And with the second week complete, all our new challengers have appeared! I’m very happy with this week’s performance – though none of my speculative picks really impressed me, the two shows I was most excited for either picked up the slack (in Aldnoah’s case) or started off with a bang (Zankyou no Terror). The roster isn’t looking deep this season, but if the highlights can keep up this level of quality, I’ll be content either way.
Glasslip 2: Remarkably, Glasslip managed to make itself about ten times less interesting through the introduction of supernatural events. With basically no warning, this episode promptly introduced the fact that our heroine and mysterious new guy can apparently see/hear “fragments of the future,” which, uh, cool, I guess. That could actually be pretty interesting, but holy shit was the scene used to reveal this anything but – instead of actually having either of them discover their powers, or illustrating it through the natural progression of the narrative, the dude just called our MC out to a porch where they blankly explained to each other how their powers work. “Oh huh I can see the future that’s pretty cool. Wait is that your phone number UWAAAAH.” Nothing about this show is actually distinctive, so it basically all comes down to the execution – and dang, that was some terrible execution.
Then there were a bunch of scenes of the characters all feeling pensive about their love polygon, then one of MC’s friends said she was going to confess and “might have to leave the group” and I actually shouted WHAT out loud and man P.A. Works I am tired of this show let me know when you come up with a new one. Dropped.
Persona 4 Golden: Every single person I know on twitter said “wow, screw this, just watch the original,” so, uh, I guess that’s what I’ll maybe eventually do!
Tokyo ESP 1: This was a very confident first episode! It’s a classic structure, but not one I see that often in anime – dropping us into the action, giving us secondhand evidence of the hero’s legacy, and building the whole episode around raising anticipation for their arrival. The show didn’t overexplain anything, but it didn’t really have any reason to – this is a world where “espers” just seem to mean general superpowers, and “world where people with superpowers exist” isn’t that hard to explain. It actually felt much more like a western superhero comic than an anime, which honestly isn’t really my kind of thing – I tend to prefer my pulpy action with a lighter tone, like Yozakura Quartet. But this was a well done first episode, and it’s quite possible this tone will dissipate once we get past this first conflict hook, so I’ll stick around for now.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 15: Alright, can this just be Polnareff’s Bizarre Adventure from now on? Polnareff unintentionally trolling Enyaba is clearly the best thing in this show, and pretty much every Polnareff scene has more energy and absurdity than any non-Polnareff one. The actual resolution to this Stand battle wasn’t that exciting, but that really doesn’t matter – the road to that battle was paved with absurd Polnareff actions and enraged Enyaba faces, and that is something to be celebrated. This was some top tier JoJo material.
Tokyo Ghoul 2: This episode was much less visually impressive than the first, relying pretty significantly on the hook of the story itself. And that story… eh, I dunno. As I said regarding the first episode, I’m not really into B-movie action/horror stuff, so I’m indifferent to a fair amount of what the show’s excited to show me. They’re undoubtedly going to go somewhere with the racism/parallel societies stuff, and there seems to be a compellingly weird sexual component to the “urge to feed” stuff, but none of it is articulated gracefully enough that I feel inclined to really engage with it. And again, the action/horror really doesn’t grab me unless it’s executed really well, like the first episode managed, and so informing me that there are more bad guys to come doesn’t really push me to continue. I think I’ll give this show one more episode, but it’s likely that, in spite of it being fair enough at what it does, it’s just not a show for me.
Aldnoah.Zero 2: I like how this episode starts with the earthlings being completely outgunned and wiped out militarily, and then immediately switches to the students idly wondering if they’ll be drafted, and complaining about being forced to help with the evacuation. It’s certainly a grim disconnect to dwell on, but it’s a key one, and it seems likely our earthling protagonist’s journey will center on that in particular. He reacts to everything that happens this episode with a kind of numb indifference – it opens with him actually cooking the eggs that were a sign of his disconnect in the first episode, and then goes on to show him react to basically everything that happens with a dull, methodical acceptance. It’s all a scene on TV to him so far – he transitions from indifference to shock, and now has decided the next thing one does in this position is play the hero.
Basically every adult featured in this episode offered commentary on ‘what one does in this situation’ – the main character’s older sister, the drunk teacher, the cackling aristocrat. How to deal with impossible circumstances – who you think you are versus who you turn out to be when the moment comes. “Tolerating the intolerable” seems key, as does the counterpoint that in the middle of a warzone, everyone’s just trying to survive. This episode was a long sequence of desperate people losing quickly or losing slowly, and the chase sequence at the end exemplified that even as it acted as a great action setpiece in its own right. If we’re not fast enough to get away, we give the monster our legs. If any of us make it out, we call that a win.
I really loved this episode, if that’s not clear. The first episode felt stilted, but this was breathless and engaging and rife with ideas worth digging into. I’m very excited to see where we go next.
Barakamon 2: This episode was a lot weaker than the first, unfortunately. It seemed clear it was trying to smash two manga chapters into one anime episode, to the detriment of both – instead of either giving the son’s reflection on talent or the MC’s stay at the hospital time to breathe, both were just rushed through, and a show like this does not benefit from rushed pacing. Additionally, the humor of this episode felt a fair deal more samey and anime-style than the first episode – that one had more fundamental character humor and animation-focused gags, whereas this one had a bunch of anime sex jokes. The whole episode seemed kind of… nervous? Like it was too eager to please, and thus unable to slow down and let its characters do the work. Hopefully this doesn’t become a trend.
Zankyou no Terror 1: Holy confident premiers, Batman! This was an episode. From the cold open bomb heist through the final phone-call rescue, this episode knew what it was about and never let up. It offered lots of questions both on a narrative and thematic front, and already seems like its overall construction is very precisely considered – everything here serves a purpose. The show’s visual style is pretty fantastic, with special attention seemingly paid to the lighting and perspective – daylight scenes are washed out by the heat, nighttime scenes are ghosts in the darkness. The direction in general is dynamic as well – the action scenes flow well, and the characters are often framed in just slightly off-putting ways. And the story itself promises all sorts of interesting possibilities. Could this be a story like Gatchaman Crowds, preoccupied with society in the internet age? Could it be about fear and society in more general ways? What sort of conclusion might they be drawing from the equating of Lisa’s bullying and the children of our boy-terrorists’ pasts? What should we think of Twelve’s strangely giddy personality in general – what made him this way, what does he represent?
We’ll obviously have to wait and see what cards Terror is actually playing with, but the confidence with which this episode laid out its first hand leaves me eager for more. A stellar premier.