The week in review returns! Nice to finally be back covering stuff here again. This post is gonna be all second episodes – I know some first episodes came out in the past week, but I wrote about every goddamn one of them over on the preview guide. Right now, I’m in “what the fuck can I actually drop” mode – after a slow start, this season ended up giving me somewhere around fifteen shows I wanted to continue, and the physics of that kind of schedule just don’t work out. In light of that, I’m gonna try to be pretty ruthless in what I drop throughout the week. Unfortunately, enough shows seem to be holding together that I’m likely going to be in “anime or sleep” mode for a while yet. Let’s run them down!
Rage of Bahamut 2: The first episode wasn’t a fluke! This episode wasn’t as setpiece-heavy and animation-ridiculous as the first episode, but it demonstrated something even more important – dramatic consistency and characters worth following. Favaro’s a pretty great clown, and the show continues to undercut him in wonderful ways – from the simple pleasures of him getting slimed to the wonderful buildup-release of him having that big dramatic bridge shootout, only to have Amira just break the bridge by herself. And Amira’s an actual character – she’s so far only kinda accidentally trumping Favaro, but she’s likeable enough, and full of wonderfully silly expressions. The show remains an almost disconcertingly Hollywood-influenced production – from the physical comedy to the shot framing, it’s pulling from a very different set of tools than most anime. It’s encouraging to see that the show can still effectively pull off that style without the endless buffet of high-quality animation that marked the first episode.
Lord Marksman and Vanadis 2: Seriously, what the fuck is it about anime and rape? That’s a rhetorical question – I know what it actually is. It’s the fact that to bad writers, “escalation = good,” and nothing escalates quite like a big, dramatic rape threat. It’s cheap and lazy and the vast majority of the time an indicator of crappy writing.
Anyway. Yeah, this episode went there, but I actually still like the show. The rapport between the two leads legitimately kinda reminds me of Spice and Wolf, stupid fantasy boobs aside. I don’t have particularly high expectations for this show, but I’m still enjoying it enough not to drop it.
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace 2: Most of this episode’s first half kinda impressed me more than it entertained me. Which is a weird thing to say about a comedy, but I really enjoyed seeing all the various little Trigger-isms expressed in such a non-KLK context. The smear-happy bits of little animation, the great variety of minor visual effects, the very clear bits of house style – it’s interesting seeing this applied to classic gags instead of action setpieces. I appreciate that this show will throw out a distinct visual effect for no more than a quarter-second in order to keep the comedic timing snappy – like KyoAni, these guys seem to actually understand that brevity is the soul of wit.
The actual content? Eh, it was pretty good. I liked the apology scene at the end – it was both very respectful to both characters and seemed to indicate the show actually wants you to care about them, which is very important for good comedy. I didn’t really feel terribly engaged by this episode, but it was good enough at doing its thing that I’m still on board to catch another one.
Fate/stay night 2: This episode wasn’t as compelling as the first – Shirou’s relationship with those around him isn’t nearly as engaging as Rin and Archer’s dynamic, and this week’s fight scene wasn’t as exciting either. However, it did pass one of Fate/stay night’s big challenges with flying colors – transitioning to Shirou’s perspective without immediately becoming completely unengaging. Shirou is one of the Big Problems of FSN, and this adaptation actually made him a perfectly likable guy. Often, the transition from either visual or light novel will turn a constantly-monologuing protagonist into an inscrutable everyman – here, we got enough exposition to understand Shirou, but it came out over time, and just like with Rin, a great deal of this episode was dedicated to elaborating his personality purely through his everyday actions. Even friggin’ Saber seemed likable enough here, and she was possibly my biggest problem with Fate/Zero. It will be interesting to see her in the “seasoned veteran” position relative to a new Master who’s a literal child – the context of Fate/Zero makes the idea of her becoming something of a guide to Kiritsugu’s actual son a seriously compelling one. I’m still very on board.
The Fruit of Grisaia 2: I said in my first episode post that Grisaia’s survival will depend on how much it rises above the base writing of this material. Well… it didn’t. Like in the visual novel, my interest in finding out where this story goes cannot overcome my aversion to these horrible anime-cliche characters. This episode actually focused on Sakaki, who’s probably the worst “I Am An Anime Character Not A Person” offender (“I will NEVER accept you” alright cool sure), and Makina, whose panties were apparently intended to be the real main character of this show. My curiosity regarding how the visual novel would be adapted has officially run out.
