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After it begins with an unexplained and confusing scene of a person with an ill-defined shape (was this something that happened to Suichi at some point?), episode one of Gleipnir makes more sense. The carefully drawn and distinctive characters are a definite good sign. We meet Suichi, who cannot decide what sort of career to pursue, perhaps because he's already having weird feelings. It's stuff like Suichi's talk with the girl who got the college recommendation that he declined, or what he did with a dead animal he found, that instill a character with personality and make the viewer care what becomes of him. It turns out that his personality isn't entirely attractive, however. Why doesn't he stand up for himself when he's basically being psychologically bullied by a girl? When she threatens to expose him as a 'monster', he could threaten to spread the far more credible rumor that Clair set the fire at the warehouse and was attempting to commit suicide. She seems to have gone from suicidal to domineering literally overnight, which is hard to buy. At this point I don't like her and he's pretty hapless. As the episode progressed I became slightly bored and frustrated. Suichi is mildly freaked by his first transformation, but not all that much. It was pretty easy to guess what was about to happen when Clair placed Suichi's cellphone at the rim of the school roof. Still, there's a fairly intriguing mystery here, and I remained curious. Why do monsters--Suichi, at least--take the bizarre, cartoonish appearance that they do? What role do special coins (and the vending machine they are spent in) play? Clair must have seen at least one 'monster' before Suichi. I decided to watch episode two, but I hoped this show would tighten up a little and in particular that Suichi would learn how to stand up for himself.
It did. We learn a good deal about both Suichi and Clair: unlike many--indeed most--characters who find themselves in bizarre, terrifying situations, he is genuinely spooked and psychologically messed-up, which makes him seem much more realistic and believable. And, while less 3D, Clair isn't pure evil, because after what she has been through it is hard to blame her for the way she acts. We also learn a good deal about why Suichi transforms into a strange costume while under stress, and it is intriguing. The two of them are attacked by another monster and fight a brutal battle for their lives. The show is violent but not all that disturbing, perhaps since it involves bizarre elements that could never exist in the real world. All things considered, Gleipnir was looking pretty good at this point.
In episode three we get a hint that the blond teenager who seems to be behind this business with the coins may not be a purely nefarious person acting out of nothing more than malice and evil. I appreciate this; in most shows, he would have been two-dimensionally evil, but here he's more 3D and we don't know what to expect. Suichi and Clair go looking for Clair's sister, Elena, who she says killed their parents. But there's reason to doubt that Clair is being completely honest. They find Elena, but, like the teenage boy, she doesn't behave the way we had expected--more unpredictability and genuine intrigue. Elena turned out to be a frustrating character. We get a definite impression that she regrets the things she has done, and doesn't want to hurt anyone, and, as the illustration above shows, that sooner or later she will almost certainly wind up as Suichi and Clair's ally rather than their enemy. But right up to the very last episode these impressions are never really confirmed and the question of whether Elena is truly good or bad remains unanswered. Nevertheless, as of episode three Gleipnir continued to surprise me with how sophisticated and clever it is. I was wary of all the weird monsters in the OP sequence, but I was confident that whenever they came along this show would handle them with finesse.
In episode four we learn a good deal about who is behind the creation of monsters, and why, and why the coins are so precious. I was surprised that this show actually falls into the science-fiction category; I had figured that nothing more than magic or something like that would be the explanation for all the bizarre things that happen. It makes some sense and is fairly plausible--more plausible than magic, at least. But since the powers a person could conceivably attain are virtually unlimited, things remain kind of hard to grasp. What exactly is Elena's power, for instance? It seems she can tamper with people's memories and also transform into a creepy creature. Are Kaguya and Clair fighting to prevent someone without ethics being given fantastic power?
I'm not so sure about episode five. While searching for coins Kagaya and Clair encounter another human who has been given monster powers. But this person has a bizarre philosophy: apparently he just wants to test his own powers in fights against other monsters and find out exactly how strong he is. That seems like a worthy endeavor to him. And after losing a fight with Kagaya and Clair (basically because he was tricked), he takes a Bushido-like attitude that his life now belongs to them and he must do as they say. I would not trust this person in a million years, but he seems to be sincere. At least the trick that Kagaya and Clair used might conceivably have worked. But it seems to me that the last thing I want this show to do is become about fights of the week between different freaky monsters rather than a search for a way to undo the mess that the aliens created when they granted fantastic powers to humans (that is the basic premise, right?). I suppose it could be argued that recruiting monster-people to help them, like the guy in this episode, is part and parcel of achieving that goal. But again to me it smacks of big fights between spectacular contestants rather than an intriguing mystery being solved.
I liked episode six better. Kagaya and Clair learn of a group of gatherers who seem to have similar motives to themselves, and try to join it. These are mostly the sort of people who never wanted to become monsters/gatherers and are reluctant to kill. Each member has a different power, sometimes useful but seldom the sort that will win a fight. As a result, we can see why it would be in their best interest to team up. Their leader has an interesting theory about how skills are assigned by the aliens. Clair agrees to undergo a risky process that will protect these people from being betrayed by her. A clever touch is that one member becomes jealous of Kagaya because the girl he has his eyes on, Yoshioka, seems to take a liking to him. No major violence in this episode, just the advancement of the plot--perhaps that's why I liked it.
In episode seven Suichi and Yoshioka run into an ally of Elena and get into a fight. Again, I was confused; is Elena a friend or an enemy? How did Suichi and Yoshioka survive the horrific damage that was inflicted on them (was it only the 'costume' that got mauled?)? If anything, their beating somehow seemed to make them more powerful. What was the point of Elena's conversation with the alien? It all didn't make much sense to me and left me feeling that I knew less about what was going on rather than more. Fortunately, in episode eight we get an explanation of sorts of just what happened. More tension between various characters in this group (even though they are all supposed to be allies) was intriguing. Again, there seem to be episodes in which fighting takes place and episodes which things are explained and the plot moves forward, and I prefer the latter.
The entire group sets out to search for the crash site of the alien spacecraft in episode nine, and before long they find themselves in trouble. I'd been anxious for a good while what would happen when a certain freaky character from the OP sequence finally showed up, and in this episode he finally does. This guy isn't 100% evil--he at least cares about the members of his gang--but I was not all that thrilled by the confrontation and the bizarre trick that was used to turn the tables (smoke is poisonous all by itself). It kind of felt like a waste of time since this is clearly not Elena's group, and all the signs are that the big climax will involve her.
The last two episodes were confusing--I needed to watch them twice. So, Naoto, once a friend of Elena and Suichi, spent a coin to get the alien to create the 'glowing girl' (Aiko?)? And he did this to take revenge against the people who once harmed Honoka? I think so, but I'm not sure. Why was there a risk (according to Elena) of the world literally coming to an end? The episodes tell us a good deal about Suichi's actual past and Elena--though, again, we don't get a definitive answer regarding whether she is good or bad. That, no doubt, is because the story is clearly far from over: the alien is still granting wishes, and the dude that Suichi and Clair recruited in episode five has yet to be put to use. Surely a second season must be forthcoming, though the episode didn't firmly say so. So, Gleipnir struck me as a mix of very good stuff and not so good stuff. I think the message was that Suichi and Clair (and Elena?) must put an end to the wish granting business at all costs, but I also wish that had been made more clear. If a second season does indeed come about, I'll be watching it but with a little trepidation.
Last updated Tuesday, August 04 2020. Created Friday, April 17 2020.