Akira is not your average gamer. He owns records on every leaderboard he climbs, he has forum threads and articles written about him, and he is bored with life outside of gaming. One day, a Frankenstein’s-monster-looking man hops out of a van and chases him to the verge of death. Akira is captured and forced into a game where all the contestants have been given powers and they are at the mercy of the game runners.
Akira pretty quickly brings all of the other “big brain” characters that anime loves to mind. The most obvious example being Light, from Death Note (who happened to go by Kira). An avid gamer, Akira is bored of the world, getting just what he wants when he is forced into a life or death game where everyone gets a power. In some kind of adaptive difficulty, he gets the power of “Your power is whatever the other person thinks it is.” This is naturally the perfect power for someone intent on being 312 steps ahead of his allies, and opponents, at any given time. To his credit, where most of these character types mindgame the dumbest things, Akira feels grounded in his mission, never overcomplicating things when he doesn’t have to. We learn and think with him in a greater depth than most other characters of his type, so he has that going for him. The issue is these characters tend to be single toned in their own self interest. You are meant to admire them, not watch a transformation. What that means for us is that we aren’t engaged unless we are admiring them, something I rarely find myself doing.
Mion enters as the overpowered pixie-cat-girl show host who orchestrates the entire game and seems to do everything soley for her entertainment. Naturally she takes an immediate liking to Akira and drives the show’s events through her curiosity of how long he can live. I almost omitted her from the review under the pretense that she really wasn’t actively involved enough in the show for my taste, but including other side characters would spoil too much of the show. If you like the weird mysterious and nefarious characters, she is right up your alley.
Yuri somehow played the brawny-ditz role while being the smallest character in the series. How? Her power multiplies her physical ability by five times. If giving 2-3 scenes of back story to explain a formative part of their life counts as a backstory, then Yuri is one of few who gets the honor, and the only protagonist gifted this. Yuri’s sense of justice and wanting to protect the weak comes from this backstory. Where normally the main character is the moral compass, Yuri very clearly takes that role, possibly making a statement about the value of morals in a life and death situation, but likely just happened to be that way. There really is a limit to the character type here, so the show builds suspense around her through her being the only one who knows Akira’s powers.
Tactical games’ excitement are usually determined either by large scale strategic domination or by tactical outplays. In order to appreciate strategic domination, there has to be knowledge of both sides’ movements, plans, and potential moves. In contrast, tactical outplay requires only that a viewer to understand the capabilities of the skirmish and witness how creatively the abilities are used. There has to be a fine balance between the strategy and the tactics in order to engage me. I often think that “Big Brain” shows lose me in the weeds of strategy because they never give me enough information to appreciate the planning until, all of a sudden, it is revealed and I should have seen it coming. It would simply be impossible, or so it seems, for the stories not to have a hidden strategic moment. I can think of only a single instance where A Battle Game in 5 Seconds fell victim to that. All the rest of the outplays were heavily hinted at or explained beforehand, Battle Game explains enough so that creativity can be appreciated when it’s shown. You feel far more included than other shows of the same kind. I appreciate not being left behind, but the ride that I got was not a particularly thrilling one. It felt like a tame experience, that was a little too predictable for my taste. This takes away from the tactical creativity and is likely the reason so many shows feel like they have to hide information to be interesting. It reminds me of League of Legends teamfights. Five characters on each team play each other. Each one has four abilities that everyone knows. The excitement comes from the moments where players execute on these known abilities in new ways, creative ways, or see the creative play in the chaos of battle. I don’t think Battle Game saw the moment in the scuffle like I hoped it would. Season two has the opportunity to do so, but I would be surprised if they change it up enough to make a difference.
