My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from the last eight episodes M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane), a series which aired during the Spring and Summer 2014 anime seasons.
Looking for my comments relating to episodes 1 – 16 of M3? Click here!
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided here for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click and scan through numerous pages of unrelated material.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode seventeen]
While I did a multi-episode marathon through this series to get caught up to date last week, I figured I should at least toss in an episode this week as well for the mid-season timing. Plus, there are only seven episodes remaining (if we exclude this one), which means I should not need to play a massive catch-up game with it again. But, it is still entirely possible I may still put it off some weeks, which I do not think is unfair given how uninterested even the staff seem to be in this project and the calamities which have befallen it.
As of last time, given the delivery of the series, I was led to believe that everything which had occurred relating to our teenage characters causing the Lightless Realm disaster due to playing Hide and Seek with Tsugumi. There they were in the auditorium playing, the group happened to go outside, and from beyond everything was turned to greyscale hell and back. This week, it seems the issue is more rooted in Tsugumi getting jealous of Akashi and Sasame as children, taking a promise from Akashi to always be together radically serious. To the point where she breaks out the Corpse in the middle of a Tokyo park, all the other kids ran away because that is an understandably frightening thing to see (and her intent, to reclaim Akashi in a way). But Akashi and Sasame go along with the others and that made her sad. Which would still imply the actual Lightless Realm creation could still very much have occurred during a later Hide and Seek game, and she was being passive aggressive about this other event.
This is a serious structural problem the series has, in that there are very definite ways one can engage in out of order storytelling to either compelling or disastrous effect. And M3 as a show is so very much on the latter end of the equation.
The production is a jumbled up mess where rather than these flashbacks and context provisions giving us a sense of being grounded in what is going on, it has more of a distanced and bored air to itself. Have you ever been to a party where someone is trying to tell a personal story of something that happened to them, but it is missing a lot of the details that give it proper flow and direction? That for this individual, because they know all the information, establishing details just sort of get forgotten in favor of broader plot beats? And then attempts to ask for said establishments get answered with a degree of audible disdain or reserved contempt, that you as a listener are inconveniencing them as a storyteller?
That unfun party scenario is what this whole series feels like, even beyond what should be this core plot attempt at the moment to explain what events a decade ago actually made the Lightless Realm. The overall tonal posing of the series does not help matters either.
This show hates its female characters. Straight up, no questions asked.
At best, they are treated as cynical chum to be thrown to sharks. Maamu gets to pilot a mecha and sort of fight this episode, which I support because she has not gotten to do too terribly much in this series by now due to her previous loner status with the psychic and childhood pairings. But with her being the same girl previously beaten by sports equipment to the tune of some of the most attentive actual animation in this show, by that I mean this is really an excuse for the Corpse to kick her around a bunch while she screams “Stop it already!” and “I don’t want it like this!” lines. Meanwhile, Minashi just can not bring himself to fight back against the Corpse in his mech either (for extremely vague “guilt” for his “sins” as a child relating to the Tsugumi situation), resulting in lots of visuals of a naked Sasame screaming and in positions of clutching herself in a vain attempt to stave off bodily violation.
Keep in mind, of course, when Akashi has been kicked around in his machine we never see his brother suddenly pop up with sexual assault imagery and tones. Let alone repeatedly. For, at best, a royally tone deaf and mishandled narrative attempt to outdo some elements not harped on in how Neon Genesis Evangelion dealt with twists on the human pilot-machine relationships. At its very worse, an admission of how much of a cheap and passionless ploy so much of this anime is where this may well be the best idea they have at this point to fill airtime.
The Junichi Sato, Mari Okada, and Shoji Kawamori robot show, everybody.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode eighteen]
“You roach woman!”
Well, I can not say I have heard that one before. This is right up there with Akashi’s disdainful dialogue toward Tsugumi a few episodes back being translated as “Wench” in areas. At which point, I am not sure if these are merely very particular phrasing quirks of the official translation team (be they the site, the studio, etc) in how they want to adapt the more incendiary dialogue for Daisuki, or Mari Okada’s scripts for the show really are just this strained for thesaurus words to hurl out that will indicate the character speaker has some really deep rooted issues with women. Given that the entire series of M3 takes any and all opportunities it can to treat women poorly, be it through visual assaults and displays, through shockingly paper-thin narrative motivations, and so on, I am still inclined to lean towards the latter.
