Winter 2014 – Week 7 in Review

Kinda disjointed week in review this week, since I missed a bunch of stuff due to writing a “season to date” post last week and really just jammed these out whenever I had time. But anyway!

Chuunibyou Ren 6: Back on track! Last week was indeed the last of the filler, and this week pushed the plot back into gear. I’m a little surprised they didn’t actually take advantage of Saturn (or whatever her actual name is), but apparently that wasn’t necessary – all they needed to do was shove Yuuta and Rikka in a bed together for those sparks to start flying.

Overall, this episode felt like a return to S1 form, which can apparently be partly attributed to the episode director, Noriyuki Kitanohara. The direction was indeed a tremendous step up from the last couple episodes – various shots throughout created a strong atmosphere of boredom, intimacy, and all sorts of other feelings so complicated, putting an end to the bland, sitcom-style framing of recent episodes. And the episode’s last act was no joke – from when Yuuta and Rikka jumped under the covers onward, every scene demonstrated KyoAni’s mastery of subtle character animation, with all the small details of human movement strongly evoking our heroes’ awkward, hesitant romance. Things are happening again, and based on this episode’s formal quality, it seems even the show itself is excited to get back on track.

Chuunibyou Ren

Log Horizon 19: And right on the back of Lenessia’s speech, we get another contender for best episode of Log Horizon. When the show first introduced the noobs, I was pretty skeptical – Rudy was just aggravating to listen to, and why would I want to watch people be terrible at a videogame, anyway? But it all ended up paying off wonderfully – the many episodes of training both built believable chemistry between all of them and carefully demonstrated the rules and powers of combat in this game. By this episode, the viewer is firmly situated in Minori’s position – aware of all the strengths and weaknesses of her allies, and invested in the safety of all of them. And though I personally think the reveal was baited a little too long (though this may be the result of this unabashedly being a weekly shounen for somewhat younger audiences), the show really did make me care about that idiot Rundel Haus. Playing the “he’s actually a Person of the Land” card now, after all this character growth and understanding of tactics has paid off, was a good call. Even the direction was pretty dynamic this week, which is basically never the case for this show. Another great episode for this show’s stellar second half.

Log Horizon

Log Horizon 20: So yeah, People of the Land can become Adventurers now. I think the show built to this resolution very well, and the implications are obviously interesting – like Nyanta with his cooking, Shiroe has now turned “Adventurer” itself into a commodity. It’s nice of him to describe Adventurers as “his companions,” but he’s clearly smart enough to know that’s a very happy interpretation of this shift – if good food was enough to change the world, the power of immortality as something to be bought and sold might completely restructure it. And this isn’t like cooking, either, where anyone can take up the skill and at least make reasonable food – they made it clear that this is a rare gift which requires rare commodities. Since “Adventurer” is now just a status change, does this mean People of the Land can grant each other such title shifts? And immortality is great and all, but no world can sustain a population that never dies and only grows. Shiroe was clearly right to keep this quiet for now, but how will he actually use this power?

All in all, that was a great way to end an arc – the strongly foreshadowed resolution of this one opened up a thousand possible questions for the next one. It wasn’t nearly as dramatically satisfying as the last couple, but it wasn’t intended to be, and I’m eager to see how they choose to explore the questions they’ve just opened up.

Log Horizon

Kill la Kill 18: Oshit they’re sisters whaaaat.

Yeah, not that surprising. This was a very good episode, though – lots of fun fights, Satsuki actually revealing she’s much more human than she lets on, and Ryuuko punching a life fiber out of her fuckin’ brain. What can you say about this show? It’s Kill la Kill.

Sekai Seifuku 6: Really not too much to say about this one. It was better than last week’s, but it was still mainly just a comedy. A fine comedy, with endearing enough characters, but what happened to the incisive, heartwarming show of episodes 3 and 4? I guess we’ll have to see where this leads us.

