How would you rate episode 5 of
Metallic Rouge ?
Community score: 3.9
Who amongst us hasn’t experienced a series of confusing epiphanies as a result of a clown-assisted kidnapping? takes an abstract turn this week as Rouge and the audience carve a nonlinear path through her jumbled array of memories. It’s an illuminating journey that nevertheless maintains the narrative’s air of mystery. While the continued obfuscation of the plot’s big picture will be a point of contention for some viewers, I welcome the inward focus and stream-of-consciousness storytelling, especially when they result in the series’ most interesting installment yet.
I appreciate this episode foremost as a formal departure from the we’ve seen so far. Given the psychological staging of many scenes, it’s a subtler change than one might expect. While I liked what I saw as I watched it, I also wished the direction, editing, and storyboarding had been more avant-garde. For example, contrast this episode against one of the episodes that delve into Shinji’s mind. Those moments employ markedly different visual language and tempo than the scenes in reality. They serve different functions, so they have their own unique look and feel. In , there’s little stylistic distinction between Rouge’s memories and the rest of the action.
Upon reflection, however, I like the anime’s restraint here. The visual continuity between Rouge’s interiority and exteriority muddies the division between the two. The show doesn’t begin by telling us that Rouge is dreaming; it gives us space to figure that out before it cuts to the shot of the Puppetmaster hovering over her sleeping body. We feel like we’re in the dark because Rouge is, too. Scenes blur together, characters appear and disappear, and the timeline jumps all over the place. The lack of overt exposition is contiguous with the show’s overall presentation, which drives home that Rouge’s coming journey of self-discovery is paramount to the development of the wider plot. She thought she acted freely before this, but now she has doubts. Is she Gene’s demure little sister, lazing about in her white sundress in an idyllic greenhouse, or is she still a caterpillar awaiting metamorphosis?
As for what all the images in Rouge’s head mean, we have a wide expanse of dream logic to work within, so your interpretation could be as good as mine. What is evident is that her memories have been tampered with. The woman in glasses who glitches in and out of the scenes may be her mother, who Gene mentions but otherwise not shown in their family unit. That Eden guy from episode 2 is also there, but she doesn’t remember him either. Rouge is also shown growing or gestating in a sizeable translucent pod, which might be how all Neans are created. If so, the chrysalis-like appearance aligns with the butterfly imagery throughout the dream, and it provides another hint that Neans are more organic than artificial. Also, recall that the go-juice they inject is named Nectar. Butterflies can symbolize both change and freedom, so their relevance to Rouge and the plight of the Neans is self-evident.
Birds can also symbolize freedom, and we see a familiar blue bird fall dead onto the piano at the onset of the episode. Alongside the cage-like lattice of the greenhouse’s windows, this creates a sense of unease that disrupts the otherwise bright and sunny setting, our first indication that Rouge is grappling with the chains that bind her. The bird might also symbolize Naomi, who orders Rouge around through her animatronic one. There’s a contradiction here—a symbol of freedom that gives commands—that could indicate Naomi is similarly bound to Aletheia. The bird might also be a stand-in for her conscience—a constricting force that is nevertheless vital to exercising one’s free will. The editing also strongly implies that someone ordered Rouge to kill her “father,” so her use as a tool extends past her pursuit of the Immortal Nine.
The Puppetmaster makes a big show of Rouge finding her own identity. He has ulterior motives, namely extracting Code Eve (presumably that Vtuber-looking girl?) out of Rouge’s memory, but he seems genuinely concerned about deprogramming her. While his underling has a quick temper (and she throws a platoon of Usurper mechs at Rouge and Naomi), we’re still meant to see these carnies as benevolent. This aids my new theory that only one alien species, the Junoids, came to Earth. As the Visitors, they met humanity and were somehow enslaved by them. As Usurpers, they sent their military to liberate their people, only for them to be driven back by the Junoids they were trying to emancipate. The universe tends towards irony. Having failed at war, the Junoids have turned to subterfuge and infiltration to fight their fight, hence the existence of the Immortal Nine and this space circus dirigible.
However, none of these potential plot twists or conspiracies will matter if the show cannot connect its audience to its characters. If isn’t going to get completely bananas with its ideas, visuals, and themes, then it needs a solid emotional foundation. In that regard, this episode does good work marrying the brainier elements with its more basic ones, i.e., Rouge and Naomi are in top form. Naomi is active and has noticeably great character acting, and Rouge has a subtler yet steely determination that drives her to rescue Naomi once the gauntlet is thrown. Their final scene on the grass nicely resolves both sides of their earlier argument. Rouge shares her chocolate, and Naomi recognizes the validity and power of their will to save each other. It’s the quiet character beat that can put in a lot of legwork to make up for earlier, sloppier writing.
In short, still has the juice! The project remains more distant and inconsistent than I’d like, but an episode like this buys back a lot of goodwill from me.
is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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