Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (06)

CotW_Ep06_04.jpg

EPISODE SYNOPSIS:

Skylos will return to the Mud Whale very soon to wipe out the remaining “sinners”.  The citizens of the Mud Whale must now prepare for battle.  After the impassioned speech from new chancellor Suou, any and all Mud Whale members with thymia are learning to use their powers for battle.  As the title of this episode suggests though, do any of them understand that they may have to kill someone tomorrow?

Review:

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Episode 6

You ever go to the grocery store and buy something you’ve never seen before?  You come home, you eat it, and you…really don’t care for it.  You’ve bought it though, and you are a conscientious person so you don’t want to throw the whole thing out.  Periodically you eat it just to get rid of it…and eventually you tell yourself that it’s…okay tasting…

That’s my take on Children of the Whales.  We bought this show so I eat it once a week.  It sure is…okay..(I’ll just keep telling myself that…)

The show has been ever so slowly course correcting itself since Episode 4, in my opinion.  That doesn’t save it from desperately cramming a bunch of stuff in and hoping you just believe it’s working.  Episode 6 has an interesting enough underlying premise.  The thymia users of the Mud Whale now have to train themselves to kill people.

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Honey this is Anime…you are always relying on the children

Intermixed into the episode is a whole mess of topics.  Children of the Whales never knows when to quit.  Episode 6 force feeds a budding romance plot with Lykos and Chakuro, Ouni’s backstory, a cultural festival, all in in addition to two other massively confusing plot points.

CotW_Ep06_01.jpg
Is this a real 4 days or like…a DBZ four days?

Let’s get to the bad parts so that we can end on a good note.  Show…Neri was super confusing in Episode 5.  Why the heck did you think it was a good idea to make a double of her to add more confusion?!  What is this…a soap opera?!  It was your Nous twin all alooooooong!  I’m guessing this works a bit like Rahxephon, wherein Neri was a spirit version of the Mud Whale’s Nous.  Making Emma however, opens up a basket full of questions like, “Can the Nous all make physical spirit-people manifestations?”, “How many of these can they make?”, “Is nobody else caring that they are walking around?”. The Chancellor in Ep 4 totally seemed cool with Neri just getting absorbed back into Nous Falaina, as though he knew the whole time what she was.  Do all the Chancellors know about these spirit manifestations?  Once again, the show just…does things and doesn’t feel like explaining anything.  Regardless of how I feel about Neri/Ema, the show just infuriatingly dodges any questions Chakuro (and you the viewer) have and just flies around laughing maniacally.  Great….

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Why are there two of you?!
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I really…really…don’t like you…

At least she promises to tell Chakuro all the secrets of the plot Mud Whale if he doesn’t die in the upcoming battle.

Other terrible instances involve Captain Eye-patch and his wife.  There’s a small scene where Captain Eye-patch makes his wife cry because he’s an asshole and I literally threw my hands up in the air screaming, “WTF?!?!?”.  We were already given a reason not to like this guy because he hates his own life and disregards everyone elses.  Why would you even PUT THIS SCENE IN HERE?!?!

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I hate this guy…

Ouni’s backstory and the Sand Festival are a mixed bag.  Ouni has so little facial expression that his backstory of being a orphan accepted by the “punk-gang” holds little weight.  The guy doesn’t even cry or show feelings for the death of his friends so I feel very little for his character.  The Sand Festival seems forced because it’s trying to be the emotional counter-balance to “these kids have to kill people tomorrow”, but I am so disinterested in the Mud Whale as a whole that I only semi-felt it’s significance.

