I almost feel like this entire season has had an overall theme for me – entertainment. Normally, I only watch 3-4 shows in a season, but I actually find all of those shows stimulating in some way – involving some degree of give and take. Last season, Eccentric Family, Gatchaman Crowds, and Monogatari all actually engaged me, providing interesting ideas and conversations along with their great aesthetics. I wouldn’t finish an episode and think, “well, that was fun” – I’d actually be doing fist pumps about how great this medium is, and how well those shows were handling their ideas. This season? There’s an awful lot of sound and fury. Which is fine, for what it is, and I’m not saying every show is that way – intelligence is more than just thematic density, after all, and I think most of these shows are smartly written. In fact, maybe the difference here is that this season has a lot of strict entertainment in the styles that actually appeal to me, considering the glut of self-aware comedies and smartly constructed action/adventure shows and whatnot.
Maybe I’m just developing shit taste.
Kyousogiga 4: Might as well start with the one that most clearly bucks the trend. Kyousogiga might be a flashy, fantastical show, but it is damn smart – the writing, the worldbuilding, the direction, the characterization, all top notch. And this was one more great episode in an unbroken line of them, filling out Yase’s past and personality while also offering lovely, whimsical details like the Station Opening. My favorite moment here was Yase’s memory room – something about that blooming tree preserved in its little box just struck a chord with me, perfectly representing how this show uses fantastic imagery to portray utterly universal emotion. Nothing is coming close to Kyousogiga at the moment.
Kill la Kill 5: But there is much to be said for pure entertainment, too. This was a very solid episode, and I mean that more literally than usual – it was sturdily constructed and possibly a reliable template for the show going forward. This show’s aesthetic, energy, and direction are all obviously working in its favor, and I like the way this episode expanded its universe. Obviously the show’s problematic elements aren’t going away, but there isn’t really more to add on that front, and the show’s affection for its characters and aesthetic is as genuine as its inability to understand why exploitation can’t suddenly be labeled empowerment and magically turn into it. It’s kinda funny to me that a show so indebted to western influences can perfectly encapsulate so much of both what anime can do and what’s holding it back.
Kyoukai no Kanata 6: Easily my favorite episode of this show. I’ve had a somewhat bumpy relationship with this show for a while now, probably due to just wanting so badly for KyoAni to actually use their talents for a smart, resonant production, and this episode was just the kind of letting go episode I needed. It basically took all the expectations, grievances, and victories of the first five episodes and incinerated them in one giant, ridiculous, incredibly stinky fireball. I don’t think I’m going to care about this show anymore, but KyoAni sent off my investment in the greatest, silliest, funniest way possible.
Monogatari S2 18: Crap, another show that disproves my theme. Pretty defiantly this time, too – this episode was pretty much all style, one of those signature one-note episodes most shows wouldn’t risk, but Monogatari considers its stock in trade. Outside of the episodes where the one note is “Araragi and Mayoi talk about nothing for twenty minutes,” I’m generally a sucker for this kind of thing, and this episode was no exception – Shinobu’s story was compelling and beautifully told, and the interspersed shots of her and Araragi closing their physical/emotional distance offered a great personal counterpoint to her tragic narrative. And man, those murals! Gorgeous stuff. These recent arcs have been knocking it out of the park time and time again.
Golden Time 5: It took me a minute to remember whether I’d actually watched this week’s episode or not. Meaning it was about average for Golden Time.
Log Horizon 5: Here’s some entertainment, and just about as vanilla as they come. Log Horizon has been exploring its world well and has some likable characters. That’s really about it – if it actually explored purpose in a virtual world or something I might perk up my ears, but as-is, I’m fine to let it be largely charming and inoffensive. It’s an intelligent writer doing a thoughtful genre riff, which is a fine thing to be.
Samurai Flamenco 4: This show makes me giddy pretty much every week – it’s that rare anime comedy that just always lands for me. Which I think is a result of a bunch of elements, so I’ll try to run a few down. First, it’s just grounded enough for punchlines and physical gags to actually have some bite to them – most of its scenes actually help ground the world in a very physical, believable space, and so when things get silly, it’s actually a punchline, not just a silly gag in a series of silly gags. The characters are actually well-defined, and their silliness emerges from believable emotional places and desires, so again, it’s not just a series of insane things happening. It’s not just a comedy – the narrative is actually entertaining in its own right, the characters are clearly going places, and it actually toys with some real ideas (though lately those ideas have clearly been secondary to the humor). And it keeps changing up its variables, too – last week’s Red Axe and this week’s Flamenco Girl each offered both a very different dimension to the show and a very specific brand of humor, Red Axe with his great, earnest camp and Flamenco Girl with her abiding love of violence. And all this rides on the fact that it actually understands comic timing so very well – it knows when to draw a gag out, it knows when to quickly jump the narrative, and it knows when to have Flamenco Girl run back for just one more kick to the nuts. This show is good times.
Nagi no Asukara 5: I haven’t enjoyed 4 and 5 as much as the first three, but I guess that’s kind of to be expected – what I find really compelling about this show is its larger setting-based conflict, which is best articulated through characters like Hikari dealing with his own mixed feelings and the various prejudices around him. This stuff with his sister? Reasonably depicted, but not nearly as interesting. Obviously the fact that most individual people see cultural conflicts like this one on an individual scale and not a societal one is a reasonable point, but that shouldn’t limit theshow’s scope – what I’m most worried about here is that the show will squander its setting through too much focus on the more routine elements of its relationship drama. I don’t really have reason to be worried yet, though, and I’m hoping the advent of a new arc will steer the show in a more charged direction.
White Album 2 5: This show is excellent and you should be watching it. Ogiso’s conflict with Haruki this week was some brilliantly written stuff – this show’s dialogue just blows most romances out of the water. I’ve heard this season is likely only adapting the first of three chapters in this series, which I’m actually very happy to hear. Considering Kyousogiga’s greatness is a secret to precisely no-one, this is my clear pick for the sleeper star of the season.
Outbreak Company 5: This episode was pretty worrying! I think we’ve finished the first light novel now, meaning we could very well be steering off the “interesting cultural assimilation” course and straight into the “generic light novel pap” shipping lanes. I guess we’ll see.
Hunter x Hunter 103: Finishing off with the entertainingiest of the entertaining, here is a show that proves just how powerful and impressive pure enjoyment can be. It’s juggling half a dozen compelling mini-narratives, it’s employing a cast of around 15 key players with many more on the periphery, it’s dancing between action, tactics, suspense, and drama, it’s shifting genres and subverting standard tricks and being well-directed and creative and fun all the while. Hunter x Hunter is a remarkably entertaining show.