by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Full Dive ?
I maintain that after the backstory revelations, for Yuki to keep attempting to play Kiwame Quest, just to have a chance to hook up with Reona, is pretty weak. However, it does at least jibe with the kind of bluntly subversive choices this series has already been going for, and hey, it seems to finally, properly get the ball rolling this episode. It actually ties into some light theming too, as this week we see how Yuki might be too-easily swayed by appearances into bad deals of all stripes, such as him getting fleeced by an item shop he chose just to see the cute girl on the signage. Look, I've been duped into buying a mediocre RPG or two myself simply because there were cute anime characters on the cover, so I can sympathize. But on the other hand, Yuki gets taken in by this sort of subterfuge so inherent to the game so often that I have to hope he'll actually catch on sooner rather than later. The show really can't rely on the repeated “Yuki enters into what he thinks will be a typical RPG interaction only to get tormented by some aggravating over-realistic bullshit” joke for the whole of its run, can it?
It turns out it does potentially have some other options, as shown by this episode. With Yuki resolved to actually attempt to make some forward progress in his quest instead of simply flailing around and screaming, we get to see what really playing through Kiwame Quest might look like. Yuki does get some help in the form of the game's realistic procedures paying off for him for once, with Guard Captain Tesla correctly deducing his innocence, to say nothing of some in-game time-dilation that Yuki remarks as being one of the few breaks from ‘realism’ the game employs. And it's also interesting to see that, instead of that guide he took so much of last episode consulting, Yuki's direction in the game mostly comes at the behest of Reona, who nudges and advises him towards preparations and goals as he inches forward. Reona's stake in this continues to be the one I have the most interest in, even as I know they're likely going to tease her motivations out for quite a while longer.
And seeing Yuki be proactive instead of reactive in his in-game actions does yield an uptick in the engagement level of this show, in my opinion! The center of the appeal in this case is his reunion with Ginji, the washed-up older player who sold him out a couple episodes ago. I hadn't made time to comment on Ginji previously, because even though his concept is actually pretty interesting, he hadn't yet been used for much beyond an infodump followed by that plot-pushing betrayal. Given our understanding of Ginji's real-world misanthropic nature, I can totally buy into the idea of someone like that using the VR setting of Kiwame Quest not as an adventure to press through, but simply as a medium to hang out in the virtual setting of that starter town, whiling away your time with drinking and gambling. These kinds of escapist parallels to our real-life worlds are already an emerging element of virtual-reality setups, and Ginji speaks to how someone desiring that might gravitate towards the fringe mechanics Kiwame Quest pointedly employs.
Ginji's tale also elaborates on some of the game's more overt choices in a way that isn't just trying to wring out some cheap laughs. While Yuki being haunted by Martin's ghost was a joke I actually liked, having it pop up again made me question how ‘realistic’ the appearance of specters was for something built on that aspect. But between Martin and the implication of Ginji's own ghosts, Full Dive actually postulates a real concept here: In-game mechanics designed to provoke realistic emotions from the players alongside all the reactions to realistic external stimuli. Being literally haunted by the consequences of what you've done has the potential to affect even a cynical impulsive NPC-killer like Ginji. That's indeed not ‘fun’ in the traditional gaming sense, but it is much more in-line with a lot of the more emotional story-centric games out there these days, where the intent is to take players on a journey through a variety of often-unpleasant feelings. For me, it provides the first in-universe inkling of who Kiwame Quest would appeal to beyond the hardcore-difficulty masochist-gamer crowd. It doesn't exactly seem to be Spec Ops: The Line or anything, but at least Yuki's realization of the ghosts' purposes informed me of how he might find this game increasingly interesting, apart from vainly struggling against the other systems that he'd rather quit in the face of.
In other words, Ginji may be a wad, but he's a conceptually-interesting wad, and hey, at least each time Yuki's come to him he's ended up actually advancing the plot in some fashion. And as long as Yuki's recurrent pants-wetting habits are going to continue to be A Thing in this show, I'll take the writing using it as motivation to take the initiative against parties that upset him (I guess saying he ‘gets pissed’ would be a bit too on-the-nose?). The series manages to mine some decently fresh humor out of the way Yuki and Ginji's encounter escalates too, starting a brawl in a tavern like you might expect in an RPG, only for a character's ‘Special Weapon’ to just be a pair of brass knuckles, or Reona framing this as a successful Boss Battle even though it effectively amounted to shaking down an old drunk in a bar. That's the kind of anticlimactic observational humor I think Full Dive's setup has lent itself decently well to.
The show still has plenty of its usual material filling in space, of course. Yuki dealing with criminal rumors persisting in the face of his acquittal, aggravating job opportunities, or smoke bombs that are a realistic pain-in-the-ass to use. But with the honest-to-god momentum and motivation shown in this episode, those feel more like the silly asides they're supposed to be instead of sections to sit through wherein seeing Yuki suffer is the sum total of what the material has to offer. That, plus the introduction of some genuinely interesting ideas makes all the difference with this one, turning it into easily the most compelling episode of the show yet.
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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