If you flick through your local newspaper — well, first of all, if you have a local newspaper — you may find a section announcing recent births, marriages, and deaths. Colloquially, these were called, due to humanity’s compulsion to rhyme, the ‘hatches, matches, and despatches’. It’s obvious why they might be considered ‘news’, being the traditional high points and low point of one’s life, they were noteworthy on at the very least a community level. And because the first rule of writing is to write what you know (to preempt the comments: writing has a lot of first rules), hatches, matches, and despatches became the canonical way to end the story or the arc of a story, to bookend with either celebration or catharsis.
The corollary of this is that, when there is a hatch, match, or despatch in a story and the story doesn’t so much as pause it feels kinda weird.
It’s not that Arknights didn’t do anything with the death of Ace and crew. I guess I just expected them to do more. This felt like it could have been a climactic showdown to wrap up the first three episodes and the first story arc of Arknights. Ace had been framed as, well, the ace of Rhodes Island and it could easily have been (well, not that easily, as animation is expensive) been an epic death the kind only anime can deliver. Instead, Arknights cuts away from the action, lets Ace have his bro speech, and has Amiya feel a disturbance in the Force instead of showing what should have been a blaze of glory. Then the cast is allowed to mourn in a VTOL before we transition straight into the obligatory cameo montage amidst a series of tutorials.
To Arknights‘ credit, Ace’s death does put a lot of things into context. We get the sense that the world of Arknights is terrible where nothing can be gained without suffering and this hard fought victory is just one sacrifice of many. We see that the big bad is pretty bad. And it all makes the Doctor see things differently. On the other hand, the Doctor hardly knows Ace at all and pushing your dying wishes onto an amnesiac is a bit unfair, no?
All in all, it seems Arknights was in a great rush to get out of Chernobog. The plot itself seems to push our cast along, there were obviously a bunch of things it needed to tick off a checklist, and characters appear just for the sake of appearing before being promptly whisked offstage. Considering it only has the eight episodes, this may be an inevitable compromise. Plus, I’m personally glad we’re out of Chernobog. Everything was too damn dark, especially when Rhodes Island seems to enjoy the black clothing + sunglasses ensemble so much. The mobs so easily get lost in the crush. If you ask me, Arknights is much more adept at working with light.
Regardless, that was our three episodes. What do you think? Normally I’d say that I hope this was a useful introduction for you all, but we’re actually already more than a third of the way through so I guess it was more of an extended demo. All in all, I think it has promise. There is a lot there it can work with and it does feel that the production cares about the show as a long term development. I just hope it doesn’t get overwhelmed; the cast and setting is already showing their weight and they are sure to keep ballooning. We don’t get a lot of good videogame adaptations; I will follow Arknights‘s progress with great interest.