「二人で一つ」 (Futari de Hitotsu)
“We Two Are One”
There were a few decent episodes of Gleipnir, but it feels bad that this was one of the only episodes that tapped into the series’ potential by having Shuichi and Clair think on their toes as they race to collect coins from the Koyanagi group and Elena. The first couple of episodes had shades of this, but it was interesting to see how the finale paid more attention to how Shuichi and Clair have to work together to uncover the secrets that plague their journey.
Clair’s Achilles heel is always betting on the wrong horse, but using Koyanagi’s gang as a launchpad towards getting coins in the forest only got her and Shuichi surrounded by a party of naggy, impotent sadsacks. Their screen time was poison to this anime, and it shows considering how pathetic their presence was in this episode. While Shuichi, Clair, Elena, and the original friend circle had some genuinely awesome developments throughout the second half of the show, Koyanagi’s gang were just straight up posers. They still act like they have a stake in this coin hunt when there are only a couple of people there that know how to protect them as they mull around a forest teeming with superpowered sociopaths and molesters. In the finale, all it takes to overcome them is to walk past one of them and kick one of them in a pool.
Her worst bet was thinking that conditioning Shuichi into believing that he was her equal would have him continue being a wet blanket like he used to be. With all of the violence and the small blips of his past memories getting to him, getting involved with all of this only made him more disassociated with humanity as a whole.
This all comes full circle when Clair finds out Shuichi has been living in squalor because his missing memories forgot the part where his parents were yeeted out of existence. How he can still afford to keep the lights on or not notice that his entire house has dead plants and rotting food is a mystery. But even more so is the buyer’s remorse that Clair has about how her influence ended up making him a colder person who shuts off his emotions to embrace the “kill-or-be-killed” nature of the coin hunt.
I am prodding a lot at the story, but the finale was very enjoyable because of how it tries to wrap everything up as satisfying as it can be with an open ending. We get a cool fight sequence between Shuichi/Clair and Elena, the reveal that Elena had tried to take Shuichi’s pain away by taking away his memories of Honoka and the friend circle, and the resolve that Shuichi has to assure Clair that he is more determined to be her equal. It plays into the series’ best traits of fast-paced action, neat EDM-flavored music, and Machiavellian power plays that Clair is able to execute with Shuichi’s assistance. The ending might serve to encourage the audience to look into the manga in case they don’t get around to making a second season, but as hard as I am on the anime’s faults, it’d actually be interesting to see what exactly the narrative has in store for Shuichi and Clair’s futures and what role Elena will play considering her neutral stance throughout the first season.
Gleipnir is a show I wanted to enjoy a lot more because of how high the quality is for the anime’s strengths.The music and atmosphere have a fun, eerie kind of feel to it, and had the series played up its bleakness, it would’ve fit the aesthetic perfectly. The music is especially impressive as we get some electronic-inspired ambiance and fight music that fuses industrial, EDM, and dubstep for a bouncy, intense vibe. The animation also doesn’t slouch with some fluid and kinetic fight sequences between Shuichi, Clair, and their many opponents.
Most importantly, Clair really keeps the ball moving on some of the cooler scenes and sequences in the show. As messy as her mindset and logistics can be, it makes for some compelling television when we see her taking the lead on decisions that Shuichi has a difficult time taking on by his own accord. It’s not everyday that you get a lead that automatically jumps to conclusions like brutally executing that one superpowered track star or burning a field of poisonous flowers to murder a gang of monstrous sociopaths. The series’ lax stance on ecchi helps a little, but it would have been much harder to follow Gleipnir if it didn’t have a character like Clair who wasn’t afraid to go too far with the decisions she makes.
Unfortunately, the story and pacing were far messier and played far too much into the weird sci-fi elements. Everyone’s superpowers originating from Uchuujin’s alien abilities turned out to be a poison pill for the story considering that it ended up ignoring Shuichi and Clair’s search to learn about the secrets behind their personal tragedies in favor of a fetch quest for alien tokens. By having the cast mull around in the forest for a majority of the anime’s halfway point, it slowed down the momentum that the series had and halted Shuichi and Clair’s journey to make sense of their pasts for what felt like an inferior subquest.
Still, as much as I’ve been giving Gleipnir a hard time, I am thankful that it was around to help Spring 2020 coast by all the more easily. With COVID-19’s affect on the world, the amount of anime airing is limited due to safety precautions and such. Although Kaguya-sama and Fruits Basket (I haven’t watched the first season, so I apologize for not taking up the mantle to marathon it and cover the second one) have solidified their positions as top notch high profile productions to keep trucking, most newer IPs or adaptations are left to struggle as they come out the gate during dire times. With all of this in mind, Gleipnir’s presence is a welcome change of pace as a guilty pleasure that quickly became something more because of its chaotic action sequences, energetic music, casual nudity, and intense atmosphere. Not sure if there will be enough material or interest to warrant a Season 2, but I wouldn’t mind having more of this in the near or distant future.