Devil Survivor 2 The Animation – 04
「DAY 2 – 激動の月曜日III」 (Gekido no Getsuyobi III)
“DAY 2 – Monday’s Turmoil 3″
Maybe it’s because the general mood seems to be about epic monster shows again. Maybe it’s because EVA 3.33 is just around the corner. Maybe it’s because of that amazing opening act in Shingeki no Kyoujin that almost nothing else this season, action or destruction-wise, can hold a candle to. Maybe I’m just being hard on it because I absolutely adore the “monster” genre. Regardless, what would otherwise be a pretty outstanding episode of DeSu2A in a lighter season get a middling mark from me here. So get ready folks, because here comes another one of my rants.
I’m still loving what Kishi is trying to do with this adaptation. Having played the game through, I can tell that this guy knows the source material well. He knows the strengths and flaws of this narrative bloated for the sake of gameplay padding, and is excising the fat. He’s constantly doing his damndest to bring some of the best bits, the apocalyptic and survival elements the game couldn’t convey well enough, to the animated screen with some degree of success, although I feel this might end up being something only players of the game can appreciate. There’s a lot more going on in the background of this whole septentriones business, as we see the separate factions starting to emerge with the demon-affiliated Alcor (Sakurai Takahiro) as well as Ronaldo in this episode. And so far, Kishi’s doing a marvelous job tying the branching plots together.
But what this episode brought into focus is that the execution seems to be falling flat. Four episodes in and I’m still having trouble connecting with the characters as they risk their lives to fight Merak, and by this point it’s no longer an issue that can be simply dismissed. Hibiki’s character is still flawlessly one-note in his repeated musings about his responsibility to protect everyone, although it seems he’s close to his breaking point by the end of the episode. The rest aren’t much better, or are otherwise like Alcor that speaks of choices and testing humanity, whom we still know too little about. It thus falls to newly introduced character Ronaldo Kukuri (Koyama Rikiya) to stir things up with his attack on JP’s and his invitation to Hibiki about joining him, which going by that ending means he must’ve accepted. At this point, I’m desperately hoping for this switching of sides -or anything at all- to give some depth to our characters, because there’s really so much that can be explored character-wise in the context of the setting.
I said that the Septentrione fight would make or break this show, but my mind about it is right now split in two. If I’m to be completely honest, I’d say I loved Merak’s fight, and all the things about it: The a constant sense of mortality for the humans. The impressively tense state of emergency JP’s was in as the army lines are broken and the Tsutenken barrier repeatedly attacked. The huge scope of the battle, where a JP’s army literally summons hundreds of demons only to be wiped out by the blasts from Merak. The Septentrione itself, which was everything a good monster should be: Utterly imposing, with some impressively destructive attacks to boot. But at the same time, Bridge’s average animation quality sticks like mud and occasionally rears its head, such as with the lazy attack animations. (3rd time with the Byakko orbital lightning. Really Bridge?) Perhaps most damnable is that the fight itself seem to carry little emotional weight with regards to the characters, ultimately leaving it an entertaining but slightly hollow experience. A poor man’s Eva, if you will.
The mood of this episode is impeccable, I’ll give Studio Bridge that. DeSu2A is looking positively apocalyptical now, and there’s that immense gloom of this familiar world falling in such ruin. There’s a sense of desperation to the fight present throughout, where multitudes die just to take down that single septentrione. Under Kishi’s direction, they’re really emphasising on the titular “survivor” aspect of the story, something the game’s narrative always seemed to be at odds with. And with Kishi’s considerably darker take on the storyline, it’s so far been working out really well for this show.
But still, why is the disappointment still there? To answer that, I look to Shingeki no Kyoujin which -barring plot and setting- almost seems to match aspects of Kishi’s thematic direction for DeSu2A. The desperation of survival, and the instinctual conflict between fighting and flying that comes with it. Except SnK’s case, this is nearly always better executed in any example, be it characterization or cinematography, action or moodiness. Hannes’s split-decision to leave Eren’s mom behind still holds far more emotional weight that any of Hibiki or Io’s musings about fighting for JP’s. Perhaps the key here is in the emotional heft of both shows; no one can possibly deny SnK carrying it in the heaps, and I had thought Keita’s death would bring some of that weight to DeSu2A as well. But alas, it’s still largely missing where it rightly should be.
Well, my apologies for not talking much about the actual episode itself. Suffice to say, it was decent enough and I enjoyed it, but not as much I had hoped to. I’m still in for the long haul with this, and no, it’s not just because I’m blogging it. The execution leaves much to be desired, but Kishi’s direction has been solid; I’ll not be surprised if this ends up being the best example of how a game adaption (barring VNs) should be brought to screen at the end of all this. Even if what I’m watching can still be loads better, I don’t remember DeSu2 being quite this entertaining early on in the game’s story. And I like to believe this is not all DeSu2A has to offer; No doubt this going to be a dark, weighty story that explores some really interesting themes, and I really hope it can bring out the emotional heft in its execution for those themes to feel more relevant when we eventually get there.
Full-length images: 10.