There isn’t a lot I want to say about episode 4. The show is very much still in its setup phase, with the bulk of the story centering around Takeru reliving the same events he did his first time through this world. The adaptation itself continues the trend we saw last episode, cutting down on the number of flashbacks to unseen events and turning out much better for it. The episode’s major flashback is to Takeru’s original world this time, giving us our first real look at Sumika. The flashback works much better than most of the ones we’ve seen in this anime up to this point, because it actually takes the time to give us an in-depth look at what it’s trying to establish, rather than cutting away quickly. In general, the show continues to improve after a very shaky start to the main storyline in episode 2.
The first half of the episode focuses on introducing the last major pieces that Takeru recognizes from his previous time through this world, particularly the TSFs. As is usual with this adaptation, this part of the episode continues to reference Takeru’s unseen previous experiences, and continues to be a little difficult for new viewers to follow. It’s also a little crowded, with the start of 207B’s TSF training, the introduction of the Takemikazuchi and the Imperial Royal Guard, and the conflict with the senior officers, all of which get more or less equal focus.
The second half focuses almost entirely on Takeru explaining his video game approach to TSF piloting, and it definitely flows much more smoothly because of that focus. This seems similar to last week, which also devoted its second half almost entirely to covering the upcoming BETA attack from Sadogashima. In general, this anime seems to be trying to keep its focus on the events where Takeru is actively trying to change the timeline – last week, he was trying to prevent the BETA attack, and this week, he’s trying to make changes to how a TSF is operated. By contrast, events where Takeru is largely only reacting to things that also occurred in his previous timeline tend to be glossed over with a minimum of explanation.
(Both episodes also throw in a final plot point in its very final minutes – episode 3 with the CCSE island exercise, and episode 4 with the impending HSST drop. Neither one of them handles it all that well, although at least the HSST drop will get more follow-up next episode.)
Since this episode is our first real look at Sumika, it’s also our first chance to hear Sumika’s new voice. And my opinion is, it sounds fantastic. Sumika is definitely the character I was most concerned about, because she has such a unique voice. The new voice doesn’t match completely – the old voice is just too distinct for that – but it comes a lot closer than I would have thought. Honestly, all of the new voices just sound astonishingly close to the original. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a full recast where the entire new cast sounds so much like the old cast.
Just as with last week, this episode draws from the manga adaptation for inspiration, this time in using the SD Fubuki to illustrate Takeru’s explanation of combos and cancels. As I mentioned last week, if the anime is drawing heavily from the manga, then that spells good things later on, since there are a number of manga-original scenes that I would love to see animated.
It’s also worth noting that the manga adaptation also plows through this early section extremely quickly. Not to the extent that the anime does, of course, but it’s still clear that the manga wanted to hurry up and get through this first part of the story so it can focus more on the part of the story that’s actually really good. Once it got past this section, it slowed down considerably and spent a lot of time allowing scenes to play out, including, as I mentioned, adding new scenes to supplement the story. That’s one of several reasons why I suspect the anime is going to do the same thing. We’re already through the worst of it by this point – the next episode should be the last one covering this section of the story, and given the material it will be covering, it should be much more coherent than the previous episodes. And after that, we’ll begin to enter the true story of Alternative, and I suspect we’ll start seeing what this anime can really do.