I find myself wondering why the extended title for Full Dive specifically employs the word ‘shit’ as a pejorative when it's become increasingly clear it's ‘piss’ the show is obsessed with instead. Hiro's tragic backstory is based on him peeing himself, he wet himself in-game and even got a title for it, and now this episode finds Inquisitor Mizarisa, the torturer who caused his accident in the first place, tracking him down specifically by following the scent of his urine-soaked pants. There's a whole fixation going on here, and I don't know if it's the result of the author thinking this was just one extremely funny joke, or some sort of less-wholesome personal fixation, but either way it's a bit that's worn out its welcome.
The silver lining to that continuing urine utilization is the aforementioned arrival of Mizarisa to rescue Hiro from Alicia. It's yandere vs yandere in the most direct, evenly-matched fight this supposed fantasy-action anime has yet given us! I do think it says something about how utterly this show's 'realism' angle fails when the most entertaining it's yet gotten comes from pitting pure fantasy fighters against each other and letting them go to town. This section is still bogged down by some stretches of the characters standing around expositing in nominally humorous ways, but once it gets going there are some entertaining moments. I dig touches like Alicia's constantly-twirling fruit knives or Mizarisa's breaking down of the actual combat tactics being used. It makes the case that we may be able to count on the recurring ‘fantasy’ NPC characters for more fun value in place of all the things Hiro's fleshy body is too ‘realistically’ weak to accomplish.
The other major part of this episode, and indeed its seeming main point, seems to be about demonstrating what Hiro can do. Motivational messes aside, the past couple episodes have made clear there are paths to progress for someone playing Kiwame Quest if they really put their minds to it. Granted, it also revels in the same kind of anticlimax-punchline bullshit I came to expect from this show from the beginning. Hiro has to think of something that would distract his frenzied former friend? Grope her, of course! Though props to the show, it doubles back on its ‘realism’ point to surprise both Hiro and myself here, Alicia pointing out what a ridiculous choice the breast-grabbing attempt is, and how it would naturally be ineffectual on any remotely sensible person. That got a laugh out of me, reminding me of how this show might work even better if it continued to use the concept of ‘realism’ to question how players like Hiro are normally compelled to interact with their video game/anime/isekai worlds, rather than simply showing a bunch of different ways to make those players suffer.
We may be reaching a turning point on that angle as well, however, as Hiro comes around to actually-effective options he may have in this outlandish conflict he's found himself in. Sure, his panicked, last-ditch, life-saving love-confession at first mostly reminded me of that scene in the Blues Brothers where John Belushi disarms his murderous ex-fiance by screaming that nothing was his fault, and Alicia's "What is this crap?" reaction speaks to the shocking absurdity of the attempt. But it gives way to something I've honestly had in the back of my mind since Hiro first logged into Kiwame Quest: The question of the agency of these super-realistic NPCs and the always-on world they inhabit. Alicia actually reaches some lucidity to make the point that, accident or no, her brother was killed and her life ruined because of the impulsive actions of some dipshit gamer in the driver's seat of her childhood best friend. That'd be enough to turn anyone's worldview upside-down.
That difference in perception is more acknowledgement than I was expecting, anyway. Given the tone of the series up to this point, I honestly didn't think it would have much to say on the subject of frivolous treatment of game characters so defined they might as well be actual people. However, Hiro coming around to figure out that definition as not just a cornerstone of the game's ‘realism’, but potentially key to interacting with its world moving forward, certainly counts for something. However, I also find myself feeling that, at this point, that acknowledgement may be too little too late. Alicia just spells out the implications of all these actions like the writing realized it hadn't done anything with these concepts since beginning. And bringing it all up now, halfway into the season, just makes the whole affair come off more annoyingly depressing. Full Dive has always traded on pitch-black comedy and the incidental setups that power that, so it makes it somewhat disingenuous when, a month-and-a-half later, it suddenly turns around to admit “Wow, this was actually kind of messed up, wasn't it?”
The dissonance is fully on display in how Hiro approaches his ultimate acceptance of the situation. His flashback to his game-self's childhood with Martin and Alicia tries to split its approach between meaningful sentimentality and irreverent humor, and while I appreciate the implication that Hiro, and by extension the show itself, is actually trying now, the dramatic resolution reached doesn't necessarily feel earned. It honestly comes off like the kind of reckoning that should have happened way earlier in the series, or simply disregarded by this point in the show. As-is, Full Dive now comes off like trying to have its cake and eat it too in terms of realistic gameplay and treatment of NPCs, and means that even at this point I'm still questioning what kind of show this is even trying to be in the long run.
For all that wavering, I'll still concede I like Full Dive more here than I did at the outset. It's got more ideas in circulation now, and the antics and action it's throwing in have been pretty entertaining the past couple episodes. I just get the sense that this was a story that took a while to figure itself out in its originally-written form. With that in mind, you'd think going into an animated adaptation they might try to reconcile some of those conflicting tonal ideas or at least speed up getting to the more meaty elements like in this episode. Instead, it still feels like we're stuck in a more meandering storytelling style. Several of the points we've meandered to are better than what came before, certainly, but I'm left feeling a lot of disconnection in how we ended up at them.
Full Dive is currently streaming on Funimation.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.