Our team of teenagers and some of their supervisory adults who may as well be come to the conclusion that they need to get out to the island Sasame, Tsugumi, and Minashi grew up on. Which would be fine, minus the fact the entire emergency transport structure is in a mess due to the expanding Lightless Realm and general disorder after a previous Admonition assault. So they can not even temporarily command something from the Self Defense Force. So they come to the conclusion they need to raid an airbase inside of the Lightless Realm, as it would in turn have abandoned plane.
Let us back up for a second and do a very dangerous thing which involves actually thinking about the framework already provided by this series.
We have seen in previous circumstances recon planes flying from normal airspace out and over the Lightless Realm becoming contaminated with Necrometal, thus needing to very quickly turn course if not engage in outright mechanical failure. Even were I to instigate some handwave logic that a plane within a hanger within the Lightless Realm were to be shielded enough temporarily to be physically sound, it can not get out without interacting with Lightless Realm atmospheric qualities. Any acquired plane would, given what we have previously seen, be prone to very quickly being in an emergency state. Which, given the characters do have a sense of this being a very risky and kind of hail mary move. Even so, while the plane acquires some Necrometal, this is a long distance flight over open water. It should have some very significant problems, if not crash part way resulting in perhaps something like lifeboat rafting the rest of the way.
The plane makes it across fine and dandy for reasons that basically extend as far as The Plot Demands It. Not only that, but Susan as the driver of an open air vehicle to get to the hanger does not ever wear any kind of minorly protective suit at all, whereas in a previous attempt where she nearly hurled herself into the Lightless Realm she at least had a cursory MA-Vess suit. We were even told it would protect her for maybe an hour or so.
I can not imagine the military facility they are running from has an exact number of suits. That, and if one is already running off to a faraway island with said organization’s entire cadre of psychic teen mech pilots, it is not like those back on base are going to go too terrible long without noticing anyway.
I am more than willing to give shows ample levels of rope to play with, but M3 deserves no such trust because it seems to actively forget or ignore aspects of its own production. Like it was assembled in a huge first draft rush without any kind of editor coming back and doubling checking that its parts actually fit together.
The second half of this episode rotates around a giant exposition dump regarding Minashi walking around the island and recalling things, and more prominently Natsuiri’s past.
This bugs me on two levels. For one, while Minashi is really one of the only people in this entire plot who seems to have a significant grasp on what is going on, that is really on through his just happening to have answers and statements to give when times call for them. Which can make for an interesting kind of character, to have the memories others lack, but he is just a walking checklist reader whose characterization swerves pretty radically without much reason. One moment he can tell all about the past like he was some sort of saintly figure, the next moment he is in situations trying to take Sasame by force or otherwise have a sinister vibe. Which in a production that already has a good half dozen antagonistic entities already, is just exhausting. I would almost prefer we were back where this series was in its earliest stages, and knocking folks off weekly.
As for Natsuiri? For as much as the series has waggled his around, his backstory allows for the plot to pull Minashi’s sister (who we have never previously heard of even existing), out of a dead end plot idea bin. Hers is the same flatly tragic past one could pratically imagine just by me putting her character and Natsuiri in the same sentence. He was mocked for his mental linking research when he was much younger, but she believed in him and encouraged him. They have some variety of relationship, he gets to go to the island to carry out his work on her native people, they go too far, she walks out, he stops her by tranquilizers and uses her for a most extreme of scientific experiments. It is as exhausting to type as the show seems interested in relaying it all back to us.
And before the episode ends, the Necrometal that did accumulate on the stolen plane is now suddenly spreading across the island and causing voices of dead villagers to call out. Which is something it can apparently do now.
Supposedly, this is all going to wrap up at episode twenty four. I’ll believe it when I see it, as the team at Satelight have dug themselves into one hell of a hole.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode nineteen]
This episode is entitled “Overlapping Sound Of Love.” Which is a dangerous suggestion right from the get go. This show can barely handle any one thing, do not go giving it too much to juggle at once!
