New arc and new lessons learned
Well placed development, as well as a nicely timed cliffhanger made this a great start to the Kouga arc.
Setting Part 3
The setting changes as more light is brought upon a known concept and its application to how its handled in relation to the series. The starting location for the series is the moderate sized city called Qishan where Aladdin met Alibaba. The new setting is the remains of the once Great Kouga empire which has been reduced to a secluded village where inbreeding is common to form one huge family where blood ties to the Kouga all exist.
This shows the rankings in terms of collective populations. At the bottom would be the secluded villages where few people stay, next would be what i call the merchant cities where Shariffs play managers as they manage the property given to them by the king and at the very top would be the capital cities for respective countries and any cities near by which are expected to be fairly large in size (you won’t be seeing any secluded villages right next to a capital).
Now comes the known concept i mentioned and that would be expansion. Whenever someone has power what do they desire? well that is of course more power, its the greed of man and its been shown throughout humanities history. In this case the great power in question is the Kou Empire which along with empires like Laem and Sindria (mentioned by Alibaba to be the country created by Sinbad) are among the great powers of the world. It is to be expected that new powers would pick on old powers, in this case instead of instant conquest due to the General in charge (Hakuei) they seek diplomatic affairs, but as one can see by the ending of the episode not all share her pacifist ideals.
The power which Aladdin displayed last episode is explained a bit further but even more so than that it adds a essential concept which will play a great role in the series. Rukh as described are the embodiments of the never ending flow of life, in other words the flow of life itself and its impact on the world which surrounds people daily. The Rukh themselves can’t be seen by everyone either, though as shown by the Elder the viewing of them isn’t limited to Magi, the complete manipulation and use of Rukh is another matter entirely though.
Rukh is the flow of life and as life dies it returns to this flow, thus the very souls of humans could be said to be what composes said flow and the nature of Rukh, this is shown in how Aladdin is able to tell the nature of Hakuei’s intentions by seeing the Rukh which flows around her thus judging her character. This indicates that not all Rukh is the same and as shown in the OP there is indeed black Rukh which can represent malice in place of the harmony of the Rukh which surrounds pacifists like Alibaba and Hakuei.
The flow of of the world and more importantly human nature was portrayed as common human characteristics were shown, in particular the feeling of loneliness and the desire to belong. As the setting changed Aladdin was able to take a different view at something he didn’t notice before (which in fairness he has been locked up in a room for a long time so its not like he has had forever to look around). Different perspectives provide different understandings and thus different lessons to be learned, in Aladdins case he learned the feeling of belonging despite his unknown origin which left him feeling secluded. He learned to be able to feel a bit more of the feeling that Alibaba gave him and that is the comfort of the company that one can relate with thus forming bonds of friendships which can be said to be a norm in Shounens.
Times of peace tend to not last though so conflict was a given and this was shown in the nature of the setting that i mentioned, referring to the expansion which empires tend to enact in desire for more power. The concept aside from this know fact however is shown in the reaction of the Kouga people to such expansion, their initial reaction was what could said to be expected, they were angry due to their pride of being a once proud empire reduced to merging as a small fragment of a new empire and this was only escalated by the provoking of one of the soldiers who is disagreeable to say the least that is under Hakuei’s command.
While such a scenario in real life may have easily escalated to conflict and this case war and the inevitable elimination of the Kouga clan, this is Shounen so it of course took a different route. In this case the value of family and friendship which Aladdin was able to experience this episode is used as the foundation for their reasoning to accept joining the Kou empire at the expense of their pride for what they must truly protect is their own lives and the lives of those they care for, after all you can’t have pride if you are dead, and even if they were able to survive by some miracle and win against all odds they would surely suffer losses and among the corpses of their family what would their pride do then? thus the acceptance made to Elder Baba’s plea.
Ren Hakuei is the third daughter of the first Kou emperor and a general of the empire. She has portrayed herself to be disciplined and patient as she shows no means to rush her task of expansion which she was surely given as a general and instead of a quick conquest she instead chose the means of diplomatic talks which could easily be drawn out, this in itself represents her pacifistic ideals in the desire to not harm life which she conveys to Aladdin.
Her pacifistic thoughts however put her in position that one could say she is not suited for as she is a general thus she must command power, while enforcing her ideals with from a position of power, if one is not able to do this then you have rebellion or at the very least soldiers who step out of line like was done with the solider who provoked the Kouga clan or even worse the kidnapping of the women of the Kouga clan which one can safely say Hakuei had no part in.
Aladdin and Elder Baba
As an elder, Elder Baba represents what most people expect of the old and that is wisdom and the wisdom in this case is the representation of family which Aladdin knows nothing off, to a boy who was locked in a room for what is implied to be most of his life the concept of warmth is indeed foreign as Alibaba is his first human friend, and while Alibaba did indeed form a strong bond with Aladdin which has effected them both greatly as shown in Alibabas perspective and resolve to move forward at the start of the episode Elder Baba provides a different bond and that of one that someone can look up to or seek advice from, along with the knowledge that Aladdins existence isn’t as secluded as he thought it to be, Aladdin was able to gain indispensable knowledge from his visit to the Kouga.
Also considering the information that has been stated about the flow of Rukh and the components of life which it is established from, one could make the point that worlds order is effected by Rukh as it is the embodiment of life itself thus the course of life and fate could be directed by such a flow, making Aladdins encounter with Elder Baba and his learning of such things just a matter of course, but this of course will all be evaluated later one way or another.
Well for anime only viewers the cliffhanger could be surprising to say the least, but while the surprise didn’t exist for me as a manga reader i can still safely say that it was a great choice to end the first part of the Kouga arc which should wrap up next episode, the episode may feel fast paced to some, some may complain that it is going way to fast as its already covered 20+ chapters in 4 episodes, but i can assure you that there is no way the pace will keep up and it will slow down in the coming arcs. That said even with such a pace they covered the main points very well and introduced the essential concept of Rukh very nicely, giving implications while establishing foundations which can be built on as the series progresses.