M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane – 01 Review
Posted by M0rg0th
Geez, no wonder Akashi is the hero of the show. He really has a way with words, doesn’t he? Way to go, Akashi, thanking the woman this way who offered to help you move to your new place!
Teenage-Angst did it again! Once more a bunch of kids are somehow involved in the end of the world and all the adults are too evil to simply tell them to grow the fuck up! Well, that’s my prediction what this will be about next episode. But this is the first episode so instead we see a lot of people talking about the mope-zone or, what the series calls it, “the Lightless Realm”. But seriously, it IS the mope-zone because ghosts are just SO whiny. Someone has a problem, then that person dies – and now it’s supposed to be everybody’s business or something! Stupid ghosts… Anyway, this time around it’s even harder to ignore the ghosts because they are big frigging monsters made out of… red poo. The series’ words, not mine. And the angsty teenagers have to use mechas to bust those ghosts… or earn a psychology-degree having therapy-sessions with those ghosts or something.
The Lightless Realm is spreading around the world like a plague and its black crystals destroy and mutate everything in its wake. But the humans don’t just die, they are being transformed into giant monsters called Admonitions but like a ghost they are haunted by regrets and stuff so they are motivated to seek out memorabilia of their past… which is bad! Says the evil scientist from IX!
Therefore eight teenagers are gathered who are not as randomly chosen as they believe because they have a bit of a history with the Lightless Realm (which they have forgotten about, of course… goddamn teenagers). Trained to become mecha-pilots they are to go on an expedition to the Lightless Realm and do… something. Anyway, they have a field trip of sorts which immediately goes awry for a number or reasons (mostly stupid ones). And then the Corpse appears and sings a song because the world loves to go out with a tune, I guess.
Little Dr. Frankenstein here sure knows how to sell honesty, IX must really hate those kids to put HIM in charge of their mission.
The thing with world-building is that if you give it enough depth it becomes another character in its own right in the story. Mood and plot can be created in a very organic way by world-building. When Shinji in Neon Genesis Evangelion looks out onto the ocean and we, as the audience, see that it’s all red and when we see the Angels attack and how the city turns into a fortress just for the sake of defense, you know what kind of state the world is in. In many ways M3 uses some of this sort-of post-apocalyptic atmosphere by introducing a world-threatening danger in the form of black crystals which destroy everything and also turn humans into monsters. The actual plot, though, is one of the chosen-one-type as eight seemingly random chosen teenagers become one of the first mecha-pilots to enter this black dimension created by those black crystals. These black crystals are as much a mystery as they are the catalyst for the main-character and the other seven to face their past. And the monsters apparently care a great deal about their past.
And M3 does a fine job of introducing the world, the characters and the plot with its mysteries and so forth. This first episode does its job as an introduction but seriously, they couldn’t have been more heavy-handed with it. When they say “Show, don’t tell.” in regards to movies and TV-series, I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean showing people telling the audience exposition. There’s this plot-device where characters do some small-talk and by chance talk about elements of the setting and it’s already one of the least subtle ways to introduce exposition but okay, it’s easy to introduce and it doesn’t take a lot of time. But it’s used at least three times in one episode in this case! This episode just talks you to death with its information-dumps. This is an actual dialogue between two of the central characters:
Mahmu: Can I ask you a question?
Raika: Mahmu, right? Yeah, sure.
Mahmu: I heard that Admonitions were ghosts of the people who died within the Lightless Realm.
Raika: Well, I wouldn’t quite say, ghosts… Human muscle tissue has been extracted from captured Admonitions in the past. So the theory is that the metallic crystals in the Lightless Realm assimilate dead humans and turn them into Admonitions. Maybe you could say they’re ghosts after all.
Goddamn! One character asks “I heard those monsters are like ghosts of who died in the Lightless Realm.”, the other character answers “Yeah, actually, they are kinda like ghosts.”. DONE! What’s with this information-dump?! It also makes it sound artificially forced how Mahmu should already know most of it and was actually only asking about the behavior of those monsters. Maybe let her tell an actual story, some kind of flashback that shows why these monsters are kinda like ghosts in her opinion instead of that information-dump. Also, this is REALLY bad writing: “I don’t think they are like ghosts… but now let me explain to you in detail why they kinda are.”. And this episode does a LOT of these information-dumps in the first episode.
