Vatican Miracle Examiner
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Vatican Miracle Examiner ?
This week's episode of Vatican Miracle Examiner revolves around a scene that's as ludicrous and nonsensical as anything the show has given us so far. Having been bitten by a black mamba, Roberto descends into either an insane vision, an act of spiritual transcendence, or some unholy mix of the two. In this vision, he encounters the anthropomorphic snake demon Atotelus (who I'm pretty sure is completely made up), and he's a lot more dorky and adorable in appearance than threatening. Atotelus confronts Roberto with scales that weigh his flame of faith, which is tested against both a pair of disembodied female legs and a stack of books. I am aware that these things are supposed to be metaphors for the lust for sex and knowledge, but the scene is so self-serious that the whole affair becomes laughable, and I can't help but prefer the idea that poor Roberto is being tempted by the prospect of owning a literal pair of severed legs as well as a pile of rare books.
Of course the real temptation comes with visions of Hiraga being killed, and though Roberto resists this temptation, the show still seems to be pushing a subtextual romance between our two leads. I would be fine with this if it weren't for the fact that Roberto and Hiraga are both some of the worst lead characters I've ever seen in an anime, and their chemistry is about as nonexistent as their individual characterizations. The show can't even get the homoeroticism right, given the awkward framing and poor animation of the “venom sucking” scene that follows Roberto's hallucinations. Never mind the fact that sucking out venom is totally useless – what should be a lurid moment of fanservice just looks cheap and silly.
A whole lot of exposition and plot follows Roberto's breakdown, and despite the unending stream of inane dialogue and info-dumping in every scene this week, I honestly couldn't tell you what's supposed to be happening anymore. Roberto's madness pre-snakebite is supposedly out of character according to Hiraga, but since we know nothing about the man, it's impossible to say whether he's legitimately going crazy or being hassled by spooky demons or whatever else VME might be trying to pull. There are a number of curses and incantations that seem like they might be the cause of John Jordan's preserved corpse, but it's once again impossible to tell whether the show wants its audience to actually believe in the power of magic and curses, or if there will be some kind of scientific explanation behind all this madness. All we get are too many scenes of Roberto ranting to himself like a lunatic before he gets dropped into his snakebite visions, after which he and Hiraga continue to wander around while other characters deliver even more exposition. Despite never once slowing down the technobabble and hallucinations, basically nothing of consequence occurs in this episode, which is honestly kind of impressive.
If anything, episode 7 is a microcosm of everything that makes VME such a singularly bad production. Roberto's vision quest demonstrates a real ambition for using the Catholic imagery for character and story development, but it's so obtuse and comically beyond recognition that it only ends up prompting more unintentional laughter. Roberto and Hiraga's interaction also seems to indicate some level of relationship developing between them, but neither the script nor the art evoke a shred of chemistry they might share, romantic or platonic. Repetitive music, cheap animation, and an absolute dearth of tension make the episode boring to watch whenever it's not reveling in Roberto's madness. I have a hunch that if you were to delete about 90% of this episode, it would make absolutely no difference to the season as a whole.
At this point, I almost feel bad for Vatican Miracle Examiner. It clearly wants to be an effective thriller, but it's making every possible wrong choice that comes its way. This is a religious thriller that can't induce thrills and knows too little about the religion it draws from. It's a character-driven procedural that might as well star two pieces of wood with faces drawn on them. The mysteries are too rambling and ridiculous to take seriously, the scares are too poorly drawn to be scary, and the plot feels unsalvageable at this point. It's not often that I find a series doing so little right. The best thing I can say about this episode is that it didn't put me to sleep, but even then, it almost did, so that's a hollow compliment at this point. I never in my life thought I'd be saying this, but please Vatican Miracle Examiner, bring back the Nazi sex cult.
Vatican Miracle Examiner is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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