A significant part of the last showing involved a flashback data dump on Natsuiri’s earlier professional research years and the plot convenience character of Minashi’s never heard of before (and likely never again, after this episode) sister. In the event one somehow missed the previous episode but tuned in again this week without catching up, they would still be relatively up to speed because most of the sequences and scenes shown for those sections last time reappear here. Natsuiri was having his previous years explained to others before, you see, while now he is reflecting on them all himself (by and large without commentary, but playing them back as-is with maybe some visual filters and some tighter editing).
Or at least I imagine that is the most cursory of production justifications for recycling so much footage anyone watching the show would have pretty much just seen when we tuned in before. These are not events and backstory we saw so long ago to need so much repetition, or this would make sense otherwise. Perhaps if some of Natsuiri’s history had been dealt with before, like him reflecting a bit during one of his earlier alone times when the show had just seen fit to have him cackling while eating candy, and then maybe rolling all those sequences back here would make some sense.
Otherwise though, it all just feels as cold and cheap as it likely was needed to be on the backend to get the episode out on time at all. Even Minashi getting the snap sense Natsuiri has passed away and announcing it all very matter of factly feels less like any psychic link or connection regarding his faded life force, and more of a justification to just move things along as quickly as possible. This project is a large scale bust with numerous problems pretty much from day one, and it would not surprise me if more egregious recycling occurs as we move ahead.
I get what this episode, in conjunction with the previous, perhaps may have wanted to do on some early level draft stage. The arc of the show where it tries to show the troubled internals of the mad scientist, and all that. Sure, I can appreciate wanting to do that, and this is right around a good part for a show like this to pull such a move with only five episodes remaining. Even to have him comment some on the properties of Necrometal as he slowly wastes away, since we barely know too terribly much about it even now.
But not like these last two episodes did. Never like how M3 chooses to do anything, really.
I can only imagine what minimal production effort dread infernal awaits as we begin to move towards the actual finale.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode twenty]
Four more episodes after this one. Slowly but surely, the finish line will be reached.
This episode has three primary modes: Crying, Drinking, and Crying While Drinking. As much as I am not a fan of this series, I am even being too exaggerated here. The episode begins with Tsugumi crying alone with “I didn’t do anything you make you hate me, right?” statements regarding her still held on to childhood crush regarding Akashi, Kasane drinks heavily with Susan at the bar, and said scene turns to tears as does a later one during the primary fight scene of the episode.
This has more than once been causing flashbacks to my time with the Mari Okada composed Nagi no Asukara (which you can read part one and part two of my comments from when it was airing). But at least there the characters were better defined because the love and relationship issues were front and center to the entire show. It was everything. M3 never really knows what to focus on at any given time, lurching as it does between the Lightless Realm expansion, the government and scientist intrigue, the mecha combat, character relationships, forgotten memories, and so on.
Rather than these combinations giving the series depth and ambition, it has all come off instead over the course of the series like a collection of ideas that were never really fleshed out past their initial phases and instead stapled together to form something resembling a whole.
More on this episode specifically, a large contingent of the IX scientists have quit we are told (and we really are told, via Maamu looking out the window and observing it, but we never get to see).
This is understandable, given the prior combat and losses the facility has sustained. That said, given that IX allowed a clear madman like Natsuiri to be as influential as he was (remember, he would do things like bring out vials of what he threatened was Necrometal during board meetings so as to get his way), it would still kind of surprise me that scientists here would have such a free ability to just quit as they pleased rather than be forced to stay under emergency conditions. At the very least, this would suggest we will not have a grand final assault on the IX campus. Or even were one to happen, well, there would not exactly be a whole lot of staff people left at this point to kill off in a last stand, be they faceless plot nobodies like random scientists or otherwise. Even the folks in the big board room we cut to at points we barely have the foggiest idea about outside of what their faces are. No real clues regarding their personal motivations, drives, character, and so on. They are just generic guys in office chairs, sure to probably be equally generic canon fodder before this is all over I would imagine. Gendo Ikari and SEELE they are definitely not.
Much like how the previous two episodes attempted to establish everything regarding Natsuiri’s character and flashbacks to Mimei, here we have scenes of Kasane being forced to reflect on Aoshi. And it is so very, very late in the show for any of this, as despite how often the series liked to poke every now and again that Kasane and Aoshi used to be an item, that has been all it has really done regarding their relationship. There has not been a whole lot of actual reflection, inner thoughts, or conversation about it though.
