I lived a lot of years near Philadelphia, sometimes a Wawa is more than just a Wawa.
The episode “Silence 01” features two battles, while “Silence 02” this week brings its focus down to one. Which is the kind of number pattern shenanigans which my brain loves to latch on to. Even when I know it means rather little.
A more singular focus better suits a base assault though. Also in an inversion of our previous outing, this time we have Gentiane and Griffin trying to crack open a Sangvis Ferri compound.
“Silence” has six missions in the original game, but we covered the material of four of those in the first half of this two-parter. So, one mission was for the battle recon story beat, and another for the full on assault. This gives the episode an opportunity to fit in some additional character moments and fluff them up more, which I feel it leveraged well.
SOPMOD II was told by Gentiane at the end of the attack last week about how she could not make an immediate move to rescue ST AR-15. We pick up this thread with the murder puppy rocking under a blanket trying to process the simultaneous feelings of anger, despair, and plain old wanting to cry. It works for her. Flopping around under the covers like she has an upset stomach better sells the multi car emotional pileup in her head than if she was only slamming a wall or straight up wailing in tears. Also, it makes it look like she has cat ears. Overall, she gets several instances of good reaction faces throughout the episode.
SOPMOD II is, I would like to think, one of the more fun characters in Girls’ Frontline to draw. Animators are professionals of course. But if the cut and character you are working on can inspire an extra dash of personal flair, it sure helps.
Some of our remaining leg stretching time goes to M4A1 getting a beat to reconnect with some of the forgotten Dolls the AR Team commanded back in the first episode. FNC gets to chime in about how M4A1 was herself treating Skorpion and the like as expendable pawns. As a three star rarity Assault Rifle unit in the core game, getting to snipe a line in here and there is more than what a lot of characters in a gacha game anime parade can hope for. She has gotten to do this more than once.
We spend a surprising amount of time this episode in digital space. Between Gentiane hosting a virtual mission briefing, Hunter trying to make sense of various Sangvis Ferri network readouts, and M4A1 jacking into the defense grid for the enemy base, we are on a different level of reality for quite a bit. Terms such as “Level II” and “Level III” mean specific things in Girls’ Frontline. They only become more important down the road.
However, for anime only viewers, the specifics of what “Level II” is were not given a proper explanation or definition. Folks may be able to glean it from situational context, of course. Gentiane is not some kind of chubby demon cub, and Kalina is not a cat. A virtual reality mission briefing for a base recon and infiltration can make enough sense. It provides infinite space for the walk through. But the difference between “Level II” and higher levels has implications they will need to better draw lines between in the future.
SOPMOD II needed to guard M4A1 while she was jacked into the Sangvis defense grid this episode. Meanwhile, M4A1 was able to speak clear and free during a mere old terminal download in the first episode. Plenty of viewers might identify the huge differences in those situations and where android consciousness needed to be to get the job done. But an offhand line by Gentiane at the start of the briefing about why she was doing things this way today would help those who do not have the vocabulary down.
With the at times rather cramped pacing of the series, it may all seem like uneven application of “computer stuff” to some folks.
Hunter and her base depot are the centerpiece of the episode, and they fill this role better than some other Ringleaders have.
Even setting her appearance at the tail end of last week aside, Hunter receives plenty of screen-time. From taunting the captured ST AR-15, to communications calls and network conundrums, to taking to the field and the eventual crushing defeat, she is present and participating. As a boss caliber character, this feels appropriate to her station.
ST AR-15 re-calibrating the local Sangvis Ferri command structure to scramble their defense lines is the canonical way these events go. My concern heading into this week was how Vespid on Vespid action would play out. After the huge static panning shots but underwhelming impact of many of the Sangvis trash mob forces in the previous episode, I was dreading a repeat. We could end up in a real swamp here.
However, the camera gives little attention to the mass production enemies outside of a few key moments once combat begins. Establishing shots of them shooting each other at the start. The time when Hunter regains control authority. Some aftermath damage flavor cuts when all is said and done.
Shigeru Ueda did not become a combat direction master in the span of a week, no.
But, the scenes keep their “safe” blocking focused on the more interesting parts of the attack. Hunter trying to control the situation. Gentiane and her two assisting Commanders trying to give their orders. And, of course, the Griffin units in the field trying to advance.
If you have to choose between giving the full screen to generic mass production models getting mowed down or using the opportunity to showcase more gacha characters folks like, you may as well do the latter.
