Among the many things I appreciate about R;N is that is fully acknowledges that no matter what else is happening in the world, the small things in our lives still dominate our thoughts and feelings. There’s certainly a conspiracy story playing out here, but it’s happening alongside a very involving human one that’s both whimsical and rather melancholy. It’s also a series that’s making it very clear it has no plans to conform to narrative convention. I think we can look forward to this juxtaposition continuing for most – if not all – of the series’ run.
The two dominant impressions from this ep came from the largest cast member and the strangest one. Frau Bow continues to be what I suspect is something of a love/hate character – personally, I find her consistently hilarious, but she’s definitely out where the buses don’t run. “Girl characters are meant to be waifus, but guys aren’t waifus ‘cause they’re too bro-tier” indeed. For some reason we just don’t get many anime characters that say “Headdesk” when they’re frustrated – I know some will compare Kona to Daru but compared to her, Daru was a highly-functional social animal. There’s no question that a lot of the reason I play her dialogue over and over is because of Nazuka Kaori’s fearlessly bizarre performance, but the lines themselves are pretty damn funny – and it’s when Frau Koujiro is involved that I can hear the dialogue take on some of the same 1930’s screwball comedy rhythm it had in Steins;Gate.
The other dominant performance of the episode comes from GunPro-I, and it’s truly one of the saddest of the season. Part of it is the character design – GunPro looks the part of a Gunvarrel-style giant robo but has those sad, lonely eyes – like the eyes of a robot who’s been sitting in a shed for nine years wondering if it’d ever see the light of day. I started to worry the second I saw the huge crowd gathered outside the hangar – thanks to Nagafukada-san’s desire for “impact” – and sensed we were in for a letdown. It also struck me a bit odd than Nae was there with Mitchie – she chalks it up to coincidence but I don’t trust her motives yet. In any event, wiser heads would have known that the first test run should never have happened in front of an audience.
The thing of it is, GunPro-I is exactly the sort of giant robo that would be designed by high school students. It’s loud, it shakes like a frightened Chihuahua (awfully uncomfortable for Kai in the pilot’s seat) and it has exactly two buttons – “Walk” and “Turn”. “That’s such a challenge” indeed – and it’s all the worse when “Walk” turns out to be so glacially slow that the audience turns on Aki in a rather ugly manner. It’s not pleasant to watch a dream come crashing down, especially when Aki was so single-minded about it. Her reasons might not be all that sound – wanting to impress a sister who told her she’d “always be ordinary” and then showed little interest in Aki or her robot – but Aki is nothing if not sincere. And I can’t help but wonder just why JAXA was so interested in this thing – surely, they know something we don’t – but for now, the whole event was splendidly tragic.
As for the “big” picture, the picking are pretty slim on that front this week. Kona-chan knows nothing of the Kitijima Reports (I was half-expecting her to follow up her “Remember what I told you about my mother?” with “I made it all up”) but she finds herself a soul-mate in Airi, whose knowledge banks include BL dialogue from Gunvarrel the anime. As for Kai, he continues to impress in a rather Adachi-like manner – certainly in the obvious way he quietly always does the decent thing, and the way he cares so deeply about Aki. He complains about her sourpuss expression and about having to pilot the GunPro, but he does his best to cheer her up, and in the end he crawls into that oven of a cockpit. In a more subtle way Kai also reminds me of an Adachi lead too – he’s completely free of the usual manga/anime trope of the guy being awkward around girls. Kai’s low-rev idle extends to his relationships with the girls in his life – they never seem to get too far under his skin, and he never gets worked up about the usual panty-shot hijinks. And because of all that, there’s a sense that when he does resolve to act, it really means something.