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10 minutes ago, shosuko said:

You don't think it comes out of left field that an experienced field general, following an ambush that routes the garrison, is then killed and the entire attacking army halted by 2 arrows shot by a person who simply stepped out for that scene?  Sure, you think what you want - I'm done arguing about this.  Hotaru is Arrows from the Woods in this scene.  She wasn't there before, suddenly she is, 2 simple shots, no conflict or effort, BAM dead battle over, Toturi is champion.

Sure - that's not DEM... whatever you say buddy.

Also - I hold that "good" and "evil" are irrelevant as we have 2 sides which are neither good or evil - that doesn't mean DEM doesn't happen.

Okay. I'll make this simple. Deus Ex Machina is a plot contrivance. Plot Contrivance is not necessarily a Deus Ex Machina.

A Deus Ex Machina's definition is about a positive result. It's literal definition in fiction is about a positive result. The definition YOU provided is about a positive result. Note I'm not using positive since you some how think me using good meant good/evil instead of good/bad. These Positive/negative results are of course subjective to the protagonist of the story. If you honestly think the death of Arasou is a positive result for Toruri...

The story has plot contrivances, yes. You can not like them, you can find them bad. That doesn't make what happened a Deus Ex Machina.

Edited by RandomJC

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"Good" in this context is not in opposition to "evil;" it's in opposition to "bad." Or, to use clearer terms: beneficial vs. detrimental. What happened was detrimental from the standpoint of the story's protagonists, and it is true, from a definitional perspective, that a deus ex machina is about beneficial things coming out of nowhere. Diabolus ex machina is its inverse.

 

Which terms you want to use doesn't matter so much; in the end, the real question is whether you think the event came out of nowhere or was reasonable for the context.

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The only thing I would say on the Deus Ex Machina debate is that calling this story an example of that would seem to make half of all plot points DEM.  In my opinion Deus Ex Machina was reserved for the truly out of bounds, Gods came in to fix everything, egregious examples, and in my opinion this didn't rise to that level.  Just my two cents though.

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37 minutes ago, YasukiKaito said:

The only thing I would say on the Deus Ex Machina debate is that calling this story an example of that would seem to make half of all plot points DEM.  In my opinion Deus Ex Machina was reserved for the truly out of bounds, Gods came in to fix everything, egregious examples, and in my opinion this didn't rise to that level.  Just my two cents though.

Agreed. A plot point can be considered unrealistic or implausible without rising to the level of deus ex machina. I reserve that term for things like "and then Arasou suddenly manifested the ability to talk to the kami to protect himself against the arrow" or "Hotaru made that shot despite distance and armor because she had a super-advanced gaijin powder weapon smuggled in from Thrane" -- basically, something where it isn't just that the explanation is unconvincing, but there is no explanation within the context of the story.

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  I guess my problem with this discussion is that it seems we want to write deus ex machina out of use. If this isn't the most extreme case, than it's not deus ex at all. OK, let me take some obvious examples (and these, by the way, are all examples where I think the device is used passably well...)

  Life of Brian: This is about as canonical a deus ex machina as you can ask for, when Brian falls from the tower, is picked up by a passing alien spacecraft, which proceeds to battle and crash right where he needed to go, and he survives... Very Monty Python and quite funny.

  Diskworld (Small Gods): Nicely set up, but Om the Turtle being carried by a bird, dropped, and landing right on the head of the bad guy just as he's about the execute Brother Brutha. Given that Om is an actual God, you almost have a literal deus ex machina. 

  Sherlock Holmes (almost all of them): The fact that Holmes' deductions are pretty much never logically complete, but always correct, basically makes the character himself a deus ex machina. And that's fine, since the stories aren't actually about the mysteries, but the characters. 

  So, I hold all of these to be examples of deus ex machina, even if I also like all three examples. It's not the greatest sin in writing, assuming it's used well. To the objection that a deus ex machina must be a good result - well, it was good for someone in the story... But more seriously, that's now trying to insist on one definition, and not (I think) even the most common. Yes, pulling out super-archer from nowhere to kill off the Lion champion qualifies by the usual usage of deus ex. Did it ruin the story? Not really, but it didn't help it either, at least for my tastes. Others may vary.

