Last of the Third

This review is one of several that I started a few weeks ago, but never finished. As it happened, I procrastinated so long, that the series got close to ending, so I decided to hold off a little longer, until the rest of the fansubs came out, and I could review the entire series. That’s the reason for the weird title; since the series is named The Third, and I was just getting around to doing an initial write-up, I was going to call it “First of the Third.” But since the run has completed, now I can call it “Last of the Third.” Humor, right?

. . . You know, maybe I should just stick to tit jokes.

Honoka, contemplating sand and poetry, before battle.

Anyway, I found The Third to be a moderately enjoyable show, but it never fully engaged me. In part, this was because of the narrator. Most animé will only narrate the beginning and ending of an episode, but in The Third, the narration is semi-constant. Instead, the narrator was usually telling the viewers what the protagonist, Honoka, felt. That’s just bad form. A show isn’t supposed to tell you how the characters feel, it’s supposed to make you feel as they do. It’s called empathizing with the character… and that’s something the series never managed to do with the protagonist, or with Iks, the bishounen who often accompanies her. I often felt more empathy with the minor characters, such as Paifu (the lesbian teacher/armswoman) or Millie, the child of her mechanic/friend Zanka.

Millie and Honoka, in the Olympic synchronized eating contest?

Honoka is one tough girl. At 17, she’s still young, but already a well-known “tough girl” who isn’t er, busting out all over or a loli. Nor is she particularly tough-acting; instead, she glides through the world with warmth, and an almost zen-like calmness (except when the emo facial distortions kick in). Prone to reciting poetry, she has incredibly strong ki powers, a very ordinary katana, and an AI running a very large tank (or small Bolo, if you understand the reference) named Bogie. Honoka looks rather ordinary; in fact, she’s flat-chested and not even particularly good-looking. Maybe “cute” if you squint right. What she does do though, she does very, very well. She’s one of the most respected desert rats on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Despite the fact that she’s quite normal-seeming (for an almost child-sized woman with a katana) her reputation is fearsome and her nickname, “Sword Dancer”, is enough to turn the knees of hardened bullies to water. She travels the region around the desert city of Emporium, taking almost any job for money (except assasination), whether it is guarding scientists or carrying cargo.

Joey Toy and Honoka. Emo facial distortions are a bit out of place in this series, but do inject humor.

Most of the world is a desert, harsh and dangerous after a long-ago war, filled with bizarre mutations, fantastic creatures, and the occasional leftover piece of very high technology. Humanity has fought back from the brink of extinction, but does not rule the world; that privilege belongs to The Third alone. They are a race of mutated humans, with a third “space eye” (giving them psychic powers) in the middle of their foreheads, and most of them live in Hyperios, near which no humans are allowed. Their rule is stern, though not brutal, but there is one thing on which they will not compromise: the “Technos Taboo.” They control the last remnants of high technology on the world, and they will not allow human-owned technology to advance. Anyone meddling with old tech, or try to improve new technology beyond a certain point can at least expect The Third’s autonomous soldiers to be dispatched to apprehend them. Repeat or very tough offenders can expect a visit from their robotic combat AI, Blue Breaker. His punishment is both swift and permanent, and there is no appeal. The Third say that they are protecting the world from the humans… but is there more to it than that?

Jyouganki and Fila Marique, two of the Third’s ruling senate. For some reason, Honoka appears to be a “pet project” of his, but they have other worries now..

There seems to be one odd exception to the Taboo: Honoka. Growing up among the nomadic traders and their huge caravans, she became a deadly ki master and swordswoman, but she’s the same friendly, empathetic, and unassuming woman she always was as a child. Now she takes odd jobs with her “sand tank”, Bogie — and fends off occasional attempts to either recruit or kill her by the enigmatic Jyouganki, of the Third’s ruling council. While she doesn’t meddle much with old technology, Jyouganki shows up to have his latest autonomous soldiers attack her — he never succeeds, but oddly, there appears to be no real desire to harm her — in fact, he seems to worry for her. Their relationship is odd; if anything, Honoka might be a bit fond of him, and it may be that he reciprocates. Early on, she does obtain a piece of forbidden technology that costs her dearly, but the Third never actually move against her directly, or attempt to take it away. We learn part of the reason why a few episodes in, but it’s a major spoiler and I’m putting it in the blackout.

Honoka is apparently a mutant version of the Third, as she has the space eye. However, it’s a different color, and as the series develops, it appears she may be even more powerful than any of them. We learn that when she was born (to human parents), because of her eye, she was taken by the Third to be tested… but for whatever reason, they rejected her. She has no idea why, and they’re not telling. So she ended up being adopted by a caravan master.

