Summer 2014 – Week 11 in Review

No crazy shakeups to report this week – my lineup’s approaching the end with relative grace, and everything I’d hoped to be good or at least okay has been good or at least okay. This is disappointing! I miss being able to tell you guys something is absolutely awful and wretched and a wonderful thing to get really childishly disappointed about! Hopefully next season will fix this – I’m planning on checking out way too many shows, and have no idea what I’ll end up covering for ANN, so there’s a solid chance I’ll have something to be a big jerk about again. Until then, please accept these humble reflections on shows that are actually pretty good.

Incidentally, I haven’t gotten to this week’s Hunter x Hunter, but I’ll likely watch that later tonight and either add my comments or make an additional mini-post. Busy week!

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 24: And so ends the first half of Stardust Crusaders. It’s definitely been a less impressive ride than the original season, but I’ve still solidly enjoyed these episodes, and this last one offered both a final sample of what Stardust Crusaders has come to represent and a surprisingly tidy epilogue for the arc’s first half. The fight with High Priestess contained pretty much everything that makes JoJo JoJo – dumb jokes, absurd action scenarios, Joseph screaming “OH MY GOD,” and Jotaro making terrible one-lines. Along with the team halfheartedly attempting to seduce someone from inside their Stand’s mouth, which was… something. As usual for Stardust Crusaders, the ultimate “solution” to this fight was just “I’ll punch them a bunch and be stronger than them,” but that’s a failure I’ve kind of gotten used to. Beyond that, I actually liked the show tying a bow on this first season with scenes from both Dio and Suzy Q – for great stretches of this arc it didn’t really feel like we were getting anywhere, and keeping these characters in the picture helps give us some actual context. Here’s hoping the second half manages to keep up Stardust Crusader’s ridiculous humor while actually creating some interesting fights again.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Sword Art Online II 11: This episode wasn’t actively frustrating like last week’s, but it still wasn’t a good episode. SAO II is at this point floundering in the same pacing-issue swamp the first season often wallowed in, and this episode was one of the most egregious. As funny as the idea of Kirito’s harem watching him conquer a new girl on television is conceptually, in practice, it’s involved a whole lot of expositing about things we already know. Not a great place to be!

Sword Art Online

Shounen Hollywood 11: Shounen Hollywood continues to be the best show friggin’ nobody’s watching. Not that I blame you guys – I wasn’t watching it, and I only started watching it because someone literally paid me to, but now that I am watching it, I can confirm it’s a show I’d be happy to watch either way. This episode was basically the classic “team hits their lowest point” penultimate episode, but it worked well because it both made solid use of the established character work and grounded its characters’ fears in the legitimate realities of life as a performer. Just a solid, confident episode overall.

Shounen Hollywood

Barakamon 10: This episode felt like one of the most Barakamon Barakamons – it continued to explore Handa’s art questions, leaned heavily on the character relationships we’ve already come to understand, and took time to check in with virtually everyone we’ve met so far. I enjoyed the exploration of “inspiration,” enjoyed the various festival vignettes – enjoyed pretty much everything, basically. Barakamon’s just a consistently warm and endearing little show.


Zankyou no Terror 9: As usual, this week’s episode was largely defined by the shot framing and general direction. The first half’s content wasn’t particularly surprising – it was the conspiracy reveal, with Shibazaki finally learning about the sinister project that created Five, Nine, and Twelve. But the framing did great work to elevate this scene, portraying the relationship both between these characters specifically and between them and the larger world through purposeful lighting and constant shifts of expression. The second half, on the other hand, was one of my favorite sequences of the show so far. Everything about the Ferris wheel scene, from the framing to the music to the actual conversation, was perfectly tuned to emphasize the strange intimacy of this moment. I wouldn’t have thought a “tender, romantic bomb defusal” could be a real thing, but Zankyou pulled it off – and in doing so, it also helped articulate the sad reality of these kids’ lives. “They are what their society makes them” has been a clear point throughout, but this scene offered the show’s most tragic illustration of that, with Twelve only being able to express his human desires through the weapons that have become his voice. A standout moment.