Akira’s power makes sharing his ability with others essentially impossible if he ever thinks he might have to fight them. Naturally, he enters the information manipulation game. Given how critical giving, denying, and omitting information was in the show, it made me think of an old argument my friend Katy and I had about whether omitting information is the same as lying. Akira has no moral issue with lying, but should we assume people only want strictly the information they are asking for, or should we give all the adjacent information as well? It shouldn’t surprise anyone reading this that I am firmly in the camp of sharing all relevant information and even irrelevant information. I want to know everything about everyone and have them know about me. So naturally when information adjacent to what I am asking is not given, omission feels like lying. Akira uses this often to lead his opponents to conclusions that suit his needs. By omitting the true nature of his ability, he keeps the perception of others’ malleability enough that he can capitalize on that later. Is that lying? I say so, but when it is needed to live, maybe we reconsider?
I always enjoy moments where idioms become literal. In the case of Akira, he has to actually trust someone with his life. This specific phrase has always interested me because humans are so uncomfortable with their life outcomes being in the hands of others. I appreciated the amount of times that Akira actively thought about and incorporated his trust into his plans, even though he obviously disliked needing to rely on others. The clash between his tactician mindset and the fear and anxiety surrounding your own fate in the hands of others was interesting to watch. Part of creating good characters is confronting them with ideas contrary or adjacent to their beliefs of actions and letting them react so that the viewers can experience the struggle. Not an idea of the show overall, but instead, a character specific one that was fun to think about.
Few shows dealing with powers have legitimate reasons to progress in meaningful ways. They often jump to the protagonist being proficient in ways that are too convenient for my taste. Battle Game In 5 Seconds paces this out clinically. Instead of railroading viewers to follow bad logic, the characters were given powers that naturally suited them and were given time to explore their powers (relatively) consequence free. Once a basic mastery was acquired they were moved into higher stakes. It fits not only the way that I think that shows like this need to generally work, but also into the storyline of these people being test subjects as well as entertainment for this mysterious organization. Certainly they would allow for the most possible outcomes and work towards learning the most. With natural progression comes natural scoring.
I don’t want to get on my “Bad CGI” soap box for what feels like the third time in the past two months. It’s clear there was a clear time cruach toward the end of the show because the ending fight wasn’t nearly as polished as it needed to be in order to justify switching animation styles. The show itself is not particularly great animation wise, but it’s good enough to enjoy the time that you do spend watching. Slowly but surely CGI, elements creep into prominence until the final fight looks like a bad mobile game advertisement. Or like perhaps someone just learning CGI tried to recreate old Tekken fight poses. Either way, it was distracting from an already underwhelming visual experience.
This show is one sentence from being an iseki. It’s implied that all the “contestants” were on the verge of death and brought back with advanced technology. Despite this assertion, it might as well have been the characters trapped in a whole other world because the show feels confined to a facility and then a large plot of land, once the initial introductions and tests were finished.
So what is there to be curious about? Not a whole lot, unfortunately. There is the organization that has this incredibly advanced technology (yet somehow has hidden it from the world), why they forced people into a giant game of capture the flag, and how any of the technology is possible. The show holds back on all three fronts, teasing more information for what seems like a planned second season that I generated little excitement for. I just can’t invest into a world that gives so little. Balancing what you do and don’t tell the audience is important… but no one likes stringent people and the story is too far into that camp.
The music of Battle Game in 5 Seconds is largely unnoticeable. I looked and looked for a released soundtrack and could not find a single one. Naturally, I started racking my brain for any moment that I could recall any of the music at all, there was not a single one outside the opener. What that says to me is that we got nothing particularly special. How I felt about the opener was representative of the rest of the show, and the music by extension; it was just fine. I skipped the opener each time it came up because it never really made me any particular way and the minute and a half of my life was better spent doing…most anything else.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||2||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||4||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||3||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||4||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||1||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||1||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||1||3|
There was a long time when I lived with my mother after college that I watched C-tier movies because they had a charm about them and they were entertaining enough. Battle Game in 5 Seconds reminds me of those hours spent in mind entertainment, knowing that nothing groundbreaking would happen. I likely won’t think about this show much unless I am reminded, but the watch was solid enough.