She’s the Pied Piper and she’ll show you where it’s at.
As the bell from the tower crashes into his base, Conrad slowly realizes that Hamelin has been playing him this whole time. So, she tells the people watching in horror about her tragic past:
15 years ago, four infected children were taken in by the Rumble Town Inquisition in order to train them to fight off Nemeses, but they were held in a prison and hated by the citizens. Their only friend was Major Oxumare, who would keep their spirits up by playing the flute. However, a young Conrad feared and hated the children, as well as hating Oxumare for seeing him as weak for his prejudice, and so plotted to have him killed. He tricked the four children into escaping from their cells, only for them to be caught by an angry mob that killed three of them.
One day, a Nemesis fell from the sky onto Rumble Town, the same rat Nemesis we’ve seen in the present, and began wreaking havoc, with only the remaining child, Hameline, around to face it. It was then that Conrad made his move, killing Oxumare and almost killing Hameline too. She ran in terror and tried playing the flute to keep calm. She soon realized that the Nemesis and its echoes were attracted to her music, and so used them to escape the destruction of District 13 and plan her revenge against those who wronged her.
In the present, the citizens are shocked and outraged to learn about Conrad’s real plans, but Hameline deems them guilty too for taking part and plans to kill them all. Grimm arrives to intervene, which gives Conrad a chance to finish his work, but Seth stands in his way. Enraged, Seth’s Fantasia use manages to help him overcome Conrad’s immense power and even absorbing blows from his lance. As Conrad boasts himself as an unbreakable wall, Seth declares he’ll break down that wall and ends the fight with one mighty blow.
Well, turns out we still have quite a few episodes left for our time in Rumble Town, but if they’re as well executed as this one, I sure as hell don’t mind. Besides the almost blindingly obvious Trump allegory that Conrad represents, I feel like I’ve said almost as much as I can about the guy, so it’s fitting that he effectively exits the story here. I can’t imagine Seth killed him with that punch, but the battle looks to be shifting to facing Hameline now. I will say that Conrad is definitely one of the more effective shonen villains I’ve seen that help to better represent the trap of systemic racism, that being pitting two less powerful groups against each other so that they can’t join together to fight the ones in charge. It’s one of many things I think other shonen shows and similar could learn a thing or two from if they want to approach the topic of racism in their own stories.
As for Hameline’s tragic tale, I have to say that it basically taps into everything I already liked about this show’s set up. Like the Bravery Quartet, Hameline provides a good foil for Seth’s optimism about the world, having faced the same persecution as him, if not worse. Though unlike the Quartet, Hameline isn’t just a bitter thief who wants to manipulate people to get some petty form of reparations, but a vengeful and bloodthirsty product of a system that views sorcerers as tools to be exploited at best and disposable scum at worst. And so, because she’s seen as just as bad as the Nemeses they forced to fight, she joins with them and makes plans to destroy those who tried to kill her. She’s more or less the Gaara to Seth’s Naruto, which I am more than okay with them doing as long as they are aware of what made that connection work.
There’s still plenty we haven’t seen or had answered quite yet about this part of the story. Who is Grimm and where does he come from? Will Dragunov call in the other big Inquisitors to finish this job that Conrad couldn’t? And who is this masked guy among them who I guess will be meeting Seth soon? I’m all the way on board to finding out these answers, thanks in no small part to this excellent installment. Can’t wait to see what’s next.