Vatican Miracle Examiner
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Vatican Miracle Examiner ?
I have to hand it to Vatican Miracle Examiner: I haven't been so completely baffled and amused by a single episode of anime in quite a while. In fact, I think the Fish Cannon episode of Big Order is the only thing that comes close, but Vatican Miracle Examiner may have usurped it simply through the sheer ambition of its lunacy. Big Order peaked in ridiculousness with just a single scene, but this episode is the final part of this first story arc, which means that the whole thing functions as one completely off-the-walls climax. I really try to avoid summarizing episodes as much as possible in these reviews, but I don't even know if I'll be able to understand what just happened if I don't write it out first. What started off as a mediocre procedural with too much going on in its plot has quickly turned into the best kind of incomprehensible junk food. The transformation was so swift and complete that I'm honestly left speechless.
First off, it turns out that this Catholic school isn't just run by abusive drug-peddling sex cultists - these derelict priests also happen to be first and second-generation Nazis, who escaped the fallen Third Reich and fled to South America under the guidance of the fugitive Heinrich Müller. Not only have these cultist Nazis managed to infiltrate the Catholic church and brainwash their students into mind-controlled zombies, they've also managed to birth an artificially inseminated child using the actual corpse of Hitler that they smuggled into the country. On top of all that, this now grown spawn of Adolf has manifested a split personality that thinks he's really Hitler reborn, who the sex cult Nazis worship as either their Messiah, the Antichrist, a reincarnation of the Roman deity Janus, or some nebulous combination of all three.
Of course, this plot ends up being foiled when Hiraga melts NüHitler with sulfuric acid and then lights him on fire, while a hitherto-unmentioned band of Nazi Hunting Spy-Priests blows up the entire school. The Nazi Hunting Spy-Priests don't bother dealing with the other unborn child of Hitler currently gestating in another poor woman's womb, because the episode decides that “just because you're someone's child, it doesn't mean you'll turn out as evil as they were”, even though that's literally what just happened minutes ago. Then Fathers Hiraga and Nicholas just kind of shrug their shoulders and go back home to the Vatican.
In other words, this is not a good episode. To say that the plot takes a dive off the deep end is putting things very mildly, and the direction and execution of the episode is just as bad as the content it delivers. Clunky animation and awkward off-model faces drain any semblance of tension or suspense from the episode, and the constant parade of monologuing, exposition, and retroactive explanations for everything just pile tedium on top of the abundant stupidity. Perhaps the worst thing about the episode is the music, with consistently blaring choral tones that are more obnoxious than atmospheric, making it seem like everything is supposed to be apocalyptic, even if it's just a scene of two investigators trading boring conversation. However, nothing quite matches the most unintentionally hilarious musical cue I've seen in years, when Ave Maria starts playing mournfully in the background after Father McGee shoots the charred remains of NüHitler a dozen times. (The comically bad animation and CG blood-splatter certainly don't help either.)
In the end, this episode just proves true what I'd feared from the very beginning, that despite the confident face Vatican Miracle Examiners puts on, it has absolutely no idea what it's doing. It didn't just rush the conclusion of an underdeveloped and chaotic first arc, it leaped into a car and drove what little sense remained in its plot straight off a cliff at a hundred miles per hour. Seemingly no attention was paid to developing characters, explaining its themes and ideas, or otherwise doing the bare minimum to make a narrative compelling. Instead, VME just kept pulling as many twists and cliched tropes out of nowhere as possible, then tossing them all in a blender that spun its mixture out of control to see what stuck to the walls.
This was some truly horrendous stuff to be sure, and I suppose I'm kind of sad to see a series with such a unique take on the mystery procedural squander its potential with such a firebomb of insanity. On the other hand, this is easily the most entertaining the show has been so far, and if Vatican Miracle Examiners needs to become true trash to be enjoyable, that's a martyrdom I'll gladly observe. I have no idea where the show might go next, and frankly I'm worried that it will never be able to top this. Not only because our two Miracle Examiners have proven to be incredibly dull as lead characters, but because I really don't know how any show can improve on the old “axe-wielding spawn of Hitler that leads a Satanic cult before getting lit on fire with acid and shot in the face by a priest” card. Unless that other Hitler baby ends up turning into some kind of magical girl mecha or something, I'm afraid it's just going to be all downhill from here.
Rating: A+ levels of F
Vatican Miracle Examiner is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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