Winter 2014 – Week 8 in Review

I’m feeling confident in having dropped The Pilot’s Love Song at this point, given what I’ve heard about the last two episodes. As expected, they’ve basically just been focused on murdering all the characters the show introduced to be murdered, all in service of a conflict the audience has no stake in beyond possibly an attachment to the Ramen Kids. Aside from that, I’m feeling somewhat fatigued by everything except the season’s highlights, and this season’s highlights are kind of middling shows anyway. Running it down…

Chuunibyou Ren 7: So yeah, the plot’s starting in earnest at this point. And honestly, I’m kind of not sure what to make of it. The actual “building their relationship” stuff, I’m totally on board with – I liked the overarching conflict of this episode, I liked the little moments Yuuta and Rikka share, and I liked how it was less a typical misunderstanding and more a Real thing, about building trust in a relationship.

But I think I just might be chuunibyou’d out.

In the first season, the chuunibyou had a very real context – it was Rikka’s way of not dealing with her father’s death. And they confronted that, and the ultimate resolution was “denying your childish instincts means denying your own personality,” which is perfectly fine. But… there’s “not denying your childish instincts,” and then there’s “being super chuunibyou all the goddamn time.” I don’t remember the first season’s second half being like this – when Rikka actually had real issues to deal with, she was perfectly willing to get serious, and the chuunibyou was more a tick than her entire deal. But this season seems to be going in the other direction – Rikka’s basically a child, and Yuuta’s the indulgent parent who tolerates her shenanigans. And what is Saturn’s deal? Her flashback this episode – “I realized I was growing out of my childish fantasies, and so… I DOUBLED DOWN ON MY CHILDISH FANTASIES.” WHAT? What is THAT supposed to imply?

So at this point, every chuunibyou thing Rikka does is starting to aggravate me. I feel like this season’s entirely commercial reasons for existing clash directly with the progression of the first season, and I’m not at all happy with the result.

Chuunibyou Ren

Log Horizon 21: A solid cooldown episode here, that caught us up with all of the cast and introduced a few new threads. We definitely needed this after the long building conflict of the conference->Goblin King, and any opportunity for more silly Lenessia faces is obviously a great victory for everyone. Log Horizon’s established a pretty impressive, comfortable platform at this point – if the source material holds out, I could see a show like this running confidently for a long time.

Space Dandy 8: One more episode demonstrating what a strange little show this is. This episode might as well have been two twelve minute episodes – its two halves shared barely any narrative connections and absolutely no tonal ones. The first half was a Sad Dandy in the ramen vendor school – that is, a story that tried to be affecting too quickly to earn it, and thus just came off as abruptly melancholy. And then the second half was a silly slapstick piece about man-fleas colonizing the Aloha crew. Why these two pieces were sandwiched together this way, I really couldn’t tell you – I’d be interested in seeing the genesis of this episode’s script, because it really did feel like two separate episodes welded awkwardly together.

Space Dandy

Sekai Seifuku 7: Sekai Seifuku is generally at its best when it completely surrenders to its own nonsense reality, and fortunately, this episode featured a giant demon Kate rampaging through the high school. What did the sequence in the desert-school actually mean? I can’t tell you, at least not yet, but I know it’s more interesting than wacky high school shenanigans. And this episode’s wacky high school shenanigans were also funny, and Renge’s character even got some decent development, so all in all I have to consider this one a win.

Sekai Seifuku

Hunter x Hunter 118: If this is the show “cooling down” after 116, I’m terrified of what will happen when it gets tense again. The second half of this episode had me holding my breath – given the body count of the first half of Chimera Ant, I’m pretty much assuming our whole team will not survive this, and it really looked like Knuckle’s number was up there. Madhouse once again demonstrated they know how to save their continuous animation for where it really counts – the mad rush into Youpi, followed by the slowed time of the leap, followed by the equally mad flurry of attacks and escape was fantastically paced. I was right there with Knuckle, cheering in relief at having survived – with Youpi in particular, it’s always clear that these characters are not fighting on equal terms, and one good shot will end any of our heroes.

Hunter x Hunter

Nagi no Asukara 20: This episode featured Miuna wandering to various places and feeling sad and guilty. She wandered to school and felt sad, she talked to Sayu and felt sad, she read some books and felt guilty, she took care of Manaka and Hikari while feeling guilty-sad, and then she talked to Tsumugu about feeling sad and guilty and he made her feel better by saying that’s completely normal. Then Manaka woke up. The end!

Yeah, at this point, NagiAsu’s failure to actually do anything with its characters is wearing me down. I’ll finish it, but I’m far less enthusiastic than I was at the start of this half – the first half’s middle also dragged, but this is a whooole lot of dragging. This episode added almost nothing to the narrative, to the character dynamics, or to my understanding of the characters – it just occupied twenty-three minutes. Manaka waking up will probably lead to another rallying, but just like last time, it won’t retroactively justify the path we took to get there.

Nagi no Asukara

Kill la Kill 19: A fine episode. The Gamagoori stuff was very cute, the whole episode was funny, and in general I’m just tremendously relieved to see us over the show’s premise-hurdle. No more “I gotta find who killed my dad!”, no more “I’ll get you, Satsuki!” – finally, the fuse we assumed would blow around episode 8, or episode 12, or episode 15, has actually gone sky-high. It’s fun to see the heroes on the run, it’s fun to see Kill la Kill’s version of the apocalypse, and it’s very fun to see all our favorites finally on the same side. Though Ryuuko’s ending line has me more exasperated than anything – what is this, the fourth time she finds the resolve to trust Senketsu? Literally – this follows on the heels of 3, 12, and 13-14, all of which dealt with Ryuuko managing her relationship with her clothes. Not exactly holding my breath here.

