Winter 2014 – Week 4 in Review

This week kinda restored my faith in this season. It’s still not great (mainly because its strength is in its comedies, and I’m not a comedy fan), but the three top new shows all had their best episodes yet, so I’m feeling optimistic. Running down the list…

Nagi no Asukara 16: Not a game-changing episode of NagiAsu this week (well, at least until the ending) – this was one largely dedicated to establishing the “new normal” between Hikari and Miura. The show continues to hammer in how much all of these characters fear change, and this time used Hikari to illustrate how often that fear can be unfounded – from his perspective, Miura and Saya are still just dumb girls having dumb girl fights. He showed pretty great strength of character in general this week – it’s nice how the resolutions he made “a few days ago” are now providing him the strength he needs to help others through a displacement five years in the making. And I really liked the small domestic moments this week – this show generally excels in tiny human details, and pretty much every scene in Akari’s house was a collection of tiny truths about relationships between parents, children, and siblings.

And yeah, the ending. How about that Kaname? Nobody’s there to ease his arrival – he picks himself up, wanders to shore, and immediately begins deciphering exactly what happened. Man, nothing rattles that kid.

Nagi no Asukara

Chuunibyou Ren 3: Just when I decide to not do writeups, the show actually gets good! This episode was excellent – unlike last week’s, it pretty much immediately focused on Rikka’s apparent dissatisfaction with the status quo (“waking the Dark Flame Dragon”… man, Yuuta is one dense motherfucker), and it’s looking like the New Challenger will actually be helping push that relationship forward. That’s awesome! A childhood friend who… immediately bonds with your current girlfriend and decides to help you sort out your relationship issues? Brilliant work, KyoAni. I’m very excited to see where this goes.

Chuunibyou Ren

The Pilot’s Love Song 4: This was a solid episode, though it did very little to address this show’s fundamental problem – that it feels almost more like the outline of a romantic drama than an actually completed one with all the unique details filled in. Which is actually how I felt about The Princess and the Pilot, come to think of it – a respectably illustrated genre shell with absolutely no flavoring whatsoever.

That’s more my feelings in general, though – this specific episode was actually a bit above the curve, largely because of its excellent payoff. The episode was essentially built around a set of flashbacks detailing Karl’s journey from lost orphan to goal-infused young man, and the climax, where a young Karl rediscovers a sense of joy as his adopted father introduces him to flight, justified every other thing the episode did. Which is good, because the episode didn’t do all that much else – it basically just offered a stage for Karl and Ariel to tag-team monologue this second extended flashback. Kyousogiga this is not. It’s looking like next episode will be Claire’s turn to flashback, and then I assume we’ll (possible, depending on whether Ignacio warrants his own flashback) be getting into the meat of our little drama.

The Pilot's Love Song

Space Dandy 4: I really liked this one! Definitely my favorite of the series so far – in fact, outside of the usual overplaying of tired “hur hur Dandy’s a perv” jokes, I’d say this episode was a pretty impressive piece of work. The first half condensed a zombie outbreak into its briefest component parts, and pretty much served as a half-length version of a standard Dandy episode all by itself. And the second half was just kind of brilliant – a long, surreal gag played entirely straight, a twelve-minute deadpan musing on the philosophy of zombiehood. This was maybe the first episode that didn’t feel “safe” – the first half was pure genre fare, but the second half was one long, weird joke all by itself, the kind of structural experiment this episodic format really lends itself to. Hopefully this is an indicator of things to come, and the first three episodes were really designed to set the “default” tone of the series – at this point, I think the Dandy tools are well established, and so I’m eager to see more writers and directors bend them until they break.

Space Dandy

Kill la Kill 15: Bleh. That’s pretty much all I have to say. This was billed as the big, game-changing episode that the new OP would give away – the turning point that would actually bring the show’s full goals into focus. Turns out, the reason for that wasn’t that the entire show was about to shift in scope and even genre, Gurren Lagann-style – nope, it was because the Elite Four got some nice new suits.

I dunno. I’m just kind of tired of Kill la Kill’s tricks at this point – I’ve seen all of them, it hasn’t shown me any new ones in a long time, and there’s only so far a show can go on energy alone. Having Ryuuko’s long-awaited resolve be based on “friendship is power!” almost felt like a slap in the face – all these ideas it’s alluded to, and the narrative it chooses to go with is the simplest, most cliche one available.

I’m not gonna stop watching or anything, but at this point it seems like Kill la Kill is just not my kind of show.

Kill la Kill

Samurai Flamenco 14: Yep, superheroes are real. That’s the moral of the story today: superheroes are real. I said on twitter that this show feels like the result of good writers intentionally writing badly, and… well, yeah, that’s all there is to it. Does the fact that the writers know this story is stupid and incoherent, and that it’s playing off a legacy of stupid, incoherent stories, actually change anything? I dunno. The show still has a pretty good sense of humor, but the jokes are spread out between sequences that seem prolonged enough to be intended as drama, but stupid enough to be perceived as parody. And the fact that they’re acting as both at the same time means they don’t really work as either.

Samurai Flamenco is a very weird show.

Samurai Flamenco

Log Horizon 17: In general, this was another respectable episode that further merged the stakes of the two halves of the ongoing conflict, so not much to report there. At this point, with the actual narrative seemingly going in a smart direction, I can kind of just enjoy the little things. I particularly liked how they focused on Lenessia’s panic and uncertainty as she made her Big Speech this week – I appreciate that the show understood her resolve doesn’t suddenly change her personality. You can’t really go directly from acting tough because you refuse to engage with anything to suddenly lighting up a conference room with your charisma – this was a tough moment for her, and having her panic before, during, and after is what made it believable at all.

