Realist Hero’s Most Tragic Love Story Is Between an Adventurer and a Puppet

WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Episode 7 of How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, "Thus Saith the Elder," now streaming on Funimation. 

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom may take place in a fantastical ancient kingdom, but it mostly concerns trade agreements and policy reform. Protagonist Kazuya Souma is imbued with "Living Poltergeists," the magical power to put his consciousness into inanimate objects, an ability he mostly uses to possess multiple quills in order to complete paperwork more efficiently. An adept seamster, Souma also uses Living Poltergeists to possess a ninja-like doll he created -- but he cannot imbue it with the power of speech.

In Episode 7, Souma decides to take a break from being king of Elfrieden to send his consciousness on a quest. Possessing a human-sized version of the doll created by an Elfrieden craftsman, he covertly joins a typical group of RPG-style adventurers. Among them is Juno Minazuki, who resembles a thief class character. Over the course of their short quest, Juno comes to feel begrudging respect for the taciturn fighter -- and perhaps even something more.

When the adventurers first meet Souma's puppet, priest-like Febral identifies him as "the adventurer who wears a mascot costume that we've heard about lately," and references his "considerable skill." Juno is more skeptical, however, to which Febral reassures her that they are embarking on a beginner-level quest of exploring passageways under the city of Parnam. Dubbed "Master Mascot" by Dece, another adventurer, Souma's puppet soon proves himself when he swiftly takes down various monsters with flurries of blade slashes.

Master Mascot and Juno Minazuki side-by-side with a partition.

Near the end of their quest, the party must escape from an acid-spewing salamander, but Master Mascot trips. Juno throws the medieval equivalent of a flash grenade at the salamander to buy some time and goes back to save his partner. At this moment, Master Mascot protects Juno from the salamander's acid by throwing his body over her, then carries a blushing Juno out of the passageway as the party escapes. The gesture is decidedly less romantic to the Realist Hero audience, which knows that Souma was never in danger. In fact, Souma put Juno at more risk than was necessary, because she didn't know that there was no reason for her to rescue him.

In their conversation outside the passageway, Juno apparently reads a lot into Master Mascot's silence. Smiling, she tends to the damage in his fabric, gently chastising him for getting into trouble. The Mascot rubs his forehead pensively, to which Juno says, "no, you don't have to apologize so profusely" and reminds him that he saved her too.

Febral observes, "it looks like she's managed to establish a conversation with him." Like Febral, the audience can't be certain of how accurate Juno's translations are. Resident fire mage Julia smiles and blames "the power of love," shocking her fellow adventurers. It's unclear as to whether or not Juno is really attracted to Master Mascot, but she does display some stereotypical signs of an anime crush.

Juno tends to Master Mascot's fabric outside the Parnam passageway.

First, she is suspicious of his value at the beginning of the quest, but ultimately acknowledges that he saved her as well. This shows how she has warmed to him over the course of their adventure. Second, Juno blushes when Master Mascot saves her, and then again when she is tending to him. This is an iconic anime shorthand not just for embarrassment but attraction.

Finally, Juno continues to criticize Master Mascot for tripping up but then softens this by telling him he doesn't need to apologize so much. This could be a downplayed tsundere characteristic, with Realist Hero lightly parodying the trope of anime characters who act coldly to their crushes before revealing a fleeting moment of warmth.

The audience knows that, regardless of how Juno really feels about Master Mascot, there is no future in the relationship due to him being nothing more than a puppet. Even if Juno were to meet the real Souma, she may miss the humble silence and apparent selfless bravery of his synthetic counterpart. If Julia's observation is correct, Juno has fallen for a version of someone that doesn't exist. In this way, perhaps this Realist Hero love story isn't so unusual after all.

itadori yuji and hiromi higuruma
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