Battle Game in 5 Seconds
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Battle Game in 5 Seconds ?
Community score: 4.0
After experimenting with such lavish storytelling dalliances as 'character development' last week, this episode of Battle Game in 5 Seconds seemingly realizes that wasn't really playing to its strengths, and thus opts to switch back to its standard superpower showcase. Though we are now at the point where it's not actually as simple as showing off the abilities of the characters – that is, after those first couple episodes of seemingly messing around, Battle Game does seem to have discovered the key to upping engagement and appeal in a story like this: mind games that revolve around the powers characters have, and the ways they play them with how much they reveal about exactly what they can do.
Fair play to Battle Game, as in this episode it does seem to have a handle on timing its reveals in an interesting way. Particularly, it is very good at getting the audience to question a detail just as it's being twisted around or expanded on. A good example is the new format of 'team battles' themselves: No sooner is it revealed that the fights are in fact still one-on-one matches with the team members taking turns (thus seeming to nullify the purpose of such an arrangement) than the characters themselves question the point of this, with Akira realizing that it was actually something of a psychological test to see how much the players would reveal about their abilities to each other, potentially compromising them for later fights. It's the kind of clever turn that demonstrates how Battle Game might have a bit more self-awareness about what it's doing than I previously gave it credit for.
Similarly, the details of several of the powers seen in this episode follow the same kind of stringing-along setup. I already mocked Kirisaki's seemingly-simple power of turning a stick into a sword, and sure enough, we get the late revelation this week that his actual power is that the resultant sword can 'cut anything'. It creates an effective ongoing tug-of-war between the audience's perceptions and presumptions about what we're getting at all times, knowing that not only could a character's ability be anything, it could also turn out to have more to it than first meets the eye.
Thinking ahead though, that could increase the potential for Battle Game to fall into contrivance as it goes on, bringing out a previously un-hinted-at component of someone's ability as a last-minute win-button. That precise situation isn't present yet, but there are already hints of post-power technical qualifications mucking things up as the narrative goes on. For instance, Ringo's ability to copy other people's powers is explained right after we see her forfeit in such a way that makes sense with the limitations she describes, only to double-back a few seconds later and detail how she actually has a completely different set of limitations from what she disclosed to her teammates. It honestly feels like an undercutting swerve for the sake of itself, existing mostly to keep up the demonstration that not all the powers the participants of Battle Game have are created equal.
That in itself is another emergent issue with the priorities of what the anime is presenting to us. Seemingly underpowered or even useless special abilities are a staple of the kind of showcase genre Battle Game is built on, generally designed around surprising us with how those kinds of powers can still be dangerous when used creatively. Hell, just on our own, it's easy for us to think of how Ringo's ability still has utility at least in terms of giving her an instant read on what any given person's superpower is. Yet thus far the series simply sweeps things like her skill, or Sawatori's 'turning a button into a rope' ability, into a pile of joke powers, either to set them up as throwaway deaths in the game, or to delay their engagement in any of the action until the writer comes up with something more exciting for them to do. Instead of putting any effort to mine these more esoteric abilities for entertainment value, the narrative seems to simply shrug at the uneven allocation of them all and go "Yeah, that sucks, lol."
It also rounds back to the other prevalent issue with this episode, that being how the setups of most of the matches so far seem to specifically revolve around not showing us cool superpower fights. Sawatori's fight with Rin and Kumagiri's fight with Ringo both end on their own kinds of anticlimax, one after the other. Just one of these might function between 'proper' action as something of a narrative beat, but both in a row just comes off like either laziness or a lack of faith in the composer of this story to properly depict interesting engagements with the cards they dealt themselves. The series' aversion to its own cool factor gets downright egregious in the margins of even the clever parts of its setup, such as when Akira opts not to reveal his true power to his teammates, all but directly stating that this will deny him from finding more creative, interesting ways to use it for the time being. So we end up with the storytelling either actively undercutting the potential to show these abilities off, or opting not to show anything under the guise of said powers not being useful or interesting in their particular situations. And that makes for a frustrating watch, especially as the show is still managing to demonstrate a knack for engaging use of details, but only when it wants to.
Things do finally pick up near the end as we kick off the battle between Zokumyoin and Kirisaki, climaxing on the revelation of his sword's true power. Both the abilities on display in this seem like straightforward offensive 'turn a thing into a different thing' powers, but after two false starts I'll take it. Even as the show's finally confirmed it's not above making use of the 'Death' part of the Death Game genre with the 'shocking' offing of Sawatori, I hope Zokumyoin makes it through this bout. She seems nice, she's got a cool design, and she's providing us with a solid battle after a ton of time-wasting squandered the goodwill the otherwise effective setup of this episode led on. I'll extend those hopes to my wishes for the show overall: Just get on with what it clearly understands as its main fun factor here, apart from trying to get overly clever with anticlimax and supposedly-ironically-bad superpowers.
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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