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Ouni Then
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Ouni Now: If you can spot the difference you win a prize

 

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If you kids keep throwing that sand, someone’s gonna lose an eye…

To end on a good note, the art has come back into form.  This episode is beautiful to look at and I’m really happy about that.  The art is the only real redeeming feature of this show thus far.  The second piece I really like is how often Sami’s name comes up.  That girl is getting more development in death than she ever did in life.  I thought her confession to Chakuro in Episode 4 was handled nicely, I liked that Lykos remembered their brief interaction, and the fact that Chakuro talks to her spirit in the small moments of peace shows a bond of love that I can get behind.  The show has been neglecting to show meaningful relationships or character growth, and these sequences of remembering Sami permeate though multiple episodes, really sealing the feeling (hey that rhymes!) for me.  More of this please!  I’m concerned for how things are progressing though as Lykos seems to be making a move for Chakuro’s affections.  Cut that out show…

 

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Wow…Sami is like the most meaningful character now…
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Ugh….booooooooo

Summary

After the momentary peace of Episode 6, we are off to battle in Episode 7.  Clearly 4 days meant…now.  Gotta keep things moving at the speed of whiplash, eh show?

Children of the Whales is not great and every episode seems crammed to the gills with stuff…not necessary meaningful stuff, just…stuff.  I’m trying to absorb the good parts here at the halfway point, but overall I feel very little for almost everything on screen.  Here’s to hoping the second half answers the questions from the first half.  Please leave a comment if the manga is secretly waaaaay better than the show.  The world is interesting enough that I’d want to read a better written story set here.


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Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (05)

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Episode Synopsis:

Lykos, Chakuro and Masoo have reached Falaina, the strange being at the heart of the Mud Whale. The Council of Elders order its desctruction, but the trio intervenes, and the hunters tasked with killing Falaina in order to sink the vessel lose heart. The Council retreats, reinstating Suou as chieftain and leaving it to the youth of the Mud Whale to decide how they will face the crisis.

Injured in the confrontation, Lykos reveals more about her homeland’s fixation on Falaina, and the existence of other nations besides. Though powerful, the Empire she hails from isn’t invincible, and their rivals may see fit to protect the residents of the Mud Whale… assuming they can survive the oncoming genocide.

Review:

Like my compatriots, I’ve been kind of up and down on Children of the Whales since episode three. I like its melancholy and at times claustrophobic atmosphere, and it presents a uniquely alien world that I’m still excited to learn about. However, the abrupt arrival of the evil Empire (because aren’t they all?) threw a huge wrench into any hopes for a moderately-paced world-building exercise. The Council of Elders’ sudden decision to literally go down with the ship also kicked that dream down the road.

Because of this wonky pacing, I’m also conflicted about episode five. We learn a bit more about the world outside the Mud Whale, but it’s entirely exposition from Lykos, whose shift from heartless killing machine to teary-eyed defender of the downtrodden seems extremely abrupt. With only four days left before the Empire returns to go full Exterminatus on the inhabitants, it feels like the pendulum is again swinging towards another brutal yet unfulfilling massacre. The show has simply loaded so much oncoming disaster into 3/5ths of its episodes that we have no time to focus on anything else. Had this happened after we’d gotten to know our protagonists and seen how they lived for awhile, it would have made Lykos’ returning emotions and Chakuro’s pleas for a chance to save his friends more moving. As it is, I’m just not feeling the impact.

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It’s been less than a week, dude

This doesn’t mean that the episode doesn’t have anything worthwhile in it. We learn that Falaina is one of nine Nous (Nouses? Nousi?) that control a sand ship, and it is the only one that doesn’t feed on emotions. How it continues to survive and keep the Mud Whale afloat is anyone’s guess, but it at least clears up the reason why the Empire wants to purge it; allowing emotions to run free would endanger the fierce military machine they’ve built up. Lykos’ statement that there are more nations out there that are arrayed against the Empire makes it seem like they consider this an easy win to solidify their power and remove a distraction or potential threat. It may be a clunky way of expanding the world, but at least we’re getting a taste of the larger picture.

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I’m also enjoying the shift in the power dynamic of the Mud Whale as the Council of Elders pulls back and the young people step up to the plate. Suou is trying to become the leader his people need in spite of his passive nature, and Ouni seems to have the makings of a real warrior. It’s a shame that the bout between him and the eyepatch-wearing Captain revealed nothing except that the Captain is a boring fatalist, but if he gets offed in the upcoming battle, maybe that will give Ouni time to temper his angst with some genuine leadership skills. Meanwhile, off in the wings, Masoo seems to be running up against his Marked lifespan just when his friends need him the most. He’s probably the character I’m most interested to watch at this point, and I hope he gets some time in the limelight, regardless of his final fate.

