Shiroe, which, although he is similar to his online avatar, he looks more real. Shiroe walks through his hometown, and small memories flash before him. He realizes that he is losing some of his memories, though most of them are still intact. Shiroe sees himself as a kid and reminisces about his childhood. It doesn’t sound very pleasant, but it was how he first started playing Elder Tales. He remembers the conversation with William where he was told that dying teaches you that you are a failure, and the flashback to his childhood certainly reinforced that. This whole segment felt rather somber, but it was a nice change of pace from the overdramatic Akatsuki and the action-focused first half of the episode.
While reminiscing, Shiroe realized that he is dishonest with those he cares about. He reveals that he is deceptive because he wants to use the people he knows to find whoever it was that brought them into the game. With Shiroe’s obsession with the magic of the world, this isn’t particularly surprising, but it helps clarify some of his prior actions. All of his inquiries about flavor text, monsters, plants and literature were to find some sort of clue about whoever brought them into the world during the Apocalypse. None of the evidence seemed to support that there was someone responsible for it, but then he reveals that he found some evidence, though he doesn’t say what it is (so infuriating!). He realizes that he was only making excuses by not telling his friends about his plans. With this realization, Shiroe realizes that it is time to leave. As soon as he stands up, he appears on the game’s version of the moon, the same place seen a few episode prior when Akatsuki died (in fact this is the same scene, just from Shiroe’s perspective).
According to the game’s data, Shiroe is on the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon. He recalls a test server that was rumored to be on the moon. He is perplexed by the location, but quickly snaps out of his daze by the arrival of Akatsuki. By now, this is the third time I’ve seen this scene, but it’s still interesting and adorable. Akatsuki and Shiroe share a moment without words while strings play and Akatsuki dances. It’s strangely mesmerizing and charming and shows the bond the two have. They finally speak, and the memories leave both Akatsuki and Shiroe. They both cut a lock of their hair and place it in the ocean. I’m somewhat confused by this, but it’s clearly important to them by their solemnity. They talk about the snow, which is really memories offered by players to be resurrected. Shiroe remarks that Akatsuki was defeated, then reveals that he was too. Shiroe comforts Akatsuki, and tells her that he was naive. Akatsuki says that she isn’t worried that she failed, and Shiroe imposes that she didn’t do her best. He closes with the comfort that even though she failed, she can still try again, and succeed. He expresses his confidence in her, something she had been struggling with throughout her entire storyarc, then mentally says that he will do his best too. He remarks that it’s strange to see her there, and she agrees. She gets up and decides to try again. Shiroe does too, and they return to consciousness.
Overall, this episode had a good balance of action and introspection, and I feel like Shiroe actually grew as a character, something that’s been somewhat lacking from the beginning. Shiroe has always been a constant, but it’s good to see that they’re not content with him growing stale. The boss fight was suitably epic, and the traumatizing ending to the raiding party showed how harsh the world had become.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment!