This season has way too many shows. It needs to stop that. Stop having shows.
Kill la Kill 2: An unsurprisingly solid and ridiculous episode of Kill la Kill. The manic comedy side of this really works for me, which is a rare thing in anime – the expressions are great, the disconnect between the high school setting and the operatic plotting (“your mighty sewing club will lead us into a new age of human development!”) is great, and there’s a dog wearing a hoodie who gets a dramatic title frame introduction. This week also barreled through a ton of exposition in a way that made it seem as action-packed as the rest of it – first we got the extremely efficient flashback introduction of Senketsu, and then we got that beyond-absurd scene with the Mysterious Stripping Homeroom Teacher. I should take a moment to try and discuss this show’s more problematic elements, but I honestly don’t even know what to say – beyond the obvious “what the fuck were they thinking” rape jokes (two in one episode… goddamnit Trigger), the fanservice is just so over-the-top that I can’t even tell if it’s trying to be sexy or just ridiculous. Nothing in this show is grounded – it’s all absurd, it’s all nonsense, you’re not supposed to take anything seriously. The story seems like it will actually be well constructed, but this show succeeds largely because it has infinitely more style and energy than anything else out there. Row row fight the powa.
Kyousogiga 1: I still need to watch this week’s Kyousogiga, and that’s not a “well, better get around to that” kind of need, that’s a “THIS IS THE SHOW OF THE SEASON WHY AREN’T YOU WATCHING THE DAMN THING” kind of need. This show’s first real episode was fantastic – creative and heartfelt and really nostalgic in its storytelling. It felt like a classic fable, but all the dialogue was sharp and punchy, and the whole thing flowed beautifully. Now I actually care about this strange, broken wonderland they’ve created, and more importantly, I care about Myoe, our possible new protagonist. His desire to grow up and move past this place is strongly relatable, and his characterization even within this one episode revealed a complexity I’m really excited to see explored. I’d say that this show probably has the greatest potential of anything I’ve seen this season.
Nagi no Asukara 2: This show remains strong in all the ways the first episode was strong. It’s beautiful, it’s grounded in some really promising racial/societal themes, and it’s based around adolescents who actually seem like adolescents. So far it’s been thoughtful and personal and well-paced, and the inner conflict of the primary male protagonist is a really compelling battle of tensions. He’s proud of his heritage, but he’s not trapped in it the way his parents’ generation is. He’s emotional and quick to anger, but he can also see the good in these people he’s coming to live with. But his anchor is his relationship with his childhood friend – a girl he’s beginning to have much more complicated feelings for just as she begins to step into her own as a person, embracing the new world he’s only tentatively engaging with. And the fear of losing her pushes him back, because his rational open-mindedness can’t really hope to match his emotional insecurity. It’s well-portrayed, it’s relatable, and it ties all the show’s goals gracefully together in one single character. Great work so far.
Kyoukai no Kanata 3: Hm. Hmm. Hmmmm. I enjoyed this episode as I was watching it, and the show is certainly professionally produced, but I’m feeling less happy about it the more I think about it. I like the world. I like the direction. I like the banter between the siblings and Akihito. But… Mirai. She’s a real serious problem. KyoAni are trying to have their cake and eat it too, here – they want to make an actual drama, but they also want to shoehorn in all these scenes of a derpy girl acting moe and helpless. And it just doesn’t work – I have nothing against scenes of silliness, but “clumsy” and “bad at lying” are not a personality – when they waste this much time on shoveling moe into the trough, there just isn’t enough resonant personality for the actual dramatic stuff to land. I need to care about her character before they start in with the tragic stuff, and establishing that empathy requires more actual personality than they’re willing to give her.
I dunno. I’m still enjoying the show, but… KyoAni, you can do better than this. I know this shit sells, but please don’t poison your shows with actual potential by splitting the difference between drama and moe.
Golden Time 2: Better than the first episode, by which I mean I’d still probably drop it if not for the Toradora pedigree. There were definitely a couple scenes I liked here, though. In particular, I really liked the exchange between the two main male characters in their apartment – I understood both their positions, and their clash seemed to be the result of two reasonable people with naturally contrasting personalities and priorities. And they talked it out! That’s good – that’s the Toradora stuff, where characters actually behave reasonably based on their personalities, and things actually develop. But man… so many scenes just felt like wasted time. The setting, aesthetic, and direction are all extremely flat, and the humor is tired and dull. Those bright moments will probably keep me watching, but I’m certainly not happy about it!
Log Horizon 2: This show is just very solid entertainment for me. I like the main characters (though those “comedy” segments in the guildhouse can die in a fire), they’re actually using the setting in fun ways, and the writing is snappy. The visual aesthetic is nice. It’s moving along quickly. I’m also always a fan of a good “mastermind” character, and this show’s MC seems like a far more realistic version of that than we usually get – he’s not incredibly brilliant, but he’s a solid analyst, he knows the game well, and he’s actually pretty emotionally intelligent too, which colors his judgments in a satisfying way. In particular, I really liked that moment when once they had settled into an understanding of the situation, he immediately thought “well, what’s life actually worth here?” It’s true – they are trapped in wonderland, and obviously this will lead to questions of purpose. Games can be fun, but they are often fundamentally an escape from the things that define a life – when you’re actually trapped in a game, what are you living for? It’s a pretty pointed question to raise in episode two of a 2-cour “trapped in an MMO” narrative, and though this episode provides an easy answer, I’m hoping the show will continue to explore the search for a satisfying one.
Monogatari S2 15: What an episode! I’ve raved plenty about how much of an improvement this season has been, but seriously. I loved that tense hostage-negotiation opening, I loved Nadeko’s languorous unraveling through the center, and I loved Senjougahara’s efficient slap of an ending. It was beautiful and frightening and tense – a very fitting end to this arc’s long, slow burn. Nadeko basically creating the snake herself was pretty much a given for me, but I found the extent of Ougi’s meddling very interesting – unlike her mocking awareness from the last arc, this time she seemed intent on actually playing the antagonist. This was a solid finale to the third standout arc in a row, and I can only have high hopes for whatever comes next.
…although I have heard it’s a Mayoi-heavy arc. Bleh.
White Album 2 2: White Album continued with its strong writing and characterization this week, with our female MC actually kinda aggressively pursuing the protagonist. Haruki himself is a very interesting character to me – he’s fairly driven, probably a bit mature for his age, somewhat manipulative, but also sometimes spontaneous, too. In short, he’s actually a character you could understand people falling in love with, which I’m kind of depressed to acknowledge as noteworthy. Ogiso is also pretty unusual, for a couple reasons. First, as she herself admits, she’s normal – emotionally stable, good home life, successful at school, feels kind of guilty about her own easy circumstances. And second, she’s actually pursuing Haruki, and pretty aggressively, too. This all makes for much more compelling character interactions than I’m used to, and is really great to see.
I do have to note this episode’s crazy-ass finale, though – what possessed Haruki to climb out the window in his attempts to meet the mystery pianist, as opposed to, you know, banging on the door… jeez. And the pianist’s one-liner when she catches him… yeah, that’s some shit. I laughed, and actually enjoyed it, but that moment was absurd.
Yozakura Quartet 2: I like the world this show’s setting up, and I like the interplay between the characters, but it still hasn’t really stood out yet. I think my main problem is the conflict brewing just seems so uninteresting – while the racism stuff might hold interest, and the various relationships between the characters seem charged, I have no interest in watching our heroes fight a generic dastardly villain. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’m actually enjoying the show either way (that world goes a long way for me), so I guess I’ll be there to find out.
Galilei Donna 1: This episode was absurd. Possibly a good kind of absurd, but that remains to be seen. I like the visual aesthetic (although the bad guy’s crazy anime ensemble is really at odds with everyone else’s tasteful appearance, giant-hair-curls aside), and I like the mix of characters, but it was mainly silly nonsense throughout. That could be good! Have to wait and see.
Samurai Flamenco 1: Now this could be going places. I love the aesthetic on this one, I really like the dynamic between the two protagonists, and it could definitely be heading to interesting territory thematically. I mean, the main points are obvious – the contrast between simplistic ideas of justices and the realities of policework, paralleled by the contrast between youthful ideas of life purpose and the harsh necessities of adulthood, tied together through that idealizing of childhood heroes regardless of their practicality. I like that. I really like that. This show has a solid thematic direction, a strong aesthetic platform, and a really good director at the helm. I’m fairly confident it’s going to be very good.