Amagi Brilliant Park 2: Why do this show’s gags work so well. How can this show pull off crap like “I’M A HELICOPTER!!” or “More of your fine ass, too!” and have them actually work?
Well, I actually do know why. It’s because KyoAni are the goddamn best at what they do. It’s been a long time since I’ve really had the privilege of enjoying a KyoAni show, but that time away has helped me renew my appreciation for how well they understand comedic timing. The punch of their gags – how long they linger on them, how often they quickly cut away – is pretty much everything. They know when to hold a reaction a slight bit longer, when to cut a reaction in half, when to repeat a joke and how to eventually undercut it… they know what they are doing. I so often feel like I just don’t understand Japanese comedy, but KyoAni makes me think most anime is just really bad at this.
Anyway. Comedy aside, I’m enjoying basically everything about this show. I really like our lovable asshole protagonist – he’s one of those characters who’s more designed around being fun to follow than particularly complex, but even his character motivation is strong. Having the child actor who’s faded into obscurity be sympathetic to these fading creatures is a very natural touch, and I’m always a fan of the Gaiman-esque “our existence is dependent upon belief” conceit. And christ, the animation in this show. Even when KyoAni are sitting on their asses, their shows have so many automatic strengths – and when those strengths are actually working in service of something worthwhile, it’s a sight to see. Really hoping this one stays this good.
Gugure! Kokkuri-san 2: Man, this was a goddamn disappointment. Kokkuri-san actually had a great first episode – really funny, quick little gags, great interplay between the two leads, and legitimate emotional heart. While this episode had a solid emotional core to the first half (“If I can’t learn to smile, will Kokkuri-san leave me?” kinda broke my heart), it was virtually never funny, and the second half was atrocious. We got our first Big Side Character – a dog spirit who’s actually creepily in love with Kohina. And… that was pretty much the whole thing. Lots of dog spirit lusting after the elementary school girl, lots of Kokkuri-san trying to shove him away. It was just one long, repeated, creepy-as-fuck joke, and the execution was bog-standard. The first episode actually got a lot of mileage out of directly undercutting stuff like this – where Kohina’s response to harassment in the first episode was to just straight-up call the police, here it’s all played straight as anime slapstick. I actually didn’t want to drop this show, but this incredibly disappointing episode made that an easy call.
GARO the Animation 2: Garo’s first episode was kinda fun just in its sheer ridiculousness, but this second episode definitely had more actual meat on its bones. MAPPA are just knocking it out of the park on production right now – the pacing across scenes, the visual style, the fight choreography and animation, all of it’s working wonders. It was nice to see Garo introduce our big female protagonist, who’s unsurprisingly at least as badass as anyone else in the cast. And Alfonse is also coming into his own as a character… really, the only thing I have issue with at the moment is the wonky-ass battle-suit CG. I know that’s something I’m probably just going to have to live with, and I also realize it’s actually pretty good as far as CG goes (MAPPA seem to be pretty far ahead in the CG game), but that still doesn’t make me like it. We’ll have to see if that stays a problem going forward.
G Reco 3: I kind of want to like G Reco – I like a bunch of the base variables this show is playing with, and its touches of extremely retro Tomino style are actually pretty endearing. But it’s just not coming together – scenes don’t gell, drama doesn’t rise effectively, stakes and conflicts aren’t clear. It doesn’t feel like a story – it feels like a breathless series of “and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened.” It’s a shame, but I’m already watching too many shows, so I think my time with G Reco ends here. Here’s a picture of the protagonist being eaten by a hippo.
Log Horizon 2: So yeah, this was a pretty boring episode. Log Horizon really doesn’t look graceful when it tries comedy, and this episode definitely tried comedy. I actually wasn’t as annoyed by chirpy new girl Tetra as I thought I’d be – she’s the kind of character that’s normally pure aggravation, but for some reason her particular brand of “annoying every other character” actually grew on me. And there were some nice details I liked, too – that the northern city’s stability is dependent on a resident combat guild, that “you lose your memories when you die” is actually considered folklore and not accepted knowledge, etc. Perhaps my favorite element of this episode was the revelation that Naotsugu and Marie are pretty much totally dating and that’s not a big deal – considering how often this show drags out silly crushes, it’s nice to see characters outside of Shiroe and his admirers are able to just live their goddamn lives.
But yeah, whenever I go into “nice detail” mode like this, you know it’s probably because the episode overall was a bit of a drag. Log Horizon’s a very “slow and steady” kind of show, and this week, the emphasis was definitely on Slow.