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Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation
Episode 5

by Lauren Orsini,

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It's not a good sign that I can sum up this episode of Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation with such a cliched aphorism. This week, the Timekeepers who rule the games dished out answers to some of our most pressing questions, but I can't say they were entirely satisfying. Instead, we discovered that the Timekeepers' decision is so transparently illogical that even fighting doppelgangers can agree on the wrongness of something for once.

Is it just me, or has the animation quality continued to drop? During the first episode of Gunslinger Stratos, I hypothesized that the minimalist art style might be an intentional stylistic choice, but as it deteriorates I am not so sure. There's a marked difference now between the quality of the opening theme and the animation during the rest of the show. It's almost comical the way characters' features regress when it's anything but a close-up shot—for example, Kyouma's face is literally a blank oval with glasses. It's for the best, however, that the animation is most detailed during fight scenes where it counts. Remy's psychic powers and Tohru's aerial gunplay are some of the best rendered instances of the episode.

It may be called Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation, but once again video game elements give this episode its soul. Like any good video game protagonist, Tohru knows to pursue the lit doorway at the end of a dark hallway. Once he gets there, much of the episode is pure exposition as a familiar face explains to the two Tohrus why there are two of them, why people are disappearing in their home worlds, why Japan 2015, and why the Timekeepers are making them fight. What makes these answers unsatisfying is that they still require too much clarification. Why Japan 2015? It is a “fair battleground,” perfectly equidistant from each doppelganger's home world. That sounds reasonable, but what does it actually mean? Like, what are the physics of that? Other answers are just wrong on the surface. The Timekeepers are making them fight because they want to prevent both timelines from wiping one another out—by letting one set of doppelgangers eliminate the other set and earn the right to live. It's the kind of decision a robot would make—totally without empathy. It's wrong enough that both Tohrus turn on the Timekeeper instead of one another.

Well, almost. While the doppelgangers are right to direct their anger at the Timekeeper, they disappointed me in their inability to resolve their petty differences. Neither believes that destroying one of their worlds is the right way, but neither can reconcile a better solution. It's fascinating that while both Tohrus are equally matched physically, and both in love with a doppelganger of the same woman, they differ significantly in their politics. It's enough to make a viewer wonder if nature vs. nurture comes into play with doppelgangers. It's apparent that each Tohru has led a very different life, and these experiences have altered them both. It leads to some unintentionally hilarious dialogue: “Why are you so stubborn? You're me!” “And you're me! Why don't you understand?”

From here, the success of Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation will depend on how accurate the Timekeepers' cut and dry explanations turn out to be. If they're really as unintentionally evil as this episode made them out to be (and the black crow imagery has implied since the beginning), then a win-win situation will depend on all of the doppelgangers working together to overthrow them. I'm still holding out hope for something less predictable.

Rating: B-

Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.

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