Kill la Kill

14 thoughts on “Winter 2014 – Week 8 in Review

  1. I have this really depressing headcanon from watching the second season of Chuunibyou. That is, if Yuuta and Rikka keep going the way they are right now (with Rikka acting the indulgent child and Yuuta the indulgent parent, as you put it) it’s probably not gonna work out well for them. I don’t know if this is what the story is implying or if it’s just the way I read their relationship, but I feel as if Yuuta has replaced Rikka’s father in her mind. She relied on him and their romance to acknowledge her father’s death, but ultimately I feel as if she would probably break down even harder than the first time if Yuuta stopped being there for her.

    But Yuuta can’t always be there for her. He’s only human. He can’t have a sexual relationship with her no matter how much he subconsciously yearns for it because he knows she’s not ready for it and probably never will be. As he gets older and has to deal with problems of his own, he realises he can’t always take care of Rikka because he can’t even take care of himself properly. This is really hard for him, because he loves Rikka and would do anything for her, but he realises he needs to break things off with Rikka so she can learn to stand on her own two feet. So what he feels is the pain of a father having to let his daughter go, and yet it’s just as much the pain of a heartbroken lover. Which makes it twice as hard for both of them.

    I’m an optimist, though, so I think Yuuta and Rikka would still have a chance together after sorting out their co-dependency issues and staring reality in the face. Hell, I completely endorse them holding onto their chuunibyou, as long as they acknowledge that they’re not playacting a relationship. Their love is the real thing.

    Basically, as cute and adorable as the love story of Chuunibyou is, whenever I think of the obvious inequality in their relationship, I can only see BITTERSWEET TEARS and PAINFUL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT in the future.

    … I highly doubt that the anime writers would take their relationship in that direction, though.

    • Man, I would be so thrilled if the show actually explored the problems with their current dynamic in a meaningful way. That’d basically make Chuunibyou the anti-Clannad – the show that acknowledged why such unequal relationships are tempting, and offered sympathy, but ultimately demonstrated that you have to grow beyond such fantasies.

      …of course, I actually think Chuunibyou is just demonstrating that KyoAni learned everything I wouldn’t want them to from Clannad’s character dynamics. But a fan can dream.

  2. That Space Dandy episode was so strange… I would have found it alright though if there wasn’t so many bad puns (that feels meme in the english dub was all kinds of wrong). Just didn’t care much about it when it finished.

    And Sekai had an alright episode but since they used the previous show for build up I was expecting more.. I still have high hopes for that show and it didn’t deliver enough for the last few episodes now.

  3. That’s how I always felt about Chuunibyou, and the looming spectre of it made me largely unable to enjoy season 1. I kept watching, hoping they’d pull something off, but…

    (What can I say? Hyouka really impressed me.)

    From the very beginning, I’ve always thought that there’s been a fundamentally irresolvable tension: you need two adult-ish people to have a relationship, but chuunibyou is inherently childish. It isn’t over-exaggerated acting, it’s entirely self-serious belief–if you’re taking the piss out of yourself, it’s largely a different beast. (Part of the reason I’m also a little ehhhh on applying the label to Okabe of Steins;Gate, for all that he hams it up and uses the label to describe himself; he’s full of shit and he knows it.)

    So for them to have a relationship that feels like it’s between equals, Rikka needs to drop it and be normal, or at least switch to deliberately eating the scenery for laughs… But then her distinguishing “cute” trait goes away and we may as well replace her with a twin. That’s difficult to do from a plot perspective and it’s downright deadly from a marketing one. Season 1 got around this by stopping before it could become a pressing issue, but it was unavoidable the moment they announced a Season 2.

    • I suppose it was way too optimistic of me to assume they’d actually continue on the trajectory established by S1, where chuunibyou is the starting point, but isn’t directly championed by the narrative. Can’t have those adorable chuunis developing into well-rounded teenagers or anything…

  4. Maybe I see missed something but I really don’t see why Ryuuko is suddenly against Senketsu, particularly after they had there “I’ll defend you” spiel and the whole “We are 100% in synch and kicking Nui’s ass” moment. Stop being so bi-polar and just admit you love him, Ryuuko!

    • Wasn’t that before she learned she was related to Ragyo though? And I don’t think she’s actually against Senketsu, just scared of herself (“No, it’s me that I’m afraid of”) for being cut from the same cloth as Ragyo and just channeling her anger at an easy target, because she sees herself in him.

      • Yeah, that makes sense for why she snapped. But it still doesn’t change the fact that this is the third or fourth time we’ve had the Ryuuko mad at Senketsu scene, and it just feels a little soon after they just had one recently.

        • At this point, it just makes me feel like Ryuuko’s an asshole. Yeah, her defining personality trait is “hot-tempered,” and yeah, learning you’re part Life Fiber would shake anyone up, but she’s taking it out on the one person she’s had like four character-building arcs with. If it’s this easy for her to double back on trusting Senketsu, what were the earlier resolutions even for?

      • Its a really strange turn. Seems like Ryuko can accepts others beings evil aliens but not herself and she projects on poor Senketsu. Some self confidence problems going on which make me wonder if theres any point to it. Also yea it kinda makes her an asshole and an hypocrite. Satsuki best girl.

  5. Wait… I was wondering why this post seemed so gloomy, and then I realized it was because you didn’t say anything about Witch Craft Works, who had what was probably its best episode so far.

    • Shit, you’re right. I didn’t really have anything profound to say about this week’s Witch Craft Works, but these posts clearly need witch-positivity either way. That show’s like the giddy mascot keeping this season together.

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