It’s kind of pointless to talk about this week in anime without addressing the gorilla in the room, so let’s get that out of the way first.
Samurai Flamenco 7: HOLY SHIT A GIANT GORILLA WITH A GUILLOTINE IN ITS CHEST. IT JUST CHOPPED THAT COP’S HEAD OFF. NOW THEY’RE BEING THREATENED BY A FLOATING DUDE NAMED KING TORTURE WHAT THE FUCK. Yeah, this week pretty much broke every rule of relatively grounded reality the show had established thus far. Which I thought was brilliant, actually – as an untelegraphed stunt and moment in anime-viewing history (twitter was a lot of fun that Thursday), I couldn’t be more impressed. It takes a certain kind of gutsy, awesome insanity to pretend you’re making one show for seven straight episodes (and a very good show at that! one of my favorites this season), and then veer madly into another show. Granted, this could actually be the first episode of the in-universe Samurai Flamenco TV series, or it could be even more of a copout, and end up being a dream/hallucination/whatever. But frankly, this show has been so good so far that I really just want this to somehow end up being the natural next step for the show – if they can actually spin this in a direction that doesn’t completely invalidate the ideas of adulthood, purpose, and justice the show has explored thus far, Flamenco could actually go down as a pretty legendary anime.
Kyousogiga 6: GUILLOTINE GORILLA CARES NOT FOR YOUR THOUGHTFUL FAMILY DRAMAS. Sorry. This episode was great! I’m not sure if I’d call it one of my favorites, because I don’t think the material from the original ONA is as strong as the current show (it veers too hard into weightless nonsense, and is more spectacle than insight or beauty), but the first half was fantastic. As fun and adorable as Koto is, Myoe is the pomegranate-seed heart of this show, and this episode managed to evoke an incredible sense of fear, claustrophobia, and loss through its presentation of his revival. The montage bookending that first half was touching as well, and the second half wasn’t even bad – in fact, it’s pretty impressive how much weight these last few episodes have lent the unveiling of Kurama and Yase’s trap. Myoe was once again the standout here – after five episodes of total apathy, it was heartwarming to see him so desperate to defend the one family member he himself chose. Personally, I’m kind of hoping the two Kotos share some alone time, because what I really want to see is what the three siblings think of each other now.
Kill la Kill 8: This week’s episode gave us a whole lot of information! Possibly too much information, in fact – I now know things about Gamagoori that I would have been perfectly comfortable never hearing. But the other information was great – I loved both the flashbacks this week, the episode managed to be constantly compelling without resorting to the drama theatrics of 6 or one-off insanity of 7, and most importantly, we received the most full articulation yet of Satsuki’s philosophy. Her character is all kinds of compelling, and though I find her philosophy more funny than insightful, it’s… well, it’s certainly funny. She actually seems to believe in a more coherent version of Randian Objectivism, and it still comes off as the batshit ravings of a self-obsessed lunatic. She despises handouts, and believes all power should come from the individual. She promotes laissez-faire battle royale-style “elections”, and declares that all people must prove they are more than pigs through displays of their own strength. She dismisses Gamagoori’s very reasonable counter of “that’s a really convenient philosophy for someone with incredibly rich parents” by basically saying “I CLAIM THEIR STRENGTH FOR MYSELF AND SO IT IS MINE,” which sheactually believes – and in fact, she really does seem to be trying to create an even playing field, where everyone’s internal strength will be the marker of their value. Which is of course one of the many failings of actual Objectivism – one of the best ways to ensure you remain on top of the pile is to make sure everyone else stays on the bottom, by doing stuff like cutting education spending and destroying the social nets necessary to give everyone a fair shot at prosperity. So I guess if “the weak shall fall into a pit of fire!” was an acceptable societal reality, and starting prosperity really was an even playing field, and every single person thought like Satsuki in that they wanted strong opponents to prove their worth, then maybe her philosophy would make a teensy bit of sense. As is… yeah, I’m just laughing and then sort of crying at the fact that actual politicians with real responsibility wave around Atlas Shrugged as if it were anything more than an embarrassing, adolescent ode to self-obsession.