Here we get then what should be a more emotional moment, as Aoshi and his brother resonate harder within their mecha in such a manner where even in LIM form Aoshi gets to save his former girlfriend from an Admonition and chat for a bit. But because the show never really wanted to do much with their prior relationship, there is no resonance here for me as an audience member. The plot wants to do one thing (give them closure), but the delivery of their time together has been such where these moments are weightless when we consider the show has not provided the involved characters with anywhere near nuanced arcs. We may as well just be coldly reading two bullet points one after another another.
And it took us roughly until the end of the show to do so.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode twenty one]
Aoshi, as potentially expected after sending his mecha into a kind of high grade overdrive last week to save the woman he loved, is confirmed to have died.
Now, we did not get to know him too terribly well over the course of the series as more than a plot device, but I can understand the kind of shock that the series was going for here. Beyond Aoshi being Akashi’s older brother and previously in a relationship with Kasane, Aoshi was now a LIM unit. And we have not yet in this show killed one of those off. Even so, the team reaction of “But they said your heart can live forever as a LIM!” seems… misplaced and highly unwarranted, to me. While the individual inside a LIM unit is effectively a physical vegetable, and their souls and whatnot can at times manage to come through elsewhere, there is still the body in question. These are not, say, consciousness maps transferred into a cloud computing datanet, for example. A scenario by which someone who was a LIM would take sufficient damage to die, be it external through combat or internal through any number of complications, would seem reasonable to me.
But this is taken to be significant world upending understanding of the basic systems in play here by the characters. Certainly I can understand that becoming a LIM grants seemingly indefinite stabilization against encroaching necrometal contamination and thus can extend their life that way. But it is not like Aoshi died of said necrometal poisoning, but other emotional, organic, and mechanical stressors as he used every ounce of whatever he could muster to control the Argent and save his previous girlfriend. Really, the LIM system works just as intended and explained to us previously, but the cast seem either under a different interpretation of the rules or are being played up for artificial and resoundingly flat reaction drama. The series also, at this time, recalls Heito is a character, and has been necrometal contaminated and wasting away in the basement for just about half the show now. He has been off the visual and narrative grid entirely since the initial botched Lightless Realm mission.
Maamu gets a seemingly key little scene again, beyond the notebook shenanigans thing that was floated for a while episodes ago. For a character who has been though a lot of abuse, neglect, and divisiveness over her years and in the present day of the show to get to have an honest to goodness screaming, gnashing of teeth fit.
It would be a really, really nice scene to have actually witnessed.
As it is, she places herself within a closet within her room, and the camera sits outside of the door just zooming out as she goes to town in there. Now, could one make a really great scene of even just that, on a basic level? Sure, I would say so, especially with the right prior character work and attention to the background. One could even, were they so inclined, to make a case for why this could take place in a closet and the viewer does not get to see the meltdown. Maamu is effectively best known for this animated gif from being assaulted by sport equipment early in the show. So being someone who wanted to retreat to a dark enclosed space where absolutely nobody could see them for one brief personal moment would go back to fears of objectification, self confidence, and any number of things. A piece of media then could try and execute on her having her moment, while the camera is but outside the door and not itself able to go further to where she is.
But tonally, this is all way off base in execution even if it could be what was intended when this scene was initially thought of. What we end up with is what looks like a desperate grab for saving precious animation budget and time, for a series which has endured multiple production issues and has not taken off at all. A scene of someone having a breakdown, with any and all flailing of limbs, hair, head movements, and so one, may well be not justifiable at this stage of the series. It could have jeopardized its ability to continue to be able to get out the door, and I do not believe I am using hyperbole here. The overall visual quality of the series has been on a general decline for much of its run.
And while all of these thoughts may be going through a viewer’s head, we have Kasane trying to manually break the password of Natsuiri’s most highly treasured research data. Typing in his old student and employee ID numbers, phone numbers, and so on. Eventually managing to guess the correct password due to his favorite type of pasta. Which essentially means a basic dictionary cracker could have undone his entire database of top secret, classified, or otherwise restricted data.
