No complaints about this week in anime – my favorites were great, my second-strings were either solid or great, and I’m barely even watching anything beneath those. Aldnoah continued last week’s “wait, let’s try to be actually good again” streak, Zankyou recovered from its wonky Hollywood interlude, and Hunter x Hunter is just making me too emotional right now. Also, Shounen Hollywood whipped out one of the most absurd, confident concept episodes I’ve seen in… ever? A long time, at least. Let’s run them down!
Aldnoah.Zero 10: I was a pretty big fan of this episode. Following up on last week’s boiling-over of Rayet’s personal anger, this week started off with Asseylum immediately forgiving Rayet, and Rayet hating her for it. First off, this was a solid interplay of their very different priorities – Asseylum’s repeatedly focused on her guilt over this war, whereas Rayet’s just wanted an enemy to lash at out, and their talking past each other here was nicely indicative of each of their priorities. But more importantly, this conversation basically set the theme for this episode – the desire for some kind of enemy to hate, for a just cause and an easy villain.
The show visually illustrated the universality of this need with a shot highlighting the similar positions Rayet and Slaine have both found themselves in. Both of them are prisoners of the other “side,” and yet are also of that side, in a strange way. Both of them either wish for or have previously believed a kind of moral simplicity – Rayet with her desire for an enemy to associate with her father’s death, Slaine with his focus on the princess above everything else. And both of them are having to engage with a larger world of more complex motivations, one that doesn’t really care about their personal trauma.
The “we desire enemies” theme was further illustrated through Saazbaum’s speech, as he bitterly reflected on the Vers Empire’s successful campaign to pin the underlying failings of Mars occupation on Earth. I particularly liked the symmetry of “Mars is overpopulated and underfed” with “we have plenty of provisions, but not enough refugees” – there were sad little symmetries all over the place this week. Another nice one – Inaho’s CPR bringing Asseylum back to life, as Asseylum herself once did to welcome Slaine onto Mars. And I actually liked Inaho’s lines this episode, too – his crazy-competence obviously keeps scenes involving him from being particularly tense, but his explanation for “trusting” Rayet was practical in a way that I felt nicely expressed his underlying personality. He’s extremely practical, but also extremely loyal, and he chooses to believe in those around him. That’s a much healthier motivation than looking for an enemy to blame.
Kill la Kill 25: Kill la Kill OVA! It was actually pretty great catching a random new episode of Kill la Kill – I was extremely fatigued with this series by its end, but in small doses, it’s a very endearing thing. This episode was kind of a wash for most of its length, but the ending made up for it – Ryuuko’s final attack on the school-bot (I can’t believe they made us wait until the OVA for that thing to finally turn into a robot) was some of the most gorgeous animation of the entire series. Personally, I’d rather have had a derpy slice of life episode that was basically an expanded version of the main series’ end credits, but hey, you take what you can get.
Barakamon 9: This was another largely gag-focused episode, meaning it wasn’t one of my favorites, but the gags were fine enough. I kind of breezed over the episode’s big art theme (the importance of inspiration) when I did my episode post, but since then I’ve been sort of going back and forth on whether the episode actually intended to draw some sort of parallel between Handa’s immaturity and his desire for inspiration. Maybe? I dunno.
Shounen Hollywood 10: This episode was goddamn insane genius, and I still don’t really believe it actually happened. In order to illustrate Shounen Hollywood’s first performance and talk show appearance, they actually just played the entire talk show – a music revue show from top to finish, starring five guest stars, five song performances, and only a few snippets of Shounen Hollywood. That is an insanely confident concept, but this show was definitely subtle enough in its scene-setting to pull it off. Creativity, confidence, deft execution – this episode was a weird, extremely special thing.
Sword Art Online II 10: Whether this episode worked for you or not probably came down at least partially to the fundamental question of SAO II – can you watch this show while pretending the first season didn’t exist? Personally, I think even if you could do that, the execution here wasn’t that great, but given the first season, I just couldn’t invest in Sinon’s breakdown. Which is a shame, because I like her character, and I’m enjoying her overall arc. But having Kirito know just what to say to yet another girl is just not going to endear me to this narrative.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 23: A pretty middling episode of JoJo this week. The Jojos’ submarine lasts about as long as you’d expect, and the new enemy is apparently a shapeshifter – the only thing that this episode really tried to do was lend Joseph and Jotaro’s stories some of the emotional weight it previously aimed at Polnareff. I wasn’t really engaged by Joseph’s first conversation with Suzy Q (though hey, nice to see her again), but I actually did like Jotaro’s slow-burning “I WILL PROTECT THIS FAMILY” resolution. Jotaro doesn’t have much personality, but that was a classy, well-depicted moment. There were also a decent number of energetic transitions this episode, but really, there’s just not much to say about a standard episode of Stardust Crusaders – this one wasn’t really that funny, so it wasn’t really that anything. What can ya do.
Zankyou no Terror 8: Zankyou recovered in confident fashion this week, pulling off an episode that drew all of its themes and characters forward, each element reflecting off the others. As some characters become wrapped up in their temporal lives, others fall out of the system, and friction continues to be generated between the various passionate actors of this narrative. Zankyou’s not a perfect show, but it’s still a damn good one.
Hunter x Hunter 146: Oh man, such a good episode. Every single piece of this episode was one of this arc’s various elements firing on all cylinders – every single subplot is resolving gloriously. We started off with Gon and Ging’s reunion, which featured great moments on both their parts. I loved Gon’s blubbering, incoherent apology for the events of Chimera Ant – his “and then this happened, and then this happened” rambling was pitch-perfect for a young kid apologizing to a parent for what he’d done wrong, and the context of what Gon’s actually been through, and how much he’s been forced to change through it, made it all the more heartbreaking and endearing. And then Ging actually managed to act like a goddamn father for once, with his well-chosen consolation and lesson on friendship and forgiveness. Being a good person doesn’t seem to come naturally to Ging, but as we’ve seen both here and with Cheadle, he could be a great one if he wanted to.
And then Pariston steals the fucking show, achieving totally victory and then immediately surrendering. Pariston has always been in this for the love of the game, and so his actions make perfect sense – he wants rivals, he wants challenge, but he’s too damn good. So he wins the game and concedes immediately, hoping he’ll one day get to play again. A great triumph for a great character.
And then we had Killua’s beautiful conversation with his little… sisters, it turns out. Killua’s had to make a number of hard tactical calls in pursuit of what he most values this arc, but the choice to seal away Something was a step too far – he can’t abandon someone who’s really a member of his family, one of the only ones who unconditionally trusts and loves him. The conversation between him, Alluka, and Something really reaffirmed the humanism at the heart of this show, and ended the episode on a perfect note of forgiveness and acceptance.
This show is so god damn good. I know it’s absurd to see anything this good last this long, but it still feels like we’ve only just met. I’m gonna miss you, Hunter x Hunter.