After the ugliness of today’s other mecha show, the issues raised by GKMP seem positively quaint and reassuring – but they’re right in the mainstream for this kind of series. Majestic Prince as usual just goes along, doing what it does rather well and drawing very little attention to itself. Thought it certainly isn’t as good as Hataraku Maou-sama this show reminds of that one in the sense that it makes it seem as if it requires very little effort to be engaging and smart, when it fact those are very difficult tasks indeed for any anime.
In terms of theme, though, it’s hard not to see some overlap developing between GKMP and Suisei no Gargantia (and I’m not talking about space squid). That’s not really surprising given that mecha anime is a pretty insular world in terms of intellectual content, and the question of free will is at the heart of so many series. Again we see the idea of clone soldiers – this time in the wreckage of a Wulgaru ship that’s crashed on Mars. Daneel leads the bunny pack on a mission to infiltrate the wreck and discover everything they can before it succumbs to deterioration or plummets into the ravine whose edge it’s perilously clinging to. Inside the ship are Wulgaru “foot soldiers” – clones supposedly lacking in any free will, who cannot act without the presence of a “cartridge” and will die as soon as it runs out of them.
It’s Asagi who points out the obvious to Izuru (they’ve been chosen to accompany Daneel while the others provide support) – the Wulgaru system isn’t all that different from the one that created Team Rabbits. Are they not also clones, raised specifically for the purpose of fighting and dying (and fitting as much of the former as possible in before the latter)? Izuru argues that no, they’re different because they’ve chosen to fight this war because it’s right. It doesn’t feel that way to me, though – Team Rabbits’ free will is only the illusion of free will. Daneel asks Izuru what he’d do if a machine was broken. “I’d fix it.” And if it couldn’t be fixed? “I’d… throw it away.”
Those are chilling words indeed, given the situation. It’s interesting how Asagi and Kei are very much falling into the role of the hard and cynical Usagi, while the others are either simpler (Ataru and especially Tamaki) or more idealistic (Izuru). And of course it’s they who continue to adapt well to their units, while the troubled pair struggle to do so. Tamaki is easily manipulated by trifles such as Giuliano calling her “Koneko” (Kitten) – but it doesn’t play as cruel or mocking on his part, but kind. More than any mecha show in recent memory I think Majestic Prince wears a genuine and heartfelt compassion for its child soldiers on its sleeve – it’s plain in the actions and even the faces of the adults decent enough to feel shame over what they do in the name of preserving humanity. This theme is the core of mecha anime if any is – yet it’s rarely as emotionally open as it it here. Yet again I see a similarity to Symphogear, whose point of view clearly expressed a transparent and occasionally sloppy affection and sympathy for the mahou shoujo in its cast.
The other thing that strikes me in watching this ep is that GKMP continues to be really good at staging large set pieces. The “Ares Mission” is tense, well-paced and nicely choreographed from start to finish. The logistics of the operation played out in clear and (contextually, anyway) believable fashion and there were some nice dramatic flourishes, like Koneko Tamaki being so euphoric that she’s able to manouver well in Mars’ gravity while the others are struggling – to the point where she takes her unit past its tolerances and causes a reactor meltdown that almost claims her life. And of course, the mission itself is highly relevant to the larger plot, and not just in terms of the way it casts the moral and ethical dilemma at the heart of the series in a new light. The information Daneel memorizes from the Wulgaru ship is surely going to prove vital to developments in the coming weeks.