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Like this guy here

Summary:

Despite being another oddly-paced episode in an already oddly-paced show, episode 5 does provide some greater context for the struggles we’ve seen so far and the trials on the horizon. The denizens of the Mud Whale now have both short- and long-term goals; survive the oncoming assault from the Empire, and find allies somewhere within the other nations to secure their future. Hopefully the show can give us more reasons to care about the fate of our heroes before the onslaught begins.


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Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (04)

Surrender at 20 [hours]
Episode Synopsis:

Having no confidence in mounting a successful resistance to a floating island full of emotionless warriors with metal armor and gunpowder weaponry – only to then be faced with an entire country’s worth (assuming that their erstwhile homeland subscribes to the Zapp Branigan school of warfare), the council of elders decides to straight-up sink the Mud Whale and quit while they’re ahead (and before they’re, you know, just heads). Predictably, many of the younger inhabitants of the Whale are not enthused by this decision. Suou is the first to find out, when he is promoted to Chieftain and immediately given the task of actually sinking the Whale – he refuses (before anyone explains how exactly they expect him to do it), and coaxes some potentially helpful gibberish out of the council’s oldest member before he is knocked out and carried away by the Captain.

Neri, the council’s attendant, is present for the exchange and quickly excuses herself to seek help from Chakuro. She finds him, but only imparts her request after a strange force possess her and sends him on a vision trip, where he is encouraged by the spirits of acquaintances passed on. Chakuro recruits Lykos and a handful of his other friends, and they proceed to storm the bowels of the Mud Whale, where they begin to unravel its secret past…

Review:

At the risk of sounding redundant, this is a weirdly paced show. On the one hand, my recent viewing of Shirobako has significantly increased my sympathy for the trials of an anime studio attempting to produce a manga adaptation – trying to cram the story into 13 episodes seems like it’s taking its toll. On the other hand, several of the show’s other questionable aspects thus far seem like they were probably carried over from the source material.

Thankfully, De-Lion-dau doesn’t show up in this episode.

A brief aside: Escaflowne’s Dilandau was revealed to a psycho pretty early on, but I don’t think it was within a minute of his introduction (there’s less room in a thirteener, but this much less?), and he was definitely not a high-ranking officer in a military outfit that was very explicitly predicated on the removal of emotions from its soldiers. You can’t just throw some cat-eyed sadist front and center in the middle of that with no commentary by anyone and expect to be taken seriously. At least the Folken analogue might be doing something interesting, but you’re here to read about episode 4.

Spoilers ahoy.

Have I not been paying attention, or has Captain Eye-patch here only been on screen for, like, five seconds, two episodes ago, prior to knocking Suou out cold and being all buddy-buddy with the Council of Elders? He’s apparently top dog in the Mud Whale’s security detail, but it looks like he knew about the Skylos before the attack and didn’t do anything about it. He’s an adult, but he’s Marked, so he can’t be that old. He seems unfazed by the suicide order, probably because he expected a mutiny and has no intention of stopping it, but he’s also perfectly content with gauging Ouni as a fighter rather than actually helping Chakuro & company in any way.

My guess? He’s hopped up on the Nous that the council keeps in the Mud Whale’s basement. It doesn’t explain everything, but it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that’s happening down there, as Falaina seems to have Neri in its thrall or something. Hopefully the next episode will have some people actually talking to each other about what’s going on around here, because the countdown to Armageddon is rapidly draining my patience for all of the secret mystery stuff which might otherwise be kinda cool. Consider esteemed anime like Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, which was a show of the same length but had the slice-of-fish-out-water thing going for, like, half of its run before rendezvousing with the over-plot. I suppose certain constraints on event ordering, mostly regarding the Nous Lykos, prevent similar exploration here. Ouni’s character trajectory in particular appears to be heavily dependent on the mini-massacre happening relatively soon after the encounter.

