Combatants Will Be Dispatched! Dropped

With a full slate of shows to follow this Spring, I needed Combatants to really knock one out of the park in its third week to justify keeping it around and…it just didn’t. It was a dull, dreary affair, full of sloppy character models, sketchy animation, unfunny comedy, and a cast that are rehashes of Konosuba characters, only less likeable. Agent Six it probably the show’s biggest misfire, as the show is well aware that he’s supposed to be an dishonorable bastard, but gives us zero reasons to want to watch him.

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! – 02 – Assembling a Team

With far less exposition to dump on us, this week’s CWBD is an improvement, flowing much better structurally and focusing on its kooky characters, like the artificial combat chimera Rose and Grimm, archpriest of Zenarith, god of undeath and disaster.

While both are eccentric to say the least, Alice deems them two of the more powerful assets at their disposal. With their ultimate goal of defeating the Demon Lord in mind, they can’t be picky about personalities.

And just like KonoSuba, there’s nobody here whose personality you’d call “normal.” Alice comes closest, but she’s an android. Six continues to be a cad, racking up Evil Points. Rose is a timid glutton who has a sinister chuunibyou side. Grimm wants a man, and Six would seem to do. Grimm and Rose were both exploited by the military as frontline weapons.

The newly-formed party first tastes battle after harassing a demon lord army supply train, which distresses Snow because she wants more exciting frontline combat so she can affort to pay off her sword (the news she clawed her way to where she is from nothing makes her character more interesting).

Then two of the Demon Lord’s Elite Four arrive: the voluptuous Heine of the Flame (whose “cosplay” reminds Six of his comely bosses back home), and Gadalkand of the Earth, who straight up murders Grimm, just like that!

Even though his sole interaction with her was catching a glimpse of her thong, Six still wants to avenge Grimm, but Gadalkand and Heine both withdraw before he can fight them. Then he learns from Snow and Rose that due to her demon blood and position as Zenarith priest, she comes back to life no matter how many times she dies…which should prove quite handy!

While Six continues to be, for the most part, pretty scummy, he comes off far better this week, especially when he sits vigil over Grimm’s corpse in the temple of Zenarith. When she wakes up, she’s surprised he’s there because he didn’t want her to be lonely.

The episode closes on a sweet note, as Six orders her a spiffy new Kisaragi-brand wheelchair and the two go on an adorable date racing through the wastelands and breaking up couples in a village. This is still no KonoSuba, but I came away from this second episode feeling like it’s starting to find its own voice, and liking everyone just a little bit more.

Log Horizon – 03

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Shiroe, Akatsuki and Naotsugu trek through the underground “Depths of Palm” in order to reach Susukino and Celara, who is staying in the house of the kindly cat-man Nyanta. Susukino is under the iron rule of “Brigandia”, a guild of PKers led by the ruthless Demikas. Shiroe falls from a great height when a stone bridge collapses. He survives, but while he’s out he dreams of his times with the Debauchery Tea Party, which he remembers fondly. The trio defeat a rat boss and reach the surface, where they’re met by a stunning sunrise.

After three episodes, we’ve decided to log out of Log Horizon after all. There are some charming and satisfying aspects to it that will make it harder to drop later, and we can’t overlook its flaws. For one thing, it’s far too safe. You’d think a series about a fantasy RPG brought to life would have a little more immediate peril to it, but the characters are already Level 90, and everything is a breeze. Add to that Shiroe’s rather annoying tendency to narrate, and we end up feeling like we’re watching a tutorial or walk-through of an RPG rather than experiencing a story firsthand.

Our impressions of an anime are informed by our not-inconsiderable past anime-watching history; if we find ourselves watching something awfully similar to something we’ve already seen, it had better either surpass that past series in some way, or offer something new. We can’t help but hold Log Horizon up against Sword Art Online and find the former lacking. Not that SAO was perfect, but it did set a standard in both production values, empathy with the characters, epic scale and genuine danger that this series can’t match. Sayonara, Log Horizon.


Rating: 5 (Average) (Series Dropped)

Log Horizon – 02

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With little else for players to do to stay occupied, PKs (player killings) are on the upswing, and security situation in cities is tenuous. Shiroe, Akatsuki and Naotsugu engage a party of PKs, exploiting the holes in their teamwork to emerge victorious. Shiroe gets a call from the Crescent Moon Alliance, asking if he’d look after the guild hall while they’re away rescuing their comrade, Celara. With Akatsuki and Naotsugu’s support, Shiroe makes a counter-proposal: the three of them will head north to Susukino to rescue her instead.

We’ve decided not to drop Strike the Blood or Log Horizon for now, but we’ll only be reviewing episodes as gaps in our schedule allow, so we probably won’t be johnny-on-the-spot with either.

In Sword Art Online, if you were KO’ed in the game, you died in the real world, but here in Elder Tale, you merely re-spawn at the cathedral of the nearest town, which is a lot less …final. But while the threat of oblivion is off the table, this presents a different quandary: endowed with virtual immortality and all the weak enemies needed to harvest enough gold to live off of, what exactly are 30,000 immortal players going to do with themselves? The answer becomes clear this week: prey on each other for kicks.

Shiroe’s trio proves more than up to the task of dispatching upstart PKers. Their battle was relatively interesting, but the foes were a bit too stupid, the animation was underwhelming, and most importantly, Shiroe’s constant explanation of everything going on kinda kills the urgency. The trio finds something to do, and the Shiroe/Akatsuki romance is at a nice, gentle simmer. But so far show is relying too much on telling, not showing, which needs to change.


Rating: 6 (Good)

 

Log Horizon – 01

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The strategist gamer Shiroe suddenly finds himself trapped in the MMORPG “Elder Tale”, which has become his new world and reality along with 30,000 other Japanese players. He finds his former partners – Naotsugu, a guardian who had logged on for the first time in two years, and Akatsuki, who was a quiet male assassin in the game but turns out to be a girl. She uses one of Shiroe’s potions to take female form. The three form a party and set out in search of enemies on which to test their skills.

Sword Art Online must’ve been a hit in Japan; otherwise, why would a series like this exist a year later? We’re not saying the two shows are identical, but the similarities are striking: a male lead who isn’t as tall and handsome as his game avatar; his trusty, bawdy male sidekick; the loyal badass female lead; and oh yeah, they’re stuck in an MMORPG. Mind you, this first episode was quite lighthearted and lightweight; there was no foreboding announcement by the programmer, and it doesn’t sound like a KO in the game kills you in real life. We didn’t really mind the lighter, jauntier tone, but we’re not sure it can be sustained for 25 episodes.

SAO started out fairly jokey too, but by the end Kirito’s sister was falling in love with him and the villain was planning to coma-rape Asuna…so yeah. We know we could do with a bit less J-bro humor from Naotsugu, Shiroe’s pretty bland, the visuals and costumes didn’t really impress, and the soundtrack was thoroughly forgettable. Akatsuki gave a nice first impression, and we dug the trio’s positive attitude in the face of the sudden extreme change in their lives. Still, we’re not sure we can commit to two cours of what was awfully similar to SAO, only with a weaker first episode and so far, much lower stakes.


Rating: 6 (Good)