A low week in anime, my friends. Barakamon, Aldnoah, and Zankyou all had lesser episodes, meaning it was pretty much up to JoJo and Hunter x Hunter to keep things together. Fortunately, JoJo rallied magnificently, and Hunter x Hunter is just always friggin’ good, so I guess I can’t really complain. But damn, I really, really hope Zankyou keeps it together. Anyway, let’s get to the shows!
Barakamon 8: Not one of my favorite Barakamon episodes this week, but that’s because I’m greedy and demand art-creation themes every single week. This one leaned on the show’s other pillars – gag comedy in the first half, and warm slice of life in the second. That played out pretty much how it always does – the beetle-hunting adventure came off like more or less a Yotsuba-lite episode, and the grave-watching was endearing because these characters are lovely people to spend time with. I loved Naru’s earnest surprise and excitement at her birthday party – somehow, this show is able to make me appreciate classic kid behavior much more than actual kids do. And the second half featured Handa finally articulating something that’s been clear from the beginning – just how much he gets out of being a part of Naru’s life, and watching her be happy. Not a standout episode, but a fine one altogether.
Aldnoah.Zero 8: Man, everything really sucks for Slaine, huh? We finish an episode that’s obsessed with basically nothing but his continuous torture with one person finally realizing he’s actually loyal to Asseylum, and then his one ally gets immediately murdered. That’s… man, Aldnoah, you really want his fans to suffer, huh? My twitter feed was not happy.
Aside from that, basically the only thing that happened this episode was Magbaredge promising to support Asseylum. I was actually looking forward to the scope of Slaine’s narrative expanding beyond “one dude gets abused by entire Martian infrastructure,” but the story apparently has other plans. In general, very little happened this episode – we rehashed things about Asseylum and Slaine’s relationship that we already largely knew, Inaho continued to be very charming, and birds equaled peace or freedom or something nice like that. Aldnoah is largely a plot-focused show, and when a show like that stretches eight minutes of plot across twenty minutes of running time, it tends to drag. Hopefully things will pick up now that…
Well, actually, we don’t really have any known events to look forward to, huh? Also kind of a problem.
But hey, this shot below sure was pretty!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 21: For some reason, this episode’s aesthetics seemed several notches above the usual JoJo fare. Lively direction, many evocative shots, and an overall attempt to imbue this Polnareff story with some real dramatic weight – all of that was welcome stuff. JoJo’s recent horror genre riffs have generally leaned more towards comedy than actual horror, but this episode demonstrated the show actually can evoke a mood beyond “ridiculous.” The atmospheric beach shots, the creepy flashbacks, the sequence of Polnareff dragging himself through the weeds… Plus, even though he’s probably the most overtly ridiculous member of the cast, Polnareff is also likely the only one with elements of his story that actually lend themselves to dramatic investment – both his sister’s death and guilt over Abdul are tangible conflicts, and they certainly made the most of that here. It was quite the slow build to that finalAGH OH GOD SHE’S BITING HIM IN THE NECK WHAT THE FUCKKK
Oh JoJo. This was actually a pretty strict adaptation of the monkey’s paw, right up until the part when Judgement said “no you goofus, I’m a Stand.” Looking forward to seeing Polnareff literally face his demons next week!
Zankyou no Terror 7: This episode felt like either a misstep or a pothole to me – Zankyou’s plot has always been ridiculous, but because the show was about other things, that didn’t really matter. This episode was all plot, and even ramped up the Hollywood absurdity of that plot, and so there wasn’t really much to latch on to. But who knows, could just be a temporary issue.
Sword Art Online II 8: And on the opposite expectations-end, little Sword Art Online keeps plugging along and racking up reasonable episodes. We’re back in the action again, and that’s always what Sword Art Online does best (well, outside of that brief, strangely enjoyable slice of life tangent), so I was perfectly happy with this episode. Flying pigs etc.
Hunter x Hunter 144: This was a very interesting episode of Hunter x Hunter. It wasn’t nearly as straightforward as the last several – while Killua’s journey is a classic adventure, the election is a messy stew of character motives and double-crosses. It featured a handful of characters at their best, giving standout performances of the arc – starting off with Ging. So far, Ging has largely been defined as a “clever bastard,” but this episode revealed why he’s gained such a profound reputation outside of the inner Hunter circles. Ging knows people – he understands them, he makes connections with them, and he never sees himself as apart from them. His connections and insight give him the clearest eye in this election, and though he’s clearly very manipulative in his own way (pushing people towards what he wants them to become more through inaction than action), he seems to have genuine motives.
Cheadle, on the other hand, is completely transparent and completely honorable, which normally doesn’t lead to that interesting of a character, but she’s also smart and competent, which makes her the one you actually want to get through this situation. She’s the classic politician who’s too good for politics – they’re dedicated and have the right ideas, but they just can’t sink to the level of the game they’re playing. In contrast, Pariston has everything she lacks, and lacks everything she has – he is a cipher, utterly without scruples, and playing the game as a true lover of the game. That’s actually one of the things that most frustrates and frightens me about many real-life politicians – they’re not in it because of any remaining internal conviction, they’re in it because this is the best of sports, and they want to beat the other guy. He’s someone you can sense evil presence in even if you can’t articulate why he’s so horrible, and that’s much more frustrating than someone you can pin down as the avatar of some awful ideal.
And then Leorio just wins people over by being frank and concerned and full of earnest self-doubt. Cheadle’s choice to roll the dice by throwing her votes to him was a good one largely because it was a play Pariston could not predict, but Leorio can’t solve this situation. He’s many years short of the game he’s playing.
I was really hoping this arc would deliver some fun political machinations, and this episode delivered in spades. I’m excited to see how it all comes together.
Also, Cheadle and Pariston are both fantastic. How the hell is this show still introducing indispensable characters right up till the end? How can you end on us, Hunter x Hunter?!?