Well, somebody needs a kick in the balls for this episode.
Recap: Everybody is in a race to the summit of Nuegakubi. Every eight hours, the one at the back of the pack dies. Now is the time for such a punishment, and while Nobuaki manipulated things to take the punishment for Riona, it was all for nothing. The dude who just drowned at the end of the last episode was selected for punishment. She is incensed by the fact that he would trick her in this way, forcing her to watch him die, and promising that if he does it again, she’ll kick him in the balls. After a bit more talking about it (as if they weren’t on a deadline), they continue on. But, eventually, they reach the next eight hour period, and someone else has to die. Nobuaki offers that they should play rock-paper-scissors for it. He wins, and she assumes that means it’s up to her to run off and die. But that wasn’t the way he meant. The winner got to have the choice. So, off he runs in the opposite direction. Again, doesn’t matter. Aimi already had the idea of running in the opposite direction and didn’t bother talking with anyone about it, so she’s long gone by now. Pun not intended. Oh, well. As they continue their journey, Nobuaki reveals how his first King’s Game ended.
You see, it was just him and Chiemi left, and they got the order that they each had to kill the person they loved the most. Effectively, it was just telling them to duel to the death. Chiemi won’t have any of that, and stabs herself, bleeding out before Nobuaki’s eyes. The final command is sent to him: Choose between continuing the King’s Game and punishment. Well, I guess we know what he chose.
In the meantime, Natsuko reaches the summit, becoming immune to the death penalty for the race. She decides that now is her time to hedge her bets in the game. She lays a trap for those who would come next and snares Takuya. To ensure he won’t make it, she breaks his legs. Then she confuses Yuna into getting lost. Then she… says some creepy stuff and scares Rina into falling off a cliff? Wow. These kids are just chomping at the bit to die, aren’t they? Riona and Nobuaki catch up with Ryou and Aya. Together, they continue up the mountain and headlong into a confrontation with Natsuko.
How is it that an episode can feel like it is both drawn out and rushed at the same time? There is so much wrong with the pacing, not just with the episode, but with the series as a whole. So many episodes were wasted on flashbacks, then the remainder of the series crashes through a slew of the plot in just a couple episodes. Right after that, we have two episodes devoted to a foot race! In this episode, we see so much focused on the run, where little to nothing happens, then a bunch of stuff happens at the end that feels like it was packed in a pressure cooker. In the end, though, the five deaths of this episode are meaningless. The characters have no importance because we don’t know any of them. We don’t know them because they weren’t really introduced until three episodes ago. I didn’t even know some of their names until this episode! This leaves the most impactful event of this episode, pun still not intended, as the kick in the balls. That’s bad, folks. When five people die, but the thing you take away from the episode is how you wished they made Nobuaki’s voice higher after the kick? Oi.
I do take a bit of issue with Rina’s death. It is Rina, right? I don’t have her mixed up with Yuuna? Like I said, I only just learned their names. Anyways, the way she died was utter stupidity. All it took was for Natsuko to start talking creepy, and she’s already screaming in terror. Then, she starts getting hallucinations of the people she left behind coming back as zombies, and this leads her to stumble off a cliff. Why? Is it that she’s finally cracked? Up until that point, she seemed sane and logical. Natsuko didn’t even say anything threatening, really. She just used a creepy voice. Is that all it takes? This is a completely inane scene and more highlights how bad the writers are than how evil Natsuko is. Now that I think about it, Takuya’s fate was kinda dumb, too. Did he trip on a… pothole? And when someone with a murderous streak starts walking around you, do you just lie there and let them do whatever? No. You either get up or you roll out of the way! Despite being willing to throw a guy down the stairs to save his own life, he displays absolutely no self-preservation instinct in this episode. Why? Because the writers decided it’s his time to die.
Oh, and back to that creepy voice, Natsuko did. It wasn’t really all that creepy. Bryn Apprill uses her normal voice throughout the episode, then decides to do an overblown boogeyman attempt to spook Rina. It comes off farcical, which only makes the rest of the scene more ridiculous. To add insult to injury, I think most of the screams we heard from Heather Walker (Rina) were the same scream on repeat. It wasn’t like this episode was a flat-out failure in the voice acting department, it was simply phoned-in.
What was a failure was the animation and visual direction? The character movement was janky as all get out. None of them moved like people, looking instead like mutant puppets. The animators also couldn’t get their heads around how to draw Natsuko’s face. Things were shifting all over the place, and she would switch between nice and homicidal expressions with almost no rhyme or reason. For that matter, they had no clue about the shape and size of Riona’s boobs. I know, it makes me sound bad that I noticed them again, but there was one scene where they seriously inflated by two cup sizes, then went back down to “normal” in the next shot. Normal being unusually stacked for a Japanese teenager. In another shot, they are of a completely different shape and size yet again.
One last thing before the score: During the flashback, with the final command, it is pouring rain. How is that laptop not shorted out?
The longer we go in this show, the worse the writing gets. I didn't think it could get any worse than Clockwork Planet up in here, but they're threatening it. Add in the failing animation and cavalier approach to the dub, and you have a show that needs two punishments out of ten.