The swath of subversions and surprises spurring Seven Spellblades so far doesn’t preclude more typical school storylines (magical or otherwise) from occurring. So with Andrews having been cowed a few weeks ago, this episode brings in a new upstart bully in Tullio Rossi, here to challenge Oliver and pals in ways that offer some insight into this world’s fighting styles as well as our main character’s mindset, and not much else thus far. Whether Rossi’s plot amounts to anything in the long run, or if he was just a stepping stone on Oliver’s journey, well, that’s a relevant question within the text itself here but is still left remaining to be seen in a way that doesn’t ring super-satisfactorily by the end of this episode.
There is some commentary on Rossi’s sudden appearance and giving off of grievances. Perhaps the reason we never saw him before was because Oliver and his platoon of protagonists were sucking up all the storytelling attention. We need these sorts of layers, since otherwise, Rossi’s is a plotline that feels stuck in the previous, obfuscated version of Spellblades‘s story. He’s got something to prove, and he’s all too eager to set up a whole complicated anime tournament arc to do it. The business with coin collecting and how readily he had the whole thing set to go made me think that Rossi and the writing might have had some alternative angles they were working; That he wasn’t just an upstart rival, but a con artist with some broader-scope scheme in mind. It wouldn’t be the first time this series utilized such a storytelling veil, after all.
In practice, as exemplified in his confrontation with Oliver at the end of this episode, however, what we see with Rossi might really be what we get. He’s here as an example of the other, surface-level plots still interfacing with Oliver’s public-facing facade, and thus also serving as an indicator of how far beyond that sort of thing the Oliver we know now is. Oliver does get some forward momentum out of the fight, realizing he still has to somewhat stay on his toes and learn new things as he always has in covering for his supposed lack of any specific talents. Though there is some irony in his admonishment of Rossi that mere cleverness can’t cover for a lack of fundamentals, since you could argue that trying to be too clever is something that Spellblades itself has chafed under in telling its story.
The other irony in the ideas articulated by this episode is the point it makes about Oliver’s baked-in spotlight-stealing nature. It’s the primary grievance that Rossi has with him and the rest of his posse, and the wannabe-rival’s challenging of them briefly seems to indicate some development directions for Chela as well as the recently highlighted Pete. It’s through their preparations for fighting Rossi, and Chela’s subsequent debates with Oliver, that we are given the information on the magical melee combat styles that are emblematic of the overall fundamentals espoused in this episode. Except, at least this week, it doesn’t amount to much for those characters since Oliver’s the one who internalizes those ideas and beats Rossi himself.
You can see where they were trying to go with other aspects explored in this one. On his way down to meet with his co-conspirators, Oliver bumps into Salvadori the succubus lady, and has a conversation with her that carries over into finding out his cousin/sister/whatever Shannon knows her somehow. We similarly learn that Gwynn is acquainted with Carlos, the upperclassman who invited Pete to the gathering last week. These people all have interconnected lives, regardless of whether our focus on Oliver and his quest affords us time to delve into all of them. However, it does just make it stick out more when our main way of obtaining this information comes through watching Oliver going about his business and checking off conversations like the primary player character in an RPG.
It is admittedly neat that Seven Spellblades can communicate things about non-primary characters and elements of its world simply through smaller details, like the way Rossi’s dirty fighting techniques are indicative of his desire to fast-track his way to victory and success. Maybe he hasn’t been wholly confirmed as an actual con artist, but he at least fights like one. It similarly comes through in the obligatory attention given to Oliver this week, as we learn his alleged lack of talent informs some of his interest in the inversely abled Nanao (along with, apparently, one hell of a mommy complex, which makes some sense given what we now know Oliver’s motive is). Having had to be taught and hone his skills further comes through in seeing what an effective teacher Oliver turns out to be, which we retroactively recognize as how he’s doted on and protected his peers in classes. It all fits fine, but I still can’t help but feel like it’s crowding out the other characters and concepts in the show as much as Rossi bitterly accuses Oliver of.
Chris is back for another season of calling wizards nerds. Feel free to disagree with him on that on his Twitter (for however much longer that lasts), or check out his irregular musings on other nerdy subjects over on his blog.
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