Man, what kind of show takes nearly two months to get goo–… well, it doesn’t even get good. It just goes from terribad to “Well, this is not so bad.” But that is indeed the situation with Gunslinger Stratos. I’m getting ahead of myself though, so we’ll start from the beginning.
— I find it hard to believe that this anime is created by A-1 Pictures. Usually, those guys churn out decent-looking stuff. I may not like the series they produce, but those shows will usually look nice. Gunslinger Stratos is fugly as hell, though.
— Right from the get-go, the animation is bad. Usually, the first episode will look good to lure viewers in, but I guess A-1 Pictures just wanted to be upfront about how this anime isn’t getting any budget.
— The story follows this blue-haired kid:
His name is Tohru, and the girl would be his lover in another universe. No, really.
— Y’see, there are two worlds. To put it another way, there are two possibilities for Japan. Either it turns into some totalitarian state with lots of technology, or a complete wreck with no government. Our Tohru comes from the former. But you wouldn’t really know this unless you read the synopsis. Otherwise, this revelation doesn’t come until the fifth episode. You’ll find out early on that there are two worlds, but relatively nothing about the story.
— There’s something wrong with both universes. There’s something called the Desert Syndrome, but it’s hardly a syndrome. Syndromes are typically signs of a disease. Here, anyone afflicted by the Desert “Syndrome” simply turns into sand and crumbles in an instant. For the first four episodes, that’s pretty much the story. We don’t know what the fuck is going on, but we’ve been given weapons, so let’s shoot each other.
— The first episode moves slowly. In fact, the first four episodes feel incredibly slow.
Tohru keeps seeing the ghost of some little girl, and as enigmatic characters are wont to do, all she does is feed him cryptic messages at the start of the story.
— Eventually, he gives chase, and ends up falling through a portal… a tiiiiiiime portal!
— He ends up in present day Japan where he finds individuals shooting at each other. One of those individuals happens to be…
…himself from another dimension!
— Eventually, the show vomits exposition into our mouths. Some mysterious entities known only as the Timekeepers are telling everyone who and when certain individuals will turn into sand. They are never wrong, so our hapless heroes kind of have no choice but to listen to what the Timekeepers have to say.
— The Timekeepers then give people “Energy Cubes,” and these things just magically power you up. You literally hold it up to your weapon, and your weapon will get stronger. You can even shove it up your ass, and I guess you’d get stronger too, but I wouldn’t advise doing that.
— And now that you’ve powered yourself up, you have to use a time machine to go back to present day Japan and kill yourself. Kill yourself other self, that is. And as a reward, you’ll get more Energy Cubes from the Timekeepers! And that’s pretty much the story for a good month. Let’s just kill each other, and maybe this will somehow give us answers.
— All that everyone ever uses the Energy Cubes for is getting stronger so that they can kick more ass. You get the sense very early on that the Timekeepers are just playing everyone. Hell, even the characters sense that, too. But the story takes forever to get going, because every episode is held down by a bunch of very ugly and uninteresting battle scenes.
— Sadly, the second episode wastes a lot of time on Tohru and his decision on whether or not to join the war. His reasoning isn’t even compelling.
–And I can understand some of the bad animation if it’s a particularly action-packed scene, but they’re not even doing anything here. They’re just standing there, and you can’t even draw them correctly?!
— We go through all of the familiar story arcs, too. For instance, our hero will screw up in a fight, and this ’causes an “important” character to die.
It’s hard to get too worked up about someone you barely know anything about, though. The characters in the story will cry, but I doubt anyone watching this shit shed a tear for Sidune. I mean, c’mon…
— Still, the fact that underdeveloped characters die doesn’t prevent the anime on wasting a good chunk of episode three on the characters looking sad, moping around and having bizarre encounters in the showers…
Yeesh, what’s going on here?
— For the most part, the anime doesn’t have any fanservice…
…but sometimes, it just can’t resist itself. It’s like anime tourettes. This doesn’t even have to be a show dedicated to fanservice nor does the situation even remotely call for it. Out of nowhere, it’s like LOLIPANTYSHOT.
