Episode #6 : Part 1 - Game preparations
So, let's get started with EP 6 : Dawn of the Golden Witch
, shall we ?
We open on... a marriage ceremony, in the cathedral from the end of last episode (although the narration stresses it looks completely different with the decorations). The bride is Erika ; the groom's identity is kept hidden for most of the scene, but considering Erika's wearing the Eagle on her wedding dress, it's soon pretty obvious it's Battler. Somehow, he's frozen and incapable of preventing this farce to proceed... as it's explicitly acknowledged by all participants that the goal is for Erika to bring Battler into submission and put her hands on his possessions (which would be the gameboard).
Wait, how did we get here ?
Opening Sequence !
I actually have a hard time locating the differences with EP 5's, though I'm still impressed by how dynamic it looks without any actual animation.
And now we find a nameless narrator awakening in one of the mansion's room and finding the only door locked by a chain fixed by a stake. It's impossible to get out, and they have the feeling the Witch is coming...
I had a dozen theories about who this could be (two of them involving Battler), and the answer still takes me by complete surprise : we next see Ange awakening from this nightmare into a waiting room. FUCK YEAH ANGE !
She's struggling to remember where she is, and Amakusa isn't very helpful. Apparently, she asked for an meeting with someone called Toya Hachijo. And then her memories start coming back just as her host enters the room.
Oh, gods, Hachijo. If you thought Erika was an insufferably smug sociopath, you've seen nothing. Exposition tells us that she's a great mystery novelist that has recently surfaced and made tons of insane publicity stunts (such as submitting her masterpieces to different publishers with various pen names, and then revealing they're all hers when they're published). She's kept her identity and even her gender pretty well concealed so far. So, er, why is she dropping the mask and agreeing to meet Ange, of all people ?
Ah, you see, Hachijo is a Witch Hunter too, though of a different kind from Dr. Otsuki. She's a Forger, one of those who make up new versions of Maria's letters detailing other iterations of the Rokkenjima massacre. The Forgers are very badly considered in the Witch Hunt community (they're making the whole thing a joke), to say nothing of Ange (they're killing her family over and over, often slandering them in the process !), but Hachijo's Banquet
did get a lot of critical acclaim. Especially as the first one explains a lot of what actually happened in Ange's world.
Of course, those were written under a pen name too, but Ange was smart enough to decode it and link it to Hachijo, hence her reason for paying the writer a visit. And Hachijo was impressed enough by the deduction to accept. (By the way, Hachijo's name means "18 to the power of 8", which I'm sure has no significance whatsoever
After some passive-aggressive banter, Hachijo offers to show her latest "letter from Maria" to Ange.
Now, wait a minute...
None of this makes any sense ! Ange does remember trying to reach Hachijo, but never got an answer before going to Niijima... and she's starting to remember a lot of what happened at the end of EP 4. So, would "Hachijo" please cut the bullshit RIGHT NOW and tell her who she actually is ? Ange had her pegged as a witch from the start due to her smug attitude, of course...
FUCK YEAH ANGE !!
"Hachijo" congratulates Ange for seeing through her masquerade. She's really Featherine Augustus Aurora, a Witch who is trying to assuage her boredom illness by looking at Beatrice's game from afar. She's got a manuscript of Dawn of the Golden Witch
here, and has resurrected Ange just to have it read aloud to her. Ange's not to fond of this, but she's curious, and maybe could find a way to help Battler from there.
Oh, goodie. Yet another Greek Chorus
to comment on the story. As if we didn't have enough yet...
Also, there are a lot of elements in Featherine's character design that remind me of Hanyuu, and some parts of her description could definitely be interpreted as such if you're so inclined. She's certainly said to be a cut above all the other witches in power and age.
Anyway, let's segue to Beatrice's game room. Erika, Dlanor, Bernkastel and Lambdadelta are still waiting for Battler to start the 6th game. Here are the stakes : Battler proclaimed at the end of last episode that he understood Beatrice's game, so this is his occasion to prove it ; he'll be fighting against Erika, who's eager for a rematch to untarnish her reputation. Whatever happens, this will be the last game. Lambdadelta, as former game master, is here to check Battler doesn't cheat.
They're all startled by Beato's appearance... except while she does look like the golden witch, her behaviour is polite, friendly, and humble ; everyone's wondering what happened to the cackling bitch. What is Battler playing at ? Why is he making piece-Beato behaving like that ? Is it just to unnerve them ?
Well, this was apparently not Battler's plan, as he's ordering Beato to exit and asking everyone to forget about the incident. Don't worry, the game shall start soon.
Then we get scenes of Battler's preparations. Interestingly, he's served by Genji and Kumasawa, where one would expect Ronove and Virgilia. Hum... Anyway, the Beato we've just seen has been recreated by Battler, but something's off. Basically, she hasn't lived a thousand years yet, and thus hasn't become the bitch we all know and love. New!Beato is completely innocent, which unnerves Battler to no end (that's not HIS Beato !).
Let us be clear : this is NOT piece!Beato. Piece!Beato is just an extension of Battler, and not capable of independent action. There's a quite creepy scene where Battler monologues about Beato's talent at creating games, but half his lines are said by piece!Beato. New!Beato isn't such a pawn, but an actual reincarnation of Beato. She's just not had all the experiences that made Beato her cackling self.
Little aside between Ange and Featherine (or Ange and Hachijo, it changes from one scene to another seemingly at random). Ange's just caught up on the events from EP 5, and she still has no clue how Battler went to hating Beato for repeatedly killing his family and having no clue about what he did "six years ago" that provoked all this, to admiring Beato for her skill at setting up the game board and actually apologizing to her for the events of "six years ago". What are we missing ? What did Battler learn to change his mind so much ?
Anyway, time for the game to actually start. Or maybe not, as I'm stopping there for now.
Well, that's an intriguing start. We get yet another layer of meta-story above all of the previous ones, but Ange and Featherine make for such a fun double act that I don't mind.
It really looks like everything is coming to a conclusion here, but of course we know that there's at least one more episode coming (and probably two), so I'm curious about how Ryukishi07 will keep the door open for more stories. I do look forward to Battler's demonstration of his understanding of the game.