by Grant Jones,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Back Arrow ?
We open on a flashback from when Kai and Shu Bi were young men. They were pursuing a Rakuho based on Shu Bi's calculations and eventually located it. However, so did a rebel army group. Kai and Shu bi defeated the group, and in doing so drew the attention of the Emperor of Rekka. Returning to the present day, Kai is upset with Shu Bi's defection and confronts him at the Granedger. He uses his Briheight Gigan to defeat Elsha, Back Arrow, and Atlee before Shu Bi comes out to talk. They sit down and Kai tries to convince Shu Bi to come back to Rekka. Shu Bi tells Kai that not only is he not going back, but even the scar from when he protected Kai in their youth has healed.
This enrages Kai, who attempts to kill Shu Bi. Bit and Back Arrow intervene and another Briheight fight breaks out. But before things can get too out of hand, Shu Bi tells the professor to fire the Granedger's cannons. Each shot fired hits closer to the capital. Shu Bi tells Kai to stand down or he will destroy the capital from here. Kai leaves, but not before vowing that they are enemies now.
With Kai gone, Shu Bi reveals that it was all a bluff. In truth the cannons were firing off into the air and he was using remote detonators to set off explosives that he had set at the capital before leaving. He and the rest of the Granedger crew decide to head towards the wall and escape before Rekka realizes they have been duped. Back at the capital, Kai and Ren Sin create a pact to work together and destroy the traitorous Shu Bi once and for all as the episode ends.
This may be one of the strongest episodes yet for Back Arrow.
I was really impressed with how this one came together thematically and as a production. I mentioned before that Shu Bi is very much in the mold of Zhuge Liang, and this episode continues to strengthen that comparison. Shu Bi's plans within plans, schemes within schemes, and always being two steps ahead of his foes all give him the master manipulator vibes. Kai of course is similarly reminiscent of another figure from Romance of the Three Kingdoms: that of Guan Yu (with his enormous spear and strength of a thousand Briheights being the key contributors to that). I think my favorite character moment for them was Shu Bi showing that his scar had healed, while later revealing that this was actually a ruse. Then he said that what he was doing wasn't bluffing, it was strategy… only to then turn around and call it a bluff again.
I was really impressed with the character animation this week too. I'm not familiar with any of the other works that Studio VOLN has worked on, and even though the first few episodes looked solid there were a few sequences that were a little flat (mostly in slower moments with characters speaking with one another). This week though, wow the character work was really spectacular. Every moment had the characters drawn with such care and detail, and their expressions just oozed emotion. The depiction of Kai's emotional range in this episode is particularly impressive; you could read the entire arc of brotherhood to betrayal on his face this episode and that's all due to the stellar work of the animators.
Now that the wheels are starting to turn, Back Arrow might be gearing up to be more than just comfort food – perhaps even a surprise hit for this season.
Back Arrow is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.
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