Why It Works: The Rolling Hills of Morioh

Time for my second Crunchyroll column! This time I take a stab at JoJo, investigating its art design and love of horror classics and all that good stuff. Morioh is a wonderfully terrible place.

Why It Works: The Rolling Hills of Morioh

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Wandering Son – Episode 4

Episode four opens with another perfect venue for body-related insecurity – swimming class. The light-filtered outlines that give Wandering Son such a storybook feel are here perfectly suited to evoking the summer heat, as Nitori watches Takatsuki fretting over his very visible body. But more than emphasizing the unhappiness we already know, this scene mostly serves to demonstrate that all of these students are struggling with the disappointments of their uncovered selves. Chi’s friend Momoko articulates this directly, as she bemoans her lack of “womanly” features while stuck between Chi and Takatsuki. And Takatsuki is isolated in the frame, positioned first as stuck in the spotlight above his laughing peers before he retreats to the only place he can, deep beneath the eyes of his classmates.

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Planetes – Episode 9

Even Hachimaki was a rookie at one point, and in episode nine, we’re finally introduced to the man who taught Hachi everything he knows. A month of security inspections prompts the return of Gigalt Gungulgash, a veteran debris hauler turned OSA agent, now here to make sure the Half section have got all their security-related affairs in order. And so we spend an episode looking both back at the past and on towards the future, in a present moment that reflects both our old triumphs and long-standing regrets.

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Planetarian – Episode 4

Yumemi and the Junker ventured out in the rain this week, in an episode that basically put giant sirens on both their heads to announce the emotional contrast being drawn. That’s perfectly okay, though – the show isn’t unsubtle in a way that at all harms its storytelling, and Planetarian’s clear focus is actually one of its greatest strengths. While I do tend to prefer shows that give their characters time to come alive through texture, archetypal stories like this told well are also a fine type of storytelling.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below!

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Summer 2016 – Week 4 in Review

This was a week of mild but pleasant surprises in anime land. Over in the Sunshine Islands, Love Live demonstrated that this season might actually have a better handle on its own drama than either of the first two, nailing Hanamaru’s introduction without giving up on the physical comedy that makes the show great. And down in Mob Psychoville, Mob proved himself to be just as strong a character as his show is a visual showcase. With everything else performing pretty much as hoped, this is looking to be another surprisingly sturdy season of anime. My preview chart was short, but nearly everything on that chart has ended up impressing, leaving me with a fine lineup all around. Let’s RUN ‘EM DOWN!

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UQ Holder, Volume 7 – Review

Back to the UQ grind again, with a volume that finally dug into one of this manga’s core issues – how goddamn boring its protagonist is. Tota is a shounen lump, and this volume did its best to paint some character on that lump, with generally positive results. UQ is still a surprisingly mediocre performance from the guy who made Negima, but there’s plenty of entertainment to be found regardless.

You can check out my full review over at ANN.

UQ Holder!

Mob Psycho 100 – Episode 3

Mob Psycho 100 actually managed to up the ante this week, by coupling its usual visual splendor with a far more focused and incisive look at Mob’s insecurities. The new-age cult backdrop was a perfect setting for a story focused on peer pressure and the meaning of fitting in, and Mob’s feelings helped him feel constantly vulnerable in spite of never actually being in danger. Mob Psycho is pretty much everything I’d want from a concept like this – yeah there’s some stupid humor, but Mob’s powers are consistently grounded in an absolutely human place, creating a sense of tension regardless of how strong he is. Damn good stuff.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below!

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Mawaru Penguindrum – Episode 5

Nine years ago, a typhoon raged through Japan just as Himari was coming down with a terrible fever. With no one to call for help, the Takakura siblings’ mother panicked over what they might do, before their father declared he’d take Himari to the hospital himself. Rushing out the door, he was pursued by both his sons, though only Kanba manages to follow him. And so Kanba raced out into the street, physically chasing his father at the onset of a pursuit that would last him all his life.

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Orange – Episode 4

Dear lord this show is excruciating. Painful from start to finish, saturated with the lost-chances insecurity of youth, extremely good show would not watch again. It almost feels like a defense mechanism that my reviews are so resolutely focused on craft, and not focused on the experience of watching Naho do everything wrong all the time even though she couldn’t possibly do otherwise. It’s a good hurt. Orange is a good show.

You can check out my full review over at ANN!

Orange

Genshiken Second Season, Volume 8 – Review

Genshiken continues its questionable adventure into harem territory, making the most of it but still being fundamentally much worse than what the manga used to be. There are certainly plenty of effective moments here, and the story still has better dialogue than most manga and solid art all around, but Second Season is still an inescapable disappointment. We are in the lean times of Genshiken now.

You can check out my full review over at ANN.

Genshiken