So we’ve all got an understanding of how Full Dive works by now, right? In terms of structure? Hiro’s adventures at a consultation office and a church at the beginning of this ninth episode take you through it once again just in case you haven’t caught on: Hiro is introduced to an element of Kiwame Quest’s world he might potentially find enjoyable or helpful, it turns out to actually either waste his time or actively harm him, and we end on a remark about how that’s the way things would go ‘in real life’. Rinse, repeat. If this singular joke works for you, I can understand sticking with the show through this point, but it turns it into something of a chore otherwise if you’re watching to see significant plot progression or indeed, trying to review it on an episode-by-episode basis. All I can do is idly speculate on where the little advancements in story we get might be going, hamstrung by understanding the tone the show has trained us to recognize.
Because tonally, this story continues to be Full Dive at the most miserable it’s ever been, which is no mean feat considering earlier the show featured Hiro peeing his pants as he was threatened with dismemberment. They even repeat the ‘Hiro gets abandoned by someone who seemed to be his friend’ pathos from last week, this time including implicit threats towards Cathy, a friendly NPC, for good measure. At this point, as someone who’s also reviewing the (similarly punishing yet somehow much more entertaining) Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro this season, I really had to question if the levels of Hiro’s suffering depicted are meant to cater to some level of fetish for the intended audience. Is this unchecked misery in having everyone dunk on you for how weak you are and watching a couple of chuds walk off with the girl you thought liked you part of the self-insert fantasy of Hiro’s character?
I’m not sure the appeal must lie in watching Hiro potentially turn his traumatic situations around, not simply because he so rarely does, but also because any attempts so far have thus always made things worse in the long run. Recall his burst of heroism in the preceding goblin attack that landed him in this grueling guard training to begin with. More than anything, that repeating pattern was at the forefront of my mind trying to engage with the shifts in the story that happened in this episode. It’s structured around Reona pulling an interconnected web of revenge schemes to remove Hiro’s tormenters, the bullies Granada and Palu, along with the instructor Amos, except Hiro’s role in watching things unfold is as passive an observer as we are. Not only does he mostly react with mere confusion as misfortune befalls people he apparently didn’t wish that much ill will on, the presentation of the show doesn’t frame them with any degree of catharsis. It’s instead mostly resigned pity from Hiro for the resulting plights of these awful people who, also remember, aren’t even real, they’re video-game NPCs!
The issue with taking us through Reona’s sabotage scheme falls at the feet of the central structure of Full Dive we were reminded of at the beginning. Sure, it seems like Reona is helping Hiro out now, but the writing constantly reminds us of the looming second goblin attack. Given the ‘realism’ angle all the drama and humor of this series runs on, it makes it too-easy to speculate that, jerks though they were, perhaps driving out the strongest members of the Guard who actually knew what they were doing isn’t the best way to stay prepared for a follow-up monster onslaught. Hiro’s fellow cadets might apologize to him and take his side now, but is that only setting him up for a bigger fall later on? That’s the fundamental problem with taking in any of the story in Full Dive: The show has trained us not to watch it as an arc or a sequence of unfolding story beats, but simply as an exercise in waiting for the other shoe to drop. That means that rather than an entertaining or interesting watch, the show is simply an exercise in resigned, exhausting anxiety.
Past episodes of Full Dive have snuck in some interesting commentary, but this one was pretty much entirely its fundamental faults on display. The first half is basically a retread of the previous episode’s flavor of misery porn at Hiro’s expense, while the second half all feels like listless setup for whatever the next oh-so-clever ‘realistic’ subversion it’s going to use to screw over its protagonist. The reason these problems come to a head here is because, by this point, the show has conditioned everyone in the audience to see exactly what it’s doing. If the people you’re telling a joke to are checking their watches as you’re setting it up, they probably aren’t going to be very invested in the punch-line once you finally get to it, no matter how ridiculous it may be.
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Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.