Somewhat busy with family time at the moment (I got nice things!), but not so busy I can’t run down a tumultuous week in anime! Shows ending, shows immolating, some satisfying finales and some dramatic lead-ins to second cours. Presents for everyone this holiday season.
Kyousogiga 10: Kyousogiga did it. I was worried a couple episodes ago – worried the show would start focusing on its world-destroying conflicts, worried the family story would get lost in the shuffle. Well, this last episode featured a long, enlightening discussion between the parents, a heartfelt plea from sister to brother, a surprise appearance by grandpa, and a joyous reunion between three generations of gods. This finale was family as fuck. And so yeah, it worked – Koto’s definition of love ended up bringing both her brother and her father back from the brink, and the whole godhood issue ended up being a very neat metaphor for the general expectations and insecurities parents instill in their children. In retrospect, perhaps my favorite thing about the finale was how few answers it actually provided. When Myoue wishes to kill himself, he’s brought back not by a sudden infusion of purpose, but because his sister doesn’t want him to go away. When Inari asks what purpose he serves in living, his father replies “what’s wrong with just living?” The show refuses to diminish itself with optimistic platitudes – it simply says that family involves both selfish and selfless love, and displays the joy of family not through an overt declaration or character shift, but through the many beautiful moments scattered throughout.
Anyway. Wonderful show, clearly one of the best of the year, would be one of the best in any year. Happy to see it finish strong.
Kyoukai no Kanata 12: That wasn’t very kind of me, was it? Putting KnK right after Kyousogiga? Well, this finale deserves it – deserves any and all vitriol you could possibly think to spit at it. Holy shit was it a mess. A glorious, egregious, kind of insultingly manipulative and amateurish mess. A series of meaningless fight scenes with no weight or purpose whatsoever. Perhaps some of the worst-directed action sequences I’ve ever seen. Characters literally stating their motivation because they’ve been so underserved by the show so far that otherwise their presence would be meaningless. Other characters establishing meaningless reveals with no actual emotional relevance to the story, baiting a sequel the show clearly doesn’t deserve. Other characters simply not being addressed at all, and apparently forgotten by the narrative. A rapid-fire sequence desperate to add themes the show never explored, followed by a Key-level undramatic farewell. Topped off with a saccharine, insultingly contrived deus ex machina epilogue.
Frankly, I loved it. If this week had an APR, this episode would be on it – I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder or more continuously at a work failing so consistently in such a wide variety of ways. The last couple episodes of KnK had a bunch of legitimately strong material, but this… this was a masterpiece of fail. I’m still kind of stunned it even exists. Congratulations KyoAni, after this consistently awful year, I no longer expect good things from you at all.
Samurai Flamenco 11: Screw Kickass, we Sentai now. I was just getting used to our post-Guillotine Gorilla reality, too – sure, it was no longer possible to really take the characters seriously, but it was still grounded often enough to strive at actual points about desensitization, the false simplicity of heroism, and media culture. But this episode was just a lucid fucking dream – an actual sentai reality, played entirely straight, complete with secret robots sponsored by the government and an alien menace that shoots music videos for its own villains. Personally I found this episode pretty hilarious in a “holy shit they’re really doing this” kind of way, but I can certainly see why people have been jumping ship. This episode was about nothing and featured no human beings – it was pure, unvarnished comedy. Which is fine, but the show didn’t start out that way. The show will of course return to something closer to the characters and reality it originally established, but every absurdist flourish makes anything grounded that much harder to square. I’m incredibly interested in seeing where they go from here, and that’s not all schadenfreude – I think they can write themselves out of this mess, and now I really want to see how they do it.
Monogatari S2 25: Another fantastic episode of one of my favorite shows featuring all my favorite characters. Hanekawa further proved how far she has come from her initial appearance, winning over Kaiki with the ease of actual self-assurance. Kaiki and Senjougahara shared another sniping conversation, with her insecurity and his general Kaiki-ness resulting in adorably hurt feelings on both sides. And Kaiki was actually (possibly) broken down by Ononoki – his current determination revealed to be an attempt to make up for past mistakes. Kaiki’s only proven more fascinating as this arc has progressed – in spite of his general deadpan swagger, he’s shown a variety of feelings towards Senjougahara, Hanekawa, Nadeko, Nadeko’s parents, and anyone else who’s crossed his path. Though he plays the callous deceiver, it seems Gaen’s view of him as the most sensitive of the professionals might be closer to the truth – if his own words can be believed, it’s the fact that someone as vulnerable as Senjougahara can make it in the world that makes it a place worth inhabiting. That kind of emotional honesty is the sort of thing you often get from characters just before they die, and Kaiki’s certainly in a tight spot at the moment – I’d really prefer to follow him on further adventures, but if he does die here, it will be the capstone of a standout arc in the Monogatari canon.
Log Horizon 12: Remember when I could barely remember what happened in episodes of Nagi no Asukara? Log Horizon is like that, except it’s not just that it doesn’t appeal to me, it’s just mediocre material. Surprisingly, it was the Adventurer Kids Club journey into the big cave that actually worked this time – it wasn’t great, but it actually played off MMO gameplay in ways that wrung an “I hear that” chuckle out of me (which is, admittedly, a very low form of comedy). Meanwhile, characters spent a good deal of time talking about either nothing or obvious things over at strategery central. It takes very little energy to watch this show, but I’m still feeling inclined to drop it.
White Album 2 12: After two straight episodes of heartbreaking Touma backstory, I suppose she earned this one. It was interesting to me to hear people on twitter talking about how they found all three of this show’s protagonists to be profoundly selfish people. That’s technically true, I suppose, but… well, maybe this just means I’m a bad person, but I find these characters much more realistic and human than Nagi no Asukara’s, and I actually think those are solid characters too. They’re weak, selfish, insecure teenagers – they don’t really want to hurt each other, but they’re ruled by smaller, messier things than the Grand Spirit of Friendship here. It’s their weakness that makes me like them, actually – just like how I find shows that are wholly optimistic either meaningless or overtly manipulative, I find characters that are wholly good just profoundly uninteresting. “Do your best” is a meaningless phrase outside of the context of someone who often doesn’t do their best, who often fails, through weakness or selfishness or fear. And these characters are weak and selfish and afraid, and I love all of them.
Kill la Kill 12: I was actually kinda underwhelmed by this episode. Yeah, we got some actual revelations about Ryuuko’s father, and yeah, the scale finally shifted from attacking the school to a broader conflict. But I expected more – either a very satisfying fight (this fight seemed too explosion-happy to me, with no real back-and-forth), or a revelation of what the actual deal is with Satsuki’s mother. Mako speeches are wonderful, and this was a great episode for Mako speeches, but I think I’m mainly tired of Ryuuko and Satsuki not being an uneasy buddy cop duo. Ryuuko, cut the belligerence for a minute. You two work together or you’re off the case.
Nagi no Asukara 12: Great, great episode of Nagi no Asukara – the best since the first Akari one, and that was one of the standout episodes of the season. The drama that’s been tightly wound for eleven straight episodes is springing free in a series of sharp revelations, and over it all hangs the threat of separation and the chilling ambiguity of the long sleep. In spite of all the tween melodrama, I actually think Hikari’s dad kind of stole the show this time – he’s a man of few words, but his expressions and actions continuously show how deeply he cares for his kids, and how hard he’s struggling to adapt to a new reality for their sake. This is turning out to be a very impressive show, and I have high hopes for the second half.