Nothing too out of the ordinary this week. The season has settled – the good shows are very consistent, the bad shows have been dropped, and those in the middle are 2-cours, hopefully building towards something noteworthy. Running it down…
Kyousogiga 7: Like last week’s episode, this Kyousogiga was an episode of two very distinct halves. In the first half, we had the conclusion of the original ONA’s glorious reunion. The siblings reacted pretty much as expected – Yase with childlike glee, Kurama with questions as to the implications of Koto’s return, and Myoe with general shock and a little resentment. The real killer this week was the second half, where Koto’s nighttime walk from episode 2 (still one of the highlights of the sea… no, of the year) was directly mirrored in a quiet, heartfelt talk with her mother. In spite of this being a show so full of visual energy and busy worldbuilding, it’s always these intimate, personal moments that stick out – Myoe’s slow acceptance of his revival, Yase remembering the significance of her treasures. They are what make this show true. They are what make this show great.
Kill la Kill 9: And veering wildly away from emotional truth, here we have an episode where Ryuuko battles a masochistic tentacle-wielding student council member equipped only with a barely-there sailor suit and a giant scissor. And it was certainly a good time! Unlike last week’s episode, which demonstrated this show’s underlying intelligence both through making the most of an exposition-filler and through an exploration of Satsuki’s philosophy, this episode was a shounen barn-burner in the classic school. Ryuuko fights a wacky opponent, that opponent’s signature powers have Ryuuko on the ropes, Ryuuko gathers strength from her friends and unveils a new power, Ryuuko defeats that opponent in a somewhat clever and ability-relevant way. I can’t say no airing show does this better (because Hunter x Hunter is airing, and Hunter x Hunter makes other shounens look ridiculous), but Kill la Kill certainly does this very well. Personally, I’m kinda ready for whatever this show will unveil after the Elite Four go down (because this show’s politics and comic relief episodes are actually my favorite things about it), but I’m not complaining about straight action if it’s this energetic and well-directed.
Monogatari S2 22: Kaiki you goddamn beautiful bastard. How do I love you? Let me count the ways. 1. Your internal monologue is fantastic: full of personality while still dry as hell, completely different from any of the other characters, continuously indicative of both your overt grouchiness and underlying sympathies. 2. You provide an entirely new (adult! (!!!)) perspective on the world of Monogatari, showing the town and other characters from a viewpoint (and thus visual perspective) totally new to this series. 3. Your conman dialogue and mannerisms make for great plot fodder, pushing the story in directions it couldn’t go with any other character. 4. You’re stylish as fuck. 5. The fact that you set yourself up as so untrustworthy makes the new truths your perspective is providing seem even more poignant and Monogatari-unreliable-ish. 6. Your dynamic with everyone is the best. Holy shit that conversation with Nadeko – almost pitying her, wondering what the fuck Araragi is doing to these people, straight-up calling her out on being creepy as hell. 7. Did I mention how much goddamn style you have?
This arc is the best. This is actually the first time I’ve considered Monogatari legitimately funny – and it is really funny. It’s hard not to just smile through these episodes, and actually pick apart the smart stuff they’re doing, because Kaiki makes everything so enjoyable moment-to-moment. Kaiki for president.
White Album 2 8: And on the other end of watchability, we have White Album 2, which is so believably tense and fraught with drama that it’s actually agonizing to watch. I wrote a little bit about what a friggin’ great character Haruki is (in a writing sense, he’s actually kind of a dick person, but kids will be kids) earlier, so here’s that:
I think Haruki’s one of the most thoughtfully portrayed teenagers I’ve ever seen. Touma’s a perfectly fine character, and Ogiso’s pretty impressive in her own right, but he is just fantastic. Conflicted, kinda selfish, used to controlling social situations, out of his depth here, unable to square what he truly wants with his obligations and tendency to blankly accept the choices of others. His own emotional timidity, as well as the fact that Touma legitimately intimidates him, has naturally led to a situation unfair to all of them.
This show is sharply written dramatic poison, and it is killing me.
