March comes in like a lion continued its phenomenal Hina-focused arc this week, offering plenty more compelling visual tricks, along with our closest look yet into Hina’s headspace. Rei is a great character, but it’s becoming clear that March’s ability to lean into the personal dramas of characters like Hina and Shimada is secretly one of the story’s greatest strengths. I’m guessing we’ll be nearing the end of this arc soon, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts!
You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below.
Today on Crunchyroll, I’ve got a piece focused on how well March articulates the difficulty of actually reaching out for help when you find yourself in a bad place. The topic is just a small element of March’s much larger dramatic aspirations, but it’s a tough issue that I deeply relate to, and I was happy to celebrate how March handles it. The show has been low-key excellent for forever, and it’s always nice to find another reason to promote it for a wider audience.
Suffering Alone in March comes in like a lion
Alright, let’s start on an entirely new project! Today we’ll be exploring the first episode of Kuuchuu Buranko, also known as Trapeze. I’ve never watched any of Trapeze before, but I do know it’s an original project by Kenji Nakamura, he of Gatchaman Crowds/Mononoke/Tsuritama fame. I also know it’s focused on some sort of clinic where people go to get their life sorted out, that the central doctor is a little girl in a ridiculous bear costume, and that it’s possibly Nakamura’s most visually experimental work, incorporating live action footage and dramatic style digressions and all manner of other weird tricks. My own experience with Nakamura has been limited to Gatchaman Crowds, which was certainly visually compelling, but more noteworthy for its piercing exploration of modern society. That show’s political laser focus makes me assume this show will be using its episodic cases to poke at society in different ways, but I won’t know until I watch. Let’s get right to it!
Flip Flappers’ sixth episode is about Iroha Irodori, Cocona’s painting-inclined classmate. It’s also likely the most emotionally searing interrogation of any of Flip Flappers’ mindscapes, and also one of my favorite episodes of all time. I can’t watch this episode without crying, consistently, at every new revelation and emotional blow. It’s about childhood neglect and the contradictions of self-expression, about the fragile necessity of loving and being loved, about the forms we contort ourselves into to survive, and the lingering scars those contortions leave behind. It’s for anyone who finds their heart in the things they create, and learns to love the damage that made them who they are.
Well, we’ve arrived at the halfway point again. 2017 feels likely to be remembered as a key year in humanity’s overall decline, but at least this fall season’s Japanese cartoons were pretty good. As usual, I’ll be doing my pointless mid-season rankings today, and jotting down some overall thoughts on the shows I’m watching so far. These rankings are always meaningless, but given there are a fair number of admittedly great shows I’m already not watching purely because of time constraints, you can rest assured that I’m solidly enjoying everything that actually makes this list. Side M, Girls’ Last Tour, Ancient Magus’ Bride… I’d be happy to keep up with any of those shows in a lighter season, and will hopefully find the time to swing back and pick them up later. As for now, I’ll try to be at least a little ruthless in breaking down where I think my active contenders stumble and soar. Let’s get right to the list!
Today I’ve got my review of Hyouka’s second half, which unsurprisingly turned out to be just as strong on this viewing as any of the others. Hyouka is just a ridiculously good show in every single capacity, maintaining a level of richness and beauty throughout that is simply staggering. It is remarkable that this show exists at all.
You can check out my full review over at ANN.
Flip Flappers’ third episode introduced us to the barren world of Cocona’s psychology, an inhospitable place defined by the dichotomy of fierce self-denial and total hedonism. Cocona escaped that place, with the help of Papika, and seemed by the end of that episode to at least be able to acknowledge Papika’s friendship. In its fourth episode, we turned from Cocona’s world to Papika’s, where our two leads learned to trust each other far more completely than ever before. By the end of that episode, it seemed like Cocona was ready to accept Papika’s love, and perhaps even reciprocate.
Here in episode five, Pure Illusion offers a vision of what society has to say about all of that.
This week’s March comes in like a lion wasn’t an aesthetic marvel on par with last week, but it was just as emotionally harrowing in its own way. Actually getting to see Akari’s perspective was a welcome shift from the show’s usual focus, and the show’s articulation of her assumed parental insecurities as as thoughtful as any of its other beats. I hope we keep getting to see her and Rei support each other from here out!
You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below.
Today I conclude my journey through Juni Taisen’s early episodes, talking about how well the show executed on Chicken’s story and also how episode four set up a variety of dramatic tentpoles for the show to come. This is pretty much as far as you can go with an article series like this – as episode six has gleefully demonstrated, we are now in the part of the narrative where all bets are off, and characters will be dying quickly in order to make way for the final confrontations. At least I got half an article dedicated to Monkey before that bastard Nisio killed her off :(((
Why It Works: Character Economy in Juni Taisen (Part Two)
Let’s keep on chugging with Chihayafuru! Last episode represented the conclusion to another of Chihayafuru’s mini-arcs, as both Chihaya and Taichi found themselves defeated in the team’s first major tournament. That arc also introduced Shinobu, who is awesome, but I’m guessing we won’t be seeing her for a little while. Chihayafuru is fast-paced, but it still generally obeys the tenets of its genre, and concluding a tournament means it’s likely we’ll be cooling down with either training, character development, or some kind of lighthearted segue material. I’m guessing we’ll be shifting gears to focus on Arata’s return to karuta, but without a clear next goal already established, the show could go in a variety of directions from here. Wherever things end up, I’m having a great time with Chihayafuru, and am excited to continue. Let’s get right to it!