Would it be hyperbole to call this the best week of the season? Don’t really see how it could be – sure, Gatchaman was hamstrung by its budget issues, but everything else… well…
Uchouten Kazoku 12:
Dear lord. Normally, this show soars as a quiet, incisive, beautiful character story filled with small moments of human connection and magic. This week the show said FUCK THAT, I’ma fly a drunk train across the moon. And it did. Yajirou’s redemption didn’t come in quite the way I expected (I figured he’d have to learn his father’s death wasn’t his fault), but either way it led to perhaps the defining shot of this show (and by extension the year) – the false Eizan Electric Railcar skidding off the rails and into the Kyoto sky, highlighted against the full moon. I mean, isn’t that the kind of stuff we watch anime for? Those “Naota swinging the bat” moments, where you realize ‘holy shit, this medium doesn’t need a Citizen Kane moment, it’s got little ones like these all over the place.’ Well, not technically all over the place. But they exist, and each one is a treasure.
Anyway, the rest of the episode was great too – Yasaburou’s satisfaction at seeing his brother out of the well was understated and heartwarming, and the family’s entrance into the New Year’s Bash was probably the best gag of the show. All the pieces have been assembled for the finale, which promises to tie up every narrative end in a satisfying series of revelations. I’m gonna miss this when it’s gone, but it’s also just really satisfying to see the end of a show so masterful and assured – to see the addition of a confident new work into anime’s canon.
Gatchaman Crowds 11:
Production troubles apparently continue with Gatchaman, meaning episode 11 was forced to be half a recap. Which actually wasn’t really too bad – I think this episode made the most of it, by shedding a little more light on each character’s journey as they monologued their way through their origin and turn. Yeah, most of this was pretty obvious to an observant viewer, but I do think it helped to humanize characters like Utsutsu and Jou, whose arcs in the actual show were really no more than bullet points. And the second half was extremely entertaining, featuring an indignant Prime Minister telling off the internet for being so very rude. People have been rumbling with doubts about this show being able to tie all its thematic threads together, and they have every reason to – I honestly doubt this show has the time or insight left to stick the dismount. But it was still an extremely entertaining and regularly fascinating ride, filled with great little moments of insight and never less than incredibly ambitious. I’ll be satisfied regardless.
Monogatari S2 12:
Oh man. What a great arc opener. That first, lavishly animated and chilling pre-credits scene. The tremendously focused direction, illustrating Nadeko’s claustrophobia and isolation with vivid, inventive aplomb. Her monologue, as lacking in self-awareness as it is relatable and sad. We even got to meet Ougi again, who took some time to spell out this arc’s themes before disappearing into whatever schemes she’s clearly got brewing. Pretty much every moment of this episode was a great Monogatari moment, making this perhaps the strongest arc-opening episode I can remember – the show’s careful and unique direction, simultaneous use of thematic understatement and overstatement, self-awareness, structural playfulness, disorienting way with voice, and unique twist on paranormal/psychological horror were all on full display. Episodes like this make me incredibly happy this show has become an institution.
TWGOK S3 12 FINAL:
After watching this episode, I was shocked and saddened and extremely satisfied. The show had shifted from a loving satire of anime character writing to a legitimately affecting character story, and it had done it while remaining witty and fast-paced and true to itself all the way. The last few episodes frankly constituted the best legitimate romance I’d seen all year.
Now, with a little more time to think about it, I realize these last few episodes make the show even more impressive – the way the actions of the characters lead to ruin basically serves as a more empathetically framed but just as powerful indictment of the entire harem genre as School Days ever did. From being a more or less literal god in a world where everyone obeys the rules of anime characters for the sake of gratifying happy endings, Keima has been reduced to a boy alone, crying on a bench because he hurt someone he cared about. His attempts to distance himself, to treat human beings as objects to be won, have not only left him alone, but they’ve even stolen what satisfaction he originally found in his safe, contained world. This is some legitimately gripping stuff.
…so yeah, my essay should be out some time in the next few days.
Big changeup for C3-bu, shifting from savage psychological drama to… cute girls doing airsoft things. Kind of abrupt, but I think it actually worked – Yura’s journey has been fully articulated at this point, so ending with a moment of legitimate youthful happiness kind of lets the audience breath a little. Instead of having her reunion with the group be dramatic and cathartic, they just let it play out naturally, letting the course of the episode shift from a nail-biting duel with Sonora to a silly, playful free for all with the whole club. Honestly, I’m a much bigger fan of the heavy psychological stuff, but this felt like a fitting end as well. Shame we didn’t get a kissu, though.
Hunter x Hunter 97:
And this episode wraps up our brief “Phantom Troupe kicks ass for twenty minutes straight” interlude. As I’ve said before, if other shounens were anywhere near this good, I’d be in real trouble.