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.
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.
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.
Nagi no Asukara 23: Another 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!
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.
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.