Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (09)

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Episode Synopsis:

With the infiltration team decimated and Ouni wounded, things are looking grim for the Mud Whale crew. Masoo is beginning to succumb to the strain of overusing his thymia, and the rest of the defenders are stretched to the breaking point. Ouni is saved by his friend Nibi, and the two manage to defeat several Empire soldiers, until the Captain remembers that he has a gun and kills the one who has had far less screen-time. Enraged, Ouni’s powers devastate his enemies and cleave through the nous Skylos.

In a protracted dreamlike sequence, an avatar of Skylos named Olivines offers Chakuro and Lykos the opportunity to give their emotions to the great nous, Anthropos, in exchange for blissful memories and a chance to help Falaina “advance to a new stage”. Without giving a firm answer, Chakuro and his companions are allowed to flee the sinking sand-ship and return to the Mud Whale before Skylos sinks and the remaining Empire soldiers commit suicide.

Review:

Good grief, this show has been a disappointment. After a promising introduction, it seems like everything we learn about the world surrounding the Mud Whale is arbitrary, confusing or contrived, and every plot point is stretched out to the point of meaninglessness. We’ve reviewed disappointing shows before, but this one really takes the cake for losing my interest the hardest.

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Episode eight ended with Captain Unnecessary Face-Mask seemingly ready to explain why the Empire was so hell-bent on destroying Falaina. In episode nine, he reveals that it’s… basically because they think they’re dirty sinners. Wait, isn’t that the exact same reason they’ve been offering up since we first met the Empire? Why tease it as some big revelation if all you’re going to do is repeat what we already know?

With any hope of further explanations dashed, we’re left with a sub-par action scene as Ouni and his buddy Nibi tear through the Empire soldiers surrounding them. Since they’re close to Skylos’ nous, they can’t use thymia, but that doesn’t seem to be much of a hindrance. Why do the soldiers insist on wearing so much armor when any schlub with no military training or special strength can slice through it with no difficulty (made more egregious by Ouni’s gushing leg wounds)? Even more annoyingly, why do a bunch of troopers who were carrying guns not moments ago decide to pick up spears? Do they want to make it sporting? It seems more likely that the writing staff needed a way for Ouni and Nibi to briefly hold their own despite facing opponents who should outclass them by every combat metric ever recorded.

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This doesn’t work out for them in the long run, as Face-Mask and his goons finally cut Nibi down, giving Ouni the kick he needs to go kill-crazy and eviscerate most of his opponents and cripple Skylos. The resulting hallucination-inducing wave of arms and tentacles gives Ouni a final vision of Nibi saying goodbye which lasts for over five uninterrupted minutes. I can’t stress enough how much they try to make Nibi’s death feel significant. We watch the guy float away on some sort of boat and start to slowly sink into the afterlife, and watch with almost no cutaways between his feet hitting the surface and his hair finally disappearing.

The entire affair is stretched out for the length of a bible, and I cannot fathom why. We’d barely been introduced to Nibi prior to him elbowing his way into the boarding party in episode seven, so why all the overwrought drama? Perhaps he’s a bigger deal in the manga, but the show doesn’t give him the depth or impact to warrant such a maudlin sendoff.

What happens after Nibi’s death has even less impact, and serves only to move the plot along and hurry Chakuro and his friends off of Skylos. Olivines, the amoeba-person who seems to fulfill a similar role for Skylos as Neri/Ema does for Falaina, tries to convince Chakuro that surrendering emotions and memories to the nous is totally cool. Olivines does this while sitting inside a poor man’s Dalí painting with floating clocks and books.

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If this is supposed to symbolize something, I’m not sure what it is. The painting it’s referencing is called The Persistence of Memory, so maybe that’s their angle? It honestly feels more like they just grabbed some vaguely symbolic imagery and tossed it on screen because it looked cool.

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And why didn’t it come with cocktail sauce?

Eventually, Olivines hands Chakuro some kind of jumbo shrimp, telling him that if he can give it to/use it on Falaina and Ema, he can Digivolve the Mud Whale into something more awesome. It’s heavily implied that this could rob its dwellers of their emotions and replace them with the happier memories accumulated by all the nous, and possibly enslave them to the great nous Anthropos, but that remains to be seen.

Our heroes are finally dumped out of Olivines’ dreamscape and make their way back to Falaina to bury their dead and… I’m not sure what. The episode has non-standard opening and ending sequences, opting to play much of the ending theme over Chakuro’s narration and the aftermath of the battle. The whole thing seems like what you’d see in a finale, and the entire episode has the feel of one. Somehow, we’ve still got 3 episodes to go before this all wraps up, and I’m not holding my breath for them.

