Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation
by Lauren Orsini,
Uh oh, we're heading toward the tail end of Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation, and the plot is unraveling faster than we'll ever have time to resolve. I've cut this show a ton of slack on the basis of its imaginative premise and dramatic character intrigue, but now plot points as significant as new character introductions are being tossed in without explanation. Let's review the damning evidence and speculate if a recovery is still possible.
We begin with a gratuitous explosion, practically in media res from last episode. I cringe to remember how upset I was about the extensive recaps at the beginning of each of the earliest episodes, which I thought were mere padding. Increasingly, the episodes begin in the middle of something I barely remember and seemingly without purpose, as if somebody ran out of time in the previous episode and haphazardly shoved the rest into the next episode. What is clear is that Tohru has come to believe that the Timekeepers are evil puppet masters, and wants to convince the doppelgangers to team up with him and his crew. “Everyone… there's something important I want to tell you!” he says before the opening credits. That discussion must have happened off screen, because instantly after the credits are over, everyone is begrudgingly prepared to truce and work together with little resistance. It's extremely convenient, but given how much happens and how quickly in this episode, I guess there wasn't time to discuss why people who have murdered each others' loved ones might be hesitant to start working together, even against a common enemy.
The real reason everyone should listen to Tohru is that he emerged from a deadly sandstorm wielding two technicolor rainbow guns. Do these characters not know a Deus Ex Machina when they see it? By the way, who are these characters? I don't remember meeting Rakando, or Other Rakando. Has Srinivasa been reintroduced since his doppelganger's death in Episode 1? Who the heck is Shinou? Meanwhile in Tohru's world, Xi and glasses girl Minakata have a heart to heart conversation about the other characters' possible motivations, but I don't know them well enough to understand their frame of reference, or their devotions to some characters over others. I feel that playing the Gunslinger Stratos game would have helped me immensely in understanding this episode. Speaking of which, the only reason I was able to list these newly introduced characters' names is because I looked it up in the game wiki, as not all of them were addressed by name in this episode. Viewing the game wiki rubs salt in the wound for another reason, too, as the game sprites are gorgeously rendered, as opposed to the bare-bones animation of the anime.
So Remy has turned into Dead End, the ultimate weapon that we learned about last episode. Everyone is bent on destroying the weapon without destroying Remy, too, but I'm confused as to why Tohru is so passionate about it. We know Other Tohru has a strong connection to the Remy in his world as the child he was unable to save, but to Tohru he's just a teammate and occasionally a brat. Yet we're supposed to believe that Tohru feels so strongly about his rescue that he has a typical Hero Sitting Alone In The Dark Brooding moment about it. Tohru's musings are interrupted by my favorite line of the episode when he receives a phone call: “Keep it short, time-phones eat up energy like crazy.” If time phones were a thing, wouldn't we just call them phones? How can Kyoma say that with a straight face?
As always, the strongest parts of the episode explore Gunslinger Stratos' fascinating doppelganger premise. Even though we've barely been introduced, it was compelling to get into Jonathan's head as he wrestled with seeing Other Jonathan die in front of him. Imagine how much that would mess you up to see somebody with your face die. “I won't screw up like my other self did!” he later resolves. Another great line, from Other Tohru this time: “It's not pleasant to have somebody with my face do a half-assed job."
Since everyone's working to save Remy in episode 8, and this show should go for at least 10 or 11 episodes, I think Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation's salvation could be an unexpected wrench in their plans. There are a lot of assumptions being made right now. The characters and their doppelgangers are assuming the Timekeepers are evil. The Timekeepers are assuming the other characters will destroy themselves. Perhaps the reason this was all so hastily established is because none of it is true, making for a much more satisfying conclusion. Like Tohru's sudden new ultimate weapon, my ideal ending may still conveniently appear.
Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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