Yup, our show still has a pulse.
Forgive me, internet, for I have sinned. I must confess a moment of weakness. I feared Nobunagun might be slipping into generic wallpaper anime for a few moments there.
Cue the conclusion of the episode where we are right back to reality. It was a very effective method, actually. It worked not just in terms of framing the story, but on the meta level, for us the viewers. “You thought that life (anime) was going back to normal after the fresh smell wore off? NOPE!”
If there was a theme running throughout this week, it was “isolation”. Shio is officially severing ties to her home, both metaphorically and physically, and, in a nice touch, digitally. Capa is isolated, both within his aging, feeble body and, it is hinted, socially from others, playing the part of cranky old man. And even St. Germain, who judging by his role here as schoolmaster and war-room advisor, is probably based on the actual Saint Germain of Catholicism, the learned saint, stands apart from other E-Gene holders and their combat roles, roles so vital that they have “drafted” Shio, who will now be a high school dropout (I’m sure an honorary education is on its way somewhere down the line, but still).
Oh, and the THEME SONG. Didn’t really discuss this much last week, but the theme is nice. It is…heavy fun. While fast paced, the visuals have this heaviness to them, especially the latter part when it becomes about drowning, the world becoming corrupted, and an ethereal Asao cradling a crying Shio while the song politely reminds us “there’s nothing you can do”….yeah…that’s not dark at all.
So, Shio arrives at the island she will be training at, somewhere in the tropics. All with this music that is just SO Pokemon when you’re starting on your adventure. I can’t help but feel the similarity is on purpose. But Shio keeps falling asleep, even riding in a Humvee isn’t enough to keep her awake (you know how much Shio loves military equipment), though in hindsight it might be that Saint Germain purposefully drugged her somehow. Either way, she is left behind, the Humvee explodes in the distance, and Shio is attacked by Evo’s (I’m just going to call them Evo’s for now).
Psych! Danger room!
Specifically, it is the power of her new instructor, Robert Capa (the war photographer). His E-Gene power is based on his camera. Or rather…moving pictures, as we will see later on. We get a brief moment where Old Lady and Samurai Kyubey (sorry I just don’t know their names) are debating if this really is the smartest course of action. Samurai Kyubey is simple, logical….stop living up to your namesake so well, damnit. He says Nobunaga’s power is necessary to win, so it only makes sense to rush Shio out as soon as possible. Old Lady is less sure, and she seems to be, from her comments here and last episode, a little bitter that she lost her life to the DOGOO organization. And while she agrees with Samurai Kyubey on the one level, on the emotional she seems to harbor a glimmer that Shio would turn them down and try to lead a normal life.
Well after failing her ambush miserably, not even killing one opponent, Shio is sent to her room to wind down. She gets excited, ready to tell her mom and Asao that she’s arrived safely! Except…no cell signal. St. Germain explains to a furious Shio that she’s a soldier on a training compound now, and personal communications need to be restricted. But he does ask if it is an urgent matter. Through gritted, angry teeth, Shio responds with a firm “No.” She then goes back to her room and starts beating her pillow into submission.
Shio is a very likable hero, and this is just one of many reasons. She may be fuming, like any modern high school girl might fume, that her ability to text her family and friends even once a day has been lost. But even when a convenient excuse comes up, she doesn’t try to abuse it. And yet we still get to see a cute girl swing punches at stuff. So this is win-win.
Cue training montage! Well less of a montage, just a fast-forward “training!” episode. And Shio is getting the full treatment. Formal schooling from St. Germain on her E-Gene power’s mechanics, boot camp drilling, and danger room simulations with her E-Gene gun…her E-Gun. Sounds more science fictiony that way.
But even Shio’s will has to break sometime, and soon she’s sneaking around the base at night trying to find a way to contact her mom and Asao. But…this is Shio, so she is soon distracted from her quest by some military airplanes in the hangar, and she can’t help but take pictures. Side note: I love the little hearts around her as she’s gushing over things. I wish I had those.
She then runs into the crew, a UN combined force that basically runs all the maintenance and piloting duties for DOGOO here. On top of that, they are a unit that observes hurricanes, likely as part of their old cover.
And they all idolize her as the hero of Taiwan. Careful Shio, you aren’t going to have this many guys trying to get into your pants until you’re playing World of Warcraft. Actually it does motivate Shio to perform, when she notices them watching her train, she pushes herself to be better, not wanting to lose face around the real soldiers. It was a good moment.
