After an initially underwhelming start with “Lion 4: Alternate Ending”, “Doug Out” truly kicks off the sixth StevenBomb.
Even without seeing the rest of the episodes in the StevenBomb, it’s pretty apparent that the main story-thread of the season is starting with this episode, making the previous episode somewhat of an outlier. This is keeping with a weird pattern I noticed that the even-numbered StevenBomb’s are far less focused than the odd ones. This is the most focused of the even numbers Bomb’s though, only really having “Lion 4: Alternate Ending” that is disconnected from the main meat of these episodes. I suppose this isn’t really relevant to the episode discussion as a whole but honestly, as much as I enjoyed “Doug Out”, it’s hard to muster up much to talk about.
“Doug Out” centers around Connie and Steven going Connie’s father, Doug, on a stake-out in Funland, and despite setting up the plot to come, is mostly just a cozy time with the characters. There’s a lot of charm here, and I’d even say that most of the jokes manage to amuse if nothing else. A lot of this comes down to Crispin Freeman’s performance. Freeman’s always been one of my favorite voice actors, ever since I played Xenosaga over a decade ago, and he’s often a bright spots whenever I watch anime dub (like his performance as Tsume in Wolf’s Rain, one of my all-time favorite shows that I’m also currently writing about). Doug is quite a different character from both the unhinged Albedo and or stand-offish Tsume, but Freeman nails the adorkable charm in Doug’s silly jokes. Whether it be pretending his glasses to be a disguise (the astonishment on Connie and Steven’s face enhances this gag so much) or the heighten value of the all important flashlight (which is still susceptible to the laws of physics, revealed in the funniest moment of the episode). The episode is just a joy to watch, with many great jokes nestled into a pretty sweet story about a father who just wants to appear exciting to his daughter.
Some of the best gags in this episode come in the form of video game references. These mostly come in the form of Connie and Steven’s disguises. I think most people will recognize Veronica Cucamonga and Peter Pizzapoppolis (shout-out to that Greek joke) as direct references to Carmen Sandiego and the Mario Bros. respectively. I really like how both reveals are complimented through the soundtrack, as the music directly references the characters as well. I’m not too well versed in Carmen Sandiego, but Cucamonga’s track certainly feels reminiscent of the style of tracks I’ve sampled that start off Sandiego’s game, but most notably concludes with kinda vocals scatting, which instantly brings the acapella styles of Rockapella’s theme song for the television series. Whereas Pizzapoppolis is 8-bit chiptune that while not a catchy as most Mario track, certainly invokes those familiar tunes. The only other really noticeable video game reference is Connie and Steven using the same flying animation as Sonic and Tails in the classic games (at this point, the world is just taunting me about having to wait another day for my Collector’s Edition to arrive to play Sonic Mania).
Returning back to the music, Aivi & Surasshu as normal do a great job on this episode. Whether it be adding in that calm sax riff into the most prominent track in the first half to add a noir styling to the events, or the more creepy low-key carnival music, to add an eerie vibe as the possibility of Gem involvement was just brought up, a little later in the episode, it’s a pleasure to listen to. In addition, I really like the constant cricket chirping and background noises present at night whenever incidental music isn’t playing, really captures the mood of a stake-out.
The only other final thing of note is the use of silhouettes to hint to the episode’s shadow reveal. Due to the intended nature of these blogs, I won’t say much about the two figures we seen at the ending, not even their names, but I really love how the episode slowly reveals them. Their first appearance is entirely showcased through their shadows, and how the responds to the nature of mystery stories. The episode is actually constructed like a mystery story. Onion is introduced almost immediately loitering, signalling him as the episode’s likely culprit. This turns out to be a red herring for the most part. Once the stake-out start, the episodes starts disregarding Onion as responsible through an excessive fence break-in and brings up the possibility of something grander. Normally the reveal that Onion was the culprit actually would’ve been something of a double twist. Revealing that through circumstances Onion actually could’ve been involved, and it follows the tenets of mystery stories, that the culprit should be revealed early on. As well, as allowing Doug’s story arc to have a naturally conclusion, as the high stakes involved in Steven and Priyanka compared to the mundane security job is highlighted by their suspicions and ‘reality’. Anyway, instead it turns out Onion really was a red herring by the ending but the attentive eye would’ve noticed that earlier. The big shadow Doug noticed earlier certainly does not match the outline that Onion’s did, and the smaller silhouette that pushes the cage wall on Doug clearly displays a different figure. As a starting point for a larger arc, it’s a great way to introduce new threats into the series, ones that promise to intermingle the two worlds that show exists within.