Star Ocean EX episode 2: Encounter (aka: the dangers of silver haired guys in JRPGS)
Nothing beats a first episode full of daddy issues and giant gorillas more than a breather episode full of exposition we’ve already heard, and an introduction to a charming, if cliched, fantasy world. Let’s see what episode two has in store for us!
Having had her life saved in the last episode, Rena decides to show her gratitude by guiding him to her home villiage of Arlia. Rena is convinced that Claude is a legendary warrior, and although she doesn’t call him legendary, and he isn’t aware of the legend yet, he is nonetheless quite adamant that he’s not the guy she thinks he is. The two argue playfully for a while, and the scene shifts to Arlia village.
An earthquake erupts, and one of the town’s folk complains that this has become an everyday occurrence now. Said townsfolk person is then promptly almost run over by a horse carrying upon its back a man so bishonen and silver haired that he simply must be a villain. Well, whatever his nefarious scheme, he’s nice to the villagers today, the almost running over aside. He simply asks if Rena is about, and hearing of her absence, decides he would be best served to return another time. Then he leaves… He could have at least set something on fire.
Pity he didn’t stick around for another minute, because just as he leaves Rena returns, dragging Claude in tow. The people of the town tease Rena about having “another guy” on the line, and the village girls seem disillusioned that she would ignore the affections of a guy as sexy as Alan (which, it turns out, is the name of Mr. Red and Silver from earlier), while at the same time conceding that at least Claude is a looker too. The whole discourse leaves Rena feeling terribly flustered and she pushes through the crowd, taking Claude’s hand and leading him through it. When the pair discover the fact that they’d been holding hands, they blush and laugh awkwardly in shoujo fashion, and then Rena leaves Claude so she can go get the mayor.
Claude spends some time in the church, which I have to admit is a scene that has some pretty dynamic colors to it, but on the whole it’s pointless. Thanks for the additional time filler, EX. Rena finds Claude at the church and tells him he can stay at her house tonight.
The scene cuts to after dinner, where Claude lays on the verge of passing out. Turns out Rena’s mother wasn’t sure how much food was appropriate for a legendary savior of the world, and wound up cooking far more than a single person could comfortably eat. Not to let her hospitality go to waste, Claude ate it all anyway, and was now suffering for this misjudgment. Rena assures him he didn’t have to eat the entire meal, and the two make small talk for a few seconds when, for no particular reason at all, Rena suddenly breaks out one of the creepiest affection-filled gazes I’ve ever seen…
There is no set up for it, no inner monologue, they just go from having a lighthearted conversation to.. well… that! We don’t even know why she suddenly looks at him like that. Granted, we can assume it’s a look of hope and happiness, for having finally come into contact with a person she believes to be the legendary warrior, an icon she had looked up to her entire life… but the series doesn’t bother TELLING us that here. She just looks at him, and he responds with a correctly freaked out expression. Then the rain starts, Rena realizes what she was doing, and runs off to help her mom clean up the dishes, in an effort to hide her embarrassment. Were I Claude, I would start fashioning a crucifix to place on the door while she was gone.
The awkward moment gone, Claude falls asleep and dreams of, surprise, his Dad being a dick to him. He asks him to help him get off the planet, but his Dad says that he’s only there because of his own careless stupidity, so let him find his own way out. Frankly, I agree with dream-dad. Claude wakes up in a cold sweat (Dammit, Anime(!)Claude, I warned you last week about getting too whiny with the Daddy issues) just in time to notice a shadowy figure has leaped into the air above his bed, striking down with what appears to be a staff. Claude dodges, and prepares to counter attack when Rena stops him. Turns out this was just the mayor saying hello. Mayors are prone to such things.
The mayor, a wizened old man named Regis, apologizes for the sneak attack, saying he merely wished to see if what Rena had said was really true. Granted, had what Rena been saying NOT been true, he would have bashed a stranger’s brains out, but the thought of that possibility doesn’t seem to bother him. He sits Claude down, and finally explains to him why Rena is so excited to see him.
