Anime of the Week: God Eater – Ep. 3

The more anime I watch, the less impressed I am with the animated action scene. Okay, maybe not less impressed per se, but exciting, well animated action scenes are less likely to win me over on an otherwise hum drum series. Every now and then though, something comes along and transports me back to my teenage self–the one who was so attracted to anime because it was “Cool Japan” and because the art style was wholly other–forcing me to practically ignore bland characters or genre tropes that I’ve since grown more and more tired of. God Eater‘s third episode did that for me, hastily pushing my focus past a story line that badly needs some fleshing out and instead reminding me why the whole “girls with guns” trope is so rampant throughout the genre; when it’s done right, it’s undeniably cool.

This week’s episode picks up directly after last week’s action-packed goodness. To give some background, God Eater takes place in an apocalyptic future where the world has been besieged by monsters of all sizes called Aragami. Our main protagonist, Lenka, is in the beginning stages of becoming a God Eater–a warrior against the Aragami who is given special powers in order to properly combat them–making him a “New-Type”. By the third episode, Lenka–just starting on his path to greatness–teams up with his more wisened cohorts, Lindow and Sakuya, in order to save a transport plane that’s being heavily bombarded by hordes of Aragami. Enter Alisa, the girl with a gun–also the New-Type girl on the transport plane who apparently needs saving. The episode doesn’t quite go in the “damsel in distress” direction, which is where things get interesting.

Alisa lets her turbine gun rip.


Alisa may seem like an old anime stereotype–the tough girl who simply won’t follow the rules–but there’s more to her than meets the eye, and she breathes fresh air into God Eater through her energy and her ethics, pushing the show beyond simple monster madness and into a truly rich action series. The shots of Alisa dashing across the breadth of her transport plane–slashing monsters left and right before sliding to a knee to fire burst rounds into a pack of blue flying creatures–are exhilarating, even if they’re not the best animated portions of the episode. Before now, God Eater has been exciting, but more in the vein of, “hanging with a new hero who barely misses death at every turn”. Alisa, on the other hand–as a “New-Type” who handles herself like a seasoned professional–offers experience out of nowhere. It’s the kind of character that God Eater needs; one who offers hope in the face of mounting monster concerns. At face value, Alisa represents the “girls with guns” trope by subverting classical ideals of femininity–motherly love, warmth, nourishment–and bringing nothing but death and destruction to the attacking creatures. When it turns out that Alisa–denying her own rescue by the God Eater crew–is staying with the transport plane to protect all the people on board, she finally becomes both the best traits of the “girl with a gun” and the motherly figure, blowing away the bad guys while protecting the weak and the innocent. As female characters in general go, she could be more complex. As female action characters go, however, Alisa brings just enough interest to the show to keep God Eater watchable.

It’s not just the “girls with guns” trope that makes this week’s God Eater the best of the week. The animation that God Eater employs has to be divisive amongst viewers–it’s one of the more obvious CG-based styles we’ve seen in the last few years–but it’s a strong factor in what makes the series such an enjoyable watch. Anime series have strived for some time now to incorporate classic ideals of Japanese 2D animation with the technological advances of CG animation, usually to ill effect (see this season’s Chaos Dragon, for one). God Eater, however, has seemingly solved the puzzle by creating an interesting character design–almost fuzzy on the edges at times, with some seriously thin line work–that makes its characters feel like they’re related to the 2D designs we’re used to, while also making them of the world which the series’ CG monsters inhabit.

A monster lurks in the waters.

That doesn’t even get into the gorgeous landscapes that fill out the backgrounds of God Eater–possibly the most impressive aspect of the animation. The episode starts with a scene of a rolling sea, calm and placid with the night sky hanging overhead. Soon, an Aragami shoots out of the water, disrupting the idyllic setting–a foreshadowing of the chaos to come, all with the backdrop of a beautifully lit sunrise taking form in the background. It’s shots like this that really draw us into the world of God Eater, helping the audience understand the mood of the apocalyptic world these characters call home. The various backdrops also help to give the Arigami a sense of scale that makes them even more frightening. While the main Aragamai force feels like it’s straight out of a random Final Fantasy or Persona battle–the least impressive animation in the episode, these creatures are round, blue, moth-like creatures with gaping mouths, razor-sharp teeth and tacked on wings–a fleeting shot of a much more intimidating Aragami towards the end of the episode, uses the sky around it to both hide the creature–giving us that Cloverfield effect–and size it up amongst the sprawling sunset.