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52 minutes ago, agarrett said:

  I guess my problem with this discussion is that it seems we want to write deus ex machina out of use. If this isn't the most extreme case, than it's not deus ex at all. OK, let me take some obvious examples (and these, by the way, are all examples where I think the device is used passably well...)

  Life of Brian: This is about as canonical a deus ex machina as you can ask for, when Brian falls from the tower, is picked up by a passing alien spacecraft, which proceeds to battle and crash right where he needed to go, and he survives... Very Monty Python and quite funny.

  Diskworld (Small Gods): Nicely set up, but Om the Turtle being carried by a bird, dropped, and landing right on the head of the bad guy just as he's about the execute Brother Brutha. Given that Om is an actual God, you almost have a literal deus ex machina. 

  Sherlock Holmes (almost all of them): The fact that Holmes' deductions are pretty much never logically complete, but always correct, basically makes the character himself a deus ex machina. And that's fine, since the stories aren't actually about the mysteries, but the characters. 

  So, I hold all of these to be examples of deus ex machina, even if I also like all three examples. It's not the greatest sin in writing, assuming it's used well. To the objection that a deus ex machina must be a good result - well, it was good for someone in the story... But more seriously, that's now trying to insist on one definition, and not (I think) even the most common. Yes, pulling out super-archer from nowhere to kill off the Lion champion qualifies by the usual usage of deus ex. Did it ruin the story? Not really, but it didn't help it either, at least for my tastes. Others may vary.

Triple points for mentioning Life of Brian on the L5R board.:lol:

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6 hours ago, Kakita Katai said:

He had to die. It was in the story. It was just the question how they were going to do it this time. Would you prefer the way it was original? The Daidoji ambush him and kill him and his entire army.

It would have been interesting to see Nerishma being the one doing the ambushing for a change.

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6 hours ago, Kakita Katai said:

He had to die. It was in the story. It was just the question how they were going to do it this time. Would you prefer the way it was original? The Daidoji ambush him and kill him and his entire army.

Yes - I would have.  The Daidoji were defending the city anyway - and Nerishma would have been more likely to have been commanding the defense than Hotaru anyway.  Daidoji are more likely to have seen the resurgence from the Lion and react by specifically targeting Arasou to demoralize the charging troops.

This would have spoken a bit better to Toturi's advice to maintain the siege rather than directly taking the city - as it could have also been exposed that the entire skirmish was a Daidoji trap to bait the Lion into charging the city anyway...

Instead we are left with a situation where Toturi was wrong, charging the city was the right move - but instead Doji Hotaru steps out and fires 2 simple shots that kill the general, even though he's experienced in battle and has likely been fighting under arrow fire all day...  It comes off as if Arasou was literally suicidal, and Toturi is simply timid, always avoiding conflict even when the battle is in his favor.

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1 hour ago, agarrett said:

  I guess my problem with this discussion is that it seems we want to write deus ex machina out of use. If this isn't the most extreme case, than it's not deus ex at all. OK, let me take some obvious examples (and these, by the way, are all examples where I think the device is used passably well...)

  Life of Brian: This is about as canonical a deus ex machina as you can ask for, when Brian falls from the tower, is picked up by a passing alien spacecraft, which proceeds to battle and crash right where he needed to go, and he survives... Very Monty Python and quite funny.

  Diskworld (Small Gods): Nicely set up, but Om the Turtle being carried by a bird, dropped, and landing right on the head of the bad guy just as he's about the execute Brother Brutha. Given that Om is an actual God, you almost have a literal deus ex machina. 

  Sherlock Holmes (almost all of them): The fact that Holmes' deductions are pretty much never logically complete, but always correct, basically makes the character himself a deus ex machina. And that's fine, since the stories aren't actually about the mysteries, but the characters. 

