Photo: Bones/Crunchyroll

Metallic Rouge Episode 3 Recap/Review: “Marginal City”
(⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2)

Metallic Rouge takes us deeper into the culture of Neans in the third episode, “Marginal City.”  As shown in previous episodes, we see how most humans view Metallic Rouge’s version of Replicants. Spoiler, it’s not positively. In the midst of this, viewers get a lot of things to chew on in regard to free will. Unfortunately, there’s also a deeply cynical take on the struggle for rights that puts a bad taste in viewers mouths. 

The heavy action of the previous episode is absent in Metallic Rouge episode 3, “Marginal City,” which is dedicated to providing some answers to mysteries. It’s a very talkative episode as Rouge infiltrates the largest Nean settlement on Mars, Wellstown. Here, the biggest revelation is that Naomi and Rouge work for Alethia (at the beginning of the previous episode, the cop, Investigator Ash, mentioned Alethia as the organization that governs Neans). After learning this, Naomi and Rouge’s search for the Immortal Nine makes more sense. You can’t have Neans running around that can hurt people.

While Rouge is on Mars, we also learn Ash works for a group called Ochrona. Of course, there is no mention of what exactly Ochrona is, but it’s inferred neither Alethia nor the Martian police like them.

Meet the Council of Free Neans

Photo: Bones/Crunchyroll

Most of Metallic Rouge episode 3 centers around discussions related to free will. The discussion of what constitutes free will is that Naomi reminds Rouge that as an agent of Alethia, she’s on a leash. Rouge states that she does have free will. Naomi argues that Alethia will only ever see her as a tool to fight other Neans. Even though Rouge stomps off to do her own thing, she still serves Alethia by continuing her investigation for the next The Immortal Nine operative. 

In the Nean settlement, Rouge meets The Council of Free Neans, an organization fighting for the rights of Neans in Wellstown. Here, Rouge learns more about the history of Neans, who were supposed to be able to govern themselves after the war. However, the settlement in Wellstown remains under the control of humans, and the Council fights to get more rights for them.

One Nean brings up that their kind doesn’t have much free will if they can’t rise in opposition to humans. It’s an interesting point. The Neans can mostly think for themselves and are aware humans mostly look down on them. As long as they’re trapped by the Asimov Code, though, they can’t defend or stand up for themselves from a humanity that only sees them as tools.

Photo: Bones/Crunchyroll

At one point, the Council brings up a group of Neans called Alters. These Neans supposedly have free will, but not much is known about them. When Rouge asks to meet their contact, the other Neans aren’t sure who the contact for them is. The Alters’ existence raises questions about which Neans have free will and which don’t. Even three episodes in, the mysteries in Metallic Rouge and its world continue to deepen. 

The Nean desire for autonomy is a perfectly valid one. Throughout the series, audiences have seen Neans do most of the menial tasks on Mars. After helping win a war, they’ve been turned into servants and property. Certain Neans are forced into roles they can’t escape from, even after they can no longer properly function. Humans call them “scar heads” and steal Nectar, their means of living (we see more Nectar dealing in this episode).

Furthermore, the settlement in Wellstown is more of a ghetto than a thriving community with a border fence and military patrols. Yet because of programming, the Neans can’t partake in meaningful actions other than conversations. Having a group of people trying to fight for their existence but being aware of their powerlessness is an interesting struggle for an anime.

Dr. Afdal has a deeply cynical take on human rihghts

Photo: Bones/Crunchyroll

That said, there’s a deeply cynical take on human rights courtesy of Dr. Afdal. Afdal was on the transport to Wellstown in the previous episode and runs a clinic that cares for the Neans. When the subject of Nean rights and Nean autonomy is brought up, Afdal cynically suggests that’s what it starts as before people want more and that Neans aren’t much different than humans. Given that we live in a time where a variety of people of all stripes struggle for the right to exist, having a character say that they don’t deserve more comes from a place of extreme privilege. Why shouldn’t anyone struggling for basic standards of living ask for more? 

The episode ends on a cliffhanger, when a member of the Council of Free Neans is found murdered. Since Rouge is the first on the scene, she’s suspected of being the killer. But the episode also sets up that the killer could be any number of suspects. Plus, the circus is coming to town, and who knows what that could mean in this show. 

Verdict: “Maginial City” is a step up from the previous episode. The episode begins to fill out the world of Metallic Rogue in substantial ways. The struggle for Nean rights opens the series to interesting philosophical and political conversations. Unfortunately, there’s one character whose take puts a big stink on that discussion.

Metallic Rouge currently streams on Crunchyroll. New episodes drop every Thursday.