Operation Golden Rule of Love brutally uses romantic tropes to horrify the viewer. It is perhaps the only time I’ve seen this done, and is one of the creepiest episodes in the series.
As far as I can tell The Fool is possibly the most misleading card encountered yet, at least in terms of its basic interpretation. The Fool represents the start of a journey, and having faith in the destination, than it does outright folly or error. The actions of The Fool may appear to be folly, but may actually hold wisdom.
Operation Golden Rule of Love starts with the Zaibach generals panicking over Hitomi and Escaflowne. We are treated to scenes of armies of Escaflownes trashing the Zaibach guymelefs, floating fortresses and then Zaibach itself with an implacable Hitomi at their head. As this is going on the Zaibach generals are interrogating Folken to find out what he knows.
Dornkirk repeats his concerns about separating the dragon (ie Van) and Hitomi.
Watching the generals lose it so completely over one girl, one boy and one Ispano guymelef before working themselves up to advocating all out attack is probably the only funny thing in this episode.
It is at this point that Folken finally speaks suggesting that they use the gravity of love to pull Hitomi away from Van as the card is revealed.
In Asturia three weeks have passed and Allen’s troops are partying it up in a Tavern. Allen, Hitomi, and Van are somewhat pensive after the events of The Gravity of Destiny.
Somewhat to Hitomi’s surprise Dryden announces that he and Millerna are getting married. Dryden is somewhat boastful (as always) but the plan is to use his wealth and Asturia’s power to fight effectively against Zaibach. Van is unimpressed as he believes that Zaibach are trying to destroy Gaea.
By the way the renaissance etiquette on display in this scene clearly establishes Dryden’s position as heir apparent: he is seated behind a desk whilst the others stand before him.
Princess Eries appears and is clearly in support of the idea, reminding the group of the pre-existing betrothal. As the spymistress and power behind the throne Eries also offers pardon for “crimes” such as Allen’s “revolt” against Asturia and Van’s “attacks” on Zaibach. It turns out that King Aston is bedridden so a successor to the throne is urgently needed, and this does help to explain Eries’ enormous influence at this point.
I’m not sure how much of Eries blaming Aston’s illness on Allen taking Millerna with him is genuine anger or an attempt to politically neutralise Allen. Especially as Allen didn’t actually take Millerna anywhere: he left her behind in The Day the Angel Flew and Millerna set off on her own in Memories of a Feather.
Millerna enters the room at this point and despite her displeasure with Eries, Allen nevertheless toes the acceptable line: he kneels to Millerna and congratulates her on her wedding.
Millerna is next seen picking out dresses for Hitomi.The room darkens as the sun passes behind a cloud as Millerna attempts to justify her marriage (rich, handsome, make me happy etc). Meanwhile Hitomi is remembering the scene in Capitol of Intrigue when Millerna was introduced and Hitomi just isn’t buying it.
Hitomi is horribly conflicted in this scene. She is calling Millerna out for lying to her self and telling her not to give up on Allen. But at the same time Hitomi is doing a little happy dance inside at the prospect of Allen being available.
Millerna is uncertain enough to ask Hitomi for a reading, and this is enough to drive the conflict to the surface. Hitomi flees thinking that she’s a jerk for telling Millerna not to give up when she didn’t really mean it.
Personally I think that Hitomi is being overly self critical here, especially for a 16 year old.
Back in Zaibach preparations are being made to separate Van and Hitomi. Given that they’ve just met up in Asturia, Dornkirk’s vision is shut off and he panics a bit. Folken however reassures Dornkirk that Van lacks the courage to cross the romantic line just yet.
Don’t you hate it when elder brothers can read you that well?
Outside the city where Escaflowne is hidden (and Van is doing a little maintenance), Van attempts to reassure Hitomi in a clumsy sort of a way. It’s working well enough until Van blows it by asking Hitomi to stay with him because of he wants her power so that they can defeat Zaibach.
Yes, that’s the way to a girl’s heart.
A flight of birds takes off from the roof, Hitomi is standing on a bridge calling Van a jerk, and Van has a nice bruise coming up on his cheek. This is classic anime romance tropes and no real surprises yet.
Dornkirk’s vision returns as Allen is visiting his father’s grave. As he turns to leave Eries asks him to let Millerna go for her happiness. This exchange reveals shades of Allen’s ruthlessness: if the marriage were only a way for Dryden to take the throne, Dryden would be dead by now.
This is where it gets creepy.
Folken will use one of Allen’s hairs and one of Hitomi’s to redirect their emotions along with whichever of Naria and Eriya win the coin toss.
Hitomi is standing in the rain, alone and depressed, and the couple making out nearby send her fleeing in embarrassment.
Folken and Eriya begin and for the most part in this scene they address each other as Allen and Hitomi. The alteration of fate commences as Folken and Eriya act out a classic romantic scene.
Allen and Hitomi are walking through the rain. Hitomi’s confusion mounts, Van heads off after Hitomi.
Hitomi ends up on a bridge bracketed, missing Amano, as Allen arrives on the bridge.
The scenes play out in parallel and the only brief interruption is a brief flash of Millerna by Hitomi.
Folken and Eriya resume their focus and it overwhelms Hitomi’s resistance.
The scene ends with Hitomi’s first kiss (and Eriya’s for that matter), as Dornkirk celebrates victory.
The rain stops, the sun comes out, and Van arrives just as the kiss breaks.
I notice that I haven’t mentioned the soulful look of adoration on Naria’s part as she watches Folken and Eriya kissing.
The way this scene tramples on Van, Allen, and Hitomi’s free will is horrifying. As noted in TV Tropes the importance of the First Kiss (at least in anime etc) is hard to overstate, and for it to be manipulated this way is deeply wrong.
In terms of background music this episode is well above the usual excellent standard as the music perfectly sets the tone of the episode.
In terms of the card I think we see both the upright and reversed versions. In someways Naria and Eriya are the upright Fools: innocents with faith in their world, which is mostly Folken.
Meanwhile the cynical politics of Eries, and the manipulation of Van, Allen & Hitomi represent the reversed card to me.
In conclusion I would say that Operation Golden Rule of Love is an extremely powerful episode, but not one that is a lot of fun to watch.
Day 1 – Fateful Confession / The Tower
Day 2 – The Girl From the Mystic Moon / Ace of Serpents
Day 3 – The Gallant Swordsman / Death
Day 4 – The Diabolical Adonis / The Hanged Man
Day 5 – The Seal of the Brothers / Judgement
Day 6 – Capitol of Intrigue / Justice
Day 7 – Unexpected Partings / The Chariot
Day 8 – Sub vs Dub
Day 9 – The Day the Angel Flew / Temperance
Day 10 – Memories of a Feather / Ace of Birds
Day 11 – The Blue-Eyed Prince / Knight of Beasts
Day 12 – Prophecy of Death / The Devil
Day 13 – The Secret Door / High Priestess
Day 14 – Red Destiny / The Emperor
Day 15 – The Gender of Escaflowne
Day 16 – Dangerous Wounds / The Magician
Day 17 – Lost Paradise / The Star
Day 18 – The Guided Ones / Wheel of Fortune
Day 19 – The Edge of the World / The Empress
Day 20 – The Gravity of Destiny / The World
Day 21 – Operation Golden Rule of Love / The Fool
Day 22 – False Vows
Day 23 – Reaction of Fortune
Day 24 – ???
Day 25 – The Black Winged Angel
Day 26 – Storm Premonition
Day 27 – Fateful Decision
Day 28 – Zone of Absolute Fortune
Day 29 – Eternal Love
Day 30 – Looking Back at The Vision of Escaflowne