Sekai Seifuku

Samurai Flamenco 17: As happened with King Torture, this episode once again made explicit the dark half of this show’s core obsession. Though Samurai Flamenco embodies the “positive” influence of television heroes and role models, the Prime Minister represents the negative one – the way entertainment culture has led us to perceive things not as good or bad, but as entertaining or boring. What was happening on-screen was completely ridiculous, but seeing the Prime Minister in an absurd super-suit while announcers breathlessly shouted “he’s beating the terrorists!” struck me as about as good a metaphor as you could ask for for what politics have been reduced to in the public consciousness. It’s not about serving the public good – it’s about your guys winning, and beating the other guys. People aren’t diverse collections of values and priorities – they’re either good or evil, and good must triumph. Hazama himself demonstrates this simplicity – though he tries to be justice personified, the kind of justice he has learned to value “never surrenders, never accepts evil”… and never compromises. Never acknowledges the practical complexities of everyday morality. He’s as much a product of entertainment as the “go Prime Minister” populace, and unlike the show’s characters, the show itself is strongly aware of the ambiguity it’s proposing here. It’s not simplifying things to good or evil – like Hajime, the show itself understands that media is not good or evil. Media is powerful.

Samurai Flamenco

Space Dandy 7: I think this was my favorite of the pure comedy Dandy episodes, but I was also pretty damn drunk watching it, which is probably the preferred state for Dandy. Either way, I had a great time, this episode’s breakneck pacing and rapid-fire jokes were excellent, and the dub continues to seriously elevate this material. This was high quality stuff.

Nagi no Asukara 19: This episode had a few great things. First, it was a Chisaki episode, and Chisaki is great – she’s a bit more emotional and a bit more complex than most of the cast, and her personality is just very endearing. Second, it played out the show’s constant obsessions in a much more natural way than many of the recent episodes. While some prior episodes had characters basically monologuing their thoughts on change to each other, this episode had Chisaki see a reflection of herself in Miuna, and then meditate on that reflection through a variety of other lenses. She didn’t just talk about change – she tried on her old uniform, and got melancholy and “drunk,” and ended up investigating the past. Her actions were very active and tactile, which is fitting, because a lot of her malaise comes from her ambiguous feelings about her own fully grown body. Granted, in the end, her coming to grips with having grown seemed to be taken back by the assurances of Hikari – but really, that’s just an indication she hasn’t really come to grips with it in the first place.

But third, and perhaps most importantly, it had Kaname actually admitting he considered letting Tsumugu drown. Which struck me as possibly the first intensely selfish thought anyone in this show has really articulated – sure, characters call themselves selfish, but you can’t control what you want or who you love. Frankly, everyone in this show seems almost too nice to be human – they sacrifice of themselves constantly, and get down on themselves for even the slightest of mental infractions. Hearing a character actually articulate something selfish and mean and defiantly human was really refreshing.

Nagi no Asukara

Hunter x Hunter 116: I missed covering this due to last week’s season-to-date post, but I was fortunately tipped off that it was a killer in time to do a big episodic writeup for it. And, well, yeah. It’s almost certainly this show’s best episode yet, and fits comfortably among the best episodes of any show. It was a goddamn marvel.

Hunter x Hunter 117: Back to the pre-116, narration-driven format, but hey, that format’s really good! And this was a strong display of it – bouncing from Gon’s trial to Knuckle resolutely demonstrating his own humanity was a neat demonstration of the various ways this arc’s core themes are articulated through each character. Oh jeez, great HxH episode, big surprise.

Hunter x Hunter

Witch Craft Works 7: I have to say, I am really enjoying this show. And I still can’t really explain it – “more than the sum of its parts” is an understatement, because some of this show’s parts are kinda crap. None of the characters are actually interesting – the only interesting thing about the leads is the “reverse Clannad” they’re pulling, with an incredibly competent female lead dressing and feeding an incredibly incompetent male one. I do like that he’s aware of this, and many of their scenes play as kinda subversive, but it’d be pretty charitable to call this a “theme.” I do love the Tower Witches, as I’m guessing pretty much everyone watching this show does – their nonsense is one of the few running gags that actually works for me, and their jokes make great use of the show’s strong direction.

Oh yeah, it has good direction! That certainly does help – I recently learned this is the same director as Girls und Panzer, and that makes sense to me, because both the comedy and action here have the same dynamic style and sense of “weight” he brought to that show.

But yeah, this week was yet another strangely entertaining episode of Witch Craft Works – lots of great Tower Witch gags, more playing with the gender-flip premise, and a fun confrontation between Female MC and Mom.

Incidentally, the only character names I actually remember for this show are Tanpopo and Medusa. Which is kinda telling, I guess.