Given how generally unintelligent the show seems to think its own characters are, I can not be sure who would be more silly here. Kasane sitting and guessing personally for hours over using an easily available (especially to any kind of high level scientific military facility like IX) computer tool. Or Natsuiri for making the password as simple as “Napolitan,” but potentially with the knowledge a dictionary cracker would not be used.
As is the story of M3, whoever wins, we all lose for having gone through it.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode twenty two]
Something I did not mention last week was a confrontational moment where Minashi got into an “You Just Don’t Get It!” and “You Are Not Open Enough With Your Feelings!” argument with Akashi, and ran off towards the expanding Lightless Realm alone in a stolen MA-Vess.
Here, Minashi reaches his target, which is Tsugumi at the center of it all. Trying to make a connection with his childhood friend, attempt to save her and talk what he considered to be sense into the situation, and all the rest. However, there are two very, very large albatrosses around the neck of this half of the episode. For one thing, the entire back and forth plays out between the two of them via their mental link. Visually then, what we end up with are back and forth shots of stern faces staring at their mental conversation partner off screen. Within the grey-ish color palate sludge of the Lightless Realm in general on top of that. It is an incredibly unengaging exchange to watch. For as Evangelion as this show wants to be at times, the legendarily budget depleted final episodes of that show were able to at least be taken as graphically abstract. M3 however, takes this chance to just be downright static, flat, and otherwise showcase how creatively bankrupt it has really been leading up to all of this.
The other part of this sequence is that when it does somewhat decide to be animated, it rapidly turns to sexual assault imagery. Minashi forcing Tsugumi down, his mental thoughts being all about “saving her” while she responds with “Stop it!” oriented psychic speak, the slab they are on being an elevated rectangular stone slab which is clearly indicative of things like a bed, etc. Now, Tsugumi does stop him from…whatever Minashi was trying to do there, but even so: this is not a series responsibly equipped to deal with these kinds of issues. Indeed, it has used sexual force and other aggressive imagery elsewhere, ranging all the way back to Heito assaulting Emiru in the lake in the early stages of the show. Even this episode, it drags the largely incapacitated Heito out of narrative storage so his psychic self can assault Akashi and speak of “forcing” himself to resonate with him as he did Emiru. The series never wants to really delve into any of these matters though, so it comes off time and again as a cold Sexual Assault As Drama mechanism devoid of any larger attempt to do anything with the material. Heck, even Violence Jack at least leaned so far on the exploitation and sexual harm angle that it achieves a kind of power through how extravagant and repulsive it freely wants to be.
M3 feels like it wants “edge” via these scenes, as a way to conveniently amp up a perceived threat and inflict some spreadsheet check mark of a character trauma, but they are so mishandled (and indeed, even overused at this point) that they come off as all the more artificial for it.
Elsewhere, we do receive what is arguably the one single strongest point of character development to occur throughout this entire show.
Perhaps naturally, it falls to Mammu, who again is the only character in the cast who I have had much of a thin sliver of sympathy for at any point.
Due to Tsugumi’s continued and indeed now explosive expansion of the Lightless Realm, and Minashi having stolen his MA-Vess, the rest of the primary robot pilot cast are kind of stranded and caught with relatively few options. Raika and Iwato are linked, but neither is a LIM unit so they can not pilot a hardier unit to do much extended deployment into the danger zone. Akashi’s brother is dead, so his machine lacks a LIM unit. Which leaves Mammu, the resident bookworm, shy girl, and general third (if not fourth, fifth, etc) wheel to most operations and her mecha with Emiru in it. She volunteers to enter the Realm and do what needs to be done herself, and it even all comes complete with a “I used to be satisfied just writing stories” line to round things off.
She manages to charge in, and understandably still has a terrified reaction upon seeing the actual Corpse and runs for cover outside of the larger mission parameters to draw it out. This, opposed to just having a sudden switch flick in her head and suddenly being supremely unencumbered in this situation. So these events play well and lead into her settling herself down again and even engaging in direct hand to hand (well, mecha to monster beast) combat with the Corpse for a time. It is a rather surprising display at this stage of the show, and I am not above crediting it when it does things like this which I find work well even in these end days.
