Spring 2014 – Week 4 in Review

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.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

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.

Ping Pong

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.

Hitsugi no Chaika

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.

Captain Earth

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.

Knights of Sidonia

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.

One Week Friends

24 thoughts on “Spring 2014 – Week 4 in Review

  1. One week friend is actually much better than I hoped it would be. Sidonia is alright but I can’t really get into it for some reasons, the characters are very flat imo and I can’t get invested in whats its presenting me for some reasons..

    Nothing to say about last week Chaika other that it was alright but new episode actually pulled the: ”sibling not related by blood” card and played a bit too much on sibling love ugh. Before that I thought the big sister was making referential jokes but seems like shes serious. Overall it’s an alright show but im not really invested in whats going on. Medieval Fantasy is actually a period I usually really like when done well (The Witcher is a great example) but anime about it almost always fail me.

    • Sidonia’s characters are pretty much just role-fillers so far, but I’m kinda okay with that. I mainly just like the world and presentation so far – it seems very confident.

      Disappointing to hear that about Chaika. But that’s my comfort-food show anyway, so eh.

  2. You are missing the last two weeks of the amazingness that is HunterxHunter on here. Though I guess CartDriver kind of does that now.

    Chaika is incredibly cute!

  3. You were the last person on the planet I expected to fall for the Chaika moe.
    The show itself is working on more levels than it appears to at first sight, which is what fantasy should be doing. Its a bit sparse, but there, and in this episode we get that Toru was just riding the rails as when he was a saboteur. It was a job, a matter of course, to do what he did, so he wasn’t passionate about it. Now that he’s lost it, he wants it back, but the truth is that he probably didn’t enjoy sapping all that much when he was a proper soldier.
    Akari also reveals her tendency to be…incompetent. Not the frustrating, ‘zomg how are u even alive’ kind of incompetent, but the kind that reminds you that she has her own faults as well, namely her sporadic bouts of carelessness.
    I think that the show isn’t something you can expect to be properly invested in until later on. Its not really aiming to be a Witcher as much as it is aiming to be a Dragon Age. Its a show you can enjoy while you watch, with enough mental engagement for it to not feel shallow, but not enough to be dense, or feel like it’s challenging conventions, even if it is.

    I have to say, I think grandeur, or ‘epicness’ isn’t really out of place in military fiction like Titan, because all militaries carry around gravitas and grand promises. In terms of presentation, yes, Titan did try to be too epic too much for it to be appropriate, but in terms of the underlying thematic thread of finding out that the pomp and grandeur of militaries is mostly a facade, the writing was quite well done. I believe episode 22, when Eren and Co return after the failed expedition, was the high point.
    Sidonia has toned down the subtle grandeur compared to the manga, which is unfortunate, but at least Midorikawa doesn’t get shafted by the script this way.

    • Grandeur I’m fine with – I think we’re just meaning different things with these terms. I feel like Titan’s action scenes were most often framed as action scenes – as scenes from an action movie, which are exciting and “intense” and full of cool stuff happening. And this extended to a lot of the horror/dramatic scenes, and I feel all of this did a tremendous disservice to the show as a war story, and to any sense of real immersion. In contrast, Sidonia’s scene here wasn’t framed as an “action scene” at all – it was framed as a confusing, bungled engagement with an enemy the characters were anything but prepared for. The show didn’t heighten the drama – the characters made stupid choices and died stupidly and it was over.

      These characters were pretty much designed to die, so this may change when our heroes get out there, but I’m hoping the show manages to maintain this more grounded tone.

  4. So I take it Chaika is worth picking up if I want some light entertainment? It looked kinda interesting but I was hesitant on adding it.

    Still waiting on Captain Earth’s “Everything will be obvious soon” message from the first episode, but I’m not holding my breath. They got 25 episodes to work with though, so there’s still a lot that can happen.

    • Chaika is very much my light entertainment show of the season. I always gotta have one, and Chaika is it.

      And yeah, I’d like Captain Earth to start moving as well. We know all the characters at this point, and the mumbo-jumbo doesn’t mean anything unless it’s given human or thematic context, so hopefully next episode will have a bit more purpose.

  5. I only recently picked up Sidonia, mostly on a whim, and am so happy I did. For a show that I didn’t originally intend to watch at all, it’s now in my top 3 of the spring season, right below Isshuukan Friends and Mushishi. The CG still bothers me a little though – I quite like the character designs, but I find their movements stiff and sometimes distracting. It feels a bit like watching a scene from a video game.

    • Yeah, there’s definitely still a distance for me as well, but I’ve gotten less bothered by it every episode, so hopefully over time I’ll get used to it.

  6. Regarding the contents of your writeup on Chaika, if the show’s going to follow a similar route like Scrapped Princess, then those “villains” won’t end up actually being villains as they are people that, at the moment, are playing an antagonistic role.