Log Horizon

Sekai Seifuku 3: This one did it. I was enjoying this show before – in fact, given the weakness of this season in general, it was pretty comfortably my top pick. But this episode wasn’t just “best by default” – this episode was fantastic. It was hilarious, it actually made great use of the show’s premise beyond just setting up gags, and most importantly, it was pure evil. Not the “they’re supervillains but really they’re just a bunch of goofballs” evil of the first two episodes – this entire episode was basically a prolonged riff on the dehumanizing power of extremism. Kate wasn’t just “I love evil!” evil, she actually turned a city against a demonized underclass. And the ending wasn’t “evil is great, but we’re all a family” – in the end, Kate’s insane ideology won, Yasu actually caved on his identity, and the Chief proved himself perfectly willing to sacrifice an old companion for the sake of extremism. And then the “good guys” blew up everyone with a bomb designed “only to hurt people with evil in their hearts” (I’d love to hear someone justify drone strikes with that one), and it turned out smokers actually weren’t real people anyway.

That’s not comical whimsy right there. That’s Catch 22. That’s Kurt Vonnegut. That’s actually smart, razor-sharp cynicism – the black comedy of pointing at our own blackened nature.

This show is going places.

Sekai Seifuku

Witch Craft Works 4: Friggin’ tower witches you guys. Can’t trust ‘em.

11 thoughts on “Winter 2014 – Week 4 in Review

  1. With you on this Space Dandy probably being the best episode that’s aired to date. I know I’ve really enjoyed something when the episode finishes and I realise it’s already been 20-odd minutes I’ve been watching rather than 5. And yeah, this episode of Kill la Kill did feel oddly lacking – almost bland, which is something I thought I’d never, ever say about the show. That said, I don’t think it was a bad episode per se, but rather just not a good one that comes across as bad by comparison. It probably says a lot about the consistency and general wow factor of Kill la Kill that an average episode is thought of as bad though.

  2. At this point I think that Flamco just tries to put the most super hero tropes possible into one show. This one had the hero alliance + evil twin. But the whole thing should feel more exciting…
    I’m still hoping for a reveal of a plot organised by his grandfather to create a true superhero world for his Flamenco fantasies to become real or something along those lines.

    And seems I’m losing interest in Witch Craft. This episode didn’t really amused me enough.

    And yea Kill la Kill turned out to be just the final of the first part instead of anything new. Still love the energy of the show.

    • Oh right, Hazama’s parents were murdered! That’s what the show was actually about to explore when everything went completely fucking crazy.

      And I certainly wouldn’t blame you for dropping Witch Craft Works – the show is not good, but I still find it strangely endearing.

      • Oh and about the KLK OP. From what I herd it was delayed because it will reflect Ryuuko new state of mind. Represented by giving Satsuki sword back (I’m done being a child) in last episode and her entering the adult world and finally learning the truth. Part 2 really begin tomorrow.

    • It feels like Samurai Flamenco has gone from being a parody of bad superhero shows to being a bad superhero show.

      The thing is, sometimes by making something really bad, it can also be quite funny. A good anime example would be the Haruhi Suzumiya episode titled “The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00”. For those who haven’t watched it, the entire episode was basically an in-universe film created by the Haruhi Suzumiya characters, and it was pure shlock. And it is supposed to be shlock. The end result, however, is one of the most memorable episodes of the series.

      However, you can’t make an entire show intentionally bad. Two cours worth of 23-minute shlock is just tiring, and that is what Samurai Flamenco is at this point. It feels like a Saturday Night Live skit that was pretty funny when it began, but now it just won’t end.

      Also, the fact that the production value of the show seems to have an inverse relationship with the ambition of the show – the more crazy the episodes have become, the worse the art has been – certainly doesn’t help. What the hell is up over at Manglobe? I mean, I know that Manglobe isn’t KyoAni or Sunrise or whatnot, but I remember that shows like The World God Only Knows were perfectly acceptable in terms of production. But Flamenco…did they run out of enough yen to pay their employees or something?

  3. I see what you’re saying about Sekai Seifuku, but for myself I’m probably dropping the series at this point. While this ep did have some amusing aspects, it also confirmed that this is probably going to be another reset-button no-lasting-consequences goofy comedy, which generally don’t interest me. The 1st episode flash-forward did hint at something actually happening, but they could easily save that for the last 5 minutes of the last episode, so I’ll wait to see if I hear otherwise.

  4. Good night! One question: what’s your favorite Kill la Kill episode in strictly aesthethical terms? I’m going to show it to two stoner friends of mine soon. I was thinking of any of the first four episodes, of course (which goes to show how the failure of the recent episodes as finally something meaningful is double, because it seems that in presenting the weak themes and going nowhere has also distracted them from the nobility of consistently being ice cream for the senses).

    …I wish the whole episode where Ryuuko fights Sanageyama was a as fantastic as the last 4th of it.

    • Ooh, that’s a good question. If we’re going with the first four episodes, I’d definitely say the first episode is a pretty great “statement of purpose” for the show – it has a few standout sequences, it’s very well-directed, and there’s also the bonus of it actually introducing the plot and characters in an extremely efficient way. I might enjoy the fourth episode the most of those, but part of the humor of that episode comes from it following three serious-ish, very plot-heavy episodes, so it wouldn’t be as entertaining as a first experience. Plus it looks cheap as hell.

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