A monster lurks in the clouds.

I worry that God Eater can’t keep up this momentum–or even this level of quality–since its general character and plot development up to this point has been fairly lacking. This week’s introduction of Alisa, however, and its borderline immaculate animation, show promise for a show that was a throw-away watch for me over the last two weeks. I’m not expecting gold here, but a guy can hope, right?

The A-TEC crew crowds around their new lab.

Runners-Up: Classroom Crisis – Ep. 4/Snow White with the Red Hair – Ep. 4

I really couldn’t decide between Classroom Crisis and Snow White with the Red Hair this week, as both series have a number of great moments but are also flawed in certain aspects. Classroom Crisis scored a nice outing by proving its non-partisan nature. Kaito Sera spends the majority of the episode figuring out how to keep A-TEC afloat, with a local union being his first go-to savior. Soon, however, Kaito realizes that the union is out to use him just as much as he hoped to use the union, if not more. These scenes work to make Classroom Crisis a more well-rounded series, ideologically. The series–frequently questioning the effect of the corporate power dynamic on the modern world–doesn’t hesitate to point out the political machinations of the enemy of corporate power (the unions). Instead, it feels as if A-TEC exists outside of the societal bubble, evolved past the goofball power dynamics of both corporations and unions, but still sadly effected by both. Aside from that, the episode almost feels like watching a chess game, where Kaito and Nagisa take turns trying to cut the other one off from getting what they want; Kaito, the survival of A-TEC, and Nagisa, its demise. This economic cat and mouse game feels fresh and new, and carries an episode that otherwise putters out in its conclusion. By the end, this week’s Classroom Crisis feels weighed down by bad jokes and tsundere girls getting sassy. I’m not so cold that I don’t enjoy that sort of thing in the right series, but it’s much better suited to a less thoughtful show.

Shirayuki stands amongst the flowers.

Meanwhile, Snow White with the Red Hair‘s fourth episode ends up in similar territory, starting off strong and ending on a whimper. Here, the best part is working through the mystery of the greenhouse which Shirayuki is left to solve, in order to complete her court herbalist test. Much like the quasi-playful nature of Classroom Crisis‘s cat and mouse games, the mystery which Shirayuki has to solve in the first half of this episode, keeps things light and draws the audience into the world of herbal medicine through the inquisitive eyes of Shirayuki. Things that hadn’t crossed my mind as remotely interesting–like which plants belong in which soil–suddenly became intriguing due to the pacing of the show and the way that it intensifies otherwise mundane subject matter. Sadly, Snow White with the Red Hair gets a little too sentimental by the end of the episode, going down the shōjo road of each and every character caring a little too much about the smallest of feelings in each and every other character. I get the idea behind such character emotions–“aren’t we all just the best of friends?”–but it gets tedious as a viewer who’s seen such relationships in the past. I just found myself thinking, “Come on, Snow White, there’s more to you than this.” Otherwise, this is a solid episode. The artwork is gorgeous and the overall plot has moved along nicely, keeping a pretty decent pace for the series in general. Hopefully Snow White picks it back up next week, focusing more on Shirayuki’s adventures with her cohorts and less on how damn sensitive everyone might be.

The seiyus eat it up at a wrap party.

Biggest Surprise: Seiyu’s Life! – Ep. 4

Both Seiyu’s Life! and Monster Musume were on my chopping block going into this week, mainly because while each had interesting moments, the episodes in general tended to drag on and were bad about simply recycling lame tropes. This time around, however, both show’s pulled off some interesting moments that made me want to see where things are going from here. Monster Musume–for all its baggage and intention of being “just another harem show… with a twist!”–manages to showcase some truly inventive moments with the various oddballs that make up Kimihito’s cadre of possible monster wives–a slime creature in particular, this go-round. While Musume makes the best of the fantastical setting it lives in, Seiyu’s Life! actively works to portray certain fringes of reality for those in the voice acting community. Futaba Ichinose–Seiyu’s Life!‘s main protagonist–is put through the ringer this week, forced to wrap up the few voice acting gigs she has left and hoping that a new job will fall in her lap.