The majority of the mayor’s speech is a repeat of what was said in episode one, in case a week proved too long to hold facts in the minds of the audience. A meteorite crashed, after which monsters and demons started appearing, and natural disasters became commonplace around the world. Because of the supernatural nature of this change, people took to calling the meteorite “the sorcery globe” and fear it will bring about the end of the world. As such, they place their hope in “the legendary warrior” a man dressed in foreign garb and wielding a sword of light, who will vanquish the evil and save the world. A plot that isn’t quite the most overused in the fantasy genre.
Claude realizes that Rena mistook his laser pistol as the sword of light in the prophecy, and quickly points out that he isn’t any such warrior, he’s just stranded on an alien world, and only wants to go home. Despite the fact that Rena hadn’t believed him the first one thousand times he said he was no warrior, this time she believes him, and runs off crying. Of course, we don’t SEE this, since that would require animation… but it’s kind of implied by sound effects while still images of natural disasters and the like are flashed on screen. Regis tells Claude he can begin his search for a way home by traveling to the neighboring town of Salva the next day, and gives him a sword because his pistol might give more people the wrong impression.
The scene then changes to Alan’s room, where he looks malevolently at a painted portrait of Rena, then towards an ominously glowing stone floating on a pedestal. With an obviously evil laugh he declares that “she belongs to me!”
The next day comes, and Claude begins to march out of the fog toward Salva, while Rena monologues about how she’d grown up hearing the legend of the warrior, and had always dreamed of the day she could meet him, which is why she reacted so strongly when Claude revealed he wasn’t any such person. Still, she wishes him good luck in finding his way home as he vanishes into the distance.
The scene changes to Salva where, for the third strike against Anime(!)Claude’s common sense, he seems legitimately surprised that no one in an obviously medieval town knows what a space ship is, or has ever heard of earth. He doesn’t search long before he encounters a pink-haired girl being accosted by thugs, and steps in to save her in as acrobatic a way as you can in an anime series where fight scenes almost never involve actual movement. The crowd that watched the spectacle cheered, and the girl introduces herself as Yuuki, and invites him to her store as thanks. He declines her invitation to buy anything for right now, and instead asks her if she’s ever heard of a spaceship. Her answer is obvious to anyone with a sense of setting.
After that fails, the conversation moves to the thugs who attacked her. Claude asks if Salva is a dangerous town, but Yuuki says it usually wasn’t, and that most of the thugs who had recently taken residence there were hired by Alan, who is revealed to be the son of the mayor. Claude asks what kind of guy Alan is, and Yuuki responds by saying that he used to be a real stand-up guy, but for some reason he had become a much colder, more callous person recently. She then mentions off-hand that the person she feels most sorry for is Rena, whom Alan had announced he would be marrying that day. Realizing the danger this poses Claude immediately charges back to Arlia to try to stop the abduction.
He’s too late, of course, and meets Alan’s carriage halfway down the road:
How does Claude handle this situation? The same way anyone with his level of common sense would. He stands in the middle of the road, stretches out his arms, and yells “Stop!” REALLY loud. When this seems to have no effect, he repeats it, perhaps hoping that Alan will lose control of the horses in a fit of laughter. The carriage draws nearer, so Claude draws his laser pistol, but of course, since he only remembers how to fire the damn thing when the plot demands it, he just shouts stop a couple more times, before jumping out of the way just barely in time to avoid being trampled to death. Quite the hero, our man is.
But all was not for naught! had he not managed to bump into the carriage a little in his ill-advised attempt to stop it, he wouldn’t have knocked Rena’s hairpin off. He finds it on the ground and picks it up, vowing to save her, and the episode ends with the camera panning over the ominously glowing stone in Alan’s room.
Episode 2 in summary: For fans of the game, the key demographic for this series, this is where the decay of this adaption starts to slowly sink in. While the plot events are still more or less true to those of the game, Anime(!)Claude is a clueless putz, and the animation gets lazier and lazier as the episode progresses. The episode did have some legitimately fun moments, and setting up the fight with Alan, and explaining the warrior or light (again) was done well. Still, there was much more bad than good to be had this time around.