King's Game The Animation
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
King's Game The Animation ?
Not content to dwell on the moody scene of everyone's sanity slipping that capped off the last episode, this week's outing decides to take off running! As it has the past few times, the narrative abruptly skips over the kids actually receiving the order to just cut to them carrying it out. In this case, that might be a consequence of adaptation, as it appears this round of the Game could carry us to the finale, so maybe they needed to get it underway as quickly as possible.
This command is distinctly simple after the previous finger-breaking mess. The participants have to run to a distant mountain peak with the person in last place getting slapped with a deathly drop-out every eight hours. It's as pointedly silly as the other events this series has foisted on us, but its long-haul nature doesn't bode well for a show that was already becoming exhausting. There should be some drama to mine out of the tension of the kids pushing ahead with their lives on the line, but in practice we get way too many scenes of characters we still haven't been introduced to simply jogging along.
Instead, after ten episodes of going on about saving everyone, our alleged hero Nobuaki finally demonstrates his desire to try and save the other contestants. This starts with Aimi, who was abandoned by Natsuko off-camera, but he also quickly picks up Riona (the girl who Googled articles on the King's Game a couple of episodes ago) and a just-introduced guy named Masatoshi who falls behind after another classmate pushes him down a flight of stairs.
If I may detour onto the topic of Masatoshi for a minute, his entire situation is yet another example of this series' surprising storytelling failures. Being betrayed by his classmate flies in the face of the group's previous push to work together to overcome the Game, and while this is acknowledged within the story, we aren't really offered a better alternative. The guy who pushed him hasn't done anything else of note, so the scene seemingly exists just to demonstrate how cruel and awful the Game is, something we already know too well after all this time. It just makes the show come across like it's out of material and has to hammer on the same awful points.
So with Masatoshi's fall lacking even basic pathos, he's simply used as an accessory to advance Nobuaki's angst. Despite being a grueling physical event with an ominous ticking clock, our main characters seem decidedly unhurried about participating in this murderous marathon. While Masatoshi recovers, Aimi and Riona take multiple breaks for aimless discussion, all while Nobuaki runs back and forth between groups trying to herd all these cats. The lack of urgency is actually brought up a few times, as is the deficiency in Nobuaki's logic that he can actually succeed in his desire to save everyone. It's almost impressive that the series knows how stupid the characters' actions are to the point that it can acknowledge them but still rely on that behavior just to keep the plot from evolving against all logic.
The most notable part of Nobuaki's alleged character development in this episode comes from the hallucinations he starts having partway through. It begins with that bizarre spider-monster thing from the opening (which I guess is supposed to represent the King?) revealing Natsuko under its mask, encouraging him to give up on saving people. Afterwards, he's visited by ghostly apparitions of his dead girlfriend and other doomed dropouts from earlier in the series. These stupefying spirits don't offer much beyond reiterating Nobuaki's insistence on saving people repeatedly, which calls attention to the main thematic failing of this episode and the slope this show is quickly nosediving down.
Despite the nominal goal of this series being Nobuaki saving people, he has completely failed at it across two different Games so far. I know I've harped on this before, but it's the biggest source of the show's tone problems and the #1 thing that's taken it from a stupid grisly thrill ride to a miserable slog over the past couple episodes. A series like this needs to have at least a few victories in order to entice us, provide some upward slopes on the roller-coaster so the downward portions can hit that much more effectively. However, King's Game has only offered constant losses and failures, and Nobuaki's stated goal of actually saving people just calls attention to the misery of that issue. It was fun watching stupid kids have stupid deaths for a while, but with no changes in formula after all this time, the show starts to wear on you.
That overarching ominousness undermines this episode's token attempts at being uplifting. Even as Nobuaki's visions encourage him to live, the catalyst is Masatoshi taking an idiotic unconscious dive underwater, leaving us to wonder what our hero's actual lesson is supposed to be. Save other people? Live for himself? It rings hollow because we have no idea why he's so relieved to swim back up to the surface, with another friend dead and still in last place in this stupid death-race. He then gets comforted again by Riona, who seems to have spontaneously grown a personality and budding romantic feelings for Nobuaki. Hey, remember all those times her infatuation with him was hinted at? All the chemistry they shared together? Yeah, me neither. Of course, last-minute pathos for Riona can only mean she's next on the chopping block, and this episode sets up a her-or-Nobuaki scenario on the eve of the first running-game elimination. It's honestly an effective cliffhanger just because I'm curious to see what stupid twist they'll pull out for this.
King's Game The Animation is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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