Summer 2013 – Week 9 in Review

Fell behind on some shows this week, and haven’t had the time to catch up. I’ll update this with C3-bu and Monogatari whenever I get around to them. And hell, maybe I’ll even catch up on the handful of Titan episodes I’ve been too apathetic to watch.

Uchouten Kazoku 9: Best show yada yada beautiful art yada yada resonant themes yada yada incredibly naturalistic storytelling etc. As always, the grace of this show’s composition and dialogue fall well beyond my ability to articulate, so I guess I’ll just say that this week’s episode finally brought the scale of the show’s final conflicts into focus. The election of the Nise-emon and the Friday Fellows’ New Year’s bash are clearly going to be tied together in this final arc, most likely through whatever secret plan the Ebisugawas are plotting. Once again, Yasaburou proved himself the begrudging but undeniably best-qualified leader of the family, his easy nature making him the perfect diplomat when it came to the Fellows, the professor, and even Kaisei. I’m eager to see how Benten will figure into this conflict, but at this point I mainly just want this show to be finished so I can buy it and force everyone else I know to watch it. Why do I watch anime? Because every year we get a handful of shows worth talking about and maybe one or two of these.

Gatchaman Crowds 8: Quite an episode this week. After the tumultuous showdown of last week, they follow it up by… visiting a preschool. That kind of works, in a thematic way. Which is how most of the stuff in this show works – it often feels like Hajime is having a direct conversation with the audience more than she is with any of the characters around her. Her actions make much more sense given our fuller context, her smaller choices are often reflective of the show’s overarching ideas, and she’s so flawless outside of her communication difficulties that her alignment with the show’s philosophy often verges on (and you could easily argue fully veers into) didactic storytelling.

But anyway, theme stuff. Visiting the preschool and appearing in human form is pretty much perfectly Hajime – she values communication between equals above all else, and uses this opportunity to redefine the Gatchamen as just another group of people trying to help out, like firemen or policemen. She also uses the media presence to take the power of crowdsourcing out of Galax’s hands and publicly announce what’s going on and how people can help out (credit to tundranocaps for pointing this one out). And then Sugane and OD have their whole on-the-nose conversation about the egoless play of children being like the joyful horizontal society Rui’s so goddamn excited about. So we push the story forward while also talking about all the show’s favorite ideas. Good stuff!

Incidentally, people are getting all excited about the first few hours of Gatchaman’s appearance on Amazon or whatnot, but it seems a little premature to be celebrating that. Honestly, I’d be pretty surprised if a show this completely dedicated to such esoteric ideas finds wide success, particularly since its visual aesthetic is so unabashedly anime, which I’m guessing is pretty off-putting to most people interested in discussing crowdsourcing, gamification, and the false prophet of leadership. But then again, Utsutsu of all characters recently came in the top four of a Japanese summer “best female character” poll, so perhaps once again the right show will get big sales for all the wrong reasons.

TWGOK S3 9: TWGOK is not really my kind of show, but at this point I’m extremely happy I’ve watched the rest of it, because the improvements in this season are just insane. Keima’s always been an entertaining protagonist, but this season has forced him to actually take his Lelouch-powers seriously, and this was the episode where it all came to a head. His denial of Chihiro was some legitimately devastating stuff – normally I get uncomfortable whenever anything haremy attempts to take its characters emotions’ seriously (because if if I’m taking them seriously, I also have to take seriously the fact that harems are fundamentally fucked-up, dehumanizing power fantasies with all kinds of demented ideas about relationships and power dynamics), but this episode actually let the hammer fall in a way no other harem would. No funny gags here – Keima’s actions, while ultimately intended to help people, have completely toyed with people’s emotions, and when you do things like this you suffer the consequences. This has been coming for a long time, but I was honestly shocked by how effective it was, and the strength of this moment by itself raised my estimation of the show overall. Congrats, Season 3.

Free! 9:

Yep, still watching Free. This week’s episode was actually one of the best (which admittedly isn’t saying much), with a bunch of great gags and some quite effective dramatic moments. My enthusiasm for this pretty lousy show kind of dwindles the more information we get on the fall show seemingly determined to prove what KyoAni are actually capable of, so for the sake of leaving my children a full set of derpy comedy writeups, I’m hoping it keeps up the pace.