Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation
by Lauren Orsini,
When another person exists with your face and your name, where do the similarities end? Have you had the same experiences, up to a point? Would you find love with the same person? These, and other questions about parallel universes, are answered by this episode. To be honest, I had all but given up on Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation becoming the show I had hoped it would be. Then this episode came along, focusing solely on the qualities that make this show unique. Gunslinger Stratos may not have stellar animation or unique characters, but it does have a fascinating premise of doppelgangers who are aware of one another's existence, and this episode runs with it.
How can you hate an enemy with your boyfriend's face? When the Timekeepers' abilities land Tohru in the parallel world, the other Kyoka finds him and gives him a friendly welcome. “We don't need introductions, right?” she says with a bemused smile. Later she has no qualms about stripping naked in front of him, assuming that Tohru is well acquainted with her doppelganger's body. “I wonder if this is cheating?” she asks flirtatiously, and it is a good question. Tohru reminds her so much of her Tohru in many ways. It becomes clear that both Tohrus have been thrust into completely different situations, but it also seems likely that both of them would act the same way, indulging a soft spot for children, falling in love with the same woman, and working to improve their world in any way they feel capable.
Kyoka treats Tohru's appearance as a ceasefire and takes him to their home, where they live with a bunch of orphans they've taken in (of course). Their home is titled Bastian, which I am interpreting as a misspelling of bastion, another word for frontier. After all, this Kyoka calls the parallel world Frontier Stratos. This anarchic state is more humble than Tohru's world, where corporations regulate everyone's lives. But as the episode progresses, there seems to be very little separating Tohru and Tohru. They both lost their parents at an early age. They both care about children: other Tohru and his orphans, Tohru and his purple-haired girl. However, this other Kyoka seems to think that her Tohru has changed ever since he was unable to save an orphan, Remy's doppelganger. “If my Tohru were here, he wouldn't hesitate to shoot, even if it was the me from your side.”
Of course, the Tohru we know is no stranger to bloodshed. The other Kyoka mourns her brother, the Kyouma that Tohru's group has killed. At this rate, there will only be one of each doppelganger pair left, and I wonder if that will be pertinent to the show's finale. Despite the fact that they are both the reason for one another's pain, Tohru and other Kyoka find solace in one another, and it's a strange, touching moment as they address each other as the person they truly miss, who shares the same face.
Meanwhile, the other Tohru is in our Tohru's world. When the girl with purple hair shows up, he seems irritated. “You again?” Also, he somehow knows how to hack computers, despite living in the technology-barren Frontier Stratos. This Tohru seems more hardened than the one we know, but his callousness put last week's differences between the two in perspective. Our Tohru is a blank slate, an everyman. The other Tohru is who he might have become. The question is whether this Tohru will be able to fight Remy, the double of the orphan he regrets not being able to save. We'll find out next week, as this battle was interrupted by the Timekeeper with Sidune's face. Making the Timekeeper look like Sidune was a wise decision because it's as jarring to me as it must be for the characters to see one another's doubles.
Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is never going to be a looker, but it does have a shot at exploring a science fiction premise—doppelgangers—that is overdue for a novel interpretation. When it focuses on its sole strength for the duration of an entire episode, there's hardly anything I won't forgive.
Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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