Concrete Revolutio #2-3 – Episode #2 is where it all comes into focus. Fūrota, a playful spirit, is recruited onto the team after his help wiping out a plague of giant bugs. But, as in the first episode, there’s a coda to the story that changes it completely.
Now it’s clear why this series is mainly set in the 1960s. The characters are living the evolution of animated stories. Killing all the giant bugs with a can of magic bug spray whipped up by the team scientist is the sort of simplistic solution that would be common in an early animated action-adventure. As the story jumps forward in time, it gains the additional complexity that was coming into the stories of later eras.
It’s also clear now why writer Shou Aikawa said in an interview that this show would be something like Watchmen, but the comparison does Concrete Revolutio a disservice. Where Watchmen tore up the Four-Color Ethos and left it in bloody, nihilistic shreds, this show says that even though things aren’t as simple as they seemed, that’s not a reason to give up trying to do the right thing. That’s the story of Jirō’s entire existence after he leaves the Superhuman Bureau.
There’s a thread about growing up, too; Fūrota wants to grow up and understand why things have become so complicated, and Kikko, in her flash-forward, announces that she has turned 20 (the age of full adulthood in Japan).
Episode #3 applies the point to imperialism by playing off the real-life story of Shōichi Yokoi, a soldier who hid out in Guam for almost 28 years after World War II ended. In his own way, Shiba can’t accept that the war is over, and clings to a simplistic narrative of nationalism. The androids conceived as an ultimate weapon have been made intelligent enough to reject that narrative. Indeed, it’s clear right from Mieko’s first appearance that what she really wants is to save her counterpart from being used for war.
With that made clear, what else could Concrete Revolutio have in store for us? The main storyline is moving through the ’60s quickly, and the jumps forward are moving around a lot. I’d love to see it hit at least the ’90s and give its spin on the changes that that decade brought to animation. That could be amazing.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans #2-3 – This show has also decided what it’s about, and that topic is child soldiers. Mars is set up as a future equivalent to sub-Saharan Africa– it’s stopped being an asset to its colonial overlord, life is hard, and it’s so bad for the orphans that their choices are to either fight or starve in the streets. And this has been normalized in their society to the point where only two characters so far, Kudelia and Crank, are truly horrified by the situation.
Mikazuki has been shaped by this life into the sort of person who can dispassionately kill people not just on the battlefield, but in any situation ordered by his commander. Undoubtedly he will warm up over time and come to understand why a few people might find this so horrifying. But you know, I don’t think he’s really the protagonist.
I think the real protagonist is Kudelia. At first, she was the completely idealistic activist thinking she could solve everything with a few speeches. I think this is the story of how she learns to effect real change.
Kagewani #2-3 – Kagewani is so effective with short episodes that one wonders if full-length ones would have been outright detrimental to the story. Here we get two more tight vignettes of monsters appearing in remote places. Episode #2 comes off the best of the stories so far, because the heroine gets a chance to use her wits rather than being Random Attack Victim of the Week.
#3 drops the news that at least some of the monsters are mutated humans. Not that this is the first hint that there could be some human factor to the monsters, what with Professor Bamba’s monster-derived miracle drug and his pulsating scar. It is possible he suspected this right from the beginning. I wonder if he suspects his drug might be linked to all of this?
8-minute episodes mean the plot isn’t going to be advancing a whole lot from week to week, but this is so good, I’d like to to keep it in the commentary lineup anyway.
Utawarerumono: The False Faces #2-3 – Since Haku has a talent for math and mechanical things, and Kuon is determined to see him gainfully employed before she parts ways with him, she decides the best use for him is in the imperial capital. That may be the best way of getting the hero-from-our-world-dumped-into-the-primitive-fantasy-world into the heart of the action that I’ve seen in a long time.
In the process, the party picks up a seasoned fighter and a first-level magic-user, who, in the grand tradition of spellcasters, is an even bigger wimp than Haku but casts a mean firestorm if everyone keeps out of the way for three or four rounds. Maroro may be mostly serving as comic relief, but the animation and acting rise to the occasion. He’s not just any comic relief, he’s far and away the most entertaining character to watch in this entire show.
Utawarerumono is keeping the writing sharp and the production values high, while sprinkling in lots of neat little worldbuilding details. This should be a great show to follow to the end.
Garo: Crimson Moon #2 – Wrapped around a plot about the mystical aspect of swords is a lot of setting-establishing business. Seimei and Raikō answer a summons to all the Makai Knights and Alchemists in the imperial capital (Heian-kyō, modern-day Kyoto), which appears to consist of, er, the two of them. Seimei has a politically powerful suitor (one of the chief advisors to the emperor) pressuring her to take up her duties as a noblewoman. Raikō doesn’t know who he really is, just that he was able to survive a demon attack at an early age.
Most interesting is that Seimei isn’t set up as Raikō’s love interest, as one might expect, but as his mentor and guardian. Although she explicitly asks him not to call her “mother”, she is essentially his foster parent.
While Garo is still putting forth some beautiful art in some scenes, the overall animation quality has taken a shocking dive. I hope that’s just a momentary stumble.
But I won’t be sticking around to find out. This column aims to discuss shows that the majority of the Amazing Stories readership can actually watch, and with streams into only four countries, Garo doesn’t meet that requirement. So long, I’m sorry to say.