I guess the real question at this point is how long the next six days are going to last in screen time. We could be spending the majority of the show leading up to a climactic engagement, but I suspect that Loudmouth McFushiaHair will be back sooner rather than later – unless someone decides to try to steer the island/vessel instead of scuttling it so that, when the Skylos returns, the ol’ Mud Whale will be somewhere else – how good can their tracking systems be?

I did rather enjoy the trippy dream sequence (I am historically a sucker for them) – it starts you off with a couple of things that are, like, “mm, yes – symbolic” but throws a curve-ball or two in that are like, “wait – what?”

Drop on in – just chillin’ with the gals

I’m also rapidly warming up to Ginshu. To those surprised by this given my history with imposed nicknames, something about the way it’s getting started in this show makes it seem like it might be an actual plot point, if a minor one.

What I’m saying is that, for the time being, I’m holding out hope that the “Chakki” thing is an opportunity for character development, which is something that had no chance of happening in Amanchu because of the way the third episode was structured around Futaba accepting her whimsical nickname as an offering of friendship (also Hikari in general). Come on, Ginshu-nee-san! I believe in you!

Summary:

Show better straighten up and fly right – having said that, there’s still plenty of potential here if it does.

(The Con Artists are in no way financially affiliated with Penny Arcade)


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Anime Review: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

coverSynopsis: The Dungeon stands tall above the town, and seems to extend infinitely beneath it, each level crowded with ever-tougher foes.  It’s the perfect place for adventurers to explore, find loot, and level up.  A fledgling adventurer, Bell Cranel, has recently come to town with dreams of greatness.  Now that he has found a Goddess to serve, and with only the clothes on his back and a knife, it’s time to pursue his dreams… and maybe find romance along the way.

Review: I admit that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of a show called Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?  And indeed, all of the fanservice you would expect is present in the show, sometimes without any explanation or reason.  Despite this, I found myself really enjoying the show because of how solidly its world is built, and due to the likeability of many of the characters.  It ended up being a pleasant surprise, and a show I’m now fond of despite its shortcomings.

Let’s talk about those first.  Right off the bat, this show could be mistaken for a harem anime if it weren’t for all of the RPG dungeon-crawling action.  Women throw themselves at Bell, seemingly for no reason other than he exists.  With his Goddess, Hestia, it at least makes some sense, as Bell is the only person that serves her initially, and he’s pretty important to her as a result.

Is it wrong dungeon 33Their relationship, while semi-romantic (largely for humor), is in many ways the core of the show, and is handled remarkably well.  The same cannot be said for Syr, a waitress at the local Inn.

Is it wrong dungeon 12Having met him once in passing, she immediately begins presenting him with lunchboxes and fawning over him at every opportunity.

Is it wrong dungeon 43Every other waitress in the inn is similarly infatuated with him, despite his total interaction with them consisting of a few sentences or less.  It’s certainly more bizarre than it is romantic in any way, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, which it never did.  Then there’s Eina, who advises Bell on exploring the dungeon safely.  She, too, develops feelings for him, taking him on several dates in the guise of item shopping.  Or Tione and Tiona, two sisters that fall for him… well… even I’m not sure why.

This is, like, their first meeting
This is, like, their first meeting

Even the woman who becomes Bell’s romantic objective in life, one of the greatest living adventurers, Aiz, seems to fall for him almost immediately after rescuing him from the dungeon.

Honey, he has a mild case of harem-lead-itis.  It's incurable, so let's hope he can manage its chronic effects.
Honey, he has a mild case of harem-lead-itis. It’s incurable, so let’s hope he can manage its chronic effects.

On top of all that, the other Goddesses become interested in him solely because Hestia is, leading to the feeling that every woman on Earth will chase him at the drop of a hat.

Ladies, ladies, please.  There's enough Bell for all of you.
Ladies, ladies, please. There’s enough Bell for all of you.

As one might imagine from a show like this, fanservice is often present.  Rather than describe it all, have this gallery of examples.

All of that wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t also a strong sense of pandering to a male audience.  Bell is special because he can gain strength so quickly (more on this later), so he’s able to start off weak, get strong quickly to put his detractors in their place, catch the eye of seemingly all the women, and do so while being an earnest nice guy.

