While the last episode mainly introduced new elements in the form of the first battle scene and Natsume, this episode focuses on developing what we already know.
For a start, we see satisfactory development in the Gawl-Masami relationship. The grudging appreciation and nagging concern she displayed towards Gawl for rescuing Natsume in the previous episode extends to a more open acceptance, support and friendship here. Their budding friendship reinforces what we know of her as the archetypal aggressive high school girl - one who is generous, warm hearted, protective of friends and willing to exert her rights.
Yet the Gawl-Masami relationship is still fraught with potential conflicts to come, for Masami is akin to Gawl in his brash tendencies towards open conflagration. She is very much like Gawl, and yet complements what he lacks - for example, practicality. Her spats with Gawl provide comic relief, and her interest in discovering Gawl's true nature hints of future romantic interest in him.
Masami's character reminds us that the series does not take itself too seriously for its own good. Masami breaths a contrasting sense of light-heartedness into the 'bishounen angst' we get from the male leads, but not to the extent of comic degradation.
Directors are once again at their top form. This is not the easiest of episodes to plot and pace, for the events that develop range from amusing to serious to dangerous. All three male leads are exposed to dangers as part of their mission, and the suspense of the scenes surrounding their hazardous activities are thrown into sharp relief by Masami's comic inquisitiveness. One particularly well-managed scene brings to focus the slightest emotions that flicker across the male leads' faces as they grapple with the multiple problems, as Masami tries (too hard) from behind to pretend that she is not spying on them. Each character has his or her own agenda, all of which meld seamlessly into a well-conceived whole that contains elements of the serious, the mysterious and the laughable. Not one facet of the situation is neglected even as the plot propels rapidly to its climatic battle at the end.
Various moods are expressed acutely through capable cinematography as well. For example, the use of lighting, coupled with the slow 'camera' sweep across the scene at an awkward angle in which Kouji infiltrates a research room helps to maintain suspense.
Of course, the right moods are sustained by a competent integration of appropriate BGM during the various scenes as well. Other technical aspects do not mar this episode; the animation and art retain standards of the previous episodes.
On the whole, episode 3 is a good watch, one where things start to get really heated and interesting.
- JW, 2001.03.26