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Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation
Episode 9

by Lauren Orsini,

Last week, I posed the question: can Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation save itself? I heard the answer this week loud and clear, and I can't say I was happy to hear it. It is not in my best interest to pan an anime that I am reviewing, because that might mean I'll be stuck here watching it alone. However, there's no way that I can recommend this anime in good conscience.

What are your bare minimum requirements for an anime you'd enjoy watching? Perhaps actual animation is one of them, as opposed to continuous panning across still images in an attempt to feign movement. Perhaps you'd like to see different animation each episode too, rather than the same character movements recycled over and again. One especially glaring omission pops up when we are told that Kyohma and his crew have been kidnapped after a struggle, are waiting in captivity, and later, that they have escaped. The viewer sees none of this. All of it happens off screen, expressed only through dialogue. It might have been interesting to see how guards were able to overpower our omnipotent time travelers, or see their daring escape in action later.

Maybe another requirement you have, and I'm just spitballing here, is audio. It's amazing what a good musical score can do to create and enhance the mood in a scene. It's shocking how infrequently music is utilized during this entire episode, creating enormous expanses of silence that left me wondering how to react to the plot. When Dr. Odhner talks to Tohru about his evil plan, (didn't I call that four episodes ago?) his expression and tone are neutral, almost genial for most of the conversation, as is Tohru's. There is no music in the background to let me know if this is all a big misunderstanding, or something devious is really going on.

This is another time where the minimalist art style really works against the anime, as it's very hard to read characters' hardly-changing expressions. Dr. Odhner certainly doesn't seem evil—he behaves with Tohru the way he always does. Later, when he slams his fist on the table and asks himself if he'll have to get his hands dirty, his expression may be angry, but he still looks so kindly and if anything, drawn more simply than in previous episodes. I really have to ask myself if Gunslinger Stratos is having production problems—it looks worse every week.

As if I could be more disappointed, there's this episode's anti-science message. Dr. Odhner is evil because he's a scientist. “He's a child,” Kumi tells Tohru. “He wants to be acknowledged by somebody” for his scientific discoveries. Her after-the-fact revelations aren't doing us any good now—the only reason I suspected he'd be evil later is because I wasn't born yesterday and this isn't the first science fiction show I've ever seen. Other than that, his motive for evil is extremely weak. He supposedly has a brilliant mind, but he's decided to ignore Tohru's report and turn the Time Cube into the superweapon that will destroy the world, while disposing of the “good guys,” Tohru and all his friends. It's so obviously incorrect that it's delusional, although we haven't had any prior indication that he's insane.

The silver lining is that I suspect it all will be over soon. This episode saw the Timekeeper giving her final soliloquy about how she's won. It also saw the aftermath of the jailbreak of all the time travelers that we never saw captured in the first place. This hurts, y'all. I was so excited to review Gunslinger Stratos, and increasingly enthused by its doppelgangers and time travel themes. It's disappointing to discover the anime can't give this premise the execution it deserves.

Rating: D

Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.

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