Summer 2014 – Week 4 in Review

Good episodes all around this week! “Sacrifice all mediocre performers to your dark god” is serving me well this season, as I’ve now reduced my lineup to “the shows that consistently impress me plus Sword Art Online because I apparently don’t actually value my time in the slightest.” Barakamon has proven itself generally consistent at this point, Zankyou continues to be the most ‘flawless’ show I’m watching, and Aldnoah has apparently taken it upon itself to be both a satisfying Urobuchi show and my replacement popcorn entertainment. Good work, cartoons.

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Sword Art Online II – Episode 4

It’s that time again. I’m actually kind of excited at this point, you guys. Episode two was a solid action vignette, episode three was an okay character-building episode – this season is showing off a whole new side of Sword Art Online! I originally picked up the first season in large part due to an abiding appreciation of schadenfreude (which paid off both through the show itself falling apart and me falling apart watching it), but if season two just wants to be a reasonable adventure show with high production values, I am very ready for that as well. STRIKE UP THE BATTLE MUSIC.

…that’s the battle music? Alright, sure. Let’s Sword Art Online.

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Zankyou no Terror – Episode 3

Hoo boy. This was another crime procedural episode, but that didn’t matter at all because holy crap was this episode thematically focused. The very first comments of the young police officer set the tone of this one, establishing a clear parallel between Shibazaki and Nine/Twelve. As someone consigned to archives until he retires, Shibazaki is also someone abandoned by the world, someone no longer “useful to society.” Like them, he doesn’t fit into the system anymore. People in this position are generally expected to take it, to be quiet and accept their loss of a role – but Nine and Twelve clearly aren’t willing to do that. And just like in Psycho-Pass, it turns out a system that tries to simply ignore its outsiders isn’t really equipped to deal with them – it has to bring in someone like Shibazaki, and acknowledge those it has deemed worthless in order to deal with other leftovers.

Zankyou no Terror

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Summer 2014 – Week 3 in Review

Welp, we’re a third of the way into the season now, and this season’s looking pretty damn predictable. The top shows continue to impress, the speculative picks have pretty much all fallen off the wagon, and Barakamon stands alone as the one surprise hit. It’s looking like I’ll be reduced to my usual half-dozen shows a little quicker than usual this season, which may just mean I’m getting better at dropping things efficiently, but I’m not really complaining. All I need is a couple standouts to be happy, and this season’s certainly got those – let’s run them down!

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Sword Art Online II – Episode 3

And the journey continues! Last week’s episode was far and away the best thing Sword Art Online has ever done, so I’ve got moderate hopes for this one. ‘Moderate’ because last week pulled basically the most obvious and necessary trick for fixing Sword Art Online – it removed Kirito entirely. This, tragically, is apparently not allowed to be a long-term solution, so this week the challenge will likely be in maintaining last week’s energy without Kirito dragging everything into his power fantasy vortex. Fortunately, last week’s episode was also just well-composed and featured a number of solid action sequences, and that sort of stuff can work perfectly well even with Kirito around. And so, for maybe the very first time, positive thinking isn’t just a coping mechanism – things might really actually possibly turn out okay. Let’s do this, Sword Art Online. It’s a beautiful new day.

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Summer 2014 – First Impressions, Part Two

And with the second week complete, all our new challengers have appeared! I’m very happy with this week’s performance – though none of my speculative picks really impressed me, the two shows I was most excited for either picked up the slack (in Aldnoah’s case) or started off with a bang (Zankyou no Terror). The roster isn’t looking deep this season, but if the highlights can keep up this level of quality, I’ll be content either way.

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The Rising Tide: Madoka Rebellion and Communal Culture

“And I / I disowned my / own family
All for love / All for love.”
The Lake – Typhoon

Madoka Rebellion

I’ve been planning on writing about Madoka Rebellion for a long time now, but Rebellion really hasn’t made it easy for me. It’s a strange beast – both reflective of Madoka Magica and totally apart from it, a continuation in some ways, a betrayal in others. Though you can certainly critique it as a film in its own right, it only really unfolds when you put it in context – and when a film’s context is “an emerging sea change in the process of media engagement,” it can be kinda hard to sum up the film as Good or Bad! If you’re looking for a simple takeaway, I believe Rebellion is a beautiful film and a terrible sequel – but why that is, and what its existence actually reflects, will take a little unpacking to explain. To understand Rebellion, you really have to understand Madoka Magica – so let’s begin there, with the series that started it all.

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