Sorry for the subtitle in questionable Arabic. It’s been a long week.
With the sudden influx of work over the past week, writing about Galilei Donna kind of fell by the wayside. It doesn’t matter how many homeless former-doctors with plot-convenient Renaissance-era artifacts as placemats there are, desperately hammering out a 20 page term paper on the nature of vice crimes will always take priority. As will shelling little girls with artillery in dumb, battleship-themed Japanese browser games.
Tangentially relating that shitty Kancolle reference to something else that spends most of its time in the water, the significance of goldfish is getting a bit silly at this point; in a good way, not in an exasperating “Will they just stop with the fucking goldfish?” way. It’s just the right amount of desperately reaching for clues when Hozuki follows a stained glass goldfish’ silhouette to a stone slab that happens to contain another Renaissance-era artifact. It’s stupid enough to be ridiculous, but not taken seriously enough by the show to feel unintentionally so.
Keeping that general lightness in tone in mind, this episode deals with some surprisingly heavy shit very well. Granted, anything is surprisingly heavy in a show that proudly touts a goldfish AI that goes into combat mode by conjuring an M-16, but to its credit, the shift in tone doesn’t feel forced at all, even if it is noticeable. It’s a stretch to go from typical treasure-hunting fugitive hijinks to two children getting vaporized by missiles, but Galilei Donna makes it work. You heard it here first: Galilei Donna makes the indiscriminate slaughter of wartime orphans work.
Now, to say that several death flags weren’t tripped for Theo and Karen would be a lie; the show wouldn’t have a girl hobble around with a cane unless they wanted to kill her off for some easy pity points. It wouldn’t have a boy meticulously handcraft a gift for said girl unless it was meant to showcase his admirable, if ultimately futile drive to keep her alive and happy. It wouldn’t have Hozuki get to know the aforementioned boy if his death wouldn’t play a role in her emotional development. It dutifully, and shamelessly, does all three of these things, but it keeps from devolving into halfhearted emotional manipulation. Ultimately, the success of the characters’ presence lies in how they die, rather than the fact that they die.
Most of that lies with competent direction; their death scene is quiet and dignified, and it gives off the real sense that these are two people happy to die in each other’s arms. While we only see a few minutes of interaction between them, it’s enough to tell that they’ve been through hell and high water together. The fact that Theo can be so brusque with Karen without any sense of hostility betrays a familiarity between them that doesn’t require niceties 24/7. Karen doesn’t have much of a personality outside of her association with him, but he’s developed enough through talking to Hozuki that some residual attachment between them is formed.
It strikes me that this is exactly what Sword Art Online tried with the Sacchi episode, with roughly the same amount of investment in her character, but this just does so much better because it actually understands that side characters have to have lives outside of the lead for their deaths to be significant and impactful.
With all that said, the issue of whether the show got across the necessity of their deaths is iffy. I have some trouble buying that the captain would sell out their base of operations for what was likely a pittance, without thinking to evacuate those in need first, like Karen. It tries to paint him as desperate, but the situation at base isn’t really painted similarly enough to make his actions seem like anything more than a plot convenience. I mean they clearly aren’t living in the lap of luxury, but you don’t have orphans gouging out other bandits’ eyes for nourishment either. There’s also concern as to whether it’ll actually follow up and have their deaths actually mean something to Hozuki. It would be a waste of a good, well-placed scene if it wasn’t incorporated into Hozuki’s development in some way. My confidence in Galilei Donna isn’t quite high enough for encouragement.
I know a show’s good when I can tell what’s going to happen, and even question its relevance, but it still manages to affect me. This is a series that knows exactly what it’s doing, though whether that’ll amount to much beyond goofy treasure hunting remains to be seen. It does have the capability for delivering on some powerful moments, and I’d like to see more of that in the future.