I cannot think of a more worthy use of such technology.
This episode was an improvement over the previous one, but it still suffered from the same problems that having been plaguing the series: bad animation and stupid story. Since the show is in boss rush mode, it’s easy to ignore the story that continues to be crazy, but not so much for the poor animation. The action was interrupted far too often for long-winded speeches, testing the limits of suspension of disbelief with speech-as-a-free-action. Still, the baddie was cool enough, and Medaka was badass enough that this was the most fun episode since the first.
There’s no doubt that the show is just a full-on badass-filled action-fest by now. I compared the 13 levels here to the 12 (+1 for the shogun) levels at the end of Nisio’s Katanagatari, and Shigusa is another source of comparison to that show, since his reflexes is an altered version of Maniwa Penguin’s luck. This ability to automatically prevent damage to oneself is a very neat power; as a big fan of the Devil May Cry series of video games, I am well aware that dodging an attack is infinitely cooler than blocking it. The fact that Shigusa’s power was in his reflexes went well with the reveal of Medaka’s perfect voluntary control of her body, which seems to be responsible for her perfection. It’s one way of expressing the talent vs. hard work dichotomy: Shigusa is reliant on his talent, the autopilot that allows him to overcome any obstacle, but his abilities are strictly defined by what he can’t control. On the other hand, Medaka relies only on her own conscious actions. In the end, though Shigusa is inherently more powerful, Medaka’s freedom to push her own limits pushes her past him. It was very reminiscent of the Neo vs. agents dichotomy from The Matrix. “They will never be as strong, or as fast, as *you* can be.”
Unfortunately, the episode stalled early and often. After seeing the likes of Girls und Panzer and K in the same week, the quality of action here just won’t cut it. It might have impressed 10 years ago, but standards have changed, and the bright light backgrounds, speed lines, and 4-frame looped animation isn’t acceptable today. I imagine that the events of this episode were much more fun in manga form, where cool looking stills are good enough. Another luxury manga enjoys is the relatively unconstrained size of speech bubbles. When converted to animation, the timing of the speech matters, and the director needs to make the cuts and changes necessary to make it work for the scene that’s playing out. He can’t just freeze time or resort to slow motion every time. As cool as this fight was at times, the constant stoppage prevented it from ever building up a flow.
But it did shine in certain isolated moments, such as the Medaka Phantom attack at the end. It wasn’t animated particularly well, but I can’t complain about getting to see Medaka resort to such an absurd attack to get around Shigusa’s defense. The inhuman speed was communicated very well, and if you step through her attack, you can see that there was no frame between when she was mid-hop and when she was next to Shigusa. Also, as she passed by him, she created a Ryu Hayabusa-esque after-image, living up to the Medaka Phantom moniker. Like all the insane powers and abilities the students of this school have, this had no rationale or reason behind it. We know that Medaka is a fine martial artist, but where did this particular attack come from, and how did Zenkichi see it before?
The nonsensical plot is definitely weighing down Abnormal. I generally place little importance on the plot, but a plot this incoherent needs good direction to make the show work, and this show certainly lacks that. It seems that we may be entering a monster-of-the-week phase, as Medaka and friends go down to the next level in the next episode to face the next randomly badass student – one who happens to be a wanted mass-murderer. I hope he and the fighters after him will have more insane awesome powers, because that’s about the only thing that’s keeping this show afloat right now.
So close to pushing Medaka Box Abnormal into MetaFap territory. Darn you, Zenkichi! (click for full size). Thanks as always to Fosh for providing his captions.
A math/science geek and a self-dubbed cynical optimist. I don't care if it's deep, if it can make me feel something or laugh, it's fine in my book. @lvlln