  So, I hold all of these to be examples of deus ex machina, even if I also like all three examples. It's not the greatest sin in writing, assuming it's used well. To the objection that a deus ex machina must be a good result - well, it was good for someone in the story... But more seriously, that's now trying to insist on one definition, and not (I think) even the most common. Yes, pulling out super-archer from nowhere to kill off the Lion champion qualifies by the usual usage of deus ex. Did it ruin the story? Not really, but it didn't help it either, at least for my tastes. Others may vary.

Yes, yes, no. I could quibble with the first 2 because they don't conclude the story, which to me is an important part of the concept. But whatevs, close enough. Holmes is not a Deus Ex Machina: he is just an unrealistically competent character. Every Holmes story proceeds toward him solving the case: there is no reversal, and even if his deductions are sometimes leaps of logic, they don't change a seemingly inevitable disaster into a happy ending via an wildly implausible and surprising event.

And yeah, Deus ex Machinae are not supposed to be common. No need to posit them everywhere: they still show up plenty. Not every unbelievable plot contrivance is a deus ex machina. 

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38 minutes ago, shosuko said:

Yes - I would have.  The Daidoji were defending the city anyway - and Nerishma would have been more likely to have been commanding the defense than Hotaru anyway.  Daidoji are more likely to have seen the resurgence from the Lion and react by specifically targeting Arasou to demoralize the charging troops. 

This would have spoken a bit better to Toturi's advice to maintain the siege rather than directly taking the city - as it could have also been exposed that the entire skirmish was a Daidoji trap to bait the Lion into charging the city anyway...

Oh, a trap to bait the Lion into charging the city, you say?

You mean, like, keep the gates open after a disastrous attack to goad the Lion champion into a vulnerable position? The Lion champion, who is a brash leader, known for favoring very direct confrontation when a more measured response is preferable, like, say, a siege that breaks the  morale of the almost defeated Crane forces into surrendering, avoiding more bloodshed and political backlash? A trap where you put a bunch of the best Crane archers in the city waiting in said open gates to shoot said brash (and quite idiotic) Lion champion in the face, forcing the Lion forces to deal with the loss of its Champion and general?

THAT kind of trap? I agree, it would be quite good indeed!

Wait... :rolleyes:

 

38 minutes ago, shosuko said:

Instead we are left with a situation where Toturi was wrong, charging the city was the right move (...)

You are quite obviously wrong, given that charging the city caused the Lion champion's death.

But I mean, keep gnashing your teeth about it. You seem to know a lot about tactics... :rolleyes:

Edited by Mirumoto Saito

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57 minutes ago, shosuko said:

Instead we are left with a situation where Toturi was wrong, charging the city was the right move - but instead Doji Hotaru steps out and fires 2 simple shots that kill the general, even though he's experienced in battle and has likely been fighting under arrow fire all day...  It comes off as if Arasou was literally suicidal, and Toturi is simply timid, always avoiding conflict even when the battle is in his favor.

Toturi was probably right, regardless of the outcome of charging the City. He isn't concerned about the pursuit failing, he just doesn't want to give the Crane the pretense to pull the Lion into a formal war and turn the Emperor against them.

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1 hour ago, Mirumoto Saito said:

Oh, a trap to bait the Lion into charging the city, you say?

You mean, like, keep the gates open after a disastrous attack to goad the Lion champion into a vulnerable position? The Lion champion, who is a brash leader, known for favoring very direct confrontation when a more measured response is preferable, like, say, a siege that breaks the  morale of the almost defeated Crane forces into surrendering, avoiding more bloodshed and political backlash? A trap where you put a bunch of the best Crane archers in the city waiting in said open gates to shoot said brash (and quite idiotic) Lion champion in the face, forcing the Lion forces to deal with the loss of its Champion and general?

THAT kind of trap? I agree, it would be quite good indeed!

Wait... :rolleyes:

 

You are quite obviously wrong, given that charging the city caused the Lion champion's death.

But I mean, keep gnashing your teeth about it. You seem to know a lot about tactics... :rolleyes:

Well you see there are also new players here...

