Okay, so let's go back to the hot springs town, where we tell the Little Mermaid and the Ice Princess who we decided Thumbelina is in love with (or at least doesn't hate as much as the other guys). This time we went with the Ugly Duckling, as mentioned above, and Thumbelina has a little inner monologue about how yeah he's arrogant and stuff, but he always comes through when it counts and he's really just a nice guy deep down. Then things happen the same as usual through the Swan Knight's first chapter. So far, so good, because how are we gonna know any different, anyway?
So now Thumbelina is big again, and she has to decide what to do about staying that way. And she decides...to go back to her hometown! Okay, that's what she did for the Little Match Boy's sad ending, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. So we go to her hometown and go to Lars's house and find the evil dark matches and Lars takes them but promises not to use them, just like before. And then, he's looking at something, and you can either choose to ask what he's looking at, and follow the same path as his sad ending, or you can say hey let's go to my (Thumbelina's) house. And that's when things get different again.
This time! we find another diary, only it belonged not to Lars's grandfather, but to the Great Wizard Varfarfalle. His story is pretty much the same as Old Man Christensen's, but he talks about making some ultimate magic thingie that I guess is supposed to give the Nude King (we know for sure now) the one thing his power hasn't managed to get him yet--eternal life. And actually, he made two of it! They're seeds, and one has infinite magic power but is unstable, and the other is more stable but takes a looooooong time to mature. And they can only unleash their true magic powers if brought together. Well, by now Thumbelina knows she was born from a seed and she's one of the two, and they figure they have to find the other one, because as everybody knows, when an evil overlord is looking for infinite power and he can only get it by collecting a set of magical items, the best thing to do is to put those items together for easy taking. But the great wizard Varfegnugen (I'm just sticking with this one because it's my favorite and I'm out of ideas) hid the other one where no one will find it, you know, so that no one would find it and it would be out of the emperor's grasp forever. (Athena doesn't remember them saying they were going to find it, but I seem to remember somebody saying something to that effect, but now I'm not so sure.)
Anyway, they don't have a whole lot of time to formulate a plan one way or another because who should arrive but the Black Knight himself, come to capture Thumbelina and take her to the Nude King. Of course Lars isn't going to let this happen without a fight, so he fights and dies...okay, so he doesn't die, but he's soundly defeated, and I don't remember what happened but Thumbelina shrank again, which was very convenient for the Black Knight, who put her in another one of those magic-proof birdcages and was about to take her away...when who should appear but the Swan Knight!
And I really wish I remembered better how this battle went, because it was hilarious. The Swan Knight would make comments to the Black Knight about things like women not liking persistent men, and the Black Knight would be like, "What are you talking about!?" And it was awesome, AND the Swan Knight was still unstoppable, even against the super powerful Black Knight! And while the Black Knight is distracted, some other guy comes along and takes Thumbelina off to safety, so by the time the battle is over (which I think happened because the Swan Knight ran out of battery, but the details are fuzzy) and the Black Knight is ready to go back to the palace, he's puzzled to find her gone. He takes the Little Match Boy as a consolation prize. Dun dun DUN!
Meanwhile, Thumbelina's mysterious benefactor takes her out of the cage, says, "We'll meet again," and disappears. Then there's a long part where poor Thumbelina goes off to save Lars all by herself, but she's so small even a little puddle is like a giant lake, and she feels so very helpless until the mysterious benefactor shows up again just in time to save her from goblins.
He finally introduces himself as the Flower Prince Lupien, who was not played by Yuki Kaji, as we'd hoped. It made things a little bit tough, because nobody in this game is played by any of our A-list voice actors (although Tetsuya Kakihara (Ugly Duckling) can be on the A-list sometimes), and the new Kamigami no Asobi game (chock full of our favorites, including Yuki Kaji as one of our favorite characters of his) is sitting right there on the piano bench (theoretically; we haven't opened the box yet, and we can't rule out the possibility that there's been a mix-up).
Anyway, then it was driving us crazy because we weren't sure if we recognized his voice or not. First we thought, "Well, if it's not a voice actor we're really excited about, it's probably Hiro Shimono, because he's the guy that always plays the characters that we were like, 'Oooh, I wonder who plays him!' or, 'You know, this favorite actor of ours would be perfect for that role!'" And he didn't not sound like him, but he didn't really sound like him, either. But on the other hand, we've been noticing the name Kensho Ono a lot lately, so as a joke we threw that name out as a guess, and again, it didn't not sound like him, but even though he's showing up in everything lately (not everything, but he is in Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless (as Tanaka-kun) and Bungo Stray Dogs (as Akutagawa Ryunosuke)), we don't really know what he sounds like yet. Now that we've finally gotten through some credits again, we know that the joke guess turned out to be right. I think he didn't do a bad job, but the Flower Prince actually wasn't in it that much.
