Metallic Rouge ‒ Episode 6

Metallic Rouge ‒ Episode 6

© BONES, Fuji TV

Metallic Rouge sure does keep you guessing. Last week’s episode was a cerebral jumble of nonlinear memories and cryptic extraterrestrial carnival barkers. This week, the story turns into a screwball spacefaring comedy where serial murder and PEMDAS are punchlines. In lesser hands, the timing and content of this episode could have felt as painful as slipping on a banana peel. Metallic Rouge, however, rides that peel like a roller skate into the anime’s funniest episode yet.

It’s important for the comedy to land because otherwise, this episode makes little sense. Hell Giallon ostensibly begins with espionage in mind, using his doppelganger ability to sneak onto the earthbound ship taking our two leading ladies back home. This, however, becomes a moot point once he starts slashing people in full view of both the security cameras and law enforcement onboard. Absent any discernable reason for creating this chaos, we can only conclude that he’s there to mess with Naomi and Rouge, consequences be damned. This does not a compelling villain make. Media is so oversaturated with dime-store Jokers right now. Did he really cause all this commotion just so he could duel Rouge and tell her that he killed her father (which I’m not buying, by the way)? We need some modicum of motivation from Giallon besides him doing it for the lulz.

His saving grace is that Giallon’s antics become a strong vehicle for Metallic Rouge‘s askew sense of humor. Giallon himself isn’t that funny, but people’s reactions to him are. For instance, I like seeing Ash take on more of a central role this week. His no-nonsense detective schtick runs aground against Giallon’s clownishness and Rouge and Naomi’s unseriousness, which amuses me. Ash winded and wheezing in the hallway, yet refusing to give up smoking, feels like a bumbling beat ripped out of a Columbo episode. I also thought the passengers’ blasé reactions to a serial killer stowaway were quite funny. You don’t see a lot of people panicking. For the most part, they’re just annoyed. Maybe killer doppelgangers are a more frequent occurrence in the year 2128. And, credit where it’s due, I did laugh at Giallon when he floated off into Earth’s atmosphere. I don’t believe for a second that we’ve seen the last of him, but it was a funny image.

However, the true stars of this circus are Naomi and Rouge, so it’s no surprise that they’re responsible for this week’s silliest scenes. It’s hard to pick my favorite. Naomi’s test to find the true Rouge is a hilarious innovation on that classic trope, aided by the impeccable comedic timing of the whip-quick interval between Giallon opening his mouth and Naomi pulling the trigger. It’s totally in-character too. Even at gunpoint, Rouge would never do math. The other glowing example of Rouge’s huge brain is her technique of choice for finding Giallon, i.e., sucker-punching all the suspects until he shows himself. The solid physical comedy leads nicely into Rouge kicking a dog, the dog standing on his hind legs, the dog speaking, and then the dog dramatically transforming into Giallon’s tokusatsu armor. I love it. For a moment, I wasn’t sure whether they were actually going to animate Rouge smacking a big, beautiful St. Bernard—even if it did turn out to be a fake—but they went for it.

This episode proves that Naomi and Rouge’s rapport is essential to the tone and quality of Metallic Rouge. Kimiko Ueno wrote the script for both this and the second episode, and taken together, these examples show that she has the firmest grasp on how the girls’ relationship can enhance the story’s lighter and darker moments. The voice actors knock it out of the park, too. Tomoyo Kurosawa‘s hoarse delivery of “What the hell??” after getting cuffed is my favorite line read of the week. I wonder how many takes it took for her to hit that perfect level of gravelly desperation. Yume Miyato’s performance as Rouge has been less flashy but no less impressive. When she snaps out of her usual airheaded demeanor, such as Rouge becoming audibly upset at the thought of Naomi being accused of murder, Miyato adds a lot of weight to Rouge’s feelings.

The plot remains a kaleidoscope of hints, red herrings, twists, and proper nouns. It’s six weeks in, and we’re just now learning that Gene has an unknown ulterior motive separate from Aletheia’s, which may or may not coincide with Rouge and Naomi’s true mission, which may or may not have something to do with Naomi siding with Ochrona, which may or may not have to do with her deal with Ash, and so on and so forth. Do you really care? I do, insofar as these compounding plans and allegiances sustain the plot’s momentum, invite impactful character interactions, and lead to a thematically cogent message. But for now, I’ve lost interest in putting together a puzzle with an indeterminate number of pieces. I’m content to drift along with the narrative’s current. This attitude worsens flourishes like this week’s cliffhanger, but it was a lame cliffhanger to begin with. Do I believe for a second that Naomi has betrayed Rouge? Of course not. But I’m also not devoting any mental processing power to speculate on what’s going down. I’ll wait until the next episode.

Metallic Rouge is at its best when it tempers its breadcrumb trail storytelling with Rouge and Naomi goofing off together like an old married couple. The week-to-week tonal variety is undoubtedly part of the anime’s charm. Still, I wonder if refocusing the show on isolated screwball adventures like episodes two and six might have made it more immediately appealing. I don’t know. It’ll be easier to judge once we have the complete picture. For now, Metallic Rouge has its flaws, but I can’t hate anything that makes me laugh this much.


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