「前作より進歩するべし!」 (Zensaku yori Shinpo Surubeshi!)
“Let’s Do Better Than Last Time!”
The worst thought that can run through any creative type’s mind is the question, “Will this suck?” The idea of presenting something you made and having it picked apart and dissected by an array of peers, critics, and audiences is an agonizing experience. It’s never a good sign when you have someone saying that a film, game, or show was “made for the fans” when their idea for a good time is being pacified by what they want to see out of a specific property. At the same time, making a product for mass consumption might not be as stimulating and gives you the challenge of making sure that you adhere to a higher level of standards to create an inoffensive material that answers all of its questions and mysteries immediately. In short, you can’t please everyone.
But Asakusa’s struggle in this episode really solidifies this anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach when the ideas that you thought made sense in your mind get harder and harder to explain the more that you work out the logistics behind it. As an aspiring novelist, one of the major pitfalls I fall into is trying to work out the logic of a situation out of fear of someone picking apart the lore or present plot holes that otherwise felt like they’d be easy to explain. And you can’t just create an addendum for a story when the structure of the narrative is too ironclad to include any other extraneous detail to without it all crumbling apart.
This level of paranoia made it tough for Asakusa to focus on what exactly the logic behind her mecha short was going to be when she was trying to iron out the details with the Art Club. It all looked so easy when they were working out the story with the Eizouken and the Robotics Club, but when others get involved, especially with Kanamori’s push to get the Art Club to help them make frames at a faster pace, it gives more people a reason to come forward and ask about why a mecha would operate in a certain way. It was interesting and all-too-relatable to see Asakusa get random bursts of inspiration as her emotional state continued to waver between wanting to scrap everything entirely to focus on a new project and full confidence in her present project by reigniting the spark that made everything come together in the first place.
Episode 06 was also another point in which Kanamori had to push herself into becoming more of a workhorse for the Eizouken as she hustled from place-to-place, club-to-club to secure resources for themselves. You’re already working yourself to the bone by trying to get Asakusa to stay focused and keep her from jumping ship on a project that already has days worth of investment poured into it. But then, you have to have the sharp wit of someone like Kanamori to stretch yourself thin enough to use nothing but persuasion and manipulation to have access to the resources needed to create anime. She had some great moments in this episode with the hilarious scene where she visited the Student Council to get a better idea of what she can use as leverage to get the Sound Club to give the Eizouken access to all of their audio files they’d need to avoid resorting to the royalty-free sounds that made Berserk (2016) an atrocity to the ears.
On a technical level, Episode 06’s greatest contribution was introducing us to the qualities of sound that make it crucial and fundamental to making the diegesis of an anime feel accurate. The audiophile’s dream that is Doumeki’s club room makes it so that there is a coveted catalog of collected sounds that would be ideal to use for any situation, especially if you’re creating an anime about a mecha fighting a crab-turtle hybrid. Her obsession with sound is humorous given how much she vomits upon hearing the piss-poor audio that they’re currently working with. However, Doumeki’s library also provides valuable insight into why it’s important to have sounds that perfectly match actions and environments. That, for the sake of consistency and atmosphere, having sounds that fit a character’s interaction with their surroundings is essential. I remember when video game composer Tommy Tallarico was a co-host on Electric Playground and many of his game reviews had often either praised or criticized a title based on the footstep sounds used in a game. At the time, I was a dumb kid so I thought it was an odd metric for reviewing a game, but when you look at it on a grander scale, sound design is often a tell-tale sign of what you’re getting into. Whether the audio is bad on purpose to give off a sense of disorientation or if it’s because it was an afterthought due to the need to cut corners, having poor sound mixing or audio might not give off the meaning you intended on having if it was done out of necessity. If the footsteps sound miserable, what does that say about the sound design of a game? Or about the quality of a game as a whole?
At the same time, perfect audio or pristine sound quality can create the same evocative meaning that the Eizouken has aimed to accomplish with how audiences are meant to be transported into the imaginative spectacles pulled from their vivid and expressive imaginations. If you want to get that feeling of running through fields of barley, you have to have the sounds of footsteps in the grass, the racing wind, and the crunching stalks. Getting an exhilarating sensation from watching a mecha launch from its deck would feel incomplete without the rush of electric whirring or grinding metal. While past episodes have given us insight on the power of animation, this one allows us to see the audio component of animation that brings out the vibrancy, tenacity, and spirit of what we watch.