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.

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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.

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