A pretty consistent set of episodes this week, although Sword Art Online’s doubling down on its “We’re at war with PTSD, we were always at war with PTSD” new history is resulting in some serious growing pains. But Barakamon and JoJo both had stellar episodes, and Zankyou and Hunter x Hunter continue to be the great shows they are, so I can’t really complain about friggin’ Kirito having inconsistent motivations. Let’s run them down!
And we’re back for more terror. Last episode introduced Nine and Twelve’s old childhood friend, who’s apparently now a weapon of the system that abandoned them. I’ll be interested in seeing what she brings to the story – so far, the show’s thriller elements have kind of just been a vehicle for its atmosphere and societal grievances, but I could definitely see Five’s appearance pushing the show in a more plot-focused direction. But who knows! I’ll let the show speak for itself. Let’s get to it!
It’s time again for the most sword art show of the season! I’ve got kind of awkwardly mixed feelings about this season, as I talked about in my season-so-far post – it’s not actually good good, but it’s definitely a more complex animal than the first season. The issue is that everything this season is trying to do is kind of undercut by the presence of the previous season – Kirito’s current character development has come completely out of nowhere, and pretty much contradicts whole piles of his previous behavior. I just can’t see the Kirito who’s falling to pieces over the memories of people he’s killed as the same Kirito who cackled as he turned last arc’s villain into a blood pinata.
And yet, in spite of that, this stuff actually is kind of working for me. Not in an emotional sense, but at least in a thematic one – the idea they’re exploring here (the validity of digital worlds as lived experiences, and the consequences of that) is interesting, and they’re approaching it from an interesting angle. I highly doubt the show will ultimately earn forgiveness for its previous problems, but it seems I’m more or less already able to forget the first season even happened. Hurray for selective memory, I guess?
I dunno. It’s weird. Make your choice, SAO – be good or be funny. This current combination is tearing me apart, Lisa.
We may already be halfway through August, but fortunately, it appears the anime season shares my overwhelming fear of death, and is dealing with that by denying the summer is ending altogether. I respect that, and will honor the season’s wishes by today placing all of the shows I’m watching in a reductive, nigh-meaningless hierarchy of Objective Worthiness. Unfortunately, it turns out I got tired of most shows’ shit even more efficiently than usual this season… so to pad out my list, I’ll also include the unlucky casualties of the first several weeks. Let’s run them down!
Back on the terror train! Last episode was definitely a stunner – it started off with its usual slow-boiling, atmosphere-heavy thriller antics, but ended in a triumphant flight from the cops, from the city, from the world altogether. This is a show about abandoned people – people who’ve been given up because they either don’t fit into or are unwanted by a fairly rigid social system. In response to this assault on identity by the world they inhabit, Zankyou seems to spend equal time exploring both Fight and Flight. Lisa initially tries to run from her world, to get “somewhere outside it” – and episode four’s conclusion was a gorgeous articulation of this instinct. But you can’t really escape the world – no matter where you run, you’re still living within it. And so Nine and Twelve seem to have their own plan – either destroy the world that has abandoned them, or at least make some kind of statement against it. And against both these choices, there is constantly dangled the desire for human connection – apparent in Lisa’s story, but also evident in the increasingly personal games our young terrorists are playing with Shibazaki. That may ultimately point to a way out that doesn’t require destroying the world altogether.
Incidentally, one of my favorite details from last episode was the offhand mention of “fake IDs from Russia or China” that allowed the terrorists to gather the resources for their plot. This is generally a very tightly focused story, and the scale is “our young terrorists, Lisa, and Shibazaki versus the inescapable system they are facing in Japan.” However, that one throwaway line gestured at the exact same problem on a much larger scale – the Japanese system of justice and peace versus a world community that is unwilling to play by the same rules. It seems that even if you play within the rules of this story’s general system, you’re still a victim of a larger truth – even Japan itself can’t dictate the terms of how its society truly functions.
I’ll avoid going further on that thread for now unless the show actually engages with it, but I’m excited to see whichever direction this story chooses to go. Let’s get back to it.
And we’re back! Last episode was fun, lightsabers are pretty cool, DEATH GUN IS NIGH. Apparently Desu Gan is someone we already know from Sword Art Online, so it’s looking like it’s time for a good old friendly witch hunt. Is it Lisbeth? Is it KLEIN? I bet it’s Klein, we should kill him just to be sure. And then kill everyone who helped us kill him, it could be them too if they’re just willing to kill a dude like that. And then kill everyone who helped us hide the bodies oh god oh god DEATH GUN WAS ME.
Look, I’d watch that show. Whatever. Let’s watch episode six.
Oh shit what’s this a timestamp breakdown of something that isn’t Sword Art Online?!? I know, crazy. The reasoning’s pretty simple – unlike with Ping Pong, my thoughts on this show seem to take the form of tiny “oh, nice” moments throughout, and not larger thematic/character thoughts on the episode as a whole. Meaning it seems appropriate to get out the blackboard and slide ruler once again, and sift my way through an episode of this shiny new thing Watanabe has given us. Let’s blow up some city monuments!