I also love it when Capa asks “Why Nobunagun and not just Nobunaga?”, Shio’s response is just “Because it’s cooler.”
Now we get into the meaty training session. Capa is basically pushing all of Shio’s buttons in this scene. First he gets her angry, then he makes clones of her with his powers (that ‘moving pictures’ thing I talked about). He insults her competence, insults her skills, all while trying to throw out any information that might help her. There’s lots of information thrown out here about how the E-Genes work, so not only is it training Shio, it’s helping us the audience understand her powers as well (unlike certain other shows we will not name).
Then he plays his trump card. Fanservice. And if there’s something Nobunagun can’t tolerate, it is fanservice, and she blasts the clone in a single shot. How very meta.
Actually it is calculated. From this Capa discerns that Shio can indeed hit a stationary target. She just isn’t applying tracking to her moving targets. So his advice changes to help her do that. Unfortunately it’s too little too late and the illusions take her out.
Side note: Is this REALLY a problem someone like Shio should be having? Hell I learned about that playing Rogue Squadron on my N64. She should be saying something like, “Oh, just like (INSERT GENERIC MILITARY GAME HERE)” instead of being completely confused by the concept? Also, did we really have to dump Shio into level 3? Shouldn’t we have tested her stationary marksmanship first before this combat simulation crap? I mean I get the initial ambush, you needed to see how much training she DID need. But the first step should be to ascertain her actual skill level. It made for a comedic way to get it across to the audience, but it seems out of place. I’m not trusting these people with the fate of the world as readily anymore…
The next day the soldiers are all thanking Shio. Turns out they all recieved gifts from her! Pictures of her in a swimsuit…yep. It’s Capa again. He used his illusions to take those pin-ups.
I admit, at this point I felt worry.
Then the team takes off to observe the newest hurricane, Olga. Only it’s not exactly Olga. Something else is on the radar. An Evo.
All the lighthearted bonding between Shio and the soldiers pays off as they are all killed in quite a brutal sequence. There’s nothing graphic, but amidst the storm, and the sickening crunch of metal as debris flies past, along with one of the photos of Shio, the message is quite clear.
And the theme returns. Isolation. Shio had a new friend in Asao, and that drove her to brave deeds. Now she has had these new friends, she has, actually, BEEN Asao, the most popular girl on campus, and in an instant they are taken from her by the Evo’s. It is cold, it is brutish, and short. This series is excellent at these moments, of cuddling right up against the horror elements. They never linger on death, even though it is very present. They only give you the brief glimpse of it. It is more like the shock. No time to process it. No time to rationalize it. No time to recoil or admire the beauty of the shot, it just happens, and it’s done. It is a chillingly effective technique, and I can’t off the top of my head think of another series that has done it quite this way.
So, some post-episode musings, that I didn’t really get to fit in without ruining the flow.
-We learn that the Orbs are basically like Wands in Harry Potter. They are almost used to a rate of 100%, but in theory, powers can be used without access to the orb. Well we all know where this leading.
-Nobunaga doesn’t make a head-appearance here. So while Shio’s declaration of “I remember” seemed to imply a sort of “re-connect” with him, he seems to be dormant inside her still. While these two will definitely have interaction later on in the series as the penultimate character moment, at least, I was hoping for some good back and forth between the pair. Perhaps Shio is SUPPOSED to, which is why she is failing so miserably now when, in Taiwan, she was acquitting herself so well at fire control and Nobunaga seemed present. Is this tied into the previous point? Does no one have a literal connection to their old selves? As someone whose initial interest was on the reincarnation elements, I’d love to see it play more than a cursory role as selecting people as “chosen ones”, seeing Nobunaga berate the much more timid Shio would make for good scenes.
-The DOGOO logo chooses to display its three O’s in a formation similar to Evo’s eyes. Connection? Is Samurai Kyubey much more than a sarcastic nickname? The theme song seems to imply this is a hopeless struggle, are they unwittingly moving along the evolution of the Evo’s by fighting them, forcing them to adapt faster than they would naturally?
Will a trainee, a teacher, and an old man in a wheelchair prove enough? Hoping to find out next week. But this was another win. This is the show I look forward to most week after week.