Witch Craft Works

16 thoughts on “Winter 2014 – Week 7 in Review

  1. Tanpopo best girl.

    By yeah, feels like the next arc will touch on heavily on Masayoshi’s origin story, and how his grandpa started everything up. Next ep probably will be about explaining the situation once again, but if they are good there should be more clues about the whole project. I do wonder which theme of superhero well get touched on in this arc though. Feels like I should go back and watch ep7 again to see if I missed out on any more clues.

    • Yeah, we’re finally getting to the question of “what the fuck is Samurai Flamenco,” and even if they hadn’t brought it up, the show’s just running out of time. I’m eager to see where this ends.

  2. Man Witch Craft Work is truly enjoyable. It’s extremely aware that it’s a silly comedy.

    And Flamenco conspiracy was pretty much confirmed last episode. I still want the grand-father to be behind it all. The show showed different facets of the power of stories ”beautiful lies” so everything could be the story he wrote for his OC. Or different stories linking trough inter-dimension stuff each Flamenco being a different view.

    Also have you tried watching Pupipo! ? it’s a great cute and intriguing short. It’s presented with the pacing of a normal show.

    • The grandfather secretly being the mastermind sounds about right. And I’d love to see whatever new spin that would add onto how we construct our concepts of justice and heroism.

      It’s really a shame Samurai Flamenco has done such a thorough job of alienating people. It’s quite a show.

      I’ve actually heard Pupipo is good elsewhere, too. I’ll have to check it out.

  3. I’m not gonna lie…ep 6 of Chuuni gave me dem feels. Although I was sighing in exasperation when the kiss was interrupted (OH COME ON ITS BEEN MORE THAN HALF A YEAR) I admit I liked where they took it. If nothing else, once again KyoAni showed everyone that even if the story isn’t great (looking at you Kyokai no Kanata!) they can make it look great. I really hope the story will gain some momentum but who’re we kidding…I expect at least 2 or more filler before something cool happens again.

    • This season’s made mistakes, but I doubt they’d make that mistake – I’m hoping it’ll ramp up in actual narrative momentum from here out. There’s “wasting time with filler” and then there’s “actively sabotaging your own narrative after finally getting to it,” and I think this director’s at least smart enough to avoid the latter.

      • Did you ever do a review of Kyokai no Kanata? I think I saw your write up saying the ending was fucking stupid but I’m not sure on your view on the series as a whole. Was there ever any word on a second season? I always thought the ending for Chunni was disappointing in that they seem to present a resolution but never really showing us the result. Rikka never really changed. I agree they probably won’t sabotage the narrative but I’m not sure faffing about for a whole season is any better.

        • Nah, I didn’t review it. KnK’s central issue was that the way they characterized Mirai didn’t actually count as characterization, and a breakdown of that would essentially be an indictment of the moe aesthetic altogether, and frankly that sounded like a whole lot of thankless work to provoke arguments I wasn’t really interested in pursuing. I’d much rather stick to talking about good things.

          I don’t really think Chuuni’s first season needed a denouement longer than what it had – while I’d like to see the pair of them in a relationship, I felt it resolved the central conflict in a very satisfying way. And I pretty much expected this season to be faffing about, since it was so superfluous in the first place, but hopefully it does end up amounting to something.

  4. That episode of Samurai Flamenco really reminded me of the Discword book “Small Gods”.
    The Prime Minister litterally turned into a God here.

    What I also like in Witch Craft Works is that they are stupid teenagers. Female MC taking things far too seriously was pretty fun to watch.

    • I should read Small Gods again. I love it when Pratchett gets really scalding in his satire – I think The Truth is my favorite of his, but Making Money is also up there.

  5. “Since “Adventurer” is now just a status change, does this mean People of the Land can grant each other such title shifts?”

    This contract is only possible for a high level scribe (Shiroe is lv90) and the ingredients are really rare, special items. I don’t think these things are accesible for PotL.

    • I think we should see it the other way as well. Shiroe is gambling on the rule that only Adventurers can join guilds, so he makes Rudy part of his guild and hoping that the system will be brute forced into making that status change. It’s one way or another. If the world wants to fk with him, it could just say that now PotL can join the guild, and let Rudy die there.

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