Jesus, fourth episode? That’s a third of the season. So where are we at?
Well, in the middle of a big fight, I guess. But that’s not really what I meant.
This show’s doing alright so far. I like the world, and the way they’re depicting it, a whole lot. I think the direction here is solid – less powerful than KyoAni’s top shelf stuff, but still evoking a strong mood. I actually really like the way they’re handling the action scenes – people have been complaining they’re not very grounded, and while that may be true, I think they’re succeeding at conveying suspense and a kind of wonderment at the powers of this world. Plus I’m not a person who tends to give a shit about action scenes, so either way I have no problems there.
Most of the characters, too. I like Akihito, I like his dynamic with the literature club members, and I like the way the show handles dialogue exposition.
Really, it’s just…
It’s just Mirai.
She’s a problem. Though the scene was played according to pretty reliable beats, her “tragic reveal” didn’t really do anything for me, because I just didn’t care about her character. And why is that? Because she’s out of sync with everything else going on. Because her personality is threadbare and based largely on humor and tropes.
Because she’s too damn moe.
The scenes that should have been dedicated to characterizing her as a person worth caring about were instead largely dedicated to portraying her being clumsy and adorably tongue-tied. And that’s not a personality. That’s just a set of reliably profitable traits. And yeah, stuff like that certainly works in shows that are dedicated to nothing more than moe – but this is a drama. Or at least, it’s trying to be. And for a drama, you need a human connection – you need to build empathy through a well-constructed character before you drop the hammer. Adorable jokes don’t build character – adorable jokes are essentially narrative white noise. If the jokes reflected meaningfully on an actual underlying personality, that’d be a different story. But they don’t.
So anyway. Not the worst situation, and there’s still a lot of good here. And Mirai isn’t even really the worst – she’s certainly had glimpses of characterization, at least. But if I’m going to really invest in this story and these characters, KyoAni are going to have to do better than that.
Alright. Enough negativity – let’s clash some blood-swords.
0:28 – Man, the things KyoAni are good at, they are so good at. The little pauses here just make this conversation – it wouldn’t be half as strong if she aggressively avoided his question, instead of letting the camera just focus on her slow, resigned reaction. No other studio has the amount of confidence KyoAni does in letting their character’s small physical gestures tell the story
2:40 – Awesomely weird detail . I hope this show makes hipster scarves a default element of the Dark Flame Master aesthetic
3:18 – This show strikes a good balance between actual style and knowing parody . And in the most reasonable way, too – most of the show’s fundamentals (dialogue, direction, worldbuilding) support an actual investment in its story, whereas the silly stuff is generally the more overt choices (like that harpoon-spear-grenade launcher)
3:33 – The outer demon is constructing a maze of our inner demons? I’m sure we’re all shocked
4:09 – This isn’t a real answer. Really hope they give him more motivation than this
4:38 – Good. Very good. They’re actually going to address their immediate dynamic along with Mirai (and hell, possibly Akihito)’s past through this current demon. Hope it works!
6:55 – Dem horror movie tropes . This is some Event Horizon shit. Or whatever movie Event Horizon took this idea from. Or whatever book that took it from… Haunting of Hill House, maybe? Eh, whatever, ideas are cheap
8:46 – Quite an episode!
10:44 – Oh dear lord. They’ve distilled a new form of moe so powerful it may spontaneously morph into kittens
10:54 – I like that visual effect
13:11 – That’s what’s up
13:42 – It’s cool I’m good.
I was never really that invested in Mirai’s backstory stuff for the reasons I talked about, but this episode has certainly helped sell a connection between these two. So that’s a good thing
15:12 – Half-youmu’s a big deal! Looks like Akihito does indeed understand a bit about Mirai’s position. What does he look like to you, Mirai?
16:33 – A very big deal! Man, they’re really selling this – I feel much more invested in this than the Mirai stuff. And Mirai actually cares now, so she’s even improving by mere proximity. Good work
17:44 – And there it is. Moving things right along!
18:29 – Aw that’s freakin’ adorable. I’m a sucker for this stuff, I know. More cute desperation hugs please
20:01 – YOUR CHEAP TRICKS GODDAMNIT
Well, they’ve blunt-forced me into liking these two. Well played, you fuckers
21:18 – Yeah, they’re a cute. That’s all I really need – moe won’t get me, but a believable cute couple? Fuck if my defenses are ever prepared for that
21:42 – That’s the stuff
23:12 – WHAT. YOU DICKS.
Goddamnit KyoAni, you got me good. I was kind of mechanically interested in the first third of that episode, but everything from Akihito’s near-possession onward completely worked for me. And their attempts to contain his youmu side->her stopping him->that cute final scene was all basically my kind of kryptonite. Good couples being adorable together all day erry day.
Not that it was purely my own easily-abused sentimentality that made all that stuff work. Using Akihiko’s heritage to both create conflict like this and establish a legitimate bond with Mirai was a choice so strong and obvious I really should have already been talking about it. And it even makes Akihito’s earlier behavior much, much more understandable – there’s always a degree of distance between him and his other friends because he knows he’s largely a time bomb to them, and so he naturally latches on to the other outsider, the one who clearly doesn’t see him as a threat. That’s some really solid work.
It might be difficult to keep this professional from here out, since when KyoAni’s romance stuff works for me, it really works for me – if I’d been writing stuff like this during the second half of Chuunibyou, it would have likely consisted of a series of giggles and gurgling noises. We’ll see if I can keep it together.