Winter 2014 – Week 11 in Review

Fantastic set of episodes this week, even from shows I’ve kind of given up on. Glad to see the season ending so well!

Chuunibyou Ren 10: Clearly this second season should have been a six episode OVA or something – the difference in quality between the unfocused fanservice episodes and the actual story-driven segments is ridiculous. This was easily the best episode of this show so far – it actually focused in on Shichimiya’s romantic struggle (which at this point is far more interesting than the Yuuta-Rikka stuff), and the production really outdid itself. This episode was full of little sequences that demonstrate what KyoAni can actually do – small bits of animation, cinematography, and color work that just breathed with human emotion and poignance. It even gestured vaguely at an actual themehere, too – instead of the earlier episodes’ simplistic “I want to remain chuunibyou!” resolutions, here the show actually thought about consequences, and what chuunibyou really means to the various characters. Shichimiya framed it as identity itself, and Yuuta’s speech about how Rikka saw something special in him almost single-handedly justified his general attitude. He doesn’t necessarily want to be the Dark Flame Master, but he does want to be special. Does growing up mean accepting you’re not?

On the negative side, Yuuta and Rikka’s relationship remains that of a long-suffering parent and silly child, not one of a couple in love. I almost feel like they’re lampshading it at this point – look at these freaking interactions.

Chuunibyou Ren

Kill la Kill 22: Kill la Kill also pulled out a significant episode this week, by finally having both Ryuuko and Satsuki articulate the arcs they’ve been representing for a while now. Ryuuko finally got it through her thick skull that her “family” is really Mako and Senketsu, and Satsuki admitted her own family is the Elite Four and company. They also both added a bit about individuality, which, while not actually amounting to a coherent message or incisively explored theme, at least waves vaguely in the direction of making Kill la Kill’s narrative choices meaningful. And then we got the adorable family dinner the show’s been baiting for almost its whole run time. Kill la Kill’s second half has been very rough, and it’s ended up being a much less ambitious show than I originally expected, but it at least hasn’t entirely derailed in the way Kyoukai no Kanata did.

One issue I did have with this episode is how it framed Satsuki as “learning her lesson” about family and respecting others. It was clear they were trying to go for some kind of symmetry between the arcs of her and Ryuuko, but the show itself just hasn’t supported this – Satsuki was already either actively articulating or demonstrating through her actions pretty much everything she “learned” this episode. Her character just started out too far near the end of its “arc” for this kind of trick to really work, and by consequence of both this and the fact that Ryuuko’s actions the last two episodes have been a total character-flip with no real precedent or consequences, Ryuuko came off as really absurd this time.

But that’s really the show up to this episode’s fault, not this episode – this episode felt like the correct conclusion of things that just weren’t correctly executed earlier on.

Kill la Kill

Samurai Flamenco 20: The one thing I didn’t like about this episode is the Goto stuff. Like last week’s, I felt Goto’s current unreasonableness has just sort of come out of nowhere – the revelation of his girlfriend has basically changed his personality. But aside from that, this week was fantastic. I love what they’re doing with Flamenco’s “nemesis” – after that long Super Sentai arc basically declared that heroes were real, we’re returning to the corollary ideas of King Torture and even the first several episodes. Our childhood influences are powerful forces, but they’re not necessarily forces for good – and Masayoshi can’t truly “defeat evil.” If this kid is real, he works perfectly well as a representation of the questionable force our media and heroes exert upon us – if he’s fake, he’s a great metaphor for the simplistic world of heroism and definable evil Masayoshi wishes existed. As an open question, he’s both – a child laughing at the honest belief in justice championed by Masayoshi. Just a goddamn great choice to end this series with a villain that represents the true ugliness Flamenco could never hope to defeat.

Samurai Flamenco

Nagi no Asukara 23Another stellar episode. NagiAsu’s big problem for me has been a lack of real momentum, and with only a few episodes to go, the show seems to be looking to fix that in a hurry. There were a lot of great moments this episode, spread across almost the entire cast. Hikari tying his determination to help Manaka to the change he saw in Miuna and Akari was a wonderful detail, especially since now Miuna’s grappling with living up to the generosity of spirit she apparently instilled in him in the first place. Kaname had a hilariously petty moment at the group meeting, when he first brought up the possibility of Manaka being better off without love, and then asked Chisaki about her feelings to dig the knife in with Tsumugu. And then Tsumugu just stole the show with his usual even-handed but still passionate self. Having Chisaki accidentally hear his confession wasn’t the most graceful trick, but the execution here was fantastic – we know how much the sea and ena mean to Tsumugu, and so his moment of transformation was one of the most powerfully earned resolutions of the show to date. And then his adorable speech to Chisaki… it’s kind of absurd how much more I enjoy this show when it’s those two on screen. Tsumugu-Chisaki romance all day!