Nagi no Asukara 8: That was a lot of politics talk for the fanservice show! To make up for it, this week’s episode of Nagi no Asukara was basically about nothing. The entire episode was dedicated to helping Miura acknowledge Akari as a member of the family, which was a conflict I figured we’d handled three episodes ago. Nagi no Asukara is doing pretty much exactly what I was worried it might – squandering its truly interesting ideas by focusing on routine elaborations of emotional conflicts we’ve seen many times before. And I’m actually all for this stuff about the family, but… it just doesn’t do much with it. The drama moves at a fairly glacial pace, and the characters themselves haven’t really risen above their roles in the story. Maybe Hikari developing so effectively early on gave me the wrong idea or something, because right now it feels like I could have skipped episodes 6, 7, and 8 and have been brought up to speed in a matter of 2-3 sentences.
Monogatari S2 21: I hate to say this, Kaiki, but I didn’t even know I missed you. Until that monologue started up, until your lazy theme song began punctuating your initial disavowal of any claims to honest reflection, I had forgotten you were one of the best goddamn characters in this series. But if it’s any consolation, I am fairly certain that’s not going to happen again. Because this episode was fantastic. Kaiki and Senjougahara, childishly sparring with each other in a game of liar’s one-upmanship, ending with Senjou in Groucho glasses and Kaiki in a hawaiian t-shirt. Senjougahara in general, another character clearly worthy of a rapturous apology-introduction, now angrily bartering with the prince of scoundrels. The jokes, the outbursts, the soliloquy. That goddamn soliloquy – another highlight for Monogatari, as the self-described swindler battles his own philosophy in order to justify one virtuous act. I was almost worried this season wouldn’t finish strong. Hah hah hah hah hah.
White Album 2 8: Oh god it’s so painful I can’t even watch. This show is murder – I can’t remember anyromance/drama that kept up such painful, nostalgic tension throughout. Which is all intentional, obviously – it’s a show about the idyllic days of youth that pretty much never takes the focus off how fleeting and fabricated those moments really are. And in that, it rings far more true than most shows – I can strongly remember those moments on the edge of adolescence, when every happy moment was tinged by regret, by the knowledge that it’ll never be like this again, and in fact already isn’t, not really, because the grim truth of an uncertain future is already coloring every smile and laugh. The show’s moments of overt unhappiness have been few, but this creeping sense of transience makes it feel like even actual unhappiness would be better – at least that could be fully honest, completely embraced. This show is killing me and I can’t stop watching.
Log Horizon 8: Log Horizon seems like it’s finally becoming a show I actively look forward to. I freaking love some solid glasses-pushing, and this episode was glasses-pushing city – according to the official keeper of spectacles, this week’s episode featured twenty-two glasses pushes! That’s some terminal density shit right there. And it was actually (maybe) warranted, too – this episode was all devious machination and underhanded bartering and cackling conspiring. I’d almost forgotten how entertaining a solid chessmaster MC can be, and it’s looking like Log Horizon is finally getting ready to remind me.
Kyoukai no Kanata 8: Not too much to say about this one. I’m an eternal sucker for romance, particularly KyoAni-style extra-adorable romance, so Sakura’s about-face transition from grim revenger to prodding matchmaker didn’t faze me in the slightest. I actually like our overall hero team, now that they’ve fully assembled – KyoAni are really good at establishing a group with a strong internal dynamic, so it’s kind of a shame that it took this many episodes for that chemistry to coalesce. Hopefully the Calm appearing already means we’ll get at least one Epic Quest with the entire Lit Club working together.
Hunter x Hunter 106: One hundred and six episodes in, and HxH pulls out a horror/suspense episode better than pretty much any I’ve seen in anime. The first thing I would compare it to would be Shinsekai Yori’s fantastic hospital episode – that too took one episode’s worth of time away from a larger conflict to tell one intimate, terrifying vignette, using some incredibly taut direction and very understated storytelling. This arc is a wonder.