Seiyu’s Life! is a consistently goofy and pointless show–falling off the Shirobako band wagon of giving us an “Inside Baseball” look at the industry, some episodes ago–but this episode’s ability to portray a creative person in crisis, is a true credit to the show’s more transcendent moments. Futaba sits around, waiting for her phone to ring with a new job offer on the other line, but the only phone calls she gets are much more mundane. It’s unspoken throughout the episode, but there’s a real sense that Futaba might have to let go of her dreams if things continue on this way. It’s refreshing to see Futaba struggle so much–versus the writers shoving her further into the industry without a second thought–because it captures the true feeling of attempting to break into the creative world. It’s difficult, and for every person who “makes it”, there are countless others that are struggling and considering moving on to a more lucrative career. Of course, by the end of the episode things are set back up for “cute girls doing cute stuff”, so we’ll see what Seiyu’s Life! can deliver next week. I’m not holding my breath, but at least Seiyu’s Life! provides a thoughtful outing every now and again.

The elf, the lolita and the sorceress stand in disbelief.

Biggest Disappointment: GATE – Ep. 4

Since it piqued my interest two weeks ago, GATE has added three female leads–an elf, a sorceress and some sort of goth lolita–that have seriously dragged the series down. Having three female leads who arguably play a larger role than our milquetoast protagonist, Itami, would usually be right up my alley. GATE, however, decides to do little with them, portraying the girls as the usual elf, sorceress or goth lolita character that we’ve seen before. Not only that, but GATE‘s preoccupation with these nothing characters–setting them nude in a bath house for the entire second half of the episode–takes away from the world building that made its second episode so special. To be fair, we do get a glimpse of that here–seeing a few scenes of drama building around the country, as well as a short scene of a foreign country in our own world that wants to exploit Japan’s dimensional gate for their own greedy purposes– but it’s not enough. More so, these scenes just tease the audience–similar to the bath scene for that audience–letting us believe that maybe there’s something more to this series than there really is. GATE feels like a show with good intentions–maybe the creator or some of the writers are legitimately interested in the world building here–that was forced to include fan bait material that eventually took over. I wish I cared about the elf princess and the troubled sorceress and the sassy goth lolita, but instead the only thing I’m given to care about is if I’ll get to see them in the buff. Monster Musume may be a show that’s even more nude-friendly than this one, but at least it’s up front about it.

Papi disses Kimihito for Suu, the slime.

Predictions for Next Week

I’m done. I can’t keep holding out for Gangsta. to get any better. I’ll keep watching it, because it’s a relatively dull season and Gangsta. at least offers the familiar tropes that I like the most–save for the “dumb prostitute”, mind you–but it’s a real bummer that the series isn’t trying to do more with itself. Gangsta. has found a typical dystopic setting to languish in and, beyond that, has really only built on its characters minimally using cheap flashbacks to give them more “depth”, instead of writing scenes in the show’s here and now to flesh them out. That means that our characters feel relatively cold towards one another. Sure, they have a strong history together, but as we see them in their present, not much is going on. So yeah, Gangsta. bums me out.

Elsewhere, I’m hoping that Seiyu’s Life! and Monster Musume keep bringing it and make themselves worthwhile shows to pick up. Besides its inventiveness, Musume is also clearly being worked on by people who are having a lot of fun with it, and when that can come across the screen, it’ll make even the worst show a little more entertaining to watch. Ranpo Kitan delivered another dark episode, keeping up with the precedent set up last week, and though I can’t call Prison School the best anime of the week–or even the runner-up–it’s consistently a great watch for the style alone, if not the outlandish and ribald humor that could care less what you think of it. I’m assuming–and hoping–that those two will keep up their quality. Either way, I hope to see you back next week for my thoughts on the best–and the rest–in the week’s anime.

Survivors of the Week

Classroom Crisis
Snow White with the Red Hair
Monster Musume
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
Seiyu’s Life
Prison School
God Eater
My Love Story
Ninja Slayer: from Animation

Matthew McCrary
Matthew McCrary
Pop culture writer at Monkeys Fighting Robots and Boom Howdy. Currently hosting the Toondiculous Podcast, where two grown men point out the logic flaws in children's programming. This sort of thing makes him feel like a big man, you see.