「死の谷III」 (Shi no Tani III)
“The Valley of Death III”
Here lies a man who was born a human, lived his life as a human, and died as a human. Died happy, in the end…though you may not be.
Wishing For Death
To the young – the younger than I, or just the less introspective and empathetic – perhaps immortality seems like a grand thing. Personally, I agree with Hampnie – the thought of being alive when all your friends and family have long since passed away is a thing of horror. I don’t blame Hampnie for seeking his death, though what initially surprised me was that he was doing it even though he’s still so young. It makes sense, though – he has a time limit that other immortals (ones in other stories) do not have, a limit before his world is shorn of all companionship, his chance of death perhaps slipping away along with them. That thought drove him onward, to search for his lover and to search for his death, before it was too late. Hampnie’s life was the very stuff of tragedy, from the minute he could walk out freely under the sun.
A Father After All
Hampnie being Ai’s father was really no surprise. Were this reality of course, there would be every reason to assume that he wouldn’t be – a man stumbling across his unknown daughter is exceedingly unlikely. This being a story though, it was all but certain, especially after the tantalizing glimpse of the picture last episode that told the whole story.
I feel like there’s more I want to say here, but I’m not sure what it is. I will talk about “convenient” plot points in a moment, and Hampnie being Ai’s father could be said to be one, but some allowances must be made for the very basis of the story – after all, grand stories are not told about characters to whom normal things happen, but those which have remarkable experiences. It works, and it gave us some touching moments, which I very much enjoyed.
A Happy Death
Here’s where I start criticizing the story again. First of all, those baddies. They are the very definition of characters as devices (trope!), in that they were utterly one-dimensional and flat, having no depth and no purpose to exist other than the effect they had on Hampnie and Ai’s story. I don’t demand that every character be super well-rounded, but I feel like these guys being so one-dimensional hurt the story. One of our main characters died to such unremarkable, badly characterized people? Points to the seiyuu of the one that did all the talking, though. I’m not 100% certain since I don’t think they said the character’s name (or he was so otherwise unimportant that I instantly forgot it), but I’m pretty sure that was Yoshino Hiroyuki in full-on amazing mode. He did wonders with what he had. Bravo!
Now, onto Hampnie’s death – the final one that is, the one he only got up from for a little while. It smacked of convenience. He went around getting killed and resurrecting all this time, and he finally runs out of extra lives when its most dramatically appropriate? Perhaps there’s a justification for this, but if so I would have liked to hear it before this episode ended, because as is it smacks of the writer deciding that this would be the most dramatic moment for him to die, so damn the rules of the world they created, I will make it so! This was bittersweet solely for the sake of the feels, without the solid writing backing it up that would have made it work well. At the risk of being pilloried in the comments, that was disappointing.
Mind you, the final moments of this episode were powerful, especially when the ED began to play – oh gods, that ED. An excellent song that was utilized perfectly; if I was writing my OP & ED post today, I would have undoubtedly mentioned it. Feelings were had, and they were bittersweet, with emphasis on the bitter. For him to wake up for one last day…it was a gift to Ai, this one day with her father, the only day where they both knew what they were to one another. But for her to lose everything all over again? Hello knife. Oh my yes, go ahead and twist that sucker into my side. That feels good. Oh no, wait, FU–!!
Bittersweet endings can be very, very powerful, but the convenience of Hampnie’s death robbed his of that power. Also, it happened on episode three. So there’s that too.
Well, I certainly didn’t expect a main character to die (permanently, I’m assuming) at episode three. It will be interesting to see where things go from here, now that the band has been broken up and Ai has to go it solo. What I most look forward to is to see where her new found resolve to save the world will take her. She’s had her doomed hometown (trope!) burned down, and even an extra death to propel her forward…I wonder where our little Ai Astin will go from here.
Fortunately for you, you won’t have to hear me yak about this show anymore – Zanibas is back, so he’ll be covering this from next week onward. A good episode to hand things off on, I think. Please treat my adorable kouhai well, as always.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Convenience robs what could have been a fantastic episode of much of its power. So much done right, to fall flat to lazy writing #kaminai
- Yuri sure got off his I-want-to-die kick real quick. Is it because of Ai? Because there’s another “daughter” he can protect?
- I forgot to mention – we got the final word on why Hampnie exterminated Ai’s village. Apparently she can’t sense the recently dead like Scar can. A village of the dead, still moving for the sake of one little girl, the youngest child on the planet…what great people they were.
- It’s undeniable that some of the shots in this show are artistically beautiful, while others are straight up scenery porn. I’m fine with both of these.
- Does this mean no more loli punting? Probably for the best. Seriously Hampnie, it was getting old. Oh, right–he can’t hear me. He’s dead. Awkward…
For more from yours truly, check out my blog on writing, art, and the book I’m working on at stiltsoutloud.com.