「私の撃墜王」 (Watashi no Gekitsui-ou)
And all is well that ends well—or at least if you’re an anime-original Plunderer ending. As to be expected given all the hints and teasing previously, Doan was beaten down through the power of friendshipTM, the good guys won, and enough left in the open to convince those interested to give the manga a spin and see what they’re missing. Was it good enough an ending for everyone to sleep tight? Jury is out on that one, but no denying Plunderer played it straight and true until the end. After all, when you’ve got Pele going full housewife and Hina giving a new meaning to jumping bones, it’s hard not finding some measure of satisfaction in the end. Even if the results are, well, less than impressive. Train wreck or not, Plunderer always made sure it never fell far from the tree—anyways, onto those final impressions!
Simply put, Plunderer was nothing special. Shock inducing story and mind-bending twists aside, the show we got was little more than a pseudo-shounen couched in lewd dressing and propped up a narrative structure seen many times before. While undeniably fun in parts and making the most of its conventional storytelling, Plunderer is yet another example of a series which took the mantra of source material advertisement and ran with it to its logical conclusion. From characters to plot it was all about getting to the final destination, and the destination—no matter how disappointing—was most certainly reached.
Arguably the major problem with Plunderer (at least adaptation-wise) is its dichotomous atmosphere. The jump from serious story to incredibly lascivious fan service is made almost at a whim, with Licht in particular showing how any moment is apparently a good moment to throw mood to the wind and indulge in more primal urges. Now to be clear fan service itself is not a bad thing; narratively similar series like Needless and Sunabozu feature it in abundance. The difference is the manner of its use. Whereas the latter examples either keep it tastefully ridiculous or go all in and use it as the plot driver, Plunderer attempts both, seemingly using it as comedic relief, only to overplay its hand and let these moments to bleed into its more serious aspects. As a result key moments (particularly in the show’s first half) suffer from narrative whiplash as critical character developments and major plot points are overshadowed by attempted humour. Few who dropped Plunderer early on would’ve guessed the history behind Licht or Alcia for example, or the intrigue such twists could create, but thanks to the manner of its presentation, such interest was lost. Because Plunderer couldn’t seemingly keep its pants on when it mattered, it lost out when the attention truly mattered.
The other primary issue with Plunderer is its derivativeness. For all the twists, turns, and time travel (spoiler alert) involved, the series was relatively predictable in plot and wholly simplified in characterization: from the moment the key details were revealed it was easy to guess where things were heading and how they would play out. Of course, like fan service such things aren’t problematic on the surface—plenty of shounen and shounen-influenced series have the exact same structure. The problem is what’s missing. As with many other adaptations, Plunderer passes over, rushes through, or otherwise creates anime-exclusive versions of developments and events which leave many critical details either missing or lacking. As a result backstories like Licht’s or Jail’s become near caricatures, missing many of the nuances and subtleties which help to turn otherwise simplistic narratives into fleshed out, “organic” stories. Plunderer’s adaptation may not be as bad as, say, the likes of Index III, but it’s arguably just one more adaptation which would’ve benefitted from a little more script ingenuity and attention to detail.
Overall while I cannot say I didn’t enjoy my time covering Plunderer (Lynn is perfection, fight me), it’s certainly one show I’m unlikely to return to anytime soon. With too many series to catch up on and new shows consistently appearing to seize one’s attention, Plunderer is just one more example of a “decent, but not great” adaptation which will inevitably fade into the woodwork over time. It’s certainly not the worst we’ve ever seen by far, but as Plunderer shows any adaptation seeking its spot in anime’s collective memory needs a little more than fan service and shocking twists to go the full mile.