Fall 2014 – Week 2 in Review

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.

Rage of Bahamut

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.

Lord Marksman and Vanadis

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.

When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace

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.

Fate/stay night

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.

Amagi Brilliant Park

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.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san

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.

G Reco

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.

Log Horizon

21 thoughts on “Fall 2014 – Week 2 in Review

  1. Fate/Stay Night is holding up so far, but the real hurdle has yet to be jumped: Can ufotable make twenty-four minutes of standing in a church and expounding anything but boring as hell? Will they walk in circles once again? Will the fanboys whine that the show didn’t expound quite enough? Tune in next Saturday to find out.

    • Oh boy. So instead of putting the massive exposition dump in the first episode like in Fate/Zero, they decided to hook you with an awesome first two episodes, and then slam you with exposition in the /third/ episode.

      …not sure how I feel about that. But I’m definitely gonna keep watching.

    • This is actually right about where I stopped playing the game, so, uh, yeah, I wish them luck. Fate/Zero definitely failed hard on that front, but this show seems to have improved on F/Z’s problems…

      • It’s probably for the best that you stopped at that point in the VN, because the Fate route (the one ufotable’s skipping) is kinda really awful. Unlimited Blade Works isn’t exactly free of problems either (there were a number of times where I was going, “Seriously, Nasu? Are you fucking kidding me?”), but it’s not an uninterrupted conga line of gross bullshit like the Fate route was. It’s the GGO to Fate’s Alfheim Online, basically.

  2. Interesting point about Kyoani and comedy, and I’d be inclined to agree with you. Most comedy anime are really bad at comedy. I don’t really hold it against them though, since I think most western comedy series are pretty bad at it as well.

    Take for example, two of the big American sitcoms of the last few years; The Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother. They tend to (IMO) fall into this trap where, rather than write actual jokes, they have a character say or do something in character, and then slap a laugh track onto it to let you know “that was the funny bit”. Anime comedy seems to run under a similar logic, only replace the laugh track with the male lead going “Gasp, you just did [X]!!” The annoying thing is that it actually works most of the time. I actually think conditioning might have something to do with it, which is why Japanese humour seems so strange sometimes.

    Also, is this going to be a two-part piece? Chaika, Parasyte haven’t aired yet, and there’s a couple more like Celestial Method you seemed quite interested in continuing with.

    • I actually liked BBT better when they switched to character gags in the later seasons (at least it is a gag). First couple of episodes were lame (have lame ass nerd reference, uhh this supposed to be funny?).

      • Also, it’s not stand-up; I’ve always thought the entire point of sitcoms was to build up a character base from which you can make character gags. Though the counterpoint to this is Nichijou.

      • Good point, but I think there’s a difference between a character gag and having a character do something and expecting the audience to laugh. Oftentimes I think there’s no inherent joke in whatever gag they’re trying, and thus no reason for it to be funny.

    • Yeah, humor does seem kinda based in weird conditioning stuff. It’s more about feeling good than constructing an actual joke – which is fine, obviously the shows are intended to do that, but it does mean I don’t generally find them very funny.

      As for your question, the week in review posts just cover everything between one mid-Wednesday and the next, regardless of which actual episode it is.

  3. Good, there are people not in the hype on Log Horizon. I dont udnerstand this virtual VR reality hype. First SAO, then LH. I like the show but only on a more superficial levels. Like drooling over Akatsuki and such, you know.

    “Rage of Bahamut : The first episode wasn’t a fluke!” – Im glad we agree. I picked it up by accident and truth be told, i wasnt expecting ep2 to hold. But it did.

    “You are alive?” -> “It tickled!” that was sooo cute.

    Im digging the whole Faburo – Amira thing. Not shipping them, their personalities i mean. I can not put my finger on it yet, perhaps as you said – it is influenced by Holywood.
    Faburo was such a jerk to just betray her like that. Yet he is still likable? How is that even possible! He reminds me of Jack Sparrow – scumbag to bone, but nobody can hate him. Its just how he is.

    • Is there really a lot of hype for Log Horizon? Everyone I know seems to either mildly enjoy it or just not watch it.

      And yeah, they are leaning reaaal hard on the Jack Sparrow appeal for Faburo. I feel like he’s not quite as inherently likable, but the show seems much more character-driven than Pirates, so it’s pretty clear that’ll change over time.

    • Oh wow, that is one for one shot stealing! Not that I’m complaining – stealing from great sources is a very good idea, particularly when you don’t have much actual anime to pull from.

  4. I’m a little sad to see you drop Grisaia, as I’d thought your commentary would be good for a laugh, but I can’t blame you for doing so. Even cutting away all the fat, the underlying content just isn’t that great.

    I chuckled when you called Sakaki an anime-character-not-a-person. I played her route in the visual novel, and that is absolutely true… until about the final two scenes when the game manages to pull a legitimately good conclusion completely out of nowhere. It is seriously astounding: the main characters suddenly turn into genuine human beings with thought-out personalities who are treated respectfully by the story. It’s not enough to really justify all the awful characterization that came before or the torturous pace, but I did feel grudgingly compelled to give the story a little bit more credit.

    I’ve no idea if Makina’s route manages anything similar, and I’m sure you don’t have the time or energy to waste trying to find out anytime soon. But there is, apparently, some potential buried deep within that mess.

    Good luck finding a stable equilibrium that lets you watch things you enjoy without reducing you to a drained husk of a human being!

    • Honestly, I’ll probably end up watching the third episode in spite of myself. Something compels me to watch it, even though it’s clearly not “good.”

  5. As a VN reader, I found Shirou to be infinitely more interesting as I continued to read, especially when I approached the later routes. He’s definitely my favorite character in it. UBW isn’t as good as Heaven’s Feel when it comes to characters, so I hope that ufotable absolutely nails that one.

  6. Bahamut: Although I’m ‘technically’ liking the show too, I’m having a bit of trouble finding an emotional resonance with it. Especially with Favaro. We have yet to see a single reaction or thought coming out of him that is not about messing with people or serving his financial interests—or both. This very well could be the point, or at least a strand of the story though, only a starting point for his gradual growth etc. So, here’s to hoping.

    Grisaia: As I was watching the second episode, at one moment I suddenly realized that I had no idea if I was watching Grisaia or Trinity Seven. I felt thankful to both of them for being so generically bad that I could drop’em without a hint of regret or leftover curiosity; my watching list desperately needed trimming.

    Supernatural Battles: I was very disappointed. A largely generic, sporadically funny filler episode is not something I would mind that much, generally, but it’s only the second episode forgodssake! It did nothing to make us know the characters better, and they didn’t even use their supernatural powers! This could be O.K. for a 8th or 9th episode but as it is, it makes me seriously suspicious about the possibility of any kind of future development. Also, in the first episode the guy character was mostly a lovingly-tolerated loser rather than a common love interest, now suddenly it’s a harem. Signs, they are not good.

    KyoAni: One aspect of their art I don’t see being mentioned often, and which I really appreciate, is how their characters seem to have a real volume to them; like, how they’re not that typical, impossibly thin and out-of-proportion paper cut-outs most (if not all other) studios continue to draw humans as. Hyouka and Chuunibyou were especially good in this regard.

    • Completely agreed on KyoAni characters having “volume.” I really noticed that in Chuunibyou – characters are actually allowed to have hips!

      And I’m guessing Favaro will get more endearing over time. I don’t really expect the show to ever be that emotionally engaging, but he’s clearly near the beginning of some kind of humanization arc.

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