「宇宙を臨むもの」 (Uchū o Nozomumono)
“Those Who Look Upon Space”
I wasn’t actually expecting much from an episode about the Angel Stars, them being arguably the least consequential of season 1’s superhumans. They never actually did much except to act as goons for the villain (on the assumption that cobra staff = villain, because Disney), and sometimes sing. Good thing there was plenty of entertainment to be found anyway, mainly in the continued rivalry between Emi and Kikko. They make a surprisingly good duo despite how catty the relationship actually is. It helps that Kikko is the main source of comic relief in a serious show, which helps her reflect some of the malice from her snarky youkai senpai. I suspect that they’re both going to lose, though; that’d be the funniest outcome, in a darkly ironic sort of way.
I was actually wrong about the Angel Stars, though, or at least the one member that this episode guest stars; she brought plenty of meat to the table. Turns out, ‘Angel Stars’ is quite the appropriate name for those who despair of the earth, and made for a temporarily interesting motif. Her actual story is not really too different to others we’ve seen in Concrete Revolutio—disillusionment with society, justice, yada yada—but she opens up a few interesting angles, beyond the usual clash of ideals (for starters, she supposedly embodied a lack of ideals). In fact, I think this was perhaps Concrete Revolutio‘s most substantive episode to date, simply by virtue of how much they tried to pack in. Let’s just count all the issues they raised on a short 20 minutes:
- The human condition.
- Undocumented residents.
- Space, the new frontier.
- LGBT discrimination.
- The War.
- The moon falling in three days a la Majora’s Mask.
And this is not counting all the plot details that Concrete Revolutio also has to cover, like the nature of the fumers, human augmentation, whatever the deal is with Master Ultima, and the continuation of Professor Hitoyoshi’s shady work. All the while, it also tries to remain entertaining, providing the ridiculous fights with plenty of collateral damage so that we can have something to go with our popcorn. To call Concrete Revolutio ‘busy’ would not be the half of it.
One must admire Concrete Revolutio for, if nothing else, ambition (and I wish more people watched it for just that). But there is the matter of scope, and practical limits to it. Sure, there are no ends of social issues one can shine light on, and the 60s was a bottomless well of contention that can be plumbed for material, and it’s worthwhile for anime to address some serious topic once in a while, but to address them all at once may be beyond the ability of any single show. Concrete Revolutio has made a good effort of it, to be sure, and so far it’s managed to keep itself together so far, but in realistic terms there’s only so much one can shove into a show before it implodes from the bloat. It hasn’t happened yet, in my opinion—I watched this episode afraid the entire time that Concrete Revolutio would finally go over the cliff of incoherence, but it never did and managed to link everything together in the end, somehow. And I’m sure that there was those who didn’t follow along quite as well (and I’m not 100% sure I’m 100% on board myself) and may be quite lost. Concrete Revolutio is certainly an unapologetic show; if you can’t keep up, it’ll leave you behind. I’m wondering whether if Concrete Revolutio, in its ambition, is sacrificing too much accessibility. And its wide coverage also necessarily sacrifices depth. I’m not saying that this show is shallow—far from it, and it has mostly managed to tie all these disparate issues into some central themes—but some topics, like this week’s ostracised-into-suicide lesbian couple could have perhaps used closer examination. It is one thing for any medium to be thought provoking, and Concrete Revolutio certainly is, but one can go higher than that. Speculative fiction has always been very good at asking questions. The real test is how it answers them—or whether it is able to at all.