What can I even say about this week? Everything got ridiculous. Everything got climactic. Everything got cathartic. I’ve dropped everything I was iffy on, and all the shows I’ve enjoyed are pulling off thrilling finales. Let’s get slobbery.
Kyousogiga 9: Last week’s episode had me somewhat worried – would the meaningless conflict with Shrine threaten to steer focus away from this show’s poignant character stories? Well, this week basically laughed at that fear, using a rambling speech by Inari to toss off some last bits of worldbuilding that simultaneously brought things full circle with Myoue. Yeah, Inari’s a selfish, childish dick – he’s the failed son, the one who danced away from his father and family’s expectations. And Myoue, who has for years been waiting for Inari to return to grant some meaning to his life, is confronted with the fact that his adopted father is a joke – practically a villain. After that, the rest is history – Inari gleefully spurs on the destruction of the Mirror City, the siblings Inari created to keep his son company end up offering more truth and solace than their father ever did, and Myoue decides to finally seize the reins of his own life, and protect the things that are dear to him. It’s all spinning together with style and assurance, and it’s looking like Kyousogiga will actually nail the dismount. It sure is nice seeing great shows end well.
Monogatari S2 24: Dear lord this episode. Structurally, it was a pretty standard Monogatari – two characters spend fifteen minutes standing in place and talking, then one character wanders somewhere else and talks to some other people. And as always in this arc, this episode was once again really funny – seeing Kaiki get flustered is adorable, and seeing Nadeko cheerfully discuss murdering Araragi is hilarious. But as far as its place in the larger Monogatari context…
Well, congratulations, Hanekawa. You have won the Monogatari. After three separate arcs, each focused on first denying and ultimately embracing some unwanted/unacknowledged aspect of your personality, you are now Monogatari’s first Self-Aware Protagonist. The last act of this episode was one of the most satisfying resolutions I’ve seen, and the choice to set this arc from Kaiki’s perspective was used to its best effect yet. Because from anyone else’s perspective, we wouldn’t be seeing Hanekawa – as has been true of every arc in the past, we’d be seeing the viewpoint character’s version of Hanekawa. But Kaiki sees Senjougahara as an insecure girl, sees Araragi as a unsavory creep, sees Nadeko as a pitiable child – he actually sees these people. And Hanekawa actually rattles him, because Hanekawa sees him too. When she repeats her signature “I only know what I know,” the camera freezes on her eye, Kaiki reflected in her stare. She has accepted who she really is – and that means that for the very first time, she can look out and see who other people really are, too.
White Album 2 10/11: Forgot to include this one last week, which actually works out okay because oh god Touma these two episodes were so sa-ha-ha-haaaaaad. Touma’s guard was finally broken by Haruki continuing to emotionally torture her, and it all came out. It’s almost funny to compare this flashback’s effectiveness to the ones from Kyoukai no Kanata – here, pretty much everything we now see was implied by Touma’s every action so far, but the full, step-by-step revelation of her loneliness and lack of self-worth was just devastating. This is drama done right – everyone’s made mistakes here, everyone’s been insecure or complacent or selfish at times, but it’s nobody’s “fault” – things just don’t work out sometimes. Everyone’s trapped by their insecurities, everyone’s a victim of their own weaknesses and the needs that define them. These characters are so well-written that I legitimately care at this point – I’m not just impressed, I want these fictional characters to find the happiness they deserve. This show is great. I hate it for being so true and so cruel.
Samurai Flamenco 10: Alright, I think I’m through the shows that emotionally ruined me this week. Whew. Let’s… okay, keeping it together.
