So yeah, that was an all-time great. One of the best episodes I’ve ever seen this studio produce. God damn.
I wrote essentially a double-length review for this one, and I still barely even got to cover the tremendous acuity of shot framing and animation that elevated what was already a fundamentally well-written and wonderfully composed episode. This was basically the first episode where Kousaka got to come into her own as a character, and she made the most of it, dazzling Kumiko and basically everyone else through her proud, captivating personality. From the quieter moments with Hazuki and Midori, or Goto and Riko, up to that tremendous finale sequence, everything here was poignant and beautiful. KyoAni are playing in the stars again.
Holy crap did this week have some peaks. God damn. Not all the episodes here were great, but the ones that were… I’d be surprised and ecstatic to see Oregairu and Euphonium’s episodes here somehow be challenged for positions in the top 5 episodes of the year. They were both just That Good – that full of everything that makes their respective series great, and that satisfying as a realization of everything that had come before. Those two episodes were stunning, and I feel lucky to be watching two shows that good in the same season.
Anyway, some other episodes came out too, I guess. Let’s run ’em down!
More manga reviews! Branching out this time, switching from the ever-enjoyable Genshiken to the cult classic Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer. I wasn’t so hot on Biscuit Hammer’s first couple volumes, but it really clicked for me this time – with what seems like the full cast introduced, the story’s gaining a lot of interesting texture while maintaining its great personality. The art’s still crappy, but hey, it’s an endearing kind of crappy. Anyway!
Hoooly shit this episode. This was the one we’d been waiting for – the one the whole show had been building up to, really. Sensei finally gives Hachiman a full diagnosis, and Hikki responds by doing what he always should have done, but never really could do until now – telling the truth. That second half was just a goddamn rollercoaster, employing all of this season’s heightened emotive storytelling tricks to hammer home the most honest moment in this friendship to date. This was definitely an episode.
The Disappointment of Haruhi Knockoff-chan continues apace this week, with a hot springs episode that has to be the most by-the-numbers hot spring episode I’ve seen in years. It takes the Haruhi pedigree to trick me into watching a show that’d even consider tossing off an episode like this – episodes that just come fresh out of the factory fully constructed, no sharp edges or rough touches of personality left to distinguish them in their endless, undying ranks. C’mon, Nagato Yuki. I’m dying here.
Reviewing an oldy again. This one’s got a bit more of a legacy than friggin’ Half-Moon, and for good reason – it’s exactly the kind of wibbly-wobbly character-based show that I’m guessing appeals to a lot of people who are into anime for the long haul. It’s a mess, but a mess with a whole lot of great things to recommend about it. Strong characters, interesting ideas, beautiful landscapes and music – all that is great. Its inability to actually tell a story, or even to coherently articulate itself half the time – not so great. My notes kinda reflect how long it took this show to win me over – the first half has a whole lot of giggling about how poorly the story’s conveying itself, and even in the second half, it’s a friend you like in spite of their many failings. But I enjoyed it! I had a good time with .hack, and it does feel kinda sad that my time with these characters is over. I kinda appreciate how these reviews force me to engage with things I might just drop otherwise – there’s good to be found in almost everything.
There were some good episodes this week, with JoJo and Oregairu tossing out particular standouts, but overall, I have to say this one was defined by its worst episodes. Nagato Yuki had a second straight episode that was just completely without merit, and Unlimited Blade Works hit what I really, deeply hope has to be rock bottom. Last week I expressed hope that Caster’s absence would help the show regain a sense of momentum – well, apparently Archer had other plans. He’s always been one of the weakest parts of this show, and this episode was his grand performance, where twenty minutes of dialogue conveyed ten lines of information we already knew. I’m too far in to stop now, but UBW is not making the ride easy.
But that’s enough doom and gloom for now. Let’s talk JOJO.
Euphonium’s rainy day episode knocks it out of the park. Aoi’s long-hinted exiting of the band sends ripples all across the group, and Haruka is really given some time to shine as we dig into her very understandable leadership insecurities. We also got the first big questions regarding the almost-too-perfect Asuka, and Kumiko’s side neatly reflected all of this with her worries about losing one friendship and solace in the warmth of her new ones. I’ve got a fair number of notes on this one, since a lot of this episode’s strengths came in tiny details, so let’s get to it!
And we’re right back into the dramatic thick of it this week, with Hachiman finally grappling with his own identity issues only to be demolished by Yukino. There were a lot of individual excellent scenes this week, and the show is continuing to use framing and body language to elevate its stellar conversations. I particularly liked the two long, silent cuts – the first with Hikki and Iroha as they’re crossing the street, and the second when Rumi gave Hikki the silent treatment. Yui also got another great scene this week, and the banter between Hikki and Iroha is really growing on me. They actually seem more comfortable together than either of them do with many of their other friends, since they don’t have anything to prove to each other. As Hayama sadly notes, she feels more comfortable relying on him than the friends she refuses to be more honest with.
Well, this sure is a show that I am watching. Roughly twenty minutes of it, once you remove the opening and ending songs. It helps that one minute of that running time is situated before the opening, which gives me a little sense of momentum at the opening. And I can generally make it a good six or seven minutes in before I begin checking the time remaining.
In this week’s Nagato Yuki-chan, the characters got on a train and then looked at some souvenirs. In next week’s episode, I suspect they will take a bath. Stay tuned.