But anyway, while they're talking, they get attacked by bloodworms, and I'd skip this part because it wasn't that interesting (we really are not fans of action scenes, I'm learning), but there was a significant part where they were both trying to cast spells (shockingly, the Flower Prince's spells are the same type as Thumbelina's, which you can tell because the incantations are so similar), but then His Highness was running out of magic, and Thumbelina was so small and vulnerable, but he said you just stay on my shoulder and that's help enough. "But why?" "I'll tell you later."
And then the Ugly Duckling shows up, just in time to catch Thumbelina when the Flower Prince mysteriously vanishes out of thin air. (Oh yeah, they beat the bloodworms first.) And she's like, "Where did he go!?" and Ugly Duckling's like, "Right here," because he actually caught BOTH of them! What! Because the Flower Prince shrunk to Thumbelina's size! What! (They totally wear the same flowers on their heads, only his is yellow and on the other side, so no one is really surprised here.)
So basically, the Flower Prince is the other seed, but he didn't grow into a person for a long time. Meanwhile, he and the Ugly Duckling have been friends since before Thumbelina was born, which makes you go, "Wait, what?" because he's a duckling, and apparently has been for fifteen years. So we find out that he was experimented on by the super evil wizard, and that's why he hasn't aged at all. He escaped, probably thanks to Varfegnugen, because the super secret hiding place where no one would ever find the other seed was in the Ugly Duckling's digestive tract. They didn't want to talk about that much. But after he made it out of the Duckling, they were BFFs for life, and the Flower Prince was even there (in seed form) when the Ugly Duckling volunteered to be lunch for Thumbelina and her party. And now here we are.
The plan now, of course, is to go save Lars from the Nude King. When Thumbelina suggested it, the Flower Prince (he can grow big with his own magic, but only until his magic runs out) and the Ugly Duckling are all, "You can't go alone!" and we're like, "So you should totally go with the only other person the Emperor is looking for. This is a fantastic idea." But so far all the other context of the story indicates that the Emperor doesn't care about the Flower Prince, or maybe doesn't know he exists, or maybe doesn't realize he needs both seeds. Anyway, they sneak into the castle, which works pretty well, because they're all so little it's easy for them to sneak around, but they have a close call in the kitchen, which results in the Flower Prince taking human size and fighting a battle. The Ugly Duckling mysteriously disappears just in time for the Swan Knight to show up, which was pretty cool, because he was talking to the Flower Prince and Thumbelina was like, "Oh, you sound like you know each other!" and the Swan Knight and the Flower Prince both look at each other like, "Is she serious?"
Now, before the battle broke out in the kitchen, they overheard some scissor lizards talking about a new recruit, which immediately had us thinking, "Uh oh!" Lars is the Ludwig of this story, after all (see Labyrinth of Grimm for details). But the lizards weren't done--they also mentioned that he was cocky and annoying and I don't care if he is the grandson of the great swordsman Laguna Christensen (it might also be Ragna, like Ragnarok, but I go with Laguna for the Final Fantasy connection). So I don't remember the exact details, but after the battle, our heroes make it out into the hall where they run into the new recruit! And *gasp!!* it's Lars! And his cape is all black now, and his eyes are super creepy, because they used to be a lovely light blue, and now they're a weird red-orange color, and the scleras (that's the whites of the eyes) were black! And actually it made us laugh. We were like, "Aww, Lars, you're so cute trying to be evil and whatnot."
So he overpowered them or something, and now our heroes all had to go with him. He took them to a big hall with portraits, and shows them one of the Nude King before he went nude, with Varfegnugen on one side and Laguna on the other, and he said something like, "Laguna was a fool." Apparently he had a lot of granddaddy issues he needed to work out, but anyway, the Swan Knight got really mad and he was all, "You take that back!" and Lars was like, "I'll say what I want!" And it got a little philosophical, because Lars started talking about allying with the Nude King to bring order to this cruel world and the Swan Knight is all, "Right, which is why you're teaming up with the guy who had your home burned to the ground."
