Dies Irae Episode 2
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 2 of
Dies irae ?
I need to correct one factual error in the previous episode review. While other online sources refer to Guillotine Girl as Marie, the mysterious cloaked figure that Ren saw in episode one refers to her as Marguerite in episode two. I'm still going to call her Guillotine Girl, though.
That aside, if episode one was this series' emulation of a bland harem series opening. then the second half of episode two is its attempt to jack things up into a bloody, high-stakes, super-powered battle scenario. Absolutely nothing is unexpected about this, as episode 0 indicated that Ren would be obtaining some kind of power and episode one showed him making a connection with Guillotine Girl and the cloaked figure (who we now know as Mercurius). The expansion of Ren's harem isn't much of a surprise either, as we see the red-haired not-Nazi take on an identity as a student at Ren's school to be near him, as well as a Japanese(?) girl who's somehow associated with Heydrich's Obsidian Round Table and/or Longinus Deizehn Orden groups. (She's the one Ren and Kasumi met on the road in episode one.) They may be out more to recruit him than to bang him but they're still harem members nonetheless.
Sadly, neither the harem-potential expansion nor the action upgrade has made this series any better. The first half establishes that the priest from episode 0 knows Rea and is a ditz—at least that's his cover story, anyway—and even though that content is banal, it's still the better half of the episode. Things go downhill when it shifts to focusing on a dream sequence(?) Ren experiences at night. A scene implying that Ren may be connected to a recent series of serial murders is followed up with an equally standard scene of two not-Nazis appearing and one trying to beat up Ren as part of a life-or-death test to see if he's worthy to join them. Though Ren shows some superhuman toughness and evasive ability, he clearly still doesn't understand whatever power he possesses at this point, so he's unable to harm his attacker and must predictably be rescued by one of the enemy team who doesn't want to see him die yet for whatever reason.
The main problem with all this isn't that the series feels like it's just going through the motions, though. No, the bigger problem is the direction. Nothing about the way these scenes are framed generates any tension or danger, and some visual tricks (such as the way Ren is examined from all sides while initiating his nighttime experience) are more annoying than anything else. Poor use of a musical score also contributes to this problem, and that red CG skull motif isn't cutting it for intimidation factor either. Susumu Kodo is not a novice director—he has helmed the excellent Mardock Scramble movies and many lesser efforts—so I have to wonder why this production is coming together so poorly. The hazy filter used for the maybe-dream-sequences is also more annoying than effective. Comparing the technical and directorial merits of Dies Irae to Inuyashiki, even on little details like realistic blood splatters, is like night and day.
Overall, Dies irae has yet to descend to the laughably bad level of a King's Game the Animation, but nothing so far suggests that it will rise above the level of a seasonal bottomfeeder.
Dies Irae is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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