The part where the story starts.
There are a handful of frustrating phrases when it comes to recommending a piece of media to another person.
But perhaps chiefest among them is every dreaded variation of “It starts slow, but if you can make it to a certain point, it gets a lot better!”
I have had similar words said to me before, as well as deployed them myself. Sometimes, they even work.
Have you heard of the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV? With an expanded free trial which you can play through the entirety of A Realm Reborn and the award winning Heavensward expansion up to level 60 for free with no restrictions on playtime.
The above has become more than a mere meme over time. But indeed, for as big as Final Fantasy XIV has become, there is a constant refrain you hear from many players. The importance of making it out of the first available story arc, A Realm Reborn, to reach Heavensward.
Many players of mobile gacha game juggernaut Fate/Grand Order will say the story arcs and writing improves upon reaching the Camelot and Babylonia chapters. The former would even go on to become a two part film series, and the later a television show. Having played my way there myself, I can assure you going through the game to get to those points will take several hours. But they are, indeed, a step up in writing from what came before.
I consider the surprise assault at the secret Griffin and Kryuger conference to mark the start our similar point. As a long time player of Girls’ Frontline, this is where our world begins to expand. The story starts to show more threads to pull on. Prior to this, things have been quite Monster of the Week. Bopping whatever Sangvis Ferri command unit was between us and a member of the AR Team, before moving on. The long general tutorial, as it were, is over now. Major story events such as Deep Dive and Singularity, as well as the normal chapters to reach them, become much more satisfying page-turners.
Those journeys will still take time to reach, even if we have some fireworks along the way.
As you are by all means aware if you have read this far: we are two thirds into the season at this point. I have a decent guess at the moment what plot point the show aims to leave us on.
It becomes a real question if this will be a one and done series, or if the Girls’ Frontline anime will be receiving any additional seasons, movies, specials, etc.
At the time of this writing: We do not know.
I did speculate back in episode one about Asahi Production being an interesting choice for this reason. Anime production is far more complicated than studio choices. But an Asahi core may be easier to keep booked than competing options for followups.
But speculation is all I have to go on.
I hope we will get to see more of what I know is on the other side.
To begin talking about the actual episode then. Gentiane and Kalina going through secret video files of the AR Team, and the mission back in episode one presents something of a conundrum for the Commander.
Even if M4A1 has a command module, the mission was far too important to run without a human in control. Many of the video angles coming from drone footage would also suggest this entity should have been able to remain in contact. Yet, the AR Team has no recollection of such a person in the lead. Also, the files making up this footage could only have been planted for discovery after the fact. So whoever it was would require full trust in cutting the AR Team loose deep in Sangvis Ferri territory, and having them get back together. As part of this process, coming under the leadership of a Commander who would think to fiddle with the files enough to even retrieve the decoded video.
Kalina speculates about trust. Gentiane may not have been the intended recipient. There may not have ever been any target at all. But someone wanted to reach out, in this way, to make their presence known to the right person.
There is a puzzle aspect to it all driving Gentiane up a wall, but there is no time for getting to the bottom of it right now. There is a business trip to attend.
The thing about surprise base attacks is trying to sell them as, well, a surprise.
Players of the mobile game knew all too well what was about to happen. But setting the scene before the inevitable is still important.
Having Gentiane take a moment to overlook the AR Team in the cafeteria enjoying coffee and soda as a group before their security detail is a nice touch. It dovetails with Gentiane watching old training footage several episodes back. In particular, a post-mission snack break she did not want to skip to get a better idea of M4A1’s personality with her team. As well as using her base camera equipment to eavesdrop on ST AR-15 giving a bit of a pep talk to M4A1 some time later. While the entire AR Team is all here now, and much closer, Gentiane does not take a moment to drop in herself.
There is a distance and a concern which keeps bugging her.
Gentiane gets to meet and greet the Commanders who have helped her in some previous episodes as support, as well as some additional folks she has yet to work with.
