From The New World Episode 24

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Recap: With the Psychobuster secured, Saki, Satoru and Kiroumaru attempt to lure the fiend into a trap.

 Zigg‘s thoughts:  This is mostly an episode about people being really stupid. And by people, I mostly mean Saki, whose degeneration from an at least semi-relatable lead character into a useless, whiny, unstable burden has been dramatic and despressing. When Saki was a child, surrounded by an ensemble of characters, she was believable as the emotionally stable heart of the group, the glue who held the others together. But as an adult she’s been exposed as a weak, irrational and wearying character who merely serves to drag down those she’s with. Hell, she even points it out herself in the opening minutes, as she notes Inui probably would have survived without her.  The continuing undertone of instability and flat-out weakness she projects is not conducive with her being our heroine, and while it’s presumably meant to paint her as a more thoughtful, merciful character, all it does is make her seem dumb.

Nowhere is that better demonstrated than in this episode’s crucial moment, where she decides to destroy the contents of the Psychobuster to prevent Satoru killing the Fiend. It’s an entirely selfish decision – she doesn’t want to be alone, so she possibly dooms the entire species because she can’t handle her maybe-boyfriend sacrificing herself. That’s not the decision of a hero or someone fighting for the greater good, it’s the decision of a lost, scared, lonely little girl lashing out.

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Furthermore, Saki’s continued belief that the Fiend might still be human at heart is used to support this action, but that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either. The best villainous redemptions happen because the villain has given us some possible indication that there’s some good left in them, or some line they’re still not willing to cross – Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are the iconic example. But we’ve seen no shred of humanity, no indication of hesitation or remorse from the Fiend.  On the contrary, we’ve seen sadistic pleasure and wanton cruelty in his slaughter of hundreds. We’re meant to automatically believe Saki is in the right simply because the enemy is a child, and the child of named characters. But Saki has no insight, no link or connection to the Fiend. She can’t use the Force to sense his heart or anything like that. Saki’s decision is a weak one, based on an inability to divorce the thing in front of her from the memory of her friends, who never even knew their child.  Oh and magic voices in her head.

Yes, the whole Shun thing was predictably a massive copout, though his crazy schizo voice inside Saki’s brain seems to lend credence to the idea he still exists in some form at least. Here though he’s established as the worst kind of magical plot device, the all knowing spirit who nevertheless won’t just fucking spit out what he knows and save the characters and the audience a lot of trouble.  I’ve never bought the near-angelic portrayal of Shun the show has been pushing for quite a few episodes now. Painting him as some sort of messiah figure is a discredit to his actual character, and it looks as if that’s the path they seem to want to continue to go down.

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The action meanwhile descends to glacial pace when it really should be hitting the top gear. The idea of a hunter-vs-hunted chase as a finale is a compelling one that many great shows and movies have made work superbly. The best examples of such a sequence have a sweaty palmed, gripping intensity. Here instead we have a limp-wristed boredom, as the characters stand around and talk a lot (a recurring issue you might have noticed) and the bad guys are almost never shown (presumably for budget reasons). It’s dull as diswater and poorly scripted and constructed, taking what should be a high stakes game of cat and mouse and making it about as exciting as a trip to the shops.

If there’s one good scene here, it’s the admission by Kiroumaru that he too had plans to overthrow humanity.  It’s worth remembering that the Queerats have been treated badly and have legitimate cause to rise up, and Kiroumaru presents his motivation in an understandable, sympathetic light. He didn’t want conquest, but security and equality, to be able to stand on an equal footing with those who had forced their dominion on the Queerats.  It’s a nice flash of insight in an episode that’s otherwise devoid of it, and a good, subtle ‘not so different’ contrast between Kiroumaru and Yakomaru, while at the same time reminding us there’s some edge in his relationship with Saki and Satoru. It helps Kiroumaru seems to be pretty much the only competent character left, and it’s largely he who drives everything which happens in this episode.

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If it sounds like I’m angry and disappointed, it’s because I am. This episode was a infuriating slog, and I’m sort of desperately wishing for the show to be over, a far cry from the compelling early days. Flashes from the preview seem to indicate the final episode will offer some sort of peaceful resolution, though I’m pretty sure there’ll be a hefty bodycount along the way. It can’t come fast enough really, this one has outstayed its welcome.

Random observations:

  • The idea that the Fiend will suddenly recognise he’s human by seeing himself in a mirror is utterly laughable. For a start, he doesn’t need a mirror to realise he doesn’t have claws, or body fur, or a snout. I’d also remind the writers that reflective surfaces (most notably water) exist naturally as well. And wasn’t he walking through a town full of glass windowed houses not too long ago?
  • The bits of non-linear narrative that pop-up in this episode are just silly. The main reason for using non-linear narrative is to conceal facts from the audience, but there’s no need for that here. Instead it just feels like the animators sequenced wrongly.
  • Why does Kiroumaru cover himself in guano when he’s spending most of his time tooling around with two people whose scent he straight out says is far stronger than his own? 
  • The Fiend’s magnificent mane of hair makes me think he should be in Saint Seiya or Spinal Tap.
  • This episode is just nasty to look at. All horrible flat browns and blacks.  The exception is the breaking Psychobuster scene, which instead looks nasty and like a cheap Photoshop filter.

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