…Bless them, they tried. They really did.
I will start by stating that this episode was an enormous improvement over last week’s… train wreck. However, that isn’t to say it was exactly “good.” It’s the Japanese school versus the American school. That much is interesting, seeing as Team America (or at least one specific character from it) has been built up, until this point, as the primary antagonist. And yet her team isn’t the last one of the tournament. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This episode, while better, has tons of its own problems.
The first of these issues is the sudden inclusion o yet another Japanese student, replacing Shizuka. I didn’t bother remembering her name because she ultimately contributes absolutely nothing. We were introduced to this zany character at the end of the previous episode. Now, I know what you may be thinking. “Well, you liked the Russian school’s antics, so she should be fine, right?” Well, no. It isn’t enough to simply be zany. Lunacy, on its own, doesn’t translate to humor.
The Russian team was just a big gag, ultimately, but the humor worked because it wasn’t just them being silly for its own sake. They had objectives and were playing to them. This was the setup. The comical ways in which they failed were the punchlines. Jokes are, in and of themselves, miniature stories (or long ones, in the case of anecdotes). They have a beginning, middle, and end. Even knock-knock jokes share this trait. But this new character doesn’t do that. She’s just… really hyper and nutty and… that’s it. And to make matters worse, she winds up being completely superfluous because she contributes absolutely nothing to the fight. The one thing she manages to do, she messes up less than three minutes later. And not in a comical, Team Russia manner. Then there’s another problem to consider, here, and that would be Team Japan’s opposition – Lynne.
Yes, they’re fighting three members of Team America, but let’s be honest. This is all about Lynne. It’s the Lynne show. And she’s ain’t sharin’ the spotlight with anyone. Here’s the thing. Lynne… is just not a good antagonist, here. I understand what they were trying to do with her, but the setup for her character was abysmal at best. She’s a lying, cheating, arguably psychopathic headcase with a tragic backstory.
But this is the first time we get so much as a glimpse into said backstory. And even then, it’s largely unsatisfying and too vague to get fully invested. We can infer what happened, yes. But literally nothing about her character, up to this point, even remotely implied or related to anything in her history. Her Origin, The Little Match Girl, doesn’t relate to her character at all either, so we can’t even use that as a hint. We’re just suddenly expected to feel bad for her even though she’s been absolutely nothing but awful this entire time and with no trace of any nuance to her character beyond being a sadistic blood knight. It’s just too jarring, and too much of a hard sell.
When you’re going to do this, you need to set up the character in such a way that we see where they’re coming from. And those seeds need to be planted throughout your story, not just suddenly stuffed into the very end of it. This is a problem that many villains run into when the writers want to suddenly make them more sympathetic but did far too good a job painting them as pure evil. And it’s especially disappointing here because Lynne’s character archetype is fairly engaging and portrayed extremely well by her voice actress, Rina Hidaka, who also voices Ai in this season’s Ryuuou no Oshigoto.
There’s also a really minor thing that rubbed me the wrong way. It was just one line, but sort of paints this picture for me, regarding how this story views the rest of the world. After they learn about the one girl with the zombie powers, they make some sort of passing line about America “having no history of its own, thus having no origins and getting by on mixed media.” Right. So. Bulls–t. Yes. America was originally a collective of people from many different places around the world. Buuut, in the generations since then, America has developed its own culture and its own stories. Hell, one of the most famous and influential stories in the world comes from America and elements of it are constantly ripped off by other countries. Sometimes to great effect and overwhelming success.
My point isn’t “AMERICA! F–K YEAH!” My point is that art imitates art. Everywhere. If you think Cinderella is the first story of its kind (let alone that it originated from Japan, of all places), you should probably do more reading. And implying that America doesn’t have anything of its own is just insulting on so many levels to so many people. Even if that wasn’t really your intent, poor form, dude.
But perhaps the biggest problem is the exact degree of nothing Hazuki contributes to this episode overall. She doesn’t do anything other than just survive long enough for Shizuka to get over her own baggage and show up at the perfect time. That’s it. I’m aware that she’s still a scrublet, but there are only two episodes left (maybe) and she only actively contributed to one team’s downfall in any meaningful way. She otherwise just stands around, looking scared and/or unsure of herself. That’s it. She’s not actually doing any protag-ing. And that’s honestly hurting the story. Yes, Shizuka’s doing a lot and does share top billing with Hazuki. But the fact that they share top billing, just means they should be doing their growing together throughout the series. Not that one of them staggers while the other one gets their shine moment.
So yes. The episode was ultimately animated better. It managed to contain a complete narrative of its own. But it’s still held down by other problems, not the least of which being how absolutely rushed this story ultimately is. There’s just far too much to do with what little time they have. And that may honestly come back to bite the series, as a whole, in the long run. Nothing to get angry about, but nothing to really be impressed with. The episode’s just on the lowest possible tier of Harmlessness, scraping by on the merit of having some decent action (relative to what we’ve had thus far, that is).
To my understanding, the show is actually in a bit of trouble. The show is being suspended with this episode. And the fate of the last two episodes is very well up in the air. It’s not at all difficult to see why, either. Especially after the debacle that was episode 9. In general, this show’s production has just been nothing shy of a mess, so far. I expect that if episodes 11 and 12 do come out, it’ll be exclusively kept to the home release. That or bundled with a volume of the Light Novel or Manga, if they’re still going. In the meantime, if you wanna check out something that ended far less messily, maybe give Mitsuboshi Colors a shot.
Or, if you’re as fascinated by Maerchen Maedchen’s production woes as I am, but haven’t gotten to actually see it, check out the full series on Crunchyroll. That’s all for me, here, folks. As always, thanks for reading. Keep up the awesome.