Star Ocean EX Episode 4: Heraldic Magic (my… boobs are grinding down?)
First of all, an apology is in order. I’ve been gone a LONG time. Living out here in the woods, my bandwidth is always a risk factor, and it gave up the ghost ’round December’s end. Then, as if THAT wasn’t enough,a few weeks back we got hit by a blizzard, leading to circumstances that again forced me to refrain from posting. Old man winter is finally starting to let go of his grapple hold on my capricious internet connectivity, though, so without further ado, let’s get it started, yes? ^^
Oh, and to make up for lost time, I hereby declare this month to be my personal March Madness! Expect a new review written by me every other day (not counting weekends) until I’ve reached episode 13 (round-about where I would be if I had been able to keep posting once a week.) If you’re one of my three fans, enjoy! If you’re not… enjoy all the same.
When we last left our heroes, they had embarked for the capitol city of Krosse in order to speak to the king and get permission to investigate the sorcery globe which (lest our being told for three episodes straight be forgotten) is really putting the residents of the planet in quite a foul humor. It seems things are finally going smoothly for the group, but then… the anime’s version of Claude is an idiot. How long will it take for them to forget about their important mission and embark on some bizarre side-quest? Don’t touch that dial!
The scene opens with our heroes now safely arrived in the nation’s capitol. An opportunity comes up to be distracted from their very important mission… brought about by a cute doll in a window… but our heroes are not deterred! They’re here on business, and off they go to see the king. The scene changes to the throne room, where we get to meet the old man. He’s pretty standard if you’ve ever played an RPG before: you know, one of those kings who somehow knows everyone by name, including the random country girl in your party, despite the fact that he no doubt governs over thousands of people? He also looks like your stereotypical king, what with his wisened face, distinguished beard, and hilariously gaudy crown. Still.. gotta pay some respect to the king, so no further shall I slander what a two-dimensional and hilariously cliched creature he is. XD
Rena explains to the king why they’ve come, and the king in turn points out that he has sent entire squads of his army to accomplish the same task, and none have returned alive. Now… if I were the king, and god willing, someday I will be… If I knew that a teenage girl with no combat experience and some random guy in a funny outfit wanted to do alone what an entire group of trained soldiers couldn’t… I’d be very hesitant to give them my support. At the very least, I’d want to make sure they were properly escorted, or maybe make sure they’re strong enough to accomplish more once they reach the sorcery globe than simply, um, die. The King of Krosse, however? He just asks them if they’re suuuuuuure they wanna go two or three times, and then gives them his blessing. Truly he is a ruler of meritorious foresight.
The pass to travel to El Continent, where the sorcery globe is located, now safely in their possession, Claude and Rena re-enter the town, commenting on how easily that went. Suddenly, they overhear an argument and, being ever the busybodies, decide to go and investigate.
Oh joy of joys. Remember back in episode two, when suspiciously pink-haired Jam-selling girl Yuki was attacked by thugs, and Claude saved her. Turns out those thugs are gonna be recurring characters. Glad to see that the director of this anime knows which of his filler creations are worthy of extra screen time. It seems they’ve gone through a bit of an evolution since their days of randomly assaulting girls on the street… now they’re trying to be hired on as bodyguards. Good for them. Crime doesn’t pay, and the fact that they learned this while still young shows plenty of- what’s that? The girl who was looking for a bodyguard turned them down, and they decided to respond to this rejection by assaulting her? Well fuck… they have to know this can’t end well.
To their defense, her reason for not hiring them was that they weren’t attractive enough… I guess if I felt similarly emasculated I’d return to my criminal roots, too. Seeing that the three men were about to attack the girl, Rena decides to jump in and try to help her, and the girl in question, upon seeing Claude (an no doubt sensing his status as main character, and subsequent babe magnet) decides he’s perfect for the job of being her bodyguard. Oh right, those other three guys. Turns out she’s something called a heraldic sorceress, so she just fire-spells their asses and away they run into the sunset.
That little business out of the way, she immediately introduces herself to the party as Celine Jules, and promptly ropes Claude and Rena into serving as her bodyguards while she explores a nearby cave for treasures. Granted, they were in the middle of a quest to save the world from a catostrophic evil, but what the hell, Celine’s got quite an ample bosom, and their RPG party won’t be complete until they have a woman like that on their side. Aside from which, she baits Claude into cooperation by saying that the treasure could likely be connected to the sorcery globe. Despite the fact that this would be the most contrived of possible coincidences, and the treasure is so ancient that it would have come from a time before the sorcery globe fell on the planet, Claude believes her because… as I’ll never tire of pointing out… he’s an idiot.
Our heroic quadrangle arrives at the cave, which Rena is quick to point out is not only in the exact opposite direction they’re supposed to be going, but likely wouldn’t do anything but waste their time that should be spent saving the world from devastation and whatnot. Ordinarily I’d give her kudos for this bit of constructive thought, but then I remember that she was the first person to jump into Celine’s defense earlier, and clearly only disapproves of helping Celine now because she feels jealous and insecure having an attractive, well-endowed spellcaster gunning for her canon love interest. I’ll save most of my bile regarding Claude’s being inflicted with shonen hero ladykilling skills for when Precis makes her debut, but for now just let it be known that it’s a mild annoyance.