Going along with the virtual spaces I mentioned earlier, there are several cuts featuring digital tactical maps of Hunter’s base. Where things are, how units are being given their movement orders, and so on. This also cuts down on time needing to be filled by trash mobs.
The attack lasts for about half of the episode. Yet it moves along at a good clip and is not spinning its wheels on rubbish wave filler to kill time. As these things go, and all the more after having done a base defense last week, I will take this as an overall victory.
As I am writing about Girls’ Frontline as a current season and thus topical episode airing, there is one particular large caliber production quirk I would be remiss to not mention.
In the opening episode, the three star StG44 was swapped out of the forgotten Griffin units for the two star G43. The meta-textual reason was obvious enough to me. But these are lower rarity units meant to get cut down in M4A1’s escape, so it is not significant in itself either way. I knew it would be a situation which would come up again later on. The opening post was long enough as it was, and there was no need to add… this to the pile.
The five star anti-materiel rifle NTW-20 was, in the manga version of events, at the attack on Hunter’s base. Which makes perfect sense. This is the kind of rifle intended to smash entire vehicle engine blocks. Great to have for a compound with its own train depot and related armor presence.
It would never happen of course, as StG44 shares the same original voice actress as NTW-20: Ai Kayano.
To give the short version of events, lest I derail this entire post: on February 11th, 2021, Kayano posted about how she made a visit to Yasukuni Shrine, remarking what a pleasant time she had. As the shrine was founded in 1869, it has had time to build up quite a list of names over the years. It was founded to honor Japanese national war dead. And if you know enough about Japan to find your way here, you know of quite a few wars Japan engaged upon its neighbors in the time since. The shrine houses the names of, among almost two and a half million others, various Class A war criminals from World War II.
To say the site has been controversial for decades would be an absolute understatement.
Proposals for ways to remove or relocate those names have stalled time and again. It remains a controversial place for many public figures, let alone an entertainer.
Kayano has been a voice actress for anime and games for over a decade. She has built up an extensive resume, and many titles have featured her talents. Which has presented a marketing question for many properties to navigate over the past year. Even more if the material is from the People’s Republic of China, and thus a studio team being subject to any retribution by its government.
In the case of the Girls’ Frontline anime, the storyline trend seems to be to just swap and replace any unit once voiced by Ai Kayano.
For this episode then, the five star rifle NTW-20 was tagged out for another: WA2000.
Wawa, as she is often called, is a popular character and the backbone of many general purpose rifle teams within the main game. WA2000 making an appearance would seem normal and even expected by most players. She has several premium costumes.
Wawa’s anime scenes are also shot and scripted to accommodate her personality.
She gets a clean headshot off on Hunter at one point, only to have Hunter shoot the bullet out of the air. Cue a “Is that even possible?!?” reaction shock from the tsundere.
Which is also why you should never put too much stock in the idea this is somehow A Realistic Gun Series For Real Gun Lovers. Again, Mica Team is breaking away from the gun name stuff in subsequent franchise entries.
In the original game story, NTW-20 is not here for these moments anyway. So nothing would seem amiss.
Unless you already knew going into this, or otherwise just learned about it.
In an effort to get myself out from under all of this subject matter, the show has left me with something of a gift.
For the first time in the anime, we have a next episode preview after the credits.
As I have said before, I have been fond of this series not blowing its best moments a week in advance. The way they have chosen to go maintains this. The static scene is dark. Several close panning shots of character art we can not see the faces of. A final larger shot so we can see them all together on the steps of a destroyed urban building. This, accompanied with a voiceover from Helian describing how Commander Gentiane will be working with another team. More details will be forthcoming.
Anyone familiar with the flow of the game story knows who they are, of course.
You have encountered the number countless times on the internet, of course. The error number for something not being found.
A black ops unit, containing several of the most popular major event storyline characters.
This is the first time the series has attempted to use a next episode preview space to build excitement and encourage folks to tune in next week. You can only burn the first time card once, and it was executed in a way which was both suitable while not showing off clips from next week. Squad 404 would be worth breaking the established format, and we once again will have at least a two parter.
So the show knows what it has. It knows folks want to see them in action. It feels confident doing this tease.
For a nonzero number of people out there, one or two great Squad 404 episodes would justify the entire Girls’ Frontline anime.
This is the time they would be expected to show up. But this is also a huge called shot.
For the sake of critical reception and fandom reactions, I hope the production team has better luck than Wawa did when taking aim against Hunter.