Take, for example, one of the silliest and most transparent straw men I’ve ever seen a show set up.  Bell is sitting at the inn, looking over at Aiz, who hasn’t noticed him and hasn’t talked to him since the day she saved him.  She’s at a table with the rest of her adventuring party, which includes some kind of wolf man.  For seemingly no reason, and without even noticing Bell is there, he proceeds to ask her, at length, whether she would ever consider going out with Bell.

Is it wrong dungeon 17 Is it wrong dungeon 18Just look at his stupid face!  All of this just to make Bell feel bad and you the viewer to feel righteous anger on Bell’s behalf.  It’s laughable.  Or take those twins from before.

This may be simultaneously the nerdiest and least likely line in the whole show
This may be simultaneously the nerdiest and least likely line in the whole show

Wow.  Male viewer, don’t you wish you had S-ranked abilities?  The ladies simply cannot resist such a man.

But the worst example is probably Lilliluka, who I (and the show) will gratefully just call “Lilly”.  She is a supporter, a person that assists adventurers for pay, usually by packmuling or with supportive abilities.  Her backstory is one long, tragic disaster that doesn’t so much try to pluck at your heartstrings as slam them with a ham-handed mallet.  Orphaned at an early age…

Is it wrong dungeon 92…then pressed into service by cruel, greedy adventurers…

Is it wrong dungeon 94…she joins Bell because she figures he’s an easy mark and because she now hates adventurers, stealing from and eventually selling him out, only to be beaten some more…

Is it wrong dungeon 103

Seriously, dude, have you looked in a mirror recently?  That looks unhealthy.
Seriously, dude, have you looked in a mirror recently? That looks unhealthy.

…and left for dead.

Is it wrong dungeon 104All this despite pretty much all of the adventurers we’ve seen up until this point being pretty decent people, and having no other mention in the show of supporters being regularly mistreated.  It’s the perfect setup for wonderful, nice, caring Bell to come along, forgive her for leaving him to die horribly…

Is it wrong dungeon 106and to be the first adventurer she’s ever met who will share his dungeoneering earnings with her fairly.

Is it wrong dungeon 66D’aww.  Doesn’t that just warm your heart, male viewer, because you could be a halfway decent human being too, and apparently that’s nothing short of the Second Coming in this universe?  It’s just so… blatant, it’s almost insulting, really.

All right, so that was an awful drubbing I just gave the show.  What could there be that would still allow me to recommend it to you?  There are two things, really – the world, and, surprisingly given everything I’ve just said, the characters.

Let’s start with the world.  It’s a pretty clever and detailed take on what an RPG would look like in “real life”.  To start with, there are the Gods and Goddesses.  These are the various deities of a number of cultures (Greek and Norse mythology feature heavily, with a smattering of Japanese and Indian stuff thrown in) that have come down to Earth to live alongside/help the mortals.  A mortal that wants to become an adventurer joins a deity, becoming part of their “Familia”.  In exchange, the mortal is granted the ability to become much stronger and gain skills, magic, and levels.  This is much more direct than usual – a character’s stats are printed right on their back:

Is it wrong dungeon 125With the proper coaxing from a deity, these can be read…

Is it wrong dungeon 5…and converted to what amounts to a stat sheet on paper.

Is it wrong dungeon 6Even skills and magic are tracked this way.  One key aspect is that, while there are all the stats you’d expect, including MP, there is no HP stat – characters can take exactly as much punishment as they would without being an adventurer, with only their improved stats making them better than a normal human (so no one can just tank hits because they have thousands of hit points).  Many of the other trappings of RPGs are present as well, with inventive twists to make them fit better into this kind of storytelling medium.

Leveling up is not a matter of just improving your skills; it requires a life-changing event, like a boss battle, after a grand adventure.

Is it wrong dungeon 118 Is it wrong dungeon 119The learning of magic is an appropriately byzantine process, involving grimoires and an intense soul-searching.

Parties of adventurers become necessary for survival as one descends into the Dungeon.  The town has a complex economy – one can buy equipment from up-and-coming crafters for cheap, splurge on an item from a big name, or make a contract with a blacksmith so that they will be the sole person creating your equipment.  Magic weapons are powerful, but break after too much use, and there is debate among adventurers as to whether or not they are worth it.

