This was a surprisingly SERIOUS BUSINESS (TM – Kurogane) episode without the usual A/B side narratives and no Aika or Alice.
I think this was an important episode in building towards a conclusion where Akari eventually becomes a prima on two levels. Firstly, Alicia’s intervention subtly addresses Akari’s own lack of self-confidence and self-awareness regarding her suitability to be a prima undine. Secondly, Alicia also represents the author/studio preparing us, the viewers, for Akari’s teleological apotheosis, so to speak.
Anzu is a reminder that there are serious barriers to entry in transgressing the Single/Prima boundary. *insert Alan Sokal joke here* A timely reminder that Akari’s anxiety is not unfounded and Anzu’s black aura shows the shuffling zombie spirit of one who has sampled the bitter taste of failure.
The grunt trio of Anzu, Atora and Ayumi are a useful reminder of several things. Given how Akari (and us the viewers) normally hang out with the elite three Water Fairies and their respective elite disciples, it’s out of sight (and presumably out of mind) as to what the median level of Singles are. *insert bell curve graph here*
The trio are also a lovely cameo, celebrated by Totali, for some lovely seiyuu. I was half expecting Houko Kuwashima to say some line from Claymore or Noir but this isn’t Hayate no Gotoku. LOL
The trio’s recognition (very Honneth kind of stuff or, perhaps even, a Kojève reading of Hegel) of Akari’s mad skillz shows that her self-doubt is unfounded, she deserves her place at the ARIA Company; that Alicia has been fair and honest in her high estimation of Akari which reminds us that although Alicia is a very nice person, she is also one of the best professionals in the biz and her professionalism extends to assessing her apprentice’s worthiness too. A useful corrective, given how Akari’s ditziness is often a point for humour in this series and may have made some viewers question whether she really had the techne of being a true prima undine.
Given the feel-good nature of this series, there’s a certain sense that Akari’s promotion is inevitable, somewhat over-emphasized by the evocation of the ‘kitto daijoubu’ spell which we also saw in Cardcaptor Sakura and Lyrical Nanoha.
But I prefer to think of it as teleological in the Aristotlean sense. As one of my colleagues so eloquently put it IIRC, over a couple of beers a few weeks ago, if you think of an acorn’s telos (end, purpose) as a mature oak tree, it does not mean that the acorn will inevitably become a mature oak tree. Contingent events, like weather, disease, predation etc., may intervene. But, conditions permitting, the acorn should become a mature oak tree. As such, this episode showcases how Akari has that telos while most of the other episodes concentrated mainly on the permissive causes e.g. having a great mentor, having the very talented and complementary Aika and Alice to practice with, a host of supportive supporting cast members, her love of Neo Venezia and that love being reciprocated via Cait Sith etc.
According to Fisherman Horizon, this episode also seems faithful to the intention of the manga’s author.
Ok, enough with the Greek stuff already. Really looking forward to next week – hope for more Athena glorious flashback!