A show’s pilot episode is the most important episode, and that goes double for anime. Anime pilots, if they are to be effective, must establish a world and premise enticing enough for us to watch the subsequent 300 episodes of Anake slowly falling in love with Ranmer, or Naturo going Super-Sayain to fight the skinless Fleshgiants, or Yukio winning endless card games by the skin of his teeth. The non-pilot episodes of any given anime are what Gabriel Garcia Marquez might christen 100 Years of Derivative Trash.
Well, I refuse to watch all that and so should you. Much more efficient than sitting through the whole show, I prefer to only watch the pilot episode and then guess at what will follow.
Here are my conjectures for today’s anime:
Survival Game Club
The pilot: Pink-haired pink-eyed schoolgirl Momoka Sonokawa is transferring to a new high school. When an old man tries to molest her on train, a mysterious girl appears and stops him by holding a Desert Eagle to his head. Momoka runs away from the weirdo, who is promptly arrested for having guns on the train; but it turns out that they attend the same school. Her violent savior is Miou Ootori, and she runs a Survival Game Club where girls shoot each other with airsoft guns and talk about mud and pain. The first episode ends with a friendly club shoot-out, and Momoka, forced to join, discovers that she is actually an excellent marksman. Then everybody takes a bath in a hot springs that is clearly modelled after a Vietnamese punji pit. (This show might actually be awesome.)
For a cast of all gun-toting lesbians, the characters this first episode introduces are actually pretty diverse. There’s Momoka herself (weapon: Beretta), the rookie who gains the “ruthlessness to step over an ally’s corpse” before the pilot even ends; Urara (twin Glocks), a cute young girl with twintails who is a masochist yet possesses the physical strength of a 500-pound Eastern Lowland Gorilla; Maya (M4A1 Carbine), a sexy model who hates natto bean curd and is useless in battle; and Kayo (twin Mac-11s), a blue-haired otaku who likes to sew war costumes and has an IQ of 160. Leading them is the aforementioned Miou Ootori, armed with two Desert Eagles. She is their Caesar, their Pharaoh, their Shogun.
Also they have a pet platypus named Platy.
I imagine that the next few episodes revolve around the women of the Survival Game Club shooting each other and kissing. There are six or seven love triangles at various times; the details of each blur. The series probably dips into boring nonsense by episode 10, but then perks up again with episodes 12-14, where the girls are sent to Ukraine as a token symbol of the Japanese government’s sympathy. There, shooting real firearms from a the ruins of a bombed-out elementary school, surviving on nothing but cockroaches and Russian flesh as Platy rigs grenade traps, the Club tastes true war.
Eventually, they return to Japan – but adapting to normal high school life is impossible for them. Unable to reconcile the thrilling rush of battle with a humdrum bourgeois existence, the members of the Survival Game Club eventually kill one of their teachers and bury him in the mountains. When the last spade of damp earth falls on their makeshift grave, the girls and Platy suddenly realize that life has forever changed. They can’t ever go home again.
Miou is their rock in this time of troubles. She is their Caesar in Gaul, their Nobunaga at Okehazama. At her behest, the women – no longer girls – of the Survival Game Club drop out of high school and form a Survival Game student youth militia, modeling themselves after the paramilitary Tate no Kai, or Shield Societies, of previous eras. Before, all was fun and games. Now Miou trains them alongside real drill instructors from the Japanese Self-Defense Force. Now they wear professional uniforms she’s designed herself. Now she leads them in surprise mock battles at 3 am. With so much of their energy devoted to the cause, with so little left for ego and selfishness, the previous love triangles are totally forgotten. When the heat of battle has worn off, each selects her Spartan partner with a mind to the superfluity of individual identity. The Survival Game Club becomes a bullet-spewing, free love-practicing collective whose members passionately submerge their personalities in each other in pursuit of a glorious whole.
In the weary, sweaty afternoon hours after their return from a marathon training session on Mount Fuji, Miou calls the group together. “The current government of Japan is laughably corrupt. It is a rotten collection of finks and greengrocers, catering only to the sexual, political, and economic whims of foreigners. We are denied even our right to a proper military! Women of the Survival Game Club, our duty to Japan commands us to expunge this mockery of self-rule and return our country to its glorious days of true autonomy, when a warrior’s ethos was all one needed in order to reign. The Emperor must be restored to the throne!” There is no dissension to her statement, totally self-evident to women who practice the way of bushido. Unanimous commitment is the Club’s only response.
The screen fades to black as the women, marching in orderly rows with Platy following, stomp up to the headquarters of the Japanese Self-Defense Force.
A title card explains the aftermath of their fateful decision: Miou’s Survival Game Club managed to bring their guns into the base and take a top-ranking general hostage before demanding the attention of all personnel. She gave a rousing speech, reminding the men of their duty to their nation and their Emperor, to rally the soldiers to insurrection; however, the common soldiers lacked her vision. They had no intention of participating in a coup imagined by anime characters. Despite the importance of the Survival Game Club’s hostage, and despite the earnestness of their proposal, no Japanese could seriously consider any proposal made by a group of pink-haired schoolgirls and their platypus. They were laughed down.
With no way out, the group apologized for their failed coup by jabbing their guns into their abdomens and shooting them across their bellies. In Japan, this is called gunpukku. It does not ensure a quick death. Platy, faithful to the end, chopped off their heads with his own firearm, and then turned himself into the police so that he could defend his brave young comrades—Miou, Momoka, Kayo, Maya, and Urara—as heroes who died doing what they loved most: surviving.
The Japanese government offered Platy full clemency. Because he was a platypus.