And last time I checked clan introductions by FFG, Lion Clan wasn't described as brash and idiotic. I tought they are supposed to have most powerful armies and to be Rokugan's greatest tactitians, but I guess I am wrong, at least now I am educated on what this clan is supposed to represent.

And even if the story requires the death of the clan Champion in the first fiction at least let him go away respectfully, and not be two shot in the face by Hotaru who is oh so skillful with her naginata and in court and also suddenly turns out to be a masterful archer as well.

 

Just imagine if the story was reversed.

Akodo Arasou in his first fiction single handedly owns five lowly courtiers using his skillful rethoric and charm. He also then rambles for two paragraphs about how bad the imperial army is and how powerful Lion troops are compared to it.

Then in the next fiction, which introduces Crane, Hotaru is presenting some important matter in court to the officials. Suddenly, from behind her comes Akodo Arasou, who swiftly clowns her with a haiku invented on the spot in front of over twenty courtiers and Emperor himself,  to the point that she is immediately executed.

That is how the Lion fiction feels for me. I don't say it's bad but at least let him die showing some of his virtues, rather than showing how great another clan champion is.

Sorry for the brash tone but you were needlessly condescending.

Edited by BordOne

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Sorry to jump back a little bit, but the Greeks did not invent deus ex machina as good. If you know anything about the Greeks their gods held to no morality. Greek mythology had almost no 'diabolus' whatsoever. The term must have been invented much later. 

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10 hours ago, shosuko said:

 

The reality is actually this:  Anyone who is rich / powerful enough to afford quality armor is essentially immune to arrows.  Arrows shot at a distance are going to be arcing downward, and the armor perfectly protects from arrows falling in this way.  When a soldier in full Japanese style armor gets closer they will lower their head, narrowing their face to a slit that makes it VERY difficult to hit, and that is the only target you could expect to get a kill with.  On that note - they are basically immune to swords too.  It would take a polearm or bashing weapon to make any real damage when fully armored.

 

Thanks for posting this. It's fantastically informative.

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54 minutes ago, BordOne said:

Well you see there are also new players here...

And last time I checked clan introductions by FFG, Lion Clan wasn't described as brash and idiotic. I tought they are supposed to have most powerful armies and to be Rokugan's greatest tactitians, but I guess I am wrong, at least now I am educated on what this clan is supposed to represent.

...

Sorry for the brash tone but you were needlessly condescending.

The Lion are not idiotic, but they certainly are brash. And the core Lion gameplay in the LCG (which we'll presumably know more about in a couple of days) seems to be military swarm attacking attacking attacking. So Arasou is kind of playing to type here. It will be interesting to see how the newly-minted Clan Champion handles taking a leadership role over a Clan that is, on the whole, much more aggressive and bloodthirsty than he is.

I'd also note, as I think that someone else did before, that although the Crane would by default arguably have the most powerful courtier force and be Rokugan's greatest politicians, we saw in the Crane fiction what many considered to be the Crane Clan Champion getting played by a Scorpion.

I would argue, at least based on our very limited sample of 2, that maybe these initial fictions should mostly be viewed through the lens of the primary protagonist (Hotaru, Toturi), setting up that character more than they are strictly speaking setting up the Clan (although these characters will obviously have an outsized influence on their Clan). Hotaru is in love (or whatever) with Kachiko, but is probably going to have to deal with the Scorpion murdering her father. Toturi probably has no interest in further war with the Crane (and certainly not all out war), but could face mutiny in the ranks if he isn't seen as taking retribution for Arasou's death. What are those characters going to do next?

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16 minutes ago, Daramere said:

The Lion are not idiotic, but they certainly are brash. And the core Lion gameplay in the LCG (which we'll presumably know more about in a couple of days) seems to be military swarm attacking attacking attacking. So Arasou is kind of playing to type here. It will be interesting to see how the newly-minted Clan Champion handles taking a leadership role over a Clan that is, on the whole, much more aggressive and bloodthirsty than he is.

