Love her or hate her, you have to admit that Okada Mari knows how to make drama, and she had a hand in quite a few series this year. Nagi no Asukara started out the year, Selector Infected WIXOSS came shortly after, and the three-for-three show to series trifecta continued with M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane, which arguably comes in as the most dramatic of her 2014 works.
Set in grim backdrop with the specter of imminent demise looming, M3 was truly dramatic in all sense of the word—boasting enough regrets, sins, brooding, and relationship issues to encompass every human on this planet. And I mean this quite literally, as the Lightless Realm was essentially a physical representation of despair in this series from the start. The problem was, the start wasn’t exactly special. It clearly didn’t have a great budget at its disposal, some of the characters rubbed you the wrong way the second you saw them, and the development was slow and frustrating. The thing was, there was always the feeling that something would come from it all, and I stuck with the series to see whether it would fulfill the potential I felt it had, and if it would answer the many questions it presented in regards to what the Lightless Realm was and what the link between the characters were.
It took a bit of time—some would argue too much—but the series finally delivered on much of the promise by its climactic 16th episode, and it (and the accompanying few episodes after) remains an episode I’ll remember for quite a while. Without saying too much, that episode was the one that bought things together in a way that verified all the suspicions you had about the story up until then, and threw in a few more shocking revelations to boot. It was an episode that gave you chills from start to finish, and it only helped that it coincided with the recently revealed second ED (“SABLE” by nano) and an insert from May’n (“誰がために,” roughly Ta ga Tame ni), the first of which easily makes my top 5 ED themes this year and the second of which provides a pretty awesome BG.
As it turned out, the slow pacing was deliberate by far—each episode a slow flip through the layers of mystery present in this series. It was a decision that made the climax that much more enjoyable to watch, but also cost the series some popularity and a vast majority of its viewers, who understandably dropped this very early on. Waiting the amount of episodes it took M3 to really get good isn’t something everyone has the time or patience for, and even I—with my massive amount of patience—almost dropped this series. Like a few other series this year though, I’m glad I stuck with it for the climax alone, and it’s why I’m writing this post today.
I won’t say this ended up being a series for everyone, because it wasn’t. The slow, deliberate pacing isn’t for everyone, nor were the characters, their situations, and how they were presented. What I will say though, is that this was a series that if you liked—you’d like a lot—and for me personally, M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane was not only one of this year’s underrated gems, but also one of Okada Mari’s better works. In ways, the drama was better written than even the well-received Nagi no Asukara, and it’s a series that is more than worth watching through in my opinion. It wasn’t the best story by far, but the fact is that there’s a lot of merit in watching a story with the themes that M3 touched upon, especially in regards to how much one’s past can weigh you down, how it’s important to accept the choices you made, and the struggle one faces when expectations, views, and desires are pushed upon them. The suffering here was something else (if you’re in to that kind of thing) as well, and you just never know. If you thought this series had potential earlier, it just might be worth your while picking it up again.