Summary:

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We’re so done with this

Episode nine wraps up the battle between Falaina and the Empire, but leaves the door open for Chakuro to do something stupid with his magic prawn, or for Lykos’ brother to show up in another sand ship and start wrecking house again. Frankly, I can’t see either plotline reaching a satisfying ending at this stage. Children of the Whales has little going for it besides nice artwork, and that’s not nearly enough to make up for uninteresting characters and a story that is so shaky and poorly paced. I wish the other Con Artists the best of luck grinding through the rest of the show, because I expect it to be a slog.


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Support Ambition On Kickstarter

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Ambition: A Minuet in Power by the Joy Manufacturing Co.

The Joy Manufacturing Co., good friends of the Con Artists, are putting together a game called Ambition: A Minuet in Power. Set in Paris during the period surrounding the French Revolution, Ambition casts the player as Yvette; a young woman abandoned by her sweetheart who resolves to flatter, scheme and seduce her way to the heights of nobility. By attending parties, mingling with society and hiring the right people, you can manipulate the various factions of Paris to your own ends. However, the Revolution is growing in power, and depending on her choices, Yvette stands to gain great wealth and influence, or lose it all… along with her head.

If any of this sounds interesting, please support Ambition: A Minuet in Power on Kickstarter and share the links below with your friends. On behalf of the Con Artists and our friends at the Joy Manufacturing Co., thanks for reading!

 

Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (08)

Boring nihilist versus irritating psychopath? In the immortal words of Ken Watanabe: “Let them fight.”

Episode Synopsis:

Coverage of the rout on Skylos slows to a crawl as we monitor simultaneous events on the mud whale – primarily the fight between The Captain and bob-cut there, the latter of which gets some in-universe nous-powered backstory. Also, a couple of Ouni’s underlings are accosted by other delinquents who don’t seem to appreciate that there are dozens of armored soldiers in sight and earshot who are actively seeking to kill them, and – just in case you weren’t paying enough attention last time – we get round two of Ema singing in the sand (not necessarily in this order).

Back on Skylos, Ouni manages to get the jump on Enemy-Commander-Eyepatch (I wonder if he and Captain Eyepatch had the same thing happen), and covers Chakuro’s and Lykos’ approach to the nous by holding him hostage. The kids get about to the door when Captain Why-was-I-wearing-a-facemask-while-standing-on-the-bridge-of-my-OWN-ship-in-my-introduction-when-I-clearly-don’t-even-need-one-in-actual-combat reasserts control over the situation and threatens to drop some more exposition. Ultimately, this episode is mostly a bunch of people on both vessels making cryptic comments (in varying states of active conflict), although Liodari does probably die.

Review:

Spoilers, I guess. Also, I say “probably” because I wouldn’t put it past most anime to reanimate as anomalous a character as him as a giant sand golem or something, especially if there’s some sort of ancient garden-like place somehow still intact at the bottom of the sand sea. Glad to see him go, though (especially if he doesn’t come back) – he’s wayyyy too intense to be a believable character, even in the context of getting backwash from everyone who successfully fed their emotions to the local nous. I’ll note that we don’t get to see any part of his backstory that explains why anyone trusts someone with his obvious instability with numerous lethal weapons.

Beyond that, though, the episode moves around too much to do anything but tease its other plot points. What “objective” are the soldiers talking about that isn’t “slaughter everyone on Falaina” and doesn’t seem to be “kill Falaina” either? What does the delinquents’ prisoner want with Ouni? What’s up with the hundreds and hundreds of spectral hands?

Yeah, that’s actually not very helpful.
Anybody else get this weird craving for Tang?

This is on top of continuing to raise questions that we already have: How connected to Falaina is the Captain? Does Falaina actually eat emotions, but only from one person at a time? Did the Captain get married before inheriting his current position? What’s up with the giant fish?

Eyes mercifully not visible in this shot.

Of course, the most interesting new question (I mean, assuming no one’s thought ask it already) is based on Captain facemask’s rant at the end: Could it be that Falaina actually eats the life of the Marked? That would be a rough situation to get used to, even if it kinda makes more sense than the “normal” nous.

Are you… are you going to tell us?

Summary:

Not by very many people if we have anything to say about it.

Offing Liodari is a step in the right direction, but there’s still an overabundance of mystery, and honestly I’m not sure that the show was really salvageable coming into this episode. I doubt I’ll be able to recommend it even if that one girl that Lykos saved from the ambush buckles some swash and saves the day out of nowhere.


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Made in Abyss – Final Thoughts

Look over there! It’s a truck, it’s a train…no…wait…

It’s a Bulldozer for your feelings…

Made in Abyss is a hidden gem from the Summer of 2017. The Con Artists discuss how much we loved it and why it was such a great Rolling Review choice. It nails the art, music, worldbuilding, and characters. Even Dan can’t complain about this show! Do you even understand how rare that is?!

Listen in to hear our thoughts on this great show.

Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (07)

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Episode Synopsis:

Skylos’ attack on the Mud Whale begins, and the defenders are put to the test.  Meanwhile, a small strike team enters the lower levels of Skylos, searching for its nous in an attempt to sink it.  The battle on the Whale is pitched, but the strike team encounters only light resistance – until they are caught in an ambush and largely wiped out.

Episode Review:

Anime, I gotta know.  Was it something I said, that you hold this grudge against me?  Why do only I get the episodes where the pink-haired psychopath takes center stage?

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You are just the worst, kid.

So, pink-hair kid is back, and every scene with him in it is like dragging nails across my soul’s chalkboard.  At the beginning of the episode, I still had the wherewithal to, once again, question why this one person is allowed to have all the emotions they want in a society rigidly built on suppressing them.  There’s a scene early on where he’s rolling around in the dirt thanking God (wait, you guys have religion now too?) for the opportunity to murder people capable of feeling bad about being murdered, when I seriously wondered about all the other soldiers near him.

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In the episode, they just walk past him in the slow, plodding manner that the show believes passes for “purposeful march”, but you have to wonder if they’re not a little weirded out.

 

GUY A: Hey, Jim, you see that pink kid rolling around in the dirt laughing?  I think there’s something up with him.

GUY B: Hey, yeah, so I’m not the only one.  Do you think – and I know, it sounds crazy – do you think he has emotions?  He just seems so excited about killing people.

GUY A: Eh, it’s above my paygrade.  I’m sure some of the brass is keeping an eye on him.  Right?

GUY B: Yeah… (looks back at pinky shrieking something about fear and anger) …right.

 

I actually kind of feel bad for them now, having to put up with his antics all the time.  By the end of the episode, though, I was simply exhausted by having to watch him.

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Seriously, kiddo, no one, in the entire show, has called you crazy so far.  You can’t just use default B-grade self-serving villain lines when there’s no one engaging with you.  I would say that I want someone to kill him off, but I can’t even muster the hatred.  I just want him to stop existing; if he never showed up in another episode I wouldn’t even question what happened.

 

The rest of the episode is a boring drudge march in which every event is broadcast to the viewer long before it happens, and then it happens exactly the way you expect it to.  Suou gets emotional about the battle and decides to go somehow fight in it himself, and it’s like “Wow, I bet that isn’t going to work at all!  He’s going to get thrashed”.  And then he runs around for a few trying minutes until he finds someone to fight, and is promptly thrashed.  The strike team gets to Skylos and we cut to the command bridge, where some guy says “Just as planned.  We’ll take them out super easy”.  10 minutes later, that exact thing happens, just as he said it would.

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The strike team is near the objective, and they decide “Hey, there’s a long, dark passageway where none of our magic works.  Let’s send exclusively no-name side characters down there and leave all the plot-relevant people behind.”  Boy, I wonder if all the no-name side characters are going to die.  The show takes many agonizing minutes slowly, slowly revealing that, yes, they are dead.  I’ve never seen a war that is so tiringly predictable to watch.

So with the main story plodding along, I’ll focus on some of my other observations.  Like the little goggles that our main leads have.

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Those goggles right there.  Also, when did they get two pairs of those?

For the entire episode, there’s been a powerful blowing sandstorm – in which no one reacts in the slightest to all the blowing sand.  Doesn’t even faze them, their giant anime eyes impervious to all the flying grit.  But when it’s time to get in their boat, Chakuro makes a show of putting on his goggles.

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As if it matters at all.  About a minute later, while still on the sand ocean, he takes them back off and off they stay.  Why do you even have those?!

The sandstorm also brings another question with it.

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How do you guys even manage to feed yourselves?  Everything is going to be completely covered in sand when this storm is over.  I feel like someone carefully designed the Mud Whale and its interesting civilization, and then they gave it to some… child, and told him to put it through an action story, and he’s just slamming it together with his other toys with reckless abandon.

Redeeming features of this episode, you ask?  Well, shockingly, it’s better than Episode 3, my previous review.  Gone are the most egregious examples of CG, there’s less pointless standing around (though the pacing is still awful), and the art on display continues to be nice.

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Just ignore how Skylos could have ever produced art of any kind and you’ll be fine

Also, there was a nice little musical number in the middle of the episode, with Neri singing on top of some hideous fish with massive eyelashes.

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What are you even going for with that fish, show?

The song doesn’t fit with the atmosphere of the episode, doesn’t make sense in context, and certainly doesn’t make up for the other flaws this episode… but it is nice in isolation.  So there’s that.

Long story short, I’m tired of this show.  I’m tired of boring characters with bad development, tired of pinko the shrieking sadism fairy, tired of predictability, tired of the color brown.  If in the next episode every character was wiped out and the Mud Whale sunk, my reaction would be “well, ain’t that a shame” and I would quickly forget it.  And you should too.


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