Akira finally steps up to duel Playmaker for reasons that are still quite unclear. This whole episode’s premise is actually very muddy, but does that stop it from being a strong entry for the series? Heck no!
Honestly the worst thing about this episode is the animation, and it’s not even bad. Last week’s episode was just extremely polished-looking, so going back to the more typical appearance is a small letdown. But if I’m being honest, it still looks pretty decent. There’s not much in the way of exciting visual sequences, though. Also, Akira looks quite off-model a good chunk of the time. But that’s the bad, and that’s really all I have to say there, so let’s skip to the good, hm?
Unfortunately, we still don’t really know why Playmaker and Akira are dueling. Presumably Akira wants to cover something up or either have leverage to regain his job, but that’s pure speculation on my part. All we know is that he won’t allow Playmaker to see the data regarding the incident from ten years ago. Playmaker can’t accept Akira’s proposal to let him handle everything, so the two end up dueling, with both the data and Ignis on the line (as is the standard).
The duel isn’t anything to write home about, but the pacing of it is much better than what we’ve seen in the past. It flows pretty naturally, and I appreciate that Akira and Playmaker actually talk during it, even if it is mostly a drawn out monologue from Akira. His isn’t the backstory everyone wanted to see, but it’s better than getting no backstory or development at all, so I’ll take it. He also comes off as calculating during this duel, which harkens back to his first encounter with Go, so I’m glad his various personality traits are finally linking up over these episodes.
I’m probably alone in this, but I still find Kitamura’s involvement quite interesting. I don’t know whether he’s going to stick to his guns and try to go after Yusaku, Akira, Aoi, and Ema, or whether he’s going to learn some shocking truth and side with them. I highly doubt it’s the latter, but it’s not off the table considering how surprised and seemingly interested he is in the information Akira found. Just a side note, I also enjoy that the writers and animation team took time to show some dialogue between his subordinates and also actually show him outside of that computer room. It’s a fresh change from some similar past antagonists who just sat in one room for extended periods. I’m still not quite sure why he isn’t coming up with another way to resolve this crisis, but I’m quite content to watch his reactions for the time being.
Finally, can someone please explain to me how no one notices Blue Angel (Aoi) with those huge pigtails or whatever. Come on, everyone. Get some glasses.
Anyway, this was a pretty great episode. I don’t think it’ll ever come to mind as one of my favorites, but there’s no denying it was pretty solid in terms of writing. We got some teases regarding the incident ten years ago, some backstory for Akira and Aoi, and some insightful commentary from both Ghost Girl (Ema) and Kitamura. Not to mention Shoichi’s shared rage with Yusaku after Akira pleads his case (even if it does cause Zarc flashbacks for Arc-V viewers). For the first time since the series began, I’m truly eagerly anticipating the next episode. I’m hoping this show has finally hit its stride, as the quality has pretty consistent since the staff change a few episodes ago. If this continues, VRAINS has a bright future.