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Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation
Episode 3

by Lauren Orsini,

Another week of promising premises with puzzling execution characterizes this episode of Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation. The anime either overexerts itself to explain something or completely glosses over the details: there is no in-between.

One highlight of this episode is the introduction of Aaron Burroughs, a soldier who looks identical to a corpse Tohru encountered in episode one. This is no ordinary man, but somebody who has killed his own doppelganger. Tohru asks the question on every viewer's mind: “How did it feel to fight yourself and kill yourself?” It's foreshadowing for what Tohru is inevitably tasked to do. It's a perverse space between murder and suicide—to kill somebody who knows your every move intimately. The fact that Aaron has succeeded makes him the character to watch so far. It's a great scene because it focuses on the most interesting part of Gunslinger Stratos: the questions that arise in a world with deadly doppelgangers.

Otherwise, the episode was focused purely on world-building, and not very well either. These are characters out of a videogame, with posturing and single-minded motivation that makes itself apparent through taunts and quips in between killer battle moves. However, episode two set up an extremely tangled web of relationships between them that there was apparently no time to address this time around. Just like in a video game, the characters' screen time prioritized battles over plot. I just wish that their relationships could be as lovingly detailed as their combat outfits are.

There's a lot of science to be explained behind why Tohru and his friends have these abilities, but I found it very difficult to understand. I was confused as to how they could fly around weightlessly, and only later did a scientist explain it was because of “g splitters.” Tohru and Kyouka's exchanging school for the lab is explained away with Brian's revelation that the school was designed to further development of soldiers for the lab. The illustrious Timekeepers are “from the future,” no further explanation needed. Remy and Sidune are “experiments,” and that's all we know. I'm not satisfied with that.

The best parts of the episode weren't told through science mumbo-jumbo; they were shown in dramatic sequences. Tohru has an incredible power he can barely control, and we saw a new hint of its manifestation as he pulled rubble through time to attack Sidune. Tohru can apparently speed or slow time, as indicated by his ability to dodge bullets Matrix-style. I'm curious to know if Tohru's doppelganger can do everything he can do, because Tohru's arsenal of abilities is becoming downright impressive. If so, could Tohru's doppelganger simply swap their clothing to trick his friends into killing him? As usual, the doppelganger premise continues to be the best and most engaging part of the show.

We conclude yet again with another cliffhanger ending, this one even more damning than the one from the first episode, as it features the apparent death of a main character. If you die in the past, you die in real life, Kyoma explains. “Game over.” This last statement, while a nod to Gunslinger Stratos's video game origins, might tell the audience something else—in video games, you can restart and try again. If that happens, I hope there's a visual explanation, which Gunslinger Stratos does well, and not something explained away with junk science, which it does poorly. Opting for one over the other will make the difference between a good fourth episode and a confusing one.

Rating: B-

Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.

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