Man, my schedule is so optimized at this point. Four great shows, one okay but very enjoyable show, and Captain Earth as my only speculative pick. I also finished Mushishi last weekend, so I’ll soon be catching up on that as well. Grahh all these good shows anime YEAH.
Hitsugi no Chaika 4: Some good and some bad in this episode. Bad news first – this sure is a light novel adaptation! While it avoids most of the relevant pitfalls, it still occupies otaku-land reality, meaning Akari really is kind of into her brother, and defeated dragons turn into shapeshifting lolis who join you on your adventure. But on the good side, this episode made it absolutely clear that Chaika is interested in exploring its one repeatedly referenced theme – the search for purpose as an old soldier in a time of peace. Toru’s ambivalent feelings towards his own talents, and tendency to steer situations towards his strengths in spite of his clearly empathetic nature, is easily the most interesting thing about any of this show’s characters. That hadn’t really been central to the show’s narrative up till now, but this episode basically took place inside a monument to an age of war, and so we appropriately got to see a much more direct elaboration of nostalgia for a time of battle. Whether the show actually goes to interesting places with this theme remains to be seen, but having your show actually be about something is a very good first step!
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 5: No contest this week: the best thing was without a doubt Dio’s amazing bird. First, just look at the expression on that fucking bird. Look at how smug that little asshole is. And if that weren’t enough, holy shit his bird has a hat and a tiny little bird-scarf. Most villains understand that great villainy requires silly pets, but how many villains go that extra mile and really accessorize their shoulder-warmers? Goddamn that bird is great.
The rest of the episode was pretty great too, though. We had Joseph once again proving he is best Jojo, and our new challenger making first this and then this pose. He says he’s been training for years, and I don’t doubt him – poses like that don’t come for free!
Knights of Sidonia 4: An excellent episode of Sidonia this week, one that secured this show as something I actually really look forward to. I’m not a natural fan of scifi, but this show really plays to the strengths of the genre. The first half was a chilling demonstration of this, as the worldbuilding Sidonia has slowly built up came to a head with Sidonia’s “evasive maneuvers.” One of the problems with worldbuilding is that if it’s not actively contributing to the narrative, it’s just “stuff” – fanservice, essentially. Information with no real value. Not true here – the nature of Sidonia, and the details of humanity’s ark, led to a thrilling sequence as the ship was forced to veer sharply to dodge the approaching threat. Many were able to attach themselves to support bars and survive, but many others weren’t– the episode’s first dramatic centerpiece was a pan down the center pillar as glass, debris, and falling bodies demonstrated how tenuous humanity’s position here really is. Last week’s finale demonstrated the level of complacency humanity had reached on a micro level – here, we saw the macro version, as what had become an ornamented home was roughly shaken into its original form as an escape vehicle, at tremendous human cost.
The second half of this episode opened with a grim mirror of the first episode’s ending. In that first episode, the pre-flight ritual was shot as tense but exciting – space was scary, but it was also beautiful, and something well worth exploring. The world has changed now, and so this time the countdown conveyed none of that – space isn’t a place of discovery, it is a place of fear.
Then we had some action scenes and they were pretty sweet too. Nice work, Sidonia.
Captain Earth 5: The first half of this episode was heavily weighted down by dry, unnecessary exposition, but fortunately the second half displayed the series at its best – admitting it’s a story about adolescence, not one about giant robots. Teppei’s path to accepting and valuing the presence of his “father” wasn’t exactly groundbreaking material, but it rang very true with what we’ve learned about him so far, and he also bounces very well off Akari – in fact, the dynamic between him and Akari might be the best of any pair of characters here. And as with last episode, this show’s fundamental optimism made for a great twist on the generally bleak tone these parent-child relationships tend to possess – far from being a force of anxiety or inferiority, these parents clearly care about their children, and this show is expressing these relationships from a very democratic perspective.
That said, this episode once again didn’t really do very much. Akari and Teppei grew a little closer and Teppei found another reason to consider himself a legitimate human – that’s fine, but it doesn’t justify how much of a narrative diversion this was. This show has some fine human drama, and some mediocre action spectacle, but it’s having trouble making the one reflect meaningfully on the other. Considering this is a story about adolescence where the villains are literally trying to steal the protagonists’ libido, that really shouldn’t be a problem, so hopefully Captain Earth pulls itself together a bit more in the future.
One Week Friends 5: I was a little worried this episode would feel kinda “light novel second volume”-y (even though I know this isn’t a LN adaptation), because the last episode offered such a firm conclusion to the show’s first act. Turns out that wasn’t a problem – Saki adds a very different and welcome dynamic to the group, and each episode continues to illustrate Hase and Fujimiya’s characters in small but compelling ways.
Hase in particular I am a big fan of, mainly because he’s so clearly and earnestly flawed. He’s kind of insensitive (as episodes two and four demonstrated), he’s clearly insecure, and his form of “friendship” is both overbearing and prone to selfishness – but he’s trying to be better than that. I really like seeing a character who’s naturally got all sorts of problems, but doesn’t articulate that as “distant and cold but secretly caring” – he’s upbeat and initially nice, which covers a layer of teen ugliness, which itself covers a third layer of trying to be a better person. His initial reactions are often not good, but again and again we see him consider those reactions and then turn against them. He’s far from perfect and very human.
Alright, that’s kind of a detour. This episode was about Saki, and Saki is great – the show makes it pretty much endlessly clear that Saki is the kind of friend Fujimiya needs, in contrast to someone like Hase, who has his own needs. Her chemistry with Fujimiya is excellent, and this episode was a sugar-rush in pretty much the same way the second was. One Week Friends is an endlessly pleasant show.