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.
Time for more Monogatari! We’re finally up to the last arc I’ve already watched, and one I actually wrote an old essay about. Hanamonogatari was great back when I watched it the first time, and remains great now. It’s one of the most focused and self-contained arcs, and it’s got a wonderful balance of character interiority, humor (thanks Kaiki), and beautiful visual tricks. Having this come at an even pace relative to my other reviews actually helped me appreciate how this arc really was a visual step up, and the work this arc does for Kanbaru’s character is just spectacular. Just a really well-composed and compassionate short story all around.
Time again at last. Episodes have passed, cartoons have risen and fallen, and the moment has arrived for us to once again slot stories into a reductive hierarchy that cheapens the very idea of media consumption. Does ranking shows inherently contribute to a system that commodifies art and undercuts the complexity of emotional engagement? Are we essentially belittling ourselves by implying that our relationship with the stories we choose to consume can be summed up through a simple “eh, at least it’s better than this other one?” Will any of the people whose attitudes I’m critiquing in this opening paragraph possibly not skip to the numbers themselves, rendering this sarcastic thought experiment totally pointless?
Maybe so. But goddamnit, we’re gonna do it anyway.
This was a less tightly focused and mood-based episode than the last, but still very good in its own way. We returned to some Kyoto Animation House Comedy this time (which was fitting, since I learned this was largely anime-original), and the results were about as consistently funny as KyoAni can ever be. KyoAni are just way better at understanding the rules of comedy than most studios, and so even an episode like this in a show with a generally different tone can come off as enjoyable. The characters bounce off each other well, the small moments are captured with signature grace, and the central themes keep bubbling to the surface. I’m reaaally hoping we get that split-cour announcement some time soon…
I made a lot of people mad a little while ago. Angry forum threads, capslock responses filling up my ask.fm inbox, the whole nine yards. I even heard people were planning on emailing my editor! It was an exciting time for everyone, but I can’t say I didn’t deserve it. I did something that, if you’re truly, deeply attached to your experience of a media object, can be absolutely unforgivable.
Things finally lightened up this week, as Hachiman was tasked with dealing with the fallout of his “solution” from last time. Being the student council president already sounds like a crappy job for him, but not getting any credit for it, being sabotaged by the actual president’s inability to handle conflict or responsibility, and not even being able to share the burden with his friends? Yeah, this is one shitty bed Hikki has made for himself. My favorite parts of this episode were the understated scenes between Hikki and Yui in the first half, but the ridiculous meeting with Iroha’s “collaborators” was pretty damn funny. I guess we could use a break from all the crazy tension.