More than that, it’s NEVER showing any of that stuff. At the beginning I said that good world-building can be a mood-maker but in that regard the stuff in this episode might as well be a well-funded LARP in my backyard. Sure, they show constantly how creepy-looking the Lightless Realm is but it never felt like the threat it was supposed to be. At one point the creepy scientist quips that there’s nothing outrageous about sending a bunch of teenagers in experimental mechas into the Lightless Realm, after all soon everybody would have to use that experimental technology to hide in a mecha or some other machine. Not at any point during this episode rang this depressing comment true because also plot-wise nothing threatening happened in this episode. You can’t just introduce an apocalyptic threat and treat it like some dull monster-generator.
Dull is also a good way to characterize the cast at this point of who we’ve really seen only five of the actual eight teenagers that are at the centre of the story. There’s the anti-social girl Mahmu that also has to seem kind-of creepy for some reason, then there’s the blonde who’s poor and makes herself look like a crazy person to get into Akashi’s pants and then there’s Raika the ex-pilot who’s strangely admonished by a teacher for being a show-off when she insists that she rather than crazy-girl should control a mecha due to her experience. Then there’s the optimistic lively best buddy character and Akashi, the grumpy main-hero, after the first episode already equipped with a dickish attitude and a tragic past. There’s really nothing interesting about this cast but I guess, in M3’s defense the first episode did focus a lot on Akashi and he is, well, not that great of a character. He certainly doesn’t earn my sympathy by being a dick to the woman who tries to help him move. Even more strange of course is the way how the woman just silently accepts the insult and after Akashi leaves just says “I guess, he’s in a rebellious phase.” and the whole thing is never addressed again in the episode. I assume this behavior has something to with those flashbacks but who knows… It certainly didn’t make Akashi look very sympathetic.
And that scene just reminded me that I really dislike this way flashbacks (and their relevance) are sometimes introduced in animes. Akuma no Riddle did the same where you see scraps of the flashback, just a teaser of it. These teasers really don’t add anything, I know just as much as before the flashback-teaser started and in a well-written scene you wouldn’t need stuff like that to half-heartedly explain the character’s behavior. If anything it just disrupts the flow of the dialogue and basically just draws your attention away from the fact how weird and overly dramatic the reactions of the characters are most of the time without those teasers punctuating those moments.
Yeah, why do they have to act like they’re at school when it’s actually training for a suicide-mission…?
In any case, flashbacks will play a great role in this series, I assume. As mentioned in the quoted dialogue above these monsters are basically ghosts, meaning they have some sort of last will that makes them wander around or something like that. Akashi, always the asshole, naturally killed the first monster he encountered instead because he would rather not face his past – or anyone else’s for that matter, I guess. There’s also a lot of other stuff already telegraphed by this episode that will play a role in the future and the characters seem mostly oblivious about these things. Apparently all eight of those teenagers were in the Lightless Realm when the whole shit hit the fan and they are somehow connected to the mysterious big shot in the Lightless Realm named the Corpse (catchy name, isn’t it?). Also, that Corpse-guy is actually a teenage-girl with a giant black mecha. Another guy with quite the character is the scientist from IX (the probably corrupt private corporation funding the battle against the Lightless Realm) who couldn’t seem more villainous. So there you go: On one side misunderstood ghost-monsters trying to find peace with a girl in a mecha who can sing and on the other side we have a giant corporation with an evil-looking scientist who clearly knows more than he lets on. So, I guess this will all be a neat little lesson about who the real monster is. Here’s a hint: It’s not the shark in Jaws, guys.
With a very exposition-heavy first episode M3 it is sadly rather action-less. Even worse the introduction fails in setting any kind of captivating mood to raise interest for the characters’ fates. And finally the characters, presented in this episode, neither say nor do anything interesting. All in all, this is a rather underwhelming start for this series.
- I have no idea how old the individual characters are. At the beginning they are all children so they all must be all around the same age roughly but one girl is already an active mecha-pilot and another girl cleans toilets at the school the rest of the cast went to (except the three who haven’t yet appeared). So, are those two older…?
- Why the team makes this “trip” out with two mechas is just a complete mystery to me. Even though their training hasn’t actually been going on for that long the teacher also strangely insists on toilet-girl to pair up with Akashi… while ignoring the valid protests of mecha-pilot-girl. Naturally toilet-girl wrecked the mecha she used. Except the amulet-thingy there really was no reason for her to be in that mecha.
- Will this rumour of everybody dying nine days after having heard a Corpse sing be a thing…? That’s a horror-trope of course but there hardly was any actual horror-like stuff in this episode… And if they ignore it, they sure wasted a lot of time addressing that stupid rumour.