Touma premieres his highly anticipated new light novel “I Can’t Believe My Childhood Friend Died and Also A Clown Was There!”.
It’s clear that the writers want this to be a hugely important episode, the culmination of a number of subplots and an emotional crux which will drive the show forward. Problem is, as has so often been the case with Saber, it’s happy to adopt the familiar tropes and cliches of better stories, without putting in any of the work that’s required to make them function. In a sense this episode was doomed before it even began, because it relies on us having an affection and affinity for the characters, and as I’ve stated repeatedly before, I just don’t have that.
With that said, let’s take a look at the biggest gambit this episode tries to pull off, namely killing Kento. It’s certainly a bold attempt to shake up the formula, but even if I had any investment in the character I’m not sure this would have worked as intended. The key problem here is that Kento’s death doesn’t actually mean or accomplish anything – it’s not a sacrifice to save anybody or prevent a key part of the evil plan happening. He just shows up and gets his ass kicked by Calibur. Now, before you all start I do think there’s absolutely a way to make a senseless death like this work, which is of course to frame it as a tragedy, perhaps driven by hubris or overconfidence. The writing seems to take tentative steps in this direction, with some emphasis on how Kento doesn’t want to see the disaster of 15 years ago repeated, but there’s not enough emphasis on that aspect to make it prominent. What compounds the problem is of course the murkiness of all the motives involved. OK, we learn that Calibur is trying to open a gate to another world, but why? What sort of consequences will this have for our world, or our heroes? Without stakes it’s impossible to become invested on any level, no matter how many poetic last words in the moonlight you give us.
Another problem with setting this up as a huge emotional moment is how fuzzy the storytelling around the other characters is as well. The big deal here is Touma suddenly regaining his memories, because….well, I have absolutely no idea. The weird amnesia plotline has been a millstone around the plot for a while now but to see it resolved in this way is still totally baffling and smacks of a wasted opportunity to get some insight into Touma’s character. They repeat the scene of the childhood promise so many times it rapidly becomes completely hilarious, but it doesn’t actually tell us anything about why these characters have a strong connection to each other. Once again we’re just meant to take it on faith, rather than seeing any effort expended to explain things or probe our characters motivations. It’s the accepted shell of a story, but none of the substance underneath.
The episode is hurt even more by its insistence on being a huge, multi-Rider event that also has to cram in as much fighting as possible, meaning that what little character work we do get is spread extremely thin. There’s basically no reason that Buster, Kenzan and Slash have to be in this episode at all and they contribute precisely zero value. Oddly enough, it’s probably Rintaro who comes off best overall, as he gets to play the most traditionally heroic role and come out fighting even though he’s badly injured. Of course, there’s absolutely no hint of his earlier revenge plotline, even when he’s literally face-to-face with Zooous, but I should probably know better than to expect basic continuity from Saber at this point.
In conclusion, this episode is a failure on pretty much every level. It doesn’t meaningfully advance our understanding of the plot, nor does it tug the heartstrings in any way. I’m mostly left with the overwhelming impression that this show could have done without Kento from the beginning and nothing of value would have been lost. One less Rider will hopefully mean more focus for the others going forward, but when my first reaction after a character death is to do screen time maths, you know you screwed up somewhere.
- The most memorable thing about this episode is without a doubt the insane mood whiplash we get from Kento dying and then immediately cutting to Tassel in full clown get up. Bathos doesn’t even begin to describe it. The subsequent cut into the happy ending dance is pretty amazing also.
- “I was happy that you held on to your love of books” is another incredible line that is completely hilarious in context.
- We’re still greenscreening the bad guys into their HQ and it looks particularly rough this week.
- Please do not try and have big emotional scenes while riding motorbikes. It just doesn’t work.
- We very rarely get genuine behind-the-scenes material from toku productions, so it’s always utterly delightful when some surfaces.
- No really, have you considered watching Machine Sentai Kiramager? This week’s episode was amazing