My thoughts regarding this week’s episode can be summed up in question: That was 18 minutes?
There were some definite high points this week, but this episode is also littered with unnecessary cutaways and an internal monologue from Sheep that goes on for just a bit too long, similar to the discussion between Monkey and Rat last week.
Of note, this episode features much more fighting than what we’ve seen thus far. That’s definitely a good thing, though it is a shame that the quality of fight composition is not up to par with Boar’s imaginary fight against Rabbit in episode 1 or the very brief initial encounter among Monkey, Snake, and Rabbit last episode. Monkey continues to hold her own against Rabbit in a very uninteresting fight against Rabbit, in which she continues to attempt to pacify him despite knowing his nature. On the other hand, there’s Rat versus Snake, which is actually more like Rat being chased by Snake. Still, it’s the more interesting fight, and there are some nice animation shots during the chase. It is curious, though, why Snake ran so far away from Rabbit and Monkey’s fight. Perhaps that corpse is planning something after all.
The rest of the episode is divided up between Sheep’s plotting and backstory, and then the meandering around the city of Ox and Horse after their brawl. Sheep’s backstory is at least better than Dog’s, which isn’t hard to beat. I honestly would have preferred seeing more of his early past, which we get glimpses of as he takes out some pirates, but the emotional beats are obviously supposed to come from his time with his grandson (who looks suspiciously like a granddaughter). Sheep won a Juni Taisen in the past by literally blowing up his competition in a space station (Really?), and he reveals he entered the current Juni Taisen in order to protect his family from it. Aside from the space station bit, it’s at least a more grounded backstory. While maybe not the most interesting one thus far, it does help paint a picture of who Sheep is and what his motivations are.
Sheep’s aim was actually to take everyone out at once in a huge explosion in the beginning, but Monkey collapsing the floor early on got in the way of his plans. So now he’s at Plan B, which is to find one of the middle-rank warriors, preferably Horse, Dog, or Boar (two of which he does not know are dead), and team up with them by lying that he can remove their poison. He actually did not swallow his jewel in the beginning, so he is able to use that as leverage to support his claim of being able to remove it from their bodies. (Why he doesn’t adopt Dog’s approach to simply waiting the game out is beyond me.) Unsurprisingly, it is not one of those warriors he comes across. Instead, it’s the warrior he deems the weakest, and the one he scorns – Tiger. Despite it being somewhat expected given that Tiger has been totally absent up until now, it is still an interesting development to look forward to. The volatile tiger warrior and the devious sheep warrior teaming up…
It is refreshing, though, that the show is not being as predictable any more with its deaths. My money is still on Monkey and Sheep biting the dust before anyone else, as indicated by how long Monkey’s fight is dragging out against Rabbit, but at least we have now gone two episodes without a death. That’s progress, I suppose.
The scene at the beginning shows off some sponsors of the battle discussing placing bets. While I’m not exactly sure if they are literally gambling territory lines or not, it’s at least good that the show is showing off that this battle is not completely isolated and irrelevant to the rest of the world. Though honestly its placement is sort of weird, as it is a bit of an unnecessary opening. It probably would have fared better earlier on in the series. Otherwise, Sheep’s drawn out monologue also takes away some of the episode’s impact. It really did not feel like a full episode by the time it finished, if only because so little got accomplished thanks to all the bouncing around (to unimportant things) it did. Still, there are two fights ongoing, so hopefully they’ll both have exciting conclusions as pay-offs. Juni Taisen is at its best when it is unapologetically brutal, so the mundane fights it is currently showing us are not doing it too many favors.
One question does linger, though, one Ox seems to consider as well: Just what happened to Boar, who seems to have left her guns behind?