I'd also note, as I think that someone else did before, that although the Crane would by default arguably have the most powerful courtier force and be Rokugan's greatest politicians, we saw in the Crane fiction what many considered to be the Crane Clan Champion getting played by a Scorpion.

I would argue, at least based on our very limited sample of 2, that maybe these initial fictions should mostly be viewed through the lens of the primary protagonist (Hotaru, Toturi), setting up that character more than they are strictly speaking setting up the Clan (although these characters will obviously have an outsized influence on their Clan). Hotaru is in love (or whatever) with Kachiko, but is probably going to have to deal with the Scorpion murdering her father. Toturi probably has no interest in further war with the Crane (and certainly not all out war), but could face mutiny in the ranks if he isn't seen as taking retribution for Arasou's death. What are those characters going to do next?

I still think pinning Satsume on the Scorpion is a little obvious. Ramping up the tension between Scorpion and Crane in genera and Hotaru and Kachiko in spcific, then having the culprit be someone unexpected seems a better way to go.

Then again I could be all wet.

Maybe it IS the Scorpions, and they'll just pin the whole thing on a convienient patsy.

 

**** Scorpions, they've got me totally spun 'round now.:o

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1 hour ago, Devin-the-Poet said:

Sorry to jump back a little bit, but the Greeks did not invent deus ex machina as good. If you know anything about the Greeks their gods held to no morality. Greek mythology had almost no 'diabolus' whatsoever. The term must have been invented much later. 

The Greeks invented deus ex machina, as they're the earliest playwrights we have examples of, and we know the term from them because in some (but not all) of their plays, there literally was a machine (basically a swing hoist) which would swing out and hover some poor schmuck actor way above the amphitheater from behind the stage to be the god who is going to solve the moral plot mess of the final act, usually by just telling everyone to go sod off, handing down some quick moralizing (which may or may not be ironic or sarcastic, depending on the playwright and the story of the play), and then that's it -- the play literally ends because a god shows up, tells everyone "You're all stupid. I'm ending this now. CURTAIN!", and then the audience would vote as to how well the play held up in the competition (Grecian plays were inevitably entries in a liturgical Olympics of a sort, competing for high prize at whatever temple was sponsoring the theater). There was no concern over "good" or "evil"; the point was that mortal man makes a mess of things, a god comes up and has to clean up their mess, and then, most importantly, everything ends. Deus ex machina ENDS the story. It is the last thing that happens, period. The characters do not continue. The god has finished their story for them (perhaps an Epilogue-style character might wander out to give one last whistful poem on the nature of gods, man, the play, and oh, yes, could you vote for this performance? Thank you.). It was a fictional convention among the Greeks just like the three-arc television plot is for us; an artificial structure that was culturally acceptable and gave the audience a sense of where they were in the play.

What deus ex machina means in use is that, out of nowhere, a character we have never seen shows up, solves everything pretty darn fast if not instantly, and then the story ENDS. If the story has a sudden reversal of fortune or twist of fate, that's not deus ex machina. That's irony, or a plot twist, or even a lazy or sadistic author. Hotaru shooting Arasou is in no way even remotely a deus ex machina; it's dramatic irony, it's a motivational moment for her, Toturi, and Tsuko; but it's not a character or force literally out of nowhere who appears, resolves the entire storyline, and then vanishes. The Lion are attacking the Crane. Casualties, even cruelly ironic ones, can happen in any battle. Arasou's death at the hands of a Crane was at all times possible, if unlikely due to his impressive military skill. A surprise ending is NOT deus ex machina. It's just a surprise.

The easiest way to think about it for L5R fiction is just ask yourself this: is this story laying groundwork for future storyline developments? Will Hotaru's killing of Arasou play a part in the ongoing story, in the development relationships between her, Toturi, and Tsuko? The answer is yes, right? Then it's definitely not deus ex machina, because the god from the machine ENDS the story. You do not lay down character motivational arcs with a deus ex machina; you annihilate them. The god ends the story, restores some sort of rough justice to the scene (or not, depending on how pissy the god feels), and that's it, story done. Instead, here we have a touchy political situation made worse both within the Lion and between the Lion and Crane, and characters we will see again who will presumably act motivated by this change.

