Ogami is convinced of Touma’s good intentions and together the three Riders set off to rescue Sora. But their way is barred by an enemy from 15 years ago…
This is the best Saber episode yet, which needless to say is the very definition of damning with faint praise. Still, it at least has a fairly coherent beginning, middle, and end, even if a lot of the stuff in-between doesn’t make much sense. Baby steps I suppose.
The most intriguing part of this episode is probably the fact that the mysterious Calibur is now actively taking steps to affect the ongoing plot. Here he frees fellow baddie Desast from the book which he’s trapped in, and there appears to be at least some level of friction between them. I’m into this – many of the most memorable Rider series have been defined by infighting and backstabbing among the villainous faction, and that’d be a strong move towards defining Saber‘s up til now pretty anonymous antagonists. I’m not sure that introducing another major villain is the right way to go about this though, considering that we’ve already got a room full of them that haven’t even been named and have done nothing for four episodes except look like an early 2000s emo band.
Another issue here is to do with the presentation of Desast. We’re not given any insight into his character, his motivation or why he would be on the side of the bad guys. Calibur summons him and he just jets off to fight our heroes. There are bits and bobs we can infer from his banter with Buster, and I get that you might want to create an atmosphere of mystery around your new antagonist, but in my opinion this goes too far the other way. Desast is presented as a fully formed character but without any buildup, character work, or backstory we’re no more invested in him than your average monster of the week. It feels like the show is rushing to the payoff of a cool hero/villain fight without doing any of the hard legwork in establishing that villain, and the net result is dreadfully underwhelming.
That same ethos can be found in the episode’s other major plot beat, that of Ogami learning that he can trust Touma and Rintaro to rescue his son. Well, that’s the idea at least. Practically though, it’s another example of reaching for a conclusion the writing doesn’t justify in any way. The entire character arc is basically a few generic lines from Kento about how Touma always keeps his promises and then some generic heroic platitudes from Touma. It’s basically the equivalent of the ‘I can be very persuasive’ scene from The Simpsons. Yet somehow we’re meant to believe this led to such a profound change of heart from Ogami that he not only allows Touma to be part of the rescue effort, but actually chooses to stay behind to fight Desast and leave the welfare of his son to Touma.
There’s no other way to put it – this is terrible writing. Ogami acquiesces to our hero’s overwhelming goodness far too easily, and even if he genuinely did believe in Touma I could never imagine a father willingly forsaking a search for his son when other options were available. Why not have our heroes face Desast and let Ogami rescue his son. The worst part is that we spurn a major chance for Touma to demonstrate his selfless and heroic credentials in a tangible way to win over Ogami. Instead, we have to be told that he’s earned the man’s respect because so little happens that might be able to convey the idea organically. God knows this isn’t the first time I’ve banged the ‘show, don’t tell’ drum and it certainly won’t be the last, but it’s a cliché for a reason folks.
Elsewhere it’s a dull sequence of thudding subplots that don’t really add much to the story. Mai’s ‘rescue’ mission is presumably meant to demonstrate her pluckiness and willingness to act independently, but all it ends up doing is making bother her and the monster of the week look incredibly stupid and useless. The new 3-power formation for Saber, along with both Buster and Blades getting new forms means the cacophony of wretched noise and stock footage is worse than ever and while the Tinkerbell themed finisher was pretty amusing, this early in the run we should probably be playing our cool finishing moves straight rather than making them silly parodies. Saber is inching towards competence, but agonisingly slowly and this episode was still a long way from being enjoyable.
- Desast notes the presence of the ‘Swordsman of Fire’ in a way which strongly intimates they’re familiar. Since Touma only recently became Saber, it’s not much of a stretch to assume there was another Saber in the past.
- This episode really ladles the unsubtle ‘books are great!’ stuff on pretty hard. I’ll just say children have pretty good bullshit detectors for that stuff and I think they’re unlikely to appreciate this weak attempt to preach to them.
- ‘Tinkerbell’ is played by pro wrestler and idol Reika Saiki.
- So we’re giving up on the established fairytale stuff already huh?
- Clown update – the thing where he wriggles his mustache at you at the end of the episode is THE WORST.