Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Feb 17th 2017
With the Aragami attacking more frequently and the appearance of the Dyaus Pita, things are looking grim for humanity. As Lenka faces a terrible revelation about his own use of his weapon and Lindow veers ever-closer to truths the higher-ups don't want him to find, flashbacks finish filling in the story of how the entire system came to be. Even if the gods are devoured, it doesn't look hopeful for those looking for peace.
Answers always come with a price. Sometimes it's simply learning something you really didn't want to know, other times, it's the destruction of humanity and the entire world. If that seems like an extreme comparison, it's deliberate – the second half of the God Eater anime takes its burning desire to be dark and edgy a bit too far, revealing layers upon layers of dystopian plots, fatal consequences, ghastly deaths, and a few other melodramatic touches that make this feel like a feverish attempt to make a major impact without fully developing things like “plot” and “character.” The very end of the series, as in the last two to three episodes, are most guilty of this, as it seems the writers realized that they were running out of time to fit in everything they needed/wanted to, but when I reflect upon the entire series, it seems that that was an issue all along.
This is not to say that there aren't some well-done moments. Episode ten is probably the strongest of the six in this set. Almost the entire thing is a flashback to Lenka's childhood, how he was found and raised by people rejected by Fenrir and why it took him so long to reach the organization later on. Much of this depends upon his relationship with older sister Iroha, three years his senior. She is the central figure in his life, almost moreso than his parents, and ultimately she is the one who influences his decision to become a God Eater. Although the episode flirts with the idea that she may have romantic feelings for him, what's more important is the way she looks out for him and cares about his future. Although all of the death scenes have been remarkable for their horror, hers is arguably the most upsetting as we watch her dream while dying play out before seeing what is actually going on. Above all, Iroha really explains Lenka's attitude towards the possibility of his own death, particularly as the series moves towards its finale, which helps to ground the character as more than just “angsty teen.” It also sets up a nice symbolism in the half-cape that Lenka wears, which is significant in the show's final scenes.
Less successful is the attempt at symbolism through names. “Lenka,” we are told, means “lotus,” but is more commonly written as “renge” in romanji. This is only important because of a parallel with Lindow, whose name we see written in romanji as “rindou,” which can mean “bellflower.” In some East Asian symbolism, the bellflower is representative of unwavering love and honesty, which certainly speaks to the character himself, and Iroha specifically says that she named Lenka for the lotus for its symbolic meaning. This would indicate that Lindow and Lenka are being set up as, if not foils, then at least as similarly symbolic characters. Sadly, this is all lost by the decision to Romanize the spellings in such a way that the original names are obscured. Since this choice was almost certainly made in conjunction with the Japanese companies in charge of the show, it must be a deliberate one, but it is also somewhat baffling in that it deprives audiences of some of the nuances.
There are also some objections to be made to the depiction of Alisa's PTSD and Aisha's decision to infuse her fetus with oracle cells in the hope of creating a new race of humans who are better equipped to deal with the aragami. The latter is arguably more important to the show, although its impact gets swallowed up in the melodramatic madness that surrounds it – Soma's issues and the creation of Fenrir among them. While Aisha cannot be fully blamed, it was her choice that essentially jumpstarted the sequence of events that makes up the finale of the show and therefore to Fenrir's abuse of its fighters' PTSD in general. There is an interesting dynamic set up wherein each member of the original trio of oracle cell scientists is portrayed as black, white, and grey in terms of alliance, but as with much of these episodes, it is too rushed to really make an impact.
The art in the series continues to fluctuate between good and laughable – for every well-animated action sequence, we have Alisa's amazing gravity-defying shirt and for each frightening aragami, we have Dyaus Pita, who looks vaguely like an evil Santa head on a spider's body. The biggest issue remains that the faces do not emote well, which is detrimental to a few of the scenes where shock is important. The music likewise wavers, with the beautiful “Human After All” returning in episode thirteen but much of the background music sounding like a mash-up of Phillip Glass and Dance Dance Revolution. The extras once again are impressive, featuring three more making of videos, which really do go into impressive detail, and the usual booklet, which in this case has aragami information and an interview with the Japanese voice of Lenka. Both dub and sub tracks are decent, with a few stronger voices in each; it is nice to hear Cherami Leigh get a chance to play a fairly different role for her in Alisa and Robbie Daymond does some impressive screaming as Lenka towards the end.
Overall God Eater is looking to tell a story about how we live our lives – either for ourselves or for others – and what those choices bring us. The idea of giving up one life for the lives of many is prevalent throughout, and whether a character grasps that – like Iroha and Lenka – or utterly fails to, like Johannes, is ultimately what drives their actions. Given a deeper story, it could have worked, and the sepia-toned flashbacks do help us to understand the story's world more. But in the end things just move too quickly, turning drama into melodrama and depriving the plot of a lot of its significance. It's unsatisfying in the end, and that's never the answer you want to the question of whether or not a story has done its job.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ Some good music and interesting parallels between characters, real attempts made at explaining several of the characters' motivations…
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