Nagi no Asukara

Sekai Seifuku 10: Following up on one of this show’s strongest episodes, number ten pretty much completed the job of tying all Seifuku’s ideas together into one coherent, compelling, extremely endearing package. This show’s about family, and about what accepting someone as family really means. It’s about identity, and how power can be either created or lost by divorcing yourself from it. And it’s about childhood, and the unfairness of the world, and the ways we fight against it. Zvezda is about as perfect a vehicle as you could ask for to combine all these ideas, and this episode did just that – Jimon accepted his new family, Renge abandoned the power White Light had acquired by forsaking human identity, and both of them accepted Kate’s impossible quest to conquer the flawed, unfair, disappointing world of adults. This whole episode was also structured as a series of “you go on ahead, I’ll hold them off” moments, which really helped bring home how much these characters care about each other. They have to care about each other – they’ve all been abandoned, and they know they all have their faults. But what makes them strong is their belief in each other, and by seizing on that, this episode of Sekai Seifuku accomplished something pretty grand.

Sekai Seifuku

Log Horizon 24: Feels a little odd to be getting a buildup episode right before the season ends, but this episode was pretty close to that. A new threat to the city, a ghoulish new antagonist, and one last mini-arc before the end. They’re not even really pretending this is anything more than arc-based shounen storytelling, but I’m fine with that – Log Horizon really outdid itself with the excellent Goblin King arc, but Log Horizon on autopilot is still an enjoyable show.

Log Horizon

17 thoughts on “Winter 2014 – Week 11 in Review

  1. Seeing that child laughing at ”Flamenco” was definitely a high point for me, the bullying part was also hilarious. The dream and ideals of some make the laughing stock of others. Yet it can also inspire. He pretty much is the ideal anti-Flamenco. His penchant from evil is born from exposition to pure genuine optimism.
    Right now we’re in elections where I live and I get to see how much medias openly laugh at those with such ideals. Those who wish to plan ahead a better future are ridiculised and the negative alarmists are praised.

    • I want to add that his penchant from evil comes from that fact that such dream-like ideals animated something in him. He wants the concept genuine concept of heroism and justice to be reality and he knows that only nonsensical extremes can accomplish it (that way he try to find a way to counter the negative medias without really realizing why hes doing it). The show will probably go and say that such ideal exists and are worth perusing and that seeing them only trough extremes is the wrong way to go.

    • It’s pretty ridiculous. Media has just become a reflection of the public’s least coherent desires – “we want answers to our society’s systemic issues that will fix everything in three to six months!”

  2. Shichimiya is actually outshining the rest of the cast for me at the moment. Feels like she’s the protagonist from another show that just happens to have the Chuunibyou cast as the side characters.

  3. Re: KILL la KILL 22: I saw Satsuki’s character arc as less learning to do things differently as learning that she was doing things differently. There has always been a disconnect between Satsuki’s public words and her actual behavior to the Four Devas and others, so I saw this episode coming down on the side of Satsuki being blind to it until now instead of being a hypocrite.

    Of course this is a convenient interpretation since it makes Satsuki’s arc make more sense. And Satsuki did say she’d done a certain amount of explicit ‘learning to do things better’, eg that coldly using Ryuuko was the wrong approach. You can make even this fit but it’s kind of a stretch.

    • Whoops, that was terribly phrased. Let me try again: ‘as learning that she was already doing things differently (than she claimed and believed)’. Ie, Satsuki sincerely believed that she was building a structure based on power, merit, and coldly using people but was actually accumulating a loyal family group from the start (and gaining an affection for them herself).

    • Yeah, that’s much closer to what her actual behavior has indicated. But as you say, this episode has her actively talking about doing the other thing. It’s a messy fit.

  4. I actually don’t like the Tsumugu/Chisaki romance at all, at least from her end; what I’ve seen in Chisaki tells me that she’ll settle for him in the absence of anything coming from Hikari’s end, but also he isn’t very good at providing what she really wants. Chisaki is shy and hesitant, and usually wants to get involved but ends up worrying too much to ever commit, like in the pool scene from early in the season. Tsumugu is too introverted to give her the push she wants, and is really bad at dealing with her emotional concerns; note the time he asked her if it was too much work to take care of three other people in the house after Kaname’s return, even though her troubles came from Kaname’s return and his mild pressing on the answer to his confession. I could go on, but for the interest of space I just want to say that A) Hikari is really good at this, even when he isn’t trying to be, and she probably is better off waiting for an answer from him, even if it probably will be a conclusive rejection, and B) Did you notice her panic at the end of the episode? I heard a lot of other bloggers say it was surprise, but I slowed it down and she was struggling for breath, a behaviour that we would see in panicking people, but not in stunned ones. I just don’t see it for her. I don’t think she’ll accept him now, but when Akira gets revealed as some offshoot of the Sea God and causes whatever the end plot will be, she’ll settle for not being alone.

