Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers ?
This week begins with Adlet and Flamie continuing their mutual exchange of backstories. We learn that Flamie switched sides because her mother rejected her for failing to kill Chamot. Prior to that, Flamie felt loved by her fiend companions, so this shift came as a total shock. She's now dedicated her life to revenge against fiendkind, the people who raised, used, and rejected her. Adlet's motivations are similar. It turns out that his village wasn't wiped out by fiends. Instead, some villagers were converted to the Demon God's religion by the fiends' dapper leader, and they killed the nonbelievers as tribute to their god. Adlet's best friend and sister were presumably taken out by this purge, but he survived to seek out Atro Spiker, a reclusive mountain man who dedicated his life to developing techniques for hunting fiends. Adlet became the man's apprentice, training for seven years under grueling conditions. It made him a master of trick weaponry – not gifted with one powerful ability like the rest of the Braves, but having an option for every situation. So Adlet's “strongest man on Earth” rhetoric is really about being the most adaptable and the last to admit defeat. I'm on board with that. Adlet says that he and Flamie can relate to one another because they share an initial motivation – vengeance – and know what it's like to lose everything. Verbally, Flamie continues to rebuff Adlet, but her actions show that she's more attached to him than she might realize. She gives him a device to summon her, which will definitely come into play at some climactic moment later on.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Braves have been chilling at the pyramid. They're still convinced that Adlet is evil when Flamie returns, so they decide to send out search parties after him. After some back and forth, Nachetanya/Goldov and Chamot/Maura end up going out in pairs, while Hans and Flamie guard home base. While out, Nachetanya attempts to solicit Goldov's help to clear Adlet's name, but he refuses. Apparently, his jealousy of Adlet is stronger than his submission to Nachetanya. She also thinks that Hans is the fake, which would seem too easy, but it also might explain his horrible leading behavior so far. (Plus if that does happen, everyone would seem pretty stupid for immediately trusting the shady cat-man assassin.) I think that the case against Nachetanya is diminishing while Hans has become more suspicious. However, if it turns out to be as simple as “Hans was working for the fiends the entire time,” I'll be disappointed. Rokka engages in complex narrative techniques, and I hope it's all in service of an actual complex narrative. Meanwhile, Adlet attempts to raid the pyramid for supplies. He gets into an altercation with Hans, who overpowers him. Hans is about to deliver the killing blow when the episode cuts to black. That must be the point when Flamie shot him or something, unless Rokka wants to get rid of its protagonist halfway through the show.
This episode was less informative than previous ones. Most of what we learned could have already been inferred from prior knowledge. The episode is also very much a transition between two parts – Adlet needed to finish up his heart-to-heart with Flamie, and his redemptive guerilla warfare on the rest of the Braves needed to begin. There was also some interesting suggestive worldbuilding at play. Fiends are clearly intelligent creatures with some sort of society, and there are fiend sympathizers among humans. They also want humans to come to Fiend World for some reason. The more I hear about this, the more that previously simple battle between good and evil turns into something more complicated. I can't wait to see how this plays out in later seasons (that probably won't be made.)
I think I'm pretty lenient on poor animation, but there does come a point when I have to put my foot down. While Rokka's production values have been iffy for a while, I've overlooked that in favor of the show's many virtues. Rokka especially shines in comparison to other troubled productions this season. Unlike Gangsta., Rokka has an inspired and cohesive art design, and unlike Chaos Dragon, it has a well-executed and engaging story. But this week couldn't make up for the struggling animation. After Adlet and Flamie's conversation about their respective pasts, it all goes downhill, and nary a shot passes by where a character isn't comically off model. Worse, this extends to a major fight scene, sections of which seem to consist entirely of in-betweens. It's entirely an animation problem – the direction remains as exciting as ever, and it's a testament to the choreography that I felt anything from it at all. Still, as the first incident of combat in several episodes, as well as the reveal of Hans' vaunted “cat-inspired” fighting style, this was a disappointment. Hopefully they'll fix it up for the blu-rays?
I haven't touched much on the fiends either. They've always looked bad – like the enemies from a cel-shaded PS2 game – but at least they were generic enough to shrug off. They also didn't show up too often, mostly limited to combat during the first few episodes. This all changed today, when they introduced us to one of the fiends' leaders. It turns out that there are worse things than generic: “What if Big Bird from Sesame Street were an alligator, had giant black angel wings, and, for some reason, a tilted fedora awkwardly perched on its head?” This is supposed to be menacing. When it first appeared onscreen, I had to pause the video in disbelief at how colossally awful this thing looked. And then I noticed the fedora. But the worst part is that they clearly can't get this thing to move in any realistic way. It just wobbles back and forth like a Muppet. This dude's going to be a big deal at some point, and I hope they fix him up for when (and if) we get to see his crew in action. I don't know if a single bad character design can ruin an episode all on its own, but this is the closest example I've yet seen.
Oh, Rokka. You always get an A+ for effort, but sometimes that just isn't enough. Can we try to put this behind us next week? It looks like we might get some Chamot action next time, and considering how much she's been built up, you wouldn't want to bungle that. You wouldn't want to make Chamot angry, would you?
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
discuss this in the forum (408 posts) |