This episode managed the improbable feat of actually making me feel sorry for Suishou. So that’s impressive. She’s always been more of a force of nature than a coherent character, gleefully antagonising everyone else because well, she’s the antagonist. An implacable obstacle to the others because that’s what the story called for. This time around we finally got to see what’s driving her and it turns out she’s having a pretty miserable time of things herself.
After episode 10 I predicted that Suishou was either an artificial being like Mangetsu or a previous winner of Granbelm. As it turns out I wasn’t taking those concepts far enough, Suisho isn’t just a previous winner, she’s every previous winner. Created at the contest’s inecption as the final test for prospective Princeps mages, Suishou has been the last one standing in every iteration to date. In spite of this her role in things prevents her from actually claiming the title of the Witch for herself. While ostensibly she’s been told that if she can definitively prove no human is worthy of the title it will fall to her instead, this promise seems more than a little hollow in light of this having continued for a thousand years already.
This line in particular stuck with me. It has the feeling of something that she’s told herself before. While a flashback at the start of the episode shows her obviously distraught at the contuing and seemingly futile cycle she’s caught up in it’s clear that over the years she’s become numb to the suffering. As she’s lost empathy for those she’s inevitably going to have to kill they’ve instead become nothing but obstacles, to be overcome over and over again so that someday, somehow she might finally reach the end of her task. She’s been set up by the rules of the game to be functionally unbeatable so anyone entering the contest is just being fed into the meatgrinder, it’s no wonder she’s become a monster. Because Suishou can never win. Over and over she’s fought and killed, crushing the hopes and dreams of countless participants all for some dubious promise of eventual gratification.
A thousand years of unchanging conflict and yet she still keeps going. Because there’s nothing else she can do. Suishou is inherently shackled to the sytem in such a way that there’s no way she can ever escape. Her purpose in existence is to destroy those unworthy of becoming Princeps. It’s all she’s ever known and she’s good at it, she takes a twisted form of delight in doing it because that’s all she has. But she can never actually win. Her nature as a part of the system doesn’t allow her to claim the power of the Magiaconatus because her role is to perpetuate the cycle for reasons unknown. If Shingetsu really is the most blessed entrant yet then that simply means that the cycle continues as planned. There will always be another opponent for Suishou to fight, always someone more favoured than her, because her role was never to win, only to stop anyone from ever doing so. But because that’s all she has she can never truly admit this to herself, she has to keep on believing that someday her suffering will have an endpoint, where her hard work will finally pay off.
For all that she delights in tormenting Mangetsu for her own nothingness, Suishou is the one who really has nothing. She has nobody to care for or be cared for by, because her entire existence is dedicated to perpetuating the Granbelm system, other people are ultimately worthless in that goal and therefore beneath her notice. She can’t concieve of anything outwith the system, the world means nothing to Suishou except as a prize to be claimed when her work finally comes to an end. For all that she once despaired at the cruelty of the system she never once questioned its necessity, never considered a life outside of it, one where people could love and care for her. Mangetsu on the other hand…
Mangetsu has hope. Mangetsu has people she cares about and a desire to create a better world for those people, as well as a sincere belief that this is possible. She may just be a doll created by Magiaconatus as a pawn in its games (I was right about her ultimate purpose being to undermine Shingetsu’s resolve apparently) but she’s still her own person, able to decide on her own that Shingetsu’s desire to dismantle a system built on suffering is the right path. It’s for that reason she choses to sacrifice herself. For as much as she loves the world she can’t accept an outcome where she gets to keep existing at the cost of magic’s continued existence. Mangetsu might not be a real person but she’s absolutely a real and valid person, Suishou is a doll; a puppet dancing on a string for a thousand years.
Honestly at this point I have no idea how the show will end (the final episode actually aired a day early so it’s out at the time of writing but I wanted to finish this post before watching it), for all that Mangetsu’s sacrifice served as the ultimate expression of her desire to dismantle the system it’s still at odds with Shingetsu’s desires to an extent. Shingetsu wanted to destroy magic because of the suffering it causes, the way it took away everyone she cared for, and yet the cost is watching her best friend die. The one person who believed in her absolutely gave herself so she can succeed. And now she’s about to be given the chance to undo that. Is acheiving her lifelong goal and making the world a better place worth losing Mangetsu forever? Or will she chose to keep the system that has created so much suffering in place in order to revive her friend?