She also takes a moment in the lounge to introduce herself and thank the androids present as well, PPK and Super SASS. PPK is quite surprised by this gesture. This again helps to note Gentiane as different from her fellow Commanders. PPK gets to snipe snide and suggestive remarks about her own Commander more than once this episode. Kamolov, as well as everyone else, has no idea how to interact with her shenanigans. So I was glad she was able to make a return as I hoped. She helps set a lighter and more comedic tone for the few minutes we need it, without seeming out of place. Gentiane running a mock battle with Kamolov and winning through the power of, again, speaking to her units and getting to know them before deploying seeks to further highlight how out of touch some Commanders are.
We do not get to see the mock battle itself, which I am of two minds about. Showing even some of it would allow a whole bunch of characters to get a little screentime pretty much all at once. It could also highlight some lighter moments before the artillery bombs start to go off. However, if it went too far into hijinks mode for even a bit too long, something being amiss would start to be quite obvious to viewers.
The show was already using several comedic shot compositions and cutaway gag faces in the lounge. Which the series had never deployed much up until this episode.
One thing which I feel could have been brought up for a moment is one of the new androids featured in multiple shots throughout the episode: SR-3MP.
She is otherwise known to the player-base as “Shrimp.” The spelling being similar enough, as well as her long braids allowing her to strike a similar profile to the cocktail favorite. In real life this is a very compact assault rifle, while in the game the wielder is classified as a sub-machine gun. The developers have never specified why, but I assume the unique form factor presented an inspired choice for an oddball unit. Shrimp’s stat-line and abilities are such where she has some quite monstrous glass cannon level damage, at the expense of any kind of accuracy. To make this character work in the game, an entire team needs to be built around her specific skills and weaknesses. Entire guides exist around how her math operates. How to push her damage multipliers as high as possible. A dedicated Shrimp team can be amusing as a novelty. But she is dreadful for any kind of prolonged engagement.
A defensive base siege slug fest is her absolute worst nightmare.
Shrimp is on the frontline, as she would need to be positioned in a formation. Several of her Dummy Links take direct hits during the attack as it goes on. She can not hold her position against the oncoming waves. But I feel if she had a bit of setup regarding her abilities, there could have been a bit more weight to how terrible her situation is. And by extension, her nearby human Commander, even if they do move to fall back. For regular anime viewers in particular, who do not have this information on their mind during the episode. The danger of an overwhelming assault is obvious enough, of course. But noting how key forward position T-Dolls are not suited for holding the line for long would also help sell the scene.
Elsewhere, as the player Commander and Gentiane are knocked out at the start of the artillery barrage: upon waking up, this is the first time they meet Berezovich Kryuger himself. I always liked Kryuger’s line about how you must be sick of seeing his face on the company newsletter. It is light, but also good to know if you can identity a familiar enough face before needing to head into a firefight. He offers a handgun to the injured Commander for the ongoing assault. Much like how the adaptation of M4A1 being choked by Agent in the first episode was handled: what was in the original game a scene of hellfire is now a dark sequence with blown out lights. Again, I feel the choice works for the chaotic needs of the scene. Unimpressive fire is often worse than no fire at all.
The human commanders and their science fiction augmented reality combat suits might throw some folks for a loop. Given how narrow our field of view has been of the world up until this point however, any jarring quality is warranted. As Gentiane mutters to herself, this is not supposed to be her job. And as Shi Jun is none too pleased to consider, their survival is in the hands of the AR Team taking care of a mission with M4A1’s independent leadership.
The technology level of the world is one where a private military company is picking up offloaded civilian model androids. Sales clerks, bakers, whatever, and repurposing them for combat duty with human firearms. While this has been touched on a bit, the entire idea would be to minimize costs. On a corporate scale, dead androids are cheap to repair, refit, and replace. Civilian androids are cheaper than “proper” military grade ones. Humans are much more fragile, even if the safety of her units is never far from Gentiane’s heart. High grade field command equipment for humans would of course be within the possible technology of a world with such ample androids. It makes sense for a PMC to have a supply on hand for more complex mission needs. However, when so much of day to day android infantry command can often be done from one side of a computer monitor, many stay safe in a base.
I am almost impressed the anime did not use the opportunity to have a short reused animation flashback to Scarecrow taunting Gentiane in episode two about this exact situation.
This too is a way of getting to know your androids.