by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Full Dive ?
The promise of learning the backstories and underlying motivations for our lead character was one of the remaining points I was hanging onto to increase Full Dive's standing in my eyes. The previous anime adaptation of one of Light Tuchihi's works I covered, Cautious Hero, was structured around a similarly singular joke, but did eventually expand its scope by revealing the source of its over-careful main character's predilections. I won't spoil it here (give the show a shot yourself, it's at least a funnier affair than Full Dive has been so far) but suffice to say it made an attempt at a sweeping recontextualization of the character to lend some weight to the choices we'd seen him make up to that point. This fourth episode of Full Dive, meanwhile, reveals to us that Yuki's defeatist attitude and withdrawal from life stems from...one time he tripped at a track meet and peed himself. A harrowing tragic backstory if there ever was one.
I don't want to downplay the shame of failure and sense of ostracization the show is trading on with this instance too much; lord knows I'm well aware of how insufferable peers in high school can be over a single embarrassing moment. But Full Dive had been teasing this revelation for the previous three episodes before devoting a full half of this one to the dramatic flashback of the event, and it absolutely doesn't ring as the serious crux to the kind of crisis-of-confidence character arc we've been begging to see Yuki undergo since the series began. Most of the characters in-flashback already make clear to him that he could definitely come back from something like that if he'd just get back on the horse and do better next time, but he has none of that. Combined with the following present-day scene of Yuki's sister admonishing him for quitting his run at Kiwame Quest after his lousy experiences, there seems to be an attempted message here about not giving up despite setbacks. The problem is that while ‘finishing what you started’ could be a perfectly valid arc of motivation for a character like Yuki, I'm not sure the constant, unchecked misery of the game we've been shown so far is exactly the avenue through which to deliver that message.
My issue with the anticlimax of Yuki's revealed reasons for retirement is reinforced by how static he still feels by this episode. You'd think there'll be a hint of him actually moving forward due to any of his experiences in the game (perhaps a renewed understanding of just how much worse things could actually be?), but the scenes of his daily life he trudges through are near-identical to what we saw in episode one. And if you thought that drawn-out flashback to the perfunctory punchline of pants-pissing was some rip-roaring excitement, you won't be able to keep up with the roller-coaster ride of the second half of this episode, wherein Yuki reads a strategy guide! There's something masochistically appreciable about the way Reona turns down Yuki's attempt to return the game with the age-old false reassurance that “It gets good later!” only to point him towards GameFAQs as a most mundane solution to his inability to successfully enjoy the thing. But even that gives way to a retread of the show's single joke, the revelation that the strategy guide composed by the only player to actually complete Kiwame Quest is as mean-spirited and unpleasant as the game itself. There are only so many ways I can watch a main character be humiliated and belittled, and at least over in Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro that kind of content is presented in a funny, enjoyable manner.
It turns this episode, which should have been revelatory, at least in terms of expanding our hero's motivation, into nought but time-killing. The idea of exploring Yuki's habit of giving up too easily simply ends up clashing with how unsatisfying the game has been presented to us as, but even with both layers of past and present setup, the writing can't make him all that sympathetic either. He comes off mostly like a self-pitying jerk when he's haranguing his sister or Reona due to hang-ups on a single really embarrassing incident from his past. And the game isn't really presented yet as a tool to help him get over that so much as the only remaining alternative for him to accomplish something, but even there we get a motivational disconnect. At the end of this episode, Yuki resolves to jump back in and give Kiwame Quest another go, spurred on not by his desire to overcome his previous failures or by being armed with the information of the strategy guide, but because...Reona promises to have sex with him if he does. It's the same hilariously simplistic honey-pot our hormonal teenage hero fell for back in the premiere episode, and only speaks to the sheer amount of running in circles we did to wind up in the same place we started four weeks ago. At least they wrung some sympathy for Yuki out of me that way: Now I feel like I've just been jerked around and had my time wasted too!
Full Dive is currently streaming on Funimation.
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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