Now that they’re exploring the cave, another bit of mystery is brought to light… why does a woman who possesses phenomenal magical power require a bodyguard to traverse what, so far, have been completely uninhabited caverns? The reason… and you may want to brace yourself for this… is that she’s deathly afraid… of insects. Yup, she needed someone to keep bugs away from her. Why yes, that IS the sound of the original character’s dignity dying a little bit you hear in the background. So great is her phobia, in fact, that she can’t see one without screaming, and when one has the tremendous misfortune of being several times the size of a bus in front of her after the party had been exploring for a few minutes, she promptly does the ladylike thing and faints
This little brush with indignity turns out to be quite serendipitous, though, as while the party is resting after being forced to run after Celine’s incapacitation (and following several scenes that were probably meant to be played for comedy, but that I simply can’t care enough about to highlight) Celine winds up resting against a wall that just happens to conceal a hidden passageway. What follows is one of the most painful looking chest-first slides in anime history, coupled with one of the most narm-tastic lines in the entire series. I already put the image up top as my introduction to the episode, but for once… I feel that an image bears repeating. XD
Once the boobs have grinded down, and the slide is finished, the whim of contrived coincidence has them arrive right before the temple that houses the treasure. Claude’s scanner indicates that nothing within the premises was remotely related to the sorcery globe, and, surprise-surprise, is completely shocked. The party enters the temple, wherein stands a lone treasure chest. Honestly, I’m beginning to suspect this anime was written by one of my old college D&D dungeon masters.
Of course, as anyone who’s ever played an RPG will tell you, you can’t just take a treasure chest from an ancient temple without an equally ancient trap that has somehow withstood the test of time taking effect against you, and indeed no sooner does Celine pick up the chest (why not just open it?) than do three of the gargoyle statues nearby come to life and start attacking the party. Celine tries to use a fire spell on one, only to find that it has no effect whatsoever, and sadly, the scene quickly devolves into what three episodes of Star Ocean EX have convinced me is something that this series just can’t pull off: A battle.
Celine asks Claude and Rena to buy some time while she prepares an adequately gar spell to be effective against a boss monster, and the two of them jump into action. We get some limited animation scenes of Claude flailing his sword about, only to find that his blade is having a really hard time cutting an enemy whose body is made of stone. Rena, whose anime counterpart, as I pointed out in episode one, has completely forgotten that she’s a fairly competent martial artist, pulls yet ANOTHER shout out to the first episode, and quickly grabs a stick, attempting to use it in lieu of a sword.
Claude’s mid-quality steel sword didn’t do much to these things… how well does Rena’s stick fare?
Oh, riiiight… Anyway, our heroes continue to flail about in such an impossible to take serious way that I fear any resident of this planet who saw them in action would immediately abandon any hope of salvation from the sorcery globe and promptly begin drafting their wills. Celine finally decides enough is enough, if for no other reason than to spare her own dignity, and unleashes the uber-spell she’s been preparing all this time. A brilliant flash of light fills the temple grounds, and the gargoyles disintegrate before it. There’s silence for just a moment afterward, which almost makes it seem like the player is confirming the experience totals for the fight, and our heroes can finally relax after their well (?) fought battle.
Now the only business that remains is that treasure chest… y’know… the one celine picked up and ran with, instead of opening and taking the contents as logic would normally dictate. The danger now passed, she throws open the lid and reveals… a book.
Not just any book, mind, a book written in a language she can’t decipher. Now, I grant that this is an event that occurred in the game, as well. the DIFFERENCE though, is that in the game the book eventually became relevant, whereas in the anime it doesn’t. So, as far as the characters we’ve been watching up to this point are concerned, we just spent an entire episode exploring a bug filled cave, damaging breasts and fighting gargoyles, all to pick up a book we can’t read and whose contents we will never learn. At the very least these young people haven’t taken themselves to the task of saving the world or anything, otherwise I’d be forced to say this was a rather stupid waste of time.
The misadventure complete, Rena breathes a sigh of relief at having her rival separate from the party, but we, as viewers, know better, and surely enough, Celine decides she wants to join in on Rena and Claude’s quest, under the pretext of searching for a linguist skilled enough to translate the book she just had everyone risk life and limb for. Claude agrees to have her along, which leads to a very put-off Rena throwing a bug at Celine in retribution. Cue ham-handed comedy routine, and the episode draws to a close with the party… maybe… finally remembering what it is they set out to do.
Episode 4 in summary:
You know, for all the hard time I give this episode – and don’t get me wrong, it’s sincerely lacking in every aspect of the quality department- it was, by an enormous margin, my favorite one to date. Celine’s character goes through the same embarrassing exaggerations that Claude and Rena went through, but she doesn’t become a complete idiot like the former, nor does she lose any trace of fighting prowess and become nothing more than a love interest/healer/kidnapping target like the latter. She fits her role as the team’s mage and voice of reason well, especially as zanier characters join the party later on, and her vocal performance in both english and japanese is one of the highlights of both audio tracks.
The episode itself was filler, despite taking events from the game and using them, but even that I didn’t mind. After three episodes of being told the same thing over and over again, a little filler actually felt like a refreshing change of pace, even if the comedy was forced.
I can’t honestly say this episode was “good” by any stretch of the imagination, but if you were watching this series, and managed to weather the crap-storm that was the first three episodes of fail, then I guess you could say that now you’ve reached the storm’s eye, and can enjoy three or four almost decent episodes before the show starts to truly fail again.