Aha. The plot thickens.
This was actually a pretty solid pair of episodes. It did more or less everything I was kind of hoping the series would eventually get around to doing. And it even went the distance to do some things I wasn’t expecting. We got more character moments out of Hiyori, which is always great. There was more information brought to light about Kanami. Some intriguing ideas were teased, overall there’s a lot to like in these episodes. But they’re still not without problems.
Starting strong with episode 3, there was one thing delivered upon that I was hoping they’d get around to soon. They began to properly introduce the other main girls of the cast. Episode 3 gets the ball rolling on that by featuring Sayaka – the seemingly emotionless, white-haired one who lost to Kanami during the tournament. But it’s clear something was holding her back in that moment. She’s suffering from no such trouble, here. She was sent after the pair and the resulting action scene, while not very visually impressive, was actually a surprisingly good bit of storytelling.
She challenges Hiyori first and proves to be… special. This leads to a moral quandary for Hiyori that’s actually pretty interesting. It’s not that the idea is intriguing on its own, but it helps to further demonstrate exactly what sets Hiyori and Kanami apart. And I think that while the fight was okay, its real strength was in that establishing of character, which comes back later.
Of course, there’s also the really intriguing matter of what Sayaka was managing to do in that fight. She was pulling things off that she logically shouldn’t. And that was the difference I was hoping for – something to add to the variety in these fights. And in her case, it happened to also yank out the safety net from the fight, which introduced a sense of genuine peril. All in all, it was handled pretty well.
Another key element that I was pleased to get out of the episode was more development out of both Hiyori and Kanami. Up until this point, we knew surprisingly little about Kanami. And most of Hiyori’s deal was only ever implied. But as the two grow closer, they become more open about these things with each other. And this marks the first time we’re privy to a lot of this information, as an audience, as well. So we’re learning these things alongside the characters. Though most of this episode basically just sets up for all of that in the follow-up. Yet there are some intriguing things set up.
For example, Kanami and Hiyori wind up staying with someone who used to go to Kanami’s school. While there, Kanami has a dream where she talks to this mysterious, but apparently familiar girl. And we have no idea who this is. But based on the information we have so far, there are two logical conclusions. We know that Kanami is without a mother, for example, as it was confirmed in this episode. So that dream could possibly have been her mother as a girl.
Alternatively, we know the swords appear to have minds of their own in some sense. So it’s also possible that this girl is a manifestation of Kanami’s sword. The latter is the more interesting idea and could wind up going in a very dark direction. But there’s room for either theory. It also would further support the idea that Kanami is somehow special. Because the series does feel the need to keep reminding us of this without giving us much more to go on.
Episode 4 furthers all of this and properly introduces what may be my favorite pair of character in the show – the blunt Kaoru and the energetic Eren. I just always liked character duos of this nature. And while the episode mostly serves as a means of showing off the two of them, it does have a nice character moment or two. Still, the highlight of the episode for me, personally, was the fight.
And now for my caveat about the action in this series. There are times when it really manages to be a lot of fun to watch, and times when it’s just kind of lazy. This one fight manages to somehow pull off both. That takes talent. Here’s the thing, I loved every moment of Eren’s involvement in the fight. I like her style. She’s able to use some sort of ability to briefly make her body hard as iron so she can merge her sword fighting with unarmed martial arts. It’s a cool stylistic thing that makes her fun to watch. But then there’s Kaoru’s part in the fight, which…
Kaoru has a ridiculously huge sword. I’m not talking like an FFVII-style buster sword. I mean the sword is literally twice as long as she is tall. Probably more. She can only even swing the thing once at a time, leaving an enormous opening. Or she can throw it and rely on her cute (yet bizarrely pervy) little pet Aradama to get it back to her. On paper that should be visually awesome. In practice, it’s just… kind of poorly executed because every time she swings the sword, rather than seeing the instant of impact, the show decides to cut away, then cut back to the damage that resulted from the swing after the motion’s over.
I appreciated how Kaoru and Eren worked together and synergized their fighting style – Eren protecting Kaoru during those openings so she’d be free to attack again – but for every genuinely fun little moment with Eren, Kaoru brings the fight to a screeching halt. And we know they can animate these action scenes because of the opening in episode 1. So I have no idea why they went that route. And that’s leaving aside the, at times, totally abysmal and unnecessary CG. Eren aside, the saving grace of the fight was in the resolution. Kanami and Hiyori had the advantage, but Eren and Kaoru actually managed to call in a power boost. Sensing the shift of the situation, Kanami and Hiyori pull out their ace in the hole.
I relish any opportunity I’m given to utilize that meme. Anyway, the episode does have quite a bit going for it aside from a halfway good fight scene. The episode actually opens on furthering the character moments we got in the previous episode. Hiyori saw how Kanami resolved the Sayaka fight and suggests they go their separate ways, believing that Kanami wouldn’t be able to do what they’d have to do. And that moment is actually fairly poignant for her character. It really drives home the difference between the two characters. Not something I’ve never seen before, but they certainly didn’t do a bad job of handling thread.
The conversation they have at the end of the episode was a bit… confusing. But, in a fashion typical of Kanami’s Shonen-esque character, it shows her ability to see the light in things. She’s the character who takes the third option. She’s not going to give up, but she has no intention of killing anyone. So the adventure continues. And I like those stories. The ones that sort of marry the optimistic and cynical elements of a story’s world or characters so things are neither too unbelievably ideal, nor unrepentantly bleak. What I want, however, is to know more about Kanami’s motives. And I’m well aware that technically even she doesn’t know them. But I don’t mean her motive getting involved in this, specifically. I mean I want to know what, exactly, shaped her to be the way she is. Why she feels such a strong compulsion to protect. I’m not saying that from a skeptical place. I just want to know more about what makes her tick. It’s one of the best parts of any story. And I really hope they don’t just make it that she’s trying to be like her mother. Because that would be simplistic to an annoying degree.
These episodes had a lot going for them. They brought forward some interesting ideas, especially on the part of Sayaka and Kanami. They also properly introduced us to the other mainstays of the cast, which I appreciated. They showed us some variety in the action and delved a bit further into the core characters in what is, for now, a satisfying enough way.
Overall the episode was nothing you haven’t seen before, but it managed to do its job competently and in an enjoyable fashion. So while they’re not going to change the world, maybe they’ll satisfy your sweet tooth, because they’re definitely good Junk Food. But if you’d rather something that’s potentially a lot more entertaining, albeit for all the wrong reasons, you should check EvilBob’s catch-up recap of Hakyu Hoshin Engi. It’s… apparently quite the trip.
Or, if you wanna see more cute girls fight monsters, Katana Maidens: Toji no Miko is Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Fridays at 10:00am EST. That’s all for me, here, folks. As always, thanks for reading. Keep up the awesome.