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.
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!
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.
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.
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.