Lesson 1: Absolute Despair.
Among other reasons, I did not get to cover last week’s Outbreak Company on time because I wanted to see if the pattern of the episodes persisted.
A distracting pattern, that almost ruins the series. In fact I was considering dropping the show.
You’ll have noticed in episode 2 how I almost completely ignored the first half, saving most of my commentary (and praise) for the meatier second half.
This is the format the reviews for Outbreak Company are going to be taking from now on, because, frankly, that is the form the show has.
Outbreak Company is run by Roman Consuls or something. It’s like two different creative teams work on each episode. The first half is comedy and otaku gags. The second half is harder drama, at the very least consequences, and even a bit of action. Maybe this is a consequence of the source material, comedy chapter and drama chapter? But whatever the reasons, its heart or its shoes, it’s distracting.
First, hiccups in logic, which I’m sure if I don’t point out will pile up. Among the worst offenders: Episode 3 where Minori talks to the kidnappers. If you’re taking away the rings, make sure you remember. And Episode 4, Elbia reacts to the gun and to Japanese. This shouldn’t be happening. Also, how is Miusel learning Japanese? If the rings are telepathic, and she’s only learning to write, and is illiterate in her own language so thus, has no frame of reference…..how is dat shit working? Reading I get, she sees a word and vaguely understands the grammar and connotation. But speaking as well? How did she learn the sounds? Shinichi’s help, okay. But he isn’t helping them all the time. Sigh, none of this literacy stuff is -actually- working as intended, I feel.
Okay done? Good.
Between the two lighthearted segments, only Episode 4 really stuck out to me with the Minori and “Boy’s Love” gag. I did not see that coming. It was hilarious. It basically made the whole episode worth it. The bit with the “ten year old dwarf” thing was amusing, too.
But the rest? As I’ve said: If you’ve seen one harem series, you have seen them all. Even if adding the (male) Captain of the Guard to the mix was a surprise and amusing in its own “BL” right. So thus, I can sum up every comedy-half as such: It is an annoying distraction from the things Outbreak Company is REALLY good at.
So what about the plot? The ACTUAL consequences.
Episode 3 was amazing. Steamroll the first part over, and you’re left with political intrigue that needed quick thinking on the part of our main characters.
Petrarca is by far the weakest link in this series. And you’ve read my blog! I LOVE the haughty, bossy, self-important types. But she’s just plain annoying. I think what bugs me about this is that she is played as a joke. I don’t mean, she’s a funny character, but rather, her character itself is the joke. There was that early scene in Episode 3 where she was sitting on Shinichi’s lap, asking if her company was really so bad. I thought it was amazing. Then she had to go and blab directly what we had already seen in subtext: that she is lonely. It not only ruined a perfect moment of animation, it also serves as a “IN CASE YOU ARE STUPID, HERE IS WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON. OKAY? NOW EVERYTHING I SAY IS A JOKE!”
This scene is what made me honestly consider dropping the series. It’s very strange, but I had a hard time forgiving it for ruining this precious moment. Until now, it had been hinted that Petrarca maybe liked Shinichi, but it might also have been her ego. She may have come down to spend time ignoring other duties because she wanted to learn Japanese and “the otaku way”, or maybe she had an ulterior motive (or someone managing her schedule did). The moment in the sunset study, where she quietly, and for the first time, meekly asks if her company offends him, and voices her approval of Shinichi, not on superficial merits or those that benefit her ego, but his conviction and good will, was quite frankly, beautiful.
Then they went and faffed it up by spelling it out for us, JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED IT. No slow development over time, just a short, declaration of fact. Which either means they don’t take her as a character seriously, or that the roster is going to overflow and, like Danganronpa last season, this was their only chance to flesh her out. It takes the sting and guess work out of it when the tsundere admits in episode 3 that she IS a tsundere.
This seems like a little thing, and maybe it is. But to me? A harem show is not about the dynamics, it is about the characters. And if you aren’t willing to take your characters seriously, why the hell should I? I cite Baka to Test, another comedy, (mildly) harem series that I ADORE. Characters were goofy, but they were never the butt of the jokes from the -creative- side of things.
This is all the more frustrating when the second half of Episode 3 shows us what the show SHOULD be like. Even in the midst of drama, there was Otaku-comedy. Getting the pen-knife out of Midori’s bra, Shinichi declaring his “powerlevel is over 530,000”. these were good otaku-based gags that did not ruin the atmosphere of the fact that they were in a hostage situation. Petrarca puts herself on the line to stall the kidnappers, either to save the closest thing she has to friends, or because she knows to keep them talking, I’m unsure, but either way it says good things about her character, be it compassion or intellect.
andHOLYCRAPMIUSEL! That was some major badassery. Same goes for Midori. o.o
Episode 4 was comparatively lighter, and as I said did have the best gag of these two weeks. Still, the acquisition and negotiation for Elbia’s freedom is still “consequence” material. Not that we have any doubt about the outcome, but that the political landscape of Eldant will shift with this change in their norm feels like progress.
And throughout, we had Matoba in the shadows.
This is what I hope the overall showdown is coming to.
I said in Episode 1 that I did not trust him, nor the Japanese government’s intentions in Eldant. And after these two weeks I am more assured than ever. Especially his line to Shinichi, “If you don’t consider yourself an invader, then you aren’t.”
As someone speaking from Caucasian ancestry, I can speak authoritatively when I say that is a lie. It’s true, Japan has a very messy colonial history, as well. One they rather gloss over, and if you thought whitewashing American Indian extermination was bad, no no, that’s nothing.
I mean, okay, colonial Japan was nowhere near as bad as colonial France, but still.
We know it’s a lie when Matoba says it, the question is does Shinichi? He seems to be uncomfortable, but deferring to his…well….his senpai in these matters. I still haven’t pieced out what Matoba is after. If it was for Japanese forces to support an Eldant insurrection, well, it doesn’t make sense that they don’t want Shinichi to make waves. Unless they feel it would be easier to control an imperial Eldant than a republican one. Is there a backdoor deal with elder wise man at Petrarca’s side? Who knows, yet. Well, I guess the people who read the books.