by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 3 of
The Reflection ?
The Reflection continues its upward trajectory this week, delivering us an episode that finally moves the plot forward after spending two weeks setting everything up. I think I can say with some confidence now that The Reflection is becoming a genuinely enjoyable little oddity. It certainly still has some kinks to work out, mostly in regard to some odd editing decisions and its leisurely pace, but things have picked up significantly from that rocky premiere.
Honestly, the thing I enjoyed the most about this entry was the novelty of seeing an anime tackle American suburbia, which just isn't something you see very often. Having a big super-powered showdown in the middle of New York City is nothing new, but I can't remember the last time an anime featured its mostly American cast traipsing along in the middle of Dayton, Ohio of all places. The only downside of this look into how a Japanese animation studio chooses to tackle middle America is the general lack of diversity in The Reflection's cast so far. This isn't something I can be too mad about, given that Japan simply doesn't have the same familiarity with diverse representation that America does, but it does bear mentioning at least once.
Granted, we still don't know what X-On looks like under his mask, so he could very well end up contributing a little more diversity to the world. In all honesty, we don't know much of anything about this guy so far, and outside of the villainous Reflected who've been popping up, X-On remains the most elusive (and least interesting) member of the cast. His road trip with Eleanor definitely helps the young photographer's characterization, and while she remains a fairly stock protagonist, she at least has some opportunities to hint at her backstory and play off Lisa and her police-officer father this week. Outside of using his vague set of powers to fight off bad guys, X-On mostly remains in the background so far.
Thankfully, the newest addition to the cast has been able to hold her own quite well. In just one episode, Lisa has become the most interesting and likable of the characters introduced so far. The way the show plays up her confidence and self-reliance in spite of her being wheelchair-bound is a bit on the nose, but it's also perfectly in tune with the storytelling style of Silver Age Marvel comics, so it's easy enough for me to enjoy regardless. Plus, her powers are both cool and kind of adorable – I figured her toy robot would play into things somehow, based on the show's promotional material alone, so I was glad to see that not only is Lisa able to somehow manifest a giant mecha version of her robot to fight, but it is indeed filled with a lot of guns and missiles.
The action and direction of the show improved all around this week, with the two major fight scenes managing to rise above the stilted awkwardness of the first couple episodes and be truly entertaining to watch. There were still some odd storytelling hiccups this week that I couldn't help but notice though. Just after the credits, Eleanor's apartment inexplicably catches fire, and she immediately teleports outside only to see X-On just kind of standing out in the middle of the crowd, waiting to save a distressed child. These events lead to the pair's road trip to Dayton, but the whole scene feels like a rushed and unconvincing excuse to get the plot moving again. Equally strange was the scene where Eleanor meets X-On outside of Lisa's house, leaves with him in her pickup, only to immediately arrive back at Lisa's house after the villains had ransacked it. I don't know if there were some transition shots that simply didn't make it into the final cut, or if I just completely misread what was happening, but the whole sequence of events felt bizarre and distracting.
Overall, however, The Reflection is making strides to prove itself as a show to follow this season. It's really settling into its unique art style, and while it's taking a little long to put all its pieces together, the cast and plot are engaging as fun homages to the superhero comics of yesteryear. I'm eager to find out exactly who our villains are and how these Japanese girls will fit into everything. Turning X-On, Eleanor, and Lisa's journey into a more global conflict could be just the push the series needs to turn the excitement up a notch.
The Reflection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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