Welp, I guess we’re well and truly into the season now, which means it’s high time to start getting jaded and pissy about shows not living up to expectations. Hurray for fandom!
This week was almost identical to the last couple quality-wise, which spells good things for the carryovers and less good things for the new pickups. Let’s run them down…
Nagi no Asukara 15: Yeah, once again we’ll be starting and ending with the clear favorites. Nagi no Asukara is doing a very good job of speaking for itself at this point – this episode featured great scenes of honest drama for Chisaki, Tsumugu, and Hikari, with the scene where Tsumugu says all the wrong things in trying to comfort Chisaki standing out. Chisaki seems almost more trapped in time than Hikari does – while he constantly forces himself to move forward, she’s hung up on whether the boy she liked five years ago will still relate to her, and spends most of this episode hiding from the past.
I’ve recently been reading through One Hundred Years of Solitude (gorgeous book, by the way – one of the best I’ve read in years), and it’s kind of funny to see one of that book’s central themes reflected here – the unequal and ever-personal passage of time. How we can find ourselves aging years in what feels like a day, or looking around and suddenly finding the world has passed us by. It’s a poignant idea that fantasy is uniquely equipped to explore in very literal ways, and I think Nagi no Asukara is using it to wonderful and (critically) very personal and human effect.
Space Dandy 3: Space Dandy’s pretty simple, huh? Not the guy, of course he’s dumb. But yeah, so far the show’s been pretty much exactly what it was sold as – the wacky adventures of a dandy guy in the space. Some obvious comedy, some actual wit (or just good acting), a fun, varied visual style, and that’s about it. It’s fair spectacle, but not great spectacle – it’s certainly not Redline or Jojo or anything. This week’s episode was another episode of Space Dandy, and I guess that’s about it – nothing I’ve seen so far is leading me to expect this show’s gonna whip out a Ballad of Fallen Angels. A shame, but hey, if Watanabe and his all-star ensemble are having fun, I can’t really fault them – it’s just not really my thing.
Noragami 3: And with this episode, Noragami falls off the rotation. The visual style is still nice enough, but it’s also clearly working in service of a very generic shounen frame, and that’s not my scene. Pass.
The Pilot’s Love Song 3: Pilot’s Love Song is faring better than Noragami, but it’s also not really impressing – this episode was a respectable elaboration of Karl’s backstory, and I kind of like the fact that everyone except Claire apparently sucks at flying (Karl’s panic in the cockpit was well-done), but the show so far is failing to rise above “acceptable romantic drama.” Fortunately for Pilot’s Love Song, I happen to like romantic dramas a whole lot more than shounen battlers, but given this show’s mediocre production and lack of interesting dialogue, characterization, or plotting, it’s not exactly safe, either.
Sekai Seifuku 2: Fortunately, for Sekai Seifuku, “more of the same” is actually a good thing. This episode featured more standout dialogue, more endearing character dynamics, and more completely-absurd-yet-played-totally-straight conflict. It continues to be the one new show with writing that actually makes me pay attention, and though this episode leaned hard on the comedy, there’s still enough going on here thematically to give hope this show will amount to something more. Sekai Seifuku may be standing out partially because this season is so very bad, but it’s a fine show either way.
Chuunibyou Ren 2: I actually did a writeup for this episode, and yet I still feel like I can barely string a full sentence of thoughts together on it. It was just a fanservice episode, really – it trotted out the characters from the first season and put them through some of the same type of stuff you loved before. Which… I mean, I’ve repeatedly said that I’m a sucker for this sort of stuff, but maybe that’s less true than I thought. I was entertained, but I certainly didn’t feel giddy in the way the best episodes of the first season hit me. Fortunately, that was also kind of the point of this episode – the characters have hit a comfortable stasis, and something needs to shake them up. Tonight’s episode will be introducing that shake-up, so hopefully my misgivings will soon be cleansed by the dark flame.
Witch Craft Works 1-3: Yeah, I don’t know. Recently, I’ve found myself really craving some stupid crap I can turn my brain off to, and Witch Craft Works perfectly fills the void left by Yozakura Quartet. I mean, it’s not completely empty – I like the idea of a gender-swapped shounen setup (though I doubt the show will ever do anything interesting with it), the production is actually good, and the director seems to understand comedic timing (the tower witches’ five-second cutaways in episodes 2 and 3 were both fantastic – it’s like the show knows its own central plot is generic, and so it cuts to the tower witches doing karaoke or complaining about llamas or whatnot). But yeah, this is a dumb, bad show… making it pretty much just the thing I need at the end of a long day.