Samurai Flamenco 8: Screw comic realism – we doubling down, bitches. So yeah, we’re doing this. As various people have pointed out, this show has always trended towards a tenuous kind of realism, what with staplechucks being effective crime-fighting tools and all that. But staplechucks are one thing, and veering the show into a world where evil Power Rangers villains are real is quite another – a line has clearly been crossed. Not that I’m complaining – the show is still hilarious, and I actually think this transition works really well to highlight the inherent ridiculousness of Flamenco’s ethics. The show has always had an understated thread (very understated, this is a comedy more than anything) of criticism regarding how little binary ethics have to do with the real world – now that gap has become overt, with characters like King Torture in my mind being a pretty sharp metaphor for how people who talk in terms of “the criminal element” or “the war on drugs” view the world. They don’t see systemic societal issues that require actual change – they see a terrifying Other lurking out there, waiting to pounce on good god-fearing citizens. I think that’s actually pretty brilliant – my actual worry for this show is that the transition to full-on fantasy will rob it of any human resonance. When I see Flamenco’s manager sternly pondering the true identity of Flamenco just after HER BUS GETS HIJACKED BY A MECHANICAL RHINO HOLY SHIT, I start to lose my suspension of disbelief regarding the emotional truth of anything these characters feel. Whether it’s possible to square these issues, or whether the show will simply continue to sell its own new reality in a way that successfully reframes my connection to these characters, I guess I’ll have to see.
Kyoukai no Kanata 9: Well, this week certainly had some fights. Those were fun! I thought the initial battle between Hipster Hair and Big Sis had a tangible sense of weight to it, and I thought the direction of the ending bout was pretty evocative. In between… well, in between there was a long segment where the audience was supposed to care about Mirai’s inner turmoil. So yeah, that was a wash. But hey, maybe next week we get to see whether secret assassin Mirai is any less bumbling than KyoAni moe thing Mirai.
Nagi no Asukara 9: Once again, I find myself struggling to remember what even friggin’ happened in this episode. Something… something exciting happened in the second half. I vaguely remember the first half being more stasis… then… oh shit right. Right, the town’s under lockdown. Good! That should push things forward. And holy shit Hikari got really possessive! That was actually excellent – the whole episode built the rising tension towards that breaking point really effectively, and it’s great to see him struggling so much with his own resolutions. Saying you’re going to do the adult thing and support your friend is one thing – but seeing her grow into this fantastic person, all while still harboring these feelings that you can’t even really tell anyone about? Something had to break, and I think it was handled nicely here – no theatrics, just a real moment with the two of them. Hopefully both of these events will reignite my enthusiasm for this show – it’s a show I want to like, and even if I’m not regularly enthusiastic about it, it’s still doing many things right.
Log Horizon 9: Definitely enjoyed this episode. There was too much catching up the rest of the class (did they really need to explain his one-move checkmate’s repercussions in such detail?), but the main things I liked here were the cutthroat politics of this show. Shiroe opened with ideals, shifted to practicalities, and eventually had to raise his stick – as much as many people would like a stable society, this was going nowhere without an actual show of force. That resolution actually made this episode somewhat less interesting to me than the last one, which was more about actual bluffing and give-and-take – here, Shiroe could have very well opened with “I control the economy. Agree to my demands,” though obviously his society wouldn’t be particularly stable if every single guild resented him. But yeah. Entertaining political cynicism. I like.
Outbreak Company: Fallen a few episodes behind on this, and I’m not compelled to pick it back up. Everything after the establishment of the school has been light novel shenanigans – if that’s your thing, cool, but I’m just here for the hilarious idea of otaku cultural imperialism. If the show’s run out of things to say, I’ve run out of reasons to watch.
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta: I’m apparently an old OVA and an episode behind on this, but I’m not worried. It’s light, it’s fun, it’s got some great animation. I watch one whenever I’m in the mood for popcorn.
Golden Time: Let me know if the second half redeems it or something.
Hunter x Hunter 107: I actually haven’t watched this one, either, and that’s a goddamn capital offense. Based on my twitter feed I’ve got Killua manservice and octopus moe to look forward to, so it’s apparently going to be quite the episode!