Where are the empty bellows? Not in this episode.
We open on Loptr and Sigyn… cuddling naked? While talking about Yuuto? Okay?
Yuuto complains about the cold (but can’t be bothered to change his clothes to something more winter-appropriate). Just then, a wind blows up Felicia’s skirts! And she’s super embarrassed! Wow, how creative and interesting! Yuuto is too cold to notice, but Felicia is pissed off because she did it on purpose to appeal to him.
Yuuto instructs Ingrid to build a kotatsu, and he and Felicia enjoy it together. Meanwhile, Epheria (yes, that’s the slave girl) is feeling left out at school. Yuuto decides to spy on her to make sure she’s being treated right.
In order to protect Effy from bullying, Chris and Al become students too. They then proceed to treat her like a servant, even at school. Chris discovers that queen bee ignores Effy because women are naturally jealous, and she’s jealous that Effy is close to Yuuto. In order to change the kids’ minds, Chris decides to become the queen bee of the classroom.
Then Chris… magically achieves that result. We don’t see her become popular. She just does it, I guess. The old queen bee doesn’t want to hang out with Effy, and then, out of nowhere, she starts crying and agrees to be besties. I don’t even know what happened.
On the phone, Yuuto and Mitsuki wish each other Merry Christmas. The next day, Yuuto avoids Felicia and Run in order to make them presents for their upcoming birthdays. Forget Christmas, I guess? That was just… a distraction?
Alone in the forge with Yuuto, the jealous Ingrid resolves to seduce him. They blow some glass (didn’t we already watch this?) and Ingrid does all of Yuuto’s work for him. Then Yuuto tells her that she needs to act more like a woman. She punches him in the face, in the only satisfying moment of this series. The next day, Yuuto makes Ingrid an apology necklace and tells her that she should wear it to dress more ladylike. Wow, what a sincere apology.
Oh, and Alexis is back! He gets Loptr and Steinthor to take an oath and become brothers so that the two of them can take down Yuuto and restore the balance of the Empire.
Jesus Christ. What genre is this show? What is this show even about? The constant flip-flopping between serious battles and cutesy fanservice was jarring enough, but now we’ve added elementary school drama to the mix. I can’t believe all these pieces fit together into one episode, because none of them are related in any way whatsoever. This episode is hilarious, but it’s funny the way The Room is funny. I’m laughing at it, not with it.
To start things off, I’m angry about how good the animation is in the opening scene. There’s some really nice shading, and this weird nude conversation doesn’t deserve it. Seriously, why are Sigyn and Loptr discussing their military rival while having sex?
Speaking of Sigyn, the title card before the commercial break once again relays crucial information that vitally changes the way I understand this character. Why couldn’t they have told us that Sigyn is Loptr’s wife through dialogue, instead of making us read it in tiny text that flashes by quickly? Also, since when is his name Hvedrungr? Wasn’t it Loptr? I’m lost.
In case this new gossip wasn’t enough, the title card also teaches us that Sigyn was the patriarch of the Panther Clan before Loptr came along, and then she just… stepped down, I guess, for some unknown reason. Wow, it would be really cool and interesting to know why! Maybe we’re expected to assume that a man would obviously be a better Panther Clan patriarch than she is. Who knows? We sure won’t.
In the next scene, Yuuto’s utter ignorance of the fanservice going on around him is admittedly pretty funny. I relate to Yuuto watching Felicia’s skirt blow up and then reacting with small talk about the weather. I feel you, Yuuto. I don’t like watching this kind of stuff, either.
The kotatsu scenes are mostly harmless, but they frustrate me because of what this show could have been. It would have been fascinating to explore the interaction between Eastern and Western technology at play here, but of course, this show fails to do so in any meaningful way. What does it mean that Yuuto uses mostly Eastern technology to dominate a Western world? Well, we’ll never know, because this show isn’t interested in exploring that. Too bad.
And then, of course, we come to the school drama. I’m constantly baffled by the attitude this show has towards Effy; the writers treat “slave” as a cute character quirk rather than a serious historical institution responsible for the oppression of millions. Yuuto allows Effy to attend school, insists that she hang out around the kotatsu, and seems genuinely invested in her happiness.
No, you didn’t miss anything—she does all this while she’s still very much his slave. When she’s not at the schoolhouse, Effy serves Yuuto and his advisors. When Chris and Al show up to help Effy make friends, she has to spend her school hours serving them, too! Chris jokes that Yuuto acts like Effy’s overprotective father, but… that’s just not true. He’s literally her slave owner.
In case it isn’t already clear, Yuuto’s apparent concern for Effy’s wellbeing is so sinister and creepy when you remember that he could, you know, free her at any time. I mean, how much can Yuuto really care about Effy if he’s still keeping her as his slave? It’s highly uncomfortable to watch.
Everything about these school scenes is ridiculous and unearned. I especially like Chris’s assertion that women are all jealous creatures, solely motivated by their desire to get close to men (thanks, sexism!). And when the queen kid is moved to tears because Effy asks her to come to the baths with everyone? It comes out of nowhere, without a shred of believable emotion behind it.
This show reminds me of the writing I used to produce when I was nine or ten years old. Back then, I was too young to see the value of outlining or editing, so I would utilize a stream-of-consciousness method: characters would do whatever I felt like they should do at that moment, with no thought to the overall shape of the story I was crafting. Therefore, most scenes failed to fit together or add anything to the overarching plot. Beats were repeated, the tone shifted dramatically, and characters’ emotional reactions were wildly undeserved.
That’s exactly how I feel about this episode and this series. Presumably, The Master of Ragnorak & Blesser of Einherjar wasn’t written by a nine-year-old, so pardon me for having higher expectations for this show.
I’m giving “The Kotatsu and the Empty Bellows” 1.5 points instead of 1, though, because I really enjoyed watching Yuuto get punched in the face.