Episode 35, "Fortress vs. Fortress Akt II: Fierce Fighting"
Synopsis: Interim Commander Caselnes is forced to trust Guest Admiral Merkatz with the defense of Iserlohn Fortress. After the retreating Imperial landing parties are targeted, Meuller is provoked into attacking with his main force. This lures him into an encirclement attack by Merkatz, who devastates his forces. He's forced to wriggle his way out of the trap. It's at this point that Mueller retrieves word that Yang Wenli is not at Iserlohn. He relays this news to Admiral Kempf, but the leader of the operation is skeptical.
Despite all the maneuvering of ships and such, not a whole lot actually happens in this episode, so I didn't quite enjoy it as much as the previous episode. But what did happen was pretty cool and clever, so I still gave it a high score.
The episode covers most of the rest of Chapter 7 of the third book that the previous episode didn't cover. Merkatz's gambit is more vague in the book and there's a scene toward the end involving Rupert Kesserling and Henslow, the FPA representative on Phezzan. Honestly, this episode does a noticably better job bringing things to life than the book chapter ever did.
I like it when the characters provoke each other into making rash decisions based on their personal honor. In this case, Mueller couldn't leave his retreating landing party to die and so he stepped right into Merkatz's trap. Merkatz was well aware what kind of person Meuller was because of his experience working in the Imperial forces, so he ensnares Mueller into a encirclement attack, which causes him to lose a lot of his forces just trying to get loose. A simple maneuver to rescue his landing party has led the Empire's operation to lose important troops and overall effectiveness.
I wish we could have seen more of the Rosen Ritter's fight with those landing forces, by the way. It's described as a quick skirmish in the book, but I believe the original OVA gave us a bit more to go on with the bloody combat. I kind of feel like this adaptation is sparing us a lot of the blood and gore of the OVA for TV standards and that's a little disappointing. Not that LoGH is some kind of gory blood-fest, but it can be quite unblinkingly violent to underscore the lethality of every engagement and this series should be unafraid to really push that. Instead we get a couple of blood spurts here and there. I do enjoy the Rosen Ritter's armored suits, though.
One of the other great things about this episode is Yang Wenli's presence despite not actually being present. So cowed are the Imperial forces by his reputation and record, they're petrified of acting in any bold way in this battle because they might be turning a corner into a trap by Miracle Yang. Kempf even completely dimisses the possibility that Yang may not be with the main forces because it would be utterly stupid for the FPA to call him away (it was). Yang is winning this battle without stepping foot into the battlefield.
I'm assuming the next episode is the finale, if not near it. It's been a wild ride.
4 out of 5