Of course, it immediately undercuts this entire character moment and a potential message of her in the end getting to do what the others could not by having Akashi intervene in the fight out of nowhere with what we assume is a sudden Heito powered LIM unit in his mecha. So she got to have all of, what, a few minutes at best? Which still end up being among some of the better moments in the show before it pulled the rug out and put Akashi right back into center stage again?
This show really does find new ways to make me groan time and again, as for a brief series of moment it actually had something going here.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode twenty three]
“Proof of the Strongest” is the kind of episode title which reminds me right from the start of how dismal of a time I have been having with M3. I can not think of a strong point in its favor in general, and even in relation to the actual episode nothing is actually proved at all regarding relative strengths of anything.
Well, I suppose there is one thing, maybe. Though this is nothing that makes the series look any better.
I mentioned last week Heito’s turn into a LIM unit made it so that Akashi could advance into the Lightless Realm and steal any kind of character development arc spotlight from Mammu in record time. This, we have now learned, is not quite accurate. While Heito gets to have all kinds of psychic projections into Akashi head, and the visual imagery of him potentially coming to sexually assault said mecha pilot, Heito is actually still safe and sound back in the IX basement. Screaming his head off and painfully contaminated by necrometal just as he was before. Yet, Akashi is moving around his machine just fine, and increasing better and more powerfully at that. So the explanation given by the series here is Akashi is somehow drawing Heito’s spirit towards him, rather than Heito going about any of this on his own. Heito then, as our resident sexual assault perpetrator towards Emiru at several points when they were each fully human earlier in the show, gets to have such statements about how gross he thinks it would be to link with Akashi as a LIM, since they are each dudes and all.
Because if this show was not already highly misogynistic in tone across the boards, it has to also see a need for instigating negative prods at anything perceived as remotely homosexual.
Akashi essentially gets to pilot his machine to super mode levels and even sans-LIM because he has, well, supposedly unlocked some hangup from when he viewed himself as “the most despicable person” ever since he was a kid.
Or so we are told. Really, he has been such a blank slate of general “I hate my brother / parents / etc” over the course of the show, that he is still even now not so much a character as he is an most basic of fictional archetypes. And his “I can’t make emotional connections with people” database character trait going through no discernible organic development outside of the series flatly saying he and Sasame may have liked each other at one point, and it is the only point that even now comes up in any way. Sasame, who has been removed from audio and visual play aside from when they wanted to show her naked episodes ago when Minashi’s mecha was being hit, does herself have virtually no other character establishment over the course of the series than Doomed Quiet Obedient Girl To Be Saved.
Which they really only established prior to knocking her off / moving her towards being a LIM. While Emiru, Aoshi, and even the non-LIM Heito have had ways to at least speak a little after no longer walking around without necrometal contamination, Sasame we still do not hear from because… Minashi just tells her not to say anything. She fundamentally does not function as anything more than a prize for Akashi or Minashi to win or control. As a character, she is a non-entity. Like the cast throughout, to be sure, but it is far more damning a thing when she supposedly features so prominently in the motivations for our main character and his opponent in this final fights.
That is another thing, Minashi essentially being our final boss. It just does not work as a compelling conflict. He wants to unite everyone through necrometal, and thus will “save” and “connect” all people, but the plot of this series has lurched around so many different things over its run. It is not like there is any friendship or something they and Akashi once had, for instance, that we have seen shatter. I’m sure his memories coming back to him sooner than the others was supposed to play a part in establishing him as something of an antagonistic force. But all it really served before he went suddenly overboard antagonistic in these last few episodes was for him to just spout exposition and other background information, like on the island. The series seems to just lack any compelling human enemy to go with at this point, and outside of general saving the world purposes eliminating Minashi (the only boy of the three island children sent with the Lightless Stone) would by extension mean the supposed triangle of Sasame and Tsugumi liking Akashi could get to be unopposed.
I do not really see a means by which M3 will be able to deliver anything regarding a competent, let alone emotionally resonant conclusion for any of these characters. Which, for a series that tries to use the idea of Emotional Resonance as a plot device for piloting its machines, is all the more a constant reminder of how much it thinks if it just Says A Thing, it accomplishes trying to develop an individual, with no regard for tone, pacing, information, or the like.
M3: The Dark Metal (M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane) [Episode twenty four]
The episode title this week is “Original Sin, Past and Future.”
