Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 7th 2008
The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye: Final Decisions
Whether freeing the imprisoned Joganki, dealing with a mind-controlled Auto Enforcer with a death wish, trying to stop the wormhole driving from firing, or confronting an ultimate foe who, in some senses, is much like herself, Honoka has her hands full, but even the burden of saving the world seems to rest comfortably on her slender, capable shoulders. In the aftermath of her confrontation with Rona Fauna, a friend running afoul of the Technos Taboo convinces Honoka that it is time to force the issue with The Third over their maintenance of the Technos Taboo by journeying to the forbidden Steel Gorge. Iks independently decides that he must go there, too, to seek out the entity that he has been looking for ever since he arrived. Though The Third endeavor to stop Honoka and Iks, Joganki and Fila discover anew that the Sword Dancer is no one to be trifled with when she sets her mind to something, and that her power and skill may not even encompass her greatest strength.
Throughout its run The Third has shown a capacity and willingness to let its heroine solve problems the traditional shonen way: through brute force. Two such golden opportunities come up in these episodes. One involves an awesome display of power, the other a ridiculously over-the-top spectacle in classic shonen fashion, and both together should satisfy those looking for their quota of flashy moments to be entertained. Honoka also continues to impress with her even-headed restraint and skill; even typical scenes of her dodging attacks becomes things of beauty thanks to deft action scene animation.
Unlike most shonen action heroes, however (and especially male heroes), Honoka matches her physical and chi-manipulating prowess with a degree of empathy rarely seen outside of pacifistic female characters, thus allowing her to also solve problems in that manner, too. In retrospect this has been going on all series, but in these final episodes two additional crucial moments come up where Honoka's feelings, and her ability to relate to and connect with others, prove the key to resolving the situation. Moreover, it never seems out of character for her to act in this fashion. Even when she must resort to violence she never revels in it like so many other action heroes do, instead adopting a pragmatic, businesslike approach while still maintaining a poetic soul. This fine and highly unusual balance of traits makes her one of the most interesting anime heroines to come along in recent memory.
The actual storytelling spends two episodes wrapping up the “kidnapped Joganki” storyline while showing considerable insight into the nature of Rona Fauna, which leaves only two episodes left to provide some kind of unifying ending to what is essentially a collection of progressive short stories featuring the heroine. As a result the flow of the final two episodes feels a bit rushed and forced, but despite that the climatic scenes produce powerful and beautiful results. The final confrontation with the Observer actually manages to wrap up bits and pieces of story elements from throughout the series and gather them together in a heartfelt sequence certain to satisfy regardless of what you may have been expecting. It may have been manufactured for the anime to cap largely unconnected stories (or if it was not, it certainly gives that impression), but it works.
Sadly these final episodes do not pass without another artistic breakdown. The problems the series saw back in episode 13 with a sudden drop-off in character rendering quality recur in the artistically subpar episode 23, making Honoka look positively anorexic, vaguely distorting other characters, and generally giving them a far rougher look than they should have. As before, rendering quality returns to normal for the next episode. The credits provide no breakdown for those who do the grunt work for each episode, but the difference is so readily noticeable that some form of outsourcing must be responsible. CG renderings and animation in the last episode do not impress quite as much as elsewhere in the series, either, but in other places the visual maintain the same sharp artistic standards (and capable animation standards) seen elsewhere in the series. The final episode also features some inventive artistic sequences that may remind some viewers of the last episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The soundtrack throughout the series has been rather eclectic, often significantly changing up its sound while still retaining a few core elements. In its final scenes it shifts to a decidedly symphonic approach reminiscent of certain classical music standards, which flows into a variation on its opening theme as the credits roll and visuals continue. Whether or not the musical selections are always the best choices vary from scene to scene. The same opener remains throughout, while the second closer continues through episode 23.
Carol Jacobanis, the voice of Paife, sometimes seems a bit stiff in her delivery (especially in episode 21), but otherwise the English dub provides a close match to the sound and style of the original performers throughout this span. Anna Morrow does an especially good job of pegging Honoka's emotional range, self-confidence, and various moods; hopefully we will be hearing much more from her in the future, as she is a vocal talent worth noting. The English script stays reasonably close to the original throughout.
On-disk Extras this time include profiles of The Observer and the mechanic Joey, a pair of karaoke music videos featuring clips from throughout the series, the original U.S. trailer, and a sneak peak at the manga version. The case offers a reversible cover, while the liner booklet contains the now-standard collection of episode-specific poetry, additional character profiles and images, equipment profiles, and background art.
In the end The Third finds a pleasant balance between action and empathy without ever losing track of its poetic soul. In the process it offers an alternate meaning to the series' title and shows a superior example of an anime heroine worth caring about.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Well-animated fight scenes, interesting female lead, satisfying climax.
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