This was a surprisingly stellar week in anime, considering the best show of the season decided to have a live-action tea party. All three of my other favorites stepped up significantly, each showing off with their best episodes of the season to date. Let’s run those down!
Kill la Kill 7: Pure bliss. This show’s sense of humor and wild narrative abandon have always been big strengths, and though “throwing caution to the wind” seems like a weird way to describe any single episode of Kill la Kill relative to the rest of them, this episode really did feel even more manic, absurd, and self-indulgent than usual. The parade of ridiculous club captains, the Mankanshoku family’s absurd riff on the rags-to-riches shell, the delirious moral incoherence of the entire affair… but mostly, Mako. I’ll be sad if she really does get assassinated tonight, but goddamn will she have ended her run on a high note. Mako as conniving club president, taking the student council to task on their own system. Mako as grim generalissimo, standing tall in the best outfit the show’s yet invented. And Mako blubbering ridiculously at Ryuuko’s feet because FRIENDSHIP MOTHERFUCKERS. This episode was the Mako show, and the Mako show is glorious.
White Album 2 7: At last, the performance. The entire show has been building to this on both the overt and emotional front, and this episode absolutely nailed it. The performance itself, the various emotional exchanges on-stage, the way they wove in reveals like Setuna’s actual confrontation with Touma… all were handled beautifully. There’s very little to pick at with this show – it is so good at doing what it does, and so clearly defined in what it is, that I kind of just watch and nod. Setsuna’s confession has been building all along, but once again it’s Haruki’s attitude that really interests me. So far, it’s seemed to me like he’s basically been playing dumb about Setsuna’s feelings in order to get the performance off without a hitch. He’s clearly a smart person – the first episode goes out of its way to establish him as both mature for his age and not above using that maturity to manipulate people. He does it with a smile, and he doesn’t do it maliciously, but he seems to understand people well enough to get them to do what he wants. And Setsuna’s infatuation with him has been ridiculously obvious, and the ways he’s attempted to slow down that train equally so. Touma, on the other hand, he seems to legitimately admire – he’s regularly taken aback by her talents, he treats her as an actual equal, and the show went out of its way to imply he wrote his song about her. But now… he returns Setsuna’s kiss? Is he just in over his head, caught in his own lie of omission? He told Touma he sees “one of them as a girl and the other as a person” – what does that mean for either of them?
Anyway. Things are heating up in White Album, and this episode was great. Good/tragic times ahead.
Monogatari S2 20: Yeah, I cried. Fuck you. I really wasn’t enjoying this arc, either – I thought the tapestry episode was wonderful, but the episodes both before and after it were just parades of the pedo jokes and aimless banter I generally consider the fee you pay to enjoy Isin’s very distinctive storytelling and character writing. But this one… goddamn. The slow build towards the reveal, made even more tragic by its inevitability. Araragi’s shift from avoiding the truth to breaking down and denying it, one of his best character moments of all time (likely the best, actually). Their entire dialogue towards the end, selling both these characters in a much more honest, human way than ever before. The way it ties into Araragi’s personal arc, as well as the entire story’s fundamental deception – the casting of personal, unavoidable truths as fantastical demons to be defeated. Yeah, it retroactively justifies the arc. In fact, it knocks the entire season up to a 10 for me. In fact, in spite of all I’ve written about this show, it was in those last moments, with Araragi heading back towards his dead city as he says his final goodbyes, that I could first confidently say Monogatari is one of my favorite shows. It’s a beautiful, broken, creative, shambling monstrosity of strengths, weaknesses, passion, and madness. Love this show.
Kyoukai no Kanata 8:
Descending from the realm of basically perfect episodes, here we have a… perfectly serviceable episode. This one had a couple good gags, an unusual number of bad gags (spinster teacher joke, KyoAni? Really?), way too much stilted exposition, and a very entertaining second half. I liked pretty much all the side characters here (Sakura has shifted from revenge-happy antagonist to romance cheerleader in record time), and this episode actually had solid, underplayed flashbacks for both Akihito and Mirai, so this was a fine one on the character front. All the aesthetic stuff was excellent as always, and continued to prove that all KyoAni needs is an actual writer to hang their talents on. KnK continues to chug along, content to be aesthetically impressive, reasonably entertaining, and not much else.
Log Horizon 7: After all this cackling chessmaster talk, Shiroe’s master plan basically amounts to opening a lemonade stand? Feh! Considering how much they’re playing up his alleged scheming dastardliness, I’m hoping things get significantly more Machiavellian soon.
Samurai Flamenco 6: Those office supplies. Brilliant. The fight-commentator goon was what really sold it for me – his deadpan explanation of the merits of staplers and ballpoint pens struck just the right note of non-fear to make the scene. Not that Flamenco’s tools are useless – even if staplecuffs aren’t the most efficient crime-thwarting tools, that tape measure-sticky pad combo seems pretty handy. It was also great to see Flamenco legitimately win over his first believer – Goto somewhat sympathizes with Hazama’s feelings, but this guy has actually been shown the Strength of Justice, which must be a nice feeling for Hazama. The show also kind of leapt forward narrative-wise this week, rapidly establishing the Flamenco Girl Team, as well as a soon-to-be-official bond between the vigilantes and police. Which kinda makes me wonder where this fast-paced comedy is actually going – Flamenco has given me no reason to doubt its staying power, but I’m still very interested in seeing how it plans to fill two entire seasons.
Nagi no Asukara 7: I must have been very tired when I watched this or something, because this episode basically just swam right through my head. The kids made their thing, and… oh yeah, the adults acted like children about it. And our protagonists are leaving home! Shit!
Sorry. These are actually fine plot developments, but again, for some reason this one just didn’t stick with me. This episode was pretty focused on moving pieces around, so I’m looking forward to some consequences next week.
Golden Time 7: Fell behind on this. I might be done with this show, but I’ll see what people are saying in a few episodes.
Yozakura Quartet 7: Fell behind on this too, but there isn’t much risk of me dropping it – now that things are actually moving, the show is still dumb, but it’s an entertaining/endearing kind of dumb.
Hunter x Hunter 105: Dear lord this episode was good. The King’s internal struggle here was one more highlight in an arc that could probably just be described as a continuous series of standout moments. Easily, far and away the best arc of the best classic shounen I’ve seen. Dynamic storytelling, a diverse and vivid cast, all sorts of fun mini-arcs that actually dip into entirely distinct genres, Madhouse direction at its most confident… after 105 episodes, this show still finds new ways to impress and surprise me.