But then the Black Knight shows up, and he looks at Thumbelina who totally spaces out and has this weird dream where she's dancing with a guy with wings and a familiar voice, and he says, "Sorry, I meant to dance with you longer, but it looks like I can't," and Thumbelina wakes up to find the Swan Knight fighting the Black Knight again. Somewhere in there, the Flower Prince fought Lars and used his vine spell against Lars's magic fire. But fire is strong against grass, so you can guess who won that one. So while the Black Knight keeps Thumbelina's escorts busy, Lars is all, "I'm going to take this offering to the emperor," and he leaves.
But Thumbelina is deeply offended, and she says, "Why are you being stupid!?" and he says, "Shhhhhhhhhhhh!!! This is a ruse! I'm here in disguise, and I came here to protect you so shut up while I help you escape!" So he takes her to the highest tower and puts her on the back of a dragon and sends it to take her back to her other friends. She tries to jump off, but he gets close so she can't. The dragon leaves, and the super evil wizard--we'll say his name is spelled Galusche--shows up and now Lars's whole cover is blown. So much for that. He does manage to kill Galusche, but not before he sends all the other dragons to bring Thumbelina back. And he tells Lars, "Let me give you a parting gift. The door on the left will lead you to the Black Knight. The door on the right will lead you to the Nude King. Now go and choose which one you want to be killed by," or something like that. I don't remember the point of the decision. But Lars goes through a door and they don't tell you which one.
Meanwhile, Thumbelina is just deciding to turn back to save Lars and keep the nice dragon from being killed for treason when the Dragon Knight shows up to help fend off the other mean dragons. She goes back, and then you get to decide which door to go through. Dun dun DUN!
We chose the door on the right, because there's a song that we sing at church that goes, "Choose the right, when a choice is placed before you." And then Thumbelina runs into the Black Knight! This would be an "oh no!" moment, but he's already passed out on the floor and dying. She talks to him and takes out all her frustration on him because he was there when all the worst moments of her life happened, and he was like, "Yeah, I know." And he seems sad and tired, and he tells her she can find Lars if she keeps going down that hall. (It was also pointed out that the scissor lizards would have done a heck of a lot more damage if he hadn't been there to kill them when they started taking things too far.) Before she goes, she decides she doesn't want to be the kind of monster he was to her, so she casts a healing spell on him, which somehow lets her see into his past, many years ago when he was the Swallow Knight, and how Laguna Christensen was teaching him swordplay and said he knew he could trust the emperor with him.
And that all reminded her of a time in her own past, when Lars was very sad because one day his grandfather went out hunting in the mountains and never returned. But before going into that, they explained how she was very shy but they managed to become friends. A few days after Old Man Christensen disappeared, Charlotte (before she was known as Thumbelina) went to invite him to dinner, but he was gone, because he went to find his grandfather! She desperately tried to find him, but she got lost in the woods, and she was hurt and sad and lonely and scared and cold, but then who should appear but Lars! Awwww. He was guided there by a little butterfly that had visited Charlotte's garden before, which happened to be a swallowtail, but I don't know if that's significant. Anyway, they yelled at each other for being stupid and they both started crying, but even though she had been through a lot, she just wanted him to feel better, so she wiped his tears.
She felt similarly toward the Black Knight now, so she cast her warmth of spring spell on him...and that purified the curse on him and now he was the Swallow Knight again! Awwwww! We were a little confused about the swallow thing, because when we saw that the emperor had a bird knight, we thought it would be the nightingale, and I thought, "Oh, that's a neat way to tie all the stories together." So then it was a Swallow Knight, and I was like, "...huh?" What Hans Christian Andersen story has a swallow in it? (Wait for it, I'll explain.) Later, the scissor lizards were mentioned again, and I was like, "I wouldn't be surprised if there are scissor lizards in the original Thumbelina story, since they had toads and beetles, too." And then suddenly the thought flashed across my mind that in the Thumbelina movie (which I happened to see on sale at the grocery store today; the cover was beautiful, but we watched it on Netflix recently enough to remember that we don't want it), her biggest ally is Giacomo...a swallow! Of course.
And now the whole thing has me thinking about the song "Let Me Be Your Wings" a lot more frequently, but that's not until the Flower Prince's story. (I would guess.)
Anyway, now the Swallow Knight is all healed and purified and ready to help Thumbelina rescue Lars, so they keep going down the hall and make it to the Nude King's throne room, where they are shocked to confront the Nude King himself. But the most shocking thing of all is *GASP!* there's Lars.
