Metallic Rouge Episode 5 Recap/Review: “Carnival Dances with Lost Memories” (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Director: Takanori Yano
Writer: Noboru Takagi
Storyboard Artists: Motonobu Hori, Yasushi Muraki, Masayuki Ôtsuki
Remember how Metallic Rouge episode 2, “Wander in the Labyrinth,” set up so many mysteries with so little payoff? Well, they finally pay off with this week’s episode, “Carnival Dances with Lost Memories.”
Why the murder of Roy Junghardt is significant? What mission are Rouge and Naomi chasing? The random guy who showed up towards the end of the earlier episode? All those questions get answers in this episode while also asking bigger questions.
Journey to the center of your mind
If the final shot of the previous episode gave you hope, the opening scene of episode five would be circus robots fighting police, then prepare for disappointment. This week’s episode instead opens with Rouge having a dream of her past. Her “older brother” Gene plays Claude Debussy‘s “Clair de Lune” on a piano as Rouge, wearing a baby doll dress, watches, and listens. A bird similar to the one Naomi uses crashes into the piano. We also glimpse three figures in this flashback/dream sequence: a quick flash of a young woman who looks similar to Rouge, a strange robot, and an older gentleman. The opening of “Carnival Dances with Lost Memories” signals viewers are in uncharted territory.
The shift to conveying the internal is a drastic change in tone and visual style for the series. Instead of cyberpunk-styled noir cityscapes and kinetic mecha battles, we get multiple Rouges, weird figures, and frequently changing memories. However, with the show beginning to focus more on free will and Rouge’s autonomy, the more surreal touches in this episode work. While this doesn’t turn into a David Lynch movie, it gets satisfyingly weird.
The older gentleman is Dr. Roy Junghardt, whom Gene and Rouge call “father.” Junghardt’s murder is a running subplot throughout the first five episodes. The flashback hints that Junghardt might be the human creator of the Neans. It may be why Ochrona’s Investigator Ash and his partner are so interested in Rouge as the suspected murderer. They hint at a potential Alethia cover-up.
Junghardt’s murder is also why Rouge is hunting the Immortal Nine, and along with there being a potential cover-up, this seems important. We see Gene give her the order to hunt the Immortal Nine because he says they killed Roy. However, we also see that her memories of her may have been tampered with. She points out that later, the Immortal Nine members she’s confronted so far don’t seem interested in interacting with humanity. While Hell Gallion has shown he can look like Rouge in her armored form, it’s entirely possible she murdered Roy Junghardt and has no memory of it.
Oh, we also finally got a term for that armored form Rouge uses: Gladiator. The term Red Gladiator was used to refer to Rouge in episode one but held no meaning then. Now, it has context.
Another character refers to the process of her turning into her Gladiator mode as deforming, which raises an interesting possibility. In her dream sequence, we see a hall of Gladiators that Gene says is their father’s legacy of her. We know the Neans were created to stop the Usurpers in the Great War, but we do not know how they stopped them. Can all Neans deform, but the Asimov Code prevents them from doing so?
“Go. “Do as you will.”
Speaking of the Usurpers, the weird robot Rouge encounters in her dream is The Puppetmaster, a character seen in the fourth episode who runs Circus of the Robot. They were the ones who put Rouge into this dream state, hoping to find something or someone called Code Eve. While in her dream of her, The Puppetmaster offers to set her free of her, saying she can be a puppet or be herself. They frequently use the phrase “Go. “Do as you will.” It’s something that Rouge will consider going forward.
Of all the characters introduced in the series so far, they are possibly the most mysterious in a non-cliché way. Character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto had fun designing the imposing character. They make every other character feel small when they’re in the frame. Potentially, this is the first Visitor or Usurper seen on screen. Evidence leans towards Usurper since they have a bunch of Cylinder Heads in their space blimp that Rouge fights at the end of the episode.
That sets up another exciting possibility for the series’ backstory. We see The Puppetmaster in Rogue’s dream state, both guiding her to find Code Eve but also when she watches the piano playing. It may be another tampered memory, but what if it’s not? What if humans created the Neans with the help of Usurper to win the Great War? Many questions get posed here, but they all drive the series forward.
This episode is the first time Rouge really confronts herself as a character. Rouge’s American and Japanese voice actors Monica Flatley and Yume Miyamoto inject a lot more personality into the character in this episode. Although she’s the show’s star, Rouge has been a passive character up to this point. Here, she’s forced into an active role. The voice actors show multiple sides of her, from the more childlike version of her past to the ruthless killer of enemy Neans; Naomi’s criticism of her de ella as a tool two episodes ago no longer seems so harsh. Rouge has no idea who she is but she may now know what she wants for herself—besides chocolate. (Editor’s Note: LOL.)
Metallic Rouge episode five’s least interesting mystery
There’s one last mystery introduced in the episode, and it’s, honestly, the least interesting. Eden Varock, a character who randomly showed up at the end of episode two, appears again. He gets Naomi onto The Puppetmaster’s space blimp. Identifying as an antique dealer, they’re also a Nean with a Gladiator form. Since Naomi doesn’t recognize him, it’s possible he’s not in the Immortal Nine and is working for someone else (of course, it remains a mystery).
Still, so far, Varock is that character in an anime series who knows the entire plot. Except they can’t tell the other characters the plot for plot reasons. So far, Varock’s questions aren’t nearly as interesting as those tied to identity and free will. It’s a mystery for the sake of having a mystery.
VERDICT: “Carnival Dances with Lost Memories” is certainly the best episode of Metallic Rouge to date. It’s an episode that feels indebted to the work of Philip K. Dick, both thematically and worldbuilding-wise. The main character now seems like an active participant in her story. Questions get answered, but others are posed that feel meaningful to both the characters and the series. This episode finally sees the show kicking into gear after previous episodes laid the groundwork.
Metallic Rouge is currently streaming on Crunchyroll. New episodes drop every Thursday.