Girls Beyond the Wasteland
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Girls Beyond the Wasteland ?
This final episode opens with our heroes winning their sales competition on a technicality. Both they and Typhoon sell out of their initial order. This makes it seem like a win for Typhoon, since their initial order was bigger than our heroes'. However, our team gets way more of a second print, so they end up selling more overall. Their advantage came from making a half-priced game, while Typhoon's was full-priced. This spared them from a lifetime of visual novel slave labor.
The rest of the episode is preoccupied with the question: “What's next?” They've completed 24-hours with Asamori-san. But is that all that they want to do? They won the initial sales competition against Typhoon, but that team produced the more complex, interesting, and long-lasting work. Are profits all that they're after? With the entire team enthusiastic about developing as creators, it looks like this commercial competition is turning into a larger creative rivalry. Sayuki's brother won't accept their profits (he'll pay off his debt through a number of part-time jobs instead), so all the money will go towards making their next game. At first, Sayuki wants to quit the team as penitence for having lied to them, but they don't let her. The game's completion washes away all of their sins, and they're committed to each other as a unit.
And that's it for Girls Beyond the Wasteland! Ultimately, I can't call it a good show, but it did turn out charming in ways that I didn't expect. It's often realistic in its depiction of working on a group project with friends. I ended up with some affection for the characters, and I felt genuinely sad when they faced certain impediments. They felt more like real teenagers than most anime characters. The boys and girls could interact without immediately breaking into sexual hysterics, and the romance subplot – while boring – did seem like the type of low-key longing real teenagers would feel for one another. There's even some decent character development. It was nice to see Yuuki grow into more of an assertive, friendly young woman. Sayuki was a fairly naturalistic depiction of the “defrosting ice-queen” archetype – it helps that the show was more about her making friends than the romance – and the “nice guy” aspect of Kai's character didn't show up all that much. If I were to meet these kids in real life, they'd be likable enough.
The problem is that verisimilitude by itself doesn't make for a compelling story. Girls Beyond the Wasteland tries to remedy that by occasionally injecting in some more conventional narrative stakes, but these attempts tend to fumble pretty hard. It bottoms out around the incomprehensible fishing episode and gets dragged down at the end by the inane competition against Typhoon. The show is best when it's just slightly heightening real aspects of the creative process, like during the “cram time” episode. This all might have been excusable, however, if the show had decent production values. Unfortunately, they're consistently bottom-of-the-barrel. From the character designs to the animation to the direction, it consistently looks like the people behind this put in the least possible effort. This anime was meant to advertise an upcoming (now released) visual novel, and regardless of how good that ends up being, this didn't make a good impression.
At least it ends with a pretty good gag. It turns out that neither 24-Hours with Asamori-san nor Typhoon's game were the bestseller that week – that honor goes to a game by Hosokawa, that loudmouth otaku writer guy who's kept appearing throughout the season. He wrote something about a sentient suit of armor that gets worn by various hot chicks. Of course, it sells a trillion units and makes him a superstar overnight. Everyone's best efforts are ultimately outshined by the caprices of the fickle and often ridiculous otaku market. But that's the business they've chosen. Otaku are fickle and horny creatures, but our heroes have chosen to make a living off of their whims. Who will end up dancing to whose tune?
This finale was a pleasant recapitulation of the show's strengths, so I'll give it a higher grade than average. While Girls Beyond the Wasteland contains some good moments, they're overwhelmed by the bad production and clumsy writing. However, there's some promise, and unlike a lot of bad stuff, this doesn't leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. I hope scriptwriter Yuniko Ayana keeps trying and can offer us better in the future.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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