The season has settled at this point, and where it has settled is a very satisfying place. JoJo, Ping Pong, and One Week Friends are fantastic, Sidonia is much stronger than I expected, Captain Earth is kind of wibbly-wobbly, and Chaika is comfy as all get-out. Once I add Mushishi to the list, this will pretty much secure this season as the best one since I started watching airing shows. Good times!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure 4: This week’s best thing is a tossup between the screen blaring “THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION” as Jojo faces down a giant tongue-stealing stag beetle and Kakyoin chiming in with little bits of Hong Kong trivia all through the second half. There were also several great “that’s our Jojo!” Joseph grandpa moments, and a bunch of wonderfully hyperactive reaction shot split screens. This has been your week in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, the Show that is Impossible to Critique.
Ping Pong 3: This episode was so good that I ended up accidentally writing a full post on it. In short, every single thing about it, from writing to pacing to direction to sound design, was just wonderful. Ping Pong is the real deal.
Hitsugi no Chaika 3: This episode was a little looser than the first two, which is kind of a natural result of the first “mini-arc” being concluded. This led to a somewhat unfocused feeling, and I think the villains came off a little too goofy, but all that doesn’t really matter because holy shit Chaika is adorable. This episode was like an endless barrage of adorable Chaika moments. More Chaika please, please no bully.
Captain Earth 4: I kinda like how basically every time this show seems like it’ll go in the standard brooding mecha direction, Daichi screws it up with his relentless positivity and assertiveness. Worried about his friend? Gets crepes and goes to visit him. His friend’s trapped in the interrogation room? Make a pouty face at his equally positive uncle until he lets him in. His friend tries to sacrifice himself to let the rest of them go? Screw that, I’ll laser your fucking giant robot. It’s pretty refreshing.
Aside from that, this episode actually wasn’t that great. The stuff with Teppei’s identity obviously works well with the stuff about adolescent identity/sexuality, but it’s all pretty obvious, and too much of the rest of this episode was dedicated to a combination of meaningless jargon and an enemy plan that was destined to fail. It was a Team Rocket attack – aside from one conversation between Daichi and Teppei, this episode could have been excised entirely with almost nothing lost. Hopefully this doesn’t foretell a lack of focus to come.
Knights of Sidonia 3: I’m glad I stuck it out through the CG, because this show is damn solid. It’s setting up all sorts of great pieces for a classic war story – the cast is full of loud personalities, the world is very distinctive and full-bodied, and the stakes are high. This episode’s setpiece was obviously the first sortie with the Gauna, and the show knocked it out of the park. Using the perspective of the students at home was a great choice – their excitement basically led the audience up to the cliff, and then seeing it all fall apart from their perspective really ground in the powerlessness they must feel. And then the cut to the actual pilots was handled gracefully as well – no histrionics, just people falling apart as they hit a situation they weren’t really prepared to deal with. This scene basically managed everything Titan continuously failed to – it wasn’t “epic,” it was desperate and manic and over before it began, leaving you with a sense of emptiness. It felt real.
One Week Friends 4: Another beautiful little episode, and one which kinda, well, resolved the plot? Or could have, at least – Fujimiya reached the point where she didn’t have to rely on her diary’s affirmation to trust the people who care about her, which was definitely something the show had been leading towards. The illustration of this turn was very gracefully done, with Hase’s “if I squint, I could almost see the seal from my house” coming back up as a metaphor for Fujimiya’s attempts to regain her important memories, all centered on that image of the river at the center of the town. More great direction, as always – lots of grey, distant shots when Fujimiya finds herself aimlessly wandering, a world flooded with color when she remembers her important thing. More great writing, as always – I particularly liked the conversation that provoked their fight, where Fujimiya’s earnest attempt to make Hase feel comfortable about introducing his friend backfires due to Hase’s petty but very human insecurity.
It was another episode of One Week Friends, basically. It’s minimalist drama at its finest.