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.


  1. This was a pretty good series the second half was far better than the first. I am glad I stuck it through because I absolutely hate bad endings and this one was done right imo.

    1. Aye. It was a hopeful ending, and those tend to be my favorites as well. Also, it was pretty straight forward and gave enough time for a proper epilogue, which goes to show how you don’t always have to go for epic impact in your finales and how important it is to just give that adequate time to show viewers a proper conclusion.

  2. If it gets better I guess I’ll give it one more chance and make it pas episode 16 @ the least. You are so on point with some of the characters just getting under ur skin. That chick and her journal got to me. You think she would of stopped writing at some point like when someone died. Lol

  3. i felt the drama was too “mari okada” it was rather forced, and exaggerated in my opinion.
    And i felt the series was too focused on Heito whenever he appeared, he regularly stole the spotlight and its a shame he didn’t get much character development so i can find a reason to hate him less.

    1. oh and that annoying crazed-candy-eating-professor was awful. His death wasn’t as satisfying as i hoped it would. Considering the premise/nature/atmosphere of the series being similar to Muv-Luv, his death wasn’t as horrifying and nearly as with much suffering.

      I enjoyed the mecha designs though they were quite distinct, i didn’t like the character designs at first but they slowly grew on me

  4. I’ll echo a comment I saw elsewhere – this delivered on its themes far, far better than Captain Earth did.

    Certainly it was far more consistent in its message. Consider, for instance, how all 8+1 of the main characters (with the arguable exception of Iwato) begin as various negative character archetypes, and ever-so-slowly peel themselves towards the more positive spectrum of said character archetypes through ‘connection’ with other people. In retrospect, the ‘Lightless Realm’ itself is rather obviously a rather huge and glaring metaphor for the darker side of human emotion.

    The drama did, of course, get more than a little heavy-handed at times, and a couple of episodes in between were a bit eye-roll provoking – but that’s about par for the course for the writer. In this show I think she had a rather better and more ambitious concept to work with than with some of her recent works.

    One thing, I suppose, is that it doesn’t fit the billing as a mecha show. The mecha are themselves just a convenient metaphorical vehicle (no pun intended) for what is very much more a character and thematic drama than anything else. (And yet, it still managed to have more tension in its mecha fights than Captain Earth ever really managed to engender. Go figure.) Even considering this, however, I would rate this overall above Captain Earth and Aldnoah Zero, and provisionally below Argevollen (which isn’t finished) as a story.

  5. I will firstly admit that I did enjoy this series. BUT I will also admit – this was not a good series. The themes in this show are about as elegant as a seagull being bludgeoned to death with a mallet. It was a mess. I’m not sure if it was entirely the original or the subs fault but the dialog was horribly hamfisted and tacky. I actually dunno why I liked the series. I wouldn’t recommend it.

    1. Yep, I really would’ve liked if part of the screentime that Sasame & Akashi got would’ve been given to Mahmu,Iwato & Raika(Emiru too of course,although it was kind of hard to do in her situation so I guess that’s understandable).

  6. i’d like to say that imho they killed the best characters in the first eight episodes: emuru and heito…they presented emiru like the female lead and then meh dead.Probably i didn’t like this choice but if i would have rooted sasame or tsugumi or anyone else i would have liked this show.Sorry for the language,i’m not english ^_^

  7. Stuck with it for the hell of it. Hell, I finished Glasslip so I can finish this. Anyway, what really impressed me was the first OP/ED of this show. That was really good and was kinda sad when I got to the second half because I used to watch this show just for the OP/ED especially the OP sequence.

  8. They took quite a long time to build up the world and such in the beginning.
    I really liked how the atmosphere was handled, it’s grim, they handled the charactes well.
    Who would have expected someone like Mahmu to turn out into the person we know at the end? This show is indeed a hidden gem.

    The theme of the shows was pretty much “Reaching out to others”. If you think about it, they had a lot of that going on.

    Raika and Iwato was also the OTP of the year.

  9. You pretty much summed up my thoughts on M3 entirely Zephyr.

    I’ll say also say what I’ve said on MAL & animesuki a few times,that M3 is a show that got better as it went on and honestly,with the direction the series took, the events that took place in the 1st half that many people(myself included) were pissed off at(such as Okada having Emiru be turned into a LIM and playing favorites with Sasame) weren’t really so bad as I thought they were. I remember bashing on it quite a bit back and while I still believe that Akashi & Sasame’s forced Okada-style attraction towards each other was the weakest part of the series, it luckily didn’t focus on that as much as I thought it would.

    Instead,the mystery of the Lightless Realm, our protagonists, their past & relation to it were all revealed properly. That wasn’t all there was to it either due to a few twists that followed which were also concluded properly and everyone played their part in it.

    With proper execution, M3 could’ve probably been one of the best shows of spring/summer but alas,it didn’t quite get it. One of my biggest complaints besides the usual Okada pitfalls which Obelisk mentioned and I kept ranting on about throughout the show’s run along with the over-the-top behavior of some characters such as Heito & Natsuiri that can really get on your nerves is the awful BGM used during the action scenes. However, it wasn’t nearly as a lot of people make it out to be either so I’d say it’s a good show worth the watch for someone who wants a mystery-drama with some mecha. Many people just jumped on the hate train early on and never got off it,whether they continued watching the show or not. I think that,to get some enjoyment out of this series it’s important to let go of the hatred towards some characters that may initially rub you the wrong way. Once you do that,they might even grow on you a little but as Zephyr said,it may take quite some time for some of them which is one of undoubtedly one of the show’s pitfalls.

    At any rate,my stance with Mari Okada is once again unchanged after M3,just like it was after Nagi no Asukara. I dislike her over-the-top drama & behavior of some characters yet I can’t help but be entertained by her shows to a certain degree. I kind of gave up on the idea that I’ll see anything of high quality from her but she continues to be a mixed bag for me,one that somehow still manages to entertain and not always because her shows are entertaining trainwrecks a.k.a. so bad they’re good. Like,while Aquarion EVOL fit’s that I wouldn’t say M3 does. Which type is more entertaining however, is up to each of us to decide.

    ‘Guess I’ll continue to check out her shows,lol 😛

    1. Heh. I’ll say that I wish the show had a bit more budget, because that likely would’ve helped out in a few respects.

      As for Okada Mari, I inevitably watch all her shows when it’s all said and done, heh. Bit overdramatic at times I’ll admit, but dunno, right down my alley for whatever reason. Hard to pin down exactly why I like her shows so much.

  10. The middle portion won me over with this show, most definitely. feel the ending was kind of a dip, but overall this was a very good show. Definitely the most underrated show of the year so far.

  11. Was really surprised that everyone from the main cast survived. o__O I was expecting more deaths in the end. For such a melancholie series seeing the “best ending” was a shock.

    1. I was kind of wondering whether or not it’d happen myself. But I mean, part of the thematic focus was the notion of hope and banding together to face the future together, so the possibility was there. Still surprising, but in hindsight not so much.

  12. So how does it compare to something like Bokurano .. from your description it really reminded me a lot of it .. if you watched it can you tell me how do they compare in terms of pacing, character development, story progression .. etc etc.

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