Sets up a promising finish, but barely entertaining as it is now.
Let me first get this out of the way: the conspiracy involving the no-head dragons is completely forgettable. We never get a detailed look into why they were so adamant at stopping PMUAHS to the point of jeopardizing the entire competition, but what we do get makes us lose any interest to begin with. Not only is their motive for terrorizing the students shallow, but their methods become less of a threat and more of a pathetic annoyance after their attacks are handled so easily. Though this was probably the most they could do considering how small the overall screen time for the conspiracy is. This is probably the first time I’ve ever seen an anime treat a crime organization as such an unconvincing threat, but sabotage and planned massacre has never felt so anti-climactic.
As for the competition, the one or two fixes that it offers is nowhere near enough to counter its inherent problems. I’ll admit that pitting teammates against each other in one-on-one competitions or suddenly revealing a new magic technique is more entertaining than listening to hours of magic jargon or PMUAHS annihilating the competition. But the former is simply a result of lacking competition and the latter is countered by the fact these techniques are only new because they were only revealed at the moment. What’s even more irritating is that not only do they fail to build upon our current knowledge of this world, but a lot of these techniques are dick moves that are typically associated with villains. Even when the conspiracy aspect injures students during the competition, the victims are always restricted to characters we never heard about. They don’t even bother using the side characters we have some familiarity with, so why should we care when an attack actually happens? WHY SHOULD WE CHEER FOR A TEAM THAT’S ONLY CONCERNED WITH AVOIDING TOTAL VICTORY AND AREN’T HESITANT FROM USING UNDERHANDED WAYS TO GET IT? Here’s the answer: you can’t.
Having said all that, I have to admit that this show has vastly improved at how it should portray Tatsuya. They spend less time portraying him as an underdog and more time as a broken shell of a human being, sacrificing personality for functionality. While details are unclear, we now know why Tatsuya acts emotionless, because literally the only human attachment he has left is for his sister. The same experiment that did this to him is what made him a perfect soldier, but it’s also what makes him a failure as a child, especially when it comes to friends. Both enemy and fellow students become suspicious and/or afraid of his inhuman abilities, yet they still try to offer him a friendly hand and force him to accept the credit he refuses. It’s these moments along with the occasional trust Tatsuya puts in others that has me (reluctantly) rooting for him.
In fact, there were two moments that highlighted Tatsuya in this way that had me genuinely excited: the monolith code battle and the no-head dragon’s execution. The battle he has with Crimson Prince and Cardinal George finally pits him against decent rivals, showcasing his battle skills and how he handles a struggling fight. The fight itself is a mix between cool slow-motion choreography and lazy walk-and-shoot repeats, but the last part where he supposedly regenerates a fatal shot before defeating Crimson Prince brings to mind that any suspicion held against him is warranted. This is even more relevant when he single-handedly annihilates the No-Head Dragons after they try to install a virus into Miyuki’s CAD. While he’s certainly angry at the moment he first saw this, it’s how casually he kills each one that reminds the audience that he is meant to be a soldier. He was trained to get jobs done efficiently and kill without remorse, so we’re given a moment where we aren’t meant to continually root for this guy. But even these fun moments were bogged down by an underwhelming threat, underdeveloped side characters, boring subplots, and an irritating competition we constantly have to go back to.
While it’s been a great time writing complaints about this show, it’s no question that watching through it has been quite the chore. I’m getting tired of the monotonous lectures, predictable plot lines, invincible characters and tired high school hijinks at this point. It’s a shame too because I still think this world is pretty cool. There’s only one more arc left before this show is over, so let’s cut the bullshit and go out with a bang!