Alternative Title: How To Execute On Executioner.
Something online anime culture developed over the years is the concept of the “Three Episode Rule.” The idea being to give a show this many episodes before determining if you want to stick with it or not. Some folks try to watch this many episodes of every seasonal show, and only then make their seasonal watchlists. While I have never been partial to this way of doing things, three episodes of a twelve episode season is at least useful for some general pattern recognition.
Girls’ Frontline continues to have a short opening recap each week, choosing to expunge previews at the end of each episode. I have no problem with this. Heck, given general trends in trailer cutting across all media these days, I would prefer my action shows to not show off all the best moments of their upcoming episodes.
Nighttime scenes, or even shots in dark rooms because the lights are out, are also color graded much darker than many television anime these days ever attempt. In my case I can enjoy this direction choice. But it is important to keep in mind I watch anime on what was considered a flagship television for 2017. My available brightness and contrast levels complement these scenes super well. When doing screenshot picture grabs on my desktop computer however, such as generating a stitched image of the panning shot of Agent grabbing M4A1 by the neck in episode one, I am often surprised by the murky difference. So depending on what kind of screen you watch your anime on, there are visual details which are getting crushed. To say nothing of the inherent black level quirks of streaming video in general.
I will be quite interested in what a physical Blu-ray release looks like by comparison.
As for the story itself this episode: I was voicing a lot of concern last week about just how fast things were going. I could theorize and understand the desire to cram in everything the second episode did cover. But we would have to slow down and exhale to recover and gain some control. And with only one fight on the menu this week, we were indeed granted time.
To compare the plot with what happens at this point in the game, many of the broad strokes along the way to the Executioner fight proceed as they went before. M4A1 doing some survival stuff on her own. A small bit introducing the titular Mister Kryuger of Griffen & Kryuger. Persica talking to the Commander for the first time, and establishing how 16Lab is not a part of the company.
What the anime is able to do with this space is inject some additional moments of characterization. Kalina and Gentiane have a good developing rapport, so what I said last week still stands. Kalina is a character a lot of writers could have gone off the deep end as comedic relief. Here she can ask Gentiane if she is still bothered by Scarecrow’s suicide bomb the previous week (the show implying, last week and this, the deployed T-Dolls were destroyed). At the same time, when Gentiane requests her to bring data on the AR-Team, Kalina has a playful series of “oh dear” remarks about how this sort of thing is not her job while walking out to take care of it. In each case, it feels like she is still the same person. It is a drier sense of humor than one may expect coming from the game, but it fits well. Weaving the camaraderie between the Commander and Kalina is important, and it is good to see her not being treated as a gag.
What Kalina retrieves, training footage of the AR-Team running drills, is also something not present in the original story. In the game, skill training requires sending a character away for often several hours to improve their abilities. Aside from being a handy way to beef up the worldbuilding about what this could look like (The AR-Team is, in this case, clearing a building to gain entry to a vault), it provides another opportunity to see the group together. We should want to see them get back together again, after all. But the breadcrumb trail in the initial story chapters can be slow with this in the midst of everything else.
A lot of gacha games have a secondary protagonist with some combat potential to complement the player character on their journey. Fate Grand/Order has Mash Kyrielight as your shield. Granblue Fantasy links the player to Lyria and her summoning abilities. And so on and so forth. M4A1’s profile is built into the Girls’ Frontline logo itself, and she of course has the gun which serves as her callsign. She also has her command module. While a human commander may be in a position to give higher level strategic orders, her position means she has tactical leadership beyond most of the other androids. Her connection with her team, and corresponding concern for them, is different. Gentiane wanting to watch not just the training footage, but also the recording of the playful team coffee break afterward to get a better sense of her personality, helps lend some additional character time for the Commander and M4A1 alike.
Which helps build the contrast for what the young android woman with an M4A1 carbine does next.
As a turn-based strategy game where maps often involve multiple squads of several characters each, one-on-one duels between characters are not the norm. They are not unheard of either, of course. When they do happen in the story, it is for a notable reason.
Executioner is something of an oddball in the Sangvis Ferri lineup. Granted, they all are in their own ways. But as combat Ringleaders go, she is a melee specialist in a world of android infantry with firearms.
While her fight with M4A1 does occur at this point in the game story, making direct comparisons between it and the anime presents the widest series of divergences so far. Events used to be in more of an urban environment before, and are now in something of a farmstead quarry. M4A1’s data drop for the Commander’s forces used to be for leading them to a Sangvis command point to cut Executioner off. Here, they are led straight for her, which I will touch on in a bit.
The fight itself was alright, as these things go. Better than Scarecrow last episode, by all means. Scenes like Executioner charging up and bolting across a field and into the upper story of where M4A1 was hiding were good and fitting. On the flipside, her punching M4A1 across a few football fields of distance feels like something better suited to Dragonball Z or My Hero Academia. But, I also did not mind her blocking some gunshots with her sword. She would not last a day in her melee role without this kind of tracking ability.
In the game, the player gets a partial view into what is going on here. The story superpower of getting to see any and all cut-scenes the writers want you to see, regardless of if the Commander is present or not.
Making contact with M4A1 after the duel comes with the visual reveal of just how brutal the cinnamon bun sugar cube was to Executioner. Her desecrated corpse blasted up against a concrete pillar while M4A1 makes her introductions and professional pleasantries.
This is why I use cutscene screenshots with the textboxes still onscreen, by the by. The art is laid out in such a way where it has to account for the writing, as you will of course be reading the story your first time through. So in this case, what is left of Executioner is right above the box your eyes will be on. It is supposed to be the sight of something you can not quite get out of your field of view.
In this case, Gentiane’s Griffin squad is on the scene. And they get to watch.
M4A1 shoots the already grounded Executioner’s feet off.
She unloads every round from her assault rifle (and if you want to be technical, a few more) into her head.
She exchanges no pleasantries with Gentiane upon returning to base.
The anime series has not shied away from taking advantage of the android status of most characters to portray various levels of extreme damage and violence. Here, they also had to portray if M4A1 had crossed a line. Her potential capacity to do it again, and under what circumstances.
And with the aforementioned lack of next episode previews: we kind of just get to sit on the scene and what M4A1 did.
So I feel this combination was effective.
The one concrete thing is the next episode title: ”Silence 01.” Each episode so far has more or less been the same title as the corresponding story chapter from the game. “Silence” would indeed be next, but in this case it would suggest we are getting those events covered in at least two parts. I appreciated some of the additional touches this episode was able to take advantage of by at last giving us a moment to slow down a smidge. So as far as a third episode judgment call goes, I am interested in what we can do when slowing down a bit more.
We are also almost on top of the canonical time of the events of Operation Cube, the Chapter 3.5 major story event.
Depending on if or how the project intends to handle this material: I hope we get to see a special snake sometime soon.