I'm Standing on 1,000,000 Lives.
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 22 of
I'm Standing on 1,000,000 Lives (TV 2) ?
I don't want to keep harping too much on what a bummer I'm Standing on 1,000,000 Lives has been through this latest story arc, lest my denigration derails it into being the dreaded double-downer. But it's hard not to feel just a bit weary of the show's insistence on heaping misfortune and tragedy on the people involved in this story. Maybe that's the emotional purpose of what it's affecting here: to get us to sympathize with the unyielding, seemingly unbeatable events of despair that keep encroaching on these characters. But apart from communicating that level of empathy (which I honestly already had on account of how much I've grown to like the main characters in this show), it has me questioning its conclusion for the themes and ideas of the show. As in, what is the point of all this, and will it be worth it in the end?
It feels like the answers are further away from the heroes – and us – than they ever have been. There are a couple bright spots in the situations they trip into, primarily with the revelation that the settlement they found last week was in fact made up of refugees from Zagroth's 'Journey of Hope', including Froc's previously missing brother Dan. But even that turns out to be a vehicle for more distressing elements, putting forth some unpleasant possibilities about what 'New Eden' actually is and eventually turning corners of the brought-together groups on each other along with the heroes. At least Iu gets to level up into a new Elite Warrior class, and the crew is able to enjoy a momentary warm welcome from the ex-villagers before things start going bad again.
It is a refreshing contrast to see the way the settlement lets the heroes in, sharing with them their (presumably meager) food and lodging, compared to the memorably less welcoming reception the gang got back in Zagroth. I don't know if the show is trying to make any moral judgements of those now-deceased villagers themselves so much as the structure enforced by the leadership of Cox. That's driven home by the characters directly stating the irony that all the people Cox kept in the village to 'protect' them wound up dead while the 'undesirables' he cast out have gotten to survive. That was maybe a bit more on-the-nose than necessary, but the way it's vocalized does guilt-trip Cox effectively enough. That's something he needs to experience, even as he's back to his own unconvincing justifications a few minutes later about 'doing what he had to' for the good of the village. No wonder somebody went and stabbed this guy.
Cox's death is the major lynchpin of this episode, but it's surrounded by some other elements that bear discussing. The clearing-out of the goblin encampment brings up some points I honestly wasn't sure the show would succeed in, given its track record. The botching of the moral relativity of killing the orcs in the previous arc is still fresh in my mind, so I was all ready for more ham-fisted ambiguity in the form of, I dunno, having the good-with-kids Torii murder some helpless goblin babies or something. Fortunately, Million Lives opts not to tread down that particular path (yet), instead limiting its questioning simply to Iu expressing her distaste for the sneaky way they steal in and take out the goblins. Though I'm sure the few they let escape won't come back to bite them in the ass at all.
Another somewhat surprising inclusion for this episode is getting a little more information on Glenda. While we had the basics on her before, it's apparently important that we learn some more of her own tragic backstory whilst in the middle of this tragic current-story. The beats are hardly unique, framed around her PTSD-ridden former-soldier father who descended into alcoholism and self-centered abuse. But I'll give the encroaching darkness of Million Lives credit on the framing of this one, as these issues come off significantly more relatable against the fantastical backdrop of villages being destroyed by monsters that they're otherwise asking us to engage with. I admit it also definitely mines points from my view with its uniquely American-flavored tragedy, centering on a self-obsessed war vet who threatens his daughter with a gun when she comes out as a lesbian to him. The resolve she had to simply walk away anyway paints a more powerful picture of Glen than I already had. And there's even a bittersweet resolution to the way she apparently carried her memories of her father's battlefield photos as motivation for pursuing her photojournalism career.
I like getting that background on Glen (and how she delivers it by opening up to Kusue, another character who could use a bit more to do lately), but it feels a little shoehorned in on account of her ending up being the one to play detective when Cox goes and gets himself killed. The 'who' of the whodunnit gets resolved relatively quickly, with Glen catching Jaca the chef as the culprit based almost entirely on him saying the wrong thing in the initial report of the death. The bigger unresolved question is 'why', given the circumstances of what's left of the village's population and the need to keep moving ahead of the manipulated monsters. It's also here to power one more moral quandary from the heroes, as they resign themselves to the point that the only thing they can do with Jaca is leave him behind and reckon with the increased tension they end up having with the refugees as a result. That problem then gets solved with a bigger problem, as Jaca gets his face eaten off by a now wireworm-posessed Iris!
As annoying as I find Iris, I don't know if she deserved to be 'punished' by the narrative the same way Cox did. She's simply a product of her upbringing by an actually terrible person. So the conga-line of trauma she gets run through up to the end of this episode rings as little more than unneeded tragedy porn in a storyline already stuffed with it. This episode already featured one of its only bright spots coming in the form of Jezby randomly remembering her 'real parents' imparting information about New Eden to her, which only comes off as a contrivance, so things like Cox being taken out and wireworms showing up again just feel like compounding contrivances. The level things have gotten to at this point in the story are starting to feel more aimlessly overwhelming. I do want to believe that Million Lives is still going somewhere with all this, but at this point, I certainly couldn't predict where.
I'm Standing on 1,000,000 Lives is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.
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