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Review of Chivalry of a Failed Knight Episode 10: More than a Valiant Attempt and the Gloves Come Off

Quick Summary

In Chivalry of a Failed Knight episode 10, "Witch of the Deep Ocean V.S. Raikiri," Shizuku Kurogane faces off against Touka Toudou. We got to see the latter in action against the stone golems in the previous episode. We haven't seen Shizuku in full combat, but what can she possibly do against the massive power Touka can bring to the fight? With student expectations running so strongly in favor of her opponent, can Shizuku find the fortitude to put everything she has on the line, up to and including smirking in the face of despair? And what will her father do if she loses?

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.

What's in This Post

3 Favorite Moments

Moment 1: Stella and Ikki In Sync -- As Usual!

These two are such superb fighters that their analysis of the opening moves are in complete sync. That just adds to how adorable they are as a couple. Capture from the Hulu stream

Were you as energized about the match between Shizuku and Touka as I was? We really haven't seen much of Shizuku's capabilities, but she's supposed to be second only to Stella in the freshman class. That suggests even Touka can't just brush her aside. To be honest, watching them enter the arena was more exciting for me than any NFL game has been (at least in the last couple of decades!). Both exuded confidence. Shizuku's sword-drawing motion was more like an elegant dance than a martial display. On the other hand, Touka's motions more suited the goddess of war we met in the last episode.

Just good stuff!

Up in the stands, Ikki, Stella, and Alice Arisuin watch as the fight begins. At first, neither contestant moves. The commentator is at a loss, but Ikki knows what's going on: Touka's most effective up close, whereas Shizuku is better at a distance. Neither wants to make the opening move. Without missing a beat, Stella completes the thought, saying that Touka's lighting sword is her "ace in the hole" (09:10).

I really like demonstrated competence. Not only does Touka unquestionably embody it; not only do Ikki and Stella have it in abundance; but Shizuku's strategy stood up to Ikki and Stella's combined analysis. At this point, I was really ready for this start to start.

Moment 2: Shizuku Walks the Knife's Edge

Shizuku gave this fight everything she had. That was her victory. Capture from the Hulu stream

Do you know what's more difficult than spending years of intense work honing your technique? Coming up against someone you know if better than you, and not giving into despair. At least, that's how I see it, and that's why this next moment is my second favorite of the episode.

After Touka used her Nukiashi ability to engage Shizuku in close-range combat, the battle started going against Ikki's sister. Worse, it was exactly the way the commentators and even Ikki and Stella thought it would go. That had to gall Shizuku, but she didn't lose her composure. She didn't let it alter her tactics. 

Using a combination of a dense fog, water clones, and blinding speed, Shizuku even managed to get close -- very, very close -- to striking a finishing blow.

Touka unleashed Raikiri.

That was the end of the fight.

Ikki's analysis was clear-headed and professional. Without letting his feeling for her as his sister have any impact on his judgement, he confirmed that he recognized her abilities. Capture from the Hulu stream

The strike was so fast that Shizuku didn't even know she'd lost until she woke up later in the hospital. Her strength and courage, her unwillingness to back down in the face of a superior foe, nearly gave her my second favorite moment. Instead, I'm giving it to what her brother said about her.

Alice asked, almost accusingly, if Ikki had seen what his little sister had just done.

Ikki answered (20:03), "I know, Alice. I saw everything. Shizuku’s last attack wasn’t a reckless suicide attack. It was the best move toward victory. Todo just cut it down straight on.”

The swordsman whose way of life is defined by courage and strength just acknowledged the same in Shizuku. In the movie "Hearts of the West," the character Howard Pike said, "You're not a writer until a writer says you're a writer." In this case, Ikki just confirmed that he sees his little sister as a swordsman, which was exactly what she had hoped for.

Moment 3: An Unfair Attack of Kindness

This is the instant her control wavered -- just before it shattered. Capture from the Hulu stream

When Shizuku woke up in the hospital, Stella, Ikki, and Alice were waiting for her. She's crushed that she lost, but she's not about to show her emotions to anyone. She tells everyone to clear out. She's polite about it, but she just wants to be alone.

