Welp, the season’s winding down and, as always, with it comes both rising tension in our favorite shows and a bracing awareness of our inescapable mortality. Let’s run down the list!
Kyousogiga 8: For me, this episode felt like the first actual stumble of this show. There have been less-strong moments in the past – the reprise of the ONA in particular, which moved the plot forward in a way that felt more obligatory than deeply felt. But that still involved the siblings clashing against each other, and so was still largely a reflection of the show’s fundamental emotional conflict. But the Shrine stuff here… eh. The first half was solid, and I loved the confrontation between Koto and the Monk. But outside of the Mirror Capital itself, most of the worldbuilding here feels very arbitrary, and all of the drama I’m invested in is related to the family’s internal dynamics, not their relationship to this larger structure. Still, there were a lot of good character moments even in that second half, and the cast has been established so well that pretty much any scene between any subset of the central family is charged with plenty of warmth and drama. The show’s last act isn’t quite matching the standard set by its first half, but even if it doesn’t reach those heights again, it’ll still easily be one of the best shows of the year.
Kill la Kill 10: Not the strongest Kill la Kill either, this week – it was perhaps the funniest of the non-gag episodes (which means it was extremely funny – stuff like Gamagoori and Mako bickering over the match in progress or Satsuki preaching her philosophy from the jungle gym was fucking gold), but it didn’t really wow me beyond that. Ryuuko’s fight with Doggy was straight-up underwhelming, and though Haruka’s VA made Nonon’s fight a joy to listen to, it wasn’t really that exciting in its own right either. This episode was probably just a victim of circumstance, really – it’s clear they’re trying to burn through this conflict in order to set up whatever the real conflict is that Satsuki’sactually preparing for, and combining that with the necessary plot hoops they needed to get through meant there just wasn’t enough time to set up really dynamic battles and mini-arcs. Still solid entertainment, though – a lesser Kill la Kill is certainly much better than most shows out there.
Monogatari S2 23: Now this was an episode. First of all, even if you’re not watching this show, check this shit out.Is that not the most beautifully ridiculous OP? Dear lord. They actually made a music video that perfectly represents both the core visual conceit of Monogatari (that the camera is always a biased liar) as well as the deadpan sarcastic senses of humor of this arc’s two central characters. And that singing… my god, Kaiki, at least try a little. So bad. So good.
Anyway, OP aside, this episode was great for all the reasons the rest of this arc has been great – Kaiki. Okay, that’s only one reason, but I’d say he is a man who contains multitudes… of good reasons to be watching something. His conversation with Senjougahara this week really put in stark relief how much of her normal confidence is just a fragile act, and having a character actually straight-out say Araragi’s just a big perverted asshole is an acknowledgment I’ve been waiting fifty goddamn episodes for. This arc will not satisfy my Kaiki cravings.
Kyoukai no Kanata 10: Good episode! Really good episode, in fact – an episode so structurally interesting and narrative-shifting that it makes me even more annoyed about this show’s earlier stumbling. If I had been invested in these characters earlier, this episode’s peaks would have landed like a goddamn thunderclap – but as I’ve said week after week, moe gags are no replacement for character articulation/development, and so while I’m impressed by this episode’s accomplishments, I’m not really touched by it beyond that. Which is a damn shame! This episode was great! The flipping between realities, the subtle emotional moments, the creative visual tricks, the climactic confession scene – all really well done! I’m probably going to give this series another run once the season’s over just to see if it works better with a fuller context, but as of now it feels like a frustratingly impressive basket of good ideas. The second KyoAni gets a strong writer on board they are going to make a goddamn masterpiece.
Nagi no Asukara 10: Another great episode! This is a show I’ve been lukewarm on for 4-5 episodes now, but things are finally happening! The (very slowly) approaching apocalypse definitely lent some urgency to the series, and many of the character moments here were just fantastic. Two particular ones stood out to me as indicative of how powerful this show can be when it uses its human focus to stab at universal ideas. First, in the classroom, when Hikari tries to sell his classmates on the urgency of this situation by telling them to “think of their grandchildren” – a statement about as useful as telling them to save the earth for the sake of the unicorns. And secondly, when Miura and her friend are making stickers or whatnot, and Miura is once again forced to recognize she won’t always have the people she loves. That’s some heartrending stuff, and the show handled it beautifully – I’m not sure all those episodes of SoL were really necessary to give these scenes the personal weight they needed, but they certainly didn’t hurt.
Samurai Flamenco 9: Holy shit this episode. So damn good. The early parts were fine, if somewhat unspectacular – watching Goto attempt to corral his spoiled superhero children is pretty amusing, and the speed with which the public has lost interest in the monsters definitely makes thematic sense. But it was those last few scenes that sold this, of course – King Torture, who has now successfully established himself as a cartoon villain, finally takes the gloves off. And in response, Samurai Flamenco experiences the most surreally cartoonish encounter possible. Stopped by Torture’s ineffectual lackeys, he runs out of patience for the charade, and basically straight-up says he doesn’t have time for this episode – only to be rebuffed by the dedicated lackeys, who claim they may be weak, but they’re still as passionate about torture as anyone. And as if to honor their dedication, Flamenco’s scientist friend arrives just in time to bequeath him a final weapon and hold off these goons while Flamenco goes on ahead. Man, I don’t even know what level of satire we’re operating on anymore – that scene was just note-for-note perfect, and somehow seemed absolutely appropriate even after Torture’s fairly severe “getting to know you” sessions. I’m fairly sure this is the funniest show of the year.
Log Horizon 10: Another episode maintaining this show’s very leisurely pace. I’m fine with that, actually – this show never really impresses and never really disappoints, it just keeps on chugging along. It’s kind of depressing to me that this and Golden Time are two of the most-watched shows of the season, considering some of the other shows on offer, but them’s the breaks – the average western anime fan is not here for Kyousogiga’s family drama or Monogatari’s direction. No use in whining about what people consume media for.
Hunter x Hunter 108: Although I will say that all these people watching mediocre stuff like Log Horizon or Attack on Titan really should be watching Hunter x Hunter, because holy crap this show is good, and it’s even the specific kind of good that audience could really sink their teeth into. This episode dug back into what has somehow become my favorite of this arc’s endless (seriously, there have to have been at least 40 of them this arc alone) subplots – the rich, captivating relationship between Komugi and the King. Enzo actually wrote possibly everything that needs to be said about this episode and the absurd strength of this adaptation in general, so I’ll let him do the gushing for me. But seriously. What a show this is.