There are some strikes against this series that would normally be large enough to be insurmountable, but I’m going to give it yet one more episode. Why? Two reasons, the first being that it looks as if it’s finally going to make the major shift I’ve been waiting for next week. And second, there are aspects of it I still really like – mainly the art direction and the general premise.
Still, those strikes… I mean, everything in the school setting is just so utterly hackneyed and cliched. I’ve also come to realize that I really don’t like any of the major characters here. Some of them are outright A-holes like Guren and Shinoa, some of them are just annoying tropes, and some are bland – but there’s really no one I can point to as one that really stands out as a winner.
Given all that things would normally be pretty hopeless, but somehow I’m still interested. I like the scenes in the vampire stronghold, which fully realize the potential of the set design and backgrounds and lack the mass-produced quality of the rest of the series. The idea that it’s not so clear whose vision of the world is actually the more abhorrent is also an interesting one – who are the bad guys here, in the end? So I’m giving Owari no Seraph one more week to convince me.
Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki – 04
Sidonia no Kishi is an absurdly easy series to predict, really. If you know an episode is going to be focused on tactics and big, splashy battle animation, it’s pretty much a lock that it’s going to be great. And this was a great episode.
While I do admit there’s a certain repetitiveness to the combat in Sidonia in the broad sense – a new Gauna shows up with some new modification, the Gardes intercept it, lots of people scream, lots of quick-cuts to panicked faces in the control room, Tanikaze does something baka-heroic – the fact is, these scenes work from a dramatic perspective. And there are enough tweaks in the specifics to make the battle sequences consistently interesting. And even if there are too many logical holes that never get explained (just how exactly did Tanikaze survive being at the epicentre of that *** megaton explosion?) the dramatic tension in the series is never higher than at these climactic moments.
There were several interesting twists this time around, in a battle with a Gauna (G550, if you’re keeping score) that’s taken on the form of the Lem colony ship (implications?). First, the chimera goes crazy in battle and refuses to follow orders? Least surprising development ever, but still fun. Izana being in trouble is the only thing that snaps Tsumugi back to reality. Unfortunately getting into trouble and needing rescue is really the only function Izana-kun seems to serve in these set pieces, but it does add a real sense of consequence and emotional heft.
The real winner here, though, was the Gauna having a Higgs cannon hidden inside itself. That was awesome – a real game-changer and loaded with dramatic potential. First we get Tsumugi saving Sidnoia by using herself (and the crippled Izana) to deflect the first shot. Then Nagate launches himself on a suicide run to take out the cannon, which actually doesn’t make much more sense (or get more explanation) than the part about his surviving the subsequent explosion – but it’s great theater anyway. I do think there’s an awful lot about these Sidonia missions that can be logically picked apart, and generally speaking they’re a chaos of rogue elements ignoring orders that could never work in a real combat scenario. But they sure are fun to watch.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 17
Of course, if there’s another series out there that’s as easy to predict as Sidonia no Kishi it would have to be UBW. Eliminate the fluff and you generally have something quite rewarding, and this all-essentials episode was probably the best of the second cour so far.
Funnily enough I found myself rooting for Kuzuki and Caster this week – though I suppose it’s not so funny, as they’ve become two of the more interesting characters of the second cour. I think Kuzuki is a classic example of why the way ufotable is treating this adaptation is flawed, because so much of his character is left a blank – yet he manages to be really interesting even so. As he and Caster were taking on Archie and Veronica, Lancer and Archer were progressing in their blood match outside. Except, of course, this was more of a dance than a true fight – for reasons that would become clear as the episode progressed.
As I said in the Spring Check-in post, I find Unlimited Blade Works to be an incredibly frustrating show. Not just because it’s capable of episodes like this one and rarely delivers them, but because it refuses to commit to being a series that can be fully appreciated on its own terms. On principle, I refuse to accept the premise that an anime based on a non-anime source material (i.e. a manga/VN/LN /novel adaptation as opposed to a sequel) should require a detailed knowledge of that source material in order to really appreciate it. I just think a studio should try harder than that – I don’t like the notion of anime as a private club. Make a series that stands under its own power or don’t bloody well make it at all. Even as flawed as it was – and in most senses this version is the better series – at least the Deen F/s n entry tried harder to do that.
So in that light, make of this episode what you will. Take the giant hints it gives you about what’s really going on here, or don’t. I will say that at least this ep, as the best UBW eps are, was solidly entertaining in its own right. It’s sort of unsatisfying that Rin’s “plan” only worked because of a deus ex Archer, but apart from that the fights were excellent and the subtext was interesting. We’ll see now how the series can hold up with one of its best characters out of the picture.