— Eventually, we shoot each other enough that the story finally decides that it’s time to vomit even more exposition. And that’s what this show is. It’s lame gunfights and episodes after episodes of exposition.
— In the fifth episode, the Timekeepers explain their side of the story, if you choose to believe it.
Basically, the worlds will develop a way to bridge their two worlds, and as a result, they will destroy each other. So what’s a Timekeeper to do! I know! Let’s go back in time, give people weapons, and have them decide which world should get to live! One world is better than none!
— At one point, I thought the video was corrupted because all I saw was this:
…but no… that’s actually part of one of the episodes.
— In the sixth episode, we get even more exposition as Tohru and, uh, Tohru swap places.
— Our Tohru finally sees for himself what crappy Japan is like. He realizes, then, that the other Tohru isn’t some bloodthirsty bastard. He’s just fighting to save… orphans. Awwwww.
— Yeah, other childhood friend, keep your lovin’ to my other self. I don’t play that shit.
— Welp, I guess this guy is evil now or something.
— But yeah, this doesn’t happen until the sixth episode, so until now, these characters have just been fighting each other without even questioning it, really. They don’t even . I mean, wouldn’t you find it weird? Wouldn’t you be like, “Um, other me… if you are me… shouldn’t we cooperate with each other instead of listening to these Timeassholes?” But I guess this has literally never happened…
— In fact, Tohru only initially joins the fight because he wants to understand what the ghost girl is trying to tell him. Yo, that’s not a reason to pick up a gun and start shooting people.
— Eventually, one of the characters sticks an Energy Cube up his ass and this somehow creates a vortex of sand. Shrug.
— Tohru is caught in it, and he starts to trip badly.
He sees himself as a child with his parents, but his parents are supposedly dead. The Timekeepers want to create a blissful dream for each individual.
— These dreams are supposed to make you happy or content, but as you can see, they’re doing a pretty shoddy job of it.
— All they’re really doing is freaking the main character out. That really doesn’t convince someone that they should give up their autonomy and go live in some fake dream world.
— Time for more exposition as Tohru finally gets to have a straightforward conversation with the ghost girl.
It’s all just exposition down this rabbit hole.
— According to her, it all started here:
Then people mass produced Energy Cubes from that thing in order to produce the Ultimate Weapon. And what is the Ultimate Weapon?
A… Sandperson? Because weapons wouldn’t work on them? But I mean, you could just heat sand and mel–… nevermind.
— Eventually, the sandpeople, or Timekeepers, went on and absorbed all of humanity’s psyche. And the collective will is to absorb more human psyches, because… well, humanity might destroy itself. Might. So I guess we may as well do that for them. It’ll be much better to live in some fake dream instead, because there won’t be wars or some shit.
I think that’s the gist of it.
— So like many anime stories, it comes down to defying fate. The powers that be think that we are doomed. Our hero, however, thinks that our future has yet to be decided. Of course, of course… if I only got a nickel for every single time I’ve heard some anime or JRPG hero shout at the top of his lungs some variation of “We will decide our own fates!”
— And that’s where we are. After weeks of boring gunfights and exposition, Tohru handed over an Energy Cube to the ghost girl… and he just has to hope she wasn’t trying to use him as well.
— Maybe the premise has potential, but the execution is bad on all fronts. Again, the story takes forever to get going, then all of a sudden, we got like three straight episodes of exposition. You can’t even watch this for the action, because the visuals are terrible. Whenever the characters are engaged in a battle, we have the shakey cam problem because it allows the director to disguise the fact that he or she can’t choreograph a decent looking duel.
Likewise, we often get extreme close-ups of the characters during a fight. If we zoom out, we’d have to animate the characters doing something interesting when it’s clear that they’re often just missing each other at practically point-blank range. Seriously, everyone has the aim of a stormtrooper. So instead, we’ll just keep the “camera” glued to, say, Tohru’s face, and this way, you won’t have to see the actual fight itself. Just… imagine it. Imagine it was cool.
— Anyway, I’ll keep blogging it because… why not? It can’t be any worse than Owari no Seraph.