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Metallic Rouge
Episode 13

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Metallic Rouge ?
Community score: 4.4


Metallic Rouge is too stupid to get mad at. That's my gut reaction to a finale with more consecutive twists than the seal on a bag of sliced bread. Despite boasting all the sound and fury you'd expect from a climax involving tokusatsu androids, the narrative spins in place for twenty minutes before throwing its hands up and throwing in the towel. It's genuinely hilarious. There's no sense of betrayal. There's no lost opportunity. There's no disappointment. This is Metallic Rouge as it has always been, and there couldn't be a more fitting capstone on such a flawed yet singular anime series.

Everything with Roy is simultaneously unsurprising and baffling. As the ultimate villain, he's supposed to be calling into question the precepts of free will and humanity, which Rouge, Naomi, and Cyan are supposed to refute with the power of love or whatever. To an extent, that does happen, but Roy's explanations get so lost in the weeds of plot minutiae that I can't help but focus instead on how bullshit the details are. You can make a point about how those in power manipulate the masses without your villain bloviating about how he programmed his robot children to compensate for how ludicrously improbable his master plan was. It just makes everyone involved look stupider. Not to mention his motivations are nonexistent. He's a bad guy in a sci-fi anime, so the odds of him wanting to transcend humanity for selfish reasons are about 75/25 but we're given zero context for why he cooked up his puppet show.

I wouldn't harp on the one-dimensional villain so much if the show didn't have obvious ideological aspirations. It fumbles those aspirations like they're a football slathered in motor oil, but they're aspirations nonetheless. Jill's fate sums it all up. Rather than earnestly interrogate her actions and motivations, the show has Roy gloat about how he orchestrated everything (don't worry about the details) before sending her soul to the shadow realm. I think we're supposed to assume that Jill's noble sacrifice inspires Rouge to free the Neans in the end, but I also feel like I'm being charitable in positing a causal link. The story had a golden opportunity to look at revolutionaries in the context of global (or, in this case, galactic) superpowers, and all it delivers is a shrug of its shoulders. Instead, it spends half of the finale's runtime letting Roy spew hot air with little narrative or thematic resonance.

The staging of the climax sucks, too. The animation is good, the character acting is expressive, and the fights are the best the show has had. But the episode takes place in an ugly orange greenhouse with an overpowering color temperature that flattens the available palette. Coupled with a lack of contrast between light and shadow, the scenes look bland and desaturated, and there's little of interest in the background besides the lattice of the windows. It feels like a setting chosen for narrative convenience rather than visual impact. And it's doubly disappointing when contrasted with the cool sci-fi vistas exhibited in the OP. Why aren't these battles taking place on that field lit by the accretion disk spinning around a black hole hanging ominously in the sky? That's an evocative setting. They even made a big deal about those black holes a couple of episodes ago, yet we see neither hide nor hair of them.

Despite what I wrote in the opening paragraph, I feel a twinge of missed opportunity when I look at the good parts of the episode. The apex arrives when Naomi decides to merge her ID fully with Rouge's body, transforming the two of them into a lesbian-powered super sentai warrior. That's a cool moment, but it would be even cooler if the show had given us more of an on-ramp leading up to it. I still believe that Naomi and Rouge's chemistry is the strongest facet of Metallic Rouge. However, the script's lack of focus hurts every part of the show, and ironically, it hurts the strongest parts the most. A wholly realized version of Naomi and Rouge's arc would have been wonderful, with this desperate act of soul-binding providing the tart yet tantalizing cherry on top (Gideon the Ninth fans know what I'm talking about). The half-baked version the anime gives us just feels like a tease.

It's impossible to feel angry when the ending is so spectacularly stupid. I am talking about the sequence of Rouge freeing the Neans, the alien virus overpowering the Neans, and Gene's antivirus re-freeing the Neans. It's one entire exquisite minute of shoddy storytelling that feels ripped out of the “what not to do” section of the creative writing textbook. You'd expect this in a D-movie featured on a classic MST3K episode. It's a deus ex machina sculpted out of silly putty. And I wouldn't want the show to end any other way. A satisfying conclusion would have been undermined by all of the prior shakiness. A boring conclusion would have been an interminable reward for sitting through all the ups and downs. But an insane non-conclusion that doesn't accomplish anything besides providing one last ridiculous example of the series' core failings? Now that's Metallic Rouge.

With all that being said, I do believe I'd recommend Metallic Rouge to the right audience. I've had a hell of a time with these reviews; even when the show was frustrating, it was rewarding to write about. If you have the same kind of brain as mine, I think you'd get a similar kick out of weighing the anime's influences and aspirations against its pratfalls. You can theorize about the overly complicated plot and what went wrong in the writing room simultaneously. Unlike Wonder Egg Priority, the show never crashes and burns. It maintains a consistent level of compelling incompetence, and given the strength of its character designs, acting, and overall setting, I could foresee this becoming one of those 6/10 anime that stand the test of time. Metallic Rouge was always interesting—just not always in the ways it intended.

If you want a Winter 2024 anime that tells a bonkers story with preciseness and efficiency and fully fulfills its promise of homosexual robots saving the solar system with the power of love and energy weapons, it's a lot easier to recommend Brave Bang Bravern!.


Metallic Rouge is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. He is not a biomechanical android in disguise. You can also catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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