Girls Beyond the Wasteland
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Girls Beyond the Wasteland ?
I'll give Girls Beyond the Wasteland this: there was an actual funny moment this episode. It's when Buntarou reacts to people reading his writing for the first time. “It's pretty good,” the entire team takes turns saying, to his continual disappointment. If you've ever put your own work out there, there's a sort of initial, egotistical frustration when nobody else is as excited about your creative output as you. You have to get over it, and Girls Beyond the Wasteland pokes fun at this humbling experience. This gag makes me believe that the show contains some authentic emotions in its depictions of the creative process. It helps make up for last episode's bizarre condescension towards fujoshi Teruha for having the gall to make a game she's personally interested in. I now believe that this show is channeling some sincere emotions regarding creative collaboration.
But just because a crew member might have the experience doesn't mean that they have the ability. Ironically, for an episode that's all about Buntarou learning how to get readers invested in his writing, Girls Beyond the Wasteland still suffers from serious engagement problems. The whole thing is just so rote and low-conflict. It feels like I'm watching a thinly animated textbook guide on visual novel development with a story barely strung under it. The episode plot is as follows: Buntarou churns out a good script with some character problems. He meets with a more experienced writer and receives some valuable advice. Buntarou revises the script without incident. That's it. There's so little here that the episode's second half switches over to an entirely different plotline. Yuki, the team artist, works herself into a fatigue-induced illness. In order to lessen her workload, Buntarou is forced to make some compromises with his script. He does so, because a team member's health is more important than perfectionism. Again, this is a good lesson, it's just written with the didactic simplicity of educational television for little kids. Only in this case, it's a bunch of morality plays about the adult subject of game development. So who is this for?
Once again, I'm reminded of a more successful example of this type of story in Shirobako. That show manages to make its depiction of individuals working in a creative industry feel both accessible (in that it's emblematic of the experience as a whole) and specific (in that we're watching each individual's different struggles). It imparted lessons while also having an engaging narrative and appealing to its adult audience. With its drab character designs, unimpressive artistry, and (mostly) limp sense of self-referential sense of humor, Girls Beyond The Wasteland doesn't have much to offer the audience it claims to know. Between stuff like Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend, Shirobako, The World God Only Knows, Bakuman., and many others, shows for and about otaku expertise are becoming increasingly common. Audiences don't have to settle for anything on that front. Four episodes in, Girls Beyond the Wasteland has yet to show me what it has to offer.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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