We’ve been talking for several episodes about how much we applaud this series for being very clever with its pacing and intentional lack of action, allowing us to explore the characters and their setting on a bit deeper scale because of this. It’s an interesting idea to make a light novel adaptation with almost no action in a genre that relies heavily on it. For fantasy, action, specifically battles and violence, is the driving force for most stories and it makes sense. These are dangerous worlds in which rules surrounding people whipping out swords and going to town don’t always apply. Fantasy is such a high form of fiction that a story can easily show epic battles or intense magical creatures that tantalize and gives us incredible escapism, answering our thirst for a world where we all can have kickass powers. I mean, it’s just so dang fun to watch people sling spells and arrows around like there was a sale on projectiles. However, SukaSuka doesn’t really do this and, to be honest, that’s kinda what’s made it so great so far.
However, give me an opening like this with an epic battle… I mean, I’m not gonna complain.
As had been building for several episodes, we did finally get that tease of what the girls have been facing all this time. I believe tease is the right word as the whole thing is packed but ends in the first 1:42 of the episode. Yet, that’s what made the action stand out to me as all the more important. And some big bombs are dropped here that give us two new game changers:
The enemy is evolving… and something is happening with Ctholly.While we don’t have a lot to go off of when it comes to the emergence of what looks like to be a crocodile Gundam from the Timere, this show has been doing a great job of planting seeds early and waiting quite a while before reaping. Which, on that note, also is why I’m very interested to see what’s happening to Ctholly. In the opening of episode one, we see her losing all semblance of her blue hair and eye color before flashing back to where we are in the story now, and in the second episode, we saw a hint of this with a single strand turning red before changing back. Now, we’re starting to see something very wrong with her. Visions bathed if blood red coloring are assailing her while children whisper creepy thoughts to her. And her iris is having a bit of those Resident Evil-esque infection issues. Worst of all, in typical light novel fashion, she’s keeping it a secret from everyone. As mentioned above, this had clearly been building for several episodes but I’m very interested in the fact that it’s evolved so suddenly in this episode. It leads me to believe that the sudden onset of symptoms will be leading us to some very dark waters here soon and I’m very excited on what that will mean for our characters.
So with such strong undercurrents of more to come, it’s a shame that the rest of the episode left me a little disappointed.
This series has so many great things working for it, from the excellent slow pacing allowing a focus on character development, to that amazing soundtrack and honestly very pretty character designs. However, as much as it tries to be more, the anime still finds itself stuck in typical light novel traps that feel like banana peel induced falls into the mud on an otherwise great series. Sure, it picks itself up again but you’d think you’d avoid the banana peel after several times. Fool me once…The scene with Willem and the Annihilator Knights strikes me in particular. Yes, it comes off as clever that Willem doesn’t trip up his morals and can claim self-defense by baiting the Knights to attack them. However, the whole thing is a horrible cliche. Willem is the confident hero who pulls something out of his ass with coins and finger guns (like some weird mixture of Yu Yu Hakusho and Railgun) to save the day, earning admiration until one of the female characters knocks him down a peg by exclaiming sexual harassment. The only thing thankfully missing is a inane misunderstanding, though we sort of get one with the woman complaining about an accidental belly rub from the previous episode that she only felt like sharing now even though both she and he apologized to each other about it before.
This setup has been done so many times in numerous light novel and light novel adaptations that I was a little sad to see this show play it so straight. I was hoping for at least some mild change up or reversal to keep the scene unique but instead, we’re left with something feeling a bit more like No Game No Life lite in which we have some clever explanation and neat trick to defeat the enemy. In fact, this setup where Willem gets strangely cocky and one-ups everyone has happened before in this show whenever our confident hero suddenly challenged Ctholly and made her out to be a joke even though she would have by this point gone on multiple large-scale battles and have a significant amount of battle experience. It strikes me as lazy in comparison to other scenes that shine so beautifully in how they balance character dynamics with world-building or are able to divulge large amounts of information but keep the tone conversational.Even the following explanation scene fell through for me, though this may fully be my own personal feelings here. After Willem saves the day, Ctholly comments on how she saw through his trick, particularly because he had trained her and so she knows how he works. Yet we’ve never seen the training between these two characters. At the time in episode three, there was a nice arc of her accepting his help and then finally learning to want to live, rather than thinking the only option left was to die. However, the episode skips the training montage to not break the flow, instead cutting to Willem in a cafe while the girls say their goodbyes and head off to war. The episode never shows how these two trained together and grew to know each other. At the time, this wasn’t that big of a deal as the episode implied the unspoken time and the characters moved on without commenting on it. Plus, any montage or other method to express this would have messed up the flow and the episode didn’t have much time left, anyways. However, if the show is referencing back to this scene as if it was important and the audience was never a part of, it comes off as hollow, making me feel out of the loop like a third wheel in a conversation with an inside joke.
Katanagatari did something similar in its show as a joke, spending too much time with other plot and characters and so just skipped a major fight altogether, catching up with the main characters after the fact. It was intended as a joke and came off as very funny and self-aware for its series. This, however, was supposed to be serious and felt to me like I was just missing information. I admit, though, that it may be a nitpick as the whole scene only lasts a few minutes and wraps up with a very sweet confession from Ctholly that I enjoyed immensely.
But then we end with another bit of a cliche cliffhanger. Our handsome hero hears a name from his past and must go off on his own while he leaves the girl crying, asking him to promise he’ll come back. It’s not the worst thing in the world but it felt a bit odd given how Ctholly was completely normal not a few minutes ago. Plus, he’s not the one in this series going off to war. He was going to have a chat. Literally, the only information we’re given is that some dude just wanted to talk so Wilem will be home late for supper. Why were we crying? I feel, though, that the scene could get a pass given that Willem and Ctholly were separated for a month, desperately wanting to see each other. It was just sad that a show striving for uniqueness keeps giving us scenes we’ve seen done before time and again.I’ve been a bit negative at the end here but that’s only because I like this show and want it to be better. That first episode had such immense promise, being so refreshing and unique-looking, and we’re still seeing a lot of great stuff happening each episode. It just feels like we’re slipping up every now and then on the way. Here’s hoping that with these underlying arcs of unanswered questions, we start to see a lot of that promise in the latter half of the show.