「笑顔 / 燃ゆる過去」 (Egao / Moyuru Kako)
“Smiles / The Burning Past”
Important Note: Sorry for being so late in reviewing literally all the episodes this season. My new year’s resolution (yep, I’m going there), is to publish within 24 hours of an episode release. If any of you are still with me, hold me to that!
I’m going to state it right now before I vent a lot, but this series, just like the final two episodes, was overall a beautiful and entertaining mess.
These two episodes were very emotionally charged. The question on everyone’s mind had been: “What happened that night 12 years ago?” And these episodes provided a deep understanding of Shinra’s emotions and his past, the two things which were acting as hooks for the season. The truth was always looming over him and his smile is what kept him from really exploring that pain.
It took a horrific battle between two brothers, a dishevelled 8th Company, and an emotional Sho before we finally got the answer. Shinra, of course, took the bulk of the beating and as a result, ended up looking like a skeleton. I’m not too sure how I feel with the 6th Company’s sudden ‘ideal’ appearance. This is one of the many issues I have with the series. Why was it deemed necessary not to present the 6th company until now? Did I perhaps miss a mention of this in previous episodes? It’s always so convenient, but either way, story-wise, it allowed members of the 8th and Lisa to heal their wounds.
Their base also set the scene for Burns and Shinra’s head to head. Why is it that Shinra always finds himself in the midst of battle. Even after practically dying and coming back to life, he’s still pushed to the edge so he can find out what happened to his family.
The story of his mother and brother, which I won’t go into detail too much for anyone who hasn’t watched yet, was really painful to watch, especially this moment. For a series that can play with a steady balance of comedy and action, it sure does drama (trauma) really well. I definitely appreciate a show that can navigate all sorts of emotions within just a few minutes, and that’s something I will always value in Enen no Shouboutai.
But now, with the mystery of that night resolved, there is a new ‘hook’ and question plaguing us (me). If Shinra and Sho’s mother is truly still alive, where has she been? Why hasn’t she been detected? Who is a) using her? b) hiding her? And how in the world will Shinra succeed this time?
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I underestimated Shinra’s ability to become a hero for his brother and I’ll admit I was wrong to think that. And if I was wrong about that, I promise not to go into the second season thinking he won’t be able to save his mother.
From now on, Shinra is a hero and will always be one in my eyes.
Off the bat, Enen no Shouboutai was captivating in its sequencing, its animation, and its story. Honestly, I enjoy this ‘post-cataclysm’ world our characters find themselves in. I like the convoluted ideologies plaguing the Tokyo Empire, whether old or new. The main issue I’d say I have with the series, which is why I refer to it as a ‘mess’ is the exposition.
When it’s convenient, supporting characters are put on stand by in order to narrate and describe word for word the scene unfolding in front of us. It’s an unnecessary tool contributing to unwanted and confusing exposition. A good example is watching Dr. Licht explain Shinra and Sho’s now 4th generation abilities. I think the character cards describing the powers and names of each pyrokinetic user are enough to explain to the audience what’s happening but when it goes into detail, the series treads on a thin line between being educational and entertaining.
I think the same can be said about the Evangelist, the Holy Sol, Amaterasu, Haijima Industries, and the Cataclysm. There are so many factions that not explored in depth. Haijima was very present in the beginning, and like Joker, slowly faded into the background once the Evangelist made their presence known. The connection, for me, between the two is still very unclear. That can be said about so many of the factions and the characters. Most of the plot points are left open or hanging by a thread and I’m wondering if the second season will have its hands full trying to cover or complete them.
But now that I’ve briefly discussed the mess, I want to particularly point out how much fun I had watching this series. If someone is looking to start a new show, or looking for a recommendation, this would be my “If you have time, it’s worth the watch” suggestion. It’s fun, the animation is great, it follows some character tropes but overall, will leave you wanting to watch the next episode. It’s by no means boring and offers an interesting and unique world. Plus, there’s no way in hell you won’t warm up to Shinra, even if he’s a tad one-note at times. He’s a good lead and he has some stellar support.
I guess my final words on the matter would be that the first season ran smoothly with a few hiccups, and I’m actually looking forward to the next season which airs in Summer 2020.