Trust me, it is taking every ounce of willpower I have not to compare the emotional and dramatic payoff of this episode with a similar scene from the original anime. However, even if there were nothing before this reimagining, I would still have some reservations about the overall narrative structure of this episode. This episode tries to hammer in Vash’s hypocrisy about how he makes a lot of promises that he can’t keep. He promised to be there for this poor boy, but not only did he fail to arrive in time to save him, but in a weird twisted nightmare, that same boy came back as a monster dead-set on killing him. The idea is supposed to be that making noble promises ends up doing more harm than good in the long run, even if there arguably wasn’t anything that Vash could do about it.
But that’s the point. He can’t save everyone, so he shouldn’t promise that he will try. My favorite part of this episode was the end when the plant’s windmills finally started turning because the wind had returned to the land, which was partly why the boy was about to be sacrificed in the first place. It’s almost a subtle implication that if the boy had died the way he was supposed to, then that town probably could’ve thrived even though no one should profit off of the death of a child like that. It’s also interesting that the boy was killed by someone who carries a giant cross, and I like that this mirrors what the boy’s original purpose was supposed to be in such a religious town.
The problem with this episode is that it would’ve hit harder if we had more examples of Vash’s loaded promises beforehand. There have been numerous moments where Vash has stopped other people from taking a life, and if this was an episode where he was left dealing with the consequences of letting the wrong person live, then the theme would’ve been much stronger. But if we were going to stick with what we got, then I wish they were more examples of Vash making significant promises that he arguably couldn’t keep. The only example we have is at the beginning of the series when he promises to get the plant back stolen from the first town he was in, but that promise falls on deaf ears because the townspeople throw him out.
I’m going to assume that Knives doesn’t want Vash straight-up dead because he had numerous opportunities to do so, and it’s implied he needs him for some plan. If that’s the case, what is the point of these attacks supposed to be? Knives knows that Vash is capable, but Vash also could have better self-preservation. If the whole idea is to keep Vash alive, then I feel like that should outweigh any desire to psychologically torture him if that is the intention. Speaking of putting Vash through things, I like that Wolfwood was trying to save the child and performed a mercy kill…even though the whole thing was framed as Wolfwood trying to save Vash. I don’t know enough about Wolfwood at this point in the story to get an idea of how opposed his personality is supposed to be to Vash’s own. Now if this is supposed to be the catalyst for their relationship and that conversation evolves throughout the season, then that could be interesting. I hope we don’t immediately skip to the next thing.