    • I don’t think Chisaki’s in love with him, but I disagree with Hikari being a better fit. Personally, I see her feelings for Hikari still being a childhood crush – she admires him, and wishes she was more like him, but I don’t think they’d make for a good partnership. Whereas all of Chisaki and Tsumugu’s domestic scenes demonstrate to me how comfortable those two are with each other. Tsumugu doesn’t actively push her, but that’s just not his style – he still understands her concerns.

  5. No HunterxHunter this week or last. You falling behind again. Does that mean we will get a triple next week?

    Anyway I agree with you on pretty much every show I am watching that you cover, except KLK. I have already articulated why I am more ok with Ryuko’s flipfloping than you and why I think it works, but I also disagree about your impression of Satsuki’s arc. Yes her arc did not complete this episode, she already knew these things, but this was her first chance to articulate them. When she truly became consciously aware of how her hypocritical actions were in reality no different from her mothers was when she was defeated, at her lowest point, hanging humiliated in a prison. She had always firmly believed that she must use anything she could to her advantage, and that as long as the cause was just then she was in the right, a very Machiavellian viewpoint. She assumed that since she was opposed to her mother, then she was different even though she used the same methods. But when she was broken and being ridiculed by her mother she understood how her actions mattered as much as her intentions. Actually her hanging naked was a good call back to episode 1 where a member of the academy rebelled against her tyrannical rule and was killed and hung naked at the entrance to the city. That is why she decided to abandon her front of power, and truly open up to her “family” the elite 4. After her return she is far less formal with them, far more gentle and acknowledges them for more than their usefulness. So I actually thought her character arc was done even more gracefully than Ryuko’s

    One more comment in defense of Ryuko in general was that a lot of people complained about her being bitchy to Satsuki after she risked her life to save her from Junketsu. But this is a case of dissonance between the audience’s knowledge and the character’s. We have seen a lot more of Satsuki’s good side than Ryuko had at that point. To Ryuko Satsuki was still a manipulative dictator who only did things that benefited her goals. She had been manipulated by Satsuki all show and she had no real reason to believe that Stasuki saving her was not merely to use her in the fight against their mother. While Ryuko’s request for a punch was rather crude it was also effective on multiple levels. It showed whether or not Satsuki was truly sorry for her actions against Ryuko throughout the series. It allowed Ryuko to blow off steam and “get even” with her sister, so that they could be on a level playing field. It showed that Satsuki was willing to humble herself, an action that would have been unthinkable prior to this point in the series.

    • I mean, you could say that imprisonment is her turning point… but I just don’t see any specific evidence for it. Her behavior during that imprisonment is much the same as it was before – tolerating the indignity of her position relative to her mother because she has larger goals. Maybe if that had actually damaged her facade, it might indicate a shift in personality, but she just seemed like the same old Satsuki to me. And I disagree about that being the moment when she opened up to her “family,” as well – I think there were clear moments of that all through the school trip arc, culminating with her directly admitting how much she relied on Iori and her butler before her mother’s visit.

      Also, I actually think the Ryuuko punch thing would have worked very well if not for the way the second half has dragged out each of their arcs. Satsuki has been the hero and Ryuuko the villain for too long for it to feel justified, but I think it would have if the show had progressed at an even pace from the end of the first half. As I said in the post, this felt like the correct conclusion to an incorrectly plotted narrative.

  6. Well, most of the shows this seasons are in this case actually. Weak beginning/middle-season, but fantastic finale. Silver Spoon is particulary impressive on that regard. Most of the season wasn’t that rememberable (except that episode with his father last month), but this finale is really exceptional.

    As a side note, I find it funny that Mikage and Hachiken seems more close to each other than Yuta/Rikku, despite not even admitting yet they are dating each other (Yeah, I know it’sa little unfair given the type of show).

  7. I also just yet realized the parallel between Hamatora and Gatchaman Crowd (or is it just me ? Giving power to the weak by using Internet. The goal are pretty different though).
    Even if Hamatora is far less optimistic here.

    And both have a character named Hajime.

  8. “In the BD commentary for episode 2, Nakashima and Ami Koshimizu talk about the first ED. They mention that the ED is actually really interesting for Ryuuko’s character and the FINAL EPISODE. They said “if you rewatch the first ED after you watch the final episode everything will make sense”. They also make specific note of the fact that Ryuuko is all alone.”

    Pretty sure it’ll ultimately go out like Gurren Lagann, but it looks like we’re going to return to the loneliness theme one more time.

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