Time to breathe a sigh of relief as the show finally gets back on track. Subaru, now reawakened after his conversation with Rem, is back to his old self with very minimal whining. While the episode itself is fairly low on action, we get a lot of set up for some legendary fighting in the upcoming episodes.
Episode 19, named “The Battle Against the White Whale” sets us up for the battle against the white whale without actually getting us to the battle against the white whale. The episode begins with negotiations between Subaru and Crusch. The offer: in exchange for help defending against the witch’s cult, Subaru offers mining rights in magic stones (rights that I don’t think he actually has the power to give) and the spawn point for the dreaded White Whale.
The negotiations are successful, in part due to the appearance of Anastasia and Russel (head of the merchant’s guild) who both agree to back Subaru in his endeavors. As negotiations come to a close, Subaru admits that he had been working with Anastasia and Russel from the beginning in order to smooth the negotiations process.
Crusch is mildly annoyed at being tricked, but mostly impressed. Everyone is so impressed with Subaru. Because Subaru is so impressive. In fact, most of the episode involves people thanking Subaru and telling him how impressive he is. Much to the annoyance of the audience who know exactly how much of a whiny little child Subaru has been in the past five episodes.
The rest of the episode involves the armies getting ready to take on the White Whale. On Crusch’s side, we learn more about Wilhelm and his vendetta against the white whale. Wilhelm’s wife was the prior First Swordsman who lost her life to the White Whale. Wilhelm is joined by a handful of other swordsman who also appear to wish for the whale’s immediate murder.
On Anastasia’s side, we get the introduction of two more of Anastasia’s lieutenants. The first is Ricardo, a giant but lovable wolf demihuman. The second is Mimi’s brother, Hetaro. Given the excitability of Ricardo and Mimi, Hetaro paints himself as the more rational of Anastasia’s lieutenants.
Episode 19 has a much lighter feel to it than prior episodes. There is a lot more joking and camaraderie between the characters. One notable moment is when Subaru makes Rem jealous by selecting a ground dragon which loves him on sight. The additional characters add some levity in between the general set up which takes up the rest of the episode.
The episode ends with the introduction of the White Whale. There is a moment of doubt when Subaru’s alarm goes off and the army doesn’t spot the whale. Then a shadow appears over the tree, signaling the whales approach. With a quick blast from Rem, the battle starts and the episode ends.
Episode 19 appears to mark the end of Subaru’s stupidity. In fact, his 180 degree turn from miserably stupid to genius negotiator will likely jar with some people. Especially when all of the set up occurs in the background. Additionally, it does feel weird for Subaru to be making such grand connections between events when he hadn’t really been listening the first time. Thus, instead of feeling like a redemption for the main character, episode 19 feels a lot more like a reboot – as if Subaru’s power of “Return by Death” was replaced with “Return from Stupidity.”
With all of the fighters gathered around Subaru, episode 19 feels like the start of an epic battle. It just would have been nicer if we could have sat through Subaru’s more intelligent moments instead of his stupider ones.