[If you use an RSS feed reader, you may have read this post already. It was accidentally published five days early, then rescheduled.]
In an unexpectedly pleasant twist of fate, Madlax episode seven is really good. This is great because being able to talk about why the episode is successful can heighten my points about why the rest of the show is so godawful. It sells home the fact that there’s a lot of potential lying under this series, being squandered by the lackluster presentation.
There are still some really stupid moments, which I’ll be sure to point out, but most of it reflected the excellent writing and pacing counterbalancing a low-budget production that made Mashimo Kouichi’s Eat-Man so good.
In this episode, Margaret decides to try and find another copy of her all-important picture book, unsatisfied with the fact that hers is missing pages, but unable to find any information about the book because it’s written in an unknown language. Vanessa tells her to find a bibliodetective, which is something I immediately researched to determine whether or not I should be laughing my ass off [I should].
The hunt for this book, and the bibliodetective who undertakes it, will be the force that finally brings Margaret and Madlax into an episode together (though still nations apart) and start cashing in on some of the recurring situations throughout the show.
Before we get to the goodness, though, here’s a really fucking bad line. Margaret won’t let Vanessa borrow the book in question, “because disappearing seems likely.” When Vanessa asks what will disappear, Margaret says…
I hate this dialog. Basically, they want an excuse for Margaret to say/allude to something mysterious, but it’s made senselessly vague so that nothing has to be explained. Also, Margaret’s braids look even shittier than usual in this shot.
Here begins the best scene in the show so far. We’re introduced to the book detective through a phone conversation with one of his clients which introduces us to the way his dealings with clients work. For the next five minutes or so, we’ll be watching this detective converse with both Margaret and her maid, Elenore, in his office, all while his character is made more interesting than pretty much everyone else in the show put together.
When Elenore offers him a blank cheque that he’s allowed to cash up to a million yur, the detective plays cool and immediately lets Elenore know how he’ll be handling the cash to be sure she really gets the situation.
When Elenore agrees to his terms, he wonders if she’s a pushover, which I’m happy for because I was already thinking about how stupid it was of her to make an offer before getting an estimate.
His observations are fun, and the first step in developing his loose, humorous personality.
Immediately upon seeing Margaret and confirming her as the maid’s master, he checks to make sure the cheque is real.
Upon observing the book, Eric (the detective) notices that it’s full of bloodstains. [An aside: Eric and many other people look at pages or copied pages of the book in this episode, yet none of them suddenly get brainwashed and become rape machines like the guy from the last episode. Chalk it up to the usual retarded inconsistency.]
I like how this is phrased. Eric asks Margaret where the stains come from, and she says she doesn’t know. Then he asks this, carefully testing whether Margaret is aware of the possibility that there are bloodstains in her book. Margaret says no.
Why the fuck does his laptop look like this? The computers in this show are inconsistent as fuck and half of them are stupid attempts at futuristic bullshit.
Margaret comments on the lack of books in the office, to this reply. It’s a bit tacky of a plot point, but better than him being obsessed with books. He explains that he simply has a talent for finding lost books, whatever that means.
Margaret is impressed anyway, making a cute face (though her braids still look fail.)
Eric enjoys this. This is precisely why I like this guy: he enjoys that he gets to work for this cute girl. He doesn’t try to hit on her or anything, he just privately enjoys his luck in clientele. It rings incredibly true to the people I know.
By the end of this scene, we have a completely thorough grasp of the client side of this book detective’s business, and he gets left with what we can tell is supposed to be a cute moment, even if Margaret’s eyes are so fucked up in this shot that she looks like a fucking mutant.
For once, the episode actually doesn’t cut away to some other character doing random shit and follows through on this guy’s book finding mission. First, in true pulp detective fashion, he gets in touch with an old friend.
They even share some regular dialog before launching into the plot stuff. This is doing detective pulp/noir so much better than episode four.
After a little bit of chatter, the old friend identifies the language as an ancient one that was found in cave paintings somewhere in Gazth-Sonika. Unfortunately, this leads into another of Bee Train’s patented plot hole contrivances.
The only excuse for this language having gone unresearched for the past twelve years is the civil war. There’s no way in hell that there wouldn’t be scientists trying to research this shit regardless. It’s not like every single place in the country is fighting, and as we’ll see in just a couple of minutes, people from Nafrece are very easily able to fly into Gazth-Sonika, parts of which are a resort paradise. The fact that this book detective is willing to go in for some money and a promise to a cute girl is proof positive that someone should’ve had grounds to pull this shit a long time ago.
The friend goes on to describe the curse of the language, where everyone involved so far has ended up dead, but this has nothing to do with the war, isn’t cited as the reason investigations have ended, and wouldn’t stop people anyway.
At least Eric saves the scene with some cool dialog.
I love that Eric seems to know what he’s doing going into this. It’s not like he’s just some book detective getting in way over his head: he seems very prepared and experienced in this line of work.
I love it. I love his attitude about this. totally different from the horny, serious fucks from the other episodes.
The detective lands in a pool resort in Gazth-Sonika, where he meets with his first guide. The only lead on the book will take him into the warring zone, which is out of the guide’s jurisdiction, so he asks about a bodyguard guide, and Madlax is implied. He then catches an errant beach ball from the girls above and tosses it back.
Again, this is why I love this guy. He’s totally able to enjoy something like this for what it is.
Yet another point for Eric: when he hears someone walking through the door, he instantly has his gun ready, two hands on it, fucking ready and knowing how to use it unlike dumbass Chris from episode five.
Madlax shows up to be his guard, revealing that Enfant is on his tail, the guide is dead, and they need to get the fuck out of dodge.
We get some fast, serviceable action scenes cut with dialog of Eric complaining that people are after him over a book, and Madlax giving him orders. For the first time, Madlax doesn’t steal the show from the support character, and their interactions are the most fun in the show so far.
This is my favorite moment in the episode: as she’s done to so many guys before, Madlax accuses Eric of being stupid. But unlike the last three guys who all conceded, Eric responds:
And this is yet another huge bonus: we actually get a scene of the mooks talking amongst themselves and showing how they work. It’s great how this episode breaks down the mechanics and details about how everything works in the show.
Friday’s crazy ass appears, reveals the book as something monumentally important, and demands that everyone in Enfant be put on retrieving it or any data about it.
This line sounds stupid as all hell but I’ll let it slide for now.
Just for the hell of it, Eric notices a snake go under his legs while he sits in the jungle, watching Madlax eat a potato with a knife as a utensil, clearly annoyed by his situation. All these little touches are excellent.
The dialog at this part is pretty lame and throwaway, but the subtle explosions going on in the background, not mentioned by either character, are a nice touch.
The episode fades out on Madlax’s declaration that she’s killed so many people she can’t count them and, for whatever reason, a shot of Margaret sleeping.
It’s exciting that this isn’t a one-off episode like the others, because there’s a chance episode eight might actually be good like this one. (Wouldn’t be good for the site, but it’d be good for my sanity.) Tune in next week for either a fun little distraction if the episode turns out to be good, or the biggest thrashing ever if they manage to fuck up a stint of decency.