by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
The Reflection ?
I've talked a lot about the influences of the Silver and Bronze age of American superhero comics that The Reflection wears on its sleeve, but after this week I realize the show bears many striking similarities to the creator-owned books put out by companies like Boom!, Image, and essentially any comic publisher that isn't Marvel or DC. Series like Invincible, Saga, Sex Criminals, and many others take identifiable superhero and science-fiction tropes and remix them into something much more unique and personal to the individual creator's sensibilities; in a lot of ways, they're the comic-book equivalent of independent movies (webcomics also fall under this umbrella). Despite the presence of familiar superhero types and some sort of vague “stop the conglomerate of villains” plot, The Reflection feels much more like a Hiroshi Nagahama joint than the anime equivalent of a Marvel movie. The focus has been more on extended dialogue sequences and examinations of each episode's setting than any superpowered fisticuffs. This more thoughtful and drama-focused approach makes The Reflection a bit more compelling to dissect on a week to week basis, even if it lacks the crowd-pleasing spectacle the best of the Marvel films can deliver.
At its core, The Reflection is really a road-trip story dressed up like a comic-book movie. As our cast of misfit Reflected has grown, the emphasis has been on seeing them make their way across America one adventure after another, as they bond along the way. We've gone from New York to Dayton, then Louisiana, and this week Eleanor's group manages to hit up both San Antonio, Texas as well as Los Angeles, California. The specifics of the plot are still centered around finding various members of the Allen family, though this time we see the Bad Reflected kidnapping a few women of the clan, since Texas seems to be their home state. The opening montage that features all of our heroes trying (and failing) to ward off the kidnappers is probably the most exciting part of the episode, though each vignette still carries the series' slow pacing and direction for its action scenes. Instead of straight-up fighting, the appeal of these encounters lies more in seeing what strange new powers the villains will show up with next, which feels true to the experience of admiring the somewhat-static artwork of an old Marvel or DC comic. The Lizard Man was a fun monster to throw into the mix, and I liked the powers of the fellow that Eleanor chased down; he had some interesting yet vague ability to warp the appearance of random passersby.
Everything after that initial scuffle is a bit messier, as is often the case with this show, but I'm starting to get used to the series' peculiar rhythm, at least enough to where I can point out its odd choices without being bothered by them as much. For instance, the way that X-On just calls up a local contact (a detective named Jim) to track down the nearest member of this Allen family feels rushed, especially since Jim just joins up with our crew without a second thought, and his relationship to X-On is never addressed. The group confronts Maggie and essentially kidnaps her in order to find her daughter Nina, who lives in Los Angeles, and the twenty-hour drive they make to get there feels awfully short and convenient. When Maggie discovers that her daughter has set up her own salon that's literally identical to the one back in Texas, the tearful reunion they share is both sweet and a bit nonsensical, but you don't have much time to think on it since Steel Ruler shows up to rain on everyone's Parade. By the time I-Guy busts through the roof to lend a helping hand, a lot of the episode ends up coming across as the show putting pieces together without taking enough time to justify their movement.
That being said, I still find myself enjoying this delightfully weird take on a superhero show. The cast is beginning to work well together, in spite of the fact that their character development moves in very slow fits and starts. The running joke of Lisa constantly being left in the car is pretty funny, and X-On's lackadaisical attitude toward this whole mission is starting to grow on me, even if we still have no idea who the hell he is or why he's here. When X-On ends up providing his mask to Jim so he, Michael, and Vy can shake of the villains pursuing Maggie, I couldn't even be too mad when he somehow still had an extra mask to wear himself. This whole show is silly and strange and messy in the way that any comic from the seventies might have been, and at the same time it retains some very modern approaches to writing dialogue and visual direction. The Reflection is a hard show to decipher, and while I'm not entirely sure if it's actually successful in its goals, I can't deny that it's really grown on me these past few weeks. Much like a cross-country road trip, the show can be a rough ride, and there are more than a few stretches of aimless wandering and slow-moving conversations, but there's just enough fun to keep you going until your next destination.
The Reflection is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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