Well, this may be the first time I actually drop a series I’m doing a This Week On for. And so quickly, too. But from the first episode Luck & Logic was a series I took on tentatively. It looked okay and had a lot of potential I thought it would use. But episode 3 has left me with very little hope for any of that. That is to say, it sucks. Let’s talk about why.
So the ongoing problems are still present, and only getting worse. Yoshichika is a dull protagonist with no defined goal or particular areas of interest. Athena is even worse, with her only character trait seeming to be that she likes Yoshichika, with limited explanation as to why or what it’s like to have this Logicalist-Goddess Trance relationship (apparently she gets to know what he’s thinking from it, but he still doesn’t seem to know anything about her). The battle environments and choreography still haven’t lived up to their potential. And the animation has gotten cheap, to the point where a fight scene can be just one character jumping into an attack, be shown “flying through the sky” with a looped background playing behind their static image, a *crash* sound effect plays, and the person their attack is shown falling backwards. No shot of the attack actually landing, or what it even looked like. This direction is the kind of stuff action hentai series from ten years ago would use, not modern mainstream anime.
And while all that sucks, what I really want to go into here is writing and characters, because they are what made this episode from eye-rollingly bad, to just confusing.
As it stands now, it looks like Luck & Logic is going to be episodic character pieces, at least until it gets it gets through all its main characters. Retrospectively, it appears episode was the “Olga episode”, at least part 1 of it, with a part 2 desperately needed. Well, episode 3 is “Yurine episode”, Yurine being the girl who was upset that Yoshichika got to be leader of the group, not her.
It turns out she’s a perfectionist, and before she became a Logicalist she was planning on becoming a doctor. That makes sense, given that she’s the group medic, and gives us at least enough characterization to be interested in her.
Perfectionism is an inherently self-focused characteristic. It is to be concerned with improving the quality of one’s self. However, Yurine’s motive for being doctor (which really is as simple as, “to help others”) is selfless. These two don’t necessarily conflict, but they ensure that Yurine can’t be the overly sweet magical girl her costume parodies, or totally cynical of that. Basically, she can’t gravitate towards easy archetypes throughout the series, so there is bound to be some depth to her character.
In the episode, Yurine is faced with a dilemma. She wants to weaken and detain the monsters of this weak (like we’ve seen done with previous monsters), but she’s told that they are too dangerous and must be killed. She refuses to kill them, and Yoshichika isn’t strong enough to do it on his own, so they lose and the monster just politely goes away until their ready to continue the episode.
Apparently this is part of why Yoshichika was chosen as leader instead of Yurine, because he can obey follow orders, but the ideals that led her to becoming a doctor get in the way of her responsibilities as a Logicalist. Good job Yoshichika, you won because you’re an obedient sheep who is willing to kill on command. They return to base, Yurine gets chewed out first by their boss then by her partner Venus for not obeying orders, then it’s back for round two.
So far this set-up isn’t necessarily bad, just a little clichéd. There are a lot of heavy emotions to it, to be willing to kill even to protect the innocent is a tough question for anyone and one with real-world importance, and there are a lot of different ways for fiction to approach it. But what happens next is just dumb.
On the way to the second fight, Yurine stops to try to use Venus’s healing power on some injured civilians. But Venus doesn’t let her, because their mission is to go fight the monster, and they can’t spare two seconds of literally waving a wand around to save people’s lives. Because if we waste time saving civilians, civilians might die!
I get what this moment is going for. Yurine has to affirm her resolve, and be able to say, “Dammit, I’m a Logicalist, not a doctor!” But that only works if Yurine has a self-reflective moment, goes through that internal conflict, and is able to definitively make that decision. Instead she’s just like, “Oh, okay then!” and runs off. All we really get out of it is Venus looking like a total dick.
But this gets worse when the pair actually get to the battle, and suddenly, when they are in real danger, Venus is perfectly okay with Yurine turning her back to the monster so she can heal civilians. I’m starting to think Venus is a double-agent. The Goddesses are foreigners after all.
Anyway, we finally get to Yurine’s actual moment of resolve, and it still sucks. She gives a nonsensical monologue about how she’d rather “love” someone than resort to violence, but, “if that loves causes someone to get hurt then it’s not really love.” Effectively she’s saying that she’d rather not kill monsters, but if sparing them means putting innocent people in danger then… umm… The use of “love” here doesn’t make much sense, but she’s willing to kill them. And she does.
In one attack she kills the monster, and this incredibly slow episode gets its anticlimactic ending.
So, what’s wrong here? The writing is dumb, the events that make up Yurine’s growth contradict one another, the actual concrete threat is so generic that I got through this without even using its proper name, and so little happens. And I think it all stems from one directorial choice, episodic character work.
There’s a term I like to use, “Dynamic character development”. It’s when two or more characters grow simultaneously by their interactions, or their different responses to the same events.Most good character-based fiction does this in some form. Even in cases where only one character is immediately present and responding to events, what makes their development engaging is how their response relates to the audience’s response or what they expected (a lot of Hemmingway characters are like this).
This doesn’t mean you can’t have episodic single-character development. Teen Titans, has tons of it and it’s great. But there are a lot of potential pitfalls, and Luck & Logic is falling from them hard.
In this episode, because every other character is completely stagnant, Yurine has no one else to play off of. With a theme like killing for the greater good, that’s a problem. That’s the type of internal struggle that manifests in external debate. And not the kind of debate we see in the episode, where every other character is just telling Yurine, “No, you’re wrong. Suck it up.” Someone else should be relating to that struggle, sympathise with Yurine, but have a different perspective and response to the problem. But because every other character is stagnant until it’s time for their own episode, no one can do this, and Yurine has no one to play off of.
This makes expressing the struggle much harder, and the writers think they just have to focus their efforts on her more. Of course, this is the complete opposite of what should be done, and in prioritising Yurine the episode’s plot becomes shallower. This means that her character has left interesting or significant events to play off of.
At this point, there’s nothing to help Yurine’s growth along, and nothing to expand her concept beyond what the writers already have. So not only is it harder to convey the one struggle she is going through, it’s also less likely for new parts of her character to be brought out. The writers have given themselves so little to work with, and have to stretch it to a full 23 minutes. And it’s in the strain of stretching it that unnecessary, often unwarranted scenes come about, like Venus refusing to save civilians’ lives.
That’s why the episode sucks, and probably why the series will now suck. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be back for episode 4. If it’s good or seems to break this downwards spiral Luck & Logic is taking then I’ll be happy to write about it. I still think there’s potential here, even if it’s been completely ignored. But if it’s more of what we saw here, I won’t have anything else to say about this series. Here’s hoping I can figure out what’s making Erased so damn good instead!
Don’t Lose Your Way