Um… what happened here?
Note: No, I am not going to make this a gallery of shots of awful animation in the episode. Believe me, it’s… something.
No, seriously. What even happened? This show took a two-week break to improve the animation, right? Well if these are the improvements, I don’t want to know what the problems looked like. The show’s done a decent enough job of maintaining visual consistency, even if it was never all that amazing to behold. But now all of that is straight through the window. And without visuals to fall back on, how does the rest of this episode hold up? Well… it’s honestly not much to write home about.
The setup revolves around Hazuki and company heading out to some sort of training camp for a few days to prepare for their next matchup. Buuut this boils down to a glorified sleepover. Now, this wouldn’t bother me, except the episode indulges immensely in wasted potential. See, Hazuki and her team are joined by the two teams they defeated to get this far – the Coalition group (aka Yumilia and friends) and Team Russia, the dark horses of the series from the last two episodes. This should be a positively golden setup, filled to the brim with possibilities. Here you have a ton of zany characters with which you could do any number of awesome, hilarious, or hilariously awesome things. But none of them are used.
Instead, we get a bit more of Hazuki’s enthusiasm regarding making friends. And don’t get me wrong. That bit is rather sweet. The scene on the train is great and, in all honesty, relatable in some capacity. Anyone shy who suddenly finds themselves in this sort of highly social situation (of their own will, that is) has been there. Absolutely nothing is wrong with this scene aside from not really utilizing the varied and quirky cast of characters. But it did capture the essence of the show’s strongest quality – its rather genuine nature. It’s not the best thing in the world but damned if they’re not gonna give it their absolute best shot… is what I would’ve said about this show until this return from a rather lengthy break.
The episode goes on to feature some of this “training” which expands upon Hazuki’s powers a little, explaining the time limit of one of her key spells. And it’s around here that the animation really derails. Every pass at anything that looks remotely actiony is just hard to look at. Kasumi using her hammer on Hazuki’s wall, Yumilia breaking out the sword, it’s all just pitiful, honestly. And since there’s nothing else in the scene to focus on, it becomes even more glaringly noticeable. This isn’t the first of the animation hiccups, but this is where they start becoming impossible to overlook. And that’s just not good.
The episode also has its share of other issues. The setup for the next fight is… eh. It wasn’t helped by wonky editing, but the entire thing about Shizuka and her mother just felt a bit unnecessary. As if adding angst to the equation purely for the sake of there being angst. Hazuki’s as green as a leaf. I’m really not sure we need to have any more reasons for this to be complicated. Just portray the American students as competent and powerful and the ultimate outcome should be satisfying… but we’ll come back to that. The problem is ultimately that I feel like Shizuka should be beyond this now. Her actions in this episode come across as little more than a contrivance to add some complications to the upcoming battle. If anything, it feels like her character taking two steps backward.
The last of the problems I have is largely on me, but I checked again and this anime does only have 12 episodes. But I can understand why I might’ve been under the impression that it had 24… well… aside from that fact that more than half of my list has that many. This series sets up for a lot and is far too short to deliver on all of it. I’ll come back this when the season ends but, put plainly, there was just no reason to even bother properly introducing well over half of these characters. The majority of them wind up being used in pitiful excuses for jobbing – essentially building up the main antagonists of a tournament arc by having them beat down another, presumably incredibly tough and/or capable opponent who’d previously been seen as a threat.
Done right, this can be an exceptionally effective means of building suspense during your tournament arc. However, this show clearly not wholly dedicated to even having a proper tournament arc, made no more apparent than by the 12-episode count and the sheer volume of other stuff they’re trying to cram into the story. If you’re going to try to force fit an entire tournament (or battle royale) into 12 episodes, you really need to just dive into the action and give us the nitty-gritty details as things progress. This is not the show for that. This show is far more ambitious than that. And, as a result, it winds up falling short because of its production constraints.
There are only three episodes left and, in total, there’s been one reasonably okay battle, one battle that was ultimately just a joke, and it’s setting up for two more. Meaning these last few episodes have a lot of ground to cover and need to really hit the ball out of the park in order to deliver anything remotely satisfying. With Shizuka out of the picture for exceptionally contrived reasons, it’ll already take a significant contrivance to get her back into things, which really isn’t a good thing.
Overall, this episode was just a disappointment, particularly after how great the last two were in terms of delivering something genuinely fun and entertaining. This is further compounded by absolutely abysmal animation that I certainly hope will get fixed for the home releases so we can actually see what they wanted these scenes to look like. At the end of the day, the episode was unpleasant to look at and, at times, unpleasant in other ways. It completely failed to utilize the golden setup it had practically gift-wrapped for it. And it just plainly wasn’t an episode worth the extra two-week wait. So yeah. I have to say this is one to Pass on. Maybe the next episode will blow my mind. I certainly hope so. Because in its current state, even Black Clover is looking better at the moment.
If you want to stick with it and see how this show manages to wrap itself up (we’re assuming no second season, here), then you can catch it Simulcasting on Crunchyroll, Thursdays at 11:00am EST. If you want to see another awesome breakdown of a lot of this anime’s strengths and its one greatest weakness, check out this awesome post, regarding Maerchen Maedchen’s production woes, among other things. That’s all for me, here, folks. As always, thanks for reading. Keep up the awesome.