Episode 25 – Shangri-La Frontier

I think my favorite part about the finale of Shangri-La was when Bilac was explaining to Sunraku that he needs to be more conscious that he is the main character and that his actions have consequences. While there were plenty of fun moments and banter in this episode, I think we can all agree it doesn’t feel climactic in any way, shape, or form. Again, if the whole point of the show was just to be episodic adventures or insight into what it’s like exploring this crazy world as a gamer, that would be one thing. However, the problem with Shangri-La Frontier—which has permeated throughout most of its run—is that it doesn’t know what it wants its focus to be. We will have an entire episode going over grinding enemies or finding unique ways to take down a specific boss. And then we’ll have an episode like this—one where it’ll spend most of its runtime talking about grinding materials into accessories and then end the episode with this feeling of grandeur. I swear to God when the narrator just started talking about how Sunraku is this important character who is going to be at the center of change in this groundbreaking video game, I kind of started rolling my eyes because while the show treats him as the main character, I don’t think the show knows what to do with him AS the main character.

Why should I care about the rematch between Sunraku and the dark wolf? Why should I care about the lore of this world if you’re barely going to get into it? Why does it feel like the show was desperately padding for material despite having a plethora of material to pull from? I would’ve had more respect for this finale if it definitively commented on the questions that it was asking instead of leaving all these questions for the audience. I don’t know why it’s done this (and I don’t think Shangri-La Frontier knows either). This episode is an encapsulation of the problems I have with the show throughout the series. The episode is aimless, it flip-flops between things being important and being silly, it seemingly goes out of its way to ignore forward narrative momentum, and, even when it tries to be funny (like in the case of that new character from the opening who got introduced in the last five minutes of the episode), it over explains the joke to the point where it’s not even funny anymore.

This show is a visual and audible marvel with some of the best action that I’ve seen this year so far and an engaging soundtrack that feels like a dynamic video game. I feel like this show was written by somebody who does have an in-depth love of video games and wanted to write a story that could lean into that feeling of exploration without writing an overtly serious narrative. I think there’s a market for a show like this in our current anime ecosystem and that’s why I liked it so much in the beginning—because it felt like a breath of fresh air. However, it also feels like someone needed to slap the writer on the hand and tell him no whenever they wanted to lean too far into those moments that aren’t truly engaging unless you’re the one playing the game. The show had way too much fat on it that needed to be cut. Normally, I like extra fat on my meat but there was so much here that my jaw ended up feeling hurt from all the extra chewing.


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