A very convenient week in anime this time, since two shows didn’t actually air and oh wait that didn’t matter because I wrote three thousand goddamn words for Anime News Network anyway. Actually, that might be its own kind of “reprieve” – normally my writing motivation is “keep writing you goddamn word-monkey you’re wasting hours and drawing closer to death,” but my crazy output the last couple weeks (including writing a big friggin’ editorial that I’ll hopefully finish by this weekend) allowed me to briefly experience the feeling of not feeling guilty for relaxing. That’s actually a pretty rare thing for me, so I guess I got a mental vacation after all.
Incidentally, those ANN posts seem to have gone over very well over there, though I know you guys are understandably sad about the lack of timestamp SAO posts. It seems like ANN is more okay with some snark than I’d initially worried, so I’ll try to hit some kind of balance more of you can be happy with – I’ve only ever written for myself and my own audience before, so I’m still figuring out how to express my voice in a more official context. I hope you all stick with me as I figure this crap out! You’re an awesome, extremely supportive group of readers, and I want to be worthy of that support.
Alright, that’s enough blogging, I’m sure you’ve all got stuff to do. Let’s run down this week’s shows!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 22: Wow, the JoJos are the worst goddamn friends. I figured Avdol’s return would be explained away by his “Magician’s Red” actually being a phoenix or something, but nope, he was just actually alive the whole time and everybody was trolling Polnareff. “We thought you might give him away, so we decided to let you live with the guilt of his death for two weeks” – real nice, guys. Let that be a lesson to you: don’t trust friends who force babies to eat poop and pee in their enemy’s breathing-tubes.
Aside from that dash of awful-people-ness, this was a pretty ho-hum episode. They’ve apparently decided to up Avdol’s ridiculousness to match the rest of the characters, which was nice, but I was disappointed by the lack of a real “solution” to this fight – it was just “I was holding back,” followed by many punches. This episode wasn’t as visually interesting as the last, but there were still a handful of compelling shots, enough to make me think they’re still trying to rally from the fairly mundane middle episodes. Hopefully the show keeps ramping up for these next few episodes – this second season has been bumpy, but I’d like to actually feel some anticipation for the second half.
Aldnoah.Zero 9: This episode was definitely a step up from the past few – instead of simply demonstrating things we already knew or pushing the plot forward in the absence of any emotional engagement, this time we actually explored both Marito and Rayet’s anxieties in greater detail. The various simulation paths leading towards their flashbacks weren’t exactly graceful, but the execution was – the show managed to do some nice, understated work with its sound design in both Marito’s flashback and Rayet’s shower breakdown. I also liked the glimpse into the knights’ mentalities we got on Slaine’s side – the knights have largely been ciphers driven by imagined honor and underlying resentment, so it was nice to see one of the “villains” actually explain himself. This show hasn’t exactly been brimming with interesting characters, but Saazbaum certainly didn’t waste any time leaping up the list – his various motivations add a welcome new dimension to the narrative. He sympathizes with his people who have been forced into an antagonistic relationship while still hating the royal family that promoted that antagonism – that by itself is more complexity than basically anybody else aside from Rayet.
And then that last scene! Honestly, its implications would be so significant if it were true, and I have so little faith that it actually is true, that I’m gonna hold off on any forecasts for now. It certainly could happen – Asseylum has no real arc that has been cut short, and it fits with the show’s apparent love of kicking characters when they’re down. But they wanted a cliffhanger, and they got one – goddamnit Aldnoah, tell us what happens next!
Sword Art Online II 9: The first scene of this week’s episode might legitimately be my favorite scene of the season so far. I mean, yeah, I know this show has had actually solid material this season, but the pure, beautiful SAO-ness of Kirito’s harem watching him on TV and complaining about him not getting enough screen time is just… it’s a beautiful thing.
Aside from that, this episode was unfortunately pretty lousy.
Shounen Hollywood 9: This, on the other hand, was a very solid episode. Seriously you guys, this show is actually pretty good. Not great good, but, you know, I don’t regret picking it up. It’s kinda cynical and kinda earnest, pretty damn campy and surprisingly smart. It certainly doesn’t fit neatly into the “let’s do our best!” mold of stuff like Love Live!, even if it also lacks that show’s aesthetic polish. And I mean, c’mon, this season kinda sucks. What else are you watching?
Hunter x Hunter 145: “When he was being controlled, he suffered less.” That’s a poignant line coming on the tail end of Chimera Ant – when we control our destiny, when we are responsible for our choices, then the weight of everything we want to be falls on us alone. It’d be easier to fall into complacency, but both sides of this election arc have been about people taking the hard way – people refusing to compromise on their values, and so forcing themselves into other compromises.
Unfortunately for probably everyone, the number of compromises required to combat Pariston’s “fuck it, I’m just in it for the game” attitude, brilliant ability to read people, and absolute confidence in his own predictions aren’t quite enough to save the election. The interactions between Cheadle and Pariston have become one of my favorite parts of this entire series, and this week’s last act was a great one. I loved the combination of emotions in Cheadle’s voice as she admitted defeat – she’s certainly a proud person, but she sounded more on the verge of tears than anger, which fits with how much she actually cares about the Association. And Pariston’s mild explanation was a perfect elaboration of his tactics – he doesn’t think of ten thousand variables, he just knows exactly which ones the public vote will turn on, and acts on that basis. He’s one of the best magnificent bastards I’ve seen in a long time.