Majority of the episode is a another fun adventure where the Zvezda gang’s main power source, a bunch of magical udo plants, starts dying off and they must fight off dark clouds of fear incarnate. This show just keeps getting sillier and sillier, doesn’t it? Great as the overall episode is though, the part of it which really stood out for me were the few flashback scenes that delve into Natasha’s past and explores her character.
The episode opens with a half-asleep Natasha sneaking into Asuta’s bed, setting up a typical comedy situation where Asuta gets accused of doing indecent things. Right after that though we cut to a flashback of Natasha childhood, with her mother reading a children’s book to her. She tells of a little girl who is apparently trapped somewhere, but gets her voice heard by some fairies; at least on a second viewing, it’s pretty obvious foreshadowing towards later events of the episode, with how Natasha herself gets trapped in a dark place and is saved by a “fairy,” Roboko.
As a child Natasha is already a genius who can build her own mechas, yet does so at the cost of being anti-social. She makes creepy robots for fun, and other children her age understandably find her weird and intimidating. Which is fine to some extent, since it’s good to encourage kids to pursue their passions instead of trying to conform to what others find normal. The problem though is Natasha’s attitude towards dealing with it. She’s apathetic towards her lack of friends and cares more making robots. In other words, she doesn’t want to make friends—or at least not any that are made of flesh and bone.
“There’s more to the world than science,” says Kate’s mother after Natasha states about how pointless fairy tales are. To which Natasha responds, “But what more do you need?” Well, friends, family, and empathy for others would be a start. Science is cool and all, and maybe you could argue that becoming the next Einstein would make up for choosing not to play with other children. But devoting your entire life to literally doing nothing but one thing leads to a secular and unhealthy lifestyle. It’s the sort of lifestyle that gets you confined to a small room without interacting with other environments or people, and that only leaves you unable to properly function outside of that small room. Replace “science” with a more unemployable hobby like video games or anime, and it’s easy to understand why Natasha’s parents would feel so sorry for her.
The next flashback is where the episode gets really weird. Natasha’s parents suddenly take her by the arm and drag her around places. At first I would assume that they were taking her to some counselor or someone to help deal with her anti-social issues, but then they just keep walking a long distance without a car, even to some shady area of town at night, until eventually they reach a cavern in the middle of the woods. This is where I start getting vibes that these parents have gone crazy and are about to shoot their child. But then they just keep walking down the dark corridors of the cavern, until eventually Natasha starts hearing voices and her parents turn into a blur of shadows…only for Natasha to walk for days on end until finding Roboko underneath West Udogawa. Well, I don’t really know what to make of all that at the moment.
Now fast-forwarding to the climax of the episode, we see the now blossoming fifteen year old Natasha confront the “manifestations of man’s fears,” and one of her deepest fears is shown to be, of course, her parents. Obviously it’s because they brought her to a scary cavern and apparently abandoned her, but let’s set that aside and consider that they certainly didn’t seem like bad parents to begin with. They read children books and encouraged Natasha to make friends, and to do things outside of her comfort zone. Things that any well-meaning and responsible parent would do to ensure that their child grows mentally and emotionally healthy. What I’m wondering is why her parents failed to thaw out her “frozen heart,” but Kate and Roboko did. Is it because Natasha was just a snotty kid who’s more willing to listen to some friends rather than her parents?
Maybe it’s because Zvezda actually encouraged Natasha to continue toiling away with science regardless if it made her anti-social or not, accepting Natasha for who she was, and then filling in that missing gap of friendship themselves. There’s still the issue of Natasha not having any social skills though; she does “weird things” while she’s half-asleep, like sneak into a guy’s bed because it’s warm after all. But I guess you wouldn’t really need conventional social skills if you’re the head scientist of an evil organization anyways.
Well, as far as the plot goes this episode surely brings up a lot of questions. What happened with Natasha’s parents in the caverns? What exactly is this ancient civilization? Who was it that built Roboko in the first place? What was up with those dark clouds of fear incarnate, and why were they trying to destroy the giant udo root? Honestly, the episodes a bit confusing with all these unexplained plot points being introduced. But as usual, I’m willing to give this the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’ll explain it later on.
I like how the background stories for the characters are being bunched together in couples, where they’re (sort) explaining the pasts of the characters two at a time. Last episode dealt with Gorou and Yasu, where this episode is about Natasha and Roboko. It’s make the story feel more intertwined, and sort of develops each character at a quicker pace too. There’s also an interesting contrast with how each member was recruited by Kate. She won Gorou and Yasu’s respect by exerting dominance and instilling fear, beating up an entire gang of yakuza for them. Whereas with Natasha, she won respect by saving her as a child and showing compassion. On that note, it’s funny to see that Kate was trying to conquer the world when she was an even younger little girl—she must have been 6 or something in the flashback. It’s just like Satsuki when she was a kindergartner in Kill la Kill.