This is where we had to stop playing for a second, because we were so astounded by this reaction. First, my reaction was, "Oh of course, it is all very shocking. You went down this hall to this room because you're whole purpose was to find Lars and you knew that this is the exact room he would be in, but yes, that is a surprise to see him there." And Athena's reaction, perhaps more significant is, "You're more shocked to see Lars than to see the NUDE KING!?" He is NAKED! All he's wearing is a cape with wide fur trim, but it does not cover his front at all. Well, except that he's always drawn from strategic angles that the edge of it covers...well, you know. But even the player gets a very clear view of the edge of his body from his shoulder to his thigh.
On the other hand, I hear they're not as rattled by nudity in Europe, and this is a European-style fantasy.
And maybe the real surprise was that, while before Lars was just pretending to be creepy and evil, now he really was a brainwashed slave of the emperor, and that's a big bummer. So in addition to having that leverage against Thumbelina, the Nude King has also managed to capture every single one of her friends, including the Dragon Knight and his dragon Toulouse. But if she'll give herself up without a fight, he miiiiiiight let them go. So this is where you get to choose if you want to obey the emperor or defy him. We chose defy because he's a jerk. And a huge creeper.
The emperor's like, "That's cool, I'll just kill your friends, then." So he zapped Rune with lightning and burned the Ice Princess and dried up the Little Mermaid (not completely on any of them; he was still just making a point), but then he thought it would be really cool to just have the Little Match Boy kill himself right there in front of Thumbelina. And of course, Lars has no problem with this, because he's brainwashed. So he pulls out a knife and brings it straight to his throat...
And then the old scissor lizard says, "I don't think so!" We ran into him in the castle earlier, but we didn't mention him because we don't remember what he said. Something like, "Come along, new recruit!" And he sounded awfully familiar, like from one of the flashbacks of Lars's grandfather or something. But anyway, he knocks the knife out of Lars's hands and reveals himself to be *GASP!* Laguna Christensen in disguise! That day he disappeared, he had been found by the scissor lizards and disguised himself as one of them because he killed one but he knew that if they found out it was dead, they would go looking and they might find him and Thumbelina. And that's why Lars had granddaddy issues, and it is really very sad, because all that time Lars thought maybe he'd been abandoned and that his grandfather didn't love him and that nobody loved him and awwwww.
So now we have two of the emperor's great heroes from when he was still a nice guy, and they're ready to take down their former master now that he's so super evil, but he's too powerful. Nevertheless, Thumbelina can make him vulnerable, so she uses brand new spell on him to do just that! But the emperor just laughs and flourishes his cape for all to see...that now he's in a full suit of armor. Whew. And Thumbelina's like, "What!?" and the knights are like, "That's okay, because now we can hurt him!" Apparently those super special invisible clothes really were super special real clothes in this version of the story.
But even with his more vulnerable armor, the emperor isn't completely unguarded. He has a loyal brainwashed slave to defend him. And he's a sadist so now it was time for Lars and his grandfather to have a duel to the death. You can probably guess who won this one, but I'll give you a hint anyway: it was Lars. But the shock of his grandfather's death managed to snap Lars out of his brainwashing, and now he's a good guy again, complete with red cape and blue eyes!
And...then stuff happens...and...they all die.
Wait, that's not it. Um...oh yeah! It gets very dramatic, and Lars confronts the emperor himself. He uses all of his matches--red, white, blue... But none of them work! And the emperor is all, "Ha! You will never defeat me and my power of darkness!" And Lars is like, "Darkness, eh? Hmmm..."
And if you haven't guessed that this is where Lars gets the bright idea to use the evil dark matches...then I really can't blame you because this report is really long and I can't expect you to remember all that stuff. But anyway, he pulls out the dark matches, and Thumbelina sees them and says, "No! You can't do it!" and Lars is like, "Don't worry!" and he tells her not to go in front of him until he says it's okay, which is what he's been telling her all through the story because, if you remember, when it starts out, he's the only one protecting her when they first start their journey.
Well, he uses the matches, and he has to strike all of them, but it works! He overpowers the emperor, and the emperor dissolves saying something about how the body is just a vessel anyway and implying that he may or may not be back. At one point it was revealed that the good emperor was consumed by the evil god Loki, and we thought, "That figures." But you know, if you wanted an evil god who would masquerade as a nude king, Loki is pretty much the way to go. Anyway, the good news is that when it's all over, those black marks from the bad Lars ending disappear from off of Lars's hands and face. The bad news is that it happened because he's dead.