With that in mind, once more, with feeling:
- Junichi Sato: Director and Co-Original Creator
- Mari Okada: Series Composition, Script, and Co-Original Creator
- Shoji Kawamori: Mechanical Design (among others) and Executive Director of Satelight Inc.
In the event you ever have the opportunity to ask any of them a question at a convention, consider inquiring over M3.
I will not begrudge you, of course, should you choose to ask about Sailor Moon, Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, or Macross. Or anything else from their creative backgrounds. But there is a story here, somewhere. Something, I feel, went very, very wrong. On every possible level it could have failed, from their website, to botched animation, and the heavily delayed the home video release. Episodes of this series are still not available for purchase, as of this writing, and this is a 24 episode show which started in the Spring 2014 season. The first blu-rays come out November 5th. To their credit, I suppose, it will be as a box containing 12 of 24 episodes rather than a more drawn out series of singles, and the base price of ￥27,000 is available sliced down to ￥19,643 as a Amazon preorder.
It is still junk, mind you. But Satelight’s best option may be to treat this as some sort of a tax write off, if they can swing it. At minimum, they are performing a fair amount of corporate gymnastics for the few folks who would ever consider possibly buying this series. I would be interested in what the blu-ray comparisons look like, but this would mean someone needs to buy the show and sufficiently capture screens. That is an exhausting prospect on multiple levels.
I have not even started talking about the finale episode yet.
I have mentioned before various feelings relating to if this series was an older spec script pulling surface level ideas from various Popular Things such as Evangelion and such. Or perhaps a computer yoinking popular TVTropes webpages and slapping them together as a approved by a business class group project spreadsheet program. I have watched every episode of M3, and so no, it is not like I was expecting the ending to wow me or suddenly change gears. I just want the closure, really. How was it going to choose to end it all.
We begin with Susan trying to tell Tsugumi none of this, the rapid expansion of the Lightless Realm, the changed form of the Corpse, and Minashi’s going completely off the mental deep end, is her fault. I will maybe award the third, as Minashi has turned into our antagonist for seemingly no other reason than we are just out of other options if Tsugumi can not be the villain. And if designated hero Akashi defeats him it would break down some vectors of the love polyhedron and leave the two islander girls. Everything else though, well, Tsugumi is responsible for the necrometal deaths of an untold number of people over a decade long span of time. Sure, she had her inner rage due to thinking her childhood crush was taken from her, when the time they were all little kids and ran away were really just scared out of their minds by the horrors of the Lightless Realm. But, I mean, she has been fueled by this seemingly broken crush and in turn has fueled an engine of death and destruction which has rendered a nice multi-mile area of Japan inhospitable for years, in addition to further deaths via investigative efforts within it. Given everything the series has done with framing her position, and even into all but this episode times having given big “Everyone should die for their sins against me!” lines, I do not exactly feel particularly sorry for her despite the series now trying to say I should be.
Minashi continues as best he can the trend of pushing for assault imagery, as his arms turn to tentacles and provides “You want this” style lines to Akashi regarding resonance with him as the appendages latch on to his arms. He can not quite pull it off the same as Heito did in his heyday though, or even the psychic projection of Heito last episode.
Then the projection of Sasame finally shows up, resonates with Akashi, and Minashi is sad. So sad, that the Corpse melts down and collapses as it turns to goo like it was channeling Judge Doom at his worst nightmare moment in Who Framed Roger Rabbit because, and I am quoting, “too much torment.” It has just built up so much sadness over the years, and the Corpse can not handle this one last straw. Our characters speak of how they could ever possibly connect, as Minashi only wanted to infect everyone with necrometal so the world could understand each other. Reaching out with their hands and hearts, as that too is like linking and making connections to each other, is provided as the answer and to act the message of this program.
Cue finale montage, Lightless Realm all gone now, IX in trouble for its actions, research on how to restore those affected by necrometal contamination, and so on. And there is so little feeling to any of it; IX has clearly supposed to be akin to running our NERV equivalent throughout the show, but so nameless and perspectiveless has been the handling of the leadership officials we still just do not know anything about them. I can not say “Well, they thought they had a good reason for what they did” or even “Good riddance.” They are just some dudes who ran an organization we barely learned much about. Then we have our character section, which is understandable as a note to end on.