Is it wrong dungeon 141The Dungeon is both terrifying and beautiful in its own way, with varied foes and environments that constantly change.

Is it wrong dungeon 124

I get chills just LOOKING at this place
I get chills just LOOKING at this place

Quests can be issued by deities at the adventurer’s guild if they need help, and the guild provides a service that is like a personal trainer for dungeoneering.

Is it wrong dungeon 49What I’m getting at is that this is a richly imagined world, where many of the common systems found in videogame RPGs are present, but in clever ways that feel natural.  It’s clear that this world was really thought through, and that’s what separates it from just being a harem with fantasy or RPG trappings.  I love the idea of the “Familia” – each one is essentially a guild run by its governing deity, who oversees the growth of his/her adventurers.  They are immortal and their adventurers are not (and death is quite common), but the legend created by each of these Familias is what endures.

The other thing I liked, pandering and fanservice aside, are the characters.  Bell’s eventual adventuring party of Lilly (once we’re past her tragic backstory) and a blacksmith named Welf make a good team together.  Hestia, the Goddess Bell is pledged to, may be a bit silly but clearly cares for him.  Many of the other adventurers met along the way are interesting in their own right, and there’s plenty going on besides Bell’s personal story.

Still, it’s hard not to like Bell in his pursuit of Aiz, his struggle to become stronger, and his relationship with those around him.  It’s refreshing to see a character that really has to work, to train, to get better.

Is it wrong dungeon 19And once he gets there, the simple joy he takes in knowing that he’s finally getting somewhere.

Is it wrong dungeon 7One of my favorite moments is when he finally acquires a magic spell, Firebolt.  Magic has been something he’s always wanted, and he is overjoyed to have it.  Immediately he runs into the dungeon, using his spell for all it’s worth, and it brought a smile to my face to watch him go.

Is it wrong dungeon 86An honest, earnest lead is quite the long-toothed trope in anime, but Bell really sells it in a way that feels unforced, natural.  He’s impossible not to like, and his exploration of and exploits in this carefully crafted RPG world are worth a watch.  Just try to ignore all the fanservice.

Rolling Review – Children of the Whales (03)

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Episode Synopsis:

Soldiers from an external civilization attack the Mud Whale, killing and injuring many with a combination of guns, melee weapons, and thymia.  The citizens of the Whale, wholly unused to violence of any kind, are largely helpless.  Chakuro, in disbelief over Sami’s death, attempts to fight, but is stopped cold by the realization that the soldiers are humans of the same group as Lykos – and by the appearance of a sadistic enemy fighter that revels in the carnage.  Ouni, freed once again from prison, kills all of the attackers he comes across in retribution for two of his friends.  Lykos, apparently sister to the mastermind of the invasion, is left behind as an experiment as the soldiers withdraw. 

A week separates the Mud Whale from the next attack by Skylos, and its inhabitants will need to make some difficult decisions in the coming days…

Episode Review:

This show is coming apart at the seams, and it’s painful to watch.  There’s a lot of individual elements I could cite that are causing it, but at a high level, the show’s greatest flaw is its terrible pacing, both at a story level and at a scene-by-scene level.  At the story level, we have just barely been introduced to a fairly large cast of characters, the somewhat alien world they inhabit, and the complex structure of their society.  It is the third episode, and half those characters are dead, the world has been shown to be full of murderous clowns (literally), and their society has been shattered.

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It is nigh-impossible to take you seriously.

Now, this could all be good stuff (well, maybe not the clowns) if we had any investment in the characters or world of this show.  Instead, I dispassionately watched as the Bozo Brigade slaughtered their way through the village, including at least two named characters.  And I couldn’t have cared less.  Why would the show bother setting up such a complex and interesting world… and then exploring about 5% of it before destroying it?  Whatever the characters or the society does as a response to this attack, it won’t feel like anything important is changing because I have so little idea how things were before.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau Ep 3 -_2017-10-25-17h28m53s263.png
Oh, Lady Taisha… I almost cared that you died.