Log Horizon 15: Oh thank god we’re out of the new shows. Good to see you, Log Horizon – you’ve continued your streak of great episodes with one that made me finally buy Minori as a protagonist in her own right. This was essentially a “moving the pieces around” episode, but it worked because these are good pieces and the show moved them well. First, there was Minori’s development – both her own personal character arc and her need to pull the group together were tested, and the work the show’s done over the past several episodes all paid off, making her new resolve a well-earned fist-pumping moment. Second, the threat of the goblin king displayed one of this series’ great strengths – playing off accepted rules of videogames to illustrate just how interesting this world actually is. The king speaking frankly with his daughter was what really knocked this home for me – they played what could almost be considered a joke (goddamnit, we forgot to do our weeklies and now everybody’s going to die) completely straight, but they’ve set up the world carefully enough for me to actually buy it as drama.
And finally, Krusty’s (goddamnit that name) response to the memory-loss revelation was also great – “we can’t be forced into inaction by fear. This changes nothing.” One of this author’s strengths is his gift for powering through cliche conflict points (our memories! oh no!) to actually stab at what really makes situations compelling (I vividly remember the scene in Maoyuu where the protagonists immediately accepted the hostile actions of the church as rational and inevitable), and it’s great to see that eye for fertile conflict applied to such a strange and specific universe.
Plus hey, next week the princess is back. MORE PRINCESS.
Samurai Flamenco 13: And with this episode, Samurai Flamenco has come full circle. The Guillotine Gorilla pattern was “introduce a new, absurd version of reality -> normalize that reality to the point where people took it for granted -> introduce actual stakes to remind people this stuff is deathly serious (while also still kinda silly).” That pattern has been pretty much entirely repeated on the giant-robot sentai scale, and we’ve once again reached a point where characters are having Super Troubling Misgivings about their current bizarro reality and its real-world consequences. And frankly, at this point I’m having trouble figuring out if the show even wants me to care.
Not even in a dismissive way – yeah, we’re still talking about the questionable value of traditional heroes and whatnot, but the fact that the “grounded” stakes are so cartoony as well (damn those dastardly politicians and their schemes!) makes me hesitant to trust anything this show ostensibly wants me to be invested in. If this show has any honesty left in it, it’s based in the characters – Hazama, Goto, and Mari all still feel like human beings, and so they’re what I’m clinging to. Hopefully this next shift returns the focus back to them – all this winking sentai stuff may be a real party for people invested in those old shows, but I’m ready to get back to a narrative I can believe in.
(Oh shit that means the show’s worked it’s demonstrated trusting in simple hero narratives is a fallacy WHOAAAAAA)
Kill la Kill 14: Kill la Kill also seems on the verge of a turn, and I’m very ready for it. This episode was pretty much classic Kill la Kill – fuck higher pretensions, let’s have a wacky, balls-to-the-wall episode with three separate battles, an incoherent Mako interlude, and Ryuuko on a goddamn motorcycle. It fortunately (and predictably) made short work of any “collect the Senketsu fragments arc” worries, and seemed intended to line us up for the big 15/16 battle that will presumably set up the show’s second arc, Gurren Lagann-style. I’m all in favor of this for a few reasons.
First, I’m just tired of the current conflicts – I’ve been tired of this setup since the first half’s finale failed to rewrite it, and I’m very ready to see the base dynamics shift. Second, this “Senketsu getting put back together” business might actually be the show’s vehicle to owning its own wily themes – if Ryuuko now gets the opportunity to define her own representation in the way she chooses, then the ideas the show’s been alluding to since Episode 3 won’t be just convenient, largely meaningless flavoring. That’d be awesome! I’d love for this show to actually have something worthwhile to say, and that hope leads into my third point – the fact that I didn’t really like Gurren Lagann itself all that much until the second act. The first act was fine enough popcorn, but it didn’t mean a goddamn thing to me either – it was only the conflict between Simon and Russou in the second half that actually interested me beyond the pretty flashing colors. I’d like to think this team still has an intelligent point up their sleeve, and I’m guessing the next couple episodes will prove it one way or the other.
Hunter x Hunter 113: If you are not watching Hunter x Hunter, your life to date has been a series of staggering mistakes to be looked back on with regret, shame, and substantial self-loathing. I just don’t know what to say. I have sympathy, but really I’m just embarrassed for you. That you’d be consciously – willingly! – missing out on this master class in direction and storytelling, a show that so consistently achieves such a high level of performance that comparing it to other shows is widely considered poor sportsmanship. Yes, this episode was great. The battle with Youpi is making wonderful use of both our protagonists’ very creative powers and their character development, the sequence where Killua cleared the way was both a standout piece of visual storytelling and furthered a personal arc that’s been one of the more compelling details of this journey, and the stage has been effectively set for a sequence of fights pretty much guaranteed to impress. But you should already know all that, and if you don’t, go watch some fucking Hunter x Hunter.