Summer 2013 Halfway Point: Week in Review

Management: Speculatively calling this the first half of a two-parter on the summer season. This half will focus on the specific episodes that have marked the halfway point in my schedule (I’ll probably add in Monogatari after it airs), and the upcoming one will cover my thoughts on the overall series so far.

So! Halfway through the summer season, and there really haven’t been any crazy upsets so far. My top tier is still Uchouten Kazoku, Gatchaman Crowds, and Monogatari, but I’m enjoying the also-rans as well. Let’s check in on what the crap everybody was doing this week.

Free! 6

This episode felt kinda tedious to me. I think this show has pretty much only three things that make it watchable to me:

  • The concept is funny and results in some cute subversions of genre tropes
  • It’s very pretty and the direction is occasionally inspired
  • The better episodes are actually very funny in their own right

Unfortunately, this week focused on the character relationships, and KyoAni’s slice of life characters are always too thin to afford compelling character drama. I mean, I love character-focused stuff, it’s my favorite thing, but for character-focused stuff to be compelling you need characters with a little more depth than “the genki one,” “the glasses-pusher,” etc. Bleh.

Uchouten Kazoku 6

I didn’t like this episode as much as the last two, but its first and last acts were still tremendous and heartfelt and beautiful. However, the centerpiece of this episode was a long conversation that I’m frankly still trying to figure out. Tanukis being eaten by humans (and that just being accepted as something that happens sometimes) has always been the point of greatest disconnect between this show’s fantastical flourishes and sharply grounded character conflicts, and this episode basically dove directly into that disconnect, presenting a long monologue by the mild-mannered but strongly pro-tanuki-eating professor, complete with a flashback where Yasaburou’s father displays absolute complacency towards being eaten, and only professes a hope that he doesn’t ruin an otherwise agreeable hot-pot. And Yasaburou is pretty much charmed by him!

I just don’t know how to square this – perhaps on a thematic level eventually all these contrasting viewpoints will fit into neat holes regarding the value of a life well-lived (we’re actually pretty close to that point, I think), but on a more practical character-empathy level, I just can’t relate to the way these characters treat the tanuki-eating. Which is frustrating, since this show is normally incredibly good at grounding its fantasy in universal human emotion. So while I can’t say this was a “bad” episode, it was certainly a tough one for me to wrap my head around.

C3-bu 6

C3-bu is also turning out to be more slice of life than I could have hoped for, but fortunately this show is more fun in concept, more creative in execution, more regularly funny, more dramatically sound, and populated with much better characters than Free. I’m actually just enjoying this show on its own merits at this point – Yura’s personal issues are being handled with more grace and thoughtfulness than I expected, and it really knows how to handle either a fantasy-world or standard gag setpiece. You’ve won me over, moesoft.

The World God Only Knows S3 6

TWGOK slowed down the pace this week, which I guess is fitting for the Shiori episode. Shiori’s inner monologue was both funny and relatable, and her own fantasy-world imaginings are always great, but this story itself felt far more lazy and convenient than this season has been so far. I feel this show’s strengths are its humor and its habit of pointing out and subverting cliche story structures, but this one just played entirely by the book – Keima’s plan was very simple and it worked perfectly. It was perfectly watchable, but I was still kinda disappointed.

Attack on Titan 18

This episode was definitely a step down from the previous two (which I very much enjoyed), and felt a bit like one of Trost’s renowned “oh shit this story doesn’t correlate to our number of episodes let’s check in with everybody maybe take five for a flashback and move the plot forward seven inches” episodes. The first half was more excitement with the female titan, who’s apparently beginning to favor some style in her kills, but the second half consisted of people getting up into some trees and wondering why they were in them. I’m not worried, since the female titan represents a much more immediate threat than Eren not remembering he was human or the giant boulder ever did, and this show is still leagues better in its second half, but that second half was still not particularly engaging stuff.

Hunter x Hunter 92

This arc has gone totally nuts, and this episode was a nuts cherry on a nuts cake. Desperate giant-ant surgery was witnessed, vows of parenthood and brotherhood were made, and now a minor army of powerful monsters with hallucinogen-prompted designs have begun spreading out to conquer the world. This show is basically my definition of entertainment.

Gatchaman Crowds 5

This show never lacks for ambition, does it? This episode focused on the not-so-secretly most important character, Rui, and had him basically set out his thesis statement on his ideal, communal, utterly crowdsourced society. Showing its usual respect for easy answers, this speech was immediately shut down by one of his subordinates rightly calling him a naive, idealistic fool, and promptly hanging up on Rui to go play with his adorable daughter.

Rui’s plan has always had a number of internal inconsistencies, with his belief in a human nature that’s far less reliable than he thinks certainly being one, but another being the fact that for all his rhetoric regarding the death of heroes and the equality of his system, he is king of his powers. He decides when they’re used, he pulls the trigger, he is judge jury and executioner. This episode was the breaking point on that internal tension, when the collapsing tunnel finally prompted him to make himself the hero-celebrity he’s never wanted to be. Now he’s finally going to come into direct contact with Hajime, who is perhaps the only human being who truly represents the spirit of community his hundred were supposed to embody. This show just keeps getting better and better.

