No happiness allowed beyond this point.
I really liked this episode, despite its faults! As usual, it suffered from being very rushed, and instead of splitting the remaining two volumes evenly with three episodes each, it looks like we’re going with a two and four divide. But this is a much better arc than the last one was – it has more suffering, and in the transition to an anime it seems like Silver Link has covered all the important scenes it should have. So it’s looking pretty good, actually. An ongoing issue is that the animation quality seems to get progressively worse each week, but I’m slowly learning to ignore it, and you probably have by now too. If not, rest assured that something may change with the adaptation of Volume 5. If it’s going to take up an entire four episodes, it’d better be near-perfect. Like Mari.
Ikaruga has gone through her share of suffering, just like the rest of the cast – perhaps a little less emotional baggage than Usagi or Ouka, but then again she didn’t come equipped with human emotions to begin with. If I had to rank the main cast in terms of how much suffering they’ve gone through, in ascending order, I would probably go with Mari, Ikaruga, Usagi, Ouka and then Takeru. So Ikaruga, who was born and grew up as a result of a long-running genetic experiment designed to produce disposable genius scientists, is second-last on the suffering scale. For a change, neither Inquisition nor Valhalla have anything to do with her troubles (yet), because Ikaruga was originally affiliated with Alchemist – a third-party organisation we haven’t heard of before. I have no idea how well it got across, but they’re not a military power or anything – they’re basically a corporation engaged in science and technology research of dubious ethics. Very dubious ethics. In fact, every single person with the surname ‘Suginami’ is necessarily involved with darkness by virtue of their upbringing and the fact that they’re still alive – it is not a coincidence that they all happen to look the same. As mentioned by Sougetsu, all the Suginamis are ‘designer children’, which are essentially scientists genetically bred to be intellectual geniuses at the cost of being socially autistic with zero morals or applicable real-world knowledge. All they care about is scientific research and nothing else – after all, morals don’t matter when inventing mind-controlling gases designed to make people kill each other. And if you stray off the ideal Suginami path and fail to live up to these ideals, either by failing to produce anything or learning to care about other things, they dispose of you. If you learn about the outside world from fairy tales brought in by samples (i.e. little children kidnapped for experiments) they drop you in a pool of acid.
Alchemist is currently led by Suginami Suzaku. I have to say, I’m very surprised Silver Link even gave her a character design – and above all, I’m even more surprised they made her a loli! I was fairly sure she was supposed to have all the charms of an adult woman, but… okay, fine. They never explicitly describe her in the novels, and I’m not going to complain with a decision they were entirely at liberty to make, it’s just that someone over there has surprisingly better taste than I thought they did. And above all, she’s voiced by Arai Satomi! Of Kuroko fame! I mean, holy shit! Is this even real life?! A side character gets such a top-tier seiyuu?! If this adaptation was judged purely based on the quality of its voice actors, this cast would equate to full-out red carpet treatment. Seriously, is that where all the budget went? Hiring famous A-list seiyuu?! Silver Link have made some shit choices so far, and there are a whole host of things I disagree with, but making Suginami Suzaku a sinful-looking DFC twintails loli is just… hnnnnnggg.
As for that short conversation between Suzaku and Sougetsu, I do wish they made that slightly longer – it would have made for a better indication as to the long-term political game Suzaku was trying to play. As Sougetsu said, she really is a crafty bitch. They never say it, but did you really think Isuka and the 5th Research Facility were cooperating with Valhalla without her consent? Of course she knew, and of course she was okay with it – because they’re a corporation with no moral values, remember? All they want is money, and people to sell their Dragoons to. So what Suzaku is basically doing is giving up on the 5th Research Facility, allowing Inquisition to destroy it (after removing all evidence of Alchemist as a whole being affiliated with Valhalla, and making it look it was just Isuka going rogue) at the cost of retaining their current ties with Sougetsu. If they outright claimed allegiance with Valhalla, the entire Inquisition would become their enemy. Sougetsu, meanwhile, doesn’t really care in the end – all he wants is the most fun solution. If that means destruction, then… well, that means destruction.
I have to say though, it doesn’t feel like Isuka made a very nice transition from light novel to anime. Her voice sounds a little weird (a newbie seiyuu like Ouka I think, except it didn’t turn out so well for her) and her character design could have been better. Kana, on the other hand, was perfectly fine. I generally like the side characters in this series more than the main ones (save for Mari and I suppose Takeru) – so that means characters like Nagaru, or Kana, or Kyouya. All of them have their own character development in a way that’s more natural than the main cast do (in the sense that they occur over multiple volumes, instead of being allocated one volume each like the 35th Platoon members) so they end up having their own stories to tell. Isuka is an exception to that, I’m not particularly inclined towards her – her best scene was actually her interaction with Haunted, who is fucking amazing as usual. I really love this guy, he’s so hilarious. He got angry with her because she made him kill everyone in the facility for a practical reason – in other words, Isuka didn’t feel anything as a result of their deaths. But to Haunted, his ‘morals’ (if I can call it that) are all about deriving emotion from killing, whether it’s despair or to satisfy hatred or out of a twisted sense of love or something. To him, therefore, it’s a waste if people die and the murderer feels nothing – he feels sorry for the people who get killed that way! Haunted needs more screen time. His theatrics could brighten up any scene.
As the next episode will wrap up the arc, I’m really hoping they don’t screw up the important things like they did with Usagi’s arc. Stay tuned for alchemists, elves, and… a weapon to surpass Metal Gear.