Another fantastic week in anime, but when the current season has a bewildering buffet on the scale of three good shows, that tends to happen. All three of my favorites were in top form this week, so let’s run down the list.
Monogatari S2 9/10: Caught up with Monogatari this week, which turned out to be kind of a good thing – this arc divides very cleanly into a first, comedy-focused (ehh) half, and a second, zombie-apocalypse-focused half (sweet). Not that I enjoyed these episodes because of anything as boorish and pedestrian as zombies (I’m kidding, zombies are sweet) – this was just a really great, exciting, dynamic pair of Monogatari episodes. Portraying Araragi’s home town as a post-apocalyptic wasteland allowed for some incredibly beautiful designs, and this time it seemed they paid particular attention to the use of color in conveying both emotional changes and different physical spheres. There were standout shots throughout, such as the contrast between the original desolate city and the pink-and-green hued wonderland that appeared when Araragi learned Hachikuji survived (as well as the entire showdown with Kiss-Shot-Cherry-Tomato-Half-Off-at-Macys or whatever).
We got to meet adult Hachikuji, as well as the aforementioned Cherry-Tomatoes. And we thoroughly explored the strange, heartfelt relationship between Araragi and Shinobu. This whole arc was constructed like a whimsical buddy cop film the two of them were bantering their way through, and it led up to a conclusion that was actually quite affecting – however Araragi feels about the rest of his quasi-harem, him and Shinobu are the ones stuck together, and this arc emphasized the fraught loneliness of that arrangement. Shinobu began this arc by warning him she might betray him if given too much power, but I don’t think the Shinobu or the Araragi we see at the end would think of crossing the other. They also talk like friends, which is kind of a unique thing in this series – most conversations are just too dramatically heightened to come across as real, but these two talk easily, without the over-polished wit-knives that define most of Araragi’s conversations.
Incidentally, apparently Araragi’s head-pats are one of the most powerful forces in the universe. That’s two arcs in a row resolved by head-pat. Hm.
Gatchaman Crowds 9: What an episode! I’d have been content with all the scenes of Rei finally joining the heroes, but then Hajime had to go and say, “If JJ’s anything like god, he’s not going to do anything.” You sure know the way to my heart, girl. And then Sugane straight-up flips off JJ, finally declaring that the time of arbitrary leadership and prophecy is over, and now the people will make their own future. Awesome portrayal of his character turn, and awesome moment in its own right. Plus Hajime decides the way to stop Katze is to create a Gatchaman Youtube channel and answer questions from the fans. Brilliant. I love how this show has completely considered and then moved beyond “is social networking and crowdsourcing a good thing?” and instead seized upon the much more relevant position “social networking and crowdsourcing are a thing regardless of how you feel about them. All we can do now is adapt to the world we live in.” Plus all those moments of Hajime good-naturedly abusing Pai… man, this was a fantastic episode. This is a fantastic show. Really hope this one succeeds.
Uchouten Kazoku 10:
Oh god, speaking of fantastic episodes. The hammer finally came down on our family with a vengeance. Literally with a vengeance – this episode was basically the ultimate fruition of Soun’s revenge on his brother for stealing the life well-lived he wanted for himself. The full details of So’s betrayal were revealed, complete with Benten’s willing participation. And the rest of the episode was given over to first ominously foreshadowing and then solemnly executing the capture of the Shimogamo family. Ironically, it was the brothers’ sense of familial responsibility that led to both Yaichirou and Yasaburou’s capture – by using the Thunder God Fan to summon a storm, the Ebisugawas forced both of them to race home to their mother, making them easy to predict. This was yet another gorgeous episode in a show where that basically goes without saying, with a bunch of beautifully composed symmetrical shots and some great new color tones courtesy of the sky-blotting Thunder God. The visuals really ground in the weight of the moment, even if Yasaburou’s conversation with the ever-cheery Yajirou hadn’t done that work. It seems like it could be up to the satellite characters to save the family now – Kaisei, the professor (who’s possibly owed one more flashback episode regarding his injury), Yajirou, or even Benten (whose motives and plan still have yet to be revealed). It’s already the day of the election/New Year’s bash with three episodes to go – I can’t wait to see what cards this show still has up its sleeve.
Well, those are the three shows that basically define this season for me, but I might as well run down the rest of them.
TWGOK S3 10: The World God Only Knows is stuck with the singular misfortune of airing in a season with three shows I consider justifiable classics. This is unfortunate mainly because this season has actually been very good – it has far and away surpassed its self-aware comedy roots, and has built to some moments of true dramatic or emotional import. This episode was not one of those episodes – it was a workmanly ‘push the plot forward’-style episode, connecting the dots between the show’s Best Moment of All Time last week and a second confrontation next week. But this show is solid even when just going through narrative motions, and the gags were strong as always. Just being an anime comedy I’d recommend is honestly a pretty ridiculous feat, so keep it up, TWGOK.
Free! 10: There is very little to say about this show because this show does very little. This week was fine – a couple of the jokes were funny and the flashback was efficient and well-used. But man oh man can I not wait for this mediocre sports tripe to be replaced by Kyoukai no Kanata.
Hunter x Hunter 96: I think it’s 96? Anyway, this episode was fantastic, and this show is fantastic, and if you like action or adventure or popcorn in general you have no excuse not to be watching it. This week started with a beautifully animated and extremely well-composed fight between the speed Chimera and two of the Hunter Association heavyweights, continued into the chilling reveal of Kite’s current shell of a self (a shounen that actually lands its emotional moments, holy shit), and finished by proving Gon’s ample murder-happy resolve. It’s a good thing there aren’t more shows like this in the Code Geass school of popcorn done right, because I’d never get any work done.
So yeah, I’m satisfied with this week in anime. No complaints about this season at all.