Instead, they are far more concerned with Iks, who is travelling with her at the time.

Honoka and Jyouganki face off over the Technos Taboo…. and Iks.

Bogie is both her friend and partner; it appears she inherited him from the adoptive grandfather who raised and trained her. That worthy was a caravan master; a leader of traders traveling across the desert in sand tanks/cargo-haulers like Bogie. They make your average M1 Abrams look wussy — think Bolo, Mk X or so. Rounding out the small core cast are Zanka (master mechanic and Millie’s father), Toy (apprentice mechanic), Millie (about 8 years old), Iks (a mysterious visitor from outer space, though he appears human, and Paifu. The latter is another ki master and probably the deadliest woman alive besides Honoka (who, it should be noted, has never killed until several episodes into the series). Paifu is the limited sex appeal of the show; but guys might as well not bother. It’s Honoka she wants, and she doesn’t like men. Especially Iks, her rival for Honoka. And just what is Iks’ game? Even more enigmatic than the Third, he never mentions his origin, (though he obviously landed from space) until the last episode. Actually, he never mentions his origin even then, just his title. Yet of everyone, he seems to understand Honoka the most.

Iks. What is this bishie up to? And where did he come from?

And that’s the final thing wrong with the show: There’s not a lot of thought given to the background. The writers created a framework and hung the outline of a plot on it, then they created 20+ episodes of filler, and tried to tie it all together into a full plot at the end. In short, the series wanders around until the next to the last episode, and then decides “oh, it’s time for the ending. Let’s come up with something big!” And it does, drawing on bits and pieces of what went before. Those things are there, and do fit, so it’s not totally random. The origin of Honoka and the Third become obvious, and though nothing is spoon-fed to the viewer, it’s not deeply thought out either. Not every story can be a Misaki Chronicles, with a deeply-laid, carefully-thought out background and actions/plot that are created by that background. But it’s the ones that are, that make the best stories. When you can look back from the ending, see the set-up and realize that everything that happened was a logical outgrowth of that setup, no matter how confusing or random it seemed at the time, it’s a good story and nearly always a good series. Misaki Chronicles did it. Much to my surprise, Shana did it to an extent, though it was not as thorough or competent. When you get 20+ episodes of things happening, into which a few plot points got inserted, it’s a lot more iffy. When you realize that many of those plot points could have been switched around and dropped in any given order, in any episode, it becomes no better than a “good” story at best. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not bad plotting — on second viewing, things from the beginning made more sense because of what I’d learned at the end — but it’s not great plotting either.

The desert wind at night–some of the outstanding art from this series.

Aside from that weakness and an annoyingly overused narrator, there’s not much wrong with The Third; the art is excellent to outstanding (no shortcuts either), and the CG really integrates well, even though it is just different enough to be observable if you’re paying attention. The OP is a pleasant number, though the ED’s (espcially the 2nd) are less easy to listen to, and in fact, the artwork over the second ED has less to do with the series than anything since Outlaw Star. On the other hand, the voice acting is excellent. Bogie’s seiyuu, Unshou Ishizuka, has a very long credit list, including (just the high points!) roles in Cowboy Bebop (Jet), Crest of the Stars (Entryus), Detective Conan (Inspector Nakamori), Mahoromatic (Hayato Daimon), Wolf’s Rain (Quent Yaiden), and Vandread (Rabat). Megumi Toyoguchi, the voice of Honoka, has an even longer list, and it’s no less impressive; she was also in Vandread (Parfait), multiple .hack series (Mimiru), DearS (Ruby), Black Lagoon (Revy), Kaleido Star (Manami), Gundam Seed (Miriallia Haw), Stratos 4 (Annette), Scrapped Princess (Elfentine) and probably three or four dozen other roles. Iks is voiced by Daisuke Namikawa, who has a slightly less impressive resumé, but still adequate. And if you haven’t at least heard the name Rie Tanaka (who voices Fila Marique), you have much to learn, young otaku.

Millie and Zanka.

With a cast that steller, you’d think they’d have spent a bit on getting a top-notch plot. Still, I give it a solid grade. It’s not a great series, but it is a good one. The cast and animation do a lot to carry this otherwise lackluster story, and I give the writers & producers credit for not turning Honoka into another one of the girls from Divergence Eve.

Genre: Post-apocolyptic, Science Fiction, Martial.
Art/Animation: Excellent
Seiyuu: Outstanding
Plotting: Average at best
Story: Mediocre
Fanservice: Little
Music: Decent scoring, good OP, mediocre ED.
Rewatch: Moderate
Studio: Wowow/Xebec
Overall: B

Bogie’s sand tank. The main gun is hidden behind the sand shields to the left. Think of him as the daimyo’s most loyal samurai.

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