Buddy Complex Ep. 4: You know you’ve got a good Coupling going when…

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Anyway, time to watch my favorite expository anime full of Captain Obvious’s.

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Episode summary: Aoba takes a short walk around his hometown, but nothing is how it used to be. When the time comes to decide whether he should fight for the Alliance or not, our hero dawdles for like a second. A simple pep-talk from Mayu and all of a sudden Aoba is now a full-fledged Alliance soldier. Yep. Anyway, Dio’s family ship falls under attack from Zogilia forces. Thankfully, Dio manages to save his imouto (aw…), but it looks like he’s got more than a Buddy Complex, if you know what I mean!… I’m talking about his daddy issues, obviously.

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Notes:

• Dio: “Can’t you differentiate between who to fight and who to protect?” Well… no, of course not. Let’s just forget for a second that nobody believes Aoba’s story. Seriously, put it aside for a moment. Aoba is a nobody who appeared out of nowhere with a very dubious backstory (“I’m from the past!”). What exactly did Dio expect? Yeah, they needed his help to turn last week’s battle around, so I’m not saying it’s unreasonable to be mad at the guy, but… this is a stupid question.

• One of the maintenance dudes has it right: “Even if he could pilot a Valiancer, this guy is still a civilian. You shouldn’t be forcing him to follow military teachings.” Hey, you rolled the dice with a guy you just met.

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• I guess Elvira and Lee have a little something going on. Won’t stop shippers from making him gay though. You can bet on that. I’m just kidding… most of them are busy watching other shows instead.

• I love how the bad guys here are simplistically evil. Secret Service Agent Margaret has Hina detained because “[t]he biggest crime she has committed is arousing my suspicions.” So right off the bat, this is not a good sign for the conflict in Buddy Complex. In a perfect world, both sides would have compelling arguments for why they do what they do. No one’s really the bad guy, per se. There’s just a protagonist and an antagonist in the strictest sense of the literary terms. In a less than perfect world, the bad guys are obviously bad on a moral level, but their actions can still be somewhat… understood, I suppose? Like the vengeful dude in Law Abiding Citizen. Yeah, he’s a bad person — I won’t disagree with that — but you can understand why he broke bad, y’know? He had to see one of his wife’s killers walk free. That would mess with a lot of people. So back to the subject at hand… in terrible mecha anime land, however, the bad guys will punish you for even arousing their suspicions. Why? ‘Cause they’re bad guys and they will do bad things just because it’s the evilest option in the book.

• You don’t even get a change of clothes when you’re being detained. Hina’s still sitting in her damaged body armor. Must reek under there.

• So Aoba gets to have a walk around his hometown. As we already know, however, the problem is that 74 years have passed. I would’ve loved to see how the narrative would handle him seeing… how should I say this? Well, according to our hero, his sister is now 88 years old assuming she’s still alive. Is she still alive at such an advanced age? It’s not improbable, but I wouldn’t bet on it. But she might’ve had a family, and I would’ve liked to have seen Aoba react to seeing her family. Even from just afar, y’know?

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He doesn’t actually have to come up to them and go “Hey, I’m your mother’s brother who disappeared 74 years ago, but… uh, here I am! How ’bout giving your incredibly young-looking uncle a big hug?!” Instead, Mayu tells our hero that there are no existing records of a Watase Tsubasa thanks to the ongoing war messing with stuff. That’s convenient, isn’t it? After all, this is the easy way out; it’s a lot simpler to write the story in this case. Still, something feels a bit dissatisfying about it.

• Instead, Aoba goes to see his former school. Inanimate objects are much easier to handle, I’ll give you that. I know high school life is practically sanctified in anime, but I actually don’t have a problem with this scene. I mean, he was (is?) a high schooler just a couple of days ago. Of course he’s going to want to see how his former high school turned out.

• Oh Mayu: “Do you know? That’s called a baskbetball.” Nevermind the typo in the subtitles. Shit happens, I know. But c’mon, even if you don’t believe the guy’s story, that doesn’t mean he’s stupid. I’m sure he knows what a basketball is even if he’s actually a deranged lunatic who believes he came from the distant past.

• Now it’s Aoba’s turn to be a little dense in the head. I understand his thought process: “Hina sent me to the future, so I should go talk to her to understand what’s going on!” I mean, I don’t think he’ll get the answers he wants, but I can see what he’s attempting to do. That’s not the confusing part. Rather, it’s the fact that almost everyone back at the Alliance base doesn’t trust him. In fact, Mayu’s on a mission to make sure Aoba doesn’t run away or leak classified information. Hell, we even find out later that Lene had orders to assassinate Aoba should he try to escape. So despite knowing all of this — except the assassination orders — Aoba decides to announce his plans out loud to the world: “I’ll go to Zogilia!” Gee, this’ll end well!

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• Aoba: “Is it impossible? Dangerous, perhaps?” Yo, what do you think?

• Here’s come the obligatory self-doubt phase that every anime protagonist goes through: “But if I were to [continue piloting a Valiancer], someone will get hurt again because of me.” Yawn, get back to me when he gets over it. We all know he will. Unless the anime just ends now. I’d be okay with that too.

• Somehow Mayu thinks Aoba is the Alliance’s fated savior. Even though she hardly knows him. Even though his story sounds ridiculous. Yep, he’s the savior because he can Couple really well.

• Aoba: “I see. Let’s go back to the Cygnus.” Wow, that was fast! Can a hokey speech from a cute girl really wipe away your self-doubts that quickly? According to anime, yes… yes it can. Oh well, let’s just get the show on the road then.

