by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Engine check and fueling are taken care of, so now after five episodes of build up it's finally time for the rip-roaring spectacle of the Trans-America race to speed past the starting line! For about three minutes, anyway. After a short bit of racing where Appare keeps their steam-powered jalopy in the standings via shortcuts and using Math to dodge a speeding train, we once more make a pit stop at the race's first check point. On the one hand, this format makes sense – while we've been introduced to most of the cast, we still don't know much about many of them so it's a good idea to let them interact a bit more to flesh out personalities and dynamics. Plus this is a cross country race so maintenance stops are going to be necessary. On the other hand, come on y'all, give us more than a few measly minutes of car hijinks! We've been patiently waiting for weeks!
Still, while we're here we might as well get a few character moments out of it. After doing the rational thing and braking instead of playing chicken with a train, Al feels the need to assert that his car isn't the problem. Dylan, the winner of this leg of the race, assures him he's right, because he and Al are playing a different game. Al's in a friendly competition to prove he can make a cool car, while Dylan and TJ are in a duel to see who can put their life on the line the fastest and come out the other side unscathed. Al insists to Sophia that he's not worried about that – after all he entered this race to prove himself as an engineer and build his own future, so it'd be pretty dumb to die trying. But at the same time I suspect there's a little more to him asking Kosame to spar than just wanting to not get rusty. Thankfully the ensuing epee vs bokken match also gives us a reminder that our resident samurai has his own damage that keeps him from drawing his blade in earnest – and considering that was last mentioned back in April, I'm glad for it.
Meanwhile, we learn that Gil and his crew are also playing for keeps in this race, and playing dirty to boot. Hototo spies on them to get info on his father's killer, just in time to overhear their plan to sabotage the other racers in Death Valley. Now technically they're not trying to kill any of their opponents – just murdering everyone wouldn't net them any prize money – but in Chase's words, if somebody eats it when they dynamite a canyon, well, shit happens. It's both an underhanded and lackadaisical approach to winning, which fits with how they see fit to “dispose” of their little spy by just tying him up and leaving him on the side of the road. The ensuing search at least lets us humanize Kosame and Appare more, with the former earnestly looking for the boy like a worried parent, while Appare quietly agonizes over leaving the race or abandoning a friend. Eventually he finds a way to rationalize not leaving immediately, and he's obviously relieved when Hototo returns, which continues to give Appare a more sympathetic tinge than your typical all-logic inventor character.
Otherwise though this is definitely a transitional episode with not much to go on. Outside of the disappointment at the lack of racing action, there's nothing particularly weak about any of it and this will likely feel like a necessary episode once the seeds it's planted start to sprout.
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