In its sixth volume of four episodes, The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye ends with more of a whisper than a bang. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does come as a bit of a surprise after the slam-bang thrill ride that was the previous volume. Still, this last set of episodes wraps things up neatly, making for a satisfying end to a generally satisfying—if occasionally frustrating—science-fiction anime series.
The first two episodes of this disc conclude the large story arc that took up all of volume 5. Series heroine Honoka, the “Sword Dancer,” continues her assault on a mysterious citadel in the desert. As usual, she is supported by her stalwart companions: her wry sand-tank Bogie, the mysterious Iks, and the teacher/gunwoman Paife. Accompanying her is the murderous auto-enforcer Bluebreaker, last seen on the losing end of a duel with Honoka in volume 2. This oddball group must confront the menace of Rona Fauna, a renegade member of the Third threatening to use her ability to seize control of machines to destroy the entire planet with leftover technology from the last massive war.
The Third confounds expectations for a massive, all-out pyrotechnic climax to this confrontation, opting instead for a conclusion that turns out to be much quieter and more sensitive. There’s also plenty of redemption to go around, starting with Rona Fauna herself and running on to Bluebreaker and to Joganki, the mysterious and manipulative member of the Third who has alternately been Honoka’s benefactor and her antagonist. There is still plenty of slashing and gunfire, but the action does not dominate, and the finale almost completely rejects an action-based resolution.
The final two episodes of The Third return to a plot element introduced early in the series and then seemingly dropped: the “Technos Taboo” instituted by the Third that forcibly restricts the technological advancement of humanity. When Iks decides he is going to visit the Steel Gorge, an area declared entirely off-limits because of the Technos Taboo, he and Honoka set up a massive confrontation with the Third. Before the series is done, the secret behind the Technos Taboo is revealed, as well as the origin of Iks and his role on the planet. Of course, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, even though the threat never seems to acquire as much menace as Rona Fauna or the other antagonists the series has dreamed up.
These last episodes of the series wrap things up decently enough, answering several questions that have persisted since the start of the series, and also finally pushes Honoka and Iks into a long-awaited romance. A pretty large deus ex machina is invoked to wrap things up quickly, and it also features a brief and unexplained return of the mysterious wolf Kamui and the weird little Space Fairy from volume 4. Just enough gets resolved to give the entire series a nice sense of closure, while leaving the door open enough to revisit Honoka, Bogie, and Iks in another season.
If there is anything to seriously complain about on this last volume of The Third, it is that the omniscient voice-over narrator from the earlier volumes returns in force, perpetually stating the obvious and blowing the tension of any scene he narrates. Another subplot involving Paife and Honoka moves from an understated innuendo to a rather open flaunting of Paife’s lesbian interests in Honoka. The Honoka-Iks-Paife combination makes for an interesting twist to the usual heterosexual love triangle, and the revelation does make one look at some earlier sequences between Honoka and Paife in an entirely different light. Unfortunately, the age and maturity gap between Paife and Honoka makes the otherwise creative plot twist feel a bit more sordid and predatory than it really should be.
The last volume of The Third maintains the high production values of the earlier ones. There are a few more extras than the standard character biographies and printed booklet, although their ultimate value is questionable. Two karaoke videos are included, even though I can’t remember where the songs were used in the series. There is also a trailer for the series and an ad for the The Third manga series available from Tokyopop, which has a preview on the-third.rightstuf.com.
The Third is not a perfect series, but in the end its strengths outweigh its flaws. It’s a perfectly watchable bit of science fiction soap opera that succeeds intermittently due to excellent execution rather than raw originality. It is definitely one of the more accessible anime series on the market, and its understated charms seem to make it rather under-appreciated among the glitzier, more eye-catching anime on the shelves. If they’d just ditch the voice-over narrator and spend a bit more time developing a more coherent narrative, some more time with Honoka and Bogie in a second season of The Third would be more than welcome.