OP: 「Bright Burning Shout」 by 西川貴教 (Nishikawa Takanori)
「死相 -デッドフェイス-」 (Shisou -Deddofeisu-)
Regular viewers of anime may have noticed that episode twos tend to slow down somewhat. After a no doubt riveting pilot designed to hook viewers quickly, the second episode usually pulls back to do the setup required to actually take the story in any meaningful direction — setup often skipped in the pilot in favour of more action, drama, glitter, or whatever it is that the anime is relying on to wow the audience. It’s a common technique, even outside of anime; start with a slice of Act II, the interesting stuff, and fill in Act I, the busywork, at some later point.
So, in this episode of Fate/EXTRA Last Encore: exposition! There’s the stuff we expect, like formally introducing Saber (Tange Sakura, intent on making my weekly Card Captor Sakura very weird). But since this show is written by Nasu Kinoko, we get also Nasu-style exposition. Whereas previous adaptation of the Fate/ franchise, like Unlimited Blade Works and the currently-in-theatres Heaven’s Feel, tend to smooth out Nasu’s stylistic flair, Fate/EXTRA has applied him directly to the script without filter, for better or worse. Compared to normal exposition, which is supposed to elucidate and clarify, Nasu exposition is rife with jargon, non-sequitur, and abuse of furigana (every episode title every week, I’m sure). On the one hand, it keeps the mystery going, and the cryptic nonsense will eventually pay off later when the setting and mythology start to click. On the other hand, it may sometimes feel that the show is ignoring us and just talking to itself as broken Engrish and random symbolism fly over our heads.
Miyamoto and Shinbou’s team at SHAFT seem content with taking Nasu’s self-indulgent prose and slapping audiovisuals on top of it, and to their credit that’s what they’re good at. It’s basically exactly what the Monogatari Series was, and what is Fate/Extra but Monogatari with a few more swords? I mean, Araragi is still here chewing up the scenery, we have the one blonde — we’re set. And the Monogatari staff know exactly what to do with a lengthy expositional dialogue sequence: fill it with fanservice! Why a bath in an elevator? Well, because by the time Marvelous Entertainment made Extella they had realised that Fate/Extra was all fanservice anyway, and because, well, it’s SHAFT. We need some distraction as the words are dumped on us. No matter the gibberish, the audience won’t change the channel as long as they have something to look at.
In fairness, SHAFT brings more to the table than just cheeky censorship. Last Encore is departing far away from its source game, and brings a radically different setting that SHAFT has to make pretty. I’m pleased that Last Encore is shaking things up; in the game we were stuck in the same bland high school corridors for basically half the game, and here’s an opportunity to do better. We have, apparently, seven layers of heaven to get through and I hope each of them will have new and interesting designs. At the same time, though, the pursuit of the new and interesting may lead to overambition. Despite all the talking (this is Fate/, of course there’s a lot of talking), I also get the impression that the pacing is pretty fast, and will have to be pretty fast. Every piece of cryptic nonsense is also a plot hook, after all, and for every one of those they zoomed past they’ll have to come back to later.
Still, no matter how new and different anything may be, no matter the SHAFT spin on the Fate/ aesthetic, I think we can trust in the innate Nasu nature of Last Encore. Those familiar with his works will no doubt see the patterns in Last Encore. The outwardly plain protagonist with some inner darkness. The light who will act as his foil. Some ying in the yang, some yang in the ying. Nasu’s boy-meets-girl stories tend to go this way and so too, it seem, shall Last Encore. SHAFT + Nasu could have, by all rights, been very strange. But, perhaps, not that strange.
Full-length images: 05.
Another weekly spoiler warning: please tag all your spoilers with <spoiler>. By ‘spoiler’ I mean anything that has not showed up in the anime yet. Please do not assume anything to be common knowledge. Thanks.
ED: 「月と花束」 (Tsuki to Hanataba) by さユり (Sayuri)