After events came to something of a climax with the last batch of episodes I looked at, this batch steps back and allows the pace to calm down again - but it's also not without its surprises...
What They Say
Join Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Briar Rose from Sleeping Beauty as they are appointed to be guardians of a sealed key which could control a parallel universe inhabited by characters of well-known fairy tales while rebel clan, lead by a she-devil Cendrillon, desperately searches for the Key.
The last place passed of as Cendrillon's castle was, of course, no such thing so Souta and his companions are back on the road to the real one, which lies in the Sealed Land. The journey there - and by the end of these episodes they're not too far away, is noticeable for two things: more confrontation with Gretel, who's growing ever more questioning of just whose side she should be on; and a dig into Red's past that reveals a secret from that Val's been keeping for years, and that ties into Lycan Lord Jed's pursuit of the gang.
The batch starts off feeling very much like we're back to the standalone village-of-the-week stories that we'd had earlier in the season - but that doesn't last too long. Gretel's main desire in life is to win the praise of her brother, which has been an ever more difficult task since he became entangled in Cendrillon's spell - as a result, she's been making more and more of an effort to capture Souta and inconvenience the Musketeers. No matter what she does, though, it's not working - she just doesn't have in a her nature to truly be a villain, and continued failure soon upsets both Cendrillon and Hansel to the point where Very Bad Things are decreed from her. Add in the cumulative effect of the kindness that Souta and Red in particular have shown her, and Gretel soon reaches a breaking point, where she comes to realise that she'd have more chance to winning Hansel's approval by joining with the Musketeers and fighting to break Cendrillon's control over him than by fighting for Cendrillon - and the good guys gain a new member.
Of course, it doesn't go quite a smoothly as all that - there's well-founded suspicion from some in Souta's group about how genuine Gretel is being, and determined efforts by some to make sure that Gretel's rejected - but the passage of story plays out very well, even throwing in one possibly major plot issue to be dealt with in the final episodes.
Val's past, on the other hand, is dealt with when the gang come to the abandoned ruins of Red's hometown. It was destroyed in a raid by the Lycans one day, when Lord Jed, going against with wishes of the then-King of the Lycans, came in search of his half-human half-brother, with the aim of killing both him and his mother. It turns out that young Red, just three at the time, was friends with Jed's target, who she had thought was killed in the attack, along with her own parents - but Lord Jed's return to the scene leads to the truth being uncovered.
The key theme to this side of the story is trust: specifically, Val keeping his true identity a secret and Red having to decide whether or not she can trust him in the future. Red being Red, you know what they answer to that is going to be (she's a trusting girl by nature), but once again the way in which the story plays out is very enjoyable and worth paying attention to.
While it's a step back from the confrontation with Cendrillon, then, there's still a whole lot to be taken from these episodes, and that makes them essential viewing as far as the series is concerned (and those wondering where all the talk of Souta's mother has been leading will want to pay very close attention to one particular scene in episode 33). Fairy Musketeers has really hit its stride now, and with the final confrontation now not far away
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Apple MacBook Pro 17" with 4GB RAM and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.