You can like or dislike the "surprise" killing of Arasou in the story, but you can't call it a deus ex machina, because it's not. Hell, I'd just call it a bog-standard melodramatic hook to get Toturi and Tsuko into the story headfirst.

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5 minutes ago, Gaffa said:

The Greeks invented deus ex machina, as they're the earliest playwrights we have examples of, and we know the term from them because in some (but not all) of their plays, there literally was a machine (basically a swing hoist) which would swing out and hover some poor schmuck actor way above the amphitheater from behind the stage to be the god who is going to solve the moral plot mess of the final act, usually by just telling everyone to go sod off, handing down some quick moralizing (which may or may not be ironic or sarcastic, depending on the playwright and the story of the play), and then that's it -- the play literally ends because a god shows up, tells everyone "You're all stupid. I'm ending this now. CURTAIN!", and then the audience would vote as to how well the play held up in the competition (Grecian plays were inevitably entries in a liturgical Olympics of a sort, competing for high prize at whatever temple was sponsoring the theater). There was no concern over "good" or "evil"; the point was that mortal man makes a mess of things, a god comes up and has to clean up their mess, and then, most importantly, everything ends. Deus ex machina ENDS the story. It is the last thing that happens, period. The characters do not continue. The god has finished their story for them (perhaps an Epilogue-style character might wander out to give one last whistful poem on the nature of gods, man, the play, and oh, yes, could you vote for this performance? Thank you.). It was a fictional convention among the Greeks just like the three-arc television plot is for us; an artificial structure that was culturally acceptable and gave the audience a sense of where they were in the play.

What deus ex machina means in use is that, out of nowhere, a character we have never seen shows up, solves everything pretty darn fast if not instantly, and then the story ENDS. If the story has a sudden reversal of fortune or twist of fate, that's not deus ex machina. That's irony, or a plot twist, or even a lazy or sadistic author. Hotaru shooting Arasou is in no way even remotely a deus ex machina; it's dramatic irony, it's a motivational moment for her, Toturi, and Tsuko; but it's not a character or force literally out of nowhere who appears, resolves the entire storyline, and then vanishes. The Lion are attacking the Crane. Casualties, even cruelly ironic ones, can happen in any battle. Arasou's death at the hands of a Crane was at all times possible, if unlikely due to his impressive military skill. A surprise ending is NOT deus ex machina. It's just a surprise.

The easiest way to think about it for L5R fiction is just ask yourself this: is this story laying groundwork for future storyline developments? Will Hotaru's killing of Arasou play a part in the ongoing story, in the development relationships between her, Toturi, and Tsuko? The answer is yes, right? Then it's definitely not deus ex machina, because the god from the machine ENDS the story. You do not lay down character motivational arcs with a deus ex machina; you annihilate them. The god ends the story, restores some sort of rough justice to the scene (or not, depending on how pissy the god feels), and that's it, story done. Instead, here we have a touchy political situation made worse both within the Lion and between the Lion and Crane, and characters we will see again who will presumably act motivated by this change.

You can like or dislike the "surprise" killing of Arasou in the story, but you can't call it a deus ex machina, because it's not. Hell, I'd just call it a bog-standard melodramatic hook to get Toturi and Tsuko into the story headfirst.

Well said

but I got distracted a little by the mental image of one the greek god telling folks to "sod off":lol:

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44 minutes ago, shineyorkboy said:

So Daigotsu defeating Kali-ma at the end of the Destroyer War was a deus ex machina right?

I'd see it as more a massive anti-climax than a true deux ex machina, both because Daigotsu is a known character in the storyline with sufficient power to do Big Things, and because the L5R storylines at the time had a sad tendency to just end in massive anti-climaxes by default, alas.

But I could see you building a reasonable argument that it was also a god from the machine moment, especially given the ludicrously quick way that just ended the story and we were on to the next major plot. It's certainly far more arguable as one than Hotaru rolling a crit on her archery attack.

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