On a scene-by-scene basis, it’s clear that the show’s creators have no idea how to pace… well… anything.  Throughout the episode, we jump back and forth between about 4 different places, but it never seems like anything is happening during the jumps, so everything feels drawn out and painfully slow.

The Jester Guard attack anyone they see on sight… unless some characters need to talk to each other literally in front of them.  Then they’ll sit by while the dialogue plays out, oftentimes visible on screen as they just stand there, waiting to be acknowledged.  Once they are, they’ll trudge a few steps forward before something else interrupts them.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau Ep 3 -_2017-10-25-18h06m15s116.png
This kid was slowly running away from that clown guy for, I swear, half the episode.  He’s been standing there while this tearful scene goes on for nearly a minute.

Yet when it’s time for the main character to fight, his target is suddenly tearing across the fields, wielding weapons with speed and finesse. Other Mime Force members stand around awkwardly, vaguely menacing some kids as they advance on them, slowly, over the course of about 10 minutes, before finally throwing a spear to kill one of them.  Then they stand by while the kids agonize over the death.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau Ep 3 -_2017-10-25-17h36m20s274.png
About 5 Farce Battalion guys are just off to the left, waiting for Ouni to finally decide to kill them with that spear after he delivers his monologue

Ouni is somehow instantly a skilled and deadly warrior, taking out several of the supposedly trained enemy the moment he gets serious – despite never having known conflict before.  And it’s not just action scenes.  Characters quietly talk, no hurry apparent, while gunshots ring out in the distance.  Lykos charges into battle, but by the time we cut back, she’s talking to the invasion’s leaders like they’re old acquaintances, with no establishment of how we got here.  Soldiers are standing around documenting the battle with pen and paper while 50 feet away there are pitched street battles and mass executions.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau Ep 3 -_2017-10-25-17h32m06s812.png
Come for the fighting.  Stay for the bureaucracy.  The Prankster Platoon – now recruiting!

It also doesn’t help that the quality of animation is starting to fall apart.  Backgrounds and static character shots still look really good.  But Lord help you when the animators try something that requires fluid action or, even worse, perspective.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau Ep 3 -_2017-10-25-17h27m12s344.png
What is… how?

The weaponry on display by the enemy army also fails to impress.

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It looks like someone quickly copy-pasted those float-a-boat crafts in front of that gorgeous background painting

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These things look so thrown-together that you’d think someone would have been like “You know, I think we can get the idea of the invasion across without the siege weapons.”  And they’re not even the worst!

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This guy.
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This guy is the worst.

Seriously, if I’d wanted to watch a show with stupid clown villains, I’d go watch Grenadier again.  Also, it’s a minor thing, but if you’re going to dress your clown warriors with cat ear hats that have impossibly dumb bells hanging from them, the least – the LEAST – you could do is actually have those bells make noise when they move.  Then there’s my least favorite new element introduced in this episode, and you know it’s going to be a doozy after the rest of this nonsense.

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As you can probably guess, this is the cliché enemy who just loves causing pain, torturing innocents, and laughing as people cry in front of him.  He’s taken a special “liking” to the main character, and the thought of how long it’s going to be before Chakuro fights and defeats this guy, during which time we will be subjected to endless gloating, is exhausting.  His wholly unnecessary existence is going to be a drag on the entire show, I can feel it in my bones.

So! I know what you’re asking – it’s only three episodes in.  Can the show be salvaged?  Is it worth watching at all?

……

………

Maaaaaaybe.  Maybe.  The show, for all the faults listed above, does still summon up some pretty stunning scenes, at least visually.

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I still have some curiosity to learn about this world, even if what I really want – a lot more slice-of-life episodes on the Mud Whale – is no longer possible.  If the show slows down, a lot, between now and the next attack, there’s a chance they can pull off something interesting.  Watching how the society adapts to its new reality, watching the various characters come to grips with the need to defend themselves, watching what happens when the village elders (who basically knew this could happen and never told anyone) try to continue leading and guys like Ouni or even Chakuro challenge them – that could make for some interesting episodes.  Here’s hoping they can pull it off.


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