Content Warning: frequent date rape jokes, general unexamined toxic masculinity
What’s it about? After the Tears of New Moon, an apocalyptic event, Tokio and Kanata are two adventurers who travel outside their compound, The Rock, in search of treasure to auction. Kanata is being scouted by a rival delving group, Adventure, who want him to pilot a high tech mech called a Coffin, but he feels committed to Tokio, and could never pilot one on his own. One day, they find a robot girl lying in a bed of flowers in a cathedral, in a coma. Who could she be?
Good news and bad news.
Good news: this video game tie-in anime is not a whole hour long, can actually animate its characters, and has little-to-no fanservice. (Looking at you, Ryza).
Bad news: it’s in service of a plot and setting that can only be described as Toxic Masculinity: The Anime.
I actually quite like characters exploring masculinity in anime, finding what masculinities work for them and what they need to shed. Many of my favorite shows are about this process, almost always with the motivation of using positive masculinity to be a better friend, lover, or caretaker and resisting toxic masculinity.
This is not that kind of show.
A literal dick-measuring contest within the first ten minutes alone would not be enough to write off the show for me, as you can definitely have toxically masculine characters in a perfectly good story–it’s the larger context of sexual conquest as masculinity surrounding it that really bothers me. You could do a drinking game of the number of times a character jokes that Kanata “found his manhood” through sleeping with the comatose robot Noir, and you would be on the floor in minutes. The fact that his friends are teasing him to enjoy his scandalized reaction doesn’t really help. How hilarious, that he freaks out when being accused of date raping a robot. Har dee har har. (Which doesn’t even address that he in fact did try to pull the covering off of her naked body while she was comatose–to do a “health inspection.”)
This is paired with almost constant jokes about women that reduce them to the property of men. Michael and Tokio, our dick measuring pair, joke about wanting to fight for the right to marry a girl. Maria jokes about pawning off her sister to marry. It is such a consistent thread throughout the episode that it feels surprising the minute any woman is spoken of as anything more.
Robot girl herself is one in a long line of moe robots designed to appear cute and sexually pliable. When she wakes up, her first line is “I’ll take you to Paradise next time.” While it is later clarified that this likely was referring to Paradise as a location within the show, it is an awfully convenient excuse for her to say something that would make her seem like a sex object. Surprisingly, there is very little fanservice of her within the show, which is good! But she is still largely without agency in even the most basic respects. When she is getting a new outfit, instead of asking her what she wants to wear, Maria asks Kanata for his approval of her clothes.
It is really unfortunate this is how the show has decided to go, because this show is otherwise not bad. The animation is high quality. The mech designs are stylish. The worldbuilding is at least somewhat interesting, if extremely reminiscent of the equally toxically masculine Sakugan. It’s an appealing show. But the treatment of women is a sticking point for me, and by the end I was just hoping for the show to be over.