Battle Game in 5 Seconds
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Battle Game in 5 Seconds ?
It can be mildly amusing to take note of the various moods Battle Game in 5 Seconds gets hung up on throughout its storytelling. For instance, this week, they just can't stop dropping in little bite-size backstory flashbacks for the characters involved in the various fights we're still circling. A lot of those battles reach their conclusions in this episode, so it mostly just ends up feeling like the writers realized they forgot to impart any information about any of these non-main-characters, and shoehorn in a little right at the end so we still know who we're supposed to be rooting for, or understand the motivation of others we're suddenly told are important. It works about as well as any last-minute solution typically does, and completely obliterates any manageable pacing Battle Game was still holding onto. Bonus!
It doesn't help that much of what we get is either plainly uninteresting, or ridiculous in ways that still aren't particularly interesting. Case in point: Kumagiri. I like Kumagiri, he's a big buff nice guy who pointedly doesn't want to use his invincibility superpower because he understandably doesn't trust the motives of the evil squeaky-voiced catgirl who gave it to him. Sure it makes him come off a bit like a needlessly-principled lunkhead in the way he maintains that refusal in the face of getting several of his limbs cut off by the Shrinky-Dink Bartender, but we as an experienced audience can gather that it's leading up to some sort of revelation that will motivate him to actually armor up. So what do we get? We find out Kumagiri has a dead older brother who provided him a heart transplant in an exact recreation of that one hoary old meme template. It's absolutely enough to make you burst out laughing in the middle of this supposedly serious scene.
And the thing is, I don't know how Kumagiri's Hallmark-Channel-ass backstory even properly applies to his resolve to finally use his power. It's mostly a somber plea for pathos in between him jumping in to take a hit for his little pal Hareka, as the core idea of living to protect others seems like it would be enough of a motivation for him. The heart-transplant backstory is just garnishing at this point, since like I said, Battle Game seems to think that everyone here needs some previously-unseen background to get us on board with them. But in the case of Kumagiri, we already have a general understanding that he's a pretty cool guy. It was something the series had actually demonstrated with an effectively minimalist context, which is what you want to be able to do in a battle-royale story with a large cast like this.
It's similar across the board for pretty much everyone we check in on here. Katsuya remarks about how much he feels he was saved by teaming up with the rest of Team Green, before Akira saves him and tells him to go help his teammates. The beady-eyed traitor grandma Momoko drops the stunning (and nonsensical) revelation that Oogami and Kuroiwa are her children, which is such a blunt excuse to have a turncoat character that I'm almost impressed with its insane brazenness. Even Ringo, who gets the other big showcase fight this episode, finds herself reflecting on a particular pep talk she got from Akira a while back. There's an almost hilarious irony to the fact that all these bits are jammed in, while Shirasagi's death in the same episode is a sudden, vague, off-screen affair with little fanfare and almost no reflection on what his now-departed influence on his team even meant. As we're constantly cutting between everyone else's pasts, having them explain their backstories and hang-ups to us mid-fight, it creates this awkward start-stop effect that makes Battle Game feel even more stuttered and scattershot than it already did.
That's a shame because whenever the anime deigns to actually let those fights proceed after all the backstory, we get some of the more interesting instances of combat the show has treated us to in a while. No, the animation isn't much better and some of the power explanations (like a posthumous one we finally get for Rindou's invisible sword slashes) are so under-explained we just have to assume they work, but a lot of the strategizing around them is solidly constructed. Akira, for instance, does actually seem to be expanding the applications of his ability, pointedly seeding ambiguity so he can mine the speculation of his enemies to access different powers. Those are the kinds of mind games I'd been hoping to see him play for the past ten episodes! Similarly, we get a more stock kind of power-clarifying revelation as the confidence boost Akira instilled in Ringo motivates her to actually try out her own power, and discover the one-tenth technicality can actually be a boon to how abilities function. It's neat enough that it leaves me a little less bothered by them demonstrating it by having people bust out the Hand-Cannon superpower for the umpteenth time. Wasn't that ability supposed to be a rare, extra-desirable case? We've seen at least three people with it at this point, with several others able to copy it somehow.
Yes I'm reaching for my praise of some of the more interesting elements of the strategic combat here. Indeed, Ringo's plan to take down Momoko ends up being kind of a head-scratcher of overcomplexity as she constructs a way to get the drop on the old lady despite having the opportunity to just shoot her a moment earlier. That issue rings similarly for Akira's suddenly-deployed details of his plan to track down Kuroiwa, given it doesn't really matter how much the audience can remember the particular rules of this game in the first place. But narrative misprioritization and clunky attempts at complex plotting are part and parcel to the Battle Game experience at this point, so my sensibilities can't feel too offended by now. At least they gave me a few things to focus my interest on while I wait to see what weird storytelling mood this show would get into next.
Battle Game in 5 Seconds is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.
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