Whether two or four episodes of AO remain, it looks like it’s going to be a photo finish.
wendeego: With the Allied Forces knocking on the door of Generation Blu, I expected that an extended homage to Anno’s seminal masterpiece/mindfuck End of Evangelion was inevitable. What I did not expect was that it would be over so quickly. By the end of episode 20, our cast has evacuated the base, its deceased leader Cristophe has been revealed to be negotiating with the Secrets behind the scenes and it looks that while Naru has yet to make her move (Coralianstrumentality?) and Truth has become a wild card, Ao and his allies might not be as doomed as I previously assumed. The ending that we receive will likely depend on how much time AO has left, despite Olympics-related scheduling mishaps. The series feels to me as if it’s paced for twenty-four episodes, but with information scant and time running out it is difficult to know for sure.
On the surface, plenty of things happened in this episode: Mama and co. defected, Elena turned coat to the Allied Forces, Truth revealed itself as having possessed the mysterious IFO prototype and Japan opened its doors to the remnants of Generation Bleu as what will likely be the home base for the final battle. The fact that Mama may have “defected” in order to ensure Ao and his friends would escape, coupled with the possibility that Elena has her own plans for the Allied Forces, additionally complicate things and ensure that we’re in for a wild next couple of episodes. On the other hand, as good as it is to see AO break to an extent from the confines of its Evangelion influences, it’s hard not to see missed opportunities. One of the most egregious in my mind is that despite the impressive build-up, the invasion of Blu felt awfully sparse in comparison with its obvious progenitor. Obviously AO has a television budget and is limited in what it can do, but I was hoping to see more fireworks and it was disappointing that the destruction of Ao’s homebase to that point wasn’t more climactic.
But the biggest missed opportunity, to me, was the Prototype. Up to this episode I was convinced that the “secret in the basement” of Generation Blu was Type TheEND, and while the Prototype has potential as a terrifying doomsday device, its design and abilities are honestly pretty lacking in comparison. What makes things even worse is that we did in fact see TheEND in this episode, buried in the ruins of Generation Blu before it exploded. I doubt that the AO cast would miss out on a chance to play the Nostalgia card, as they did with the sudden appearance of Eureka in episode 12, so I wouldn’t put it past the creators to bring TheEND back in the final few episodes. But assuming that TheEND really was, for whatever reason, vaporized in that blast–why not have Truth possess the Prototype when they could have had him take over TheEND instead? The latter is honestly much more interesting than the former, and as irritating as Truth may have become at this point running around in a living remnant from the original E7 might have made him just bearable.
At any rate, it’s clear from these past few episodes that we are looking at another BONES rush job. Many of the sideplots and ideas in this show are good, maybe even great, but rather than being explored naturally through the entire series it feels like AO’s creators merely spend an episode or so touching on them, and then moving on to the next sudden plot twist. The final result isn’t bad, per se, but so much remains unexplored: Naru’s actions during this time, Elena and Fleur’s friendship throughout the series and even Rebeka and Gazelle’s tentative romance. Confined by its twenty-four episode limit, the most that AO can do is really pay lip service to all of these possibilities, sprinting towards an epic conclusion that, considering BONES‘s past history of endings, may or may not make any sense.
Of course, the original E7 was guilty of having a very messy plot and an ending that was very nearly a trainwreck. But it was also 50 episodes long, and in that time managed to build up a texture and sense of place and character that AO simply lacks. In a sense, it’s unfair to compare the two: as many problems as AO has, there’s plenty of things it does right, and while it is very different from the original E7 it is by no means a disgrace. That said, AO’s going to have to scramble in those final episodes. There’s a chance it will be able to wrap itself up effectively, but whether the ending redeems the show or disgraces it, it’s going to be a close call either way.
illegenes: The time is ticking for AO, and that may or may not be a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong – despite its heavy faults, AO, for more or less, is still a really enjoyable sequel, or rather spin-off, as I’m coming to see it. We have an exciting and rather mature protagonist; a new, diverse world, and a script that doesn’t suffer from cliched writing. The problem isn’t really AO. It’s the timing. It’s the fact that BONES ordered 22 episodes, and while we all know that AO has been suffering from bad pacing for the latter half of the season, it’s only now that the hits and holes are showing up. The messy pacing for buildup was mild, but here, AO is taking a toll of the mistakes its made along the way as it stumbles toward a grand conclusion.
The main example of this was seen, as Wendeego said, with TheEND, which made a brief appearance only to be destroyed? We had theEND deliberately baited at the very beginning of this show, and like the little trout that we were, bit the hook, only to be given…nothing. I don’t mind underwhelming surprises; I think they’re a great way to show the audience about where their expectations really land. But when you’ve been giving hints again and again that TheEND is going to be something large and fantastic and impressive, only to shove it off as nothing but a random plot device, it’s hard to take in. Not just an E7 fan, but as someone who does still enjoy this show and wants it to succeed with the little time it has left. Of course, we can go ahead and assume there’s a direct connection with theEND and Cannon, which I presume to be a sort of build Prototype from theEND, but it’s a weak link at best and only serves to make Truth a leveled-up villain.
Unfortunately, theEND wasn’t the only clumsy mistake placed in this episode – I had a hard time with some of the inserted plot turns, like Mama Hannah turning against Generation Bleu/Pied Piper but letting them go, or Elena deciding to ally with the Allied Forces. I understand that in a sense, both cut ties with Generation Bleu the moment Christophe died, but the pacing could have been much smoother, especially for Elena, who has also been a missed opportunity. Rather than coming off as a mysterious, intriguing girl who not only played a double agent but has ulterior but rather unspoken motives (and a shady history), she’s more or less used as a device for comedy and randomness. I’m sure she has her reasons for ditching our team, but one thing I would have liked to see is how her leave really affected Ao and Fleur, who have been so close to her. It’s almost disconcerting considering how two episodes ago, Elena fought tooth and claw to get Ao back from Allied Forces, only to give herself up to them willingly. Like I said though: coherency issues.
If there is one thing I really enjoyed about this episode however, it was Christophe’s will for Japan to help Pied Piper with eradicating the Scub Coral and giving his position to Fleur as a way of atoning for his past. Not only was it smooth and emotional, but it also tied in with the themes of the show, and also set up plot development along the way. This is something I expected quality-wise from this show and I’m glad to see that it hasn’t lost total control yet. The use of music in this episode was also excellently used (the track from 10:49-14:00, man) and I can’t wait for the second OST to come out.
Of course, all of this leaves us with the question as to how things will conclude. Me and Wendeego have our theories, and we hope to an extent that they come true. At the same time, we have to be realistic here and realize that BONES might be pulling yet another Bounen no Xamdou here, with a rushed ending, and thus we have to prepare ourselves for whatever comes next (see: last week’s post). Next week seems to be a ‘shit gets real’ kind of episode (though I can hardly say the the last whatsoever episodes haven’t been like this already) as Astral!Eureka returns, along with Naru. If there is one thing I can say for sure, it’s that regardless of AO being 22 or 24 episodes, I’ve still enjoyed this show from the start, and hopefully to the finish. I still have faith! Or as the show would have it – LISTEN TO THE CHILDREN OF THE STARS~
Enjoyment Level: 8/10