AMAIM Warrior at the Borderline
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 7 of
AMAIM Warrior at the Borderline ?
How would you rate episode 8 of
AMAIM Warrior at the Borderline ?
Apologies for missing a week, everyone. I could tell the truth and say I got laid-up with a stomach bug that left me too bleary-eyed to even read a subtitle, but let's instead pretend this was all a clever move by me to mirror the show. After all, despite holding off on actually introducing Shion in episode six, AMAIM instead chose to spend the following week excluding our heroes from the plot to follow a different group entirely. The sum total of our freshly assembled trio's actions in episode seven are to exchange introductions, eat at a hotel, and finish up their trip to HQ without incident. The rest of the episode is dedicated to Captain Brad and his own crew of mech pilots hunting the newly-repaired Ghost.
It's kind of funny, honestly. “This mech show is different, it's about the characters, not just the robots!” is such a tired line that it's become a punchline in and of itself, and yet AMAIM is out here proving it still has some applicability. The show is very purposefully sidelining our main cast after they've finally found each other, just so it can focus on a big, explosive robot battle. Which isn't necessarily a complaint, as the show's 2D action remains its biggest strength. The fight between Brad's squad and Ghost is fun, and features some genuine surprises – and some unexpected brutality for this show – from Ghost's expanded arsenal. The human side of the fight leaves something to be desired, if only because their robots are kinda boring to look at by comparison, but Brad himself does a good job of looking like a competent opponent for both Ghost and eventually our rebel heroes.
But will he really be their opponent? Brad, as possibly a first for this series' foreign military characters, seems to feel actual unease over the whole military occupation of a foreign nation thing everyone's doing. He doesn't go as far as condemning it outright yet, but by god he's the first non-Resistance person to show an ounce of nuance in this show so I'll take it. I also have a soft spot for incredibly on-the-nose metaphors, so his backstory of being an orphan who could only sleep soundly in the cockpit of an AMAIM is just cheesy enough to work. It's still not quite on the level of Mikazuki becoming physically dependent on his giant war machine robot in Iron-Blooded Orphans, but it's the closest the show's gotten so far to the kind of silliness I enjoy.
And AMAIM actually continues its streak this week by giving its plot and characters some much-needed downtime outside their robots. Eventually, anyway. First it faceplants hard with the introduction of obviously evil war profiteer German Gobert. See we know he's evil and a war profiteer because literally the first thing he says is that he loves making money off of war by selling arms to the Resistance, in as many words. He says it twice! I honestly hope this dude is a red herring, because otherwise nobody gets any points for guessing who winds up being the bad guy in the second half of this thing.
Thankfully after that we get to the actual point of this episode, as the Resistance helps a family of refugees gradually rebuild their abandoned village and make a decently livable homestead. See, this is genuinely an interesting angle to take – countless mech and sci-fi series focus on the horrors of war and the glory of battle and all that, but very few ever try to tackle the non-glamorous work of physically rebuilding in the wake of modern (and future) warfare. Things like renovating shelters, re-establishing resource lines like power and water, or just plain getting sustainable food are all critically important aspects of post-war that are usually left to epilogues and montages because they're not cinematic. By dedicating a whole episode to something like this, it makes the Resistance feel like more than just a flat group of underdog fighters. I still have a less-than-charitable interpretation of AMAIM's political subtext (and regular text) but here at least is something novel and thoughtful.
There are still some hiccups. For instance, there's a short subplot where the family's disaffected, video-game-loving teen son learns the value of hard work by re-plastering a wall, something he's secretly great at because he “won the championship in the plasterwork eSports division.” Whatever the hell that is. Like really, what in god's name is that? Is there a heretofore unmentioned culture of virtual reality home repair games that have somehow fostered EVO-level competitive scenes in this universe? Is that just what the writers think Minecraft is about? Either way it's a bizarre detail to drop into a cliché storyline where those darn teens learn to put down their phones and start putting in a hard day's work and the Honest Living Factory. Never mind they explicitly didn't have electricity in the village, so how in the world was he even using said phone?
But on the positive side, it's nice seeing our heroes actually interact with other people and exhibit personality traits beyond fighting real good. For the first time since the premiere, Amou gets to tinker with some mechanics, and helps build a water wheel generator for the village. Shion shows off her pottery skills from her backstory and bonds with the younger kids after rebuilding the local kiln. And Gashin reveals he's a teen parent! Well actually the attention-starved kid just calls him daddy because her actual parents are presumed dead and Gashin humors her out of sympathy, but AMAIM was the one to bring up that whole declining birth rate talking point first, so it's fair game to make fun of. More seriously, it is nice to just see these kids working on mundane tasks, away from any war drama and life-threatening danger, and I credit the show for not chickening out on that front. This kind of idyllic setup just begs for a sudden attack that leaves the innocent family dead, and that we don't see anything like that this episode is a point in the show's favor.
So hey, that's two episodes where the series has stepped out of its typical formula and managed to at least sort of endear me to its cast. There are still issues, but these have at least done a solid job of fleshing out AMAIM's world and characters in a way that feels substantive. I'll take it.
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