I’m So Confused
When I saw that there was a Phantasy Star Online 2 coming out this season I was confused to begin with. Hadn’t I reviewed that back when I first started the blog and was pretending I could write reviews at only 100 words? Also, when I still thought Phantasy Star Online 2 was a long name for an anime and was confused by random numbers attached to anime that may or may not have actually had a previous run? And yes, it turns out I had reviewed it and enjoyed it despite its failings and based on a game I’d never heard of nature. So cool, a sequel to a forgettable anime right? Except apparently this is a prequel and yet still called number 2 and we’ve now got a sub-heading: Episode Oracle. Because that’s going to make it far clearer what is going on.
What made this even more confusing was the last series I watched started more or less with a guy who liked playing games and then story played out in the game world and real world but there was not a lot of confusion as to which was which. Here, I’m wondering if this is a game world or if this is just a straight space fantasy? I’m actually genuinely confused after this first episode and while there are already two more episodes out that I could watch (they all appeared on Anime Lab simultaneously), I’m going to enjoy the suspense of having no idea for awhile.
Anyway, I’m assuming knowledge of the gaming franchise this is all based on would probably aid you considerable. Or maybe not.
This first episode introduces us to cheery guy who is responsible for ensuring the apparent protagonist doesn’t brood us all to death by talking more or less continuously leading to a fun exposition dump about the state of things. Our protagonist (I guess) is called Ash and he’s got tragic backstory, potential memory loss, and can sense incoming enemies and apparently mysterious girls falling from the sky. Pretty much ticking all the cliche boxes while still not being all that interesting.
That said, it isn’t actually all doom and gloom. We follow Ash and all the other new recruits down to a planet which is apparently free of the main enemy and watch them get ambushed and all the extras outside of Ash and excessively chatty boy get killed. Then we introduce a couple of veterans who have equally less than creative personalities unveiled before a random girl falls out of the sky, asks Ash to kill her, and promptly lapses into unconsciousness to avoid any further pesky exposition.
You can tell this is a quality set up. We also throw in a random hologram that tells Ash it is okay if he doesn’t understand what is happening as it isn’t important right now. I’m certain that was directed at the audience in an attempt to tell us to just enjoy the ride, but mostly it just made me realise how much I hate it when a character clearly has the answers but just holds off on revealing it because otherwise we wouldn’t have anything else to do for the next twenty episodes.
So yeah, not a promising start and yet I’m curious enough to keep watching. Possibly we could play cliche bingo with this one or at least keep count of how many narrative tropes this thing pulls out in order to string us along for a season. Or maybe, just maybe, they’ll settle into a decent story once we get through the introduction. I’m not holding my breath for that outcome but I’d happily take that surprise.
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Phantasy Star Online 2: Episode Oracle.
Images from: Phantasy Star Online 2: Episode Oracle. Dir. K Suzuki. Gonzo. 2019.