Zankyou no Terror

Aldnoah.Zero 11: After two episodes spent exploring many of the major players, this week we finally saw some big fuckin’ explosions, as Saazbaum drove his landing castle straight into the arctic base. Inaho’s basically the head of earth’s defense forces at this point, which is certainly absurd, but also something I’ve come to accept. The show seems to be implying that he can be both a fundamentally empathetic person and someone who relies entirely on pragmatic evaluations in these situations – perhaps even that his logic is a reflection of his empathy. After his sister rails at him for callously assessing the usefulness of Asseylum’s life in the context of this battle, we see him sadly examining the “do your best” token she once gave him. Inaho never really expresses himself emotionally, but it’d be easy enough to see his logical assessments as a symbol of his ultimately human motives – he cares, and thus he tries to “do his best” by making choices that will hopefully protect the people he loves. Or maybe Inaho’s merely the consequence of a generation raised in the specter of war? It reminds me of this week’s scene with Twelve and Lisa sharing an intimate moment as he defuses bombs – people are always reflective of the world that has made them.

And then they stage an air drop on the castle and the captain drives the fucking ship into the landing castle. The second half of this episode was a pretty sweet continuous action sequence, and I actually laughed out loud at that poor dude trying to cheer Inko up. Urobuchi may have left the building, but you still can’t get away with a line like “stand tall and the bullets won’t hit you” without getting shot in the face.


13 thoughts on “Summer 2014 – Week 11 in Review

  1. “Or maybe Inaho’s merely the consequence of a generation raised in the specter of war?” I had a similar thought this week but considering how different Inaho is compared to all his classmates AND they even think his mentality is strange, I don’t think the idea holds up even in-universe. I’m pretty darn grumpy at the show at this point, unless it actually ends this week with the Martians completely winning and all of those reports about the second half being in January are a lie (which would be an AMAZING troll), the show has had the characters lose too much for me to believe that the Terrans can ever win no matter happens next so when it eventually does happen it’s going to feel like terrible writing. I’m so confused, the show started out okay, got good, went back to being okay and now it’s just bad, normally I see that on a grading curve not in story writing!

      • Please explain to me how we’re supposed to root for the character who uses their friends as decoys with no apparent back-up plan, hell I’d like to say that at least it always seemed like Lelouche had a back-plan plan when he used his allies like that….

  2. I watched the first several episodes of Shounen Hollywood. Dropped it because at the end of the day, I just don’t care for idol shows of any kind, but to be fair, I did attempt to point out its surprisingly good qualities back in my first summer taste testing post. As you point out though, I don’t think anyone cared because as far as I know, very few people have bothered to try it.

  3. I had considered watching Shounen Hollywood at the start of the season, but was not particularly interested in idols, and saw that it was set 15 years after some novel. However your consistent praise of it is tempting to give it a shot, but I do have to know whether the novel has any bearing on the plot of this anime, and whether I will feel like I’m missing something by not having read it.

  4. I skipped both Shonen Hollywood and Barakamon this season, and I think that was probably an error. I haven’t heard anyone who’s watching either one say a bad thing about them.

    It’s interesting that you read the scene in Aldnoah of Inaho talking about the Princess’ role as possibly reflecting both his logic AND his empathy, when I read it quite the opposite. The last few episodes especially have really solidified my problems with Inaho as the protagonist, in that all I can see is Logic Bot who comes into the scene and somewhat petulantly explains exactly what needs to be done while everyone else has their silly emotions. He couldn’t even accept the Princess thanking him in episode 10 without correcting her and “well actually”-ing her phrasing. When the show started there was the impression that Inaho was a closed off and considered a little weird by his friends, but in later episodes that’s gone. He’s always right, his friends all seem to unequivocally worship him, and if the show wants us to think he has emotions and actual empathy then those signifiers are way out of scale with all the Mr. Heroic Cold Logic bits. When he’s not lecturing everyone about what the logical thing to do is, he’s listening with an incredibly disinterested look on his face and mumbling rote responses (or correcting whoever he’s speaking to).

    I made a joke recently that if the ship crashed in the wilderness and a bunch of crew members died Inaho would find it illogical that people wouldn’t want to use their skins as sleeping bags. Yeah, it’s a big exaggeration, but it does kind of sum up my problems with him (that and that the narrative is constantly reaffirming that his position is always right). At the very least I am sure that he’s the kind of guy who would when he wasn’t training in school was searching random strangers on social media so that he could correct every minor or irrelevant mistake he felt that they had made.