This episode of Flamenco was totally batshit crazy while also being a perfect continuation of the themes so far. I can very much understand the issues of tonal disconnect people are having between the sides of this show (let’s crush Moe’s finger! now let’s do some buddy-cop comedy!), but personally I’m loving the bizarro world it’s creating, as well as how fully it’s exploring the ideas it started with. This episode was the “people die when they are killed” reckoning that’s been eluding our “heroes” for a while now, and while Hazama got away with just being forced to recognize both the questionable power of his philosophy and the necessity and worth of traditional law enforcement, Mari’s power fantasy joyride ended in a pretty brutal crash. She’s not a hero – she just plays one on television. Her arc is simple, since she’s never had a philosophy beyond seeking entertainment (another idea the show is clearly going places with) – Hazama’s complicated relationship with the practical realities of justice still has a long way to go. This was certainly a turning point, but I’m actually surprised people have been saying they think the series could end here. Yeah, they beat Torture (well, maybe – villains do have a habit of rising triumphantly from the grave), but we are nowhere near through with the ideas this show has been exploring. They can’t just leave it at “entertainment leads to desensitization, justice and law are never black and white” – those are truisms, and this is a smart show that seems interested in digging deeper, and really getting at how we turn the ambiguous mud of reality into sensationalism or simplistic narrative. I was sold on this show from the start, but personally I think it’s only getting better.
Log Horizon 11: A particularly slow, drawn-out episode in a series that’s kind of becoming known for them. I’m actually interested in the stuff about the Adventurers seeking peace/understanding with the People of the Land, but this episode had about five to six minutes of that interesting stuff and a whole lot of filler. Jeez, “filler” – that’s a word I don’t generally associate with stuff I’m willing to watch. Bad sign. Shape up, Log Horizon! I could not care less about your beach trip and summer camp!
Kill la Kill 11: Solid episode! The gags with Mako and the Elite Four were great, but this episode was mainly dominated by Nui and her string of plot-shoving revelations. Ryuuko’s war with Honnouji Academy has been rendered small-time as expected, and her scissor’s twin has finally been revealed! So yeah, mainly plot plot plot, which is exciting to watch but not too necessary to recap. I particularly liked Nui’s blatant disregard for the fourth wall – leaning on her own title, reaching across the split screen, and generally displaying little to no respect for the difference between artistic flourishes and reality. These last few episodes have really played up how much of this show is a deliberate performance, which gives me hope the show will soon return to more directly addressing ideas of representation. But even if not, it’s still a fun ride, and the music’s great. I don’t think I’m that hard to please!
Kyoukai no Kanata 11: This episode made me sad. Not because it was disappointing – it was actually fantastic, and featured one of the most well-orchestrated climaxes I’ve seen in anything this year. It made me sad because it was such a strong example of how good this show could have been, and how talented KyoAni actually are. The whole episode built wonderfully, and the use of the OP, as well as the juxtaposition of Mirai and Akihito’s separate battles, was inspired and confidently directed. I wish I cared. I even tried to force myself to care – I finished the episode and thought, ‘goddamn that was a good finale. Maybe it’s my problem?’ And then I actually rewound and watched it again. Still nothing – an impressive fragment of visual storytelling, but I didn’t feel a thing.
These last couple episodes have been really great. Hopefully, the next time KyoAni decides to make an actual drama, they actually include the character development necessary to make it land. Goddamnit KyoAni, just hire some actual writers. Everything else you do is best in class.
Nagi no Asukara 11: This show is moving! I am extremely impressed at the turnaround we’ve seen since the “find Akari the right necklace” momentum low point. At this point, the show apparently shares the confidence in its characters and relationships that I was pretty set on by episode five – plot points are progressing, relationships are shifting within small, efficient scenes, and the overall scope of the story is slowly broadening. The urgency provided by the coming catastrophe is lending weight to all the personal stories, and the fears of stepping out of time with each other the kids are grappling with are compelling as well. Perhaps most importantly, I feel the show is successfully conveying an overall sense of hopeless optimism about this whole situation – it seems like every cry of “we have to do something!” is really intended just to keep that hopelessness at bay.
Hunter x Hunter 109: The pre-battle reflection episode to end all pre-battle reflection episodes! But seriously. This episode was largely dedicated to building up the coming engagement and giving us a personal moment with each of our principal characters, and worked perfectly because the necessary work has already been done – our protagonists and antagonists are all really engaging, they all bring very distinct perspectives to the table, and they’re all invested in this battle in different ways. I know every single person covering this series keeps saying it, and that tends to diminish the weight of any one person’s words, but seriously – this is easily the best shounen arc of the best shounen series I’ve ever seen, it’s good enough to make any direct comparisons laughable, and it’s just one of the most entertaining and smartly plotted/directed things on television. Other shows have ups and downs, but since entering the Chimera Ant arc, this show has only impressed.