If “The Heat” and “The Gladiator” prove anything, it’s that my earlier hypothesis about Super Crooks was correct: This show is infinitely more enjoyable when all of its characters shut up and do crimes. With “The Gladiator”, especially, we have an anime that still isn’t anything close to great, but is at least starting to feel like something. For a show that has suffered from a crippling lack of identity so far, that’s a start.
My biggest issues with Episode 5, “The Heat”, are basically the same problems I’ve had with all of Super Crooks (and the same ones that I had with Jupiter’s Legacy, for whatever it’s worth): The show just isn’t very well-written. The plots of its individual episodes, especially the talky ones, are meandering and uninteresting. This might not be a fatal flaw in and of itself, especially if this was the kind of anime that could get by on the strengths of its charming characters and witty banter…but it most definitely cannot. “The Heat” is yet another exposition dump of an episode, the equivalent of that scene in any good crime caper where the mastermind puts together their crew of talented but volatile weirdos and lays out the plans for their big heist. Except here, with Super Crooks, we don’t give a damn about any of the characters, we still don’t really know what the heist is about, and none of the scenes explaining any of this non-information are funny or compelling enough to work on their own.
I cannot stress enough how much of the show’s biggest failures lie on the shoulders of its would-be protagonist. Johnny Bolt is just such a boring nothingburger of a character that it only draws attention to how lacking every other character around him is, in turn. So far as personalities go, this new crew is more or less just as disposable as his old one: The Diesel Brothers are obnoxious meatheads, The Ghost is a preening douchebag, and TK McCabe is…some guy? He likes to boost cars, I guess? Things improve when the gang gets to show off their powers in Episode 6, but most of Episode 5 is just about getting all of these people into the same room and telling them that they’re officially the main characters of this current robbery scheme that The Heat is cooking up.
The only two characters that come close to demonstrating even two dimensions of depth as characters are Kasey and The Heat himself. In Kasey’s case, I might just be projecting a lot of likeability on her simply because she’s demonstrably the least stupid person in a fifty-mile radius. Plus, her powers have resulted in some of the only genuinely funny gags all season.
The Heat is also cool, but more because of what his character represents on an abstract level rather than anything specific he does or says. The one bit of backstory I enjoyed in this crop of episodes was the history we get about how it was The Heat and the other Prohibition Era mobsters who got the supervillain train rolling in Chicago back in the 30s. It isn’t a very unique angle, but it’s the one aspect of this show’s universe that we’ve encountered so far that feels indicative of whatever personality Super Crooks is trying to have. You know, beyond being super crass and bloody.
That said, while the show’s dumb dialogue can take a hike already, “The Gladiator” does a solid job of arguing for why Super Crooks is actually better off when it indulges in its taste for extreme gore. Up until the gang goes on a mission to rescue TK from being flown into Super Max prison, the goriest scenes of the show had been either surprisingly restrained or just plain awkward in their execution, as if the whole creative team had definitely seen the likes of Deadpool or The Boys, but didn’t know how to make any of that juvenile violence work within the confines of Super Crooks‘ style and medium.
Except here in “The Gladiator”, we have this scene where Roddy the Diesel Bro gets dismembered and stuffed into a garbage bag as a part of the crew’s vague scheme, and then he subsequently shows off his powers of regeneration while some clearly enthusiastic animators at Studio BONES get to show off their skills at drawing grotesquely detailed sequences of muscles and flesh stitching their way back up a broken skeleton’s bones. It’s sick, and it’s also sick, if you follow me.
Then, later on, we get to watch the Diesel Bros square off against The Gladiator on top of the Super Max plane. Rather, Roddy gets the privilege of having his body smashed and torn to pieces by the Gladiator in a genuinely fun action scene; poor Sammy is vaporized into a fine mist when he smacks straight into the plane’s propeller. When you combine all of that visceral spectacle with the fight’s funny conclusion, which has Kasey sending the Gladiator into a cartoonish Little Mermaid fever dream, and you have a pretty fun episode of television.
Well, mostly. I still could not care less about Johnny or The Ghost, and it says something that the best part of the mission to free TK from prison had absolutely nothing to do with TK himself. Unless something drastically turns around with how the show handles its exposition or writes its characters, I don’t expect Super Crooks to up and become a masterpiece or anything. It has proven that it can turn around a decently gruesome action scene every now and again, though, and so long as that keeps up I think we can make it through the remainder of the season without getting too bored.
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