    • “At the very least I am sure that he’s the kind of guy who would when he wasn’t training in school was searching random strangers on social media so that he could correct every minor or irrelevant mistake he felt that they had made.”

      Remember – he would do it, not out of misplaced empathy or humble altruism – but, out of boredom. Thats the level of awesome that he is.

      I disliked Inaho since day 1, because he is the exact copy of his MC friend from Robotics;Notes – disinterested empty shell. The entirety of these two characters is their actions during events they find themselves in – these actions are meant to define them, but these actions are not a result of their will, opinion or character in general, but impossible character trait of having no character.

      There are plenty of emotionless characters – cruel villains and psychopaths, social cynics and nihilists, broken shut ins and narrowly focused individuals obsessed with their goals, or emotionless dolls (which can be great characters), but none of this is the case here.

      Inaho is just an excuse, character molded by few writer’s made up and forced upon him principles, like ‘be logical about it’, ‘do the right thing’ and similar. All his actions are rooted in these principles, that are not part of his identity, he simply executes them, not knowing or questioning the reason. Thats why he is a soulless monster of a machine – he knows what to do, yet he doesnt think. He only knows, never learns, reflects, does anything. Thats not a person, thats philosophical position disguised as one. Thats so lame…

      As i said, i had this same problem with Kaito (MC from Robotics;Notes) and also Oreki in Hyouka. I know Bobduh posted some positive stuff regarding that anime, but for me it was one of the most painful things i have ever seen, for the same reason i dislike Aldnoah Zero and its main character.

      Every episode, i see people analyzing why Inaho did this or that (what one would normally do for MC of a show) and for me its ridiculous, because characters like Inaho are not following their own philosophy and position, they simply are following one. And any reflections and developments that the show will pull off at any point, will be meaningless. It will be (for me at least) just another layer to ever the same empty shell.

      This character can never be repaired. Character development? Just an alteration of the philosophical position (called character) that didnt yield positive result at one point. ‘Surely, next time Inaho will do things differently because he changed’. No, his position will have changed. He would be the same robot executing different (improved) commands, but in the same way as before.
      ‘Ok so just wait, he will start empathizing or even fall in love, that will prove you… we have the fondness of the princess going for him’. His emotional development (i predict) will be a logical choice – an improvement to his philosophical position, that was lacking, because it didnt count empathy into the calculations. And his love) will simply be a fact – Inaho in love would be the same Inaho, with a different facebook status.
      ‘So what the hell do you want then’. I want Inaho to have an opinion. ‘But he does have opinion, he thinks everyone around him is incompetent and sucks’. No, thats just what he, as a materialized philosophical position, says about different positions.
      ‘Fine, anything he will or could do, will never break him out of the circular logic that you use to criticize him’. You got me. Inaho’s actions prove that he cares. He is the true altruist (who else would repeatedly volunteer to risk his life for like every person on the planet). His hobbies are learning everything other people dont, when they are not looking (like CPR) and saving people with that knowledge.

      I think my version sounds better. Feel free to disagree.

      • It’s been a while since I watched the show, but my impression of Kaito in Robotics;Notes was that the show didn’t support his apathetic nature. All of his friends and Akiho in particular were passionate about something and his arc was about him coming to actually use his latent talents for the greater good.

        Inaho, on the other hand, has bored me since day one and I agree with you there. I dropped Aldnoah a while back, as Slaine was the only character who immediately stood out to me as being even the slightest bit more interesting than wallpaper.

    • I kept up hope for so long that the show would eventually actually engage with what could potentially be interesting about a personality like Inaho’s, but considering the kind of hilarious emotional revisionism the finale indulged in, I guess I shouldn’t have bothered. Damn you, Aldnoah!

      • I did too at first. I gave up on that just after the halfway point, but I really did want to see the show make something more of him. But man, even I didn’t expect them to double down on the idea that Inaho and Asseylum had a DEEP MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP as much as the ending did. I didn’t exactly have high hopes for the last episode, but those last 5 minutes were on a whole ‘nother level.

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