Last week, AMAIM managed to impress me by imbuing our main leads with a healthy amount of character and personality, as well as delivering a really good robot fight. It wasn’t perfect, but it felt like a step in the right direction and a springboard for the series to start carving out its own identity. This week we get basically none of that, instead receiving a combined 30 seconds of mech fights inbetween a toothless and bog-standard episode about bringing our reluctant hero right back into the Resistance.
That’s not to say this episode is terrible, exactly. But it’s a return to the show’s writing being little more than functional, and without the spectacle of its previous entries there’s just not anything for those bare bones to lean on and stay upright. And it’s a shame because there’s absolutely room here to show some sort of growth for Amou as he ultimately decides to join the Resistance and fight back against the injustices around him, or to give a broader view of the civilian population at large and how they’ve come to cope with living under military rule. Heck, for as little as Risa herself was characterized there’s honestly a lot you could do with exploring her hometown friends and how they feel about learning she died. There are plenty of avenues AMAIM could take to offer an interesting journey, but it chooses to stay in the safest, simplest, and least memorable main roads.
For as much time as we spend with the locals from Risa’s hometown – including her school friends – there’s just nothing really to them. They have vague memories of Risa and one of them cries when they learn she died, but the writing just can’t convincingly sell a sense of familiarity or grief in any of its dialogue. The same goes for its exploration of the suppression her family faced after she joined the rebellion, with the entire cast explaining the various barely-covert ways the military higher-ups punished and erased her loved ones to make an example of them. These are dark, potent ideas that the show could dig into, if only to make the heroes’ fight feel more urgent, but it’s all softballed here, gesturing at examples of political oppression without ever really committing.
Really, the most striking part of this episode is the ludicrous, positively cartoonish villain at its center. The Deputy Governor of this particular city is not a good character – he’s a cardboard villain who’s always about 30 seconds from licking the blood of the innocent off of a gold-plated knife – but he at least has a personality, which is more than the stock civilians can say. He also just has a goofy as hell design, to the point where I had to double-check to make sure I had loaded up the right video on Funimation‘s website. My guy looks like the lead singer of Hoobastank got reincarnated as an elf in an isekai anime. Dude is the lead prospect from his military’s push to recruit cosplaying Nu Metal guitarists. Bro got kicked out of Elrond after blasting his cassette of “Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses)” on repeat for six months. He’s such a flat, bald-faced scumbag he almost loops back around to being charming (save for the whole human trafficking thing), and even gets tricked into immediately admitting to all of his crimes on live broadcast. That’s how inept he is, and he’s our central bad guy for the episode.
The only other thing of note is that this episode marks the return of AMAIM dipping its toes into the kiddy pool of political commentary, with about as much success as its previous attempts. Meaning it’s at best clumsy and self-congratulatory, at worst veering into some eye-rolling, uncritical patriotism-cum-nationalism. Like I get it – I know lots of people who cheer any time a US movie or TV show has a big moment celebrating the stars and stripes regardless of context, but it’s really hard to take Amou’s big declaration to not bully the citizenry seriously when he’s up against the World of Warcraft character in a military uniform, you know? On the topic of our recurring North American characters, I find it very amusing the two guys whose names we actually know are Charlie the scientist and his friend, Captain Brad. They’re no Graham Acker or Patrick Colasour, but those names have got their own charm.
Other than that though, there’s just not much substance to this episode. It gets the job done and puts Amou back in the pilot seat with an established and proactive reason to fight, but does little to leave an impression. Mostly I’m just interested in meeting our new pilot next week, and hoping that getting out trio together will jumpstart this story.