Ginga Kikotai Majestic Prince – 04
I said in the Spring Check-in that the fourth episode was going to be very telling as to whether this series had the chops to pull off what it was trying to accomplish. I think it responded well – this was a very solid episode that successfully upped the ante for pathos, and planted some seeds about both plot and character that seem to have the potential to bear fruit oer the next five months.
I also said in that check-in that GKMP was starting to remind me of Symphogear, and that’s more true now than ever. It feels like this series is to mecha was that one was to mahou shoujo – a heartfelt, earnest, affectionate and often sloppy homage with all the subtlety of a kick in the teeth. I liked the emotional honesty of Symphogear and I think Majestic Prince has something of that quality – this is clearly the work of people who know the genre well and love it. There’s no secret about the themes at work here, but they still have a certain emotional tug when played straight like this.
I definitely pegged this series as being more farcical than it turned out to be, though in my defense I think that was the picture the first two episodes painted. As the details have emerged about the process that led to the creation of Team Rabbit (and others like them) and the conflict with the Walguru, their situation doesn’t seem quite as comedic as it did. Genetically engineered to fight, raised by military surrogates until old enough to enter military training, memories erased… This is no picnic. The exploration of the child-soldier morality play is as old as mecha anime itself – indeed, it underpins the entire genre – so it’s not really fair to expect much originality in this day age age. But while the premise of the series on paper was so classic that it seemed it could only be at least part parody (and the first two episodes fed the impression) it now looks as if GKMP is going to try to inject something of value into the mythology with pure pathos.
I liked the direction this episode took in filling in the mythology with background on the adult characters, showing us what led them to the point where they are today. Rin-Rin being the most prominent adult was of course most prominently featured, and she’s quite reminiscent of the adult figures like Genjurou in Symphogear who have a job to do, but still agonize over the cost it levies on their soul and on the lives of the children on the front lines. Also of note: Saionji Reika is an heiress (the eerie Ginga e Kickoff parallels continue to build) and we meet a new combat team, Doberman – an all-male threesome who rescue Team Rabbits from their latest life-threatening peril. We even got a little look at what seems to be the Walguru Princess, planting the seed of a potential resolution in the conflict – which could either be interesting or disastrous from a plot standpoint, depending on how it’s handled.
I think the strongest moment of this episode was when Ataru (ironically, probably the least serious character in the series so far) recollected one of his lost memories, a dream about being held and comforted as a child. “Do you think when we’re killed, someone will tell those people who used to comfort us?” Againm subtle as a sledgehammer but I think pretty effective – that’s a good summation of the cruelty of the situation these kids are facing. Ulcers, repressed memories, constant worrying about death – is this any kind of adolescence? In mecha anime, it is – and it seems just possible that GKMP in its fecklessly honest way may have something of value to offer on the subject.
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru – 04
If the fourth episode was pivotal in getting me close to the point of officially sticking with Majestic Prince, it’s also got me pretty close to calling it a day with Yahari.
As much as any show this season I think this one has a split personality – the smart, sensitive story about adolescent isolation and loneliness it occasionally lets slip out, and the trite, cliched snoozefest it too often is. There are shows like that in every season, of varying quality – Sakurasou and Oreshura are two recent examples. As if we weren’t steeped in LN nonsense already, this week saw the addition of yet another annoying imouto – and even the fact that Komachi was played by Yuuki Aoi (one of my absolute favorites, too little heard of late) couldn’t save every scene she was in from being almost unwatchable. I won’t put her impact on the show at the same disastrous level as what we saw with Sakurasou’s little sister character, but it wasn’t pretty.
It isn’t so much Komachi herself – irritating as she was – that’s the problem, but that she’s yet another example of how series like this seem to have certain boxes they need to check off at all costs. Imouto? check. Physically abuse the male lead? Check. Smug, self-aware dialogue? Check. That and the fact that I find Yukino to be utterly unlikeable and Yui quite tiresome are the biggest problems I have with Yahari – although the fact that the visuals are shockingly sloppy and unattractive for a Brains Base series doesn’t help. There were elements I genuinely liked – there have been every week – and they generally involved peeling away the layers of Hikki’s painful self-deception and revealing the lonely and bright kid underneath. The intrigue with Hayato is interesting too – just what is he, really? But at this point it just isn’t enough to cut through all the nonsense.