Any week that features the finale of a Yuasa show and Joseph Joestar fighting his own arm has to be a keeper, right? You can’t really go wrong with either of those things. Plus Chaika and Sidonia both pulled off top-tier episodes, so overall I’d say this week was a roaring success. Let’s run it down.
Hitsugi no Chaika 11: We’ve finally reached a Chaika who’s smart enough to actually figure out the game being played here – that they’re all pawns, that they’ve all had goals programmed into them, and that none of them are more valid than any other. And even that puts them above the pieces beneath them – the various tools that were bred only for violent purpose, and now cling to the direction a leader and goal provide. It turns out “Chaika” is a title fairly similar to “soldier” – they’re both weapons built for a cause, with little purpose beyond that.
This show has been fairly lighthearted for a story about post-war anxieties and old soldier ennui, but this episode was nasty. Fredrica could be dead, the girls Toru promised to save already are, Gillete’s may be in the worst position, and things aren’t looking up anytime soon. It was dramatic and fast-paced and full of big-picture revelations and ugly little twists and plenty of action besides. This was a great episode. I’m very excited for the first half’s finale.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 11: This episode featured Joseph Joestar getting punched by the cackling tumor growing on his own arm. So, you know, that happened. There was also a lot of Polnareff trying to impart important life lessons to Hol Horse’s paramore/secret Stand-user, which was equally great – her bored expressions were at least as good as the arm-tumor’s crazy ones. It’s nice to get those serenely JoJo moments where you realize you’re watching a sentient arm-tumor attempt to punch through a robot hand to kill the howling grandpa it’s attached to.
Knights of Sidonia 11: Norio seems to get a disproportionate number of the good lines in this show. This time, the first line that jumped at me was “Nowhere is safe if we’re hit by a dwarf planet.” I like how this show constantly juggles the priorities of its characters as individuals versus humanity as a species – it’s kind of cheap to bring up the Titan comparison again, but yeah, this show is kind of effortlessly drawing the lines Titan ineffectually scraped at. We care about Izana, and so his/her (their? fucking gendered pronouns…) anxiety about becoming a pilot seems perfectly reasonable. But then the show immediately jumps to a threat that affects all of Sidonia, and we’re up there in the control room, and suddenly anything less than an optimally efficient human response means total destruction. Nobody’s “right” here, and all of this feeds nicely into the “definition of a human” stuff, meaning that even though this show definitely has some problems on the human drama side, there’s a very tidy holism to its themes and central conflicts.
Granted, all of that is definitely complicated by the fact that Tanikaze occupies such a “hero” role in this story. Normally I’d be kind of inclined to just attribute that to bad writing, and though Sidonia does have some bad writing, given its actual themes, that seems maybe a bit premature. Could he actually be demonstrating some individualist counterpoint to the practicality of Sidonia’s system? I’m not really sure.
Oh, and the second half of this episode was one of the best action scenes of this season. This show is pretty good!
One Week Friends 12: Well, it ended. This episode was fine enough on its own, though it didn’t really do anything to address Hase’s specific personality issues – it was just kind of a generic reconciliation episode. A well-depicted one, but not one that really redeemed the series – I liked the shots and the sound design, but I am just kind of tired of these characters repeating the same things.
Ultimately, One Week Friends rode on solid execution and pleasantness, with the underlying material being too light and repetitive to elevate itself, and the show’s inability to really condemn Hase for his issues resulting in something of a hollow second half. The characters didn’t really rise above their original articulations, and though the art direction, cinematography, and sound design were all unusually good for a show like this, they were let down by a dithering narrative that introduced character conflicts the show was too gentle to meaningfully resolve. I give it a 6/10 – slightly short of a successful show, but elevated to that point by its unusually good aesthetics.
Ping Pong 11: The best show of the season ended in absolutely stellar fashion. I’d say it wasn’t as much of a highlight as 10 was, but episodes 10 and 6 are going to count among the best of the year, so that’s not something I can hold against it. Ping Pong ended the way it had to – focusing not on the immediate, ultimately unimportant drama of Smile and Peco’s final match, but on what that match meant for them, and where they go from here. You can check out my final essay on Ping Pong here, as well as my post on a few of episode 11’s many great details. As with all the greats, I can’t really say “I’m gonna miss this show,” because it’s just so damn rewarding to see a fantastic show end strong.