• Still, does he even know what he’s fighting for? Like how does he know the Alliance is the good guys? How does he know he isn’t just being force-fed propaganda? Oh my bad, Zogilia is such an evil-sounding name. And Alliance, on the other hand, means teamwork! My nakama! My chingus! Whoops, wrong language. My point is that you don’t even know what Zogilia means, and only evil people would pick a name with no meaning. And it’s starts with a ‘Z.’

• Again, let’s just tell everyone that you’re fighting so that you can one day communicate with the enemy. Does Aoba honestly think they care that it’s this “Hina” he’s been telling them about?

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• You almost have to feel bad for Mayu. Doesn’t she know that you can never beat the childhood-friend-from-70-years-ago-who-sent-me-hurtling-into-the-distant-future? Duh, it’s practically an anime convention.

• Gengo naturally asks, “If she fights back as an enemy, what will you do?” Aoba replies, “I don’t know. However, I believe in Hina.” Dude, you’re basically saying to these guys, “I believe in the enemy.” You know that, right?

• But Gengo’s so nonchalant about everything that it doesn’t really matter what Aoba says. Eh, let’s go along with it! Sure, lemme give you one of the super powerful mechas we have been developing in secret!

• “His Emphater level with Dio is by far the greatest. I can’t think of any other pilot more suitable for Luxon.” Well, since Aoba is a civilian with a dubious backstory — a backstory that would make you think he’s got a few screws loose up there — how ’bout… is Aoba psychologically fit enough to fight in a war? Is he physically fit? Are his loyalties in the right place? I dunno, just throwing stuff out there to add a little depth to the narrative. You can just ignore me though if you want to continue trucking along!

• Of course Dio’s unhappy, but he’s probably just full of blind rage. It’s not like he’s got valid concerns or anything.

• If forced Decoupling can cause brain damage, why did the most recent incident not affect Aoba the way it did with Dio? Does it makes a difference who initiates the forced Decoupling? But then Aoba asks, “Elvira, are you worried about me?” This would imply that forced Decoupling is bad for both parties.

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• The enemy commander is surprised to see the fancy Coupling Valiancers. I guess news don’t travel very fast amongst the Zogilia ranks. Also, you know the Zogilia guys are bad because only bad guys would comb their silver hair that way. Again, anime convention.

• By the way, how come Aoba always has to initiate the Coupling each and every single time? Might make the guy feel unwanted, y’know?

• So even though Aoba is a perfect match for Dio, their Coupling can still run into a few snags if ~emotions~ are involved. That’s when you know the Coupling System was designed by a wo-… I’m kidding, I’m kidding! What I really wanted to say was if trust has always been a factor, then is the anime implying that Dio trusted Aoba enough before? Eh…

• So even though they can’t Couple with each other, our heroes are going to fight anyway. But I thought Aoba doesn’t know a damn thing about flying a mecha. In fact, the only reason he’s been able to hold his own so far was because the Coupling system allows him and Dio to pool their knowledge. Are you telling me that he knows how to pilot a Valiancer on his own already? I guess it just comes naturally to Japanese high schoolers.

• It turns out all Aoba has to do to solve the chemistry problems he’s been having with Dio is to give his partner a heartfelt speech. Like with Aoba’s self-doubts, a simple speech is all it takes for Dio to come around. Boy, this anime moves quick! I almost thought we had to watch a battle full of tension because our heroes would have to save the day without the help of an overpowered gimmick.

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• We see the Emphater meter rise thereby signalling that Coupling may now proceed without a hitch. Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s “operational level” now, Mayu. How do I know, you ask? Well, do you know? They’re called eyeskbetballs. They’re these things in my head that are kinda useful for discerning visual details, especially in the beautiful computer screens Sunrise has provided us.

RANDOM WHEELCHAIR-BOUND LOLI. Technically, it isn’t really random anymore at this point.

• Obviously, it’s Dio’s imouto. Man… I feel so sorry for imoutos in mecha anime. They’re always fucking wheelchair bound. Please, just let the diminutive shoujos use their damn legs! On the bright side, at least Fiora’s got full use of her eyesketballs like me. She too can help Mayu interpret computer screens.

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6 thoughts on “Buddy Complex Ep. 4: You know you’ve got a good Coupling going when…”

  1. For me the worst part of this episode wasn’t the Alliance’s questionable decision making, the paper-thin bad guy, or even … it was Aoba’s reaction to what happened last episode.

    “Hina was so different, like she didn’t even recognize me!”

    Could this be because you’ve recently traveled in time? A fact you are acutely aware of? I don’t know what hurts more – that Aoba actually didn’t understand something this basic, or that it’s become such a typical way for an anime protagonist to react. The dumber, the better apparently.

    This is simple stuff anyone with a working brain would suss out minutes after ending up in the future. You don’t need to have seen time travel fiction or have well-developed analytical thinking to make a deduction like this… you just need to have the most basic of reasoning skills. But no, Aoba must be an idiot savant, and any hint self-awareness crushed before it can take root.

    1. Yeah, he’s a bit of a clod. The only charitable reading of the situation is if he somehow thought Hina also went through time with him though she told him clearly back in episode one that he was going alone.

      1. It couldn’t have hurt for Hina to say “When you see me, I won’t know you. Don’t be upset if I try to kill you.”

        But, yeah, Aoba’s quite a dummy. This show is godawful.

  2. four episodes in, and i still don’t understand what this anime is trying to tell. i guess, the guys at sunrise’ studio 8 still haven’t laid off the drugs they took when they made valvrave. Ir are they trying to outdo that series in terms of sheer stupidity?

    on a side note, i really can’t help but contrast this writing with the way Nagi no asikara handle the whole “being left behind in time” theme, which was done in a really superb manner. and the protagonist there had to contend with being behind for only five years. aoba is late for SEVENTY FOUR FREAKING YEARS!! he should be a lot more emotionally confused than that.

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