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The Black Hole at the End of "Glass Fleet"

by on May 11, 2008

Time for a pop quiz, kids! Kindly read the following line of dialogue, then choose the answer that best matches your response. Ready? Go:

“Vetti! I figured it out! The part about the box that makes the two-headed eagle sleeping in the child of the stars!”

(A) “Dude! Spoilers! I’ve been saving my pennies in the hopes Glass Fleet Vol. 6 would finally answer that riddle!”

(B) “Who has the where in the what now?”

If you answered (A) then this review isn’t for you; it means you’ve actually been buying and watching and presumably enjoying Glass Fleet, and you won’t appreciate my hurling further insults at a series I’ve already unfavorably contrasted with the smell of rotting eggs.

If you answered (B) then this review isn’t for you either; it means you’ve not been following Glass Fleet and are unlikely to start cultivating an interest in its final volume solely to satisfy an idle curiosity about such gnomic exclamations as the one I’ve quoted above.

The conclusion to draw from this exercise, of course, is that no one really has any business reading this review; and the thought of your bailing on me before the end of this paragraph bothers me not. That’s because Glass Fleet is a series no one has any business watching, and a critical notice has no business drawing more attention than the series it’s attached to.

So go ahead. Hit the “Back” button already.

Aw, Jeez, you’re still here? Damn. That means I’ll actually have to say something about Glass Fleet Vol. 6.

* * * * *

Sourly say I this: It’s a mark of the producers’ perversity that they have saved the best batch of episodes for the last. By “best,” mind you, I don’t mean “good”; the four episodes that finish off the series are as cruddy as any that have come before. But at least it’s a cruddiness that keeps you watching, even if only out of a sense of slack-jawed disbelief.

That’s because, beginning in Episode 24, it all starts turning to gibberish. The unfolding disaster that is Glass Fleet‘s climax isn’t totally unexpected: beneath the series’ ponderous exposition, flabby dialogue, irritating characters, and dreadful action scenes there has always run a babbling brook of real madness. It’s been most obvious in things like its eye-crossingly hideous costuming and décor, its weird, mystical mumbo-jumbo and pseudo-profundities, and its psychopathically counterintuitive character motivations. In Volume 6, though, this underground river bursts into full flood and washes everything else away. You know you’re in the grip of bug-addled lunacy when the phrase “the box that makes the two-headed eagle sleeping in the child of the stars” is one of the more sane things to spring out of someone’s mouth.

I’m not being solely metaphorical when I refer to insanity: a remarkable number of characters do actually pop their rivets on this disc. Ralph, the villain’s androgynous, prepubescent lap mate, is probably only delusional; be that as it may, his increasingly pathological devotion to Vetti does finally help send the empress, Rachel, off to live with the cuckoos; and he meets a quick if untidy end when this romantic rival, her eyeballs pointing in slightly different directions, ventilates his chest with a knife. Meanwhile, her dad (the Space Pope) drops his pretense of religious lunacy to reveal unexpected depths of political lunacy; his plan to take over the galaxy is so skull-crackingly stupid—and backfires with such predictable rapidity—that it can only be plausibly explained as the mental excretion of a Spanish Habsburg. Vetti himself doesn’t go totally buggy; on the other hand, he has been commuting to the other side of the borders of sanity so frequently that the issue of his mental equipoise is pretty much moot. Other characters don’t go crazy, exactly, but many of them, from Imre to Cleo to even the background mobs, do get the chance to show the whites of their eyes in ways that would put people like you and me at the mercy of the boys with the butterfly nets.

The series plot has always been a mishmash of the tedious and the nonsensical. Thankfully, the nonsensical wins out on this volume: Glass Fleet ends with almost thirty solid minutes of shrieking hysterics on the edge of the Black Cross’s swelling gravitational envelope. I won’t give away the ending, except to caution those who watch not to take it too seriously. When a story’s key emotional climax drops its two lead characters naked into a pair of rowboats and sends them adrift in an upside-down yellow ocean, it’s probably fair to say things have moved into realms where even the questions—let alone the answers—are not going to make sense.

It’s only fair to try to find one good thing to say about Glass Fleet; fortunately, it’s not hard to do so, since as near as I can tell there is only one good thing to be said about it. Jason Liebrecht, who plays Vetti Sforza on FUNimation’s English dub, may have had the advantage of taking the villain’s role, but he’s done so with virtuosic effect. Fundamentally, there’s nothing very interesting about Vetti, but Liebrecht has given him verve and snap and a slightly loopy menace without camping him beyond recall. He also hasn’t been shy about poking holes in the ceiling when hitting some of Vetti’s more operatic notes. I doubt any adaptation could have saved the original story, but Liebrecht all by himself has made large stretches of the series at least watchable.

I hope I haven’t made this disc sound too entertaining—it would sit ill on my conscience if I unwittingly talked anyone into buying it. Despite its sheer bedlam, Glass Fleet‘s conclusion still stinks. There are no laughs to be had, not even unintentional ones, and for all the shouting and stabbing, things still move at a tedious pace. The only people who should look forward to this volume are those who have suffered through the first five and are desperate for closure so they don’t ever have to dread watching more of it.

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