I was smitten with Tearmoon Empire from its very first episode, as it provided a quasi-historical spin on the usual reincarnation premise that I found irresistible. While our heroine Princess Mia Tearmoon isn’t a literal analog for famous monarchs like Marie Antoinette, the show is not subtle about the parallels it is working with when it depicts the sad state of affairs of the empire at the end of the monarchy’s reign, not to mention Mia’s date with Madame Guillotine that gets her reincarnation journey going. These days, I don’t know if it is physically possible for me to care less about whatever random Potato-kun is getting reborn into some generic RPG fantasy land. If you give me a flawed but determined oligarch who is determined to use her second chance to avoid her beheading along with the collapse of her empire, though, then you will have my attention for at least a few more episodes.
What I love the most about these first chapters of Mia’s story is precisely how flawed she is. Unlike, say, a “Reincarnated as the Villainess of a Dating Game” kind of show, Mia isn’t some generically likable everywoman who has assumed a previously villainous character’s body and identity. Mia was the villain of the Tearmoon Empire‘s revolution, and she hasn’t suddenly become an entirely new person now that she’s back in her preteen body. As her interactions with Ludwig, Sion, and Tiona so hilariously remind us, Mia is very capable of regressing to her haughty, vain, and spiteful old ways. At the end of the day, her primary motivation is still self-preservation. It’s just that a few years locked up in prison before being gruesomely executed by her subjects has given Mia a bit of much-needed perspective. Sometimes, it turns out, the best way to keep your head off of the chopping block is simply by being kind and sympathetic to the needs of others. You know, the old Social Contract and all that.
The recurring joke, then, is that Mia’s sudden ability to give just a tiny bit more of a shit about the regular people around her is so transformative and shocking that her old enemies are now convinced that she is essentially a saint, a goddess of justice and mercy brought to earth to right the wrongs of the Empire with her own loving hands. This is a very funny joke, thankfully, as whenever the likes of Ludwig, Anne, Tiona, or the others are stunned into silence by their growing adoration of this heavenly young princess, we the audience get to see that Mia is mostly just terrified of Madame Guillotine.
Okay, scenes like Mia’s cute interactions with Anne’s little sister, who wrote the fairy tale that kept Mia sane during her prison stint, do prove that Mia is capable of being a genuinely good friend and leader. She just needs to unlearn a lifetime-and-a-half of aristocratic brain rot before she will be ready to lead her Empire into true prosperity on her own two feet. Until then, she at least has a growing cadre of adoring friends to support her, not to mention the help of that nifty time-shifting journal. If all else fails to help her change her ways for good, well, there’s always the looming specter of Madame Guillotine to remind Mia that she better fake it until she makes it.
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