Stela and Ikki leave, but Alice stays behind. Sitting up, preparing herself for an argument, she demands that he "Get out!" He throws his arms around her and holds her.

She didn't know how to react. She spent a lifetime developing her ability to overcome hardship. She had no idea what to do in the face of kindness.

He pushed his "cruel" advantage by saying (21:26), "You did well,” he told her. “Your brother… he watched you until the very end. I’m not someone you want to protect, or you want to beat. So… you don’t have to act tough anymore.”

I think her tears started before she was even aware. In another instant, her control broke, and she sobbed into Alice's shoulder. Yes, she had wanted to prove her strength to her brother. Yes, she was happy that he watched her. But I also think that she had to prove it to herself. Alice's kindness gave her a brief emotional space to realize that.

Thoughts

Until this episode, I thought Shizuku was just fine. Not a stand out; not really a bro-con, because I thought they did a good job of showing us her motives. But I thought she was more background than anything else. This episode changed my perspective. She wasn't "just" trying to give Ikki the support he had never gotten at home. She was also trying to become a warrior in her own right. She told herself that she wanted to provide it to her brother, but to me it was pretty clear she wanted to prove it to herself, too. After all, one of the things she loved about Ikki is that he always followed his own convictions. He wanted to become strong. It's only natural she'd want to emulate that.

Shizuku had nothing to be ashamed of in her performance. Capture from the Hulu stream

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, in no small part because of Ikki's dedication to what I'm irreverently calling the way of the sword. I've been trying to figure out why. I think I finally have a handle on it, and I'd like to share my conclusions with you.

Have you ever read "The Book of Five Rings?" That link takes you to Amazon; this one takes you to Wikipedia. Miyamoto Musashi wrote this book about swordsmanship and martial arts in the mid 1600s CE. Before reading that book, I'd heard anecdotal evidence that martial arts is not just for fighting. I've heard it's also for personal development like strengthening one's will and union between spirit, mind, and body. Until I read that book, though, most of what I had to go on was bad Kung Fu movies and general discussions.

A lot of "The Book of Five Rings" was beyond my experience. But there were some things that stuck with me. This is a typical passage (from the Kindle version):

Pressing Down the Pillow means not letting your opponent’s head up. In the Way of Martial Arts combat, it is wrong to let your opponent lead you around or push you into a defensive position. Above all, you want to move him around freely. Therefore, as both you and your opponent are going to be mindful of this, it will be difficult for you to do if you do not perceive what he is going to do. 

In the martial arts, you do such things as check your opponent’s strike, suppress his stabs, and break away from grappling. In what is called Pressing Down the Pillow, you grasp my True Way and, when in a confrontation, see through the indications of what your opponent is going to do regardless of his actions. When he is going to strike, before the word “strike” could even be pronounced, be intent on suppressing him and prohibit the rest of his action.

Musashi, Miyamoto. The Book of Five Rings . Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

I've been talking about Ikki and how he follows the way of the sword. Shizuku just showed that's following in his tracks. Her showing against Touka proves how formidable she is! Capture from the Hulu stream

I could almost hear Ikki's voice as I read, "before the word 'strike' could even be pronounced, be intent on suppressing him and prohibit the rest of his action." There's an almost radical dedication to seeing the world as it -- including your own place in it. Otherwise, how could you effective respond?

There's no room for dishonesty.

Do you remember Ayase Ayatsuji back in episode 7? Her focus on vengeance at any cost disconnected her from her place in the world -- a place where she did not see herself as the vengeance type. Only after accepting who she really was (not a homicidal maniac, fortunately!) could she begin to improve her sword skills.

That's what I like Ikki. He calmly sees the world as it is. He sees his place in it. He understands his goals and plans what to do to get there. Extraneous things like a desire to get back at his dad for years of poor treatment just don't interest him. He remains focused on his mission. He's even applied that to Stella: I think he's serious about marrying her, and he knows that's impossible in his current state. So he told her they have to wait to get closer until he could proclaim his feeling for her to the world. I admire that kind of focus and dedication. I wish I had more of those things myself!

What did you think of Touka and Shizuku's fight? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!

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