A promise was made and kept. We were promised more large army mecha battles where squadrons of Golems clash on the battle field as opposed to the mostly small unit tactics in the first three movies. This movie is a bookend to the third in the fact that while it has a little more plot it contains an equal amount of action broke up into a series of smaller fights. We also get a good deal more bloodshed with named characters dying on both sides. If there was any doubt that this was a war it was dispelled by this movie.
The last film ended at an odd point making watching the 4th movie in quick succession all the more crucial. We are in the middle of the films so now we are seeing the fruition of things talked about in previous movies. However, this film makes it all the more clear that this story probably won’t wrap up by the end of movie 6.
The time for little skirmishes with Zess are over and Athens is bringing out the big guns. The ruthless General Borcuse and his team had decided to kill General Baldr and crush the will of the Krisna military. Unlike the commando strikes of Zess it seems that Borcuse and his forces are doing major damage with their numbers and skill. At the same time Rygart is doing his best to train for the battles ahead now he is part of elite squad. The major problem is that one of his new teammates is an excellent pilot but also a psychotic murderer who was only put back into service out of desperation. Does the Krisna army have any hope of winning even with the Delphine in their possession?
The perspectives are varied in this installment. We see low- to high-level military struggles, we get some personal moments for characters, and we witness the might of true war from each side. We’re also coming off an intense battle between Rygart and Zess that culminated with Zess’s fate resting in the balance. There is a lot going on in this segment of the story but it comes at you with such speed it doesn’t quite have the intensity that it should.
This movie introduces a slew of new characters including the members of Rygart’s squad and General Borcuse and his people. General Borcuse and his crew are a pretty villainous lot. I get this Grand Admiral Thrawn vibe off him where he is this utterly ruthless tacticians that is three steps ahead of anyone he fights. Also like Grand Admiral Thrawn I really dislike his character. He just seems so smarmy which I think is the desired effect but it does not make him any more enjoyable. We also get the rather psychotic Nike who looks like young girl but is actually a mature woman in stark contrast with awkwardly overdeveloped Cleo. She struck me as Lee 2.0 only less racist and more bloodthirsty with a saccharine sweet chaser. Like Lee I would not mind if she dies via self-inflicted wound. The other members of Athens military don’t get nearly as much development but hopefully some on them will be a little more charming. Rygart’s squad is mostly characters we have seen little bit of including Narvi and Loggin. The new character Girge has an expected connection to an established character. Other than that he is an odd character. He seems the male version of Nike with him aggressively attacking friend and foe alike but at other times he seems a shell-shocked bunny rabbit. There is clearly more to his story but whatever that is it goes unsaid in this movie.
We have come to know a good portion of the cast at this point, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to see their motivations a bit more. I was glad to see Rygart starting to interact more with the younger bunch in the military even if it feels a bit awkwardly executed. All of these characters are either new or haven’t had much time on-screen so they create a new piece of the puzzle. Girge is a mystery of mad energy and certainly a wild card in how he will play out. On the other side, we see more of Borcuse and Loquis but I still don’t feel like I know the why of the war on their end, but they seem like interesting guys! Despite the amazing portrayal of Rygart and Zess’s fight last time around, it seemed a bit forgotten here. I also expected Zess’s fate to remain a bit more ambiguous for a while, but no such luck. I still find the Cloe stuff to make no sense, why is she with the Queen besides to create pseudo-lesbian scenes? Many characters thrown at us, but little learned.
I would like to go off on related but slightly odd tangent. In movie 4 we continue the trend of having Sigyn run around in her bedroom wearing lingerie as her pajamas in front of Cleo. This is partially done to show the how she is slowly earning Cleo’s trust by being open in front of her and mostly for pure fan service. The thing is they show a good deal of skin but they stop short of nudity. It seems to me with the unrestricted realm of the movies they would give you the full-monty when they have the chance but they do TV style fan service. Are they purposely aiming for the Japanese equivalent of PG-13 in the belief that it will maximize profits. I am curious if anyone knows if there is a standard film rating in Japan that studios by default aim for.
For whatever reason they decided to cram as many points as they possibly could into this movie, making it a rather disjointed mass of half-finished scenes. They switch from one moment to the next without actually finishing out the scene they were in and without transitions. Because of the bloated nature of the plot in this movie none of the scenes or characters stand out. It was all rather grandiose but the connection got lost in this film.
The biggest problem with the 4th movie is it tries to tell a lot of story while not telling a lot at the same time. This means that while it sets up the second half of story it does so in a slightly spastic manner. The best example is when Girge is introduced. The scene jumps right into Rygart being attacked by Girge with absolutely no context. After a few second we understand what is going on but the movie seemed to be in a rush to get right into the thick of the confrontation. Despite that frantic energy with the new scenario being set up, new characters being introduced, and a few characters dying, not much really happens. It is all setup. It is entertaining set up but set up none the less. As critical as that was I still had a good time with this movie. We do get a bit of progress with Rygart and Sigyn and some of the other characters. The battles are entertaining and we are still getting a nice variety in Golems. If the country of Orlando gets involved we might even see more mecha. The real question is where is this all going. It is obvious with the manga still ongoing that they cannot wrap up this story in the next two movies. Can they end the sixth movie at a place that is satisfying or is this going to be like one of those old OVAs that basically is just a very long and elaborate advertisement to get you to read the manga. I look forward to seeing the ending but I have to say I am a little nervous that it will be leaving us on a cliff hanger that will not soon be resolved.