    • Yeah, it’s not particularly subtle that Gillette and co. aren’t exactly evil villains out to kill our innocent heroine. I haven’t watched Scrapped Princess, but the plot seems pretty standard fantasy by this point, and that requires a certain number of betrayals, side changes, and secret plots that seem waiting to happen.

      It reminds me a little of a JRPG (Fire Emblem comes to mind) in how things appear to be going, which isn’t bad–I think a lot of those are well written–but isn’t great either. I’d like to hope some really good classic fantasy comes along in the future.

      • No, I agree. It’s not particularly subtle. It seems more a matter of duty to them than any particular ill-will, which sets the stage of them possibly be relieved as antagonists and taking up roles as protagonists.

        Hmm, I think there’s already a neat thematic angle in play here. Chaika’s seen as the harbinger of doom for them and many others, but to Akari and especially Toru, she seems more or less like a cute, affable, good-willed girl. Which, again, is a theme that Scrapped Princess also plays, albeit in a different way.

    • I’d assume so. The show’s already given them perfectly reasonable motivations – in fact, they’re actually acting much more reasonably than our protagonists.

  7. I take it you didn’t watch episode 3 of Mekaku City then? Because funny enough it was your little write-up on episode 2 that made me give 2 and 3 a shot last week (I was also dead tired and needed entertainment) and I think that together 2 and 3 work so much better than episode 1 did. The visuals now have actual meaning, I really disliked the two characters from the first episode so I was so glad not to deal with them, and honestly 3 reminded me a bit of why I loved the early parts of Durarara with how you have everything happening from all these different points of view but comes together perfectly in the end. But I’m still waiting to see how episode 4 goes off and if I’m going to keep following it after all, when your source material is a series of semi-connected, semi-coherent music videos I think some wariness is warranted.

    • Yeah, I dropped it. Not even the show’s fault, really – I just didn’t feel enthusiastic about watching it for whatever reason, and decided to watch more backlist instead. I’m definitely still open to picking it back up, though.

      • Hah, that was mostly my reason for dropping Still Beautiful, why watch something I’m “meh” over when I can tackle my exciting backlog instead? (well, that and I’ve read ahead in the manga and it really needs tighter editing but I say about 50% of the shojo currently out).

  8. Yeah, Knights of Sidonia’s use of CG almost puts me off from the first ten minutes but I stayed to see how the story goes. It was intriguing but then episode 2 appeared and now it gives off a little bit of the same bleak element that Attack on Titans has: they showed us the background story on a character or two that builds up to something only for us to see them to horrible die in the hands of their enemies.

    There’s nothing wrong with a bleak story but not when it constantly recycles the same element that it became detrimental to the story. Why bother with the build up/story development when we can predict most of them will die horribly soon after? I encountered the same element with Break Blade(the manga version, never watched the anime version because of this confusing element). Characters that might have lingering presence appear one after another with some back story about them only to be decimated several pages later. I don’t know whether to fear for the safety of the heroes or the cry at the sad fate the bad guys’ predictable death.

    I do hope this bleak fetish won’t be a new trend in anime.

    • Knights of Sidonia started earlier then Titan, and Nihei is not exactly known for sunshine and rainbows anyway.

      • Ok, then…

        I’m not asking for sunshine and rainbows all the time but maybe apply some sort of shocking surprise or twist here and there. I just watched the 4th episode and I was riveted by the space battle-something that I haven’t done in a long time.

        Unfortunately they repeated the same style of introducing a character(s) and then kill them off immediately, followed with some posthumous flashbacks. It made the show too predictable. Now, whenever they introduce someone new near the end of an episode, all peppy and excited, it’s safe to say we’ll be greeted by their screaming the last few minutes of their lives in the next episode’s opening sequence.

    • I don’t think you’re really supposed to be hugely invested in these characters – they’re defined in broad strokes and pretty much written to die. I think you’re just supposed to be placed in the same situation as the other characters – understanding the severity of the situation. I’m assuming the show won’t repeat this trick, because it suffers obvious diminishing returns, but I think it needed to happen once.

      • I get that we’re not supposed to be invested with these “destined-to-die-soon-after” characters but do they ALL really need to die after they convey that one or two life lesson the hero will remember later on? I hope they won’t repeat the same trick throughout the show because so far I’m really interested in it and such predictable trope might killed it.

        I guess I’m still suffering something like a bleak fatigue caused by Attack on Titans. Sidonia is kinda acceptable since we only see those walking dead characters briefly-they appear and then we see them die. In Titans we actually spend some time with a lot of the characters so each death is shocking.

        Attack on Titans’ manga alone is enough to scare me so I ended not watching the anime. I couldn’t bear continuing following the manga anymore let alone reliving the early parts of in anime form where we see newly graduated kids gets torn apart like butter. Especially not after I read that the author originally intended to end it all with a bleak conclusion inspired by the ending of The Mist movie remake.

        • Oh jeez, he planned to end it like The Mist? Man, I bet his editors pitched a fit about that one. You can’t kill the characters everybody buys merchandise for!

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