by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Greeting, true believers! It is once again time to worship at the altar of EX-ARM, the sci-fi super smash hit that makes Akira look like Tenchi in Tokyo. The blockbusting tour-de-force that took Patlabor behind the shed like Old Yeller. The series that literally punched Dai Sato in the mouth. The...the...uh…
Friends. Readers. Assorted weirdos. I need you all to do me a favor and follow me here, as we step outside of the bit for a minute. Because holy god damn hell do you know what happened this past week? Over on Twitter this show, this god damn show, started a controversy over people thinking Crunchyroll censored a lesbian kiss between Alma and the cop lady. But what ACTUALLY happened was that this show is so incompetently produced that the animators couldn't make the character models kiss, so they covered up their faces clipping through each other with a weird light from nowhere. AND THEY DID IT AGAIN IN THIS EPISODE.
This show is such a fucking mess that it tripped ass-backwards into being homophobic. How in the hell am I supposed to wax critical about that? Do I look like some veteran from the Colbert Report writer's room? No, I'm just some shmuck on the internet. This show is so bad it would be materially better if it was just bigoted and I'm expected to top that? When they're apparently going to do it every episode? I don't get paid enough to work that kind of alchemy. Shit. Fuck. God damn.
Alright, alright. Deep breaths. You can do this. You WILL do this.
This week, EX-ARM introduces another iconic element of its surefire genius construction, with Elmira, the android maid and bodyguard of a foreign warlord. Her introduction not only ushers in further political complexity to the show's already excellent worldbuilding, but more importantly provides an invaluable new wrinkle to the burgeoning doctoral thesis this show is writing on the nature and future of technology. Because when Akira and Alma fight her, it's not merely another brilliantly, perfectly awkward fight sequence in an abandoned, empty CG building, but a poetic ode to the battle between human ingenuity and the greed of automation.
Alma may be an android, themselves an oppressed class constructed and resented by humans, but she is ultimately a conduit of empowerment for Akira's humanity as she allows him to cook and eat and make out with Minami sometimes. Meanwhile Elmira is a hollow, destructive force who has accepted her role as a replacement for her owner, and become nothing but a tool of war. She represents the rigid, utilitarian endgame of capitalistic technology, so effortlessly demonstrated by the show's decision to put her in a maid costume. Which is why at the end of this episode it's so chilling to see Akira abandon his and Alma's co-existence to instead inhabit a high-end weapons unit. Perhaps this is EX-ARM saying that in order to defeat the creeping and insidious advance of immoral technology, Akira must sacrifice the very humanity that he seeks to preserve in others. It's a truly unnerving and vicious turn to take so early in this story, but one that you have to respect for its sheer unadulterated impact.
Of course this is all carried by the all-around stellar and groundbreaking animation. Not one to be complacent, EX-ARM sees fit to enhance its action with another genius directorial choice. For you see, every scene in the back half of this episode is suffused with an unearthly smoke emanating from the bottom of the screen, whirling and spewing in repeating patterns. This might at first seem like a cheap, misguided attempt to cover up the weightless, impact-devoid fights that make up this second half, but we all know by now not to take EX-ARM at face value. No, this seemingly artificial fog of war is here not to obscure, but to draw attention to the increasingly murky morality of both heroes and villains, for militarism is a universally corrupting force that will push its agents to follow their worst instincts, and as our heroes invade an autonomous area and destroy countless buildings in their efforts, it becomes clear that there isn't really a “good” side in this complex, deeply human conflict.
With such fantastic, even daring thematic vision, I thus proclaim that MAPPA can hereby cancel the final season of Attack on Titan, as any further episodes will prove merely redundant and inferior in the wake of the EX-ARM. Its unbridled creative power shall no doubt lay waste to its peers just as ruthlessly as it has shattered the previous generations of science fiction over its knee, and I can't wait for it to kill the entire Gundam franchise next.
EX-ARM is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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