My take on GKMP has been forming over the last few weeks, and this episode did nothing to change it – but it sure isn’t the borderline spoof I expected after the first episode. This show very much has the feel of an affectionate tribute to the mecha genre, just as Symphogear did with mahou shoujo. What it lacks in sophistication it largely makes up for with earnestness and sentiment, and it’s managed to become an involving story – though certainly not without its flaws – with characters that I’ve actually come to care about.
What really strikes me is just how morose this series has turned out to be, and we really saw that on display this week. In truth there’s a major problem with this episode – it was structured as a sentimental remembrance of Grandzehle, but we’ve spent so little time there that I feel no emotional connection to the place. We’re only in episode six, and most of the first five were spent with the Fail Five on combat missions in space, not at the academy. That’s a miscalculation, I think, and the episode does suffer quite a bit as a result.
That said, the underlying emotions are effectively portrayed because we’ve come to see just how lost the kids in Rabbits really are. It’s pretty crappy to see them still mocked and belittled by their fellow students (their junior matter-of-factly referring to them as “Team Fail” was probably the most ignominious moment) when in fact Team Rabbits have been out risking their lives on the front line while they’ve been playing at high schoolers safe in their school zone. Their track-record in battle is certainly mixed, but that still ranks them far above their cocooned colleagues in terms of stature, so in that sense it was appropriate for the story to give them a chance to get some validation from the students in the end.
Apart from that small moment of acceptance – triumph is certainly too strong a word – the entire episode was remarkably bleak. We got what seemed like one more unmistakable death flag for Team Doberman, though it seems as if a ticket to the front lines is pretty much a death flag for anyone sooner or later. The despair of the adults (the ones decent enough to care) over what’s being done to the kids hangs heavy in the air. Even during Rabbits’ “graduation” – itself trumped-up so they can be used in battle without limitation – Asagi trips and falls on the steps leading to the stage. It wasn’t an exciting episode and the nostalgic tone for Grandzehle wasn’t earned, but it certainly conveyed the melancholy which has come to define the series. Next week looks like it could be more light-hearted, based on the preview – it seems to promise our first in-depth look at the enemy. And the Wulgaru (Wulgaruvians?) look like a pretty bizarre bunch, to say the least.