Mammu reading to the impaired Emiru her short fiction relating to her fictional character based on herself of Mahsa, that is a nice conceptual moment. We barely got to see them do much together over the course of the series, and the show sabotaged their best moment a few episodes ago, so I can not say it has much weight or resonance. But, it is inoffensive and tries to somehow tie Mammu’s story writing back into the fold. Material relating to why some of said writing was alarmingly accurate to present events early on in the series before it just flat out forgot about that plot point has never been touched on. I guess Tsugumi must have also read the fiction journal at some point ten years ago, and Mammu has been using the exact same book ever since? That is about all I can think of.
Akashi and Tsugumi: “If i untangle the clump of resentful hearts, are there warm feelings among them?”
I suppose those are words which form a grammatically correct sentence.
Heito is giddy and happy because he has his old snuggly wuggly teddy bear now.
Keep in mind, this is a character who has committed multiple sexual assaults, physical by his own hands and body and mental via LIM unit psychic connections, across the course of the series to no retribution at all. Characters have feared him for this. In other areas, he hurled knives and such at his teammates early on, tried to kill them multiple times for his own amusement, and brutalized a security officer even in his introductory scene by slicing him up and gouging his eyes out for kicks. But, he has a teddy bear now, and is reminded of the delight of a child.
The Corpse is now some kind of baby Digimon thing, as it waves us off in the light of a new day.
Honest, I feel bad for everyone involved in this production. Nothing went right at any point for them, be it beyond their control or within their own power.
Okada’s screenplay is a swamp which seems akin to something one charts out when writing an entire plot in one go without ever going back around for sufficient finer editing or seeing if earlier events line up with later ones as intended. Sato’s direction is one of incredible disinterest in elevating the material, if not outright boredom. This series has an episode where two character psychically converse in a blobby grayscale CGI mess of a world for half an episode, and all we do is snap back and forth between their faces as they mind talk. And Okada and Sato are the original creators! Kawamori did some of the mechanical designs, some of which are at least passable in a boxy robot sort of way, but his greater role as an Executive Director of the company means quite a lot as well. M3 even has multiple upcoming video games which were in development and are still on track for launch.
So why is everyone so, well, tired and uninterested?
If it was a passion project with industry friends and M3 flubbed up the execution, that would at least be understandable. Highly successful creative people still crank out duds sometimes. But, if they believed in what they were doing, one would at least be able to suss some of that passion out somewhere over the course of twenty four episodes, right? Even if it did flop? I have been able to do that in all manner of other overall crummy films or shows over the years, where one can at least tell the team is trying and has their heart set on indulging something.
I’m sure Okada and Sato had good intentions at the start, and they clearly have a sizable professional history together as these things go. So to create something together as an anime original property, I am with them on that. We could always use more of those! But, yeah, just… I do not know how this so thoroughly misses virtually every possible mark it tries to hit. I can point to maybe two or three sequences in the entire show where I think I was really appreciating what it was doing rather well, and thankfully, I guess, they revolve around trying to make Mammu a better character than that gif where she is smacked around via sporting equipment so she wiggles. Mammu has the best character arc in the show, though that is saying exceptionally little given the competition.
Like, there is that super swell Roger Ebert quote “‘It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.” So if M3 as a script and screenplay was just a walking pile of cliches or something, well, that would not be instant death. Ho-hum and not very exiting maybe, but treading water would not be the worst fate in the world. Heck, maybe with strong direction, you even end up on the positive end of the spectrum, with solid pacing, editing, camera work, and the like. But the show is so flat a lot of the time, especially as it goes on, and such camera and storyboarding work really doesn’t help hide the animation strains that crop up or allow one to take their mind more off how machine generated the words being said come off as in context. Then when it wants to deal with a few instances of “rape as drama” or the like, it implodes all the further as it does not have the right tones to deal with it.
M3 has left me with the television series equivalent of watching a flatline on a heart monitor. For almost ten hours.
I am writing this on October 1st, a day most folks agree we can collectively bust out all manner of Halloween decorations with, among other things, the undead and re-manufactured monsters. But, I do not think M3 ever had the spark of life to begin with.