Folken’s back story and a heel face turn as enlightenment dawns. More or less.
The Sun is a card of gaining enlightenment, of greatness and vitality. In both the upright and reversed sense the focus is on Folken, and to a lesser extent (upright only) Hitomi.
The Black Winged Angel opens with a flashback to Folken’s attempt at the Rite of Dragonslaying that Van successfully completed in Fateful Confession. In Folken’s case it comes with a disturbing shot of an arm and a sword flying through the air.
As the flashback eases we find Folken in the ruins of Fanelia grieving for Naria and Eriya and wondering why his wishes never come true. As the camera pans over the ruins the card and episode title are revealed.
In Asturia a council is being held to deal with the aftermath of the events in False Vows and Reaction of Fortune. Even as Millerna is watching her sick father in bed, the tendency towards appeasement in the rest of Aston’s council is strong. In particular suggestions are made that Hitomi be handed over.
Allen gets fairly annoyed by this but Dryden deals with it somewhat more smoothly.
Unfortunately he cannot do much more than impose sanctions. I do wonder if this is a veiled comment about the sanctions against Iraq that were in place at the time that the series was made (1996).
As the council wears on it is time for Van’s flashback. To the whispers of cowardice about Folken answered by the faith of a child.
Hitomi and Merle are waiting outside as the council ends. Allen claims that a little progress was made as the rest of the council sneeringly walk by. Van is less optimistic and is now blaming Folken to the point where he resolves to kill him.
Hitomi tries to intervene but is stopped by Allen. Allen makes an incredibly annoying comment about locking Hitomi away in a bird cage. As I mentioned in the gender post there is a tendency to reduce Hitomi to a damsel in distress in later episodes but I’d forgotten how blatant it was.
Having said that, Hitomi is not very pleased by that remark. It occurs to me that this may a deliberate part of the shift in the romantic focus from Allen to Van. Although this still doesn’t justify the behaviour.
Later that night Hitomi is recalling Naria’s faith in Folken, in Van’s brother, as the wolves begin to howl and her pendant begins to glow. As Van moves into the forest he is met by a wolfman who has a message that Folken is waiting in Fanelia.
Another flashback for Van, this time he is riding next to Balgus as the whispers happen again. Balgus reassures Van who rushes off only to be intercepted by Hitomi. He isn’t all that pleased to see her.
In the morning Allen, Dryden, and Merle discover Escaflowne’s disappearance as Millerna arrives in a carriage to let them know that Hitomi has also disappeared. The moleman appears to confirm that they left together.
Allen repeats the comment about the bird cage. Gah.
Van and Hitomi are flying towards Fanelia. Hitomi is trying to reassure Van about Folken with limited success. Van does repeat his promise to always bring Hitomi back safe, either to the Mystic Moon or to Allen.
In Zaibach, Dornkirk can see nothing but isn’t worried as he thinks Folken is still on side. The generals are not so sure. One of the generals, Adelphos I think, walks on to a balcony overlooking quite a pretty garden. In it there is a pretty young lady walking innocently among the wonders there. She isn’t named, but seems familiar somehow.
The next sequence where she is clearly about to eat a live snail clearly disturbs Adelphos and another general points this out. But when he looks back she was interrupted by what looks to be quite a gentle wolfman.
Folken is whistling in the ruins of Fanelia (the same tune heard in The Seal of the Brothers). The leader of the wolfmen, Ruhm, asks Folken if Van will come.
One thing this episode makes clear is the symbolism of the wolfmen in Gaea: loyalty and honesty. This is interesting on two levels. First up is that Hitomi sees it immediately – that the message came from Ruhm is her main reason for believing that the meeting is not a trap. Second is that the loyalty of the wolfman to the young woman is crystal clear even in a scene without dialogue.
Ruhm snarks a bit about the relationship between the brothers as Van arrives. Folken comments about Hitomi being a random (and amusing element) as Ruhm leaves.
The confrontation begins and a couple of dragons gatecrash the party. Folken remains still as Van blames him for the dragons as a further betrayal. Hitomi doesn’t quite believe it. Van and Hitomi flee as the dragons flee.
Folken calls on Van to drop his sword saying that if he lets go of the rage the dragons will leave. The sound effects imply that this is mental communication but Hitomi is also hearing it. Van isn’t buying it but Folken goes into more detail about his earlier failure and it turns out that the dragon just left as Folken lay dying.
The flashback continues with Folken awakening in Zaibach with the artificial arm. Folken is trying to explain but Van’s anger leads the dragons straight to them. Hitomi flees but is pursued by one of the dragons. Folken pulls her aside and tells her to be quiet.
To quote Steven Brust: “Staring into the jaws of a dragon, one quickly learns wisdom.”
It probably helps that Hitomi was already inclined to trust Folken based on what she had seen in Naria’s past in Reaction of Fortune. Folken is still trying to change destiny but Hitomi isn’t buying it yet.
At the last minute Folken flies between Van and the dragon revealing black wings in the process. He again calls for Van to drop his sword and as he does so the dragons withdraw.
Folken’s ambition is to free Gaea of anger, fear, and war.
At this point there is one final flashback of Folken reading Van the history of Fanelia. Van comments that slaying the dragon was mean, and Folken agrees but points out that it is the destiny of a King of Fanelia. A destiny that Folken wanted to spare Van, but has now realised that Dornkirk’s methods were wrong.
Van finally notices, or at least asks, about Folken’s black wings. Hitomi has also picked up on the wings and is more than a little worried as the episode ends.
In terms of The Sun, it is clear to me that the upright form is the enlightenment achieved by Folken and that he is attempting to pass on to Van. To a lesser extent Hitomi is acting on her lessons from previous episodes and helps to shape a relatively positive outcome in this one.
Another upright meaning for The Sun is vitality, and Folken’s now black wings point to the reversed form of the card. This is a recent change – they were white when revealed in The Seal of the Brothers – and to me indicate that all is not well with Folken.
By his reaction, Van is more than a bit worried.
Based on some admittedly limited research I can’t find a lot of historical references to the colour of angel’s wings showing alignment or health. In fact one of the few examples on the wikipedia page shows Michael and Gabriel with black wings.
However it does seem to be an anime trope that I’ve encountered on several occasions, most recently in Haibane Renmei where the symbology is a little more subtle than just black and white (the implication being that someone with white wings wouldn’t need to be a Haibane in the first place).
Surprisingly given the number of flashbacks this is a nicely balanced episode that builds on what has gone before. I do have a minor quibble with Van having a flashback IN the Council meeting, but that was unavoidable given how few scenes there are.
The Black Winged Angel reinforces Hitomi’s motivation to have faith, and Folken’s turn away from Zaibach also feels natural in the aftermath of Naria and Eriya’s passing.
Of course it’s all about to go horribly wrong…
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 / The Moon
Day 23 – Reaction of Fortune / The Hierophant
Day 24 – Destiny, Free Will, and Personal Responsibility
Day 25 – The Black Winged Angel / The Sun
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