And the rest

Monogatari was a recap this week, and I’ve officially dropped Watamote – the show seems to really not have any aspirations outside of humorously and deservedly dumping on Tomoko, and that’s just not too compelling to me. I’m very excited for next week, though – a new arc in Monogatari, a new day in Uchouten Kazoku, and the long-awaited confrontation of Gatchaman’s two leads promises plenty of action, excitement, and thoughtful understated character drama. My favorite things!


9 thoughts on “Summer 2013 Halfway Point: Week in Review

  1. Yeah I wasn’t a big fan of this week’s Free either. Rei is a decent character, but he can’t carry an entire episode by himself. Lack of Gou didn’t help either (still the best character in the show).

    Can’t say I was big into Uchouten either though (though I haven’t really enjoyed it for a while). It’s got a bunch going for it sure, but we’re six episodes in and there’s been no plot or any real tension to what’s going on. Needs to go somewhere fast or for a character to get really emotional or something, b/c otherwise its beautiful scenes will be wasted.

    I dropped Watamote for the same reason you did. It’s a one-trick pony and the manga fans told me that it wasn’t going to change anytime soon. It’s possible the studio will fix that, but I don’t trust the director.

    • I kind of agree about Gou – I feel like the guys need characters with more friction to bounce off of. They’re too pleasant and non-threatening to be interesting by themselves

      I’d say there has been plot in Uchouten, but it’s always been kind of building in the background, since Yasaburou’s slowly shifting relationship with the world around him has always been the focus. I think the two main progressing strands are Yasaburou’s relationship with Benten and Yasaburou’s relationship with his family/father’s legacy/society, and I think things are going to come to a head with the tanuki election.

      But I also just really like the episodic trials of Yasaburou’s life so far – to me, this show is what slice of life should actually look like. Plus I also like the family/society/coming-of-age themes, think the character dynamics are great, and am always blown over by those beautiful setpiece scenes, along with the art design in general.

      • I get why people like Uchouten and all. People have told me that it’s basically Tatami Galaxy meets Haibane Renmei, both some of my favorite slice-of-life shows (although I don’t love them as much as most people) and the reasons you listed can be applied to them as well. Thing is, those shows established something early on. I think Uchouten is either being too vague or too directionless to the point that its positive elements are being wasted. But we’re not even halfway through the show yet, so we’ll see.

      • Whereas Stella Jogakuin is a sports show with a side-dish of moe, so it has real friction and growth, it feels Free! is actually a moe show with a side-dish of a sports show, so it’s mostly a feel-good nostalgia show, thus far.

  2. I’m glad someone else noticed the weird emotional disconnect in Uchouten Kazoku. Yasaburou does acknowledge the weirdness at the end of episode six, but it all still doesn’t make any sense to me. Maybe the tanukis aren’t the only ones with idiot blood in them. That’s probably going to be a major moral of the story.

    I’m pleasantly surprised with C3-bu myself. I thought some of the hype was completely unfounded at first, and I was sure I was going to be bored. But I’m with you on this show. For me, this has been the most fun for a “girls doing cute things in a club” show since K-ON!. Yes, I love K-ON!.

    HxH is awesome, and I’m glad everyone’s getting to enjoy this awesome, and BRUTAL arc. I’m so far behind on KamiNomi that I’ll have to just marathon it at the end of the season.

    • Yeah, C3-bu kind of tricked me into enjoying it, first with the Gainax pedigree and that first episode, then with the tantalizingly crazy fourth one. And now I’m just enjoying it for what it is – touche, Gainax.

      HxH is just the best. I would watch a lot of shounens if they were all as consistently creative, fast-paced, and well-directed as this one.

  3. Never watched Watamote since I read the manga and wasn’t that impressed, hope I’m not missing out too much. Hunter X Hunter and Uchouten Kazoku are my favorites of course. I’m personally ok with the slight emotional disconnect in Uchouten in episode 6, this probably means we’re diving into the meat of the story and I can’t wait. Heard great things about the ending of the novel and I’m very grateful for PA Works’ adaptation. I’ve never cared for their work but I’m happy they made this even though it’s bound to be a flop.

    • I agree, it’s likely the current disconnect and lack of full explanation in Uchouten means we’re honing in on the big, relevant conflicts. And I also keep hearing good things about the ending, so I’m not worried it won’t come together.

      I really do hope it does well. I’ve heard it was heavily promoted in Japan, and at the very least the art design seems almost impossible not to love, so I’m hopeful this time the effort will be rewarded.

  4. Pingback: Summer 2013 Halfway Point: Season So Far | Wrong Every Time

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