Thumbelina is not happy about this in the least, but then the goddess Freya appears and says she can bring him back, but she will use up all the light she has inside her. And Thumbelina's like, "Great, let's do it." So she rips open her dress and sticks her hand into her bosom, and pulls the seed of life out of herself and puts it in Lars. She tells him she loves him, and then falls dead into the Swallow Knight's arms.
And this is where we had to comment again, because we were pretty sure Lars was not going to be happy with this turn of events. Thumbelina's all, "You can't die to save me! I'm gonna die to save you!" It's like, guys, if the point was that he can't live without her... And it's not like Thumbelina doesn't have other options. Meanwhile, here's Lars who thinks that no one loves him (except Thumbelina) and no one ever will (except Thumbelina).
Anyway, now we switch to Lars's point of view, because as he lies there dead, he relives the same part of his past that Thumbelina did--how they met, and how she went to find him when he went to find his grandfather. When she wiped his tears, he felt pretty pathetic, and was all, "I'm supposed to wipe your tears!" But back then he was just a stupid kid, and apparently he's got this weird idea that once someone's wiping someone else's tears, there can be no reciprocation. Anyway, his flashback goes a little farther, because they had to stay the night in a cave, and while they sat there by the fire (he always has matches, of course) she made him promise that he would never go off on his own and leave her behind again. (When Thumbelina made up her mind to save him, she commented about how he's always racing off ahead, so she has to go get him.)
Then he wakes up as she's saying, "I love you," and he says, "I love you, too." But then he realizes that she's dead, and there's a very dramatic monologue and I was really impressed with his voice actor because it really sounded sincere. We looked him up this morning and found out that he plays Tatsumi in Noragami Aragoto. (For those of you who, like us, have no idea who Tatsumi is, he's one of Ebisu's shinki that went with him to the underworld and met his untimely demise when the stray pulls Ebisu's coat off to help him escape Izanami.) I wish I could remember some of what he said so I could tell you. (Athena's replaying the chapter now, but it's going to be a while before she gets to that part.) Let's see, he was really angry. First he was mad at the Swallow Knight for not stopping her, then he was mad at Thumbelina for doing it in the first place, then he was mad at himself for crying even though it wouldn't change anything, and the whole time he sounded so angry but also so sad. Poor little match boy.
So just as he finished lamenting her death one of his tears lands on a matchbox and it turns green, which prompted Athena to sing, "I could resurrect dead men, with my tears!" That's when the Great Wizard Varfegnugen shows up and says, "You can bring her back, you know." And he tells us way more information than we need to know, but basically the Thumbelina seeds were Varfegnugen's final successful attempt to recreate Freya's seeds of life...or he restored Freya's seeds or something, but anyway, while he was attempting to do whatever he did, his prototypes were all the matches that he made, and the different colors represented different aspects of Freya, and that the green match is the match of life, and it could bring Thumbelina back or it could destroy the world, wanna try it? And Lars is like, "You know I do." So he lit the match and held it over Thumbelina's now dimmed seed of life and burned it up! What! The Swallow Knight was pretty unhappy about that.
But then, out of the ashes, came a much smaller seed that was glowing with life! And he put it back inside Thumbelina and she was alive again! YAY!!!
And then there was a happy reunion scene, and a scene where Thumbelina found Lars out by the campfire, and he kissed her! Awwwwwwwww!!! And while they were kissing, Thumbelina remembered how sad she was when she thought she would never see Lars again, and she couldn't help crying. And I think he started crying, too, but this time he beat her to it, and he wiped her tears just like he always wanted, and it was very sweet. (Also I think this is the one scene where Thumbelina finally calls him Lars instead of Matchseller.)
Then they all go home to rebuild the village. The end.
Whew, that took way longer than we expected. Okay, maybe not way longer, because we had a lot of material to cover, but man. Anyway, there it is.
Today I'm thankful for getting another happy ending (we ended up staying up pretty late, though; it was like, "Surely it's almost over now! We can't stop when we're so close! ...I guess we weren't that close, but we have to be close now!"), ice cream being on sale, lightweight kitty litter (we couldn't wait for a friend to be around to drive us somewhere anymore, but we needed to buy more kitty litter and 20 pounds is a lot to walk home with), finding out that we had heard Lars's voice before after all, and it being time for a snack.